By Craig Clary, firstname.lastname@example.org
2:10 PM EST, December 7, 2012
Mount de Sales, Seton Keough and Western Tech all had key players with injuries last season, but Western Tech survived and reached the Class 1A state championship game.
A three of the squads are much healthier this year, but perennial Baltimore County championship contender Catonsville must overcome injuries to a pair of projected starters to stay among the county elite.
Read on to find out who will be running the floor for the local girls squads this season.
Returning starters: Senior forward Deb Milani (5 feet, 9 inches), senior guard Maddie Hunt (5-7), junior forward Taylor Barton (5-10).
Breakdown: The injury bug bit the Comets well before preseason practice when sophomore guard Lauren McDonald tore her anterior cruciate ligament before the fall soccer season.
The Comets will miss McDonald's high energy on both ends of the floor.
Catonsville was dealt another injury blow on the first day of practice when Barton, the top returning inside scoring threat, suffered a hairline fracture in her ankle.
Coach Mike was happy she returned in time for the Comets' season-opening 62-27 victory over Fallston at home on Dec. 5.
Milani and Hunt will be counted on for veteran leadership and defensive intensity.
Hunt is a strong perimeter threat and Milani's versatility inside and out will be essential.
Replacing Rachel Schwaab, the co-Catonsville Times Athlete of the Year along with Milani, will be the biggest challenge.
"Our challenge is going to be rebounding," Mohler said. "We have got to be a good team rebounding team because we are not intimidating."
Senior forward Taylor Skidmore (5-8), junior Maddy Schwaab (5-8) and sophomores Renee Gast (5-8) and Maja Wichart (5-8) all have varsity experience.
Wichart has emerged as a solid inside threat and Gast had 11 rebounds in the opener.
Junior point guard Breya Wallace (5-4) will help to fill the void in the backcourt with the loss of McDonald.
Relying on defensive pressure and an up-tempo offense will be keys to success and they may need valuable minutes off the bench.
"We've got a lot of returning players and it's time for people to step up," Mohler said.
One strength will be versatility.
"All of them have to learn multiple positions," Mohler said about junior Nicole Stafford (5-7) and sophomores Maya Cooper (5-5), Natalie Hamilton (5-9) and Jenn Nonn (5-6) and freshmen Andrea McTaggart (5-6) and Lila Nazarian (5-5).
"We've got a lot of good athletes," Mohler said.
Mount de Sales
2011-2012 record : 8-17
Returning starters: Senior forwards Gabby Cha (5-10) and Caroline Williams (5-7), junior forward Eve Lukowski (5-9) and junior point guard Sammi Gillis (5-3)
Breakdown: Although Lukowski and Williams were starters, they missed much of last season because of concussions.
Cha is the main returning scoring threat and Lukowski is the top returning rebounder.
Juniors Annie Tavera (5-9) and Nicolette Jennings (5-9) should battle for the fifth starting spot.
Seniors Katie Sauter (5-4), Elena Salas (5-11) and Jasmine Couvillion (5-9) provide experienced depth off the bench.
Sophomore Amanda Donovan (5-9) also has varsity experience after getting promoted from junior varsity last year.
Sophomores Amanda Seidl (5-10), Abby Zalucki (5-3) and Kristen Stark (5-1) will make their varsity debuts this season.
Seidl is one of eight Sailors ranging in height between 5-9 and 5-11.
"We have nice length and long arms," said coach Trish Armstrong, noting the added quickness should help create more steals.
Armstrong admits the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference will be more competitive, so her team will have to be ready on a nightly basis.
"It is going to be real good, but with a healthy squad, I think we can compete," Armstrong said.
2011-2012 record: 15-13
Returning starters: Senior point guard Stixz Wilson (5-6), senior forward Karli Zeps (5-9) and senior center Hollie Booker (5-11).
Breakdown: Although Wilson started, she missed much of last season because of a concussion.
A complete season from Wilson should make the Gator offense much more dangerous because she is the top scoring threat.
Sophomore Jade Porter (5-8) moves from the low post to the wing and sophomore guard Taylor Bolden (5-6) and senior Destiny Davis (5-7) should log lots of minutes.
"Davis played every position at some point last year," coach Jody Powell said.
Powell expects to get reserve help from promoted JV players Imani Hudson (5-10) and Caitlyn Alley (5-6), along with seniors Gannon Costello (5-6), Haley Reibling (5-2), Danielle Veney (5-11) and Bria Richardson (5-3).
"One of our strengths will be our speed," said Powell, in her second season as head coach. "The fact they've had a year under their belt, they are much more comfortable."
Scoring droughts were a weakness last season, but the Gators often made up for it with a suffocating defense.
"We spent a lot of time of defense," Powell said. "Defense was what enabled us to compete. This team understands it's everybody's responsibility to score."
They did just that in a season-opening 59-36 victory at Pallotti on Dec. 6.
Record last year: 23-5
Returning starters: Senior forward Daija Coles (5-11) and junior point guard Sydney Clopton (5-3).
Breakdown: Topping last year's trip to the Class 1A state final will be a huge task for the Wolverines, but with several key returning players they have a chance to get back to UMBC for the state tournament's final four.
Western Tech lost the state title game to Dunbar after defeating Fort Hill in a semifinal.
Although they graduated their dynamic inside duo of Ateh Ade and Jayde Duncan, they will be bolstered by the return of junior Ebonee Dixon (5-9).
Dixon averaged nine points per game as a freshman, before missing last season with a torn ACL.
"It's like getting a transfer," coach Nolan Roe said.
Clopton made an impact on varsity and scored a game-high 20 points in the state semifinal victory.
Coles (5-11) moves from wing to the low post, where her length will create havoc for opposing frontcourt players.
Sophomore Deja Dennis (5-8) provided some clutch plays during the Wolverines' regional championship win over New Town last season and figures to log many more minutes.
"She's more comfortable this year," Roe said.
Sophomore Kaitlin Page (5-11) is the tallest of the remaining players on the roster, that includes senior guard Christina Spliedt (5-2), senior guard/forward Autumn Tapley (5-7), junior forwards Lily Ellis (5-7) and Camille Calvin (5-6) and freshman Ashley Gourdine (5-3).
"Obviously, we are going to be a lot smaller this year," Roe said.
Roe's defense led them to the school's first regional crown in school history and he hopes that is the case again.
"We've really been working a lot on defense," Roe said. "We really need strong perimeter defense because if we keep pressure on the ball and make it difficult to pass, we should be pretty good."