First-year coach Krista Van Hauen spent last season introducing her expectations, her system and even herself to the women's basketball team at St. Ambrose.
This season, it's the players who are introducing their abilities to Van Hauen.
There are 15 newcomers on the Queen Bees roster, but with a talented group of returning players from a 29-5 team St. Ambrose begins the 2011-12 season ranked 10th in the NAIA Division II preseason poll.
"We have a lot of new faces, but not everything is new this year and that is a big advantage,'' Van Hauen said. "The upperclassmen know what to expect and they have done a great job of being role models for the all of those newcomers who are going to get a chance to help us out.''
Annie Smith, a returning all-Midwest Collegiate Conference forward, is one of three seniors on the Queen Bees roster and is the team's top returning scorer at 9.9 points per game.
She said familiarity with Van Hauen's system has helped the team progress as it works toward Tuesday's season opener against Trinity Christian and an exhibition game two nights later at Indiana.
"Everybody has been on the same page right from the start and the talent is her to make a run at the national tournament again, but we aren't getting ahead of ourselves,'' said Smith, a former Davenport Assumption prep. "The only thing we are thinking about is our first game.''
Senior guard Molly Yeargle, a former Alleman prep who is also a returning starter, sees depth as an advantage St. Ambrose will be able to utilize as it pushes the tempo this season.
"We have a lot of new players, but everybody is competing, pushing each other and that is only going to make us better,'' Yeargle said.
The Queen Bees started practice knowing they would be without returning point guard Ashley Dexter. A torn ACL early in the St. Ambrose soccer season will sideline the junior, who chose to redshirt this season rather than rush a return.
"If it had to happen, it is better that it happened in early September than in late October,'' Van Hauen said. "We've had some time to adjust.''
Versatility on the Queen Bees' roster allows some flexibility and there is no shortage of options to bring the ball up the floor. Sophomore Nora Masterson, St. Joseph's College transfer Lauren Cash and freshman Shelby Steger are among players getting a look at the point.
"Any of our guards could help us there, which is one of the things I like about this team. We have some interchangeable parts,'' Van Hauen said.
The Queen Bees must also replace three-year NAIA all-American Ali Dolphin, but Van Hauen believes St. Ambrose has improved offensive potential from nearly every position on the floor this season.
Senior forward Michelle Charvat, a former Alleman prep who joins Smith and Samantha Saladino, a junior from Davenport West, in providing St. Ambrose with solid frontcourt experience.
"We have a lot of options on offense and I think we have a style, faster and more up-tempo, that will only help us,'' Charvat said. "We're anxious to get things going and see exactly where we are at.''
AT A GLANCE
2010-11 record: 29-5, 14-2 Midwest Collegiate Conference (first place)
Coach: Krista Van Hauen (29-5 entering second season)
Returning starters: G Ashley Dexter, 5-4, jr., 6.4, ppg, 3.3 rpg; F Annie Smith, 6-2, sr., 9.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg; G Mollie Yeargle, 5-6, sr., 7.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Returning reserves: F Michelle Charvat, 6-0, sr., 6.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg; G Nora Masterson, 5-3, soph., 1.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg; F Samantha Saladino, 6-0, jr., 2.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg; G Jane Schiffler, 5-10, soph., 0.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Newcomers: G Lauren Cash, 5-7, soph.; G Carly Norton, 5-6, soph.; G Ali Cowell, 5-6, fr.; G Katelyn DeWulf, 5-6, fr.; G Dana DuBois, 5-6, fr.; G Jenna Heneghan, 5-6, fr.; G/F Katie Jensen, 5-11, fr.; G Taylor Noel, 5-5, fr.; G/F Jillian Plunkett, 5-9, fr.; G Alissa Recker, 5-5, fr.; G Katie Schuler, 5-3, fr.; G Shelby Steger, 5-5, fr.; G/F Lindsay Stopa, 5-11, fr.; C Carter Wear, 6-0, fr.
November - 1, Trinity Christian, 7 p.m.; 3, at Indiana, 6 p.m.; 12, Morningside, 2 p.m.; 19, at Olivet Nazarene, 3 p.m.; 22, Lindenwood-Belleville, 3 p.m.; 27, Roosevelt, 2 p.m.
December - 3, Ashford, 1 p.m.; 7, AIB, 5:30 p.m.; 10, at William Penn, 1 p.m.; 19, at Hawaii Pacific, 5 p.m.; 20, vs. St. Xavier at Hoop-N-Surf, 7 p.m.; 27, vs. Calumet-St. Joseph at St. Xavier Tournament, 5 p.m.; 28, vs. St. Francis (Ill.) or Davenport U. at St. Xavier Tournament, 1 or 5 p.m.; 29, at St. Xavier Tournament, TBA
January - 4, at Clarke, 5:30 p.m.; 7, at Grand View, 1 p.m.; 11, Mount Mercy, 5:30 p.m.; 14, Waldorf, 1 p.m.; 18, at Viterbo, 5:30 p.m.; 21, Iowa Wesleyan, 1 p.m.; 23, at Ashford, 5:30 p.m.; 26, William Penn, 5:30 p.m.; 28, at AIB, 1 p.m.
February - 1, Clarke, 5:30 p.m.; 4, Grand View, 1 p.m.; 8, at Mount Mercy, 5:30 p.m.; 11, at Waldorf, 1 p.m.; 15, Viterbo, 5:30 p.m.; 18, at Iowa Wesleyan, 1 p.m.