MONTVILLE _ Montville knows exactly what other teams are thinking.
There's little left. They'll probably struggle. It could be a long season.
Sure, standout players like Bria Corham moved on, leaving the Mustangs, Morris County Tournament finalists for the first time in school history, with only two returning starters.
The lack of experienced personnel hasn't detered Montville, which is aiming for another stellar season.
"There's some pressure on us," said Megan Braden, an outside hitter and three-year starter. "A lot of teams will have their eyes on us. We lost a lot but we have potential. We'll rise to the occasion. I think other teams will be surprised by our talent."
Braden, a captain, liked what she saw in Montville's four scrimmages.
"This is a new level of play for many of the girls," she said. "They're doing an amazing job."
Senior middle hitter Mia DePasquale agrees.
"We work as a team. We're tight. We're close," DePasquale said. "We have a lot of players up from JV. Varsity can be overwhelming. Wins, like the one we had today against Secaucus (in a scrimmage), will build confidence. I'm excited about this season. We never feel dull or low. We're always hyped up."
The Mustangs, 26-4 and runnersup to Mendham in the 2013 MCT title game, will not dwell on that run. They'll only use those memories to ignite the newcomers.
"All of them were there," DePasquale said. "They saw what it was like. There was a big crowd and some of the best players in the state. We want to focus on now and not mention the past."
Mustangs coach Pat Lyons isn't looking at the 2014 campaign as a rebuilding year.
"We're just replenishing," Lyons said. "We have many high-quality athletes. We don't have a superstar. We have a team with a spreadout offense. No one will get 600 kills. I'd rather have three girls with 250 kills each. I've always coached that way. What if there's an injury? Then what will we do?"
Montville has a core of eight players, including Braden and DePasquale. Junior Lexi Goldberg plays middle blocker. Rachel Inglesino, a senior, is the libero. Jessica Lake, another senior, is a backcourt specialist. Kelly O'Reilly, a junior, is a weakside player and setter. Julie Prager is a senior setter. Samantha Press, a senior, is an outside hitter.
Even more than their athleticism, Lyons likes his players' attitudes and chemistry.
"I feel that this group really enjoys playing together," Lyons said. "They have great personalities and keep things loose."
Lack of varsity experience doesn't concern Lyons. He realizes there very well may be growing pains. However, he believes the team "will be solid once it comes together."
DePasquale said the main objective is to get back to the MCT final. The younger players understand how special it is to be in the game because they were spectators last fall.
"There was a big crowd and that pumped us up," DePasquale said. "We got to be on the court with some of the best players in the state. We were very fortunate."
Montville is 1-1 after two matches. Prager had 16 assists in a win over Mount Olive. The statistics sheet showed much balance when the Mustangs fell to Passaic Valley.
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