For program that finished a rebuilding season last year with a bid to the state playoffs, the Alice Lady Coyotes appear to have another challenging year before them.

A season after finishing the District 30-5A race in fourth place and returning to the state playoffs, the Alice girls are preparing for the start of the new year with a roster that includes only three varsity holdovers. Gone from last year’s team are eight players, who all graduated in the spring.

“We’re going to have a young team,” Alice coach Amanda Gonzalez said. “We’re going to need our returners to step up and be good leaders for our younger players.”

Alice had a scrimmage against West Oso, Orange Grove, Veterans Memorial and King Tuesday. They have another scrimmage Saturday at Sharyland and they’re beginning the season Tuesday here at home against H.M. King.

The Lady Coyotes’ returning varsity experience is in senior post Alex Garcia, junior wing Criselda Cruz and sophomore point guard Jakki Barrera. Garcia game the Lady Coyotes an inside presence last season, and Cruz and Barrera was energetic on the flood. Obviously, the Alice girls will have a young squad. In all, the team’s make-up should bestow freshmen, four sophomores, five juniors and only one season.

Even still, Gonzalez is optimistic.

“Practice has been going well,” Gonzalez said. “We’re working hard and we have a bunch of girls who are willing to learn non-stop. I expect us to make mistakes, but the important thing is to learn from it and keep working.”

In the next 30-5A, Alice will have to contend with an 11-team district and zone play similar to the format used by football and other sports. Gonzalez said the overall strength of the district should be tough, but zone play could allow for the Lady Coyotes to work themselves into positive for one of the district’s playoff spots.

“It was already a very good district, but now it’s incorporating the 6A schools that dropped to 5A,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to be even more competitive. Zone play gives us a chance.”