It took the Gwynedd Mercy girls basketball team a while to get to the top of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies and District 1, so the Monarchs are looking to stay there for a little longer.
Last year, GMA shared the AACA regular-season crown with Mount St. Joseph’s, its first since joining the league in 2002. Then Gwynedd went out and claimed its first District 1-AAA title since 1993 and finished 23-5.
With 10 players returning — led by seniors Brigit Coleman, Erica DeCandido and Maggie Cameron — GMA is primed for another strong season.
“The girls know the opportunity they have in front of them and have been working hard, pushing each other in practice everyday in order to accomplish our goals as a team,” Gwynedd Mercy coach Tom Lonergan said.
Along with more league battles with the Mount and St. Basil — which won its third-straight District 1-AA title — GMA has a tough non-league slate that includes Archbishop Carroll, Episcopal Academy and North Penn.
North Penn returns four starters — including All-SOL Continental Conference first-teamer senior Mikaela Giuliani and junior Sam Carangi, a Villanova verbal commit — from last season’s team that went 21-9 and earned the program’s four consecutive PIAA tournament appearance.
“Our overall size and athleticism will be a plus. We are hoping to stay healthy,” Maidens coach Maggie deMarteleire said. “There are several teams in our conference that are much improved, so we will need to remain focused each game.”
Defending Continental and District 1-AAAA champ Central Bucks West has a new look after graduating five starters — three now at Division I school — that led the Bucks to a 32-2 mark and the state final. Pennridge hopes to build off its district appearance while Souderton tires to bounce back from a sub-.500 season.
Both Abington (SOL National) and Upper Dublin (SOL American) went undefeated in winning their respective conferences last season and both bring back experienced linueps. The Ghosts — who lost to CB West in the district 4A final and made the stat quarters — lost all-state selection Deja Rawls, but return St. Peter’s signee Samantha Lochner, Leah Simmons and Lizzie O’Leary. UD, meanwhile, has three starters back from a squad that made the PIAA second round.
Like Central Bucks West, Archbishop Wood was denied a state title in Hershey, the Vikings falling to Blackhawk in the AAA final for the second straight season. Returning four starters, including all-state first-team Bailey Greenberg, Wood remains one of the top teams in the state and while battle Neumann-Goretti and Cardinal O’Hara for superiority in the Philadelphia Catholic League.
Lansdale Catholic will try to make a push towards the upper tier of the PCL after making the league quarters in coach Joe Mack’s first season. The Crusaders return leading scorer sophomore Lauren Crim and two other starters — senors Abby Ward and Kim Talley — from last year’s 13-11 team.
The Bicentennial Athletic League is fill with quality in both divisions. Division I signees Tracey Goodman (Rider) and Keyen Green (Liberty) are back for Phil-Mont Christian after helping the Falcons win the District 1-A title and reach the PIAA second round. Ashley Forker and Faith Christian — which won the BAL tournament and made states — should contend with Phil-Mont in the BAL Constitution.
Lower Moreland finished tied with New Hope-Solebury for first in the BAL Independence and returning all-division first-teamers Lauren Killion and Rachel Millan the Lions look set to stay at the top. Christopher Dock, who took third, has four starters back, including leading scorers Lanae Hunsberger and Olyvia Longacre.
Coach: Dan Marsh (11th season).
League: Suburban One League National Conference.
Last Season: 26-6 (14-0) conference), lost to Central Bucks West in SOL final, lost to CB West in District 1-AAAA final, lost to Cumberland Valley in PIAA AAAA quarterfinals.
Key Losses: Daja Rawls, Bre Bermel, Gabbi Nolan.
Top Returners: Samantha Lochner (Sr., PG), Leah Simmons (Sr., F), Lizzie O’Leary (Jr. F).
Others to Watch: Britney James (So., PG), Samantha Brusha (So., SG), Jordyn Allen (So., SG), Kassondra Brown (Fr., C), Toni Washington (Sr., G), Cameron Lexow (Fr., G).
Outlook: Class 4A all-state second team pick Ralws is now at Siena after leading Abington to the PIAA, but the Ghosts are still a talented squad. The frontcourt returns O’Leary — an All-SOL National first team pick — and Simmons, an all-conference third-teamer who signed to play volleyball at Canisius with freshman Brown adding depht to the inside. After making the all-conference first team last season, point guard Lochner signed with St. Peter’s.
The Ghosts have a number of tough out-of-conference schedule in December, including heading to Washington, D.C. for the She Got Game Classic. Marsh is seven victories away from 300 wins for his coaching career and 200 on the sidelines at Abington.
Coach: Jeff Bond (fifth season).
League: Friends Schools League.
Last Season: 18-11, lost to Germantown Academy in PAISAA quarterfinals.
Key Losses: Morgan Burrell, Lauryn Smith, Bridget Warlea.
Top Returners: Alexa Middleton (Sr., C/PF), Asia Turner (Sr., PG/SG), Jade Young (Jr., G/F), Alyssa DeNofa (Jr., SG), Cheryl Remolde (So., PG).
Others to Watch: Kadijah Hickson (Jr., PG/SG), Casey Remolde (Fr., SF).
Outlook: The Kangaroos return five key contributors from last year’s 18-win side, including All-FSL first-teamers Middleton and Young. Middleton, who has signed with Division I Monmouth, led the team in scoring and averaged a double-double (14.5 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per) while Young did a bit of everything (10.2 points per game, 6.9 rpg, 4.1 assists per, 2.6 steals per) as a sophomore. Second-leading scorer Turner is back after earned All-FSL honorable mention.
Depth after a solid first seven in a question, as it getting interior play to support Middelton, but if Abington Friends put in the early season work, it can compete for a top spot in the Friends School League with Friends’ Central, Shipley School and Westtown School.
ACADEMY OF THE NEW CHURCH
Coach: Shawn Synnestvedt (ninth season).
League: Friends Schools League
Last Season: 2-15.
Key Losses: Allaina Brock, Katie Will, Addy Schenk.
Top Returners: Ryann Kolb (So., PG), Alexis Nakos (Jr., C/F), Christine Daum (Jr., F), Tyra Walker (Sr., F).
Others to Watch: Arabella Guzman-Baker (Fr., G/F), Carly Welsh (So., G), Anye Harvin (So., F), Yuchen Zhang (So., G), Haley Holsworth (Jr., G), Avery Asplundh (So., G).
Outook: The Lions are a young squad with only one senior, but the returners — led by Kolb and Nakos — are working to improve after a tough year in 2014-15. “We want the girls to have a solid work ethic and gel as a team during the year,” Synnestvedt said. “Those are the priorities here at ANC. We look for that hard work to pay off in the win/loss column.”
Coach: Mike McDonald (first season)
League: Philadelphia Catholic League.
Last Season: 26-5 (11-1 league), lost to Neumann-Goretti in PCL final, District 12-AAA champion, lost to Blackhawk in PIAA AAA final.
Key Losses: Aubree Brown.
Top Returners: Bailey Greenberg (Sr., G/F), Claire Bassetti (Sr., G), Katie May (So., G/F), Kate Connolly (So., G/F), Cassie Sebold (Jr., G), Shannon May (Jr., G).
Others to Watch: Meg Neher (Jr., G/F), Bridget Arcidiacono (So., G/F), Lexi Edwards (Jr., G), Karly Brown (Jr., G).
Outlook: The same teams that blocked wood from success in 2013 did the same in 2014. Neumann-Goretti bested the Vikings in the PCL final, with Blackhawk denying them the PIAA AAA crown. But with four starters back Wood will again be among the top teams in the state in McDonald’s first full season as coach.
Greenberg was an all-state 3A first team pick last season and McDonald says the Drexel commit looks hungrier at practice. Along with a tough PCL slate, the Vikings head to Arizona for the Nike Tournament of Champions in December.
“Some players may need to step up their roles with the loss of Aubree Brown, but all players seem confident moving forward,” McDonald said.
Coach: Scott Bergey (ninth season).
League: Atlantic Coast Christian Athletic Conference.
Last Season: 10-11.
Key Losses: Mary Finkbeiner.
Top Returners: Jenn Kraver (Sr., G), Carissa Gahman (Sr., G).
Others to Watch: Grace Sommons (Sr., G), Heather Hoppe (Jr., F/C), Jessica Suiter (Jr., F).
Outlook: The Warriors will be more interior-oriented are losing last year’s starting and backup point guards and with their experience and size Calvary Baptist is looking to be contenders in the ACCAC.
Coach: Al Grenfell (second season).
League: Bicentennial Athletic League Independence Division
Last Season: 15-10 (10-6 league), lost to Faith Christian in BAL quarterfinals, lost to Delco Christian in District 1-A quarterfinals.
Key Losses: Mattasyn Shisler.
Top Returners: Lanae Hunsberger (Sr.), Olyvia Longacre (Sr.), Megan Swintosky (Jr.), Sabrina Demetrius (Jr.).
Others to Watch: Emily Groarke (So.), Carsyn McCoskey (So.), Nicole Ford (Fr.), Kate Strickland (Fr.), Brooke Bozarth (Fr.), Caroline McFadden (Fr.)
Outlook: The Pioneers return four starters that finished third in the BAL Independence, including leading scoring Hunsberger, an all-division first-team pick. Longacre — a Independence second team selection — was second on the team in scoring. Swintosky and Demetrius were solid rebounders last season, with Swintosky stepping up on offense late in the year. Getting contributions from newcomers will help boast Dock’s hopes of better finishes in the league and District 1-A.
Coach: Sherri Retif (18th season).
League: Inter-Academic League.
Last Season: 21-6 (11-1 league) lost to Shipley School in PAISAA final.
Key Losses: Olivia Gorman.
Top Returners: Erin Lindahl (Sr., G), Kendall Grasela (Sr., PG), Lauren Oeth (Sr., F), Lilly Bolen (Jr., G).
Others to Watch: Abby Starzecky (Jr., G), Cat Polisano (So., G), Alexa Naessens (F, So.), Rachel Balzer (Fr., G).
Outlook: The Patriots took the Inter-Ac title last year and with 11 varsity players back — including four starters — GA is aiming for a 16th league title in the past 18 seasons. Grasela — a Penn commit — was an all-league first team pick in 2014-15, while Oeth (Bloomsburg) was on the second team. GA’s third captain, Lindahl, has committed to Emory.
Coach: Tom Lonergan (third season)
League: Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.
Last Season: 23-5 (12-1 league), lost to Mount St. Joseph in AACA final, District 1-AAA champion, lost to Bonner-Prendergast in PIAA AAA first round.
Top Returners: Brigit Coleman (Sr., G), Erica DeCandido (Sr., F), Megan Dougherty (Jr., F), Maggie Cameron (Sr., G), Carly Heineman (So., G).
Outlook: Last season, the Monarchs tied Mount St. Joseph for the AACA regular season title — their first since joining the league in 2002 — and claimed their first district crown since 1993. With 10 of 12 players back from that team with a good mix of experience and youth, GMA is primed to do big things again in 2015-16.
Along with its Catholic Academies schedule — which includes two matchups with the Mount — GMA has a tough non-conference slate that includes Academy-Notre Dame de Namur, North Penn, Archbishop Carroll, Episcopal Academy and a trip to Florida for The Rock Holiday Classic.
Coach: Joe Mack (second season).
League: Philadelphia Catholic League.
Last Season: 13-11 (7-5 league), lost to Archbishop Wood in PCL quarterfinals.
Key Losses: Sammi Winslow, Erin Brokans.
Top Returners: Abby Ward (Sr., F), Kim Talley (Sr., F), Lauren Crim (So., G), Clare Hill (Sr., G), Brady Wassel (So., G/F), Laura Vetter (Jr., G).
Outlook: Taylor Herd — who signed with Quinnipiac — is out for the season with an injury, the Crusaders bring back three starters from last season’s side that reached the PCL quarters. Crim was the team’s leading scorer as a freshman while forwards Ward and Talley provide a solid combo in the frontcourt.
Defense, rebounding and finding a consistent rotation will be keys for the Crusaders, as will getting contributions from a talented freshman class. The Catholic League’s elite are some of the best in the state, but Mack still has district and PIAA goals for his squad.
Coach: Richard Becker (11th season).
League: BAL Independence Division.
Last Season: 15-9 (12-4 conference), lost to Jenkintown in BAL quarterfinals, lost to Sun Valley in District 1-AAA quarterfinals.
Key Losses: Kaley Przybylinski, Bridgette Alexander, Jordan Cohen.
Top Returners: Lauren Killion (Sr.), Erica Fleck (Sr.), Rachel Millan (Jr.), Erin Przybylinski (Sr.).
Others to Watch: Gianna Venafra (So.).
Outlook: The Lions have a veteran starting five, with Killion and Fleck returning after both earned All-BAL Independence first-team honors last year. Lower Moreland will have to overcome a lack of height and some inexperience on the bench to stay among the better sides in a competitive Bicentennial.
Coach: Craig Kaminski (14th season)
League: Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division
Last Season: 10-13 (6-7 conference), lost to Mount St. Joseph in District 1-AAAA first round.
Key Losses: Tejarra Ellis, Gabby Falcone, Kyra DuBost.
Top Returners: Ryan DeOrio (Jr., G), Jackie Cerchio (Jr., G).
Others to Watch: Sydney Thompson (Jr., F), Jenna Cooper (Jr., G), Jill Zerbe (So., F), Olivia Pennypacker (So., F).
Outlook: The Warriors will look to gain experience quickly, with just two seniors on the team and two starters returning. DeOrio was an All-PAC-10 first team after averaging 10.0 points per game, while fellow guard Cerchio added 7.8 points per game.
In the PAC-10, every game in the league will be a challenge as the teams in the league are stronger and tougher every year,” Kaminski said. “Our side of the league will be particularly tough as Boyertown, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford will have very good squads.”
Coach: Maggie deMarteleire (ninth season).
League: SOL Continental Conference.
Last Season: 21-9 (11-3 conference), lost to Abington in SOL semis, lost to Spring-Ford in District 1-AAAA quarters, District 1-AAAA seventh place, lost to Archbishop Carroll in PIAA AAAAA second round.
Key Losses: Taylor Thames.
Top Returners: Mikaela Giuliani (Sr., F/C), Sam Carangi (Jr., G), Jess Huber (Jr., G), Irsia Ye (Jr., G).
Others to Watch: Bri Hewlett (So., G), Jess McKenzie (So., F/C), Mia Melchior (So., G/F).
Outlook: The Maidens have made the PIAA tournament the past four seasons — and five of the past six — and with an experienced group that returns for starters, North Penn has the chance to keep the streak going. Giuliani, an All-SOL Continental first team selection as a junior, provides a strong presence down low, while Carangi — an all-league second team pick who has verbally committed to Villanova — is dangerous from three-point range. Ye and Huber also started last season while sophomores Hewlett, McKenzie and Melchior round out a seven-player group that can all provide scoring and defense.
Coach: Dan Dougherty (fourth season).
League: SOL American Conference.
Last Season: 12-10 (8-6 conference)
Key Losses: Alynna Williams, Alison Spinelli, Kadijah Hickson.
Top Returners: Taylor O’Brien (So., G), Ali Diamond (So., G), Laurel Suchsland (Jr., G), Lauren Coscia (Jr., C)
Others to Watch: Sarah Putsch (So., F), Sydney Kesselman (Fr., G), Victoria Betterly (So., F), Gia Schweitzer (Jr., G).
Outlook: The Colonials finished only behind Upper Dublin and Cheltenham in the American last season, but with no seniors and a roster heavy with freshman and sophomore, PW is a rebuilding season. O’Brien made a strong debut as a freshman, as her play garned all-conference second team honors.
“We’re looking to improve each day and game to game with a focus on fundamentals and attention to detail,” Dougherty said.
Coach: Bill DeHeer (22nd season).
League: BAL Constitution Division
Last Season: 24-5 (14-2 league), lost to Faith Christian in BAL semifinals, District 1-A champion, lost to Old Forge in PIAA A second round.
Key Losses: Katharine Olinger.
Top Returners: Keyen Green (Sr., C), Tracy Goodman (Sr., G/F), Lauren Tipton (Jr., F).
Other to Watch: Kayla Griffin (So., G), Michelle Chen (Sr., G), Jael Jackson (So., G).
Outlook: Losing in state second round last year was disappointing finish for Phil-Mont, but with the return of Division I signees Green — an all-state Class A third-team selection — and Goodman the goal is to again make a run at a PIAA title.
The Falcons, who have won the past two District 1-A titles, have a number of scoring options with the inside game a strength. DeHeer is looking for improvement in full-court pressure and transition game.
Coach: Lindsay Tennett (fourth season).
League: SOL Continental Conference.
Last Season: 13-10 (6-8 conference), lost to Upper Dublin in District 1-AAAA first round.
Key Losses: Shelby Schoonover, Kaeli White.
Top Returners: Lydia Konstanzer (Sr.), Devan Rimmer (Sr.), Ashley George (Sr), Jenna Dominic (Sr.).
Others to Watch: Margot Brill (Jr.), Claire Podraza (Jr.), Brooke Bachtle (So.), Rose McCormick (So.), Gillian Anderson (So.), Emilee Cramer (Fr.), Sam Moretta (Fr.).
Outlook: The Rams have improved their win totals in each of the last three season and made districts last year for the first time since 2010. With a fast roster heavy on guards, Pennridge is looking to push the tempo as makes a move towards the top of the SOL Continental. Rimmer was an all-conference second team selection as a junior, while Konstanzer earned third team honors last year.
Coach: Terry Mancini
Last Season: 18-9 (9-4 league), lost to Mount St. Joseph in AACA semifinals, District 1-AA champion, lost to Holy Redeemer in PIAA AA quarterfinals
Key Returners: Karen Lapkiewicz (Sr.), Lyndsay Joyce (Sr.), Natalie Kucowski (Jr.).
Others to Watch: Erin Buckley (Sr.), Kaeley Pinkerton (Sr.), Katie Dougherty (Jr.), Maddie Riehman (Jr.), Jules Gura (So.), Danielle McCurdy (So.).
Outlook: The Panthers have won the past three District 1-AA titles — reaching at least the state quarters all three seasons — and have another talented group to make another postseason run and push Mount St. Joseph and Gwynedd Mercy in the AACA. Lapkiewicz is closing in on 1,000 points in her career. Kucowski set a school record from blocks shots last season.
Coach: Lynn Carroll (12th season).
League: SOL Continental Conference.
Last Season: 9-13 (7-7 conference).
Key Losses: Sarah Derstein, Noelle Noble.
Top Returners: Marissa Sandone (Sr., G), Krista Schneider (Sr., G), Tori Dowd (So., G).
Others to Watch: Mia Sherer (Sr., F), Alana Cardona (So., F), Sami Falencki (So., G), Megan Walbrandt (Fr., G).
Outlook: The Indians missed out on districts for the first time since 2012 last season, but Carroll says this group is a hard-working one with good chemistry. Souderton returns three starters in the backcourt in Sandone — an All-SOL Continental second-team pick — Schneider and Dowd.
“This group plays with a lot of selflessness on the offensive end and a great work ethic on the defensive end,” Carroll said. “We expect to be competitive in every game we play and qualify for the District 1 playoffs.”
Coach: Morgan Funsten (fourth season).
League: SOL American Conference.
Last Season: 23-7 (14-0 conference), lost to Central Bucks West in SOL semifinals, lost to CB West in District 1-AAAA quarterfinals; District 1-AAAA fifth place, lost to CB West in PIAA AAAA second round.
Key Losses: Julie Cross, Alissa Klammer.
Top Returners: Alison Chernow (Sr., G), Demi Balasa (Jr., F), Josie Barrett (Jr., G), Maggie Weglos (So., G).
Others to Watch: Ashley Barber (Sr. F), Aison Gouveia (Jr., F), Nicole Kaiser (So., F).
Outook: The Cardinals go for a fourth straight outright SOL American title with an balanced team looking to build off the experience on last’s season run to the state playoffs.
UD returns three starters — all-conference picks Chernow (second team) and Barrett (third team) along with Balasa. Weglos started games as a freshman while Barber is back after missing her junior season due to injury.
Coach: Leah Kim (first season).
League: SOL American Conference.
Last Season: 13-10 (7-7 conference), lost to Garnet Valley in District 1-AAAA first round.
Key Losses: Reggie Robinson.
Top Returners: Tatiana Pleasant (Sr., F), Jordan Wilson (So., F).
Outlook: Kim, who went 49-15 with two PIAA appearances at West Chester Rustin — including the semis in 2014 — takes over a Viking program that is very young and graduated its leading scoring from last year (Robinson).
“Very hard working group of young ladies who have the potential to surprise people as the season progresses,” Kim said. “Goal is to hopefully to improve each day to the next.”
Coach: Paul Veltre (14th season).
League: SOL National Conference.
Last Season: 13-10 (7-7 conference), lost to Bishop Shanahan in District 1-AAAA first round.
Key Losses: Alyssa Christiansen, Angela Pomponio
Top Returners: Rachael Ebert (Sr., F), Kyla Gibson (Jr., G), Sarah Richie (Jr., F).
Others to Watch: Brianna Broccardi (So., G), Braylin Dougherty (So., G), Kelly Scipione (So., G).
Outlook: Tennent made the postseason last year, but these Panthers are a young group needing to make up for the experience lost by Christiansen and Pomponio graduating. Junior guard Gibson was an All-SOL National third team pick last season.
Coach: Rodney Cline (fourth season).
League: SOL American Conference.
Last Season: 2-20 (2-12 conference).
Key Losses: Brittany Gelman, Alisha Kelly, Anna Morgan
Top Returners: Daria Earland (Sr., SF), Keannah Haney (Sr., SG), Carolina Mack (Jr., PG), Hilma Meiby (Jr., F), Julianna Griffin (Jr., PF), Lexi Carradorini (Jr., SG), Julie Weber (Jr., SF), Jasmine Bishop (Jr., PG), Sydney Ott (So., SG), Megan Oberholtzer (So., SG).
Others to Watch: Victoria Selverian (So., G), Brianna Tilghman (Fr., PG).
Outlook: Wissahickon is coming off a tough season, but Cline and his staff are confident that if the Trojans — who have four starters back — play smart and to their potential, they can compete on the court with any of their opponents.
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