RENO -- Virgin Valley's girls basketball team lost three starters to graduation from last year, including record-setting center Rachel Morris to the University of Utah.
So it would have been easy for the Bulldogs to lessen expectations for this season. But "rebuilding" hardly described the team's outlook.
"I think a lot of people felt like last year, the core of our team was our post play," coach Chimane Creer said. "But one thing they overlooked is that I had a bunch of guards coming back who could handle the ball. We had a different element than we had in the past. We didn't have the size, but we had the speed."
Virgin Valley has sprinted its way back into the Class 3A state tournament.
The Bulldogs (16-9), who lost to Spring Creek in the state final last season, meet Elko (17-9) in a state semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday at Reno High School. The winner moves into the title game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at UNR's Lawlor Events Center.
Virgin Valley's backcourt has been the driving force behind the Bulldogs' memorable run, which includes a 3A Southern League tournament title.
Sophomore guard Abbie Barnard emerged as a leader, averaging 16.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Junior guard Nikki Arquette (6.6 ppg) and senior forward Cassidy Crandall (5.9 ppg) help give the Bulldogs a consistent supporting cast.
Virgin Valley also received a lift from 6-foot-4-inch freshman center Kourtney Metzger, who averages 6.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
"(Barnard) put in a lot of time over the summer. Her and Kourtney played on a travel team all summer," Creer said. "They played some really good competition, and that helped those two develop, probably at a quicker pace than I expected."
Creer praised her team's unselfishness on the offensive end.
"Our scoring's kind of been balanced," she said. "Abbie had some big games, but the rest of the players have been getting between four and 10 points, and it's been spread out.
"Abbie was going to score points, but they started to distribute the ball. That says a lot in itself about the maturity level in them as a group."
The 2A girls semifinals are Friday at North Valleys High, with White Pine (15-11) playing Lincoln County (24-4) at 3 p.m. and Mountain View (16-12) facing Pershing County (28-1) at 6:20 p.m.
The 1A girls semifinals are Friday at UNR, with Eureka (17-5) playing Pahranagat Valley (24-4) at 11 a.m. and Beatty (11-4) meeting Wells (22-6) at 2:20 p.m.
In a 3A boys semifinal, Boulder City (19-9) meets Lowry (20-6) at 4:40 p.m. Friday at Reno High.
The 2A boys semifinals are Friday at North Valleys, with West Wendover (22-6) playing The Meadows (22-6) at 4:40 p.m. and Agassi Prep (22-5) facing Pershing County (25-6) at 8 p.m.
The 1A boys semifinals are Friday at UNR, with Owyhee (16-10) playing Spring Mountain (23-6) at 12:40 p.m. and Pahranagat Valley (18-9) facing McDermitt (22-6) at 4 p.m.
Contact reporter Tristan Aird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @tristanaird.