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Talent, potential on tap for Reporter/Times Herald girls basketball teams

The 2017-18 girls basketball season in the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery area ended with a fairly impressive trophy haul.

Three teams made it to the final week of the season and two came home with state titles. Jenkintown finished the best season in program history, going 30-1, securing a BAL tournament title, winning a third straight District I Class A title and capturing the Drakes’ first state title with a thrilling comeback and overtime win. Likewise, Upper Dublin finished its own dream run through states when the Cardinals edged Central Bucks South to win the 6A state trophy.

Archbishop Wood finished agonizingly close to a third straight state title, but the Vikings still added another District 12 5A title to their vast trophy case. Souderton ran rampant all season, winning the SOL Continental, the SOL tournament and District I 6A title, Abington finished in a three-way tie for the SOL National title, Plymouth Whitemarsh repeated as SOL American champion, Gwynedd Mercy Academy rose to the District 1-4A title and St. Basil Academy added another AACA and District 1-11 3A title to its record books. Not to be left out, Germantown Academy won the Inter-Ac for the 18th time with an undefeated league season.

Gene Walsh — Digital First Media
Abington’s Kassondra Brown drives the baseline as Upper Dublin’s Jackie Vargas defends during state quarter final game at Bensalem H.S March 16, 2018.

Of course, that was all last year. Many of the key players on those teams and many more around the area have graduated with some already making noise with their college teams. For the returning players, there’s no shortage of talent and plenty of squads have their eyes on winning trophies of their own this fall.

Starting with the defending state champions, Upper Dublin will have to replace two of its steadiest players and leaders in the graduated Maggie Weglos and Nicole Kaiser, but coach Morgan Funsten has a loaded young core featuring junior Jackie Vargas and sophomores Dayna Balasa and Jess Polin. UD will be looking to ascend back to the top of the SOL American but will have its hands full with Abington moving over to the league.

Last year was a culmination of a four-year build-up for the Drakes, but veteran coach Jim Romano, who surpassed 600 wins as well last winter, has a nice nucleus back in the gym. Jenkintown lost three starters in Jen (Dickinson) and Ashley Kremp and Amelia Mulvaney but the team’s other set of twins, seniors Mia and Natalie Kolb, along with Caroline Arena, are ready to keep up the team’s frenetic defensive pace.

Wood will certainly have a new look this season, as Katie May (Northeastern), Bridget Arcidiacono (Jefferson) and Erin Morgan (La Salle) graduated out of the starting lineup and super-sub Mia Andrews will be out a while with a knee injury. What the Vikings, who opted to stay in 5A despite having the numbers to play at 4A, do have is a veteran cast of supporting players around a promising young core led by returning first team all-PCL sophomore Kaitlyn Orihel.

Archbishop Wood’s Kaitlyn Orihel (4) lays up to the basket in the third quarter of the Vikings’ PIAA quarterfinal game against West Chester Henderson at Spring Ford on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

Souderton, like Wood, was hit hard by graduation and saw standouts Kate Connolly (Drexel), Alana Cardona (IUP), Sami Falencki (Arcadia) and Tori Dowd (Muhlenberg) move on to college. The Indians this winter will the Megan team, as seniors Megan Walbrandt, Megan Bealer and Megan O’Donnell return to lead a group hoping to be a contender again in the postseason.

Even Abington wasn’t immune to graduations as career 3-point leader Sam Brusha (Millersville) and dynamic point guard Brit James (Delaware State) moved on. But as the Ghosts move into the American, they do so with all-state center and Rhode Island commit Kassondra Brown back along with Cam Lexow, Miranda Leibtag and Tamia Wessels.

Nobody in PW history has scored more points than Taylor O’Brien, but as the Colonials prepare to open their beautiful new gym, O’Brien is working through her freshman season at Bucknell. Also graduated are Lauren Fortescue (Salisbury), Ali Diamond (Georgetown lacrosse) and Gia Schweitzer, so PW will have plenty of new faces around returners Anna McTamney and Sydney Kesselman.

Central Bucks West figures to be a team to watch this winter, with a stocked veteran group led by senior Tori Abelson and junior Maddie Burke.

New is a good theme at Lansdale Catholic and North Penn. LC, under first-year head coach Eric Gidney, will have to deal with the graduations of Lauren Crim (Chestnut Hill) and Brady Wassel (Holy Family) while the Knights, under first-year coach Jen Carangi will be developing a new identity after the retirement of coach Maggie deMarteleire.

Germantown Academy’s Jaye Haynes turns for the basket past Penn Charter’s Kait Carter on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

GA looks to not only contend in the Inter-Ac but finally capture the PAISAA title that’s eluded the program the past few years. The Patriots lost two solid players in Cat Polisano (Fordham) and Alexa Naessens (Colgate) but they have a wealth of returning talent including Maddie Vizza, Jaye Haynes and Elle Stauffer among others.

Mount Saint Joseph, GMA and St Basil all have a couple key players to replace but the trio again figure to push not only for the AACA title but contend in their respective district playoff classes.

Upper Moreland, Dock Mennonite and Cheltenham, with first-year coach Ben Bowman, are all looking to continue building their programs. UM and coach Matt Carroll saw tremendous improvement last year and have key players back in Bean Hughes and Phoebe Longstreth.

A few teams already started, but the season begins for everybody this weekend and the goal, as always, is for it to finish sometime in late March, preferably in the confines of Hershey’s Giant Center.

2017-18 Record: 22-8, 10-2 SOL National.
Head Coach: Dan Marsh.
Notable Losses: Brit James, Sam Brusha.
Players to Watch: Kassondra Brown (Sr/F), Cam Lexow (Sr/G), Miranda Liebtag (Sr/G), Tamia Wessels (Sr/G), Becca Pohle (Jr/G), Amanda Jackson (So/G), Khalis Whiting (Fr/G).
Outlook: The Ghosts move into the SOL American looking to contend for a league title then make some noise in the district and state playoffs. The Ghosts have won at least 20 games for five straight years and have a senior-laden team ready to try again. Building a bench from younger players will be pivotal.

2017-18 Record: 22-6 (7-1 Friends Schools League).
Head Coach: Jeff Bond.
Notable Losses: None.
Players to Watch: Paige Mott (Jr/F), Kendall Hodges (Jr/G), Mihjae Hayes (Fr/G), Jordan Smith (Jr/F), Zaniyyah Ross-Barnes (So/F).
Outlook: “The Kangaroos are hoping to make it to the Friends Schools League postseason for the 8th consecutive season. The path to the postseason requires consistent effort on the defensive end and on the glass, which the Kangaroos have been focusing on in the preseason. Offensively AFS will look to get down the floor in transition and share the ball, as all five starters and most of the bench are capable open-court scorers who will benefit from the FSL’s decision to adopt a 35-second shot clock in 2018-19.”

Abington Friends School’s Kendall Hodges drives to the basket during game against Penn Charter on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

2017-18 Record: 22-8, 11-1 Philadelphia Catholic League.
Head Coach: Mike McDonald.
Notable Losses: Katie May, Bridget Arcidiacono, Erin Morgan, Nicki Greenberg.
Players to Watch: Kaitlyn Orihel (So/G), Annie Whalen (Sr/G), Ryleigh Parsons (Sr/G), Ryanne Allen (Fr/G), Lindsay Tretter (Jr/G), Liz Fasti (Sr/G), Caroline McSorley (So/G).
Outlook: “We expect to once again have the talent to compete for the PCL Championship and 5A State Championship.”

2017-18 Record: 11-11, 7-5 SOL Continental.
Head Coach: Terry Rakowsky.
Notable Losses: Abbey Spratt.
Players to Watch: Tori Abelson (Sr/G), Maddie Burke (Jr/G), Diane Nicholson (Sr/G),  Izzy Treon (Sr/F), Emily Spratt (Fr/G).
Outlook: “Our goal is always to be a better team at the end of the season than at the beginning.”

2017-18 Record: 12-11, 6-8 SOL American.
Head Coach: Ben Bowman.
Notable Losses: Courtney Murray, Savannah Roberts, Taylor Johnson (injury).
Players to Watch: Kai Williams, Keila Holmes, Madison Rorer, Yanisha Dormill, Shannon Nichols.
Outlook: “We are looking to change mindsets and create a positive culture that will set ourselves up for success this year.”

2017-18 Record: 7-14, 4-8 BAL Independence.
Head Coach: Ryan Rush.
Notable Losses: Carsyn McCloskey, Cailey Ridge.
Players to Watch: Brooke Bozarth, Audrey Schweizerhof, Kate Strickland, Alyse Sobetsky, Jessica Crissman, Serena Tan.
Outlook: “We expect to be the top seed in our district with double digit wins and compete for a state title as well.”

2017-18 Record: 25-5, 12-0 Inter-Ac.
Head Coach: Sherri Retif.
Notable Losses: Cat Polisano, Alexa Naessens.
Players to Watch: Jaye Haynes, Elle Stauffer, Rachel Balzer, Maddie Vizza, Becca Booth, Maddie Burns, Sarah DiLello, Jessica Moore, Lindsay Putnam.
Outlook: “While the Patriots return 3 players who averaged double digits last year, inside-out scoring abilities will enhance the offense of a team that posted 61 ppg last season.  The big challenge this season will be the intensity of our competitive schedule.  In hopes of preparing our girls for league and post-season play, we have scheduled the best teams in the area including multiple league and state champions.” 

Allentown Central Catholic’s Emily Vaughn fouls Gwynedd Mercy’s Alyssa Martin as she throws up an off balance shot after caroming off of Diana Kocsis on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

2017-18 Record: 18-10, 9-4 AACA.
Head Coach: Tom Lonergan.
Notable Losses: Maura Conroy, Carly Heineman, Bridget Casey.
Players to Watch: Kaylie Griffin; Alyssa Martin; Reganne Flannery; Sarah White, Carly Bachinsky.
Outlook: “Although we will be a team small in stature, we hope to be big in success.”

2017-18 Record: 6-16, 5-9 SOL American.
Head Coach: Dennis Steinly.
Notable Players Lost: Alexis Brett.
Players to Watch: Kylie Halko, Cam Ryan, Sarah Mahoney, Maddie Throne, Sydney Kemp.
Outlook: “We are building one day at a time; striving to get better every practice. We have a great group of girls who have been working hard to learn a brand new system.”

2017-18 Record: 31-1, 12-0 BAL Constitution.
Head Coach: Jim Romano.
Notable Losses: Jen Kremp, Ashley Kremp, Amelia Mulvaney, Courtney Todara.
Players to Watch: Mia Kolb (Sr/G), Natalie Kolb (Sr/F), Caroline Arena (Sr/G), Carley Mulvaney, Molly Walsh
Outlook: “Stay healthy and be competitive.”

Jenkintown’s Mia Kolb (3) puts a shot up as Lebanon Catholic’s Jasimine Turner (24) defends in the first half of their PIAA semifinal game at Downingtown West on Saturday, March 24, 2018. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

2017-18 Record: 16-8, 6-6 PCL.
Head Coach: Eric Gidney
Notable Losses: Lauren Crim, Brady Wassel, Olivia Schneider
Players to Watch: Maile Erwin, Emily Smith, Timaya Lewis, Jenna Babb, Kristina Finkelston, Carolyn Ferko, Caitlin Rosenberger, Mia Rosenberger, Riley DeVitis, Autumn Weber
Outlook: “With a new head coach and new system the Lady Crusaders are excited to see who they are as a team and what they can become. Coach Gidney believes that despite tough competition in the Philadelphia Catholic League that they can make some noise in League and District play.  There is a solid returning group of core players and despite the losses of star players Crim and Wassel to graduation, Lansdale Catholic believes it can compete with every team on our schedule.”

2017-18 Record: 19-8, 10-2 BAL Independence.
Head Coach: Richard Becker.
Notable Losses: Jimia Davis.
Players to Watch: Juniors Ceili Courduff and Nicole Castor. Sophomore Phoebe Lynch
Outlook: “Last year we started five sophomores and were runners up in both the league and districts as well as winning a first round game in the state playoffs. We are returning eight of our top nine players, so we are looking to improve on last year’s record of 20 – 7 and are hoping to once again be in a position to compete for both the BAL league and District championships as well as make another run in the State playoffs.”

2017-18 Record: 17-11, 9-4 AACA.
Head Coach: Jim Roynan.
Notable Losses: Grace DiGiovanni, Deirdre Regan, Megan Dodaro.
Players to Watch: Lauren Cunningham (Sr.), Lauren Vesey (Jr.), Grace Niekelski (So.), Kelly Rothenberg (Jr.), Taylor Sistrunk (Jr.).
Outlook:  “The team returns several players who saw significant varsity action last season as it looks to improve on its 3rd place finishes in both the AACA and District 1-5A.  A challenging non-conference schedule which includes Cardinal O’Hara, Germantown Academy, Central Bucks South, Council Rock North, and West Chester Henderson, should help the Magic prepare for their always competitive Catholic Academies opponents.”

Mount Saint Joseph’s Lauren Cunningham takes a shot near Ridley’s Brenna Harrison at Methacton on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

2017-18 Record: 6-16, 2-10 SOL Continental.
Head Coach: Jen Carangi.
Notable Losses: Bri Hewlett.
Players to Watch: Carley Adams, Cayla Sharkey, Alli Lindsay, Val McGriff.
Outlook: “We don’t return much varsity experience, so it will be a bit of a rebuilding year for us.  Luckily, we have a core group of players who have worked hard in the off-season and are committed to the program.  We are working to get better every day and our goal is to get back to district playoffs this year.”

2017-18 Record: 4-18, 0-10 PAC Liberty Division.
Head Coach: Richard Fisher
Players to Watch: Brooke Heim, Ashley Schools, Emily Schools, Dominque Mansfield, Tamara Wright, Destiny Steele, Tajahana Wright, Amari Wise, Juniya Thomas, Tiann Byrd, Saitayanna Evans
Outlook: “We must play very good defense non-stop and cut down on turnovers. If we turn the ball over, we will struggle to score against some of the better teams.Of course we want to improve are win loss total, for that to happen we must be competitive from start to finish and we need to make good basketball decisions. If we can do those two things we may surprise some people.”

2017-18 Record: 11-12, 4-8 SOL Continental.
Head Coach: Mike Elton.
Notable Losses: Brooke Bachtle, Gill Anderson, Rose McCormick.
Players to Watch: Sam Muredda (Sr/G), Emilee Cramer (Sr/F), Julia Krieder (Jr/F), Evelyn Loughery (Jr/F), Corinn Mart (Jr/G), Sophie Cweiber (Jr/G), Ashley Gordon (So/G).
Outlook: “It’s a less experienced team with the loss of three seniors, but hard-working and motivated with plenty of athleticism. We are looking to build on our success last year and advance further into the District I playoffs.”

2017-18 Record: 23-6, 14-0 SOL American.
Head Coach: Dan Dougherty.
Notable Losses:
Taylor O’Brien, Lauren Fortescue, Ali Diamond, Gia Schweitzer  
Players to Watch: Anna McTamney (Sophomore); Sydney Kesselman (Senior); Kaitlyn Flanagan (Freshman); Jordyn Thomas (Freshman); Lainey Allen (Freshman); Ally Zolty 
Outlook: “With only two returning varsity contributors, and 11 of 16 players being in 9th and 10th grade, team has a very new look. Hope to compete for conference title and qualify for district and state playoffs.”

2017-18 Record: 29-3, 11-1 SOL Continental.
Head Coach: Lynn Carroll.
Notable Losses: Kate Connolly, Alana Cardona, Tori Dowd, Sami Falencki
Players to Watch: Megan Walbrandt, Megan Bealer, Megan O’Donnell, Curran O’Donnell, Erica Stephens, Mikaela Reese, Olivia Schneider 
Outlook: “We obviously lost a ton of talent and leadership with graduation but this group is showing that they want to build on our reputation of solid team defense and unselfish offense. We expect to compete with every team on our schedule and hope to qualify for districts and states again.”

Souderton’s Megan Walbrandt turns away from St. Basil’s Lauren Ems and Shannon Remolde on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

2017-18 Record: 5-18, 3-11 SOL American.
Head Coach: Dave Giordano.
Notable Losses: MK Smith.
Players to Watch: Grace Barraclough (Sr/G), Sydney Hannings (Sr/G), Riley Serroni (Jr/G), Maddie Yoder (So/G), Emily Smith (Fr/G)
Outlook: “Young squad, but very athletic, we need to stay healthy and focused and the improvement will come. The girls have had a great start to practice. They are working hard and have a great deal of potential. We need to stay positive, confident and supportive. This season’s motto is ‘Attitude changes everything.’”

2017-18 Record: 24-6, 11-2 AACA.
Head Coach: Terry Mancini.
Notable Losses: Jules Gura, Cheryl Remolde.
Players to Watch: Casey Remolde, Lizzie Deal, Kelly Grant, Shannon Remolde, Danae Carter, Sammi White
Outlook: The Panthers are out to defender their AACA and District I-11 3A titles with a pretty experienced group. Casey Remolde (Kutztown) an all-state pick, leads a well-balanced team that can move the ball, shoot and defend well as a group.

2017-18 Record: 27-5, 12-2 SOL American.
Head Coach: Morgan Funsten.
Notable Losses: Maggie Weglos, Nicole Kaiser.
Players to Watch: Jackie Vargas (Jr/C), Meghan Barbera (Sr/G), Kara Grebe (Jr/F), Dayna Balasa (So/G), Jess Polin (So/G), Sarah Eskew (So/G), Anajae Smith (Jr/F), Bliss Brenner (Fr).
Outlook: “The team’s overall depth will be a strength and will help progress the team by bringing out the best in each other at practice.  The team is aiming to have another strong showing in the postseason and contend for the Suburban One American Conference title.”

Upper Dublin’s Jackie Vargas drives to the basket during the PIAA 6A girls championship game at Giant Center in Hershey on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Kirk Neidermyer/For Digital First Media)

2017-18 Record: 14-14, 9-1 PAC Frontier Division.
Head Coach: Leah Shumoski.
Players to Watch: Izzy Legendre (So/F),  Meg Gebhart (Sr/G), Aaliyah Parson (Jr/G),  Maddie Harvey (Sr/G).
Outlook: “Looking to improve every day and build where we left off. Playing team ball will get us the most success. Our team suffered a tragic car accident this summer, and our team has dedicated this season to Jenna Foster and Ty Stanton for surviving life threatening injuries. They bring joy and perspective back into our gym. They are now on the sidelines coaching with me and working hard to make it back for their senior seasons. This season we play for them.”

2017-18 Record: 10-13, 6-8 SOL American
Head Coach: Matt Carroll.
Notable Losses: Cassidy Murphy, Caitlin Corr, Hannah Stainbeck.
Players to Watch: Phoebe Longstreth (Sr/G), Bean Hughes (Jr/F), Kaiya Herb (Fr/G), Abby Ellen Wood (Jr/G).
Outlook: “Our program exceeded expectations going from zero wins in 2016-17 to 10 in 2017-18. Having Abington join our side of the SOL and with a much tougher non-league schedule, we know reaching and exceeding last year’s win total will be much more difficult this time around. The girls and coaches know what it takes to reach the next step and are ready for the challenge.”

2017-18 Record: 10-12, 1-11 SOL Continental.
Head Coach: Laura Whitney.
Notable Losses: Emma Stanfield, Kelly Scipione, and Brianna Broccardi.
Players to Watch: Haley Crossley, Jenna Rodebaugh, Hannah Reimel, and Chelsea Meltzer.
Outlook: “After playing the last two seasons in the Continental conference, we are now back to our old conference (National) this year.  Due to the loss of five seniors from last year, we will be a young team that lacks a lot of  varsity experience.  Our focus is on continuing to get better every day, learning to play with consistency, and to be competitive.”

2017-18 Record: 11-11, 10-4 SOL American.
Head Coach: Rodney Cline.
Notable Losses: Carly Fadel, Victoria Selverian, Sydney Ott Katlyn Ott, Linnea Hummel.
Players to Watch: Brianna Tilghman (G) Victoria Williams(G) Anna Schools(G) Macey Segal(SG), Lauren Fadel(Jr. G), Rebecca Selverian (Jr. SF), Lilly Hyatt (So. SG) Seniors: Gabby Zeber, Sam Comonitski, Kelly Dickson, and Tessa Mountain.
Outlook: “Our goal this year is to play fundamentally sound basketball and focus on doing the little things to the best of our abilities.  We know if we take care of the little things it will prepare us for the big things the post season brings.”

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