This is going to be a year of challenges.

First-year St. Luke's girls basketball head coach Jennifer Pokorney is ready for them. She has to be, if the team is going to have much success.

And before you go thinking the challenges with this team are typical, reconsider your stance. Because, just before the season was set to begin, Storm head coach Dave Finch was forced to step aside for the year due to health issues. With that unexpected departure, Pokorney has been put in front of the fire to teach and lead this team.

The most comforting news of all: She was an assistant on last year's group, which sought to find an identity in the wake of Rachel Brittenham, one of the best players in program history, graduating. Was that identity found? In some ways, yes. But Brittenham's talent wasn't replaced, and it won't be again this year, either.

The Storm has two returning seniors -- Megan Flood and Hannah Shaw, who were also starters last year -- and from there will look for aggressive play from anyone and everyone who can step up. The rest of the team is comprised of one junior, two sophomores and five freshmen.

Plus, four of the girls came off soccer season, played for one week, then had Thanksgiving. Just about now is the time when everyone is catching up to being in basketball shape.

Though many regular-season games have been played, mid-December is how the team is viewing as the start of its season.

"Early on we showed such potential," Pokorney said. "But it's really about skill development right now."

Shaw is a good shooter who needs to come out of her shell this season. The Storm guard has showed flashes in the past two years, but if this team is to make a mark in the FAA, she'll have to find a mean streak.

Another obstacle for the group: three freshman in the starting lineup. The twist: all three played on varsity last year as eighth-graders. Pokorney said her two studs are Tunde Johnson and Anisa Fortt. The forwards -- though Fortt could be a guard -- are still raw but capable of a lot of growth this season. Flood will make up the third piece of the frontcourt, while the third freshman of the group, Melanie Bow, is the 2-guard alongside Shaw.

Flood will likely lead the team in scoring this season, as she's one of the most formidable players in the paint in the FAA.

Flood's ability doesn't pair well with getting back and stopping teams' secondary break. St. Luke's has had to work on its transition defense a bit in the past two weeks, which was something the new head coach wasn't expecting to deal with.

"We run the zone and the fast-break fairly decently, but there are bad habits that need to be killed off in transition right now," Pokorney said.

Though Flood is the critical offensive weapon, she's had a lot of help, which is encouraging for this group.

"What's happening every game, no matter what, Tunde and Anisa are scoring six to eight to 10 points, consistently," Pokorney said.

Sophomore guard/forward K.C. Kelly, who played JV last year, is a natural basketball player, and has potential to become a starter later in the season, Pokorney added.

"She's a strong defensive player, may be the best we have," the coach said. "She can move all over the courst well. She's a good athlete. "

Elsewhere, freshman Molly Pivirotto is a point guard who will relieve Shaw of some minutes here and there.

It's a transition period, not just a transition year. Amid the change, Pokorney raved about how eager this group was to improve and how attitudes have remained positive. That mindset can lead to victories in the FAA, certainly.

"Each and every one of these kids is a great kid, a great learn. They have so much potential, each and every one," the coach said. "They have so much to give, we're just young. They can grow into their role."