NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It was senior night for North Attleboro on Tuesday night against Miflord, but the Rocketeers turned to a couple of underclassmen to lead the way. Freshman Amanda Kaiser scored a career-high 14 points (all in the first half) and junior Julia Feid scored a game-high 17 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, to pace North.
Senior Julia Santos also chipped in with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rocketeers to propel North to a 55-45 victory over the Hawks in the Kenneth Pickering Gym.
“I thought the underclassmen played really well,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “They wanted to do it for the seniors.”
He added, “I know they’re a little shorthanded and that’s the problem with this league. On any given night…You go on the road on a Tuesday night, unfortunately you’re going to get a game where you might not have your best stuff and then Feid hits those two runners and free throws down the stretch, we pull it out.”
Milford was missing players to injury and school trips and star point guard Kate Irwin was only just back from missing two games to an injury as well, but the Hawks were able to take a 12-11 lead after one quarter.
North picked it up in the second by turning to Kaiser. Feid (five assists) kicked it out to the freshman in the corner for a three and an 18-15 lead, she added a layup in transition (after a Feid pass over the top of the defense), and then she knocked down step-back three in the corner that put North up 26-19.
“We’ve been trying to tell her, she’s got the green light,” said Herber of Kaiser. “She doesn’t lack for confidence and she did very well tonight.”
Feid also knocked down a pair of threes in the second, as North caught fire from the outside. Milford kept it close by hitting from the outside as well. Julie Rabinowitz (12 points) buried a pair from beyond the arc and Irwin (team-high 15 points) hit one, but the Hawks went into the break down 29-22.
“We didn’t finish around the rim at all,” said Miflord coach T.J. Dolliver. “There were a lot of close shots right around the rim, contested here or there, but we just couldn’t finish. Defensively, we just had too many breakdowns.”
Things got worse for the Hawks in the second half, as North scored the first seven points in the third and extended the lead to as many as 14. Senior Emily Haskell hit a three and assisted on a bucket by classmate Santos.
Milford started to climb back in by going inside to Gillian Valanzola, who scored with a post move on the left block. The senior played almost every minute of the game and finished with, six points, 12 rebounds, and nine blocks trying to control the paint.
“We ask a lot of her to play that many minutes because it’s hard for a big to play that many minutes,” Dolliver explained, “but with the injury to Juliana [Tracy] we needed her to.” When it was mentioned that Valanzola stepped up when Milford needed it, Dolliver replied, “She definitely did. I knew that she would.”
Emily Piergustavo (11 points) knocked down a three and Rabinowitz added her third shot from beyond the arc and suddenly Milford was back in it, down just six heading to the fourth.
Irwin started the fourth quarter with a three to cut the lead in half. While it got the senior to 10 points on the night, Herber credited sophomore Olivia Forbes for making it difficult for Irwin and the interior defenders for holding their own in the paint.
“We said, she’s going to get her points, we’ve got to contain her,” he said. “The first time, we doubled down because we were afraid of the inside and they’ve got some kids who can shoot. Santos and [Eliza] Dion and everyone we mixed in there was able to take care of the inside and keep us in it.”
Sophomore Julia Kleczkowski answered Irwin with a three of her own (her only points on the night) and then Feid got going. She scored off the glass in transition off a Haskell assist and then drove the ball to the basket and finished to make it 48-40.
Irwin snagged a long rebound and banked in a three to keep it a five-point game with time running out but Feid went 4-for-4 from the line in the final minute to seal the win.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” said Dolliver about working with a short bench. “I knew they were an improved team and I told the girls that before the game and yesterday at practice as well. There were a lot of things that went wrong for us tonight.”
North Attleboro (4-13, 3-12) will try close out league play with a win on Friday against league champion Foxboro. Milford (11-8, 7-8) will close out the regular season against Sharon as it tries to build momentum for the playoffs.
MILFORD, Mass. – Heading into halftime of Tuesday night’s game at Milford High, the Hawks seemed on the verge of an upset over Kelley-Rex division leader Mansfield, but a collision in the final minute of the second quarter proved to be the game’s decisive moment and sparked a big second half comeback for the Hornets.
Senior point guard Kate Irwin, who had been held to five points and two assists in the first half, but who drew most of the attention from the Mansfield defense, collided with Mady Bendanillo and landed hard. Irwin could not return and the Hornets were able to take advantage.
Mansfield ran off 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to not only take the lead but also take control of the game on the way to a 53-40 victory that keeps the Hornets in front by two games in the league standings.
“This is a game that defines how good Kate Irwin is,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “They’ve got a really good team but she’s the engine that makes it go. They had us on the ropes and we were going to be in deep trouble to get a win out of here with her in for a full game. She’s an MVP-caliber type player.”
With the Hornets mixing things up on defense and keying on Irwin, trying to keep the ball out of her hands, other Milford players needed to step up. Juliana Tracy scored all five of her points in the first, knocking down a three and scoring on a rebound, and Jess Tomaso drove to the hoop for two.
Mansfield would hold a 14-10 lead after the first thanks to senior center Meg Hill (17 points and 10 rebounds). She scored the Hornets’ first six points and, as the Hawks sank down on the paint, Emily Vigeant and Ann Maher (six points) drilled threes.
In the second quarter, Milford made the Hornets pay for giving so much attention to Irwin. After a jumper by Maggie Danehy (eight points and 10 rebounds) put Mansfield up by seven, the Hawks started to click.
Piergustavo knocked down a pull-up jumper, Gillian Valanzola drove to the basket for two points, and Julie Rabinowitz drilled a three to cut the lead to two. Piergustavo nailed her second three of the game to give Milford its first lead at 23-22, as part of a 13-0 run to close the half. Valanzola got free on another drive and Irwin caught Mansfield with a back cut and layup and Piergustavo closed the quarter with another three.
“I think we got got good looks,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver. “We have the players to step up and make those shots. We’ve expected defenses to take away Kate, but we don’t really plan for it and we don’t really practice it too much because we have the pieces that we need to be a complete basketball team.”
Coming out of halftime, Irwin was forced to the bench holding an ice pack and the Hawks never recovered. Mansfield turned things around, locking down on defense and shutting out Milford in the quarter, while finally getting the offense in gear.
Maher hit a three to cut the lead to a single point and then the Hornets took back the lead after Vigeant tracked down a rebound and assisted on a Hill basket. Bendanillo added four points in the third and Sydney Mulkern came off the bench to score nine points on three shots from beyond the arc to push the lead to 14 (44-30) heading into the fourth.
“Not many kids can come off the bench and first shot bury the three but she’s cool and calm and she’s got confidence in her shot,” said Redding of Mulkern. “She gives us a really good defender. She’s quick, long and defends really well.”
He added, “We played a great third quarter. Obviously, it helped not having to defend Kate but we also woke up on offense, started passing it well, and making some shots.”
The Hawks struggled without their point guard in the third, but Dolliver credited his team for not allowing the game to get out-of-hand and pushing back in the fourth.
“When Kate goes down and can’t enter the game again, the team is in shock a little bit,” he explained. “It takes a little while to get over that as an athlete, but I still thought we played well in the second half. There were the first five minutes or so where we were stagnant offensively, and defensively, and it’s a matter of picking yourself up and starting to play better.”
Milford cut the lead to 12, but Danehy scored on an offensive rebound and Hill drained a jumper. Rabinowitz nailed her second three and Tomaso (six points) scored with a baseline drive, before Piergustavo (14 points) ended with her fourth three.
“People are going to look at the box score and say, oh Milford lost by 13, but that’s not the story of the game,” said Dolliver. “I’m very proud of the way we played and we’re just trying to get ready for the playoffs.”
Redding had a similar thought after the final whistle. He admitted, “We’re lucky to get out of here. Stoughton did us a favor and we almost gave it back tonight. I told the girls, from here on in everyone’s out to knock us off. We have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Mansfield (12-4, 10-1) will get back into division play on Friday when it hosts Taunton. Milford (10-5, 6-5) will try to hold onto second in the Davenport when it faces Stoughton.
MILFORD, Mass. – Holding onto a seven-point lead with a little more than a minute remaining in Tuesday night’s game against Davenport division rival Canton, Milford moved the ball around the perimeter to run clock. Despite the pressure from the Canton guards, the Hawks were able to keep the ball moving until it got to senior guard Kate Irwin on the left wing.
The lefty point guard took two hard dribbles to get space and pulled up from just inside the three-point line. Irwin got a clean look and hit nothing but net on the last of her game-high 26 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
Irwin’s jumper effectively sealed a 49-38 victory for the Hawks, who move into a tie with the Bulldogs for second place in the division ahead of the visit of league leading Foxboro on Friday.
“We played that to perfection,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver of the team’s penultimate possession. “I’m happy to see that because when we played Stoughton we didn’t handle the end of game situation well and that bucket there is the difference in the game. We ran 25 seconds off and made a bucket.”
Irwin had only two points in the first quarter, as Canton junior Maggie Connolly made her work for every shot. The imposing figures of 6-foot-3 Erin Devine and 6-foot-1 Hannah Jerrier in the paint also made it difficult to find good looks at the rim.
Senior guard Emily Piergustavo picked up the slack for the Hawks in the first with seven of her nine points, including a a three and a basket from an offensive rebound. Devine led the Bulldogs with four and it was a three-point edge for the Hawks heading to the second.
That was when Irwin started to catch fire. She opened the second with a traditional three-point play off a steal, scored off a Piergustavo offensive rebound and assist and then got another steal and transition basket.
“Getting to the hoop in the half court was going to be difficult,” said Dolliver about his team’s desire to run at every opportunity, “so luckily we got our good looks in transition and we were getting to the hoop.”
Canton continued to keep the game close, despite only getting four points from Jerrier. The team’s leading scorer was blanketed by Milford’s 2-3 zone with all of the Hawks making sure to know where the senior was at all times. The zone opened up opportunities from the outside and junior guard Julia Hamilton (nine points) made a pair of threes, the second of which tied the score at 24-24 in the third quarter.
“We get into a lot of situations where we defer to the bigs because they’re talented and it’s part of our game plan to utilize them, so it’s nice to have Julia do one of the things she’s good at and help our team get us ahead in that area,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette.
Jerrier (10 points and 11 rebounds) scored off a Connolly assist to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead, but Milford went on a 9-2 run to finish the third with a five-point advantage. Irwin scored eight of those final nine points, hitting a pair of pull-up jumpers and scoring twice off of steals.
“She always makes the difference,” said Dolliver of Irwin. “She’s a tough kid too. I get on her now and then and she handles it well.”
The game remained tight in the fourth quarter. Jerrier scored on a putback to start the fourth, but Gillian Valanzola scored off an Irwin assist to answer. Hamilton got the ball into Devine for a basket at the rim and, after Jess Tomaso scored to push the lead back to four, Molly Ludwig scored off another Hamilton assist to make it 37-35.
Again, the Hawks were able to close a quarter strongly. Kate Lobisser rattled in her only basket of the night to get the run started and Irwin added three more with a finish, plus the contact, following a steal. After the teams traded a series of free throws, Irwin got open in the corner and hit the dagger jumper to ensure the win.
“We didn’t execute enough to win,” admitted Choquette. “You have to give credit to Milford…at the end of the day, they just made more of those little things that they had to right. The score’s not as close as the game was, but in a close game it comes down to the team that makes the extra play.”
Milford’s ability to compete with Canton’s size on the glass was also a factor in limiting the Bulldog’s offense. Tomaso and Valanzola each finished with six rebounds, while Irwin and Juliana Tracy each finished with five.
Dolliver explained, “I don’t know how many offensive rebounds they had but they had their fair share and they’re going to get their fair share in every game, but that was a point of emphasis before the game because that’s where a lot of their points come from.”
Milford (5-2, 3-2) will host league leading Foxboro on Friday night. Canton (4-2, 3-2) will be back home on Friday to face Sharon.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”
2016 Record: 2-17 2016 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Richard Seibert
First year head coach Dick Seibert is hoping a mix of strong returning players and new faces will help Attleboro turn things around this season. One reason for hope is four-year varsity player Lexi Pereira, who was selected to the HockomockSports.com Second Team a year ago. Pereira provides the Bombardiers with a potent attack at the net as well as a strong defensive presence. Seniors Sarah Lynch (third year on varsity) and Rachel Perreault (libero) are also key members for Big Blue this season. Tabby Guinan, Olivia Protano, Mackenzie Christiansen and junior middle Amanda Kadisevskis all return this season with varsity experience. Protano and junior Faith Hindy will handle the setting duties this season.
“As a first year varsity coach at Attleboro, my goal is obvious: win some matches,” Seibert said. “Attleboro hopes to climb out of the cellar of the Hockomock League this year.”
2016 Record: 18-4 (Davenport Division Champions) 2016 Finish: Reached D2 Central Final Coach: Pat Cawley
It’s been a decade of dominance for the Bulldogs, winning a league title every year for the past 10 seasons. But that reign will be tested this season as the Bulldogs will boast a group that is mostly without varsity experience. Canton graduated 13 seniors from last year’s squad that reached the D2 Central Final. Senior Hannah Jerrier is one player back with some experience after playing middle a season ago. Jerrier will be joined by junior Erin Devine as the team’s middles while junior Nicole Brown, who saw little time a year ago, will take over as the team’s starting setting. While outside and right side hitting spots are up for grabs, Canton will look to senior Sofia Connor and juniors Megan McDonough and Julia Minichiello to anchor a defense that has been the calling card of the team the past couple of seasons.
“Many positions remain open at this point but all my players are working hard and looking better every day,” said head coach Pat Cawley. “We will be a team that will need to rely on and trust each other in order to succeed. I expect to improve with each match and be a team to be reckoned with down the line!”
2016 Record: 1-17 2016 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dan Damish
Foxboro will lean heavily on its nine seniors, including captains Meagan Savage and Mary Booth, as well as a couple of younger players, as it tries to bounce back from last year. Dan Damish returns his leading blocker from last season in senior middle Delya Lorquet. Lorquet will be joined by sophomores Grace Boudreau and Calvi Goddard at the net. Senior Mandy Ryan and junior Shaelyn McCarthy will take over setting duties this season while Carly Madden and Maddie Elliott will be competing for attacking spots in the front row. Paulette Palomares will man the libero position with Gwen Calnan, Billie Prescott, Brynn Gilbert and Hannah St. Germain helping to solidify the back row.
“The team looks to play great defense, serve well, limit unforced errors, and communicate well on the court,” Damish said.
After losing just four seniors to graduation, the Franklin Panthers return an experienced and deep team ready to make a run at the Kelley-Rex division title. The Panthers bring back both of their middle hitters to anchor the attack and net defense. Senior Meaghan Maguire (42 blocks) is back for her third year while junior Maggie Doyle (57 kills) returns after a strong sophomore campaign. Franklin also brings back junior setter Lauren McGrath, who was selected as HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year last season. Ellie Wisniewski (63 kills) will be one of the team’s top offensive threats at outside hitter.
“We are deep and have experience on offense this season,” said FHS coach Kate Horsmann. “Our floor leader and top defensive player graduated, so finding a floor leader and shoring up our defense will be a big factor in how our season plays out.”
A year after winning the program’s third Kelley-Rex title, the Warriors look to be poised to earn back-to-back titles based on the returning talent they have. Leading the way is 2016 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP Sydney Phillips, who had a tremendous season at outside hitter last year. She’ll be joined by senior Michaela Palumbo (outside hitter), Julianne Rando (defensive specialist) and Elise Pereira (libero). Junior Kat Kmetz is back as one of the team’s middle hitters after having a strong sophomore season, sophomore Grace Ely will step in as the other middle and senior Rachel Veilleux will take over as the setter.
“We are working hard for another successful season,” said KP head coach Kristen Geuss. “I am encouraged by the progress we have made on both offense and defense. We’ve had several scrimmages and I am happy with how our players have performed. We have a motivated team and are all looking forward to a strong start to the season.”
With two of the top net players back this season, Mansfield looks to be a true threat in a very deep Kelley-Rex division. Meg Hill, now in her fourth year on varsity, was fifth overall in kills a season ago and is one of the top net defensive players. Hill will be aided by Julia Harrison (104 kills) on the attack, now in her third year as an outside hitter for the Hornets. Junior Greenly Kelly will step into the other middle spot while senior Lexi Gardner will see time at outside hitter. Senior Emma Ascoli and sophomore Olivia Fernando will both see time setting for Mansfield.
“We have a lot of potential and have a great mix of senior leadership and experience as well as some young players who are going to add a lot to the team,” said MHS head coach Melissa Heeden. We have a lot to work on in the first few weeks, but I am very eager to see how this team come together.”
2016 Record: 15-6 2016 Finish: Reached D2 Central Semifinal Coach: Dan Seaver
First year head coach Dan Seaver has a strong mix of returning experienced players and new faces and is excited for what the 2017 Scarlet Hawks can accomplish. Milford returns four players with significant playing time, including the team’s libero Kyra Alves. At the net, Kelley Reichert (outside), Gill Valanzola (outside/middle) and Juliana Tracy (middle) give the Hawks a strong net presence, both offensively and defensively. Elena Nosiglia (opposite) and Kate Lobisser (middle/opposite) are also back and could see increased roles in 2017. Junior Sydney Sutton will join Alves as a defensive specialist to solidify the back line.
“I believe that we have all of the pieces to the puzzle, but it is going to be finding their right spots,” Seaver said. “I think we have great leadership from our senior class and a lot of drive from different players to be good.”
2016 Record: 12-10 2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Jeff Crins
North Attleboro is looking to build on its state tournament berth a season ago and take the program a step forward in 2017. And Big Red has a good reason for optimism with so many key pieces back this year. The Rocketeers return their top three hitters from a year ago in Amelia Murphy (204 kills), Katie Demontigny (162 kills) and captain Caroline Vigorito. Leah Marceau is the team’s other captain and was a big piece of North’s defensive game, and a top server on the team.
“We are looking forward to a positive year this year,” Crins said. “We hope to have a stronger record than last year and compete against the top teams in the Hock league this year. With a big senior team this year I have high expectations for them and I am trusting that their experience will help them through some of the tough matches. My hope as a coach is that they come together as a team and really play to their potential.”
2016 Record: 11-11 2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinals Coach: Chelsea Cunningham
Oliver Ames lost just three seniors to graduation, which means the majority of the Tigers are back this season and looking to compete in a deep Kelley-Rex division. Four-year varsity player Emma Petrillo (captain) returns as one of the team’s outside hitters and three-year varsity player Katie Flynn (captain) is back to man the right side of the attack. 2016 HockomockSports.com First Team selection Kayla Raymond (captain) will anchor net play from the middle. Sophomore Allie Kemp will step in to handle setting duties while Sadie Homer will lead the defense from the libero spot. Other returning varsity players include senior Maya Fetcho, senior Jacki Kandar, senior Caroline Cavanaugh, Grace McCallum and Jordyn Vella.
“This group of girls are feisty, committed and motivated to say the least; the girls come ready for all practice and have been anticipating for this competitive season to start,” said OA head coach Chelsea Cunningham. “From last year to this year, the chemistry is there for the majority of the team.”
2016 Record: 4-14 2016 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Andrea Lovett
Now in their second year under coach Andrea Lovett, the Eagles are looking to take yet another step forward. Returning six seniors, including four starters, is a good start for Lovett. Senior Jess Allan is back after a standout junior season that earned her HockomockSports.com Second Team honors in 2016. Cori Jermyn is also back and will be seeing time at outside hitter this season as the Eagles have found two capable middles to fill those spots. Ariana Chabot will continue as the team’s setter this season for the Eagles.
“I think we have a ton of talent and a group of athletes who are ready to go 100% from the first point to the last in every game,” Lovett said. “It’s going to be an exciting season for Sharon volleyball.”
2016 Record: 10-11 2016 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Erica Batchelder
With two key pieces back from its offense a year ago, the Black Knights are looking to compete for the Davenport title and get back to the state tournament. One of the league’s top attacking options, Val Whalen, is back in the middle for Stoughton as well as classmate Jordan Motley. The duo not only provides Stoughton with offense, they are two top defensive options at the net. Senior captain Haley Stone will be tasked with anchoring the back line defensively.
“Stoughton hopes to make it to the postseason again with hard work and communication,” said Stoughton head coach Erica Batchelder.
The Tigers have graduated 20 seniors between the past two seasons, and now will rely on a group of younger players to help get back to the state tournament. However, Taunton has two seniors this season that they will rely on heavily. Sam Reaume (outside/middle) is back after being limited by injury a season ago and will be a top option at the net for the Tigers. Junior Kayli Fagan returns as the team’s setter after a stellar sophomore campaign while McKenzie Lucie (libero) also is back with varsity experience. Senior Rawan Hamie, juniors Kamila Cuevas, Adara Moreno, Sam Martin, Aaliyah Gillenwater, Michaela Felici, Sam Silviera and sophomore Alyssa Turcotte will be looked to fill voids up front while juniors Jaime Brown, Elaine Bodemer and Breanna Fevrier will be tasked with bolstering the defense from the back row.
“Obviously our goal is to get back to the state tournament,” said THS head coach Toby Chaperon. “Being in our league, every match is a grind and every win is hard fought so we know we have our work cut out for ourselves but I think with players like Sam Reaume and Kayli Fagan leading the way we can make a push to get back to the tournament.yeah
Players to Watch
Players are listed alphabetically
Jess Allan, Sharon – A four-year varsity player, Allan emerged as one of the top offensive players in the league last season with 133 kills. Not only is she a top hitter, she is also dangerous serving the ball.
Kyra Alves & Kelley Reichert, Milford – Alves emerged as one of the most reliable defensive players in the league last year. Her ability to read hitters helps put her in the right position to handle attacks and set Milford’s offense in motion. Reichert provided the Hawks with versatility a season ago. She will likely be one of the team’s top attacking options this season and will be one of the league’s top servers.
Kayli Fagan, Taunton – The Tigers had a down year in 2016 but Fagan stepped up and became one of the top setters in the league. Now with Sam Reaume back, Fagan will have a top attacking option to work with.
Meg Hill, Mansfield – Hill has improved every year both offensively and defensively. Her height helps her as one of the top blockers in the league and her power makes her one of the best attacking middles.
Lauren McGrath, Franklin – Even though she was just a sophomore last year, McGrath looked like a seasoned veteran setting the ball in 2016. She will have both middles back to work with this season while she works to create chemistry with outside and opposite hitters.
Amelia Murphy, North Attleboro – Murphy is one of four players back from the 2016 HockomockSports.com First Team. After registering 223 kills and 67 blocks a season ago, expect Big Red to rely on her offensive prowess again this season.
Lexi Pereira, Attleboro – Pereira is a do-it-all type player for Big Blue. Not only was she the team’s leader in kills, she was a top defensive player and a dangerous server as well.
Sydney Phillips, King Philip – Last year’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and league MVP is back and will be one of the top all-around players in the league, especially offensively.
Kayla Raymond, Oliver Ames – Raymond led the Tigers in kills (202) and blocks (56) during her junior season. While she will have to adjust to a new setter this season, her ability to attack the ball will help whoever takes over that spot.
Val Whalen, Stoughton – As one of the top middles in the league a year ago, Whalen returns for her senior season. A lot of the offense runs through Whalen but she’s still able to beat opposing defenses who try to stop her.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro was trailing by a point as the clock wound down under 90 seconds remaining in Tuesday’s game at the Kenneth Pickering Gym. The Rocketeers needed someone to make a play to avoid the upset against an upstart Milford team that was trying to tie North for the Davenport division lead.
Senior Ashley Ahern picked the pocket of Jill Burley, her fifth steal of the game, and raced the length of the court for a layup to give North a 46-45 lead. It turned out to be the game-winning basket, as the Rocketeers locked down on defense and Ahern sealed the 51-45 victory by knocking down 5-of-6 free throws.
It was an impressive come from behind win for the hosts, who trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but also an indication of how far Milford has come in head coach T.J. Dolliver’s second season that the Hawks had the division leaders on the ropes.
“They did,” replied North coach Derek Herber about Milford having the Rocketeers on the edge. “We’ve seen enough of them…I told my girls that they’re scrappy like us and they can shoot a little bit, so we’ve got to be ready to play. They came out right away and did exactly that.
“They’ve come a long way and credit to T.J., he’s put a team together over there and they’re going to be a problem throughout the season.”
The opening quarter was an indication of the confidence that the Hawks are playing with this season. In an end-to-end period that resembled a track meet as much as a basketball game, the Hawks got points from six different players and scored 19 points.
Christine Pye (eight points) knocked down a pair of long jumpers and Burley scored four of her eight points on a pair of runners in the lane. Nicole Dahlgren (12 points, eight rebounds, five assists) scored on an offensive rebound plus the foul then assisted on a three-pointer by Juliana Tracy.
North kept it close in the opening quarter with a strong offensive attack of its own. Ahern scored four of her game-high 16 points and sophomore Julia Feid added six of her seven points in the first.
The pace continued in the second quarter, but the scoring slowed down. The teams scored six points apiece and headed into halftime with the Hawks ahead 25-21.
In the third quarter, Milford came out strong and took a double digit lead. Kate Irwin flipped a pass over the defense to Dahlgren for a layup then Gillian Valanzola used a pump fake to get past Caroline Collard in the post for a basket. After Dahlgren scored on one of Burley’s six assists, she then managed to keep a play alive while falling to set up Irwin (six points) for a three.
North trailed 36-26 and Herber called timeout.
“We’ve got to execute better on offense,” Herber told his team. “We have a height advantage, so lets try to get the ball to Collard and if we get the shots off that look that’s what we need to do. We were able to put some pressure on their guards and get in their face a little bit.”
Feid snagged a rebound of a missed free throw and fed it to Collard for a layup to get North started. Collard then scored a layup in transition off an Ahern assist and another off of a Feid inbound pass to get the Rocketeers back within three. Collard scored 10 of her game-high 16 in the quarter.
North regained the lead before the end of the third on back-to-back steals and transition baskets by Ahern. Dolliver was left rueing the missed opportunity to put North away.
“We just turned the ball over too much and it was just…careless,” he said. “They played good defense on it, but they were passes that we could avoid. We definitely have to take care of the ball a little more and that was the difference.”
North extended the run to 13 straight points with a pair of free throws and then Samantha Taggart answered a Dahlgren jumper with a three-pointer that made it 42-38. Pye scored on a layup to cut the lead in half, but Liz Morehouse scored her only points of the night to push the lead back to four.
Pye was left open on an inbounds play for a layup and then Dahlgren buried a straightaway three-pointer that put Milford back in front by a point with time running out for North.
“I was happy to see that they bounced back,” said Dolliver of his team’s response to the North run. “I really love this group. That’s the No. 1 seed [in the division] and you had them, so it’s a good sign in that aspect but I hold them to higher standards now. They know how to take care of end-of-game situations.”
The North defense was aggressive throughout the second half with Ahern causing problems for Burley and Emily Schromm holding Irwin, who currently leads the Hockomock in scoring, to just six points. It was Ahern who made the biggest play, turning the game around for North when it needed a stop and scoring the final seven points of the game.
“They all know it too, she’s the heart of the team,” said Herber of Ahern. “They take their cue from her. If she’s up on her person and in their face then everyone else has to have the same mentality. She’s still a little banged up and she fought through it today.”
North Attleboro (9-2, 6-0) will continue a tough stretch when it hosts Foxboro on Friday in another game against a team that is one game back in the division. Milford (6-2, 4-2) will have no time to dwell on the loss, as the Hawks host Hopedale on Wednesday.
2015-16 Record: 6-14 (3-13) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Jim Choquette
The Bulldogs continue to add to the program both on the court and on the bench with former Canton and UMass Boston star Olivia Murphy joining the coaching staff this season to help out with the freshman team. It is a sign of the continued growth of the program under head coach Jim Choquette, who is hoping that the momentum built at the end of last season will carry over to this year.
Senior forward Emma Murphy returns after a league all-star season and will be joined on the front line by returning starters senior Casey Shea and juniorHannah Jerrier, who was an honorable mention for all-star last winter. Adding depth on the front line will be sophomore forwards Molly Ludwig and Erin Devine, who lacks inexperience but adds significant height.
“Our strengths will be scrappy defense and rebounding on both ends,” said Choquette. “our goal is to improve each game and be playing our best headed into the last part of the season…the faster we find chemistry the faster we’ll find the win column.”
2015-16 Record: 15-7 (11-5) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal Head Coach: Lisa Downs
Despite a lot of youth in the lineup, Foxboro has been one of the top teams in the Davenport division for several seasons and this year should be no different, as the Warriors enter the winter with very high expectations and as one of the favorites for the league title.
A lot of the interest in the Warriors stems from the continued development of junior point guard Ashley Sampson, who has turned into one of the best all-around guards in the Hockomock and is the player that the Foxboro offense flows through. Sampson has plenty of help in the backcourt with classmate Lily Sykes, who offers scoring from the perimeter, and seniors Lauren Flahive, Riley Collins (back after an injury), and Hailey Maling, who are all strong on the ball defenders.
In the front court, Kristen Bortolotti is back after missing last year with an injury and will add speed and a strong mid-range game. Junior Grace Tamulionis is another matchup nightmare for the opposition with her size on the boards and on defense and her ability to step outside and shoot the three. Junior Shannon Smally continues to improve and gives the Warriors an inside presence, while newcomers Chelsea Gibbons and Abby Hassmancould make big contributions for the Warriors.
“The girls have been playing together throughout the summer and fall and this familiarity should work to our benefit this season,” said head coach Lisa Downs. “We will continue to focus on our running game and our defensive efforts and I am fortunate to have the players that not only buy into this system, but, also appreciate this pace.”
2015-16 Record: 9-11 (5-11) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: T.J. Dolliver
After missing out on a playoff spot by one game a season ago under first-year head coach T.J. Dolliver, Milford enters this winter with high hopes of making the leap into the postseason with a deep and versatile roster that has gained a lot of experience together over the past few seasons.
The enthusiasm for the Hawks begins with dynamic junior point guard Kate Irwin, who has shown the ability to get to the basket at will, draw defenses to get open looks for her teammates and also be a pesky on the ball defender. With Irwin creating open shots, junior Emily Piergustavo’s return after missing last year with an injury will be a big boost on the perimeter along with senior guard Jill Burley.
“These girls have been playing together for a while and their team chemistry is amazing,” said Dolliver. “We are starting to learn the minor details of offense and defense in order to give our team a better chance of success.”
2015-16 Record: 11-10 (9-7) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South tournament Head Coach: Derek Herber
The Rocketeers head into their first season in the Davenport division with eight returning players from last year’s team that was two points away from a first round victory in the Div. 2 South tournament against Hock rival Oliver Ames.
Senior Ashley Ahern is a three-year starter at guard and was the team’s leading scorer last winter. Ahern will be the player that gets the offense going, but she will get plenty of help from her classmates, Emily Schromm and Samantha Taggart. Schromm was one of the top defenders in the league and can stretch a defense with her outside shooting and Taggart can play all three guard positions and led North in assists last year. In the paint, senior Caroline Collard is the team’s leading rebounder and showed a soft touch around the basket.
North can also look for improvements from sophomore Julia Feid, who got valuable minutes as a rookie last year, senior Liz Morehouse, who adds depth in the post, and juniors Julia Santos, who both brought athleticism off the bench at the wing positions. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Roberts is a newcomer who adds size and outside shooting and junior Emily Pastore can step in at all three guard positions.
The Rocketeers have plenty of experience on the roster and will be one of the favorites for the league title at the beginning of the season. While head coach Derek Herber can count on a number of returning players, he hopes to “mix in a few new faces into the lineup to help with depth.”
Sharon is another team that has been building with youth and has created a lot of depth on its roster and, despite losing three of its top four scorers from last winter, has garnered preseason hype as a potential sleeper to make a return to the postseason for the first time since the Eagles made a run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.
The Eagles will be hoping for an improvement on the offensive side of the ball, which was a challenge at times last winter. Junior point guard Shira Stoller, a three-year starter, is continuing to improve at limiting turnovers and looking for her own shot as well as setting up teammates. One of the players that benefits from Stoller’s ability to get into the lane is sophomore Emma Eberhardt, who was third on the team in points as a rookie and continues to develop into a consistent wing scorer.
Sophomore Veronica Wallace has emerged as one of the top backcourt defenders during the preseason and is one of the fastest players on the Sharon roster. Senior Ana Crosby, who is also a standout on the soccer and lacrosse fields, is another player that is continuing to improve and will have an increased role this season. Freshman Kaitlyn Wallace is a newcomer to watch and could have a bigger role to play over the course of the year.
“Our defense is going to have to be our key in order to compete, and our girls know that,” said third-year coach Cliff Tomassian. “We get our best looks on offense off of great defensive stands. Our girls are going to have to be patient and vigilant on both ends and be ready to take chances.”
2015-16 Record: 7-11 (7-9) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
The Black Knights lost six seniors to graduation but this offers plenty of opportunities for a new crop of younger players to get playing time and learn the system of second-year head coach, and former Stoughton star, Charmaine Steele Jordan.
Two of the players that will be counted on most this season are junior forwards Val Whalen and Jordan Motley, who are two of the best rebounders in the league and can also get out on the break and score in transition. Their development in the half-court offense will be a key for Stoughton making a playoff push in the Davenport division this season. Senior Lili Njiem is another player that could make a big impact, as one of the team’s three captains.
The Black Knights will have as many senior as freshmen on this year’s roster (three) along with four sophomores and three juniors, so the foundation for the future is in place. Shyanne Trinh, Lexi Baptista, and Aliyah Wright are the three newcomers to the program who will be hoping to make an instant impact.
“So excited for the upcoming season,” said Steele Jordan. “We lost six seniors so there is lots of opportunity for our players to step up. Our returnees from last year will contribute for us despite being pretty young.”
MILFORD, Mass. – Ordinarily, the bleachers behind the benches remain closed during volleyball matches, but as the beginning of the varsity match approached Milford athletic director Peter Boucher was forced to pull out an extra section to accommodate the overflow of fans, the majority of whom were decked out in pink.
It was a special occasion for a special cause and the crowd piled into the gym at Milford High on Wednesday night to celebrate the volleyball team as it took on unbeaten Hopedale and to honor Dig Pink Night, which raised money for the Side Out Foundation’s mission of finding a cure for breast cancer and supporting breast cancer patients.
With a raucous atmosphere spurring them on and inspired by teammate Carli Gonzalez and head coach Linda Zacchilli, who both beat cancer in the past year (Zacchilli for the second time), the Hawks played arguably their best match of the season to sweep Hopedale in three sets (25-14, 25-12, 25-12) and clinch a return to the state tournament.
“We made very few unforced errors today,” said Zacchilli. “We played very sharp. We forced a lot of errors on their part. We were really focused.”
The Milford front line set the tone in the opening set. The Hawks dominated at the net, led by junior Kelley Reichert who recorded four of her team-high seven kills and two of her four blocks in the first. She also added a pair of aces and five digs in the match. Her back-to-back kills set up set point before a Hopedale error wrapped up the first.
In the second set, the Hawks fell behind very early but behind strong serving from Gillian Valanzola (two aces) and Lauren Zouranjian (team-high three aces and eight assists) Milford took control and pulled away. Valanzola added five kills and was a strong presence in the middle alongside Juliana Tracy, who finished with a team-high six blocks.
“My middles have come so far from the beginning of the season,” said Zacchilli. “We’ve done a lot of things in practice to make it muscle memory, come off the net so you can get something behind your hit. Blocking-wise too they’re doing a better job reading the hitters.”
The third set was another dominating performance by Milford. The Hawks never took the foot off the gas and used a strong defensive effort to put pressure on Hopedale, forcing the visitors into a number of errors. Libero Kyra Alves spearheaded the defense with 14 digs to lead the Hawks.
Much more than just a game
Last season’s Dig Pink event was particularly emotional because the girls took a moment to honor Zacchilli, who was then the boys’ volleyball coach and was battling cancer for a second time. Also, just days before the match, Gonzalez, then a freshman volleyball player, was diagnosed with cancer as well.
“I think it’s important for any team to run an event like this for a charitable reason,” said Zacchilli, “to have a purpose and give back a little bit. It’s important for them to understand there’s a bigger world out there beyond what’s right in front of them.”
Unlike last year, Zacchilli did not want the event to be about her battle. The team did honor the coach before the game privately with flowers in the locker room.
“They want to make a big deal out of me, you know, but I said I don’t want that at all this time around,” she explained. “I’m a year out and I just want to be…out. I don’t want to think about it; I just want to leave it behind me.”
As she did last year (and recently did at Fenway Park during the NESN/WEEI Jimmy Find Telethon), Gonzalez sang the national anthem in front of a packed house. Gonzalez has a new perspective on Dig Pink Night after her battle with cancer.
“It’s so good to see everybody,” said Gonzalez after the match. “Everyone know someone with cancer, especially breast cancer, it’s so common.
“My grandmother had cancer but it was when I was little. I knew what cancer was but I didn’t know the severity of it and so after this year it means so much more to me…because I’ve seen it.”
Gonzalez and Zacchilli stayed in touch over the summer with the coach making sure that her player would be part of the event and the team, whether on the court or at the scorer’s table. Zacchilli also contacted Hopedale coach Andrew Mainini to be part of Dig Pink.
Mainini played volleyball at Milford for Zacchilli, was her assistant coach for several years and last spring took over the boys’ volleyball program with Zacchilli as his assistant. He jumped at the chance to be part of the event.
He said, “I was honored when she called and said, ‘Hey Andy, do you want to be our Dig Pink match?’ It was meaningful for me, my girls and obviously we wanted to do everything we could to contribute to the cause.
“There is always a ton of positive energy that comes out of events like these.”
On Dig Pink Night, the game is always secondary to the cause, but this display gives Zacchilli confidence that the Hawks have the potential to make some noise in the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of the way they played tonight,” she said. “If we play the way we played tonight, then we can play with anybody.”
Milford (9-3) will put that to the test on Thursday, as the Hawks have a quick turn around to host Kelley-Rex division co-leader Mansfield.
The Bombardiers are hoping to take a step forward and make a dent in the very competitive Kelley-Rex Division. Attleboro picked up a pair of non-league wins last season and is hoping that success can start to translate to league play. Head coach Lindsey McDonald noted the offseason work of juniors Lexi Pereira and Sarah Lynch. Both Pereira and Lynch will play as outside hitters and McDonald said she expects both to bring a lot of power to the attack. Liz Howe, a captain, will be in charge of getting the attack going from the setter position while captain Julya Carlson will anchor the defensive effort for the Bombardiers.
“I am anticipating an improved season for us,” McDonald said. “[Our] captains are providing solid leadership on and off the court and the team has been gelling nicely.”
2015 Record: 16-5 (Davenport Division Champions) 2015 Finish: Reached D2 Central Final Coach: Pat Cawley
Canton has had a dominant run in the Davenport division over the past six years and the Bulldogs are looking to continue that tradition in 2016. Canton has a dozen seniors on the team and will be relying on their experience and leadership to make another run at the division title and in the playoffs. Nicole Poole returns as a second year starter at setter and will be the catalyst for Canton’s offense. Emma Murphy and Casey Shea both have varsity experience and will be important pieces at the middle of the net. One spot that Canton has to fill is at outside hitter and the Bulldogs have a handful of players in the running including seniors Emma Gobbi, Erika Lum, Cassie Loftus, Kelsey Irons, Malia Claiborne and Maria Mackie. Canton is hoping for another year of strong defense with seniors Julia Panico, Kehla Minkin and Emily Lynch all vying for time in the back row.
“We are a senior laden team although most have not seen significant playing time at the varsity level,” head coach Pat Cawley said. “CHS volleyball is a proud tradition and I am confident that this year’s squad will do they can to keep this team competitive and make their senior experience one which they won’t forget.”
2015 Record: 6-12 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dan Damish
Foxboro is hoping its upward trajectory continues in 2016 after making great strides a season ago. Head coach Dan Damish and the Warriors will rely on its three senior captains – Lindsay Greer, Julia DiCenso and Julie Bridges – to continue to push the program in the right direction. DiCenso will be the starting setter for the fourth straight season and will have Danielle Conlon, the team’s leader in kills last season, at her disposal. DiCenso will also have Greer, Bridges, Ana Sanchez and Molly Crocker as offensive options. Junior Delya Lorquet could emerge as a big threat as a middle hitter as well for Foxboro this season.
“I’m very encouraged with the way the team came into the season in great volleyball shape,” Damish said. “Our top goal is to improve everyday and compete at a high level.”
Coming off the program’s second Kelley-Rex division title in the past five seasons, Franklin will be relying on youth to stay near the top of arguably the most competitive division in all of the Hockomock League’s sports. Senior Erin Skidmore (28 kills in 2015) is making the transition from the middle to the outside and will be a go-to attacking option at the net. At 6’3, junior Meaghan Maguire saw valuable time last year and will be a defensive leader at the net. The Panthers will look to sophomore setter Lauren McGrath to step in to set up the offense.
“This is the youngest team we have had since I started coaching,” head coach Kate Horsmann said. “We have five sophomores who could all be impact players for us this season. The outcome of our season will really depend on how quickly they adjust to the speed of the varsity game and how quickly we gel as a unit.”
King Philip had another strong campaign a year ago and are looking to repeat it in 2016. The Warriors have six returning seniors and all are expected to play important roles for KP this season. Senior captain Carly Adams will set the offense in motion from the setter position, senior captain Emma Lopez will be a key piece in the attack from the outside hitter spot and senior captain Angela Vellante will be a defensive specialist in the back row for KP. Senior Amanda Loewen will also be a key piece to the defense as the team’s libero. Senior Liv Balduf will help balance the offense as a rightside hitter while Molly Croke will help bolster the team’s defense. Junior Sydney Phillips, another returner from last year’s squad, will be an attacking option as an outside hitter.
“I expect us to be a strong team once again this year,” head coach Kristen Geuss said. “We have lost significant depth at the outside hitter position from last year but am encouraged by how our returning players have stepped up and progressed during our practices.”
The Hornets will look to follow up a historic one with another strong showing and they have some experienced players to do so. It will start with defense for Mansfield, who return one of the top liberos in Jess Haradon and one of the top middle blockers in Meg Hill, the 2015 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Mansfield will have to replace some key pieces but senior Chloe Peters will be tasked with setting up the offense while junior Julia Harrison, who saw some minutes as a sophomore a year ago, will be one of the Hornets’ outside hitters.
“We have five great seniors who have been working hard to lead the team,” head coach Melissa Heeden said. “They are a great group of girls. We have some work to do to fill in from the six seniors who graduated last year, but a are really looking forward to the season.”
2015 Record: 9-11 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Linda Zacchilli
The Scarlet Hawks just missed out on the playoffs a season ago but with Linda Zacchilli back on the bench, Milford could be right in the mix for the Davenport title. Offensively, Milford will need some need faces to step up after its top three kills leaders graduated. Junior Kelley Reichert is back after 66 kills last season and senior Stefani Chiarelli and junior Juliana Tracy will both factor into the offense as well. Both of Milford’s setters – Lauren Zouranjian (301 assists) and Allie Collins (198) – are back for 2016, which should help the Scarlet Hawks’ offense flow. Libero Kyra Alves is back after being a strong point in the defense last year as well.
2015 Record: 11-11 2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Jeff Crins
The 2016 season will be a bit different for North Attleboro compared to a year ago. The Red Rocketeers now compete in the Davenport division and their attack has been bolstered by the addition of Amelia Murphy. Murphy was a top offensive player in the league a year ago at KP but has since transferred to North Attleboro. Murphy will be an attacking option along with junior Katie DeMontigny (100 kills last season) and Tori Melanson, who will also be a presence defensively at the net (82 kills, 70 blocks in 2015). North Attleboro will need to fill in the role of setter with Taylin Shultz graduated. Gabby Duva and Lindsay Howlett will be two key defensive players for the Rocketeers this season.
2015 Record: 7-12 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Chelsea Correia
Oliver Ames has a strong mix of experienced players returning this Fall and are looking to take a trip back to the postseason after missing out in 2015. Senior captain Bridget McCarthy, in her fourth year on varsity, returns as the starting setter while fellow captain Alyssa Gavin returns as a top defensive option in the back row along with Rachel Foley. Junior Emma Petrillo will be one offensive option for the Tigers as an outside hitter, junior Katherine Flynn will be another as a right side hitter. Juniors Maya Fetcho and Kayla Raymond will rotate as offensive threats from the middle of the net while sophomore Sadie Homer will be the Tigers’ starting libero this season. Other names to keep an eye on include juniors Caroline Cavanaugh, Jacqueline Kander and freshmen Allison Kemp and Jordyn Vella.
“If we commit to it, I think we can rise to many challenges, prepare for all possibilities, and make the most of everything,” head coach Chelsea Correia.
2015 Record: 2-16 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Andrea Lovett
New head coach Andrea Lovett is excited about the direction the Sharon volleyball program is headed and is hoping 2016 will be the first step in the right direction. Senior captain Faythe Gomolka returns this year as this the team’s versatile setter and has a great rapport with senior captain and middle hitter Natalie Kane. Seniors Marni Heitin, Luba Korn, Gesi Molla and Jonathan Dickerman will all factor in for the Eagles this season as well. Junior Jess Allan, now in her third year on varsity, will be an attacking option as an outside hitter while classmate Cori Jermyn will be an attacking option from the right side.
“As a new head coach, I am excited to work with the team on developing a more aggressive mindset and working on some more complex offensive systems to raise our level of play and be competitive in the league this year,” Lovett said.
2015 Record: 10-11 2015 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Erica Batchelder
The Black Knights had a handful of talented players graduated from last year’s team but there is hope for optimism because of who is back this year. Stoughton’s kills leader junior Val Whalen is back for her third year of varsity after registering 129 kills a season ago. Junior Jordan Motley and senior Riley Bagley will also be big pieces of Stoughton’s attack this season after slamming 84 and 77 kills, respectively, in 2015. The biggest challenge for Stoughton will be finding players to step up in other areas. The team’s ace and assists leader from last season, Bianca DeSousa, the team’s leader in blocks and digs, Bridget Whalen, and the team’s leader in serve receives, Ava Siegel, all graduated. First year head coach Erica Batchelder will be looking to players to step up into those roles.
2015 Record: 15-9 2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Toby Chaperon
Taunton turned a successful regular season and a fourth place finish in the Kelley-Rex into one of the more memorable seasons in Tigers’ history. Taunton made a run all the way to the D1 South Final before falling to eventual state champion Barnstable. It will be a tough task to repeat with the amount of players that Taunton graduated, but the Tigers are up for the challenge. Taunton will need a new setter to step up after graduating Tatum Speicher, one of the top in the area at the position. Offensively, Emily Moor (team-high 254 kills in 2015) is back for her senior season while junior Sam Reaume (69 kills), senior Abby Waldron (69 kills) and senior Delaney Powell (26 kills) are all back after making an impact at the net a season ago.
Players to Watch
Players are listed alphabetically
Carly Adams, King Philip – King Philip was a dangerous attacking team a season ago and Adams, the team’s setter, was the big reason why. Adams will be a catalyst in getting the Warriors’ offense going this season.
Julia DiCenso, Foxboro – There aren’t many players in the league with the experience that DiCenso has. Now a senior captain, DiCenso is in her fourth year as the starting setter for the Warriors and will be a key piece of the offense this season.
Jess Haradon, Mansfield – Haradon really impressed defensively in her first year on varsity and looks to do the same in 2016. The senior will look to continue as a defensive specialist after leading Mansfield with 264 digs a season ago.
Meg Hill, Mansfield – As just a sophomore, Hill led the Hornets in kills (222), and blocks (74). Now a year older, expect another strong attacking year at the net for the 2015 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year.
Bridget McCarthy, Oliver Ames – McCarthy is another four year varsity player and will likely eclipse a setting milestone this season. OA has a handful of young attacking options but things will be easier for them with McCarthy as the setter.
Emily Moor, Taunton – Moor had the most kills in 2015 for players returning this season, which is good news for Taunton. As the Tigers look for new names to emerge in other spots, they can rely on the consistent offense of Moor.
Amelia Murphy, North Attleboro –North Attleboro graduated a great attacking threat in Sara Youssef but now have KP transfer Amelia Murphy at the net. Murphy has the ability to hit around the block, which is very difficult for defenses.
Nicole Poole, Canton Canton has been the team to beat in the Hock for a good stretch now, including last season with Poole setting up the offense. Canton will need new names to step up as attacking options but having Poole as the setter will make things easier.
Erin Skidmore, Franklin – Franklin is in need of some players to step up as attacking options and Skidmore is looking to be one option as she moves from the middle to the outside. The Panthers have a good balance this year and Skidmore looks to be one of their top attacking options.
Val Whalen, Stoughton – The junior returns after leading the Black Knights in kills a year ago. If the Black Knights can find a replacement at setter, Whalen could be a tough player to stop this season.
By Allie Piergustavo, HockomockSports.com Contributor
MILFORD, Mass. – Both the Milford Scarlet Hawks and the Sharon Eagles entered Monday night’s contest with similar goals in mind.
Milford entered the game off of a close and exciting win against border rival Hopedale and was looking to keep momentum in its direction. Sharon entered with the same goal, winning the past two games at its own holiday tournament over winter break and looking to get back to .500 for the season.
It was the Eagles that came out on top in the divisional matchup, defeating the Hawks 39-31. Senior Charlotte Ransom and freshman Emma Eberhardt tied with for the team-high 11 points apiece and senior Alyssa Piazza added 10 for the Eagles.
The game, however, did not begin in Sharon’s favor. In the first 2-1/2 minutes of play, Milford held a 6-1 lead.
“We started off with a man press, full court, it wasn’t really working to our advantage in the first quarter,” said Sharon coach Cliff Tomassian. In fact, Sharon scored more points via free throws than field goals, while committing only one foul of its own in the first quarter.
At the end of the first quarter, Milford led Sharon 10-5. Sophomores Juliana Tracy and Kate Irwin dominated the quarter, with Irwin scoring six points and Tracy scoring four.
“We started off the way we wanted to,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver, “getting a couple steals, couple easy buckets, and that’s the way you hope to start out every game.”
Milford, however, could not keep its lead. Sharon began the second quarter on a 3-0 run, and held Milford without a point for the majority of the quarter.
Sharon committed just one foul in the second quarter, while also scoring 14 points. Milford, on the other hand, committed five fouls, and were limited to just three points in the entirety of the second.
“There was really good teamwork and communication on the defensive end to get those steals,” Tomassian added. “It led to a pretty good second quarter for us.”
While reflecting on the game, Dolliver said, “We just couldn’t buy a bucket; shots weren’t falling for us. It’s not something you can really be mad about as a coach. I think a lot of shots were forced, they just didn’t fall for us tonight.”
One of Sharon’s main advantages that gave them the lead was making Milford pay for its fouls and turnovers. Milford turned the ball over 20 times in the game.’
Milford’s top scorer for the night was sophomore Kate Irwin with 11 points. The Hawks’ top rebounders were sophomore Juliana Tracy and junior Nicole Dahlgren, tallying seven apiece.
Milford (4-3, 1-3) returns to the court on Friday at home against Foxboro and Sharon (3-3, 1-3) travels to Oliver Ames that night.