The Newell-Fonda girls basketball team will be without Sarah Culp - a speedy first-team all-conference guard who's now at Morningside - this season.
Other than that, things are looking pretty positive for sixth-year coach Dick Jungers' club as it tries to defend the Northwest Conference title it shared with Storm Lake St. Mary's last year.
"We will be deep and will have a lot of different kids who can play, but we will have to find a chemistry that works on the floor to be effective night in and night out," said Jungers, whose team went 18-4 overall and tied the Panthers with a 12-2 league mark last year.
"We have to play with a lot of energy and we have to dictate the type of game that is played," added Jungers, who has a record of 102-21 at Newell-Fonda. "We are still a very young team, but we have a lot of athleticism and a lot of our kids played a lot of varsity last year."
Key returnees include junior forward Lauren Devereaux, junior forward Katie Kaufman, junior forward Karina Overgaard, sophomore forward Becky Seivert, junior guard Ellen Gruntorad, junior guard Rachel Culp, sophomore guard Katelyn Laursen, sophomore guard Susan Kies and sophomore guard Alisa Christensen.
Others expected to contribute this season are sophomore forward Jacki Peters and sophomore forward Beth Culp.
"Our kids have a tremendous work ethic," said Jungers, "and are extremely dedicated to basketball."
At the same time, N-F is somewhat lacking in the interior size department.
"We will have to overcome that with our work ethic," said Jungers. "Other things that we have to be concerned about is who is going to step up and take us to the next level. We have a lot of talent, but not all of our kids come to play every night.
"We have to avoid playing flat and play at a high level every night."
Jungers thinks the conference race should be an interesting one this season, with a lot of talented seniors from last year now playing their freshman seasons in college.
It will be wide open again, he says.
"I feel that teams like Alta who have a lot of tremendous young talent, Sioux Central has a solid core, and Schaller has some of the best post players in the area ... add (newcomer Laurens-Marathon) to the mix and it should be a challenging race to the top," Jungers said.
"The team that can hold their home court and win the winnable games on the road should win the conference this year."
The Mustangs will be in action at 8:45 p.m. this Saturday in a jamboree at Storm Lake High against the Tornadoes.