C. Vanessa Laumbach, Woodbridge
F. Aaliyah Pitts, Woodbridge
F. Isabellah Middleton, Tuscarora
G. Elizabeth Dufrane, McLean
G. Aurea Gingras, Edison
Charlotte Jewell, Edison; Rachael Ross, Hayfield; Megan Stevenson, Loudoun Valley; Kat Jenks, Battlefield; Haley Sabol, Episcopal; Maikya Simmons, O’Connell; Melanie George, Fairfax
The last couple of months have surely been memorable for Woodbridge center Vanessa Laumbach. First she helped power the Vikings to a state title then just last week she committed to play her college ball at George Mason. The thing you first notice about Laumbach is her excellent footwork for a center. Her coordination allows her to play solid strong side and weak side defense, as well as thrive in the Vikings’ up-tempo system on offense. Laumbach averaged around ten points a game for Woodbridge, scoring both off the pick and roll and down low. She’s good for an occasional three-pointer as well. On a team with less weapons she very possibly would average close to 20 a game.
Like Laumbach, teammate Aaliyah Pitts is not only really good, she’s versatile. There are very few weapons like her in Northern Virginia. She can pour in the points, as we saw early in the year when she scored 28 against a very solid Osbourn Park team. She can also pass, defend, and handle point guard duties from the small forward position. Woodbridge coach Tamika Dudley has a lot of options in her lineups, but all of them include Pitts. She can play in the post while grabbing you double-digits in rebounds. She can defend quick guards and bury the three-pointer. The Class Six Virginia Player of the Year holds numerous Division I offers, but should get many more very shortly.
Isabellah Middleton of Tuscarora treats NOVA like a bull treats a china shop. Everyone game plans to stop her but seemingly no one does. The guard-forward averaged way north of 20 points a game and was an absolute juggernaut on offense. Her athletic burst and physical strength got her to the line about ten times a game, where she shot around 75%. Opponents almost always had to foul when she got room to run the floor with the ball–Middleton is almost impossible to stop in the open court. Always looking to get a steal, the younger sister of Kennedy can be a defensive weapon as well as an offensive one. She would own the fourth quarter on a team such as this one, where we have enough talent to give her substantial rests and turn her loose defensively.
It’s been fun watching Elizabeth Dufrane of McLean mature into a stronger all-around player. She’s always been an absolutely deadly shooter from long-range–now Dufrane has improved many other parts of her game as well. She plays hard defense all the time and with solid length for a guard helps substantially on the boards. When people ask us how to stop McLean we can’t help but start and end with a discussion of the Highlanders’ all-time leading scorer. The scary part is McLean has a very solid rotation but we would let some very competent players get open shots as opposed to not make Dufrane work as hard as possible to get hers on offense. She’s really good.
So is Aurea Gingras. The Paul VI transfer was everything Dianne Lewis asked for and more as she ran the point for the Class Five runner-up Eagles. She didn’t need to score too much with her strong supporting cast but still contributed just under ten points a game. She came up big in huge spots, such as when she sparked a third quarter rally past Freedom-South Riding in the state semis. While her offense came in spurts, her defense and ball-handling ability often set the table for the Eagles. Committed to George Washington University, expect Gingras to further expand her already impressive game next year.
As will teammate Charlotte Jewell. A combo guard with solid size, the only reason we’re bringing Jewell off the bench is because she’s very intelligent. We like her as a first substitution to help convey adjustments–she’s like having an extra coach on the floor. Jewell does a ton of things really well. She’s a tough defender who is unafraid of any challenge. Jewell shoots the three well but is also good at attracting defenders to either pass the ball or draw contact. She holds several DI offers and some college coach is going to get an absolute steal by landing her. Are her and Gingras Northern Virginia’s best starting backcourt next year? We can’t think of one better, plus Bri Johns and Kaitlyn Lee are back as well.
Opposing coaches around the region don’t like playing Rachael Ross of Hayfield. While Hayfield’s talented but incredibly young backcourt had its ups and downs, Ross was a constant threat down low. Seemingly effortlessly the power forward would rack up double-doubles and keep the Hawks in a lot of games against quality competition. Ross is an imposing figure on the court but uses touch, finesse, and intelligence as weapons. Ross is very likable off the court as well. If she really works hard at her game she could be unstoppable next year. She can certainly get to he line almost at will and even a 10% improvement at the free throw line would translate into some sick numbers.
It really says something that on a team with very talented seniors, Loudoun Valley’s Megan Stevenson was named the Dulles District Player of the Year. The long small forward was a big part of the Vikings’ pressure defense. When opposing guards thought they saw an opening in Valley’s defense to attack they often were met by a quick defensive slide from Stevenson. She produced steals and blocks by the bushel and was highly efficient on offense, taking it to the rim and rarely forcing shots. If Stevenson improves at the same rate this offseason as she did last, she’s going to have a pretty dominant senior year.
We’re always impressed by Battlefield’s Kat Jenks when we see her play. The strong guard can flat-out score. We saw her score a career-high 27 points in a win over Freedom-Woodbridge, only to best that mark in a win against Hayfield a few weeks later. She can hit from beyond the arc and is also very capable of powering her way through even the smallest gap in a defense to the rim. We also like her ability to crash the boards as well–following up her own shot and boxing out her person on defense. This one is one of NOVA’s better-kept secrets, but that needs to change.
Like Jenks, we feel Haley Sabol of Episcopal didn’t seem to get enough recognition. Sabol has an amazing array of offensive skills. The forward can finish with either hand, hit the three, post up…you name it. The first-team all-ISL and VISAA selection has a quick release and a picture-perfect shooting stroke. She’s a good passer as well and does more than her fair share on the boards. If you get a chance next year go catch a few of Episcopal’s games next year do so–Sabol is a really good example of what young players should aspire to be offensively.
Love the idea of having guard Maikya Simmons of O’Connell on this team. Yeah, Simmons does a lot of good things on offense. She’s a very good passer and can drive and pop the occasional outside shot. But where she really makes her hay is as an on-the-ball defender. She’s a nightmare for opposing point guards to get around with her foot speed and quick leaping ability. The first-team all-WCAC selection is just simply a premium defender who can swing any game into the Knights’ favor in a heartbeat.
The rise of Simmons this year means the annual Sam McNaughton-Melanie George debate of who to recognize lands this year in George’s favor. The talented guard did her part again this year, even as defenses gave most of their resources to stopping her and McNaughton. George averaged around 15 points a game for the Rebels in a district with some of the best defenses around. She can certainly hit the three, but George is at her best exploding to the rim. It’s no coincidence she had some of her best offensive games against teams that like to play in the open court. With not much size on the Rebels’ roster George is asked to do a lot on defense, often guarding bigger players. Improved offensive efficiency will take George’s game to another level, though she does so much on the court it is very hard to reasonably level this as any sort of criticism.
We mentioned the point guard McNaughton. She has Division I offers and it’s kind of absurd she’s not on this team. Same goes for Lauren Phelps of Heritage, Ajia James of O’Connell, Tedi Makrigiorgos of Madison, Maddie Kimble of Herndon, Leila Copeland of South Lakes, and Keagan Schwab of South County. Ditto for Schwab’s teammate Gabbi San Diego of South County. Only reason the electric point guard is not on here is because she was hurt for a decent chunk of the season. We use a committee to select these teams and each of the above players had a strong lobby to be included on the squad–all with great reasons.
Northern Virginia is a ridiculously deep area for talent. Congrats to all the ladies mentioned!
Lauren Hardesty (Trinity Christian), Jordyn Strange (Christ Chapel), Sam McNaughton (Fairfax), Gabbi San Diego (South County), Keagan Schwab (South County), Maya Taylor (South County), Margo Somer (South Lakes), Leila Copeland (South Lakes), Nina Boffman (South Lakes), Marya Mufti (Langley), Jessie Pearson (Herndon), Jordan Mosley (Washington-Lee), Grace Meshanko (Oakton), Victoria D’Ercole (Westfield), Caroline Trotter (Madison), Tedi Makrigiorgos (Madison), Zoe Kanti (Stonewall Jackson), Hannah Williams (Stonewall Jackson), Nataezja Gaskins (Stonewall Jackson), Hannah Osaro (Osbourn Park), Taylor Booker (Patriot), Love Delaney (Osbourn), Alia Denwiddie (Woodbridge), Celebria Peacock (Freedom-Woodbridge), Kayla Burton (Hylton), Halle Walker (T.C. Williams), Caroline Schie (T.C. Williams), Anna Terwilliger (West Potomac), Mary Laychak (West Springfield), Elizabeth Otugo (Lake Braddock), Isabella Edwards (Robinson), Abby Pesansky (Woodson), Sarah Wilson (Woodson), Maggie McGuire (Woodson), Brenna Haley (Freedom-South Riding), Ashley Pandelides (Potomac Falls), Camryn Adkins (Briar Woods), Reagan Moore (Champe), Kaitlyn Lee (Edison), Bri Johns (Edison), Zoe Soule (Marshall), Abby Kim (Jefferson), Amari Faust (Falls Church), Jayela Lopez (Wakefield), Maddie Beal (Dominion), Elizabeth Suder (Riverside), Emma Rollins (George Mason), Ajia James (O’Connell), Mikaela Brunais (O’Connell), Maya Thompson (Episcopal), Dymin Gerow (Episcopal), Annie Newton (Madeira), Amara Eley (Madeira), Luisa Lambo (Justice), Emiko O’Cadiz (Justice), Taven Pulliam (Lee), Vanessa Gardiner (Lee), Kylah Franklin (Bishop Ireton)