There are several reasons that the Brookfield Central girls surprised the experts and won their fourth straight Greater Metro Conference Championship. And at the top of the list was the all-around play of senior Valarierose Agnello.
As the season has progressed, Agnello, a 5-foot-10 senior forward, did not let her teammates cash in and together the Lancers have proven to themselves and the rest of the conference as they won their fourth-straight title.
"She helps us stay calm and tells us what to do, almost coaching us in a way," said Lancers senior forward and leading scorer, Anna Liewen. "That helps us get through the tough times on the court."
Only Agnello had seen significant time over the last two years, being a crucial piece in conference championship teams her sophomore and junior seasons.
There were other players that were leaders on those teams, so there may have been a slight question to start the season whether Agnello could take on the role from coach Dan Wandrey.
Once practices started in November, it was mainly an unspoken move for Agnello to show the team the way to their 16-6 overall record and 13-1 record in the GMC.
"It was lightly said, but more so unsaid that it was my year to step up and be a leader," said Agnello, who plans on attending Kishwaukee College, a community college in Malta, Ill. "I just tried to be as vocal and as positive as I can. I let them know I am there for them and pushed them hard in practice."
Added Wandrey: "She knows what I expect. She's been around and has done a really good job of relaying that and keeping everyone together."
That belief came to fruition in just the third game of the season when the Lancers knocked off Divine Savior Holy Angels, 33-32.
"Privately, this group of girls wanted to show everybody, it wasn't just (the girls from the past) that made us win," Wandrey said. "We never talked about expectations. We talked more about taking care of what we needed to do as far as rebounding, defending and taking care of the ball. Those winning things then take care of themselves."
Follow that up with a win over Milwaukee Vincent over the holiday break and the Lancers had themselves a couple marquee wins in their pockets and plenty to believe in.
Agnello is vocal, but also shows her teammates the way with her play. She is second on the team in scoring with 10.7 points per game and is second on the team with over two assists per game. She is also the team leader with over nine rebounds per game, over two steals per game and just under two blocks per game. She always seems to be around the ball, unofficially leading the team in deflections, as well.
Liewen is scoring 12.8 points per game and pulling down eight rebounds per game. After not seeing much time in her junior season, she worked hard to make a difference this season and it has shown.
"Around the basket, there are not a lot of girls that can handle what (Anna's) bringing" Wandrey said. "She's athletic. She's strong. She can be composed at times. Being left-handed is an advantage for her. She can just be relentless at times and has had some big double-double games."
She works well in tandem with Agnello in the post, giving the Lancers a solid two-pronged attack.
"We always look for each other," Liewen said. "If she's in the post, she'll look for me driving. If I'm in the post, I'll look for her. That helps everyone."
Added Agnello: "We are usually a pretty good tandem. If one of us misses, the other one is usually right there to clean it up."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Football: Preps football photos of the week: Level 1
- Mystery Photo Contest: Oct. 23
- Library Recommendations: Oct. 23
- Raymonds' five goals spark Brookfield East to regional soccer title
- Brookfield Academy Roundup: Oct. 23
- Brookfield Central Lancers whip Hale, make football playoffs
- Central girls dominate GMC Cross Country Meet
- Football: Preps football photos of the week: Week 9