HANNAHVILLE - A year ago, the Hannahville girls were in the midst of a race for the Northern Lights League regular-season basketball title, finishing third at 6-4.
Beaver Island and Kinross Maplewood Baptist shared top honors at 7-3, with Grand Marais and Mackinac Island 5-5.
Hannahville then earned its first league tournament title in a 41-33 conquest of Grand Marais.
"I expect much of the same this year," said coach Tom Ohman. "Maplewood will be tough again. Mackinac, Beaver and Maplewood are quick teams. I think will be a battle to the end again. Beaver Island has Olivia Cary coming back, and she's an outstanding player."
The Soaring Eagles open this weekend, hosting Beaver Island Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Katlyn Sagataw, a 5-foot-7 senior guard who played a key role in NLL championship contest, is among Hannahville's top returners.
Nov. 30 - Beaver Island
Dec. 1 - Beaver Island
Dec. 7-8 - at Mackinac Island
Dec. 11 - at Bay Mills Ojibwe Charter
Dec. 13 - Big Bay de Noc
Jan. 4 - Grand Marais
Jan. 11-12 - at Kinross Maplewood Baptist
Jan. 15 - Munising Baptist
Jan. 18-19 - at Beaver Island
Jan. 29 - Bay Mills Ojibwe Charter
Feb. 5 - Munising Baptist
Feb. 8-9 - Mackinac Island
Feb. 12 - at Grand Marais
Feb. 22-23 - Northern Lights League tournament at Rudyard
"We'll depend on Katlyn a lot," said Ohman. "Last year, she pretty much took the Grand Marais game on her back (with 12 points)."
Also expected to draw starting roles are 5-4 junior point guard Sophie Manitowabi, 5-7 freshman forward Selena Williams, 5-7 junior center Alicia O'Brien and 5-7 1/2 junior forward Mary Saldana.
"Selena has fine-tuned her game during the summer, and it really shows on the floor," said Ohman. "We're hoping to get some scoring out of her. Also, Alicia worked during the summer on being a good post player."
Carley Sagataw, a 5-5 junior guard, will likely be Hannahville's sixth player.
Also filling reserve roles are seventh-graders Shannon Ortiz, Lena Philemon and Ceyenna Boychief.
"With only nine on our team, we don't have much depth yet," said Ohman. "We have a fairly young team. Yet, four of our starters have been playing for three years. We also have some experience. But we'll have to stay out of foul trouble and be smart with the ball. It's nice to have a point guard like Sophie. She's a good dribbler and distributes the ball well. The girls know what to expect. I think they're up for the challenge."
Ohman knows the Soaring Eagles will also need to box out on the boards.
"Maplewood might be the tallest team," he said. "They were pretty young last year, and I remember seeing many of their girls on the volleyball squad. Everybody in our league has at least one tall player, but we'll be able to hold our own. We've been working on rebounding and boxing out."