Girls basketball: Scouting Cook County
Coach: Martha Kelly (fourth season, career record 22-46)
Last season: 8-20, 4-6
Top returning players: Hanna Glanz, sr. (G, 5-7); Fiona McNamee, sr. (F, 5-11); Sophie Wytmar, sr. (G, 5-8); Demi Antonopoulos, jr. (F, 5-11); Paige Veller, jr. (G, 5-6); Hannah Weber, so. (C, 6-2)
Top new players: Stephanie Lopez, jr. (G, 5-6); Nomin Purevdorj jr. (F, 5-10); Hailey Hull, so. (G, 5-7); Leah Hampton, so. (G, 5-5)
Worth noting: With a number of returning players and the addition of some talented young players, the Bison are looking to make some noise this winter. The Bison are traditionally strong on defense and hope to continue that trend. "We will be challenged as we are every year with a strong schedule (including their own Bison Classic that plays host to Libertyville, Carmel, Maine South, Hersey and Barrington among others)," said Kelly, who led the Bison softball team to the MSL East crown last spring. " said Kelly, a former three-sport standout at Driscoll High. "The MSL will be competitive as it is year in and year out. And the Dundee-Crown Christmas Tournament that has been host to state champions throughout the years." Kelly says she has a great group of girls to coach. "I am looking forward to seeing them compete this season," she said.
Coach: Courtney Lindfors (second season, career record 9-20)
Last season: 9-20, 2-8
Top returning players: Maggie Maher, sr. (G, 5-8); Ella Duckman, sr. (F, 5-9); Ariana Trausch, sr. (F, 5-9)
Top new players: Zariela Myles, jr. (G, 5-8)
Worth noting: The Grenadiers are returning three seniors as former Grens and Driscoll standout Lindfors begins her second season in charge at Elk Grove. "We have a lot of new faces on the team this season and I am really excited to see what this team can do this year,: she said. "I believe we are going to be really athletic and I am looking forward to seeing who is going to step up this year."
Coach: Courtney Ludois (first season at Hersey, 34-21 from 2012- to 2014 at Richmond-Burton)
Last season: (28-10, 9-1, MSL East co-champions, fourth place in state)
Top returning players: Annika Manthy, sr. (F/C, 6-2); Ava Harwood, sr. (F, 5-11); Kristen Wentling, sr. (G, 5-10); Lily Larson, sr. (F, 6-0); Kiki Craft, jr. (G, 5-11); Kate Donovan, soph. (G, 5-7)
Top new players: Grace Grabowy, jr. (G, 5-9); Maddy Drury, jr (G, 5-10); Sadie Marks, fr. (F, 6-1)
Worth noting: The Huskies are coming off an outstanding season where they went 28-10, won a share of the MSL East conference, played in the MSL championship game, and ended with a fourth-place finish at the state tournament under hall of fame coach Mary Fendley, who retired following the season. With graduated 4 starters, the Huskies will have some new faces mixed in with veteran post Manthy (Richmond recruit) and guard Craft. While the team may look different this year, the Huskies expect to battle for the MSL East and have another strong season. "I consider myself so lucky to take over such a successful program like Hersey," said Ludois, said the former Rockton-Hononegah and Marquette sharpshooter (Courtney Weibel) who has been an assistant in the Fremd program for the past nine seasons (Vikes went 233-54 while she was there). "We have a lot of really strong returners that are ready for the challenge of taking on a bigger role on this year's team." Manthy is expected to be a huge part of our team. She'll be surrounded with really strong guard play with Craft, Donovan and Wentling. Harwood, Marks and transfer Grabowy are expected to make big contributions as well.
Coach: Matt Weber (fourth season at Prospect, 57-22; six years at Wheeling, career record 136-121)
Last season: 23-10 (9-1, MSL East co-champs)
Top returning players: Alli Linke, so (F, 6-1), Riley Carroll, jr (G, 5-10), Gina Falls, jr (G, 5-10), Sadie Splinter, jr (G/F, 5-8), Zoe Brown, sr (F, 6-0), Campbell Conner, sr (G/F, 5-10), Ashlyn Pomis, sr (G, 5-5), Skylar Splinter sr. (G, 5-11)
Top new players: Zoe Black, fr (G, 5-11), Maeve Johl, fr (G, 5-0), Allison Warnement, so (G/F, 5-9), Ally Hendrickson, jr (F, 5-9), Elena Katsogianos, jr (G, 5-2), Neve Pomis, jr (G, 5-3), Colleen Shute, jr (F, 6-0)
Worth noting: Weber welcomes back three starters (Brown, Linke and Splinter). All area selections Splinter (11.3 pg.), Linke (10.3) and Brown (7.5) were the top three scorers for Prospect last winter. Linke is ranked as a top sophomore in state and everyone on Weber's roster is a multisport athlete. The Knights were co with Hersey in the MSL East last year. "We will be a very deep team (seven players with a lot of varsity minutes)," Weber said. "We plan to play at a high tempo offensively and make opponents uncomfortable on defense. We have a very tough schedule with goals of returning as MSL East champs and more."
Coach: Ryan Kirkorsky (12th season at RM, four seasons at Elk Grove, career record 283-148)
Last season: 19-12, 6-4
Top returning players: Roisin Grandberry, sr. (F/C, 6-4); Emily Romanacce, sr. (G, 5-11); Ciara McMahon, sr. (G, 5-6); Olivia Zielinski, sr, (F, 5-11), Dalia Grandberry, so. (F/C, 6-4); Elizabeth Andriano, so. (G, 5-3)
Top new players: Abby Ramel, so (F, 5-10), Iris Jordan, Fr (G, 5-9), Nell Osterhues, Fr (G, 5-7)
Worth noting: The Mustangs return six players who started games last season. Grandberry recently committed to Loyola University and her sophomore sister Dalia has received D1 offers. McMahon set the program 3-point record, making 104 3-pointers last season while shooting 40 percent. Romanacce is returning from an injury suffered early last season and Zielinski turned into one of best inside/outside threats in the area. Andriano started every game at the point last as a freshman and continues to improve. Ingemunson, Kast and Truhlar are talented multisport athletes who add leadership, depth, and competitiveness. "We return seven seniors who will lead us on and off the court," Kirkorsky said. "This group has high standards for themselves and we're excited to start this season's journey."
Coach: Kellie Braase (first season)
Last season: 5-27, 0-10
Top returning players: Kaitlyn Fielding, sr. (G, 5-7); Marlena Miloucheva, sr. (G, 5-9); Belen Estrada Ibarra, jr. (C/F, 5-8); Sofia Costantini, so. (G, 5-2); Mia Smith, so. (G, 5-2)
Top new players: Naomi Concklin, fr. (C/F, 5-10); Kate Ning, fr. (G, 5-6), Madison O'Rourke, fr. (F, 5-10); Ellie Vito, fr. (G, 5-2)
Worth noting: Braase, formerly Kellie Kuzmanic, was a standout player for Wheeling and Cornell University in Iowa where she scored 776 points in four years. She begins her first season as a head coach at her alma mater where she has served as an assistant. Her sister Deanna leads the Maine West program and oldest sister Stephanie the assistant athletic director at New Trier. Deanna started at Alabama Birmingham while Stephanie was a standout at Carthage. Braase's first team at Wheeling will have strong leadership from its senior class which the rookie coach hopes continues to build the program in the right direction. After graduating from Cornell, Kellie Kuzmanic accepted a physical education teaching position at MC School in the Dominican Republic for two years before returning home to teach physical education at Holmes Middle School, where she coached girls basketball for five years and girls volleyball for two years.
Coach: Babbi Barreiro (31st season, 504-407)
Last season: 26-9, 8-2
Top returning players: Molly O'Riordan sr, (C, 6-2), Maddy Ziebarth sr, (5-7), Ashley Mahlum sr. (5-11)
Top new players: Maya Paniak jr. (5-9), Vidhi Trivedi jr. (5-4), Sydney Ball jr. (5-8), Katie Massingham jr. (5-8), Susie Bongiorno jr. (5-7), Simra Alam so., (5-9), Maddie Anderle jr. (5-8), Lily Richmond fr. (5-10), Eve Adler fr. (5-8), Mel Bongiorno fr, (5-8) Isla Koertner fr. (5-10)
Worth noting: Hall of Fame Coach Babbi Barreiro's 31st team has a few key players back (Dayton recruit O'Riordan, Ziebarth, and Mahlum from a 26-9 season that graduated one of the programs all-time leading scorers in Sophie Swanson, now at Purdue. "We look for Molly and Maddy to provide a lot of leadership to a young but talented group," Barrieiro said. "Molly's experience and talent will be fun to watch as we learn how to play together." With 10 of our 14 players being new and with kids taking on new roles after we graduated eight seniors, I expect the newbies will need a few games to get comfortable," the hall of fame coach added. "But they are certainly pushing each other in practice and I feel like we have a lot of kids who can contribute at both ends of the court. I am looking forward to it."
Coach: Todd Strauch (sixth season, career record 43-74)
Last season: 11-16, 4-6
Top returning players: Asha Cobb, sr. (G, 5-2); Kanna Bradarich, jr. (G, 5-10); Kristina Tierney, jr. (F, 5-11); Maddy Caban, sr. (G, 5-5); Allie Holmes, sr. (F, 5-10); Olivia Hagler, jr. (G, 5-6); Anna Warbington, jr. (G, 5-6)
Top new players: Lyla Clifton, so. (F, 5-10); Gianna Fresso, so. (G, 5-7)
Worth noting: The Cougars bring back a lot of experience behind four-year starter Cobb and three-year players Bradarich and Tierney. Bradarich is returning from a torn ACL after only playing four games last season. Cobb (5.6 ppg in her career) will look to take a big step as the lead guard this year while Tierney and Bradarich had great offseasons and are looking to make big jumps going into their junior year. Holmes, Caban, Hagler and Warbington saw playing time last year as underclassmen and will look to improve on their roles this year. "We're looking forward to the season and how much we can improve throughout," Strauch said. "Despite the returning experience, we have some girls that will be placed into bigger roles this season and we're excited to see how they step up and perform as a team."
Coach: Dave Yates (18th season, career record 397-130)
Last season: 31-3, 10-0
Top returning players: Brynn Eshoo, sr. (F 6-2), Isabelle Zavilla, sr. (F 6-0), Maddie McMillan, sr. (F 5-11), Ella Todd, jr. (G 6-0), Coco Urlacher, jr. (G 5-11), Ellie Thompson, jr. (G 5-9), Greta Thompson, So. (G 5-11)
Top new players: Rachel Lind, sr. (G 5-9), Nicole Wulfram, jr. (F 5-9), Caitlin Ku, jr. (G 5-3), Bella Del Mar, so. (F 6-0), Sophia McMillan so. (G 5-7), Gracie Todd, fr. (G 5-7)
Worth noting: Defending MSL West champion Fremd returns many players from a team that tied for the second most wins in school history. In 17 seasons, Yates has guided Fremd to four Class 4A sectional titles, four supersectionals, one fourth place, two seconds and a state championship. Eshoo (Portland commit) and Todd (Utah recruit) return as all conference players. Urlacher and Thompson started in many games for the Vikings last year. Zavilla and Thompson saw heavy varsity minutes as well. "This group has the potential to be very good but it will take us some time to figure out our identity," said Yates, who will be assisted by James Han, Lenard Jacobs and Heather Glaser. Fremd will play one of its toughest nonconference slates it has faced in a long while. Games include several out of state teams including Lake Central (IN), who was last year's state runner up and Incarnate Word Academy, which is currently ranked 23rd in the country.
Coach: Bradley Reibel (fifth season)
Last season: 4-23, 0-10
Top returning players: Paige Hocking, sr. (G, 5-6); Ella Steel, jr. (G, 5-3)
Worth noting: Reibel is excited for another year of watching the development of his players. "It's a hardworking group of kids," he said. "We hope to see great growth from the girls over the course of the season and hope to compete in as many games as we can."
Coach: Sarah Davis (first season)
Last season: 15-16, 2-8
Top returning players: Frankie Henderson, sr. (G, 5-8), Molly Pieper, jr. (F, 6-0), Lexi Sabado, sr. (G, 5-8), Halle Onyekonwu, jr. (C, 6-2), Elise Martino, jr. (G, 5-6), Lindsay Plourde, jr. (G, 5-6)
Top new players: Jaslene Evans, jr. (F, 6-0), Ava Millan, jr. (G, 5-4)
Worth noting: First-year coach Sarah Davis has served as an assistant coach for 11 seasons. Palatine girls basketball prides itself on defense and intensity," she said. "Though we lost a handful of games in the final seconds of play last season, we'll continue to battle and fight through adversity." The Pirates welcome back Plourde from an ACL injury and celebrate the return of four-year starter Henderson (6.2 ppg) along with three-year starters Pieper (6.2 ppg, 4.3 rebounds), Sabado, Martino and Onyekonwu. Davis and her staff are excited to continue to build a positive culture and identity, "And we want to watch the girls play together," Davis said. "And get better every day." Davis played basketball for Palatine from 2004-08 and came back as an assistant coach from 2012-2017 and then returned for the 2022-23 season under coach Bill LePage, who retired following last season.
Coach: Jacqie Strauch (9th season, one year at Gordon Tech, 98-121)
Last season: 19-12, 6-4
Top returning players: Madi Dolecki, sr. (F, 5-11); Symone Harrell, sr. (G/F, 6-0); Audrey Schluckbier, sr. (PG, 5-5); Jada Branch, sr. (PG, 5-4); Grace Schluckbier, sr. (G, 5-9); Emma Jevtic, sr. (C, 6-0); Elianna Malley, sr. (F, 5-7)
Worth noting: The Saxons feature eight seasoned seniors and two promising juniors. Branch and Schluckbier will lead the charge at the point. Schluckbier, Dolecki and Harrell can all put the ball in the basket. Jevtic anchors the team as a formidable center. Stauch also said to keep an eye on Malley for strong defensive play. Smith, a rising senior, is looking to make her mark this season. Abousamra and Dudek add solid rebounding skills to the mix. "We are all about intense pressure defense and a fast-paced offense," said Strauch, a former standout guard at Sandburg High School and the University of St. Francis (Joliet) "This team is competitive and ready to make some noise in the MSL." Strauch is looking forward to the senior final season. "It's truly astounding these seniors have reached their final year on the team," she said. "It feels like just yesterday when they were a bunch of eager freshmen joining the varsity squad. Now, it's their time. We're looking forward to them seizing the opportunities that lie ahead, and we're excited to guide them toward achieving some fun victories on the court."
Central Suburban North
Coach: Lance Newman (first season)
Last season: 3-28, 0-10
Top returning players: Mariah Scott, sr, (G, 5-8); Maria Gonzales, jr, (F, 5-8); Ashlyn Polydor, sr. (F, 5-8); Marie Kovacheva, so, (G, 5-6)
Top new players: Arabella Silva, fr, (G/F, 5-8)
Worth noting: Coach Newman takes over the Blue Demons program after 10 years of being an assistant at various schools for boys and girls. He was an assistant for the Stevenson boys basketball in 2015 when they won the state title under hall of fame head coach Pat Ambrose. He was also an assistant coach for the undefeated 2018-19 state champion Maine West girls basketball team under head coach Kim de Marigny. His first as a head coach has a new vision and will look forward to the leadership from the returning players. Scott looks healthy and at full strength for the first time since her sophomore year when she tore an ACL. After playing in a tough fall league at Trinity High School, Newman is excited to see how the team performs this season.
Coach: Deanna Kuzmanic (3rd season, career record 22-32)
Last season: 10-19, 6-4
Top returning players: Yanet Conde, sr. (G, 5-5), Kimberly Figueroa-Martinez, sr. (C, 5-10), Georgia Herman, sr. (G, 5-10), Amelie Mach, sr. (F, 5-10), Laura Obenberger, sr. (F, 5-10),
Top new players: Mariana Espinoza, so. (G, 5-5); Kaitlyn Nutley, so. (G, 5-8), Ava Roback, so. (F, 5-10)
Worth noting: As a program, the Warriors are approaching their 1,000th program win (currently at 996). "We are grateful for the opportunity to build on the legacy that our past Maine West teams have established," said Kuzmanic, a former Wheeling and Alabama-Birmingham star. Kuzmanic has five players back from last season with one starter. "We are excited for the development of our returning players in new roles as well as the development of our newcomers," she said. "Our players and staff are eager to get to work and build on the team chemistry formed throughout the summer."
Central Suburban South
Coach: Jeff Hamann (6th season, career record 108-38)
Last season: 26-8, 9-1
Top returning players: Ava Blagojevich, sr, (G, 5-9); Meegan Fahy, sr. (G, 5-7); Katie Barker, jr. (G, 5-10); Asia Kobylarczyk, jr. (F, 6-0); Caitlin Leyden, jr. (F, 5-11); Ally Pape, jr. (G/F, 5-11)
Top new players: Emily Currey, so. (F, 5-11); Amelia Fernandez, so. (G, 5-6); Alyssa Lavecchia jr. (G, 5-4); Victoria Marchuk, jr. (G 5-6); Kara Chaplin, jr. (F 5-10); Ally Seurynck, jr (G 5-8)
Outlook: Hamann's sixth team at South returns its top six players from last year's team that was one win away from the Class 4A final four. The Hawks have won three straight CSL South championships and are the defending Dundee-Crown tourney champions. They will be led by seniors Blagojevich (10.7 points, 4.0 assists, 90 3-pointers) and Fahy (14.5 ppg, 4.1 rebounds). They are two-year starters and two-time CSL South all-conference selections. Barker (8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 steals) is also a returning all-conference selection. Junior standout Leyden returned from an injury late last season and is looking forward to starting this season fully healthy. Pape (7.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, all-tournament at Dundee-Crown) and Kobylarczyk (5.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg) had great summers and are looking forward to great seasons. "It goes without saying that we all have been extremely excited for this season to begin since the tough loss against Hersey in the supersectional," Hamann said. "We believe that we are capable of competing with anyone in the state if we remember to focus on a few keys. We need to continue to play together as a team and understand that we are very tough to defend when everyone on the floor is a threat. We need to focus on playing and practicing at our pace every time we take the floor. Finally and maybe most importantly, we will enjoy each day that we have together. The game is fun and we will remember to have fun together."
East Suburban Catholic Conference
Coach: Kyle Braheny (first season at St. Viator; seventh year overall, career record 56-98 )
Last season: 10-22, 1-5
Top returning players: Mia Bergstrom, sr. (5-10 G-F); Meghan Hayes sr. (5-8); Maggie Ratzki, jr. (G 5-6); Kyli Ziebka, jr. (5-6 G); Raisie Rivera, jr (5-5 G); Maeve McClellan, sr. (5-8), Ellen Denten, jr (5-10 F); Gia Marousis, sr. (5-7); Hannah Grossman, sr. (5-8); Sophie Vernoski, sr. (5-7)
Top new players: Kalin McCrea, fr. (G 5-6); Bella Gounaris, fr. (5-6 G); Andrea Rivera, sr. (6-0 F); Allie Konopka, sr. (G 5-6); Caitlyn Halpin, sr. (G 5-7)
Worth noting: Braheny, in his first year at St. Viator after leading Niles West the past six seasons, says the Lions are entering this season with a fresh start. "The strength of this year's team will be experience," said Braheny, the 13th coach in program history. "We are returning nine seniors and adding key players from our junior varsity team along with a couple of freshmen who are ready to contribute. These players are eager to compete and it is going to be exciting watching them grow and improve as a team." Bergstrom, who is committed to St. Louis University, enters the season with 984 points, just 16 points shy of 1,000 in her career. She also has 326 rebounds, 91 assists, 89 steals and 39 blocks. Braheny replaces Jason Raymond, the winningest coach in Viator girls basketball history with 132 wins the past eight seasons.
West Suburban Gold
Coach: Tony Smith (3rd season, career record 20-34)
Last season: 10-19, 4-8
Top returning players: Priscila Perez, sr (F 5-9); Daija Cohen jr. (G 5-5)
Top new players: Najawa Jackson, jr. (G 5-2); Katherine MacLeod, so. (G 5-6), Daniella Sarnecke, so. (G 5-6); Hailey Keeton jr. (G 5-7)
Rest of varsity roster: Rosalie Buttitta sr. (G 5-4), Melany Perez, jr. (G 5-2); Abigail Cortez, jr. (F 5-9); Nataly Salgado, so. (G 5-3); Nicol Bokuniewicz, jr. (F 6-1), Brooke Reith jr. (G 5-4); Sana Nimer, sr. (G 5-1)
Worth noting: As he begins his third season in charge at Leyden, Smith's Eagles are very balanced in terms of experience with three seniors, seven juniors and three sophomores. "We are focused on continuing to build the program," Smith said.