After gradual improvement over the past four seasons, the West Allis Hale girls basketball team is hoping to take another step forward this year.
The Huskies moved from five victories in 2012-13 to 10 last season, including 4-10 in the rugged Greater Metro Conference.
With seven returnees from that team, Hale is looking to move into the upper half of the GMC this season.
"I feel we have the players to crack into the top four, which would be the first time in ages," coach George Sotiros said. "I am very excited for the upcoming season, as we feel we can take the next step in our evolution. We've had four straight seasons of improvement in one of the toughest conferences in the state."
One of the key veterans is 5-foot-5-inch junior guard Alyssa Cruz, who was second on the team in scoring with 8.3 points per game and led the squad with 3.5 assists and two steals per contest, earning high honorable mention all-conference.
"I think we have the top point guard in the conference in Alyssa, who will really get our offense going," Sotiros said. "She has such a great ability to see the floor well and get assist after assist. Alyssa has worked tremendously hard revamping and improving her outside shot, making her a dual threat."
Also back is 6-1 senior center Ashley LeVack, who averaged 6.5 points and 5.7 rebounds to claim honorable-mention all-conference.
Other returnees are 5-9 junior forward/guard KellyAnn Sotiros (6.9 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds), 5-10 junior forward Abby Arena (5.2 points and 5.1 rebounds), 5-5 junior guard Zoe Burczyk (7.4 points), 5-4 senior guard Lexi Sevedge and 5-4 senior guard Julie Palesse.
Coach Sotiros is also looking for a solid season from sophomore forward Abi Stevens.
"Surrounding (Cruz) with LeVack, who has an excellent presence and can be a force inside, as well as multisport athletes such as Sotiros and Arena and others, gives us great hope coming into the season," the coach said.
He listed the Huskies' strengths as guard play, ballhandling, team speed, athleticism and the ability to attack the basket. Possible concerns are patience on offense and stopping penetration on defense.
He thinks Brookfield Central, Sussex Hamilton and Divine Savior Holy Angels are the top three teams in the GMC this season.
The Huskies open at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at Nicolet and then play at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, at St. Thomas More.
The conference opener is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at West Allis Central.