Scouting the Central Suburban League
Daily Herald Correspondents
Here's a look at the girls basketball season for schools in the Daily Herald circulation area in the Central Suburban League.
Maine South HawksCoach: Jeff Hamann, (fourth season, 59-21)
Last season's record: 14-3, 10-0 in the CSL South
Top returning players: Emily Pape, sr, (F, 6-1), Caroline Barker, sr. (G, 5-7), Margaret Mizwicki, sr. (F, 5-9), Pasier Lohens, sr. (F, 5-11)
Top new players: Ava Blagojevich, so. (G, 5-8), Meegan Fahy, so. (G, 5-5)
Worth noting: While the Hawks return only one starter from last year's team (Pape), they do have a lot of experience with eight seniors on the roster. "Our seniors will be heavily relied upon for their experience and leadership," Hamann said. "Every season, our goals are lofty." Pape led the Hawks last season with 13 points and 5.9 rebounds. The three-year veteran also had 3.3 steals during an all-conference campaign. She is committed to Cornell University. Barker is also a three-year varsity member. "We hope to compete for the CSL championship and put ourselves in the best position possible to win a regional and possibly more," Hamann said. "With the combination of our experience, athleticism, speed and versatility, we believe those goals are very much in reach. We are excited for the season to begin."
Maine West WarrirorsCoach: Deanna Kuzmanic (first season)
Last season's record: 12-3
Top returning players: Jaclyn Riedl, jr. (F, 6-0), Jade Thomas, sr. (C, 6-2), Lexi Avila, sr. (G, 5-2), Shannon Walsh, jr. (G/PG, 5-7), Abby Becker, jr. (G/PG, 5-7), Aya Deiri, jr. (G/PG, 5-5)
Top new players: Julia Wolke, sr. (G/PG, 5-5), Celestina Onyeise, jr., (C, 6-2), Abby Sutton, jr. (G, 5-5), Faiza Rogaria jr. (G, 5-5), Amelie Mach so. (F, 5-9)
Worth noting: As she begins her head coaching career, Kuzmanic expects to have a young, energetic team that "wants to get after it" on the defensive end. "Our goal is to turn our defense into our offense and share the ball with a balanced attack," Kuzmanic said. "We are looking forward to having a full season this year and competing and growing as a team every day." Kuzmanic will also teach math, the same subject former Warriors coach Kim deMarigny taught during her illustrious tenure as the Warriors' coach the past five years (137-13 record). de Marigny, who led West to an undefeated (35-0) Class 4A state title in 2019, recently accepted the head girls basketball job at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, TN, Kuzmanic is one of Wheeling's all-time greats (1,736 career points as a four-time all-stater). After a standout career at UAB, where she scored 1,536 career points (11th most in school history), Kuzmanic played professional basketball in Puerto Rico, as well as being a member of the Puerto Rican women's national basketball team that qualified for the Olympics this year.
Maine East Blue DemonsCoach: Nicole Rinaldi (4th season)
Last season's record: 5-8
Top returning players: Mahima Chokshi, sr (G, 5-5), Emina Hanic, sr (C, 6-1), Mariah Scott, so. (G, 5-5), Michelle Piro, sr. (G, 5-3), Bella Cabrales, jr. (G, 5-1), Rimata Halabi, sr. (G, 5-6), Billie Mosier, jr. (G, 5-3)
New players: Nikki Buczkowski, so. (F, 5-7), Keya Amin, sr. (F, 5-3), Alysha Devitt, sr. (F, 5-7), Maria Beasley, jr. (G, 5-5), Veronica Salcedo, jr. (F, 5-4)
Outlook: Four starters from last spring's shortened COVID-19 season are back for Rinaldi, including Hanic and Chokshi, who have 814 and 718 points, respectively, after Monday's opening win over Lakes. "With four returning starters, we are expecting great things to happen as long as we focus on our goals each day," said Rinaldi, who is assisted by the school's No. 2 all-time leading scorer Amanda Mistretta (1,346 points). "Each day, we instill in our girls to come out and give it everything they have. We have a more experienced team this year and they all want to do better. This group has been working in the gym all the time. It's a good feeling knowing they want to work and get better." The Blue Demons are beginning the season by hosting their own tourney and they are part of 'Grow the Game' event midway through the winter. "And our players are looking forward to playing on a college court at North Central College in Naperville against a team we have never played before (Normal U-High)," Rinaldi said.
Vernon Hills CougarsCoach: Paul Brettner
Last season's record: 9-7, 7-3 Central Suburban North
Top returning players: Alexa Cieslinski, jr., (G-F), Grace Koepke, jr., (C), CJ Lueck, sr., (G), Mia Soto, sr., (G)
Top new players: Katie Huse, jr., (F), Jasmine Paddock, jr., (G), Kailee Irvin, jr., (G), Peyton Sefl, jr., (G)
Worth noting: Cieslinski, who can play most positions, was slowed by injury and Koepke did not play last year while recovering from an ankle injury. Soto averaged 7.1 points and shot 33 percent from 3, while Leuck averaged 6.2 points and hit on 34 percent of 3s. "Our size will be a strength along with rebounding," Brettner said. "We should have some good inside scoring and basket protection, and hopefully our 3-point shooting helps spread the floor. These are great kids who are very coachable." Brettner likes Huse's defense prospects. Two other names who will help the Cougars are Ava Barszcz and Gabby Reyes. Brettner likes Deerfield as the favorite in the CSL North with an entire team back, plus two strong freshmen, plus Maine West as an upper-tier squad.