1. Blackhawk (28-2) -- There is no shortage of talent or experience on the roster for the Cougars. Coach Steve Lodovico's team is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion. Chassidy Omogrosso, a 5-foot-5 senior point guard and a Duquesne recruit, is one of the top players in the WPIAL, having averaged 22 points per game last season. She has already scored 1,848 points in her career. She will be joined by three other returning starters in 6-1 senior forward Courtney Vannoy and 5-9 senior guard Bridgette Shaffer, both of whom averaged 11 ppg last season, as well as 6-0 senior forward Danielle Levato.
2. Beaver (16-7) -- The Bobcats will have to adjust quickly after moving up from Class AA, where they barely qualified for the playoffs and had to win a play-in game before losing to Bishop Canevin in the first round last season. Coach Greg Huston will have a great starting spot, however, with the return of Lexi Posset, a 5-7 senior guard who averaged 22.5 points per game last season. She is joined by two other returning starters, 5-8 senior forward Laura Onuska and 5-9 junior forward Logan Vichinich.
3. Ambridge (13-10) -- This team has a lot of young but experienced talent returning. Coach Nikki Santiago welcomes back four starters, including 5-7 junior point guard Sydney Rabold, who led the team in scoring with 12 points per game, as well as 5-11 senior center Kelly Haslett, who averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds per game. Also back is 5-3 sophomore guard Sarah Fischer (11 ppg) and 5-8 junior swing player Abbey Antolic.
4. Hampton (14-9) -- The Talbots tied with Mars for the Section 1-AAA title last year thanks in large part to winning its last eight section games. Despite the departure of Lexi Griggs, who led the team in scoring last year but transferred to Vincentian, Hampton should still be quite competitive with returning starters Jada Alim, a 5-5 junior guard, and Courtney Collins, a 5-5 senior guard. Alim is the top returning scorer with a 6.1 ppg average. The Talbots feel they have something to prove after a first-round WPIAL playoff exit last February.
5. Indiana (18-5) -- Section 3-AAA co-champions last season, the Indians came back loaded this season with senior guard Lucy Bujdos and sophomore Jessica Stever, both of whom averaged more than 13 ppg last season.
6. Trinity (17-8) -- The Hillers finished second in the Section 5-AAA standings behind South Park a season ago and, with the Eagles having moved to Section 4, the Hillers are the top returning team. Sophomore Sierra Kotchman averaged 12.7 points per game, but she was an all-section selection and could be a huge factor.
7. Mars (15-7) -- The Planets have the kind of depth necessary to challenge for Section 1-AAA and possibly WPIAL honors. Sara Getsy and Ali Goetz were both all-section selections last season and averaged around 12 points per game.
8. Belle Vernon (16-7) -- Graduation thinned out quite a bit of the talent in Section 4-AAA, but the top player from last season remains as 6-foot-2 senior Kaitlyn Slagus should be able to carry the Leopards into the WPIAL playoffs. Slagus averaged 22.9 ppg a year ago, which was good enough for fourth in the WPIAL and makes her the top returning scorer who played in the classification last season.
9. McGuffey (20-5) -- The Highlanders should be considered a contender for the Section 5-AAA title, but have to be listed as a dark horse until they get their feet wet after moving up from Class AA where they won the Section 5 championship a year ago. Sammie Weiss, a 5-11 senior guard, is a force to contend with as she finished third in the WPIAL in scoring with 23.4 per game, while senior guard Rachel Czulewicz dropped in 15.0 per game a year ago as well.
10. South Park (22-6) -- After winning the Section 5-AAA title last season, the Eagles move to Section 4 this season. They lost to Blackhawk in the WPIAL championship game and made it to the second round of the state tournament. They bring back one of the best juniors in the WPIAL in Allison McGrath, who averaged 17.5 points per game last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ali Goetz, Mars, 5-8, Sr., Guard/Forward
Sierra Kotchman, Trinity, 5-5, Soph., Guard
Allison McGrath, South Park, 5-11, Jr., Forward
Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk, 5-5, Sr., Guard
Lexi Posset, Beaver, 5-6, Sr., Guard
Marlena Schmidt, Ringgold, 6-6, Sr., Center
Kaitlyn Slagus, Belle Vernon, 6-2, Sr., Center
Alexa Szelong, Mount Pleasant, 5-9, Sr., Guard
Courtney Vannoy, Blackhawk, 6-1, Sr., Forward
Sammie Weiss, McGuffey, 5-11, Sr., Guard
PREDICTED SECTION WINNERS
4. Belle Vernon