WORCESTER - Four years ago, a handful of freshmen joined an Archbishop Williams girls' basketball program that was coming off a four-win season.
As seniors, they walked off the DCU court Saturday as back-to-back Division 3 state champions.
The graduating class is a talented group that includes forwards Meghan Black and Casey Capello, point guard Christine Duffy, and guards Jill LaFond, Sarah McDonough, and Courtney McNamara.
Bishops coach Jim Bancroft said all of the players have received some interest from colleges to play at the next level, but none has made a commitment.
Duffy and Capello will be key losses. Duffy, the floor leader, averaged 14 points a game in the regular season and chipped in with 11 in Saturday's 69-47 victory over Quaboag. She also departs as a 1,000-point career scorer.
Capello netted a game-high 19 points in Saturday's final after scoring 12 in last year's championship game against Granby.
Bancroft says the loss of the senior class will affect the program, but he is optimistic with returnees including sophomore forward Val Driscoll (18 points vs. Quaboag), the team's only returning starter. A freshman, three sophomores, and two juniors make up the returning players.
"We're hoping for a strong freshman class plus looking to the returning underclassmen to rebuild and hopefully make it back to the tournament," Bancroft said.
The Bishops (20-2) have been there before. Five seasons ago, they were 4-17. The next season, Duffy stepped on the court as a freshman starter. The Bishops returned to the state tournament in 2004 but lost in the first round.
Last season, the Bishops took their No. 10 state tournament seed and managed to carry it to the state championship, the program's first since 1996.
This season, Archbishop Williams was the team to beat after having lost only one starter from last year's team.
Archies faced Catholic Central rival Cardinal Spellman three times, losing the first matchup, 53-51, before emerging victorious in the second meeting, 53-45. The final game came in the Division 3 South sectional final, in which the Bishops posted a 60-45 victory, earning a trip to the Garden for the state semifinals. There, Archbishop Williams toppled North champ Pentucket, 59-53.
In the state final, the Bishops rallied with a 20-3 second quarter on their way to victory.
"The game went exactly as we wanted," Bancroft said. "I couldn't be more proud of our performance."
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.