Girls basketball: Scouting the Metro Suburban Conference
Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: LeVada Smith (5th season)
Last season: 18-15, 3-7 in conference (7th)
Top returning players: Sofia Corral, so. (G, 5-8); Riley Cwinski, so. (F, 5-9)
Top new players: Anna-Marie Godina, jr. (G, 5-5)
Worth noting: Won a regional title last season for the first time since 2012. A very young group, which includes four seniors, one junior, five sophomores and two freshmen. Corral, who was all-conference, and Cwinski are expected to be the leaders. Expect Joliet Catholic transfer Godina to add shooting to the team. "We're hoping a strength for this group is experience from winning regionals last year," Smith said. "We believe we have a great makeup of players that support one another in everything on the court."
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: Todd Fisher (4th season)
Last season's record: 24-9, 7-3 (2nd)
Top returning players: Allie Geiger, jr. (F, 5-10); Kelsey McDonough, jr. (G, 5-3); Analisa Raffaelli, jr. (G/F, 5-6)
Top new players: Mae Bigane, jr. (5-6, G); Jenny Fromelt, jr. (5-10, G)
Worth noting: IC Catholic Prep is brimming with hope due to the return of three starters along with a good group of younger players. Geiger, an all-conference team member and third team IBCA All-Stater last season, headlines the returnees. McDonough and Raffaelli are also back to increase the possibility of another winning season for the Knights, who won titles in the Lisle Holiday Tournament and Reavis Holiday Tournament last season. "Even though we will be a young team, we bring back players with a lot of basketball experience," Fisher said.
Coach: Emily Duckhorn (2nd season)
Last season's record: 21-12, 7-4 (4th)
Top returning players: Grace Stumm, sr. (G, 5-7); Brooke Pfeiffer, sr. (G, 5-7); Maggie Seraphin, sr. (C, 6-0); Ellie Baum, sr. (G, 5-7); Alex Kackert, sr. (G, 5-6,); Megan Molenhouse, jr. (G, 5-7).
Top new players: Tes Ketterman, jr. (F, 5-10); Erin Murray, jr. (F, 5-9).
Worth noting: Now in her second year leading the program, Duckhorn faces a new challenge as the Royals enter the GCAC White Division. The Royals have plenty of speed and bring back quality depth. "We are looking to keep the same high tempo by forcing turnovers and getting up the floor in transition," Duckhorn said. "This conference will be challenging and will hopefully be an important stepping stone to success in the state series."
Coach: Michelle Dawson (19th season)
Last season's record: 18-12, 11-1 Metro Suburban (1st)
Top returning players: Maggie Jarzemsky, so. (F, 5-9); Elizabeth Leadley, so., (G, 5-7); Michelle Ortega, sr. (G, 5-2); Morgan Lutzow, jr. (G, 5-2); Charlie Franquelli, jr. (G, 5-4).
Top newcomers: Alaina Nolan, fr. (G, 5-8); Jordin Sauls, fr. (F, 5-9); Maddie Sasis, so.
Worth noting: Youth is the main theme for the Green Wave for the experienced Dawson. The roster is full of underclassmen, which could lead to some growing pains early in the season. "It's a challenging but exciting position to be in," Dawson said. "Our goal is to continue to learn and grow throughout the season to become a fundamentally sound team and to continue to build our program for the future."
Coach: Jeff Gerdeman (ninth season)
Last season's record: 20-13, 9-1 MSC (first)
Top returning players: Katherine Lilly, sr. (F, 5-10); Leann Ringsrud, sr. (F, 5-7); Natalie Doyle, jr. (G, 5-6); Halle Rubino, jr. (F, 5-6); Dolly Smith, jr. (G, 5-4)
Top new players: Ellie Bielenda, jr. (G, 5-2); Lynsey Cleveland, jr. (G, 5-7); Stephanie Sullivan, jr. (F, 5-8); Riley Austin, so. (G, 5-9); Téa Rubino, so. (G, 5-7)
Worth noting: St. Francis, which is coming off a 20-win and a conference championship season, lost three senior starters, but return all-conference Lilly and team co-MVP Smith, in addition to welcoming back Doyle from a knee injury. Lilly and Smith enter their third year on the varsity, with Lilly returning her scoring, rebounding, and disruptive defense. Smith returns as the team's leading 3-point shooting and is a steady ball-hander. Doyle was off to a great start last season before being sidelined by injury, but worked her way back into form. Cleveland and Sullivan will provide a spark off the bench. Sophomores Austin and Rubino are a powerful scoring duo to replace the graduated seniors. "We're cautiously optimistic for the season," Gerdeman said. "We lost leadership and intensity, but gained young, athletic, and hungry players."
Coach: Jill Groenewold (fourth season)
Last season's record: 14-16, 7-7 (8th)
Top returning players: Grace Roland, sr. (C, 6-2); Maddie Drye, sr. (F, 5-10); Mili Martens, sr. (G, 5-3).
Top newcomers: Avery Schwarz, fr. (F, 5-10).
Worth noting: The Trojans are aiming to build off last season's .500 record. Four-year starters Drye and Roland are the centerpiece of the team which has quality height in the frontcourt. "We should be very competitive in the league and had a great summer of ball," Groenewold said. "A lot will be based on how quickly the younger players can contribute. We have a good inside and outside balance with Maddie and Grace and starting point guard in Mili, so the team should be ready to go."
Coach: Thomas White (3rd season)
Last season's record: 10-21, 2-10 MSC (12th)
Top returning players: Diellza Dalipi, sr. (F-G, 5-8); Eva Papish, jr. (G, 5-6); Payeton Pickens, so. (G, 5-6); Danielle Hoover, So. (F, 5-8); Dasha Savchuk, so. (F, 5-6)
Top new players: Kallie Niemer, fr. (5-8, G/F); Sadie Scales, fr. (5-10, F)
Worth noting: The Sentinels won 10 games last year, the most since the 2012-13 season. Westmont had not won a combined 10 games in the last 3 seasons. This was a big step in the right direction for the rebuilding program, but the team is young with a roster of 6 freshmen, 4 sophomores, 2 juniors and only 1 senior. "This year the players committed to preseason strength and conditioning, which should pay off facing more experienced and older players," White said. "We added eight quality freshmen who have the potential to be impact players now and later in their basketball careers. The team, as a whole, has the potential to top the success they had last season due to return of the coaching staff, and the five best players."
Coach: Erin Carwell (4th season)
Last season's record: 16-10, 9-3 (6th)
Top returning players: Olivia Rinde, sr. (G, 5-10); Jillian Paulson, sr. (G, 5-4); Emma Tate, sr. (G, 5-11).
Top newcomers: Calla Brust, fr. (G).
Worth noting: The Warriors have a solid cast of returnees in Rinde, Paulson and Tate to raise expectations for a successful season. The three seniors have plenty of experience and played together throughout their high school careers. "The potential of the team is to continue to run a fast-paced offense and a disruptive defense," Carwell said.
NOTE: Aurora Christian has seven freshmen girls and will be fielding a junior varsity team.