Coach: Scott Martin (second season)
Last Season: 9-13 (Lost in to Rockbridge County in Valley District quarterfinals)
Key Returners: A.C. Swartz, junior, center (8.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Emma Bacon, sophomore guard (6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Hannah Phares, junior, guard (5.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg); Aliza Lokey, sophomore; guard. (3.2 ppg)
Key Losses: Keairria Reedy, guard (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.5 apg); Caroline Lohr, guard (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Lindsey White, forward (4.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg).
Promising Newcomers: Lindsey Wimer, freshman guard.
Outlook: In its first season under coach Scott Martin, Broadway slowly improved.
But after a disappointing ending to the season that included a first-round loss to Rockbridge County in the Valley District tournament, the Gobblers are raising their expectations this season and hoping for continued growth under Martin’s leadership.
Leading the charge for Broadway is the duo of junior center A.C. Swartz and sophomore guard Emma Bacon, who both broke onto the city/county scene a year ago.
Swartz quickly became one of the area’s best low-post players and Bacon got better throughout the season and will be one of the city/county’s top guards this year.
With that duo leading the charge, Martin should expect improvement in his second year as the Broadway coach and a possible push for a regional playoff berth this season.
Martin says: “I am very excited about coaching this group. The energy and enthusiasm has been high. We look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”
EASTERN MENNONITE Flames
Coach: Keri Mast (first season)
Conference: Blue Ridge
Last Season: 9-14 (Lost in Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III quarterfinals)
Key Returners: Maya Ferrell, senior, guard (6.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.4 spg); Halie Mast, junior, guard (9.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg).
Key Losses: Felicity Zimmerman, forward (13.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
Promising Newcomers: Avery Nussbaum, sophomore, guard; Joelle Blosser, sophomore, forward.
Outlook: According to first-year Eastern Mennonite coach Keri Mast, the Flames’ experience on the court will be the biggest key to their success this season.
Mast is replacing Matt Weaver as the EMHS coach this season, but brings back a majority of last year’s team that reached the VISAA Division III quarterfinals.
While the Flames will have to face the tough task of replacing senior forward Felicity Zimmerman from a year ago, they bring back quite a bit of athleticism on the wing.
“We are learning how to be committed to each other on and off the court,” Mast said. “Our kids are athletic, work hard and have endurance, so we want to control games with our defense.”
While depth could be an issue at time for Eastern Mennonite, especially in the low post, the guard play from the Flames could be among the best in the Blue Ridge Conference.
And with defense as their focus once again, Eastern Mennonite could find itself headed back to the VISAA Division III tournament once again.
Mast says: "We have experienced girls coming back this year who are determined to step up their game and contribute big. This comes in combination with several new players who are eager and capable of making a significant impact. Our team is committed to building each other up to work towards something bigger than just one individual. We will learn from our losses and celebrate our wins. I look forward to a great season."
EAST ROCKINGHAM Eagles
Coach: Paul Comer (10th season)
District: Bull Run
Last Season: 19-9 (Lost to Strasburg in Region 2B semifinals)
Key Returners: Makenna Siever, junior, guard (2.7 ppg); Sage Fox, senior, forward (7.0 rpg); Breanna Dofflemyer, sophomore, forward; Alexis Baugher, junior, guard (3.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg); Sarah Smith, sophomore, guard.
Key Losses: Ali Berry, guard (12.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.7 apg); Erin Clayton, guard (10.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.1 apg); Nicole Jefferson, forward (4.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Naomi Gibson, center (13.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.6 apg).
Promising Newcomers: Kaicey Foltz, freshman, guard; Melody Vaughan, junior, guard.
Outlook: With an array of new faces on the roster this season, there’s no doubt that East Rockingham will look like a much different team than it did at this time a year ago.
Ali Berry, Erin Clayton and Nicole Jefferson — a trio of starters last season for the Eagles — are all gone to graduation and senior forward Naomi Gibson, who led the team in scoring and rebounding a year ago, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
That leaves East Rockingham 10th-year coach Paul Comer with quite a few first-year varsity players this season and a lot of inexperience for the first time in several years.
“The key is finding our identity and clarifying our roles,” Comer said. “Each player brings a different piece to the puzzle. We’re still identifying what that puzzle looks like.”
Freshman point guard Kaicey Foltz has opened eyes throughout the preseason for the Eagles and will play a big role in East Rockingham’s style of play this season, but the Eagles also bring back experience in players such as Sage Fox and Makenna Siever.
While East Rock may face some growing pains early, Comer has built a reputation for developing gritty, tough-nosed teams throughout the years and will likely have built a similar reputation by the time the 2019-20 season comes to a close.
Comer says: “Our kids have a lot of pride in our program. We will continue to work for improvements as the season goes along. We have a lot of capable parts. We just need to make them fit together. There is a good amount of first-time varsity experience, so the adjustment period will take some time. We will be a much better team in 2020 than what we look like starting out.”
HARRISONBURG Blue Streaks
Coach: Durmount Perry (sixth year)
Last Season: 13-9 (Lost to Patrick Henry in Region 5D quarterfinals)
Key Returners: Mariah Cain, sophomore, guard (13.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg); Maya Waid, sophomore, guard (4.2 ppg); Ellie Muncy, sophomore, forward; Jay Garcia, sophomore, forward (9.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.5 apg).
Key Losses: Jakaya Brandon, guard (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.2 apg).
Promising Newcomers: Kai Blosser, freshman, guard; Jaiden Lemon, freshman, guard.
Outlook: Harrisonburg was easily the area’s youngest team a year ago.
And while the Blue Streaks are still relatively inexperienced this season, they bring back four key players that saw significant time on the court a year ago as freshmen.
Led by guard Mariah Cain, Harrisonburg will once again look to push the tempo this season and use a full-court attack each night to cause chaos for opposing teams.
Cain is one of the Valley District’s top players and forward Jay Garcia quickly became a double-double machine last season as the Streaks continued to improve each game.
With Ellie Muncy and Maya Waid also returning for their sophomore seasons, Harrisonburg will likely be the second-best team in the Valley once again this year.
Perry says: N/A
Coach: Chris Dodson (17th season)
Last Season: 28-1 (Won the Virginia High School League Class 3 championship)
Key Returners: Stephanie Ouderkirk, senior, forward (15.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3 apg); Lexi Bennington-Horton, senior, guard (8.4 ppg, 3.0 repg, 2.0 apg); MacKenzie Freeze, senior, guard (7.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.5 apg); Rebekah Weaver, senior, guard (3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.0 apg); Abby Branner, junior, guard (4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg).
Key Losses: Nakaila Gray, forward (14.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.8 apg); Mary-Ruth Shifflett, guard (3.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg).
Promising Newcomers: Zoli Khalil, freshman, guard; Nevaeh Good, sophomore, forward; Kailee Good, sophomore, forward.
Outlook: As the defending VHSL Class 3 state champions, Spotswood has a much bigger target on its back entering this season than it did a year ago with a young roster.
This season, the Trailblazers are loaded with experience across the board, including defending state Player of the Year and James Madison signee Stephanie Ouderkirk.
Spotswood coach Chris Dodson has acknowledged, however, that with Nakaila Gray and Mary-Ruth Shifflett — two of the Trailblazers’ biggest leaders last season — now gone to graduation, many players will have to change the role they play this season.
“When you lose [Gray] and [Shifflett], you lose so much more than points and rebounds,” Dodson said. “Stephanie, [senior point guard] MacKenzie [Freeze] and [senior guard] Lexi [Bennington-Horton] have to pick that slack up in the leadership role.”
Dodson also mentioned the improvement of senior forward Madisyn Forloines and guard Rebekah Weaver and said that Abby Branner, a junior who thrived last year off the bench, has the ability to be a top-five player in the Valley District this season.
With an abundance of talent and depth, the Trailblazers will once again be the favorite to get back to the state tournament and possibly capture the program’s sixth state title.
Dodson says: “Only one group has repeated [as state champions] in the history of our school and we use that as motivation for the girls. Wearing a statewide target requires you to bring it every night, to hold each other accountable and to accept your role each week.”
TURNER ASHBY Knights
Coach: Rob Lovell (28th season)
Last Season: 10-16 (Lost to Spotswood in Region 3C quarterfinals)
Key Returners: Becca Shiflet, junior, guard (12.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.2 apg); Addie Riner, junior, forward (9.3 ppg); Leah Kiracofe, sophomore, forward (6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Gracie Moyers, junior, guard (5.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg).
Key Losses: Makayla Cyzick, forward (8.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
Promising Newcomers: Alyssa Swartley, junior, forward; Makenzie Cyzick, sophomore, guard.
Outlook: After a strong finish last season with a fairly inexperienced and young roster, veteran Turner Ashby coach Rob Lovell said he’s excited about this year’s team.
The Knights bring back quite a bit of experience this season, including a trio of juniors who saw playing time a year ago in Becca Shiflet, Addie Riner and Gracie Moyers.
While Turner Ashby still lacks size a bit, the Knights developed a reputation as a gritty, defensive-focused team last year and should continue to build off that this season.
“We will need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball and limiting our turnovers,” Lovell said.
With Makayla Cyzick gone to graduation, the Knights will be forced to find a consistent scoring threat to replace her, but will have no shortage of options to choose from.
And with several players from last year back with a full season of experience now under their belt, Turner Ashby should find itself improving off its 10 wins from a year ago.
Lovell says: "Coming into this season, I feel that we have a nice mix of youth and experience. Our kids have worked extremely hard in the offseason to improve their skills as well as their strength and conditioning. We're all excited to get started."