CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former South Charleston High School girls' basketball star Sissy Wagner has been hit with a bit of bad luck.
An 11-16 season at West Virginia State two years ago was followed by the departure of Wagner, three other players, an assistant coach and the head coach.
She landed on Concord women's basketball team one year after the Mountain Lions went 22-7 overall, finished second in the West Virginia Conference regular season, and reached the WVC Tournament semifinals.
In her first season in Athens, Wagner led all NCAA Division II players in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.81), but the Mountain Lions suffered their worst record (7-22) since 2000-01 - the year before Kenny Osborne took over when Concord went 6-21.
"It was hard because the year before (2011-12) Concord had such a successful season," Wagner said. "They had lost Jolysa Brown (first team all-WVC), Camisha Alexander (second team all-WVC) ... a lot of older players.
"It was definitely hard going from State, where we didn't have a good season, to Concord, where we didn't have a good season. We're progressing."
The Mountain Lions will discover how much on Wednesday when they travel to Harrogate, Tenn., to face Lincoln Memorial University in the season opener.
The MEC's inaugural season has already begun for some, and kicks off this weekend for others, including West Virginia State, which faces Chowan at 5:30 p.m. today in the MEC-CIAA Challenge at Fleming Hall.
The University of Charleston faces Johnson C. Smith in the MEC-CIAA Challenge at 7:30, while Virginia-Wise visits Ohio Valley, Virginia Union visits Glenville State in Charles Marshall's first game as head coach, and Kutztown faces West Liberty at Glenville.
As for Wagner, Wednesday's game marks her 28th game for Concord and 27th as a starter. It'll mark yet another new beginning for the Mountain Lions, who will welcome some new faces and healthy old ones.
One of those is 5-foot-11 junior Andrea Bertrand, a second-team all-WVC player in 2010-11 who missed all but four games last season because of injury. She averaged 18 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals during her brief time on the floor.
Still, it'll take more than a few pieces to put Concord in the mix for a conference championship. The Mountain Lions are tabbed by the coaches to finish seventh in the first MEC preseason poll.
It'll take a different type of tact from Wagner, who has already begun her on-court transformation.
"I'm pretty hard on myself after the game, whether I have 20 points or one point, I'm always criticizing every play, every move I make," she said. "I just want to be more of a leader on the court. Last year, I don't feel like the team had a leader, so I'm taking it upon myself to be more vocal on the court, bring everybody together."
THE UNIVERSITY of Charleston men's basketball team opens its season at 2 p.m. Saturday against Slippery Rock in the Clarion Hotels Conference Challenge at Shepherd.
The Rock is coming off a 23-9 season during which it reached the NCAA Division II regional before losing to fellow Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference member Indiana University (Pa.) 53-50.