BY MARVIN HOLMAN firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — The season for the Schlarman girls basketball team will be decided by how quickly the members from the volleyball team gets into the mix.
Some of the Hilltoppers played volleyball until last Saturday’s Class 1A Super-sectional loss, so coach Keith Peoples finally got the team in on Friday to practice.
“We passed out uniforms and we started at it,” Peoples said. “The girls came in and were very energetic and ready to get the season going. We just have to work on conditioning.”
Along with conditioning, the Hilltoppers will have to deal with the loss of four seniors that helped the team get a share of the Vermilion Valley Conference title, which means it could be a change with how the team does things.
“We have to be looking for a focus for this team this season and what we may have to do is focus on defense,” Peoples said. “We are good offensively but we want to make games ugly for the other team and make them work for each basket.
“The conference is going to be real competitive and I expect every game to be a tough game.”
The Hilltoppers return sophomore Sierra Bell, senior Janelle Marion, Sarah Daily, Maria Rangel and Alexis Rangel will be depended on to carry the load for the team but Peoples see potential in a couple of freshmen.
“Maisey Johnson and Rachel Wallis are two promising freshmen who will start on the JV team but will make the move to play a lot for the varsity,” Peoples said. “We also have Shelby Mascari, Joslyn Dietzen and Sarah Larson, who are expected to come up from the JV to play as well.”
The Hilltoppers start play on Nov. 22 at the Blue Star Classic in Champaign.
“It is going to be a tough tournament,” Peoples said. “We are going to be one of the smaller schools there but we are going to go out and get some experience.”
Georgetown-Ridge Farm is coming off a season where they tied with the Hilltoppers for the conference title and also return some top players in Brittany Hay, Lexi Ovall, Hannah Brandt and Kayla Wolpert.
Buffaloes coach Michelle Brooks said the success of last year’s team has brought a new enthusiasm to the program.
“When we had tryouts, we had 27 kids wanting to tryout,” Brooks said. “In the past, we have had at the least 11 players tryout.”
While the tryouts were successful, Brooks is sticking to the stars and younger players like Aubrey Brookshire and Mona Alruwaily.
“(Brookshire) came off the bench and played well for us in the season and (Alruwaily) has stepped up a lot in practice,” Brooks said. “We also have a new assistant coach in Paul Waitkoff who has 15 years of experience.”
The Buffaloes will start the season on Monday against Blue Ridge.
Westville lost 80 percent of its offense from last season, but coach Mike Chandler returns starters Ji’Cee Lacey, Morgan Gallion and top sub Mikayla Rolinitis.
“Ji’Cee is a great presence inside for us and she can handle the ball, so she is a all-around player,” Chandler said. “Morgan was our No. 2 guard last year and she took over that spot in the middle of the season and she has become our best in passing and Mikayla is our best overall defender and is good on offense as well.”
Chandler will also depend on some young players like Toni Cedar and Krista Smith to help fill the rest of the gap left from last season’s departures.
“Ceader is probably going to be the point guard for us and she has the will to go out there and do it,” Chandler said. “Macee Petkus and Ariel Prater are our seniors and they have done a solid job in practice and Adrienne Pate is a sophomore who came off the bench for us last season and Mariah Rolinitis will be a good scorer for us.
“We have a young team that has the potential to play well and if they do, we can have a successful season.”
The Tigers will start the season at home on Thursday against North Vermillion.
Armstrong-Potomac will return All-VVC and All-Vermlion County guard Morgan Zindars along with Rachel Miles, Courtney Hambleton and Johanna Bruens.
“Morgan is the leader and she makes everything go for us,” Armstrong-Potomac coach Nick Hipsher said. “Rachel is our top defender, Johanna is out top rebounder and started seven or eight games for us and Courtney goes out and does the little things for us.”
Hipsher said the way things are going in the VVC, no team is safe.
“Bismarck-Henning has returned almost everyone and Chrisman and Salt Fork will be better than last year,” Hipsher said. “A lot of teams were young last year and they got an extra year of experience.”
The Trojans start the season at the Cissna Park tournament on Monday against the host Timberwolves.
The Blue Devils will return everyone but one player from last year’s team and in practices, head coach Mike Stephens sees improvement.
“We are making great progress from last season,” Stephens said. “We also feel that we have some more options offensively.”
The Blue Devils will be led by senior guards Maddie Winkler and Addie Voyles with help from juniors Jessica Hall and Brooke Walsh. Stephens also hopes that sophomores Stephanie Bott, Lindsay Andrews and Ella Nelson will step up.
“If we can get them to take up the scoring, that will be great,” Stephens said.
The Blue Devils will start play Monday against Crescent City in the Cissna Park Tournament.
Chrisman was 6-22 last season and returns seniors Sarah Ellis, Chey Warner and Ashley Malone and juniors Breanna Hale and Melissa Pickett. The Cardinals start the season against Hutsonville on Thursday.
Hoopeston Area returns seniors Shelby Holzinger, Karena Colunga, Tori Smock, Carissa Vaughn and juniors Aly Zarate, Haley Dixon, Doris Varela and Rylee Waymouth. The Cornjerkers will start against Salt Fork at the Comet Classic.
The Storm will start the season on Tuesday against Shiloh.
Oakwood is coming off a 5-21 record in the first season for coach Jeff Ford and will try to improve this season, starting with a game against LeRoy on Tuesday before hosting the Comet Classic next weekend.