Germantown Academy, 22-8 overall and 12-0 in Inter-Academic League play last season, will try for its 11th consecutive league title.
That bid is spearheaded by two of the state's best guards, senior floor leader Jesse Carey and junior wing guard Maggie Lucas. The two have committed to Villanova and Penn State, respectively.
Also back for coach Sherri Retif are 6-foot junior guard Tory Thierolf and 5-11 senior guard and forward Laura Karbach.
Depth is provided by sophomore guard Monica Schacker, senior guard Jessica Erb, 6-3 senior center Meredith Carber, and sophomore forward Dana Lotito. A top newcomer is freshman guard Jaryn Garner, who is equipped with a sweet pull-up jump shot.
Germantown Academy has a star-studded lineup, but the Patriots will have to do without 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Alexa Gallagher until late January or early February.
Gallagher, who averaged eight points per game last season, had surgery on an injured knee in the off-season. She is a natural leader with a solid handle of the fundamentals.
The top threat to Germantown Academy's repeat bid is arch-rival Notre Dame. Last season, the Irish went 24-8 overall and 10-2 in the league, with both setbacks coming against the first-place Patriots.
The catalyst is senior Devon Kane, back from a knee injury that sidelined her for all but the last six games of last season. The Villanova-bound point guard is a potent scorer and quick-footed defender.
Three other starters return for 18-year coach Mary Beth McNichol: 5-11 senior guard Fiona Flanagan (8.3 ppg.), junior lead guard Meghan McCullough (7.9 ppg.), and senior forward Bridget Borgese (4.5 ppg.).
Five guards that hope to contribute to the goal of an Inter-Ac title are seniors Kelly McCallion and Kendall Bennett, junior Erin Clawson, and sophomores Colleen Olinger and Katie Gerzabek.
Penn Charter (15-8, 6-6) has a number of fast players on its roster, starting with sophomore point guard Aleesha Powell and junior guard Nikki Guynn. Both are solid on-the-ball defenders.
From there, the Quakers are largely inexperienced. There are a number of underclassmen trying to earn playing time, including freshman guards Brianna Butler and MaryKate O'Brien, sophomore forward Kendall Stokes, sophomore guard/forward Amma Ntoso, and freshman forward Dianna Thomas-Palmer.
"We expect to be competitive in the league and hope to finish in the top three," coach Diana Caramanico said. "I am looking forward to coaching this group of young and enthusiastic players."
Agnes Irwin (15-13, 5-7) has to replace the first 1,000-point scorer in school history: Megan Pauley is now playing at Franklin and Marshall.
Coach Erin McCartney will be looking to senior guard and cocaptain Erin Quigg, a defensive stopper, and sophomore point guard Nancy Cockman, a strong outside shooter, to pick up most of the slack.
Other seniors in the mix for the Owls are 5-9 forward and cocaptain Olivia Goodman, and wing guards Katey Duffy and Shannan Williford.
Kristen Nehls, a junior guard, returns to the squad after living in China for two years.
Springside coach Brian Morris says the return of Katie Rutan, out last season with a wrist injury, has already had a major impact on the Lions.
"Her energy is contagious," Morris said. "To see her interact with the underclassmen is amazing. The kids love the fact that's she so nice to them."
Rutan, headed for Xavier, is the spark plug. Morris is also banking on high-level efforts from 6-1 senior center Tori Baggio and junior point guard Colleen Caldwell, a transfer from Mount St. Joseph Academy.
Other leaders are senior forward Teghan Boyle and junior guard Courtney Chaputa.
- Rick O'Brien