For the past few seasons, the Academy of the Holy Names girls basketball team played with a bull's-eye on its back while dealing with extremely high expectations.
And rightfully so.
The Jaguars advanced to the state final four twice in the past three years. But those lofty prospects have vanished since the graduation of former standouts Catriana and Gianna Messina.
Holy Names coach Casey Higgins believes flying under the radar will be beneficial to the young Jaguars.
"Outsiders don't think this team can walk and chew gum at the same time, and we couldn't be happier about that," she said. "We feel like a lot of folks think we should just fold up the program and live on the memories of the past, but we want this to be a season of surprises. ... We're a long way from making it happen, but in the end we want to be the surprise."
Junior Katie Davis has blossomed since emerging from the Messina twins' shadow. Going into Wednesday's game against Tampa Catholic, Davis was averaging 28.3 points, 9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 5 steals per game.
"Katie is a diligent worker that takes a very business-like approach to working on her game, and we expect big things from her this season," Higgins said. "Because of the attention our seniors got last year, Katie is probably one of the state's best-kept secrets, but it won't be long before people notice her."
Ali Daigle (12.7 points, 7.7 rebounds) leads a talented group of sophomores, including Meaghann Ligori and Selena Castillo.
"Ali continues to develop and as she becomes more aggressive, she is really going to be a special player," Higgins said. "She has unlimited potential and we're really excited about her future.
"Not a lot of folks remember that Katie and Ali both made the game-winning shots in our region semifinal and final victories last year and Meaghann started almost every game for us. To return players that have that kind of experience and big-game capability will hopefully provide a good foundation for us to be able to build and get better as a team."
HIGH-FLYING TERRIERS: In its five wins, Hillsborough is averaging 74.2 points per game. Backcourt mates Shalisia Hall and Khai Grubbs are leading the way.
Hall is averaging 21.8 points and 5.4 assists per game, while Grubbs is good for 10.2 points, 7 assists and 5.2 steals.