Perry and Cuyahoga Heights opened the 2017-2018 season with targets on their backs as every other team in the Chagrin Valley Conference is hoping to dethrone the 2016-2017 league champions.
The Pirates won the Chagrin Division while the Redskins claimed the Valley Division title.
In compiling individual team previews, OhioVarsity.com also surveyed each league coach to identify the favorites heading into the new campaign.
Here’s a look at how the coaches see things shaking out this winter:
It will be difficult for the Perry girls’ basketball team to improve upon its dream season from a year ago when the team finished 23-2 with an appearance in the Division II regional semifinals, but the Pirates certainly will give it a shot. Three starters return from last year and several others gained valuable experience. Seniors Claire Dolan and Emily Holroyd and junior Anna Sorine started last season and seniors Paige Chaplin and Sydney Charlton and junior Makenzie Hacking provided depth off the bench. Newcomers Madyson Hacking and Elle Infalvi, both freshmen, also are expected to contribute this winter.
Geneva heads into the 2017-2018 season with three returning starters, several other returning varsity lettermen and a boatload of potential. The Eagles, who finished 13-10 last year, also bumped up to Division I, but they’re ready to compete at the highest level this winter. Senior forward Hailey Peoples, senior point guard Emily Harriman and junior forward Miranda Francis are the returning starters. Sophomore guard Hope Stanley and freshman guard Abby Carter fill out the projected starting lineup. Look for senior guards Riley Carter and Elena Logan, senior forward Jamie Bradbury, junior guard Vonda Harold, junior forward Milla Nylander and sophomore forward Jordan Vencill to also make an impact for the Eagles this winter.
3. Chagrin Falls
Chagrin Falls returns three starters and four other varsity players from last season but the Tigers are expected to start two sophomores and a freshman this winter. That relative youth has eighth-year coach Brittany Anderson cautiously optimistic heading into the 2017-2018 season. The Tigers do have more height and team speed than in years past and Anderson plans to use those assets to her advantage. Sophomore guards Carolyn Bencko and Bella Dalessandro return after impressive freshmen seasons. Junior forward Julia Crandall and senior forward/center Maddie Stapulionis also are expected to compete for a starting spot in the lineup. Freshman Lily Karyo has been impressive in the preseason and she could earn a starting role at guard or forward. Anderson also expects senior forward Maddie Miralia, junior guard Avery Houston and junior center Caylah McCamon to make an impact this season.
The Bison return one of the league’s top players in Taylor Royster and a handful of other key players. Royster averaged over 27 points, six rebounds and five assists per game last year. She’ll be joined in the starting rotation by Jaeda Peck, Naijla Bray, Dani Smith and Ashuntia Griffin. Peck, Smith and Griffin all started last winter as well. Kamryn Clark, Ashley Perryman, Aiyniah Pritchett and Madison Prince provide the depth.
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Orange finished last season with an 8-13 record but the Lions are cautiously optimistic about their chances this season. They return three starters and a host of others with varsity experience. Three juniors and two sophomores are projected to fill out the Orange starting lineup. The juniors include guard Casey Smith, a second-team All-Chagrin Valley Conference selection, forward Calia Gissentaner, an honorable mention all-league honoree, and forward Marissa Munsell. Sophomore guard Kennedy Vickers and sophomore forward Kayden Lawson round out the projected starters. Sophomore forward Jessaca Hudson and sophomore guard Mahogany Sanford also are expected to make key contributions this season.
7. West Geauga
With just one returning starter and two freshmen projected to open the season in the starting lineup, West Geauga has a lot of questions to answer this winter. The Wolverines, however, aren’t short on talent and if they can come together on the court, the potential for a winning season becomes more attainable. Freshman Nicola Ehrbar is slotted to start at point guard and classmate Elana Zebrowski will line up at shooting guard or small forward. Junior guard Bridgette Sexton is the team’s lone returning starter. Junior center Alex Desciscio and senior guard Kori Ryan round out the projected starting lineup. Senior forward Maria Henry will be first off the bench for the Wolverines and senior Maggie Onderonk, junior Sarah Grinstead, sophomores Emily Allegretti, Madison Allegretti and Bella Burkhard and freshman Ella Murray also will contribute.
Wickliffe returns all five starters from last year’s squad that finished 3-18 overall, which explains why the Blue Devils struggled last season. Experience is plentiful heading into the 2017-2018 season, but the Blue Devils are still on the relatively young side with three underclassmen projected to be among the starting five. Second-team All-Chagrin Valley Conference honoree Mary Burkett returns after averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots per contest last year. Senior forward Nicole Carroscia also returns to the starting lineup after averaging 8 points and 9 rebounds per game last season. Rounding out the projected starting lineup are three sophomores. Point guard Stephanie Martin averaged 14 points and 5 assists per game on the way to earning honorable mention All-CVC and all-district honors. Guards Ana Stepanovic and Hannah Levon provide the Blue Devils with a solid backcourt on both ends of the floor. Sophomore forward Bridgette Burkett should also make an impact this season.
Preseason All-CVC Chagrin Division
- Taylor Royster, Beachwood
- Claire Dolan, Perry
- Hailey Peoples, Geneva
- Mary Burkett, Wickliffe
- Emily Holroyd, Perry
Kirtland head coach Bob Bell has a good idea of the potential his Hornets bring to the 2017-2018 season, he just might have to wait a little longer than normal to see it in action. Thanks to the girls’ soccer team reaching the state championship game earlier this month, Bell hasn’t had many practices with his full squad. With six returning starters—Julia Camino stepped in to replace McCollister, who was lost for the season with a knee injury–the Hornets won’t have much of a learning curve. Leading scorer Sydney Snyder, who averaged 19.4 points per game last year, returns, which is bad news for opposing teams. Joining Snyder in the starting rotation are Sayle (11.2 ppg), Lauren Snyder (6.5 ppg), McCollister (4.5 ppg) and Lutz, who led the squad with 7.5 rebounds per game and also averaged 4 points per contest. Camino will provide depth at the shooting guard position and Lauren Snyder can play the point when McCollister needs a break. Riley McCrory, Amber Yurick, Haleigh Getchell, Leah LaVerde, Haley Coso, Morgan Carpenter and Brandi Martz all play aggressively on defense and can step in at any time.
2. Cuyahoga Heights
With four starters returning from last year’s Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division championship team, the Cuyahoga Heights Redskins have high expectations for the 2017-2018 season. The Redskins, who finished 18-6 overall and 12-2 in league play, are a bit undersized under the basket but they have plenty of talent to make another run this winter. The Redskins will suit up two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore in the starting lineup. Senior point guard Lexi Martin returns after averaging 5.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game on her way to earning all-league, all-district and honorable mention All-Ohio honors last winter. Emma Lipkowski, a senior wing, posted 9.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last winter. She also set a new school record with 62 3-pointers made in a single season on the way to being named all-league and all-district. Junior wing Sarah Kepchar and junior post Brooke Wilson also earned all-league honors. Sophomore post McKayla Spicer rounds out the projected starting lineup. She averaged 5.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and a steal per game as a freshman.
Despite returning three starters, Independence head coach Mike Marcinko enters the 2017-2018 season with a relatively youthful squad. The fourth-year coach is optimistic but he also knows the Blue Devils will have to grow up fast if they hope to contend for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title. Marcinko’s returning starters include a senior and two sophomores. Forward Hanah Walker averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds as a junior last season in earning honorable mention all-conference honors. Marcinko hopes sophomore guards Haylee Dmitruk and Riley Wilson build off their impressive varsity debuts. Dmitruk averaged 7 points and 4 assists per game while Wilson scored 8 points and pulled down 5 rebounds per contest. Dmitruk also was named honorable mention all-CVC. Juniors Kaitlin Richards and Erica Esper are expected to round out the Independence starting lineup. Richards, a center, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds last season while Esper scored 3 points and recorded 3 rebounds per game from her guard position last winter. Junior Amy Ksiazka, sophomore Reni Kaiser and freshman Riccela DiGeronimo all provide depth at the guard position for Independence.
Hawken’s girls’ basketball team returns just one starter but the Hawks are determined to build off of last year’s successful campaign in order to compete for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title. In addition to returning starter Carly Perusek, the Hawks return four others who gained valuable varsity experience last year. The projected starting five includes two seniors, two sophomores, and a junior. Perusek, a sophomore guard, averaged 10.8 points, 2.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game last season in earning second team All-CVC and honorable mention All-Northeast Lakes District honors. Hawken’s senior starters include guard Annie Jackson and forward Elizabeth Stilson. Jackson didn’t play last season and Stilson averaged 1.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1 assist per game. Junior guard Zaria Johnson missed the 2016-2017 season with an injury but is now healthy and provides more firepower to the lineup. Sophomore forward Erica Emig rounds out the projected starting five. She averaged 1.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and nearly 1 block per game last year. Murray also expects junior forward Taylor Smith and sophomore guard Jordan Kutash to contribute this winter.
Berkshire returns three starters and five others with varsity experience from the squad that finished one game under .500 last winter. That experience has the Badgers poised to compete for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title this season. The Badgers open the year without starting point guard Shaelin DeLong, who suffered an ACL injury. Fortunately for the Badgers, they have a capable replacement in sophomore letterman Lexi Boyk, who averaged 2.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game as a freshman. Seniors Catherine Lillibridge and Rachel Breckenridge round out the three-guard attack. Lillibridge averaged 2.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game last year while Breckenridge returns from an injury last season. She has earned two varsity letters at Berkshire. Senior forward Jo Anne Miller and senior center Kayla White fill out Berkshire’s projected starting lineup. Miller averaged 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest while White, a first team All-CVC player, dropped in 11.4 points and pulled down 7.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Cheyenne Bosse, junior forward Madison Chapman (3.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and senior forward Lexi Caponi (1.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg) will also contribute for the Badgers, who host Chalker in the season-opener on Saturday.
With just two returning starters, Cardinal’s girls’ basketball team will rely on its defense to compete for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title this winter. The Huskies allowed nearly 42 points per game last season. They’ll work hard to keep that number under 40 this winter. Cardinal graduated its top two scorers from last year but the Huskies do return three of their five leading scorers in senior Hanna Traggiaiand juniors Ashley Gubanyar and Camille Cummins. Gubanyar and Cummins are returning starters who averaged 6.0 and 5.5 points per game, respectively. Cummins led the Huskies with seven rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest while Gubanyar hit a team-high 30 3-pointers. Traggiai averaged 5.7 points per game as a sophomore as Cardinal’s sixth man off the bench. She also led the Huskies by hitting 30-percent of her 3-point tries. Juniors Brittni Lawrence and Adriana Naples round out the starting lineup. Lawrence averaged two points and two rebounds last season while Naples contributed with 1.8 points per contest. Senior Virginia Travers, juniors Annamarie Pollack and Sydney Hahner and sophomore Abby Geesling will provide depth for the Huskies.
7. Fairport Harding
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8. Richmond Heights
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Preseason All-CVC Valley Division
- Sydney Snyder, Kirtland
- Jenna Sayle, Kirtland
- Kayla White, Berkshire
- Camille Cummins, Cardinal
- Lexi Martin, Cuyahoga Heights