RBHS guard Brenna Loftus had a breakout season as a freshman last year. The sophomore guard returns as one of the most talented players in the Metro Suburban Conference. (File photo)

While Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball coach Dallas Till always coaches to win, he admittedly didn’t know what to expect last season. With so many newcomers on the varsity last year, simply finding a team identity became a top priority.

To Till’s surprise, the players produced a 23-7 overall and 9-2 mark in the Metro Suburban Conference. Although the Bulldogs bowed out of the playoffs early with a 42-23 loss against St. Ignatius in a Class 4A regional semifinal, the team was a success.

The experience and confidence gained in 2017-18 should carry over this season, especially since RBHS essentially returns its entire roster,

Brenna Loftus, Maddie Meehan, Sarah Jno Baptiste and Mary Maloney are the Bulldogs’ returning starters. Loftus, Meehan and Maloney earned all-conference recognition last season.

The 5-foot-8 Loftus had a breakout year as a freshman. Listed as a forward, she can play multiple positions and score in a variety of ways. She scored 27 points on 10 of 18 shooting in the Bulldogs’ 55-34 win over Deerfield in their season opener Nov. 13.

Meehan has played significant minutes as a varsity mainstay the past three seasons. At 5-11, she’s the team’s tallest player but also versatile like Loftus. Meehan can score, rebound and defend multiple positions, while also providing leadership and toughness on the court.

Jno Baptiste is a talented junior with good shooting and passing ability. She had 10 points and three assists in opener against Deerfield.

Maloney may be the most interesting story of the bunch.

Due to some injuries on the team, Maloney’s playing time increased around the middle of last season. She took advantage of the opportunity by showcasing her shooting ability, quickness and leadership.

Aside from the returning starters, a plethora of players will vie for playing time includingAliana Chiquito, Georgi Gomorczak, Rino Hachimura, Sylvia Harvin, Cassandra Hines, Natalie Leon, Elizabeth Murphy, Angelina Ocampo, Leah Rettke and Ashley Rivera.

Till and assistant coach Mark Ruge place a premium on the importance of teamwork.

“The players have really bought in regarding our team-versus-individual player emphasis,” Ruge said. “We continued our momentum off last year’s regular season by taking first place in our summer league and winning all of our playoff games.”

In terms of style of play, the Bulldogs are fun to watch.

“We will continue to feature an up-tempo team that will attack the basket,” Ruge said. “We are excited about the athletic ability of our team going into the upcoming season. Since they have participated in travel ball throughout the year, many of our players came in game ready [this season].”

Regarding the conference race, Bishop McNamara, St. Francis and RBHS are the top contenders.