Girls basketball: Scouting DuPage County
Coach: Cory Little (fourth season)
Last year's record: 8-19, 4-8 West Suburban Gold
Top returning players: Emma Caniglia, jr., PG; Kathlyn Ford, jr., F; Aneibi Farias Olaguez, sr., G; Cailey Salerno, sr., G; Angela Hernandez, sr., F; Mekalah Haywood, sr., G
Key newcomers: Maria Hernandez, jr., F
Outlook: "The strength of our season will be speed," Little said. "We will look to run and push the ball every chance we get." Speaking of speed, Little said inspiration from that style of play came from Addison Trail's first girls flag football team this fall. "A lot of our girls were on the first flag football team in school history," he explained. "And watching them play this season gave myself and my staff the idea to run and play fast this season, which should be fun to watch." Little said Downers Grove South is the team to beat in the West Suburban Gold.
Coach: Joe Kilbride
Last season's record: 25-8, finished second in Class 4A
Top returners: Emilia Sularski, sr., G; Magdalena Sularski, sr., G/F; Lindsay Harzich, jr.
Key newcomers: Aria Mazza, jr., G; Shannon Earley, sr.
Worth noting: The Redwings lost Ms. Basketball and do-it-all point guard Lenae Beaumont to graduation, but Emilia Sularski and her sister, Magdalena Sularski, are both ready for an enhanced role and both are quality long-range shooters. Junior guard Aria Mazza, a transfer from Conant, is a player to watch due to her shooting and ability to score points in bunches. The addition of Shannon Earley, who committed to play lacrosse for Notre Dame, is another key addition. "We're hoping to pressure on defense, play fast and spread the floor on offense," Kilbride said. "We're a young team playing one of the toughest schedules in the state. We look forward to finding our stride in February."
Downers Grove North
Coach: Stephan Bolt
Last season's record: 21-9, 8-4
Top returners: Kaitlyn Parker, sr., G; Hope Sebek, sr. G; Annie Stephens, Sr., F; Lilly Boor, sr., F; Abby Gross, jr. G.
Key newcomers: Campbell Thulin, fr., G; Ady Fanta, so., G; Finley Werner, so., G/F.
Worth noting: All-Conference selection Kaitlyn Parker headlines the returnees for a team with aspirations for another 20-win season. "We're a hard working and cohesive group of both skilled and versatile basketball players with some more depth than we had last season," Bolt said. "We have a great group of returning players, including four tremendous seniors. We plan to take pride on the defensive end and hope to be at our best come the end of the season."
Downers Grove South
Coach: Lyndsie Long
Last season's record: 17-14, 10-2
Top returners: Allison Jarvis, sr., G; Megan Ganschow, so., F/C: Hayven Harden, jr., F/C; Addison Bryants, sr., F; Liz Rous, sr., G; Jakylah Thomas, so., G.
Worth noting: Three-sport standout Emily Petring has graduated, but with four starters back from a 17-win team, the Mustangs have their sights set on a 20-win season to go with a long playoff run. Senior guard Allison Jarvis is a player to watch in the conference. "The team put a lot of work in the off-season and look to be a threat on both ends of the floor," Long said. "With multiple scoring threats, the Mustangs look to be a fun team to watch. Allison Jarvis has dedicated lots of time to improve her shooting consistency and finishes around the basket. Megan Ganschow is both a threat on the defensive and offensive end. She's a competitor and does whatever it takes to win games. Addison Bryant is a force on the boards. She looks to average 10 rebounds per game. Hayven Harden has improved drastically over the last two years. With her quick first step, we look to utilize Havyen, both inside the paint and on the perimeter."
Coach: Dave Mello (seventh season)
Last season's record: 15-17, 6-12 UEC (seventh)
Top returning players: Kayla Valadez, sr., G; Bella Valadez, sr., G; Kamila Piekarczyk, jr., F; Lauren Koch, jr., G; Elizabeth Delgado, jr., G
Key newcomers: Natalia Staszel, jr., G; Olivia Michalczak, fresh., F; Sylvianna Labrador-Mendoza, fresh., G
Worth noting: Kayla Valadez, an all-UEC pick last year, tied the Fenton school record with 8 made 3-pointers in a game last season. "Our strength will be the tenacity with which we play," Mello said. "Because we sub so often, the girls can go all-out all the time and know they will be getting a break. We are pumped because this team has 12 amazing student-athletes who want to work hard and represent Fenton the best way possible." Mello said Glenbard South is the conference favorite. "They have been young the last two years and have talent both inside and out," he said. Out of the 12 players on the Fenton varsity, eight start for Mello on the Fenton varsity softball team. The Bison also has two sets of twins on the team with Kayla and Bella Valadez and juniors Natalia and Nicole Staszel.
Coach: Nicole Miller
Last season's record: 20-11, 15-3 UEC
Top returning players: Catey Carney, sr., G; Ciara Johnson, sr., G; Gabby Walton, sr, Post; Livia Robbins, sr., G-F; Christina Chiero, sr., G; Veronica Witt, jr., F
Key newcomers: Erin Brown, jr., F; Taylour Hodges, jr., G; Sarah Crocker, soph., C; Teagan Murphy, fresh., G; Lilly Carver, fresh., G
Worth noting: Carney is a four-year varsity player and a unanimous all-UEC pick as a sophomore and junior, plus a Daily Herald All-Area pick a year ago. She has already broken the school's all-time 3-point record. Johnson is a three-year starter, as is Walton, an honorable mention all-UEC pick from last year. Robbins is in her third year on the varsity. "We are returning a strong senior class with a lot of experience on the floor combined with younger talent bringing intensity, speed and skill," Miller said. Miller noted Glenbard South will be a top contender in the conference. "This year's team has great potential to leave its legacy in girls basketball at Glenbard East. Keep on the lookout for them," Miller said.
Coach: Eric Daca (third season)
Last season's record: 25-6, 17-1 UEC champions
Top returning players: Allie Mizwicki, sr.; Sofia Alcala, sr.; Brooklynn Moore, jr.; Jamie Mizwicki, soph.
Key newcomers: Rheayanna Ferguson, soph.; Molly Purse, soph., 6-0, C; Kaitlin Erickson, fresh., 5-4, PG
Worth noting: Allie Mizwicki and Moore were unanimous all-UEC picks, while Jamie Mizwicki made the all-UEC team and Alcala was an honorable mention selection. Ferguson, a 10th grader, is returning from a season-ending knee injury and was the team's starting point guard. "She is back on the floor and ready to play," Daca noted. "I'm excited to see how Rheayanna performs." In total, Daca has eight returning players, including five returning starters. "We have a team of athletic players that can play multiple positions and we have a deep bench that can help," he said. Allie Mizwicki and Alcala have been on the team since freshman year and Daca has coached them since sixth grade as part of the Raiders feeder program. Daca said Glenbard East and Larkin will be teams to watch in the conference. "I believe we can be in contention for the top spot in the conference again," he said. "Glenbard East will be a top contender with their main core of players returning and Larkin also has a young group of talented players." This is the final year of the current Upstate Eight format before four new teams and a realignment into divisional play occurs. Riverside-Brookfield, Ridgewood and Elmwood Park, refugees from the now defunct Metro Suburban Conference, will join the loop as will former longtime UEC member West Aurora.
Coach: Kristi Faulkner
Last season's record: 21-11
Top returners: Sydney Nimsakont, sr., G; Carina Cudzillo, sr., C; Lauren Escalante, jr., G; Julia Benjamin, jr, F; Makenna Yeager; Mya Austin; Hannah Roberts
Key newcomers: Ellie Noble
Worth noting: The Hilltoppers suffered significant graduation losses, but the influx of players ready to take the next step along with newcomers is a good sign. Senior guard Sydney Nimsakont is a three-level threat with her ability to shoot and penetrate. Lauren Escalante is a scrappy point guard who can get to the rim, while Julia Benjamin, Makenna Yeager, Mya Austin and Hannah Roberts will all receive plenty of playing time. "We're really excited for the season," Faulkner said. "We have versatility to go with young talent, great leadership and a lot of heart on this year's team."
Coach: Erin Navolio
Last season's record: 11-19
Top returners: Grace Dolan, jr., G; Maya Gin, jr., G; Julia Sherpitis, jr., G; Greta Dani, sr., F; Katherine Skinner, so., F; Luella Sheehan, sr.
Worth noting: The Red Devils return six players with varsity experience to go with four players who received playing time on the junior varsity. "We have a great group of hardworking and committed girls," Navolio said. "Each of them has spent significant time during the offseason working on their individual skills ... This season we will continue to work on our defensive strategies, being patient with the ball and communicating on the court. We want to continue to grow into a more competitive program."
Coach: Scott Tanaka
Last season's record: 19-11
Top returners: Amelia Lavorato, sr., G; Amerie Flowers, sr., F; Maeve Savage, so., G/F; Hailey Goins, so., G.
Key newcomers: Brynn Diedrich, fr., G; Marit Haile, jr., F; Kallie King, jr., G; Kaleia Lin, so., G; Molly Curley, so., G; Alexis Kuhlman, so., G.
Worth noting: The Hornets have a good blend of experience and incoming youth, led by Lavorato. The senior point guard is a two-time all-conference player, while Flowers, a Benedictine recruit, and Maeve Savage are key returnees. "We have great senior leadership this year and a ton of underclassmen that want to learn and get better," Tanaka said. "All the teams in our conference will be a tough challenge, most notably reigning champions Downers Grove South and Willowbrook."
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: Todd Fisher (fifth season)
Last season's record: 15-17, 0-8 Metro Suburban Blue
Top returning players: Allie Geiger, sr., F; Kelsey McDonough, sr., G; Analisa Raffaelli, sr., G; Maura Grogan, jr., F
Key newcomers: Mary Kate Hilgart, soph., F
Worth noting: Fisher (456-235 in his coaching career) returns a strong nucleus from a team that won 15 games a year ago and advanced to a regional final. McDonough was an all-conference selection after averaging 9.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2 steals. Geiger, who played in the Class 1A state tennis singles tournament this fall, averaged 10.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.3 steals. Raffaelli, another three-sport athlete at the school, averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 assists, while Grogan averaged 5.3 points and 5 rebounds as a sophomore. "We return 10 players with varsity experience from last season and a lot of them have been playing together since their freshman year," Fisher explained. "They have been working hard and are determined to have a successful season." The Knights are in their first season in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference. "I'd like to think with our experience we can be contenders," Fisher said. Fisher also noted the team is loaded with multisport athletes who have experienced great success in their other sports. "We have a number of multisport athletes who have earned success in their high school career," he said. "A number of players have had success in tennis, cross country, volleyball, softball, soccer and track and field at the state level."
Coach: Bob Reibel (first season)
Last season's record: 17-15, 7-7 DuKane (fourth)
Top returning players: Kira Holiday, sr., G; Margie Kyriakopoulos, sr., G; Magie Frank, soph., G; Allie Gogola, soph., G
Key newcomers: Brynn Ellenbecker, jr., F; Bridgette Mullen, jr., F; Tatum Kelly-Quinero, soph., G; Alex Kiefer, soph., F
Worth noting: Gogola was an all-DuKane honorable mention selection on a Lancers squad that won a regional title a year ago. "We are a young team in a new system looking to grow as a group," Reibel said. "We have a group of girls that wants to be successful and are learning to play hard."
Coach: Nick Balaban (11th season)
Last season's record: 9-23, 3-11 Illinois Central Eight (seventh)
Top returning players: McKenna Kane, sr., PG; Crystal McHugh, sr., G; Kiley Ebert, sr., F; Taniya Cates, sr., F; Gracie Magis, sr., G; Ally Doering, jr., G; Ally Russell, soph., F
Key newcomer: Ireland Weaver, fresh., G
Worth noting: Kane, a captain and three-year starter, averaged 6.9 points (second on team) and led the team in assists (87) and foul shooting (.656). "McKenna is our leader and our team follows her lead," Balaban said. "Her improvement with each year has been off the charts." McHugh was the team's leading scorer (21.2 points) and was second in rebounds (6.9 per game) and led the Lions in steals with 128 (4.6 per game) on her way to all-conference and Daily Herald All-Area honors. Ebert, also a captain, was third on the team in rebounding (5.3 per game), while Cates led the team in rebounding at 7 per game. Magis, Doering and Russell will also help, while Weaver will add stability to the backcourt, Balaban said. Having such a large returning class has been a major benefit out of the gates for the Lions. "They have demonstrated they really enjoy being with and playing with one another," the coach said. "The chemistry and bond they have is really exciting to see the joy and fun in how they go about doing things." Balaban said Coal City and Peotone are top contenders in the IC8. "We should have the ability to play at a pace that will be a key factor in how we go about generating offense and will allow us to make us a better team on the defensive end of the floor," he said. "As we always say going into each season, how we defend and rebound on a daily basis will determine our season's success."
Coach: Aly Miller (first season)
Last season's record: 19-12, 6-4 DVC
Top returning players: Sydni Fink, sr., G; Kendall Johnson, sr., post; Natali Frempong, soph., G
Key newcomers: Ella Chapman, sr., G
Worth noting: This group is led by seniors who are eager and positive," Miller said. "We have speed and quickness that will allow us to push the ball up the floor. Overall, this group is made up of girls who are coachable and have a strong desire to learn and improve." Miller also said Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley are the teams to keep an eye out for in the DVC. In addition to basketball, Fink has committed to play soccer at Division I Kentucky.
Coach: Mike Williams (26th season)
Last season's record: 23-11, 9-1 DVC champions
Top returning players: Kylee Norkus, sr., 5-10; Caitlin Washington, sr., 5-10; Zoe Navarro, sr., 5-6; Nalia Clifford, soph., 5-7
Key newcomer: Michayla Stone, soph., 6-0, C
Worth noting: Neuqua, the defending DVC, once again is predicted to be a contender for the top spot. "This team possesses an opportunistic attitude combined with a hard work ethic," Williams said. "That makes this team a pleasure to coach." Williams said the DVC will be competitive. "The conference is strong," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be in the mix for another run at a conference championship."
Coach: W. Keith McIntosh
Last season's record: 7-22, 1-9 DVC (fifth)
Top returning players: Sreehi Duggirala, jr., 5-8, F; Lucy Burk, sr., 5-5, G; Reese Valha, sr., 5-3, G
Key newcomers: Annie Burk, soph., 5-7, G; Arainna Hammons, jr., 5-6, G
Worth noting: Burk was an honorable mention all-DVC pick after averaging 6.8 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds a game. Duggirala averaged 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds, while Valha was at 3.6 points, 2.6 assists and 3 rebounds a contest. "Our challenge is our lack of size and experience," McIntosh said. "Three-fourths of our roster is comprised of players in their first year of varsity ball and players who played minimum roles last season. We'll lean upon our veteran returners to lead the way offensively, but our success this season will be dependent upon our defense. We're looking for double-digit wins and to compete better in conference." McIntosh said top contenders in the DuPage Valley are Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley. "Both return strong teams and are my preseason front-runners for the conference title." Burk, who McIntosh labels a "key basketball player for us," isn't too shabby on the soccer field either. She has committed to Northern Michigan University to continue her career in that sport.
Coach: Shannon Spanos
Last season's record: 27-8, lost in Class 3A supersectional
Top returners: Victoria Matulevicius, sr., G; Alyssa Epps, sr., G; Shea Carver, jr., G; Jordan Mogilinski, jr., F; Lily Spanos, jr. G; Audrey Kinney, jr., F.
Key newcomers: Nikki Kerstein, jr., G.
Worth noting: The Broncos welcome back Victoria Matulevicius, a 1,000-point plus career scorer, to lead a team oozing with potential to make noise in the playoffs. Alyssa Epps, an Illinois Wesleyan recruit, is also among the returnees. The big addition is the arrival of Deerfield transfer Nikki Kerstein. The junior is capable of playing both guard spots, and her ability to score and push the pace will open up the floor for her teammates. "We have a number of juniors who have had a lot of playing time over the last two years, so that will make our bench very deep and strong," Spanos said. "We will get points from a number of different players. We expect to play fast and score a lot of points."
Coach: Jeff Gerdeman (10th season)
Last season's record: 17-15, 6-2 Metro Suburban Red champions
Top returning players: Riley Austin, jr., G-F; Lynsey Cleveland, sr., G-F; Natalie Doyle, sr., G-F; Molly Quinn, sr., F; Tea Rubino, jr., G; Dolly Smith, sr., G; Steph Sullivan, sr., F
Key newcomers: Arianna Naples, jr., G; Marianna Golden, jr., F; Mia Quartanta, soph., G; Ashley Powell, soph., G-F; Megan Maertens, soph., F
Worth noting: Smith, a four-year varsity player, was the team MVP last year after leading the Spartans in assists, while Cleveland was named most improved. Austin was an all-MSC Red selection after averaging 10 points and leading the team in steals. Doyle also earned all-conference honors and led St. Francis in rebounds. Rubino was yet another all-MSC Red pick, averaged 10 points and led the team in 3-pointers made. Sullivan was one of the team's top reserves. Naples is a transfer returning from injury. "We had a great summer and first week of practice," Gerdeman said. "I am impressed by the team's athleticism and hard work, as well as greatly improved coachability, camaraderie and unselfishness. We're hoping to use team speed, determined effort and athleticism to dictate a fast pace. This is probably our most skilled team and best-shooting team in the last four years." Gerdeman said he's assembled a tough nonconference schedule to challenge the team, plus St. Francis is in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference White Division now. "We anticipate each division game to be a battle, regardless of whether it is ACC, De La Salle, ICCP, Resurrection, Rosary or St. Francis," he said. Austin and Rubino were the top two scorers as sophomores last year.
Coach: Jill Groenewold (sixth season)
Last season's record: 20-9, MSC Blue champions
Top returning players: Taylor Parker, sr.; Andrea Stob, sr.; Sami Drye, jr.
Worth noting: The Trojans lost a bunch from last year's team, six contributing players to be exact, including all-state award recipients Grace Roland and Maddie Drye. Seniors Parker and Stob will anchor the team, along with second-year starter Drye. "The rest of the roster will be grounded in many younger players, who bring a lot of enthusiasm and quickness to the team," Groenewold said. "We're excited to start the season. Much of our success will depend on solid defensive efforts and playing an up-tempo game while understanding key situations in games. The three returning starters will be asked to contribute heavily in leadership and in the scoring column." The Trojans are part of the newly formed Chicagoland Christian Conference "where we hope to be competitive," Groenewold said.
Coach: Brett Love (seventh season; 11th overall)
Last season's record: 24-8, 6-4 DVC (fourth)
Top returning players: Danyella Mporokoso, soph., PG-G; Hannah Laub, sr., G-F; Lily Newton, jr., G-F
Key newcomers: Arie Garcia, soph., G-PG; Maya Cobb, soph., G
Worth noting: Mporokoso is a returning all-DVC selection after averaging 15.8 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman. Laub averaged 8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, but played only a half a season due to injury. Newton is back after averaging 7.8 points and 8.1 rebounds. Garcia played major minutes last year and is one of the team's best defenders, while possessing an improved mid-range and 3-point shot, Love noted. Garcia, he added, will start this season. Cobb played mainly on the JV team last year and is a playmaker "looking to be consistent and strong on defense," Love said. Mporokoso has offers from Northwestern, Marquette, Southern Illinois, DePaul and has visited Loyola-Chicago, Love noted, while Laub also has college offers but has yet to make a decision. "We have a young, talented and skilled group," Love said. "They play hard and play together." Love said Neuqua Valley is still the team to beat in the DVC. "Neuqua Valley won conference last year," he said. "We look to make a run for the conference championship this year, but they are still a strong favorite."
Coach: Mark Fitzgerald (fifth season; 15th overall)
Last season's record: 17-15, 7-11 UEC (sixth)
Top returning player: Jasmyn Trigueros, jr., PG
Key newcomer: Giselle Barriera, fresh., G
Worth noting: Trigueros is a two-time all-UEC pick and was a Daily Herald All-Area selection last season. She averaged 10.5 points and had 137 assists as a freshman and last year averaged 20.3 points and had 149 assists. She needs only 25 points to reach 1,000 for her career. "Jasmyn is arguably the most accomplished athlete I have ever coached in my 33 years of coaching," Fitzgerald said. Trigueros led the Wildcats in points, rebounds, assists and steals last season. "We will be fielding our most experienced team in the last 10 years at the school," Fitzgerald said. "We have all but one player returning from a team that had the best record (17-15) in the last 12 years at the school." Four-year varsity senior players Miranda Enochs, Ellie Wingstedt, Sydney Bennema and Kailey Sabala, join Trigueros and fellow junior guard Elina Velasco "to bring us our most competitive and experienced team in years," Fitzgerald said. "I am really pumped up at how hard these kids go in practice. We have younger players on the team that continue to push our veteran players for playing time, and I expect several underclassmen to have meaningful minutes this season." Fitzgerald said Glenbard East and Glenbard South are teams to watch in the Upstate Eight. Trigueros also is a standout volleyball and softball player at West Chicago and is being recruited for basketball and softball.
Coach: Tyler Bantz (second season)
Last season's record: 16-15
Top returners: Sara Abdul, jr. G, 5-3; Zoey Bohmer, F, sr. 5-11; Mira Spillane, sr. G, 5-11
Worth noting: The Falcons bring back a lot of experience and scoring from last season, so that will be on display early on. Abdul, now in her third season, averaged 14.9 points and 3.2 steals per game last year. Bohmer averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, while Spillane scored 7.3 points per game. From there, the rest of the rotation will fill out. Now-graduated guard Eden Pearson was a defensive force on the floor, so how that gets replaced will be something to watch.
Wheaton Warrenville South
Coach: Kasey Gassensmith (first season)
Last season's record: 8-24
Top returners: Brooke Ittersagen, jr., G, 5-7; Emily Troia, jr. G., 5-5; Hannah Struebing, sr., G, 5-7
Key newcomers: Ashlyn Adams, jr. G, 5-6; Abby Keighron, so., G, 5-4
Worth noting: There will be a new look on the WW South bench. Longtime coach Rob Kroehnke retired after 33 seasons. Gassensmith, a former Tigers' standout and previously an assistant coach, takes over the program. The Tigers return four of their five starters from last season, and expect to have some good bench production as well. Ittersagen, Troia and Struebing are all veteran pieces on varsity and bring a solid mix of shooting and athleticism. Team chemistry is expected to be a strength moving forward.
Coach: Daniel Bannon
Last season's record: 14-17, 8-4
Top returners: Elle Bruschuk, sr., G/F; Tia Kelly, sr., G.
Key newcomers: Ayanni Gusman, jr., G; Kendall Medinger, jr, G; Joelly Maciewski, so., F; Lorali McIntyre, jr., F.
Worth noting: The Warriors don't have a wealth of returnees, though senior guard/forward Elle Bruschuk is one. The four-year varsity starter is coming off a big junior season after leading the team in nearly every key statistical category. The Wright State recruit joins Tia Kelly to form the key returnees. "We're very excited about the upcoming season," Bannon said. "We have a very athletic, competitive and positive group of juniors this year. They're eager to learn, compete and get better. Strong defense will be our foundation this season. This will be a fun group to watch develop alongside the growth and leadership of Elle Bruschuk."
Coach: Brandon Collings
Last season's record: 25-7, 12-2
Top returners: Stella Kohl, sr., G; Hannah Myers, sr., G; Anna Filosa, jr., G; Mia Barton, sr., G/F; Mia Pretzie, sr., G.
Key newcomers: Olivia Silkaitis, so., F; Avery Larma, fr., G/F; Ellie Kehoe, so., G/F; Cate Carter, fr., G; Amelie van Heukelum, so., F.
Worth noting: Stella Kohl, who signed to play soccer with Loyola, and Hannah Myers, a DePauw recruit, are among the most experienced returnees. A four-year varsity player, Kohl has a wealth of big-game starting experience. Meyers is a returning team captain who averaged nine points per game last season and Anna Filosa is back after averaging six points last season.
"We're returning three very talented players from last year's team, but we will be very inexperienced after that," Collings said. "Our success will depend on the strides that our six underclassmen make throughout the season."