By Ryan Holmes
10:40PM / Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Berkshire County teams are back on the courts for the 2012-13 season. Here's a look at who to watch and what the coaches are planning this year in some three-pointer briefs.
Coach: John Franzoni
2011-12 record: 14-5, lost in the quarterfinals of the Division 2 Western Mass. tournament
Morgan Lamarre, left, and Danielle Racette return for their third year playing for the Blue Devils.
Point one: Like many other teams in Berkshire County this season, the Blue Devils bring back a veteran squad with a ton of experience. Drury returns four out of its five starters, including three-year veterans Danielle Racette and Morgan Lamarre and senior forwards Ali Tatro and Shannon Garvey, who have both seen significant time on varsity the past two seasons.
"All four of them are very much veteran players," Franzoni said. "We only lost one starter but every year is different. We still have to build up that chemistry again. The nice thing about our players is they’ve all played together over the summer. They've really put in a lot of effort to get ready for the season, so it will be exciting to see how the kids come together."
Point two: Franzoni also has high hopes for the rest of his team, which he feels goes 10 strong this season.
"The key thing now is developing our bench. I really think we have a 10-person roster of players who all can play. The key is to find a way to have them all work together."
Junior Emily Moulton will join the starting lineup, giving the Blue Devils a little more size and strength on the boards. Classmates Megan Benoit and Mackenzie Bona also return to the varsity squad this year. Benoit is a good shooter who hit key baskets for Drury a year ago, while Bona can handle the ball and get out in transition. Fellow juniors Kasha Wissman and Amber Iacuessa join the varsity squad after an undefeated season on the JV program last year, while freshman forward Olivia Carlson is already making her mark in her first season with the team.
Point three: One of the key issues for the Blue Devils this year will be scoring points on the offensive end. Drury's offense had some lapses last season, which eventually cost Franzoni's squad when it only scored 25 points in a playoff loss to Athol.
"We really need to generate offense off of our defense," Franzoni said. "We need to be consistent with our ability to attack zone defenses and teams that match up well against us. We need to be a little more consistent with our shooting. A lot of the girls have improved their shots over the summer, and we'll need them to show that especially when playing against a zone."
Coach: Paul Barrett
2011-12 record: 9-11
Mount Greylock's young team includes Lucy Barrett, one of this year's captains.
Point one: While most of county teams have a majority of players coming back, the Mounties are a squad that is starting mostly from scratch. Barrett returns only three players who got varsity minutes last season, meaning this year could be learning experience for Greylock.
"Given that we have a young team, my hope is that we go out there and compete and get better and better every day. It's always a goal to get back to the Western Mass. tournament, but it could be a long climb for us this year. I do like the makeup of our team, however, and I think we have the spunk to give a few teams some trouble this year."
Point two: The good news for Barrett is that one of his returning players is one of the better guards in the league. Lucy Barrett, Paul's youngest daughter, returns after a breakout freshman season. Barrett averaged 15.85 points per game a year ago and should be counted on to be a force on both ends of the court.
"She's a captain this year and will be counted on to help some of the younger players adapt to the system," coach Barrett said.
Point three: While his team is inexperienced and lacks size, Barrett said some of the strengths of his squad are its quickness and versatility. He's excited about bringing on senior Margot Besnard, who is joining the team for the first time after starring in goal for the Mounties' soccer team this fall. She play any of three frontcourt positions, while juniors Mackenzie Flynn and Heather Tomkowicz can also play multiple positions on the floor.
Coach: June Blake
2001-12 record: 9-11
Wahconah has 10 returning players and hopes to overcome last season's disappointments.
Point one: Last season was a bit of an aberration for the Warriors, who won the Division 2 Western Mass. title just two years ago. A couple of key losses kept June Blake's squad out of the playoffs, but she has 10 returning players who are hungry to get Wahconah back into the Western Mass. fold.
Point two: Two of those 10 players give the Warriors a solid base from which to work off. Senior guard Gabby Lavinio is one of the best athletes in Berkshire County, while classmate Shannon Lussier provides Wahconah with a solid 1-2 punch.
"Both had solid junior years for us last year," Blake said. "Gabby is a great leader on the floor, while Shannon is a good presence down low."
Point three: Blake also has high hopes for a large sophomore class, which includes Maddie Sprague, Kaite Dumas, Emily Jordan, Katherine Lewis, Jamie Downer and Casey Cavanaugh.
"Sarah Wilson is the only freshman on the team this year, but I see her contributing a great deal," Blake said.
Coach: Matt Mickle
2011-12 record: 4-16
Matt Mickle's goal is to coach the Braves to Western Mass. this year.
Point one: The Braves struggled in Matt Mickle's first year on the job, but they weren't too far away from a much more competitive record. Taconic earned big wins over Belchertown, Wahconah and Monument Mountain and played other strong teams, like Drury and Hoosac Valley, right down to the wire. Mickle said it's a goal to make it to the Western Mass. tournament but also noted that he's first hoping to see some improvement from last season.
Point two: While he said putting the ball into the basket is a struggle for his young team, Mickle acknowledged that his team's biggest strength can be found on the defensive end.
Taconic is strong in the interior this year, with 5-foot-10 forward Nyanna Slaughter returning after a solid sophomore season a year ago. Mickle also has high hopes for sophomore Brianna Rogers, a 6-foot forward who is one of two new players in the starting lineup. Junior forward Makenzi Astore also breaks into the starting lineup this season to fill out the Braves' frontcourt.
Point three: Taconic's roster is filled up mostly with juniors and sophomores, giving Mickle hope for the next few years to come. His starting backcourt of juniors Angela O'Neil and Kirsten McNeice both have experience from last year, although O'Neil will likely miss the first game with an injured quad. Sophomore Shea Hassett will fill in for O'Neil the first week and will be a big player in the Braves’ rotation the entire year.
Coach: Ron Wojcik
2001-12 record: 14-8, lost in the quarterfinals of the Division 2 Western Mass. tournament.
Now sophomore Emily Rosse lead the Hoosac last year in points.
Point one: The Hurricanes have gotten exponentially better in the first two years playing for Wojcik. With nine players returning from a team that came up just three points short of a trip to the Western Mass. semifinals, Hoosac could be on the brink of one of its best season in years.
"We need to continue to build and improve from last year," Wojcik said. "Being so young last year, we still made a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively. If we can clean those turnovers up on offense, shoot the basketball better and lock down even more defensively, we will be OK."
Point two: One of those young players certainly had a year to remember in her freshman season. Forward Emily Rosse introduced herself to the rest of Berkshire County, leading the ’Canes with a team-high 340 points (15.45 ppg) and 271 rebounds (12.32 rpg). Her development and impact on the game will go a long way in determining how well Hoosac does this year.
"Emily is a huge part of our team," Wojcik said. "For Emily to build off of last year, she will need to be aggressive on the boards and continue to develop her offensive skills. Since she will not be a surprise to teams this year, her points may be more difficult to come by. So her being more aggressive will be a big part of her success."
Point three: Believe it or not, Rosse came off the bench for most of the season last year. She's definitely a starter this season, though, joining four other Hurricanes who return to the starting five. Versatile senior Tori Rumbolt is back to help lead the offense from her point forward position, while junior Megan Rodowicz also returns after finishing third on the team in points, rebounds and assists a season ago. Sophomore McKenzie Robinson (3.19 apg) is also back to run the point, along with shooting guard Jenn Gale, who led the team with 26 3-pointers last winter.
"We feel all 12 members can contribute on this year's team," Wojcik said. "We will be playing a very aggressive up-tempo style, and the players and coaches have set high goals for the team this year."
Coach: Mike Dowling
2011-12 record: 8-12
Mary Nguyen will be back this season to lead the Hornets with fellow senior Evelyn Colon.
Point one: The Hornets are hoping a couple of familiar faces lead them to the same successful results this season. Longtime McCann girls' soccer coach Mike Dowling takes over the program from Kristen Lewis and will try to put his stamp on the basketball team. He just teamed up with senior guard Mary Nguyen to lead the Hornets to a 16-3-1 record on the pitch, so why can't the two have the same success on the hardwood this year?
Point two: Nguyen will be counted on heavily this year, both with handling the ball and putting the basket in the net. She did a little bit of everything as a junior last year, scoring nearly nine points a game, grabbing just under eight rebounds per contest and dishing out over two assists per game. The Hornets lost four seniors from a year ago, leaving juniors Alex Wood and Eileen Zajac and senior Evelyn Colon as McCann's most experienced returning players.
Point three: Like always, McCann isn't afraid to play a tough basketball schedule. In addition to playing in a challenging Bi-County League West that features teams like Belchertown, Southwick and Hampshire, the Hornets also have six games against Berkshire County teams on its schedule this season. Last year, McCann went 3-3 against county competition.
Coach: Joe Racicot
Pittsfield has a wealth of depth coming back this season.
Point one: Pittsfield is another one of those teams that has a wealth of depth coming back this season. Leading scorer Jill Ritosky graduated, but the Generals still have a great 1-2 punch in senior captains Courtney McLaughlin and Rachael Hunt. McLaughlin is more of a slasher from the wing, while Hunt does her work down low in the post. Sophomore Lauren Carnevale, who can play both the forward and center positions, is also one to watch after receiving quality minutes as a freshman last year.
Point two: Pittsfield was the cream of the crop of Berkshire County last season, finishing just slightly behind North Division winner Lee. In an effort to challenge them even more for the Western Mass. tournament, the Generals have scheduled four games against Division 1 opponents, including tough tests against Amherst, Longmeadow and Northampton to start the season.
Point three: Thoughts from coach Racicot.
"We have quickness, experience and depth on our team this year," he said. "We had good showings at our Vermont and Wahconah scrimmages. Time and pressure situations will tell the tale of this coming season."