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Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery girls basketball teams have high expectations for 2017-18 season

Bob Raines--Digital First Media Souderton's Kate Connolly sprints down court with a stolen ball chased by Phoenixville's Dakota Graham during their game Dec. 9, 2016.

For the second year in a row, Archbishop Wood lifted a state title trophy in Hershey to cap off another strong girls basketball season for teams in the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media coverage area.

As the PIAA season begins on Friday, an army of area teams are making final preparations for their season openers, many of them carrying lofty expectations into the season. Given the area’s run of strength recently, with a state champion, district champions and numerous conference champions, there’s plenty of reason for these teams to chase those goals.

Like every year, a really good group of seniors departed – many of them to college basketball – but there’s always another wave of excellent players ready to step into those spots.

Wood will again be pursuing PCL and 5A state titles, Abington is the defending District 1-6A champion while Souderton was a state semifinalist in 6A last year and returns all of its rotational players. St Basil (3A) and Lower Moreland (4A) each lost a key player from last year’s district title teams but have plenty back while Gwynedd Mercy Academy, a state semifinalist in 4A, is looking to a veteran backcourt to chase its third district title in four years.

Plymouth Whitemarsh, the SOL American champion, District 1-6A runner-up and state quarterfinalist, will also be leaning on its trio of senior guards to improve on last year’s spectacular season. Upper Dublin has been in states three straight years and will try to win back the American after losing it to PW last year.

Bob Raines–Digital First Media
Taylor O’Brien (Plymouth Whitemarsh) skirts around Mackenzie Tinner (Council Rock North) Feb. 25, 2017.

Jenkintown has been one of the district’s top small schools for a while, and firmly established itself last year with a District 1-A title and a run to the state semis. The Drakes have everyone back, so coach Jim Romano and crew are certainly one to watch all season. They’re also not afraid to take on the bigger schools.

Lansdale Catholic likewise returns a solid core after winning the District 12 4A title last year. The Crusaders made states but lost their first game in overtime, so this group knows it’s right there with the rest of the area.

After losing a standout trio of seniors, it’ll be a much different looking North Penn team this season, but with a group of experienced seniors leading a deep group of underclassmen, the Knights have a lot of pieces to work with.

Outside the PIAA, Germantown Academy looks like a contender to continue its dominance in the Inter-Ac after winning a share of the league last year. The Patriots only have two seniors, but they’re good ones and they really want the PAISAA title that’s eluded them so far. After winning a Friends School League title last year, Abington Friends must replace three players now in college with a team that features no seniors.

Mount Saint Joseph, which made the District 1-5A title game last year, has a new coaching staff and likely five new starters but should still be a factor in the AACA with GMA and St. Basil while Upper Merion is looking to build off last season’s PAC Frontier title.

ABINGTON
2016-17 Record: 25-6 (10-2 SOL National)
Notable Losses:: F Lizzie Oleary
Players to Watch: G Brit James, G Cam Lexow, G Sam Brusha, F Kassondra Brown, G Miranda Liebtag, G Tamia Wessels
Outlook: The Ghosts must replace all-state forward Lizzie Oleary (Delaware), but return four starters from last season’s District 1-6A champions. Abington is looking to win a final SOL National title before jumping to the American next year while also contending in the district and hunting the program’s first state title.

Abington’s Kassondra Brown shoots over Central Bucks West Abby Spratt during their game on Mar. 1, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

ABINGTON FRIENDS
2016-17 Record: 24-4
Notable Losses:: G Jade Young, G Kadijah Dickson, G Alyssa DeNofa
Players to Watch: F Paige Mott, G Kendall Hodges, F Jordan Smith, F Zaniyyah Ross-Barnes
Outlook: The Kangaroos graduated three starters, but they were also the only upperclassmen on a team that won a Friends’ School League title. This year’s team has no seniors, but does have a host of very talented underclassmen. AFS has the skill, the challenge will be finding leaders and playing under control, especially in close games. Coach Jeff Bond is optimistic this group will be more consistent by the end of the regular season, which will only bring out more of its ability.

ARCHBISHOP WOOD
2016-17 Record: 24-7 (12-0 PCL)
Notable Losses:: G Shannon May,G Cassie Sebold, G/F Meg Neher, G Karly Brown
Players to Watch: F Katie May, F Bridget Arcidiacono, F Erin Morgan,G Mia Andrers, G Kaitlyn Orihel, G Ryleigh Parsons, G Nikki Greenberg
Outlook: The Vikings won their second straight PIAA 5A title to go with a regular-season PCL title but saw their hopes of a PCL tournament title dashed by Cardinal O’Hara in the final. With a strong nucleus back and facing their usual daunting schedule, Wood looks like it should be in the hunt for Catholic League and state titles again this winter. The frontcourt will be a strength early, while a group of good but young guards figure out their roles and how to impact the game defensively.

CENTRAL BUCKS WEST
2016-17 Record: 22-6 (9-3 SOL Continental)
Notable Losses:: G Maggie Rakowsky, G Alex Burkauskas
Players to Watch: G/F Maddie Burke, G Abby Spratt, F Izzy Treon
Outlook: The Bucks will be shorthanded this season with junior G/F Tori Abelson sidelined by a knee injury, but there’s a lot of talent on the roster. Coach Terry Rakowsky is also expecting a deep team and more than 10 players are in line to see playing time. West should have a say in the always tough Continental.

Central Bucks West’s’ Maddie Burke battles Abington’s Camryn Lexowfor a loose ball during their game on Mar. 1, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

CHELTENHAM
2016-17 Record: 12-11 (8-6 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: F Mia Leonard, G Caitlin Wallace, F Nashira Brown, G Danielle Brown
Players to WatchL G Courtney Murray, G Savannah Roberts, F Kai Williams, G Madison Rorer, G Taylor Johnson
Outlook: The Panthers have a youthful team this year with just two seniors and a host of freshmen and sophomores vying for minutes. A feisty group defensively, Cheltenham should be able to apply pressure and turn it into transition points. Consistency, rebounding and halfcourt defense will be areas the Panthers will need to improve in as the season goes.

DOCK MENNONITE
2016-17 Record: 4-14 (4-9 BAL Independence)
Notable Losses:: Gintare Tamulyte
Players to Watch: Carsyn McCloskey, Kate Strickland, Brooke Bozarth, Jessica Crissman
Outlook: The Pioneers enter coach Ryan Rush’s second season eyeing the postseason. To get there, Dock will try to be an aggressive team on both ends of the floor and carry over last season’s continuity after losing just one player. Dock has just two seniors but Rush said it’s a mature group with a lot of good athletes who are ready to get after it.

GERMANTOWN ACADEMY
2016-17 Record: 21-10 (11-1 Inter-Ac)
Notable Losses:: F Lilly Bolen, G Abby Starzecky, G Jess Sheridan
Players to Watch: F Alexa Naessens, G Cat Polisano, G Rachel Balzer, G Maddie Vizza, G Jaye Haynes, F Elle Stauffer
Outlook: The Patriots return a lot to a young and very talented roster. Polisano’s return from a knee injury only strengthens the group, which won an Inter-Ac title and made the PAISAA title game last year. Led by seniors Naessens and Polisano, GA’s sights are set on league and state titles this winter.

GWYNEDD MERCY ACADEMY
2016-17 Record: 20-9 (8-5 AACA)
Notable Players Lost: Megan Dougherty, Danielle Senour, Carly Bachinsky (Jr/ACL injury)
Players to Watch: G Maura Conroy, G Carly Heineman, F Bridget Casey, G Georgia Cattie, G Reganne Flannery, G Sarah White, F Alyssa Martin, G Kaylie Griffin, F Molly Hutton
Outlook: “This year’s team has a lot of potential. We return three starters and several key role players for last season’s team and should go very deep with our rotation. We gained a lot of valuable experience from last year’s deep run into the state tournament and hope to carry that over into this season. This year’s team will be lacking some height but will hopefully make up for it with speed and depth. We are playing a very tough schedule this season with the hope that it will get us ready for a run through the playoffs.” – coach Tom Lonergan.

Gwynedd Mercy Academy Maura Conroy dribbles into the lane during the Monarchs’ game against Sacred Heart on Jan. 5, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

HATBORO-HORSHAM
2016-17 Record: 8-14 (6-8 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: G Bergen Sims, G Julia Thornton
Players to Watch: F Lexi Brett, G Cam Ryan, F Kylie Halko
Outlook: The Hatters lose two members of their starting backcourt and a pair of good shooters but bring back three starters. Brett is being looked to as the team’s leader and she’s a tough inside presence. Hatboro-Horsham will have to rely on strong defense and hustle this season if it wants to contend in the SOL American and push for a district playoff spot.

JENKINTOWN
2016-17 Record: 25-7 (12-1 BAL Constitution)
Players to Watch: G Jen Kremp, G Ashley Kremp, G Natalie Kolb, G Mia Kolb, F Amelia Mulvaney
Outlook: The Drakes advanced all the way to the Class A state semifinals last year after capturing a District I title. Luckily for the fans in J-town, the whole is group is back for one last season together. With the starting unit in its third season together, the Drakes should be able to hit the court running and continue to pester teams with their full-court defensive pressure.

LANSDALE CATHOLIC
2016-17 Record: 13-12 (7-5 PCL)
Notable Losses:: G Laura Vetter, G Megan Maloney
Players to Watch: G Lauren Crim, F Brady Wassel, F Christina Finkelston, F Carolyn Ferko, G Maile Erwin, G Emily Smith
Outlook: Last season’s split to six classes certainly helped LC, which moved to 4A and advanced to the state tournament. The Crusaders return the majority of last year’s team, led by seniors Crim and Wassel, along with a group of juniors who got plenty of playing time last season. Playing in the PCL is always tough, and LC’s non-conference schedule is usually taxing, but it’s all meant to build for the postseason.

Lansdale Catholic’s Lauren Crim drives past North Penn’s Bri Hewlett for a layup during their game on Dec. 23, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LOWER MORELAND
2016-17 Record: 20-9 (10-3 SOL Independence)
Notable Losses:: G Rachael Millan, G Jordyn Cohen
Players to Watch: F Ceili Corduff, F Nicole Castor
Outlook: The positive for the Lions is most of last year’s District I 4A champion roster is back. The negative is they lost Rachael Millan, a 1,000-point scorer and at times unstoppable offensive leader. While it’s a younger group, many of them got key minutes last year, they’re good athletes and veteran coach Rich Becker brings out the best in his teams.

METHACTON
2016-17 Record: 19-8 (11-2 PAC Liberty)
Notable Losses:: G Ryan DeOrio, F Jackie Cerchio, F Sydney Thompson, G Jenna Cooper
Players to Watch: G Sydney Tornetta, F Jill Zerbe, F Olivia Pennypacker
Outlook: The Warriors graduated a pretty good senior class after making a run to the PAC title game last winter. Methacton will be a little less experienced this season, but still boast plenty of talent. The Liberty is always tough with Boyertown, Spring-Ford, Owen J Roberts and Perk Valley but the Warriors usually find themselves right in the title picture.

MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH ACADEMY
2016-17 Record: 13-15 (8-5 AACA)
Notable Losses:: G Julie Hoover, G/F Ashley Smith, G Kieran Glowacki, F Grace Gelone
Players to Watch: Grace DiGiovanni, Deirdre Regan, Lauren Vesey, Grace Niekelski
Outlook: The Magic will look very different than last season with a new coach, five new starters and several players making their first appearances on the varsity roster. Mount was a strong defensive team last year and will lean on that defense again early as they adjust to a new system. Last year, the Magic caught fire at the right time and first year coach Jim Roynan thinks this group will improve greatly by the end of the regular season.

NORTH PENN
2016-17 Record: 25-5 (10-2 SOL Continental)
Notable Losses:: G Sam Carangi, G Jess Huber, G Irisa Ye
Players to Watch: G/F Bri Hewlett, F Jess McKenzie, G Jenny Hulmes, G Carley Adams, Cayla Sharkey, Alaina Mullaly, Kate Early, Valerie McGriff, Alli Lindsay
Outlook: It’s a new era at North Penn with the trio of Carangi, Ye and Huber all playing in college. With a nearly combined 3,000 points between them, the trio was also a huge part of the Knights’ stingy defense. The Knights expect to be deep, but finding consistent scorers early will be critical for this group. North Penn will rely on its seniors, who have varsity experience and a host of younger players who have an open opportunity to contribute right away.

North Penn’s Bri Hewlett charges past Council Rock North’s Hannah Weiler during their game on Feb. 11, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

NORRISTOWN
2016-17 Record: 2-19
Players to Watch: Beyonce Collins, Morgan Culbreath, Georgia Werkiser, Kayla Mastrocola, Anyea Thompson, Tova Wright, Brooke Heim, Ashley School, Emily School, Tamara Wright
Outlook: The Eagles were very committed to their offseason program and are starting to see the plan coach Richard Fisher and staff have implemented. Norristown will focus on the defensive end, but must also rebound on both ends and limit the amount of turnovers it commits. Keeping disciplined is the team’s top goal and if it can do that, it can only go up during the season.

PENNRIDGE
2016-17 Record: 7-15 (1-11 SOL Continental)
Notable Losses:: Claire Podraza
Players to Watch: F Gill Anderson, G Brooke Bachtle, G Rose McCormick, F Maddie Stolarski, G Sam Muredda
Outlook: Pennridge is looking to build off last season’s positives in coach Mike Elton’s second year. It’s a veteran team led by its group of seniors, which means it’s a more mature and experienced group. The Rams’ season will hinge on its ability to compete in a very strong SOL Continental conference.

PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH
2016-17 Record: 27-3 (14-0 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: F Lauren Coscia, F Laurel Suchsland
Players to Watch: G Taylor O’Brien, G Ali Diamond, G Lauren Fortescue, F Haley Zygmunt, F Victoria Betterly
Outlook: The Colonials had a magical season a year ago, winning the SOL American, reaching the District I 6A final and advancing to the state quarterfinals. With their potent trio of guards O’Brien, Diamond and Fortescue back, PW is eyeing a similar run again this winter. A team stocked with multi-sport athletes, the Colonials are a versatile group.

SAINT BASIL ACADEMY
2016-17 Record: 29-1 (13-0 AACA)
Notable Losses:: C Natalie Kucowski, G Maddie Riehman, G Kaitlin Dougherty
Players to Watch: G Cheryl Remolde, G Jules Gura, F Casey Remolde, G Molly Deal
Outlook: The graduation of Natalie Kucowski leaves a figurative and literal big void in the Panthers lineup. However, basketball is a team game and veteran coach Terry Mancini has some very good players returning, including Cheryl and Casey Remolde and senior Jules Gura. St. Basil may not play the same style, but this team should still be a contender in the AACA and in the postseason.

Saint Basil Academy’s Cheryl Remolde maneuvers around Mount Saint Joseph’s Sarah Rothenburg during their game on Dec. 20, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

SOUDERTON
2016-17 Record: 22-8 (8-4 SOL Continental)
Players to Watch: F Kate Connolly, F Alana Cardona, G Tori Dowd, G Megan Walbrandt, G Megan Bealer, G Sami Falencki
Outlook: They’re all back. The Indians bring back all five starters plus their top reserves off last season’s team that made it all the way to the state semifinals. With four seniors in the projected starting five, the goals are clear for Souderton with sights on SOL Continental and district titles, plus a desire to make it one game deeper into March. Souderton’s length and athleticism makes it versatile on both ends of the floor.

SPRINGFIELD-MONTCO
2016-17 Record: 6-15 (4-10 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: G Molly Dugan, G Jameson Krewson
Players to Watch: G MK Smith, G Grace Barraclough, G Rileigh Serroni, C Brielle Pratt, G/F Sydney Hanning
Outlook: The Spartans have a new coaching staff and are hoping to use their athletic and aggressive mindset, along with a good mix of speed and height to power their new system. It may take a little while for the coaches and players to get used to each other, but Springfield is confident it will always work hard and the players are committed to each other.

UPPER DUBLIN
2016-17 Record: 21-7 (12-2 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: G Josie Barrett, F Demi Balasa
Players to Watch: F Nicole Kaiser, G Maggie Weglos, F Jackie Vargas, G Meghan Barbera, F Kara Grebe
Outlook: The Cardinals were dethroned from atop the American last season, but still had another strong campaign and made states for the third straight season. Coach Morgan Funsten has a lot returning, but UD will miss the outside shooting of Josie Barrett. A team very comfortable in its defensive identity, the Cardinals will rely on depth and balance this winter.

Upper Dublin’s Nicole Kaiser (Upper Dublin) lays up a shot past Cardinal O’Hara’s Mackenzie Gardler can block it during their game on March 10, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

UPPER MERION
2016-17 Record: 14-10 (8-2 PAC Frontier, 8-5 PAC)
Notable Losses:: Jessica Michael
Players to Watch: Jordan Wilson, Amya Anthony
Outlook: The Vikings moved to the PAC last year and accounted very well for themselves, claiming a Frontier conference title. Sharpshooter Jordan Wilson leads a solid returning core that will be looking not only to defend its league title but also take the next step in the district playoffs.

UPPER MORELAND
2016-17 Record: 0-22 (0-14 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: Kim Benge, Madison Pisut, Noelle Woodman
Players to Watch: F Bean Hughes, G Phoebe Longstreth, G Caitlin Corr, F Cassidy Murphy
Outlook: Coach Matt Carroll’s team had a strong and dedicated offseason and as a result, he sees more than 10 players who could see playing time. Despite a winless season, Carroll saw plenty of improvement and his hope is to keep trending upward. The players are invested and that’s often the most important step in building a program.

WILLIAM TENNENT
2016-17 Record: 6-11 (1-11 SOL Continental)
Notable Losses:: Kyla Gibson
Players to Watch: G Emma Stanfield, G Kelly Scipione, F Brynn Evans, F Brianna Broccardi
Outlook: The Panthers have an experienced team led by their five seniors and return four of five starters from last year. With so many seniors, the onus is on them to make sure the team plays consistently every game, especially in conference play. Coach Laura Whitney enters her second season hoping to compete in conference and build on last season’s progress.

WISSAHICKON
2016-17 Record: 10-12 (6-8 SOL American)
Notable Losses:: Jullianne Griffin, Carolina Mack, Hilma Meiby, Lexi Carradorini, Jasmine Bishop
Players to Watch: Victoria Selverian, Brianna Tilghman, Sydney Ott, Carly Fadel, Megan Oberholtzer, Katelyn Ott
Outlook: The Trojans are hoping their abundance of heart and tenacity allow them to play to their potential this season. A team that used a lot of players last year, Wiss does bring back a decent number of players with varsity playing experience. Usually a team that improves over the course of the season, finishing over .500 in conference play will be pivotal.

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