Players to watch: Samantha Nissen, Sr., C; Alex Daviera, Sr., 1B; Kara Couwenhoven, Sr., 2B; Skyler Woods, Sr., SS; Katelyn Neubauer, Sr., P; Jordyn Beck, Sr., OF, Jenna Wille, Sr., OF.
Outlook: Beecher has been a young team ever since the supersectional run in 2008. This year, it's time for that youth to pay off. The Ladycats return seven seniors from last year's team that went 25-10 and won a regional title. Head coach Kevin Hayhurst has more than just a strong senior class though. The sophomores and juniors are talented, and Beecher always reloads with solid freshmen.
Quote: "Playing solid defense behind our pitchers will be the key to this year's success." -- Hayhurst
Players to watch: Toni Formentini, Jr., CF; Geena Locicero, So., 3B/1B; Monica Harte, Jr., P.
Outlook: Bloom Township starts only two seniors, but head coach Carrie Twietmeyer is excited about what her young team is capable of. The Blazing Trojans start four sophomores, a group led by Locicero, but all four already have a year of starting experience under their belts. The No. 3 hitter, Locicero broke the school's single-season home run record as a freshman with six, and Twietmeyer says she has Division I talent.
Quote: "We expect to win conference." -- Twietmeyer
Players to watch: Chelsea White, Sr., SS; Melanie Lambert, So., 1B/3B; Liz Frassinone, So., 3B/P; Sarah Rizzo, Fr., P.
Outlook: Like their Southland Athletic Conference counterparts from Chicago Heights, this Warriors team is young and talented. Sophomore Frassinone will take over the bulk of the pitching duties with White coming off an injury, but the Warriors will still have White's bat in the lineup. Head coach Sue Giannantonio is excited not just because of the talent, but because of the heart and positive attitude her players have brought into the season.
Quote: "The kids are so hungry, and they listen so well, and they're doing an outstanding job. Everything is there and it's clicking." -- Giannantonio
Players to watch: Jessia Markanich, Sr., IF/OF; Melanie Hamilton, Sr., OF; Alex Bitto, Sr., IF; Kassidy Kleinow, Jr., P; Sarah Burke, Jr., P.
Outlook: The Vikings were a young team looking to gain varsity experience last year. In 2011 they are a group of seasoned vets, featuring nine returning varsity players, four of whom have already made college commitments. Katie Rice-Hoger takes over the head coach, and with a solid core of hitters and two talented pitchers, has a lot to be excited about.
Quote: "We're basically going to play it game-to-game and hopefully we can compete in conference better than we did last year." -- Rice-Hoger
Players to watch: Alicia Smit, Sr., LF; Courtney Wheaton, Sr., CF; Kate Van Schouwen, Jr. SS; Claire Ipema, Jr., RF; Holly Zuidema, Jr., P.
Outlook: Coach Mike Oppenhuis had many expectations coming into this season, but an 0-5 start was not among them. Those losses have come against good competition though, and Oppenhuis is confident his team can fix the small mistakes that led to them. The pitching should be more consistent than it was last year for Illiana, but it will be hard to replace all-area catcher Dana Poortenga on the offensive side of the ball. If the Vikings can manufacture runs, they'll be competitive.
Quote: "I wouldn't have expected to be 0-5, but hey, that's where we're at, and we move on from there." -- Oppenhuis
Players to watch: Tori Schrementi, Jr., SS/P; Jenn Seely, Sr., C; Nicole Dorn, Sr., 3B; Niya Marino, Jr., P.
Outlook: Coach Jeff Uhlenbrauck calls this the most talented team he's ever had. With five seniors and three juniors, it is certainly the most experienced. Seely and Dorn each hit over .400 last year as juniors, while Schrementi posted a .536 batting average. With Marino taking care of the pitching, this team is loaded from top to bottom.
Quote: "We're definitely looking for this year to be a big step up for us." -- Uhlenbrauck
Players to watch: Katie Becker, Jr., P; Kathy Gentry, So., C; Mandy Mills, Fr., SS.
Outlook: Goals at Luther East are always different from those at the area's larger schools. Having enough players to field a team is always the first victory. Coach Alan Fluga has some young talent in Lansing, and expects his team to make a push. The Eagles won three games last year, and Fluga would like to see them double that in 2011.
Quote: "We have a lot of girls just learning how to play the game." -- Fluga
Players to watch: Becca Gray, Sr., P/OF; Briana Clark, Sr., SS; EraShawna Sadler, Sr., 2B; Rachel Glenn, Sr., P/1B; Alex Nickel, So., 3B; Becca Stanton, So., C/DP.
Outlook: As is so often the case, Marian fields one of the best collections of talent in the area. Gray, Glenn and Sadler were first-team all area last season, and Clark made the second team. Gray is a three-time all-area first-teamer, and should become the Spartans' career leader in innings pitched and wins this season. Dethroning Marist in the East Suburban Catholic Conference will be a tall task, but head coach Kerri Evans has very high expectations for this team.
Quote: "We have the potential to be one of the best teams Marian has had since I have been coaching." -- Evans
Players to watch: Lauren Young, Sr., C; Asia Phillips, Sr., P; Tia
Westbrook, Sr., OF; Jasmine Ray, Sr. OF.
Outlook: Make it five head coaches now in six years for the Seton Academy softball program. After a rare two-year stint at the helm, Rachel Yzaguirre gives way to Oscar Scott. Scott inherits some positives in his first year. In Young, Phillips, Westbrook and Ray the Sting have four seniors that can swing the stick as well as provide an important core of leadership.
St. Francis de Sales
Players to watch: Jackie Nelson, Sr., C/3B; Melissa Carrillo, Jr., SS; Tasia Harris, So.; Kylie Carrasco, Fr., 1B.
Outlook: First base, third base, pitcher. Those are the positions at which coach Devon Hills will be starting freshmen this season. But those players are talented, especially Carrasco. While Hills admits this is a rebuilding year, he still says this team can take the GCAC White. The Pioneers fielded a JV team last season for the first time in years, so the newcomers to varsity this year should be more prepared than ever.
Quote: "It's a rebuilding year, but in a positive way. We're not just letting the season go by." -- Hills
Players to watch: Porschay Lloyd, Sr., C; Shaniqua Haynes, Sr., 1B; Tressa Witkins, Jr., OF.
Outlook: Thornridge coach Sherry Jackson freely admits that her Falcons are out of their league in conference play. The move to the Southwest Suburban Conference, where girls have been playing softball for years before reaching high school, was hard on Thornridge, where most girls learn to play as freshmen. Jackson has some talented players though, and she makes sure her players keep a positive attitude and stay as competitive as possible.
Quote: . "The key is for them to just enjoy the game and have fun. If you do the best you can, you'll feel like a winner." -- Jackson
Players to watch: China Cordova, Sr., SS; Jeannette Aguado, Sr., 2B; Alexis Brown, Jr., 1B; Monique Fleming, Jr., 3B.
Outlook: After opening to a rough start in their first year of South Suburban Conference play, T.F. North should be able to bounce back in 2011. The Meteors are once again led by Cordova, who can give opponents fits not just with her bat but also with her glove and on the basepaths. The hitting won't stop with Cordova though, as Aguado, Brown and Fleming can all keep rallies alive.
Quote: "My expectations are very high. They have a lot of athleticism, now we're just trying to turn them into softball players." -- coach Julie Heintz
Players to watch: Sophie Kessler, Sr., C; Megan Frieling, Sr., P.
Outlook: The Rebels turned some heads last season, finishing second in the South Suburban Conference's Blue Division. But they lost a number of talented players from last season, including No. 1 pitcher Miranda Hill and Times player of the year Amanda Maricich. On top of that, Times coach of the year Trent Jensen gives way to former assistant Katie Hanko-Sweeney. The new Rebels coach is optimistic and expects her seniors to lead the team to success.
Quote: "I think a lot of people are going to underestimate us because we lost the girls that we did." -- Hanko-Sweeney
Players to watch: Shantel Dennis, Jr., SS; Malana Hudson, Sr., 1B/P; Mirycle Thurmon, Jr., C.
Outlook: The Thunderbirds return some talented young starters in Dennis, Hudson and Thurmon. They also bring in some young talent in sophomores Brittany and Briana Matthews. It still probably isn't enough in the loaded SouthWest Suburban Conference, but the T-Birds will be able to hold their own and take care of business within the district.
Players to watch: Julyssa Saez, Sr., OF; Johnna Brajkovich, Jr., IF/OF; Priscilla Pallanti, Jr., IF; Xenia Senisais, Jr., C; Jensen Hunt, So., P/OF.
Outlook: Another year means another new coach on Chicago's south side. Sara Kalemba takes over for Heather Pancer in 2011, but Pancer is not the only person not returning. The Patriots were a senior-laden team last year, and, in turn, will be young this year. With only two seniors starters, Washington is a junior-dominated team, but Kalemba is excited about what the young team can accomplish.
Quote: "I'm hoping this year that our talent shows just how good I know we can be." -- Kalemba
!~ Compiled by Scott Ritter