Stacey VanDerSloot kept her team together this past summer, playing in tournaments and other competitions.
Hopefully, the Storm Lake coach's players learned how each other plays and formed some kind of bond.
That's how VanDerSloot will gauge the Tornadoes' improvement from a year ago.
"We played a lot of team ball this summer," she said. "Hopefully, that will show on the court. I think we also will be a better shooting team this year."
The early part of the season will also be a gauge for the Tornadoes.
"We need to pick up all of our home games before Christmas," VanDerSloot said. "If we can win our tough ones at home early on, I think that will set the tone for the rest of the season."
Storm Lake returns three starters from last year's 5-16 team in forward Brooke Overturf (10.3 ppg., 5.0 rpg.), center Billie Blanchard (6.8 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) and guard Molly Daniels (7.2 ppg.).
Jenny Woodford and Paige Havens will play regularly at the guard positions, while Chelsea Anderson, Casey Jennett and Lindsey Frederiksen will all play on the frontline.
"We will probably have different starters on different nights, according to our needs against our opponents' strengths," VanDerSloot said.
VanDerSloot measured her team's strengths and concerns.
"Because of the strength in our top 10 players, it will allow us the stamina to use fullcourt pressure for the majority of the game," she said. "We will also be looking forward to fast breaks this season. We have experience, speed, and the determination to succeed."
"Our size is a concern," VanDerSloot added. "We are not very tall. We will be outsized by most of our opponents."
VanDerSloot assessed how her team will be offensively and defensively.
"I think it will be vital that we can hit our 3-point shots and outside shots," she said. "This will force the defense out. Brooke will be playing in a post position this season, which will increase our inside scoring threat with Billie and Lindsey."
"Defense always seems to be our strength," VanDerSloot added. "We would like to hold our opponents under 45 points a game this season. We are quick enough and deep enough to apply some fullcourt pressure."
There are some other factors for the Tornadoes to challenge for the Lakes Conference title.
"Offensively, we need to become a threat from the outside," VanDerSloot said. "Defensively, we need to be able to stop the big girls down low."