WYE MILLS — A warning to the rest of the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference: the Chesapeake College women’s basketball team may be rounding into championship shape again.

The Skipjacks won the Region XX tournament last season and finished 20-7.

Chesapeake could take its game to another level this winter.

Skipjacks head coach Gwen Barnes has several good reasons for optimism.

They include four returning starters, two transfers with experience and some talented freshmen who are expected to play immediately.

“We can do far better than we did last year,” Barnes said. “Because of their skill set and experience, the expectations have really increased for us. Any of the (10) players on my team can start. That doesn’t happen very often. I have been told to enjoy this year because I may not see this type of balance again.”

The Skipjacks have set lofty goals: repeat as Region XX champs, win the Maryland JUCO and a have stronger showing in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II tournament.

Chesapeake was ousted after two games in March in the national tournament, but the Skipjacks think they will be better prepared this time around.

“We had a lot of freshmen and it was all kind of new to us,” sophomore shooting guard Victoria Kirby said. “There were a lot of really good teams and they played different styles. We were kind of shocked. But this year we have a lot of sophomores and I think we can get pretty far.”

The team’s chemistry is another huge asset fueling the drive for a stellar season.

It might be the best in Barnes’ six years as head coach.

“The entire team seems like they have known each other for quite some time,” the coach said. “The chemistry is growing and that adds more value to the team.”

Sophomore Jahnaya Peterson can ignite the Skipjacks with her vast array of skills.

She showed her precision and savvy by leading the team in scoring (16.9 average) and 3-point accuracy (34.8 percent) last season. The 5-foot-8 combo guard also averaged 5.4 rebounds.

“She is just an all-around solid player,” Barnes said of Peterson. “She rebounds, shoots and runs the floor well. We’re really looking for another big year for her.”

Kirby can slice through a defense and hit the off-balance shot. She’s also not afraid to go inside and mix it up. Kirby averaged 10.0 points and 6.6 rebounds last season.

“She is an agile player who will help us at multiple positions,” Barnes said. “She can play inside and outside. Because of her size (5-10) a lot of people may underestimate her, but she was one of our leading rebounders last year.”

Sophomore combo guard Shaniyah Grace, a returning starter, could be another double-digit scorer.

Another sophomore combo guard, Brooke Worrell, will push for playing time.

Forward Brittiney Seymour (6-2) is back to anchor the frontcourt. She should improve on her 7.7 rebound average of last season.

Seymour’s sister Breyonna (6-1) worked as the sixth man last season.

Barnes raves about the addition of two transfers: 5-11 sophomore forward Charm Stone (St. Louis Community College) and 6-3 sophomore center Janice Brown (St. Petersburg College).

“They bring a lot of rebounding and scoring,” Barnes said. “They really can finish at the rim and they will be strong contributors.”

Two freshmen, shooting guard Jayla Irvin and point Azayah Garrison, could provide a boost.

“They are used to getting their game to a championship type of level,” Barnes said.

Follow me on Twitter @Bill_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

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