PITTSBURG — At first glance, it may look like the St. Mary’s Colgan girls’ basketball team is filled with inexperience, but that is far from the truth for head coach Abby Farabi’s 2016-17 Panthers.

While Colgan is returning two seniors and three juniors, much of their production will come from eight returning sophomores — many of whom saw big minutes on the floor as freshmen for Farabi in a 14-10 campaign a year ago. One thing is clear, the excitement is building for the young Panthers.

“I think the kids are really excited,” Farbi said. “After taking a hard-fought loss in sub-state volleyball, I told them to take a few days off. Every single one of them showed up for conditioning and had smiles on their faces. That was great to see.”

Emily Paterni — an all-league player who averaged 6.9 points and five rebounds a game last season — and Allie Evans are the two seniors returning for a final SMC season, and will be looked upon to fill the leadership role this season.

“Emily played a lot for us last year and has a great summer,” Farabi said. “Allie didn’t play a whole lot of minutes last year, but she is going to be a great senior leader.”

Synclaire Borum, Megan Smith and Marci VanBecelaere are returning for their junior seasons, giving the Panthers five upperclassmen who will continue to help the young crop of talent adjust to varsity basketball.

Kate Radell, Sophia Piccini, Aubri Piccini and Cathy Farmer highlight a sophomore class which makes up more than half of the SMC roster for the upcoming season.

“All of those girls bring a lot of experience back,” Farabi said. “I think they are starting to understand my expectations. I think a lot of them were intimidated at first, but as last year went on, and even this summer, they saw I could smile too and not just yell. They are good kids, and they have high expectations.”

Another second-year player Coach Farabi thinks will step into a bigger, more-important role this season is Kenzie Venneman.

“She really had a great volleyball season,” Farabi said. “She has gotten taller and stronger, and I think she is going to be a lot more confident — which was something that held her back last year.”

Farabi pointed out several times she believes her team’s biggest strengths are going to be their work ethic and cohesiveness as a unit. She envisions her squad as a hard-nosed unit which may struggle at times early, but will be surprising teams by time it is all said and done.

“They are very hard workers and are in great shape,” she said. “They just don’t want to lose. We don’t have an all-star, but I think we are going to play really, really great together. They are going to out there and grind, hopefully making the best of it.”

SMC opens the season up on the road against CNC-rival Frontenac at 6 p.m. Friday.

-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at ldavis@morningsun.net and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.