Rolling Meadows knew it would be a challenge to replace a senior-dominated group, led by Daily Herald all-area picks Brian Nelms, Michael Rose and Tyler Gaedele, from a team that won last season's Mid-Suburban East title.
The challenges have ranged from inexperience to injuries to key players to the five-game losing streak the Mustangs (5-15) take into tonight's visit from Hersey. In an MSL doubleheader, the girls programs tip off at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30 p.m.
Despite losing the last three games by a combined total of 7 points, Rolling Meadows is encouraged by the competitiveness it has shown and the cohesiveness that's started to develop.
"The last few weeks have been our best practices of the year," Meadows junior Matt Dolan said after scoring a career-high 25 points in Tuesday's 66-64 loss at Grayslake North. "We're getting closer and closer."
It's also what Meadows coach Kevin Katovich has seen.
"We're headed in the right direction," Katovich said. "I keep saying it, one of these games we're going to keep fighting and clawing and it's going to go our way.
"They're great kids who do everything you ask them to do and that's all you can ask for as a coach. They're unbelievably great kids and you feel terrible for them."
But Katovich and Dolan feel better about the current situation than most might expect. Especially since the Mustangs are closer to full strength than they've been since senior starters Mike Dolan and Austin Reed missed the beginning of the season because of injuries.
"This is the team we thought we were going to have," Matt Dolan said. "Now that we have everybody playing together, it gives us more potential to win."