Height, speed, talent and experience. The Trinity basketball team seems to have it all this season. Oh, and depth, too.

The Blazers, who made it as far as the Elite Eight in Class 3A last season, return everyone from that team, including 6-foot-1 forward Megan Podkowa. The junior averaged 17 points and eight rebounds while leading the team to an overall record of 24-10.

“She’s clearly one of the top players in the state,” said Trinity head coach Ed Stritzel of Podkowa. “There’s nothing she doesn’t do well.”

Along with Podkowa, Stritzel returns Taylor Nazon, Gracie Sanchez and Mikayla Leyden, who missed most of the season last year with an ACL injury. Nazon, a 5-foot-7 guard, averaged seven points and two steals per game as a freshman last season. Sanchez, a 5-10 junior, contributed five points and five rebounds per game. Leyden (5-7) is also just a sophomore, but Stritzel said she’s back to full strength and expected to make quite an impact.

Stritzel scored another instant starter over the summer with the transfer of Alyssa Dengler from Fenwick, a team that finished third in the Class 4A State Finals last season. The 6-foot Dengler played in all 34 games for the Friars, averaging four points, but was overshadowed by Tricia Liston, 2010’s Ms. Basketball of Illinois, now at Duke.

“Alyssa will bring much needed experience to our program,” said Stritzel, whose assistant coach Nicole Rivera is also a former Fenwick player. “She is a ‘point forward’ who does so many things well. She’s a great three-point shooter and a lockdown defender.”

The list of talent on this season’s Trinity team doesn’t stop with the above five. Other players who are likely to factor into the team’s success include Shannon McGinnis (5-9, sophomore), Vickie Harris (6-2, junior), Taricka Linzy (5-7, senior), Dawn Butler and Divinity Brown, who is expected to return in January from an ACL injury. Freshmen Lauren Prochaska (5-5) and Maya Garland (5-7) are also expected to see time on the court.

“This is now the deepest team I’ve had in my four years at Trinity,” said Stritzel, who broke the 100-win mark last season, setting his career coaching record at Trinity at an impressive 105-26.

During the regular season, the Blazers will face such formidable opponents as Class 4A State runner-up Whitney Young and Class 3A State runner-up Hillcrest. The Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division will likely see Trinity vying for the top spot along with Mother McAuley and Loyola.

“Our strength of schedule always prepares us for anything out there,” said Stritzel. “We feel we have the toughest schedule in the state.”

The Blazers opened the season last night (Nov. 16) against area-rival OPRF (click here to read an update on the game). They travel to Joliet Township on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Oak Forest on Saturday (6 p.m.).

Up Close

Key returners: Megan Podkowa, Gracie Sanchez

Newcomer: Alyssa Dengler

2009-10 record: 24-10 overall

Tidbit: Dengler left Class 4A powerhouse Fenwick for Trinity.

2010-11 Home Schedule

Wed., Dec. 8 Queen of Peace 7 p.m.

Tues., Dec. 14 Vernon Hills 7:30 p.m.

Wed., Jan. 5 St. Ignatius 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Jan. 8 Hillcrest 1:30 p.m.

Thurs., Jan. 13 Mother McAuley 7:30 p.m.

Thurs., Jan. 20 St. Joseph 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Jan. 22 Jacobs 7 p.m.

Jan. 31-Feb. 5 GCAC tourney TBA

Fri., Feb. 11 Marist 7 p.m.

Click here to see our complete girls basketball preview.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...