Archbold was 25-2 last year and looks to win the NWOAL title again with, from left, Hannah Hesterman, Jesse Fidler, Winter Fricke, Cassidy Wyse, and Cassidy Williams.
THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
It's a new girls basketball season, but the objectives haven't changed for Archbold.
The Blue Streaks expect to be the best in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
With seven returning letter winners Archbold is the preseason unanimous pick to win it all again.
The Blue Streaks are led by Division III All-Ohio first-team performer Cassidy Wyse, who led them to a 25-2 record and regional final last year.
"We have a lot of experience back and have the potential to be very good," Archbold coach Brian Ziegler said. "Staying healthy and finding more depth are keys to a successful season."
Wauseon, Delta, and Evergreen have the kind of talent to make the race interesting from start to finish.
"I believe Archbold has to be the favorite this year again," Wauseon first-year coach Ashley Oyer said. "Evergreen also returns the majority of their team from a year ago, and they'll be extremely competitive. Delta has a strong nucleus of players coming back."
Ziegler expects league play to be challenging.
"It's always been a competitive league," Ziegler said. "There are good players on every team and good coaches in the league, so you have to be ready to play every night."
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Brian Ziegler, sixth season
Last season: 25-2 overall, 8-0 NWOAL
Top players: Seniors Cassidy Wyse, 5-10, F; Jesse Fidler, 5-9, G. Juniors Cassidy Williams, 5-9, G; Hannah Hesterman, 5-10, F; Winter Fricke, 5-8, G.
Outlook: With three starters back and seven letter winners, the Blue Streaks return plenty from last year’s successful team.
Wyse (13.6 points, 6.0 rebounds) heads the seasoned bunch as the top scorer and rebounder. Her play around the basket affects how the Blue Streaks are able to play at an uptempo pace against teams that prefer to slow it down.
Fidler (8.3, 4.8) and Hesterman (8.0, 4.1) are also veteran players who understand what it takes to win.
Williams (6.2 points, 2.0 rebounds) and Fricke (4.7 points) are also players with plenty of experience to lean on, particularly in the early stages of the season when Ziegler expects their depth to be put to the test.
Coach: Ashley Oyer, first season
Last season: 15-9, 6-2
Top players: Seniors Hannah Blaylock, 5-11, F; Lexi Lane, 5-4, G-F. Juniors Haley Archibeque, 5-5, G; Natalie Koenig, 5-8, G; Maddie Richer, 5-4, G; Sariah Yackee, 5-6, G-F.
Outlook: Oyer takes over a team that lost several key players to graduation, but the Indians aren’t thinking this is a rebuilding year.
Led by Yackee (6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds) and Richer (6.1, 1.2), Wauseon expects to contend. Koenig (5.7, 2.1) and Archibeque (5.5, 1.9) are also experienced returners who'll take on a greater role this season.
"Hopefully, we can be competitive in the league this year," Oyer said. "We return a solid nucleus of upperclassmen and have a couple of talented players moving up from the junior varsity that was 19-3 last year. We will be tested with a difficult no-league schedule."
Sally Frank, a 5-5 junior, and Anna Marshall, a 5-10 sophomore, are newcomers who could contribute.
Coach: Ryan Ripke, fourth season
Last season: 17-8, 4-4
Top players: Seniors Abbie Harris, 5-6, G; Bri Raab, 5-8, G. Juniors Brigan Wymer, 5-8, G; Brailee Green, 5-7, F; Alexa Lauch, 5-7, G; Rayvn Mitchell, 5-8, F; Kaylee Finnen, 5-10, F. Sophomore Morgan Mattimore, 5-8, G.
Outlook: With three returning starters (Raab, Harris, Wymer) leading the way, the Panthers have high expectations.
Wymer (20.9 points, 6.3 rebounds), was an All-NWOAL first-team performer, and is the team’s most versatile player.
Harris (9.3, 3.1) and Raab (6.0, 1.2), both all-league honorable mention, were productive last season.
Lauch, Mitchell, and Finnen are newcomers who will be given an opportunity to make their mark.
Coach: John Langenderfer, 11th season
Last season:11-12, 3-5
Top players: Seniors Kendalyn Noe, 5-4, G; Carly Truckor, 5-5, G. Junior Shawna Siefker, 5-5, G. Sophomores Haili Mussing, 5-8, F; Hannah Machacek, 5-4, G.
Outlook: The Vikings return four starters from last year's team that was one of the youngest in the NWOAL.
Mossing (14.8 points, 7.0 rebounds), Noe (9.3 points), and Truckor (7.1 points, 4.0 rebounds) provide the Vikings’ lineup with three proven scorers and leaders. Mossing is one of the NWOAL's top returning scorers and rebounders.
Siefker (4.0 points) and Machacek (3.0 points) saw playing time a year ago and account for the other experienced players.
With five sophomores considered among their top eight, the Vikings are leaning heavily on their underclassmen.
Coach: Joe Pennington, fourth season
Last season: 23-2, 7-1
Top players: Seniors Rachel Nye, 5-8, F; Kristin Bostelman, 5-8, G. Junior Heather Gibson, 5-5, G. Sophomores Bailey Brown, 5-5, G; Alyson Prigge, 5-9, C; Alison Imbrock, 5-9, F-C.
Outlook: The Patriots fell a win shy of a league championship last season.
Bostelman (6.7 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Nye (1.4, 2.3) make up the only returners.
“Inexperience” sums up this year's team, which will require filling four of the five starting positions from a year ago. Gibson, Brown, Prigge, and Imbrock have shown some promise.
Pennington remains optimistic the Patriots can compete for a title.
"Hopefully, our depth will allow us to play uptempo and pressure teams defensively," he said.
If the Patriots can come together quickly and play as a cohesive unit they could end up as the surprise team in the NWOAL.
Coach: Eric Stantz, fourth season
Last season: 12-10, 4-4
Top players: Seniors Hannah Schimmoeller, 5-7, G; Rachel Fruth, 5-6, F.
Outlook: The Golden Bears will lean heavily on Schimmoeller (14.9 points), who returns as one of the league’s leading scorers. Fruth also adds experience to the backcourt, which will be leaned on heavily for leadership and production in what figures as a rebuilding season.
Finding early replacements for several key players lost to graduation will be vital.
Coach: Frank Onweller, 12th season
Last season: 12-10, 3-5
Top players: Seniors Allison Knepley, 5-7, F; Jenna Carr, 5-6, G; Allison Knepley, 5-7, F; Brooke Eitniear, 5-11, F; Victoria Przybylski, 5-4, F. Juniors Emily Callicotte, 5-7, G; Megyn Christensen, 5-10, F; Maicie Wheeler, 5-8, G.
Outlook: Knepley, a three-year letter winner, is Swanton's top returner. Callicotte and Carr, both two-year letter winners, are expected to help fill a void left by the graduation of Bethann Lumbrezer (11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds).
Eitniear, Wheeler, and Christensen saw action a year and will be called on for bigger roles.
Coach: John Lauf, second season
Last season: 2-19, 0-8
Top players: Seniors Niki Meyer, 5-9, F; Katie Gilson, 5-9, F. Juniors Andrea Weirauch, 5-8, F; Breanna Sharp, 5-5, G; Senna Jeffers, 5-5, C. Sophomores Olivia Kundo, 5-11, C.
Outlook: The Tigers have four returning starters and two other letter winners.
Meyer (14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds) is expected to lead the way and is the top returning scorer and rebounder. Weirauch (7.7, 6.5) gives the Tigers a steady contributor in the frontcourt.
Lauf intends to play an uptempo style. The steady development of the underclassmen, particularly Kundo (3.7, 2.8), will be key.
Jeffers and Sharp are also returners expected contribute.
Coach: Tim Nicely, first season
Last season: 12-11, 1-7
Top players: Seniors Hannah Blake, 5-9, PG; Baylee Hageman, 5-10, C; Breanna Stein, 5-4, G; Malorie Yagelski, 5-7, G; Haley Suffel, 5-6, G; Marinna Mercer, 5-8, F; Audrey Pirtle, 5-10, C; Regan Steffes, 5-8, G; Maddie Richmond, 5-7, G.
Outlook: Blake (14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds) represents the top returner and figures to be among the league's best frontcourt players. Hageman (6.5 points, 7.0 rebounds) is also expected to provide leadership.
"We should finish over the .500 mark and getting better as the season goes on," Nicely said.
Steady contributions from Stein, Yagelski and Suffel could go a long way in pushing the Locomotives out of the bottom half of the NWOAL.