DYER BROOK, ME. (WAGM) - The Southern Aroostook girls basketball team has dominated the past two seasons in Class D. They've won two straight gold balls, but if they want to bring home gold ball number 3, they're going to have to rely on a whole new cast of characters. The Warriors of Southern Aroostook enter the 2019-20 season looking to replace six rotation players from last year's team, including four seniors.
"Well we're certainly going to miss them, it's going to be an adjustment," Head Coach Cliff Urquhart said. "The seniors have gone through the grind, they know the system, it's about teaching these kids what it's like and to gain all that experience."
Not too long ago, Coach Urquhart faced taller odds getting ready for the season.
"Four years ago, we didn't have any seniors, we didn't have any sophomores or juniors either," Urquhart said. "I'm glad that we do have one, she'll have to take on more of a leadership role and I think she's ready for that."
That one, is the lone returning starter from last year's back to back state champs, Makaelyn Porter. The Husson commit was a part of that young squad as an 8th grader and this will be her first year heading into battle without her long time teammates by her side.
"It's kind of my responsibility to step up and a lot of things are going to be on my back," Porter said. "I'm going to miss playing with them but I'm looking forward to the younger ones and getting a chance to play with them and lead them."
One of the young players who Coach Urquhart is expecting to rise to the occasion is traveling a very similar path to Porter. Maddie Russell played some meaningful minutes as an 8th grader last year and now is stepping into a starter's role much like Porter did her freshman year.
"Her being out there and being able to tell me what to expect and how to act, like not to be scared or anything has just helped," Russell said. "Like not many 8th graders get to say that they have been on a state championship team, so that's really cool."
Unlike the team of four years ago, the Warriors do have a couple of juniors and sophomores who have been a part of the system, although they haven't seen a ton of varsity minutes. If the Warriors want to go for three in a row, they'll need to them to get up to speed quick.
"The X factor, will probably be how well the younger kids can get accustomed to the game at this level," Urquhart said. "If we're going to make noise in Bangor they have to bring their level up."
They open up their title defense next Friday at home against Washburn.