By Joshua Welge and Orrin Schwarz
Coach: Rob Schader (seventh year).
Last year: 10-17 overall, 4-8 in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Hoffman Estates 64-45 in the Class 4A Addison Trail regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Kelsey Horvath, sr., G; Claudia Denigris, sr., G; Kallie Dodmead, sr., F; Tori Busse, sr., F; Katie Dziabus, jr., F; Connie Barkolou, jr., G; Melissa Pham, jr., G.
Scouting report: How do you replace nearly 30 points a game? In Addison, Schader's group is doing it with defense. Specifically, that of the pressure variety. Graduating top scorers Marissa Pezzopane and JoAnne DiNatale, the Blazers are introducing a new up-tempo system predicated on pressure defense. "We've done it a little bit before," Schader said, "but nothing like this. It gives us a chance to win." To make the system possible, Schader plans to go 10-11 deep with three starters back bolstered by an influx of younger girls. Horvath and Denigris both averaged close to 5 points, and Dodmead played well when Pezzopane was hurt. "We're lucky to have kids close in abilities," Schader said. "We'll press and push and see how it goes."
Coach: Peter Paul (28th year, 576-240).
Last year: 25-7 overall, 7-2 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference; lost to Bolingbrook 75-46 in the Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional final.
Top players: Christen Prasse, sr., G; Eden Olson, jr., G; Emily Schramek, so., F; Allison Hlavin, sr., F; Kathleen Doyle, fr. G; Emily Eshoo, so., G; Morgan Thomalla, so., G; Emma Hlavin, so., G; Jenna Marten, jr., G; Marissa Panko., jr., G; Grace Bumpus, jr., F.
Scouting report: Saint Louis recruit Prasse came into her own as a junior, emerging as an elite guard with 13 points and nearly 3 assists a game. With four starters gone, including sister Sidney, this is her team now. Anticipating a host of junk defenses, Paul is moving Prasse off the point with talented freshman Doyle or Thomalla running the show. "We have to keep Chrissie in the game," Paul said. Schramek, an athletic post, showed flashes of potential as a freshman. This isn't a tall team. The Redwings weren't last year either but got by with blue-collar types like the Valentine sisters that Paul still seeks. "We love to play offense," Paul said, "but we have to find some kids that love to play defense."
Downers Grove North
Coach: Stephan Bolt (first year).
Last year: 9-19 overall, 3-9 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Bolingbrook 92-19 in the Class 4A regional.
Top players: Sarah Costello, jr., G; Izzy Greenblatt, so., G; Mary Bedalov, sr., G-F; Jaida Green, fr., G; Peyton Winters, so., F; Lexi May, fr., F
Scouting report: Change is in the air at Downers Grove North. "We want to put girls basketball here at North on the map," Bolt said, adding he doesn't want the team to be satisified easily. "... The No. 1 thing we're trying to change is redefining what work is." The Trojans will be young, but they have some skilled guards in Costello, Greenblatt and the 6-foot Green. "She came a long, long way this summer," Bolt said of Costello, who will be the Trojans' floor leader. He had similarly good things to say about Green and Greenblatt. "Izzy had a great summer too. She's really aggressive to the basket." The Trojans also have great size in the 6-3 Winters and the 6-4 May. "It's nice to have a couple big bodies in the lane there," he said.
Downers Grove South
Coach: Ellen O'Brien (20th year, 346-194).
Last year: 17-10 overall, 7-5 (fourth) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to West Aurora 59-51 in the Class 4A Bolingbrook regional semifinal.
Top players: Kirsten Zemke, sr., F-C; Claire Hardy, jr., G-F; Megan Bradshaw, sr., G; Jessica Zuidema, sr., F-C; Nicole Janowiak, sr., G; Brittany Dietz, sr., G-F; Ava Porlier, so., G-F; Bridget Ruder, jr., G; Jessica Lamparski, jr., F-C.
Scouting report: O'Brien is a familiar face, on the Downers Grove South sidelines for her 20th year. Other than that, there's a whole lot of new. The Mustangs graduated four starters and two other seniors and are breaking in a new varsity assistant, sophomore coach and freshman coach. It will take time to mesh. Zemke is the lone returning starter, a physical post presence. Bradshaw took time to recover from an early-season concussion last year but is back to run the point. O'Brien thinks she has some shooters to surround those two with. "We just have to go out there and see what happens," she said. "I think they will compete."
Coach: Tim Anderson (26th season, 343-388).
Last year: 13-17 overall, 5-7 in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to North Lawndale 49-34 in the Class 3A Crane regional semifinal.
Top players: Sidney Montano, sr., G-F; Tina Guarino, jr., G; Alissa Whyte, jr., G; Kayla McPherson, jr., F; Rachel Leschewski, jr., G; Dana Fritz, so., G-F.
Scouting report: Fenton has long been known for sticky defense and shooting lots of 3-pointers on offense. The defense will still be sticky this year, but the Bison might not shoot quite as many 3s, and that's a sign of this team's strength. "We lived and made a living shooting a lot of 3s the last few years because we didn't have a lot of height inside," Anderson said. This year the Bison have 6-foot-2 McPherson and 5-10 Montano. "This year (the basketball) is going (inside) and we want it to keep going in." Montano is the kind of player Anderson has been waiting for, having improved "exponentially" in every aspect of her game. "She's made what I call a quantum leap. It happens to the good ones." Montano will carry the burden for the Bison, but Anderson believes she's ready for it. In addition to McPherson, Montano will get help from juniors Guarino and Whyte, who are interchangeable at guard.
Coach: Don Finnie (first year).
Last year: 1-25 overall, 0-14 (eighth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Lake Park 58-44 in the Class 4A Geneva regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Sammie Symonds, sr., F; Teaira Miller, sr., G; Madison Joiner, sr., F; Kelly Eberle, jr., G; Elei Donovan, jr., G; Tajanea Key, jr., F; Allison Hansen, so., G/F; Rachel Leifheit, so., G/F; Kara Tadda, sr., F; Jessica Schefske, sr., G; KJ Nelson, sr., G; Samantha Georges, sr., F.
Scouting report: There isn't much Rams fixture Finnie hasn't done at Glenbard East. Class of '67, Finnie played for the basketball team, sent five of his kids through the school and has assisted in softball, boys basketball and girls basketball -- the latter the last 10 years. For the first time he's a head coach. There is room to grow, and eight returners lend room for optimism. Miller, who blew out her knee at last year's Rachel Bach Tournament, brings a welcome stabilizer at point guard running a new motion offense. Hansen and Leifheit, starters as freshmen, are the program's future, and third-year varsity player Eberle is a slasher-type. All Finnie asks for is max effort. "If you give 100 percent and you know you gave 100 percent, the wins and losses will take care of themselves," Finnie said.
Coach: John Chamberlain (fifth year).
Last year: 11-16 overall, 6-8 (tied for fourth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Wheaton North 55-39 in the Clas 4A Addison Trail regional semifinal.
Top players: Amy Falson, sr., G; Kailey James, sr., G; Teddi Govedarica, sr., F; Katie Wisniewski, sr., C; Caitlin Deegan, jr., F; Laila Pickens, jr., F.
Scouting report: No doubt, graduating four-year starter Brianna Harn and her 17 points a game leaves a big void. But the cupboard isn't bare. Glenbard North returns four starters, and added talent from the lower levels should make this a deeper team. Wisniewski, who averaged 7 points and 6.7 rebounds, provides good size inside and Falson, who averaged 7.4 points, had a good summer after an early-season injury last fall. Glenbard North's best player over the summer was perhaps Pickens, the Panthers' top sub as a sophomore. Pickens is very athletic, can guard multiple positions and her leaping ability allows her to rebound well. Caitlin Deegan brings scoring off the bench. "More depth and fresher bodies is what I'm looking for," Chamberlain said.
Coach: Julie Fonda.
Last year: 18-12 overall, 9-3 (second) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to St. Joseph 59-37 in the Class 3A Glenbard South sectional semifinal.
Top players: Tomei Ball, jr., G-F; Stefi Bazigos, jr., G; Ivana Markovic, so., G; Sydney Bauman, so., C; Jenna Brambora, so., G; Taylor Malone, so., F; Alex LaPonte, so., G; Megan Smith, so., G.
Scouting report: A year older, a year better? It's not quite that simple, but this is a young, fast and eager Raiders group with four returners who played varsity as freshmen. Fonda will look to Ball, who brings back 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds a game, to set the tone. She played forward as a sophomore but did a ton of ballhandling running the point for her AAU team and brings back a much-improved perimeter game. Sweet-shooting Bazigos, who scored 7.6 points a game, and Brambora are interchangeable parts who will both play point and could see time together. Bauman, 4.4 points and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman, is a 6-2 post with potential. Markovic feeds off her defense with a high basketball IQ. In fact, Fonda said: "I have never coached a team this smart, basketball-wise. They're capable of doing great things."
Coach: Mike Hofland.
Last year: 11-18 overall, 3-9 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Bartlett 63-25 in the Class 4A Bartlett regional semifinal.
Top players: Caitlin Soane, sr., F-C; Natalie Noland, sr., G-F; Abby Keirnan, sr., G-F; Tracy Flood, sr., G; Breanna Venson, sr., G; Kassie Buchholz, so., G; Claire Graham, so., G.
Scouting report: Health is of immediate concern to a Hilltoppers team already low on numbers. Four girls are fighting injuries, two of them starters, the most notable Noland. Glenbard West's best defensive player will miss 4-6 weeks with a Grade 3 ankle sprain. Soane is dealing with knee tendinitis but shouldn't miss any games. The 6-3 Loyola recruit led the Hilltoppers with 9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 blocks in her first varsity season and has the skills to exceed those numbers. Keirnan, like Noland a three-year varsity player, is an athletic guard who can go to the basket. Graham, shut down recently with shin splints, will bring great basketball instincts when healthy. "It's hard right now to see how the pieces we have fit," Hofland said, "but we feel we got a good group of kids."
Coach: Tom McKenna (third year, 12-39).
Last year: 9-16 overall, 6-6 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Hinsdale South 64-40 in the Class 4A Simeon regional semifinal.
Top players: Gabrielle Rush, so., G; Lilly Sarros, sr., F; Jenna Broz, jr., F; Maddie Roglich, jr., F; Lauren Zapka, sr., G; Abby Gurka, jr.; Megan Lord, jr.
Scouting report: If veteran coach McKenna has an extra spring in his step, it's with good reason. Four starters return for the Red Devils -- just one a senior -- a group led by All-Area guard Rush. Rush burst onto the scene with 29 points in her high school debut, averaged more than 17 points with 61 3s and is already drawing Division I interest. A scorer by nature, Rush is growing into the point guard position; McKenna has noticed a jump in decision-making and passing. Sarros is a 6-foot inside threat in her third varsity season, with Broz and Roglich also back. This team can score. To take the next step, though, its defense must improve. The Red Devils allowed more than 60 points in nine games last season. "These kids are much more comfortable playing with each other," McKenna said. "It's hard to overestimate that experience."
Coach: Jen Belmonte (third year, 36-18).
Last year: 21-7 overall, 11-1 (first) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Proviso East 58-45 in the Class 4A Simeon regional final.
Top players: Toni Romiti, sr., G; Kerry Just, sr., C; Kristin Dimitrijevic, sr., F; Mary Clare Ladd, jr., G; Mackenzie Kern, jr., G/F; Cassie Jensen, jr., F; Tatyana Presley, fr., G; Sydney Kopp, fr., G; Alli Lokanc, jr., G; Rachel Soukup, jr., G.
Scouting report: Graduating four starters off the Hornets' first conference champion since 2004, this is clearly Romiti's team now. A fourth-year starter and three-time all-Gold pick, the streaky senior guard averaged 11.5 points as a junior with 4 assists, 3 steals and hit 62 3s. Belmonte projects Romiti to be the best player in the Gold. But how will she jell with this new group? Belmonte calls Just and Dimitrijevic, 2-3 point a game scorers as juniors, natural leaders. When Kern gets in a zone, she has the potential to be Hornets' second scorer. About Ladd, Belmonte said simply, "She does everything right." "It will be up to whoever wants to step up and work with Toni," Belmonte added.
Coach: Aubree Lawrence (third year, 32-26).
Last year: 17-11 overall, 5-5 in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Timothy Christian 44-27 in the Class 2A Wheaton Academy regional semifinal.
Top players: Brittney Reaber, sr., G; Rory Manion, jr.; Abby Radoha, jr.; Erin Maloney, so., G.
Scouting report: Lawrence likes this group's energy, but with three freshmen and two sophomores the Knights will be young. That means they'll have to bank on the experience of three-year varsity players Reaber and Radoha. Reaber brings back 3 points, 2.6 steals and 2.5 assists per game, Radoha 3.5 points and 2.9 rebounds and Manion 3.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. Manion and Radoha, long-time teammates, particularly strike Lawrence as being in sync. "It makes it easy to coach," she said, "and fun to watch." Maloney, who got in 18 varsity games, can't necessarily be called a "true" sophomore. Likewise, with the experience from summer ball, Lawrence says her first-year players "aren't raw freshmen, but they are rookie freshmen." "They're super-energetic and play good defense," she said.
Coach: Andrea Miller (second year, 10-18).
Last year: 10-18 overall, 2-10 in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Geneva 55-40 in the Class 4A Geneva regional semifinal.
Top players: Tyshai Freeman, sr., F; Sam Cummings, sr., F; Bri Erri, sr., G; Nicole Tsiodras, jr., G; Emily Duckhorn, so., G; Tashell Gordon, jr., G; Maria Zepeda, so., F.
Scouting report: It is a whole new group in Roselle. Gone are all five starters and 95 percent of the offense, most notably area scoring leader Alexis Hahn. Lanky 6-footer Freeman brings back the most experience and 4 points and 3 rebounds. Drawing Division I interest as a high jumper, she will be key in Lake Park's up-tempo emphasis. The Lancers got a big boost when Cummings chose to come back after sitting out a year. An aggressive coach-on-the-floor type, the 5-11 senior scored 10 points in the Lancers' first game. Gordon, another girl who didn't play last year, should help at the point. Lake Park won't have a kid like Hahn carrying the load, but Miller expects a faster, deeper group. "They're buying in," Miller said. "We should get better as the season progresses."
Coach: Dan Murray (third year, 38-21).
Last year: 20-10 overall, 9-2 (third) in the Interstate Eight Conference; lost to Westmont 31-30 (OT) in the Class 2A Lisle regional final.
Top players: Kelly Urban, sr., G; Skylar Tomko, sr., G; Kristina Fernette, sr., F; Sierra Birdsell, jr., F; Sarah Mogensen, so., F; Kate Twaddle, so., F; Leah Reeves, so., G; Kelsey Kretman, so., G.
Scouting report: Lisle might not have a lot of girls on its roster, but the girls who do wear Lions uniforms can all play. Murray returns Tomko and Urban at guard and Fernette and Birdsell at forward. "They're all going to see considerable playing time. We're definitely excited about those four," Murray said. He's excited about his new players too. Mogensen is active on the glass and can run the floor. Kretman provides strong on-the-ball defense and can shoot. Reeves and Twaddle will get a lot of playing time, and Murray says opponents would be wrong to overlook juniors Val Melo and Angelina Pascente. But they all need to believe in themselves, first and foremost. "I think confidence is going to be a big issue with this team," Murray said.
Coach: Kris Kalivas (third year, 23-35).
Last year: 16-13 overall, 6-6 (fourth) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Neuqua Valley 52-41 in the Class 4A Oswego regional final.
Top players: Anna Petersen, sr., F; Lori Obendorf, sr., C; Bria Walker, sr., G; Kellee Clay, jr., G; Katie Lawrence, jr., F; Jenny Voytell, jr., F; Nia Flowers, so., G; Morgan Snyder, jr., F; Claire Dyer, so., F; Lexi Gaul, jr., G.
Scouting report: Of her seniors, Kalivas calls this season "their time." The first group to go through Metea all four years made big progress as juniors, culminating with an upset of Naperville Central in regionals. The core is returning starters Obendorf, Walker and Petersen. Walker, who averaged 12.8 points and hit 58 3s, has worked to complement her sweet shooting with drive-and-dish ability; lanky Obendorf, 12.6 points and 8.9 rebounds as a junior, is hoping to finish stronger near the basket. Kalivas said 8.9 point per game scorer Petersen is "a ton stronger." The Mustangs lost their floor general, as slick-passing Megan Geldernick didn't come out to focus on soccer. Stepping in is Flowers, a transfer from Montini. Clay provides a spark as Metea's sixth man, with Lawrence and Neuqua transfer Voytell adding depth. "These girls are now taking the floor expecting to win," Kalivas said.
Coach: Jason Nichols (10th year, 260-44).
Last year: 33-5 overall, 10-0 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; beat Vernon Hills 56-38 in the Class 3A championship game.
Top players: Kateri Stone, jr., G; Malayna Johnson, sr., C; Kelsey Bogdan, so., G; Sara Ross, jr., G; Kelly Karlis, jr., G-F; Rainey Kuykendall, so., G-F; Lea Kerstein, fr., G; Claire Jakaitis, fr., F.
Scouting report: Montini seeks to do what no Illinois girls basketball program has done -- win four straight state titles. It is no easy chore, made more difficult by the transfer of four players, including starting guard Nikia Edom. But the returning core is plenty capable, with a starting five as big as any in the state. Stone hit 84 3-pointers last year and is getting multiple Division I offers. Wisconsin recruit Johnson, who grew to 6-5 in the off-season, was Montini's leading scorer in last year's supersectional win; with Tianna Brown graduated and Diamond Thompson transferring, she will carry a much bigger load in the paint. Bogdan, Ross and Karlis add length defensively on the perimeter. Nichols is high on sweet-shooting freshman Kerstein, Montini's leading scorer in summer ball. After last year's "rebuilding" season, best not to bet against Nichols' bunch. "The odds are against us," Nichols said, "but if we're healthy in February we'll be in the mix."
Coach: Andy Nussbaum (25th year, 518-221).
Last year: 19-9 overall, 13-1 (tied for first) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Metea Valley 52-45 in the Class 4A Oswego regional semifinal.
Top players: Victoria Trowbridge, sr., F; Jamie Cuny, sr., F; Shannon Ryan, jr., G; Laura Dierking, sr., F; Mary Buttgereit, sr., F; Emily Kraft, so., G; Cierra Stancile, so., G.
Scouting report: Trowbridge and Cuny, key complementary pieces the last two years, are the central cogs now. Trowbridge, 8.5 points and 7.7 rebounds as a junior, can run the floor well for a physical post. Tall, streaky shooter Cuny hit 38 3s while averaging 6.5 points and 5.7 rebounds. Nussbaum said her shooting is improved, and it will need to with heightened attention her way. Ryan, the Redhawks' best perimeter defender as a sophomore, has worked to sharpen up her shooting, ballhandling and decision-making. Deceptively fast Dierking does the little things -- rebounding, playing defense or screening. Stancile, a transfer from Joliet Catholic, adds even more speed. With added quickness, the Redhawks could run and pressure more than recent years. "Not only will we able to push the ball," Nussbaum said, "there will be times that we have to."
Coach: Jacquie Discipio.
Last year: 14-14 overall, 5-9 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Oswego East 58-50 in the Class 4A Waubonsie Valley regional semifinal.
Top players: Zoe Swift, sr., G; Kayla Sharples, so., F; Morganne Freeman, jr., F; Lauren LoLordo, sr., G; Delaney White, jr., G; Cece Post, fr., F; Jenny Smith, so., G; Candice Gustafson, sr., G; Lexley Adesanya, sr., F.
Scouting report: Swift and Sharples were teammates on Naperville North's state title-winning soccer team last spring. That connection carries over to the basketball court. "They both know how to cut and move to the basketball well," Discipio said. "They're two players that know each other's patterns and similarities." Those two set the foundation for a Huskies team moving on minus graduated leading scorer Shannon Bushman. Swift's quickness and court vision are as good as any area point guard. Sharples, who scored in double figures as a freshman, is fully recovered from a meniscus tear suffered in June and brings quickness, athleticism and a superior basketball IQ. Freeman is a true post the Huskies haven't had in a few years, LoLordo, a top sub last year, is a nice spot-up shooter. "I'm excited," Discipio said. "We have a good group of returners and some fresh blood."
Coach: Mike Williams (19th year, 344-190).
Last year: 23-7 overall, 7-5 in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Bolingbrook 76-37 in the Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional semifinal.
Top players: Allison Hedrick, sr., F; Malia Smith, jr., G; Najee Smith, jr., G-F; Niki Lazar, jr., G-F; Lauren Deveikis, jr., G; Bryce Menendez, so., F-C; Kennedy Braasch, sr., F; Kai Moon, fr., G; Mayia Starks, fr., G.
Scouting report: The future is now. An athletic couple of classes that revitalized the Neuqua program with two 20-plus win seasons aren't kids anymore. Neuqua lost four transfers since midpoint of last year, but the core remains intact since middle school. "They've bought into the system," Williams said. Malia Smith, a 5.5 per game scorer, could be a bigger scoring threat with Megan Doody moving on. Twin sister Najee, 6 points and 3.3 rebounds, is Neuqua's most versatile player and Williams calls Lazar a "Dennis Rodman type." Hedrick is the top scorer and rebounder back, at 7.0 and 7.6. Menendez, a 6-2 post, has made major strides and Williams projects "will be the face of the program the next few years." Moon and Starks are a couple quick freshman guards who can light it up from distance. Limiting turnovers and finishing near the basket could be the difference between a good and great team. "This group's been good, but they want to step into greatness," Williams said. "We are not satisfied with mediocrity."
Coach: Mike Phillips (second year, 3-27).
Last year: 3-27 overall, 2-10 in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to Nazareth 42-32 in the Class 3A Nazareth regional semifinal.
Top players: Kate Slattery, sr., G; Aly Germanos, sr., G; Abby Winkler, jr., F; Claire O'Donnell, jr., G; Leah Riccolo, fr., G.
Scouting report: It was a very difficult 2011-12 season, but Phillips said a productive summer has rebuilt some of the Spartans' confidence. "The last two summers, it was like night and day," Phillips said. Phillips has a few reasons to believe brighter days are ahead. For one, he returns a senior guard combo in Germanos, 6.8 points a game as a junior, and Slattery. Slattery was lost to injury midway through last year, and her return eases some of the ballhandling duties off natural two-guard Germanos. Both are tenacious defenders and will be complemented by promising freshman Riccolo. St. Francis also adjusted its nonconference schedule to cater to who the Spartans might play come playoff time, with a trip to Riverside-Brookfield at Christmas. Key will be controlling pace. The Spartans had a significant turnover-to-assist deficit that must be improved. "We need to cherish each possession, be more patient," Phillips said, "and use good fundamentals."
Coach: Ryan DeKoekkoek (sixth year).
Last year: 19-8 overall, 11-1 (first) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Walther Lutheran 41-26 in the Class 2A Wheaton Academy regional final.
Top players: Kelli LeGrand, sr., G; Kaylie Pries, sr., G-F; Stephanie Kuiper, sr., F; Brittany Scheidt, sr., G; Sara Hodges, sr., G; Mackenzie Bone, jr., G; Alexis Hoogendoorn, jr., G; Kaitlyn Gehrke, so., F; Sarah Nelson, so., G; Julia Stremler, so., F; Maty Huisman, so., G.
Scouting report: Graduating seven seniors, four of them starters, including conference MVP Cassidy Block, it's a year of transition for the Trojans. "I wouldn't say we're starting over," DeKoekkoek said, "but it's definitely a changing of the guard." LeGrand, 3.4 points a game with 13 3s, is the top returner. Pries and Scheidt also got time as juniors. Hodges, who moved in from California, gives the Trojans another ballhandler and scored 11 points in the first game. Long-armed 6-footer Gehrke is the team's most imposing player. Timothy Christian boasted one of the area's stingiest defenses last year, giving up a tick over 30 points a game. DeKoekkoek may get a little more creative there while he finds out what he has. "The spectrum for us is so wide," he said. "To give us a true identity at this point wouldn't do the team justice."
Coach: David Owles (first year).
Last year: 25-3 overall, 11-1 (tied for first) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Benet 68-53 in the Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional semifinal.
Top players: Ryaen Johnson, jr., F; Taylor Ameri, so., F; Morgan Grastorf, sr., F; Alexis McGaughy, sr., G.
Scouting report: In every way the Warriors are starting from scratch. Owles, an assistant in Waubonsie's boys basketball program the last 12 years, takes over a team that graduated four starters. The fifth, Gratia Brooks, moved to Georgia over the summer, and Waubonsie's top sub Shannon Hohman didn't come out to focus on softball. Owles will coach what's left -- two seniors in Grastorf and McGaughy with little varsity experience, five juniors and five sophomores. Johnson, a lanky sophomore who averaged 1.2 points and 2.3 rebounds, is the top returner with Ameri, who averaged 0.4 points and 0.7 rebounds. "We're have to play defense, because we're probably going to struggle to score," Owles said. "What we need is reps and we need experience."
Coach: Kim Wallner.
Last year: 16-13, 6-8 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Bartlett 52-46 in the Class 4A Hoffman Estates sectional semifinal.
Top players: Laura Panicali, sr., G; Amanda Gosbeth, sr., F; Kylee Gunderson, sr., F; Natalie Warkins, jr., F; Shelly Molskow, jr., G; Brianna Hofman, sr., G; Mae Elizabeth Gimre, so., G; Aubrey Kusper, jr., C.
Scouting report: Wallner won't call it a rebuilding year. With just two varsity players back and a few injuries, though, clearly there will be early growing pains in West Chicago. Panicali averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds last year as part of a great guard trio. Now she is the Wildcats' go-to girl, with Claire Monroe and Allie Tapanes graduated. Molskow, expected to start at point guard, broke her leg playing soccer this fall and is out indefinitely, which leaves the job to sophomore Gimre. Gosbeth got time last year and is an athletic player who can cause havoc defensively. Undersized post Warkins is the third and probably the quickest of three sisters to play for Wallner. Still a small group whose tallest girl is 5-foot-10, West Chicago will need to rebound, defend better and create points off that defense. It can't just outshoot and outscore teams like last year. "We're going to be young, very young," Wallner said, "but once we get our feet wet we'll be competitive."
Coach: Beth Mitchell (sixth season, 94-48).
Last year: 16-11 overall, 7-3 (second) in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Walther Lutheran 33-28 in the Class 2A regional.
Top players: Kat Maret, sr., G; Marissa Gagliano, jr., G; Abby Olson, jr., G; Charissa Robinson, jr., F; Christina Garrison, so., C; Jamie Netzley, fr., G; Elizabeth Melby, fr., F.
Scouting report: Wheaton Academy will look a little different this season. "We're little. We've got a team full of guards, basically, and a lot of kids with not a lot of game experience," Mitchell said. It will take a different style of coaching for Mitchell, one that relies more on turning defense into offense. "I definitely don't think a halfcourt game will be our strength," she said. "We just have to pressure people, get in passing lanes." Maret is the lone returning starter, and Olson, Gagliano and Ally Grant will lead a deep group at guard. Garrison is 6-foot-2, and Mitchell calls her the future of the program. Melby is very athletic.
Coach: Dave Eaton (ninth year, 111-112).
Last year: 13-16 overall, 6-8 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to WW South 51-37 in the Class 4A Addison Trail regional final.
Top players: Mandy Traversa, sr., F; Reilly Stewart, sr., G; Chrissy Baird, jr., F; Brooke Schanowski, sr., G; Kelly Thornton, so., G; Brittany Norris, sr., G; Abbie Watts, jr., G; Maddie Hutchinson, jr., G; Jessica Beamon, sr., C; Cassidy Graham, jr., F.
Scouting report: Eaton has cause to believe his Falcons will be better this year, and it isn't just because a big group of 14 kids return. "This is one of the closest teams we've ever had," he said. "They like being around each other. It makes it nice to coach." It starts with the tight tandem of Traversa and Baird. Traversa averaged 9.2 points and hit 53 3s at a 34 percent rate as a junior. Eaton said Baird "blew away his expectations" for her first varsity year, averaging 9.0 points and 9.1 rebounds. Now she's added a 3-point shot to boot. Stewart seems to be finishing better, and Schanowski is a four-year player who was the Falcons' most consistent defender. Beamon, a transfer from Bolingbrook, adds much-needed post defense.
Coach: Rob Kroehnke (12th year, 195-136).
Last year: 28-4 overall, 13-1 (first) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Bartlett 54-51 (OT) in the Class 4A Hoffman Estates sectional final.
Top players: Meghan Waldron, jr., G; Maggie Dansdill, jr., F; Sierra Bisso, sr., G; Allie Zappia, sr., F; Olivia Linebarger, so., F; Melinda Franke, jr., G; Kelly Langlas, sr., G; Diamond Thompson, sr., F.
Scouting report: The Tigers got a good taste of success last year, tying a school record for wins and coming just shy of their first sectional title since 1997. This group, with six girls back, is poised to take the next step. It starts with Waldron, last year's Daily Herald All-Area Captain. The do-all point guard drawing interest from schools like Illinois State and Northwestern averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals and with Kasey Gassensmith graduated is clearly the team's leader. "She's a different player," Kroehnke said, "even better." Dansdill, who averaged 8.5 points and 7 rebounds, is a another key piece back, as is long-distance shooter Bisso, who averaged 8 points. Langlas, expected to fill Gassensmith's shoes, tweaked her knee in the fall. Kroehnke hopes to get her back in a few weeks. An intriguing addition is 6-4 Montini transfer Thompson, committed to Notre Dame. "We have kids that are all working toward the same goal," Kroehnke said. "I don't have to say too much."
Coach: Terry Harrell.
Last year: 15-15 overall, 8-4 in the West Suburban Gold; lost to West Chicago 47-46 in the Class 4A Conant regional semifinal.
Top players: Angela Bruno, sr., G; Colleen Krawczykowski, sr., G; Anita Sterling, sr., G; Molly Krawczykowski, jr., G; Erma Udota, sr., F; Olivia Domin, jr., G.
Scouting report: The Warriors in 2011-12 nearly doubled their win total from the prior year, a win over Gold power Proviso East a big one on their resume. They might just be the team to beat in the Gold now. Four starters return, an experienced, skilled, guard-heavy group. Bruno and Colleen Krawczykowski were both all-conference picks as juniors, Sterling was the team's leading scorer and Molly Krawczykwoski a team leader who swiped 2.1 steals a game. Udota provides power and quickness in the post. A strong bench is led by sharpshooter Domin, who scored 19 points in Willowbrook's season-opening win over Glenbard North on Tuesday.
Coach: John Constable (first year).
Last year: 17-13 overall, 9-3 (tied for first) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Conant 40-21 in the Class 4A Conant regional semifinal.
Top players: AnnaBell Lansdowne, sr., G; Molly Schlecht, jr., F-C; Jess Bianchi, so., G; Alyssa Kovatchis, so., G; Sarah Milkowski, so., G; Jenny Coffin, jr., G; Paige Wrasse, jr., F; Kelly Polte, fr., F; Sami Harrell, jr., F.
Scouting report: Constable, freshman coach last year, likes the situation he's walked into. For eight years a York boys assistant, a year as head girls coach at Hinsdale South and a year as head boys coach at Willowbrook, Constable takes over a good mix of young and old talent in Elmhurst. All-Area guard Lansdowne is the catalyst, a tenacious 13 points a game scorer. The biggest difference, though, might be the Dukes' inside-outside balance less reliant on perimeter scoring. Schlecht is athletic and strong with brute force. Coffin has good size, can put the ball on the floor and post up. Wrasse is another junior who could help inside and Constable said Polte is a freshman to watch. "With what we have coming back I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel," Constable said.
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