While no coach will commit to the Apollo Conference favorite, the consensus features two teams.
And on those two teams features potentially the best player in the Apollo Conference.
With defending Apollo champion Charleston’s 14-0 team depleted from graduation and transfers, the majority of Apollo Conference coaches believe that both Mattoon and Lincoln are the heavy favorites. On those teams, senior Maloary Ramage (Mattoon) and sophomore Kloe Froebe are the frontrunners to be named Apollo’s best overall player.
“I think this year will be the most up in the air compared to previous years,” said Taylorville coach Hayden Eldred. “Lincoln and Mattoon both have a major dominant player on their teams, so they can never be counted out. I think Mahomet returns several of their key players, along with possibly picking up a transfer, so they will be tough.”
Ramage recently signed her letter of intent to play for NCAA Division I’s Loyola-Chicago University.
“Mallory Ramage has been All-Apollo and has led us in scoring the last three years,” said Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt. “She is a tremendously well-rounded and very talented player.”
Mattoon lost four seniors in All-Apollo forward Delainey Bryant, who was the team’s second-leading scorer. The team also lost starting guard Kylie Haacke, as well as Callan Haldorsen, and Xylia Greeson. The team returns Ramage, as well as four more seniors in soccer standout Faith Niebrugge, Chloe Pruitt, Paige Farmer, and Anna Jurka. The team will also look at junior Lilly Ghere to play significant minutes as well.
“They are outstanding leaders, hard workers, and they play well together,” said Aydt. “It was a tough conference last year and a lot of teams are returning players. The Apollo is going to be tough because there are a lot of good teams. There will be a lot of competitive and exciting games. Our goal is to get better every day.”
Lincoln head coach Taylor Rohrer believes that Mattoon is a favorite, while Mahomet-Seymour will be good too. Lincoln lost their top rebounder in Emily Paulus but brought back All-Apollo First Team and IBCA All-State honoree Kloe Froebe.
Froebe was the only freshman named on the All-State team in Class 3A and already holds scholarship offers from Illinois and Harvard. Froebe broke the program freshman scoring record by averaging 26.3 points per game.
Lincoln also brings back the Apollo Conference cross country champion in sophomore Becca Heitzig, as well as key contributors in Ryen Stolzenburg, Reese McCuan, Immy Werner, and Jazmyn Robbins.
“Mattoon and Mahomet -Seymour will both be good,” said Rohrer. “I think all teams will be competitive and it could go to anyone.”
Mahomet-Seymour coach Garrett Risley believes that this year’s conference title is completely up in the air. The Bulldogs lost three players in Emma Clements, Ashlyn Webb, and Caitlin Thomason, but returned two juniors that could land a spot on the All-Apollo First Team this year.
That starts with 5-foot-11 junior Savannah Orgeron, who was a Second-Team All-Apollo selection, as well as First Team All-Champaign News-Gazette. Orgeron averaged 14.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. The Bulldogs also bring back starting guard Durbin Thomas, who was a Special Mention All-Champaign News-Gazette selection after averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.9 steals, and shooting 71% from the free-throw line.
“If last year was any indication of how the Apollo will turn out this year, with a lot of split wins in conference matchups, the team that wins the Apollo this year will be the one that “shows up” most consistently throughout the entirety of conference play,” said Risley. “There isn’t a matchup within the conference that you can chalk up as a win in the preseason. The talent is spread well throughout the conference and the coaches always have their teams well prepared.”
Outside of Charleston, Mattoon, Mahomet-Seymour, and Lincoln were the top teams. Charleston will be featuring a new team this year. All-Stater and all-time leading scorer Shae Littleford is now playing at UT-Martin, Kat Blase is an All-Region volleyball player at Parkland, while All-Apollo Second Team junior Alycia Triplett moved to Indiana.
“We are looking at a completely new team this year,” said first-year head coach Jeremy Hudson. “We are not returning any players who received major playing time last season. We are looking to build around a fairly young core. At this point, I would say that we will likely be led by a junior, Delaney Meister, and a sophomore, Ally Logsdon.”
Hudson replaced longtime head coach and all-time wins leader Jeff Miller after last season. With that said, Hudson was the junior varsity coach and saw plenty of action around the Apollo and he replicates similar responses to what the rest of the coaches are saying about the league.
“This year, I see the conference being very competitive,” said Hudson. “All teams have some girls who can play. As far as favorites, it is hard to look past Mattoon and Lincoln. Ramage and Froebe are two of the best players in the conference and will be tough to handle this year.
I think that we will be right in the mix this year. We have some girls who have stepped up this year and are ready to compete.”
Mount Zion brings back sophomore forward Denver Anderson, who was an IBCA 3A Honorable-Mention on the state list. She was a First-Team All-Apollo selection after averaging 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. Effingham brings back guard Annie Frost, who was a Second-Team All-Apollo selection. Neither coach returned a comment.
Taylorville was right above Mount Zion at the bottom of the standings but brought back sophomore guard Aubrey Keitzman, who averaged 8.4 points and 1.1 steals. Taylorville lost three seniors, including their lone All-Apollo selection in Haylee Sagle, who was the team’s leading scorer.
“Aubrey Keitzman was our second-leading scorer last year, and will continue to have a big role,” said Eldred. “Freshman Addison Tarr will be a player to watch this year, along with freshman Mazie Fleming. We will be a very young team, but these are very talented girls, and have potential to be a top conference team this season.”
Predicted Apollo Conference Standings
- Mt. Zion