In fact, the Lady Falcons are ranked fifth in a Class 4A preseason poll, having established a reputation as a basketball heavyweight after back-to-back 20-win seasons.
“We have four of five starters back and Amanda Skalabrin who saw a lot of playing time down the stretch is also back,” fifth-year coach Scott Bullock said. “Obviously we’re fortunate to have someone as athletic as Ali Forde, who we expect to have a tremendous senior year.”
Forde, all-state as a junior, recently signed an early commitment to University of Idaho to play basketball and volleyball. The six-foot-one power forward is a terror on the boards and in the paint, but the Lady Falcons are no one trick pony.
The three other returning starters are seniors Deidre Miller and Alexis McLeod — co-captains with Forde — and junior Kim Frost.
“Diedre has had some health issues — she’s coming off a stress fracture in her foot and tweaked her quad in practice yesterday — but there’re not too many girls who can shoot the ball like her,” Bullock said.
“She has a really quick release and a smooth stroke — when she gets it going she can light it up.”
Bullock said McLeod and Frost will share point guard duties.
“Both are talented veteran players with different sets of skills. Kim’s a little quicker but Alexis is probably a better ball handler.”
Bullock continues to be impressed with the six-foot-one Skalabrin, who came on strong as a sophomore and played big minutes in the state tournament.
“We’re hoping she turns into a consistent rebounder,” he said. “She’s really long, blocks a lot of shots and has a smooth 15-foot range jumper. We’re hoping she gets a little more aggressive in the paint and she and Ali should do some good things together.”
Juniors Maaike Tiersma and Cassidy Beday will provide some punch off the bench.
“They played JV last year but they’ll play some up here this season,” the coach said.
Bullock is really excited about his sophomore class.
“We have a really strong group of sophomores coming in led by Mackenzie Campbell who will play a lot and will battle for a starting position. She’s probably our best perimeter defender.
“She and Kim both have some great quicks and together they can just be tenacious on defense.”
Erin Hamilton and Midori McElwee are also in the mix.
“Erin will compete for some playing time and might even compete for a starting spot. She’s five-foot-nine, moves well and is a great shooter. Midori’s only about 5’ 3” but she’s a scrapper and can shoot the three-ball.”
Bullock said the Lady Falcs will look to run a little more than they did last year.
“We’re actually a little quicker overall this year than last, with Mackenzie and Erin, so we’ll look to play a little more up-tempo. Last year Melissa (Gilkey) was such a great half-court player that we slowed it down a bit, but Ali is a great transition player and some of these kids have some real quickness so we’ll probably push it a little more, press a little more.”
He was asked about what he considers the strength of the team.
“One positive thing is we have a lot of girls back from a successful team.
“And we have a great group of incoming girls. One of the challenges for us will be to come together chemistry-wise because a lot of these girls are new to each other and that takes some time. Plus, we gotta stay healthy.”
The Lady Falcon party gets started Thursday at Issaquah, with a home game Friday against Inglemoor.