Erti, North Prevail In Pitchers’ Duel Against Stoughton

North Attleboro softball Bella Erti
North Attleboro junior Bella Erti delivers a pitch in the third inning against Stoughton. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In a showdown between two of the Hockomock League’s top pitchers, North Attleboro’s Bella Erti and Stoughton’s Nicole Baker both delivered.

Erti, a junior, allowed just one run on four hits and one walk, striking out 13 in the circle for the Rocketeers. Baker, a sophomore, was also strong with just two runs (one earned) allowed on three hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts, including 10 swinging.

A game with two great pitchers is likely to come down to one or two plays, and that’s exactly what happened.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Stoughton took the lead in the top of the fourth inning, but the Rocketeers answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. And then erased the tying run at the plate in the top of the sixth on a nice defensive play by North Attleboro junior catcher Ashley Cangiano.

“It was nice to respond,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace. “We’re still a young team, we had four girls that it was their first varsity start. Having said that, they know the game. We knew that we’d have to put the ball in play.

“Baker did a really nice job, Bella did a really nice job. It was classic pitcher’s day…the wind blowing in, cold…and both pitchers did exactly what they were supposed to. A game like that comes down to one or two plays, and the bunt and the play are home were the two plays.”

Both pitchers had it going early on. Bella retired the first nine Stoughton batters in order, six by strikeout. Baker allowed just two base runners to start, one on an error in the first and Katie Daby’s leadoff single in the second. But neither runner advances past second and Baker had seven strikeouts through three.

“That was a great game and it really could have gone either way,” said Stoughton head coach Deb Parker. “Nicole had a great day, that’s how she throws every day. She keeps her composure and does what she needs to do. She’s going to keep us in every ball game.”

The offenses for both teams came alive in the fourth inning. Stoughton senior Jordan Lyons sliced a one-out triple over the right fielder’s head. Two batters later, junior Lexi Baptista hit a hard grounder through the right side for a two-out RBI and a 1-0 lead for the visiting Black Knights.

Stoughton’s Bri Ferrandiz followed with a single up the middle to put runners on first and second but Erti bounced back with a three-pitch strikeout to escape further damage.

North Attleboro had an immediate response in the bottom half of the fourth. Cangiano led off with a single up the middle. Annabelle Hebard followed with a bunt up the third base line. The ball was bobbled into foul territory, and Cangiano hustled to an open third base, which allowed Hebard to take second.

Daby hit a soft grounder up the middle but the throw to first was high and both Cangiano and Hebard came home safely. Stoughton freshman Sydney Menz made a terrific catch in right and doubled the runner at second to help the Black Knights keep the deficit at one.

“That’s two juniors and a senior making those plays,” Wallace said of leaning on more experienced players while the younger players gain experience. “We only started the one senior today, we have a handful of juniors. We have to learn as we go. We still made some mistakes but we got through it.”

Stoughton threatened with the tying run at third in the sixth but North Attleboro denied the Black Knights. Karly Estremera led off with a walk and moved to second on a single from Baker. A short grounder allowed Estremera to take third and Baker moved to second.

On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Cangiano was able to block the ball down. It looked like it had gotten away from her and Estremera took off for home but Cangiano recovered nicely, grabbed the ball and made a diving play to tag the Black Knight base runner as she slid into home for an out.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Ashley did a great job on that play,” Wallace said. “I thought she could have had her the play before, the girl got caught leaning a little but I think it surprised Ashley a little bit. But I think that helped because then she was aware and felt like she could have gotten her, and then she did a great job blocking and tagging her.

“I trust our lineup, one through nine we can get it done,” Parker said. “If we’re going to be aggressive and take a chance, I thought that was a chance worth taking. It just didn’t go our way.”

Baker retired the final six batters in order while Erti had a 1-2-3 seventh inning, including back-to-back strikeouts to end it.

North Attleboro softball (1-0 overall, 1-0 Hockomock) is back in action on Monday when it entertains Oliver Ames. Stoughton (1-1, 1-1) has its first home game on Tuesday against Attleboro.

2019 Hockomock League Softball Preview

2019 Hockomock League Softball Preview
Taunton won the D1 state title last spring and comes back as one of the favorites for a league title as another competitive Hockomock softball season kicks off. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 9-12
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Homer

After back-to-back playoff appearances, the expectations are high around the Attleboro program this spring. The Bombardiers return eight of nine starters from last year’s team and the lineup should be loaded with good hitters, as well as multiple players who can step into the circle and produce a good start. With the depth on the roster this season, Attleboro will be eyeing another postseason berth.

Senior McKenzie Bergdoll is one of the top power hitters in the league and will be back for another spring in the heart of the Attleboro lineup. She will be joined by classmates Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti as starters. Junior Makenzie Killough will be back at shortstop and also batting cleanup and providing protection for Bergdoll in the order. Sophomore Lora Woyton returns behind the plate, sophomore Autumn O’Connell will be in center and batting second and junior Ashley Macia will be out in left. Sophomore Brenna Morse will be taking over in rightfield. In the circle, Attleboro has plenty of depth with juniors Emily and Jenna Gittle and Bergdoll all able to step in. The Bombardiers will try to take advantage of their overall team speed and head coach Mark Homer said there are a few freshmen who may see playing time right away.

“The bar was set high from last season,” said Homer. “So the girls are onboard to perform well again this season with high hopes of competing in every game they play. They have set some goals to achieve one a\t a time. I am cautiously optimistic with our chances of winning more games this season than we have in the past. Knowing that there are no easy games on our schedule so we have to come to play every night.”

Canton

2018 Record: 8-13
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Bohane

Canton had quite the turnaround in 2018 under second-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, winning eight games, seven more than in 2017, and making a return to the state tournament. Robillard, last season’s HockomockSports.com Coach of the Year, has moved on to a position at Bentley and football coach Dave Bohane has taken over a team that has seen an influx of young talent and has momentum on its side heading into the spring.

Junior pitcher Caroline Hughes is one of the reasons for optimism in the program, as she is looking to build off a strong sophomore season in which she pitched almost every inning. Hughes was also one of the team’s top hitters and she will be at the heart of the lineup along with sophomore outfielder Liz Bickett, who batted .409 last season. Bickett is just one of several sophomores who the Bulldogs will be counting on, including infielders Olivia Lanci and Sarah Kelly, catchers Steph Trendell and Amanda Vrabel. Junior catcher Jackie Howard and seniors Haley Donovan and Ally Chin will provide leadership for this young group to try and get the Bulldogs right back into the state tournament mix.

“I am very excited to be coaching this team,” said Bohane, who has previously served the program as an assistant coach. “They are extremely hard working and devoted to the program. I think they will set the standard for our future players who come through the program. It’s a very tough league, but we will take it one game at a time and try to improve each game”.

Foxboro

2018 Record: 11-12
2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mark Maguire

Foxboro made a run in the Div. 2 tournament last season, winning a pair of games before being knocked out in the quarterfinals, and the Warriors will hope to build on that exciting finish to 2018 by making a run at the Davenport crown this spring. Even with the loss of catcher Hannah Davis, who was instrumental in the team’s playoff run, Foxboro has a strong returning core and some talented young players stepping in to give head coach Mark Maguire confidence ahead of the new season.

Senior Emma Rohan will be back in the circle for her fourth year as the Foxboro starter and she has the experience of pitching in a number of big games and against the top teams in the league. Senior Cam Willis will play first this season, but can also step in and pitch if needed along with junior Amelia Stowell. The pitchers will have a rookie to throw to, as freshman Allie Willis will be stepping in behind the plate. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre returns at shortstop after a strong first season on varsity and will be one of the leaders of the infield. Senior Chelsea Gibbons is at third base and freshman Peyton Feldman takes over at second. Sophomore Nicole Theriault will be in centerfield but can play a number of positions, senior Riley Martignetti gives the team pop from the right side of the plate, and senior Jill Finn can play all three outfield positions.

“Preseason is going great as the girls are working very hard to be ready for the season,” said Maguire. “We have a group of girls who work hard. I think team defense should be good with our senior leadership, and the younger players who aggressively look to make plays in the field. I have high expectations for this team, as we look to compete for a Davenport title and gain a state tournament berth.”

Franklin

2018 Record: 9-11
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Kate Fallon

Franklin has consistently been right behind perennial league leaders Taunton and King Philip in the Kelley-Rex division standings but has narrowly missed out on the playoffs by a single win in each of the past two seasons. This year, the Panthers have eight seniors coming back with the goal of getting the team back into the postseason and use a typically tough schedule to prep for a tournament run.

Pitching will be a strength for the Panthers this year with seniors Jackie Cherry and Emily Valentino giving the team depth and different options in the circle. Throwing strikes will be the key for both and limiting opposition base runners. Behind the plate, Franklin has plenty of experience as well with seniors Ally Shea and Maggie Hobby both capable of stepping in and handling the pitchers as well as providing power at the plate. Senior Tara Hartnett will be back at shortstop and provides strong defense up the middle. Junior Anna Balkus will be in centerfield and will set the table for the offense as the lead-off hitter. Junior Maddy White will be at third base and joins Shea and senior Kylie-Jade Bouzan as the team’s primary run producers.

“We are excited to see the Panther players on the field again,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau. “Overall our tough league and non-league schedule will keep us focused for tournament and we will rely on our solid pitching and defense.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 21-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

Every season King Philip loses important players and every season the Warriors seem to be right back in the mix for the league title. This spring should be no different. KP will have several important players to replace in the lineup, but it expects to challenge for a 12th title in the past 13 seasons and also make another tournament run, following last year’s South final loss to Kelley-Rex rival Taunton.

Meghan Gorman is the player to watch for the Warriors this season, as the senior shortstop is one of the top defensive players in the state and also the spark plug at the top of the lineup. Senior Faith Turinese will move from the outfield into the circle and will split time with classmate Heather Nix as the top pitchers for the Warriors. Turinese also batted over .400 last year and will be an important bat in the middle of the order. Junior Destiny Goyco will step in behind the plate, after overcoming an injury from basketball season, and fellow junior Liliana Rolfe will take over at third. Grace Kelley will be at second base and Anna Bradley will be at first. The outfield will be filled with speed, including Kara McWhinnie in left, sophomore Paige Berdos in center, and either Ryan Stagg or junior Reaegan Simeone in right.

“One to nine, everyone hits the ball,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin. “I’m looking forward to another solid season. The league overall is going to be very competitive, so it should be fun.”

Mansfield

2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lori Letendre

Mansfield is looking to bounce back from a tough 2018 season in which the Hornets struggled in the Hockomock (going 4-12 in league play) and missed the playoffs. This year, Mansfield hopes for a quick turnaround and return to the state tournament with an experienced roster that brings back 11 players, seven starters, and seven seniors from last season.

The battery of senior pitcher Sarah Cahill and senior catcher Caty DeMassi is back and should give the Hornets a good foundation on which to build on this season. Seniors Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo will hold down the left side of the infield and provide pop in the middle of the lineup, while Mady Bendanillo returns in centerfield to give Mansfield a dynamic defensive player and another strong bat. There is an influx of youth as well with two sophomores and a freshman jumping into varsity and having the chance to contribute right away.

“Our goal is to make it back to the tournament this year and with strong leadership from our captains and our seniors, I think we will have a good shot at it!” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre.

Milford

2018 Record: 18-3
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Steve DiVitto

The biggest question for Milford is how do the Hawks move on from a group of 10 seniors that won a combined 79 games, four league titles, and the 2017 state championship? Milford has been the team to beat in the Davenport division for six years and a relatively inexperienced group will have to face a season in which the target for every team in the league is squarely on their backs.

Junior Megan Hart is one of the primary options to replace Kelley Reichert in the circle to start the season, with freshman Olivia Morelli showing potential to step in and contribute innings right away. Senior Lucy Creedon can step in at first or in the outfield. Junior April Swain will jump into the outfield along with classmate Taylor Waldrup, while junior Amanda Wenckus can play either position on the left side of the infield and sophomore Carly Ferreira can play either corner infield spot. Sophomore Elise Fauerbach can play behind the plate or in the outfield, while her classmate Natalie Casilli will take an outfield spot. There are a lot of spots to fill this year, but head coach Steve DiVitto is talking about that as an opportunity for a new group of players to step into.

“We understand that lack of experience is something that we will need to combat with, however the bar will continue to be set high!” DiVitto said. “Each year a new page is turned over, and as always the focus is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season. We’re excited for the challenges of playing in the best league in the state!”

North Attleboro

2018 Record: 16-5
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Bill Wallace

Two seasons ago, North Attleboro was a young team that made a surprise trip to the South semifinal, but this year the Rocketeers will have much higher expectations. North is now the experienced team in the Davenport division and has aspirations of unseating Milford and winning a first league title since 1990 and adding to the league’s recent history of strong tournament performances with another deep run.

Junior pitcher Bella Erti will be one of the league’s top pitchers again this season, after a 15-5 sophomore season in which she struck out 137 batters. She also hit .357. Junior Ashley Cangiano is also back for her third year as a starter and is one of the top catchers in the league. Abby Gallagher returns to the North outfield after hitting .500 last season as a sophomore and senior Olivia Capobianco will be back in centerfield and the middle of the North lineup. Freshman Mandi Hanewich and sophomores Emma Bailey and Belle Clarkin will compete for the third outfield spot after impressive preseasons. Senior Katie Daby is at first, while sophomore Emily Nardelli moves from shortstop to second base. Junior Alex Moulson takes over at short and her classmate Annabelle Hebard will be at third. Emily Bedard and Mackenzie Nardelli add to North’s infield depth and Alivia Byrne will give Erti a rest in the circle and is another big bat in the lineup.

“We will need to be more multi-dimensional, as late in the year we couldn’t sustain our offensive start to the season,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “This group really wants to make their mark on the league and they know how much work that is going to take.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 3-17
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Last season was a struggle for the Tigers, with only three wins and head coach Lindsey Allison is hoping that a group of younger players can add to the returning core and make a push to get Oliver Ames back into the state tournament. Allison is confident that the offense will get into the swing of things for the Tigers after scoring only 66 runs last season, second-lowest in the league.

Senior Kayla Georgeu will be back in the circle for OA and in the heart of the lineup. The Tigers will count on sophomore Emma Varella to provide some innings at pitcher, as well as playing in the infield. Senior first baseman Katie Mills is a big bat for the Tigers and junior Katie Abreu can step in at either shortstop or centerfield depending on the game to provide vocal leadership. Sophomore Grace Simone will be behind the plate this season.

“Every spot is open for the taking and there are many young players who are hungry to be on the field,” said Allison. “This group of players seem like a team – not just a group of individuals. They compete with one another for positions, but also support each other. They hold each other accountable and communicate. I am excited to see what hard work can accomplish this season.”

Sharon

2018 Record: 0-20
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Heather Poliferno

It was definitely a rough debut season for Sharon coach Heather Poliferno, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get experience at the varsity level. This spring, there is renewed enthusiasm with a crop of underclassmen joining the experienced players to give Poliferno and the Eagles confidence for a much better spring.

Freshman Trinity Payne is the player to watch for the Eagles this season as she takes over as the starting pitcher and has already drawn the attention of coaches in the Davenport division. She will be used at a couple of different positions and gives the Eagles versatility in the lineup. Senior Alli Small will be back at shortstop this season, while classmate Jody Goldenberg is back at first, and senior Rebecca Clayman will be the leader of the outfield group. As the program is growing, Sharon is hoping for much different results this season.

“We are very excited for this season!” said Poliferno. “We have many returning players leading our varsity team, as well as the addition of a very talented freshman class. Though we have only had a handful of practices, one of our clear strengths is our desire to be the best on the field.”

Stoughton

2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Deb Parker

Stoughton struggled to find a groove in 2018 and ended up missing the playoffs under first-year head coach Deb Parker, who had made the switch from Sharon before last season. This year, the Black Knights bring back starters in key positions and once again have the potential to make a run at a state tournament berth and even challenge for the Davenport title.

Seniors Nikki Coppola (second base) and Jordan Lyons (shortstop) give Stoughton a strong combination up the middle and senior Karly Estremera brings plenty of experience at third base. Sophomore pitcher Nicole Baker will take over full-time in the circle this season and Parker is impressed by the work that she put in during the off-season to get ready. Baker will be throwing to an experienced catcher, as senior Brianna Ferrandiz is back behind the plate for the Black Knights. Junior Lexi Baptista will lead the outfield crew in center and could also be one of Stoughton’s top hitters this season. Freshmen Melody Casna and Sydney Menz will give the Black Knights versatility by playing multiple positions.

“This team has come together so quickly, it is a real tribute to the leadership of our captains,” said Parker. “This team knows what they are playing for this year and we have high expectations going into the season. Softball in the Hockomock League is incredibly competitive but if we continue to work hard, we should have a great season.”

Taunton

2018 Record: 26-2
2018 Finish: Won D1 State Championship
Coach: Dave Lewry

How do you follow up a state championship? For Taunton, it just may be to make a run at a repeat. The Tigers lost the second, third, and fourth hitters in the lineup (including league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Kya Enos), who combined for 88 RBI, but there is a ton of talent coming back from last season, all of whom contributed at one point or another during Taunton’s run to the title.

It starts in the circle where sophomore Kelsey White will be the starter again this season after going 16-2 as a freshman and pitching every inning during the playoff run (not to mention batting .418). Her sister Alexa will also see time at pitcher, along with freshman Olyvia Mendonca, but will also play most of the season in centerfield. The infield will be a strength for the Tigers, with all four players back. Senior Jaime Brown (batted .469) is back for her fifth year at third base and is one of the top hitters in the league, sophomore Hanna Aldrich (.385 average with four homers and 30 RBI) is in her third year at shortstop and was this site’s Underclassman of the Year in 2018, sophomore McKenzie McAloon returns at second base for her third season, and junior Paige Silvia is back at first. Silvia and junior Riley Murphy are also in the running to replace Enos behind the plate, while junior Abbie McDonough takes over in left and eighth-grader Ava Venturelli could start the season in right.

“While we lost three outstanding players to graduation, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “We have a good nucleus of returning players looking to defend our D1 state championship.”

Defenses On Top As Mansfield and North End in Draw

North Attleboro Girls Soccer
Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman rises above a crowd and punches away a North Attleboro corner in a scoreless draw. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports,com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was a game that felt like a preview of the Div. 1 South tournament, with both teams defending in numbers and chances at a premium. Mansfield and North Attleboro, both defending division champions, demonstrated tough team defense and got timely goalkeeping in a fast-paced, scoreless draw on Wednesday night at Alumni Field.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“That was a good game,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “It was a state tournament-level game. It was physical, it was fast, and every mistake was punished by both teams.”

North created early chances in the first half. Emma Gaulin was particularly active in the Rocketeeers midfield winning the ball back and pushing North into the attack. A give-and-go with her sister Ashlyn allowed her to run at Emily Vigeant but the Mansfield defender was able to get back in time.

Just a minute later, Lydia Santos lined up a 30-yard free kick that dropped right into the middle of the box but was punched away by Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman. The rebound fell to Haley Ferrin but her effort went over the bar. Kayla Pasquel played Emma Gaulin in behind on the left side of the box but her shot was saved by a diving Whitman (four saves).

Mansfield also passed the ball well in the opening half and was finding some space behind the North fullbacks. Sydney Mulkern played a ball into Steph Kempon the left edge of the box and her cross bounced off a defender in the box and bounced to Katie Garvin, who hit the volley over the bar.

Kemp had a neat turn in the box to get space for a shot that was blocked on its way to goal by Olivia Bishop. On the ensuing corner, Vigeant nearly curled it directly in, but North goalie Emma Noreck was able to get a fingertip on it. Emma Gaulin nearly opened the scoring a few minutes later but Whitman made the kick save.

Just before halftime, Vigeant again came close from a set piece. This time it was a 50-yard free kick that she put just under the crossbar but Noreck was able to get up and tip it away.

“Emma Noreck had probably her best game,” North coach Bill Wallace said. “At halftime I wanted to pull her because she’s been under the weather all week, but she told me to leave her in.”

The second half was a much cagier 40 minutes, as both teams clamped down in the midfield. Melissa Reef helped out the Hornets back line in limiting the touches for Ashlyn Gaulin and the center back pairing of Mikaela Maughn and Vigeant kept just about everything in front of them. On the other side, Sam Hawkins, the only returning defensive player from last year, and Brieann Westcott were equally tough to beat.

“They just played their hearts out,” Wallace said. “Twice this year we’ve changed what we normally do for teams and the girls reacted great to it. That’s not normally how we play but boy they did it to a ’T’. The longer you keep them off the board, the smaller the goal seems, the more those passes tend to go longer, and that was our intent.”

Mansfield had a good opportunity six minutes after the break when Garvin played Cassidy McMahon into space but Noreck was able to save. Vigeant’s corner found Garvin at the back post but her header was blocked by a host of North defenders.

Alex Moulson had a chance off a North corner but her header went narrowly wide. Kemp reacted first to a loose ball and had a go from 20 yards, just missing the target at the near post.

The best chance to break the deadlock came with 10 minutes to play. Santos slipped Pasquel into space on the right and she crossed to Ashlyn Gaulin in the box but the league’s leading scorer couldn’t get full purchase on her shot and it was saved comfortably by Mansfield’s second keeper, Caty DeMassi.

Wallace remarked, “We’re really happy with the point and now we’re one away from the tournament…Both teams played really strong and that’s a great tournament warm up.”

Mansfield was playing for only the second time in nearly two weeks and there was an element of rust, which North was able to amplify. Smith explained, “Our first touch just wasn’t there. Whether it was the first touch on the pass or on the receive and go, it was just a little too far away from ourselves and their speed and pressure was real intense, so we couldn’t afford that.”

North Attleboro (7-2-3, 6-2-3) will host Stoughton on Friday afternoon. Mansfield (9-0-2, 8-0-2) travels to Attleboro on Friday and then hosts Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) on Saturday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Second Half Goal Earns Bombardiers a Point at North

Attleboro girls soccer
Julia Reyes (20) tries to beat North defender Morgan Silver during the 1-1 draw on Wednesday night at Beaupre Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It may have only been the second week of the season and both teams had yet to even play a handful of games this fall, but the intensity of the play on the pitch Wednesday night was reminiscent of a playoff game or at least when these teams meet with the Blue-Red Cup on the line.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It was tight, it was physical, and in the end it was tied. Briley Harnois scored with 15 minutes left in the game to cancel out Kayla Pasquel’s first half strike and earn Attleboro a point in a 1-1 draw with North Attleboro on the Beaupre Field turf.

“We’ve been a slow starting team and I challenged them today to really start right off the opening whistle,” said Attleboro coach Steve Santos. “They worked hard. We knew it was going to be a physical game. They have a lot of speed up top and on the wings and we knew we had to slow them down.”

The Rocketeers created enough chances over the course of the game that on another day, with more composed finishing, they could have pulled out the victory. But, for all the chances created by the hosts, the two goalies finished with the same amount of saves because North struggled to put the ball on frame.

North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace said, “We had some chances. A lot of shots we were leaning back on and they were going high, but this is a completely different team than last year and these kids are working real hard. It’s been a crazy preseason, crazy start to the season, and we’re starting to find ourselves.”

Ashlyn Gaulin was the primary focus of the Attleboro defense, with several players taking turns to man-mark the senior forward (who has accounted for six points in a game twice already this season), but she was still able to work scoring opportunities.

Just seven minutes in, Gaulin’s nifty footwork opened up the Attleboro defense but her shot from the right side of the box was right at Bombardiers goalie Tayla Drape. Seven minutes later, Gaulin flicked a pass through the defense to Pasquel, who then gave it right back but the shot went over the bar.

North found its breakthrough in the 23rd minute. Again it was Gaulin who opened up the Attleboro back line, showing off her skill to get space on the left side and then deftly chipping a cross to the back post. Pasquel beat her defender to the ball and bundled it over the line for a 1-0 advantage.

While Attleboro was not getting as many shots on goal, the Bombardiers were giving North’s defense something to worry about on the break with the speed of Harnois and fellow sophomore Isabella Salviati keeping the Rocketeers on their toes. Senior defenders Sam Hawkins and Bishop Feehan transfer Olivia Bishop both had to cut out chances.

After Julia Reyes had a shot from the right wing that went into the side netting, Attleboro got its first shot on target in the 35th minute. A Harnois free kick from 25 yards was saved under the bar by a leaping Emma Noreck.

Just a minute later, Emma Gaulin sent in an angled free kick from nearly midfield that found the head of Haley Ferrin, but the header was right at Drape. North had one more chance before halftime, as Emma Gaulin played the ball through to Lydia Santos, who picked out Ashlyn Gaulin, who then fed Pasquel, but again the final shot was too high and off target.

The Rocketeers continued to get shots off early in the second half. Pasquel teed up Alex Moulson racing in from the left side but she could not keep the shot down under pressure from Ashley Lauzier and Gaulin and Pasquel combined again for a chance only to have the shot smack off the football goalposts.

“I rotated a few defenders on Ashlyn to keep her man-marked,” Santos explained, “and in the second half we had to push a few more up and create more chances, put pressure on their backs. They had some chances early that I’m sure they wish they had back.”

As long as the game stayed 1-0, Attleboro felt like it had a shot. In the 55th minute, Jessica Gates got free on the right and her cross went all the way across the box to Reyes, who had her shot blocked. The rebound bounced to Salviati but again the shot found the leg of a North defender. Three minutes later, Gates had a long free kick that Noreck was able to catch.

In the 65th minute, the Bombardiers found an equalizer. Salviati ran onto a bouncing ball down the right side and played a clever, one-touch pass in behind the North defense that Harnois was able to run onto. With Noreck racing off her line to cut down the angle, Harnois made no mistake with a rasping finish into the far corner.

“It was a good finish,” Santos said. “I thought she had one more chance when she came down here and she just mis-struck it. When you show up at North Attleboro, you know it’s going to be a battle.”

After the goal, Attleboro had momentum and nearly took the lead but Reyes’ cross was just in front of Salviati on the edge of the six-yard-box. North had one last chance in the final six minutes, but Gaulin saw her line drive free kick held by Drape.

“We’re beginning to be a little more offensive,” said Santos. “We have some girls who are feisty and they’re willing to be scrappy. The girls are starting to believe in themselves and that’s what you need to compete in the Hock.”

Wallace added, “This was a good motivational game for them because the intensity was there. We hadn’t faced this kind of intensity yet this year. At this point in the season, we’ll take the point and move on, but hopefully we’ll finish those chances.”

Attleboro (1-2-1) will try to build on the draw when it hosts defending league champ King Philip on Monday. North Attleboro (2-0-2), which moved into a one-point lead in the Davenport, will host Taunton on Saturday morning.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Girls Soccer: 2018 Davenport Division Preview

2018 Davenport Girls Soccer Preview
Canton and Milford will be among the teams looking to dethrone North Attleboro at the top of the Davenport division this fall. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Davenport Girls Soccer Preview

Canton

2017 Record: 10-6-2
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round.
Coach: Kate Howarth

Canton has been on the cusp of getting back to the top of the Davenport division in recent seasons and on their day the Bulldogs can be very difficult to play against. As one of the favorites for the league title this fall, consistency will be the biggest challenge for Canton as it tries to unseat North Attleboro at the top of the Davenport standings.

To get the attack in gear, Canton will be turning again to its youth. The Bulldogs will look to sophomores Olivia Rodman and Elisa Diletizia to run at opposing defenses and continue developing a partnership that was one of the most potent in the league last fall. Senior defender Sarah Collins will be the leader of the Canton defense, which will look to improve on the 34 goals allowed from last season. Junior Morgan McCabe will be stepping into a larger role this season, with her versatility as a forward or midfielder, and senior Julia Hamilton adds tenacity in the center of the pitch.

“I think this is going to be an exciting year for us, with strong players returning and some exciting new talent stepping in,” said Canton coach Kate Howarth. “Our goal as a group is to push passed being a really good team and become the great team we know we can be. The Hock is such a strong league and every team pushes each other to become better.”

Foxboro

2017 Record: 10-9-0
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round.
Coach: Katie Stalcup

Last year was a transition season for Foxboro under first-year head coach Katie Stalcup, as a group of talented young players made their debuts at the varsity level. The Warriors improved over the course of the season, made the playoffs, and now with a year of experience for a young squad there is a lot of buzz about Foxboro this fall.

The graduation of Lily Sykes, who was one of the league’s top players for all four years of her career, leaves big shoes to fill, but Foxboro has a number of players with potential to make up some of her production. Senior Mackenzi Fraser will be the main striker for Foxboro this year but sophomore Jordyn Collins will add speed on the wing and freshman Kaitryn Franchino will contribute up top as well. Junior Kendra Wentling returns in the midfield and freshman Kailee McCabe is a player to watch in the center of the pitch. Defensively, Foxboro has a lot of experience in senior Alex Stamatos, who will be joined in the back line by junior Yara Fawaz. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre will be in net again this fall.

Stalcup praised the team’s tenacity and speed. She added, “I am very excited about this season. Even though we are still a young team, I think we will do very well. We have a team full of hard workers and great attitudes.”

Milford

2017 Record: 6-10-2
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs.
Coach: Lou Colabello

For the past several seasons, Milford has been on the verge of getting back to the playoffs and now new coach Lou Colabello, who formerly coached at Douglas, will look to push the Hawks up the league standings with a number of experienced players in key positions.

The midfield will be patrolled by seniors Siena Pierce and Cassie Probert and junior playmaker Juliana France, who was named a league all-star as a sophomore and demonstrated the ability to cover a lot of ground in the middle of the pitch. The Hawks scored only 24 goals last season, so the attacking unit will be hoping to step it up this year, including senior Hannah Martin and junior Ashleigh Starks. The defense also has plenty of experience with junior Olivia Marshall back in goal and her classmates Maddie Boyle and Annie Flanagan in front of her to keep things organized at the back.

Colabello said, “We should have a solid midfield and many other players who can play different positions,and we expect big things from our returning goalkeeper. I feel this team is capable of competing with some of the elite teams in the league. There work ethics and attitude have been outstanding,thus I expect it will be a rewarding season and hopefully a playoff berth.”

North Attleboro

2017 Record: 14-3-3
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Bill Wallace

North Attleboro will need a number of players to step into bigger roles this season, if the Rocketeers are going to make it three league titles in a row. North graduated 14 seniors and eight starters from last year’s team, but there are a number of familiar names and big contributors who are back and aiming for a three-peat.

The Rocketeers scored 60 goals last year and senior Ashlyn Gaulin contributed on 27 of those (17 goals and 10 assists). She will be the focal point of the attack this season, after the graduation of 100-point scorer Haley Guertin, and her sister Emma will try to provide the assists from the midfield. Seniors Kayla Pasquel and Haley Ferris will add to the experience in the center of the pitch for North and classmates Morgan Silver, Liz Smahi, Lexi Sinacola, and Lauren Pezzi will add depth in the midfield and defense. Seniors Sam Hawkins and Brieann Westcott will be at heart of the defensive unit with classmate Emma Noreck in goal.

North coach Bill Wallace said that sophomores Lydia Santos and Tess Collins will be contributors this season in midfield and attack. He added, “This group is a pleasure to work with, they want to work hard and get better.”

Sharon

2017 Record: 3-13-2
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs.
Coach: Catherine Sullivan

Sharon alum Catherine Sullivan takes over the program this season, as the Eagles look to rebuild and work towards a return to the state tournament. With the graduation of Ali Filipkowski, Sharon lost a lot of firepower but Sullivan is excited about the potential and the growth of the team during the preseason.

One of the key returning players is senior goalie Lydia Chase, who is a fearless shot stopper and her distribution will be important for the Eagles’ transition game. In front of Chase, senior Rose Wald is back in the heart of the defense and will partner with sophomore Molly McAlevey, who is a newcomer to the varsity but already showing a lot of composure on the ball. The midfield engine is senior Maxine Gordon, who will drive the Eagles forward, and junior Bella Berger will add playmaking and vision in the center of the pitch. Senior Bridget McManus will be the main forward and she will be expected to not only provide goals but also set up her teammates and get others involved in the attack.

“As a Sharon graduate, I’m really excited about the opportunity to once again represent the maroon and gold,” said Sullivan. “I think this team has a lot of talent and athleticism, and we will be striving to create a cohesive group that can consistently compete at a higher level.”

Stoughton

2017 Record: 0-15-3
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs.
Coach: Tara Daniels

Although Stoughton was unable to pick up an elusive league win last season, Black Knights coach Tara Daniels felt that there was progress from the team, particularly in attack. A group of speedy, young attackers made Stoughton a more dangerous team and that experience has Daniels hopeful for even more in 2018.

Speed on the edges is going to be a key strength for the Black Knights this season led by senior outside back Cintia Khouzami and sophomore Nikki Anderson, who has gained a lot of confidence after playing a lot of minutes as a freshman. In the heart of the defense, senior Corina Kavanagh will be the leader of the group, ensuring everyone is organized. Sophomore Mackenzie Manning is another player who grew a lot over the course of her rookie season and will again be the primary playmaker for the Black Knights and a key to keeping possession. Senior Gabriela Diaz played a lot at the back last season, but this year her speed will be utilized up front to create even more opportunities.

Daniels said, “Our strength this year is our speed; our team has many players that excel on the track in the off-season. Last year we made big strides offensively and this year we plan on using the speed of many players to help us continue the offensive push we need.”

Rocketeers’ Rally Comes Up Just Short Against Wamps

North Attleboro softball
North Attleboro’s Emily Nardelli tags out Braintree’s Lily Adams in the fifth inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro had the right defense in place and the pitch out of sophomore Bella Erti’s right hand was in the right spot.

But Braintree’s Meghan Duffy got just enough of the pitch, the two-out bloop single falling just fair in no man’s land in right field, bringing two runs across.

That was all the damage the Wamps did on the scoreboard, and despite a seventh-inning rally from the host Rocketeers, it was enough for a 2-1 victory for #9 Braintree.

“It was an inside pitch and she just fisted it out there,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace.
“What are you going to do? We had the right defense on for an inside pitch, but those things happen. I told the girls afterward, that’s why we play the games. You have to tip your hat to Braintree’s pitcher [Erin Barry]. I don’t think she walked a batter.”

Barry, in fact, didn’t issue a base on balls and struck out 11 Rocketeers. North had just two hits through six innings before nearly coming back to tie the game in the final frame.

Sophomore Abby Gallagher led off the inning with a double to left to start the rally and classmate Ashley Cangiano followed with a hard hit single through the right side for a single, putting runners on the corners with no outs.

Sophomore Annabelle Hebard grounded out to shortstop but Gallagher came racing home, cutting the deficit to 2-1, while Cangiano took second.

Barry put an end to the rally through, striking out the next two North Attleboro batters to secure the win.

Erti was equally as good to Barry, allowing just four hits with one walk and six strikeouts.

Braintree orchestrated its two-runs with a leadoff single from Barry before Erti got the first out with a strikeout. Lily Adams reached on an infield error and courtesy runner Delia McGuire advanced to second.

On a ground ball from Kara Paquin, McGuire was called out after a collision with North Attleboro freshman Emily Nardelli, keeping runners at first and second with two outs. But Samantha Hayes drew a two-out walk and Duffy followed with the bloop double.

Olivia Capobianco led off the fourth inning with a bunt single and ended up on second after a throwing error. Gallagher’s groundout to Capobianco at third with just one out but Barry once again got a big strikeout and then a soft liner to short to end the threat.

“I had a great group of seniors, there were 10 of them, they are going to be sorely missed,” Wallace said. “And then we also have a very good group coming back. We have seven starters coming back, including the pitcher and the catcher. It’s a tough way to go but they had a great season. If you had told them at the beginning of the year they’d be 16-5, I think they’d be pretty happy with that. But as you go, your expectations increase so it makes it harder.”

North Attleboro softball finishes the season at 16-5.

Dramatic Win Keeps Franklin Playoff Hopes Alive

Franklin softball
Franklin players race to celebrate with senior Meg Caron (26) after she drove in the game-winning run in the 10th inning to beat North Attleboro and keep Franklin’s chance to reach the tournament alive. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin came into Monday’s Memorial Day matinee with North Attleboro needing a victory keep alive hopes of reaching the postseason. After punching in a run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, throwing a runner out at the plate to stay tied in the ninth, and escaping a bases loaded jam in the top half of the 10th, the Panthers were just 60 feet from the win.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Senior Meghan Caron, the lone Panther player celebrating senior night before the first pitch, stood at the plate with Tara Hartnett poised at third. Caron hit a chopper towards the left side of the infield and North shortstop Emily Nardelli had to come home with it, but Hartnett was off on contact and slid in ahead of the throw.

Franklin pulled out a 4-3 victory that split the season series against the Rocketeers and also sends the Panthers into the season finale knowing that a win will clinch a spot in the state tournament.

“I’m so pumped for her,” Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau said of Caron. “They call her ‘Meg Money’ because she was so clutch when she was younger, growing up, and I’m just glad she was the one that was clutch today.”

It was a back-and-forth game from the start. The Panthers took the lead in the bottom of the first thanks to an unearned run. Allie Shea (3-for-5) got it started with a single to left and Anna Balkus beat out a bunt single. Nardelli made a diving stab of a Maddy White grounder up the middle to get a force at second but a bobble on a grounder off the bat of Hartnett brought Shea home.

North took its lone lead of the game in the third inning. Olivia Capobianco singled with one out and stole second. Abby Gallagher followed with a walk and then Ashley Cangiano lined a double into right center than scored one. North coach Bill Wallace held up Gallagher, as the Franklin relay got the ball in quickly, but Bella Erti helped her own cause with a single that drove in both runners for a 3-1 advantage.

Franklin cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning. Balkus and White singled to start the inning and, after a force at third to get the lead runner, Hartnett singled to right to drive in White and make it 3-2.

After the third both pitchers settled into their starts. Erti retired 12 straight Franklin hitters from the third to the seventh inning and finished the game with eight strikeouts. Cherry kept the Rocketeers off-balance, moving the ball around and although she walked eight hitters, she also struck out 15 and didn’t allow a run over the final seven innings.

“She settled in nicely,” Fallon-Comeau said of her starter. “She found the pitch that worked for her and, you know, she just pounded parts of the zone that they didn’t seem to be hitting hard.”

North had its chances to extend the lead, stranding a pair of runners in the fourth and one each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh. “We did [get the hits] early to go up 3-1,” Wallace said, “but then we had runners in scoring position all day but we left a small village on base.”

The inability to tack on insurance runs came back to haunt the Rocketeers in the seventh. A one-out walk to the nine-hitter Gabby Colace got the rally started. Shea followed with a single to left and both moved up into scoring position on a groundout to first by Balkus. White hit a bouncer to short that Nardelli bobbled for a split second before firing to first. It was a bang-bang play at the bag and White was ruled safe, allowing the tying run to score.

“It’s either now or never, so get it done. If you want your season to continue then you need to get a run here, two would be nice,” said Fallon-Comeau of her message to the team before the seventh. She added, “They’ve been that way all season. They don’t get down. They really rise up for the competition.”

North nearly broke the deadlock in the ninth. A one-out walk to Gallagher was followed by a blast to center by Cangiano that one-hopped the fence. This time, Wallace elected to send the runner, but the relay from Balkus to Hartnett to catcher Maggie Hobby was perfectly executed to cut down the go-ahead run at the plate.

Fallon-Comeau explained, “I can’t tell you how many balls we’ve hit off the fence and say okay get the fastest kid in our program out at home. We do it all the time because it comes down to get the ball and perfect throw and perfect throw. If you don’t have that, then it’s a run.”

Franklin put two on in the ninth as well, with one-out singles by Shea and Balkus but Erti got a pop on the infield and a strikeout to end the threat.

“She grinded and that’s typical of her that she gets better as the game goes on,” Wallace said of Erti. “She’s not the least bit tired right now. In her eyes, she’d rather be out there throwing two, three more innings.”

The Rocketeers threatened again in the 10th. Katherine Munley drew a walk and with two outs Andrea Miceli lined a single to left. After Abby Warren drew a walk, the bases were loaded but Cherry was able to bear down and struck out Capobianco to keep the game tied.

“Little things win games like that and we didn’t do enough of the little things to win,” said Wallace, who added that this was good preparation for his team before the tournament. “We’ve got to do a better job situationally hitting, things like that, and these are things we can point out at practice.”

In the bottom of the inning, Hartnett singled to start the inning and moved up to second on a wild pitch. She failed to move up a base on a hard grounder to the right side by Kylie-Jade Bouzan but went to third on a second wild pitch. That gave Caron the chance to be the hero on senior night.

“We did it. I don’t know how we did it, but we did it,” said Fallon-Comeau. “Bill and I, since probably back when I was in high school because he was the coach when I played, have always had these barnburner games. It goes back-and-forth, back-and-forth all the time and I’m just glad it swung back in our direction this time because we needed it.”

Franklin (9-10, 8-8) will have one last game against Bridgewater-Raynham on Wednesday night. If the Panthers win, then they are in the playoffs. North Attleboro (15-3, 11-3) will face Davenport division champ Milford on Thursday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

2018 Hockomock League Softball Preview

2018 Hockomock Softball Preview
Milford won the Div. 1 state championship in 2017 and brings back six starters to try and repeat, but the rest of the Hockomock League will be aiming to take down the Hawks this season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2017 Record: 9-10
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro made a return to the state tournament last spring thanks to a no-hitter from McKenzie Bergdoll in the final game of the regular season and now the Bombardiers, who lost only three players from last year’s roster, are looking to build on that success to make another run at the postseason this year. Bergdoll, a junior, will be back in the circle again this season as well as one of the big bats that Attleboro will rely on to make it back-to-back playoff appearances.

Senior rightfielder Casey Whelan will add experience to a relatively young outfield unit and fellow seniors Vanessa Dancer and Adrianna Elel will provide leadership. Juniors Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti are back to contribute to the Bombardiers playoff challenge and there are high expectations for a talented group of sophomores that includes Makenzie Killough, Ashley Macia, and twin sisters Emma and Jenna Gittle.

“With the loss of only three seniors last year, our season has several impact returning veterans along with some new freshman that will fill the holes quite nicely,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “This season’s early player roster looks very promising but it will be the leadership of the team that will determine our direction and state the facts at the end of the season.”

Canton

2017 Record: 1-19
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Jennifer Robillard

Canton is coming off a difficult 2017, after winning one game under first-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, but both the coaches and players have a year of experience to build on and an infusion of young talent, with five freshmen being added to the varsity roster, has the Bulldogs looking at 2018 as a year to get the program heading in the right direction.

Sophomore Caroline Hughes will be the starting pitcher and will bat third this season and the coaches are confident that she can provide a lift to the team. Senior Hannah Jerrier will also be back in the middle of the order, after missing almost all of last season after breaking her hand during basketball, and should give the Bulldogs some added pop in the lineup. Senior Katie Halloran will be back in the middle of the infield and senior Evelyn Carrington returns in center. Unfortunately, injuries have struck again with sophomore Jackie Howard lost for the season, but Robillard believes that several of the new faces can come in and contribute right away.

“As a first-year varsity coach, last year was a learning experience for both myself and the girls,” Robillard said. “I am confident that we will make great strides towards success this season.”

Foxboro

2017 Record: 5-16
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Maguire

Foxboro earned a playoff berth through the Sullivan Rule a season ago, despite 15 losses in the regular season, but the Warriors were much better than their overall record and No. 20 seed may have suggested. Out of the 16 games that Foxboro lost in 2017, six were by two runs or less, including a 2-0 loss to Ursuline Academy in the tournament, and those close games are what head coach Mark Maguire is hoping his team can turn into wins this year to make a run at the playoffs.

The Warriors will be looking to senior catcher Hannah Davis to provide the offensive punch, as the perennial league all-star has been among the Hockomock’s best hitters for the past three seasons. Classmate Lexi Buckner will also add some offense in the middle of the order and the lefty will be moving from second base to first this year. Senior Kelly McCarthy will be back in center and at the top of the order, while Chelsea Gibbons will be at third and Camryn Willis will be back at shortstop. Foxboro also has experience in the circle as third-year starter Emma Rohan will get the ball again for the Warriors.

“We have good senior leadership,” said Maguire about the team’s strengths. “Right down the center of the field we have vocal leaders to help the defense. We’re a good hitting team and I think fielding and pitching should be even better this year.”

Franklin

2017 Record: 10-12
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Kate Fallon

Franklin missed the playoffs a season ago and have a relatively young roster this season, with just one senior in the squad, so the Panthers are flying under the radar as the season gets underway, but they don’t mind if teams overlook them at the start of the season as they try to get back into the postseason.

While there are a number of new faces for Franklin this season, the battery of junior pitcher Jackie Cherry and junior catcher Ally Shea are back, which gives the Panthers a strong foundation on which to build. Junior shortstop Tara Hartnett is also back to give Franklin strong middle of the infield defense and sophomore Anna Balkus will be in center. Senior Meg Caron, the lone upperclassman on the team, will add versatility playing at third and some outfield this season.

“We’re looking to make it back to the tournament this season,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “Ally Shea and Meg Caron will provide excellent leadership for our up and coming athletes and no doubt in my mind they will be an integral part of our successes this season!”

King Philip

2017 Record: 18-7
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

Despite a lot of turnover in the lineup last spring, King Philip followed up its 2016 state championship by winning the Kelley-Rex division title and reaching the quarterfinal of the Div. 1 South sectional. With 10 returning players this season, KP has typically high expectations and one of the state’s perennial powers seems poised to make another run at a league title, which would be its 11th in the past 12 seasons, and to go deep in the state tournament.

The biggest change for the Warriors this season will be in the circle where senior Elise Pereira takes over as the primary starter after the graduation of Jenn Hutnyan. Pereira saw plenty of action last year too, but will have to shoulder the majority of the innings this season, backed up by Faith Turnese. Brianna Lacy will be behind the dish, returning as one of the league’s top defensive catchers. Senior Hailey McCasland returns at second base and junior Meghan Gorman is back at shortstop after a breakout sophomore season. Jess Bonner returns at third and senior Sydney Phillips will once again be in centerfield.

It is a loaded lineup with a ton of speed and a strong defensive unit, according to KP head coach Norm Beauchemin. He added, “This is a very hungry team that should compete for the Kelly-Rex and make a strong run in the playoffs.”

Mansfield

2017 Record: 13-9
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Lori Letendre

After booking a return to the state tournament last spring, Mansfield returns 10 players, including five starters, to try and make it four playoff appearances in a row. The Hornets are relatively young with only three seniors on the roster and have some holes to fill, including two-thirds of the outfield, but there is a lot of confidence that the program will be able to compete with the best in the league.

Sarah Cahill took over as the starter during the season last year and she will be back in the circle again this spring trying to build on an impressive debut. Cahill will be throwing to her battery mate, as Caty DeMassi is back behind the plate. While the corner infield spots are open this year, Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo are back to fill the other infield spots and give the Hornets strength up the middle. Junior Mady Bendanillo is also back to patrol centerfield and fill one of the middle of the order spots, as one of the league’s most dangerous hitters. Freshman Elle Veheggen joins the team this spring as a newcomer to keep an eye on.

“We are a young team,” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre. “The girls have been working hard in the off-season and came into tryouts well-prepared.”

Milford

2017 Record: 25-1
2017 Finish: Won D1 State Championship
Coach: Steve DiVitto

The defending Div. 1 state champions look loaded for another run at the title with nine returning players, including six starters, back from last season’s tournament run. Kelley Reichert will take over for Ali Atherton in the circle after seeing time as a reliever and starter in each of the past three seasons. The lineup looks just as potent as last year with senior shortstop Emily Piergustavo back after being named HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and league MVP.

Senior first baseman Jess Tomaso is back to add power in the heart of the order and senior Kate Irwin, fresh off reaching 1,000 points in her Milford basketball career, will return to set the table as the lead-off hitter and emotional spark plug. Senior second baseman Maddy Bonvino, senior rightfielder Shannon Cormier and junior catcher Emily Hartman will add depth to a fearsome lineup that features lots of power and speed.

“This year’s team is focused on the here and now and not the past,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “Each year a new page is turned over, and the focus this year is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season.”

North Attleboro

2017 Record: 14-7
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Bill Wallace

The Rocketeers had a young squad last season but managed to surprise a few people by reaching the Div. 1 South semifinal, including an upset of league rival Taunton, and after that year of experience North Attleboro is expecting to be competitive again this spring. Sophomore pitcher Bella Erti is back in the circle after a strong freshman campaign and will be throwing to classmate Ashley Cangiano with the hope of improving on her breakout season.

Olivia Capobianco is back in centerfield after turning in a strong season and she will also be one of the table-setters for the lineup. Abby Gallagher and Katherine Munley will join Capobianco in an experienced outfield for the Rocketeers. Annabelle Hebard, Katy Daby and Abby Warren will play the corner infield positions, while Andrea Miceli is back at second base after a strong year at the plate and in the field. Stephanie Inglese and freshman Emily Nardelli will compete for the shortstop position.

North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace said, “If we want to repeat the success of last year we will need to find some power in the middle of the lineup lost to graduation last year.”

Oliver Ames

2017 Record: 4-16
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Oliver Ames will have plenty of experience this spring as it makes a run at a return to the state tournament. The Tigers have 10 players back from last year’s roster, including six seniors, highlighted by junior pitcher Kayla Georgeu, who will take the ball as the primary starter again this spring and who head coach Lindsey Allison thinks is ready to “come into her own” both in the circle and at the plate.

The strong senior class includes infielder Alexis Campbell, who will also chip in as a pitcher this year, outfielders Sarah Tetrault and Marissa Guarino, infielders Caroline Mahoney and Rachel Han, and catcher Antonia Peretti. Sophomore Katie Abreu had a strong rookie campaign and is expected to have an even better second season with the Tigers.

“The best thing about this team is their heart and determination – they show up to practice excited to work together and work hard every day,” Allison said. “They are coachable and strive to get better at every opportunity.”

Sharon

2017 Record: 6-14
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Heather Poliferno

There is a change at the top for Sharon this spring and Heather Poliferno takes over for the Eagles, replacing Deb Parker after her move to league rival Stoughton, and the new staff is confident that the experienced players on the roster will set the tone for the team and give the Eagles a chance at booking a place in the state tournament.

Seniors Jamie Kessler and Jenika Patel and junior Rebecca Clayman are the captains this season and will provide leadership that Poliferno called “key to our success this season.” Junior Alli Small and freshman Julia Earley are players to keep an eye on this season for the Eagles as they could be big contributors in the field and at the plate. Junior outfielder Courtney Sollis brings an accurate arm and consistent contact at the plate.

“Our passion for the game and drive to compete is why we will be a strong contender in the Hock this year,” Poliferno said.

Stoughton

2017 Record: 10-11
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Deb Parker

After back-to-back playoff appearances, Stoughton welcomes a new coach this spring to take over a roster filled with experience and talent. Deb Parker has made the move across the Davenport from Sharon to take over the Black Knights with an eye at another run at the postseason and with senior pitcher Gina Carafa back in the circle and the middle of the order there is plenty of optimism for a strong spring.

Joining Carafa in the Stoughton lineup is junior Jordan Lyons, who Parker called a “standout” third baseman. Lyons is one of a group of talented juniors that Stoughton will be counting on this season, including second baseman Nikki Coppola, shortstop Karly Estremera, and catcher Brianna Ferrandiz. Sophomore Lexi Baptista will add versatility to the lineup and Parker is excited about the freshmen class and expects that they will be able to contribute as well.

“The energy of this team is infectious!” said Parker. “ I am looking forward to this season and have very high expectations about what this team will be able to accomplish.”

Taunton

2017 Record: 17-5
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Dave Lewry

Even with a host of underclassmen in the lineup, this is an experienced Taunton roster that will be trying to put together a run not only at a league title but also at a deep tournament run, after seeing the last couple of seasons end earlier than expected. With 10 returning varsity players, including seven starters, the Tigers will have high expectations and the key to reaching those goals will be replacing pitcher Courtney Fisher, as freshman Kelsey White and sophomore Jaylin Couto will step into the circle as regular starters this season. Junior Alexa White will also see time at pitcher.

The lineup is loaded again this spring, starting with senior catcher Kya Enos, who added power to her game last year. Junior Jaime Brown is in her fourth year on varsity and is coming off a season in which she was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Freshmen Hanna Aldrich and McKenzie McAloon stepped right in at the middle infield positions last year and will be building on that experience this year. Senior Lianna Duarte is back in center and senior left-fielder MacKenzie Handrahan will bring power to the middle of the lineup as well.

“I think we should have a solid infield defense,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “Offensively we have the capability of putting runs on the board with a deep and experienced lineup.”

North, KP Finish Level In Battle of Division Leaders

King Philip girls soccer
King Philip’s Chloe Layne (left) challenges North Attleboro’s Sam Hawkins for possession. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Both King Philip and North Attleboro boast some of the top goal scorers in the area, all-league caliber defenders, playmaking midfielders, and goalies capable of making game-changing saves.

It’s no wonder the sides played to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday afternoon.

“I thought North came out wanting it a bit more than us in the first half,” said King Philip head coach Gary Pichel. “And then we wanted it a bit more in the second half and North seemed to settle back a little bit trying to protect their lead.”

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The Rocketeers were indeed on the front foot in the first half. After King Philip had a pair of possible chances inside the first two minutes, the majority of play belonged to the home side.

KP’s Emma Corcoran delivered a long free kick into the area that was touched on by Avery Snead, but North goalie Emma Noreck was quick to cover before Chloe Layne could pounce on the loose ball.

North nearly opened the scoring on a corner kick in the ninth minute, when Ashlyn Gaulin’s left-footed service was tipped on by KP keeper Emma Durant, falling to Kayla Pasquel but her volley effort went over the bar.

But a minute later, the Rocketeers did break through on another corner attempt. Gaulin’s service was knocked down, bouncing out to Leah Jette. She quickly put the ball back into the mix in front of net and senior Haley Guertin buried from close range to make it 1-0.

Snead had a pair of chances six minutes later. First, she was able to get in behind the defense but strong work from North’s Rachel LaBonte forced a tough angle shot that was saved by Noreck. A minute later, Snead was put in behind the defense but Noreck was quick off her line and won the race to the ball.

In the 25th minute, Emma Gaulin won possession along the touchline and ripped a shot at the near post, but Durant knocked it down for the save. Emma Gaulin had another chance on a rebound bid eight minutes later on a service from sister Ashlyn but Durant sprawled to make another stop.

Durant made one more big stop in the first half, denying Jette’s bid from outside the area.

“I thought both keepers played excellent today,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace. “They both made some very good saves. This is the first time in two years that I’ve changed things up formation wise to game plan for a team. And they did great. Sam Hawkins did an awesome job on Chloe [Layne]. We knew restarts would be tough. Haley Ferrin did a nice job on the corner kicks marking Avery [Snead].”

North Attleboro’s defense doubled both Layne and Snead often, with Labonte and Hawkins shadowing one of the two around.

“[King Philip] is definitely not a two-trick pony though, he’s got a good side,” Wallace added. “But those two are really dangerous, all you have to do is look at the stat sheet. Big games like this, the big players step up. Haley and Avery score the goals, the defenses were good. The league is as balanced as I can remember, anyone can take a point in any given game.”

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The Warriors put the pressure on in the second half, pushing the majority of play into their attacking third.

Just eight minutes into the second half, KP nearly found the equalizer when Ally Stanton drove a shot from just outside the area that looked destined for the back of the net, but Noreck made a diving save to push it wide.

KP had its second and third corners come in a 10-minute span during the second half but North’s defense did well to clear it away. In the first meeting between the two teams, in a non-league game, the Warriors scored twice on corner kicks to win 4-2.

The visitors finally found the equalizer in the 64th minute. Corcoran delivered a free kick from just over midfield that found the head of Layne. She flicked the service on, and Snead latched onto it and looper her header over the keeper and into the net.

“Emma Corcoran, off of set pieces, has so many assists to Avery or Chloe it’s not even funny,” Pichel said. “She can find them in the middle of the pack and they do their work. I don’t think there is anyone who can head the ball better than Avery, and Chloe is just a magician with the ball.”

North Attleboro had a final shot at finding a winner when Gaulin played a through ball for Jette, but Durant came out and cut down the angle, knocking down the shot at the near post to keep the game level.

“I thought North played really, really well today,” Pichel added. “That’s their second straight big game against a first-place team. With Mansfield, I think the three of us are neck-and-neck. All three teams are going to be tough in the playoffs.”

King Philip girls soccer (12-1-1 overall, 9-1-1 Hockomock) begins the final stretch of the season with five straight Kelley-Rex games, starting with a visit from Attleboro on Friday. North Attleboro (7-2-2 overall, 7-1-2 Hockomock) entertains Canton on Friday in a key division battle — the two sides are separated by just two points with five league games left.

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Rocketeers Use Late Flurry to Pull Away From OA

North Attleboro girls soccer
North Attleboro forward Ashlyn Gaulin (3) battles through a host of Oliver Ames defenders in Wednesday night’s win at Muscato Stadium. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – North Attleboro kept probing, trying to find a hole in an Oliver Ames defense, but the Tigers held resolute for 66 minutes of Wednesday night’s meeting of defending league champions at Muscato Stadium. Despite North controlling the lion’s share of the possession, it looked like the Tigers would come away with a point.

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In the 67th minute, with the help of a massive deflection (and according to the OA bench, a handball on the edge of the box), North found the breakthrough. The first one opened the floodgates and the potent Rocketeers attack put the result beyond doubt, scoring four goals in the final 13 minutes of the game to pick up an impressive 4-0 road win.

“We played a pretty good first half and I don’t think we played better in the second half, but we finished,” said North coach Bill Wallace.

After a strong opening half in which it forced OA keeper Regan Benton into five saves (although none that were particularly demanding), North had two golden scoring chances in the first five minutes after the break.

Ashlyn Gaulin got on the end of Haley Guertin’s flicked header, but flashed her shot just past the outstretched hand of Benton and past the post. Two minutes later, Guertin cut in from the right and teed up Kayla Pasquel who made an unmarked run down the left wing, but the junior’s first-time shot was pulled wide.

When asked if he was starting to think that it may not be North’s night after those two chances went begging, Wallace laughed and said, “Yes, but no two games, no two days are the same. It’s a crazy game and what makes it great is that you can lose control and come out with a positive result and, conversely, you can control a game and come out with a negative result.”

North was dominating possession and controlling the midfield led by senior Aine Mendonca. The young Tigers were struggling to keep the ball against the North press, but when North went forward the OA defensive unit of Maeve Hogan, Athena Sarafoglou, Brianna Gibson, and Gabrielle McLaughlin had an answer.

“They’ve got so much offense up front and we really struggled in the midfield today,” said OA coach Britt Sellmayer. “We can play much better and we need to have a little more composure. We played physical today; the last two games we weren’t aggressive enough.”

Wallace told his team to just keep pushing. He explained, “My halftime speech was pretty simple – patience. You could see we were getting frustrated. I just said, be patient and trust your gut.”

In the 67th minute, North had a long free kick and senior Rachel Labonte played it to Guertin on the edge of the box. Her first effort was blocked but the ball rebounded back to the forward, who took another touch and had a second go. This shot took a huge deflection that wrong-footed Benton and found the back of the net.

Just two minutes later, North doubled its lead. Pasquel took the ball down the outside on the left and got to the byline before crossing to the back post where Mackenzie Rosenberg had found a foot of space. The sub pulled it down, took a touch and hit a half-volley to make it 2-0.

“Kenzi’s goal was a backbreaker,” said Wallace. “Good for her; she makes the most of her minutes when she gets out there and I’m so happy for her.”

Down by two goals, OA still could not find a way to create a chance for Abby Reardon, Jackie Mills, or Anabella Walsh. Sellmayer credited the North defense, including center backs Emily Chiasson and Labonte, and especially right back Sam Hawkins.

He said, “The three players at the back were so solid. I mean, No. 9 (Hawkins) played a great game and we couldn’t match up with her.”

In the 72nd minute, North sealed the points with a third goal. Haley Ferrin flicked the ball into the box and it ricocheted past Benton, who had slid out to stop the first shot. Leah Jette was on hand to tap in. Ally Blaisdell wrapped it up directly off a corner (which came after the best of Benton’s 11 saves) when her cross bounced at the near post and skipped into the back of the net.

“After starting out with Franklin,” Wallace said, “we’re still curious what kind of team we’re going to be. We certainly have the talent, it’s just that we have to out it together in all phases of the game.”

He added, “The girls are thrilled, it’s going to be a fun bus ride home, and then back to work against Canton.”

North Attleboro (2-1) will put its two-game win streak on the line on Friday when it travels to Davenport division rival Canton. Oliver Ames (3-1) faces a tough trip to unbeaten Franklin.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.