Top teams: Hinsdale Central, Benet, Glenbard West, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Hinsdale South, Neuqua Valley, Wheaton Warrenville South, York
Top players: Benet: Madeline Carney, sr.; Cassie Kovach, sr.; Mary Beth King, jr.; Daniella Reyes, jr.; Kim Simmons, sr.; Leah Tzakis, so.; Downers Grove North: Juliana McMahon, jr.; Marion Zerfoss; Downers Grove South: Vicki Andronova, jr.; Glenbard East: Megan Wachholz, sr.; Glenbard North: Nicole Durante, sr.; Ashley Ziegler, sr.; Glenbard South: Jenna Brambora, fr.; Glenbard West: Hannah Foth, sr.; Molly Hennessy, jr.; Meredith Maltby, sr.; Maddie Morris, sr.; Samantha Reedy, sr.; Hinsdale Central: Jackie Altansamai, sr.; Marika Cusick, jr.; Kristy Hamilton, jr.; Caroline Lorenzini, jr.; Alex Solovyev, so.; Hinsdale South: Emma Adcock, jr.; Andrea Wakim, jr.; Kim Warpecha, sr.; Lindy Wing, sr.; Lake Park: Stephanie Lee, sr.; Metea Valley: Kelsey Chin, jr.; Maddie Collins, jr. Makinnah Collins, sr.; Naperville Central: Edeline Chen, sr.; Cass Goldner, fr.; Cindy Liu, so.; Maria Mihailescu, jr. Naperville North: Abbie Boswell, fr.; Julia Li, so,; Karen Liu, jr.; Kamile Stadalninkaite, jr.; Neuqua Valley: Ashley Cha, sr.; Anusha Pai, fr.; Riti Vohra, so.; St. Francis: Claire Eckert, jr.; Danielle Krueger, jr.Waubonsie Valley: Katie Drone, jr.; Wheaton Academy: Lexi Welton, so.; Wheaton North: Marissa Russman, sr.; Wheaton Warrenville South: Emmie Chan, sr.; Keisha Clousing, so.; Emma Li, jr. York: Maria Avgerinos, jr.; Torrie Graham, sr.; Gabby Riek, jr.; Ellen Barry, jr.; Dana Chamberlin, sr.;
Outlook: The four schools who return at least five state qualifiers -- Benet, Hinsdale Central, Glenbard West and York -- have to be considered at or near the top of the class this year. Benet, which finished sixth in state, returns its entire team, and coach Bob Comerford is expecting this year to be as good, if not better, with this group of high-achieving veterans. "The girls are really focused on working hard at practice this year," Comerford said. "We have essentially two first singles and two first doubles teams and they're all getting better because they're hitting against each other every day."
Of course Hinsdale Central is deep and talented and the Red Devils will be among the two or three teams with a legitimate shot at the state title after finishing second last year. Cusick and Lorenzini are the returning state champion doubles team. "We're going to have a typical Hinsdale Central year," coach Robin Kramer said. "Cusick and Lorenzini are a fanastic doubles team, and we have depth. I think our third doubles team would be seeded 9-16 at state."
Glenbard West is looking at a potentially great year after finishing 12th last season. Five of the six girls who played at state return, and they're all juniors and seniors and ready make the season something special. "We're not making any promises," coach Jim Valleskey said, "but this is the year we could give Hinsdale Central a good challenge."
York returns five state qualifiers who would be a threat in most conferences, but they're probably fighting for third place behind Hinsdale Central and Glenbard West.
"We're looking forward to competing with these teams," coach Tres Heimann said. "And we have a really strong nonconference schedule to help prepare the girls for the postseason.
Keisha Clousing's second-place singles finish at state was enough to put Wheaton Warrenville South in the top 20, but the Tigers will be improved this year. Clousing is better and more experienced and she'll be joined by Li, a ranked player who didn't play high school tennis last year, and Chan, who transferred back from Wheaton Academy. "Having two ranked players on our team is a gift," coach Patti Clousing said. "We have more depth than we've had in years."
The Tigers are hoping to challenge last year's two top DuPage Valley Conference finishers, champion Naperville Central and second-place Naperville North, for conference supremacy. But both of those teams will have something to say about that, since they were both young last year and return a host of talented people who should be much better with a year of successful experience,
"We had a magical year last year," said Naperville Central coach Don Bonet. "We made up points in the conference tournament that allowed us to win. Though we're much-improved, the conference is a lot stronger this year."
Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen said the Huskies, who were also young, had a good year, and she expects big things from this team that will be led by the athletic Stadalninkaite and freshman Boswell.
The Huskies have a strong doubles field with three teams just about interchangeable. That doubles depth makes Naperville North dangerous in the conference schedule where every point counts.
Glenbard North, Glenbard East and Wheaton North are all hoping to squeeze into the first division of the DVC.
Hinsdale South was 20th in state and returns most of its nucleus, including the talented Adcock and Warpecha, who finished 9-12 at state as a doubles team.
"I'm excited about this year," coach Dana Graczyk said. "We want to win conference again and try to qualify all six for state."
Downers Grove South with Andronova at the top of the lineup, has a young team that could be a year away from challenging for the title.
In the Upstate Eight, where Neuqua Valley usually reigns, Waubonsie Valley, whose "Rugrats" made an impact last year, and Metea Valley, led by the talented Chen, are both improving. Lake Park has a state-qualifying star in Lee, who is looking to make her senior year memorable.
But Neuqua, while less experienced than in past years, is still Neuqua, and the Wildcats will not give up their conference title without a fight.
"We don't have any returning qualifiers," coach Trudy Bennorth said. "But we have an athletic group and they're fast learners and hard workers. We'll be tougher at the end of the year."
Wheaton Academy led by Welton, will be the favorite in the Suburban Catholic Conference, but a much-improved St. Francis is a team to watch.
Glenbard South, with a great freshman in Brambora, is also a favorite to win its conference, the Metro Suburban.
Important dates: Sept. 3 Downers Grove South Invite, Sept. 10 Waubonsie Valley Invite; Sept. 29 Naperville Central at Naperville North; Oct. 3 Glenbard West at Benet: Oct. 8-9 conference tournaments; Oct. 15-16 sectional meet; Oct. 21-23 state tournament.
-- Neil Shalin