Girls basketball: Scouting the Central Suburban Conference

  • Grace Koepke, pictured getting fouled against Rolling Meadows, helped Vernon Hills go 8-2 last year in the Central Suburban North.

    Grace Koepke, pictured getting fouled against Rolling Meadows, helped Vernon Hills go 8-2 last year in the Central Suburban North. Daily Herald file photo

  • Jaclyn Riedl, an All-Area selection in both volleyball and basketball, averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds last year for Maine West.

    Jaclyn Riedl, an All-Area selection in both volleyball and basketball, averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds last year for Maine West. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 11/15/2022 4:45 PM

CENTRAL SUBURBAN SOUTH

Evanston

 

Coach: Brittanny Johnson (seventh season)

Last season's record: 19-10, 8-2

Top returning players: Zuri Ransom, Jr (G, 5-10); Kailey Starks, Jr (G, 5-8), Ciara Gentle, sr. (C, 6-4) Arianna Milam Pryor Jr (G, 5-7) Taija Banks, sr. (G, 5-7) Sofia Rocca, sr. (F, 5-10) Ivy Holub Sanchez, sr (F, 5-10) Dafina Ukaj sr. (G, 5-3)

Top new players: Sydney Chow, Jr (G, 5-6), Jayla Warren so. (F 5-11)

Worth noting: The Wildkits return three starters and six players from a team that surpassed expectations in the previous season. Two senior key players, Banks and Rocca, are hoping to rejoin the team before Christmas. Ransom, Starks, Milam-Pryor and Gentle have vastly improved since last season. "They are eager to demonstrate that they have learned from last year's heartbreaking sectional semifinal loss at the buzzer," Johnson said. "I appreciate that every individual of this team has taken the time to work on their weaknesses; we are extremely motivated and eager to compete. Even though we are starting the season without everyone due to injury, this will be a team that will grow better with time."

Glenbrook North

Coach: Nick Capalbo (fourth season)

Last season's record: 19-10, 3-7

Top returning players: Bryce Wolf, sr. (G, 5-9), Megan Walther, sr. (F, 5-10); Caitlyn Ethen, Jr (G, 5-9)

Top new players: Grace Gertner, Jr (G, 5-7); Kaya Schneider, Fr. (G, 5-10); Jamie De Guzman, so. (F, 5-4)

Worth noting: Last year, Glenbrook North enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in more than 25 years. The Spartans won a championship in the Maine East Thanksgiving tournament. The Spartans do not return any starters but have eight players back. "This will be a fun year to coach," said GN coach Nick Capalbo. "A lot of these girls have been on the varsity for three years, which makes this team a really close-knit group. I am looking forward to seeing what this group can accomplish this year."

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Glenbrook South

Coach: Scott Nemecek (fourth season)

Last season's record: 20-9, 7-3, regional champions

Top returning players: Sidney Rogers (sr), Chloe Gonzalez (Jr), Anna Rosenberger (Jr), Gina Davorija (so), Christina Korompilas (Jr)

Top new players: Dana Ralston (Jr), Paige Simon (Jr), Anjali Nimmagadda (sr), Amanda Karavites (sr).

Worth noting: The Titans are looking forward to competing for the conference championship, the Mundelein Thanksgiving tourney and the Bill Neibcht Falcon Classic at Wheaton North. "We should practice everyday as if we are competing for the sectional championship, because while we have the talent to do it, there are many high quality teams after the same goal," said GS coach Scott Nemecek. "No one is gifted anything -- we need to go earn it." Nemecek pointed to three key areas for the Titans. "No. 1, are we sound defensively and do we take pride in it? No. 2, are we strong fundamentally on offense and not just relying on good shooting? No. 3, will the sum of our parts of the entire roster make us better than just a group of good players, both physically and mentally? Rogers begins the season at 789 career points. Nemecek's volunteer assistant is Caitlin Morrison, a former GBS standout who played at Valpo. Gonazel's mother played for former Titans coach Steve Weissenstein.

Maine South

Coach: Jeff Hamann (fifth season)

Last season's record: 23-9, 9-1, CSL champion, regional champion

Top returning players: Ava Blagojevich, Jr (G. 5-8), Meegan Fahy, sr. (G, 5-5), Caitlin Leyden, so. (F, 5-11)

Top new players: Katie Barker, so (G, 5-10), Asia Kobylarczyk, so. (F, 6-0), Ally Pape, so. (G/F, 5-11)

Worth noting: The Hawks have won back-to-back CSL South championships under coach Jeff Hamann and are looking to continue that success this season. They will be very young on paper (eight seniors graduated) but there are two all-conference guards returning in Blagojevich (7.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists) and Fahy (10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 steals). Blagojevich, Fahy and Leyden will lead a hungry, talented and athletic group of younger players. The CSL South will be extremely competitive. "There are multiple teams that will be very much improved," said Hamann, whose team advanced to the sectional final last season. "But we are certainly looking forward to every challenge that lies before us."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

New Trier

Coach: Teri Rodgers (27th season)

Last season's record: 12-15, 3-7

Top returning players: Erin Floyd sr. (5-9), Joelle Grief sr. (5-9), Sela Klein Jr (5-11), Kate Sacarro Jr (5-7), Rachel Zacks sr. (5-9)

Top new players: Charlotte Dellin Jr (5-7), Reese Leahy sr. (6-2), Sofia Palmer sr. (5-7), Anna Rivera so. (5-7)

Worth noting: Behind a strong junior class and key senior contributors, New Trier looks to consistently put pressure on their opponents on both ends of the court for hall of fame coach Teri Rodgers, a former Libertyville standout guard. The Trevians' schedule includes another strong nonconference slate (Stevenson, Loyola, Hersey, Lake Zurich, Libertyville) as well as the always formidable CSL South.

Niles West

Coach: Kyle Braheny (sixth season)                

Last season's record: 3-22, 0-10

Top returning players: Trisha Cirineo (sr), Mia Cejovic (sr), Maja Applequist (sr), Aashi Shah (sr), Katie Daly (so), Adriana Calalang (sr), Bianca Cubelo (Jr), Lesley Mueller (sr)

Top new players: Jeslyn Varghese (Jr), Nora Graham (Jr)

Worth noting: After a 2021-2022 season filled with Murphy's Law (COVID-19, injuries and youth), the Wolves are entering this season with a fresh start and experience. They return nine varsity players from last year, including four starters, and add key players from the junior varsity team. "These players are eager to compete and it is going to be exciting watching them grow and improve as a team," Braheny said. "We will need to play fast and with confidence." The strength for the Wolves will be defense, speed and experience. "If we can create pressure up and down the court, we will have the opportunity to win games," Braheny said. "We need to let our experience limit the number of mistakes we make and to capitalize on the opportunities we create."

CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTH

Deerfield

Coach: Nicole Keith (second season)

Last season's record: 26-6, 10-0 (CSL North champions)

Top returning players: Lexi Kerstein, sr. (5-6) Nikki Kerstein so. (5-7), Aubrey Galvan so. (5-6), Olivia Kerndt sr. (5-11), Morgan Kerndt sr. (5-11), Kate Trella Jr (6-0), Brenna Burns sr. (5-7)

Worth noting: Deerfield returns its entire roster team except for one graduated senior so leadership and experience will be beneficial with the eight seniors in the program. With the high skill set of their backcourt to the versatility in their wing/post players, the Warriors have one major goal in mind. "Our motto this season is 'Together' as we need a collaborative effort from every player and every coach at every practice and every game to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves, and to have fun doing it," said coach Nicole Keith.

Maine East

Coach: Amanda Mistretta (first season)

Last season's record: 15-14 (4-6 CSL North)

Top returning players: Mariah Scott (Jr.), Bella Cabrales (Sr.)

Top new players: None

Worth noting: Coach Mistretta, a former Blue Demon who scored more than 1,000 career points at the Park Ridge school and at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, is excited to start her first season. "We have the ability to be a competitive team and I hope we are up for the challenge," she said. The Blue Demons graduated their two high scorers, Mahima Chokshi and Emina Hanic. Mahima is currently playing at Milwaukee School of Engineering. Scott, who suffered a torn ACL last November, will be a threat at both ends of the court. "She is a skilled athlete and has worked hard to get healthy this year," Mistretta said. Cabrales will be the other floor leader. "Bella has been on varsity since she was a sophomore," Mistretta said. "And I'm proud of the player she's developed into. She is our top defender and was our second leading rebounder last year. With Bella and Mariah leading the way, I feel that we will be competitive." Other returning players from last season are seniors Veronica Saucedo and Billie Mosier.

Highland Park

Coach: Jolie Bechtel (19th season)

Last season's record: 1-20, 1-9 CSL North

Top returning players: McKenzie Reitmayer, Jr (G, 5-11); Julia Leshtz, Jr (G, 5-5); Madison Reitmayer, so. (F, 5-11)

Top new players: Maddie Chabot, fr. (F, 5-11); Reese Crosby, fr. (G, 5-10)

Worth noting: The Giants have three sets of sisters: Sarah (Sr.) and Anne (So.) Regalado, Madison and MacKanzie Reitmayer and Anna and Maddie Chabot. Bechtel is hoping her team capitalizes on a lot of hard work during the off-season. "The experience of returning players combined with some newcomers have us excited for what's to come," she said.

Maine West

Coach: Deanna Kuzmanic (second season)

Last season's record: 12-13, 6-4

Top returning players: Jaclyn Riedl, Sr. (F, 6-0), Aya Deiri, Sr. (G, 5-5), Shannon Walsh, Sr. (G, 5-7), Abigail Becker Sr. (G, 5-5), Abigail Sutton, Sr. (G, 5-5), Faiza Rogaria, Sr. (G, 5-5), Giselle Figueroa, Sr. (G, 5-5), Amelie Mach, Jr. (F, 5-9)

Top new players: Kim Figueroa, Jr. (C, 6-0), Yanet Conde, Jr. (G, 5-5), Laura Obenberger, Jr. (F, 5-11), Georgia Herman, So. (G, 5-11)

Worth noting: After a third-place finish in the North last season, the Warriors return eight players, including seven seniors. Riedl returns for her fourth season, following a second straight All-Area season on the volleyball court. She averaged 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists as an all-conference and All-Area selection last year on the basketball floor. "We are excited to return a number of players with varsity experience, along with seven seniors who have set the example for our newcomers this season," said coach Kuzmanic, a former Alabama-Birmingham and Wheeling standout guard. "We have a fun group of girls who work tremendously hard, and we look forward to seeing our team growth throughout the season."

Niles North

Coach: Danae Russell (first season)

Last season's record: (7-18, 1-9)

Top returning players: Nusaybah Quadri, sr. (PF, 5-11); Amara Retreage, sr. (PG, 5-6); Briana Bolt, Jr (F/C, 5-10); Abby Le, sr. (G, 5-6); Makayla Wallenberg, sr. (G, 5-5);

Top new players: Ava Le, Jr (G/F, 5-7); Rayaan Quadri, so. (G, 5-7); Gabby Sanders, so. (G, 5-6)

Worth noting: The Vikings return a solid senior leadership in most positions and talented underclassmen to balance out the roster. "Last season's record doesn't quite capture the program's true essence due to roster inconsistencies from injuries and COVID-19 cases," Russell said. "Our players are amazing and have bought into the new system." Russell added that the sibling combos (Ava and Abby Le and Rayaan and Nusaybah Quadri) provide "grit and consistency" on both sides of the ball. She also said that Briana Bolt is improving each day. "The seniors really want to leave their mark on Niles North," Russell said. "And they've stepped their intensity up in practices so far."

Vernon Hills

Coach: Paul Brettner (23rd season)

Last season's record: 13-15, 8-2

Top returning players: Alexa Cieslinski, sr (G, 6-1); Grace Koepke, sr (C, 6-1),; Ava Barszcz, sr (F, 5-10); Kate Sear, sr. (G, 5-8); Syanne St. Louis, Jr (G, 5-4)

Top new players: Elyse Davis, Jr (F, 5-8); Anahya Castro, fr (F, 5-10); Keira Thomas, fr (G, 5-8)

Worth noting: After back-to-back seasons with only one senior on the roster, veteran coach Brettner welcomes back six seniors. "The leadership they provide will be instrumental to our success," he said. "This could be the tallest Cougar team we've had so it will be important to take advantage of it. We look forward to spending time together and putting in the effort to maximize our success." The Cougars, who took second in the CSL North, have 5 players back who started several games a year ago. Cieslinski and Koepke are both all-CSL North and All-Area selections. Koepke is committed to American University. "We should be the taller team in most of our matchups," Brettner said. "We are looking to use this to outrebound opponents." Offensively, Brettner said the Cougars will look to find ways to score in the half court and "so far we like what we see," he said. "We are also looking to push the ball in transition." Improved perimeter defense is an improvement want, while height should provide quality interior defense and defensive rebounding," Brettner added. The coach noted Davis is coming off a strong summer and will be able to fill many roles for the Cougars, while Castro, a freshman, will be a dynamic player on both ends of the floor." Brettner noted Deerfield returns many players and is the favorite in the CSL North. "We hope to minimally keep the spot just below them, but deep down we want to compete with them and give ourselves a chance for a conference championship."

-- Mike Miazga contributed to this story

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