Girls basketball: Scouting the Northern Lake County Conference
Coach: Tim Borries (16th season)
Last season's record: 12-17, 6-8 NLCC
Top returning players: Mia Kaiser, sr. (G, 5-7), Campbell Lazars, sr. (G, 5-7), Callie Bemis, sr. (G, 5-7)
Top new players: Heidi Rathmann, fresh. (G-F, 5-11)
Worth noting: Three starters are back from last year's Sequoits' squad with Bemist and Kaiser, in particular, poised to reach even higher this season. "Callie and Mia both had some excellent games last year," Borries said. "I am looking for them to build off those games from last year." Borries said teams such as Grayslake North, Grayslake Central, Lakes and Wauconda figure to be among the top tier in the NLCC--in other words, a competitive conference slate is on tap. "We will be competitive and hope to be in the top group," Borries said.
Coach: Andrea Weaver (first season)
Last season's record: 11-17, 6-8 NLCC
Top returning players: Melissa Ketter, sr. (G, 5-7), Nevada Holm, jr. (F, 5-11), Alyssa Sandquist, jr. (SG, 5-8)
Top new players: Eliza Hasani, jr. (F, 6-1), Makyla McNeal, soph. (G, 5-7), Abigail Hobbs, jr. (G, 5-6)
Worth noting: Grant, under new coach Weaver, has 3 starters back and 4 returning varsity players total. Ketter, the team captain, is drawing college interest, while Sandquist, a third-year varsity player slowed by injury a year ago, earned a winter all-tournament selection last year. She had games of 27 and 22 points, and averaged 8 points and 2 steals per game. Holm, a three-year varsity player, averaged 6 points and 7 rebounds a year ago. "Our team has spent the offseason and beginning of this season learning to use our individual strengths for the betterment of the collective whole group," Weaver said. "These girls have a lot of chemistry both on and off the court. They have really started to come into their own as players and as a team. The key to a successful season is playing to our strengths, which is something we have been talking about as a team for months. Players are well aware of their strengths and their role on the team. We set common goals weekly as a team and work towards those goals through not only the physical work we put in during practices, but the conversations we hold. The culture of our program is starting to shift and we are looking forward to a successful season not only in terms of number of wins, but also in the overall experience of our players."
Coach: Steve Ikenn (13th season)
Last season's record: 13-17, 11-3 NLCC
Top returning players: Madison Hoffmann, soph. (F-G, 6-0), Katie Dinsmore, sr. (G, 5-7), Annie Wolff, soph (G, 5-6)
Top new players: Mosey Drevline, fresh. (G, 5-6), Katelyn Marcelain, soph. (F, 5-11), Dani Eckenstahler, soph (F, 5-10), Ava Henne, fresh. (G, 5-5)
Worth noting: The Rams, the NLCC runners-up last year, bring back only all-NLCC and Daily Herald All-Area pick Hoffmann (10.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.6 spg) as a full-time starter from a year ago. Dinsmore did start some games at point guard and averaged 3.7 points per game. "We are an athletic team with good team speed," Ikenn said. "We also have a versatile roster and numerous players who can play more than one position." Iken said flexibility and unselfishness are key assets on offense, plus he noted the Rams can run the floor well and have a decent mix of inside-outside scoring. Speed, versatility and depth on defense also will help. Ikenn said Hoffmann and Dinsmore will be a pair to watch. "Madison is simply one of the best young all-around players in Lake County. She can play any position on the floor," he said. "With an expanded role this year, Katie's scoring ability will come to the forefront. Her leadership and shooting will also be big for us." Ikenn sees Grant, Lakes and Grayslake North as top-tier contenders in the NLCC. "I think we have potential to be in the mix, too," he said. "We are an overall young team that will be learning and growing together and that can't be rushed. I believe our patience will be rewarded and we will mature as a team as the season progresses."
Coach: Brian Frericks (first season)
Last season's record: 12-18, 6-8 NLCC
Top returning players: Peyton Gerdes, sr. (G-F, 6-0), Dani Hanson, sr. (G, 5-5), Reagan Kuzynowski, sr. (G-F, 5-8), Makayla Campbell, jr. (F-C, 6-0)
Top new players: Lucy Roscoe, fresh. (G-F, 5-6), Mikayla Gumapas, soph. (F, 5-7)
Worth noting: Frericks takes over the Knights after previously serving as an assistant. North has 4 starters back in Gerdes, Hanson, Kuzynowski and Campbell and one part-time starter in Anneke Holm. Gerdes, headed to Division I High Point University, headlines the group after averaging 21.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game last season. She had 19 double-doubles and 1 triple-double a year ago on her way to a Daily Herald All-Area pick and an IBCA third-team all-state nod. "Peyton is one of the best players in Lake County and in my mind the best basketball player in school history," Frericks said. "She holds eight school records and is on the brink of breaking the school's all-time scoring record." Frericks said depth and experience are on North's side with 9 players (6 seniors) back as is the team's general hunger for success. "We are a hungry team that is willing to do what it takes to win," he said. "We take pride in being an unselfish team that does the little things to be successful. Our key to success this year is to live by our program's four core philosophies. We have talked about them a lot this year and they will be what we rely on through the ups and downs of the season. As long as we stay together and play for the person next to you rather than yourself, we will be successful." Frericks said Lakes, Grayslake Central and defending champion Round Lake are teams to watch in the conference. "Our goal is to be fighting for a conference championship at the end of the year," he said. "We have never won the NLCC, and our team has been focused on that goal since the summer."
Coach: Brian Phelan (8th season)
Last season's record: 11-19, 5-8 NLCC
Top returning players: Clarity Turney, jr. (G, 5-6), Janae Pullen, jr. (G, 5-4), Jess Oman, sr. (G, 5-6), Kendall Phelan, sr. (G, 5-5)
Worth noting: Turney set the school single-season record for steals, while Pullen set the single-season Lakes record for made 3s. Phelan has 4 starters back from last year's squad with Turney and Pullen earning all-NLCC honors. "We are locked in as a unit, no drama," Phelan said. "Our players simply get along and want to compete." Phelan said Lakes will look to get up and down the court, play fast and free and score points on offense, while making life tough on opponents on the defensive end. "We plan to have all teams earn all their points when they play us this year," he said. Phelan also expects a competitive NLCC. "Round Lake had a great season last year," he noted. "With the run Grayslake Central had over the past six-seven years, I expect them to be the team to beat. Grayslake North and Wauconda have a good team coming up. We hope to be in the mix this year to compete for a conference championship."
Coach: Molly Hennig (fifth season)
Last season's record: 28-4, 13-1 NLCC champions
Top returning players: Lilli Burton, sr. (G, 5-11),
Top new players: Tia Barnes, jr. (G, 5-9)
Worth noting: Burton (11 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists) is one of three starters back along with Allison Dittmer and Judith Cerroblanco from last season's NLCC-championship team, and is a three-time all-conference selection. "Lilli is a four-year varsity starter," Hennig pointed out. "Her role this year will be different because she is our most experienced player. We are looking for her to step up and have a great senior year." Round Lake did lose Amari Cole (Morton College) and Taylor Major (Lake Forest College) to graduation. "Our experience will help us," Hennig said. "These girls are extremely competitive and consistently push each other in practice, which shows how relentless they are in improving together." Hennig likes the fact a host of girls have the potential to be the team's leading scorer each night. She added the emphasis on team defense will continue to the Panthers' biggest focus. "Keys to a successful season will be to allow our defense to propel our offense, continue to play together and keep everyone healthy," Hennig said. Hennig is also looking for big things from three-sport athlete Cerroblanco and post player Aniyah Moody. "Judy has put a tremendous amount of work in during the off-season," she said. "She has a great attitude and a thirst for getting better. Aniyah gives us a strong post presence. She is the type of player who works hard on each possession and is determined to get every rebound."
Coach: Jaime Dennis (14th season)
Last season's record: 15-12, 9-5 NLCC
Top returning players: Kayla McCarthy, sr. (G, 5-6), Grace Parker, soph. (F, 5-8), Emma Wisniewski, soph. (F, 5-8)
Top new players: Helen Macey, jr. (F, 5-9), Ella Franck, jr. (G, 5-7), Kelsey Piehl, fresh. (C, 6-1), Sarah Palmer, fresh. (G, 5-8), Alexia Manalo, fresh. (G, 5-5)
Worth noting: McCarthy, a three-sport athlete, is Wauconda's lone starter back from a year ago. Despite that, Dennis likes the roster she is rolling into the season with, particularly when it comes to depth. "Practices have been competitive and any of the 11 players could see playing time," she said. Dennis added the Bulldogs have a good balance of posts and guards, allowing a mix of inside-outside play. Defense, she added, continues to be a point of emphasis. "With the youth of this team, defense is going to be a work in progress," Dennis said. "As we gain experience, we will see exactly what we can do." Parker came on strong at the end of the 2021-2022 season. "Grace ended last season playing like an all-conference player," Dennis said. "She works hard to improve her skills." Dennis also is high on ninth-graders Palmer and Piehl. "Sarah has a lot of skill and huge potential and Kelsey is a freshman with size," Dennis said. "We have not had that kind of size in a long time." Dennis mentioned defending-champion Round Lake and the two Grayslakes (with Madison Hoffmann and Peyton Gerdes) as teams that could challenge for the NLCC title. "I think all teams are going to be pretty evenly matched this year and have a chance to win on any given night," she said. "I think we can be competitive, be in the top half of the conference and challenge for the title. We are so young, you never know what is going to happen. We could surprise a lot of people."