BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. – The Gov. Livingston girls basketball team will have a new look to them when the Highlanders step onto the court on Friday night.

After losing the “heart and soul” of their squad last year to graduation, fresh bodies and a refined approach to defense will be the main focus for GL in the upcoming season.

Head coach Andy Silvagni admits the Highlanders lost a lot when Alyssa Cranston, Erin Ferguson and Mallory George graduated in June. The seventh-year coach said this year’s seniors, led by Patrice DiTommaso, are ready for the challenge.

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“They’ve really taken the mindset of our team, working hard and defend,” Silvagni said. “Erin Ferguson kind of set that mindset that ‘We’re going to work our butt off’… They know their roles and stuff. They’re going to defend and work. They’re going to make sure the younger kids work. It might look like we graduated a lot and we did, but me and [assistant] coach Rob Ritter are excited for the year.”

Silvagni biggest challenge will be replacing the offense that Cranston, Ferguson and George took with them. The Highlanders will rely heavily on DiTommasso and junior point guard Sara Dilly to carry the team offensively.

Despite coming off the bench, both played starter-like minutes last year. While DiTommasso is the best scorer on the squad, the game will run through Dilly at the point, the one thing Silvagni isn’t worried about going into the year.

“Dilly is now a year older,” he said. “Last year her role as a sophomore was to defend and handle the basketball and distribute it. This year we are expecting her to score a little bit more.”

She gained a large amount of experience during last year’s campaign. Dilly played a bulk of the guard minutes early in the year when Cranston was sidelined with a knee injury.

While Silvagni expects the offense to be the team’s biggest challenge, the defensive scheme will also change with the new regime.

Gov. Livingston has long been known for their ability inside the paint on both side of the basketball. Losing Ferguson and George’s guaranteed rebounds has forced Silvagni to “try and scheme” their defense a little bit more.

“For three years we just said ‘Alright Mal [George], alright Erin [Ferguson], go get us rebounds,’ Silvagni said. “We’re doing box out drills that we haven’t done in five years. We’re going to have to work to rebound, we’re going to have to work to score. That will be our MO.”

The personnel and schemes might have changed for the girl’s at Gov. Livingston High School, but one thing that hasn’t are their expectations.

The current group of seniors knows anything less than a trip to Kean University for the Union County Final is unacceptable.

“All these seniors have known is the county finals,” Silvagni said. “As freshman they lost, but then the last two years won. We’re telling them its their turn. They’re embodying that role and that challenge.”

Step one in their request for a three-peat as county champions begins on Friday night when the Highlanders play at Cranford. Their home opener is scheduled for Saturday against Scotch Plains-Fanwood.