Class 3A foes can wait, says Stephenville head girls basketball coach Alan Thorpe. He'd rather open with a 5A.

Stephenville is ranked No. 6 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason 3A girls poll. The Honeybees are entering their first season in 3A after consecutive trips to the 4A Region I quarterfinals.

But Thorpe isn't concerned with how many A's are attached to the names of his pre-district opponents; he just wants tough competition.

"Our pre-district schedule is tough," said Thorpe, whose club opens at 5A Arlington Martin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. "It has to be. Everyone's excited to see what we can do in 3A, but the problem is, our district isn't as tough top-to-bottom as it has been the last four years. Glen Rose will be a tough test, but we have to face more teams that will make us improve and prepare for the playoffs."

Thorpe says Martin will bring strong athleticism to the floor, and three of the Honeybees' next five opponents - Jim Ned, Brock and Abilene Wylie - reached the state tournament last year with Brock and Wylie winning state titles in 2A and 3A, respectively. Brock's tournament will follow, and the always-tough Granbury tournament is also upcoming.

"It's a brutal stretch, and of course we still have girls in volleyball, but we're used to that," said Thorpe. "The volleyball team having success is just going to make those kids hungry for more. The better they do, the more it helps us."

Point guard Sheridan Stokes is still in volleyball, opening the door for Meagan Parsons and Dally Friedrich to start in the backcourt at Martin.

"Meagan missed most of last year with injuries, but we know what her and Dally can do back there," Thorpe said. "Dally came in and played a lot for us last year, and Meagan was huge for us in the playoffs two years ago."

Sophomore Cassidy Cline was a mid-season move-up from Stephenville's unbeaten freshman club last year, and is expected to start at the "3" or small forward position in the opener, while Merideth Culpepper and Breyana Diaz will likely be the starting posts.

"We could start either Merideth or Jaynelle (Nowell) at the '4,' but we'll probably go with Merideth," Thorpe said. "Jaynelle missed Saturday's scrimmage for regional cross country, and while that doesn't necessarily mean she won't start, I just feel like Merideth is more prepared right now since she's been in all the scrimmages."

Thorpe has been especially pleased with the progress of Diaz in the paint.

"She has worked so hard and developed a lot of skill down there, but the biggest thing is her leadership," Thorpe said. "I would argue that she's as good a leader as I've had the last three or four years, and she was a beast in our scrimmage at Granbury Saturday."

Diaz, Culpepper - or Nowell - and Parsons will give Stephenville three seniors in the starting lineup.

"We have nine players back from last year, so I'm excited about our experience and leadership," said Thorpe. "Those are two big things you can't coach; you either have it or you don't, and it looks like we'll definitely have both."

Thorpe said two junior varsity players will add depth with girls still out for the volleyball playoffs.

"We'll have Bethany Boucher and Lyndi Graham with us, and from what I've seen in our scrimmages we don't miss a beat when they come in," he said. "Plus this will be great experience for those two."

The Honeybees have scrimmaged Azle, Crowley and Granbury.

"We did well against Azle and Crowley and we won three of the fourth quarters and came out on top in the end when we scrimmaged Granbury Saturday," Thorpe said. "I feel pretty good about where we're at right now.

"Everybody's excited about looking at what we can do in 3A," he continued. "There are a lot of good teams in this class, so it will be a fight; but night-in, night-out, I feel like we should be able to match up pretty well with just about anyone."

Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports