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As their 2011-12 season drew to a close, the Madison girls basketball team had much to look forward to. The Liberty District champions would be returning two First-Team All-Liberty District guards and a freshman who led the district in scoring.

But the trajectory of the Warhawks’ 2012-13 season took an unfortunate turn this past summer when their two leading scorers, sophomore Kelly Koshuta and senior Megan Henshaw, went down with ACL tears within the same week of each other. With those two players likely out for the season, the odds-on favorites to dominate the Liberty District and make a run for a region title no longer look like a sure-fire bet.

Even with that setback weighing against them, coaches around the area remain wary of Madison this season. That’s because the Warhawks still have senior point guard Megan LeDuc, the rock of a program seeking its fifth district title in the last six years. If there’s anyone who can help younger players step into new roles and fill their potential, it’s LeDuc, a consummate floor general who has been a mainstay in Madison’s starting rotation since her freshman year.

“I’d much rather pass the ball and get someone open than be the one that scores,” said LeDuc, who averaged 6.3 assists compared to just three turnovers per game last season. “I try to get people open, and if you’re on, you’re going to score. I’m going to make that happen. I was going to make sure that Megan [Henshaw] scored her 1,000th point this year. I think that makes me a leader, just getting other people to do well.”

Losing Koshuta and Henshaw means the Warhawks will need younger players to speed up their maturation process as they suddenly find themselves logging significant minutes. Junior guard Katie Kerrigan, who made a verbal commitment to Ohio State last year for lacrosse, will be the team’s only other returning starter. Madison coach Kirsten Stone hopes Kerrigan’s “workhorse” mentality will influence inexperienced teammates to push themselves extra hard to fill the holes left by Koshuta and Henshaw.

Regardless of how hard they work, though, making up for those two losses won’t be easy. Koshuta, who averaged 21 points and 10.6 rebounds per game as a freshman, gave Madison a reliable inside presence, while Henshaw provided the district’s most potent three-point threat en route to averaging 15.6 points per game.

“Everyone has to step up now just because we’ve lost two key players,” LeDuc said. “We have 40 points sitting on the bench basically with them. So everyone’s stepping up, and everyone knows that they have to play a different role this year.”

Stone, last season’s Northern Region Coach of the Year, anticipates some rocky performances coinciding with her new-look team’s inexperience in the season’s beginning stages. Yet she believes her unit is capable of eventually finding the rhythm needed to reach a ninth straight district championship appearance.

“I want us to compete and be tough defensively,” Stone said. “I want to push the ball, and I want to play smart, which is hard with kids that have never played in a game before. I have three starters that haven’t had serious minutes.”

If the Warhawks are able to come together and find that rhythm, perhaps they can mimic the success attained toward the end of last season, when they rattled off 14 wins in the regular season’s final 15 games. They should have a good chance of staying competitive in a Liberty District that offers plenty of parity this year. No one team or player stands head and shoulders above the rest, especially since Stone Bridge’s Murielle Teirnan - who put up 39 points and 22 rebounds in a game last season against Madison - won’t be suiting up for the Bulldogs this season.

Injuries to two of its best players will make Madison’s road to prominence bumpier than expected. With LeDuc leading the way, though, the Warhawks still appear firmly in control of their own destiny.

neilerson@fairfaxtimes.com