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Several Squads Have States in Their Sights

  • Hanover High runner Elise Austin-Washburn and Lebanon third baseman Liz Shipley watch a pitch during their teams' April 8 game at Huntley Meadows in Norwich.  Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Hanover High runner Elise Austin-Washburn and Lebanon third baseman Liz Shipley watch a pitch during their teams' April 8 game at Huntley Meadows in Norwich. Valley News - Tris Wykes

  • Oxbow softballer Leah Hanzas

    Oxbow softballer Leah Hanzas

  • Stevens softballer Danielle Tenney

    Stevens softballer Danielle Tenney

  • Whitcomb softballer Camby Zullick

    Whitcomb softballer Camby Zullick

  • Hanover High runner Elise Austin-Washburn and Lebanon third baseman Liz Shipley watch a pitch during their teams' April 8 game at Huntley Meadows in Norwich.  Valley News - Tris Wykes
  • Oxbow softballer Leah Hanzas
  • Stevens softballer Danielle Tenney
  • Whitcomb softballer Camby Zullick

A late-arriving spring has presented challenges to area high school softball teams, many of which had enjoyed few outdoor practices before game action began in the last week. The cold weather has done nothing to slow the momentum of the upcoming season though.

But then again, what is springtime in New England if not a renewed sense of optimism?

The Stevens and Windsor squads each came within one victory of hoisting state championship trophies last season, each falling in state championship games. Despite losing Alyssa Nichols, her star pitcher to graduation, Cardinals coach Melissa Nichols is overseeing a roster featuring eight players returning from last year’s team. “Offensively, we’ll be able to do some damage. I’m looking forward to another season where we should be very competitive in every game. The sky’s the limit,” coach Nichols said.

While Windsor looks to rebuild after losing its top two pitchers to graduation, Oxbow coach Robin Wozny is returning all but two players from last season’s 13-5 season that ended at the hands of the Yellowjackets in the Vermont Division III quarterfinals. The Olympians are counting on experienced battery mates in junior pitcher Leah Hanzas and her classmate, catcher Heather White, to pace a motivated and cohesive team.

Sixteenth-year Whitcomb coach Ray Colton oversees a Hornets team that also fell in a title game last season and is led by a group of seniors who, because of the small size of the school, are entering their fifth year of varsity play with championship dreams on the mind.

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the action to unfold on a diamond near you:

Hanover

Coach: Mike Landau (third year).

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Last Year: 2-14, missed state tournament.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Elise Austin-Washburn (2B/CF), Halli Valentine (SS), Sophie Mott (OF). Juniors — Darby Phillips (P, 1B), Charlotte Goodrich (2B/CF). Sophomores — Amara Nichols (P/1B), Katie Fenton (3B/C), Ashley Elder (C).

Who’s New: Senior — Rachel Alibozek (OF). Junior — Camille Celone (UT). Sophomores — Delia Nahabedian (1B).

Who’s Gone: Meredith Alongi, Carrie Borowy, Olivia Marshall, Marielle Demara.

Strengths: Hitting and composing softball-themed haiku.

Weaknesses: Defense and getting the syllables just right.

Players to Watch: Austin-Washburn (second-team all-state last season), Valentine.

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

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Last year, we had only two returning varsity starters. This year, we have seven, a big difference. We also have two pitchers with a year’s worth of experience. Last year, we had a couple late leads get away from us; I expect the experience throughout the roster will make us more able to finish games this year despite a tougher schedule we have to play.”

Hartford

Coach: Gary Gervais (6).

League: Vermont Division II, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 3-15, upset No. 2 Springfield in playoffs and lost in quarterfinals to Milton.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Elizabeth Bergeron (2B), Jillian Bushor (OF), Jocelyn Guyette (OF), Mikayla Hastings (3B), Jordan Schaal (OF/1B). Juniors — Emma Healy (OF), Paige Laramie (OF/C), Jenna Yee (SS/P). Sophomores — Courtney Murray (C), Kaitlynn Woodward (P/1B).

Who’s New: Junior — Paige Childs (C/OF). Sophomores — Kate McGrath (1B), Taylor Wilson (P/1B).

Who’s Gone: Sienna Eisenhart moved to Essex. Shelby Yee, Bailey Laflam and Jasmine Guyette graduated.

Strengths: Pitching.

Weaknesses: Experience as the Hurricanes will have five first-year starters.

Players to Watch: “The entire team. It will take a total team contribution to make it a successful season,” Gervais said.

Toughest Foes: Brattleboro, Rutland, Springfield, Otter Valley, Fair Haven.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m excited to see where this team will end up. We play a very competitive Marble Valley A Division schedule that should prepare us for what I hope will be an exciting tournament season,” Gervais said.

Kearsarge

Coach: David Yazzie (1).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 1-15 in D-II, missed state tournament.

Who’s Back: Senior — Alison Josefiak (P/UTL). Junior — VIctoria Botana (2B). Sophomore — Brianna Critch (1B/P).

Who’s New: Senior — Allie Folcik (3B/OF). Junior — Jocelyn Vierzen (RF). Sophomores — Michaela Folcik (SS/C), Natalie Baker (C/1B), Shyann Desrouchers (RF), Courtney Grant (CF/2B). Freshmen — Sammi Dow (LF), Caroline Beaton (CF). Hanna Hill (RF), Lydia Spoonmaker (OF).

Who’s Gone: Katie Levesque, Lexi Critch, Sarah Cobb.

Strengths: Pitching, as Joesfiak and Brianna Critch each have varsity experience in the circle.

Weaknesses: Inexperience at other positions on the diamond, with only three returning players.

Players to Watch: Josefiak, Allie Folcik.

Toughest Foes: The Cougars are playing a new schedule this year, their first in D-III after previously battling in D-II.

Coach’s Final Thought: “The overall attitude has to come together. Once the kids figure each other out, we’ll do OK. Being young and showing our inexperience is tough right now.”

Lebanon

Coach: Jessica Bayos (1).

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Last Year: 6-10, missed state tournament.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Chrissy Drake (C), Amelia Gilchrist (OF), Elizabeth Shipley (3B), Ashley Goucher (2B/P). Juniors — Shauna McGrath (OF/P/SS), Kaylee Rogers (P/OF). Sophomore — Emily Colwell (SS).

Who’s New: Juniors — Rachel Berg (IF/OF), Destiny Powell (2B/C), Cierra Bloom (OF), Nicole Barton (1B/3B), Anna Hurst (1B/OF), Amber Grant (2B/OF). Sophomore — Emily Courtemanche (1B).

Who’s Gone: Chelsea Brann, Cassie Young, Sarah Fittro, Molly Whitaker, Lexi Romano, Addison Stearns.

Strengths: Team cohesion, defense and depth, as multiple players can play multiple positions.

Weaknesses: Youth, speed and pitching.

Players to Watch: Senior co-captains Drake, Gilchrist, Shipley and Goucher.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I am looking forward for the girls to have fun playing the game while still giving us the full commitment and heart to win. Since this is my first year coaching, I will take any win that comes to me along with any loss to learn from. This group of girls I am coaching has been great. They are upbeat girls.”

Mascoma

Coach: Dan Griswold (2).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 5-13, lost to Berlin in the first round of the playoffs.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Morgan Coleman (P), Tori Makalinaw (SS), Catie Mylott (1B), Becky Gravel (3B). Juniors — Briana Furman (C), Carrie Hackeman (IF/OF), Allie Psota (CF), Hannah Griswold (P/1B/OF).

Who’s New: Seniors— Haley Dixon (P/IF), Kathleen Langlands (3B). Juniors — Missy Stark (2B), Kendra Stone (P/2B). Sophomores — Ellie Dacier (2B), Maggie Disbrow (IF/OF), Brooke Pushee (IF/P). Freshmen — Rachel Kahn (C/2B/RF), Mikayla Clifford (P), Morgan Tupper (P/IF).

Who’s Gone: Emily Seamans, Bethany Robinson, Brittany Lyons, Christian Crowell, Bailey Kahn, Kendra Reeder.

Strengths: Pitching, infield defense, teamwork and attitude.

Weaknesses: “Scoring runs and not getting down on ourselves after missed plays.”

Players to Watch: Senior captains Coleman, Makalinaw, Mylott and Gravel.

Toughest Foes: Stevens, Franklin, White Mountains.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This year’s team has been one of the hardest working groups, both on and off the field, that I’ve ever been a part of. The team has really tried to come together as one. The seniors are leading and teaching us all. I myself can’t believe the heart and soul of this team. The dedication and work that they have put in has been amazing.”

Newport

Coach: Meredith McAllister (2).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 7-12, lost to No. 2 Gilford in second round of states.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Ashley Plante (CF, injured), Melinda Carl (P/IF). Juniors — Allison Doucette (OF/IF), Sky Curtis (SS), Sophie Willis (3B), Kaytlynn Kenney (OF), Noelle Peterson (OF), Lindsy Desmaris (C). Sophomores — Molly Early (RF), Anna Stefan (IF).

Who’s New: Freshmen — Stephanie Carl (P/IF), Katrina Batista (IF/OF), Brooke Beaulieu (IF/OF).

Who’s Gone: None.

Strengths: Pitching, defense.

Players to Watch: The Carl sisters, who will split time pitching; Willis at third base; Batista at the plate.

Toughest Foes: Conant, Stevens, Monadnock.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m very excited for this season. I have a great group of girls to work with, all my players are back and there’s some new, young talent. Pitching will be a strong point this season. Last year was the first year Newport had been in the tournament in many years. I expect us to make the tournament again this year.”

Oxbow

Coach: Robin Wozny (21).

League: Vermont Division III, Capital League.

Last Year: 13-5, lost in quarterfinals to Windsor.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Holly Lund (LF), Amber Hatch (CF), Amanda Hatch (1B), Marissa Ciurleo (OF), Valaree Bedell (OF), Rachel Emerson (2B). Juniors — Helen Mae Metcalf-Stevens (1B), Leah Hanzas (P), Heather White (C), Kristin Morrison (SS), Michaela Erno (OF), Sade LaPlant (OF), Rachel Roberts (2B), Kasie Craig (3B), Cassie Hutchinson (SS). Sophomores — Shae Brammell (P), Amanda Wheeler (C).

Who’s New: None.

Who’s Gone: Kim White, Catherine Douglas.

Strengths: Experience, defense, baserunning and opportunistic play.

Weaknesses: Manufacturing runs against quality pitching.

Players to Watch: White, Hanzas, Hutchinson.

Toughest Foes: Randolph, Lyndon.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: The Olympians are prefacing their season with a spring-break trip to Long Island to watch a college game and scrimmage a local high school before the grind begins. “This is one of the nicest group of kids I have ever coached,” Wozny added. “I hope this trip will be a bonding experience for our team and will be a jumping-off point to a successful season.”

Rivendell

Coach: Lance Mills (10).

League: Vermont Division III, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 3-14, lost in first round of playoffs.

Who’s Back: Seniors— Emily Spaulding (1B), Kaitlin Maddock (SS), Cassie Calhoun (2B), Cassie Gray (1B/3B), Brianna Wood (P/3B). Junior — Megan Perkins (IF/OF). Sophomores — Emily Ghio (OF), Onna Baker (OF).

Who’s New: Junior — Nicole Bates (OF). Sophomores — Cassie White (OF/P), Kaycie Edie (OF), Aquene Sausville (OF). Freshmen — Heather Dexter (OF), Carly Ghio (OF), Taylor Acheson (IF/OF/P), Nicole Wurtz (C), Megan Landgraf (OF/IF), Nikkita Roberts (OF).

Who’s Gone: Karen Mitchell, Amber Brooks, Haley LeBlanc, Holly LeBlanc, Autumn Brooks.

Strengths: Getting runners on base and scoring runs. Four returning starters have proven themselves as hitters at the varsity level.

Weaknesses: Pitching depth, inexperience defensively.

Players to Watch: Maddock (moving to shortstop to take advantage of athleticsm), Wood, Spaulding, Wurtz.

Toughest Foes: Oxbow, Woodsville, Blue Mountain.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m looking forward to seeing the younger players develop, because I think there’s some real talent there. They have already made great strides in practice and have shown themselves to be committed to this team. Our offense has a chance to be better than it’s ever been before. We’ve got some hitters who can really square up on the ball.”

South Royalton

Coach: Roger McCrillis (31).

League: Vermont Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 4-13, lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Kim Lakin (P/IF/OF), Ellen Manby (2B). Junior — Rebecca Paige (P/C). Sophomores — Andi McPhetres (OF), Emilee Kondi (OF), Kate Labadie (OF).

Who’s New: Sophomore — Jacquie Fulcher (IF/OF). Freshmen — Summer Spaulding (C), Madison Distel (1B), Rachel Moore (IF).

Who’s Gone: Sierra Hein is out for the season with an injury. Jordan McCrillis and Alexis Vincelette graduated, while Sarah Caron is studying abroad.

Strengths: Speed and defense.

Weaknesses: Pitching and hitting.

Players to Watch: Co-captains Paige and Lakin figure to be team leaders with their varsity experience.

Toughest Foes: Whitcomb, Blue Mountain, Danville.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “My philosophy is one game at a time. I have some young talent and am looking forward to developing that talent at key positions. As always, I am looking forward to having fun.”

Stevens

Coach: Melissa Nichols (13).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 19-2, lost to White Mountains in state finals, 13-4.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Danielle Tenney (P/2B), Abbey Rouillard (3B/SS), Gabrielle Cutts (3B), Catherine Blackwell (1B). Juniors — Abbey Duford (C), Alexis Melcher (CF), Jenna Deschaine (1B/RF), Emily Charest (3B/OF).

Who’s New: Senior— Chantelle Huse (OF/2B). Juniors — Cassandra Cutts (3B/OF), Tori Maslan (P/1B). Sophomores — Ashley Giannuzzi (C/OF), Gillian Cahill (2B/OF).

Who’s Gone: Alyssa Nichols, Jodi Dumayne, Mercedes Laquire, Alexis Berry, Jess Lavine.

Players to Watch: Tenney, Duford, Melcher, Deschaine, Rouillard, G. Cutts, Blackwell.

Strengths: Versatility, all-around offensive game, experience.

Weaknesses: Varsity experience beyond the returnees.

Toughest Foes: “Really, every team can be tough on any given day. We will need to be on our A game at all times.”

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We are coming off a very successful season last year. We have eight girls back from that team that played a large part in last year’s success, and we are looking forward to another successful season.”

Thetford

Coach: Michelle Fifield (2).

League: Vermont Division III, Capital League.

Last Year: 5-12, lost in first round of playoffs.

Who’s Back: Senior — Jackie Jamieson (LF). Juniors — Shenia Covey (CF/IF), Carlie Ulman (2B). Sophomores — Michaela Pomeroy (SS/P), Kaitlin Boyce (C).

Who’s New: Seniors — Kaitlin Hodge (P/OF), Rosalind Isquith (3B/OF), Emma Yurkosky (C/OF/IF). Sophomores — Hannah Burford (OF/IF), Susie Howard (3B/SS/OF), Elise Jackson (1B/OF), Patience Kasten (IF/OF), Rozzlyn Kidder (P/OF), Olivia Phelps (OF), Ashia Pryor (3B/SS). Freshman — Jasmine Jamieson (OF).

Who’s Gone: Junior Taylor Cudhea (1B) is out for the season with a torn knee ligament from ski season. Katlyn Kidder, Carleen Richardson, Sydney Coulter, Brittany Gray, Trina Lury and Haley Wurtz are also gone.

Strengths: Defense, ability to manufacture offense.

Weaknesses: Inexperience.

Players to Watch: Ulman, Covey, Jackie Jamieson.

Toughest Foes: Harwood, Lamoille, Lyndon, Randolph.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This group of girls works very hard from the start of practice to the end. We have focused on hitting in hopes that we can get some excitement on the bases with our speed.”

Whitcomb

Coach: Ray Colton (16).

League: Vermont Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 15-3, lost to Proctor in state finals, 4-3.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Reba Hart (P), Cambry Zullick (CF), Mackenzie Delia (2B), Jenna Townsend (LF). Juniors — Nicole Begin (SS), Lexi Burnham (RF). Freshman — Lindsay LaPerle (3B).

Who’s New: Sophomores— Tulie McCrory (1B), Katelyn Koloski (OF), Megan LaPerle (OF), Jonnie Thompson (C).

Who’s Gone: Leanne Ketner, Amanda Begin, Rachel Wood, Rebecca Burns, Sabra Snelling.

Strengths: Pitching, offense.

Weaknesses: Depth, inexperience on defense.

Players to Watch: Senior tri-captains Hart, Delia and Zullick.

Toughest Foes: Lake Region, Peoples, Green Mountain, Blue Mountain.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “It’s a goal of this group of seniors to be back in the championship game. If we play hard all year, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Windsor

Coach: Phil Hathorn (5).

League: Vermont Division III, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 16-4, lost 3-1 to Peoples in state championship game.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Nikki Kibling (CF), Jadie Dow (1B). Junior — Mariah Marsh (2B/P). Sophomores — Haley Wood (SS), Ashlee Bly (OF).

Who’s New: Seniors — Tierra Huntley (C/3B), Nandy Thompson (OF), Taylor Tyminski (OF). Juniors — Taylor Potwin (3B/C), Kristen Nott (IF/OF). Sophomore — Jen Smith. Freshmen — Katey Comstock, Erin Lapine.

Who’s Gone: Katelyn Curtis, Alicia Cowdrey, Allison Wilcox, Abbie Wright, Lindsey Buckman, Dani Dulac.

Strengths: Infield defense, team speed.

Weaknesses: Inexperience, situational game knowledge.

Players to Watch: Kibling, Wood.

Toughest Foes: Springfield, Hartford, Green Mountain, Leland & Gray.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Numbers are a little low, so we’ll have to stay healthy. Attitudes and effort have been good, and I think by six games in we should have our defense figured out and be playing better.”

Woodstock

Coach: David Miles (1).

League: Vermont Division II, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 5-12, lost in the first round of playoffs to Harwood.

Who’s Back: Senior — Emma Blaiklock (C). Juniors — Brittany Sawyer (P/1B), Shelby Gault (P/2B), Maggie Pierce (CF). Sophomores — Ashley Sigl (1B/3B), Emily Jillson (LF), Logan Smith (OF).

Who’s New: Senior — Ainsley Wilding (OF). Juniors — Maddie Chism (OF), Maria Melendy (OF). Sophomores — Michaela White (OF/2B), Heather Cote (OF). Freshmen — Elizabeth Fitzpatrick (SS), Gabbi Rozumek (2B/3B/C).

Who’s Gone: Kara Van Herwarde is out due to injury. Cheryl Poretto, Morgan Pierce, Tara Metcalf, Codi Towne and Schuyler Benoit are also gone.

Strengths: Patience at the plate, good defense behind the plate and on the left side of the infield.

Team Weaknesses: Potential for costly errors, inexperience.

Players to Watch: Blaiklock, Sawyer, Sigl, Fitzpatrick.

Toughest Foes: Leland & Gray, Windsor.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: Miles is hoping to continue the steady progress of the Wasps, who have won nine games over the past two seasons. “It will be a challenge with such a young and inexperienced squad,” Miles noted. “The girls need to work hard at practice and remain focused to keep the program on an upwards curve.”

Woodsville

Coach: Dana Huntington (3).

League: New Hampshire Division IV.

Last Year: 12-7, lost to Wilton-Lyndeborough in state semifinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Sadie Matteson (2B), Becca Hanley (SS/UT), Dianah Joslin (LF), Abby Simano (RF), Danelle Huntington (P). Juniors — Julia Bowman (C), Kat Emley (1B), Molly Ruprecht (3B), Cassidy Townsend (C/2B/OF). Sophomores — Paige Martin (OF), Lottie Page (P/IF).

Who’s New: Juniors — Erica Belyea (IF), Mikayla McClintock (OF). Freshmen — Dee Martin (SS), Tori Clough (P/OF).

Who’s Gone: Taylor Morris, Katie Hilliard, Kayla Griswold.

Strengths: Team leadership, experience, depth and versatility.

Weaknesses: Speed.

Players to Watch: Simano, Joslin, Huntington, Bowman.

Toughest Foes: Profile, Moultonborough, Littleton.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m looking forward to seeing this group continue to grow into a cohesive unit. It’s a very good group of girls to coach; they work hard every day to get better. The team goal is to get back to the final four and have another chance to play at Plymouth State.”