ARLINGTON - When the Arlington varsity girls basketball team opens their season against West Rutland Saturday, Dec. 15, they will be relying on their speed and defense to help lead them to victory.

"We're going to have to work extra hard on defense to limit people to one or two shots," said Arlington Head Coach Larry Andrews. "We feel if we can keep people at 40 points and under every game we'll be in every game."

The team finished with a 9-12 record last season - losing in overtime to Canaan in the first round of the playoffs.

Two of the team's players - Sylvia Pike and Micah Andrews - graduated last year, but nine of the team's 10 players are returning.

Going into this season, Andrews said he will rely on seniors Rayleen Sherman - who missed last season due to a torn ACL - and Jennah Lacoste.

"Rayleen is going to be our go-to person. Jennah's going to try to run our offense. She will be our point guard," said Andrews. "And we have Molly Elwell and Julia Lacoste. They have a little bit of varsity experience."

This year's squad is young. There are only three seniors, only one of which - Jennah Lacoste - played last year as Sherman was injured last season and Becca Bushee is new to the team. The rest of the team is composed of six sophomores - Julia Lacoste, Elwell, Brooke Hawley, Becca Solari, and Hannah Andrew - and freshmen Avery Bucheri and Shelby Baker.

In addition to the team's youth being a potential weakness, Andrews said there is another clear cut weakness - a lack of taller players.

"We have no height," said Andrews. "We're going to be outsized probably every game."

Going into the season, Andrews said that the team doesn't have a true center and will likely have one forward and four guards on the floor.

Sherman and Julia Lacoste will spend time this season at both the forward and guard position. Andrew and Baker will serve as forwards for the team and Jennah Lacoste, Bushee, Elwell, Hawley, Solari and Bucheri will play guard.

"We're going to try to utilize our speed," said Andrews. "Hopefully our defense will create some offense."

Andrews said he expects many of the games this season to be challenging not only because of the youth of this year's team, but because of the schedule Arlington has as well. Throughout the season they will face Proctor - the Division IV State Champions - as well as tough teams outside of their division.

"We've got a fairly tough schedule," Andrews said. "We've got Otter Valley. We've got Green Mountain, Division III, Otter Valley, Division II, Bellows Falls, Division II. We play a tougher schedule. We really can't take anybody for granted. That's what I've told girls. We're not overlooking anybody."

While it remains to be seen how the youth of this year's team will impact their performance - if at all - Andrews feels that it will be a positive thing in the years to come.

"Next year we won't have any seniors of course, but I think the sophomore class, with a little improvement, they could be a class to be reckoned with in the future," Andrews said. "This is the first year we've had a JV team in, I believe, five years. It could be longer. It's the first year we've had those kind of numbers so I think that's going to help build our program a little bit. Those girls on the JV team now will be getting some valuable minutes to help our team grow in the future for sure."

The Arlington varsity girls basketball team will play their season opener at West Rutland School on Saturday, Dec. 15. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m.