New teams in the hunt for championships
With the departure of Lauren Batista from Oliver Ames, Alexis Peters from Fontbonne and Hannah Brickley from Melrose, last years’ top three teams from Eastern Mass. are all doing some rebuilding.
Reading, Scituate, Foxboro and Bishop Feehan are all in the running for bragging rights this season.
In the Middlesex League, Reading returns three starters from last year’s 18-4 team. Kim Penny’s squad is anchored by senior captain Carlene Kluge, who’s already committed to Bentley next season. Olivia Healy had a standout season last year and the sophomore forward expects better this season.
Fellow sophomore Morgan O’Brien is deadly from behind the arc and junior six-foot forward Melissa Dal Pozzo is returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept her out all of last season.
“I’ve never had a team like this with this size” said Penny. “We’re making some adjustments to take advantage of our strengths. It’s going to be a different kind of look from Reading this season.”
Out of the Patriot League, Scituate is already proving it belongs in the Division 2 elite, as the Sailors opened the season with a 46-42 win over Oliver Ames, snapping the Tigers' 25-game winning streak.
Sophomore Kelly Martin is returning after leading the Sailors in scoring (14.1), steals and assists (5) last season. Junior Megan Otto can play all over the court and is looking to improve on her 13 point, 5 rebound a game average from last season.
The Sailors only graduated two seniors, and that has coach Brian Buckley feeling good. “We now know was can play with anyone” Buckley said after their victory over the Tigers on Dec. 15.
Foxboro is the early favorite in the Hockomock League despite losing 1,000-point scorer Kristen Hoffman to Saint Anselm. Senior center Leigha Pacey gives them an edge over any team down low. The 6-foot-1-inch southpaw has a full ride to Bryant waiting for her.
Twins Kassidy and D.J. Quadrozzi are both threats from deep and sophomores Ashley Snyder and Ally Perry each saw significant time last season.
Bishop Feehan is on everyone’s list of teams to watch this season. It lost point guard and second-leading scorer Morgan Lindberg, but EAC All-Star Lexi Sells is back after leading the team in scoring last season as a sophomore.
If history is any indicator, Oliver Ames will be just fine. OA lost its season opener last season and went on to win 25 straight. The Division 2 state champ lost 4 starters from last year’s team that finished with an average margin of victory close to 20 points per game.
Most notable of the losses is last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Lauren Batista, who is the school's all time leading scorer (1,667).
Coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook has some work to do this season, but she has experience in big games. Senior guard Nicole Bostic is the lone returning starter, but projects to have a big season if Asia Mitchell and Caitlyn Abela can step up and force teams to be honest on defense.
“This is their turn now”, said Clement-Holbrook. “They all have something to really prove this season.’’
Fontbonne finished 22-1 and made it all the way to the South final before falling to Oliver Ames. However, four starters graduated, including captain and All-Scholastic Alexis Peters. Peters plays for C.W. Post.
The Ducks also lost Katie King to Curry, Ari Renwick to Roger Williams and Amy Connolly to Framingham State. They will rely heavily on seniors Nicle Derba and Ali Rezendes this season.
“We’re young and we graduated four starters from last year’s team, including three guards, but Derba shoots the three well, rebounds well, does everything well, really” said coach Clare Murphy. “We will be looking for [Derba] and Rezendes to take up the leadership roles.”
Sophomore center Jen Gemma was first off the bench last season for the Ducks and if her freshman season was any indication, she’ll be a threat every night for Murphy. Gemma suffered a concussion earlier this week and is questionable for the start of the season.
Melrose, which made it to the EMass final before losing to the Tigers, has also lost four starters from their 17-3 team last season, none greater than Hannah Brickley and Colleen Hanscom. Hanscom quarterbacked the Red Raider offense, while Brickley owned the paint; each averaged over 14 points a game.
Coach Rob Ferant will look to junior captain Lia Limone to provide leadership and help the Raiders rebuild. Their future looks bright with sophomore stand-out point-guard Amanda Commito returning to action after tearing her ACL last season.