Top area teams: Hinsdale Central, Waubonsie Valley, Wheaton Warrenville South, Naperville North, Hinsdale South, Metea Valley, West Chicago, Benet, Downers Grove South, Glenbard West.
Top athletes: Addison Trail: Gianna DeLaCruz, jr.; Benet: Katelyn Kline, fr., Ali Mahoney, sr., Sarah Mathews, sr.; Downers Grove North: Courtney Katz, fr., Shannon Menard, sr., Abbey Radigan, jr.; Downers Grove South: Tiffany Boak, sr., Kelly Gallagher, sr., Sara Ulir, sr.; Glenbard East: Danielle Murphy, sr., Jana Payne, sr.; Glenbard North: Bridget Everson, jr., Hayley Jefferson, jr., McKenzie Schwarze, sr., Sam Yocum, jr.; Glenbard South: Hannah Taylor, sr.; Glenbard West: Emma Klimala, jr., Ellen Nighbor, sr.; Hinsdale Central: Colleen Ahern, sr., Cailee Beisswanger, jr., Jackie Bruns, sr., Rebecca Lederhausen, sr.; Hinsdale South: Sam Buddig, jr., Aneisha Pal, jr., Jess Sachs, sr.; Lake Park: Erika Stark, sr., Anne Wooten, jr.; Lisle: Hayley Belina, sr., Elizabeth Sullivan, sr., Mary Sullivan, soph., Melanie Viedelman, soph.; Metea Valley: Niquole Mangel, fr., Anna Petersen, sr., Brittanny Smith, soph.; Naperville Central: Avleen Bhandal, jr., Lauren Michael, sr., Courtney Pezza, sr.; Naperville North: Taylor Arenson, jr., Caroline Pierson, jr., Blayne Yarmat, jr.; Neuqua Valley: Kyleigh Dallner, sr., Faith Goetz, sr., Jessica Yuen, fr.; St. Francis: Caroline French, sr., Sarah Pinns, sr., Kate Slattery, sr.; Timothy Christian: Peyton Pinkerton, soph.; Waubonsie Valley: Rebecca O'Bryan, jr., Maddie Phillips, jr., Bing Singhsumalee, soph., Courtney Williams, sr.; West Chicago: Katie Becker, sr., Tessa Dittman, jr., Hanna Netsingha, jr.; Wheaton North: Caitlin Berry, jr., Brittany Pfaff, sr., Meagan Werner, sr.; Wheaton Warrenville South: Kelly Anderson, soph., Skylar Brooks, sr., Camille Granberry, sr., Renee Solberg, sr.; Willowbrook: Amanda DiNella, soph., Leah Kania, sr.; York: Kerri Carlquist, jr., Linne Wethekam, sr.
Scouting report: Hinsdale Central, with five returning state veterans, anchored by the last of the famed Lederhausen sisters, rates as arguably the team to beat. But the Red Devils have plenty of company, not only for team excellence in the area but also for individual supremacy.
Waubonsie Valley began the season with team championships in as many days on Monday and Tuesday at Marian Catholic and the Naperville City Championship. The Warriors' prized sophomore, Singhsumalee, who tied Buffalo Grove senior Grace Kil for fourth in Class AA last season after leading the tournament after the opening round, continues the trend of superlative underclassmen in the sport. "That was a great experience," Singhsumalee said of leading the tournament after the first round as a freshman last fall. "Going into the lead after the first day was pretty cool."
Prospect senior Allison Walsh fired a level-par 72 to not only wrest control from the Warriors' prodigy but also lead the Knights to their first team title as well. "(Singhsumalee) didn't play that badly the second day (of the state tournament)," Waubonsie Valley coach Jack Farnum said. "(Walsh) just played out of her mind."
But Farnum has far more luxuries than a one-woman operation. The Warriors have a dependable second player in senior Williams, who is poised to make all the difference for Waubonsie Valley. "Courtney has made a lot of improvements," Farnum said. "Her mental approach has gotten a lot better."
In a sport where confidence is often the difference between sustainability and disaster, Williams has newfound appreciation for its intracacies. "A year ago I wasn't able to recover after a bad hole," Williams said. The turn of the calendar is the central focus for the Waubonsie Valley girls this fall. "We're hoping to go to state as a team," Williams said. "I think (Singhsumalee) is excited (about the season) because the team is so much stronger (than a year ago)," Farnum said.
The Aurora school, however, has strong company in its back yard from Naperville North. One of the true measuring sticks of the sport -- Naperville North once made state appearances 19 times in a 20-year period -- the Huskies are not willing to stand still among the area powers. In a testament to the deepening talent pool, Naperville North -- despite setting an all-time record with its 328 total at Marian Catholic on Monday -- was still 3 shots off the Waubonsie Valley championship pace. Naperville North coach Greta Williams is not deterred.
"We are deeper than we have ever been," said Williams, who has the burgeoning Arenson to rest upon as her top player. "I think this is going to be the key for us. This is probably the best team we have had since I started with Rosie (legendary coach Ed Rosenthal) 10 years ago."
Yarmat, a converted volleyball player out for the first time, could be the Huskies' wild card this fall. "We have a lot of solid players on our team," Arenson said. "I think Naperville North is going to make a nice run at the conference," said Naperville Central coach Jane Thompson, who has built her own stable brand but admits her current squad is "in a rebuilding year."
Lurking for yet another shot is perennial power Wheaton Warrenville South. Coming off another state appearance last year, the Tigers -- until otherwise proven -- are still the team to beat in the ever-rugged DuPage Valley Conference behind twin stalwarts Solberg and Anderson. "Our Nos. 1 and 2 are as strong as we have been in the past," WW South coach Art Tang said of Solberg and Anderson. "We're all seniors, except for Kelly Anderson. It's not our last chance (for a state run), but a good chance to make a run this year."
For other area contenders in the far western suburbs, year in school has almost become immaterial. Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Benet all have freshmen -- Yuen, Mangel and Kline, respectively -- as their top-ranked players as the season commences. Among the other DVC contenders with aspirations for a deep run, West Chicago is making continuing strides.
"This is the best team I have ever had," said coach Mike Cain, who launched the program in 1996. "We finished fourth last year (in the DVC), and that was the best finish a West Chicago team has ever had. I am optimistic we may improve upon that this year."
Netsingha is the unquestioned leader for the upstart Wildcats. Wheaton North also has twin sectional returnees Pfaff and Berry to bolster its cause. Nascent programs Glenbard North and Glenbard South could surprise on an individual basis behind Schwarze and Taylor, respectively.
The West Suburban boasts many superlative players throughout its ranks; Hinsdale Central is a top contender for its first state title behind the peerless pedigree of Lederhausen, seventh in state a year ago, who has able company with four other state veterans. Glenbard West, despite losing four-time state qualifier Brooke Kochevar, has Nighbor -- the champion of the Glenbard four-team tournament -- to ease the transition.
The two Downers Grove schools had record turnouts this fall, while Hinsdale South is yet another school to reckon with behind four-year stalwart Sachs. Willowbrook will entrust its fate to DiNella, yet another promising sophomore who is slated for the Warriors' top slot, while sister school Addison Trail had the lone returning at-large state qualifier in the undeniably talented DeLaCruz. "I'm just trying to get more girls to compete, to try and learn from the other girls from other teams ... like (Lyons Township) and Hinsdale Central," Willowbrook coach Jim White said.
York is another team that cannot be discounted after the conference schools swept the Plainfield North tournament earlier this week.
St. Francis has Pinns as its benchmark player as the squad seeks yet again to qualify for the team sectional at the Class A level. "We have qualified four out of the last five years to the sectional," St. Francis coach Matt Walsh said.
Wheaton Academy hopes to field its first full-fledged girls squad this fall as well.
Key dates: Aug. 28: WW South at Hinsdale Central; Sept. 1: Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational; Sept. 4: WW South at Naperville North; Sept. 8: Waukegan Invitational; Sept. 8: Bishop McNamara Invitational; Sept. 15: Providence Catholic Invitational; Sept. 22: Naperville North Invitational; week of Sept. 24: Conference championships; Sept. 29: Rosary Invitational.
Predicted state champions: Class A: Normal U-High; Class AA: Hinsdale Central.