Northview has earned enough respect to be considered the favorite to win the Northern Lakes League for the fourth straight season despite heavy and significant losses to graduation.
The Wildcats have captured three straight league crowns and six since 2002. Veteran coach Jerry Sigler guided his team to an undefeated NLL season (14-0) and 19-1 overall record last year.
But Sigler, who has a 663-166 record in 37 seasons, lost two seniors who are now playing in the Mid-American Conference. The loss includes Blade player of the year Miriam Justinger, who led the Wildcats to the Division I district final.
But the league coaches still gave the nod to Northview in a preseason poll followed closely by Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne.
“It’s quite an honor,” Sigler said. “It has a lot to with respect for the program. But we also have some young players that are pretty talented.”
The Wildcats possess good size with four players who stand 5-11 or taller, including returning starters Kendall McCoy and Maddie Cole. Both are sophomores. McCoy (6-0) is a guard/forward who averaged 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a freshman. Cole (6-1) is a forward/center who averaged 4.1 points and 3.6 boards per contest as a freshman.
Sigler said his team will be athletic but he expects the NLL to be very competitive.
“I don’t see anyone going through undefeated,” he said. “The winner will have one or two or more losses. Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne have a lot back and Southview and Bowling Green do too.”
The Yellow Jackets, who finished runner up last season, won a district title and advanced to the D-I regional semifinals last season. Coach Todd Sims has just one starter back but five letter winners return.
“I think Northview is the favorite until somebody can beat them,” Sims said. “I think they were picked because of their tradition.”
Sims has six players who were also members of the Perrysburg soccer team that won a D-I state title this month.
“It helps a ton,” Sims said. “They are great athletes and they know what it takes to win.”
Perrysburg won back-to-back titles before Northview’s recent run.
Anthony Wayne has three starters back, and the Generals should be a good shooting team.
Southview will be without perhaps the best player in the league, guard Lexi Lopez, who is out with an ACL injury. Lopez was second in the league in scoring (19.0 points per game). She may be back next month.
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish based on a preseason coaches’ poll:
Coach: Jerry Sigler, 37th season
Last season: 21-2 overall, 14-0 NLL
Top players: Seniors Rahma Ismail 5-9, F/C; Lauren Yurjevic, 5-11, F/C. Junior Lauren Keil, 5-7, G. Sophomores Kendall McCoy, 6-0, G/F; Maddie Cole, 6-1, F/C; Maddie Fries, 5-4, G; Kendall Jessing, 6-0, F/C.
Outlook: The young Wildcats’ development will depend largely on the players finding their roles and finding chemistry on the floor together, according to Sigler.
“We’re trying to put all of the pieces together,” Sigler said.
Two starters, McCoy and Cole, are back after both played as freshmen. Yurjevic also played on the varsity. Sigler said all of his players participate on AAU teams.
“That has made them better players,” he said. “They’ve been down the road.”
But those players still have only junior varsity experience.
“It’s a huge concern,” Sigler said. “You can’t provide that varsity experience. As the season progresses and our inexperienced players receive more playing time, we should develop into a very competitive team. Our league and difficult non-league schedule will help prepare us for tournament play.”
Coach: Todd Sims, fourth season
Last season: 19-5, 11-3
Top players: Seniors Maddy Williams, 5-9, G; Samantha Gremler, 5-11, P; Maddy Perry, 5-11, P. Juniors Sarah Baer, 6-1, P; Abby Sattler, 5-5,
Outlook: Williams shattered school records in soccer during the run to the title. Sophomore Allex Brown (6-1, P) senior Mollie Whitacre (5-6, G) and sophomore Lindy DeLong (5-8, G) also are making the transition to basketball.
The Yellow Jackets have won three district titles in Sims’ four seasons.
The coach believes team speed, athleticism, and leadership will be strengths. But he said the team is a little behind because of the soccer team's extended season.
“We need to work on shooting,” he said.
Baer led the team with 8.3 rebounds per game.
“Our goal is to win the NLL and to take one more step to the regional final,” Sims said. “I really like this team, they work hard and are fun to be around.”
Coach: Jeremy Terwilliger, second season
Last year: 13-9, 8-6
Top players: Seniors Lauren Cardinal, 5-9, G; Alex Venglarcik, 5-11, F. Juniors Jasmine Bonivel, 5-9, G; Megan Bedard 5-10, G; Sara Zankl, 5-9, F; Raechel McKay, 5-6 G.
Outlook: Three starters return for the Generals among six letterwinners overall.
Bonivel is the leading returning scorer (7 ppg, 3 rpg, and 3 assists per game). Bedard (5 ppg), Zankl (4 ppg), and McKay (4 ppg.) also contributed offensively.
Terwilliger said the positive attributes include defensive pressure and team shooting.
But possible trouble areas include questionable post defense, physical play, and poor shooting nights.
“With a large number of returning letter winners, expectations for our season are high,” Terwilliger said. “Our ladies had a preseason and are working very hard to refine some new wrinkles. On nights that we are able to shoot the ball well and play physically, we should have a lot of success.”
Coach: Timothy Nottke, second season
Last year: 9-12, 5-7
Top players: Seniors Lexi Lopez, 5-10, G; Bailey Hejl, 5-7, G; Morgan Ersig, 5-8, G. Juniors Taryn Stanley, F; Sarah Klepzig, 5-10, C; Lauren Huntsman, 5-7, G. Sophomore Maria Pappas, 5-5, G.
Outlook: Hejl, Pappas, and Lopez all started last year and Nottke has nine returning letter winners.
Lopez also averaged 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 5.0 steals per game.
Hejl scored 6.5 points per contest and Pappas 3.0 points per game.
Stanley is a transfer from Notre Dame. Klepzig tallied 6.0 points and grabbed 4.0 rebounds per game.
“Our team depth is a huge strength for us,” Nottke said. “We have 12 players who are capable of producing every night. We should be able to adjust to any type of game we are involved in. We are a true blue-collar team who will continue to work and never give up.”
But he also said his team will struggle if it is unable to score for long periods of time.
“We need a few players to step up and become consistent scorers while Lexi is recovering,” he said. “We will also need our guards to make good decisions. We have to make sure we are the more physical and better conditioned team. Playing so many younger players last year has given them experience.”
Coach: Jeffrey Nichols, 11th season
Last season: 16-6, 10-4
Top players: Seniors Chelsey Morlock 5-7, G; Haley Glandorff, 5-5, G. Junior Hanna Williford 5-7, G. Sophomores Livvy Dill, 6-0, W/P; Tyanna Smith 5-11, W/P.
Outlook: Nichols has no starters back, but three players earned varsity letters.
Morlock enters her third season after scoring 10.7 points per game. She also averaged 3.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Glandorff (7.0 ppg) and Williford (3.0 ppg) also have experience.
The Bobcats have solid guard play as well as good team speed, chemistry, and defense.
Nichols said Morlock and fellow senior Sara Pisarski will provide leadership and quality minutes as guards.
But possible weakness include lack of varsity experience, a short bench, and a need for players to fill a scoring void.
“Even though we return no starters, we have three solid high-level players,” Nichols said. “Our two potential starting inside players are both tall and have worked hard. We also have four other juniors (Maggie Schaller, Olivia McGowan, Thayer Daniels, and Gabbie Powers) to provide athleticism. We look to compete in the top half of the NLL. As we gain experience, I think we can do well this year.”
Coach: Steve Carroll, second season
Last season: 5-16, 1-11
Top players: Seniors Taylor Nopper, 5-7, G; Destinie Geiger, 5-8, F; Taylor Montague, 5-8, F; Tori Collins, 5-10, F. Juniors Asia Goodwin, 5-7, G; Jordyn James, 5-11, F Gabby Teifke, 5-10. Sophomores Natalie Yoder, 5-5, G; Sydney Powhida, 5-7, G.
Outlook: Three starters are among six returning letter winners.
Yoder tallied 10.0 points per game as a freshman. Geiger averaged 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, while Nopper and Collins each contributed 3.0 points per contest. Powhida chipped in with 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Carroll believes team chemistry, good work ethic and motivation are strengths.
But he said his Blue Devils are still learning how to makes the plays needed to win.
“Our program is growing, but we have not had experience winning,” Carroll said. “We need to keep teaching and help players learn how to be successful. We want to constantly be improving.”
Coach: Kara Miller, first season
Last season: 9-13, 4-10
Top players: Junior Alexa Sonnenberg, 5-5, G; Courtney Smith, 5-6, G; Amberly Miller, 5-7, F; Sydney Lawson, 5-8, G; Lindsay Ferguson, 5-9, C. Sophomores Beth Homan, 5-5, G; Kayla Gerken, 5-10, G/F.
Outlook: Miller takes over a Wildcat program that lost its top two scorers and leading rebounder to graduation.
But Miller believes her good team speed and quickness will pay dividends.
“We are looking to push the ball and score consistently out of transition,” she said. “We have quick guards and hope to use their speed to press and put lots of pressure on the ball.”
But Napoleon has limited varsity experience.
“We are looking for young players to step up and give us valuable minutes,” Miller said. “We are looking to be competitive in the league and make a run in the tournament.”
Coach: Adam Russell, first season
Last season: 7-15, 2-12
Top players: Seniors Joeal Olman, 5-11, C; Lindsay Sayre, 5-11, F; Baliee Patterson, 5-7, G. Juniors Erica Tullis, 5-7, G; Macy Stichler, 6-0, F/C.
Outlook: Olman finished with 9.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game to earn All-District 7 honorable mention. Sayre averaged 3.8 points and 3.0 boards per game. They are the only returning starters for Russell.
“We have good size which will benefit us in our post play and inside game,” he said. “We also have a group of girls who work hard everyday at practice and who are dedicated to making themselves better each day. In addition, we have very good leadership among our senior class.”
But injuries during the preseason have set the Panthers back. He said he is starting a new program and a different basketball mind-set at Maumee.
“This takes time to adjust to, but our girls have done a great job so far,” Russell said. “We expect to get better each and every day as individuals and as a team.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.