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FROM THE PRESS BOX: CRYSTAL BALL FORECASTS ANOTHER GOOD YEAR ON GIRLS HARDWOODS IN 2015-16 (2015-03-12)

The 2014-15 girls basketball season saw three of the four Valley teams go deep into the playoffs, led by Athens’ second trip to States in three years.

Gazing into the crystal ball, it appears it will be another successful season on the girls hardwoods in 2015-16.

Looking ahead:

Athens Lady Wildcats: Coming off a 22-6 season that included a trip to the District 4, Class AAA finals and to the state playoffs, the Lady Wildcats will lose three starters to graduation.

Athens will return quite a foursome in senior-to-be Morgan Westbrook and junior-to-be Shanelle Baglini, along with the first two girls in off the bench in sophomores-to-be Breana Gambrell and Emily Lunger.

The question right now is who fills out the starting line-up and who provides depth? Kaitlyn Testen and Reagan Lynch saw limited action on varsity this season and the JV team has a few players who could step up and provide minutes.

The player to watch is freshman-to-be Ariana Gambrell, who will likely split time between the JV and varsity and could work her way into a major role by season’s end.

Defending NTL Large School champ Wyalusing will graduate five seniors and will likely take a step back, while Mansfield graduates a pair of key seniors, but will return a lot of talent. Wellsboro could be a team to watch.

Prediction: The Lady Wildcats will likely battle Mansfield for the Large School title and will make another trip to the NTL Showdown. The key for this team will be who will step up into roles to support the four returning players, who are all incredible athletes. Next year’s team could be even better than this year’s by season’s end. Record: 19-3.

Sayre Lady Redskins: Coming off an 18-8 season that saw the Lady Redskins come within one win of a trip to the state playoffs, they will look to replace two seniors and a sophomore, who won’t be returning.

Sayre will return one of the best players in the NTL in 6-foot low-post stalwart senior-to-be Paige Wampole, as well as senior-to-be guard Alli Peet and junior-to-be Kaeli Sutryk, who was among the NTL leaders in 3-pointers.

Junior-to-be forward Molly Ball should step in to help replace graduating seniors Cheyanne Roberts and Emily Garrity in the low post. Sophomores-to-be Emily Moore and Blair Wampole could also provide some minutes in the blocks.

The big question is, who will replace Chloe Tracy at point guard? Junior-to-be Andi Noldy saw some time there this season, but she’ll be pushed by freshman-to-be Camry Lane.

Prediction: The Small School Division is Sayre’s for the taking again, but NEB and Liberty will be worth watching. Lane is a talent and how quickly she adapts to the speed of the varsity game will be a big key. With Wampole still in the fold, by the end of next season, the Lady Redskins could be even better than they were this year. Record: 17-5.

Tioga Lady Tigers: The Lady Tigers graduate four seniors from a 3-15 team. Keep in mind, however, that 10 of those losses were by less than 10 points.

Tioga returns its two top scorers in seniors-to-be Katelyn Stubbs and Taylor Ayres, along with sophomore-to-be guard / forward Kiersten Schweiger and 5-9 sophomore-to-be Madi Teribury, who both showed flashes of promising futures.

Junior-to-be Olivia Howland, who missed the entire season after an ACL injury during volleyball season, will also return and be a big addition in the low post.

And, the JV team played for an overall IAC Small School title, so there is talent on the way to provide depth.

The biggest question is who will replace Dani Barto at the point?

Prediction: The Lady Tigers should be one of the most improved teams in the area in 2015-16. To take a big step forward, they’ll need two things: someone to step up at the point guard and someone (likely Stubbs or Ayres) to step up an consistently score 15 to 20 points per game. Record: 10-10.

Waverly Lady Wolverines:
The Lady Wolverines were rocked by the loss of two starters late in the season, but still finished off a 17-4 season with a trip to the Section IV Class B semifinals.

Waverly loses five seniors and will have a very young line-up on the floor next season. Senior-to-be Breanna Featherson is the lone starter returning, but the first two girls off the bench — sophomore-to-be Elle Nittinger and freshman-to-be Alex Tomasso — will also be back.

Sophomore-to-be Marissa Trudeau gained some valuable minutes in the low post at the end of the season and freshman-to-be Wendi Hammond also saw the floor.

The key for the Lady Wolverines will be the progression of other young players from the JV ranks who will need to step up and provide depth.

Watkins Glen, which won the Section IV, Class C title, will be the overwhelming favorite in the IAC South Large School Division in 2015-16 and Notre Dame will be improved as well.

Prediction: Nittinger and Tomasso are going to be fun to watch the next few years. The key for the Lady Wolverines will be the progression of their other young players from the JV ranks who will need to step up and provide depth. They’ll post another winning season in the IAC, but they’re at least a year away from dominating the league. Record: 14-6.

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