"We were 8-2 when Michelle got hurt and then really struggled without her," said new head coach Marybeth Baldwin.
"Michelle had arthroscopic surgery and she's not 100 percent (healthy) yet," Baldwin said. "But even if she can only get back to 80 percent, I think she'll be one of the best players in the conference."
Baldwin is equally upbeat about her first year in charge of the Collingswood program.
"I'm confident in my abilities and I think the girls are happy to continue with the same program," said Baldwin, who served as the Panthers' assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach the past five seasons.
COACH. Six-year coach John Bach resigned to become the school principal at Collingswood, leaving the coaching post to Baldwin.
LAST SEASON. The Panthers finished sixth in the Colonial Conference with a 7-10 league record and were 9-15 overall. Collingswood's season ended in a 54-46 first-round loss to Buena in the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs.
PLAYERS LOST. Three players that were regulars in the lineup at the start of last season have graduated, including 5-8 forward Kris Everts, 5-7 forward Julie Buddendorf and 5-6 swing guard Monica Almberger.
PLAYERS RETURNING. Much of the Panthers' hopes bank on the return of Minerva, a third-year starter and fourth-year varsity member.
Danielle Dayton, a 5-7 senior, is another third-year starter who averaged close to 12 points per game last season while seeing action at both the point- and shooting-guard spots. Baldwin would like to move Dayton to small forward to take greater advantage of the senior's shooting and rebounding abilities.
Stacey Kelly, a 5-6 junior, played with the varsity last year and will start at point guard. One of two returning junior forwards will start, either 5-11 Dollie McCorkle, who has been slowed by a separated shoulder, or 5-7 Hope Arroliga, who will be counted on mainly for rebounding and defense.
NEWCOMERS. Peggy Shefski, a 5-7 junior transfer student from Bishop Eustace, is expected to start at shooting guard.
Freshman Angel Schultz (5-5) apparently will be the first guard off the bench.
OUTLOOK. Questions about Minerva's health persist, but the Panthers appear to have a good enough balance of experienced veterans and fresh faces to return Collingswood to the upper echelon of the Colonial Conference.
"The kids got thrust into playing last season in place of the seniors," Baldwin said. "They have experience now, they know what to expect (in
pressure situations) and I hope they made all their mistakes last year."