Northern District teams W.T. Woodson, Robinson, T.C. Williams and West Springfield command similar consideration by area girls basketball coaches.
The four are expected to dominate the sport in the Virginia AAA Northern Region season that began last week.
"It's the ACC of Virginia basketball," said T.C. Williams Coach Ralph McGirk. "Woodson (27-1) has been the state champion for two seasons, and three years ago, we were in the final eight. We beat 90 to 95 percent of our nondistrict opponents. Historically, the Northern District is the winningest and this year there's no letdown."
T.C. Williams returns three starters from a 13-6 squad. One is 5-foot-8 senior forward Cory Shecter. Second-team all-District Shecter shot 52 percent, averaged 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds a game. Two juniors, Vanessa Clayton and Tawnda Barnhill, guide a running offense.
Player talent, however, may not be the only factor in deciding the Northern District outcome. The region saw 10 coaching vacancies open during the offseason, including four in the Northern District. That left Woodson's second-year coach, Karen Turner, last year's coach of the year, as the only Northern District holdover.
Woodson's Beth May, all-district and all-Met honorable mention, and Karen West are top Cavalier players. May, a third-year starter, averaged 14 points in '83-84 but Turner again strives for defense.
"We're taking things game by game," Turner said. "We'd like to repeat, but losing five seniors changes things. West Springfield has experience and talent. They're competitive."
Dan Bush, coach at Stonewall Jackson (Commonwealth District) for two seasons, is now at West Springfield, hoping to duplicate or improve a 17-6 mark. With a roster rich in experience (seven seniors), Bush concurs with Turner's evaluation of his Spartans.
Bush's prime weapon is height. With six-footers including twins Kathy and Sandy Rawdon, and Cathy Park, he can assemble an all-sequoia squad. He was impressed with the three in preseason scrimmages. Emily McDonald, a 5-8 guard, directs the offense.
"Height is something new," said Bush. "With Emily, we can run; with big kids, we can rebound. We can be a transition team; a real break from the past."
In a game of musical coaches, Kathy Turner, Karen's twin, switched to Lake Braddock from Oakton. There, Sandy Reynolds was promoted from the junior varsity spot. At Robinson, Traci Schneeweis was promoted from the JV job at Fairfax. Key returnees at those schools are Becky Mumpower and Amy McDowell, Lake Braddock; Paula Schuler, Robinson; and Jill Bartley, Oakton.
South Lakes is the Great Falls District favorite as Coach Jill English returns three starters from last year's 21-5 team. Back is 6-1 junior center Christy Winters, an all-Met honorable mention with 15-point, 10-rebound game averages.
"Our style is similar with two big girls inside," said English. "Christy gives us a chance to repeat, but I expect Herndon to be tough."
Suzie Telleysh, a 5-10 forward, is capable of 15 points per game and may have to carry Herndon through until Coach Laura Beaver can work three new players into her starting five. Sophomore twins Kelli Gilmore at center and Kerri Gilmore at point guard will contribute.
"Suzie is best outside, but will drive to score," Beaver said. "She wants the ball, but we are young and our inexperience will hurt."
Fred Priester pursued McLean's varsity duties after his JV team went 15-5. A skillfull sophomore, Maureen Wolthuis, hopes to help McLean win at least one game this season. Even that will be an improvement from 0-20.
Experienced Washington-Lee hopes to pass .500 with three returning starters, including seniors Pat McDonald and Laura Heyer.
Chantilly, the 21-3 defending Potomac District champion, retains Terry Allen, all-District and tournament most valuable player. With 51 percent field goal accuracy, Allen provided l2 points per game. Senior point guard Lisa Cannon adds knowledge and ball-handling.
"Chantilly will be strong again, but we're contenders," said Annandale Coach Laura Hagan. "We will have more height than ever, so we'll have more offensive options. Defensively, we'll pressure constantly." A reliable option is 5-7 guard Nikki Arwood, who scored 18 points per game.
Stuart is highly touted by some, but Coach Ron Wilson isn't sure those feelings are warranted. "We have 11 girls, but four (three are seniors) are injured," said Wilson. Sophomore Penny Moore astounded onlookers during her freshman year with 15 points per game, but has a shoulder pull. "In a scrimmage, it affected her inside (play)," Wilson said. "It won't stop her from playing, though."
Kristine Gray, all-district at Jefferson, retains a starting and leadership role for new Coach Sherie Stevens. "She's a good offensive threat inside and will hold the defense together," Stevens said.
Potent Potomac players are Jennifer Rice, Fairfax; Happy Ayenson, Falls Church, and Janice Moore, Wakefield.
Mount Vernon, for the first time in years, is comparatively vulnerable in the Gunston District race with its great scorer, Chris Moreland, graduated. The Majors will need Debra Randolph's ball-handling and India Walton's scoring. First-year Coach Jean Witt welcomes balanced offense.
"Everyone is equally good in their shooting," Witt said. "I think the team is particularly anxious to show what it can do as a team. They're very eager."
Paul Jansen's previous records at Fort Hunt (16-6, 15-8) are more typical than the 4-19 posted during rebuilding last season. The process is still in the works. "We have the best group of athletes we've ever had. The question is whether they can be basketball players," said Jansen. Lisa Lindley, a junior guard, is most complete.
Other top individuals in the Gunston District are Heather Petrie and Debbie Tavik at Hayfield; Cristelle Williams at Lee, and Linda Simpson and Heather Jennings at Edison.
The Commonwealth district wasn't immune from launching searches for coaches. As a result, Fred Milbert, elevated from JV, will try to uphold the strong tradtion at Gar-Field; Yvette Baggett will play a similar role at Stonewall Jackson.
Those two teams, plus Woodbridge and Potomac, boast the best players.
While Gar-Field would like to retain its number one position in the district, Woodbridge's well-seasoned squad paints the prettiest picture on paper.
"This is by far the most experienced team I've had," said Woodbridge Coach Ron Davis. "Four are seniors who are capable of scoring in double figures. But it always seems as though the same three or four teams are fighting it out. That won't change."
Kathy Martin, Tina Smith, Joann Jewell and Dana Walvius are Woodbridge's seniors; Janice Majeski and Karen Putnam, Gar-Field's; Mylene Rowe and Kim Feltault, Potomac's. Juniors, like Pam Griffith and Robin Lowe, will try to keep Fauquier competitive.