Coach: Paul Brettner (14th season)
Last season: 31-3, 12-0 in NSC Prairie, won Class 3A Lakes regional, Vernon Hills sectional and Hoffman Estates supersectional, defeated Montini in state semifinals, lost to Quincy Notre Dame in state championship game
Key losses: C Meri Bennett-Swanson (DePaul), G Brie Bahlmann, F Alina Lehocky
Returning players: Sr. F/G Lauren Webb, Sr. F Sydney Smith, Jr. G Haley Lieberman, Sr. F Shannon Healey, Jr. F Kasey Firnbach, Jr. F Katie Brettmann, Sr. F Katherine Koczwara
Newcomers: So. G Dana Meline, Jr. G Mia Polisky, Jr. F Monica Bahlmann, So. G Danielle Comitor
Outlook: The only thing the Cougars didn't do last season was win the Class 3A state championship. They settled for their second state runner-up finish in a row after a season that saw them win a school-record 31 games and become the first Prairie Division team to capture the NSC championship. "We are looking to compete for our division and have a successful playoff run," said coach Paul Brettner, whose Cougars have won 29 straight games in the NSC Prairie and have gone 12-0 in the division in each of the last two seasons. The Cougars started the season short-handed, however, as Bowling Green-bound Lauren Webb missed the season opener against Maine East. It was the first game the 6-footer has missed in her high school career. "Lauren has a foot injury," Brettner said. "We are not sure when we will get her back. It is a combination of plantar fasciitis and something else in the top of her foot." With Webb out, fellow four-year varsity starter Sydney Smith (5-10) responded with a career-high 29 points in a 65-48 win. Like Webb, the Vermont-bound Smith signed her national letter of intent last week. Webb and Smith are both two-time all-area selections. Webb was the captain of the Daily Herald's Lake County all-area team last season. After playing point guard last winter, she figures to play more at forward this season. Junior guard Haley Lieberman (5-5) also returns to the starting lineup. The Cougars graduated three huge contributors from last season's squad in Meri Bennett-Swanson, Brie Bahlmann and Alina Lehocky, but 5-10 junior Kasey Firnbach is a good athlete who played a lot last season. Brettner promoted a pair of sophomores, both of whom played varsity softball last spring: Dana Meline and Danielle Comitor. A third-straight NSC Prairie title isn't a given for the Cougars after North Chicago added Zion-Benton transfers Samantha Rodriguez and TT Magget to a group that already had talented 6-foot center Tineesha Coleman.