Scouting DuPage County girls basketball
It's impossible to replace Darrione Rogers, the graduated All-Stater and runner-up Ms. Basketball who led Lake Park to its first state appearance last March and is now playing at DePaul.
If there's any silver lining for Lancers coach Brian Rupp, he has the other four starters back, trying to soften the blow of losing such a dominating player.
Senior Emma Thorne, junior Sara Balli and sophomores Gabi Burgess and Ellie Helm started on Lake Park's 26-10, DuKane co-champion team. Thorne was an all-conference selection.
"We are still a young team, but we feel good about returning 4 starters from our Final Four team," Rupp said. "That experience has fueled this group to continue to improve individually during the pandemic. We're talented, we're fast and we're motivated to continue our success."
Also in the DuKane, Glenbard North (6-23) welcomes senior transfer Justina Hernandez, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee commit who played her first two years at Bartlett and last year at Nazareth. The Panthers also have senior point guard Anna Pedraza, senior guard Olivia Corona and senior forward Olivia Kulig, a special mention all-conference pick.
Wheaton North (20-7) is one of the favorites bringing its starting lineup back from a team that lost to Geneva in the sectional semifinals. Junior guard Claire Hyde is an electric player with deep range and will play with an experienced group that includes senior Julia Simon, junior Caroline Gaither and senior Ellie Hubbard.
Wheaton Warrenville South (6-21) returns three starters: junior Lily Huntzinger, an all-DuKane pick who averaged 9 ppg, and seniors Mia McCoyd and Katie Kroehnke.
Two traditional powers
In Class 3A, Montini (33-5) also made it to state finishing third and also has a major change. For the Broncos, it's replacing coach Jason Nichols, who left to coach at Morton College, with Shannon Spanos.
Nichols won 521 games in his 17 seasons at Montini. Spanos grew up in Downers Grove and graduated from Montini in 1999 where she earned 12 varsity letters in basketball, softball and volleyball.
She played at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and graduated in 2003. Spanos coached the sophomores last year at Glenbard West and has coached at several travel and AAU programs.
"Having played and coached basketball for a combined 30 years, I have a great deal of knowledge, expertise, and basketball/life skills to share with young women," Spanos said.
Junior guard Sawyer White leads Montini's returnees which also includes Shannon Blacher, Sam Mogolinski and Mary Kate O'Connor, though O'Connor is out with an injury. Glenbard West transfer Maren Hoovel will see significant floor time, and Spanos likes her freshman class that includes Victoria Matulevicius, Allyssa Epps and Riley White.
Joe Kilbride's Benet Redwings have been a power year in and year out, now 179-26 entering his seventh season. Benet went 29-3 and won its third straight ESCC title last year before losing to Bolingbrook in the sectional final.
Nebraska-bound senior guard Kendall Moriarty leads a talented team that also includes 6-foot-2 junior post Morgan Demos and sophomore guard Lenee Beaumont, both with Division I offers. Another Division I player, Molly Sheehan, graduated early to begin her career at Valpo.
Junior guards Olympia Kokkines and Margaret Temple will take on additional roles while the newcomers include Lisle transfer Emma Webb, a junior guard, sophomore Samantha Trimberger and freshmen Emilia and Maggie Sularski.
Illinois State recruit Lauren Cohen (806 career points) is one of four starters back for Glenbard South, who went 23-6 last year. Alex Wilharm, Gianna Coluzzi and Iman Sellars also are back while coach Morgan Eufrasio said she's expecting big things from freshman Sofia Alcala.
West Chicago coach Mark Fitzgerald also has four starters back from a 6-win team: seniors Shailee Patel, Sadie Obenhauer and Morgan Nessemeier, and junior Emily Toran. Patel made all-conference last year. Sophomores Anelise Velasco and Emily Nosky provide depth.
Fenton, 12-21 last year, has 12 of its 16 players back while Glenbard East (18-14) is one of the most experienced teams. Two-year starter Lauren Huber (17.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.0 spg) is 76 points away from 1,000 points and has a chance at the Rams' school record of 1,246.
Emily Ryan (9 ppg, 8 rpg), Kendall Crackel and Katie Mulatz also have two years starting experience while coach Nicole Miller is expecting contributions from Denise Navar, Brooke Hernandez, Madison Ziemer and Aubrey Wendorff. Freshmen Catey Carney and Ciara Johnson join the mix.
Montini transfers Taris Thornton and Sofie Sullivan, Winona State recruit Stephanie Dasbach and seniors Gracie Tumilty and Abby Spada should make Willowbrook (15-13) a contender. Thornton will play next year at Eastern Illinois while Dasbach averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds for 12th-year coach Terry Harrell who also is excited about freshman guard Calli Kenny.
"If we can come together quickly in this short season we should be favored," Harrell said of the WSC Gold race.
Stephan Bolt's Downers Grove North Trojans are coming off a school record 28-7 season, losing a tight game with Young in the sectional final.
Three starters are back.Junior Ryann Wendt (7 ppg), junior Kate Gross (6ppg), sophomore Maggie Fleming (4ppg) and juniors Ella Sebek, Eleanor Harris (6 ppg) and Vanesa Linge form the nucleus.
"I believe we were poised for another great season with so many players with significant minutes returning," Bolt said. "We are excited to be able to compete again with a team that could be very special next season."
Downers Grove South (11-16) has five seniors leading the way starting with four-year varsity player Meghan Stapleton, a "lights-out shooter," according to coach Lyndsie Long. Jordin Grant and Ashley Lang bring physical play; they have been on varsity since their sophomore years. Others to watch include junior point guard Cydnei Mitchell and newcomers Emily Petring and Allison Jarvis.
York enjoyed a 26-8 season last year, 10-2 to win the WSC Silver before losing to Lake Park by 3 points in the sectional.
Coach Brandon Collings has recent Indiana University-South Bend signee Amaya Rufus back along with senior All-Area pick Sydney Molis, and all-conference senior forward Kaitlyn Kjome. Seniors Megan Juneman (a three-year varsity player), Emma Kluth and Sophie Schoonveld will be joined on the roster by sophomores Mariann Blass and Lizzy Baldridge.
"We will also be adding some very talented juniors, sophomores, and a freshman to what we are hoping will be a very talented and deep roster again this season," Collings said.
Addison Trail (13-19) has four back: junior point guard Quiana Birmingham, senior forwards Ally Severino and Mia Johnson, junior wing Mary Velez plus junior guard Julian Nasti. They will help junior newcomers Gia Napoli and Diana Villegas learn their roles for coach Cory Little.
"We have a lot of confidence we will compete and play with a lot of fight and determination," Little said. "Laughing, joking and smiling is what's most important to our staff right now."
Glenbard West (19-11) has to replace Taylor Huff (New York University) and Maggie Stutelberg (Western Michigan), and coach Kristi Faulkner will look to five returnees -- senior Renee Seaney, juniors Emmie Roberts and Kendall Walch, and sophomores Sophia Brown and Mackenzie Cater -- to do so. She also has newcomers to work into the rotation: sophomores Kennedy Brandt and Anastasia Adrianopoulos, juniors Tess Farnum, Emily Miranda and Allie Murphy, and freshmen Sydney Nimakont and Carina Cudzilo.
Hinsdale Central (10-18) leading scorer Eleanor Monyek returns (10.7 ppg) as well as top rebounder Nina Sarros (6.8 rpg). Both are juniors. Seniors Maria Rivera and Maddie Ward, juniors Lanie Randle and Tessa Howe, and sophomores Angie Conley and Amelia McLaughlin also are back.
"The core from last year's team returns and is looking to build on the progress we made at the end of the season last year," said coach Karen Persinger, whose team won 4 of their last 6.
Senior third-year varsity players Mary Lavorato and Ellie Urbanski lead the way at Hinsdale South (4-20). The Hornets also are looking for big things from juniors Madeline Gamboa, Jenny Pantoni, Molly Savage, Gabby Baranauskas and Natalia Vasilevski, sophomore Makena Camden and freshmen Amelia Lavorato and Amerie Flowers.
Naperville North is coming off a perfect 10-0 DVC season, 24-6 overall behind the Oregon State-bound Greta Kampschroeder. She's a senior, as is Alison Kickel, and they will lead a talented team that includes juniors Sarah Crossett and Hope Ancieto, and sophomores Abby Drendel, Layla Henderson and Abby Homan.
University of Tennessee-Martin commit Gabi Melby is back at Naperville Central (20-12). She was an all-DVC choice last year along with teammate Karly Maida. Melby scored her 1,000th point last year, joining Candace Parker and Mia Lakstigala as the only two to do it before their senior season. Juniors Aditi Prasad and Molly O'Rear are returning letter-winners. Juniors Trinity Strang, Haley Hayes and Keke Dean and junior transfer Ella McDonald will contribute.
Metea Valley (9-18) returns three special mention all-conference players -- sophomore Khaliah Reid and seniors Jada Samuels and Amelia Szczesny -- plus senior Nyla Hart and sophomore Raina Penttila. That has coach Keith McIntosh setting an above .500 record as a goal.
Four-year starting point guard Lauren McKnight finished second in scoring last year at Waubonsie Valley. Warriors coach Brett Love called his team a great group of good character kids that get along. They include 6-foot-2 junior forward, Meredith Martens, a rim protector, and freshman guard/forward Hannah Laub, who Love describes as a tough, athletic player who can do it all.
St. Francis coach Jeff Gerdeman will lean on seniors Kate Chaparro and Maggie Culver along with junior Katie Anne De Craene. They all started on last year's team that went 17-15 overall and 9-4 in the Metro Suburban. Chaparro and Culver were both all-conference; Chaparro, a 5-4 point guard, averaged 11 points and has a chance at reaching 1,000. Culver, a shooting guard, averaged 14 points.
Junior Lauren Bruce, sophomore Katherine Lilly and freshman Dolly Smith will play big roles.
Todd Fisher begins his second season at IC Catholic Prep with his three leading scorers returning after going 19-13, 9-3 in the Metro Suburban. Junior Claire Wagner (10.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg), senior Alia Johnson (11.1 ppg) and senior Gia Gaudio (7.9 ppg) lead the way. Juniors Frances Cook, Caterina Calabria, Liliana LoCascio and Vincenza LoCascio will see important minutes.
Jill Groenewold's Timothy Christian Trojans return all five starters from a team that went 23-7, 12-2 in conference and won a regional championship and the Lisle Christmas Tournament. Team MVP Hannah Schuringa and senior point guard Sureya Alex are back along with senior Sarah Carstensen, sophomore center Grace Roland sophomore guard Maddie Drye.
Even in the short season, both Schuringa and Alex could hit milestones; Schuringa going for the school scoring record and Alex 1,000 career points. "We hope to use our height and quickness and defensive pressure to win ballgames," Groenewold said.
Liking the Lions
With eight games currently scheduled, Lisle has one of the shorter seasons around -- which is too bad considering everyone is back from a 27-win team that broke the school record for victories and won the Illinois Central Eight Conference championship in its inaugural season.
Those returnees include leading scorer Cassidy Allen (11.5 ppg), Emma Rossin (10.1 ppg) and last year's area assist leader, point guard Tara Kane. The Lions also bring back their leading rebounder Jenna Johnston (7.5 rpg) while third-leading scorer Abby Casmer was recently cleared to play following a serious ankle injury. With 765 career points, Rossin would have reached 1,000 in a normal season. Lisle also will play Hannah Baur, Nicole Gentz, Maddie Hutchison, Ainslie Klein, Kylie Russell and Sam Rockney.
Editor's note: Repeated efforts were made to contact every school in the Daily Herald coverage area.