Girls basketball: Scouting the DuPage Valley Conference
Coach: Brad Bjelk (1st Season)
Last season's record: 15-13, 4-6 (5th in conference)
Top returning players: Kailey Porter, sr. (F/C, 6-0), Ella Russell, so. (G, 5-4), Madison McNeil, sr. (G, 5-5), Ari Smith, sr. (G, 5-5).
Top new players: Olivia Schermerhorn, fr. (G, 5-6), Alicia Johnson, fr. (G/F, 5-7), Cayla Evans, jr., (G, 5-6), Precious French, jr., (G, 5-8).
Worth noting: Bjelk is moving up from the JV to guide the Barbs this winter and he's thrilled to have Porter (who averaged about a double-double last year) along with a big jump in player turnout. "Last year we had seven players on varsity and this year we'll have 14 or 15, which is a completely different world," he said. "With the depth we can play at a good tempo and keep people fresh." DeKalb will lean heavily on talented freshmen Schermerhorn and Johnson, and a group of "scrappy players who will compete."
Coach: Andy Nussbaum (34tth season)
Last season's record: 14-13, 7-3 (2nd place)
Top returners: Megan Norkett, sr. (G), Ella Burke, sr. (G), Callie Tumilty, so. (G).
Top new players: Claudia James, sr. (G), Adriana Villanova, jr. (F).
Worth noting: Veteran coach Nussbuam -- 10 wins shy of 700 -- will turn to a trio of soccer stars in Norkett, Burke and Tumilty to lead the Redhawks on the hardwood, but also expects a pair of talented freshmen to have a big impactful. "We'll be a much faster team, so hopefully we'll be able to play a little more aggressive defensively and use our defense to create offense," he said. "We're a little deeper than we've been. With eight seniors and a returning junior and sophomore, we've got at least 10 really solid players. We'll be a little deeper than we have been." Norkett, Burke and James will serve as captains for Central.
Coach: Erin Colletti (4th season)
Last season's record: 30-4, 10-0 (1st place)
Top returners: Abby Drendel, sr. (G, 5-10), Peyton Fenner, sr. (G, 5-11), Layla Henderson, sr. (G, 5-9), Abby Homan, sr. (F, 6-0), Sydni Fink, jr. (G, 5-9), Kendall Johnson, jr. (F, 5-11).
Top new players: Natalie Frempong, fr. (G, 5-3), Gabby Panek, sr. (G, 5-5), Celia Wroble, sr. (G, 5-6), Lillie Bouska, jr. (G, 5-6).
Worth noting: The Huskies return an experienced group of players from last year's sectional finalists and look to defend their DVC crown yet again -- the team is 30-0 in DVC play during Colletti's time as head coach. North has to replace the scoring of Kenzie Hare (now playing at Marquette) and the rebounding of Sarah Crossett, but a quartet of 4-year varsity players will help with the transition. Point guard Drendel, versatile, do-everything Henderson, and Fenner and Homan have plenty of experience, and talented freshman Frempong is primed to make an instant impact. "We only have 10 on the roster, so we have quality but we don't have quantity," Colletti said. "Not a ton of size but a lot of experience. It's a great relationship we've had over these last four years. It's a small group; a close group. The problems going be if we get in foul trouble or if we have an injury. That's where we could struggle in the future."
Coach: Mike Williams (26th season)
Last season's record: 15-13, 4-6 (5th in conference)
Top returning players: Tia Poulakidas, sr, (C, 6-0), Kylee Norkus, jr. (F, 5-10), Zoe Navarro, jr. (G, 5-5), Caitlin Washington, jr. (F, 5-9).
Top new players: Abbie Freeburger, sr. (Post, 6-0), Ellie Rubin, sr. (Post, 6-0), Mia Serra, jr. (G, 5-6), Katie O'Donnell, jr. (G, 5-6), Michayla Stone, fr. (Post, 6-0), Taylor Dobry, fr. (F, 5-9), Nalia Clifford, fr. (G/F, 5-7).
Worth noting: With Rochester University commit Poulakidas leading the way, the Wildcats feature height and talent and should be a force in the paint. The veteran post player averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds a game last year. Neuqua Valley returns a mature, seasoned team combined with several talented newcomers, including a trio of freshmen in Stone, Clifford and Dobry. "We look to be very tenacious on defense, competing every minute of every game," veteran coach Williams said.
Coach: W. Keith McIntosh (4th season)
Last season's record: 4-24, 0-10 conference (6th place)
Top returners: Raina Penttila, sr. (F, 5'9), Jaime Nosek, sr. (C, 6'0), Lucy Burk, jr. (G, 5'5).
Top new players: Emma Martin, jr. (F, 5'7), Aly Shibovich, jr. (G, 5'7), Lillie Schotz, jr. (G, 5'5).
Worth noting: Looking for a bounce back year, the Mustangs will turn to seniors Penttila (10 ppg) and Nosek (6 ppg) along with junior guard Burk (7 ppg). "Our challenge will be our lack of size so defense will be the priority," McIntosh said. "We struggled with a tough schedule last season but believe the lessons learned will pay dividends this year. We have a good mix of returners (8) and newcomers (4) and will be a much deeper team this season. We look forward to the season, Our goal is to play up to our potential."
Coach: Brett Love (7th Season)
Last season's record: 16-14, 5-5 (3rd in conference)
Top returning players: Taylor Curry, sr. (F, 5-9), Hannah Laub, jr. (G, 6-0), Lily Newton, so. (F, 5-10).
Top new players: Arie Garcia, fr. (G, 5-4), Danyella Mporokoso, fr. (G, 5-6), Khalia Reid, sr. (G, 5-4).
Worth noting: Curry averaged about 15 ppg last year and helped the Warriors claim their first regional title in Love's tenure. The only other player back with substantial varsity minutes is Laub, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in June and the hope is that she returns to the team before too long. Newton played some last year as a freshman and this year's talented freshman class features Garcia and Mporokoso, so the Warriors will be young and guard-heavy. Metea Valley transfer Reid brings experience and toughness on defense. "We're talented and we're athletic. Now it's really just trying to understand how that works for us as far as our game plan and our style," said Love. "What we'll really have to focus on is rebounding. Hopefully we can press teams out of the gym and then run them out of the gym at the same time."