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.”

Bulldogs Fall to Top Seed Wellesley in State Title Game

Canton girls hockey
Canton captains Marissa Devine, Colleen Kelleher, Kendra Farrelly, and Andrea McNeil pose with head coach Dennis Aldrich and the MIAA D2 State Finalist trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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BOSTON, Mass. – Wellesley and Canton (18-4-3) combined to hold opponents to only 48 goals in 47 games this season, including just three goals apiece during their three tournament games leading into Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 state championship game at the TD Garden.

It was no surprise then that scoring was at a premium in the final. Jenna Harrison’s goal with only 4.7 seconds remaining in the first period turned out to be enough to lift Wellesley, which was in its fourth trip to the TD Garden in the past five years, to a 1-0 victory and the state title.

“We’ve been riding Colleen for so long that we thought if the shots were even then we’d have a very good chance,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “I don’t think we concentrated enough on getting shots through them. We sometimes would make a little extra move, we felt confident about that, but it wasn’t necessarily the game plan.”

He also praised Wellesley, adding, “They are the best team we’ve faced this year and they are a true champion.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Raiders dominated puck possession and created far more scoring opportunities than the Bulldogs, who found their chances limited throughout the game. Senior goalie Colleen Kelleher put in another stellar performance in net, stopping 30 shots in her final game for Canton.

“Another big game by Colleen,” said Aldrich feigning a yawn about his senior goalie who has been consistently strong in helping Canton get to the TD Garden in each of the last two seasons. “I’m trying to red-shirt her by the way. She’s a heck of a player…and she’s the first one to pass it off to her teammates and that’s what makes her special.

Canton was limited to just eight shots in the game. The offense was stymied by the talented Wellesley defense, which blocked a number of shots to protect sophomore goalie Liddy Schultz and kept the Canton attackers to the outside.

Olivia Vernon had the first good chance for Wellesley, forcing Kelleher into a glove save three minutes into the game, and Erin Fleming skated to the right circle to bring out a blocker save. Canton took seven minutes before creating its first scoring chance. Alexa Maffeo’s shot from the point picked out freshman Lizzie Tassinari on the near post but Schultz got down quickly to block.

Wellesley nearly took the lead with three minutes left in the first after Kelleher’s initial save went straight to Lauren Ruggiero but the rebound effort slid just wide. Tassinari drew a save out of Schultz that fellow freshman Maria Femia followed up but also could not beat the Raiders goalie.

A warning shot came with 30 seconds left in the period when Mackenzie O’Neil got free on the right side, but fired her shot just wide. With the clock ticking down in the period, Wellesley finally made its dominance pay with a great individual effort. Harrison dragged the puck through her legs and dangled past three Canton defensemen before lifting a shot past Kelleher.

The rest of the game followed a similar pattern of Wellesley getting a number of shots on Kelleher, while the Bulldogs struggled to get into the transition game that made its offense so potent during the season.

Kelleher made a kick save to deny Isabelle Kressy from the slot and made a pair of quick saves to keep out Catherine Crosier and then the rebound shot from Bliss Vernon. In the third period, she also stuffed O’Neil on the edge of the crease and then seconds later on a one-timer from the right circle.

Canton created few chances but in the second period the Bulldogs nearly pulled even. SeniorKatie Halloran skated down the near boards and picked out freshman Ellie Rae Roberts, who was all alone in front. Roberts struggled to handle the pass and then rushed a backhand effort on goal that Schultz pushed aside. It was the only shot that Canton would put on target in the period.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Despite experiencing the TD Garden ice for the first time, the freshmen on the second and third lines put in impressive shifts for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“They’ve got a huge upside,” said Aldrich. “Ellie Rae’s speed is terrific. Maria, her compete level, and Lizzie is just one of the smartest players we have. They’re definitely going to be future leaders coming through.”

The other great chance came only a minute later when Maggie Malloy found room on the near boards and sent a near-perfect pass across the crease to Lauren Fitzpatrick, but it went straight through with Schultz stranded.

Malloy came into the game having scored six goals in three playoff games, including all three game-winners, but she struggled to consistently get on the puck in the final. The top line, which includes Kendra Farrelly, Malloy, and Fitzpatrick, had all but one of Canton’s goals in the postseason but managed very few shots on goal in the final. Malloy had one inside the final six minutes but that would be Canton’s last of the game.

“We tried to break into short, two-minute games, play each shift out there like the goalie’s pulled,” Aldrich said of the mentality in the third period. “If we could match that intensity, go a shift at a time, forget about the match-ups, where everything goes to the net. Forget about mistakes, out-compete them in the third period.”

He continued, “I thought we were certainly a little more desperate than they were and we’re hoping we could catch them being a little comfortable and playing not to lose, but they’re a well-coached team and they did a nice job. They’ve been here before and they’ll be here again and hopefully we’ll be joining them.”

Aldrich also praised his group of seniors, including a few who do not see much time on the ice but got the chance to skate at the TD Garden in the final nine seconds after a late penalty on the Bulldogs forced them into a defensive zone face-off.

“These guys were with us when we played our last game at Ponkapoag Rink and the next year the rink went down and we were a road team all over the place,” he said. “These guys were there. They played the first game in our new rink and brought us to the Garden the last two years, so for them I’m just so thrilled.

“It will sting now but they’re going to look back and they’re going to smile.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Bulldogs Shut Out Archies to Get Back to the Garden

Canton girls hockey
Maggie Malloy (27) scored the only goal of the Div. 2 state semifinal to lift the Bulldogs to a win over Archbishop Williams and seal a return to the state title game. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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BRIGHTON, Mass. – Last winter, Canton was the No. 14 seed, an underdog and an afterthought for many of the people picking favorites to make a run at a state championship. This season, the Bulldogs have been considered Div. 2 title contenders for months and earned the No. 2 seed coming into the tournament. There was no sneaking up on opponents this year, instead Canton has had to deal with the weight of high expectations.

While the journey has been very different from last year to this one, the end result is the same. Canton will be heading to the TD Garden to play for the state title on the final day of the winter season.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Bulldogs earned their spot in the final with a 1-0 victory over third-seeded Archbishop Williams on Monday night at the Warrior Ice Arena courtesy of 16 saves from senior goalie Colleen Kelleher and a goal from junior Maggie Malloy, her sixth of the postseason.

“Last year was insane,” Kelleher explained. “We had no idea we could even do that, it was a joke. We just kept going, game after game, but this year it was more like, we have to make it back and we have to get our second chance and we have to win. I think we were a little more motivated this time but it still feels just as sweet.

Canton coach Dennis Aldrich said, “Last year we snuck up on a lot of people. We were supposed to lose every game last year. To do what these kids have done with the target on their back all year because people knew where we were last year…this is a bigger accomplishment for this program. They stuck together.”

The Bulldogs got off to a strong start to the state semifinal, suffering no hangover from last week’s win over Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) that avenged last year’s title game defeat. Andrea McNeil set up Maria Femia for a golden scoring opportunity just five minutes in only to be denied the opener by Archies goalie Allison Delmonte.

Two minutes later, Lauren Fitzpatrick drove at the net from the left circle but a last-second poke check by the goalie kept her from getting off a shot. McNeil stole the puck on the forecheck but missed the net from the slot and freshman Lizzie Tassinari managed to get off a shot while falling down and forced a pad stop.

Kendra Farrelly nearly picked the top corner only to have Delmonte get her shoulder to the first try and also block Farrelly’s follow up. Canton finished with six shots in the first, despite controlling most of the play and keeping Archies on its heels.

The Bulldogs kept pressing at the start of the second with the forecheck continuing to cause problems for the Bishops, forcing turnovers and leading to shots on goal. The Canton forwards were also putting in shifts in the defensive zone and one backcheck by Femia allowed her to break out quickly and create an odd-man rush with Tassinari but again Delmonte made the save.

The breakthrough finally came with 8:42 left in the second. Malloy, who also scored the game-winners in each of Canton’s two previous playoff games this season, showed off her speed in the neutral zone after an outlet by Alexa Maffeo and got space in the right circle. As she angled towards goal, she fired an unstoppable shot just under the bar for the 1-0 lead.

“There is no one who works harder,” said Aldrich of Malloy. “She deserves everything she gets because she’s the hardest working player on our team. She’s a gamer and she brings it every night. She may not have the polished skill that some people do but what she has you can’t teach.”

Femia and Tassinari continued to cause fits on the second line with both having good scoring chances in the second and Fitzpatrick got free for a shot after Leah McClellan managed to keep a puck in at the blue line.

Before the game, Aldrich talked about trying to wear Archies down and in the second period he used his third line of Marissa Devane, Ellie Rae Roberts, and Katie Halloran a few times to try and add a little energy and give his other lines a short breather.

Aldrich said, “We don’t normally go strictly two lines but we looked to do that in the first period to maybe get a little quick strike on them. It didn’t work as planned but then we were able to spot the third line out there a couple times and it really got us energized. They only got maybe three, four shifts but they were important shifts for us.”

Canton gave Archies the chance to get back into the game with three penalties in the third period, but the Bulldogs were so aggressive on the kill that the Bishops struggled at times to get the puck out of their defensive zone.

“When you’re tired,” Aldrich explained, “if you’re out-worked by the penalty kill it works against you; you have to work harder. I think we wore them out just enough. We take pride in the third period too, whether we’re even strength or a man down, we try to keep it simple and we actually did a great job of that.”

McNeil and Malloy both had chances to seal the win but Delmonte continued to be stout in the Archies goal. Kelleher was largely untroubled on the other end of the ice with the biggest save of note being a second period stop on Mackenzie Heath after she skated in all alone. With 4:35 remaining in the game, Kelleher was called on again after Hanna Bell spun in the slot and fired a snap shot that the Canton goalie was able to kick aside.

It was a solid stop, especially since Kelleher had been mostly a spectator as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-1 advantage in shots in the third.

“It’s so nerve-wracking,” said Kelleher of not having to be ready after a long time between saves. “Even though in the games I face more shots I may let in more goals but I’m more focused in the game and my legs are warmed up. It’s definitely harder in these types of games.”

Archies finished with a flurry, desperately seeking the tying goal. Heath had the final scoring opportunity as she pinched in from the point on the power play, but her shot was saved by Kelleher.

At the final horn, the Canton players raced to their goalie to celebrate. This tournament run may be different than last year, but in the end that feeling of knowing that you are playing for a state title remains.

“I couldn’t stop smiling,” Kelleher gushed. “My heart just like burst. I don’t even know, it gave me butterflies. I’m so excited still.”

Canton (18-3-3) will face top seed Wellesley in the Div. 2 state championship game on Sunday at the TD Garden, time to be determined.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.