Teams to watch
St. Teresa — The Bulldogs don’t have the height they’ve had in the recent past, but they’re as athletic as any team in the area and they have the area’s best player in Marie Less. Kite Oladipupo and Shannen Quehl will provide some punch to go around Less, but Less will still be the go-to player no matter where she is on the court.
Maroa-Forsyth — The Trojans are poised to overtake St. Teresa as the best team in Macon County and the Okaw Valley Conference. Bailey Mason is the best player in the county not named Marie Less, and Matti Mason and Kennedy Flesner provide as formidable a block as any team in the area.
Effingham — The Hearts don’t have a six-footer on their roster, but they have they’re loaded with players between 5-9 and 5-11 that will make life difficult on smaller teams. Stephanie Robb is a force at the net offensively and defensively.
Effingham St. Anthony — With Haylee Mathis and Lauren Wendt leading the way, this could be the year the Bulldogs get back to sectionals. Mathis is the best setter in the area and could be a player of the year candidate with some help from her teammates.
Arthur-Lovington — Ashley Tabb is a big loss, but she’s the only major piece missing from last year’s team that went 26-6 and 9-1 in the LOVC. Karly Goodman is the Lancers’ go-to hitter, but she’ll have plenty of help in Emily Seegmiller and Jessica Davis. Sherelle Coller is a talented and experienced setter.
Lincoln — It was a bit of a rebuilding year for the Railers last year, though they still went 6-2 in the Central State Eight. This year should be a return to dominance with Alora Goodey and Makenzie Cooper at the net, Michelle Paulus protecting the floor and Leah Anderson setting.
Mattoon — This could be the year the Green Wave finally breaks through with a sectional title. Mattoon lost just one starter from last year’s 31-win team and returns H&R All-Area First Team member Taylor Smith, as well as a powerful supporting cast including Shelby Cox and Riley Phipps.
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Mount Pulaski — For most teams that lost four players off the all-area’s first and second teams, it would be a rebuilding year. And it may well be for the Toppers. But don’t count on significant drop-off for one of the best programs in the state, especially with a couple of tall sophomores in Maddy Davis (6-2) and Lilly Pickett (5-10) moving up to varsity.
Other teams to watch — Cerro Gordo, Charleston, Flora, MacArthur, Meridian, Mount Zion, Pana, Sangamon Valley, Shelbyville, St. Elmo-Brownstown, Stewardson-Strasburg, Warrensburg-Latham
Players to watch
Paris Babers, Jr., Charleston; Kari Bopp, Sr., Robinson; Hailey Borowczyk, So., Sangamon Valley; Makenzie Cooper, Jr., Lincoln; Megan Dash, So., Okaw Valley; Brenna Finck, Jr., Maroa-Forsyth; Josie Foster, Jr., Nokomis; Kitty Justice, Sr., Sangamon Valley; Kendall Knop, Jr., Stewardson-Strasburg; Marie Less, Sr., St. Teresa; Bailey Mason, Jr., Maroa-Forsyth; Kelsey McAtee, So., Mount Zion; Abby Moats, Sr., Taylorville; Gabi Moore, So., St. Elmo-Brownstown; Kite Oladipupo, So., St. Teresa; Jasonna Pealer, Jr., MacArthur; Riley Phipps, Sr., Mattoon; Hayley Salefski, Sr., LSA; Emily Seegmiller, Jr., Arthur-Lovington; Brandy Smith, Sr., Shelbyville; Taylor Smith, Jr., Mattoon; Brittani Tabbert, Sr., Stewardson-Strasburg; Lauren White, Sr., Altamont
Madison Boone, Jr., Shelbyville; Lincoln Brasel, Sr., South Central; Olivia Bruntjen, Jr., LSA; Kylee Burcham, Sr., Central A&M; Maggie Comerford, Jr., Meridian; Shelby Cox, Sr., Mattoon; Courtney Croy, Sr., Neoga; Rowen Crozier, Sr., Monticello; Jessica Davis, Jr., Arthur-Lovington; Taylor Filkin, Jr., Clinton; Kennedy Flesner, Sr., Maroa-Forsyth; Alora Goodey, Sr., Lincoln; Karly Goodman, Sr., Arthur-Lovington; Leah Henricks, Sr., Cerro Gordo; Meghan Huggins, Jr., Warrensburg-Latham; Alexa Jones, Sr., Argenta-Oreana; Crimson Jones, So., Flora; Matti Mason, Sr., Maroa-Forsyth; Lauren Nadler, Jr., Charleston; Whitney Nichols, Jr., Mount Pulaski; Stephanie Robb, Sr., Effingham; Michelle Schmidt, Jr., Teutopolis; Ashley Schneider, Jr., Nokomis; Mackenzie Wagoner, Sr., Cerro Gordo; Lauren Wendt, Sr., Effingham St. Anthony
Leah Anderson, Jr., Lincoln; Brionna Baltimore, Sr., Eisenhower; Maria Brasel, Jr., South Central; Sherelle Coller, Sr., Arthur-Lovington; Haley Eisenbarth, Jr., Shelbyville; Allie Endsley, Jr., Charleston; Jade Frey, Jr., Mount Zion; Elizabeth Ganley, So., St. Teresa; Bailey King, Jr., MacArthur; Molly Lawler, Jr., Cerro Gordo; Haylee Mathis, Sr., Effingham St. Anthony; Katelyn Ruholl, Sr., Teutopolis; Lizzie Rupkey, So., Monticello; Caitlin Salefski, Jr., LSA; Hannah Sarko, Sr., Warrensburg-Latham
Shelby Dash, Sr., Okaw Valley; Grace Ganley, Jr., MacArthur; Haley Ginger, Jr., Clinton; Taylor Jordan, Jr., Central A&M; Cody Lowery, Sr., Mount Pulaski; Michelle Paulus, Sr., Lincoln; Sadie Sawyer, Jr., Cerro Gordo; Brooke Tabb, Jr., Arthur-Lovington; Brooke Ulrey, Sr., Argenta-Oreana; Megan Vaughn, So., Mount Zion