After a tough loss to St. Joseph in a regional final last season, the Fenwick High School girls basketball team is looking to come back in full force this year.
Head coach Dave Power is certainly no stranger to success in high school girls basketball, boasting a career record of 925-294 and 602-201 at Fenwick with three state championships under his belt.
On top of his own success, Power believes the Fenwick coaching staff (from the freshmen level all the way up to his own bench) is the best staff in Illinois and one of the top groups in the country.
Collectively, the players and coaches talent on this year's team could return the Friars' to their highly successful level of the mid-2000s teams.
"We can play at a much faster pace while not turning the ball over," Power said. "That makes the game uncomfortable for our opponents. We've also got great outside shooting and have improved on defense tremendously."
The Friars lost two starting seniors, Chance Baggett and Kelly Carpenter, to graduation last year. Fortunately, their departure will be more than made up for by an intriguing mix of returners and newcomers.
Most notably, Fenwick fans will enjoy watching the senior campaigns of stars Kate Moore and McKenzie Blaze. Moore is the one of the best shooters Fenwick has ever seen. She harkens back some memories and likenesses to the legendary Tricia Liston.
"Kate has really developed her defensive game and rebounding," Power said. "She is a very versatile and well-rounded player. She is going to be one to watch this year."
Blaze complements Moore's shooting by attacking teams down low around the basket and harassing opponents on defense. The coaching staff expects Blaze to make an impact via big plays in important games this season.
Along with Moore and Blaze, the Friars welcome back junior guards Gianni Ortiz and Maggie Van Ermen. Both Ortiz and Van Ermen have been described as "glue kids" by Power. Their roles of selfless, team-oriented play are critical for Fenwick, which believes an extended run in the playoffs is possible.
Rounding out the key returners are three promising sophomores in guards Lily Reardon and Sheila Hogan and post player Katie Schneider, They are expected to make significant contributions this season.
"Reardon is one of the fastest kids we're ever seen and has a nice 3-point shot," Power said. "Hogan has a very strong game and sees the court well. Schneider is a very strong rebounder who always gives 110 percent."
Freshmen Lauren Hall and Gianna Amundsen bring even more depth to the Fenwick roster.
The Friars' schedule is easily one of the toughest in the state. In the Red Division of the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference alone, they will be facing a top team in the area every single game. Fenwick also plays Benet, New Trier, Peoria, Marist, and Homewood-Flossmoor. They will also travel down to Nashville, Tennessee to play Ensworth School which will be a great experience for the team.
The Willowbrook Shootout on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is worth noting as well. The Fenwick-Trinity rivalry will be rekindled as this year features a home and away series, with one of the games counting for both teams' conference record.
The fusion of one on the toughest schedules in the state, a slate of impressive returners, and attention-grabbing newcomers is certainly a solid foothold to build off of for a deep run in the 2018 3A State Tournament for Fenwick.