TEAMS TO WATCH
▪ Bishop Miege
The Stags won the Class 4A Division I title with only one senior on the team last year, so that seems to set up another favorable season. All-Eastern Kansas League first teamers Madeline Homoly and Tristen McFeders are among their top returners. Shelbe Piggie and Hunter Bentley also came on strong at the end of the year.
Jeff Dickson led Shawnee Mission Northwest to a 16-7 record, a Class 6A championship appearance and was named the Sunflower League co-Coach of the Year, but he was resigned after the season. That led him to Lawrence, where he will try to replicate the success with the Lions this year. They went 2-9 in league play last year.
The defending Class 5A state champions will be just as dangerous this season since they only lost one player. The Pioneers present a difficult triple threat of Division I signees Tyler Johnson, Rachel Blackburn and Tashia Jones who are going to Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma State. The team went 24-1 a year ago with one loss to Olathe South.
▪ Shawnee Mission Northwest
Brenni Rose leads a talented group of returners for the Cougars, who advanced to the Class 6A tournament after placing third in the Sunflower League. Rose averaged 13.3 points, five rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. She and senior Arielle Jackson were named First Team All-Sunflower League.
▪ St. Thomas Aquinas
The Saints lost Eastern Kansas League co-MVP Tia Weledji, but her fellow co-MVP Claire Ferguson is back for another year. She ranked second on the team with 12.3 points per game and added 8.8 rebounds per game for the Saints, who fell in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
▪ Micaela Delagarza, Blue Valley North, junior
Delagarza,the Mustangs’ top returner who has committed to Pittsburg State, averaged a team-best 14 points per game last year, which helped her land on the Eastern Kansas League second team. She and fellow junior Kelly Hendershot, who coach Ann Fritz described as the team’s top defender, will try to propel Blue Valley North past the first round of the Class 6A tournament.
▪ Tyler Johnson, Leavenworth, senior
It is hard to pick just one player out of Leavenworth’s talented senior class, but Johnson led the team with 15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game last year. The Kansas signee shot 65 percent from the field and was named the most valuable player of the Class 5A state championship when the Pioneers won last season.
▪ Kylee Kopatich, Olathe South, senior
Kopatich, the reigning Sunflower League Player of the Year, is back and primed for a big senior year. She led the Falcons with 12.2 points, 6.3 assists and 3.1 steals per game as they went undefeated in league play and finished third in Class 6A. She originally committed to Kansas State but is headed to Kansas instead.
▪ Rilynne Like, Blue Valley Southwest, junior
After a break-out sophomore year, Like was named First Team All-EKL and committed to UMKC in the offseason. She averaged 13 points, 3.5 assists and three steals per game for the Timberwolves. She was also a Class 5A First Team All-State soccer selection in the spring for the runners up.
▪ Madison Piper, Lawrence Free State, sophomore
Even though she was just a freshman, Piper adjusted quickly and led the Sunflower League with 15.6 points per game. She was First Team All-Sunflower League and Second Team All-State for the Firebirds. Piper is the daughter of former Kansas star Chris Piper, who played on the 1988 national championship team.
To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to email@example.com.