Just like some of her players, new head coach Allie Kauffman is moving up the Manchester girls basketball ladder this season.

What remains to be seen is whether the Squires can move up in wins despite major graduation losses from a 12-13 team as well as an injury to their top returning scorer in Makenzy Meyer.

The senior suffered her ACL knee setback in July while playing volleyball, but Kauffman says there’s a chance Meyer could be back by January.

“She lost her senior year of volleyball and can’t play for us yet, but she has remained super engaged with the team while doing her physical therapy,” Kauffman said. “Without her, we’re going to be pretty young to start out.”

Manchester graduated its two most productive players from last season in Eva Bazzoni (14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game) and Emma Garriott (8.8 points, 2.7 steals).

Meyer averaged 7.1 points, third on the team, and 6.0 rebounds, second.

Ainsley West (6.0 points, 1.5 assists) and Keilan Creager (3.1 points) will be the lone two seniors with varsity experience to begin the season, which tips Wednesday at home against Wawasee.

“I’m looking for both to step up their scoring,” said Kauffman, who was the Squires’ junior varsity coach last winter. “They were both phenomenal role players last season, but this year, they have to step up. They can both score off the dribble, but they also have outside jump shots, so they’re very versatile.”

Kauffman succeeds Josh Troyer, who stepped away in July after two seasons and a 20-30 mark when he accepted an elementary assistant principal’s position in Huntington.

A former Grace College star, Kauffman headed up the Lakeland Christian program for five years, compiling a 63-56 record with three winning seasons, before landing the Manchester JV job in 2020. She’s a sixth-grade teacher at Manchester.

Kauffman is installing freshman Brookelynn Buzzard as her point guard.

“She’s got a really nice first step off the attack and can shoot the ball well,” Kauffman said.

With Meyer sidelined, junior Olivia Neal becomes “our one main big,” according to the coach. “We’ll really look to her for rebounding and in the defensive game.”

Junior Aliala Atienza has the inside track as the fifth starter.

“She grew up a lot this summer,” Kauffman said. “We’ll need her to be an outside threat.”

Including Meyer, Kauffman is listing just eight players on her roster to start the season, with junior Ella Clifford and sophomore Gracie Lauer also in that group, but others could land roles as the season progresses.

“I think we’ll have a lot of fluidity to our roster,” Kauffman said. “When we get Kenzy back, we’ll be a lot deeper and she’ll be a big scoring threat inside.”

The coach envisions having an attacking team, with that attack rooted in defense.

“There will definitely be a defensive mindset,” Kauffman said. “We’ll look to be aggressive (with) ball pressure. We want that heart and hustle aspect. We want to be super aggressive on defense and try to push the ball off defensive rebounds, get some buckets in transition this year. We’ll really focus on that aspect.”

The host Squires notched a pair of Class 2A sectional wins last season before falling to Rochester by single digits in the title game for the second straight year.

This season’s seven-team sectional will be at Cass as Manchester continues to chase its first postseason crown since 2007.