The championship that never was. That is what we were left off with in Division II last season. Spaulding was on a magical run and Lebanon got the best of their arch-rival Hanover on a tremendous night of semifinal action.
While Spaulding has since moved up to Division I, Lebanon returns with high championship aspirations, along with the likes of Hanover, Hollis-Brookline, Bishop Brady, and Bow.
Kennet is looking to get back in the mix this season and teams like Sanborn, Merrimack Valley, Pelham, and John Stark look to make a jump into the Top 5 this season.
Division II will be a battle every night no matter the opponent, making this season one of the most competitive we have seen in some time.
There will be several teams who have the chance to be competing for a title in this division.
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Division II Pre-Season Top 10
2. Bishop Brady
9. John Stark
10. Merrimack Valley
Outside of the Top 10: Laconia, Coe-Brown, Souhegan, Plymouth, ConVal, Pembroke, Manchester West, Timberlane, Oyster River, Milford
Hanover is back atop the pre-season rankings as Dan O’Rourke’s team is ready to redeem themselves from last year’s semi-final loss to Lebanon.
“They are starving for basketball,” said O’Rourke. Maddie McCorkle was the leader along with being the heart and soul of this group last season and her presence will surely be missed, but the Marauders return a team that is once again deep and more experienced.
“Our immediate strength is our core,” said O’Rourke. That core is headlined by sophomore Stella Galanes and junior Mellisa Whitmore. “This team needs to create its own identity and that starts with those two.”
Galanes was arguably one of the best freshmen in the state last season and her play only improved over the course of the season. She was the spark plug off the bench last year and provided instant offense the second she stepped on the floor.
“She is going to continue to get better,” said O’Rourke. “The biggest thing I have noticed early on is that the game has slowed down for her. She is much more comfortable and confident playing on the floor.”
Without McCorkle, the ball will be in Galanes’ hands a majority of the time. She will be relied upon to make the right reads and create offense for herself and others, something she is more than capable of doing.
Whitmore emerges as a top option for Hanover and has greatly improved since her sophomore season. “She worked on her all-around game during the summer and it shows,” said O’Rourke. “She will be a matchup problem for many teams.”
The 6’1” forward has come into her own and will be unleashed fully this upcoming season. “Both Stella and Melissa have blossomed,” said O’Rourke. “This is just the beginning for those two.”
Caroline Adams steps into the starting point guard role after backing up McCorkle last season. “She was a great shooter all year long for us last season,” said O’Rourke. “She comes into this season quicker and more athletic. She is a student of the game.”
Jane Lackley is back for her second year in the program after transferring to Hanover last year. “It was a big adjustment year for her,” said O’Rourke. “She has put a lot of time and effort into her game.”
The 5’11 forward along with Adams and senior Charlotte Johnson who is a great two-way player for this group, all will step into bigger roles this season.
O’Rourke has a solid freshman in Sydney McLaughlin coming in this season who he feels can be an impact player for the Marauders. “She is a very skilled guard who is going to add more depth to our team.”
As always, Hanover has high expectations for themselves. “I think this group has the ability to be a top-tier team,” said O’Rourke. “One of the strongest attributes of this team is that on any given night we have 8 girls who could score in double figures.”
Depth and experience will once again fuel a Hanover team that is out for redemption this season.
Bishop Brady was an offensive juggernaut last season, and head coach Sal Alosa wants his team to come into this year with the same identity and mentality.
The Giants made a run to the Final Four last season with their comeback victory over #2 Hollis-Brookline in the quarterfinals. The key to that victory was their great shooting touch, and a majority of those shooters are back for Alosa’s squad this season.
Bishop Brady averaged nearly 66 ppg last season, and a majority of that scoring came from all-state guard Ami Rivera. The senior is one of the best all-around guards in the state and is the perfect fit in Alosa’s system.
“The game goes through the point guard in my system,” said Alosa. “She is a great leader, I get everything I can out of her out on the floor.”
Rivera can create offense off the dribble and does a great job getting teammates involved as well. She even had a few triple-doubles logged last season, she does it all for this team.
The uptempo style fits Rivera’s game to a tee as she is so quick with the basketball and gets her team moving from the opening tip.
Alongside Rivera is all-state guard Halle Laramie. She was the second-leading scorer on the team with 12.8 ppg last season and is a dangerous outside shooting threat. “She has great range,” said Alosa. “We let her shoot it from anywhere, we’re confident in her.”
The graduation loss of Marissa Payne will leave the Giants slim at the forward spot, forcing Bishop Brady to play 5 guards on the floor at times. The “big” for Alosa’s team will be Riley Marsh. “She knows she has to rebound,” said Alosa. “She plays bigger than she is and will go 32 minutes if we need her too.”
Marsh is a top-three defender in the state in the eyes of her coach, and her play certainly backs that up.
Juniors Isabella Rivera and Libbey Hicks both will step into bigger roles this season. Both were reliable scoring options last season for the Giants and Alosa only sees that role expanding for them. “Both are pure shooters, they’ve impressed us early on.”
Another rotation player will be Meg Sullivan, who was one of the first off the bench as a freshman last season. “Defensively she is stellar,” said Alosa. “Her goal is to take away the ball from anybody and everybody. Her outside shot is also coming along, she knows what I’m looking for out on the floor.”
Shooting the basketball at a high level is what makes Bishop Brady who they are. “All 10 players have the green light to shoot, we get mad when they pass up good shots,” said Alosa. “The girls like to shoot and they like to score, that’s why they love the system so much.”
If Bishop Brady can score the ball at a rate anywhere close to last season, they will be a tough out any night. “We feel like we have a good shot to be there on the final night,” said Alosa.
Depth will be what Hollis-Brookline and head coach Bob Murphy rely upon for the upcoming season. The Cavaliers return a good core of last year’s 16-2 squad and add new pieces that will only further the strength of this team's lineup.
Elisabeth Stapelfeld was a breakout sophomore for Hollis-Brookline and slowly became the team's go-to option with all of the attention that opposing defenses put on Christina Balsamo last year.
“Elisabeth is one of the best shooters in the state,” said Murphy. “She really improved her game during the summer. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see her play.”
Stapelfeld is a known name around Division II, and many teams will look to key in pressure on her. The crafty guard has a good arsenal of moves and ways to score the basketball that will make her a tough cover every night.
Cheyenne Colbert was the leading rebounder for the Cavaliers as a freshman last season. The 5’11” forward will need to bring the same intensity to rebounding as she did last season and also look to be a scoring threat on the low post.
Maggie Crooks will also be another option for Hollis-Brookline down low along with Caroline Clarke, a 5’9” forward who just transferred in from Concord Christian.
“We usually only have 1-2 solid rebounders, but this year we have three,” said Murphy. “Maggie was our second-leading rebounder last year and from what I’ve seen from Caroline early on she goes for every rebound that is available.”
The luxury of having three versatile bigs will be one that Murphy won’t take for granted. This will allow Hollis-Brookline to use a multitude of lineups that feature different looks but also have reliable rebounders on the floor.
Amanda Robbins was the sixth man for this team last year and will be counted on as a key player this season. “She has a great inside-out game along with playing great defense on a nightly basis,” said Murphy.
Brooke and Daniella Allanach are described as “outstanding players” and will immediately contribute this year. “Brooke took a year off from basketball and returns for her senior year and Daniella looks like she is ready to be a solid varsity player as a sophomore,” said Murphy.
Bella Ferrazzani, Sam Atlas, and Makenna Dunn, a sophomore transfer from Bishop Guertin, all will add to what should be a deep rotation for Hollis-Brookline. “The depth is going to allow us to do things we haven’t been able to do in the past,” said Murphy. “We have high expectations.”
The Cavaliers starting five will be strong and Murphy feels he has a second unit that can compete with anyone’s bench in the division. Hollis-Brookline has the pieces to do something special this year.
The Bow Falcons and head coach Phil Davis have high aspirations coming into this season after going 12-6 last year with a rotation that consisted of mainly underclassmen.
Davis takes over for Bill Vermette who decided to retire after last season. “All the credit to Bill, he really put these girls in a position to succeed.”
Elle Pingree would have been one of the most dominant forces in Division II for the Falcons but has moved onto prep school at St Paul’s.
Emerging will be sophomore Alex Larrabee. “Alex has started to come into her own,” said Davis. “She will be a force to be reckoned with and that is due to her all-out effort she gives every night.”
Pingree and Larrabee would have been a tough challenge for anyone on the low block, but even just having Larrabee down low will present a challenge for any team. “She really cleans up the boards and brings great defensive instinct that won’t allow us to lose anything with the loss of Elle,” said Davis.
Madison Speckman will be the focal point of the offense for the Falcons this season. “She will see the best defensive player on the opposing team every night,” said Davis. “I think she is up for that challenge.”
Speckman was the second-leading scorer for this group last year and her game is as dynamic as they come. She is aggressive going to the basket and has a reliable jumpshot that will make opposing defenses pick and choose what to give up as an option for her. “I think she is ready to step up and put the team on her back in the tough moments this season,” said Davis.
One of my favorite duos is back to lead the backcourt for Bow, the LaPerle twins. Isabella and Lindsay were outstanding on both ends of the floor as freshmen last season. “I have never in all my years of coaching seen more sustained intensity on the defensive end of the court,” said Davis. “They are happy to pick you up full court the entire game.”
Isabella and Lindsay are the leaders of the All-Glue team for girls’ basketball. They hound opposing guards all night with their speed and great hands. “They will bang with anybody,” said Davis. “They play a lot bigger than their height reads.”
A great development for both is that their outside shooting has come along and their ability to drive and kick has only gotten better.
Jess Chamberlin will be a stretch big for the Falcons. “She will be our mid-range shooter with height,” said Davis. “She can get out there and knock down the lost art of the 12-15 footer.” (also known as Lance's favorite shot in high school)
Makayla Murray and Brooke Biehl will be the captains for Bow. “They are the glue of this team, they are going to keep us together,” said Davis.
The Falcons fell to the hands of #1 Hanover last season and they come into this year more motivated than ever. “They felt like they could have done something last year,” said Davis. “They hold themselves to high standards. If we push each other and get better every single day, we feel like we can be there in the end.”
Gold Level Coaches/Programs as of 1/9:
Larry Meader of Kennett
Brian Gray of Sanborn
Dan O'Rourke of Hanover
Bob McNutt of Merrimack Valley
Mike Vetack of Souhegan
Kevin Proctor of ConVal
Kennett was upset in the first round by Sanborn last season after appearing in the state title game just two years ago.
Liz Cote did all she could to lead last year’s team, but it seemed there was a piece missing from the puzzle. That piece was Maddie Stewart, who missed her junior year due to an ACL injury. She is back this season looking like she hasn’t missed a beat.
“She looks like the same old Maddie,” said Meader. The guard made second-team all-state as a sophomore and is primed for a big senior season. “I expect her to be one of the best players in the state. She works harder than any player I’ve ever had.”
Stewart will be at the forefront of everything Kennett hopes to achieve this season. “She rebounds so well for a guard,” said Meader. “She is a threat on the inside and outside and is a really good matchup for us to put against any team.”
The Eagles return 4 of 5 starters from last season where the team was relatively young. Sydney Chin started as a freshman and comes back much improved. “We are looking for her to take that next step,” said Meader. “She will add to our scoring and help Maddie out.”
Sierra Parsons was the second-leading scorer for Kennett as a junior and will yet again be an important part of this group as a senior. “She is an undersized post player who can get to the basket from the high post and also has the ability to stick the jumper,” said Meader. “Defensively she does a great job anticipating things and plays great help defense. She draws a ton of charges.”
Ella Chandler is an all-around player who does a little bit of everything for the Eagles. “She does anything no matter what you ask her to do,” said Meader. “She will help run the team on the floor. We expect a lot out of her.”
Center Jaelin Cummings will provide good length and a sound offensive game on the inside and Sam Habert when healthy is the best athlete on the floor for Kennett. Both add depth to a rotation that is one of the deepest Meader has had in his time at Kennett
Six underclassmen will get valuable minutes for Kennett this season. 5’8” point guard Sidney Shaw will be the first guard off the bench for the Eagles and will provide a little bit of everything offensively. “She is going to have a size advantage over a lot of guards,” said Meader.
Sophomores Catherine Chick and Hope Ellias both come back with a year of experience under their belts. “Catherine got a taste of things last year and this year we hope she can bring physicality and help on the boards,” said Meader. “Hope can light it up from deep. We will need her to help spread the offense out.”
You can also add Kaley Goodhart and Kaylee McClellan to the long list of shooters for the Eagles this season. “Last season we only had one three-point threat with Liz, this season we have multiple,” said Meader.
Kennett is looking to get back into the upper tier of the division this season. “We have a lot of experience with our seniors,” said Meader. “If our younger players can perform I think we will compete with the best for sure.”
The Pelham Pythons finished as the #9 seed in Division II last season, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
This is a team that came out of the gates firing last year until injuries would change the outlook for a group that looked like a top-four team at some points.
Head coach Bob Shepard is excited with the group he has returning. "If we can survive injuries I think we can compete this season," said Shepard.
Six seniors return for Pelham and bring four years of good basketball experience along with them. Point guard Tallie Carney is amongst the leaders of this bunch.
"Tallie has matured into a leader," said Shepard. "She is like a second coach on the court for us."
The senior point guard has been the leading scorer in the last two postseasons for Pelham and should bring that playoff success into this upcoming regular season. "She knows how to direct a team," said Shepard. "I'm expecting big things out of her this year."
Megan Molettieri is another senior who is ready for a big year. "Megan has really improved her game over the offseason," said Shepard. "She will come up big for us this season."
More of a role player in years past, Molettieriwill be called upon to be a scoring threat for the Pythons. "She was more of a defensive and rebound-first type of player for us in years past," said Shepard. "This season I wouldn't be surprised to see her average double figures for us."
A good addition to an already experienced group is a strong second unit, and sophomore Mia Cantacesso will help lead the bench as a backup point guard.
"Her ball-handling skills have really improved," said Shepard. "She will be able to penetrate the defense and drive to the hoop a lot more this season. Her passing is a skill that was there for us last year, we are excited to see more out of her this season."
"Two extremely talented freshmen," as described by Shepard, will be joining the roster this year. 5'8" Jasmine Becotte and 5'9" Sophia Joncas will join the roster and immediately contribute.
"Jasmine is extremely fast and Sophia is a good rugged rebounder for her size," said Shepard. "Both will see significant minutes this season."
Pelham feels they have a lot to prove this upcoming season and they have a team that will be up for a lot of challenges in teams like Sanborn and Hollis-Brookline who they will see throughout the year.
"We have a good veteran base to work with," said Shepard. "We should be able to be a competitive group."
The Lebanon Raiders pulled off the upset of the season with their semi-final win over Hanover last season. They were ready to play for a chance at a Division II title, but unfortunately, that game was never played due to the season being forced to a stand-still the day after their great victory.
Player of the year Rebecca Wright wasn’t able to cap off her career with a championship and has moved onto collegiate basketball at Southern New Hampshire University. She will be a key piece that will be missed along with head coach Tim Kehoe who decided to retire.
Taking over in his spot is his daughter Emily Kehoe, who has been around this program for some time.
“A lot of seniors are gone from last year's team and that means a lot of leadership is gone as well,” said Kehoe.
This group will be looking for a new identity, and that will start with senior Sally Rainey. “You couldn’t ask for a better kid,” said Kehoe.
Rainey was an all-state forward last season due to her hard work on the glass and defensive presence on the inside alongside Wright. This season Rainey will be a top option offensively, except this time around a majority of her offense will come on the perimeter.
“She has become a lot more comfortable with the basketball,” said Kehoe. “You’re going to see a lot more of a mid-range game than we have ever seen from her before.”
Rainey brings great energy on a nightly basis and has seamlessly stepped into a leadership role for this group. “She has really grown as a basketball player and that will be on display this year,” said Kehoe.
Catherine Cole shined as a sophomore and Kehoe feels the all-state guard comes back as a new player in her junior year. “Catherine has improved so much, she is no longer just a shooter.”
Cole was a marksman from the outside last year and comes into this season with an enhanced offensive game. “She developed her game to where can crash to the basket with a lot of good rip-and-go plays,” said Kehoe. “She knows she has to get it done this year.”
Molly Smith will be called upon to be the starting point guard for Lebanon. “We are spoiled with Molly,” said Kehoe. “In ways, she will be our first true point guard since Samantha MacDonald back when I was playing.”
Smith had her moments last season, but Kehoe sees her taking the next step this year. “She is confident with the ball and has the ability to lead a team,” said Kehoe. “Any time a point guard has that ability it’s a huge plus. We are going to rely on her to make plays and create for others.”
Ella Longacre will make the jump to the starting lineup this season. “Not too many people know about her,” said Kehoe.
The forward made varsity as a freshman and possesses a skill set that allows her to play strong on the inside but also is athletic enough to play on the perimeter as well. “Her and Sally will be interchangeable which will help us a lot,” said Kehoe.
The Raiders will be somewhat of a new-look team this season but that doesn’t change the outlook for this group. “I expect a lot out of them,” said Kehoe. “If we can play our brand of basketball, there is no reason these girls can’t make a run at it.”
Sanborn got hot at the right time last season, upsetting Kennett in the first round and taking eventual co-champion Spaulding to the brink in the quarters.
Head coach Brian Gray returns his entire starting five and has a senior class coming back who has been together since 4th grade. “They put us in a good position to push as far as we can this year,” said Gray.
Headlining the returning starters is senior Maddie Houghton. She is a walking double-double and has improved her overall game coming into her senior year. “This is going to be a big season for her,” said Gray. “She keeps getting better. Whe works so hard on both sides of the ball and we will depend on her all year.”
Grace Merry-Carriero will be the point guard for this group and will be the one to get the Sanborn offense in motion. “She has the great ability of being able to get to the rim and also has the vision to dish it out to shooters,” said Gray.
Ellen McGough was a top scorer for this group last season and that offensive production will be asked of her once again this year. “She is one of the best shooters in the state when she’s on,” said Gray. “What we are looking for her to do more this year is get to the foul line. If she can do that she is going to have a really big year for us.”
“Maddie, Grace, and Ellen add a lot to our success, but we are deep,” said Gray. Ella Cotter and Ellie Morris both return to the rotation and bring two great skill sets to the Sanborn lineup. “Ella brings back great defense and has really worked on her three-point game. Ellie is another potential double-double threat for us. When she has good games, we have good results.”
Hannah Douglas is another player who worked herself into the rotation last season and is looking to contribute even more this season. “Our role players know what their job is,” said Gray. “We feel like our bench will contribute a lot for us this season.”
Although ranked outside the top 5, Sanborn is a group more than capable of being one of the tops in Division II. “When we play, we’re in it, we can be in it for an entire game,” said Gray. “These girls are experienced and they are pushing themselves every day. They want to be able to play with anyone.”
The momentum that Sanborn created will hopefully carry into this season. With the entire starting five back and a bench that is looking to be impactful, Sanborn should be in the mix all year.
John Stark was a top 5 team last year under head coach Bruce Johnson and should be in contention for a top seed once again this season.
*Coach Johnson informed me that tryouts are yet to happen so he only has information on returning players for John Stark this season
The Generals return four experienced seniors who will try and lead this team back for another playoff run.
Brady Johnson has been a consistent 4-year player for this team and will look to have an all-state level season. “She is an excellent all-around player that is capable of playing all five positions for us,” said coach Johnson. “She has outstanding post moves and can shoot the three very well.”
Johnson was a key contributor for this group last season and will be leaned upon heavily this season as a first option.
Lily Stogner will be asked to be a scoring threat since Chelsea Woodsum and Anna Stenger graduated a good amount of scoring production. “She is an outstanding athlete that is a fantastic rebounder,” said Johnson. “She has really increased her shooting range and should provide some of the scoring that we graduated last year.”
Brooke Patnode will be another option offensively for the Generals and is a versatile player that can do a lot of things on the court. “She is another great athlete who can play multiple positions,” said Johnson. “She has really improved her shooting range and ability to attack the rim.”
Kacie Weston returns as the team's top on-ball defender. “She is a very quick defender that excels in applying defensive pressure,” said Johnson. “She takes real pride in shutting down the other team's top scorer.”
“These four seniors hopefully will lead our team to another good season and the underclassman can provide some great minutes for us,” said Johnson.
John Stark has been amongst the top teams in Division II the past few years and the experience of these seniors will hopefully ensure another consistent season for the Generals.
Merrimack Valley is looking to take the step into the upper half of the division standings as the Pride have been a middle of the pact group for some time now.
This is a group capable of staying in games with anyone in Division II, this season will be about playing a game from start to finish.
Head coach Bob McNutt is excited about the group he has coming back. “We’re a lot more athletic than last season,” said McNutt. “Our tallest player is 5’7” so defensively we will need to rely on our athleticism and get after teams and create turnovers.”
Mackenzie McDonald was the leading scorer for the Pride last season as a sophomore. “We are expecting a lot of things out of her,” said McNutt. “A more consistent Mackenzie would be a great boost for us.”
McDonald is a versatile forward who can play tough on the block but also step out and stick the jumper. She will be relied upon heavily as a top option for Merrimack Valley and will be a factor in their success.
Macy Gordon will see more time at the guard spot this season as she was in and out of the starting lineup last year. “She should play a lot this year,” said McNutt. “She is a shooter that can get to the rack.”
Hayley Kenney could be the x-factor for this team. Defensively she will take the toughest matchup every night and is great on and off the ball. “We want to push her to be the Defensive Player of the Year in Division II,” said McNutt. “She can defend anyone 85 feet.”
An emerging sophomore for the Pride is Hadleigh Sargent, a 5’4” guard who didn’t see much varsity time last season but really developed at the JV level. “She could have played up last year but we wanted her to get her ready for this season,” said McNutt. “She is a good shooter who can get to the hoop. She will give us more offense to work with.”
You add in players like Rheily Tanguay, Morgan Tanguay, and Taylor Bailey who can really get up and down, McNutt feels like he has a group that can dictate the pace. “We are going to play an uptempo style,” said McNutt. “Our goal is to create offense on the defensive end. We will need all five girls on the floor to rebound and push.”
What Merrimack Valley lacks in height they make up for in athleticism. McNutt has a rotation that can go 10-11 deep at times if he needs to. “If we can have teams play at our tempo we should be in good shape.”
The Pride are looking to get over the hump and etch themselves as a top team in the division. With a deep rotation and a more experienced roster coming back, Merrimack Valley can do just that.
Laconia finished at 10-8 last season which you would think would be enough to finish in the top 8-10 range.
Since Division II was so competitive last season, three other teams also finished with identical records, moving Laconia all the way down to 13th in the standings and matching them with a tough Lebanon opponent I am sure they wanted to avoid in the first round.
Jeff Greeley is excited with the team he has returning. “The kids have been excited to hit the court,” said Greeley. “We have great leadership coming back with our returning seniors.”
The leadership starts with all-state guard Isabella Daly. The leading scorer from a season ago will have to take on a lot more responsibility with Megan Gasapa gone to graduation. “She will need to be a leader on both sides of the basketball,” said Greeley. “Last year she really took the bull by the horns. With Megan gone we will need Isabella to be able to defend all five positions.”
The offensive talent has been a shining aspect of Daly’s game, this year it will be about being active defensively while also running the offense. “Isabella has come a long way since being an off-guard as a freshman,” said Greeley. “She has become more confident and mature.”
Seniors Sellia Michalewicz and Shayleigh Gunning-Lavoie will step into bigger roles this year. “Everyone will need to pick up a few things this year,” said Greeley. “Megan Gaspa was our swiss army knife, we need people to fill her void.”
Juniors Norah Dunleavy and Sierra Halligan have been starters since they were freshmen and will both need to make the third-year jump. “Offensively we will be a lot more balanced and they will help be a part of that,” said Greeley.
“We are looking at the court as a classroom,” said Greeley. With a good Lakes Region schedule on deck, Laconia will be challenged and get a lot of different looks thrown at them throughout the year. “It is going to be interesting to see opponents multiple times in a week and have to modify gameplans on the fly. It will be a good chance to assess ourselves.”
The Sachems were on the cusp of being a top 10 team last season, and certainly have the team to be one this year. “Athletically we have girls who can play multiple positions,” said Greeley. “We will be able to switch more on screens, rotate, and cover more girls without losing giving up anything.”
A senior-laden group is what Coe-Brown and head coach Joe Vachon will be leaning on for the upcoming 20-21’ season.
“When you have a group of four seniors that have played together a lot, as a coach for me it's trying to make them comfortable. They have input on what we do,” said Vachon. “They need to take ownership of this team. It is your last season, what do you want to do with it?”
The Bears finished last season at 10-8 and have a solid core returning, but floor time has been tough to come by early on. “We are definitely behind where we would normally be,” said Vachon. “That is what makes practice so much more important, especially for the underclassmen. This is their audition essentially, this is all we get to judge them off of. It has made practice very competitive.”
Leading this team will be Jenny Bettencourt and Valentina White. “They are going to be leaders on the floor, they need to take on that role,” said Vachon.
White, a knockdown three-point shooter, and Bettencourt, a seasoned point guard, will take on bigger roles than they did last year as the top two scorers on the roster.
Molly Ewing and Olivia Noni will be making the jump to the starting lineup this season. The Bears will be searching for their fifth starter in practice. “We have emphasized competition early on,” said Vachon. “We have a lot of juniors battling it out.”
It will take a few games for Coe-Brown to get their legs under them. “The outlook is we are taking one practice and going day-by-day, week-by-week,” said Vachon. ”We are going to continue to play all the time and get to where we need to be.”
Souhegan hasn’t been able to get into the gym as often they have wanted to early on this year, but Mike Vetack’s group has been putting the work in even while they’ve been apart. “We’ve been on Zoom a lot together trying to do as much as we can and bond as a group even while we can’t be with each other,” said Vetack.
The Sabers are committed to playing a season if they are granted the chance too, and they are putting as much work in as they can to be ready for the moment. “What I’m looking for is seeing what kids can do with the opportunity to play,” said Vetack.
Two starters in Kate Canavan and Hunter Stonebraker return to lead a young Sabers team. “Kate was our point guard last year and I’m excited to see how she has grown vocally out on the court,” said Vetack. “Hunter is just a good all-around kid. She was nominated for Defensive Player of the Year and was vocal on both ends of the floor last year. She is a great captain.”
This will be a new-look team and Vetack is excited for the opportunities some of his younger players will have this year. “80% of our minutes from last year are gone,” said Vetack. “There is a lot of opportunity for the newbies.”
Hadley Corrcoran is someone who could step in and provide good varsity minutes this season. “She saw some time as a freshman last year and should have some good opportunities this year,” said Vetack.
Caitlin Cooper, Sierra Biddle, and Sabra Biddle will all see more minutes as juniors and will have the chance to earn rotation spots.
This will be a growing year for the Sabers, but this is the perfect year to have those growing pains. “This year will be all about who steps up,” said Vetack. “Everyone will have chances this season and all of these kids deserve the chance to show what they can do.”
The word of the year for the Plymouth Bobcats: flexibility. Head coach David Levesque knows he will be asking a lot out of his team, but he knows they are up for the challenge. “Their attitudes are outstanding,” said Levesque.
Second-team all-state point guard Jordan Levesque is back to lead the charge for the Bobcats. “She led us in every category last season, she does it all,” said coach Levesque. “For us, we have to really trust in one another to have success and that starts with Jordan.”
Another all-state level season from Levesque would be a big boost for a Bobcats team looking to make a jump this season. “We need the same level of production from her,” said coach Levesque.
Two seniors that will be relied upon early and often for Plymouth is Gwen Merryfield and Leia Brunt. “Gwen was a really good post player for us last year who was athletic and got up and down the floor very well,” said Levesque. “Leia took a year off from basketball and is back for her senior year. She will add another dimension on both sides of the ball for us.”
Role players will be what gets Plymouth over the hump this season. “We need our role players to take on more responsibility this year,” said Levesque.
Alana Mason brings good size to the court at 5’10” and will see a more extensive role this season. “She was a part-time starter last year,” said Levesque. “She is very coachable and is continuing to learn the game.”
Olivia Homer, Aarlyn Scroggins, and Tarryn Rhude all have a role to fill for the Bobcats. “Olivia is a lanky shooting guard who brings great defense for us every night and Aarlyn was a reserve player last season but may even see some time in the starting lineup this season,” said Levesque. “Tarryn leads the second unit as our backup point guard and is ready for a big year after returning from a knee injury. She is another player who could start for us at times.”
There will be lots of opportunities for players to prove themselves and show what they can contribute to a game. Underclassmen Sam Sanborn and Kayle Merryfield are two more players who will have a chance to crack the rotation.
The goal for Plymouth is simple this season. “We want to have success on the floor and improve in the win category,” said Levesque. “The seniors all played when we struggled in the past. The plan back then was to bring them along as seniors so they could be in a place to be competitive. It has been exciting to see how far they have come.”
ConVal’s season is still up in the air at this point, but Kevin Proctor’s team is staying ready and preparing as much as they can. “They’re a great group,” said Proctor. “They are ocked in and want to play for each other. It's special, we’re hoping they can get an opportunity to play.”
Leading this team will be seniors Julia and Emily Donovan. “Our seniors are going to be tremendous,” said Proctor. “They’re multi-sport athletes. They eat, sleep, and breathe whatever sport they’re in.”
The twins are in their third season as varsity players and have both grown immensely. “They both understand the game so much better now,” said Proctor.
Maddy Faber is back for her junior season which will be a pivotal year in her development. “She’s set to have a strong year,” said Proctor. “We played her as a stretch four last season but she can definitely step out and play as a guard.”
The versatile forward will be a focal point in what ConVal is looking to achieve not only this year but next season as well. “I’m excited to move her around and try her in different spots,” said Proctor. “Her range has improved over the last year and that will be interesting to watch for.”
Mairin Burgess will man the middle for the guard-heavy Cougars. “At times we may even play five guards to push the tempo,” said Proctor.
Sophomores Makenna Proctor and Morgan Bemont both were in the mix of the rotation as freshmen. “Both of them were our leading three-point shooters, shooting 30% from deep,” said Proctor. “I’m excited to get them in the mix.”
Jada Stevens is another guard who will get a lot of reps this season. “She is super physical in the post despite her size,” said Proctor. “She has been committed and working hard. She will benefit from the reps this season.”
“This year is important for our sophomores and juniors,” said Proctor. “Having a season will be important for their development.”
There will be a lot of opportunities for the underclassmen to improve this season and they have great leaders in the Donovan twins to lead them. “Linking all that together is going to be special,” said Proctor.
This is a tight-knit group that is looking for the opportunity to play and show what they are made of this season.
Steve Langevin takes over at Pembroke after helping lead Spaulding to a Division II title appearance last season.
This will be Pembroke’s third coach in three years, so it will be a bit of a feeling-out period for both Langevin and the players. “They’ve been really good approaching things and taking in new concepts,” said Langevin. “This year will be all about building their confidence.”
The Spartans finished last year at 4-14, but Langevin feels his group learned a lot from last season. “They were in a lot of games last year,” said Langevin. “They couldn’t get over the hump in some games. We are going to work to improve that.”
Cierra Hill and Ashley Stevens will be the leaders of this group as juniors. “They have been in the trenches,” said Langevin. They are the oldest and most experienced players on the roster and have taken on the role of setting good examples for their teammates and helping them learn the new system Langevin is implementing.
Freshman Annelise Dexter is a player that has impressed early on in practice. “She has the ability to make an impact right away,” said Langevin.
Pembroke is a team in the making. “This year is trying to get everything in place and looking towards the future,” said Langevin. “The majority of our core is freshman and juniors. We want them to start thinking for themselves out there and that will come with reps and time.”
Manchester West was a near .500 team last season and are looking to make the most of their opportunities this year.
Head coach Jerry Haynes has all five starters back from last season and will fill the rest of the varsity roster with freshmen looking to make an impact.
Abuk Teng is the lone senior for the Blue Knights. “She’s led our team for the last three years,” said Haynes. “She is the glue that holds the team together. She does a little bit of everything for us.”
Another leader for Manchester West will be junior Aniyah Poulin. “She has shown a lot of promise,” said Haynes. “She is someone our young players really look up to.”
Olivia Culver is one of the most dedicated basketball players on the roster. “She plays the most basketball in the offseason out of anyone,” said Haynes. “If she can get her shot straight we should be in good shape.”
The breakout player for this team last year was Nya Piok. “She is a rising star for sure,” said Haynes. “She is 5’10” with long arms and legs. She learns very well. She was raw to start last year but she emerged as a starter and started grabbing around ten rebounds a game for us,” said Haynes.
This will be a great year for Piok to further develop her skill set. “If we can up her scoring she can be even more impactful,” said Haynes. “She has matured a lot for sure.”
Timberlane will be a new-look team this upcoming year and head coach Julia Howe is excited for her group to get to work. “We return a group that is quick and athletic,” said Howe. “This group will allow us to be able to do more full-court action.”
Five seniors graduated from last year's roster and six seniors have emerged this year to try and lead this young group.
Two of those seniors are captains Hannah Collins and Autumn Brooks, who both play a similar style of basketball. “Hannah is our point guard, our best shooter, and communicator,” said Howe. “We have put a lot on her shoulders this year.”
“Autumn is a great shooter and will play a good role for us as a captain,” said Howe.
A returning sophomore who should be a big part of the team this year is Cassidy Powers. “She did some good things as a freshman but she broke her finger early last season,” said Howe. “We are excited to have her back healthy this year to see what she can do for us.”
Mia Parker comes in as a freshman who could be an impact player from day one and Alidia Bates, a great soccer player at Timberlane, will also provide good experience and the ability to do some good things out on the floor for the Owls.
This year will be about small gains and playing at a new pace. “We need to dictate the style of play,” said Howe. “I expect for us to offensively be better than we have in the past with more opportunities while playing in transition. If we can do that we can get a few wins under our belt.”
Oyster River has many underclassmen coming in that have shown real promise early on. Head coach Nicole Casimiro feels her group has a good opportunity to be competitive this season. “We are all about building up their confidence right now,” said Casimiro. “We feel like the regional schedule gives us a good chance to be competitive in games this season.”
Senior Carissa Miller, a Keene State commit for both basketball and softball, has been there through all the tough times and is excited to finish off her career on a high note. “The maturity and leadership has been incredible,” said Casimiro. “She has a newfound passion for basketball this year.”
Miller will be relied upon to lead this group and to be the focal point on both sides of the floor. “We are centering everything around her,” said Casimiro.
Abby Deane and Paige Burt return as sophomores who played valuable varsity minutes as freshmen last year. “They were starters last year because we needed the talent they brought to the floor,” said Casimiro. “They have a new maturity as sophomores.”
Freshman Riley Drapeau and Annabelle Svenson will see a lot of floor time early on and are great building blocks for the program’s future. “Riley is gritty and has a great nose for the rim. She’s incredibly coachable,” said Casimiro. “Annabelle is 6’2” and has a lot of potential. I have never had the opportunity to coach height like that.”
Drapeau and Svenson will make their freshman mistakes, but they will also have a lot of valuable moments that they will be able to build upon.
“It is day-to-day here,” said Casimiro. “We definitely look forward to this season and taking a step in the right direction.”
Milford will be a bit shorthanded this season but return a solid core that has another year of experience under their belts.
Head coach Michael Davidson has solid juniors and seniors coming back to help lead the team. Senior Sarah Dobbs was the team’s leading scorer last season at 9 ppg and is a captain alongside seniors Alexa Wilder and Jessie Gendron.
Sophomore Bailey Johnson will be called upon to score the basketball for this group as she was the second-leading scorer behind Dobbs last season. Kate Hansen is another sophomore who saw big minutes as a freshman last season.
Freshmen Addyson Pare and Keely Giordano both show promise and should be players to build around for the future. “I’m excited about their promise but they’ll be thrown into the fire early on,” said Davidson.
Pre-Season Player of the Year
Ami Rivera of Bishop Brady
Pre-Season First Team All-State
Ami Rivera of Bishop Brady
Maddie Stewart of Kennett
Stella Galanes of Hanover
Elisabeth Stapelfeld of Hollis-Brookline
Sally Rainey of Lebanon
Pre-Season Second Team All-State
Alex Larrabee of Bow
Maddie Houghton of Sanborn
Brady Johnson of John Stark
Madison Speckman of Bow
Melissa Whitmore of Hanover
Players to watch: Catherine Cole of Lebanon, Isabella Daly of Laconia, Halle Laramie and Riley Marsh of Bishop Brady, Jordan Levesque of Plymouth, Cheyenne Colbert of Hollis-Brookline, Isabella and Lindsay LaPerle of Bow, Sierra Parsons of Kennett, Tallie Carney and Megan Moletteiri of Pelham, Ellen McGough and Grace Merry-Carriero of Sanborn, Mackenzie McDonald of Merrimack Valley, Jenny Bettencourt and Valentina White of Coe-Brown, Hunter Stonebraker of Souhegan, Maddy Faber of ConVal, Nya Piok of Manchester West, Carissa Miller of Oyster River
Coming tomorrow: Division II Boys
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