The coach who led the program to six state championships, including the past five, has stepped down. The best player, a member of the Canadian women's national team, is now playing for the University of Southern California. Two other top players from 2014 are also gone, playing at Division I schools.

After all this, one might surmise that Blake's run at the top of the girls' lacrosse food chain might be coming to an end.

Believe no such thing.

The sting of losing longtime coach and program architect Laura Mark, who took a position as Blake's director of giving, has been softened with the promotion of assistant coach Linda Hokr to head coach.

"I worked with Laura for five years, and we have pretty similar coaching styles, which is why I think we worked so well together," said Hokr, who is also a coach with the Minnesota Elite Lacrosse club. "I think this year, we'll pretty much stay the course."

That means leaning on the foundation on which the Bears' dynasty has been built. You'll find few long runs and little selfishness with Blake, a team that prides itself on doing the little things, such as passing and catching, better than anyone else.

"We try to play a fundamentally strong brand of lacrosse," Hokr said. "It's hugely important. We work on basic fundamentals every day."

Hokr's familiarity with the players is expected to smooth over any adjustment worries.

"We're basically keeping the same team ethics and values," said senior attacker Olivia Nolan, the Bears' leading scorer from 2014. "She's knows all of us and it's nice to have that personal connection with the coach."

If there's a tangible difference between Hokr and her predecessor, it's in expectations. A two-sport Division I athlete in her college days at Virginia, Mark demanded nothing short of excellence from her varsity players. Hokr does as well, but she's also expanded her sphere of influence, taking a hands-on approach with Blake's junior varsity and development programs.

"I want to be more involved with the JV coaches, the C-team coaches, the middle school teams," Hokr said. "I think it's important for us as a program to set them up for success."

If all goes as hoped, the focus on long-term development should alleviate some of the pressure that went along with making the varsity team.

"It's a different atmosphere," senior defender Brynne Swearingen said. "Coach Mark was so good and so amazing that you could be a little intimidated by her because you wanted to impress her so much. You don't feel quite so on edge."

It's well-known that Blake lost three cornerstone pieces of their five consecutive championship teams to graduation — 2014 Metro Player of the Year Lydia Sutton (USC) and first-team All-Metro players Anne Slusser (Duke) and Lauren Kelly (Louisville).

That has some opponents thinking the Bears might be vulnerable.

"I talked to one girl who said we aren't going to win state this year," Swearingen said with a laugh. "So I know their spirits are high."

Too high, perhaps.

In addition to Nolan and Swearingen, the Bears have a stalwart in goal in Hannah Magarian and another goal-scoring threat in attacker Adelaide Winton. A trio of talented freshmen — Sara McClanahan, Emma Burke and Sophie Skallerud — all played regularly last season.

Said Swearingen: "We lost some big leaders that we leaned on last year, but I'm kind of excited to try leaning on some different people."

Hokr said she has already sensed the pressure that goes with taking over the state's top high school program, but she has a message for those who are hoping for Blake to backslide.

"There's an assumption that we're going to be terrible this year," she said. "But we've never really relied heavily on one or two key players. I don't think anyone should underestimate this team."