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New-look Hilltoppers open camp

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Onalaska, WI (WXOW) - -

Last season the Onalaska girls basketball team won a regional title, but as the Hilltoppers gathered for the first day of the 2015-16 season on Monday, it was hard not to notice all the changes in the gymnasium.

There's a new head coach in Matt Kelliher, who replaced Rob Vieaux during the offseason.

Four would-be seniors are no longer with the team, deciding to leave the program before Kelliher was hired.

That leaves just one senior in Josie Thomas, and five other returners from a team that was two wins away from the state tournament.

"It's just some tweaks and they have to learn and be patient with me and I have to be patient with them," Kelliher said. "They don't know me, I don't know them, so it's a whole different ballgame. The first 10 days are pretty important."

Thomas said she was surprised to see her four classmates decline to play their senior season, but said the chemistry with her current teammates began developing in summer workouts and open gym nights. She wants the focus to be on conditioning and learning Kelliher's new schemes.

"Hopefully when we get in here we can start working on our offense and defense and everything," she said. "It will be hard getting used to everybody and playing with them."

The good news for Onalaska is that five of the six returners played in the regional win over La Crosse Logan.

"The six returners, I'm pretty confident with what they can do, and they have a pretty good grasp for the game from what I can tell so far, so I'm not too worried about it," Kelliher said. "They all have a basketball knowledge, which is something that - it's not something that you can teach right out on the floor."

It's going to be those 7-8-9-10 kids. Those kids, they'll need the experience."

Onalaska opens the season Tuesday, November 24 at Chippewa Falls.

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