Centreville Marion

Concorde Girls Preview: Is it Centreville’s time to shine?

2022-2023 Concorde Regular Season Champion: Madison
2022-2023 Concorde District Tournament Champion: Oakton
2023-2024 Novahoops.com Presumptive Favorite: Centreville

What’s New In 2023-2024: Guard Bri Walston transfers from Westfield to Chantilly; guard Jada Ramos-Diggs comes to Madison.

Is it time for the Centreville Wildcats to make a deep run into the state tournament? Last year the Wildcats had a very good 17-7 season despite a few injuries, defeating McLean in the first round of regionals before ultimately falling to eventual state champion Madison.

The road through the Concorde District and the 6D Region is just as formidable this season, but the Wildcats have the talent to not only make a run into states, but to win it all. Jo McLane’s team returns around 80% of its scoring output from last season and the returnees have a ton of varsity experience.

“The state tournament is a goal of ours but it’s a day-by-day process,” says McLane. “Now our freshmen are sophomores and [last year] the team as a whole had never been in those big games before. We have experience now.”

There’s no question Centreville’s talented Class of 2026 is going to have the Wildcats competitive for the foreseeable future. McLane says with the graduation of Ryleigh Thurston it’s Claire Kang’s team now, and that Kang will be given a lot of control. The relentless point guard has a considerable skill set and can push the tempo, something she’ll have to do effectively to combat the effective half court play of Madison, Oakton, and others.

Kang’s talented fellow sophomores are also back–Sofia Caraus and Malia Siriwardene. Caraus is a tall shooter who should be a stronger all-around player this season, while Siriwardene also brings length and considerable athleticism to the table.

As exciting as those young players are, this team’s fate will ultimately be decided by its upperclassmen. Senior Jahniya Marion, who impacts every phase of the game, is the reigning Concorde Player of the Year and McLane says her leadership is invaluable.

“She is such a good leader,” McLane says of Marion. “She doesn’t have to score 20 to carry us.”

Another very good all-around player is Hannah Wakefield, a three-sport athlete. Wakefield is a little banged up right now but should be ready to go sometime next month. Fellow senior Morgan Carpenter is also back and she is key as one of the team’s few pure post players. The wild card remains junior Kennedy Parrott, who when healthy is one of the area’s more dynamic players. She has looked good in the preseason.

Two sophomores come up from JV, and three more talented freshmen join the Wildcats’ roster. Depth shouldn’t be a problem, but the Wildcats will still need most of their key components healthy if they are to realize their goals.

Unfortunately for Centreville, the Wildcats’ goals always conflict with the Madison Warhawks‘, the defending four-time state champions. Putting a fifth ring on Coach Kirsten Stone’s hand this year will be extremely difficult, but could certainly happen. Madison won’t blow many teams off the court, but the Warhawks are going to win a lot of games this season, at a minimum.

Coach Stone doesn’t have as much returning varsity playing experience as in years’ past. She does have two exceptional foundations in four-year players Stella Gougoufkas and Avery Griepentrog, however.

Avery Griepentrog is a tall forward with a good shooting touch. Her play inside will be key for the Warhawks.

Gougoufkas is a versatile forward who is committed to play at Holy Cross next season. She’s strong and can bang on the block, as well as run an offense from the point forward position. The offense figures to flow through her. Griepentrog, meanwhile, is a tall forward who defends the paint extremely well. Stone says she has great touch around the basket, and it stands to reason Griepentrog will look to score more this year.

“They didn’t play a lot the first two years,” says Stone of her experienced building blocks’ previous campaigns. “They waited for their time and then seized the opportunity last year.”

The question is, who amongst the Warhawks’ other returnees is ready to do exactly that this season? Candidates include senior Lillian Perkins, an active defender who did get some extensive minutes at wing last season when injuries afforded her the opportunity. Good bets to also increase their output are senior Maya Mathis and junior Sara Becker.

The Warhawks are extremely frontcourt-oriented, though Gougoufkas is capable of essentially playing point guard. Plus, sophomore point guard Jada Ramos-Diggs is on hand. She’s an intriguing prospect that should be able to earn significant minutes.

Two freshmen are also on the roster. There’s a lot of teaching to be done, but Stone thinks by 2024 the Warhawks should be a lot closer to where they want to be. If the defense remains formidable, which it should, and the Warhawks can dictate pace, that place could again be Richmond in March.

Next up are the Oakton Cougars–a team that won 21 games last season, and won the district tournament–but still only finished tied for third during the regular season in this murderous district.

The Cougars lost four very solid seniors from last season, including do-everything player Caitlin Crump. Long-time coach Fred Priester does return a lot of talent, especially in the backcourt. Senior guard Finley Tarr is back, a premier shooter and scorer when healthy. If she can consistently knock down shots and provide double-digit scoring game in and game out, it will go a long way for the Cougars.

Brooek Chang
Oakton sophomore Brooke Chang is an exciting young player in Fred Priester’s system.

That’s because defense does not appear to be a problem. Oakton should be able to apply premium defensive pressure, thanks in part to the athletic Sophie Toole, a relentless, superior defender. Guard-forward Brooke Chang is a good shooter who also should be able to pick her share of pockets.

“Defense has always been a key to what we do,” Priester says. “We’re young, so it is a work in progress.”

They are young. Toole and Chang are only sophomores, plus a bevy of young freshmen (Skylar Eichelbaum, Sahana Komanduri, and Jocelynn Kinlaw) enter the picture. They are solid, but have yet to experience anything close to what they will face in the Concorde. Sophomore Emma Brault is up from the JV and also figures to challenge for playing time.

There is depth, but not as much in the frontcourt. Junior Kara Bumbary provides physical play absolutely essential versus teams like Madison. Though she is somewhat undersized for the four and five, she is capable. Sophomore post Elliott Durham will have to log minutes at some point to supplement her down low.

The Cougars are athletic this year and figure to push the pace, which may surprise people. Despite its youth, Priester’s team remains a dangerous postseason threat.

Entering a two-year window of likely success are the Chantilly Chargers. One could argue they are suddenly the deepest team in the district, and they have the versatility to come at you with big or small lineups as needed.

“We may sneak up on some people that might think they can walk over us,” says Chantilly Coach Josh Regan.

The Chargers finished last in the Concorde a season ago, but were usually very competitive. Regan’s team only graduated two seniors and returns most of its firepower. Tall forward Emerson Mustard returns–she averaged a double-double in 2022-2023. Crucially, she can operate on the perimeter on offense and run the floor, as well as man the five in smaller lineups.

Chantilly’s Alexandra Wilson is a young sophomore center with a lot of potential.

Or, she can be the three or four in bigger lineups. Sophomore center Alexandra Wilson is back, and Regan says she is taller now at about 6’2″. Wilson is talented with solid footwork and touch around the basket–if she learns to be physical she has star potential.

Sophomore guard Alivia Tarry also returns after a very solid freshman campaign running the point. She’ll do that some again this year, but will also likely slide off the ball some so Regan can take advantage of her considerable offensive skills, including her shooting. Junior Madeleine Bernet also returns. She was a solid starter on the wing last year for the Chargers. Plus, there’s Anjali Borra, a junior guard who can get to the rim.

There’s other varsity returnees, but what really punctuates the Chargers’ depth is their new additions. Bri Walston is a transfer guard who played on Westfield’s varsity last season, while athletic and smart senior Peyton Bibbee has opted to play this season as well. There’s two athletic freshmen on the roster, plus two talented players from Chantilly’s successful JV team last year.

There’s very few places you can find that sort of roster depth, post-COVID, even in the Concorde. This team is still essentially pretty young, but we expect the Chargers to contend sooner rather than later.

The Westfield Bulldogs haven’t had program depth the past couple of years for a number of reasons. This year, like last, they will start with only 10 players on varsity, although that’s just an effort to give kids more of a chance to play at the JV level. Still, while depth may be limited, there is solid talent back from the fifth- place team in the Concorde a year ago.

The anchor in the middle will again be senior forward Emma O’Connor. O’Connor, a Christopher Newport signee, has great length, good footwork, and defends the lane with the best of them. She will anchor (or front) a defense that could be among the better units in the region. She will also get an opportunity for more offensive touches.

Samantha Etzler is back to provide the Bulldogs with leadership and versatility.

Samantha Etzler is the other key senior returnee. She’s a tall point guard who will likely play off ball a good bit in an effort to showcase her offensive skills. Etzler is also a versatile defensive piece who can guard most positions. The third senior on the roster is Emma Casson, a returnee to the program.

Those are good building blocks and leadership for Westfield coach Noel Klippenstein. She also has a few youthful players that gained experience last year on the varsity in sophomores Cameron Gallagher and Alexa Caiazza. Both are smaller-type guards that will be counted on to provide ball-handling and defense first. Forward Katelyn Brubaker is another sophomore, a forward, that is expected to play a bigger role this season.

Two freshmen on the roster, Eva Anderson and Charisma Hall, will also likely play minutes. Klippenstein knows her young players have to grow this year if the Bulldogs are to be dangerous by tournament time. The defense has to remain solid, and the offense has to improve.

“We have to be more aggressive and physical this year,” Klippenstein says. “Our defense has to improve and we have to be more efficient on offense.”

The South Lakes Seahawks lost five seniors to graduation, to include standouts Jessica Dornak and Renee Timbers. They also lost promising freshman Madison Washington to transfer. Despite this, there is the potential for a very solid season, as a balanced roster of returnees is back. The Seahawks boast nine seniors on their 2023-2024 roster, so there is valuable experience and maturity on hand.

“We’re leaning on our experience,” says Seahawks coach Rob Robinson, whose team prides itself on playing a difficult schedule.

South Lakes point guard Bridget Brennan is a defensive ace.

The Seahawks will also lean on their defense, which was at times extremely good last year. That starts with senior point guard Bridget Brennan, who was on the district all-defense team last season. Seniors Alia Terrell and Idinah Williams-Baffoe, a three-year varsity player, are also back. Those two are also plus defenders, and they bring a good deal of experience and toughness to the table.

Robinson has some experience up front as well. Senior Mackenzie Kingswell has shown flashes of breaking out, and the tall forward got a good amount of playing time last year backing up and playing alongside Dornak. She’ll have plenty of help inside mixing it up inside with junior Kaila Ketelhut returning as well. Ketelhut is not afraid to give up her body to produce rebounds, play defense, and grab loose balls.

The depth is promising and gives Robinson the option of rotating bodies on opponents and applying constant defensive pressure. Senior guard Sophia Abrahams and point guard junior Isabella Neill will help provide that depth.

The question is on offense, where last season the Seahawks often relied on Dornak or Timbers to provide a key basket late. Everyone will be expected to pick up their offensive output, but dark horses to provide clutch buckets include senior shooting guard Emilise Lambert, and talented sophomore guard Taylor Cole-Reeder. Cole-Reeder has a bright future and did receive quality minutes last season–if she is ready to take a jump the Seahawks will benefit immensely.

–Chris Jollay