In each of the last four seasons, the girls champion of the Northeast Hoosier Conference has gone undefeated in league play.
But some feel as if that streak will come to an end this season, with seemingly more competition from top to bottom in the NHC.
“Often times there seems to be one big game on the schedule that determines the conference,” Homestead coach Rod Parker said. “This year, I feel like there will be a little more balance.”
While there may be some more intriguing games on the league slate, Norwell and Homestead still remain the teams to beat in the NHC, a title they have held for the last half decade.
The loss of Indiana Miss Basketball Jessica Rupright as well as other talented seniors has Norwell coach Eric Thornton looking to a bit of a different offensive attack this season. Without much proven size on the inside, the Knights will rely on a talented perimeter to carry the load, particularly early in the season. Senior guard Taylor Wilson is a proven talent on the outside and she will be paired with a couple standout sophomores in guards Hanna Smith and Liara Isnogle.
Senior Paige Frisch also brings some experience at the guard position.
“Our guard play is where our experience is right now,” Thornton said. “We have had to change (our offense) out of necessity. But we have some kids who are playing in the post that have waited their turn.”
While Norwell attempts to rebuild, Homestead appears poised to be the strongest team in the conference race. While young, the Spartans are led by their lone upperclassmen on the roster, senior guard Emily Bley (18 points per game, 6.5 apg) and junior guard Sydney Buck (13.8 ppg).
However, Bley will miss the first half of the season while recovering from a torn ACL.
“(Rod) can say he is pretty young, but those young kids are pretty talented,” said Thornton about Homestead. “They are not going to play with any fear just because they are young.”
Parker has high hopes for sophomore guard Fisher, who he sees as a player who can develop into one of the best guards in the area.
“We will be relying on about three freshmen and three or four sophomores, so it will be interesting to see how we handle some road games early,” Parker said.
DeKalb is a trendy pick to challenge for the league championship as the Barons return a lot of their production from a 14-7 team a year ago. Coach Nick David's team is led by a pair of double-digit returning scorers in junior guard Baylee Rinehart and junior center Hayley Martin.
“Nick has done a good job rebuilding that program,” Thornton said about DeKalb.
Former Elmhurst and Wayne head coach Mark Redding takes over at Carroll and while the Chargers may need some time to adjust, Redding's proven track record points to Carroll being a dangerous team as the season goes on.
Columbia City does not have a “marquee” scorer, but has enough pieces that the Eagles could be dangerous at times as well this season.
“There are about five solid teams in the NHC, and the other teams are trying to prove everybody else wrong,” Thornton said. “Traditionally, it has been Homestead and us at the top, but running the table this year is going to be real difficult.”