Coach: Denise Sarna (9th year, 245-45)
Conference: Upstate Eight Valley
2011-12 record: 32-2 (11-1, UEC Valley champs, 3rd in Class 4A)
Top returning players: Junior Elizabeth Arco (6-1 F).
Top newcomers: Senior Alyssa Hernandez (6-2 F), Chantel Zasada (5-7 G), Alexandra Fleig (5-11 F); juniors Ashley Johnson (5-6 G), Ally Giampapa (5-9 G), Kayla Gallagher (5-9 G/F), Brooke Kulbeda (5-7 G); freshmen Kaitlin Brohan (5-9 G/F), Kelly Harris (6-1 F).
Outlook: There's starting over, then there's starting over. Bartlett lost its top 8 players and all 5 starters from last year's 32-2 team that took third place in the Class 4A state tournament. Arco is the only returning player who saw significant varsity playing time but the addition of Hernandez, a transfer from Lake Park, will certainly help when she returns from an ankle injury.
"It's been interesting so far," said Hawks coach Denise Sarna. "We've got four freshmen, a senior transfer, two seniors on the varsity who didn't play much last year and some juniors who played some. We're coming together from so many different angles. I think we'll get better, we just need some time. They're nice kids and they're working hard. We should have some versatility."
The schedule is tough as always for the Hawks, beginning with the Naperville Central/Benet Tip-Off Tournament, where they play the host schools, both ranked, in their first two games.
"These kids are going to get thrown into the fire and grow up fast," Sarna said. "The schedule is tough and we open with two really good teams."
Sarna says one thing the Hawks always have going for them is pride and tradition, things she stressed when the Hawks took their team building trip to Wisconsin, where former Bartlett star Jacki Gulczynski now plays.
"We talk about the tradition and dedication and commitment," she said. "We're a different team this year. These kids want to outwork teams. There's pride in our program and the kids want to work hard to uphold the tradition, We have to focus on defense this year and we want to outsmart teams."
Burlington Central Rockets
Coach: Mark Smith (1st year)
Conference: Big Northern East
2011-12 record: 13-16 (6-4 BN-East)
Top returning players: Seniors Erica Haynes (5-8 G/F), Camille Dela Cruz (5-6 G); sophomore Alison Colby (6-0 C/F).
Top newcomers: Junior Kathleen Ratzek (5-6 G); sophomore Jackie Collins (5-7 F); freshmen Kayla Ross (5-7 F), Shelby Holt (5-9 F), Sam Cruz (5-7 F), Sam Pryor (5-10 F/C), Becca Gerke (6-0 C).
Outlook: The Mark Smith era begins at Burlington Central as the former St. Charles North boys and Harper College women's coach takes over as the Rockets' fifth coach in the last seven years. And while the returning experience may be a little thin, the Rockets lead the area with five freshmen on the varsity roster, a core of players who have been ultrasuccessful at the middle school level and in AAU basketball with the Illinois Hoop Dreams program. Colby (11.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg) had a good freshman campaign, while Haynes and Dela Cruz, who will play soccer on scholarship at Northern Iowa, bring senior leadership to the floor.
"I had no idea about this freshman group," said Smith, whose daughter Kelsey, a St. Charles North grad, is a scholarship player at DePaul. "I felt like we could work with whatever we had but I went to the Dundee-Crown summer league and had people like (Hampshire coach) Ed Haugens tell me we have a great group. It's the positive affect of AAU and the exposure of the girls' abilities. We're putting a lot of new stuff in and in 2-3 years they'll know it well. They've got basketball savvy and they pick things up pretty good."
Smith knows full well that as talented as the freshmen may be, it's still their first crack at varsity basketball.
"I think it's more their talent and reputation," Smith said. "I talked to (former BC coach) Darlene (Guyett) and she saw these kids in grade school. It will take these freshmen a while. They're used to playing eighth-grade basketball and winning by big margins. The age difference will be huge. But once they get the system down we'll be OK."
Smith has also welcomed former Rocket standout Tia Sportsman to the coaching staff. She will coach the BC freshman team this season.
Coach: Rod Saffert (7th year, 135-43)
Conference: Fox Valley (Valley)
2011-12 record: 21-9 (11-1 FVC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Olivia Jackubicek (5-10 F), Joslyn Nicholson (5-10 G), Megan Leisten (5-8 G), Hannah Phillips (5-8 F), Kylie Smith (5-8 F); juniors Sarah Kendeigh (5-7 G), Abby Glaysher (5-9 G); sophomore Katie Barker (5-9 G);
Top newcomers: Juniors Abby Jakubicek (5-10 F), Amy Clemment (5-0 G); freshmen Jen Pilut (5-8 G), Becky Koch (5-1 G).
Outlook: Three straight conference titles, three straight regional crowns and two straight Sweet Sixteen appearances have made Cary-Grove the team to beat in the FVC Valley again this season. Seniors Olivia Jackubicek (13.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Joslyn Nicholson (7.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg) are coming off all-area seasons and will join with sophomore guard Katie Barker to form the core of this Trojans' team. Barker, though, will be out until around Christmas time after undergoing meniscus surgery. All three will be C-G captains this season.
"Olivia will be out starting go-to girl inside," said C-G coach Rod Saffert. "Her physical strength makes her very tough to deal with one-on-one. She is also one of our best defenders. Joslyn will be one of our starting guards who has the capability of posting up as well. Her length on defense helps the team tremendously as does her ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot a true jump shot. She will be attending Olivet Nazarene next fall to play in their run-and-gun system. Katie Barker started as a freshman last year. Her stats weren't remarkable but the improvement in her game since then has been and will be felt by her opponents. Katie is the most vocal player we have and will be a powerful outside threat for us, especially from 3-point range, but she can also post up as well."
Saffert is also pleased with the depth of returning players he has and he has high hopes for the Trojans' newcomers.
"The returning players fulfilled their roles admirably last year and will no doubt be important to our success again this year," Saffert said. "Our four newcomers will also prove to be valuable members of our team this season."
It all adds up to Cary-Grove having high expectations again.
"We should contend for the Valley Division title, a regional title and even a sectional title," Saffert said. "We lost two very good players to graduation, but this team's main goal is to keep the winning tradition alive."
Saffert is also pleased he has an intelligent team and program. In the first quarter of this school year, 27 of the 29 players in the C-G program were on either the honor roll or the high honor roll. The varsity team had a combined GPA of 4.07 in the first quarter of the academic year.
Crystal Lake South Gators
Coach: Kyle McCaughn (12th year, 158-169)
Conference: Fox Valley (Valley)
2011-12 record: 12-18 (4-8 FVC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Stephanie Oros (5-6, G), Lauren Del Vecchio (6-0, F), juniors Sara Mickow (5-11, C), Rachel Rassmussen (5-6, G).
Top newcomers: Sophomore Carly Nolan (6-0 C), freshman Chanel Fanter (5-8, F).
Outlook: When the Gators took care of the ball and the defense came together late last season for coach Kyle McCaughn, the success came. South will look to copy that blueprint again. The key is if they can gel on defense early on with the return of last year's defensive MVP Stephanie Oros, who averaged 2.5 steals and if they can combine that with this season's balanced attack to spike their scoring output, it'll allow them to climb further up in the FVC Valley.
"Defense was fundamentally sound, we weren't giving up as many points," McCaughn said of the squad late last year, who allowed a 42.6 points per game average. "We took care of the ball. We had more opportunities that allowed us to play competitive at the end. The defense should be strong based on returners knowing the system, knowing the defensive philosophy. If we reduce opponent's scoring the offense will take care of itself."
South averaged 38.4 points per game and center Sara Mickow averaged a double-double (10.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg) last season. She has gotten stronger and more confident over the summer and Rachel Rassmussen, a 70 percent free throw shooter and a confident, top outside threat, worked hard on her midrange jumper and getting to the basket. Rassmussen took a lot of threes (15-for-70 last year but CL South will look around the basket with Mickow while also looking for best shot available while making the defense work. Six sophomores were moved up and some questions marks remain with the roster, including who'll step in as the fifth starter, as Lauren Del Vecchio (4.9 ppg) will aid Rassmussen, Mickow and Oros in the lineup.
"When we gel, which will take some time we'll have great balance with our starters and our bench," said McCaughn, who does have six experienced seniors on the roster. "Even though we're starting two seniors and two juniors, we're still feeling kind of young. If we play disciplined, competitive basketball, we could be competitive every single night."
It bridges to South's main goal, to be a part of the upper echelon of the FVC Valley. A tough schedule at the Dundee-Crown Thanksgiving tournament against the likes of South Elgin, Streamwood, St. Viator and Palatine along with and the Northern Illinois Tournament in Woodstock during Christmas should be a good measuring stick for the Gators as to what they'll expect come conference.
"Huntley, Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge are very solid, very well-coached. Our conference is competitive," McCaughn said. "If we work for each other, play for each other ... if they do, then we'll be successful. "
Coach: Michelle Russell (6th year, 28-79)
Conference: Fox Valley (Valley)
2011-12 record: 15-11 (8-4 FVC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Jordan Bartelt (5-5 G), Stephanie Magsamen (5-6 F), Jillian Weichmann (5-8 F); junior Emily Michalski (5-11 C); sophomore Jess Laboy (5-9 F).
Top newcomers: Juniors Julia Tabor (5-5 G), Jereneka Baker (5-7 F); sophomore Lauren Lococo (5-9 F); freshmen Melissa Barker (5-5 G), Frankie Cavallaro (5-8 F).
Outlook: Replacing one of the top scorers in program history to the graduation of Ali Sanders won't be easy for the Chargers, who were in contention for the FVC Valley late into the season last year. There is some experience returning in senior Jillian Weichmann (2.3 ppg) and junior Emily Michalski (3.4 ppg), but inexperience is the rule at D-C this season.
"It's hard right now to say what the outlook is," said Chargers' coach Michelle Russell, who has just 10 girls on her varsity roster. "The girls are getting after it and I think our scoring will be more balanced this year."
Russell is high on the potential of sophomore Jess Laboy, who played some varsity last season, as well as freshmen Melissa Barker and Frankie Cavallaro.
"I think we can be competitive," Russell said. "As a team I think it will be a much more balanced effort. Last year we were able to let Ali go and do her thing. This year the abilities are all pretty even. We'll just have to play hard defense and the scoring will have to come along."
Coach: Dr. Nick Bumbales
Conference: Upstate Eight River
2011-12 record: 1-26 (1-11 UEC River)
Top returning players: Senior Kristen Tayag (5-7 G); juniors Maggie Powers (5-5 G), Melanie Berg (5-8 F), Anna Eckholm (5-7 F), Jess Ramirez (5-8 C), Tamara Milosevic (6-1 C).
Top newcomers: Senior Joe Lanette (5-0 G); juniors Fantasia Griffin (5-2 G), Lauren Alexander (5-9 C), Lisseth Villacorta (5-1 G), Jennah Perryman (5-8 C), Tierra Sharks (5-10 C), Monica Chavez (5-10 C); sophomores Destiny West (5-8 C), Abby Pierre-Louis (5-10 C); freshman Sarah El Rahmany (5-8 F).
Outlook: Elgin does return some experience to the court this season but will have to replace the 15.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game it got last season from now graduated Bri Hamilton (Benedictine).
"We lost over half our scoring and rebounding in Bri but we do have three starters back and the skills have greatly improved," said Bumbales. "We don't have to spend as much time in practice on skills, we can scrimmage more. It's a cohesive unit but we're still young."
The three starters back are all juniors -- Maggie Powers, Anna Eckholm and Jess Ramirez. Bumbales also says senior Kristen Tayag has improved her shot and that Milosevic's skill set has improved. They noth saw significant varsity time last year.
"We've looked really good in practice," Bumbales said. "We've been getting after it defensively and the offensive skills have improved. We can get up and down the floor. It's a nice group. There's no drama, they all get along real well and they play hard."
Bumbales has lightened up the Maroons' schedule somewhat by playing in the Elgin Academy Thanksgiving tournament and the Elgin City Classic, which he developed and will include Westminster Christian, Harvest Christian, Elgin Academy and Larkin.
"I just think we need some confidence," he said. "It's a program that's struggled for a long time now. The numbers are consistent, but we need to get some confidence against competition they can compete against. In our conference, we've played Final Four teams the last few years. Our motto and our No. 1 goal this year is that it's time to believe. My No. 1 goal is to get these kids some confidence. We've won three games in three years."
Bumbales says he sees progress already.
"We brought up six sophomores last year knowing we'd take our lumps but the program had to make that sacrifice," he said. "We're seeing it in practice so far. The mindset is much better and the expectations are different. The last two years it was just to survive. I think we're out of survival mode now and ready to be more competitive."
Elgin Academy Hilltoppers
Coach: Bill Rodriguez (1st year)
Conference: Independent School League
2011-12 record: 6-18 (2-5 ISL)
Top returning players: Senior Samayra Siddiqui (5-9, F/C), junior Susanna Cain (5-5, G), sophomores Kaitlyn Pearson (5-5, G), Alysson Wittmeyer (6-0, C).
Top newcomers: FreshmanRachel Cain (5-7, G/F), Corrine Lam (5-7, F), Melissa Trudrung (5-8, F), Elizabeth Clements (5-7, F/C), Trennedy Kleczewski (5-7, G/F).
Outlook: First-year coach Bill Rodriguez will not enter the Elgin Academy program blind, nor alone. The former Hilltoppers' 8th grade coach inherits the varsity role with an arsenal of 9 freshmen he coached last season who went 18-3. His familiarity is uncanny with everyone but Alysson Wittmeyer, who was home-schooled until her freshman year. Though it's a mighty step to varsity, the youth must infuse with lone senior Samayra Siddiqui and junior Susanna Cain to offset the loss of standout Ashley Barnes to graduation. Barnes averaged nearly 12 points per game, accounting for half of the Hilltoppers' scoring.
Spearheading the freshman attack is Rachel Cain, who will act more like a point-forward. Rodriguez said she could be the team's best 3-point threat. The freshmen will have to adapt quickly to a faster and much more developed game with more experienced players.
"We told the freshmen there is no freshman team, no sophomore team. You go from 8th grade to 12th grade. They really have to adapt," Rodriguez said."They know they have to step it up. We'll see what happens with this preseason tournament (at Elgin Academy). It'll be a test; they have to get a taste of what's going on."
Elgin Academy fields a roster of 13 girls, depth rarely seen at the school. It will use its numbers and height to an advantage, especially in Wittmeyer, who began playing organized basketball 2 years ago. The Hilltoppers' success will hinge on how Wittmeyer develops and on how they handle the ball.
Wittmeyer and Siddiqui will be the beneficiaries of an offense that will have to go through them first, then come out to guards Susanna Cain and Kaitlyn Pearson on the wings, a pair Rodriguez says can score anywhere from 6-10 points a game.
"The first thing we'd like to do is hit the post girls if we can, we want to utilize them," said Rodriguez. "There's not one dominant player that sticks out, it's a whole new team."
Rodriguez plans to play man-to-man defense and you may see some 1-3-1.
"We have to be quick on our feet as far as movement back and forth. With the freshmen coming up they're a little quicker," he said.
Coach: Ed Haugens (10th year, 194-83; 3rd year at Hampshire, 44-18)
Conference: Fox Valley (Fox)
2011-12 record: 17-15 (7-5 FVC Fox)
Top returning players: Seniors Jen Dumoulin (5-9 F), Lizzy Panzica (5-10 C), Samantha Okubo (5-5 G); junior Sara Finn (5-5 G).
Top newcomers: Juniors Becky Dumoulin (5-4 G), Hannah Detiveaux (5-5 G), Anna Baxter (5-6 G/F); sophomore Tricia Dumoulin (5-4 G).
Outlook: Hampshire coach Ed Haugens says patience will be a virtue for his team this season.
"They're working really hard but we've got a lot of new faces and it might take some time to get things clicking," said Haugens, whose team won a regional championship last year and went .500 in its first year of competition in the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division.
The Whip-Purs of 2012-13 will be led by returning seniors Jen Dumoulin (9.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Elizabeth Panzica (4.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and junior Sara Finn (4.2 ppg).
"I've got high expectations," said Haugens. "We have a lot of athleticism and potential but the newer kids need to get more physical. It's about sharing the ball and playing as a team. We won't go anywhere trying to ride one or two people."
The Whip-Purs will open the season in the Dundee-Crown tournament, and then at Christmas will move from Oswego to the Lisle Holiday Cage Classic.
"That tournament will be great for us to gauge where we're at," said Haugens of Dundee-Crown. "You only get better by playing good competition."
Harvest Christian Lions
Coach: Kelly Friestad (2nd year, 17-11)
Conference: Northeastern Athletic
2011-12 record: 17-11
Top returning players: Juniors Sydney Doby (6-2 C), Carol Kauffman (5-5 G); sophomores Kylee Knox (5-5 G), Morgan Lockwood (5-8 G/F).
Top newcomers: Senior Sarah Kott (5-10 F); juniors Anneliese Herman (5-7 G), Sydney Koonce (5-6 G/F); freshman Rachel Oostdyk (6-0 C).
Outlook: With a roster of just 8 players, the Lions have already been hit by the injury bug. Junior forward Sydney Doby (14.8 ppg. 12.9 rpg) is nursing a bruised knee suffered during Harvest's run to the Elite Eight in volleyball and sophomore guard Morgan Lockwood (3.8 ppg) is also out a few weeks. But the Lions do return starting guards Carol Kauffman (3.4 ppg) and Kylee Knox (8.3 ppg. 4.8 rpg) and they have added 5-10 senior forward Sarah Kott to the mix. She was also on the Elite Eight volleyball team. Freshman Rachel Oostdyk will also add some size to the lineup.
"Doby isn't practicing fully yet and Lockwood will be out a few weeks but I think we'll be all right once we get everyone back and in there," said Lions' coach Kelly Friestad. "Sarah Kott hasn't played basketball since sixth grade but I think she's going to help out a lot. And Rachel Oostdyk has come a long way."
Harvest will compete in the Northeastern Athletic Conference this season, a league that was dominated by IMSA and Westminster Christian last season. Harvest played as an independent last season.
"We want to improve on what we did last year and we'd love to compete for the conference championship," said Friestad. "We've got four returning starters and they're older. They played a lot of games this summer and that experience is huge. They're getting stronger."
The Lions aren't playing in a Thanksgiving tournament and will open the season Tuesday against Paw Paw.
"It's good for us to have that extra week off with our injuries," Friestad said.
Huntley Red Raiders
Coach: Steve Raethz (14th year, 193-177)
Conference: Fox Valley (Valley)
2011-12 record: 13-15 (6-6 FVC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Haley Ream (6-0 G/F), Amanda Kaniewski (5-6 G); junior Sam Andrews (6-0 F)
Top newcomers: Juniors Bethany Zornow (5-9 G), Rachel Zobott (5-9 F); sophomore Jessica Brock (5-4 G); freshmen Kayla Barreto (5-2 G), Ali Andrews (6-2 F).
Outlook: With two of the top returning all-area players coming back this season in Haley Ream (7.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Sam Andrews (14.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Red Raiders' coach Steve Raethz has high hopes for the coming season. Add in 6-2 freshman Ali Andrews and freshman point guard Kayla Barreto and Huntley appears to have a good mix of veterans and newcomers to make a run at the FVC Valley title, which has been dominated by Cary-Grove the past 3 years.
"I like our team and what we've been doing," Raethz said. "We're working hard to build team cohesiveness. We've got a nice mix of returning players and new talent. It's nice to have two all-conference players returning and they've both worked hard on their games during the offseason. I really like Haley's versatility and Sam has really improved her game."
After the summer season, it became no secret that freshman Ali Andrews has special potential.
"Ali is a very talented player," said Raethz. "This is my 14th season and I haven't coached a freshman who is as talented as her. She has a bright future."
The mix of experience and new talent has Raethz thinking big.
"I really like the prospects for the season," he said. "We've got a really solid core group and a very coachable group. I like the potential of this team and what we can accomplish. We want to win the conference and get deep into the postseason and I think this group has the potential to reach those goals. We want to put ourselves back into a position to contend."
Huntley left the West Aurora/Waubonsie Valley Thanksgiving Tournament to play closer to home, at Dundee-Crown.
"We're looking forward to the Dundee-Crown tournament," Raethz said. "It will be good competition for us."
Jacobs Golden Eagles
Coach: Joe Benoit (1st year)
Conference: Fox Valley (Valley)
2011-12 record: 9-20 (3-9 FVC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Tori Tamburrino (6-0, F), Payton Berg (5-7, G), Nicky Chapa (5-4, G), Jackie Bartolai (5-11, F), junior Kelly Grady (5-6, G), sophomore Jennifer Barnec (5-9, G),.
Top newcomers: Junior Nicole Cook (5-8, G), sophomore Lauren Van Vlierbergen (5-7, G).
Outlook: Good luck talking about the past with new Golden Eagles coach Joe Benoit. Mainly because when Benoit was promoted from the head sophomore job in July, he felt the program badly needed a culture shock. So far in practice, there's evidence on display that shock has been absorbed.
"I'm fortunate to take over a group of girls to take the next step forward," Benoit said. "They've tremendously had a shift in attitude, a change in work ethic, a new fresh, positive vibe, not the program of the last couple of years. I have seen the program at its best and seen it when it's struggled. It's time to change the culture, get the program where it needs to be.
"Change doesn't happen over night, though. It's nothing but being positive and creating an atmosphere of hard work, pride. Wins will take care of themselves."
His coaching staff does have the pedigree to send that message. Benoit also played on St. Edward's varsity team from 1998-2002. Christy Freeman, a former 4-year varsity player at Palatine who played college ball at Lake Forest is also apart of the staff that hopes to help the Golden Eagles begin a winning culture on the defensive end.
"Consistency and opponent's field goal percentage will really tell the tale of this season," Benoit said. "Despite our lack of height, we'll pride ball pressure and we'll have to be aggressive on the boards both offensively and defensively."
Expect junior Kelly Grady to lead the defensive tone along with senior Nicky Chapa to pressure opposing guards. The scoring load is up for grabs since Lauren Grady, Amy Becker and Jessica Tennant all are gone to graduation.
"We'll find out who's ready to take over the scoring load. It's an excellent opportunity for the girls to step up," Benoit said.
It might be Jennifer Barnec, Payton Berg or Tori Tamburrino, who will look for high percentage shots off screens. Barnec led the team with 22 3-point shots made while averaging 6 points per game as a freshman. Berg is scrappy and will be relied upon heavily. She's been asked to shoulder the load at point guard while Taumburino must be her versatile self and go inside and out.
"She has a good pull up jumper," said Benoit of Berg. "We're hoping to see her step up as a leader."
Coach: Ruben Flores (1st year)
Conference: Upstate Eight River
2011-12 record: 5-22 (1-11 UEC River)
Top returning players: Seniors Amber McGhee (G/F), Paris Patterson (G/F)
Top newcomers: Seniors Taylor Lindsey (F/C); juniors Sky Evans (G), Rachel Martinez (F); sophomore Quixmia Washington (G)
Outlook: Flores becomes Larkin's fourth coach in the past 5 years, but he says he's in it for the long haul. "It's going to take consistency," Flores said. "This is their third coach in the last three years at the varsity level. I see myself five years down the road being here and bringing the program back to where it was in the 2000s. We need the philosophy to be the same from top to bottom and all levels on the same page. We want to establish a consistent Junior Royals program and get younger girls coming in on a consistent basis."
This season, the Royals will be somewhat inexperienced, especially until the second half of the season when junior Tori Patterson becomes eligible. Flores feels his familiarity with the girls on the team will help immediately. "I've coached them at the lower levels and they're used to my play calling and the game I like to run," said Flores, who coached the sophomore team the past two years after a year at the freshman level.
Paris Patterson and Amber McGhee will bring some experience to the court, but Flores is also high on sophomore Quixmia Washington, senior Taylor Lindsay and juniors Rachel Martinez and Sky Evans as players who he expects to contribute.
"We're looking for Amber to be a leader and Paris can be a tremendous player when she really puts her mind to it," Flores said. "Washington is really aggressive. She's got a high motor and we'll be looking for her to push the ball up the court while Tori's out. We're looking for Taylor Lindsay to motor up and down the court and give us good minutes on defense and Sky Evans is a nice 3-point shooter. Rachel Martinez is a consistent kid who is smart."
Flores says his style will fit his team, which does lack in size.
"I like to play high energy," he said. "We'll be a small team so we're going to have to attack as much as we can and disrupt what the other team is doing. We're looking for the kids to compete this year by being aggressive and attacking. We'll do our best. I expect our kids to walk off the floor with their heads held high."
South Elgin Storm
Coach: Tim Prendergast (6th year, 74-67)
Conference: Upstate Eight Valley
2011-12 record: 19-11 (4-8 UEC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Kara Rodriguez (5-7 G), Amanda Behles (5-8 G), Amanda Smogolski (6-1 F); juniors Anna Tracy (5-7 G), Kennede Miller (6-1 F), Savanah Uveges (5-7 G, injured).
Top newcomers: Senior Nell Wentling (5-7 G); juniors Julia McIntosh (5-9 C); sophomores Delaney Kelleher (5-9 G), Laura McIntosh (5-8 G), Cara Fahey (5-7 G/F).
Outlook: If South Elgin can maintain some consistency until about Jan. 10, the Storm could be tough down the stretch. That's when all-area junior point guard Savanah Uveges (9.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.4 apg, 3.6 spg) is expected back from an ACL injury suffered in club soccer this past summer. Until then the cupboard is far from bare. Senior Kara Rodriguez, one of the top female athletes in the area, is back after missing last season with an ACL. And 6-1 Kennede Miller (7.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) returns along with Behles, Smogolski and Tracy (20 3-pointers), who all saw plenty of varsity time last season. Kelleher and Laura McIntosh, who played some varsity last year but were key players on the Storm's 24-1 sophomore team, will man the point until Uveges returns. And the Storm will need all of that after winning their first regional championship but also losing all-area co-captain Becca Smith and her 2,038 career points to graduation and Loyola University.
"With Becca you always figured you'd get 20 points and then fill in from there," said Storm coach Tim Prendergast. "But these kids are excited about filling the scoring role."
Prendergast knows there will have to be some fairly inexperienced varsity players step up in Uveges' absence.
"Savanah is a huge loss," he said. "But it will allow some of our other kids and opportunity to play and then we'll be even better when Savanah comes back. We might take some lumps early but we'll be a better defensive team than in the past and if we play 25 games we might have 25 different leading scorers."
Having Rodriguez back and a year of varsity experience under Miller's belt won't hurt anything.
"Kara looks like she's 100 percent recovered from last year," Prendergast said. "Kara is my definition of a true athlete who plays basketball. And Kennede Miller is going to be a matchup problem for a lot of teams. We have a lot of depth but we're not that big so we'll have to continue to do the same things we've done in the past -- run the floor and play the whole floor on defense. I think we can make things happen and score off our defense. These girls are real good in transition."
Even though last year produced a regional title, Prendergast would like to see his team fare better in the UEC Valley, where the Storm was just 4-8 last season.
"We're really looking to do better in our conference this year," he said. "I feel like when we get Savanah back we're going to be a really strong team."
Coach: George Rosner (33rd year, 364-478, 322 wins at Streamwood)
Conference: Upstate Eight River
2011-12 record: 15-14 (8-4 UEC River)
Top returning players: Seniors Jessica Cerda (5-9 G/F), Deja Moore (5-7 G), Kimberly Jimenez (5-2 G), Brittany Delao (5-5 F); juniors Hannah McGlone (6-0 C), Holly Foret (5-9 F).
Top newcomers: Juniors Stephanie Caldera (6-1 C); sophomore Kiana Jeremiah (5-6 F).
Outlook: With a Division I returnee and a junior who will likely be getting a lot of D-I looks this season, the future looks bright for the Sabres. The five starters who ended the 2011-12 season as well as a returning injured player who started before she was hurt all return for a team that contended for the Upstate Eight River title until the final week of the season.
"It's good having experience back," said Sabres' coach George Rosner. "There's really no substitute for that. It's a good nucleus. They know what we're doing and they know how to look for each other."
Jessica Cerda, who has committed to Chicago State, and junior Hannah McGlone lead the way. Cerda moved to the point midway through last season when Streamwood lost Amanda Patterson to injury, but she will moved back to more of a matchup role this season, after averaging 14.1 points per game last season and hitting 48 3-pointers to become the program's all-time 3-point leader. She comes into the season with over 800 career points. McGlone averaged a double-double last season, scoring 14.5 points and grabbing 10.8 rebounds per game. Deja Moore averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds last season and with Holly Foret back from injury and Delao and Jiminez each seeing significant varsity time last season, the pieces appear to be in place for a strong season at Streamwood.
"Jess can shoot the 3s and take it to the basket, Deja takes it to the basket as strong as anybody and she's added a jump shot, and Hannah is as good an inside player as we've had in a long time," Rosner said. "Having the talent back that we do ... we have to take advantage of it this year. Up and down the floor this is probably the fastest team I've ever had. We'll have to rebound and play defense to run. We need to get steals and layups."
The first order of business for the Sabres is to contend for the UEC River title again. But the program's first regional title in 25 years would be an added bonus.
"It's a tough conference," Rosner said. "We know how strong Geneva, St. Charles North and Batavia are. We'll shoot for that and we'd love to win a regional. It's all there if we play team ball and play defense. We have the ability to shut teams down defensively."
The Sabres open the season in the Dundee-Crown Thanksgiving tournament, where they will play Huntley on Saturday morning in a matchup of two of the top teams in the area.
St. Edward Green Wave
Coach: Michelle Dawson (10th year, 131-92)
Conference: Suburban Christian Blue
2011-12 record: 21-8 (6-4 SCC Blue)
Top returning players: Seniors Hayley Budish (5-3 G), Kailey Durkin (5-8 G), Mary Kate Nastali (5-11 F), Rena Ranallo (5-8 G); juniors Katie Swanson (5-11 G), Clarissa Ramos (5-9 F).
Top newcomers: Juniors Stephanie Armstrong (5-3 G), Cory Kelly (5-9 G/F), Bridget Mastali (5-7 G), Maria VonAhnen (6-0 F/C), Olivia Walschot (5-6 G), Victoria Walschot (5-6 G), Emily Witt (5-7 G); sophomore Cece Rapp (6-1 F/C).
Outlook: It will be a young and inexperienced St. Edward team that takes the floor this season, especially until senior guard Rena Ranallo (8.3 ppg) returns from an ankle injury. Junior Katie Swanson (2.6 ppg) saw some varsity time last season but other than that, it's a new group playing the later game every night. Durkin did see some time on varsity last year, and a strong junior class should become competitive when it gets its varsity feet wet.
"We've got talent we just don't have a lot of varsity experience," said Wave coach Michelle Dawson. "They're working hard and they're good kids, very coachable kids. I think we'll have good guard play and strong forwards, it's just trying to get them to play together and get to that next level."
St. Edward has added Westmont, St. Viator and Bishop McNamara to its schedule this season, competition that will help the Wave when the postseason comes as St. Edward jumps to Class 3A this year.
"I'm disappointed that we're 3A," said Dawson, whose team will also see plenty of 3A competition in the ultra-tough Suburban Christian Conference. "I don't see how it works to the advantage of schools with 400 kids."
That said, Dawson knows her team will need to get better every night if it's going to compete in the SCC and have any kind of postseason run.
"We're just looking for improvement in each practice and each game to get to that higher level and be successful in the 3A postseason," she said.
Westminster Christian Warriors
Coach: Ken Flickinger
Conference: Northeastern Athletic
2011-12 record: 22-9
Top returning players: Juniors McKaila Hayes (5-7, G), Claire Speweik (5-10, G/F), Liz Meschewski (5-10, G/F), Kinsley Donahue (5-10, G), Christina Cusumano (5-6, F), Courtney Gnan (5-7, G), Libbie Atchison (5-10, F)
Top newcomers: Sophomore Savannah Dutcher (6-1, C), freshman Maddie Versulys (5-9, F/C).
Outlook: Expectations are high at Westminster Christian, which graduated just 3 seniors and returns most of the team that fell to Seton Academy in a Class 1A sectional final last season on a 30-foot buzzer-beater. With a roster comprised of 8 juniors, 2 sophomores and 3 freshmen, the Warriors are deep and their youth is very much experienced. Coach Ken Flickinger's best returning class looks to improve on last year's success, which included the program's first regional title.
"They're all capable of having big nights, we're that versatile," said Flickinger. "We're more balanced, everyone can average at least 8-9 points per game. We certainly think we can score."
Gone to graduation are Porsche Griggs (9.3 points per game) and Whitney Vanden Bos (6.4) and her 47 three pointers. Westminster shot a 40 percent clip from downtown last season as the team hit more 3s than the past 2 years combined. But tri-captain McKaila Hayes is a pure shooter who connected on 30 3-pointers last season while averaging 8.9 points per game. Flickinger hopes to see Hayes' average increase while forward Claire Speweik and her 9.1 points and 8.2 rebound average will even things up around the basket. Forward Liz Meschewski is expected to contribute along with Hayes and Speweik.
"Speweik is tremendously gifted all around," Flickinger said. "She's a monster on the boards. She brings that competitive edge. She thrives in those situation, attacks from different parts of the floor. She takes it all in stride."
Sophomore Savannah Dutcher (6-1) has the potential to be a force in the paint this season.
"She's a centerpiece of the volleyball team. She has huge upside with potential both inside and outside. We're working to develop her in the post, teaching her to face up," said Flickinger of Dutcher.
Forward Libbie Atchison has worked with Griggs down low and Flickinger noted she's absolutely solid on the block and gets good position. She also has a midrange jumper to boot while Maddie Versulys is a natural post player who really moves well without the ball. Flickinger says the freshman "uses her body and goes out and gets it."
Westminster's defense has to be as effective as it was last year when the Warriors surrendered a conference-best 34.7 points per game.
"We must set defensive goals to be better," Flickinger said. "Courtney Gnan is really good defender, we relied on her. She's a solid on the ball defender, which is important."
The Warriors' strength of schedule features Schaumburg, St. Francis and Hampshire, which should go a long way in helping them prime for action in the Northeastern Athletic Conference. Winning conference and getting back to where they were last season will be goals.
"We have a great rivalry with Harvest (Christian) because they're so close," Flickinger said. "Luther North is much improved. Christian Life looks different. IMSA is always a handful. You can't have a bad night. If you don't play your best, you run the risk of getting beat."