Girls basketball: Scouting the West Suburban Conference
West Suburban Silver
Downers Grove North
Coach: Stephan Bolt (11th year).
Last season's record: 24-8, 9-3 West Suburban Silver.
Top returning players: Maggie Fleming, sr. (F, 5-11); Violet Mitchell, sr. (G, 5-10); Kaitlyn Parker, jr. (F, 5-8); Abby Gross, so. (G, 5-7).
Top new players: Hope Sebek, jr. (G, 5-9); Anne Stephens, jr. (F, 5-10); Finley Werner, fr. (G, 5-7); Adysen Fanta, fr. (G, 5-8).
Worth noting: With a team built around hard-nosed, disciplined defense, the Trojans won 24 games last year and took second in the West Suburban Silver, its fourth consecutive top three finish. Downers Grove North must replace two significant pieces with double-digit scorers Kate Gross and Ryann Wendt, who accounted for over half of the team's offense, graduated. Fleming, committed to Smith College, averaged 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds as a junior. Denison commit Mitchell is back after missing last season with a torn ACL. Gross played in 18 games as a freshman.
"We have a cohesive and hardworking group that wants to get better every time they step on the floor together," Bolt said. "We will be a solid defensive team and hope to compete at a high level this season and be at our best at the end of the season in order to make a playoff run."
Coach: Kristi Faulkner (sixth year).
Last season's record: 18-13
Top returning players: Sophia Brown, sr. (G, 5-9); Kennedy Brandt, sr. (G/F, 6-0); Mackenzie Cater, sr. (G/F, 5-11); Anastasia Andrianopoulos, sr. (F, 5-9); Julia Benjamin, so. (G, 5-6); Hannah Roberts, so. (G, 5-8).
Top new players: Carina Cudzillo, jr. (F, 6-1); Lauren Escalante, so. (G, 5-7); Makenna Yeager, so. (G/F, 5-10); Mya Austin, fr. (F, 5-10).
Worth noting: The Hilltoppers have a good core back from a team that took fourth in the West Suburban Silver last season and posted its fifth consecutive winning season under the guidance of Faulkner. Brown, an all-conference player in her fourth season on varsity, was one of Glenbard West's top scorers and led the team in rebounding, steals and blocks in a junior season cut short by injury, but is ready for a big senior year. Brandt, all-conference, was the Hilltoppers' leading scorer at 12 points per game and second-leading rebounder. Benjamin started every game as a freshman and was one of Glenbard West's top scorers, rebounders and passers. Cater is also a fourth-year varsity player and one of the team's top defenders, while third-year varsity player Andrianopoulos led the team in charges last season. Roberts is another of the team's top defenders.
Among the newcomers Cudzillo is a long, athletic post who can run the floor, Escalante a quick, scrappy guard who can get to the rim and Yeager a long, athletic wing. Austin can shoot the three or score in the paint.
"We are really excited for the season," Faulkner said. "We have versatility, young talent, great leadership, and a lot of heart on this year's team."
Coach: Erin Navolio (first year).
Last season's record: 16-12, 4-8 West Suburban Silver.
Top returning players: Amelia McLaughlin, sr., 5-9; Luella Sheehan, jr., 5-6; Ivy Qui, 5-5, sr.; Ryann Knapp, jr., 5-6; Grace Dolan, so., 5-8.
Worth noting: Navolio, in her 10th season at Hinsdale Central, takes over as head coach. Inexperience will be the Red Devils' biggest challenge. Hinsdale Central is replacing three starters, including 1,000-point career scorer Eleanor Monyek. "So several of our starters will be those who haven't had much varsity experience," Navolio said. "We need to keep challenging ourselves every day and continue to build team chemistry." McLaughlin and Sheehan are returning starters. "Amelia will be a great leader this year. She has always been an amazing teammate and role model which will be very helpful with our young team," Navolio said. "Luella is working very hard on her recovery after a recent knee surgery and we look forward to having her on the court with us soon."
Navolio said that Qui, Knapp and Dolan have all shown growth in their confidence and skill work over the summer.
"Our goal is to get better with every practice and game. There will be some growing pains along the way, but this group is very coachable, hardworking, athletic and committed," Navolio said. "I believe they can meet and exceed the challenges we might face."
Coach: Meghan Hutchens (fifth year).
Last season's record: 28-4, 12-0 West Suburban Silver, first place.
Top returning players: Ally Cesarini, sr. (G, 5-7); Ella Ormsby, sr. (G, 5-9); Elin O'Brien, jr. (G, 5-8); Kennedy Wanless, jr. (F, 5-10).
Top new players: Nora Esike, so. (F, 6-2); Avery Mezan, fr. (G, 5-5); Emma O'Brien, fr. (F, 6-0).
Worth noting: The Lions are coming off a banner season. Lyons' 28 wins was the program's most in 23 years, highlighted by its second consecutive West Suburban Silver championship and first regional title since 2016 culminating in a sectional final appearance. Two starters return for Hutchens, in her 10th year total in the Lyons' program. Cesarini, a Lewis recruit, started every game last season, as did Ormbsy. Elin O'Brien was the first guard off the bench last season, and shot 3-pointers at an impressive 38.5% clip. Wanless was the first forward off the bench as a sophomore and like O'Brien is projected to start this season. Ezike, who is receiving Division I attention, split time on varsity and JV last season with length and athleticism that make her a potential impact player at both ends. Mezan's speed and shooting brings instant offense to the floor, and she is also an excellent on-ball defender. Emma O'Brien's combination of size, speed and skill make her a difficult matchup.
"We have a ton of new pieces to add to our team dynamic, so it will be fun getting to see how those pieces will come together throughout the season," Hutchens said.
Oak Park-River Forest
Coach: Carlton Rosemond (second year).
Last season's record: 10-19, 1-10 West Suburban Silver, tied for sixth.
Top returning players: Libby Majka, sr. (G, 5-9).
Top new players: Genevieve Simkowski, so. (G, 5-8); Taylor Smith, jr. (G, 5-7); Shardae Spruille, jr. (G, 5-9).
Worth noting: The Huskies return seven players this season, as second-year coach Rosemond tries to rebuild a program that's had a tough go of it in the West Suburban Silver in recent seasons.
"We are still building a culture. We have a great group of ladies who are willing to play for each other," Rosemond said. "We want to turn the page and be a team that can compete at a high level. We want to win, but we have to learn how to compete first. Hopefully with our schedule, we will have the chance to learn and develop this season."
Coach: Brandon Collings (sixth year).
Last season's record: 17-13 (8-4 West Suburban Silver, third place).
Top returning players: Mariann Blass, sr. (G, 5-8); Lizzie Baldridge, sr. (G, 5-9); Stella Kohl, jr. (G, 5-11); Hannah Meyers, jr. (G, 5-6); Angelina Downer, jr. (F, 6-1); Anna Filosa, so. (G, 5-7); Allison Sheehan, sr. (G, 5-7); Teegan Roach, sr. (F, 6-0).
Top new players: Mia Barton, jr. (G/F, 5-8).
Worth noting: The Dukes return four starters and their entire bench and Collings expects to have a talented, more experienced and athletic team that will look to play at a fast pace at both ends. "We knew last year that our success may be a two-year process and hopefully we are ready this year to reach our potential and turn some heads with our very talented team," Collings said.
Baldridge averaged 11.0 points, 2.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds as a junior, and Collings expects her to be one of the top point guards in the area with her strong ballhandling, passing and scoring. Quincy University commit Blass, like Baldridge, is a third-year varsity player who averaged 14.5 points and 2.5 3-pointers, and is one of the best shooters and scorers in the area. Kohl started every game as a sophomore, averaged 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds, and is poised for a breakout season with her ability to attack the basket and shoot from the perimeter. Meyers, likewise, started every game as a sophomore, averaging 6.0 points as a sophomore, and is a creative offensive player who can score at every level. Downer is an athletic and talented forward who has made big strides in her game, and Filosa is a streaky shooter who could be a big offensive threat off the bench.
West Suburban Gold
Coach: Cory Little (fourth year)
Last season's record: 18-10, 8-2 West Suburban Gold
Top returning players: Elena Papanicolaou, sr., (G, 5-8).
Top new players: Katelyn Ford, so. (F, 5-9); Emma Caniglia, so. (G, 5-3); Cailey Salerno, jr. (G, 5-5); Aneibi Farias, jr. (G, 5-5).
Worth noting: The Blazers will be a young team after graduating nine seniors off a team that took second in the West Suburban Gold. Papanicolaou is the lone returning part-time starter.
"After losing nine seniors, this new group has taken on the challenge to develop their skills and continue their work ethic and maintain the drive and fight to pull out and win games this season," Little said. "This season my coaching staff and I are committed to developing this young group and will strive to have them compete night in and night out."
Downers Grove South
Coach: Lyndsie Long (10th year).
Last season's record: 9-16, 7-5 West Suburban Gold
Top returning players: Emily Petring, sr. (G, 5-9); Allison Jarvis, jr. (G, 5-8); Addison Bryant, jr. (F/C, 5-9); Kaitlyn Vincent, sr. (G, 5-3).
Top new players: Megan Ganschow, fr. (F/C, 6-1); Hayven Harden, so. (F, 5-10).
Worth noting: With a mix of veteran players and new players to varsity, Long said the Mustangs are looking forward to a promising season. Petring, a Coastal Carolina soccer recruit, and Jarvis are returning starters.
"Our team has been working hard in our first two weeks of season and they are eager for games to start," Long said. "We will have a nice balance of guard and post play this season which will allow for more opportunity from a combination of players. We are looking forward to how our team plays together in games as our team chemistry is clicking."
Coach: Scott Tanaka (fifth season)
Last season's record: 10-20, 4-8 West Suburban Gold.
Top returning players: Amelia Lavorato, jr. (G, 5-7); Amerie Flowers, jr. (F, 5-11); Makena Camden, sr. (G, 5-6).
Top new players: Hailey Goins, fr. (G, 5-5); Sloane Kiefer, fr. (F, 5-8); Maeve Savage, fr. (F, 5-9); Anna Wilcox, fr. (G, 5-7).
Worth noting: With two returning all-conference players and the best freshman class in recent history, Tanaka said the future is bright in Darien. Lavorato and Flowers were all-conference picks as sophomores. Camden is a returning senior captain.
"We are looking to build Hinsdale South into one of the premier programs in the area," Tanaka said. "Our goal is to get better every single day and to 'Give all we have, all of the time.'"
Coach: Logan Brown (first season)
Last season's record: 8-14, 4-8 West Suburban Gold, tied for fifth.
Top returning players: Dulce Preciado, sr. (G, 5-2); Anais Gomez, sr. (G, 5-7); Kemberlee Rivera, sr. (F, 5-11); Aaliyah Knazze, so. (G, 5-1); Vianey Guttierez, so. (G, 5-4).
Top new players: Alyssa Loftis, sr. (G, 5-6); Alexandra Vazquez, jr. (G, 5-1); Alicia Macias, jr. (G, 5-5); Juleanna Fugate, jr. (G, 5-2); Allison Bonin, fr. (F, 5-9); Develyn Woywod, so. (F, 5-8).
Worth noting: Brown, who has coached at the JV level at Morton the last three years, takes over as varsity head coach. With four seniors leading the way, he believes that this could be a great developmental year for the program. Returning starters Preciado and Gomez, and Rivera will be key to leading a younger team. Preciado looks to be a threat from the outside, while Gomez could have a breakout season while leading the team defensively. Vazquez, Macias and Bonin all started on JV last year. Returning starter Knazze, a competitor with great instincts, figures to be Morton's floor general. Guttierez played varsity minutes last year and will look to make an impact scoring from the outside and making plays defensively. Junior Amira Harris, who played varsity minutes last season, tore her ACL and MCL in the spring and will miss the majority if not all of the season.
"I have a great core of young girls who are extremely competitive and want to succeed," Brown said. "So far I have been impressed by their commitment to the process and overall maturity for their age."
Coach: Terry Harrell (14th season).
Last season's record: 22-6, 12-0 West Suburban Gold, first place.
Top returning players: Sara Stout, sr. (F/C, 6-0); Elle Bruschuk, jr. (G/F, 5-11); Yazmin Setaram, sr. (G, 5-7); Nina Nytko, sr. (G, 5-6).
Top new players: Kalina Henry, jr. (C, 6-3); Seynabou Fall, jr. (G, 5-8); Lilian Vish, jr. (F/C, 5-11); Halie Ahrens, so. (F, 5-11); Kendall Medinger, so. (G, 5-7).
Worth noting: The Warriors have won three conference championships over the past four years, and should be in the mix for another league title again. That said, Willowbrook will be a very different team this season as it must replace its top three scorers. Sophie Sullivan, a four-year varsity starting guard, graduated while talented underclassmen Calli Kenny and Hannah Kenny opted not to play this season to focus on volleyball. The Warriors do return a core of three seniors built around talented junior Bruschuk, the best all-around player on the team last season and a top junior prospect. Bruschuk averaged 8.8 points, team-high 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals as a sophomore. Stout started every game last season as one of the league's better post players. Setaram and Nytko are both four-year players with good perimeter skills. Willowbrook added to a challenging nonconference schedule with games against Nazareth, Fenwick, Fremd and Libertyville. This will be Harrell's last season as coach.
"Despite losing three starters from last year's team, we are very excited about the season," assistant head coach Daniel Bannon said.