The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls basketball team lost 10 of 11 games to close out last year. That extended skid is the least of head coach J.P. Coughlin and the Huskies’ worries entering this season.
Simply put, OPRF is hoping for healthy players. The Huskies have the talent to be very competitive, but an injury-ravaged roster certainly will curtail their chance for success. That was the unfortunate scenario last season as Erin Orr was out all year with a torn ACL, while Angel Bradford, Emily Schreck and Chardonnay Harris (among others) also battled ankle, back and other injuries.
“I think it was just a really bad year for us,” senior forward Kallie Shelton said. “We had some injuries over the summer as well, but I think we’re finally going to move through it.”
Over the summer, senior forward/center Gareth Coalson, junior guard Demi Philosophos each tore an ACL. Senior guard Hailey Hoye has been limited recently with a sore ankle.
“I tore my ligament in my ankle in July,” Hoye said. “It kind of set me back. I couldn’t do a bunch of stuff during the off-season. I’m still recovering but I should be 100 percent by December.”
Despite the adversity of the past 16 months, the Huskies enter this season with plenty of speed, size, depth and versatility.
Hoye and Harris along with Schreck, senior Victoria Waters and junior Katie Mullins comprise are all key perimeter players for OPRF.
Hoye, who is being recruited by multiple Division I programs including New York University and UC San Diego, scored 31 points in the Huskies’ 59-52 loss to St. Ignatius in a Class 4A regional semifinals last season. Harris has the potential to be a great player, while Schreck and Waters bring versatility and leadership to the lineup. Mullins is an excellent shooter.
With the addition of highly touted freshman Maeve Nelson, the Huskies are loaded in the backcourt.
“We’re focused on working together to be successful,” Schreck said. “Everybody here has a common goal. I think we’re a little more balanced this season. We want to play at a high tempo because we have lot of athleticism.”
In the paint, 6-2 sophomore center Blair Ripley gets the call along with the active Shelton. Trinity transfers, 6-2 sophomore center Maria Kent and junior Madison Siler, are welcomed additions.
“We had over 30 wins during the summer,” Coughlin said. “We’re deep this year. All of our seniors played a ton last season and we have several sophomores and a freshman ready to contribute. And we have size, which we haven’t had in years.
“I think the days of me trying to do Fenwick’s run and gun style are probably over, but we’re still going to play really fast. On offense we’re focused on pace and space, which means playing up-tempo basketball while spacing the floor well. We want to go 10 or 11 players deep with a variety of looks. That’s exciting for me as a coach.”
While Downers Grove North is the preseason favorite to repeat as conference champs, the Huskies and a host of other teams could compete for the title.
In addition to playing in three tournaments (Trinity, Naperville North and Montini) and its conference schedule, the Huskies visit Fenwick on Jan. 15 (7 p.m.) in a marquee nonconference matchup.
The Huskies are off to a 2-1 start with impressive wins over Oswego and Zion-Benton at the Trinity Thanksgiving Tournament. OPRF takes on the host Blazers, one of the top teams in the Chicagoland area, on Fri., Nov. 28 at 8 p.m.