With Wooldridge back, Fremd is loaded as ever, as is Hersey
If there were an IHSA state tournament for girls basketball this year, Fremd would certainly be in a great position to defend its state title.
The Vikings have a lot of muscle back from their 2020 Class 4A championship, but this COVID-19 shortened season will not include a postseason.
Fremd and head coach Dave Yates are trying to look on the bright side, though.
"We are very excited for the opportunity to play some games and have a season," Yates said.
Yates is also excited about his roster, which includes three players who started in the state championship game last March.
Ruthie Montella and Grace LaBarge, two seniors, are 6-footers who give the Vikings length. The 6-foot-3 LaBarge is the team's leading returning scorer. She averaged 10 points and 4 rebounds per game last year.
Meanwhile, junior Brianna Wooldridge also started in the state championship game, but ironically for the opposition: state runner-up Lincoln-Way West. Wooldridge averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds a game last year for Lincoln-Way West, which lost to Fremd 58-47 in the state title game. She has since transferred to Fremd.
Wooldridge is returning to Fremd, where she started as a freshman.
"Brianna is a much improved and different player than the one who started for us her freshman year," Yates said. "Ruthie and Grace are four-year varsity veterans whose play down the stretch of last season changed us from a good team to a team that was capable of winning state.
"I am excited to see the three of them play together this year."
Like Fremd, Hersey should also be strong again this season with plenty of seasoned veterans leading the way.
The Huskies welcome back three MSL all-conference players in Mary Kate Fahey, Mary McGrath and Katy Eidle.
All three guards were on track to hit the 1,000-point career mark this season, but the shortened season might sidetrack that.
"I don't think I have ever looked more forward to seeing a group of athletes perform as a team as I do this group," Hersey coach Mary Fendley said. "Mary Kate, Mary and Katy give me so many options."
Fendley points out that Hersey's bigs can't be overlooked though.
Natalia Kubsik and Avery Larson provide experience, strength and athleticism in the post.
"We had dreams of breaking a school record for number of wins and ending our season in Redbird Arena (at Illinois State in the state finals)," Fendley said. "We know that those things can't happen, but we are going to try to take advantage and appreciate each time we are able to step on the court."
Maine South will be a force in the Central Suburban League, coming off a 26-7 season that yielded a 2020 regional championship. Two all-conference players and about 85 percent of the scoring return from the that team.
Sisters Nicole Gardiner and Niamh Gardiner are the Hawks' all-conference players. Both are sharpshooting 3-point specialists who combined for 129 3-pointers. Nicole Gardiner's 77 3-pointers were the second-most of all time at Maine South in a season.
Both Gardiners averaged about 11 points per game and helped Maine South set a season record for made 3-pointers as a team.
"An important key will be for us to not worry about the expectations, whether those expectations come from within or from others," Maine South coach Jeffrey Hamann said. "We just need to remember to have fun, relax and play together."
At St. Viator, four key players return to a team that has been a part of two regional championships and a sectional title in the last two years.
Junior guard Joy Bergstrom leads the way. She averaged 16.7 points per game last year and made third-team all-state.
Nora Ahram, Emma Morrisey and Aubrey Horbach all averaged between 8 and nearly 10 points per game last year.
"We will rely heavily on our high-pace offense and our three-point shooting," St. Viator coach Jason Raymond said. "We have a nice mixture of experience and youth. We are looking forward to competing and having a lot of fun on the court this year."