Canyon: 12-13, 3-7 in 1996-97. Coach: Nelson Herrera (fifth year, 61-41). Four starters are back from last year’s fourth-place team, including all-league first-team player Sara Mohkami (12.6 points) and second-team center Paulette Seaman, a 5-10 junior. Mohkami is a 5-5 senior guard. Senior guard Nicky Rose (5-6) and junior forward Stephanie Hillon (5-10) also are back. Most intriguing about the Comanches is the wealth of newcomers to the program, including four transfers: senior guard Brandie Mercer (5-7) from Loara, sophomore guard Trish Christian (5-8) from Valencia, junior guard Meghan O’Neill (5-10) from Missouri and senior guard Jenny Crews (5-4) from Alaska. O’Neill was a starter at Canyon before she moved to Missouri. Canyon lacks height, but not athletes.
El Modena: 13-9, 6-4 in 1996-97. Coach: John Cahill (eighth year, 81-72). The Vanguards have only four players back, but three are junior starters: center Valerie Matweeff (5-10, 12.5 points, 8.3 rebounds), forward Cristina Hernandez (5-7, nine points) and Shannon Baron (5-5). Matweeff and Hernandez were first-team all-league players, Baron made the second team. Another returning player, senior forward Amanda Lopez (5-10), missed most of last season with a back injury. The program’s top newcomer is freshman guard Lindsey Galasso.
Foothill: 18-6, 10-0 in 1996-97. Coach: Ty Watkins (fourth year, 43-30). Senior Rebekah Cole (5-8, eight points, three assists) and Jennifer Inmon (5-8), two second-team all-league guards, are the only returning starters for the Knights. They should provide leadership on a team that hopes to profit from an aggressive defensive scheme and good overall quickness. Also back are senior forward Courtney Stimmler (5-11, four rebounds), junior forward Lauren Schwendimann (5-10) and senior guard Tessa Knowlson (5-7, 54% from the field).
Orange: 9-13, 2-8 in 1996-97. Coach: Alicia Adams (second year, 9-13). Probably one of the most overlooked coaching performances of the year came from Adams, who took over a 0-23 program and won nine games. Six letter winners return, including five starters: sophomore forward Randi Perry (5-11, 13 points, 8.7 rebounds), junior forward Priscilla Deason (5-11, 6.8 points), senior guard Rachelle Ngayan (5-6, 8.9 points), sophomore guards Crystal Bernal (3.3 points, two assists) and Kristi Richard (2.4 points, two assists). Sixth-man Kristen Gonzalez, a 5-6 junior guard, is also back.
Santa Ana Valley: 8-18, 2-8 in 1996-97. Coach: Lionel Horn (second year, 8-18). Anna Yandall, a 5-7 junior guard who shot 38.5% from beyond the three-point arc last year, is the Falcons’ only returning starter. Three other juniors also return, guard Denise Alaman (5-7) and forwards Michelle Santana (6-1, two blocks) and Amber Price (5-10, six rebounds). A tough nonleague schedule, including games against Troy and Marina, should help Valley prepare for the league race.
Villa Park: 12-13, 7-3 in 1996-97. Coach: Len Whitacre (third-year, 35-11). Whitacre returns after a two-year absence. While at Villa Park, he directed the Spartans to a 21-4 record and into the top 10. Senior forward Jennifer O’Keefe (5-8, 11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds) anchored the inside game last year and should be more effective with the arrival of junior Bianca Larson, a 6-3 transfer from Mater Dei. Larson is hoping to build on her last game, when she scored a career-high 11, including the last seven in a 51-50 loss at Ventura Buena in the Division I-A semifinals. Complementing the inside game is two-time league MVP Missy Bynon (13.6 points), a preseason Street & Smith All-American at guard.