- This is the first in a series of previews of Q-C Metro girls' basketball teams. Coming tomorrow: Alleman.
Who are these girls?
Last year, the Geneseo Maple Leafs won the Northern Illinois Big 12 West, but did so with a ton of seniors.
This year, it is up to young Leafs to prove they can continue the tradition of winning at Geneseo. The girls in green have averaged more than 20 wins a season the past seven years.
"It's completely new," second-year coach Scott Hardison said. "We return about seven points per game from last year and that's from four girls combined."
Emily Ford was a solid sixth man last year, and will run the point this season.
Another thing Hardison does have in his back pocket is a tall center in Jamie DeFauw. The 6-foot junior was solid on the sophomore team last year and will have big shoes to fill.
Last year, Devan Griffin earned The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Player of the Year and while DeFauw won't be expected to garner that same distinction, she will be a force in the middle and play the same kind of role.
From there, things are up in the air.
"Give us halfway through the season to get to know ourselves and know our roles," Hardison said of potential growing pains. "By Christmas, we'll know where we stand and what we can do. Expect us to come out strong in NIB-12 after the first of the year."
In 2013, the Leafs will become road warriors, playing seven of their first eight games of the new year away from home.
They wrap up the regular season with home games against LaSalle-Peru and Dixon. Mid-January will be very important if the Leafs hope to retain the title of conference champs.
On Jan. 15 and 18, Geneseo has its biggest week of the schedule, conference-wise. On that Tuesday, the Leafs travel to Sterling and then Friday they welcome Ottawa in what could likely be two games that decide the fate of the league this year.
Hardison sees the Pirates as the team to beat this year as they return a few players that experienced varsity last year.
Another new wrinkle in this year's schedule for the Leafs is the subtraction of the Dixon Holiday Tournament and return of the State Farm Classic. Hardison sees the Bloomington-Normal tournament as a chance to play bigger schools and stiffer competition.
The Leafs also have replaced Davenport North with United Township on their schedule, giving them another Western Big 6 opponent to go along with Rock Island.
"Anytime we can play a Big 6 school we want to do it because they're tough and prepare us for the postseason," said Hardison, whose girls were upset in the regionals last season. "Our regional is so tough and we need to see those kind of teams. I felt like we didn't really get that last year."
So what has Hardison done to prepare these girls who are just as green behind their ears as anything else?
"We played in a summer league and in a fall league," Hardison said. "In practice, defensively they've had to defend against 6-7 girls so it's more physical."
That defense is a staple of Hardison's teams, and a big reason why they had as much success in his inaugural season.
"We have a year under our belt as a program and the girls know what to expect," Hardison said. "They know the verbiage and understand the system we're going to use. On the floor though, it's a completely unknown commodity."
The girls are ready to prove who they are.
- Rest of the NIB-12: Ottawa and Sterling are in the same boat as the Leafs, looking to rebuild and not lose a step. The Pirates and Golden Warriors should be tough as always, with sterling implementing a new offense. They say it's not like Galesburg's "system" but involves a number of different girls... Ottawa will be learning about themselves during the early going, but do return some pieces from a team that won a regional last year. They should be considered the favorites in the league… One of the best returning players in the league is Dixon's Brooke Bailey. The junior Dutchess was the only non-senior on the All-NIB12 first team last year… Streator also has a junior to watch in Morgan Sharisky who earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season.
Geneseo Maple Leafs Coach: Scott Hardison (2nd season) Last year: 24-5, 9-1 NIB-12w champions Key returners: G Emily Ford (5-8, Sr.) Newcomers: G Emma Vandemore (5-7, Fr.), Abby Marmion (5-4, Jr.), Molly DeBrock (5-7, Sr.); Emily VandeWiele (5-9, So.), Kaylie Piekos (5-10, Jr.), Abby Wilebski (5-7, Jr.). F Katelyn Mundt (5-10, Sr.), Bailey Conrad (5-8, Jr.), Anna Wise (5-9, So.), Rori Westerlund (5-8, Jr.), Rachel Ganson (5-10, Sr.)., Audrey Anderson (5-10, Jr.). C Jamie DeFauw (6-0, Jr.), Hannah Kain (5-11, So.). Schedule (all games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted): Nov. 12-17 Temple's Tip-Off Classic; Today at Orion; Nov. 14 vs. Rockridge; Nov. 16 vs. Chicago Raby, 8 p.m.; Nov. 17 vs. Annawan; Nov. 30 Sterling, 6 p.m.; Dec. 1 at United Township, 1 p.m.; Dec. 7 at Ottawa, 6 p.m.; Dec. 11 vs. Streator; Dec. 15, 21 and 22 at Ottawa Tournament; Dec. 18 at Rock Island, 7 p.m.; Dec. 26-29 at State Farm Classic; Jan 4 at LaSalle-Peru, 6 p.m.; Jan. 8 at Dixon; Jan 10 at Ridgewood; Jan. 12 at Morris, 2:30 p.m.; Jan. 15 at Sterling; Jan. 18 vs. Ottawa; Jan. 24 at Streator; Jan. 26 at Yorkville, 4:30 p.m.; Feb. 1 vs. LaSalle-Peru; Feb. 7 vs. Dixon; Feb. 9 vs. DeKalb, 1:30 p.m.