LOMBARD – For the first time since 2009, Montini’s girls basketball team enters the season without a state title to defend.
Last year’s team missed out on the chance for a four-peat despite entering the state semifinals heavily favored to win in Class 3A. Still, a 35-2 season that ended with a third place trophy is nothing to be disappointed about.
Montini brings plenty back from that team, enough to think a new state title streak could begin this season.
Wisconsin freshman center Malayna Johnson is the only starter that graduated from last year’s team. The four starters back are Division I seniors Sara Ross (IUPUI), Kelly Karlis (Ohio) and Kateri Stone (Colgate) and junior Kelsey Bogdan.
“These three seniors have won 105 games in three years and are the keys to another big season,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “Kelly, Kateri and Sara are our best players. Everyone else has a significant role to play and the ones that do and understand how to win will play the most with these three talented seniors.”
In addition to talent and experience, the senior trio brings length and versatility. Stone is a 6-foot-1 guard that drained 95 threes last year. Karlis is 6-foot-2 with good shooting range. Ross is 5-foot-10 and has shown to be an elite rebounder at times.
Leading the charge of the younger players will be sophomore Lea Kerstein, who made 65 three-pointers as a freshman last season. Sophomores Tiara Wallace, Claire Jakaitis and Paulina Castro should all see some time as well. Jakaitis, a 6-foot forward, will help to replace some of the interior play of Johnson.
In addition, three talented freshmen will be part of the deep Montini roster. Nichols said Claudia Kunzer has a chance to start at point guard. Fellow guards Kaylee Bambule, daughter of the former Romeoville varsity boys coach Jeff Bambule, and Nikki Oppenheimer will also see time.
Coach: Jason NicholsConference: Suburban Christian Blue2012-13 record: 35-2 (10-0 SCC Blue)Next game: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22 at SchaumburgTop returners: Kelsey Bogdan jr. G Kelly Karlis sr. F Lea Kerstein so. G Sara Ross sr. G Kateri Stone sr. GPromising newcomers: Kaylee Bambule fr. G Claudia Kunzer fr. G Nikki Oppenheimer fr. G