Girls basketball: Scouting Lake County
Coach: Jamie D'Andrea (first season)
Last season's record: 15-11, 8-7 NLCC (fourth)
Top returning players: Heidi Rathmann, soph.; Hailey Caya, sr.; Nicole Kutcher, sr.
Key newcomers: Macie Volkmar, sr., G
Worth noting: Rathmann led the Sequoits in both scoring (477 points) and rebounding (215) as a freshman last year and earned all-Northern Lake County honors. She's one of three returning starters along with seniors Caya and Kutcher. "Hailey, Nicole and Heidi's leadership on and off the court will benefit the team," D'Andrea said. "Hailey and Nicole are workhorses. They put forth their best effort in practice and that work ethic has rubbed off on many of their teammates. Heidi was already making a name for herself last season as a freshman and she's gotten exponentially better in the offseason. Her outside shot is smooth, her inside moves are tough to defend and she's learning to be a defensive asset with her athleticism and basketball IQ." Seven of Antioch's 12 varsity players are sophomores and juniors. "The girls came in ready to work and they are looking forward to new plays and a new style of play under our new coaching staff roles," D'Andrea added. "I have high hopes for this team. We have a lot of talent across the board and the new system I am implementing is one where players have an opportunity to flourish. I know there will be some growing pains since we'll be running a new offense and focusing on defensive stops, but I am confident these girls have the ability to take on any team in the NLCC. Grayslake Central looks to be one of the top teams in the conference because of returning players, but hopefully our team will be ready to take them on."
Coach: Ben Berg (ninth season)
Last year's record: 24-9, 4-2 ESCC (third; second in ESCC tournament)
Top returning players: Ashley Schlabowske, sr., G; Keira Ackerson, sr., 6-0, W; Josie Hartman, soph., 5-9, G; Maia Cordova, jr., 5-4, PG; Ana Gerstung, sr., 5-6, G; Anna Hartman, sr., 5-6, PG
Key newcomers: Maron Bowes, soph., 5-9, Wing; Anna Chilcutt, fresh., 5-6, G; Lucy Lamberti, fresh., 6-0, Post
Worth noting: The Corsairs advanced all the way to a Class 3A sectional final and return a good chunk of talent from that squad. "Our strength throughout the summer, fall and first week of practice has been our speed in transition and our ability to guard the basketball," Berg said. "We will play more of a fast pace style this year with our pressure defense, transition offense and the team sharing the basketball." Schalabowske, a UW-Whitewater commit, averaged 8.5 points and 2.5 steals and is in her third season as a starter. "Ashley is poised to have a breakout scoring season with our style of play," Berg said. Schalabowske is a captain along with Ackerson, who is drawing Division III college interest. A 3-year starter, Ackerson played significant minutes off the bench and was the team's second-best 3-point shooter (36%). "Keira will be one of our verbal leaders on the floor," Berg said. Josie Hartman, who is drawing all levels of college interest, "is one of our most skilled players who can create for herself or others," Berg pointed out. "We are looking for Josie to take a big step forward this year." Cordova is a 3-year varsity player and a great on-ball defender, Berg sad. Gerstung missed last year due to the IHSA transfer rule. "Ana will bring all-around skills to the team this year," Berg said. Anna Hartman is currently injured, but is a 2-year varsity starter who still will be an acting captain. Berg called Nazareth Academy the obvious East Suburban Catholic favorite, "but I believe we can compete with the rest of the conference, including Benet Academy and Marian Catholic," he said. "We are in 4A for the tournament this year and I believe we can compete for a regional championship, maybe more depending on our health and development throughout the year."
Coach: Andrea Weaver (second season)
Last season's record: 15-17, 9-5 NLCC (third)
Top returning players: Lily Capulong, jr., 5-4, G; Alyssa Sandquist, sr., 5-8, F; Nevada Holm, sr., 6-0, F
Key newcomers: Abigail Hobbs, sr., 5-8, PF; Jael Ivory, Sr., 5-7, G;
Worth noting: Holm earned all-NLCC honors and an NLCC sportsmanship award after averaging 7 points and 8 boards a game. "Nevada is very athletic and light on her feet," Weaver said. "For being a center, she is one of those players that can fit anywhere." Sandquist averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds, while Capulong, the team's point guard, averaged 6 points, 3 assists and 2 steals. "Alyssa also has a sharp shot, is a strong defender, hustles and has a good read of the floor," Weaver said. "Lily is impressive in her ability to read the floor and control the pace of the game." Weaver added big things could be in store for Hobbs, whose first varsity season was cut short due to injury, while Ivory will help on the defensive end. "I would say our greatest strength is the overall athleticism of the team," Weaver said. "We are a very fast group that knows how to communicate well and play aggressively. We also have many returning varsity players who are mature in their game. We are already clicking very well as a group and I am excited to see how that translates into games." Weaver likes the team's strong ball handlers and sharp shooters on offense, plus its ability to run a fast-paced offense, while also slowing down and controlling the pace of the game if necessary. Length and quickness will be assets on defense, Weaver added. Grant has 6 returning varsity players, including 3 starters. "The team is used to being together," Weaver said. "We saw some of our conference teams during the summer and think we are good contenders to be in the top two teams."
Coach: Steve Ikenn (14th season)
Last year's record: 19-12, 13-1 (NLCC champions)
Top returning players: Madison Hoffmann, jr., 6-1, P-W; Annie Wolff, jr., 5-7, W; Katelyn Marcelain, jr., 5-11, P; Mosey Drevline, soph., PG
Key newcomers: Peyton Hoffmann, 6-0, P-W; Lauren Anguilm, 5-9, P; Addi Thomas, 5-5, PG-W
Worth noting: The defending NLCC-champion Rams return 4 starters from a 19-win team that blew through their conference schedule with only 1 loss. Madison Hoffmann is back after a Daily Herald All-Area season where she averaged 16 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on her way to IBCA Class 3A special-mention all-state honors. "Madison established herself as one of the best players in Lake County," Ikenn said. "She is also a solid defender and a great captain-leader who has improved each season." Wolff, also a Daily Herald All-Area selection, averaged 9.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. "Annie is a solid all-around player and captain who never stops working and will do whatever she is asked to do to help the team," Ikenn noted. Marcelain was at 5 points and 5.8 boards and Dreveline averaged 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists as a ninth-grader. "We are a versatile team that has some size and speed," Ikenn noted. "We have the potential to be a well-balanced scoring team that can score both inside and outside. Although we are still very young, we return 4 starters who won 19 games and the conference title last year. Last season, we learned what it was like to play against tough opponents and in meaningful games. The experience will hopefully pay dividends this year." Offensive diversity should not be a problem for the Rams. "Each player on the player can score, and we have the potential to be able to score both inside and outside," Ikenn said. "We can be a well-balanced, offensive team. We also have some speed, size and experience and that should help us be a solid defensive team." Ikenn said keep an eye on Grant, Antioch, Lakes and Wauconda in the NLCC. "If we stay healthy, I would hope we would be in the mix, too," he said.
Coach: Brian Frericks (second season)
Last season's record: 20-12, 10-4 NLCC (second)
Top returning players: Makayla Campbell, sr., 6-0, F; Lucy Roscoe, soph., 5-7, G
Key newcomers: Ashlyn Stoneham, fresh., 5-6, G; Jane Pritchard, soph., 5-4, G; Anisah Lawrence, fresh., 5-4, G; Leilyn Janneau, soph., 5-4, G
Worth noting: Campbell, an all-NLCC pick after averaging 7.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game is out until the December-January timeframe while recovering from a knee injury suffered in soccer. "When Makayla comes back, she will come back a much-improved player," Frericks said. "Even though she hasn't been able to fully practice, she has worked tirelessly on her game and has developed into an excellence shooter to go along with her inside game. Roscoe, who also started last year with Campbell, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds per game. "Lucy learned a lot as a freshman, was voted a captain by her teammates and is looking to step up in a big way for the team this year," Frericks said. The coach also noted Stoneham, a freshman, is an athletic guard "that will be looking to make an impact right away," he said. "She can score from anywhere and is one of the best defenders on the team." Quickness will be in abundance on the Knights roster this season. "We are a quick team that likes to play fast with a lot of girls who can run all day," Frericks said. "We have a lot of cross country and track runners. Even though we have a lot of new girls on the team, they have bonded together very quickly and have great chemistry on the court." Frericks likes the versatility on offense with numerous players who can score from multiple levels. "We are very unselfish and work to get the best shot possible, no matter who it comes from," he pointed out. Aggressiveness and physical are the orders of the day on defense, Frericks said. "We like to make the other team play quick and get off their game," he said. Frericks likes Grayslake Central and Wauconda as teams to beat out the gate in the NLCC. "We are a young team with a lot of girls getting their first varsity experience," he said. "We hope to compete with all teams in the conference and see a lot of improvement."
Coach: Grant Murray (first season)
Last season's record: 9-19, 3-11 NLCC
Top returning players: Inclarity Turney, 5-6, G; Janae Pullen, 5-7, G; Jessica Ross, 5-8, G
Key newcomers: Adey Martin, 5-8, G; Kaylee Anderson, 5-8, F; Emily Ovaska, 6-0, F
Worth noting: Turney is the school's all-time leader in steals in a season and career steals. She also led Lakes in blocked shots last year. "Inclarity is the straw that stirs the drink," Murray said. "She will be our point guard and is one of the best defenders in school history." Pullen is the team's all-time leaders in 3-pointers made in a season and a career. She was the Eagles' second-leading scorer last season. "Janae is looking to find the form she had in her sophomore year and has the potential to have a really great season. Ross was slowed by injury, but Murray noted was a plus-player when on the floor. "Jessica was one of our top players over the summer and we are looking for her to carry that over into the season," Murray said. Turney and Pullen are both returning starters. "We will be a high-energy, gritty team," Muray noted. "The roster has a high basketball IQ and features a number of successful multi-sport athletes who are hungry." Murray explained Lakes will have plenty of contributors this season. "We have a high basketball IQ and the team works well together," he said. "I couldn't tell you who the leading scorer will be when it is February. On any given night, we have a strong group of players that will step up at different moments. Individual success doesn't seem to matter to this team, they just want to win." Murray said Grayslake Central is the team to beat in the NLCC. "Grayslake North and Antioch return dynamic players and Round Lake is one year removed from the NLCC title," he said. "It will be a competitive conference and we plan to be in the thick of it when push comes to shove."
Coach: Chris Bennett (19th season; 29th on the varsity staff)
Last year's record: 25-8, 12-2 NSC (second place)
Top returning players: Anna Gilbertson, sr., 6-0, F; Avery Cooper, jr., 6-2, G; Molly Friesen, jr., 6-0, G; Sydney Lappin, jr., 5-7, G; Leah Gilbertson, soph., 6-1, G; Alex Nowak-Tice, soph., 6-2, F; Layne Nordstrom, soph., 5-7, PG
Key newcomers: Addison Leonard, fresh., 5-9, G; Kaitlin Wahlund, fresh., 6-0, F
Worth noting: A lot worth noting here for the North Suburban runners-up. Cooper, with numerous Division I college offers in hand, was an all-state honorable mention pick after averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. She's currently sidelined with a knee injury suffered in late January. Bennett anticipates her return to game action in December. Gilbertson is headed to Division II Missouri Science and Technology. She averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds last year and is a two-time All-Area selection. All-Area pick Friesen averaged 8 points and 3 rebounds. "Everyone knows about Anna and Avery," Bennett said. "Molly is going to have a breakout year. She has worked extremely hard on her game and is now capable of doing many different things on the offensive end. With the attention the other two will draw, she will have a lot of opportunities." Lappin is a state track and field finalist two years running in the relay events. Gilbertson, the team's sixth man last year, averaged 3 points and 3 boards, while Nowak-Tice started numerous games after Cooper's injury. Nordstrom either started or was the sixth man in the last 10 games of the season. In total, Bennett returns 3 regular starters and 3 sophomores that were spot starters last year. "We are young, but yet experienced," he said. "We have only 1 senior on the team (Gilbertson), but we return 17 seasons of varsity experience. We are tall, fast and can do a lot of different things. We have kids who can score at multiple levels. We will be very hard to guard. We are big and athletic and love to guard people. Last year we had the fourth-toughest schedule in the state (according to one online statistical service) and we have the same schedule this year. We will be battle-tested by the time we get to the big games at the end of the year." Bennett said Libertyville is the team of note in the NSC. "You have to beat the best to be the best," he said. "They are the reigning champs until someone knocks them out. Stevenson will be great as always and Warren will surprise people. We expect to be in the mix fighting for a title."
Coach: Greg Pedersen (12th season)
Last year's record: 29-5, 13-1 NSC champions
Top returning players: Kate Rule, sr., 5-6, G; Rachel Rule, sr., 5-7, G; Maddy Kopala, sr., 5-11, G-F; Madison Sears, jr., 6-3, F
Key newcomers: Lily Fisher, fresh., 6-1, G; Elinor Lindal, jr., 5-9, G; Avery Maddux, soph., 6-2, G-F
Worth noting: The Rules, Kopala and Sears are all returning players expected to be key contributors for the defending North Suburban-champion Wildcats, who won a regional title a year ago. "They are all talented players and highly effective leaders," Pedersen said. "We have a nice inside-outside presence on this team. Kate and Rachel are guards who can score in many ways. Madison and newcomers Avery Maddux and Paige Brafford provide us with size, while our guards enjoy playing fast and smooth. Lily Fisher is a tall, athletic guard, which also helps with our length and size. She has shown tremendous offensive talent so far, but also sees the floor well and is a smart player who makes the right reads." Pedersen said this is the biggest and longest team he's had in a while on the defensive end. "Our size will benefit us as we look to clamp down," he said. "We will continue to get physically stronger and hope to form a brand of physical defense." That defense, Pedersen noted, is driven by Kopala. "Maddy is the engine that makes our defense run," he said. In terms of defending the North Suburban title, Lake Zurich, Stevenson and Warren come to mind for Pedersen as key threats. "Lake Zurich has the experience and talent to win the conference and go far in the state series," he said. "Stevenson is talented and well-coached and I would not be surprised at all if they lay a claim. Warren was impressive this summer. Mundelein is on the rise. The conference is stacked -- again."
Coach: Sarah Teipel (second season)
Last season's record: 12-19, 5-9 NSC
Top returning players: Rylan Foster, sr., 6-0, G; Casey Vyverman, soph., 5-10; Erin Frank, sr., Post
Key newcomers: Madelyn Gardner, soph., 5-5, G; Lucy Heikes, jr., Post
Worth noting: Foster and Vyverman both were all-NSC picks with Foster earning Daily Herald All-Area honors after averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds, while shooting .789 from the foul line. Vyverman averaged 10.6 points, 3 rebounds and canned 60 3-pointers (42 percent from behind the line). Teipel, who has 4 starters back, lists hustle, toughness and togetherness as strengths. She likes the Mustangs' confidence on offense and their competitiveness and daily toughness on defense. Foster, Vyverman and senior post player Frank will be looked to for their leadership. "They do a great job leading our team," Teipel said. In terms of the NSC: "We play in a strong conference," Teipel said. "We won't overlook any opponent and are looking forward to competing with each one."
Coach: Molly Hennig (sixth season)
Last year's record: 18-13, 7-7 NLCC (fifth place)
Top returning players: Judith Cerroblanco, sr., 5-8, G-F; Tia Barnes, sr., 5-9, G-F; Lisette Herrera, jr., 5-3, G
Key newcomers: Brianna Arteaga, fresh., 5-6, G
Worth noting: The Panthers return 2 starters from an 18-win team a year ago. Cerroblanco averaged 7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.4 deflections, 1.8 steals and 1.3 assists. Barnes averaged 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds, while Herrera was at 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds a year ago. "We bring back a lot of girls that have been part of two successful seasons for our program (28-4 in 2021-2022 and 18-13 last year)," Hennig said. "The group is competitive and wants to improve together. Our team is very unselfish with the ball and is willing to make the extra pass to an open teammate. We have a quick group of girls that works hard on defense. We look for our defense to turn into offense." Cerroblanco, Barnes and Herrera will lead the way for Round Lake. "Judith, Tia and Lisette have multiple years of experience on varsity," Hennig said. "With Lilli Burton and Taylor Major in college, they have learned and grown under them. We look to them to step up in larger roles this season and use their experience." Hennig said defending champion Grayslake Central is a team to again watch in the NLCC. "The conference should be competitive again," she said. "Grayslake Central finished first and returns most of their roster."
Coach: Regan Carmichael (first season)
Last year's record: 21-12, 10-4 NSC (third)
Top returning players: Nisha Musunuri, jr., 5-8, G; Emory Klatt, sr., 6-1, F; Kendell Williams, sr., 5-9, G; Sydney Rosland, jr., 5-8, G; Emma Brooks, sr., 5-6, G; Laurel Jewell, sr., 5-10, F
Worth noting: The Patriots return some familiar and talented faces under new coach Carmichael, headlined by Klatt, an all-state pick, and Musunuri, an all-North Suburban selection. "Emory is a rebounding machine," Carmichael said. "Her physicality is what sets her apart from her competitors. She is a force in the paint and continues to add different layers to her game. Nisha is one of the craftiest guards in the area. She is a flat-out competitor that competes on both ends of the floor. I am excited for the leap she will take this year." Carmichael added Williams sets the tone defensively "and is definitely the floor general," she said. "She is an incredible person and so fun to be around. She pushes everyone to be better. She's one of the best passers I have ever seen." Carmichael added Rosland gives Stevenson an edge. "She wants to compete and win and is such a gritty kid," she said. "She was a role player last year, but I expect her to expand that role this year and be a major contributor." Carmichael said strengths include heart, grit and communication, "all things well within our control that we pride ourselves on," she said. Carmichael is also excited about the Patriots' defensive prospects. "Everyone is willing to work as hard as they can on the defensive end," she said. "There is buy-in from everyone on the defensive side -- not much more you can ask for as a coach." Libertyville, Lake Zurich and Warren are teams Carmichael lists as ones to watch. "We are in such a great conference with such incredible coaches and athletes," she said. "We want to finish better than last year. This team is growing and changing and learning every time on the court."
Coach: Paul Brettner (24th season)
Last year's record: 21-11, 8-2 CSL North (second)
Top returning players: Elyse Davis, sr., 5-9 F-G; Keira Thomas, soph., 5-8, G
Key newcomers: Emma Jocson, 5-2, G; Maliyah Mays, 5-6, G; Emily Ochieng, 5-9, F; Maya Raval, 5-7, G-F; Morgan Bedell, 5-3, G
Worth noting: The Cougars have 1 starter back from last year's 21-win team that finished runner-up in the Central Suburban North. Brettner likes the team's transition ability. "We're looking to play the full 84 feet," he said. "Offensively, we have had good ball movement in practice. That will help with getting good looks. On defense, after we adjust to the speed of varsity, we will be a good half- and full-court defensive team." Brettner noted Jocson, Mays and Ochieng have no varsity experience, "but all three should contribute a lot," he said. In terms of the CSL North, Brettner said watch for Highland Park and Maine West, while Niles West enters the North Division this season, "and they should be tough as well," he said. "We should compete with all of them with a goal of winning the CSL North."
Coach: John Stanczykiewicz (25th season)
Last year's record: 13-17, 5-9 NSC (fifth)
Top returning players: Nari Powers, sr., 6-1, W; Mariah Phelps, sr., 5-9, G; Shay Love, sr., 5-0, G
Key newcomers: Jamila Bland, soph., 6-2, Post
Worth noting: A team on the upswing according to multiple area coaches. Powers and Love were all-NSC honorable mention selections last year for a Blue Devils team that returns 3 starters. "Our strength is the five returning seniors who were either starters or played significant minutes off the bench," Stanczykiewicz said. "They have to get the job done while the new players to the team get acclimated to playing varsity basketball. We have very good athleticism at several positions on the floor." Stanczykiewicz said this is the most offensive talent Warren has had at the varsity level since Jordyn Hughes and Kaylen Dickson graduated in 2018. "In some ways we might have more offensive talent," he said. "I'd like to think we can score from several positions on the floor, starting with Nari and Mariah. They are just beginning to scratch the surface of their abilities. Nari can score bot inside and out to 3-point range and Mariah can attack the basket and finish as well as hit the 3 and play the point guard position." The coach added the Blue Devils' defense is a work in progress, but "we are continuing to work hard at it and we are improving slowly but surely." Love is a 4-yerar starter "and might be one of the best point guards I have ever coached," Stanczykiewicz said. Stanczykiewicz said Libertyville and Lake Zurich are teams to watch in the conference. "Until you beat them, I still think the conference favorite is Libertyville, followed by Lake Zurich if everyone is healthy," he said. "I'd like to think we might have a chance to influence the outcome of the conference and sneak up on some people."
Coach: Jaime Dennis (15th season)
Last season's record: 12-15, 6-8 NLCC (sixth place)
Top returning players: Alexia Manalo, 5-2, G; Grace Parker, 5-9, F; Helen Macy, 5-11, C; Emma Wisniewski, 5-11, C; Ella Franck, 5-9, G-F
Key newcomers: Dannie Halperin, jr., 5-3, G; Avery Geoghan, fresh., 5-2, G; Alessandra Rodriguez, fresh., 5-11, F
Worth noting: Dennis has 4 starters returning from a 2022-2023 squad that won 12 games, including all-NLCC picks Macy (11.4 points, 8.9 rebounds) and Parker (10.3 points, 5.1 rebounds). Franck averaged 6.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, while Wisniewski was at 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds and Manalo averaged 4 points and 2.8 rebounds. "We are young, but have a lot of varsity experience," Dennis said. "We have a lot of offensive threats. Teams won't be able to focus on one or two people to shut down. We have a lot of speed in our guards that is going to create some problems. Our posts have a lot of experience and won't be pushed around." Macy was averaging a double-double last year until a knee injury sidelined her for half the season. Wisniewski is reaping the rewards of being on the varsity since her freshman year while Manalo will start at point guard. "Alexia is ready for the task," Dennis said. "She is one of the most exciting players to watch." Dennis sees a competitive NLCC landscape. "I think we could have several teams fighting for the top spot in the conference, including ourselves," Dennis said. "It will come down to execution and consistency."