The faces are familiar, but the look is different for Casa Grande High School's Lady Gaucho basketball team this season.

Casa Grande lost just three players from a team that last season dominated the Sonoma County League, finished second in the North Coast Section playoffs, won 31 games (losing just three) and became the first Casa Grande girls team ever to reach the NorCal playoffs.

Those three players — Gretchen Harrigan, Samantha Sack and Desi Zidan — were the brains, the heart and the soul of that exceptional team.

Many of the players who played important roles on that championship team are back, but are being asked to step up into leadership roles, many at different positions.

"It is different for them this year, not just getting more time on the court, but in adjusting to who the leaders are," says Casa Grande coach Dan Sack.

"Even the returning starters will have new roles."

One of those assuming a new key role is senior guard Lyndsey Murnin. She was a huge part of Casa Grande's success last season, and is being asked to do even more this year.

She was one of the team's top scorers last season as the shooting guard and backed up Stephanie Sack as point guard. This year, with both Sack and Harrigan graduated, she is being asked to not only do more scoring, but also direct the team as the No. 1 point guard.

"She's perfect for that role," Sack says of Murnin at the point. "She knows the offense and never forces her shot. She takes the shot when it's available."

Brooke Santander, one of the taller of the Lady Gauchos at 5-feet, 8-inches, moves to the post full time after playing primarily on the wing last year. Not only is she a tenacious defender and rebounder, she is also an outstanding outside shooter with a good 3-point touch.

"Brooke works well in our system," the coach says. "We can match her up inside or she can pop out and hit a shot. We're using stuff farther away from the basket, and we've won some games with our 3s."

The biggest assets this year's team has, according to Sack, is the players' enthusiasm and willingness to work.

"I couldn't be happier with how hard hey play," the coach explains. "They just have to play hard smarter. Sometimes they play so hard they're not communicating."

One of the hardest playing of the Lady Gauchos is 5-foot, 9-inch Dayna Dolcini. "You won't see her much in the scoring column, but I haven't seen anyone in a long time who disrupts players on defense the way she does. She is the key to what we do on defense."

Also returning and being asked to play more important roles as they step into the starting lineup are seniors Allie Fausone and Lexie Schloetter. "Allie is a good defensive player and Lexi is an outside threat," says Sack. "I feel real comfortable with either one of them out there."

First off the bench for Casa Grande is Angela Llaverias. "I've coached her since junior high school," Sack observes. "She has played all five positions for me." At 5-foot, 8-inches the junior can fill in at either guard or wing.

Freshman Joy Jovick has played her way onto the varsity with her hustle, determination and poise.

"She is a bit undersized (5-feet, 7-inches), but she gets it done with heart," Sack says.

Junior Savanah Stafford is going into her third year on varsity. "She has developed an understanding of our offense," Sack says. "I feel real comfortable with her running our stuff."

Sarah Langdon comes up from the junior varsity to help at point guard. "She is doing a nice job backing up Lyndsey," Sack points out.

Megan Burke is also a JV grad who helps in the backcourt.

Three sophomores — Emma Bryan, Lucia Mora and Kayla Ryan — have already made contributions and will see more playing time as the season progresses. Bryan and Mora were with the varsity last season as freshmen.

"They're athletic kids who will be used more as we press more," Sack says.

Casa Grande is 6-3 on the season against very tough competition that doesn't get any easier next week as the Lady Gauchos compete in one of the most talent-loaded divisions in the West Coast Jamboree.

Sack says the difficult schedule will serve his team in good stead as it moves up to play in the tough North Bay League.

"There is no night off," he says. "Every team will be coming to get us."