Washington Lady Jays basketball is hoping it can take another step forward this winter.

Washington has yet to recover from the loss of a stacked nine-senior team in 2017-18, winning just once in 2018-19 and twice in 2019-20, finishing 2-24.

This year’s team brings back five seniors from that squad with plenty of experience to go around. 

Head Coach Doug Light’s squad returns a total of eight players who were starters at various points in the season a year ago.

“(I am) looking forward to coaching this group,” Light said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm in the program.”

The Lady Jays have 35 players across their three rosters after having 40 try out for the team.

“We have 16 freshmen,” Light said. “That’s the biggest group of freshmen I have had since my first year coaching at Jeff City High School. We are blessed with great numbers and enthusiasm.”

Leading the returners is senior guard Paige Robinson, who led the team with a 7.4 points per game average last winter. She also put through a team-high 33 three-point shots.

Guard Grace Landwehr and forwards Sara Heggemann, Avery Street and Joie Heien are each back for their senior seasons as well.

In addition, the Lady Jays gain a senior who did not play last winter in forward Allie Huddleston.

Huddleston was a starter for the Lady Jays as a sophomore in 2018-19, averaging three points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Newcomers will be an important factor for the Lady Jays, such as freshmen Elizabeth Reed and Taylor Brown.

“They are members of a very talented and deep freshman class,” Light said. “Our sophomore class has some talented athletes that will have a great impact on our program.”

Brown has already made an impact in the fall sports season, earning all-state honors in softball.

Both of Washington’s wins last season came in tournament play as the team topped Soldan for seventh place at the Borgia Competitive Edge Tournament and O’Fallon Christian for seventh place at Warrenton.

The Lady Jays are not going back to Warrenton this year, but will play in the Lutheran South Tournament just after New Year’s instead. Washington will also host its seventh annual tournament in late January and go back to the Borgia Tournament again in early February.

Washington returns Lee Engemann as an assistant coach while adding new coaches Sarah McCarthy, Chad Briggs and Nicole Desmond to the program.

The regular season tips off Friday as the Lady Jays host Orchard Farm at 7 p.m.