Aliso Niguel: 14-11, 3-7 in 1996-97. Coach: Deni Christensen (fifth year, 39-56). The Wolverines graduated seven seniors and lost all-county center Brooke Hyman, who moved to New Jersey. Hyman led the team in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (12.2). Senior Kristin Moorhouse (6-0) will take over for Hyman. Moorhouse averaged eight points and six rebounds last season, but spent her practices facing Hyman, so she should be ready for the job. Also returning is junior Tara Mutukisna, who started half of the season last year and will start at guard this season. Senior Sarah Glass, a 5-8 guard/forward, returns. She led the team in assists (2.5).
Costa Mesa: 17-11, 7-3 in 1996-97. Coach: Shontel Sherwood (second year, 20-14). The Mustangs look to knock off defending champion Laguna Hills this season. They finished second in league last season and return three starters from that team. Sherwood will have to find a replacement for graduated Koo Kim, who led the team in scoring (14.6) and assists (five). The Mustangs' strength is defense. With their quickness and speed, they will concentrate on their transition game. Senior guard Kelly Chapin averaged seven points and four rebounds and senior forward Julie Collett (5-10) is the tallest starter.
Estancia: 16-11, 7-3 in 1996-97. Coach: Paul Kirby (second year, 16-11). Estancia returns only one starter off last season's second-place team, senior forward Amy Deming (5-11). Four bench players return, but the Eagles will struggle early from lack of experience. Senior Elsie Hernandez (5-5) returns at guard, along with Eva Varma, a 5-4 junior. Junior Mayra Macias (5-7) will round out a three-guard offense and junior Francia Diaz (5-9) is back at forward.
Laguna Beach: 8-16, 2-8 in 1996-97. Coach: Mike Settipane (first year). Settipane takes over a team that finished fifth last season, returns no starters and has only three returning players. Twin guards April and Chrissy Chambers, the team's two leading scorers, have graduated and now twin seniors Robin and Rachel Globus (5-6) will take over. Senior Erin Escancy (5-8) returns at forward. The Artists are a young team, and things don't look to be any better this year than last.
Laguna Hills: 31-3, 10-0 in 1996-97. Coach: Lynn Taylor (seventh year, 89-42). The Hawks lost four starters off last year's Division II state championship team, Tayyiba Haneef, Tamara Inoue, Whitney Houser and Mary Tims, but Taylor had some strong players waiting in the wings. Erin Larsen (5-9) returns, but will move from forward to starting point guard. Taylor looks forward to the addition of Anne Bubriski, a transfer from Santa Barbara. The 5-11 sophomore will start and gives the Hawks a solid inside player. Sophomore Shannon Owens (5-6) up from the junior varsity, will start at guard and Taylor thinks she could become the team's leading scorer. Although most teams are giving the Hawks' respect by picking them to win league, a third- or fourth-place finish might be more realistic.
University: 9-17, 1-9 in 1996-97. Coach: Bob Bernal (fifth year, 72-57). The Trojans have the most experience returning in the league and should be in the hunt for the title, but they will miss their two leading scorers, Monique Mathews (14.4 points), who left for Capistrano Valley, and Jerri Armendariz (20.3 points), who transferred to Brea Olinda. Bernal has high hopes for Christelle Wuillemin, a 5-10 senior point guard who sat out last season after transferring from Switzerland. Sophomore Shiang-Eu Bai (6-0, six rebounds) returns at forward and 5-7 junior Fala Suiaunoa is back at guard.