The big question facing Oakton girls basketball this season was this - how would the defending Virginia Class AAA state champion Cougars fare without the Coyer twins in 2012-13?
Katherine and Caroline Coyer have graduated from Oakton - the twins are now both at Villanova - but their accolades will be hard to match. Both started all four years for the Cougars, helping the team 110-5 record, four district championships, three Northern Virginia championships and, of course, Oakton's first ever state title.
"I doubt anyone thought that we would repeat the undefeated season of last year," Coach Fred Priester told Patch. "However, we are reminded that we must rise to the challenge. Oakton always has a target on our backs. Tradition dictates that we respond to that with our best effort and with a goal of playing at or near our potential every game."
But this is a new year, and the Cougars - who went 31-0 in 2011-12 - are feeling the loss of seven seniors from last year's squad. This week, it suffered its first loss since the 2011-12 postseason, a 68-52 loss to Mount Vernon on Tuesday.
The Cougars are now 3-1 after starting the season strong, pounding Lee 58-33, Wakefield 63-29 and Langley 60-35.
"Seasons are discrete to themselves. We end every year by noting that 'never again will there be a team at Oakton or anywhere with the characteristics of the one that they have just experienced,'" Priester said. "That is the nature of time. So while we continue to build upon tradition, each team is a distinct entity which must be molded and built step by step each year."
Leading Oakton has been 6-foot-1 senior center Elizabeth Manner. Manner followed up a 30-point game against Langley with 35 against Mount Vernon and is now averaging 22.8 points per game.
She has signed to play with Stony Brook University next season.
"Elizabeth has been a leader off the floor and has now assumed a leading role as a scorer on the floor. She is equipped to handle that role and any others that emerge throughout the season," Priester said.
Sophomore guard Karlie Cronin has also boosted the team with nine points per game.
Two more seniors, guard Helen Roberts (5.5 ppg) and center/forward Angela Sickles (4.0 ppg) offer some more experience to the team.
"The team and coaches must adjust each year to different skill sets and thus different focuses and different plans on offense and defense," Priester said. "Every player has the opportunity to forge a new role that fits their abilities and fills a need for the team."
Next up for Oakton: at Yorktown at 7:45 p.m. Friday.