Girls high school basketball preview
A look at Conant, ConVal, Mascenic and WLC's girls teams
Katie Chadbourne and the Orioles are ready for a new season.
This year's ConVal team is Jess Nerz's to lead.
Mascenic's Sarah Sharp should play a big role this season.
Sami Bosquet handles the rock for the Warriors.
Conant: More questions than answers for Rosenfield
Last year’s record: 17-1 (eliminated in playoff semifinals)
Returning impact players: Junior Katie Chadbourne, senior Heather Bilodeau, junior Kelsey Martin, sophomore Sarah Gonsalves.
Head coach: Dan Rosenfield (first season)
At this point in the year, every head coach has more questions than answers about their teams. New Conant girls coach Dan Rosenfield has more questions than most.
“It’s sort of like having a baby,” Rosenfield said. “Before you have the ultrasound, you just don’t know what you’re getting.”
In fact, Rosenfield’s first chance to see the team play as a whole, aside from practice, will be tonight at the Conant alumni game. Even then, the team won’t quite be at 100%; senior leader Heather Bilodeau is still recovering from a broken foot sustained during field hockey season, and junior Kelsey Martin is out indefinitely with a lower back injury. Bilodeau’s been cleared to practice, and could even see the court briefly in the alumni game, but she and Martin are both in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to full competition.
The Orioles will be a very young team this year. Junior guard Katie Chadbourne should get the bulk of the ball-handling duties. She’ll be joined by her sister, Grace, a freshman who could contribute mightily. Hard-working soph Sarah Gonsalves holds down the center position. Conant also awaits a ruling from the NHIAA on the eligibility of Eva Hodgson, an 8th-grader who, given her pedigree, could be an important cog if she’s cleared to play. The Orioles won’t have that one go-to player that will be counted on to score every basket this season; instead, they’ll need players up and down the lineup to contribute equally.
“I think we can go eight deep when the game’s on the line,” Rosenfield said. “The team chemistry appears to be better than anything I’ve seen in my years coaching.”
First game: Dec. 10 at Campbell.
Home opener: Dec. 12 vs. Monadnock.
ConVal: Top scorer Jess Nerz must take the lead
Last year’s record: 3-15 (finished out of the playoffs)
Returning impact players: Senior Jess Nerz, senior Emmasae Hallen, senior Selena Baldwin, junior Lilly Smith, junior Megan Buydos
Head coach: Brian Pickering
Jess Nerz has been starting for ConVal since the end of her freshman year. Now a senior, Nerz will likely carry the bulk of the scoring load on her shoulders this season. A natural shooting guard who will be asked to handle the ball more often this season, Nerz will need to rise to the challenge of leading the Cougars for them to have success. It’s a task she’s more than likely up for, as Nerz led ConVal in scoring last season as a junior.
Juniors Megan Buydos and Lilly Smith return to their starting forward positions; they’ll be joined in the frontcourt by senior Emmasae Hallen. April Madaglia, a 6’ senior center who was late to the game but has picked it up quickly, will add some size off the bench, along with senior Selena Baldwin.
At the guard position, expect to see a lot of junior Kelsey Walker and JoEllen Racicot, a speedster who plays excellent defense. Sophomores Sasha Brock (sister of 2013 grad Marena) and Jordan Mills should also be in the mix. Mills in particular is much improved, according to Pickering, who said she was the fastest player on the team.
“She worked a lot in the offseason,” Pickering said. “We’ll be looking for her to step up.”
The Cougars will try to use their superior speed to push their opponents into a faster pace than they are comfortable with. “We’re going to run really effectively,” Pickering said.
First game: Dec. 13 vs. Windham.
Mascenic: Can they build off of last year's success?
Last year’s record: 6-12 (eliminated in first round of playoffs)
Returning impact players: Senior Cheyanne Sauvola, senior Sarah Sharp, senior Liz Martel, sophomore Michelle Paradis, sophomore Jocelyn Bosworth, sophomore Brier Haigh.
Head coach: Wiley Billings
After stuggling through five straight seasons without winning a game, Mascenic got that monkey off their back in a big way last year. Not only did the Vikings snap their 94-game losing streak, they put together a half-dozen wins and earned a spot in the playoffs.
The biggest key to the Vikings’ newfound success last year was their dedication to defense. Mascenic only gave up 39 points per game last year, which certainly helped. They’ll need to up their scoring output to be successful this year, as they averaged a paltry 31 points on offense. Head coach Wiley Billings said he’s working to solve that problem by cutting down on turnovers and by improving the half-court offense, which should lead to an increase in shooting percentage and, of course, points.
“Our goal is to have a better record and make the playoffs,” Billings said.
Athletic senior power forward Cheyanne Sauvola should be one of the team’s leaders this year on and off the court. Senior small forward Liz Martel and senior guard Sarah Sharp will also play large roles in the offense. Billings will look to a trio of sophomores – Michelle Paradis, Brier Haigh and Jocelyn Bosworth – to fill up the frontcourt. They’ll need to step into the positions vacated by center Emily Beauvais, who took her height and talent to Winchendon this season, and Erin Scollans, who was the Vikings’ leading rebounder before graduating last spring. Guard Jocelyn Ojala, who memorably fought through a torn ACL to play in the playoffs last season, also graduated last year.
First game: Dec. 6 vs. Campbell.
WLC: Scrappy Warriors are ready to run
Last year’s record: 7-11 (eliminated in first round of playoffs)
Returning impact players: Senior Sami Bosquet, sophomore Ally Schwab, senior Kayla Barnes, junior Rachel Graves, junior Kelsey Randlett, junior Lorrie Blais.
Head coach: Dennis Claire
If the Warriors are to be successful this year, they need to get out and run. With last year’s leading rebounder, junior Jenna Bragdon, currently not with the team, WLC will have to play to their strengths – strong guard play and points off transition.
“We play uptempo because we don’t have any real go-to person,” coach Dennis Claire said. The Warriors will likely run a three-guard look to speed things up. Senior Sami Bosquet returns to the point guard position; she’s a tough grinder who does what it takes to win the game. Hard-nosed soph Ally Schwab and feisty second-year player Tesa Simpson should fill out the backcourt.
“They play hard, they can run, they can handle the ball pretty good and they’re all pretty good shooters,” Claire said.
Juniors Rachel Graves and Kelsey Randlett will start at center and power forward, respectively. Off the bench, the Warriors will call upon much-improved senior Kayla Barnes, junior Lorrie Blais, and a trio of sophomores – Cori Balam, Olivia McGettigan and Sarah Holka. They’ll need to fill some sizeable holes; aside from the loss of Bragdon, the Warriors graduated three key players last year in Andrea Heck, Deanna Davidson and Casey Jenkinson.
WLC will be tested early and often as the season begins. They tip off at Sunapee on Dec. 10 with many of the Warrior players still feeling the sting of their soccer playoff ouster at the hands of the Lakers just a few weeks ago. That game kicks off six straight on the road for the Warriors (pending rescheduling of what was to be their home opener vs. Epping, which interferes with the Keene holiday tournament).
First game: Dec. 10 at Sunapee
Home opener: Jan. 17 vs. Pittsfield.