The New Canaan girls basketball team officially begins a new era on Wednesday when it opens the season at Greenwich.
The Rams will play their first game without Sarah Mannelly, who graduated as one of the best female athletes to ever come through the school.
Mannelly was a rare breed: A three-sport star who earned all-state honors in soccer, basketball and lacrosse and is now playing the latter at Boston College.
On the hardwood, Mannelly led the Rams to a 61-31 record while averaging 16 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals during her career.
So, how you do you replace her? In a word, you can't.
Still, the cupboard isn't totally bare for New Canaan, which is coming off a 10-11 season in which it lost to Manchester in the first round of the Class LL state tournament. Far from it, in fact.
"(Mannelly) is the type of player you can't replace," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "But I think with the senior leadership we have this year, we're still going to compete and do the best we can in games."
Palmer will be relying on a quartet of seniors to help make the transition to the post-Mannelly era as smooth as possible for the Rams.
In addition, forward Kelly Armstrong should be able to help the team as a rebounding force inside. Together, the Rams have four senior starters, all of whom had the opportunity to play with Mannelly, which, in Palmer's eyes, makes them better players just because of that experience.
Rogers was an all-FCIAC third team pick last season while Armstrong and McEwan earned honorable mention honors.
"I think we have some balance this year that hopefully we can utilize," said Palmer, who is entering her fourth season at New Canaan. "They have a lot of game experience, so I think there's going to be strong leadership on the floor."
While Palmer will use a two- or three-guard set depending on the defense, she is looking at a seven- or eight-player rotation.
Sophomore Elizabeth Miller is a potential starter at point guard to replace Mannelly at that position while junior Lindsay Seelert is another promising point guard, according to Palmer.
The coach also sees improvement from Collette Pellegrini de Paur, a junior guard-forward who worked on her game during the summer while playing AAU ball.
Junior Page Jones, who can play either forward or center, is another potential impact player in the paint. She suffered a concussion during tryouts, but is recovered and ready to go, according to Palmer.
Besides Mannelly, the only other player the Rams lost to graduation was Ellie Wright, a shooting guard.
"Obviously, we're going to be in a transition (without Mannelly)," Palmer said. "I'm looking forward to the season. I think we have the potential to turn some heads this year. But it's going to take some time and I think the girls are going to be ready for it."
The Rams are 0-2 after losses against Greenwich and Wilton to start the season.