Canyon: 14-13, 6-4 in 1995-96. Coach: Nelson Herrera (fourth year, 49-28). Prospects: The Comanches have been to the playoffs all three years under Herrera, and they also won a league title. Even with seven returning players, including five who started at times, his "giants" are two 5-10 sophomores--center Paulette Seaman (11.4 rebounds), a second-team all-league player, and forward Stephanie Hillon. All that experience playing together might help them overcome the graduation of Meghan O'Neill (15.8 points), co-MVP of the league.
El Modena: 8-15, 5-5 in 1995-96. Coach: John Cahill (seventh year, 68-63). Prospects: The Vanguards have gone 5-5 the past two seasons. There are five seniors, led by all-league guard Karen Herco (5-5), to guide sophomores such as centers Michelle Armstrong (5-11) and Valerie Matweeff (5-10), and guard Christina Hernandez (5-7), a second-team all-league pick. But the lack of height is glaring and El Modena also has no marquee scorer.
Foothill: 19-8, 8-2 in 1995-96. Coach: Ty Watkins (third year, 25-24). Prospects: Foothill just missed the league title, but is favored to win this season. The Knights have nine players back, including center/forward Robyn Templeton (5-11, 8.1 rebounds). In a league with few six-footers, the Knights boast sophomore center Kerry Brunansky (6-1). Other key returnees include junior guard Rebecca Cole (5-7), forward/center Ashley Massimino (5-10), and guard Gabrielle Kuehn (5-10). With no go-to player, tough team defense will play a major role in Foothill's ability to match last season's success.
Orange: 0-23, 0-10 in 1995-96. Coach: Alicia Adams (first year). Prospects: After staggering through a horrendous year--and a 3-18 season the year before that--the Panthers need a fresh start. Adams will try to provide it, although she will have to convince the five returning players, including four starters, they can do it. There is talent--junior forward Rachelle Ngayan (5-6) was a second-team all-league pick. The arrival of two freshmen, guard Crystal Bernal and center Randi Perry (5-11), could make an impact. One notable tidbit: in a league of small teams, the Panthers have three players 5-11 or taller.
Santa Ana Valley: 6-19, 2-8 in 1995-96. Coach: Lionel Horn (first year). Prospects: Horn is a new face getting the chance to resuscitate the Falcons, who haven't been the same since Kevin Stipp (16-7 in 1994-95) moved on to boys' basketball. Horn needs a healthy transfusion from the junior varsity, as Valley has only two returning starters--guard Maria Fariaz (5-8), whose 56.9% three-point shooting would have led the county if she had enough attempts, and sophomore forward Nikki Ottrix (5-10).
Villa Park: 17-10, 9-1 in 1995-96. Coach: Connie Bohnert (second year, 17-10). Prospects: Bohnert, formerly Brazell, returns from a league championship season. The Spartans lost six seniors and four starters, but junior guard Missy Bynon (5-6, 13.3 points, 4.1 assists) is back and that's probably enough to make them a threat to repeat as champions. Another reason for optimism? The junior varsity and freshman-sophomore programs also won league titles. Bynon was the co-MVP of the league and shot 34.6% from the three-point line. No other returning player averaged more than 2.7 points. Junior Jennifer O'Keefe might be the fastest center in the league, but at 5-9 represents Villa Park's height problems; sophomore backup center Julie Blume (5-10) is the only player taller than 5-9. To offset the lack of height, Villa Park will rely on its quickness and a scrappy full-court pressure defense.