Girls basketball: Scouting Fox

Aurora Central Catholic

Coach: LeVada Smith (sixth season)

Last season: 26-7, 6-2 (first)

Top returning players: Riley Cwinski, jr., F; Sofia Corral, jr. G; Anna-Marie Godina, sr., G

Key newcomers: Brooklyn Murphy, jr. G; Gina Dutkanych, soph., G; Nora Schwartz, fresh., G

Worth noting: The Chargers, winners of a regional title last year, return all-state special-mention selection Cwinski (16.4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals), along with Corral (11.8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Godina (10.8 points, 80 threes) - giving them nearly 40 points of scoring experience from a year ago. All three were all-conference picks. ACC is in its first year in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference (along with locals Rosary, St. Francis and IC Catholic Prep). "We have experience and leadership," Smith said. "We have a good number of players where it will be their third or fourth year of varsity play. What gets me pumped about this group is how they support one another. I am anxious to see if this group can take the next step in overall success on the floor."


Coach: Tanner Gardon (third season)

Last season's record: 8-24, 6-12 UEC (seventh)

Top returning players: Amadea Montijo, sr., G; Trinity Thompson, sr., F; Cecilia Desarden, jr., G; Emily Linkevich, jr., G; Christina Stankus, jr., F

Key newcomers: Megan Kron, jr., G; Elsie Nwabuego, jr., F; Courtney Bridgeforth, soph., G-F

Worth noting: Montijo is a returning all-UEC pick and a Daily Herald All-Area selection. "We will be able to play at a higher pace and do some different things defensively because of that," Gardon said. "We also have a little more depth, which allows us to be more aggressive." Gardon pegs Glenbard South as the team to beat in the Upstate Eight. "Glenbard South has to be the frontrunners, returning a group of freshmen that started on a team that went undefeated in the Upstate Eight."


Coach: Kevin Jensen (ninth season)

Last year: 21-12

Top returners: Brooke Carlson, sr., G, 5-7; Kylee Gehrt, sr., G, 5-9; Addi Lowe, sr., G, 5-7

Key newcomers: Julia Arulandu, jr., G, 5-5; Hallie Crane, jr., F, 5-9; Kaidyn King, jr. G, 5-6

Worth noting: Batavia is firmly in the conversation for among the top three teams in the DuKane Conference. After consecutive regional championships, Batavia is loaded again. Brooke Carlson, a Colorado State commit, is back for her fourth season. Carlson averaged nearly 20 points per game and was the DuKane Conference Player of the Year as well. The lineup has a lot of shooting and athleticism with Carlson, Kylee Gehrt and Addi Lowe. Addie Prewitt is a great defender and the Bulldogs will have a nice rotation.

Burlington Central

Coach: Mike Carani (first season)

Last season's record: 22-11, 12-6 FVC (third)

Top returning players: Emma Payton, sr., C; Kenzie Anderson, sr., G; Jordyn Charles, soph., G; Emersyn Fry, sr. G; Savannah Scheuer, sr., G-F; Mia Hansen, sr. C

Key newcomers: Audrey LaFleur, fresh., G; Ashley Waslo, soph., G

Worth noting: Carani takes over a Rockets team that won 22 games, finished third in the Fox Valley and won a regional title. "We have an athletic, hard-working group that loves to compete. I am excited to see this group get an opportunity to play together and compete." Carani said based on returning/new upcoming talent and strong, consistent coaching within their respective programs, Huntley, Hampshire, Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge are teams that could contend in the FVC. "We have a number of seniors who are eager and ready to prove," he said. LaFleur, a freshman, is the daughter of former Elgin High standout Karisa Turek LaFleur and the granddaughter of legendary former Elgin coach Lee Turek, who won 359 games in 21 years at Maroons coach, leading Elgin to a Class AA runner-up state finish in 1996.


Coach: Tony Moretti (fifth season)

Last season's record: 12-18, 7-11 FVC (sixth)

Top returners: Ellie Mjaanes, jr., F; Emily Larry, sr., F; Sam Skerl, jr., G; Malaina Kurth, so., G; Kennedy Manning, so., G

Key newcomers: Kayli McMorris, sr., G.; Alivia Nielsen, jr., F

Worth noting: Larry (7.7 ppg) and Mjaanes (7.1 ppg) led the Trojans in scoring last season. Mjaanes was C-G's lone All-FVC selection. … Moretti is excited about the Trojans' returning experience after a down year. … "Our team was incredibly young last year and went through some growing pains, but I expect them to rebound nicely," Moretti said. "They are hungry and excited to prove themselves. We have some good young post players and tough guards."

Crystal Lake South

Coach: Mark Mucha (10th season)

Last season's record: 8-21, 4-14 FVC (tied for eighth)

Top returners: Brynn LeFevre, sr., G; Carly Gorman, sr., G; Laken LePage, so., G

Key newcomers: Mady Law, sr., F; Kirra Hansen, sr., F; Adi Schwab, jr., G; Mallory Glover, fr., G; Makena Cleary, fr., G; Tessa Melhuish, fr., F

Worth noting: The Gators will have a very inexperienced team with many first-time varsity players. … LePage will miss her sophomore season after suffering a torn ACL in August. LePage averaged 11.1 points a game as a freshman and nailed 22 3s. … South graduated its top post player in Nicole Molgado (9.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg) and one of their most physical players in Hanna Massie (9.1 rpg). … "We are going to have lots of kids getting their first varsity minutes," Mucha said. "I can't wait to see how they perform and watch their growth throughout the season."


Coach: John Gonnella (second season)

Last season's record: 9-22, 4-14 (tied for eighth)

Top returners: Monica Sierzputowski, sr., F; Theriz Mercado, sr., G; Charlotte Stewart, jr., G

Worth noting: The Chargers showed improvement in the FVC after winning only one conference game in 2022. … D-C graduated its lone All-FVC selection in Kendall Brents. … Sierzputowski, a 6-foot-1 forward, missed time at the start of season while recovering from injury. She will play next year at Oakton College. … D-C defeated McHenry 41-35 in a Class 4A Jacobs Regional semifinal … "We are consistently striving to improve and develop our talent to remain competitive in all of our games," Gonnella said.


Coach: Dr. Nick Bumbales (15th season; 36th year at EHS)

Last year's record: 8-24, 1-17 UEC

Top returning players: Izzie Castro, jr., 5-7, SG; Jocelyn Bardesi, sr., 5-4, PG

Key newcomers: Bella Coleman, sr., 5-7, G; Madison King, sr., 5-6, F; Mahita Ratakonda, jr., 5-10, C; Kelly Taruc, jr., 5-1 G; Stephanie Asare, sr., 5-7, F; Chloe Horn, sr., 5-7, F; Maile Fuller, sr., 5-6, F; Shaniya Coleman, sr., 5-6, F

Worth noting: Castro, a captain along with Bardesi, averaged 10 points last year and broke Elgin Sports Hall of Famer Melissa Parker's long-standing record for most 3-pointers made in a season with 63. She was an all-Upstate Eight pick last year, Bardesi, a two-time UEC honorable mention pick, is back after averaging 4 points and 3 assists. Ratakonda was the Elgin JV team's leading scorer. "Even though we only have 2 returning starters, we do have a fair amount of experience returning," Bumbales noted. "It is a good, balanced mix of players who might be our best offensive group in some time. Bumbales, a fixture at Elgin High over the years in both basketball programs, is retiring from coaching at season's end. "Obviously, being my last year of a long career has myself and the girls pumped up," he said. Bumbales noted both Glenbards are teams to watch in the UEC. "Glenbard East has a tough, deep, physical group that will be tough for most teams in the conference to match up with," he said. "Glenbard South is very talented. If they can stay healthy, they are the team to beat." Elgin has been named to the IBCA academic all-state team for the past three years, the only UEC team, boys or girls, to do so. Bardesi is the first four-time varsity captain of any sport in the 125-year history of Elgin High athletic, Bumbales stated. Bumbales has been a head coach in the girls basketball, softball and girls volleyball programs. He also served 21 years as team physician and volunteer assistant in the boys basketball program.

Elgin Academy

Coach: Eddie Mercado (second season)

Last season's record: 2 wins

Top returning players: Lily Perez, sr., G; Mia Velsaquez, jr., G; Tori Hill, sr., F

Key newcomers: Frieda Euscher-Klingenhsgen, sr., 6-2, C

Worth noting: The HIlltoppers graduated three seniors from last year's team. "I'm very excited for this year, although we will be very young because we lost the three seniors," Mercado explained. The Hilltoppers will be without senior forward Kate Kihnke for the season due to injury. Mercado also said freshmen Amanda Alvarado (guard), Abrielle Novelli (guard) and Selina Chen (forward) have potential. "We only won two games last year in my first year, but we had many close games," Mercado pointed out. "I am hoping we can make a leap and win more of those close ones this year. We plan to be live underdogs every game." Mercado said the 6-2 Euscher-Klingenhsgen, a newcomer to the team, has potential.


Coach: Sarah Meadows (13th season)

Last season's record: 31-4

Top returners: Leah Palmer, sr., F, 5-11; Caroline Madden, sr., G, 5-7; Kinsey Gracey, G, 5-6

Key newcomers: Bridget Hecker, jr., F, 5-9; Perri Sweeney, G, jr., 5-7;

Worth noting: Last year's team finished third in Class 4A. While Cassidy Arni and Lauren Slagle graduated from that phenomenal front court, Leah Palmer is still back as the top scoring option and leader of this team. Rilee Hasegawa is another key loss from last year's lineup, but Caroline Madden and Kinsey Gracey will stabilize the guard position. Madden, in particular, is an exceptional on-ball defender and provides toughness. Geneva ran through the DuKane Conference undefeated last year, and while it remains to be seen how the rotation will fully settle, the Vikings will be jockeying for top position again this year.


Coach: Eric Samuelson (fifth season)

Last season's record: 22-10, 16-2 (second)

Top returners: Avery Cartee, sr., G-F; Ashley Herzing, sr., G; Sophie Oleferchik, sr., F; Whitney Thompson, sr., G; Chloe VanHorn, jr., G-F; Mikala Amegasse, so., G

Key newcomers: Katheryn Cardona, sr., F; Belle Eckert, sr., G-F; Audree Khotisene, sr., G-F; Kate Pearsall, sr., G; Autumn Kriegel, jr., G-F; Kiley Podzimek, jr., G; Morgan Trent, jr., G-F; Ginger Younger, so., G

Worth noting: The Whip-Purs' only two conference losses last year came to Huntley, going from six wins in FVC play in 2022 to 16 in 2023. … Whitney Thompson and Herzing return as All-FVC selections. Herzing led the team in scoring at 9.2 points a game and was second in the area with 60 3-pointers. Thompson averaged 8.1 points a game and had 44 3s. … Cartee, who is committed to Wisconsin-Whitewater (D-III), averaged 6.6 points a game and returns as a captain, along with Thompson and Herzing. … Amegasse stood out over the summer, Samuelson said. … "The eight seniors on our team have brought incredible leadership to our program, and we're honored to be part of their final high school journey," Samuelson said. "We have a chance to be fairly balanced on the offensive end. As always, defense will be the key. We will need to play great team defense this season."

Harvest Christian Academy

Coach: Jeremy Burke (fifth season)

Last season's record: 12-14, 5-1 (won NAC tournament)

Top returning players: Daphne Brown, jr., G; Alyssa Burke, jr., G-F; Ellie Semerau, jr., G; Mckenna Nestrick, sr., F-

Key newcomers: Izzy Abraham G-F; Paige Nestrick, soph., G-F

Worth noting: Brown, the NAC MVP, was the team's leader in scoring, assists and steals last year, while Burke, an all-NAC selection, was the team's top rebounder and was second in scoring, assists and steals. Mckenna Nestrick was a second-team all-NAC pick, while Semerau earned honorable-mention all-conference accolades. "We only lost one senior from last year's team, so our core returners are great," Burke noted. "This is a great group of girls that will work hard all season and will be playing their best basketball at the end of it." Burke said Harvest and Rockford Christian Life should be the top contenders in the Northeastern Athletic. Harvest split a pair of games with Life with Harvest winning in the title game of the conference tournament. Burke added Harvest has several girls who are multisport athletes and had great fall seasons. "We had girls that made it to the supersectional in volleyball and our cross country team went Downstate," he said. "We are looking to carry that success into the basketball season It might take us a bit to get started, but I can't wait to see the outcome at the end."


Coach: Steve Raethz (25th season)

Last season's record: 28-5, 18-0 FVC (first)

Top returners: Anna Campanelli, jr., G; Cassidy Serpe, sr., G; Yasmine Morsy, sr., F; Ava McFadden, jr., G; Isabella Boskey, jr., F

Key newcomers: Paula Strzelecki, jr., F; Madison Diaz, jr., G; Luca Garlin, so., G; Gwen Campbell, so., F; Aubrina Adamik, so., G; Cece Romano, so., G; Kylie Lucas, sr., G; Mia Garlin, sr., G; Elizabeth Johnson, sr., G; Alyssa Borzych, fr., G

Worth noting: The Red Raiders carry a 28-FVC game-winning streak into the season and have won the past two FVC titles. Huntley's 23 wins were its most since finishing 30-4 in 2016. The Raiders fell to Guilford 43-30 in a Class 4A Huntley Regional final. … Huntley graduated eight seniors, including Jessie Ozzauto (16.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Sammi Campanelli (11.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg). … Anna Campanellli averaged 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals as a sophomore. … McFadden made 29 3s and Serpe had 16. … "Although we return only five players from our varsity team from last season, we have a group of players who work extremely hard and are very coachable, and we feel like we have the opportunity to improve and grow as the season progresses," Raethz said.


Coach: Brian Claesson (second season)

Last season: 15-17, 8-6 Interstate 8 Conference (third), lost in regional final to Sycamore

Top returners: Kendra Brown, jr., G; Lexi Schueler, sr., G; Sam Kerry, jr., G/F; Berlyn Ruh, sr., F; Emily Kunzer, sr., F.

Top newcomers: Kyra Lilly, so., G; Amani Meeks, fr., G.

Worth noting: Kaneland had an up-and-down season last year, losing many close games. Six of Kaneland's 17 losses from last year were by three points or fewer. Claesson hopes that some of those bounces will go the Knights' way after his team gets more acquainted with his philosophies. "Last year was the first year in the new system, and now we have that foundation set, which allows us to add new wrinkles into what we did last year," Claesson said. "We had a great offseason. It was great to see the team bond through the summer and into the fall. It is a fun group to be around. We have seen a lot of individual growth over the offseason, and now it's our job to mix individual growths into our team structure." Claesson also thinks that his team is more athletic and deeper this season. "We are not the biggest team, but we are going to use our speed to our advantage," Claesson said. "It is a great group of girls that are extremely smart. We know teams are going to focus on [Brown] and [Schueler], but we feel like we have a lot of depth that will surprise some teams.


Coach: Jonathon Reibel (sixth season)

Last season's record: 3-28, 1-17 FVC (10th)

Top returners: Cam Cook, sr., F; Baylle Fee, sr., F; Hailey Franczkowski, sr., F; Ashley Jedlowski, sr., G; Emma Lutz, sr., G; Mikayla Weel, jr., G; Zara Lewis, so., G

Key newcomers: Alondra Correa, sr., G; Sophia Acot, jr., G; Olivia Schuldt, jr., F; Amber Rasool, jr., F; Zoe VerBurg, jr., G; Mallory Fessler, so., G; Olivia Schuster, fr., F

Worth noting: The Golden Eagles had a down year with only one conference win after going 8-10 in FVC play in 2022. Reibel likes his team's depth and their ability to play different styles. He said Schuster, a 6-foot-4 freshman, will be a player to watch this season, Reibel said. Weel is returning from a torn ACL she suffered in the opener last season… "We have an extremely committed and hard-working group that is determined to turn things around this season," Reibel said. "All 14 players will be counted on to contribute every night. This group will make each game very exciting to watch."


Coach: Steve Knapp (ninth season)

Last season's record: 18-14, 10-8 UEC (fifth)

Top returning players: Sanaii McPherson, soph., SF; Mia Carter, soph., SG; Gabby Ploche, sr., PG

Key newcomers: Mackenzie Leaver, fresh., G

Worth noting: McPherson averaged 9.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game as a ninth-grader last year, while classmate Carter was at 7.1 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Both were honorable mention all-UEC. Ploche averaged 4 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. "We will be quick up and down the floor because we are guard-heavy," Knapp said. "Many of the girls had a great summer so it is nice to see the growth in this group." Knapp concurred with the thought that both Glenbards are the teams to beat in the UEC this season along with Bartlett. Larkin has 4 seniors, 1 junior, 4 sophomores and a freshman on the roster. "We will be fun to watch the next couple years," Knapp said.


Coach: Ken Ubertino (first season)

Last year's record: 6-25, 0-5 GCAC (sixth)

Top returning players: Megan Molenhouse, sr., G; Erin Murray, sr., Wing; Tes Ketterman, sr., Wing

Key newcomers: Ellie Figueras, sr., G; Maddie Stumm, jr., Wing; Karyna Brohl, jr., G; Peyton Saltijeral, soph., G

Worth noting: New coach Ubertino said strengths of the team include athleticism and defense. "I'm excited about our pace of play and playing positionless basketball," he said. Ubertino said Montini, Chicago Resurrection and Aurora Central are teams to beat in the GCAC. Murray, Figueras, Ketterman and Molenhouse are National Honors Society members at Rosary.

South Elgin

Coach: Emily Driessen (first season)

Last season's record: 16-17, 11-7 UEC (fourth)

Top returning players: Madison Hunt, sr., G; Lexi Lopez, sr., G

Key newcomers: Olivia Miller, fresh., F; Mia Speidel, sr., G; Taleah Banner, soph., F; Molly Stahl, soph., G

Outlook: "We are a young team with not a lot of varsity experience, so we are going to rely on our energy and our ability to grow together," first-year Storm coach Driessen said. "We plan to take big strides week in and week out to be better in February." Driessen noted Glenbard South won the UEC last year and has the majority of its team back, and feels Glenbard East and Larkin both will have strong programs this season. Driessen noted the team will play the season with heavy hearts and honor Kamorra Campbell, who would have been a senior on the team this season. She passed on after a car accident on the way to school this past fall. "As a program and team, we have a lot more to play for this season," said Driessen, who had coached Campbell the past two years.

St. Charles East

Coach: Katie Claussner (first season)

Last season's record: 10-19

Top returners: Lexi DiOrio, sr., G, 5-6; Alexis Maridis, sr., G, 5-2; Corrine Reed, jr., G,

Key newcomers: Addie Schilb, jr., G 5-7

Worth noting: Claussner is in her first season as varsity head coach. The 2015 St. Charles East graduate, Claussner takes over the bench from Josh Foster. The Saints are really solid at guard. DiOrio, the IU-Kokomo commit, is back for her fourth season and plays an all-around strong game. Maridis missed a lot of time last season, but should bring a lot of balance at point guard. Reed also will build on a strong season and brings great shooting ability to the floor.

St. Charles North

Coach: Mike Tomczak (eighth season)

Last season's record: 26-7

Top returners: Katrina Stack, sr., F, 6-3; Reagan Sipla, sr., G/F, 6-1; Laney Stark, sr., G, 5-7

Key newcomers: Elle Fuhr, so. F, 6-0; Hannah Ganser, jr. G, 5-8; Mia Hoppes, sr., G, 5-7;

Worth noting: Alyssa Hughes and Julia Larson's graduations from last year's backcourt are huge considering their respective shooting and defense. However, Stark, Stack and Sipla are back in their spots from last season and will carry over their team growth from last year. Stark's defense will be key with Stack and Sipla ideally getting inside offensive looks to take advantage of their shooting and size. Fuhr brought energy and defense last year, while Hoppes should bring some shooting help.

St. Edward

Coach: Michelle Dawson (20th season)

Last season's record: 7-25, 4-8

Top returning players: Mogan Lutzow, sr., G; Amelia Davis, jr., F; Maggie Jarzemsky, jr., F; Elizabeth Leadley, jr., G; Madeline Sasis, jr., G; Alaina Nolan, soph., G; Jordin Sauls, soph., F

Key newcomers: Layne Dawson, fresh., G; Taylor Dawson, fresh., F; Sarah Gurley, fresh., G; Savannah Lynch, fresh., G

Outlook: Dawson, assisted by Roxanne Leadley, is 11 wins away from hitting the 300 mark for her career. Youthful experience will be on display in the early going for the Green Wave. "While we are still quite young, we now have some experienced varsity players," Dawson said. "Our returning players Maggie and Madeline will be leading the team along with freshman Savannah Lynch. We are looking forward to the Oregon Tipoff tournament to see how our athleticism and understanding of the game begin to gel on the court. I am impressed with the work ethic of our team throughout the first week of practice." This is St. Edward's first year in the new Chicagoland Christian Conference, which has 8 teams for girls basketball. "The new conference brings about a few changes, playing each team only once and then having an end-of-season conference tournament," Dawson explained.


Coach: Elizabeth Endriukaitis (second season)

Last season's record: 3-28, 1-17 UEC

Top returning players: Jami Gatlin, sr., F; Kailey Pawlikowski, jr., F; Casie Cruz, jr., F; Angelina Sagadraca, jr., PG; Briana Coffey, soph., F

Key newcomer: Ayumi Ishikawa, fresh., G

Worth noting: "Our strengths this season will be our speed and having more experience," Endriukaitis said. "We are returning four players who have played together for two-plus years. As a newer head coach, not to the program, my goal is to change the culture at Streamwood and bring back a culture of working hard and striving for positive change, learning that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good and the betterment of the team and program," Endriukaitis said.

West Aurora

Coach: Teresa Waldinger

Last season's record: 15-16, 9-7 SWP West (third)

Top returning players: Niallie Evans, sr., PG

Worth noting: Evans is back after averaging 6.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals last year. "Most of our players were on JV last year and had limited varsity minutes," Waldinger said. "However, several of them are aggressive and have a hunger for the game. We will be the hardest-working team on the floor. We have a great group of girls. I think people are underestimating us with Aspen Weeks graduating. We have a lot of heart and this crew is like a family." Freshman Syncere Williams will be a strong addition for the Blackhawks. "Syncere has a great basketball IQ and will prove valuable this season with her moves, shooting and speed," Waldinger said. West Aurora also has two transfer students in Kanylah Young and Anyae Newson, both seniors. "The girls have seemed to gel really well out of the gate," Waldinger said. "We're hoping that continues with their additions." Waldinger noted Plainfield North, Yorkville and Minooka are teams to keep an eye on in the Southwest Prairie West. "We're looking to finish at the top of the conference with our work ethic leading the way," she said.

Burlington Central's Kenzie Andersen drives to the basket against Belvidere North on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, during pool play girls basketball game in the Burlington Central Thanksgiving Tournament. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Local News Network
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