Virginia Tech was one of the nation's best stories last season. It won its first 18 games to become the last unbeaten team in Division I and 26 of 27 during the regular season. It then advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of 16 before losing to Tennessee.

With the departures of five seniors, including standout guards Lisa Witherspoon and Katie O'Connor, even Coach Bonnie Henrickson knows last season's accomplishments will be impossible to match. But she isn't conceding much more -- especially since three starters return, including Tere Williams.

"I didn't come into last season expecting to go 28-3, so I'm not expecting that this year either," Henrickson said. "But there is pressure to perform because the nature of this business is to compete. . . . What we're looking for is consistent success. Year-in, year-out we want to be in the top 25. We want to win games."

Henrickson said her sights are set on winning the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament championships in the Hokies' final season before joining the Big East Conference. The Hokies won the Atlantic 10 tournament title in 1997-98 and the regular season title in 1998-99, but they have yet to win both in the same season.

Williams has been Virginia Tech's leading scorer and rebounder the past two seasons, and she is just 118 points shy of becoming the 11th player in school history to score 1,000 points in her career.

Freshman Emily Lipton has secured the starting point guard position, but filling in for Witherspoon will be difficult. The team's final starting spot will be filled by sophomore guard Sarah Hicks, who redshirted last season after undergoing surgery on both shoulders.

"It wouldn't be fair to compare where we are right now to where we finished a year ago," Henrickson said. "But I feel good about our talent and skill, and I'm very pleased with our effort and intensity. It's just going to take some time for the girls to get used to each other. It might change the color of my hair, but we'll get through it together."

Data

Last season: 28-3, 15-1 Atlantic 10 Conference (advanced to NCAA tournament round of 16).

Coach: Bonnie Henrickson (third season, 50-13).

Top returning players: F-C Nicole Jones, 6-1, Soph. (7.5 ppg, 4 ppg, 1 spg); C Kim Seaver, 6-3, Sr. (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Amy Wetzel, 5-7, Jr. (14.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.7 apg); F Tere Williams, 5-11, Jr. (15.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, first-team all-Atlantic 10).

Key departures: C-F Michelle Houseright (9.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Katie O'Connor (9.1 ppg); G Lisa Witherspoon (5.1 ppg, 8.2 apg, Atlantic 10 defensive player of the year).

New faces: G Renee Cosby, 5-9, Fr. (Madison); G Michelle Garcia, 5-6, Fr. (Virginia Beach); G Emily Lipton, 5-8, Fr. (Crofton); G Chrystal Starling, 5-11, Soph. (Syracuse); G Christina Strother, 6-2, Fr. (Suitland); G Katrina Williams, 5-9, Fr. (Salem, Va.).

Schedule

November

17 TBA*, TBA

21 TBA*, TBA

22 TBA*, TBA

26 vs. So. Utah**, TBA

27 vs. Howard or Ore.**, TBA

30 Appalachian State, 7

December

2 at James Madison, 7:30

5 Duquesne, 2

8 Duke, 7

20 at Virginia, 7:30

29 Hampton***, 7:30

30 Bowling Green or UNC Charlotte***, TBA

January

2 at Radford, 2

6 Rhode Island, 7

9 George Washington, 4

16 at La Salle, 1

21 at Temple, 7

23 at St. Joseph's, noon

28 Dayton, 7

30 Xavier, 2

February

2 at George Washington, 7

6 at Fordham, 1

10 at Xavier, 7

13 Massachusetts, 2

17 St. Bonaventure, 7

20 at Duquesne, 2

24 La Salle, 7

27 at Dayton, 2

March

3-6 Atlantic 10 tournament in Philadelphia

*Preseason WNIT

**Pepsi Shootout,Eugene, Ore.

***Hokie Hardwood Classic