Scouting Fox area girls basketball
By John Lemon and Craig Brueske
Aurora Central Catholic Chargers
Coach: LeVada Smith
Conference: Metro Suburban Blue
2018-19 record: 15-16
Top returning players: Delani Kosner, sr., G; Catherine Klein, sr., F/C; Izzy Hernandez, sr., F/C; Lili Velazquez, sr., G; Amanda Bricco, sr., G; Vanessa Camp, jr., G; Maggie Dervis, jr., F; Lizzie Albert, jr., G
Top newcomers: Merline Garcia, jr., C; Kylie Baloun, so., F
Season outlook: Kosner, a two-time returning All-Area selection who averaged 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals and is going to play next year at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, leads the Chargers. "I believe this team has the ability to have an above average season," Smith said. "If we can get it done on defense consistently we will have a chance. I think in our conference we should fair well and also I think teams will be very competitive."
Aurora Christian Eagles
Coach: Burney Wilkie
Conference: Metro Suburban Red
2018-19 record: 21-8
Top returning players: Mia Richert, jr., F/C; Lexi Lamanna, so., G; Thaya Luse, so., F; Kendall Carter, so., G/F
Top newcomers: Anna Griffin, jr., G/F; Aspen Weeks, fr., G; Mya Gardner, fr., G; Felicity Allgood, so., G/F; Libby Plant, sr., G
Season outlook: The Eagles have both a number of talented returners and some promising newcomers. Richert earned all-conference last year while a pair of sophomores -- Lamanna and Luse -- both had big freshman years. Lamanna averaged 11.4 points and 4.9 assists while making IBCA Class 1A all state special mention. She broke the single season school record for assists and made 50 3-pointers. Luse also was all state special mention after averaging 8.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. The Eagles also added quite a transfer in Griffin from Plainfield Central, who , Wilkie calls one of the top juniors in the state with 14 Division I offers from schools like Illinois, Penn State and Marquette. "She can do it all," Wilkie said. "She is dominant in the post, can knock down the 3 and can get to the basket off the dribble. At 6-1, she is a nightmare matchup for opposing teams." Wilkie said Weeks will start and is the team's best on-ball defender. Wilkie said this team is capable of competing for the Class 1A state title. "I feel like I say it year after year, but this should be the best team in Aurora Christian girls basketball history," Wilkie said. "This should be the year we break through and win our first sectional game in program history. But that is not the goal, the goal and focus since June is to win a state championship and I feel like we are legitimate contenders with this group." Look for the Eagles to play uptempo and be an exciting team to watch. "This should be our best scoring team, and our scoring may come from a different place every night," Wilkie said. "We have 4 or 5 girls on this team that can score 20 a game on any given night." After a three-way tie for first in conference last year, Wilkie said the Eagles' top competiton will come from Timothy Christian and Chicago Christian in the MSC Red.
Coach: Joe Eirich
Conference: Upstate Eight
2018-19 record: 29-5
Top returning players: Lexie Sinclair, jr., G; Mackenzie Hare, so., G; Danielle Hedeen, jr., G
Top newcomers: Trinity Reyes, jr., G; Kylie Walker, jr., F; Lizzy Eberlin, jr., F; Sophia Desarden, fr., G; Ashlyn Smith, fr., F
Season outlook: Nowhere are hearts heavier than at Bartlett whose Hawks enter the season after the shocking death of their coach Brad Hunt in June. Eirich, a 2002 Schaumburg graduate, takes over. He started coaching at Bartlett in 2013 at the freshman level under Denise Sarna and also coached the Hawks sophomore team before working as Hunt's assistant the past two years. "It has been tough and emotional here without Brad because of who he was and what he meant and means to the building, myself and the players," Eirich said. Bartlett returns an explosive guard tandem in Sinclair and Hare who led the Hawks to last year's sectional championship game. Sinclair averaged 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists, and Hare 16.0 points with 102 3-pointers. Hedeen is another returning starter and defensive standout. "We are returning three very strong players and a few role players are getting an opportunity to fill in holes that were opened from graduating players," Eirich said. Another potential returnee, Justina Hernandez, transferred to Nazareth. "We are a very young team that has a lot of big game experience and we are looking forward to competing in every game this season," Eirich said. "Our expectations are to handle our business and compete on a daily basis." Bartlett, 17-1 last year with a lone UEC loss to Glenbard South, is aiming for a third straight conference championship and a return to the sectional championship game with a different result. "It will be tough but doable," Eirich said. "We are going to be an undersized but a tough-nosed team who will use our pace of play to try and create advantages." Glenbard South, second in the state last year, Fenton, South Elgin and East Aurora are among the teams Eirich is expecting to push the Hawks in the UEC. "The conference race is going to be very interesting," Eirich said. "There are a lot of strong teams who present their own set of challenges for every team. It will be fun to see how it shakes down."
Coach: Kevin Jensen
2018-19 record: 16-15
Top returning players: Erin Golden, sr., G; Claire Nazos, so., G; Katherine Polick, sr., G
Top newcomers: Tessa Towers, so., C; Morgan Haug, jr, G; Alyssa Sarik, so., G
Season outlook: The Bulldogs go from one of the most experienced teams to one of the youngest with seven sophomores on the roster. They finished 9-5 in a tight DuKane race last year behind 11-3 Wheaton Warrenville South and 10-4 Geneva and Wheaton North. They do have a veteran in a key spot in Golden, a two-time All-Area player who averaged 13.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. She has led the Bulldogs in points, assists, rebounds and steals the past two years and will play next year at McKendree University. Nazos and Polick will take on larger roles. "Claire saw significant minutes last season filling in due to injuries and became a solid option off the bench last season," Jensen said. "Kat (Polick) has never been a starter, but will have her biggest role this season." At 6-4, Towers gives Batavia size. Haug is returning from a torn ACL and will see time at point guard along with Sarik. "We will be looking for some returning sophomores to take a big step this year," Jensen said.
Burlington Central Rockets
Coach: Collin Kalamatas
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 22-8
Top returning players: Kathryn Schmidt, sr., F; Elana Wells, jr., G; Reili Gardner, sr., G; Zoey Kollhoff, sr., F; Alex Lichner, sr., F; Maddie Menke, sr., G; Avery Andersen, jr., G; Lily Moretti, sr., G
Top newcomers: Rylie Duval, so., G
Season outlook: With six seniors and two juniors back including the entire starting lineup from a 22-win team, the Rockets are poised for a strong debut in the Fox Valley Conference. They do have a new coach in Kalamatas, a Huntley grad who comes from Woodstock to replace Mark Smith. "We know we have to prove ourselves and nothing is going to be handed to us," Kalamatas said. "If we want to be successful, we have to earn it every day in practice and every night on game nights. That said, our goals are pretty high." The Rockets lost in the regional finals last year to a Glenbard South team that ended up second in the state in Class 3A. "These girls aren't happy with how the season ended last year," Kalamatas said. "There is definitely a chip on their shoulders this year. Playing in the Fox Valley Conference can only help prepare us for a postseason run. Going through an FVC schedule is a grind. There are a lot of talented teams that play a physical brand of basketball. I think it suits our program well, and we feel like we should be able to enter the conference as serious competitors for the FVC title." Schmidt is a three-time All-Area selection who will play next year at Lewis University. Despite missing 13 games with a concussion and then knee injury, she averaged 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds, shooting 41 percent from 3-point range. Wells also has made All-Area both of her seasons after averaging 13.6 points, 4.0 assists and 3.6 steals last season. She has an offer from St. Xaiver University among others. Gardner (Illinois State) is a Division I softball player as is Kollhoff (Illinois) for soccer. Duval was called up late in the season last year. "We consider her a newcomer," Kalamatas said. "She will play an important role in backing up Wells, as well as giving Elana an opportunity to play off the ball as well." Optimism is high. "We're excited for this group to be back together," Kalamatas said. "Coming into this as someone that is new to the program, the girls are really responsive to some new concepts and ideas. The pace of play last year was more of a half court attack, but we're going to be aggressive in the open floor and look for scoring opportunities early in the offense. In order to create those transition opportunities we're going to have to really pressure teams to handle the basketball on every inch of the court. This is a bit of a change from the style of play that these girls are used to, so we have to commit a lot of time early in the season to develop new habits on the court."
Coach: Anthony Moretti
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 12-17
Top returning players: Lauren Passaglia, jr., F; Emily Lukowski, so., G; Lilliana Kurth, so., G
Top newcomers: Grace Clarke, sr., G/F; Paige Hoscheit, jr., F; Kate Larry, jr., G; Lauren Getner, sr., F; Frankie Cruz, sr., F
Season outlook: The Trojans will have a new look on the bench as Moretti takes over for Rod Saffert, who stepped down last May after spending the last 26 years as a Cary-Grove coach -- 13 years as head coach (248-135) and 13 years as an assistant. Over the past 13 years, Saffert's teams captured six regional titles. The Trojans will also have a new look on the court after graduating a senior-led team that featured 5-10 Maddie Jannusch (10.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and battled a strong Crystal Lake Central team down to the wire during a season-ending, 58-55 regional championship defeat after going 9-7 in the FVC. "We are doing some rebuilding as we graduated nine seniors from last year's team," said Moretti. The Trojans' youth will be put to the test early on against the likes of Huntley, Rolling Meadows, Johnsburg, Burlington Central and Conant. "We only return three girls with varsity experience, so we are very young," said Moretti. "However, we have a tough and talented group of kids."
Crystal Lake South Gators
Coach: Mark Mucha
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 7-22
Top returning players: Kyra Swartz, sr., G; Gaby Trier, sr., F; Brooke Kuffel, jr., G; Ava Sevcik, jr., G; Allie Schoen, sr., F; Emily Rich, jr., G; Maddie Scharrenberg, so., G.
Top newcomers: Kree Nunnally, fr., G.
Season outlook: After capturing back-to-back regional titles in 2015 and 2016 and compiling a 59-34 record over a three-year span from 2015-2017, the Gators have experienced their share of growing pains during 7-win campaigns the past two seasons including 4-12 in the FVC last year. However, things could improve with the return of a veteran group, led by Kuffel, who earned All-Area honorable mention status last season. "We return a lot of experience and are looking forward to taking the next step forward," said Mucha, whose team awaits challenges from Streamwood, Palatine and South Elgin during the Dundee-Crown Thanksgiving Tournament before tackling a rugged Fox Valley Conference schedule. "It will be a tough FVC with Dundee-Crown, McHenry, Huntley and Hampshire leading the way," added Mucha.
Coach: Sarah Miller
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 23-8
Top returning players: Payton Schmidt, sr., G; Katelyn Skibinski, sr., G; Cassidy Randl, sr., G; Alyssa Crenshaw, jr., F/C; Gianine Boado, jr., G; Makayla Gotter, sr., F/C
Top newcomers: Emily Oldham, sr., G
Season outlook: With eight seniors and three juniors, and three four-year varsity players plus two three-year varsity players, the Chargers enter the season in position for a big season. "Going to be a great year, we have a special group," Miller said. "We have a lot of leadership this year and we are looking forward to a great season. They have set the bar high. We have a one play, one game mentality and are focused on a competitive strong season." Crenshaw averaged 10.2 points and 8.9 rebounds a game last year while playing strong interior defense. She's part of a balanced attack with other veterans Schmidt, Skibinski and Boado. The Chargers finished second in the FVC last year to Hampshire, losing to the Whips in the final regular season game. "Our strengths are our leadership, strong defense, scoring and teamwork," Miller said.
Coach: Dr. Nick Bumbales
Conference: Upstate Eight
Top returning players: Madison Bowers, sr., F; Jessica Brown, sr., G; Tenacious Cadney, sr., G; Brittany Catalan, sr,. F; Sandy Espinoza-Martinez, sr., G; Janette Garcia-Saltigerald, sr., G; Jennifer Hernandez, sr., G; Giana Kilbert, sr., F; Jasmine Mann, sr., F; Sabrina Moskow, jr., G; Tatiana Rodriguez, sr., F; Margie Troyke, sr., G
Top newcomers: Noelia Arzola, jr., F; Takara Campbell, jr., G; Emma Carrero, jr., G; Lily Genel, jr., G; Delfina Jorgensen, jr., G; Jessica Nino, jr., F; Jasmine Patel, jr., G; Monse Ponce, sr., G
Season outlook: Kilbert, Moskow and Troyke are the captains for a young Maroons team this year. "We are extremely inexperienced," Bumbales said. "Our hopes ride on how fast they can gel and play together." Kilbert averaged 6 points and 5.8 rebounds last year. After that Elgin does not bring back a lot of experience with Moskow and Troyke averaging 1 point a game last season. "This year's hopes rest on being able to improve offenively," Bumbales said. "Troyke and Moskow will run the offense. Several players are still challenging for court time. If we can get off to a good start look for us to accumulate more wins than any recent Elgin team." Bumbales pegged Glenbard South as the favorite in the UEC. The veteran coach has five of his former players on staff and great turnout in the program with 65 players across all levels.
Elgin Academy Hilltoppers
Coach: Mike Carani
Conference: Independent School League
2018-19 record: 3-18
Top returning players: Ariana Marchan, sr., G; Maddy Noble-Stas, sr., F; Emma Hanson, sr., C
Top newcomers: Liz Sporina, sr., F; Marina Aristodemo, sr., G; Maddy Beauchamp, jr., G; Rose Davenport, jr., G; Sophie Shanae, soph., F; Annie Matusiak, frosh., G
Season outlook: The Hilltoppers look to improve upon their three-win campaign of a year ago, all in conference, and welcome back their top two scorers in the 5-7 Marchan (captain and leading scorer) and 5-8 Noble-Stas (captain, leading rebounder and second leading scorer), along with the 5-8 Hanson called the team's "foundation in the paint" by Carani. "We are a more athletic and competitive team this season and will play a high pressure, up-tempo game," said Carani, who looks for leadership and athleticism from Sporina and Aristodemo. "We also high expectations for Maddy Beauchamp, Rose Davenport, Sophie Shanae and Annie Matusiak as they gain experience in the program. We have a focused and determined group of girls that want to compete and represent the culture established at Elgin Academy." The Hilltoppers hope to get off to a fast start while playing host to their annual Thanksgiving Tournament. "We expect the conference to be strong again this year and we will be competitive," added Carani.
Coach: Sarah Meadows
2018-19 record: 20-12
Top returning players: Lindsay Blackmore, sr., G/F; Katie Montgomery, sr., G; Grace Hinchman, sr., G; Kate Palmer, jr. G
Top newcomers: Zosia Wrobel, so., G/F; Kelly McCloughan, jr., G/F
Season outlook: Some of the Vikings' best teams through the years have included players who are Division I athletes in other sports but continue playing basketball. The Vikings have two such players like that this year in Hinchman, who will play volleyball at Loyola, and Montgomery, who will play soccer at Missouri State. And they have a Division I player in basketball -- Blackmore -- a four-year varsity player who helped Geneva win two state championships as a freshman and sophomore, averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.7 blocks last year and will play in college at Colgate. Meadows is expecting big contributions from Wrobel and McCloughan. "(Wrobel) brings length, she is strong and will play both inside and outside," Meadows said. "(McCloughan) is athletic, she plays so hard on both ends of the court, and she brings a ton to our team." Geneva should once again be a factor in the conference race and postseason. The Vikings have won 11 straight regionals. "We will be athletic, we will play hard, and play fast," Meadows said. "Our expectations are to compete in every game and compete for a conference championship and have a run in the postseason."
Huntley Red Raiders
Coach: Steve Raethz
Conference: Fox Valley Conference
2018-19 record: 12-19
Top returning players: Kamsi Nwogu, jr., F/C; Anna Seng, sr., G; Sydney Novak sr., F: Ashley Guazzo, jr., G; Ali Galante, sr., F; Raquel Radermacher, jr., G/F; Madison Wash, jr., F
Top newcomers: Jessie Ozzauto, fr., G; Carley Faulkner, fr., G/F; Nicole Flaherty, so., G; Sarh Rysavy, jr., G; Francesca Romano, jr., F; Kendall Krich, jr., G/F; Riyanna Walker, jr., G; Hadley Giovacchini, sr., F
Outlook: In his 21st season with a career 341-251 record, Raethz has as good of a returning player as anyone in the area in Nwogu, who averaged 15.7 points and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore, leading Huntley in both to earn All-Area and all-conference honors. Now he just needs better luck in health. Radermacher, and all-conference selection as a freshman, and Wash are back after both missed last year with torn ACLs. "We have a nice mix of returning players and newcomers to our team," Raethz said. "We are fortunate to have Raquel and Madison return to our team after missing. We have a lot of players competing for opportunities on the floor and working to contribute to our team's success." Seng averaged 4.5 points and 2.4 assists last year while Novak (3.5 ppg), Guazzo (2.1 ppg) and Galante (1.6 ppg) also are experienced players hoping to help Huntley improve its record this winter including a 7-9 FVC mark. "I think the opportunity is there to turn the corner and be a very competitive team this year, but our success lies in how we defend and rebound as a team," Raethz said. "In the early part of the season we have been working to develop our cohesiveness and understand our roles within the team. I think as that comes together, I see us getting better as the season goes on, and our cohesion will improve. We will continue to focus on intangibles and playing solid defense and doing the little things to put us in a position to win, and this year we have multiple players who can be on the floor and score at a given time." Raethz listed Burlington Central, Dundee Crown and McHenry as teams to watch out for in the FVC race.
Coach: Eric Samuelson
Conference: Fox Valley Conference
2018-19 record: 27-6
Top returning players: Alyssa Cork, sr., G/F; Katie Del Re, sr., G; Roni Walker, sr., F; Kelby Bannerman, jr., G/F; Jessie Dumoulin, jr., G; Jacey Lambert, so., F
Top newcomers: Layla Tiongco, jr., G; Jenae Rossetti, so., G; Alexis Woltman, so., F; Ceili Ramirez, fr., G
Outlook: The defending Fox Valley Conference champions have a new coach and return their leading scorer in Bannerman, a two-time All-Area selection. She averaged 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds last year. After working in the private sector out of college, Samuelson coached for five years in Belvidere before working with former girls coach (and now Hampshire boys coach) Mike Featherly the last three seasons. He also has coached AAU girls basketball. "We want to be competitive in every game we play, and play meaningful games at the end of the season," Samuelson said The Whip-Purs got a bad break with Dumoulin out with a torn ACL. "This year's team wants to be known for being tough and relentless on the court, and accountable to each other," Samuelson said. "They have really embraced the idea of becoming a family."
Harvest Christian Lions
Coach: Jeremy Burke (1st year)
Conference: Northeastern Athletic Conference
2018-19 record: 5-18
Top returning players: Maddy Martin, sr., G/F; Lauren Semerau, sr., F/C; Abby Semerau, so., G; Raja Tilkian, so., G
Top newcomers: Alex Shepherd, jr., F/C
Outlook: Two years ago, Harvest Christian won 28 games and advanced all the way to the Class 2A supersectional before suffering a 5-point loss to perennial power Chicago Marshall. Last season, the Lions fell on hard times, winning just five games -- though going 4-3 in conference -- while closing out their season on an 11-game losing streak. Burke, who takes over at the helm, is the Lions' third head coach in as many seasons. "We are building a program that will be competitive and looking to improve throughout the season," said Burke. The return of All-Area selection Martin should help after she averaged 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 52 percent from the floor as a junior last year. Harvest Christian opens its season at the Wheaton Academy Tournament. "We are looking to get better each and every day and the end results will take care of themselves," added Burke.
Jacobs Golden Eagles
Coach: Jonathon Reibel (2nd year, 4-26).
Conference: Fox Valley Conference
2018-19 record: 4-26
Top returning players: Maya Acevedo, sr., G; Cora Slavich, sr., G; Liz Schwartz, sr., G; Courtney Durben, sr., G; Sydney Calcagno, sr., G; Roz Leitner, sr., F; Courtney Pahl, sr., G; Melissa Fessler, sr., F; Elena Sloan, sr., F.
Top newcomers: Haley Schaffer, jr., F; Brooklyn Krahl, jr., F; Bre Torres, jr., G; Mackenzie Leahy, so., G.
Outlook: After suffering a string of tough losses in the Fox Valley Conference last season -- 49-41 to Prairie Ridge, 34-29 to Crystal Lake South and 47-42 to McHenry, the Golden Eagles ended its regular season on a positive note with a 25-23 win over Crystal Lake South to finish 1-15. Now they look for more. "Our goal is to improve on what we started to build as a team last season," said Reibel. "We have made tremendous strides from the end of last year until now. The girls had a great summer and finished with a winning record." At 5-10, Sloan and Leitner are the team's tallest players. "We are not the tallest team but we have a group of girls that are athletic and have great endurance, so we will be able to extend the floor and use a lot of different lineups each game," added Reibel, who is counting on his team's veteran leadership making a difference. "When you have a team filled with nine seniors, you have an edge over a lot of teams that you will face all year long. With such a large senior class, we are hoping to win some hardware for this group to reward them for the four years of dedication and hard work they have put into this program." Jacobs begins its season with four games at the Dundee-Crown Thanksgiving Tournament.
Coach: Kelsey Flanagan
Conference: Interstate Eight Conference
2018-19 record: 19-12
Top returning players: Keely Noel, sr., G; Delaney Sheehan, sr., F; Emily Janecek, sr., F; Kelsey Modaff, jr., G; Kylie Holubecki, jr., F; McKenzie Schueler, so., PG
Top newcomers: Mya Saltijeral, jr., PG; Katherine Marshall, fr., G; Taylor Carlson, jr., G; Lexi Bradshaw, jr., F; Nora Crimmins, jr., C; Sarah Elliott, jr., F; Megan Noel, so., G; Olivia Stoker, so., G
Outlook: With Ernie Colombe moving over to coach the Kaneland boys, the Knights turn to his assistant and a former standout at the school to take over. Flanagan graduated from Kaneland in 2006, playing varsity for four years for some of the best teams Kaneland has had. She played college basketball at DePauw University and was part of their 2007 national championship team. She has been coaching with Colombe at Kaneland from 2010 through taking the head coaching job. Noel (7.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Sheehan (2.5 rpg) and Modaff (5.8 ppg) are some of the most experienced returnees. "We're a young team focused on getting better every day and competing every day," Flanagan said. "We're in a new conference this year, the Interstate 8, but we have some familiar opponents from the NIBXII. It will be a competitive conference for girls basketball and we look forward to the competition."
Coach: Steve Knapp
Conference: Upstate Eight Conference
2018-19 record: 12-20
Top returning players: Brianna Young, sr., G/F; Aaliyah Dixon, sr., G/F; Ashley Miller, sr., F; Jannelle Clements, sr., F
Top newcomers: Baylei Johnson, fr., F; Candace Newman, so., G; Jamilyn DeLeon, so., G; Kathy Garcia, jr., G; Diana Acosta, jr., G; Desirae Henry, jr., G
Outlook: The Royals welcome back a couple key four-year starters who both are on track to go over 1,000 points. Young averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds last year and enters the season at 919 points; Dixon averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds and has scored 854. Miller and Clements also have plenty of experience as returning starters after averarging 9 and 6 points, respectively. Miller led the team in rebounding. Knapp said the 6-foot-1 Johnson has potential for "some big year ahead." The pieces are in place for Larkin to add quite a few wins to last year's total. "This season could be one of our best," said Knapp, whose team went 7-11 in the UEC last year. "We have size and the ability to play quick. I believe that we have a shot in the top three in conference. Our length could help out on the boards and get some putbacks to offset the shooting. Could be a 20-win season if we put the work in."
Coach: John Rutter (1st year)
Conference: Metro Suburban Conference
2018-19 record: 6-19
Top returning players: Ella Havertape, sr., G; Zoe Ketterman, sr., F; Zoe Olsen, sr., F; Lauren Seger, sr., G.
Top newcomers: Lauren Hawkins, so., G; Emily Hurst, so., F; Madison Cibulskis, jr., F; Megan Cibulskis, jr., C; Ann Molenhouse, jr., F.
Outlook: In his first year as Rosary's athletic director, Rutter takes over as the Royals' girls basketball coach. He is no stranger to coaching, having compiled a 103-62 record the last five seasons at Bishop McNamara, where he guided the Fightin' Irish to the Class 2A state championship with a 29-4 mark in 2014. He also spent one year at St. Charles North, where he helped lead the North Stars to a 14-11 record in 2005-2006. As expected, Rutter will preach patience to his new squad. "It may take us some time to learn a new system but I expect us to be competitive throughout the season," said Rutter. The Royals, who begin their season at IMSA's 14th annual Hoops Happenings tournament, possess solid height on the interior with Ketterman (6-1), Megan Cibulskis (6-1), Olsen (5-10), and Molenhouse (5-10). "I expect us to be playing our best basketball come February," said Rutter. "Riverside-Brookfield is the conference favorite, having won the league title last season and returning all five starters."
South Elgin Storm
Coach: Dan Mandernack (6th year, 96-52)
Conference: Upstate Eight Conference
2018-19 record: 20-12
Top returning players: Megan McClure, sr., G/F; Madison Waichunas, sr., G; Caroline Croft, so., G; Ella Winterhalder, so., G/F; Ari Williams, sr., G;
Top newcomers: Raina Yang, fr., PG; Catilyn Tolentino, fr., G; Lo Wilson, so., G
Outlook: The Storm have a dynamite player to build around in the sharp-shooting McClure, a four-year starter who enters the season with 926 points poised to become the third player in school history to reach 1,000. Made 82 shots from 3-point range last year while averaging 17 points a game and plans to play basketball in college at the Division II or Division III level. Waichunas averaged 8 points and 4 assists while Croft moves over to point guard after averaging 6 points as a freshman now that Casey Brennan has graduated. Winterhalder is another good shooter, and Williams is back after an ankle injury cost her most of last season just after she scored 19 points against Schaumburg. "We have a nice mix of youth and seniors," Mandernack said. "We are very small and embrace this with pressing and uptempo offense. All can dribble coast to coast and shoot 3s." This summer the Storm played two different games when nine players made at least one 3-pointer. South Elgin ended last season with a regional championship and then narrow 4-point loss to a talented Boylan team at sectionals. "We look to build on that momentum," Mandernack said. "We have a very challenging schedule." Mandernack points to his team's unselfish play and passing as strengths. "They fight hard and take pride in rebounding with 'winning the hustle chart' at the end of every game. They are really maxing out their potential and believe in each other. Should be a very fun team to watch."
St. Charles East
Coach: Aubree Schuett (3rd year, 19-38)
Conference: DuKane Conference
2018-19 record: 6-24
Top returning players: Torrie Kortan, so., G; Olivia Kiefer, so., F; Elle McCaslin, sr., G/F; Makenna Brown, jr., F; Leah Griffin, jr., G
Top newcomers: Emma Yakey, fr., F; Vivian DiGiovanni, jr., G; Grace Seebeck, jr., G; Julia Matheny, fr., G; Samantha Santucci, jr., G; Abigail Saxe, jr., G; Marissa Kalamaris, fr., F: Mia DelaGarza, jr., G
Outlook: Following a long run at the Schaumburg Thanksgiving Tournament, the Saints will open their season with back-to-back tourney appearances at York and Naperville Central (Nov. 23-30). Kortan enjoyed a solid freshman campaign last season, averaging 5.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.2 assists per game. Kiefer (2.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg), Brown (2.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Griffin (29 steals) figure to provide solid depth. McCaslin, who is committed to play soccer at Mississippi State next season, appeared in 7 games last year after coming off ACL surgery. "We are a blue-collar team," said Schuett. "We're going to work hard every play, fight and compete on a nightly basis. The kids are committed to the system and are anxious to compete against the best." Playing in the rugged DuKane Conference where three teams (Wheaton Warrenville South, Wheaton North, Lake Park) captured regional titles a year ago, and another -- Geneva -- earned back-to-back 4A state titles in 2017 and 2018 and also won a regional last year will certainly prepare the Saints (3-11 in DuKane) for the postseason. "We have some young kids that have experience playing at a high level so we'll use that to our advantage to put ourselves in the best position possible to compete within a very competitive DuKane Conference," added Schuett.
St. Charles North North Stars
Coach: Mike Tomczak
Conference: DuKane Conference
2018-19 record: 15-14
Top returning players: Caroline Jakaitis, sr., C; Launi Chanthaboury, sr., PG; Emma Nawara, sr., F; Talia Pellegrini, jr., G; Tatum Settelmyer, jr., F Catelyn Klug, jr., F
Top newcomers: Alyssa Hughes fr., G; Eva Saltsman, so., G; Morgan Klug, so., G; Erin Stack, so., F
Outlook: Just when the North Stars looked like they would get great news with the return of Launi Chanthaboury, a two-year starting point guard who missed last year with an injury, the North Stars suffered a bad break when last year's freshman phenom Emma Ludwig was lost to a season-ending injury this fall. "Losing Emma Ludwig to injury was a tough blow but there are not many programs that can fill that void with someone of Launi's caliber," Tomczak said. "Launi brings back a totally different dynamic to our team this year and we hope to play more up-tempo and get into transition more often." The North Stars are blessed with size with Jakaitis who will play next year at Division II University of Indianapolis. "She is our undisputed team leader and is ready to build off a strong summer where she played some of the best basketball of her career," Tomczak said. Many of the juniors in the North Stars' lineup got experience as sophomores last year. "We have a good mix of youth and experience this season and we believe we have a few players that are ready to take big steps forward," Tomczak said. "Talia Pellegrini and Tatum Settelmyer are going to be counted on for big minutes this year and we believe they will both rise to the challenge. We have a wave of sophomores (and a freshman) ready to make an impact right away." The North Stars also will count on their defense in what promises to be another competitive DuKane Conference race after last year's came down to the final game of the season. "We remain a team that plays hard nosed, physical defense," Tomczak said. "With the athleticism and versatility we have coming back, we expect to play multiple styles this season. We believe that the DuKane Conference is the premier girls basketball conference in the state. There are no nights off but we expect to be right in the mix amongst the top teams. Even with a number of new players in new roles, we are excited for what we think we can do this year."
St. Edward Lady Wave
Coach: Michelle Dawson
Conference: Metro Suburban Conference (Blue Division)
2018-19 record: 12-19
Top returning players: Maddie Ellsworth, sr., G; Samantha Ottinger, sr., G; Brooke Biggins, so., G; Mia Castro, jr., G; Ella O'Neill, jr., F
Top newcomers: Ariann Franco, jr., G; Velay Garcia, so., F; Alexia Alfaro, so., G; Madison Schuler, jr., F; Daniele Esquibias, jr., G; Hannah Dorley, jr., F
Outlook: Biggins averaged 10 points a game last year, one of three returning players who scored at least 7 points a game last season. Ottinger and Ellsworth are the other two, averaging 8.8 and 7.3 points, respectively. After losing their regional opener last year to Kaneland in Class 3A, Dawson said the team is glad to be back in 2A this season. "I expect our team to be exciting to watch this season," Dawson said. "The girls are playing with energy and intensity. This team has a nice mix of strong leaders as well as role players. What we give up in height we make up for in quickness and athleticism."
Coach: George Rosner (35th year)
Conference: Upstate Conference
2018-19 record: 8-20
Top returning players: Many Mien, sr, G; Peyton Hedger, sr., F; Kaylee Angle, sr., G/F; Vivian Sumoski, jr., F; Vicki Kopko, sr., F; Idalyd Ocampo, G
Outlook: In his 39th year overall and 35th at Streamwood, Rosner enters the season with 448 wins and something every coach would want -- a returning all-area point guard in Mien. "I would have to say I am very optimistic about this year's team," Rosner said. "I expect improvement in both of those (last year's win) numbers." Mien averaged 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.9 steals last year. She is 10th on the all-time school scoring list with 918 points, first in assists at 423 and second in steals with 282. She is a 4-year starter. "She is special to say the least," Rosner said. "Everyone knows about Mandy. Hedger averaged 6 points last year, Angle averaged 4.1 and Sumoski 5.6. "We are adding a nice mix of newcomers," Rosner said. "So we should have good depth for sure. We should be good running team with very good outside shooting. The key will be how we defend and rebound as we will be a pretty small team with no starter over 5-9. We want to compete each and every game we play. If we do that, the wins will come."
West Aurora Blackhawks
Coach: Teresa Waldinger
Conference: Southwestern Prairie Conference
2018-19 record: 22-9
Top returning players: Riley Mont, so., G; Jalyssa Carrasco, jr., PG; Izzy Lambert, sr., G; Narita Lambert, sr, G; Olivia VanderWoude, F, sr.
Outlook: With nine seniors on the roster, Waldinger has some experience to work with in her second season as coach. That also includes Mont who as a freshman was voted the team's best defensive player, shot 70 perent at the free-throw line and is a "solid all-around player," according to her coach. The Blackhawks join the Southwestern Prairie Conference. "We have solid returners with some great varsity experience under their belts," Waldinger said. "We know we're entering a tough SPC conference, so we're looking forward to the challenge. While we lost some quickness with Cinnamon (Dajour Miles), we know we have other girls who can push the ball pretty quickly up the floor. Our focus will be tough defense. We want to be the hardest working team on the floor at all times."
Westminster Christian Warriors
Coach: Fred Versluys
Conference: Northeastern Athletic
Top returning players: Sophie Kovachevich, sr., G
Top newcomers: Taylor Barker, fr.; Molly Urosevich, so., F
Outlook: The Warriors will look to Kovachevich, an all-conference guard last year, to lead the way. In a season-opening win over Elgin Academy on Tuesday, Barker had 13 points and 6 rebounds, and Meadow Oesterle scored 12 points. "We look forward to beginning the season with a number of quality athletes on the team," Versluys said.