At first glance, it might seem like the head coaching change for the Eastern York girls' basketball program might necessitate a "breaking-in" period.
If you investigate a little further, however, you quickly find out that is far from the case.
Former coach Bob Heiser stepped down at the end of last season after leading the highly-successful Golden Knights' program for the past 12 years. While any transition is bound to cause some changes in the culture, the hiring of Cheryl Land has been a relatively smooth exchange so far.
In fact, Land, a former assistant coach at York Catholic the past six years, has a lot of personal experience coaching most of the Golden Knight lineup already. She's been a head coach for an AAU team the past two years that featured Eastern standout Liz Myers, as well as Morgan Thomas, Leah Myers and others.
"What's really important to know is that I've had a relationship with many of these girls through AAU the past two years," said Land, who previously coached the York Country Day program during the 2002-03 season. "So I think that has made that transition a little bit easier."
That transition will be tested over the first few weeks of the season. The Knights will play Central Dauphin in the Spring Grove Tournament this Friday and will also face tough tests against West York, York Catholic and Delone Catholic over the following two weeks.
It's not an easy way to start a season, but Land is confident that, win or lose, her team will only get better because of it come playoff time.
"These girls are really determined," she said. "They've set their goals for the season and are motivated to achieve them."
Land is hoping to repeat some of the success that she's enjoyed while helping out at York Catholic, as well as her other coaching endeavors over the past decade.
"I've learned quite a bit from (York Catholic head coach) Kevin Bankos and (assistant coach) Mike Weaver, of course," Land said. "I've also had the opportunity to coach with Bill Ackerman when we were with the York City Noise, which was a women's semi-professional basketball team. So I've had the good fortune of working with some really great coaches, but it goes without saying that to work with Kevin Bankos was a dream come true. We've passed a lot of wisdom and knowledge between the two of us, and I was just blessed to be able to work with him as well as Mike for all those years."
Land's fortune, however, doesn't stop just there. She's also inheriting a program that Heiser worked hard to turn into a York-Adams League power over his tenure. The Knights are coming off a 20-5 campaign in which they won the Division III title for the second year in a row.
And, oh yeah, she'll be able to depend upon the physical presence of Liz Myers, who recently earned a scholarship to play at NCAA Division II Shepherd University next year. Myers led the Knights in scoring a year ago at 13.0 points a game.
"She knows a lot about me and she's always pushing me as a player," Liz Myers said of Land. "She's always asking me to push myself to my limits."
While many things haven't changed during the transition between Heiser to Land, Myers can pinpoint one big difference at practices.
"She is so energetic," Myers said. "I call her the Energizer bunny. She's just all over the place."
While the Red Lion girls have ruled the York-Adams' top tier over the past decade, that reign may be in some jeopardy in 2012-2013.
The two-time defending District 3-AAAA champions will have to replace six seniors -- including leading scorer Erica Maciejewski (16.2 ppg) -- from a team that finished 29-2 last year.
Add in the move up to Division I by a West York squad that claimed the Division II title a season ago, with the return of the entire starting lineup at Dallastown, and the division title may almost be a pick 'em at this juncture.
A majority of the coaches polled picked Coach Don Dimoff's team to continue its 12-year stranglehold atop the division standings. Red Lion hasn't dropped a divisional contest since Jan. 27, 2009, against New Oxford -- a span of 46 games.
The Lions, though, will have to replace nearly 34 points a game in offense this season. Fortunately for Dimoff, he'll be able to count upon senior Jenny Horvatinovic to lead his team this season. Horvatinovic, who committed to NCAA Division I Monmouth earlier this year, scored 13.1 ppg for a Lion team that held opponents to just 33.8 points a game.
West York, which advanced to the PIAA tournament for the fourth year in a row under Coach Jon Shultz, lost leading scorer Olivia Manges and her 13.8 points a game. Still the Bulldogs will have Sarah Shearer (12.8 ppg) back, in addition to the rest of the starters from a team that finished 20-9.
"We want to play with pride every game and get better as the year goes on, in order to give ourselves a good opportunity at competing for county, district and state championships," Shultz said.
The Wildcats finished last year with a deceiving 12-12 record. Coach Mary Manlove's team struggled with a brutal early-season schedule, but did win 11 of 15 divisional contests. Manlove, who picked up a new surname after getting married this summer, will return six players that started a majority of her team's contests a season ago.
"Our four seniors -- Shae Grim (8.3 ppg), Shannon Thomas (8.7 ppg), Jenna Jackson (6.1 ppg) and Kellie Butler (1.2 ppg) -- have invested an incredible amount of time in our program over the past four years," Manlove said. "They are highly motivated to reach their goals and are dedicating valuable time helping newcomers learn our system. Our players have trained diligently over the summer and we're excited about the level of commitment and motivation we're seeing from our team."
Sophomore Amari Johnson, who averaged 5.4 points a game as a freshman, is also one to look out for on the Wildcat roster. At 6-foot-1, the improvement of the physically-gifted Johnson could go a long way in determining her team's success.
New Oxford, under new head coach Mike Sanders, will rely upon Millersville recruit Lindsey Miller this year. Miller averaged 6.4 ppg a year ago and will need to guide a young team that Sanders, who previously coached at Dover, hopes can play a more attacking style on both ends of the court.
Both Central York (9-12) and South Western (5-17) will look to turn around their records from a year ago.
The division that dealt with the most changes this offseason should be a pretty entertaining one this year.
With both West York and Kennard-Dale (now in Division III) gone, newcomers Susquehannock and York Suburban will look to challenge Dover for the division crown.
The Eagles (18-7) finished a game behind the Bulldogs in the standings a year ago and only lost three players (Ayanna Hall, Erin Wetzel, Kendra Hilbert) to graduation. Coach Troy Lokhaiser's team will have junior Alayah Hall (14.4 ppg) back, in addition to starters Maxine Herman, Megan Lokhaiser and Kara Funk.
Susquehannock figures to be best positioned to battle Dover for the division title. Coach Dave Schreiner's team finished 15-10 a year ago in Division III and will have the entire core of that group back again this season. Juniors Shannon Druck (10.8 ppg), MaKenzie Fancher (8.6 ppg) and Katie Wagner (6.7 ppg) will take the court, alongside seniors Leah Deter (4.7 ppg) and Jeannette Wilson (6.1 ppg).
"We have a lot of experience," Schreiner said. "Basically everyone is back from last season. We have good speed and quickness, which we can use in our pressure game. And we can score from perimeter."
First-year coach Jess Barley will look to guide the Trojans into a successful move to a new division. Barley, who was a standout for both Suburban and York College, will have to replace two starters from last year's team that finished 8-13.
"We have a core group of players who have put in a lot of work in the gym and weight room over the summer," Barley said. "Our expectations and goals include winning our division and qualifying for districts."
Barley won't be the only new coach in the division. Spring Grove will be breaking in a new coach this year as well. Gerry Rohrbaugh takes over the reins from longtime coach Vance Myers. Northeastern will also have a new coach in Bill Novak, who replaces Jim Sinkovitz.
Rohrbaugh has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in coaching at Delone Catholic, Susquehannock and Spring Grove. Taking over the program won't be easy, however. Rohrbaugh will have to find a way to replace nine seniors from last year's squad that finished 11-11.
Novak won't have as much trouble as Rohrbaugh, although he will have to find a way to replace leading scorers Stevie Kitching (8.8 ppg) and Courtney DeMonda (8.4 ppg). DeMonda, a junior, transferred to York Catholic, while Kitching graduated. The Bobcats finished 1-13 in division play a year ago and 7-15 overall.
While Land and the Golden Knights look to make it a three-peat atop the division, newcomers Kennard-Dale and York High, along with Adams County teams Bermudian Springs and Littlestown will look to prevent that.
The way that last year ended for Eastern -- an OT loss to West York in the District 3-AAA playoffs -- is a motivating factor for Liz Myers and company this year.
"That was pretty devastating," Myers said. "We weren't ready to be done. None of us were. It was very emotional. Going in we didn't think that was going to be our last game so it was just like a shock to us all."
Land is hoping to turn the Knights into a more versatile team this season. The loss of Morgan DeRemer (12.5 ppg) is huge inside, however, Myers feels this year's team will be less post-oriented.
"We don't want to be just good in the post," she said. "We want to have shooters outside. We want to be able to break the press. We want to do everything."
Morgan Thomas (6.6 ppg), Krissy Pennell (5.2 ppg), Lauren Beaver (2.5 ppg) and both Liz and Leah Myers (2.4 ppg) are projected to be the Knights' starting lineup come this weekend.
The Rams figure to be the top challenger for Eastern in the division. Coach Jeff Stratmeyer's team will have the league's second-leading scorer, Sara Tarbert, back for her senior campaign. The 5-foot-11 post player averaged 19.5 points a game last season and recently committed to play at NCAA Division I UMBC next year.
"She's arguably the best player in the county," Stratmeyer said of Tarbert.
Stratmeyer, however, doesn't feel his team will be one-dimensional.
"We have a lot of experience returning with six letter-winners from last season and six seniors," he said. "We aren't a really tall team, but we are athletic and fast. We'll be looking to improve our defensive ranking from last season and hope to return to the District 3 and potentially the state tournaments."
Bermudian finished with a 10-12 record a year ago under second-year coach Kari Cover. Cover will have her work cut out for her after losing four key starters from last year's club.
"We are a very young and inexperienced team," Cover said of her team which has no seniors. "Underclassmen will need to step up and learn new roles."
The Bearcats should enjoy more success with the move down from Division I. York finished 5-16 last year, the program's most wins since Blaine Claiborne took over as head coach. Claiborne, however, will have to replace nearly 19 points a game after the graduation of Aignee Freeland and the transfer of Japriya Carroll to York Catholic.
Littlestown (2-20) will look to improve upon its record from a season ago.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That seems to ring true in Division IV. Both York Catholic and Delone Catholic figure to again battle one another for the division crown.
Both teams will have a number of holes to fill after losing some highly-successful seniors a year ago.
No one fit that description better than the York-Adams League's all-time leading scorer, Sierra Moore from Delone. Moore, who is now playing at Duke University, averaged 24.6 points a game a season ago in leading Gerry Eckenrode's team to the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
Replacing anyone of Moore's abilities is nearly impossible to do, but Eckenrode is eager to see what this year's group can do in his 14th season at Delone. Sophomore Maddie Comly (4.0 ppg) and seniors Abbey Sponseller (5.3 ppg) and Bethany Ball (6.3 ppg) will be relied upon to lead a team that finished 23-6 a year ago.
"This team has some good chemistry," Eckenrode said. "They're very coachable and have a good work ethic. They know the system. (But) we're going to have to find a way to replace 30-plus points a game from last year's seniors."
York Catholic will have to find a way to replace three starters -- Rachel Forjan (10.7 ppg), Karli McFatridge (11.1 ppg) and Carly Marks (4.1 ppg) -- who graduated last year.
Bankos, however, will have leading scorer Morgan Klunk back for her senior year. Klunk averaged 14.0 points a game after leading the Irish to the state finals. Hannah Laslo, Andrea Hess, Jess Mazzur and Zaenna Echevarria figure to be the ones to bridge the gap, while newcomers Carroll (York High) and DeMonda (Northeastern) will look to find a role in a new system.
"The expectations (around here) never change," Bankos said. "We want to be better at the end of the month than (we were at) the beginning of the month."
Hanover (10-13), Biglerville (6-16) and Fairfield (5-15) will all look to get over the .500 mark this season.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.