Pioneer Athletic Conference
Mickey McDaniel's biggest adjustment this season will be dealing with college coaches interested in his players.
After 18 years as an assistant under Jeff Rinehimer, McDaniel takes over the Spring-Ford girls' basketball team a season after it won a Class AAAA state championship, with some key pieces still intact.
"Down through the seventh-grade program and in our youth program, all the coaches really work hard and are committed to making the girls the best basketball players they can possibly be," McDaniel said. "To be the head coach of that type of system is a pleasure and an honor."
Spring-Ford returns Lafayette recruit Sammy Stipa and Shelby Mueller, who were first- and third-team all-state, respectively, last season. This year, after the team graduated five seniors, Spring-Ford will count on the duo for leadership.
"They lead by example every day," McDaniel said. "Sammy is one of the hardest workers I've ever been associated with. There's never a second she takes off. Shelby has been working hard to take her game to another level."
Spring-Ford leads a stacked Liberty Division as it aims for its third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship.
Methacton will challenge Spring-Ford in the Liberty. According to coach Craig Kaminski, the Warriors will go as far as seniors Jenna Carroll, Kelly Glatthorn, and Kara Steinke take them. Carroll was first-team all-conference last season, and Glatthorn was second-team.
Boyertown and Perkiomen Valley also expect to compete in the Liberty Division.
Boyertown lost four starters off last season's team, but it has some key young players. Sophomores Ali Bauman and Maria Garofolo and freshman Abby Kapp are expected to start. Dee Terry also returns as a third-year starter at guard with an improved shot.
Versatile sophomore Katie Armstrong was the only freshman recognized as an honorable mention for last season's all-league teams. She will lead a young Perkiomen Valley team.
Pope John Paul II enters the season as the favorite as it tries to repeat as Frontier Division champion. The Golden Panthers will rely on Ellen Chernesky, their lone senior.
Upper Perkiomen also qualified for the District 1 playoffs last season from the Frontier Division, with its first winning season in 19 years. But it lost five seniors and will need senior captains Holly Crossin and Morgan Aldinger to step up.
- Nick Carroll