As opposed to previous years, where the top of the league was cloudy, I believe that this year the top team is as clear as any recent years. I have never been as confident in a team to win the Federal League as I am this year with the McKinley Bulldogs. While other top tier teams are reeling with major injures and departures the Bulldogs are as strong as ever. I think the bottom of the league keeps getting better, which helps the league overall and further strengthens the idea that there are no easy games in the Fed. While I believe McKinley is the clear cut favorite I do believe that Jackson, GlenOak and Hoover are capable of making a run at the title.
The Lake Blue Streaks continue to improve as a program. Still a little short on the talent it takes to compete in one of the toughest leagues in Ohio. They are improving under Coach Johnson and the girls are playing with more energy and confidence. Losing the 3 year letterman PG Champaign isn’t ideal but they have a nice young group of kids that want to keep getting better. I think Jessica LeBeau is one of the better sophomores in the league and Mackenzie Hance should be ready to step up and help Lake make a move.
Green Bulldogs end one Pierce’s career and start another. The younger PG, Sydnie, will step in as the next Bulldog youngster to make an impact. Green will get some solid post play from Berlin who is a sophomore but the two most important players up in Green our two of the seniors, Trainer and Maynard. Trainer is trying to get back on the floor for the first time in quite a while. She didn’t play much until the season started but Jenna had a very promising career that hasn’t gone as planned due to the injuries. If she can stay on the floor she is a very welcomed part of the Bulldogs plans. She can score the ball and has a great IQ. The other senior, Savanna Maynard, I think is one of the most underrated kids in the area. She has high energy, plays hard all the time and just does whatever she can to win. She is athletic enough to play on the perimeter and tough enough to play inside. I think the Bulldogs definitely improve on their 1-11 conference record from a year ago.
The Perry Panthers might have lost the most of any team in the league after four starters graduated. That would include the all time leading scorer Karlee Pireu, whose younger sister Rylee is the only returning full time starter. Rylee will be relied on heavily, mostly to put some points on the board, but to also be a leader of a relatively inexperienced team. With only role players returning the Panthers will establish an identity and toughness. That will start with a very tough backcourt of Wilson, Leapline and Terrell, who wont back down from anyone. Cunningham will lead the interior toughness duties for Perry, who had the only coaching change in the offseason. The Panthers will mirror Beth Sternberg’s energy and will establish some need identities for the new look team.
Jackson Polar Bears are entering the year as a very experienced group. Given they have some talented younger kids as well, they will have a pretty deep team. I’ve always thought Scheetz and Ryan were always great team players who give everything they have and just make plays. That tandem along with Becton who brings athleticism and play making ability to the floor are some nice seniors to have. The youngsters: Redpath, Stran and Diese will all compete for time and do whatever is asked of them. Lets not act like it’s not Taylor Mikesells team, because she is on her last go around and the success of this team rest solely on her shoulders. I do believe this year that there’s enough that it wont have to be all Taylor all the time. I believe Jackson has the depth to compete in the league.
The GlenOak Golden Eagles are coming off a very impressive undefeated Federal League championship run last year, and fully intend to defend that this year. With Mucci, one of the finest young PG’s in northeast Ohio, running the show, I have no reason to believe they can’t be right in the thick of it. Unfortunately for he Golden Eagles they lost their premier post player, Hayley Smith, for the year. I really like sophomore Warren and freshman Hall to pick up the slack and keep the Eagles on track. Both are athletic, tough and strong, and will do just fine in GlenOak’s fast paced game plans. Jade Abdulla should take off this year, as she’s had a great offseason. GlenOak have several pesky guards that they’ll rotate in and out to keep the intensity up. Rozier, Cashner and Lemire will give GlenOak backcourt depth. While Cashner and Lemire are shooters, Rozier will cause problems with her quickness up and down the floor and to the basket.
The Hoover Vikings are experiencing some adversity as far as bodies go. While they return important sophomore 6 foot wing/post Makenzie Green, they lost starters Drabick and Kiesling. Though depth might be an issue with these unexpected losses, the Vikings still have plenty of talent. Guard Peyton Davis is pretty good and should surprise some people. Cook, Hawks, Haubert and Chimera all give the Vikings some guard stability. Alexis Green will be a very important part this year, giving the Vikings a second reliable scoring option, her offensive diversity allows her to find different ways to score and be affective. Roshak and Makenzie Green round out Hoovers rotation and give them a very good frontcourt. Roshak will put up big numbers pretty often and demand a lot of defensive attention. The Vikings aren’t as fully loaded as they were anticipating in June, but they’re well coached and they will adjust.
The McKinley Bulldogs return with the reigning Ohio Ms. Basketball, Kierstan Bell, and a deeper more talented supporting cast. To top it off the Pups are even more focused and determined than they were a year ago when they made a trip to the state semifinals. Lee and Boykin give the Pups their inside presence and will rebound and change shots. Lucius, Cauthon and others give McKinley speed and experience at the guard spots. The experience will be needed while incredible freshmen guards Foster and Terrell feel things out. Young has always been a reliable scorer and big shot maker for McKinley and she’s expanded her game even more. I don’t have to say much about Bell, when she is focused and doesn’t want to lose, there isn’t anyone stopping her. Though I believe the Bulldogs are the best team in the league it wont be easy. They have 5 road league games in a 3 week span of January that could be a tough stretch.
Player of the Year Candidates:
Kierstan Bell (JR, McK) – This sounds familiar, because I used these exact words last year, and they still hold true…Could easily be the statistical leader in every major category, possibly on the league champion. Most likely everyone’s preseason favorite.
Taylor Mikesell (SR, Jax) – One more go around for the Maryland commit and local legend. Taylor is giving her last effort to win the league with 7 other classmates, most of which she’s played with her whole life. To say this season means a lot to her is an understatement. As one of two players in the league who can legitimately take a game over and get a W by themselves, the Polar Bears and Mikesell will be in the running for every achievement and award.
Annie Roshak (JR, Hoover) – There is no doubt the Hoover offense will run through Annie, and it will result in lots of points for her. The Vikings need her to score a lot. Her effort and intensity will pay off in other facets of the game. Annie will put up impressive performances and numbers, if the Vikings can make a run at the league Roshak certainly has a chance.
Jade Abdulla (JR, GlenOak) – I’ve been saying all summer how much I think Jade has improved, it is time for her to go from a role player to the leader, and double or triple her points per game to help absorb the points they graduated.
Peyton Davis (SO, Hoover) – The Hoover guard is tough, she plays with confidence and poise. She has the ability to put some points on the board as well. I think she’s going to make a pleasant impact for the Vikings.
Makenzie Green (SO, Hoover) – Makenzie was sidelined her entire freshman year due to an ACL. She’s back, healthy and ready to make some noise. The 6 footer can shoot the ball and has a very solid post game which includes a tremendous left hand.
Mackenzie Hance (JR, Lake) – Mackenzie has a toughness that is required to be noticed in the Federal League. Not only is she physically tough but she’s mentally tough and passionate. I believe she will step up and take on the leading role for the Blue Streaks.
Rylee Pireu (JR, Perry) – Rylee has been a role player so far, and a pretty good one. It is now time for her to take her game to the next level and be the leader of the Panthers. I believe she is ready to make a splash.
Jenna Trainer (SR, Green) – Due to injuries Jenna has never really been able to get on the floor for an extended period of time. She is now healthy and looks ready to finish her career on a high note. How much she’s able to give is yet to be seen but I expect her to impress.
Erica Warren (SO, GlenOak) – Warren is physically gifted, she has great size and strength to go with nice athleticism. She will be called on to patrol the paint for the Eagles and she will turn some heads. She could be looking at a double double every night.
Freshmen to Watch:
Kyla Foster (McKinley) – Kyla is very athletic and will not only play immediately but make an instant impact. She shoots the ball very well and gets up and down the floor in a flash. Kyla has the ability to put up major points when needed or just play a role. She will be patiently waiting to be the next big time Pup after the Bell era is over.
Aniyah Hall (GlenOak) – Hall is an athletic post player whose role got bigger when the Eagles lost Smith. She will be utilized in the intense defensive style GlenOak uses and will create lots of chaos.
Kate Haubert (Hoover) – Kate is long and tough! She will find minutes by simply working so hard. May not score a bunch of points but she will cause turnovers and rebound. Tough on ball defender as well.
Olivia Payne (Green) – Olivia is very fundamental, she wont make as many mistakes as other freshmen. She can shoot the ball as well and those things will get her on the court. Her length will be a nice asset for her on both ends of the floor.
Syndey Pierce (Green) – Very tough PG, good size for the position and her age, it will be tough to push her around. Syd can get to the rim and cause problems for the defense. She will start from day one and be a very important part of the Bulldogs success.
Ava Scruggs (Jackson) – Ava may not get any varsity time this year as the Polar Bears are senior heavy, but don’t forget the name. Ava will be an impact player as early as next season because she has a great feel for the game and a nice offensive skillset.
Nakyah Terrell (McKinley) – Nakyah is going to be a nice piece for the Pups on both ends of the floor. She looks to be a teammate first and scorer second, she will defend tough players. She will do whatever the team needs her to to win, and she will play big minutes.
Emily Walker (Hoover) – I like the lefty a lot, though she’s another that may not get a ton of varsity minutes, she will very soon. The kid can handle the ball and shoot it, she knows the game very well. She’s the Vikings PG of the future most likely.
Jamee Cauthon: Transferred to McKinley from Perry
Emma Brown: Transferred out of Green to Copley
Taylor Champaign (Lake): No longer playing
Gabby Piercy (Jackson): No longer playing
Lesley Kiesling (Hoover): No longer playing
Hayley Smith (GlenOak): Out for the year (ACL)
Makenna Drabick (Hoover): Out for the year (ACL)