Last year, the Providence Day girls' basketball team was young with just one senior on the 10-player roster. That team went on to a win 28 games and capture a second straight N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A title, the Chargers' sixth in seven years.
Opposing coaches probably aren't going to like hearing this from head coach Josh Springer, who is in his fifth year leading the team.
"We're not young," he said. "This is the most senior-laden team, not just in terms of numbers but in terms of quality, that we've had."
Providence Day returns nine players from last year's 28-4 team and has four seniors, three of whom have played on varsity since freshman year. Springer has high hopes for the squad.
"Our goals this year are higher than they've ever been," he said. "If we had won three games last year, we wouldn't have those goals, but I know here, we've got really high expectations. We've got great administration, great support and we want to push our team to be the very best they can be on a state level, on a regional level and on a national level."
The Chargers will have a chance to prove themselves quickly with what Springer calls the toughest schedule the team has had since he started there. Providence Day opens its season Wednesday with a home game against Oak Hill Academy (Va.), a team that Providence Day hasn't beaten since Springer's first year in 2006.
"There's a reason we open up with Oak Hill, they've got unbelievable tradition," said Springer. "But we think we're up for the challenge. we know that we're going to have a major test and it's a true benchmark game for our team this year."
Providence Day will play in the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational in Myrtle Beach and in the Peach Belt Classic in Atlanta in December. They will also have two games with Carolina Day, which was the undefeated NCISAA 2A champion last year, and two with conference rival Charlotte Christian.
"There's no cupcake scheduling and I don't know if we're going to lose zero games or 12 games, but I know this, that it will bring the best out of our players every night out," said Springer.
The Chargers are led by senior Tiffany Mitchell, who signed with South Carolina last week and was all-state her freshman, sophomore and junior years. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.5 steals per game last year, all team highs. She is joined in the backcourt by junior Jada Brayboy, who is in her third year as the team's starting point guard.
Senior Olivia Parker and sophomore Jatarie White will be key inside for the Chargers. Parker (6-foot-1), who signed with Gardner-Webb last week, averaged 7.3 points and six rebounds last year and is a versatile post player, according to Springer. White (6-foot-3) averaged 11 points and 8.1 rebounds as a freshman last year and was selected to the USA Basketball U16 national team over the summer and averaged 9.8 points per game. She's also ranked as the third best player in the 2014 class by ESPN.
Providence Day boasts a slew of other returning players that will contribute this year, including seniors Dacia Thompson and Cailan Howey, junior Stephanie Davis and sophomores Emma Pixley, Morgan Mosack and Nikyah Morgan. Junior South Mecklenburg transfer Ashton Carrick and freshman Heather Graci are the team's only new players.
Springer said he's focusing on his team playing strong defensively and improving on free throw shooting. In addition to their on-court leadership, the Chargers have a quality Springer thinks is key to building a successful team: senior leadership.
"They know me, I know them, they know what to expect, they know what our program stands for and I'm excited about their leadership," he said. "The best teams have internal leadership where the players hold the players accountable."
Private school girls' players to watch
F Gigi Bailey, Charlotte Christian: Was the Knights' leading scorer as a sophomore last year with 23.4 points and nine rebounds per game.
G Maryah Mazyck, Charlotte Christian: Senior guard averaged 9.9 points and 4.8 assists.
G Beth Erb, Charlotte Country Day: Junior scored 13.6 points per game to lead the Bucs last year.
G Tiffany Mitchell, Providence Day: Senior fills up every column of the stat book.
F Jatarie White, Providence Day: One of the best sophomores in the country and should continue to improve.