MARINETTE - The Marinette girls' basketball season began as soon as last season ended.

Participation in open gyms, a summer league and a 6:30 a.m. sports conditioning class has primed the team to be much improved.

The first test will come in Tuesday's 7:15 p.m. season opener at home against Green Bay Southwest.

Last year, Luke Maulding became Marinette's third girls' basketball coach in as many seasons. He took over too late to implement his offseason program. A year later, there's continuity. Maulding is pleased with the offseason turnouts.

"They know how to work hard," he said. "We've had a good month of open gyms. Even our younger girls, they put in a lot of time. It's been huge. You can see a big difference."

The Marines return two starters - junior forward Cassie Hilbert and sophomore point guard Lexi Bohan, from last year's one-win team.

Marinette's returning seniors are Stephanie Corry, a 5-10 forward, and Kirsten Wolf, a 5-2 guard. Abby Dufrane, a 5-8 senior forward, is back after a year away from basketball.

"She's an athlete," Maulding said. "She's gonna provide senior leadership."

Senior Mackenzie Schmidt is in her first season for the Marines.

Other juniors include 5-7 forward Megan Veriha, 5-11 forward Ellie Wahl and Alex Cording, a guard who missed last season due to a knee injury.

The other sophomores on varsity are 5-6 guard Teya Lambie and 5-10 guard/forward Kierstin Metzner.

"Those two have really impressed me so far," Maulding said.

Hilbert earned all-Bay Conference honorable mention last season. She averaged 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds. She has the ability to drive to the basket and get to the free-throw line.

"Cassie should be one of the best players in our conference this year," according to Maulding. "If she puts her mind to it, she can score at will."

Corry averaged 4.5 rebounds a game last season. Bohan finished second in the Bay with 35 steals. Teamed with Cording, the Marines will have great quickness in the backcourt.

"She's gonna be very important in what we're doing," Maulding said of Cording. "Her leadership is gonna be huge."

Maulding is running a motion offense.

"We're looking to attack the basket," Maulding said. "We're gonna run the court as much as possible. That's the atmosphere and mentality that's being set at all levels. We've got the athletes."

Marinette may play some 1-3-1 zone, but will primarily play man-to-man defense with a full-court press.

"A lot of help defense, a lot of switching," the coach said. "Every girl needs to guard anyone on the court at all times."

Maulding likes the team's versatility, with girls who can play multiple positions.

He expects New London and Oconto Falls to be among the top teams in the Bay.

"If we want to be good, we've got to work hard, we've got to put time in," Maulding said. "I think the girls really grasped that. I think we'll be able to compete this year. I'm very excited. I'm very confident that we're going to do well this year."

Maulding's varsity assistant is Ryan Carlson. Jessie Scheer is the junior varsity coach and Jon Keepers is the freshman coach. Kevin Bearson, Matt Hartin and Mike Maedke are junior high coaches.

"It's been a combined effort," Maulding said. "The coaching staff is very energetic and motivated, and the girls have really responded to it."