Collective experience was a driving force among elite conference teams last winter as the MAAA celebrated historic success in girls basketball.
For many fans this season, starting lineups from rival schools may initially be unrecognizable after 13 of 21 all-conference players either graduated or opted not to return.
The most glaring exception to that trend is Central, which has nine key contributors back following a third-place showing at the Class 4 state tournament.
The Lady Rebels were also at the forefront of a major offseason move when 2015 state champion coach Josh Mapes left after 10 years to become an assistant at Farmington.
Fredericktown may still be on course to contend in the Large-School division after beating Central twice last year, but will not have its stellar point guard available.
Bismarck and Arcadia Valley have emerged as early Small-School favorites on the strength of highly touted sophomores and freshmen.
In addition to Aaron Tyree at Central, new head coaches will patrol the sidelines at West County with John Barnett and Valley with Jamie Warden.
CENTRAL Lady Rebels
2022-23 Record: 28-4 (4-1)
Head Coach: Aaron Tyree (1st season)
Key Returners: Khloe Dischbein, sr., G; Allysa O’Connor, jr., PG; Kinley Norris, sr., F; Taylor O’Connor, jr., G; Courtney Dortch, sr., F; Sydney Miles, jr., F; Grace Populis, sr.,; Ella McClanahan, sr., F
Just minutes after Central players received their final four trophy and medals in Springfield last March, versatile star Khloe Dischbein clearly voiced her intention to come back.
With fellow all-state guard Allysa O’Connor and twin sister Taylor O’Connor providing a foundation of three returning starters, the Lady Rebels have every reason to carry high expectations.
The transfer of center Blair Sitton from Potosi provides a rebounding and shot blocking presence for a program that has thrived without noticeable size in the paint.
Central will miss the skill of top perimeter shooter Kinley Norris, who hopes to return from a second knee surgery in time for the stretch run.
But the team remains deep with key contributors. Post defender Courtney Dortch, three-sport athlete Sydney Miles and guard Gracie Populis provided crucial minutes as reserves.
2022-23 Record: 22-7 (4-1)
Head Coach: Rusty Sancegraw (10th season)
Key Returners: Madison Mills, jr., F; Brynn Johnson, sr., G; Shelby Bowling, sr., F; Raylin LaCava, sr., F; Jayce Jarvis., sr., G; Charlotte Buerck, sr., G; Emily Bauer, sr., G
Farmington begins a new chapter after bidding farewell to a nucleus of four seniors that started for at least three consecutive years and captured several regular-season tournament titles.
Junior forward Madison Mills is back for her third varsity season, and Brynn Johnson supplies another strong 3-point threat after starring in a conference win over Fredericktown.
Shelby Bowling and Raylin LaCava will likely see expanded roles at forward, and Aniston Mapes gives the Knights a natural point guard after transferring from Central.
Farmington may need to push the pace and force more frontcourt turnovers in contrast to a more deliberate style of defense that routinely limited opponents to 40 points or less.
FREDERICKTOWN Lady Cats
2022-23 Record: 15-11 (4-1)
Head Coach: Micah Reutzel (3rd season)
Key Returners: Ava Penuel, sr., F; P.J. Reutzel, jr., PG; Amelia Miller, jr., F; Calie Allgier, jr., G; Gabbie McFadden, sr., G; Keira Francis, sr., G
Adversity struck the Lady Cats in crushing fashion when junior guard P.J. Reutzel suffered a torn ACL last month in the volleyball season finale.
Now as one of the top players in the area prepares to rehab her injury, Fredericktown must establish a reliable ball handler with three other returning starters still in the fold.
Senior Ava Penuel is an effective option anywhere on the floor, and junior Calie Allgier gives the Lady Cats a proven guard with long-range ability.
Amelia Miller has been a top post presence since her freshman year. Senior guards Keira Francis and Gabbie McFadden are each poised to gain a significant share of court time.
NORTH COUNTY Lady Raiders
2022-23 Record: 12-15 (2-3)
Head Coach: Joe Arnold (4th season)
Key Returners: Addy Mann, sr., G; Alli Scott, soph., F; Alyssa Ludwig, soph., F; Raegan Pierce, soph., G
North County faces the daunting task of replacing their top three scorers, as each handled distinct roles at point guard, shooting guard and center.
In situations where the Lady Raiders struggled last season, excessive turnovers were almost always the main culprit. A much younger varsity squad will work on changing that trend.
Senior guard Addy Mann returns as a hustling perimeter defender and key component for turning steals into transition points.
Forward Alli Scott, a three-sport standout, and fellow sophomores Alyssa Ludwig and Raegan Pierce inherit more prominent roles with multiple freshmen possibly joining the varsity mix.
STE. GENEVIEVE Dragons
2022-23 Record: 9-15 (0-5)
Head Coach: Jordanna Walk (6th season)
Key Returners: Kayden Huck, jr., G; Chloe Staffen, jr., F; Kiki Asher, sr., F; Brianna Abt, jr., F; Sadie Greminger, jr., G; Lexi Warren, jr., G
With numerous rivals entering some aspect of a rebuilding phase, the argument could be made that Ste. Genevieve is already a full year or two into a similar process.
Senior forward Kiki Asher represents the lone senior on the current roster, and shares the court with a group of three-year varsity juniors.
The Dragons increased their win total between seasons from five to nine last winter, and have hopes of securing a winning record with better ball security and overall shooting.
Chloe Staffen and Brianna Abt form a physical forward tandem along the boards while track and field stars Kayden Huck and Sadie Greminger provide speed in guard roles.
POTOSI Lady Trojans
2022-23 Record: 14-14 (1-5)
Head Coach: Allie Golden (3rd season)
Key Returners: Nora Henry, sr., F; Aubree Wilson, jr., F
Potosi has reached consecutive district finals since career scoring leader Allie Golden stepped in as head coach three years ago, thwarted only by powerful Central squads.
But all five girls who began last season as starters have moved on, including at least three current collegiate athletes, leaving the Lady Trojans with plenty of questions to address.
The departure of center Blair Sitton for Central makes a striking difference in the middle, but senior Nora Henry has emerged as a solid post player in her own right.
Aubree Wilson increased her playing time late last season, and freshman Eden Robart looks to match her impressive volleyball season. Guard play is bolstered with Lani Elder healed from a knee injury.
ARCADIA VALLEY Lady Tigers
2022-23 Record: 6-17 (3-2)
Head Coach: Ricky Turnbough (4th season)
Key Returners: Lily Pursley, sr., F; Addison Gallaher, soph., G; Paige Newstead-Adams, soph., G; Reese Brogan, soph., G; Jayme Standefer, sr., G
Arcadia Valley has anticipated this season for quite some time, and should immediately challenge for the MAAA Small-School title along with a rapidly rising Bismarck club.
The Lady Tigers will rely heavily on a freshman crew that tore through the junior high ranks while also featuring five players from last year’s regular varsity rotation.
Three losses within a rough 1-11 start were decided by four points or less, but things are looking up with coaches’ daughters Braelyn Turnbough and Lillie Adams among the incoming help.
Lily Pursley is a tough senior leader at forward, and strong shooter Addison Gallaher leads a quick group of returning guards with Paige Newstead-Adams, Reese Brogan and Jayme Standefer.
BISMARCK Lady Indians
2022-23 Record: 17-12 (4-1)
Head Coach: Tori Cato (3rd season)
Key Returners: Ashley Hawkins, soph., F; Halie Dickey, soph., G; Alyssa Brake, jr., F; Karlee Fisher, jr., G; Morgan Randazzo, jr., G; Kinsey Hubbs., soph. G; Jada Dickey, sr., F
No team in the area illustrated the value of skilled freshman at the varsity level like Bismarck, which flipped its record from 8-20 to 17-12 during a turnaround season.
Point guard Halie Dickey and forward Ashley Hawkins triggered the resurgence with driving ability and solid range, and brought the Lady Indians within nine points of a district crown.
That dynamic duo is joined by six more players who either started or logged significant minutes. Junior forward Alyssa Brake highlights the interior attack as a double-double threat.
Karlee Fisher, Kinsey Hubbs, Morgan Randazzo and Reagan Stricklin will be tasked with providing scoring balance and feisty defense from guard positions.
VALLE CATHOLIC Lady Warriors
2022-23 Record: 3-24 (1-4)
Head Coach: Brian Bauman (4th season)
Key Returners: Madelyn Griffard, jr., G; Brooklyn Weibrecht, jr., F; Lexi Ritter, sr., G; Rylee Overmann, sr., F; Nicole Gegg, sr., G
After fielding a minimal roster of seven players, and desperately hoping to avoid any serious injuries, Valle Catholic is enjoying a welcomed spike in numbers.
The Lady Warriors have five experienced players back from a three-win squad, and will benefit from the addition of nine incoming freshmen.
Madelyn Griffard shined as the primary source of points, steals and rebounds during her sophomore campaign, while Nicole Gegg and Lexi Ritter provided help in breaking pressure.
Senior volleyball star and all-state softball shortstop Ade Weiler has returned to the program, and should instantly supply a crucial boost in production.
WEST COUNTY Lady Bulldogs
2022-23 Record: 24-7 (5-0)
Head Coach: John Barnett (1st season)
Key Returners: Kaytlen Hartley, jr., G; Addisyn Hedgcorth, jr., F; Natalee Womack sr., G
West County graduated the most decorated senior class in school history, and is trying to minimize an inevitable downturn after placing fourth in each of the last two Class 3 state tournaments.
The most pressing issue will revolve around the point guard position, where current UHSP freshman Alivia Simily was a calming and cerebral influence over the past four years.
Fellow all-state player Alexis Hedgcorth elected not to play this season, due to a nagging injury, leaving another vacancy at forward as the Lady Bulldogs replace their entire starting five.
Junior guard Kaytlen Hartley takes over a major leadership role after regularly contributing as the second player off last year’s bench. Addisyn Hedgcorth was aided both deep postseason runs.
VALLEY Lady Vikings
2022-23 Record: 6-20 (2-3)
Head Coach: Jamie Warden (1st season)
Key Returners: Kenley Missey, sr., G; Jamison Politte, sr., Alyssa Warren, jr., F; Kyndra Civey, jr., G
Although four-year starters are less prevalent across the MAAA this season, Valley is fortunate to have two senior guards fitting that description.
Kenley Missey has been the top scorer for the Lady Vikings since her arrival as a freshman. Jamison Politte has been proficient at turning steals into fast-break opportunities.
Alyssa Warren is another returning starter, and Kyndra Civey spreads the floor as another returning guard for Valley.
Ryleigh Maxwell, Kamryn Dickey and Hayden Jones recently completed their freshman volleyball seasons, and enhance the hopes of scaling upward in the conference standings.
ST. PAUL Giants
2022-23 Record: 14-14
Head Coach: Andy Sherrill (11th season)
Key Returners: Mia Sherrill, jr., F; Pippa Detring, sr., F; Josie Berkerey, soph., G; Haylie Eller, sr., G; Elissa Blackmon, sr., G; Valerie Govero, jr., F
No matter how difficult the situation encountered, St. Paul could rest assured that star point guard Brylee Durbin was on the floor over the past four years.
But the program career leader in points — with more than 2,000 — steals and assists has moved on to the collegiate level at Williams Baptist as the Giants prepare for their future.
St. Paul lists seven players on its varsity roster for this season, but three are seniors and all seven have obtained some valuable varsity action along the way.
Mia Sherrill likely becomes a primary scoring target while hitting the boards with senior forward Pippa Detring. Sophomore Josie Berkerey handles the point now with excellent speed.
KINGSTON Lady Cougars
2022-23 Record: 0-24 (0-5)
Head Coach: Christian Moulton (5th season)
Key Returners: Allison Hahn, sr., F; Joleen Saunders., jr., G; Kelsey Courtway, jr., G
Winless Kingston faced an uphill battle throughout last season after more than 90 percent of its previous scoring punch had graduated.
The Lady Cougars saw their greatest chances to break through in a pair of losses – by five and seven points — to conference rival Valley.
Players like senior Allison Hahn and juniors Joleen Saunders and Kelsey Courtway, who persevered through the difficult stage, seek more rewarding results this time around.
After competing in some contests with no available reserves on the bench, Kingston stands to make strides with help from seven current freshmen.