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Softball: Scouting Northwest

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Buffalo GroveCoach: Jamie Paul (fourth season)

Last year's record: 15-9, 11-5

Graduated seniors: Erin Barton, Amanda Salzman, Megan Fu, Kristina Dakas

Returning players: Julia Camardo (Jr. P), Caitlin Catino (Jr. CF), Dea Barton (Jr. SS), Katie Conley (Sr. 1B), Emily Carnes (So. C), Michelle Dublin (Sr. OF), Breann Steady (Sr. pitcher), Maddi Morini (Jr. 2B).

Newcomers: Jasmine Avalos (Fr. IF), Katie Fontanetta (Fr. OF-2B), Grace Gran (Fr. IF), Cassie May (Jr. 2B), Nikki Longdon (Jr. P), Cynthia Gorski (Jr. C-1B)

Outlook: The defending MSL East champs have many players back so they hope to compete for a second straight crown. "We have strong returners and a talented class of freshmen coming in," said Bison coach Jamie Paul. "We have a solid core group of juniors to lead them and strong pitching." Catino batted .396 and led the team with 9 stolen bases while Carmardo broke some school records on the mound, including single-season strikeouts (181). She also hit .347 with 5 doubles and 3 homers. Barton was the team defensive leader while playing shortstop. "This season we have the experience that we were lacking last season," said Paul, who guided the Bison to their first division crown since 1999. "We are solid defensively and in the circle. Our focus will be on manufacturing runs. If we can produce at the plate, we will be tough to beat."

Elk GroveCoach: Ken Grams (34th season)

Last year's record: 22-14, 9-7

Graduated players: Elisa Payne, Rylee Romano, Brianna DeSilvia

Returning players: Becca Maher (Sr. SS), Megan Eul (Sr. P), Gina Cirrincione (Sr. C), Brianna Leach (Jr OF-1B), Shannon Taucher (Jr. 1B-C), Aleece Duffy (Jr. 2B- 3B), Marjorie Sloan (Jr. OF), Abbey Sloan (So. OF), Alex Masnica (So. 2B-3B), Sarah Paucher (So. 3B)

Newcomers: Allison Peters (Sr. OF), Brooke Barges (Sr. 1B), Kara Granata (Sr. OF)

Outlook: The Grens return a great deal of experience from last year which they hope to build upon. Eul pitched about 60 percent of the innings last season and has shown very good advancement in her skills. "We need to find someone to compliment her and back her up," said Hall of Fame coach Ken Grams who needs only 2 wins to reach 800 for his career. "We have some very good candidates to add to our pitching depth. One junior, two sophomores and two freshmen are showing some positive signs of being able to pitch and compete at the varsity level." Maher returns as a three-year starter and will handle shortstop. She has a career .400-plus batting average. "She is a great leader and a darn good player." Grams said. Leach led the team in RBI last season, She and Maher are returning all-area players. "It's a good group of softball players who are growing as offensive players and have a great deal of understanding the importance of the defensive part of the game," Grams said "They work at it and I believe they know and respect what it takes to perform at a high level." As always, the Grens goals are the same as any other year -- competing for the MSL East division title and MSL championship, then a deep run in the IHSA state playoffs.

HerseyCoach: Molly Freeman (seventh season)

Last year's record: 5-20, 3-13

Graduated seniors: Annie Canatta, Becca Derka, Gina Fasolo, Michelle Bolker, Sarah Platt, Samantha Carrillo

Returning players: Alysia Zaucha (Sr. OF), Angela Schmiederer (Sr IF-C), Michelle Helminski (Sr. C), Jessica Schmiederer (Jr. OF)

Newcomers: Emily Butler (Sr OF), Katherine Surma (Sr. OF), Payton Anderskow (Jr C-IF), Danielle Sychowski (Jr. IF), Cassie Zouras (Jr. IF), Hannah Sherman (So IF), Kim Labahn (So. P), Katie Wingerter (Fr IF), Kaitlyn Denton (Fr. P)

Outlook: As she begins her seventh season directing the program, Huskies coach Molly Freeman is excited about a talented mix of returning players and newcomers. "What makes this group so exciting for us is their love for softball and that makes them work so hard," she said. "It is so fun to watch them work together." Alyssa Zaucha brings experience to the outfield while Angela Schiederer, an Iowa recruit, does the same for the infield where saw action behind the plate and at shortstop last spring. The 2013 all-area selection hit .342 along with her outstanding defensive. "We are fortunate to have their strong returning leadership," Freeman said. "They understand what it takes to be successful, and are outstanding role models for our team." Freeman likes the team chemistry. "It is very evident in this group," said the former Fremd standout athlete. "We expect for this team to continue to jell together, and compete at a high level of softball. We are very excited to see the weather change and to get started with our season."

Prospect Coach: Jim Adair (fourth season)

Last year's record: 9-20, 7-9

Graduated players: Michele Molini, Cassie Poulos, Jill Sadowski

Returning Players: Meghan Doyle (OF-2B), Casey Lenski (Jr. P-1B), Maggie Pancini (CF), Delilah Malczewski ((P-1B), Ally Schuldt (OF), Emma Riordan (Sr. SS), Rachel Trebswether (So. 2B), Angela Roman (So. OF), Emma Gilhooly (Jr. C)

Newcomers: Emily Saenz (Jr. 3B-OF), Kelly Marshall (3B-OF), Dezi Orozco (IF-OF), Cate Meersman (F. C-IF)

Outlook: With seven returning starters and four players who hit over .300, coach Jim Adair believes he has a lot of offensive weapons. "And we cut our team errors in half last season over the previous one," he added. "Our team speed is much improved and our pitching should be tough. We have five girls who can hit the ball out of the park at any time, so we'll see what happens." Lenski did not allow an earned run in her first 19 innings last year. "She's a force out there," Adair said. "We had a really young team last year and showed that lack of experience all too often. We're all excited and can't wait to get outside to start having some fun this season" Adair knows the competition will be tough. "The MSL is such a tough conference," he said. "You have to be ready to play your best every game. Every team in the league battles you every inning."

Rolling MeadowsCoach name: Tony Wolanski (11th season)

Last year's record: 19-15, 6-10

Graduated seniors: Sara Brunlieb, Sam Anderson, Emily Hattory, Hannah Whidden, Sara Caprio

Returning players: Lane Winkler (Sr. C), Jenny Watson (Sr. LF), Grace Skorin (Sr. SS), Chloe Prodanovic (Sr. CF), Lauren Hattory (Jr. P). Maddie Morgan (Jr. 2B)

Newcomers: Jordan Giachetti (Jr. OF-2B), Megan King (So. 1B), Paige Connor (Fr. 3B), Meghan Slowik (So. OF), Eliana Psarros (Jr. OF), Elizabeth Vasilogambros (Sr. 1B/2B), Lydia Schultz (Fr. P)

Outlook: The Mustangs have five starters back and should be strong up the middle with Winkler (all-conference catcher who hit .363 with 23 RBI) and SS Skorin (. 336, 26 RBI) and 2B Morgan, who was an outfielder last spring. "We also have two of the better outfielders in the conference with Watson (. 388. 18 RBI) in left and Prodanovic (. 321) in center," Wolanski said. "This team has some experience and if our younger players can improve during the season, we should be able to compete in the MSL East." Hattory, the Mustangs No. 1 pitcher, has some varsity experience. "She is working very hard in practice to get better," Wolanski said. "She learned a ton last year from Sara (Brunlieb) and knows that she has to have control and consistency to be an effective pitcher." Freshmen Schultz will be the No. 2 pitcher. The seasoned Winkler will help her pitchers by using her three years of varsity experience. Vasilogambros and King will play first base and freshmen Connor will have an opportunity to start at third. Skorin begins her third season on the varsity. "She and Lane will be counted on to lead this team," Wolanski said. " Jenny Watson will start in left. She was our best hitter the last 15 games of the season and has a ton of talent. She has a chance to be one of the better players in the conference." Psarros, Slowik, and Giachetti will play right field. "We have good senior leadership and six players with tons of varsity experience," Wolanski said. "It will come down to doing things the right way and getting better fundamentally. If we can work hard and improve each day we will have a chance at a nice season."

WheelingCoach: Mike Caringella (fifth season)

Last year's record: 11-19, 1-15

Graduated players: Kaitlyn DeBusk, Rebecca Falkiner, Sara Kern Taylor Vasey, Emily Walker, Jackie Resnick

Returning players: Lauren Hart (Jr. OF), Anne Janulis (Sr. OF), Nikki Mikosz (Jr. C), Megan Olsen (Jr. C-IF), Alexa Fishman (Sr. 1B), Karlie Orlando Jr. OF), Katie Quagliano (Sr. P)

Newcomers: Michaela Vasey (So. IF), Christie Ambrose (So. P-IF),

Alexa Orlando (FR. IF), Karoline Dabrowska (So. OF),

Sydney Kaplan (Jr. IF), Sonia Rivera (Sr. IF)

Outlook: The Wildcats feature a veteran battery with four-year varsity pitcher Quagliano and her three-year catcher Mikosz. Quagliano threw 173 innings last year while Mikosz caught 199 innings with a .987 fielding percentage. Mikosz also hit .371 with a .536 slugging percentage and .414 on base percentage. Hart and Janulis return to the outfield while Olsen will play first and third base and also help behind the plate. Vasey, Ambrose, Alexa Orlando, Fishman and Kaplan will battle for infield spots. Karlie Orlando, Rivera and Dabrowska will compete for positions in the outfield. "It's a hardworking group," said Wheeling coach Mike Caringella, who begins his fifth year directing the program. "The girls dedicated themselves to improving over the offseason. We are looking forward to a good year against a loaded MSL."

MID-SUBURBAN WESTBarringtonCoach: Perry Peterson (22nd season)

Last year's record: 36-2, 16-0

Graduated players: Loren Krzysko, Krista Moore, Raegan Fingerman, Cassidy Kramer, Maggie O'Hara, Tess Bolger, Morgan Olszewski, Alexa Rebecca, Sam Rosenfeld

Returning players: Keenan Dolezal (Jr. P), Erin Ward (Sr. SS), Katie Dehnert (Sr. 1B), Jenna Privatsky (Sr. OF)

Newcomers: Samantha McQueen (Sr. OF), Taylor Moran (Sr. OF), Mikala Cecola (Sr. IF), Jennifer Inamoto (Sr. IF-P), Caitlin Inamoto (Sr. OF), Christina Conroy (Jr. OF-IF), Kelly Katis (Soph. IF), Liz Sweeney (Soph. C-OF), Rachel Krzysko (Fr. C), Carly Kordich (Fr. OF); Kat Panos (Jr. OF) is currently sidelined until doctor's clearance.

Outlook: As Hall of Fame coach Perry Peterson begins his 22nd season at Barrington and 23rd overall (655-152 career record with one year at St. Viator), he returns three starters from the 2013 MSL champs who were the third-place team at the 2013 Class 4A state finals. Junior ace Keenan Dolezal (29-2 0.87 ERA, 239 K's, 200⅔ IP, 8 shutouts, 2 no hitters), a Loyola University recruit, hopes to continue her early-career success with a new group of Fillies eager to prove they can continue the same rate of success. Ward (.339 BA, 14 doubles, 18 RBI, 35 runs) and Dehnert (. 366 BA, 48 hits, 6 doubles, 3 home runs, 22 RBI) provide big bats and plenty of leadership to a team that has eight seniors. The Fillies own a 410-57 home record and are 287-49 in the conference in Peterson's 22 years. Overall, they have 16 MSL division championships, a record 12 MSL conference championships (and a record 10 under Peterson). They've been to the state finals eight times and have an overall school mark of 938-327 ranking third on the IHSA all-time list behind Casey and Lockport.

ConantCoach: Cathyann Smith (14th season)

Last year's record: 16-13, 9-7

Graduated seniors: Miranda Cavin, Sarah Thompson, Allison Najoukas

Returning players: Rachel O'Malley (Sr. 3B), Telly Hunter (Sr. 2B-OF), Elisa Ambrose (Jr. IF-OF), Allisa Wachal (Jr. OF), Dee Dee Durr (Jr. SS) Jr. Kim Zaucha (Jr. P-OF), Hailey Rothstein (Jr. 1B), Kali Schumacher (So. P-IF), Dream Aaron (So. C-3B)

Newcomers: Sara Neumann (So. P), Rachel Falbo (Fr. OF), Lauren Gryzelak (Fr. C)

Outlook: With a solid base of returning players, coach Cathyann Smith is pleased with the improvement they have all shown with work in the off-season. "We feel we have a lot of versatility with player positions," she said. "And they are showing good chemistry already." Schumacher, Zaucha and Neumann are Smith's pitchers. "We have three pitchers that all have very different styles, which will complement each other nicely," added Smith, a former standout pitcher herself for Schaumburg High School. "We are looking to get back to a run at the MSL division title this season." Neumann joins the varsity this year. "She's a great addition to the rotation," Smith said. "She saw some time last year and she also has a strong bat. Two other newcomers are Falbo and Gryzelak. "Lauren Falbo has quick intensity and will be a good fill for Sarah Thompson (graduated all-conference center fielder) and Lauren Gryzelak is a great addition behind the plate to share time with Dream Aaron (who replaces graduated Miranda Cavin behind the plate)." Hunter returns as an all-area selection. She led the Cougars last spring with her .438 batting average while collecting 26 singles, 7 doubles, 1 triple and 26 RBI. "We are looking to get back to a run at the MSL division title this season," said Smith, who guided the Cougars to MSL crowns in 2011 and 2012.

FremdCoach: Jim Weaver (13th season)

Last year's record: 24-8, 14-2,

Graduated players: Ashlynne Schwantz, Mandi Matsumoto, Michelle Mazur, Kristne Herdegen, Morgan Brauer, Morgan Chencinski, Riley Zimmer:

Returning players: Abbi Iuorio (So. OF), Alyssa Garcia (So. OF), Joanna Josten (Sr. P), Kayla Kaufman (Jr. OF), Tracy Welninski (Sr. 2B), Delaney Schneider (Sr. 1B-OF), Julie Josten (Jr. 3B-C), Leigh Farina (Sr. SS)

Newcomers: Hailey Goodwin (Jr. P), Holly Straup (So. C-IF), Lauren Vanhavermaet (Jr. IF), Leah Barrett (Jr. P), Molly Muhs (So. 1B-OF), Katie Niersbach (Jr. OF-C), Tracy Welninski (Sr. 2B)

Outlook: With a ton of experience returning in the infield and Garcia back in center field, the Vikings expect to make another run at the Mid-Suburban League title which they have won three times since 2000. Among the returnees are the Illinois recruit Farina (. 495, 23 extra base hits), Welninski (. 403, 12 extra base hits), Julie Josten (327, 11 extra base hits) and Garcia (. 333, .404 OB percentage). "That group will make up our core," said coach Jim Weaver, who owns a 322-103-2 record going into his 13th season with 10 regional titles, three sectional titles and three trips to the state finals (third in 2009 and second in 2010). "We also have several exciting young players being added to the mix. We expect to be strong defensively, and balanced offensively with great team speed and power. As we continue to battle together, we'll be ready to make a strong move toward the playoffs."

Hoffman EstatesCoach: Lindsey Hamma (ninth season)

Last year's record: 4-23-1, 3-13

Graduated players: Heather Bartoszewski, Heather Doonan, Nicole LaBeck (competing at Marian University)

Returning players: Sam Acosta (Sr. SS-OF), Natalie Biddle (Sr. 1B-OF), Kajal Dalal (Sr. OF), Kaileen Hendle (Sr. C-IF), Andrea Wolinski (Sr. OF-IF), Charlotte Allan (Jr. P-OF), Jordyn Fera (So. 3B-OF), Tracy Osimowicz (So. P-1B)

Newcomers: Alyssa Galan (Jr. OF), Amber Gershon (Jr. UT), Veronica Cardella (So. C-OF), Alexus Venegas (So. 2B-UT), Brynn Connelly (Fr. CF-IF)

Outlook: Coach Lindsey Hamma will look to captains, Acosta and Hendle, to provide leadership for the Hawks. The former Chicago Bandits, Illinois and Buffalo Grove shortstop is excited to return both Allan and Osimowicz on the mound. "Charlotte and Tracy complement each other extremely well in the circle," said Hamma, who was also a starting guard for Buffalo Grove's 2000 Class AA state champion girls basketball team. "We expect big innings out of each of them." Osimowicz will join returners Acosta, Fera, Hendle and freshman Connelly to make up the heart of the batting order. "I look forward to seeing who will emerge as our starting outfielders and right side of the infield as the season progresses," Hamma said. "Currently, the competition between the girls has been very positive." Hamma stressed the importance of the Hawks supporting their pitching staff with solid defense and consistent run production. "The girls have set clear goals and know what they need to do to compete in our challenging conference," she said. "We can not wait to get out on the field and see everything come together."

PalatineCoach: Jeff Manz (12th season)

Last year's record: 18-12, 10-6

Graduated players: Lauren Logan, Megan Hedstrom, Tori Walzak

Returning players: Jamie Haze (Sr. 3B), Jules Udoni (Sr. 1B-P), Courtney English (Sr. RF-SS), Grace Rohrwasser (Sr. 2B), Emily Plesnicar (Sr. DH-IB), Dominique Boisvert (Sr. P), Maddie Levecke (Sr. OF), Kenzie Craver (So. C), Shannon Surell (Sr. OF), Nora Walsh (Jr. OF)

Newcomers: Victoria Parrott (So. SS), Katie Angleaccio (Sr. 1B-C)

Outlook: As he begins his 12th season, coach Jeff Manz welcomes back a senior laden group incuding all-area third baseman Jamie Haze, whose .381 batting average (37 hits) was third highest on the team last season. Of the 12 girls on his roster, six are slappers. "We've got some speed," Manz said. "Hopefully, we'll put pressure on teams. That would be great," Back on the mound will be Boisvert and Udoni. Manz said he will let share time to start the season. "We have a lot of seniors," added Manz, who owns a career record of 247-130-2 with five regional titles and two sectional championship appearances. "We are looking forward to the experience we have," Manz added. "We have some three-year starters, too. So there is lots of experience."

SchaumburgCoach: Ellen Abreu (fourth season)

Last year's record: 20-10, 10-7

Graduated seniors: Julia Bellinger, Hannah Kerr, Dana Giannelli, Carly Brossard

Returning players: Lindsay Leiber (Sr. OF-1B), Jamie Kudjer (Sr. OF), Shannon Felde (Jr. P-SS), Elaine Walker (Jr. C-3B), Kelly Poplar (Jr. 2B), Roxanne Kakareka (Jr. P-2B-OF), Paige Alt (So. P-1B), Christina Candotti (So. 3B-C)

Newcomers: Kelly Loughman (So. IF), Sarah Schwind (So. IF-OF), Micaela Encarnacion (Fr. IF-OF-C), Kaiden Jackson (Fr. OF-IF) and Natalie Napier (Fr. IF)

Outlook: Abreu (Stoddard), a former standout pitcher for Fremd High School, welcomes back several key players from a team that won 20 games. "We have strong bats at the plate and consistent pitching on the mound." Abreu said. "For this season we will have strong bats at the plate followed by pitching and defense." One of the strong bats is Felde, who hit .535 with 53 hits, 36 RBI, 14 doubles, 3 triples and 4 home runs. She did not strike out in 99 at-bats. In the field, Felde committed only 2 errors with 76 assists. "Having a strong returning group will set the tone for the season and for the new comers on the team," Abreu said. "I expect to have a great season."

NORTHEASTERN ATHLETICChristian Liberty Academy Coach: Lisa Houdek (first season)

Last year's record: 10-11

Graduated seniors: Beth Cunningham, Darby Calkins

Returning players: Jenna Pavlik (Jr. 1B), Megan Sullivan (Jr. P),), Jen West (Jr. C), Corey Kramer (Jr. 2B), Regan March (Jr. RF)

Newcomers: Christy Peterson (Sr.), Megan Moeller (Sr), Rachel Liu (Jr), Melissa Avila (Sr), Liz Dulinsky (Sr.), Christy McCune (So), Christal Monasterio (Fr.)

Outlook: As she begins her first season directing the Chargers' program, Houdek expects to see a lot of improvement because she has so many first-year players. Houdek grew up playing softball in Wauconda where she played on a travel team in high school. She attended Christian Liberty Academy for high school but it didn't have a softball team at that time. She has been the Chargers assistant the last four years. Her assistant will be Jennifer Groshek, who began playing softball in second grade in a summer Little League program. She also played four years in high school in Wisconsin as a center fielder. Groshek also coached a Little League team while in high school.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLICSt. ViatorCoach: John Scotillo (first season)

Last year's record: 8- 24, 2-16

Graduated seniors: Michelle Presslak, Andreya DeLarco, Lauren Prazuch, Allison Rinka, Justice Johnson, Amanda Meyers

Returning players: Samantha Hogan (Sr. P), Tess Kaiser (Sr. IF), Gina Mastrodomenico (Sr. C-IF), Martha Hayes (Sr. C-IF), Kristen Hackel (Sr. IF), Mary Gerbatsch (Sr. IF-OF), Taylor Noll (Sr. IF), Krystal Harris (Jr. P-OF), Olivia Michalik (So OF)

Newcomers: Catherine Hafner (Fr. IF-OF), Grace Kaiser (FR. P-OF-IF), Cam VanValkenberg (FR. OF), Adeline Swiderski (Fr. C).

Outlook: As he begins his first season directing the program, coach John Scotillo will look to his seven seniors to provide veteran leadership. "And we expect some of our new players to make an immediate impact," Scotillo said. "We have added some speed and power to our line up. We hope to surprise a few teams."

WEST SUBURBAN GOLDLeydenCoach: Kurt Schuett (eighth season)

Last year's record: 7-18, 3-9

Graduated players: Michelle Sansone, Denise Moran, Jen Hall, and Anna Kawka

Returning players: Kelly Bjorvik (Sr. OF), Kendall Duwal (So. P), Sammi Caputo (Jr. P), Ali Luna (Sr. OF), Mackenzie LeDuc (Sr. 2B), Xochi Vega (Sr. C), Jessica Potts (Sr 3B)

Newcomers: Rachael Morrison (Jr. C), Brittany Aiello (Jr 3B), Alicia Solis (Jr OF), Abby Grande (So. OF), Jodi DuBrock (Fr. P)

Outlook: Leyden coach Kurt Schuett says his team is still young and building. The Eagles add six girls who played on a West Suburban Gold Conference championship junior varsity team. "And we have a lot "returning youth" and a handful of seasoned veterans who should make us very competitive," Schuett said. "We are hoping to be back above .500 this year." LeDuc plans to play at Roosevelt next season while Potts is headed for Robert Morris.

CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTHMaine WestCoach: Amy Gonzales (third season)

Last year's record: 19-7

Graduated Seniors: Ariel Valles, Gina Larucci, Holly Wengerski, Hanna Udischas, Renee, Pond, Tara Nykiel, Brie Montmarquette

Returning Players: Erin Feldkamp (Sr. IF), Abbey Herling (Sr. OF), Erin Ross (Sr. OF), Sadie Argus (Sr. OF), Anna Wileko (Sr. P-OF)

Newcomers: Katrina Entona (Sr. C-IF), Kassy Entona (Sr. P-IF),

Katie Roycroft (Jr. OF), Alyssa Pegoraro (Jr. IF), Annemarie Weber (Jr. IF), Brianna O'Toole (Jr. OF), Monica Liwag (So. OF), Kayla Pociejewski (So. C), Grace Feldkamp (Fr. P-IF)

Outlook: Maine West coach Amy Gonzales expects her third season to be somewhat of a rebuilding process as the Warriors graduated seven starters (including all-area Valles, Wengerski and Larucci) from last year's regional championship team. Herling (. 350) and Argus (. 359) return along with a group of seniors who are expected to provide strong defense and offense. "We are looking to continue to build a strong program with the help of a few underclassmen," Gonzales said. Liwag and Pociejewski, both key members of the Warriors' regional championship basketball team, join the varsity and should help contribute offensively and defensively. Herling and Ross were starters on the basketball team which took second in the CSL North. Gonzales said that Feldkamp a freshman, will pitch and provide offensive. "We have a strong junior class that will also be filling in the positions we lost in the infield and contributing for the offensively as well," Gonzales added. "We are excited for the season to begin. I expect to continue the success that the Maine West softball program has had the past few years. It will be a new group at the varsity level this year, with a competitive schedule and we look forward to seeing these girls play and work together as a team."

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