Hersey, Fremd set to battle for MSL championship
The marquee girls basketball matchup to end the season sees Class 4A No. 1 and Mid-Suburban East champion Hersey (15-0, 10-0) and 4A No. 3 and Mid-Suburban West co-champ Fremd (10-2, 9-1) squaring off in Arlington Heights Saturday at 2 p.m. for the overall MSL title.
Hersey won the earlier meeting 57-35. However, Fremd won the 2020 overall MSL crown, edging the Huskies by a single point. The Vikings then went on a memorable run to the Class 4A state title.
Hersey has won two MSL East crowns in a row and 4 of the last 5, while Fremd had won 12 of the last 13 West crowns.
While both teams certainly have the previously chronicled star power, unsung heroes also have played a key role. Case in point, Hersey's Megan Morris and Fremd's Erica Lavalle.
"Megan Morris makes every day fun," Hersey coach Mary Fendley said. "She creates the best vibe through her humor, positivity and support for all her teammates and coaches."
Fremd coach Dave Yates placed equal importance on Lavalle's worth to the Vikings, who saw a 32-game MSL West winning streak come to an end against Barrington Tuesday.
"Erica comes to practice every day and works her tail off," he said. "She used every opportunity during this six-week season to get better and push those in front of her, and she did it with a smile on her face."
Hersey will say goodbye to eight seniors: Mary McGrath, Annie Lindgren, Maggie Kaepplinger, Avery Larson, Megan Morris, Jacqui Jacobson, Natalia Kubsik and Mary Kate Fahey, while Fremd seniors include Grace LaBarge, Ruthie Montella, Hanna Mahmoud, Katie Beckemeier and Sam Prigge.
Gracie Stagnito has been an unsung hero for the Fillies this season. "Gracie has been making a difference for us with the little things she does on both ends of the court," coach Babbi Barreiro said. "She does not score a lot of points, but she makes up for that by making things happen for us."
Jackie Albrecht is Barrington's lone senior. She will play softball at North Dakota.
Maine West update:
One key contributor to the Warriors' success (10-2, 8-0 conference to start the week) has been senior point guard Jane Rothweiler. "Jane does not like to be very vocal, but she has really developed into a natural leader," Maine West coach Kim deMarigny said.
The Warriors graduate the likes of Rothweiler and classmates Brianna Hernandez, Mahogany Shaw, Joanna Vogt, Monyca Grimmer and Angelina Ocampo.
Coach Mark Johnson noted that while the Pirates have been stung by injuries, others have answered the call, including junior forward-center Olivia Riley, who had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 6 steals against Hoffman Estates and less than a day later posted 16 points and 13 rebounds starting at a different position against a taller Grayslake Central team.
Palatine senior Kayla Miotk is being recruited by several NAIA schools, and also Grand Canyon University for track and basketball, Johnson noted. Laura Seeberger, who has signed to run track at Murray State, is the Pirates' other senior.
Hoffman Estates update:
Coach Brad Reibel had high praise for unsung hero Ashanti Fuentes. "Ashanti has rebounded, defended and ran the court hard all season," he said. "She had made great strides since last season."
Hoffman graduates five seniors in Fuentes, Neisha Allen, Diana Rami, Isabelle Cochran and Toniyah Brown.
Rolling Meadows update:
Maddie Paddack is one of three Mustangs seniors this season along with Samantha Elenz and Patrycja Winnicki. "Maddie is one of our captains and is a positive force in our program," coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. "She is consistently engaged with everything we are doing and has a tremendous perspective. She contributes so much to our program and leaves a legacy of what a teammate should be."
Leyden senior captain Becky Colmenares took the next step forward for the Eagles in 2021. "Becky is a dynamic player who has the ability to influence the game on both sides of the court," Leyden coach Stephanie Kuzmanic said. "She is a crafty scorer who can get to the basket at will, and this season extended her game out to the 3-point range. Becky is one of those players who simply is irreplaceable. We will miss her presence on the court next year."
Colmenares, Genina Badillo, Caricia Ruiz, Kayley Reith and Emily Collier comprise the Leyden senior contingent.
Coach Todd Strauch gave high praise to the Cougars' team managers Abby Alcantara and Skyler Brakus. "Abby and Skyler show up every day to practice and games and help with anything they are asked to do," he said.
Conant graduates seniors Neeha Kakuturu, Franny Griseta and Isabella Tierney.
St. Viator update:
Senior Ava McLellan missed the last two years due to ACL injuries -- two to be exact. "Ava came back this year and was able to finish the season injury-free," coach Jason Raymond said. "It took a ton of resilience, determination and hard work to battle back not once, but twice from surgery."
McLellan, Emma Morrisey, Aubrey Horbach, Abby Longstreet, Keely McLellan and Lily Collins comprise the St. Viator seniors.
The Wildcats, who have no seniors, have counted on Delanee Hernandez off the bench this season. "She make sacrifices, pushes herself and always works hard to make us a stronger team," coach Beth Christell said. "She has a great attitude, and I always know I can count on her when I need her."