Lincoln Christian's Olivia Hollenbeck shoots over Auburn's Sydnie Reeves during a Class C-1 state tournament game in March of 2018. Hollenbeck is the Crusaders' top returning scorer.

Nick Orduna puts in perspective what Super-Stater Chloe Dworak meant to Lincoln Christian basketball, and how teams defended the Crusaders.

"I was telling the girls, it's been four years since we've been pressed," the Lincoln Christian girls basketball coach said in reference to Dworak's ball-handling skills. "So we're probably going to be challenged, and that's going to be good for us."

High school basketball begins Thursday. Not only does Lincoln Christian expect new looks from opposing defenses, the Crusaders themselves will have a new look.

Gone are Dworak (now at Creighton) and Emie Hollenbeck, two four-year starters who helped the Crusaders reach levels they hadn't seen before. That included four trips to the Class C-1 state semifinals and a 2017 state championship.

But Christian isn't starting from scratch. It returns 6-foot-4 forward Olivia Hollenbeck, who is receiving Division I recruiting interest. Junior guards Macy Arnold and Barrett Power also started last year.

There are 10 sophomores or freshmen on the varsity roster (and no seniors), and many of them have a chance to make an immediate impact.

"I definitely sense a meshing that's already taking place," Orduna said. "The summer, it was, 'What's it going to look like?,' and then at the end of it, we saw what we were able to do. I think it gave them some confidence, and obviously in practice and the jamboree (against Lincoln Pius X) have been good, as well."

There are still a lot of moving pieces. A committee of players are expected to share duties at point guard. With Dworak and Emie Hollenbeck, the Crusaders were able to run more isolation plays. The offense may be a little bit more basic, Orduna said, as the younger players learn the system. Defense, especially with Olivia Hollenbeck in the middle, will still be a calling card for the Crusaders.

Lincoln Christian is far from the only Class C-1 team needing to replace core pieces. Defending state champion Columbus Scotus must find four new starters and its sixth person off the bench. Bishop Neumann must replace three starters, including Super-Stater Aspen Jansa.

"We want to always have high expectations, but I think the reality is we're probably right back in the middle of the pack as far as the class goes," he said. "I think we can still rise. One thing that always helps us is our schedule. We play really good competition and as long as the girls stay together and we keep improving week to week, usually by the end the of season we're ready to go out swinging."

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Lincoln Christian's Olivia Hollenbeck shoots over Auburn's Sydnie Reeves during a Class C-1 state tournament game in March of 2018. Hollenbeck is the Crusaders' top returning scorer.

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