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Chopticon

Head coach: Joe Cook (first season)

Last year: 18-6, 9-3 (fourth in SMAC)

Athletes to watch: G Ty Priest (Jr., All-County, All-SMAC), G Kala Herbert, (Jr.) G Katie Thompson (Sr.), C Mary Beth Pappas (Sr.), F Shyanne Gross (Jr.)

Key personnel losses: HC Judy Evans (All-County COY), F Kirstin Norris (All-County), F Ashya Short (All-County, All-SMAC), F Taryn Eaton (All-County)

Strengths: Cook said that the passion for the sport of basketball is one of the team’s biggest strength, thus far. In addition to the passion, the basketball intelligence combined with the team’s continuity are also factors Cook is excited about in building a successful season.

Weaknesses: As a first-year head coach, Cook admitted his biggest question is, “Will the kids adapt to my approach and philosophy?” He also admitted that the team does have talent, but has not quite learned how to meet goals, which should come, however, via practicing hard in practices and that should show in the games.

Coach’s comments: “Overall, I expect this team to play hard every night and to get better as we go. Obviously, we have several team goals, but we are going to take one game at a time. I expect this team to play and work hard. The mission of our team is to learn to play together, communicate constantly and to bring it every night we are on the court.

“The former coach, coach [Judy] Evans, left me a strong foundation to work with and it is my responsibility to develop strategies to pull it together. We have one returning starter who is one of seven juniors, one sophomore, and four seniors.”

Key games: Dec. 14 vs. Leonardtown (NC), Jan. 2 vs. Great Mills (NC), Jan. 18 vs. Calvert

JAMES A. McCRAY III

Great Mills

Head coach: Matthew Wood (first season)

Last year: 3-18, 1-11 (tied for 12th in SMAC with Lackey)

Athlete to watch: G Tyneice Woodland (Sr., All-County)

Key personnel losses: HC Brian Weisner, F Ashia Joseph (All-County)

Strengths: Wood takes over for Weisner after the former coach spent 13 seasons with the program and moved on to be an assistant coach with the St. Mary’s College of Maryland women’s basketball team.

In just his first season with the Hornets, Wood has already noticed what his team has that should play a huge role in the success this season: versatility. Wood admitted that his Hornets have multiple players who can play multiple positions, a fact that can be huge throughout the season.

Weaknesses: Wood pointed to two focal points in building a successful season, rebounding and limiting turnovers. He mentioned that both of those areas are, “points of emphasis everyday.”

Coach’s comments: “I'm very excited to work with this group of girls everyday and see how we can improve as a team. We want to play an aggressive style of basketball and dictate the pace of games. … I expect the effort to be there every game and for the team to improve each and every day.”

Key games: Dec. 7 at Leonardtown (NC), Dec. 10 vs. Calvert (NC), Jan. 2 at Chopticon (NC), Jan. 23 at North Point

JAMES A. McCRAY III

King’s Christian Academy

Head coach: Roy Hinkle (third season)

Last year: 3-11 overall

Athlete to watch: F Rebecca Nevala (Jr.)

Key personnel losses: G Torie Benefield, G Leyah Williams

Strengths: Through scrimmages this preseason, Hinkle has admitted to liking the fact that his girls are learning what he and his staff are teaching in practices and executing that on the floor, offensively and defensively. However, the biggest positive according to the third-year man is the offensive ball movement. He said the ball movement has been a plus immediately coming in.

Weaknesses: Hinkle admits that the youth of a team that includes four freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and a senior will be a slight concern coming in.

Coach’s comments: “I am very excited to be back because I start getting into basketball mode around summer time. … This year, I am going to have to say that the goal is growth. I have a very, very young squad this year. … This year is going to be a lot of growing. I am hoping that by time we’re done the first four games, I’d like to see the progress that says we’re ready to begin competing against some of these older teams.”

Key game: Jan. 18 at Calverton

JAMES A. McCRAY III

Leonardtown

Head coach: Christen Doerrer (fourth season)

Last year: 5-16, 2-10 (11th in SMAC)

Athletes to watch: G Alyssa Bois (Sr., All-County), F Taylor Superior (Sr., All-County), G Erin Buhler (Sr.)

Key personnel losses: G Ali Johnson, G Ashley Lytle, F Imane Scott

Strengths: Doerrer said she enjoys her team’s defensive capabilities coming into this season. Part of the reason of the good defense is the fact that her team is communicating, so much so that she said it has been more communication than any of her past teams.

She believes if the defense can cause turnovers, which lead to easy baskets, then the Raiders could be due for a successful season.

Weaknesses: As the defense looks to be solid, a concern as of right now is on the offensive side of the ball, in particular is turning the ball over. Doerrer admitted she wants to limit the turnovers while on offense. With that comes the hope that the Raiders will score more points per game than last year, she added.

Coach’s comments: “I expect the girls to play hard, stay positive and play with confidence. If we can achieve the goals we will set for each game and for our overall season, we can be very successful. … We feel that if we can do certain things that we're focusing on well, we can be very successful.

“We only lost three girls to graduation from last year, but we gained a solid group of players from JV that will help us. We're hoping that as the season progresses, we will gain confidence in what we're doing and have that translate into wins.”

Key games: Dec. 5 vs. Calvert (NC), Dec. 7 vs. Great Mills (NC), Dec. 12 at North Point (NC), Dec. 14 at Chopticon (NC)

JAMES A. McCRAY III

St. Mary’s Ryken

Head coach: Kris Sandberg (second season)

Last year: 16-9, 10-8 (WCAC)

Athletes to watch: F Brittani Burgess (Sr., All-County), F Cydney Smith (Sr., All-County), G Marissa Somerville (Sr.)

Key personnel losses: G Katie McCormick (All-WCAC, All-County AOY), F Tyler Smith (All-WCAC, All-County)

Strengths: Sandberg said that her team’s hustle has been impressive through preseason and the early start to the season. She also admitted that her defense, in particular the help-side defense, is coming together as she sees flashes of the type of defense she wants played.

Sandberg also mentioned numerous times that she has a team high in basketball IQ, which will help the team maneuver through the season.

Weaknesses: With all the strengths being said, Sandberg said that she wants the defense to come together and quickly.

In addition, the Knights have a total of six new players added to the program in five transfers and one freshman. Sandberg admits it may not be a weakness or a concern, rather a challenge. Adding talented players adds to the depth of the team and helps provide a bench.

Additionally, Sandberg admits to not having any true shooters, as of yet, which means that the offense will have to work a bit harder on the offensive end and hope some of the offense comes from defensive turnovers.

Coach’s comments: “We want to win the WCAC. We’ve got some stiff competition. … I think we have the talent to be right up there and it’s going to depend on how well we come together and play as a team.

Key games: Jan. 5 vs. Chopticon, Jan. 11 vs. Paul VI (Va.), Jan. 13 at Good Counsel, Jan. 22 at St. John’s (D.C.)

JAMES A. McCRAY III