NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE
COACH: Tim Borries (sixth season)
LAST SEASON: 15-14, 9-3 in NSC Prairie, lost to Vernon Hills in Class 3A Vernon Hills regional final
KEY LOSSES: G Lindsey Gofron (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh), F Brittany Kelly, G Melanie Lass, F Sarah Huebner, G Ashley Mihovilovich
RETURNERS: Sr. G Megan Borries, Jr. G Paige Gallimore, Jr. F Alex Fracek, Sr. F Abbi McIlhany, Sr. F Abby Augustin, Sr. G Rachel Schwabe
NEWCOMERS: Jr. G Hannah Bohn, Jr. G Lindsey Horn, Jr. F Amanda Cleven, Jr. G Kaylee Karpiel, Jr. G Tiffany Gantz, Jr. G Kristen Kelly, So. C Carly McCameron, Jr. F Sage Keyes, Fr. F Kelly Johnson
OUTLOOK: The Sequoits ended last season with a regional-final loss to Vernon Hills. But the fact that his team played well in a 40-33 decision gives Antioch coach Tim Borries reason to believe that it can compete again with the reigning NSC Prairie champs, who eventually took second in the state in Class 3A. The Sequoits graduated four starters, but four-year varsity guard Megan Borries (the coach's daughter) and depth provide big pluses going into this season. "I'm really excited about our effort," Tim Borries said. "As a coach, you always want your team to give maximum effort the whole game. I'm getting maximum effort for whole practices. If that carries over to games, we're going to be real successful."
Megan Borries, an all-conference selection last season, is one of the best shooters in Lake County and scored in double figures most nights as a junior. "She's really blossomed into a nice ballplayer," Tim Borries said. "She's accepting a leadership role. She knows what needs to be done." Sophomore Paige Gallimore, who played several different positions for the varsity last season, will play point guard, with the hope she can get the ball to shooters such as Borries and Rachel Schwabe. "She's a heck of an athlete," Tim Borries said of Gallimore. "And she's a great rebounder for her size (5-6)." Junior Alex Fracek (5-10) also played varsity last season and will provide an inside presence. Senior Abbi McIlhany (5-7) and junior Abby Augustin (5-8) joined Borries, Gallimore and Fracek in the starting lineup for the season opener against Richmond-Burton on Tuesday. The bench includes the senior Schwabe (5-3), 6-foot sophomore Carly McCameron, 5-8 junior Kristen Kelly (the sister of former Sequoits Brittany and Nicole), junior guard Lindsey Horn (5-5), junior forward Sage Keyes (5-10) and junior forward Amanda Cleven (5-6). "Two things are going to determine whether we're successful, -- interior defense and rebounding and perimeter play on the offensive end," Tim Borries said. "We're losing a lot of experience," he added. "But we're replacing (four starters) with players that got experience and were successful last year."
COACH: Matt Lukemeyer (second season)
LAST SEASON: 8-19, 6-6 in NSC Prairie, lost to Crystal Lake South in Class 4A Prairie Ridge regional opener
KEY LOSSES: G Morgan Jahnke, G Kassie Stimpson, F Bri Miller, F Caitlin Wedge, G Brittany Glover
RETURNERS: Jr. G McKenzie Burton, Sr. G Taylor Rossi, Sr. G Tania Trbojevich, Sr. G Sadie Contreras, Jr. G Kaylie Kanzler, Sr. F AnaRose Hebein, Sr. F Emily Kerr, Sr. F Bethani Jacobsen
NEWCOMERS: Jr. G Kaitlyn Wold, Jr. F Julia Sangster, Jr. G Michelle Filip, Jr. F Emily Troemel, Jr. F Deanna Rodriguez, Fr. G Jasmine Sangster
OUTLOOK: Small and quick. No, not coach Matt Lukemeyer, even though, yes, the Grant graduate was small and quick during his playing days. Lukemeyer's 2011-12 squad lacks a 6-footer for the second year in a row, but the Bulldogs could find themselves in a lot of games due to their tenaciousness and desire. They demonstrated that in their season-opening, 47-46 win over Mundelein on Monday night, rallying from an 11-point halftime deficit. "It's a good group of kids," Lukemeyer said. "They work hard. We're short, so we got to make up for it in some areas. We tell them, 'We got to have 100-percent effort on every possession. We can't take plays off.' "
The Bulldogs return plenty of girls who played significant minutes last season. The group includes seniors Taylor Rossi (5-6), Tania Trbojevich (5-5), AnaRose Hebein (5-9), Sadie Contreras (5-6), Emily Kerr (5-9) and Bethani Jacobsen (5-9), and junior McKenzie Burton (5-9). Junior Kaylie Kanzler (5-9) played varsity as a freshman but missed most of last season with a knee injury. A pair of newcomers are sisters Julia and Jasmine Sangster. Julia is a 5-10 junior, while Jasmine is a 5-5 freshman. "We're excited about both of them," Lukemeyer said. Jasmine Sangster drew the season-opening start at point guard. "Jasmine is quick, fast," Lukemeyer said. "She can get up the court. She make things happen."
COACH: Pete Schneider (fourth season)
LAST SEASON: 12-16, 8-4 in NSC Prairie, lost to Antioch in Class 3A Vernon Hills regional opener
KEY LOSSES: G Ashlee Cunningham (Carthage College)
RETURNERS: Sr. F Therese McMahon, Jr. G Heather Hurlbut, So. F Marisa Merges, Sr. G Nicole Mogged, Jr. G Samantha Ney, Sr. Dayna Olson, Sr. G Amanda Smith, Sr. G Shelby Trkla
NEWCOMERS: Jr. F Amanda Beetschen, Jr. G Kelsey Kohler, Jr. C Alexis Lee, So. G Maya Schmitt
OUTLOOK: Imagine basketball players -- on a basketball court. When Pete Schneider took over the Eagles three years ago, the program was devoid of ample girls who had advanced basketball skills and knowledge of the game. "I've always said, 'Lakes will be successful when I can put five basketball players on the floor at one time,' " Schneider said. "Don't get me wrong. I've had some wonderful, athletic kids that are nice kids and hardworking. But they hadn't become basketball players yet. We're starting to get to that point. They're still the same hardworking, great kids that they've always been. Now they're adding skills to the equation." Among the "basketball players" on the head coach's roster is 5-11 senior post Therese McMahon, who is a two-time all-conference pick, and senior point guard Amanda Smith (5-6), who late last season suffered her second ACL tear. If she's healthy, she could be an impact player. "She's worked really hard," Schneider said. "She's certainly one of the best point guards in the North Suburban Conference. She's really a kid who's hard to handle. She does a lot of great things for us."
Schneider calls junior Sam Ney, who's shot up to 5-10, a "solid shooting guard" who's "improved a ton" after playing varsity last season. Junior Heather Hurlbut (5-6) also played on varsity as a sophomore and filled in nicely at the point while Smith was rehabbing over the summer, Schneider said. Senior Nicole Mogged (5-6) is an athletic defender who was a midseason call-up as a sophomore. Senior Dayna Olson (5-8) "has played a ton of basketball" since the end of last season, Schneider said. Of the two sophomores on the roster, Marisa Merges (5-11) was up last season, while Maya Schmitt (5-6) should get plenty of playing-time this season. The Eagles' season-opening tournament pits them against big schools such as Rolling Meadows, Fremd and Lake Zurich. But Schneider knows those games are about more than just winning. "We're going to have our hands full with them, but it's OK," Schneider said. "It's going to pay off."
COACH: Howard Conkling (third season)
LAST SEASON: 5-23, 0-12 in NSC Prairie, lost to Wheeling in Class 4A Libertyville regional play-in
KEY LOSSES: C Kaylee Parlogean (transferred), G Aaliyah Chastang (transferred), G Adrianna Pitts, C Carmella Johnson
RETURNERS: Sr. G Morgin Evins, Sr. PG Bianca Mahoney, Sr. C Lisethe Tellez, Sr. G Stephanie Perez, Sr. G Shawna Edens
NEWCOMERS: Jr. G Justice Clark, Jr. G Kelly Birch, Jr. G Christina Melesio, So. G Raven Nicoline
OUTLOOK: Losing talented players to graduation is one thing. Losing talented players to other schools is just heart-wrenching. And so it goes for the Panthers, who have struggled to win consistently since capturing the NSC Prairie championship in 2008-09. Kayle Parlogean, who was selected as the team's MVP last season, and Aaliyah Chastang, who led the squad in scoring, have both transferred. "We really can't afford that," said coach Howard Conkling, whose Panthers also graduated honorable mention all-conference player Adrianna Pitts. "Without those two, we're even smaller this year." The Panthers have two returning starters in senior guard Morgin Evins and senior point guard Bianca Mahoney.
Senior post Lisethe Tellez, who's the Panthers' tallest player at 5-8, also played heavy minutes last season. Also back is senior Shawna Edens (5-6). Raven Nicoline is the lone sophomore on the roster. "We're small and mighty," Conkling said. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they're also hurt. As of the middle of the week, Evins was on crutches with what Conkling called a sprained knee. She might miss the entire Harvard tournament (four games). "She's really important to our team," Conkling said. Adversity is certainly nothing new to the Panthers, who will continue to scrap and hustle. "We're going to keep it as simple as possible," Conkling said. "We're hoping to get better every day."
COACH: Paul Brettner (13th season)
LAST SEASON: 27-6, 12-0 in NSC Prairie (1st), won Class 3A Vernon Hills regional, won St. Viator sectional, won Elgin supersectional, lost to Montini in state championship game
KEY LOSSES: G Abby Springer, G Julie Pecht
RETURNERS: Sr. C Meri Bennett-Swanson (DePaul), Jr. F Sydney Smith, Jr. F Lauren Webb, Sr. F Alina Lehocky, Sr. G Brie Bahlmann, Sr. G Mady Roberts
NEWCOMERS: So. G Haley Lieberman, Jr. G Katherine Koczwara, So. F Kasey Firnbach, So. F Katie Brettmann, Jr. F Shannon Healey
OUTLOOK: Before "Vernon Hills vs. Montini: The Rematch" takes place downstate, there's the minor issue of about 35 games, give or take a couple, that have to be played. "I never really focus on it," VH coach Paul Brettner said. "But everybody else is like, 'Are you guys ready to play Montini?' I'm like, 'I talked to the state of Illinois and they're not allowing us to play Montini today. As a matter of fact, they haven't even set up the championship game. We have to do the whole thing and playoffs this year. It's crazy.' "
The Cougars' 2011-12 postseason was crazy fun. Before falling to Montini 56-38 in the Class 3A state title game, the Cougars won four games in the state tournament by 7 or fewer points. Included was a Julie Pecht buzzer-beating winner over Grayslake Central in the St. Viator sectional final and a 49-45 upset of Springfield in the state semifinals. The Cougars return this season with their three best players from last season in 6-2 senior center Meri Bennett-Swanson, 6-foot junior post Lauren Webb and 5-9 junior forward Sydney Smith. All three were all-conference/all-area selections last season. The DePaul-bound Bennett-Swanson has been all-NSC since her freshman year. Throw in senior Alina Lehocky, who also got starts last season, and athletic Brie Bahlmann, who was one of Brettner's first players off the bench last season, and it's easy to see why the Cougars will be favored to win most nights.
Lehocky is recovering from a torn tendon in her foot. The Cougars will have the proverbial bull's eye on their back, and they are aware of it. "We'll get everybody's 'A' game. We can make a (an opponent's) season," Brettner said. "When Labrenthia Murdock was at Round Lake and we beat them (in January of 2009), the feeling we had was huge." The Cougars' primary goal is simple: win the NSC Prairie again. Then they can focus on the playoffs. "We want to get a little better every day," Brettner said, "and work on the things that the really good teams will exploit on us." One new face on the Cougars' bench is longtime Libertyville soccer and basketball coach Andy Bitta, "a longtime friend of the program," Brettner said. Bitta replaces Rachael Blanton as Brettner's new assistant. Blanton took a full-time teaching position at Metea Valley, where she's also the sophomore girls basketball coach. "She opened up with a three-point victory (Tuesday)," Brettner said. "She's excited." So is her old team.
COACH: Jaime Dennis (fifth season)
LAST SEASON: 7-20, 2-10 in NSC Prairie, lost to Johnsburg in Class 3A Wauconda regional opener
KEY LOSSES: G Diana Enriquez, F Chavez Coombs
RETURNERS: Sr. F Lexie Redmann, Jr. G Lauren Nee, Sr. G/F Becca Michelau, Sr. G Maggie LePage, So. F Jessie Wood
NEWCOMERS: Jr. C Kelly Haberichter, So. G Natalie Harding, Jr. G Jena Heck, Jr. F Kelli Stanley, Jr. F Alyssa Wagner, Jr. F Dani Sturm
OUTLOOK: A run of successful seasons came to a screeching halt for the Bulldogs last season. Now they look to rebound with a group that, unlike last season, doesn't have an experienced player inside (Chavez Coombs), nor a veteran scorer (Diana Enriquez). Coach Jamie Dennis has some athletes, though, and they might be enough to get the team more than the 7 wins it posted last season. Lexie Redmann, Becca Michelau and Maggie LePage are the only seniors on the 11-player roster. Jessie Wood -- one of two sophomores on the team along with Natalie Harding -- played on varsity last season. Listed at 5-10, junior center Kelly Haberichter is the Bulldogs' tallest player.
NORTH SUBURBAN LAKE
COACH: Chris Bennett (eighth season)
LAST SEASON: 21-10, 8-4 in NSC Lake, lost to Stevenson in Class 4A Lake Zurich regional final
KEY LOSSES: F Dori Darras, F Cathryne Spear, G Katherine Anderson, G Stephanie Schmid, G Maisie Cox, F Renee Wojcik, F Christina Sandstedt
RETURNERS: Sr. G Sara Gazdacka, Sr. F Kayla Stavnes, Sr. G Sarah Stefaniu
NEWCOMERS: So. F Elly Daleske, So. F Rachel Dawson, So. G Casey McGinnis, So. G Megan Holbrook, So. F Kaylee Grant, So. F Theresa Baumann, Fr. G Abby Pirron
OUTLOOK: Five new varsity starters is nothing new for coach Chris Bennett. "I've had teams like this before," said Bennett, whose Bears lost eight players to graduation. "I think this is the fourth team I've had a team like this, either when I was a head coach or when I was Carl's (Carl Krause's) assistant. It's always fun having a young team. We kind of had one end of the spectrum last year with a totally senior team. Now we're at the other end, where we're worrying about fundamentals and, 'Do we have the skills necessary?' " Bennett has no juniors on his roster but is carrying six sophomores, including forward Elly Daleske (5-8), who was the goalie on the varsity soccer team last spring, and 6-footer Theresa Baumann. "We have a very nice group of sophomores, and it was really difficult to see who was going to come up to varsity," Bennett said. "We have these six (on varsity) and there's still another eight on the sophomore team. We're probably going to change lineups as the year goes on. We'll move kids around and give some other kids a chance to play varsity, and kind of treat it almost like a farm system for a year."
The Bears' three returning players are guards Sara Gazdacka (5-8) and Sarah Stefaniu (5-5) and post Kayla Stavnes (5-10), none of whom played many varsity minutes as juniors. "They played against a really good group of kids (in practice last season) and learned how to practice hard and play hard," Bennett said. "I think they're going to step in and do a really nice job." Bennett also has a freshman up in 5-8 guard Abby Pirron, who figures to be brought along slowly. "She's really a nice player, kind of a basketball gym rat," Bennett said. "She plays a lot, always stays after practice shooting. She's just got a lot of basketball time under her belt, so she's pretty advanced in skill." Bennett likes the overall potential of his group, too. "I hope to keep them all together and they want to keep playing, " he said, "because they really have a solid core group."
COACH: Greg Pedersen (first season)
LAST SEASON: 21-7, 9-3 in NSC Lake (NSC champs), lost to Wheeling in Class 4A Libertyville regional opener
KEY LOSSES: G Alex Haley (Minot State), G Eileen Knauff, C Nicole Kruckman, F Kerry Risley, G/F Molly Moon
RETURNERS: Sr. G Olivia Mayer, Sr. F Dana Kym, Jr. G Rosie Lynch, Sr. F Margaret Haws, Sr. G/F Haley Hoeksel, So. G Mary Wilterdink
NEWCOMERS: Jr. G Jessica Van Roeyen, Jr. G Andi Katz, So. G/F Jenna Slobodnik, Jr. F Melissa Neutz, Jr. G Sydney Mudd, Jr. F Tara Eyre, So. C Becky Diechl
OUTLOOK: The graduation of four starters threatens a "four-peat." But then, the three-time defending NSC champs have certainly been "for real" in recent years. Gone are successful head coach Kathie Swanson, who's now at Elk Grove, and all-area players Alex Haley and Nicole Kruckman. Olivia Mayer, a 5-5 senior, is the Wildcats' only returning starter. She was unsung on last season's 21-win squad. "She won't be unsung this season," first-year coach Greg Pedersen said. "We're expecting big things out of Olivia. She's a quality ballhandler. She's a floor leader. We want to see her score and add that to her repertoire, which is defense, ball-handling, great ball distribution."
Pedersen's new starters Opening Night against Prospect were senior forward Haley Hoeksel (5-9), sophomore center Becky Diechl (6-0), junior guard Sydney Mudd (5-5) and sophomore guard Mary Wilterdink (5-7), who was up with the varsity most of last season but did not receive lots of minutes. Senior forward Dana Kym (5-10) just joined the team after being a member of the volleyball squad that went downstate. A third sophomore up is guard/forward Jenna Slobodnik (5-8). The Wildcats' six junior include Mudd, Rosie Lynch (5-4), who played sparingly on varsity as a sophomore, and guard Jessica Van Roeyen (5-5), who's coming off an ankle injury after having what Pedersen called a "great" summer. The Wildcats are inexperienced, but history says they'll contend again. "We expect to get better every day," Pedersen said. "We know we're young, and we know we're inexperienced. We got to make up for that in other areas."
COACH: Brian Evans (14th season)
LAST SEASON: 11-19, 2-10 in NSC Lake, lost to Lake Zurich in Class 4A Lake Zurich regional opener
KEY LOSSES: G Amanda Davis, G Taylor Davis, C Rachael Millner (Lakeland College), G Molly Rosenow
RETURNERS: Sr. F Becca Woit, So. F Natalie Busscher, Jr. G Emily Panitch, Sr. G Kiana Suhling, Sr. G Nikki Zaprzalka, So. G Jessica Schultz
NEWCOMERS: So. G Maggie Mahar, Fr. G Amy Richards, Jr. F Taylor Lintner, Fr. F Madison Davis, Jr. G Lauren Rouse
OUTLOOK: The Mustangs boast a veteran player in senior forward Becca Woit who can score, but this is mainly a young team that will experience growing pains. The 5-8 Woit, who made honorable mention all-conference last season, had 18 points in the Mustangs' loss to Prairie Ridge on Wednesday night. The defeat left the Mustangs with an 0-3 record in their own tournament. "We are still trying to find our identity this year," coach Brian Evans said. "We have a lot of work to do on the defensive end of the floor and need to buy in to the fact that our team will be competitive if we can rebound and defend. We have a great group of kids and a nice mix of youth and experience so it should be a fun year this year, and I think we should be competitive, but it may take some time for our team to mesh the youth and the experienced players together." Sophomore Maggie Mahar (5-8) missed last season with an injury. She, Natalie Busscher (5-10) and Jessica Schultz (5-6) all made the varsity as freshmen, and each should contribute a lot this winter. Evans has a pair of freshmen up this season in 5-9 Amy Richards and 5-10 Madison Davis.
COACH: Tom Dineen (fourth season, 33rd overall)
LAST SEASON: 23-8, 9-3 in NSC Lake, won Class 4A Lake Zurich regional, lost to Zion-Benton in sectional semifinals
KEY LOSSES: G Katie Batman, C Julia Dabrowski, F Olivia Whalen
RETURNERS: Sr. G Kari Moffat, Sr. F Alex Elzinga, So. G Taylor Buford, Sr. G Haley Umans, So F/G Sophia Way, So. F Jackie Green, Sr. Paige Freudenberg
NEWCOMERS: So. G/F Melanie Despenich, Jr. G Haley Green, Fr., Chloe Ekenberg
OUTLOOK: Veteran coach Tom Dineen has talent. He has it in four-year varsity point guard Kari Moffat, a two-time all-conference selection. And he has it in his two new assistant coaches. With Ashley Sandstead Graham having taken the head girls job at Prospect, Dineen has brought in two other former stars from his Buffalo Grove days: twins Allison and Maggie Mocchi, both of whom played on scholarship for Northwestern and got their degrees. "For 29 years (at BG) I never had an assistant," Dineen said. "I thought Ashley and I worked extremely well together. It was a good fit. To replace her, I needed it to be another good fit. I took my time trying to find the right people. One of the first calls I made was to those two gals (the Mocchis). It's going to work out well."
The 5-5 Moffat, who averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 assists last season, remains uncommitted to a college. "I think a lot of people out there are missing the boat," Dineen said. "Hopefully something will develop as the season progresses." Rugged senior forward Alex Elzinga (6-0) returns for her fourth varsity as well. "That's two great seniors there," Dineen said of Moffat and Elzinga. Sophomores Taylor Buford (5-10), Jackie Green (6-0) and Sophia Way (5-8) were all up on varsity last season, with Buford working her way into the starting lineup by season's end. Sophomore Melanie Despenich (5-11) is a transfer from York who's coming off an ACL injury. "Our sophomore class is exceptionally strong," Dineen said. The only junior is 5-3 Haley Green, whose brother Cameron starred for the varsity football team and whose dad is former Bears running back Mark Green. "She mixes it up," Dineen said. "You don't want her guarding you. She goes after you, defensively." Freshman Chloe Ekenberg (5-11) is the sister of former Patriots captain Paige Ekenberg. Seniors Paige Freudenberg (5-8) and Haley Umans (5-7) add depth. "I got only 10 players, but I will not hesitate to put any of them into the game at any point," Dineen said. "This is the most depth that I've had."
COACH: John Stanczykiewicz (14th season)
LAST SEASON: 21-9, 8-4 in NSC Lake, won Class 4A Warren regional, lost to Wheeling in Palatine sectional semifinals
KEY LOSSES: G Lexi Leneau (Lake Forest College), G Amanda Barger (Youngstown State University), C Jessica Prince (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
RETURNERS: Sr. F Alyssa Phillips, Sr. G Rachel Brown, Jr. G/F Cassie Christie, Jr. G Kristen O'Brien, Sr. F Jamie Stirling, Sr. F Alyssa Henry
NEWCOMERS: Fr. G Kylie Nedelka, Jr. F Atianna Bey-Wrey, Jr. G/F Aurianna Hampton, Jr. F Danielle Cassidy, So. G Sammie Jo Nixon, Jr. G Sarah Nelson, Jr. F Kristin Jacobs
OUTLOOK: Few teams in Lake County enjoyed a better second half than the Blue Devils last season. They went 16-3 over their last 19 games before bowing out to Cinderella Wheeling the sectional semifinals at Palatine. That was a veteran Warren squad, however, and boasted a trio of four-year varsity players in Lexi Leneau, Amanda Barger and Jessica Prince. This year's team doesn't have the same amount of experience. Senior center Alyssa Phillips will look to build off a strong season from a year ago. A skilled rebounder, the 6-footer also showed an ability to score. Juniors Cassie Christie and Kristen O'Brien are two more veterans who have the potential for a breakout season. Coach John Stanczykiewicz has a freshman up in 5-7 guard Kylie Nedelka, and he also gave 5-8 sophomore guard Sammie Jo Nixon a varsity roster spot.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC
COACH: Kelly Perz (third season)
LAST SEASON: 18-13, 4-5 in ESCC, lost to Vernon Hills in Class 3A St. Viator sectional semifinals
KEY LOSSES: F Sarah McHugh (soccer, Northern Iowa), G Madeline Felipez, F Kaitlyn Lynch
RETURNERS: Jr. G Kathleen Felicelli, Jr. F Cassidy Kloss, Jr. F Leah Lach, Jr. G Nicole Bitter, Sr. F Claire Ogrinc, Sr. F Blaze Pullman, Sr. G Mariana Kolomayets, Jr. F Paige Gauthier, Sr. C Kayla Quinn
NEWCOMERS: So. F/C Emma Rappe, Jr. G Alexa Svoboda, Sr. G Shannon Wilkens, Jr. G Tara Gandolfo
OUTLOOK: Having nine girls who played on varsity last season doesn't guarantee a Cloud Nine type of season. Sure, the Corsairs return a trio of junior starters in Kathleen Felicelli, Cassidy Kloss and Leah Lach, but roles are different this season and so are some positions. "Although we have a lot of returners, we still are figuring out chemistry and who's going to be the leaders on this team," coach Kelly Perz said. The Corsairs are off to a 1-2 start in Mundelein's Thanksgiving tournament after winning 18 games and a regional title last season. With the graduation of tall starters Sarah McHugh and Kaitlyn Lynch, the Corsairs are (literally) short in the post, although veteran Kayla Quinn stands 6-1 and sophomore Emma Rappe is 6 feet. "We have 11 guards and 2 posts," Perz said. The athletic Felicelli had several double-digit scoring efforts last season, but she moved from off guard to point guard. "So she's got a little adjusting to do with that," Perz said. Before all is said and done, the Corsairs figure to have enough athleticism and varsity experience to be competitive most nights. "We're just all kind of out of sync," Perz said.
FOX VALLEY FOX
COACH: Steve Ikenn (third season)
LAST SEASON: 26-6, 12-0 in FVC Fox (first), won Class 3A Wauconda regional, lost to Vernon Hills in St. Viator sectional final
KEY LOSSES: G Skyler Jessop (soccer, Western Illinois University), G Claire Brennan, F Beth Arnold, G Emma Shepard, G Sarah Kuligowski, G Michelle Lettenmair
RETURNERS: Jr. C Morgan Dahlstrom, Sr. G Savannah Mudd, Jr. F/G Maddy Miller, Jr. G Carson Sparkman, So. G Lauren Spalding, Sr. F Taylor Peterson
NEWCOMERS: Jr. G Erin Boban, Jr. G Theresa Curtis, So. F Connor Eschrich, So. G Juliana Frusolone, Jr. F/C Maddy Arnold, So. G Rachel Effa
OUTLOOK: Like a year ago, the Rams return only starter. "It's getting to be old habit here," coach Steve Ikenn joked. "But we have only two seniors on the roster, so we can't graduate more than two people next year." Last season, the Rams' lone returning starter was four-year varsity guard Skyler Jessop, who wound up as the captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team. With the graduation of Jessop, fellow all-area pick Claire Brennan and fellow starters Beth Arnold and Emma Shepard, the Rams could struggle early. They did last year, losing their first two before rattling off 11 straight wins.
"We're not going to replace Skyler," Ikenn said. "You don't replace Skyler. You don't replace Claire. But we've had other players step in. We may have to tweak some things. We have to be a different team than we were last year." Also like a year ago, the one returning player is a good one. Junior Morgan Dahlstrom produced 10 double-digit scoring efforts last season, and the 6-1 center was a consistent factor on the boards. She also played varsity as a freshman. "I think she'll have a good year, even better than last year," Ikenn said. Junior Carson Sparkman, who played on varsity last season, takes over at point guard. "She had a nice summer," Ikenn said. "She can run the floor well, she's got good speed and she's a good defender." Ikenn is also confident in Lauren Spalding's ability to bring the ball up. Spalding was also on varsity as a freshman.
Sophomores Rachel Effa (5-7) and Connor Eschrich (5-8) and junior Maddy Arnold (5-10) should all contribute coming off the bench. Effa and junior Erin Boban (5-6) were postseason call-ups last season. Junior Maddy Miller (5-10) could start, as could senior Taylor Peterson (5-7). The Rams were scheduled to open their season Thursday against Libertyville at Buffalo Grove. The schedule is tough early, with the likes of Maine South, Buffalo Grove, Westinghouse, Barrington, Vernon Hills, Cary-Grove and St. Charles North. Then the Rams begin defense of their FVC Fox championship. "I don't know how we'll be. I didn't know how we'd be last year, either," Ikenn said. "If you would have told me at the beginning of last year we were going to go 26-6 and come within an eyelash (a buzzer-beating basket by Vernon Hills' Julie Pecht) of winning a sectional, I would have said, 'Any day of the week I'll take it.' "
COACH: Nate Flannery (first season)
LAST SEASON: 21-9, 8-4 in FVC Fox, won Class 3A Chicago Northside regional, lost to Grayslake Central in St. Viator sectional semifinals
KEY LOSSES: F Katie McGrath, F Brooke Sauer, G Allie Ceglarek, C Christina Freese
RETURNERS: Sr. G Jordyn Bowen, Jr. G Kendall Deitweiler, Sr. C Joanna Guhl, Sr. F Emily Stinner
NEWCOMERS: Jr. G Shannon Myers, So. G Maggie Fish, Jr. F Ashley Martineau, So. G Emily Dugan, Jr. G Sam Karnuth, Jr. F Brittney Thibeaux, Sr. F Shyanne Ludwick
OUTLOOK: The Knights are coming off the best season in program history, and while this season could be equally exciting, they have a new head coach directing them. Nate Flannery assisted Knights boys basketball coach Todd Grunloh for five seasons, including the last four, and also spent a year on Brian Moe's staff at Grayslake Central. Flannery, a Wisconsin native who played junior college basketball in Michigan, is coaching girls for the first time and inherits plenty of talented ones.
Three starters are back in senior guard Jordyn Bowen (5-5), junior guard Kendall Detweiler (5-5) and senior center Joanna Guhl (6-0). Bowen, who has committed to play softball at Northern Illinois, is as good as they come defensively. Detweiler, who will be playing her third season on varsity, averaged a team-leading 12 points per game, with a season-high of 30. Guhl produced 12 double-digit scoring efforts and was also dominant on the boards at times. Sophomore newcomer Emily Dugan (5-6) came off the bench to pour in three 3-pointers in the Knights' season-opening win over Highland Park at Mundelein on Monday. "She's a gym rat. She's an AAU player," Flannery said. "That's the kind of lift she can give us off the bench." Senior forward Shyanne Ludwick (5-9) was on varsity as a sophomore, but did not play last season. Maggie Fish (5-7), the little sister of Knights football star A.J. Fish, gives the squad another sophomore who can handle the ball and provide energy. "The expectations (for the team) are high. They should be high," Flannery said. "Before the (season opener) I talked to the kids about goals. It's about one possession at a time. If we can take care of that, ultimately, winning tournaments and winning conference and those things will come. It's got to be small steps to get there."