Stessman’s Brace Helps Sharon Double Up On Attleboro

Sharon boys soccer
Attleboro’s Devin Andre avoids a challenge from Sharon’s Andrew Reyes-Jones in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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SHARON, Mass. – Sharon head coach Bryan Kelly didn’t hide his excitement in the preseason for the group he had this season, including a handful of younger players.

But because of an injury, sophomore
Isaiah Stessman was stuck on the bench for the team’s first three games, and the Eagles were limited to just three goals so far.

Stessman made a splash in his season debut, scoring a goal in each half, including the game-winner in the final 10 minutes as Sharon recorded a 4-2 win over visiting Attleboro.

“His presence in the middle is huge,” Kelly said. “He’s young but he’s smart. With him and [Michael] Baur in the middle, we’re dynamic.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It took the Eagles less than 10 minutes to take the lead over the Bombardiers. Using one of their most reliable options, senior
Tyler Hippler launched a long throw-in inside the attacking third that went over Attleboro’s keeper, deflected off sophomore
Michael Baur, off the post and in for a 1-0 lead.

Attleboro registered its first chance of the game in the 18th minute when
Devin Andre tracked down a long punt from keeper
Nick Hasenfus, touched it wide for sophomore
Michael Russo but his bid went just over the bar.

Big Blue’s momentum didn’t last long though. Just three minutes later, the Eagles doubled their lead. Sharon senior
Marques Benton found some space at the top of the area, turned and ripped a shot that forced a diving save by Hasenfus. But Stessman pounced on the loose ball and buried it to make it 2-0.

“That’s the offense we’ve been expecting,” Kelly said. “During the OA game, we were kind of stagnant in our midfield and weren’t moving the ball well. So yesterday during practice we focused on moving the ball and keeping our formation and it showed today. We kept the ball on the ground, we were stringing together some passes together.”

The Eagles nearly added another tally in the 31st minute when
Andrew Reyes-Jones laid a pass off for sophomore
Brian Higgins but his bid on net was saved.

Attleboro had a last minute chance in the first half when
Connor Dunn struck a half volley inside the area, but Sharon junior goalie
Ethan Kantor made an acrobatic save to preserve the two goal lead at the break.

Sharon came close to adding a third just over five minutes into the second half but Hasenfus had a big answer. Sophomore
Viktor Schneider’s low cross found the feet of Baur inside the area, but a tackle from
Nathan LaPlume forced it free. Hippler jumped on the loose ball and placed his shot in the upper corner but Hasenfus timed his jump perfectly and knocked it away.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The save proved big for Attleboro as the Bombardiers cut the deficit in half just four minutes later. Russo launched a big clearance off a Sharon corner and junior
Will Halben was able to flick the ball behind the defense. Halben then tracked down the loose ball, taking advantage of a miscommunication between a Sharon defender and Sharon goalie, touched it wide and finished into the open net to make it 2-1.

The Bombardiers nearly pulled level three minutes later when
Aidan Lanc put a half volley on goal, but Kantor was positioned well.

Two minutes after Andre had his floating header stopped by Kantor, the Eagles found the game winner. After a first corner we cleared away, Baur whipped a cross into the near post and Stessman – who was on the bench for the majority of the second half as he eases into game form – made the run and connected with a header to make it 3-1.

“We have a bunch of young players so when we can score off a set piece, it’s a bonus,” Kelly said. “Our second goal and our last goal to ice it, those are the goals we want to see. But set pieces are big too, a lot of teams score on set pieces in this league. If you’re not scoring on them, you could be down. You take away the set piece goals and it’s a 2-2 tie.”

With Attleboro pushing almost all of its players forward, Sharon’s
Antonio El-Khoury took advantage and tucked his shot into the far corner in the 80th minute.

On the final play of the game, Attleboro sophomore
David Medeiros hammered home a corner from junior
Eli Araujo to make it 4-2.

Sharon boys soccer (2-1-1 overall, 2-1 Hockomock) is back in action on Friday when it opens its Davenport schedule with a visit from Foxboro. Attleboro (0-2-1) is on the road for the second straight game, visiting King Philip on Friday.

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Second Half Adjustments Spark Bombardiers’ Comeback

Attleboro girls soccer
Attleboro’s Abigail Guardado and Stoughton’s Sarah Widrow battle for possession in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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STOUGHTON, Mass. – Attleboro used a slight adjustment in its formation and renewed energy in the second half to earn a 2-1 comeback win on the road at Stoughton.

The Knights came out with high energy, which resulted in a majority of the possession and play in their attacking third. It also resulted in a lead for Stoughton just over the midway point.

But Attleboro head coach Steve Santos tinkered with his five-member midfield at the break, pushing certain pieces forward to close down the space Stoughton was working with.

That change, along with a renewed energy and a pair of fortunate bounces helped the Bombardiers earn two points.

“Stoughton played really well in the first half, they wanted it and they came out with a lot more energy than we did,” Santos said. “They got the reward for working hard and we kind of put our heads down. We had a talk at half and the energy came in the second half, we had a little bit more intensity. The girls just worked for it, and we got the bounce in the end.

“We’re working on our confidence and being in situations we’re not used to being in. We got the bounce today and we’ll move forward and try to build on it tomorrow.”

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Attleboro had a pair of chances inside the first 20 minutes of the game, with senior Alison Wall tracking down a through ball and firing a shot from atop the area, but Stoughton keeper Emma Harrington was there for the save.

Just five minutes later, sophomore Sophia Salviatiplayed a through ball for freshman Briley Harnois, but her bid at the far post just slid wide.

Stoughton continued its pressure and began to register chances. Junior Elizabeth Kashian put the first shot on frame with a low big from the top of the area, but Attleboro keeper Madison Brown scooped up the shot.

But two minutes later, the Black Knights were able to break through. Mackenzie Manning delivered a cross that was flicked on by Sarah Widrow behind the defense. Stoughton sophomore Chinazo Odunza raced in and was able to slide her shot in to make it 1-0 in the 27th minute.

Stoughton had a chance to add to its lead in the 37th minute when a corner kick dropped just a yard off the goal line, but a scrum ensued and Attleboro was able to clear it. Harrington took away a chance from Attleboro’s Isabella Salviati on the other end by charging off the line.

“We had five midfielders but I felt like they were dropping too deep, giving Stoughton some space and they were using it to get forward,” Santos said. “I had them move up and take away that space and that helped us in the second half.”

The shift paid dividends right away as the Bombardiers put the pressure on early on in the second half. After a ball was cleared, Attleboro put a long ball back into the box that accidentally hit a Stoughton’s players raised hand, giving the Bombardiers a penalty kick.

Harnois stepped up and placed her shot into the bottom left corner to bring the Bombardiers level.

“In the first game against Canton, she had a couple of opportunities to put the ball away and she missed a couple that I’m sure she wished she had back,” Santos said. “But she showed it today, she has a promising future. She works hard and she knows how to be in the right spot to get things done.”

Attleboro kept the pressure up throughout the second half. Julia Hayes had a shot from distance turned away by Harrington off a bounce. Five minutes later, Morgan LaPlume played a perfect ball through Stoughton’s back line for Ashley Lauzier, but Harrington came charging off her line and made a great sliding save.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Shortly after Harrington came out for the sliding save, the Knights went on the counter attack. A touch from Manning put her in along with Odunze, but Attleboro defender Jordyn Foote thwarted the attack.

In the final minutes, the Bombardiers got their reward for continual pressure. Harnois whipped in a cross in the 78th minute that took a deflection off a Stoughton defender and found the back of the net to make it 2-1.

“It was a well-fought game,” said Stoughton head coach Tara Daniels. “We just had two unlucky things happen in the second half and it cost us the game. The girls played tough, they played hard. I think this year is going to be a turning point for us looking at the two first results.”

Attleboro girls soccer (1-1 Hockomock, 1-1 overall) returns to action on Wednesday when it hosts Sharon. Stoughton (0-2, 0-2) travels to Mansfield on the same day to take on the Hornets.

Field Hockey: 2017 Hockomock League Preview

2017 Hockomock Field Hockey Preview
Foxboro will look to defend its 2016 Davenport division and Div. 2 South titles this fall. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Hockomock Field Hockey Preview

Attleboro

2016 Record: 4-13-1
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Lindsay Antunes

After registering just four wins a season ago, Big Blue is hoping for a big bounce back year in 2017. The toughest task will be finding replacements for the large amount of seniors that have graduated over the past two seasons. A big reason for hope to get back towards state tournament competition is four-year varsity player Grace Mayer. Mayer has been one of the top players in the Hock over the past couple of the seasons and led the Bombardiers with six goals and three assists for nine points. She will be joined on the forward line by junior Alexis Compton and junior transfer Takara Keele. Head coach Lindsay Antunes said her midfield has been strengthened “immensely” by sophomore Anna Beck, who was pulled up mid-season last year.

“There is an immense amount of unity on this team, and an outpouring of teamwork,” Antunes said. “Under the leadership of our current captains, many girls have assumed these roles [left by graduation] and are taking over the field. Some girls have been forced to transition into roles that are similar to ones they played in in the past, but not quite exact.”

Canton

2016 Record: 13-5-2
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Chrissy O’Connor

Canton is returning a strong core of players from a 13-win team a year ago and will be in the hunt for the Davenport title. Key returning players include senior forward Andrea McNeil and junior forward Maggie Malloy, who will be back to pace the Bulldogs’ offense, as well as senior midfielders Emily Campbell and Maggie Wade. With experience back in the mid, the Bulldogs expect to have a strong passing game and strong ball control. Senior Riley Brown will step in as the starting goalie and freshman Maria Femia could make an impact as a rookie.

“Coming into our second season we look to strengthen our passing game and game sense,” said Canton head coach Chrissy O’Connor. “We look forward to another competitive season in the Hockomock League!”

Foxboro

2016 Record: 19-3-1 (Davenport Division Champions)
2016 Finish: Reached D2 State Semifinal
Coach: Melissa Bordieri

Coming off its best season in program history, Foxboro is now focused on 2017 and trying to write its owm chapter in the history books. While the Warriors graduated over a half a dozen seniors, they return last year’s Hockomock League MVP in goalie Kelli McCarthy as well as 2016 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year Lily Daly. With experience on both ends of the field, Foxboro is set up nicely for 2017. Daly has led the Warriors in scoring in each of the past two seasons.

The middle of the field will look most familiar from last season with seniors Jackie Brion and Catherine Luciano, and juniors Meghan Curran and Sophia DiCenso all returning after playing valuable minutes last season. The biggest challenge for the Warriors could be replacing starting defenders Kelly Fisher and Angela VandenBoom, who both graduated.

Franklin

2016 Record: 12-4-4 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Lisa Cropper

The defending Kelley-Rex division champions are in a good spot with so many returning players from last year’s squad. Leading the way is HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Annie Walsh, who led the Hockomock League with 25 points a season ago. Cassi Ronan (16 points) and Erin Walsh (10 points) are also back as Franklin returns its top three scorers. Another positive is that Franklin has some experience back on the defensive end as well. Kate Morse is back to anchor the unit after an impressive junior season and will be joined by Meri Gendreau and Emily Valentino in front of goalie Christina Luccini. Head coach Lisa Cropper expects senior Maddie Hinckley and freshman Victoria Quinn to also play big roles for the Panthers.

“Our biggest asset this season is depth,” Cropper said. “We are hoping to wear down our opponents and utilize our speed late in games.”

King Philip

2016 Record: 14-3-4
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Liz Hathaway

After coming just a point shy of splitting the league title with Franklin a season ago, King Philip returns a strong core that will look to make another push for the Kelley-Rex crown. One big reason that the Warriors will be in the mix is because senior goalie Abby Campbell is back in the cage this season. And in front of Campbell, KP returns senior Christina Hathaway – two big reasons why the Warriors allowed only 13 goals all season in 2016. The offense will look very familiar with senior Liz Furfari (13 points) and junior Alli Meehan (25 points) back in the fold. Juniors Kate Lindmark and Caroline Klim will help bolster the defense while Nicole Connor and Dana Truini will be important players in the midfield.

“We have speed and can create a quick transition game with our passing game and formation,” said KP head coach Liz Hathaway. “We also have a couple of big hitters which should help us generate getting the ball inside the offensive 25 and to execute on corners.”

Mansfield

2016 Record: 13-5-2
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Theresa Nyhan

Mansfield is relying on seven returning seniors and a mix of young players as they look to get back to the state tournament yet again this season. The Hornets have senior leadership all over the field, which will be important in a very deep and talented league. Up top, Mansfield had Heather D’Amdra and Kristina O’Connell, while seniors Emily Ierardo and Ann Maher will lead the way from the midfield. On the defensive end, seniors Nicole Berluti, Julia Burhman and Brittany Lam will anchor the back line.

“As a unit we are looking to move the ball at pace,” said Mansfield head coach Theresa Nyhan. “We have speed at all levels and look to transition quickly.”

Milford

2016 Record: 3-15-2
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Kim Danish

Although the Hawks graduated 11 seniors from last year’s squad, they return some key pieces that head coach Kim Danish is hoping will help Milford take a step forward. The Hawks will lean on tri-captains Shannon Cormier (the team’s leading scorer last season), Danielle Fokas (who will start on the wing) and Emily Condon (a returning member of the Hawks’ defense) to pave the way this season. Kate Wimette, Colby Bowers and Megan Larouco will see time in the midfield while Julie Rabinowitz would see time all over the field, depending on need. Milford is looking to rely on speed on offense to try and get the offense going.

“We have a strong mix of seven returning seniors who are fantastic leaders and a great core group from last year’s JV team who will step up and make an immediate impact on the field,” Danish said. “Overall, the motivation and work ethic among this group has been top notch! We are looking forward to a great season.”

North Attleboro

2016 Record: 6-8-4
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Karen Folan

After missing out on the state tournament in back-to-back years, Big Red field hockey is hoping to make a run at the Davenport crown and get back to the MIAA playoffs. One tough task will be replacing 14 seniors, including all-league goalie Liz Morehouse, all-star Mary Kummer and all-league honorable mention Teresa Bagarella. But head coach Karen Folan is confident she has the pieces to compete in a deep Hockomock League this year. Senior captains Emilie Pothier, Olivia Gedgaudus and Camille Pizarro return to make up the majority of the midfield. Senior Katherine Munley is also back on the wing, giving Big Red some speed on the outside. Sophomore Emma Strachan takes over in net this season, with Folan describing her as “quick and aggressive.”

“The returning members of the varsity team have shown they are ready to fill in any gaps our line up may have after graduating 14 seniors,” Folan said. “And our new team members are eager to step onto the varsity playing field.”

Oliver Ames

2016 Record: 11-6-3
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Abby Tepper

Oliver Ames will be relying on a mix of experience and youth as they try to stay competitive in a deep Kelley-Rex division. It starts with senior captain Sarah Stevens in the midfield, who will be the “quarterback” of the midfield according to head coach Abby Tepper. Senior Cristina Boudreau and junior Kayla Lozzi will bolster that midfield while senior Liz Nuss will provide speed to the attacking group. OA’s defense will be anchored by senior captain Sarah Tetrault while senior Caitlin Grant will be the starting goalie. Freshman Brynna Courneen has impressed defensively early on.

“This year our offense will be quick and have speed,” Tepper said. “We have some young players filling the wing spots and we are working on being hungry inside the circle. We want to be a scrappy team and get the ball in the bucket no matter what it takes. Our defense does a solid job recovering for one another in the circle and stepping to ball without hesitation. As a team we want to build a positive culture and work hard day in and day out.”

Sharon

2016 Record: 1-17-0
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrea Vandette

Now in her third year at the helm of the Sharon Eagles, head coach Andrea Vandette is confident that her squad is ready to take the next step and find some more success. The Eagles are led by three captains: Elyse Korn, Abbi Solomon and Grace Leavitt. Leavitt started to come on strong at the end of the year last season and will be the anchor for the Eagles’ defensive unit this season. Senior Lindsay Moses will be be in the cage and has a good amount of varsity experience under her belt. In the midfield, Leora Leavitt will be in the center of the field and one of the Eagles’ most reliable players. Vandette is also expecting juniors Veronica Wallace and Stephanie Edwards to continue their growth after picking up the sport a season ago.

“My main goal for the girls this season is to compete,” Vendette said. “Being that this is my third year with the program, I believe they know my expectations and the seniors have a good understanding of how to move the ball on the field and how to be successful. We certainly have enough talent to put a few more wins on the board this season!”

Stoughton

2016 Record: 8-9-3
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Dan Mark

Despite graduating a handful of talented players, including 2015 Hockomock League MVP Angela Connolly, Stoughton head coach Dan Mark is bringing back several key players for the 2017 version of the Black Knights. The Black Knights’ offense will look the most similar to last season’s team that qualified for the state tournament. Julia Russell, Kamryn Oliveira and Jackie Evangelista are returning forwards who played regularly last year. Lisa Ramanauskas is a returning midfielder, and Haley Bushlow is back to anchor the back line. Gianna Barbosa will be the starting goalie again this season.

“We have several returning players who played many minutes last year and are expected to step in as starters this year,” Mark said.

Taunton

2016 Record: 2-15-1
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Elizabeth Hathaway

With a strong core of experienced players back, and a couple of young talents looking to make an impression, the Tigers are hoping to improve on last year’s season. Senior Kya Enos has been a steady presence for the Tigers for the past four seasons and will be relied upon to lead the attack long with senior Liana Duarte. Juniors Jillian Pagliuca and Lauren Torres will be tasked with controlling the midfield along with freshman Alana Tavares. Sophomore Kathryn Robinson will be a key piece of Taunton’s defensive unit this season

“Our strength will be the ability of the forwards and mids to move the ball up the field,” said Taunton head coach Liz Hathaway. “Speed is also a factor that will help our offensive attacks.”

Players to Watch

Players are listed alphabetically

Abby Campbell, King Philip – Campbell has been one of the top goalies in the league for the past two seasons and helped KP come within a point of sharing the league title with Franklin last season and reaching the Div. 1 South semifinal. She had 11 shutouts in 2016 and saved 130-of-143 shots that she faced, finishing with a goals against average of 0.619.

Emily Campbell, Canton – Campbell was a versatile weapon for the Bulldogs, helping out both in midfield and defense to help Canton win 13 games and achieve a plus-40 goal differential for the season. With Campbell playing a critical role, Canton allowed only 14 goals on the year, which was second best in the league. She also chipped in with three goals and seven assists.

Lily Daly, Foxboro – Daly has been the leading scorer for the Warriors in each of her two varsity seasons, helping Foxboro win its first league title in 11 years and its first ever Div. 2 South title. Daly is a force near the net and was chosen as the HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year after scoring 16 goals and recording 11 assists.

Emily Ierardo, Mansfield – Ierardo emerged last season as one of the top offensive weapons for the Hornets, helping Mansfield make another run at the league title and reach the second round of the state tournament. She played five different positions in the forward and midfield areas and she scored nine goals and recorded six assists last fall.

Maggie Malloy, Canton – Malloy made quite the impact in her first season playing field hockey. She jumped onto the Canton varsity squad early in the season and finished as the league’s top goal scorer with 16 tallies for the year. She was a big reason for Canton’s improvement offensively and this year, with a season of experience, Malloy could have even bigger numbers.

Kelli McCarthy, Foxboro – Voted Hockomock MVP by the league’s coaches, McCarthy was the backstop for a Warriors defense that was one of the best in the league and helped Foxboro claim a Davenport division title and its first ever Div. 2 South title. She finished with 115 saves on the season and recorded 15 shutouts in 23 games, allowing only 13 goals total.

Alli Meehan, King Philip – Meehan was integral to KP making a run at the league title last season, holding a lead into the final week of the regular season, and reaching the Div. 1 South semifinal. Meehan scored 14 goals and recorded 11 assists to tie for the league-high in points. She also assisted on the goal that forced overtime against Somerset-Berkeley in a state tournament win.

Cassi Ronan, Franklin – Ronan was a versatile cog in Franklin’s league championship season in 2016, playing both midfield and forward for the Panthers. She finished with 10 goals and seven assists, while being named to the HockomockSports.com First Team, but also did a lot of the defensive work that didn’t show up in the box score.

Sarah Stevens, Oliver Ames – Stevens had a strong season for Oliver Ames in 2016 and the senior will be counted on to create scoring opportunities for the Tigers again this fall. She scored six goals and recorded nine assists for OA last season, helping the Tigers get to 11 wins on the season, beat Durfee in the first round of the playoffs, and push perennial power Walpole to overtime.

Annie Walsh, Franklin – Walsh is the reigning HockomockSports.com Player of the Year (she was also Player of the Year in girls’ lacrosse) after leading the Panthers to a Kelley-Rex division title. A year after being named Underclassman of the Year, Walsh took her game to another level with 14 goals and 11 assists for a league-high 25 points.

Girls Soccer: 2017 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2017 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview
Mansfield and Oliver Ames shared the Kelley-Rex division title last season and both expect to be in the mix again this fall. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview

Attleboro

2016 Record: 2-15-1
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Steve Santos

Goal scoring has been the biggest issue for the Bombardiers in the past few seasons, including a league-low eight in 2016, but head coach Steve Santos is confident that this year’s squad has the speed and experience to take advantage of counter attacks and he expects Attleboro to create a lot more scoring chances this fall.

While goal scoring is a focus of the preseason work, it is at the back that Attleboro boasts the most experience with the entire back line returning. Senior Jordyn Forte is the leader at the back, using her “good soccer IQ,” according to Santos, to keep things calm and making the right plays. She is joined in the defense by fellow seniors Morgan Laplume and Graycen Cassidy. In goal, Madison Brown returns to give Attleboro a solid presence to control the penalty box.

Turning that defense into attack will be the responsibility of senior midfielder Julia Hayes, who will be a key player in the center of the pitch. Junior Ashley Lauzier and senior Kara Thornton will be hoping to take advantage of the opportunities that are created. Santos is also excited about the youth coming into the program with three freshman on the varsity roster to start, including Riley Harnois, who will help out in the attack.

“We have a little more speed this year,” said Santos, “and we’ve been generating a little more in the transition. This year I can rest [the starters], bring people off the bench and the pace doesn’t drop off. They’re great kids, they work hard, and they fight for the team every day.”

Franklin

2015 Record: 10-3-5
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Tom Geysen

After six straight league titles, Franklin had an atypical season in 2016. The Panthers only lost three times all season, but drew five times, struggling to find consistent goal scoring that would turn a tie into a win. Franklin only allowed nine goals, but only scored 36, which was 20 goals fewer than league champ Mansfield. This year, head coach Tom Geysen is working on a new formation to get the best out of his attacking options with the goal of returning to the top of the league standings.

The Panthers return leading scorer Miranda Smith and the senior takes advantage of her size to create scoring opportunities in the box. Junior Halle Atkinson is back for her third year on the varsity and gives Franklin speed on the wings and is an accurate crosser of the ball to give Smith plenty of chances. Molly Duncan and Ellie Teixeira are also back and will give the Panthers a consistent presence in the center of midfield, while Emily Mastaj is another option on the wing.

The key to Franklin’s defense this season will be senior goalie Cat Robbins. Stepping in between the posts last year, Robbins turned in an impressive year and quickly became one of the top goalies in the league. This year, there will be several new faces and younger players that will be counted on to step up on the defensive side of the ball, including senior Molly O’Reilly and juniors Grace Gallo and Madison Stewart.

Geysen noted that there are several underclassmen that could step in during the season to add to the Panthers’ depth. He added, “We need to find the right mix. If we can patch things together and they can gain experience over the course of the season I’m confident that we will get better.”

King Philip

2016 Record: 12-8-2
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Gary Pichel

It was a great turnaround for King Philip from 2015 to 2016. The Warriors were snakebitten by injuries the year before, losing almost an entire starting 11 many of them to long-term injuries, but last year a large and talented freshman class stepped in to supplement the players who were back healthy helping the program jump from just two wins to 12 last fall.

Expectations are even higher for the Warriors this year, as that freshman group gained a year of experience playing in the Hock. The sophomores are led by Avery Snead, last year’s Underclassman of the Year, who excelled up front or in the midfield and sealed the team’s playoff victory over Mansfield with an overtime headed winner. Chloe Layne showed off silky skills and finishing ability in the box and Olivia Berry stepped right into the heart of the defense and showed that she belonged.

It is not all about the underclassmen. Senior Emma Corcoran is back for another year at the heart of the defense and as the primary dead ball specialist, being named an Eastern Mass. All-Star in 2016. Senior Emma Durant has grown into the role of starting keeper and was a solid and steady presence between the posts last season. Senior Julian Massarone is a three-year varsity player and will be one of the primary playmakers in the center of the pitch.

“Overall, we made great strides in improving our game last year,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “We want to continue to become more advanced in all three phases of our game. Last year, we turned a corner. This year, we want to move full speed ahead and compete hard against all of our opponents in the Hock!”

Mansfield

2016 Record: 14-1-4 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Kevin Smith

Mansfield is coming off the program’s best ever season. The Hornets set records for wins, points, goals scored and claimed their first ever league title, finishing the regular season unbeaten. An overtime loss in the first round of the playoffs to league rival KP was a tough finish to 2016 and trying to replace the production of HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Hannah Reiter will be a challenge, but the Hornets return a ton of talent to make a run at another title.

Juniors Melissa Reef (an Eastern Mass. All-Star last season) and Bryn Anderson will be back in the midfield this fall, breaking up opponents’ attacks and pushing Mansfield into the attack. Their ability to cover a lot of ground in the center of the pitch and pick out the right pass to start the transition will be key. Classmate Stephanie Kemp will be back at the top of the attack, after scoring nine goals as a sophomore. Junior Emily Vigeant will lead an experienced defensive unit and also gives the Hornets a dangerous weapon from set pieces.

Mansfield coach Kevin Smith likes has a lot of players that he can call on this season. In the attack, Kemp will be joined by Sydney Mulkern, Allee Bezeau, Amanda Mangano, Cassidy MacMahon, and Emma Oldow. Defensively, the Hornets will turn to Mikaela Maughn, Kerina Geminiani, Erin Daniel and goalkeeper Lauren Whitman.

Smith said, “We will be hoping to spread out the offense amongst multiple attackers and relying on the experience of 13 juniors and three seniors who were on varsity last year to fill the roles of the five starters who graduated.”

Oliver Ames

2016 Record: 14-3-2 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Britt Sellmayer

Last fall, Oliver Ames made the switch from the Davenport to the Kelley-Rex division, but it had little effect on the success of the program. The Tigers shared the league title with Mansfield, the fourth title in a row for OA and seventh since 2007. That run of success may be tough to keep going this year, as the Tigers graduated 10 seniors and are battling injuries to start 2017.

Losing players like Francesca Calabraro (who was injured midway through last season) and Kiana Lozzi is tough enough, but the Tigers lost almost an entire starting 11. To make matters worse, the strong central defensive pairing of Emily Freeman (knee) and Zoe Chazan (academy) are both missing to start the season. Senior goalie Regan Benton is back and will give the Tigers one of the best goalies in the league and in Eastern Mass. to backstop the rebuilt defense.

Offensively, the Tigers have been known for pace and strength, particularly on set pieces, and this year will count on three senior to try and provide consistent scoring opportunities. The pacy group of Abby Reardon, Jackie Mills, Annabella Walsh will be the primary focus of the attack. There will be a lot of new faces on the pitch this season, trying to keep the legacy of OA success going for another fall.

“We have quite a few players who had limited minutes last year,” said OA coach Britt Sellmayer, “but they practiced against some good players every day. If we can stay healthy I feel confident.”

Taunton

2015 Record: 3-14-2
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Edith Dixon

It has been a roller coaster ride for the Tigers over the past few seasons under head coach Edith Dixon. In 2015, Taunton reached the postseason for the first time in program history and made it count by beating Wellesley on the road in the opening round and gave top seed Bishop Feehan a tough game in the second round. But, after losing a number of players to graduation, Taunton won only three games last season and are looking to bounce back behind a young roster in 2017.

The key for the Tigers is senior Samantha Tichelaar, who is coming off a league all-star and HockomockSports.com Best XI season, and gives Taunton speed, control, and leadership either as a forward or dropping deep into the midfield. Her versatility opens opportunities for her teammates. Classmate Kayla Felix will be the leader at the back for the Tigers, adding aggressiveness to the defense from her sweeper position.

Numbers are good for the program overall and Dixon expects that the younger players, including a strong crop of freshman and even eighth graders could make an impact on the varsity as the season goes along. She said that many of the younger players are “ahead of their age performance-wise.”

Dixon added, “Some of our younger players are going to step up and change how we play, but our upperclassman and seniors will remain the core of our team. I believe that their leadership and team-first mentality will push us to do well this year and set the program up for long-term success as the underclassmen mature.”

Football: 2017 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2017 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
Attleboro senior Cam Furtado (14) will be one of the key contributors for the Bombardiers this fall as they look to challenge for the Kelley-Rex title. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

2016 Record: 4-7
2016 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Cam Furtado, Sr., QB/CB; Elvin Sam, Sr., WR/CB; Justin Cote, Jr., RB/OLB; Matthew Corrado, Sr., OL/DL; Matthew Jimenez, Sr., OL/DL; Dan Perry, Sr., OL/DE; James Weir, Sr., LB/TE; Nate Barboza, Sr., LB/FB; Nick Evans, Jr., TE/DE; Kyle Walsh, Jr., OL/DL; Jacob Weatherford, Jr., LB/FB; Josh Therrien, Jr., FS/WR

Outlook:
The Bombardiers started the season 3-2, but closed with only one win in the final six games, including a pair of losses to league rival and eventual Super Bowl champion King Philip. Injuries piled up for Attleboro in 2016, but it gave a number of players the chance to gain valuable varsity experience and the Bombardiers have high hopes for improvement this fall.

Experience at the skill positions is one of the reasons for optimism at Attleboro. Senior Cam Furtado is slated to start the season at quarterback and has proven to be a dynamic playmaker. Classmate Elvin Sam emerged as a big play weapon last fall, whether in the backfield or split out wide, and tight end James Weir gives Attleboro an option in the middle of the field. Wideout Josh Therrien and running back Justin Cote could also play bigger roles with running back Marcus Blaise adding depth.

Attleboro also has a strong returning core on defense with Furtado, Sam, and Therrien in the secondary and Weir joining senior Nate Barboza and junior Jacob Weatherford at linebacker. Matt Corrado, Matt Jimenez, and Kyle Walsh will give the Bombardiers strength on both sides of the line and junior Nick Evans could be poised for a breakout year after moving from linebacker to defensive end. Sophomore Qualeem Charles is also a player to watch on the line.

“I am extremely excited about our senior group of players,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have some dynamic players in Cam Furtado and Elvin Sam and hopefully they can maximize their athletic talents. We have many returning starters from last season so we hope to build on that experience.”

Franklin

2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Jake Noviello, Sr., QB; Sean Leonard, Jr., WR/TE; Brian Kosicki, Sr., OT; Nolan McLaney, Jr., S; Jackson Gilbert, Sr., DE; Ryan Driscoll, Jr., CB; Riley Downing, Jr., OL/DL

Outlook:
The first season for the Panthers under new head coach Eian Bain was a struggle at times for a young roster that was adapting to new systems on both sides of the ball, but there is hope that the experience gained last fall will pay dividends in 2017. Franklin will have a number of returning players to count on this season.

Offensively, Franklin will have to find ways to make up for the production of graduated running back Jacob Wolowacki, who was a go-to weapon in the ground and passing games. Senior quarterback Jake Noviello will be counted on to lead the offensive unit after more than 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Junior wideout Sean Leonard started all 11 games last year and will be a tough matchup for defenses along with fellow receivers Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Evan Wendell and running back Sean Hofferty. Three-year starter Brian Kosicki will be the leader of the offensive line and tight end Patrick Morrison will be a weapon in the passing game.

On defense, the Panthers have depth in the secondary, including junior safety Nolan McLaney, who was second on the team in tackles last year. Junior Ryan Driscoll has speed on the corner and Bain called him the “focal point” of the defense. Nick Gordon will hold down the other corner spot. Senior defensive end Jackson Gilbert is coming back from injury that cut short his junior season and will add strength on the edge. Junior Riley Downing gives Franklin size and speed in the middle of the line.

“We are in year two of our process,” said Bain. “We are in a different place than we were a year ago…Fans should expect to see a better team in 2017. We have a roster full of experience and had great participation through the Franklin speed and conditioning program. In a league this good we have to bring our best every week.”

King Philip

2016 Record: 12-0
2016 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Brendan Lydon, Sr., QB; Evan Rice, Sr., RB/LB; Shane Frommer, Sr., RB/DB; Dylan Leonard, Sr., RB/LB; Cole Baker, Soph., K; Andrew Dittrich, Sr., WR/DB; David Morganelli, Jr. WR/DB; Anthony Vahue, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Webster, Jr., LB.

Outlook:
What will the Warriors do for an encore? King Philip won its third league title in the past five years, second outright Kelley-Rex title in the past three seasons, and completed an unbeaten season with a win over Reading in the Div. 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.

Despite losing a large and influential senior class, the Warriors are being picked by some to repeat at champs this fall. One reason for continued belief is the return of senior quarterback Brendan Lydon, who showed poise in the pocket and the ability to make accurate passes downfield in his first year under center in 2016. Yale-commit Shane Frommer is also back for his senior season and will be the feature back for the Warriors in a system that prides itself on pushing teams around on the ground. Beyond that, it will be up to a group of rookies to make an impact. KP will boast an entire new offensive line, anchored by senior Anthony Vahue, and all new receivers. Junior David Morganelli will be one of the options for Lydon.

The Warriors boast a bit more experience on the defensive side of the ball. Even though a good chunk of starters are gone, KP’s rotation last year allowed for players like Evan Rice (defensive end), Jack Webster (linebacker) and Dylan Leonard (safety) to see action. Frommer will be back opposite Webster while Vahue will also play on the defensive line. Andrew Dittrich returns as a starting corner back to anchor the secondary.

Although there are a lot of new faces on this year’s roster and a lot of leadership missing from last season’s championship squad, head coach Brian Lee has instilled a toughness that permeates the program and expectations are that KP will have a decent chance at lifting a trophy again this fall.

“We don’t get any points for last year, we don’t get spotted a touchdown because we went undefeated last year,” Lee said. “When it comes to high school football, it’s about taking those rookies and getting them ready for varsity speed, they have to be able to handle the bright lights on Friday nights. If we can get them up to speed, we should be okay.”

Mansfield

2016 Record: 8-3
2016 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding

Key/Returning Players: Will Shield, Sr., OL/DL; Colbey Eason, Jr., OL/DL; Jareme DiLorenzo, Sr., DE/TE; Hunter Ferreira, Sr., WR/OLB; Danny DeGirolamo, Sr., RB/DB; Joe Cox, Sr., RB/OLB; Khristian Conner, Jr., RB/DB; Chris Copponi, Jr., FB/LB; Aidan Sacco, Jr., RB/DB; Mike Shannon, Sr., TE/DE

Outlook:
The Hornets finished second in the Kelley-Rex division last year, with the only Hock loss coming by three points to league champ King Philip. Mansfield was stunned in a playoff thriller against Marshfield, but then bounced back to beat Div. 1 playoff teams Needham and Newton North and will enter 2017 with typically high expectations, as the Hornets look to win their first league title since 2013.

A strength for Mansfield this fall will be the experience it returns at the skill positions led by senior wideout Hunter Ferreira, who has emerged as one of the area’s top receivers. The backfield will once again be loaded for the Hornets, who will count on seniors Danny DeGirolamo and Joe Cox and juniors Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco. New quarterback Damani Scott will try to make use of that talent and the 6-foot-3 junior has a big arm to make plays downfield.

Cox and Ferreira will add strength and speed to the linebacking corps, while seniors Mike Shannon and Jareme DiLorenzo will provide a pass rush at the defensive end positions. Conner, Sacco, and DeGirolamo will all return in the secondary. If there are questions for the Hornets, it will be at the line of scrimmage; senior Will Shield and junior Colbey Eason have returned and will be the players to build around on the offensive and defensive lines.

“After one week, we are happy with work ethic and development of linemen,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, who is in his 30th season with the Hornets. “If we can get pieces of the puzzle sorted out up front on OL and DL, we’ll be a tough out. We have a very good collection of playmakers that can run and catch and we should score some points this year.”

Oliver Ames

2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland

Key/Returning Players: Jack Mills, Sr., OL/DL; Curtis Cann, Sr., QB; Jay Fruci, Sr., FB/LB; Michael Mulrean, Sr., DB/WR; John-Michael Cole, Sr., OL/DL; Noah Fitzgerald, Sr., WR/DB

Outlook:
The Tigers got off to a promising start to 2016, winning two of the opening three games including a dramatic one-point win over Franklin, but Oliver Ames struggled down the stretch against a difficult schedule. Now entering his third year, head coach Mike Holland is confident the program is heading in the right direction this fall.

According to Holland, the Tigers’ strength on the offensive side of the ball is the experience of playing in the system for several seasons and a greater understanding of the concepts. Senior Curtis Cann will lead the attack after taking over as the starting quarterback last season and he has several talented weapons on the outside in seniors Michael Mulrean and Noah Fitzgerald. Jay Fruci will be one of the returning players in the backfield, lining up behind a big offensive line.

Jack Mills will be a mainstay in the middle on both sides of the ball and is one of the top lineman in the league. He will be paired with fellow senior John-Michael Cole on the line, giving the Tigers depth in the trenches. Fitzgerald and Mulrean will also be important contributors in the secondary, while Fruci will bring athleticism to the linebacking corps. Holland wants his defensive scheme to take advantage of the team’s speed.

“Looking forward to the start of a new season. Our guys’ preparation and approach leading up to the season has been excellent,” Holland said. “We have guys with experience that need to play big, as well as some new guys that are in the mix to compete for spots.”

Taunton

2016 Record: 5-6
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Jr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Jr., WR/DB; Collin Hunter, Sr., WR/DB; Paul Corrao, Sr., T/DT; Cam Correiro, Jr., G/DT; Antonio Mendes, Sr., RB; Zakim Harrow, Sr., DT/NG; Nuno Camara, Sr., LB/FB

Outlook:
The Tigers narrowly missed out on a winning record in their first season under head coach Brad Sidwell and showed signs of improvement, including a narrow, three-point loss to Mansfield. In year two, Sidwell is hoping for even more and Taunton has potential on the roster to be a tough out in the league.

Losing wide receiver Adam McLaughlin to graduation will certainly impact the offensive attack, but junior quarterback Noah Leonard returns for his second season under center and will look to build on the experience he gained last fall. With a number of athletes at the skill positions, including senior Collin Hunter and junior Brayden Merrill at wideout and T.J. Mendes in the backfield, Taunton will use a number of formations and styles to cause matchup problems. Sidwell expects the passing game to be a major strength for the Tigers.

Defensively, Taunton will have a number of new faces, but has size and experience at the line of scrimmage. Seniors Paul Corrao and Zakim Harrow and junior Cam Correiro will all make a significant impact on the battle in the trenches. Senior Nuno Camara provides experience to the linebacking corps, while Merrill and Hunter will be important in the secondary.

“Moving into the second year, the players, coaches and fans are excited for the season but there is lots of work to be done,” Sidwell said. “Hopefully we can get off to a good start and provide some confidence to gain momentum into the difficult Hockomock League season.”

Attleboro Hires Crowley As Girls Basketball Coach

Marty Crowley
Marty Crowley spent four years as the King Philip girls basketball coach. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

Attleboro High School announced Marty Crowley as its new girls basketball coach on Tuesday morning. Crowley, who spent four years as the girls basketball coach at King Philip, takes over for Rick Patch who stepped down in May.

“We welcome Coach Martin Crowley to AHS,” said Attleboro Athletic Director Mark Houle in a press release. “Coach Crowley’s basketball experience and vision to cultivate a positive experience for our girls at all levels of our program is promising. I look forward to working with Coach Crowley to reach the girls basketball programs goals.”

Crowley takes over a program that posted an impressive 16-8 record last season and finished third in the Kelley-Rex division. The Bombardiers have reached the postseason five straight seasons. During his four years patrolling the bench at King Philip, Crowley helped the Warriors to 33 wins and a playoff appearance in 2014.

2017 Hockomock Softball Preview

2017 Hockomock Softball Preview
With a deep and experienced lineup and both pitchers returning, Milford will once again be the favorite to retain the Davenport division title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2016 Record: 2-18
2016 Finish: Missed Postseason
Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro struggled through a difficult 2016, the first season under new head coach Mark Homer, winning only two games while giving up a league high 177 runs and scoring a league-low 46. Heading into this spring, the Bombardiers will be counting on a group of young players to try and turn things around and it seems to be working so far, as Attleboro has played two games and already matched last year’s win total.

One of the true bright spots from last season was freshman pitcher McKenzie Bergdoll, who showed flashes of the potential to be an ace for Attleboro, and this season she will be counted on to keep the Bombardiers in games and to provide big hits from the three-spot. Julia Woyton will be behind the plate this year while senior Ilea Caverley and junior Casey Whelan (outfield) and Jordyn Lako (second base) are the few returning players on the roster.

The Bombardiers are going to turn to youth this spring with freshman MacKenzie Killough taking over at shortstop. Freshmen twins Emma and Jenna Gittle will add depth to the Attleboro pitching staff and classmate Ashley Macia will take over in centerfield. Homer also said that there were underclassmen who would provide speed off the bench.

“The expectations are to play hard, be committed and get excited with every game and practice that they take part in,” said Homer. “With the added depth in each position this year, the girls hope to gain advantages from the previous year and reach their set goals for the season.”

Canton

2016 Record: 3-17
2016 Finish: Missed Postseason
Coach: Jennifer Robillard

Former King Philip and Sacred Heart University shortstop Jennifer Robillard takes over the Canton program this spring with the hope of bringing some of the success that she enjoyed playing for two state champions and a Division I college to the Bulldogs, who are coming off a three-win season.

The Bulldogs will be looking to their experienced players to help turn things around in 2017, including seniors Molly Loughran, Taylor Carrington, and Julia Ezepik and junior Hannah Jerrier, who are all captains this spring. Jerrier and Ezepik will start the season injured, but Robillard is hoping that other players can step up until they return. Canton will have depth in the circle, as both junior Caitlyn Cahill and freshman Caroline Hughes will see action at pitcher.

Lillian Carrington and Samantha Keefe are two other players that will be counted on to contribute and both provided home runs in a loss to Mansfield in the second game of the season. Robillard is excited about the opportunity to get back into the Hockomock League and she sees a team that “wants to learn.”

“This team has a lot of potential. If we can tap into this potential, I truly believe that we are going to take teams by surprise,” Robillard said. “I am here to share my passion for and knowledge of the game I love with these girls. It is important to me that these girls learn how to be strong, independent and respectful young women.”

Foxboro

2016 Record: 9-13
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round
Coach: Mark Maguire

In 2016, Foxboro finished 6-10 in the Hockomock League but got its chance to play in the postseason and took advantage with a preliminary round win over Westwood and a near-upset of Abington in a nine-inning classic. The Warriors will hope to build on that experience this spring with a number of key players returning.

League all-star Hannah Davis is back behind the plate for the Warriors and will be one of the top hitters in the Hockomock. Davis will likely be in the three-spot in the lineup and right behind her will be senior Kelly Fisher, who head coach Mark Maguire called one of the best first basemen in the league. Kelly McCarthy will try to set the table for the power hitters in the lead-off spot.

Sophomore pitcher Emma Rohan is back in the circle and Maguire expects that she will compete every game and build on her rookie campaign. Behind Rohan, Cam Willis will moved from second base to short and Chelsea Gibbons will provide good ‘D’ and a solid bat at third. Lefty Lexi Buckner could grab the second base spot and senior Jamie Gorham could provide an unexpected boost as a first-year player in the outfield. Mandy Ryan and Kayla Wheatley are two of the players coming up from JV that Maguire is hoping will step in to provide depth.

“They’re all working hard and they’re ready to build together as a team,” said Maguire. “The expectations are really to compete every game.”

Franklin

2016 Record: 12-11
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Kate Fallon

Once the rains go away for a few days, Franklin will be able to open its new field and make official its move back to the high school after a couple seasons playing at Dean College. The Panthers are excited about the new facility and about the team’s potential for success this spring with seven returning starters from last year.

Leading the way is third baseman, and four-year starter, Olivia DiGiacomo, who has been a mainstay at the hot corner and provides leadership for the infield. To her left is shortstop Alyssa DaSilva, a three-year starter with two years of experience at short. Sophomore Allie Shea is back at first base and senior Clara DeCarvalho is back behind the plate and poised for a “breakout season,” according to head coach Kate Fallon. The outfield is also filled with veterans, including seniors Rachel Cousineau in left and Olivia Haba in center.

The seventh starter is senior Alex Niss, who started as a pinch hitter last season before taking over the DP role and turning into one of the top power hitters in the Hockomock League. The Panthers should be solid defensively and at the plate and Fallon is hoping that sophomore pitchers Jackie Cherry (who carried a shutout into the seventh in the season opening loss to North Attleboro) and Emily Valentino can make an instant impact in the circle.

“Win 11 games and make the tournament again,” said Fallon when asked about the expectations for the team this season. “I expect the seniors to provide leadership and be role models for the underclassmen. It’s always a dogfight in this league…but I think we are a good team.”

King Philip

2016 Record: 24-4
2016 Finish: Won Div. 1 State Championship
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

King Philip comes into 2017 on the back of its third state title in the past six years and, while expectations remain high for one of the region’s top programs, there are key pieces from last year’s team that need to be replaced in order for the Warriors to get back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and in the state.

The biggest absence this season is, of course, pitcher Kali Magane, who is now in the circle for Boston University and who was dominant during KP’s playoff run a year ago. Senior Jenn Hutnyan will step in to be the team’s starting pitcher after several starts and relief appearances in the past two seasons. Hutnyan will also be an important bat in the lineup. Junior Brie Lacy will be back behind the plate to help Hutnyan and head coach Norm Beauchemin noted that junior Jessica Bonner will be a solid defensive third baseman.

KP rarely rebuilds and almost always reloads for another title push. This year should be no different with a lineup that features several familiar names from last season’s title run, including sophomore Meghan Gorman and juniors Brooke Taute, Elise Pereira, and Hailey McCasland. Each of those players had important roles last season and will be ready to step up for the Warriors this spring as KP tries to regain the league title after Taunton ended its nine year run in 2016.

“Though it’s hard to replace last year’s seniors,” said Beauchemin, “we have a solid core of returning players ready to represent King Philip and its proud softball legacy.”

Mansfield

2016 Record: 13-9
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Lori Letendre

Mansfield is coming off a 13-win season that included a tournament win against Notre Dame Academy, but after four years of being able to count on Maddie Letendre in the circle the Hornets will be handing the ball over to a new pitcher this spring, although as it turns out only the first name will be changing.

Megan Letendre, who played shortstop as a freshman, will take over in the circle for the Hornets and her development as the No. 1 pitcher will go a long way to determining if Mansfield can repeat last year’s success. Pitcher is not the only position that needs to be replaces, as the Hornets will have a new catcher and three new infielders. Still, with nine returning players, there is plenty of experience on the roster.

Kara Bendanillo will move from third base to second, according to head coach Lori Letendre, and Megan Letendre will sometimes see time at second when not pitching. Liz Mackin will take over at first base, while Marissa Staffier and Amanda Giambanco will take the corner outfield positions. Mady Bendanillo will be back in center after an impressive first season for the Hornets.

“This is one of the hardest working teams I have had at Mansfield and they have been putting in a lot of effort to get ready for the season,” said Coach Letendre.

Milford

2016 Record: 17-5
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Steve DiVitto

Milford has been the class of the Davenport division for the past four seasons and the Hawks come into 2017 with the expectations of being heavy favorites for another league title, but, with three seniors and nine juniors on the roster and eight starters returning, head coach Steve DiVitto is hopeful that the talent will translate to a deep run in the state tournament.

The Hawks are one of the few contenders to return not just one but two starting pitchers from last season. Senior Ali Atherton is back to be the primary option in the circle and the Southern New Hampshire-commit has been dominant at times in her career. If Atherton gets into trouble or needs a rest, junior Kelley Reichert has demonstrated that she is more than just a fill-in but can also shut down opponents. They will be pitching to sophomore Emily Hartman, who will step into the starting lineup this season.

There are very few question marks in this year’s lineup with junior Emily Piergustavo moving from second to short to replace Jill Powers, which is Piergustavo’s natural position and one she has played several times in the past year. Junior Jess Tomaso is back at first base and in the heart of the lineup where she will be joined by senior outfielder Maggie Farrell and senior third baseman Kaitlyn DeCapua. Junior Kate Irwin will try to be the table-setter at the top of the order and juniors Maddy Bonvino (second base) and Shannon Cormier (outfield) will also be contributors.

“This has been a focused and driven group ever since the end of last season,” said DiVitto. “They have worked hard in the off-season and that was very apparent in the early stages of the season. We are excited to compete in the best league in the state, which will hopefully prepare us for a long run into June.”

North Attleboro

2016 Record: 11-10
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Bill Wallace

North Attleboro returned to the postseason in 2016 and for the Rocketeers to get back to the tournament this spring it will be the younger players that will lead the way. Head coach Bill Wallace knows that his team will be “green” (with only four seniors on the roster), but he is excited about North’s athleticism and versatility.

Pitching may be North’s biggest strength this season with five players in the rotation, led by freshman Bella Erti, who won her first career start, and last year’s starter Amelia Murphy. Juniors Olivia DesRoches, Jaclyn Buckley and Abby Warren could also step into the circle to help out. Senior Sam Courtemanche will be behind the plate to help the pitchers.

Senior Liz Morehouse returns at first base and Andrea Miceli will be at second. Megan Barlow moves in from the outfield to take over at short (and provided the walk-off hit in North’s season opening win), while Murphy will see time at third when she’s not pitching. Olivia Capobianco will play center with Katherine Munley and Kristina Murphy in left and right with freshmen Ashley Cangiano and Abby Gallagher getting playing time.

“With only four seniors on the roster, I am hoping the learning curve will be brief!” said Wallace. “This may be the year we see a lot of pinch hitting and pinch running! For a young team, they are very focused between the lines!”

Oliver Ames

2016 Record: 10-11
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Oliver Ames finished in second in the league in 2016 and qualified for the postseason, but that will be an even tougher task now that the Tigers have made the move to the Kelley-Rex division. Even with facing the likes of defending state champion King Philip twice this spring, head coach Lindsey Allison is optimistic that the 10 returning players have the experience to get back into the playoffs.

Senior Victoria Ziner will be the spark on offense for the Tigers this season, but OA also has a number of juniors that Allison said can “do some damage at the plate.” Among those players is Caroline Mahoney, whose bat “is still as dangerous as ever,” according to Allison. Freshman Katie Abreu will be a newcomer to watch for the Tigers as her versatility will make her a valuable member of the lineup.

The Tigers will bring back sophomore Kayla Georgeu in the circle and will be hoping that she continues to develop and keep OA competitive against the league’s top teams. Junior Alexis Campbell will be a second pitcher and also help out at second base.

“We have a solid 10 players returning from last year’s roster,” said Allison, “and we are looking to fill holes behind the plate, in the outfield and at first base this year. Definitely hoping to use some of the speed we have on our team to our advantage this year.”

Sharon

2016 Record: 4-16
2016 Finish: Missed Postseason
Coach: Deb Parker

Sharon is coming off a four-win season in 2016 but head coach Deb Parker believes that the Eagles have the potential to be a contender in the Davenport division this spring as long as the players continue to develop over the course of the season.

Although the Eagles are a relatively young team, Parker is counting on senior captains Clara Cook and Sam Marglous to provide the leadership needed to keep the team on the right track. Cook will be back in the circle for Sharon, while Marglous will be back behind the plate. Parker said, “Both have been solid contributors for their entire high school careers.”

Sophomore centerfielder Rebecca Clayman and shortstop Ally Small, who Parker referred to as “standouts,” will be the anchors of the defense. Freshman Shoshanna Lowe will step in to play third base and should have a positive impact in the lineup as well.

“I believe we have the right combination of experience, talent and drive to be a contender in the Hock,” said Parker. “This is a team that works hard every day to be better than they were the day before. They have great chemistry and our captains have done an excellent job leading them into the season.”

Stoughton

2016 Record: 10-11
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Tim Norton

The Black Knights made a return to the state tournament in head coach Tim Norton’s first season in charge, and nearly pulled out a win against Braintree, and Stoughton will be counting on last year’s freshmen to continue developing and keep the program heading in the right direction.

One of the sophomores that the team will be leaning on is third baseman Jordan Lyons, who brings a strong bat to the hot corner and her leadership skills had her named a captain for this spring. Brianna Ferrandiz will take over behind the plate for Sam Tullis and Karly Estremera will move into the infield and continue to be the table-setter as the leadoff hitter.

Norton is excited to have depth in the circle with Shannon Flaherty and Gina Carafa both capable of racking up innings and “setting great examples on and off the field.” Stoughton will also have depth in the outfield with first-year starters Krista Michienzi, Val Whalen and Alessandra Loffredo.

“We were extremely fortunate in Stoughton last year to have such a strong freshman class with great senior leadership,” Norton explained. “This year that sophomore class is going to have to come into their own. While this team is young they got a taste of the post season last year and are hungry for more.”

Taunton

2016 Record: 22-2
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Lewry

Last season, Taunton won its first outright league title, ending King Philip’s nine-year reign atop the Hockomock. It was a fitting coda to the impressive careers of Taunton’s senior class, but this spring the Tigers will now have to move forward with six new faces in the starting lineup, including at pitcher and the middle infield positions. Taunton typically reloads quickly and head coach Dave Lewry believes this year’s team has a plenty of potential.

Senior Courtney Fisher will step into the circle hoping to make a seamless transition from 2016 Player of the Year Aimee Kistner. Fisher tossed three shutout innings and had three hits in the season opener and got several opportunities to pitch in the past two seasons. She will be pitching to junior captain Kya Enos, who is making the move back to catcher after two seasons in the outfield. Other starters coming back include first baseman Katie VanZandt, junior outfielder Liana Duarte, and sophomore Jaime Brown, who is in her third year at third base.

The Tigers have always found young players who can step right in an make an impact at the varsity level and this year could be a breakout season for eighth grader Hannah Aldrich, who will take over from Jordan Wade at short. Sophomore Alexa White looks ready to step in at second, while senior Rebekah Lajoie and junior Hailey Medeiros are in line to start in the corner outfield places. Taunton could also get contributions at pitcher from eighth grader Kelsey White and freshman Jaylin Couto.

“While we lost six starters from last season, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Lewry. “I expect there will be some growing pains with six new starters in the lineup, but with some seasoned veterans and good young talent we are optimistic that we’ll be competitive this season.”