Spring Valley's girls basketball team finished last season No. 1. They will start there this season.
The defending Class 4A state champion Vikings hold the top ranking in the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association's preseason Class 4A poll, released on Wednesday.
Veteran Spring Valley coach Anne Long said holding the big trophy again in March would be more important, but she was glad to have the preseason honor nevertheless.
"I've been around a long time,' Long said. "So I'll take it."
The Vikings return all five starters from last year's 27-1 team. That includes sophomores Asia Dozier and Xylina McDaniel, who were selected to the preseason Elite 5 all-state team.
Irmo, led by Sarah Green, is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A. Green was named as one of Class 4A's top five seniors.
Another defending champion from Columbia, Lower Richland, begins the new season on top of the Class 3A poll.
Coach Debbie Stroman's Diamond Hornets won their fourth consecutive state championship in March. Although graduation cost the team plenty of talent, Stroman is counting on senior guard Jasmine Harrison and a strong group of sophomores to win another championship.
Harrison was named one of Class 3A's top five seniors.
"She's won three state championships," Stroman said. "She will be challenged and will step up to that challenge of being the next big thing."
While many Midlands teams do not start until after Thanksgiving, Spring Valley and A.C. Flora get their seasons started with tournaments before the holiday.
A.C. Flora's girls will host the Flora Tip-Off Tournament Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. The all-Midlands field starts Saturday with Blythewood vs. Brookland-Cayce, Irmo vs. Chapin, White Knoll vs. Hammond and A.C. Flora vs. Richland Northeast.
Spring Valley's Viking Invitational features boys and girls games Monday-Wednesday.
The boys games on Monday are Darlington vs. York (6 p.m.) and Spring Valley vs. Dutch Fork (7:30 p.m.). Tuesday's girls games are Dutch Fork vs. Goose Creek (6 p.m.) and Spring Valley vs. Dorman (7:30 p.m.).
Four games (two boys and two girls) will be played Wednesday beginning at 3 p.m.