This winter, the Seymour High School girls’ basketball team aims to prove any doubters wrong.

The Owls expect to grow as the 2017-18 season progresses, and win along the journey.

This year’s roster will feature three seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.

Of the returning players, just three played heavy varsity minutes last season — juniors Makenna Fee, Ashton Chase and Megan Ritz.

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The Owls wrapped up their second week of practices yesterday, and will play their first game a week from today at Salem.

Losing five seniors to graduation, the current group of Owls haven’t spent a lot of time on the court together.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to play together,” Owls coach Jason Longmeier. “We’ve been fortunate the past four or five years to have a group that have played together for a long time. They haven’t seen a lot of court time together outside of the summer. We’re trying to find out what we can do well and what we can’t.”

Longmeier, who is entering his sixth season at the helm, looks forward to the task of working with a young team.

“I need to do a lot more coaching with this team than I’ve had to do the last couple years,” Longmeier said. “It’s more enjoyable when you do that. You go back to the basics and fundamentals to get them ready to play and compete. I’m going to enjoy coaching them and seeing their growth from beginning to end.”

Over the past three seasons, the Owls have amassed a record of 50-21.

After winning the Hoosier Hills Conference in 2015-16 with an overall record of 18-5, the Owls finished 15-9 last season and fifth in HHC play.

Jeffersonville won the HHC for the 2016-17 season, going 7-0 in conference play, and Bedford North Lawrence were runners-up (6-1 HHC).

The Owls hope to be in the mix for the conference title.

“I think Bedford is going to be better than they were last year, they really only lost one player,” Longmeier said. “They’re going to be really good, and we saw Jeff five or six times this summer. We didn’t play them, but they’re deep, athletic and can run. You look at the top with Bedford and Jeff and hopefully we can follow in behind that and find a way to upset those two.”

Longmeier said that the biggest challenge this team faces, so far, is figuring out leadership roles.

“The dynamic with the group we have, our leadership needs to be important,” he said. “We’re not going to have the early success that we’ve had the past couple years. What I mean by that is that I still expect us to go out and win those basketball games, but we’re going to have to do some things differently. Our leadership is going to have to be a little different. We are going to have to make sure we’re demanding, and accept some early mistakes. The kids have really struggled with that in practice with that up to this point. Our confidence needs to be a little better.”

Fee, 6-0, will be heavily involved on both ends of the court this season. After being thrust into the starting lineup last season, Fee feels confident going into the season.

“I feel like I’m finally kind of ready for it,” Fee said. “Last year was kind of my first real year of varsity. I feel like now I have the feel for it. I think I will fill my role like I’m supposed to.”

This season, the Owls don’t feature many bigs. They have two players at 6-0, and nine at 5-8 or shorter.

Without a lot of height, the Owls plan to use their speed to hurt the opposition.

“Most of the strengths are going to be getting ahead and going off with our quickness and rebounding skills,” Ritz said. “With Makenna and I down low we can get it out and going with the guards.”

Longmeier said that they’re working on installing the systems on offense and defense.

“Some of the installation stuff we’re putting in, we’re not scoring in practice the way I would like us to be scoring — but I think it will come,” he said. “Transition, we’ve changed some things. We’re still learning what it is we’re trying to accomplish out of that. That’s where our kids need to stay confident, and with it. It’s easy right now, when things aren’t going really well, to get down and beat each other up. That’s where we’ve been (Wednesday and Thursday). We’ve spent some time beating ourselves up instead of picking each other up. We’re going to get it, we’re just a little behind compared to the past couple years and it’s because of our youth.”

The Owls will be without freshman Grace Meyer due to injury for near a month — who is expecting to get solid minutes — and may limit Chase in the first few games, Longmeier said.

Chase, a starting guard, will run in the state cross-country meet today.

While she will have the full five practices required to play in a game by Saturday, Chase’s first practice with the basketball team isn’t until Monday.

“We will see (if Chase plays Saturday),” Longmeier said. “I think, at the end of the day, is I will sit down with Ashton and ask her if she’s ready to go. We need Ashton, but we’re not going to rush her.”

Maddie Roark, who was only allowed to play junior varsity last season due to transferring schools, will also be inserted into the Owls’ lineup.

“I think we’re working really well together,” Roark said. “I’m excited for this season to come quicker.”

Roark, a guard, also will factor in as a big part of the Owls’ offense.

In her sophomore year at Trinity Lutheran, Roark averaged 20.6 points, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Roark, Ritz and Fee all think they will surprise teams on the schedule.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people. I think a lot of people see us and think ‘wow, they lost five seniors. They’re going to be weak,'” Fee said. ” I think we will have a lot of strong points that people don’t know about. I’m excited about that.”

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Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.