Scouting the Interstate Eight
KanelandCoach: Kelsey Flanagan (3rd season)
Last season's record: 9-4, 9-4 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: McKenzie Schueler, sr. (PG), Megan Noel, sr. (G/F), Taylor Seaton, sr. (G)
Top new players: Lexi Schueler, so. (PG), Kendra Brown, fr. (G)
Worth noting: The Knights are loaded with seniors with seven, so experience shouldn't be a problem. ... McKenzie Schueler is coming back from an ACL injury that wiped out her season last year and is expected to make up for lost time. ... "I anticipate our team playing physical on both ends of the floor," Flanagan said. "We're a very different team than we were last year with several 3- and 4-year varsity players graduating. They're a very competitive group that wants to win. They hustle and play hard all the time."
Coach: Hollis Vickery (12th season)
Last season's record: 5-5, 5-4 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: Avery Urbanski, sr. (F), Sarah Peters, sr. (F), Jenisis Greening, sr. (G), Brooklyn Ficek, jr. (G), Angela Smudzinski, sr. (G)
Top new players: Taylor Martyn, jr. (G), Avah Moriarty, jr. (G), Hannah Salazar, jr. (F), Addison Duttlinger, jr. (G), Cora Holloway, jr. (F), Lily Ficek, jr. (F)
Worth noting: The Cavaliers will rely on their speed and aggression on both ends of the court. "Our strengths are going to be, hopefully, defense and getting it and going," Vickery said. "We have girls who like to get up and down the court. We're not a team that likes to sit and wait for their shot. Hopefully, off steals and rebounds, we get it and go. The less we have to set up the offense is probably the better." ... Ficek, a two-time News Tribune All-Area pick, ranked third in the area in scoring (14.2 points per game) and assists (3.3 per game) last season. ... Smudzinski and Peters also have starting experience. Smudzinski shot 42% from 3-point range last season, while Vickery is looking to Peters to provide a presence inside.
Coach: Luke Windy (13th season over two stints at Morris)
Last season's record: 4-12, 2-11 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: Maddy Shannon (5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Alexxis McKerrow, Bridget Pellens, Libby Wright, Savannah Hernandez, Moriah Mayberry, Addison Stacy
Top new players: Makenna Boyle, Sophie Hipes
Worth noting: Coach Luke Windy enters his 15th season as varsity coach with a record of 157-201. ... Morris will run a four-guard offense, with Shannon, Boyle, Stacy and Mayberry projected as starting guards, and the forward position is between McKerrow and Hipes. ... Windy said he expects his team to have a strong work ethic. "I have yet to get on them about working hard in practice, and that's usually not the case," he said. "So when I have to spend little time talking about going hard every day, that reminds me of teams we've had here in the past that won." ... Windy said the main concern right now is consistent scoring.
Coach: Brent Moore (7th season)
Last season's record: 9-6, 7-5 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: Gabi Krueger, sr. (PG), Ella Marvel, sr. (G), Brooke Waddell, sr. (G), Zoe Harris, sr. (F), Molly Buscher, sr. (G), Madison Lineback, sr. (C), Cheyenne Joachim, so. (F), Grace Carroll, jr. (G)
Top new players: Morgan Stone, jr., Brynne Sember, jr., Michaela Froisland, jr., Gianna Leight, jr., Kendall Lowery, so., Marlie Orlandi, fr.
Worth noting: Ottawa has all the pieces in place that could make for an exciting and winning season. "I like to do quotes for the team, and the quote I started them all out with at the first practice was, 'It looks like we should win, and we want to win, but we need to expect to win,' " Moore said. "It's not to put pressure on them, but we have all the ingredients to win a lot of games. Winners expect to win, and hopefully they believe in themselves like I do that we can be a very tough team to beat this season." ... Waddell (I-8 First Team, Ottawa Times All-Area Second Team), Harris (Times Honorable Mention), Krueger and Marvel (I-8 Honorable Mention, Times Third Team) all return to fill starting roles, with Joachim expected to take on the fifth starter's spot inside and Carroll a sixth-girl role. The Pirates open at the IMSA McIntosh Classic.
Coach: Dave Lay (4th season)
Last season's record: 6-12, 3-10 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: Ryssa Woodhouse, jr. (PG, 5-6)
Top new players: Mikayla Walls, jr. (PF, 5-10); Kayla Birdsong, jr. (G, 5-6); Alex Bishop, jr. (5-7, F)
Worth noting: The Lady Reapers are very young. Plano graduated six seniors and do not have a senior on the roster. Woodhouse, the lone returning starter, averaged 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals as a sophomore. Lay said he expects to have a few freshmen compete at the varsity level. "We're looking to see who is going to step up and take charge of this team," Lay said. "We're in a very tough conference from top to bottom. Our goal is to compete every night and get better each and every day."
Coach: Ryan McQuade (1st season)
Last season's record: 2-7, 2-7 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: Zoey Tabor, sr. (G), Josie Lundquist, sr. (F), Jordin Dickey, sr. (G), Abby Luxton, sr. (C), Lucy Bunger, sr. (F), Adriannah Davis-Carter, sr. (G)
Top new players: Torrin Nantz, jr. (G), Miraya Montes, jr. (F), Alivia Henkel, so. (F/G), Bailey Jackson, jr. (F), Kennedy Adamski, so. (F), Kendyl Darby, fr. (F/G)
Worth noting: McQuade says team chemistry throughout the preseason has been a strength, adding, "I can tell these ladies have been playing together for a very long time. This will do wonders for us in times of adversity throughout this long and grueling season." ... The Hubs' senior leadership -- with a half dozen seniors returning -- will be another strength. ... While it's his first season, McQuade says he has high expectations. "The first time I stepped in the gym, I said it was time for the narrative around this program to change," he said. "We are here to compete and win. Making a prolonged playoff push has been a goal of ours since Day 1, and that has yet to change."
Coach: Randy Malloy (1st season)
Last season's record: 10-5, 8-5 Interstate Eight
Top returning players: Claire Allen, jr., C/F; Maggie Knepper, sr., G; Molly Roberts, sr., G; Alexis Sexton, jr., G; Kaylin Herren, jr., F; Lily Geltz, jr., G
Top new players: Melody Goldstein, jr., G; Brianna Sexton, jr., F; Allison Olsen, jr., F; Hollie Shipman, jr., G; Alyssa Broce, jr., F
Worth noting: Malloy, the Indians head coach from 2007 to 2016 who returns in place of Chris Johnson, has some big shoes to fill after the loss through graduation of Times Player of the Year Josie Ness, the winningest player in program history, and Times HM Claire Roberts, the school's Female Athlete of the Year. ... Some of the production lost will come from Allen (7.2 points, 6 rebounds, 82.9% FT), Knepper and Molly Roberts. Regardless of where the points come from, the Indians will again rely once again on defense, defense and more defense. ... "We're a young team with only two seniors and nine juniors." Malloy said, "But we should be a deeper team. ... So far from what I've seen, we move with a lot of purpose and chemistry."
Coach: Adam Wickness (6th season)
2020 record: 17-2, 11-0 Interstate Eight
Top returners: Faith Feuerbach, sr., F; Ella Shipley sr., G; Evyn Carrier, jr. C
Key newcomers: Monroe McGhee, so.
Worth noting: The Spartans return most of the unit that finished undefeated in the Interstate Eight Conference last year, including conference co-MVPs Faith Feuerbach and Ella Shipley. ... The Spartans will have a strong inside-out game with sharpshooter Feuerbach and center Carrier, both of whom have been varsity players their entire high school careers. ... "We are all on the same page about what our goals are for this season and what it will take to get there," Wickness said. "The squad and staff are fully invested and eager to show everyone what we are capable of." ... The Spartans open the season at the Burlington Central Tournament and will begin their I-8 title defense on Dec. 2 at home against Sandwich.
-- Kevin Chlum, Charlie Ellerbrock, J.T. Pedelty, Joshua Welge, Brian Hoxsey and Rob Oesterle contributed to this report