The Lyons Township girls' basketball program is one that's used to success, and last year was no different.
The Lions emerged from their extremely tough West Suburban (Silver) Conference schedule with an 11-1 record and a league title. That was followed by a regional championship. It was the third in four years and 14th in 17 seasons for LT.
Like always, the Lions are hoping to go farther than a regional title. If they do win a sectional, it will be the first since 1999 when LT last qualified for the State tournament. To do that, the Lions will have to do it without Mallory Heydorn?"their biggest star of a year ago.
But LT won't need stars this year, as a deep, balanced and flexible team hopes to hold its own and continue a rich tradition of winning.
"It's always tough when you lose a couple key players," long-time LT coach Dawn Schabacker said. "But our goal every year is to win a regional, get back to sectional play and then with a little luck, you get to take that one step farther.
"If you can get two or three people who are scoring, you're a tough team to beat. That's what we hope to be this year. We'll miss (Heydorn's) scoring, but if we get everyone else in the mix, we'll be okay."
LT will return several players that saw significant time last year. Among those returning are senior starters Lindsay Blazek, a 5-foot-10 center, 5-foot-5 guard Jacquelin Kogut and 5-foot-11 guard Lauren Kazmierczak.
"We're looking for them to be our scorers," Schabacker said. "Kazmierczak should also have a lot of assists and Kogut is a heady player that can handle the ball."
Six-foot senior guard/forward Jessica Lee is also returning. Lee saw big minutes last year while Heydorn was out with an injury. Her experience gives her and inside track on a starting job this year.
Valuable role-player Anna Friel is also back. The 5-foot-11 senior is also experienced after spending last season as the first big-person off the bench. Friel should get a share of starts this season as Schabacker toys will the lineup to find the best chemistry and exploit the best matchups.
Sophomore forward Sarah Hoffman will also work her way into the lineup. At 6-feet, Schabacker said Hoffman can play at all three post positions.
"I think this team has been playing well together all summer and all fall," Schabacker said. "Right now it's just a matter of putting people in the right place. It just takes some getting used to."
Juniors Kathleen Bronson (guard), Mary Jones (guard), Laura Gess (guard), Amy Blackwood (forward/center, 6-foot) and Ann Rogers (guard), plus sophomores Britney Yelnick (guard) and Jill Keeve (forward/center, 5-foot-11) will round out LT's roster.
Finding the right mix of players will be important, especially as the Lions tackle the task of defending their WSC Silver crown. Schabacker expects that to be no easy task.
"It's very rare that anyone in this conference goes 12-0," she said. "There are just too many good teams. Everyone lost some key players, but Hinsdale Central and Oak Park, just to name two, always have nice teams. So it's really going to be up for grabs again this year."
The Lions' season begins Friday when they host their own Thanksgiving tournament.