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Softball Preview: State Champs Look to Reload, Not Rebuild

Sera Boisvert of Mascoma steps out of the dugout to join her team after a loss to Franklin Canaan Friday, April 25, 2014.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Sera Boisvert of Mascoma steps out of the dugout to join her team after a loss to Franklin Canaan Friday, April 25, 2014. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

With the season already under way, area high school softball teams are taking to the freshly thawed diamonds with goals of either repeating last season’s or success or taking the leap forward.

Defending New Hampshire Division IV state champion Woodsville saw graduated several key players, including ace pitcher Danelle Huntington, but return a core of experienced veterans looking to repeat. Junior Lottie Page takes over the bulk of the pitching duties following Huntington’s departure and is already off to a fast start this spring for the Engineers.

Across the Connecticut River, Oxbow is also looking at defending a state championship. Last season’s Vermont Division III champs, the Olympians return their potent starting battery mates in pitcher Leah Hanzas and catcher Heather White. Eight seniors will see action for the O’s this spring, each looking to cap their high school careers with a second straight title.

Here’s a look at each team:

Hanover

Coach: Mike Landau (4).

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Last Year: 3-15.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Darby Phillips (P), Camille Celone (2B/OF). Juniors — Ashley Elder (C), Delia Nahabedian (1B), Katie Fenton (2B/SS), Amara Nichols (P). Sophomore — Mackenzie Cutting (3B/P).

Who’s New: Senior: Erika Tischbein (CF). Juniors — Kelsey Aaron (OF), Lilly Connolly (OF/P). Sophomore — Nora Anderson (SS/2B/P).

Who’s Gone: Elise Austin-Washburn, Halli Valentine, Sophie Mott.

Players to Watch: Darby Phillips and Camille Celone will be counted on as senior leaders; Celone can play seven positions. Katie Fenton and Nora Anderson bring strong defense up the middle along with catcher Ashley Elder. Amara Nichols is a strong all around hitter and Delia Nahabedian is very good defensively at first base.

Team Strengths: Experienced pitching, infield quickness.

Team Weaknesses: Depth.

Toughest Foes: Hollis-Brookline, Coe-Brown, Goffstown.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We’ve had a smooth if snowy spring. This team is committed, passionate and is having fun. Last year we improved our win total again while also dropping a couple of close one-run games, so we expect to be competitive with just about everyone this year,” Landau said.

Hartford

Coach: Gary Gervais (7).

Leagues: Vermont Division II, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 4-11-1, lost to Harwood in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Paige Childs (C/OF), Emma Healy (OF), Paige Laramie (OF), Jenna Yee (SS/P). Juniors — Kate McGrath (1B/OF), Courtney Murray (C), Taylor Wilson (1B/OF), Kaitlynn Woodward (P/1B). Sophomore — Kayla Lancor (3B).

Who’s New: Junior — Colby Frechette (2B). Sophomores — Morgan Horne (OF), Kelsey Mason (OF/2B).

Who’s Gone: Elizabeth Bergeron, Jillian Bushor, Mikayla Hastings, Jordan Schaal.

Team Strengths: Senior leadership, pitching.

Team Weaknesses: Confidence.

Toughest Opponents: Brattleboro, Mount Anthony, Rutland, Springfield.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This team will go as far as they want. We have the pieces in place to have a very good season,” Gervais said.

Kearsarge

Coach: David Yazzie (2).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 0-16.

Who’s Back/New: Seniors — Victoria Botana (IF), Sara Poirier (1B). Juniors — Brianna Critch (P/1B), Natalie Baker (C), Michaela Folcik (SS/C), Shyann Desroches (OF), Courtney Grant (OF/2B), Amber Menard (IF). Sophomores — Samantha Dow (SS/C/OF), Caroline Beaton (OF/2B). Freshmen — Ashley Thompson (2B/C/P), Mia Bailey (UT), Maddie Folcik (P/INF), Tess Witmer (OF/SS).

Who’s Gone: Alison Josefiak, Allie Folcik.

Players to Watch: Team captains Victoria Botana and Brianna Critch show great leadership on and off the field, which is key for the Cougars with so many younger players.

Team Strengths: Attitude.

Team Weaknesses: Inexperience.

Toughest Foes: Franklin, Conant, Newport.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “After a tough season last year, this team has a lot to prove and every game is important. This upcoming season will exciting for the girls and the program. As coaches, we have been enthusiastic about the team and how we are working together as a program.”

Lebanon

Coach: Jessica Bavos (2).

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Last Year: 2-14.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Nicole Barton (2B/3B), Rachel Berg (CF), Anna Hurst (OF), Shauna McGrath (P/1B/OF), Destiny Powell (2B/C/OF), Kaylee Rogers (P/2B/OF), Alex Hess (manager). Juniors — Emily Colwell (2B/SS), Emily Courtemanche (1B). Sophomore — Jillian Dion (manager).

Who’s New: Seniors — Taylor Downs (OF), Morgan Heavisides (1B/SS/OF). Junior — Jada Warren (P/3B/OF). Sophomore — Morganne Young (OF). Freshmen — Kayla Boisvert (C), Sydney Broughton (UT).

Who’s Gone: Ashley Goucher, Liz Shipley, and Chrissy Drake.

Players to Watch: Kaylee Rogers and Shauna McGrath lead a group of nine seniors and will split time in the circle. Each provide great leadership on and off the field. Kayla Boisvert is a talented freshman catcher with plenty of pop at the plate while classmate Sydney Broughton is an infielder by trade with the versatility to play all over the diamond.

Team Strengths: Defense, competitiveness.

Team Weaknesses: Overcoming adversity.

Toughest Foes: ConVal, Souhegan.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: Bavos has added Emily Pegoraro, a former Assumption College pitcher, as a junior varsity coach; the pair hopes the growing pains of last season are in the past. “Last year was a tough learning experience for myself as the new varsity coach, as well as for the girls adapting to my coaching style. We face a difficult line of southern teams who have had the ability to practice outdoors and have exceptional skill levels. However, Lebanon’s varsity squad has put forth (great effort) during their practice sessions and I’m confident that they will make a great showing this year in the Division II standings,” Bavos said.

Mascoma

Coach: Danielle Sampson (1).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 8-8.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Briana Furman (C/SS/OF), Carrie Hackeman (1B/3B/OF), Allie Psota (OF). Junior — Maggie Disbrow (1B/SS). Sophomores — Rachel Kahn (2B/C/OF), Mikayla Clifford (P/SS/2B), Morgan Tupper (SS/P/OF).

Who’s New: Senior — Allison Gibbons (3B/1B). Junior — Olivia Powers (SS/OF). Sophomores — Sera Boisvert (3B/C), Rachael Getman (1B/OF). Freshmen — Katie Ferland (SS/P/OF), Samantha Farrell (OF).

Who’s Gone: Tori Makalinaw, Catie Mylott, Becky Gravel, Morgan Coleman, Kathleen Langlands.

Players to Watch: “It’s a new year with a lot of changes, so keep your eye on every player,” Sampson said.

Team Strengths: Teamwork, athleticism.

Team Weaknesses: “All weaknesses can become strengths and that is our goal,” Sampson said.

Toughest Foes: White Mountains.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have a great group of young ladies who are working hard every day. They are positive and work well together. We look forward to a good season.”

Newport

Coach: Meredith McAllister (3).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 13-4, lost to Pelham in playoff opener.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Sophie Willis (3B/SS, captain), Noelle Peterson (CF, capt.), Sky Curtis (2B/SS), Lindsy Desmarais (C), Kaytlynn Kenney (LF). Junior — Anna Stefan (IF). Sophomores — Katrina Batista (2B/SS), Stephanie Carl (P/IF, injured).

Who’s New: Sophomores — Emma Carroll (C/IF), Samantha McNeel (P/IF), Barbara Perry (OF), Mariah Chase (1B/3B). Freshman — Gabby Scanlon (OF).

Who’s Gone: Melinda Carl. Sophomore Stephanie Carl broke her hand earlier this month and will likely miss the season.

Players to Watch: Sophie Willis is a defensive stalwart and will be a leader at the plate. Samantha McNeel is new to the team but will handle the bulk of the pitching and hit near the top of the order. Catcher Lindsy Desmarais is a four-year starter and should again be strong behind the dish. Emma Carroll and Katrina Batista both look to be key members of the team as underclassmen.

Team Strengths: Hitting, infield defense.

Team Weaknesses: Youth.

Toughest Foes: Conant, Hopkinton, Monadnock.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m excited to work with this team. The seniors have been with me since they were sophomores. I also have a talented group of sophomores that should be a key part of our team. We are hoping to improve on last year’s record and to make it further in the tournament than we did last season. It has been a while since Newport softball has been successful and I feel we have a strong team and should be a decent competitor.”

Oxbow

Coach: Robin Wozny (22).

Leagues: Vermont Division III, Capital League.

Last Year: 14-5, state champions.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Leah Hanzas (P), Heather White (C), Cassie Hutchinson (SS), Kasie Craig (3B), Helen-Mae Stevens-Metcalf (OF), Michaela Erno (OF), Sade LaPlante (OF), Kristin Morrison (OF). Juniors — Amanda Wheeler (2B), Shaelyn Brammell (CF).

Who’s New: Juniors — Jami Tuttle (3B), Tiffani Paye (OF). Sophomores — Bekah Hanzas (OF), Jamie Stevens (1B). Freshman — Kayleigh Trojanowski (3B).

Who’s Gone: Amanda Hatch, Amber Heath, Holly Lund.

Players to Watch: The starting battery from the championship team last season returns, with pitcher Leah Hanzas and catcher Heather White aiming for the repeat as seniors. Amanda Wheeler, Cassie Hutchinson, Kasie Craig and Shae Brammel also return after starting last seasons. Freshman Kayleigh Trojanowski should see plenty of time at the hot corner and has impressed in the early going.

Team Strengths: Baserunning, hitting, team chemistry.

Team Weaknesses: Bunting.

Toughest Foes: Harwood, Randolph, Lyndon.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my favorite group of girls. It’ll be exciting to see how these girls follow up on their championship season last year.”

Rivendell

Coach: Lance Mills (10).

Leagues: Vermont Division III, Connecticut Valley League.

Last Year: 2-14, lost in first round of playoffs.

Who’s Back: Junior — Onna Baker (OF). Sophomores — Taylor Acheson (P/SS), Heather Dexter (OF).

Who’s New: Seniors — Tara Collins (IF/OF), Katie Westrup (OF), Courtney Goodrich (IF/OF). Sophomores — Erin Lapine (P/C/SS), Shay Lapine (P/IF). Freshmen — Amanda Otis (IF), Brittany Sargent (OF), Jessica Noyes (OF/2B).

Who’s Gone: Brooke Maddock, Emily Spaulding, Brianna Wood, Cassis Calhoun, Cassie Gray.

Players to Watch: Taylor Acheson is coming off a very strong freshman season and should be a big contributor pitching, fielding and at the plate. Erin LaPine is impressing with her work ethic and versatility while Amanda Otis has the potential to hit for power.

Team Strengths: Enthusiasm, work ethic.

Team Weaknesses: Youth, inexperience.

Toughest Foes: “Every game will be a tough game. We will have to use every trick in the book to put ourselves in position to win,” Mills said.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Last year was a tough year as we won just a couple games. That didn’t help our turnout this year. This year’s players are an enthusiastic bunch of girls and they are working hard to learn how to play this game. We are looking forward to seeing them learn the skills they need to become a successful team.”

South Royalton

Coach: Roger McCrillis (32).

Leagues: Vermont Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 10-7, lost in playoff opener.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Rebecca Paige (P/C). Juniors — Andrew McPhetres (OF), Emi-Lee Kondi (IF/OF), Jacqueline Fulcher (OF), Brooke Knudsen (1B). Sophomores — Madison Distel (IF/OF), Rachel Moore (3B), Summer Spaulding (C).

Who’s New: Sophomores — Amelia Fisk (IF), Jocelyn Hewitt (OF). Freshmen — Emily Ballou (P/OF), Hannah Kilburn (OF), Courtney Kondi (P/IF), Erin Kondi (P/OF), Mara Southworth (INF), Kasandra Wilson (C/OF).

Who’s Gone: Kim Lakin and Ellen Mabey.

Players to Watch: Lone senior Rebecca Paige will be looked upon for leadership on a young team while Rachel Moore will hold down the hot corner and should be strong offensively and defensively.

Team Strengths: Speed, defense.

Team Weaknesses: Offense, youth.

Toughest Foes: Randolph, Thetford.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “It’s nice to have the numbers to be able to play different situations. We are young and it will be interesting to see how we improve this season. We would like to win our first postseason game. Our goal is to improve and have a fun season.”

Stevens

Coach: Missy Nichols (13).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 14-4, lost to Campbell in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Jenna Deschaine (LF/1B), Alexis Melcher (CF/SS), Abbey Duford (2B/C), Cassandra Cutts (3B), Emily Charest (IF), Tori Maslan (P/IF). Juniors — Gillian Cahill (RF), Brittany Fitzpatrick (UT), Ashley Giannuzzi (1B).

Who’s New: Sophomores — Mariza Marsh (UT), Adalina Bell (OF), Nichole Simoneau (OF), Andrea Pelletier (OF). Freshmen — Emma Shea (IF), Marti Milan (SS), Amber Duford (C).

Who’s Gone: Danielle Tenney, Gabrielle Cutts, Abbey Rouillard, Catherine Blackwell.

Players to Watch: Senior Tori Maslan takes over as the ace pitcher and is already off to an unbeaten start to the season. Alexis Melcher is a star at the plate and defensively in center field with great range, smarts and a strong throwing arm. Senior Abbey Duford is switching to second base, while her younger sister, Amber, takes over behind the plate, to fill a need in the middle of the infield. Jenna Deschaine brings a quick bat and is a slick fielder in the outfield and at first base.

Team Strengths: Pitching, defense, bunting ability.

Team Weaknesses: Replacing some key losses because of graduation.

Toughest Foes: “Each and every game you need to play your best and give it your all. If you don’t, anyone can beat you,” Nichols said.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “The seniors we have on the team all bring with them a lot of softball experience and will be huge in helping the growth of some younger players on the team. If the kids’ hard work, focus and willingness to do what’s in the best interest of the team continue, I think we can make some noise in Division III.”

Thetford

Coach: Michelle Fifield (2).

Leagues: Vermont Division III, Capital League.

Last Year: 8-9, lost in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Charli Ulman (2B), Shenia Covey (CF), Taylor Cudhea (1B), Patience Kasten (RF). Juniors — Michaela Pomeroy (SS/P), Susie Howard (3B), Elise Jackson (1B/OF), Rozzlyn Kidder (P/OF), Kaitlin Boyce (C), Ashia Pryor (INF).

Who’s New: Freshmen — Grace Veracka (C/INF), Taylor Hollis (P/INF), Emily Emerson (UT), Regan Covey (OF).

Who’s Gone: Jackie Jamieson, Kaitlin Hodge, Rosalind Isquith, Emma Yurkosky.

Players to Watch: Michaela Pomeroy is a leader in the infield, has plenty of speed and a quick bat. Shenia Covey and Emily Emerson should provide some offensive firepower. Charli Ulman brings a team-first attitude and solid defensive effort. Taylor Cudhea returns to the team after an injury last season and is good defensively at first base.

Team Strengths: Defense, speed.

Team Weaknesses: Inexperienced pitching.

Toughest Foes: Harwood, Randolph, Oxbow.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have experience in many key positions. We also have backup players for most positions, players who could step in and it would not affect us defensively. Our coaching staff is excited about our bats and speed on the bases. The girls have worked hard and can’t wait to get out on the field and play some games.”

Whitcomb

Coach: Ray Colton (17).

Leagues: Vermont Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 14-3, lost in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Senior — Nicole Begin (SS). Junior — Jonnie Thompson (C). Sophomores — Lindsey LaPerle (3B/2B).

Who’s New: Sophomores — Shannon Ludwig (OF/2B), Tueli McCrory (1B), Grace Hodgdon (OF/2B). Freshman — Laura Vaillancourt (P/OF). Eighth Grade — Anna Smith (OF), Avery Palmer (2B/OF), Emilie Thompson (C/OF), Krista Townsend (OF/1B).

Who’s Gone: Reba Hart, Cambry Zullick, Mackenzie Delia, Jenna Townsend.

Players to Watch: With so many new faces on the team, senior Nicole Begin will be looked upon for leadership from shortstop. Also back from last year’s successful team, watch for catcher Jonnie Thompson and Lindsey LaPerle.

Team Strengths: Attitude.

Team Weaknesses: Inexperience.

Toughest Foes: “Every game is going to be a challenge,” Colton said.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We lost four seniors to graduation, including a five-year starting pitcher. We have five eighth graders to give us a total of 11 players with only three of them being returning players. Everyone is excited to get outside and play softball.”

Windsor

Coach: Phil Hathorn (6).

Leagues: Vermont Division III, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 11-6, lost to Rice in first round.

Who’s Back: Senior — Mariah Marsh (2B/P). Juniors — Haley Wood (SS), Ashlee Bly (P/OF). Sophomore — Katey Comstock (OF/C).

Who’s New: Juniors — Val Koch (1B), Brianna Wright (OF). Sophomores — Emily Anderson (1B/OF/C), Emily Williams (OF/P), Naila Thompson (3B/OF). Freshmen — Erin Wierzbicki (C), Brooke Hurd (P/Util), Ashleay Wilcox (INF).

Who’s Gone: Nikki Kibling, Tierra Huntley, Jadie Dow.

Players to Watch: Upperclassmen Mariah Marsh and Haley Wood bring experience, leadership and dependable defense in the middle of the infield. Emily Anderson and Emily Williams (a transfer from Green Mountain Union) both play multiple positions and should provide some punch offensively. Also watch for Ashlee Bly, Katey Comstock and freshman catcher Erin Wierzbicki.

Team Strengths: Hitting, team defense, speed.

Team Weaknesses: Inexperience; just four players return from last season.

Toughest Foes: Rutland, Otter Valley, Hartford, Springfield, Leland & Gray.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have a tough schedule this year, with 12 games against D-I and D-II opponents, so victories might not be as plentiful as in years past. But with a young team we should see improvement as the year goes on. Not being able to get outside (for practice due to weather) has slowed the learning a little, but the girls are eager to hit the ground running.”

Woodstock

Coach: Jane Hoisington (1).

Leagues: Vermont Division II, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 0-15.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Shelby Gault (INF), Emily Jillson (OF), Brittany Sawyer (P/INF). Junior — Ashley Sigl (INF). Sophomores — Elizabeth Fitzpatrick (INF), Gabrielle Rozumek (C/INF).

Who’s New: Sophomore — Kaila Lemmer (INF). Freshmen — Brooke Bartlett (OF), Loretta Blakeney (INF/OF), Heather Blanchard (INF), Emily Chase (OF), Heather Cote (OF), Stephanie Hendrick (OF), Madison Moore (P/OF), Madison Schulz (INF/OF), Holly Weglarz (INF/OF).

Who’s Gone: Emma Blaicklock.

Players to Watch: Pitcher Brittany Sawyer and infielder Ashley Sigl well be team leaders for the young Wasps. The large freshmen class will see many players getting a lot of playing time and there’s a lot of potential in the group.

Team Strengths: Softball IQ, depth.

Team Weaknesses: Experience.

Toughest Foes: Windsor, Burr & Burton.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m excited for the season. This is a great group of girls with skill and enthusiasm. Success will depend on how fast the young players develop and finding the right balance between experience and youth.”

Woodsville

Coach: Dana Huntington (4).

League: New Hampshire Division IV.

Last Year: 17-3, state champions.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Erica Belyea (IF), Julia Bowman (C), Kat Emley (1B), Molly Ruprecht (3B), Cassidy Townsend (2B). Juniors — Paige Martin (OF), Lottie Page (P/OF). Sophomores — Tori Clough (P/OF), Nikita Duling (C/OF), Danielle Martin (SS).

Who’s New: Senior — Ally O’Shana (IF/OF). Juniors — Libbie Hilliard (IF), Lauren Kiessling (IF/OF), Kate Lalonde (OF), Jessica Merrill (OF).

Who’s Gone: Becca Haney, Danelle Huntington, Dianah Joslin, Sadie Matteson, Abby Simano, and Jordyn Tierney.

Players to Watch: A group of six talented seniors look to lead the Engineers in their quest for a second straight D-IV title; Erica Belyea, Julia Bowman, Kat Emley, Molly Ruprecht, Cassidy Townsend and Ally O’Shana. Juniors Paige Martin and Lottie Page also played huge roles on last year’s team and look to build on that success as upperclassmen.

Team Strengths: Leadership, athleticism, depth.

Toughest Foes: Colebrook, Lisbon, Moultonborough, Profile.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This is a great group of seniors on this team. The effort and attitude is outstanding.”