The 2016-2017 girls basketball season tips off on Friday and the competition in the Chagrin Valley Conference and Western Reserve Conference will be intense.
OhioVarsity.com polled the coaches of each conference and if the results are indication of what’s to come we’re going to have an interesting winter.
Here’s a preview of each conference:
CHAGRIN VALLEY CONFERENCE
Pre-Season Coaches Poll
3. Chagrin Falls
6. West Geauga
Pre-Season All-CVC Chagrin Division
- Taylor Royster, Beachwood
- Hailey Peeples, Geneva
- Claire Dolan, Perry
- Jordan Schiano, Perry
- Kate Weston, Chagrin Falls
Beachwood returns several key players from last year’s squad including Taylor Royster, who averaged 26 points per game.
Paige Safenovitz, a 3-point threat, and Jaeda Peck, who shot 50-percent from the field, will complement Royster and keep the Bison in games.
“Beachwood needs to hang their hats on defense and push the tempo on offense,” said Beachwood coach Dwayne Morrow.
Head coach Brittany Anderson needs just three wins to reach 100 in her eight-year career at Chagrin Falls. Anderson opens the season with a 97-45 record.
She’ll have her work cut out for her as she’ll be forced to replace the entire starting rotation.
The good news is she has plenty of talent to choose from with six returning lettermen and several newcomers.
“We are a very young, but enthusiastic team this season,” Anderson said. “We may not have as much experience on our roster as other CVC teams, but we make up for it with athleticism and hustle. This team is motivated and tough.”
Seniors Emily Owen, a 5-foot-4 guard, and Kate Weston, a 5-10 senior, will be counted on to provide leadership to the Tigers on the court.
Once the Tigers come together as a team, they should make a run at the CVC title.
“We need to get over the inexperience and early nerves in order to be successful,” Anderson said. “Once we push beyond our comfort zone, this team can accomplish a lot. We need to make sure that we play as a cohesive unit and help each other out as much as possible.”
Geneva opens the defense of its conference championship without standout Lindsey Mayle, who graduated last spring. But, don’t feel bad for the Eagles.
Nancy Barbo’s squad returns two starters and four other lettermen including junior forward Hailey Peoples, who was named league MVP last season after averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Peoples also earned first team all-county and all-district honors.
Emily Harriman, a junior point guard, was second team all-CVC and all-county after contributing seven points, three assists and three steals last winter.
“Hailey and Emily have been varsity starters since their freshman year,” Barbo said. “They have great chemistry together, high expectations and are the hardest workers on our team.”
Emily Corlew, Alex Schafer, Kylee Clint and Jamie Bradbury also earned letters last season.
“We need to consistently play solid defense, demonstrate composure on offense and continually work to develop our team chemistry,” Barbo said.
Harvey coach John Sams has a host of players back from the squad that finished 10-12 overall and 5-9 in the CVC last season.
That’s why he’s so excited about the Red Raiders’ potential.
Harvey’s projected starting lineup includes three seniors, a junior and a sophomore who combined for nearly 30 points per game last season.
If the Red Raiders’ bench steps up, look for Harvey to make some noise this season.
The Lions have some firepower in Alexia Owens and Casey Smith but will need to continue to develop talent to compete in the Chagrin Division.
Perry coach Brindi Kandel returns plenty of talent and athleticism this season and she plans to maximize it to compete for the CVC Chagrin Division title.
“This year we have to play an up tempo style and look to push the ball early and often,” she said. “We need to take advantage of our quickness and depth to help make up for our lack of height inside. For us to be successful we have to use our defense to create our offense and we need to commit to finding a way to make up for some of the rebounding power we lost from a year ago.”
The Pirates return two starters in Claire Dolan, a first team all-CVC selection a year ago, and Jordan Schiano, a second teamer, and three other letter winners in Anna Sorine, Ellie Frazier and Emily Holyrod.
Dolan, who also was named to the all-district third team, averaged 13 points, two assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while Schiano averaged 12 points and two rebounds per contest.
“Claire and Jordan are our top two returning scorers and bring a lot of experience to the mix, as do Ellie Frazier and Emily Holroyd,” Kandel said. “We will rely on those four to provide leadership on both ends of the floor.”
The Wolverines return over 32 points per game with senior guard Hannah Brinning entering the 2016-2017 as the team’s leading scorer with 7.9 points per contest scored last season.
Seniors Lindsey Stanforth, a guard, and Jessica Sargent, a center, posted 6.4 and 3.2 points per game, respectively.
The three seniors will be complemented by a talented group of underclassmen including junior guard Kori Ryan (2.2 ppg) and sophomores Bridgette Sexton, a guard, and Alex Desciscio (a forward). Sexton averaged a bucket per game last winter.
The Blue Devils return a pair of starters in Mary Burkette and Sierra Crites and freshman Stephanie Martin is a newcomer head coach Anthony Wilson is counting on to make an immediate impact.
“Mary Burkette should be able to average three to four rebounds per game and double digits in points and rebounds if we are to be successful,” Wilson said. “Stephanie Martin will be our scorer. She can drive to the basket as well as shoot the jumper. Sierra Crites ended the season doing well behind the 3-point line. Hopefully she will improve upon that.”
Burkette averaged seven points and seven rebounds per game last year and if the Blue Devils continue to show improvement on both ends of the court they can climb the standings in the CVC Chagrin Division.
“In order for our team to be successful this season we have to be able to defend and play physical,” Wilson said. “We have to be able to convert the easy baskets we are able to get.”
Pre-Season Coaches Poll
2. Cuyahoga Heights
7. Richmond Heights
8. Fairport Harding
Pre-Season All-CVC Valley Division
- Lexi Martin, Cuyahoga Heights
- Megan Kuczmarski, Independence
- Sydney Snyder, Kirtland
- Delaney Leichtman, Cardinal
- Kayla White, Berkshire
Returning starters Joann Miller and Kayla White are joined by five other returning varsity letter winners for Dennis Lory’s Badgers, who have improved greatly over the past two seasons and now are in a position to compete for the Valley Division title.
To do that, the Badgers need consistent scoring from Miller and White and the rest of the squad has to step up to play solid defense and protect the basketball.
Rachel Breckenridge also has shown a lot in the preseason and could be a key to the Badgers’ success.
“Rachel and Joann have played very well in preseason and we are looking for them to provide the scoring load,” Lory said. “We need to limit turnovers and get everyone involved in the offense in order to be successful.”
Sophomore point guard Shaelin DeLong and freshman guard Lexi Boyk have emerged as two players Lory will look for to make plays this winter.
The Huskies graduated six seniors but don’t rule them out as one of the challengers for the league title.
Coach Luke Kruse returns a dynamic group of underclassmen to complement his three talented seniors in Delaney Leichtman, Dawn Scribben and Allissa Nevison.
Leichtman, an all-CVC honorable mention selection, was the team’s leading scorer with eight points per game, and one of two returning starters. Sophomore Ashley Gubanyar also returns to the Huskies’ starting lineup and sophomore Camille Cummins is Cardinal’s other varsity letter winner expected to make a major contribution this season.
Delaney was our leading scorer last year and is tough to defend with her ability to finish at the rim using tough angles and while absorbing contact,” Kruse said. “I expect Ashley to play with more confidence night in and night out now that she has a year of varsity experience under her belt. She is mixing up her offensive game to take it to the basket more instead of only relying on her outside shot.”
Expect the Huskies to play an up tempo game on both ends of the court to take advantage of their speed and ball handing abilities.
Playing fast could also help to minimize their size disadvantage.
“To be successful this season, we need to play with a relentless energy and push the pace to take advantage of our skill set,” Kruse said. “After losing six seniors last year, we are a different team and need to adapt. Ball Handling, speed, pressure defense and shooting are our strengths. We are undersized so will need to fight for rebounds and play aggressive defense to reduce opportunities for other teams to work the ball inside. We are lucky to have multiple ball-handlers and players that complement each other on the floor. If we keep good spacing on the offensive end we have multiple athletes that can find a way put the ball in the hoop.”
Cuyahoga Heights returns one starter and two lettermen from last year’s squad that made a run at a league title.
Lexi Martin, who averaged 4.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, is a returning starter and Emma Lipkowski earned a varsity letter after averaging 4.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per contest.
Both will be expected to lead the Redskins this season.
“Lexi was our starting point guard last year and an excellent defender,” said Redskins coach Al Martin. “Emma has the ability to get hot from beyond the 3-point line.”
Cuyahoga Heights is lacking height so the Redskins will have to work extra hard under the basket to create second chance scoring opportunities and to keep opponents from scoring off easy looks.
“Our lack of size will make rebounding a major challenge,” Martin said. “We will need to block out and scrap for every loose ball to be successful.”
Fairport Harding lost five of its top six scorers to graduation but the return of Brenna Lorek is a good starting point for the young Skippers.
Lorek averaged over five points per game last season and she’ll be counted on to increase her scoring and to provide leadership on the court.
Hawken has a new look with David Murray taking the reins from Patty Hace but the Hawks have plenty of returning faces.
Danielle Drockton is the team’s lone returning starter. Aubrey Lair, Bailey Hagedorn, Molly Emig and Elizabeth Stilson all earned a varsity letter last season.
Carol Tatsuoka also is expected to make a key contribution for the Hawks.
Independence returns just one starter but she’s a good one.
|Independence's Megan Kuczmarski|
Megan Kuczmarski, a first team all-CVC performer last season, highlights a group of four returning letter winners for the Blue Devils. She averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game last season. Sophie Piteo and Hanah Walker also are expected to be key contributors this season.
“Megan will be counted on for many things for us to find any success. She returns as our leading scorer and rebounder and we will need to her to continue that pace,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko. “Sophie can play the point or the off guard and is a solid defender. Her biggest impact will be her leadership on and off the court. Hanah is a solid defender and her ability to score has improved. She can play inside or outside and can provide flexibility to our team.”
If Independence hopes to contend for a league title, it will start with protecting the basketball and playing defense.
“I believe for any season to be successful our ability to take care of the ball is most important,” Marcinko said. “After that we need to defend well and have multiple players contribute on offense.”
Kirtland enters the season as the preseason favorite to win the Valley Division but the Hornets have plenty of questions to answer.
First, can the Hornets find a replacement for leading scorer Taylor Somodji, who graduated? Even more important, will the Hornets step up in the paint after losing several key players to graduation?
Early returns look good for the Hornets as junior Sydney Snyder, who averaged over 10 points per game last season, has looked strong on both ends of the court and Lauren Bottesch has stepped up to be a force under the basket.
If Kirtland can play its style of basketball—which starts with a harassing defense—and get consistent scoring from Snyder and younger sister Lauren, a freshman, the Hornets could live up to the preseason billing.
The Spartans graduated seven seniors included the league’s top player in Deja Winters.
That leaves a group of untested and inexperienced players to step in to defend the Spartans’ Valley Division title and they’ll have their work cut out for them with a competitive league this winter.
Richmond Heights will have some talent but the Spartans are going to have to grow up in a hurry to compete for another league title.
WESTERN RESERVE CONFERENCE
Pre-Season Coaches Poll
- Arielle DeBase, Brush
- Sam Pirosko, North
- Corenna Maynard, Kenston
- Tessa Ludwick, Chardon
- Josie Cremeans, Chardon
Last season, the Arcs won 14 games, a team best over the past seven years.
They did that without a senior on the roster and now they’re back with more experience and confidence.
Arielle DeBase averaged over 13 points per game last season and she has earned the respect of coaches throughout the league as one of the top players and scoring threats in the WRC.
If the rest of the Arcs continue to develop they could challenge the perennial powerhouses for the league title.
Chardon returns most of its starting lineup and 11 lettermen overall. That puts the Hilltoppers in a good position heading into the 2016-2017 season.
That group includes seniors Tessa Ludwick, Josie Cremeans and Kaitlin Kobuszewski.
Ludwick, a 5-4 guard, averaged 7.7 points, 3.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 4.4 rebounds in a breakout campaign that ended with her being named all-WRC and to the Cleveland.com and News Herald All-Star teams. Cremeans, a 5-8 guard, posted 12.8 points and 2.7 steals and also drained 50 3-pointers in leading the Hilltoppers in scoring. She was a first team all-WRC and all-Geauga County honoree. Kobuszewski, a 5-4 guard, suffered an ankle injury and saw limited action but she finished with 7.2 points and 3.0 steals per contest.
“I expect our seniors to help lead us through the grind of the season,” said Chardon coach Cullen Harris. “They're tested at the varsity level and know what it takes to compete night in and night out at the highest of levels.”
For the Hilltoppers, depth could prove to be the difference in 2016-2017 but they’ll have to defend the glass to win games.
“In order to be successful we need to rebound the basketball as a team,” Harris said. “We don't have anyone who is going to average 10 rebounds per game, but we have five kids who can carry their weight on the boards each night.”
Kenston returns three starters and eight lettermen this season and the Bombers have three of the league’s top players.
Corenna Maynard, Grace Adams and Julie Hajdu all received all-WRC honors last season after combining for over 16 points per game.
“(Maynard) is a tremendous defender who will have a bigger role offensively this year,” said Kenston coach Kevin Hinkle. “Adams is a four-year letter winner who can shoot the ball. (Hajdu) is an athletic wing who can score and play multiple positions.”
The Bombers will have to play fast and rebound to have success in 2016-2017.
“We need to push the tempo both offensively and defensively and need to be more effective rebounding the basketball,” Hinkle said. “We need players to step up their scoring ability from last year.”
Madison graduated its top scorer but return three juniors who averaged over eight points per game last season.
That core should keep the Blue Streaks competitive in league play and with some help they could make a run at the league title.
Mayfield returns just one starter but the Wildcats return seven lettermen from last season, which should lead to more consistent play throughout the season.
“We return a solid core of players who have worked extremely hard in the off season,” said Mayfield coach Ryan Looman. “They will take huge strides forward as leaders of our team and we expect big things from them.”
Returners include juniors Julia DeBaltzo (10ppg, 4rpg), Hannah Fredrickson (6ppg, 6rpg) and Leah Nerone and sophomores Juls Consolo and Katelyn Kinczel.
For the Wildcats to be successful, they’ll need to focus on one game at a time and play hard from whistle to whistle.
“We need to play within ourselves, play our game, and focus our strengths on the court,” Looman said. “We must play together and play fast, something we preach every day in practice. We have a rugged conference and tough non-conference schedule, so we must stay focused on what we need to do in order to build and win basketball games.”
The Rangers return five starters and added some fresh talent in its underclassmen ranks.
Samantha Pirosko, a junior honorable mention all-Ohioan and first team all-WRC selection, and Ally Lako, a senior three-year starter who averaged 10 points per game the past two years, lead a North team filled with potential and high expectations.
|South's Erynn Daubenmire|
“I expect Samantha to put up numbers in the point and rebound column but her biggest contribution to us will be leadership and her ability to adjust to the different defenses and schemes that we see,” said North coach Paul Force. “Ally has played a ton of varsity games and she is comfortable in our system on both sides of the court. We look to her for consistency and leadership on and off the court.”
Juniors Anaunda Lyons, Val Arnold and Natalie Thoss round out the returning starters.
Force expects freshman Destiny Leo to make a major contribution to the team this season. She ended her eighth grade career with a 52-point performance against Mayfield.
“Destiny Leo is an incoming freshman who has more ability than any 15 year old I've ever worked with,” Force said. “She has good skills and a good feel for the game. Her biggest challenge will be getting used to the speed of the varsity level and understanding our defensive schemes and responsibilities.”
Finding the right pieces to the puzzle is just one of Force’s challenges this season. But, if the Rangers can maximize their potential, a deep post-season run could be in the works.
“We need to play inside out,” Force said. “We shoot the ball well at times but need to be consistent to keep teams honest. Our ability to take care of the ball and limit teams scoring opportunities will be critical to our season.”
The Beavers return three solid players in seniors Olivia Parsons and Brittney Prugel and junior Amanda Apanivicius but they’ll need to develop some depth to move up in the WRC standings.
The Rebels enter the 2016-2017 with plenty of experience.
In addition to three returning starters, South has seven players on its roster who earned a varsity letter last season.
Leading the charge for the Rebels is Mya Matriano, who averaged eight points and led the team in 3-point shots and scoring. She’ll continue to be the focal point of the South offense. Erynn Daubenmire led the team in rebounds and averaged 7.1 points per game last season and Emily Woodcock provides a consistent effort in the paint. She averaged four points and 4.5 rebounds per contest last year.
“When Erynn is healthy she is a force to be reckoned with. She is hard to guard offensively when she drives, has a nice shot from the outside and can rebound like a champ,” said South coach Erin Ertter. “Emily has been working very hard on adding additional moves to her arsenal of post moves. She brings a lot to the team offensively and defensively for us and always has a positive attitude.”
South’s success this season comes down to playing consistent basketball throughout the season.
“In order for us to be successful this year we need to be consistent in all aspects of what we do, including practice, games, drills, fundamentals,” Ertter said. “It needs to be done consistently the same way every day. We also need to make sure we are boxing out, handling ball pressure and coming ready to play and win.”