Winter previews 2012 / Girls' basketball

Day File Photos Montville's Cassidy Bundy, right, is a returning ECC All-Star who hope to lead the Indians to a Medium Division title this season.

ECC LARGE

East Lyme

Coach: Bill Reagan (4th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Allison Stoddard, Sr. C Sidney Swanson, Jr. F Jenna Schumacher, Jr. C Rebecca McGlone, Jr. F/G Carynn Bartolucci.

Top newcomers: Sr. F Kelly Keenan, Jr. G Colleen Durkee, So. C Megan Holt.

Outlook: The Vikings have an all-state point guard in Stoddard (13.5 points, 5.6 assists per game) and an All-ECC forward in Schumacher, but Reagan said his team has weathered a few injuries and is off to a slow start. "They're not at full strength; we're still trying to find ourselves," the coach said. East Lyme was 15-8 last year with two wins over eventual Class L champion Bacon Academy, including a victory in the ECC tournament quarterfinals on an end-to-end basket by Stoddard. Reagan said the Vikings will have to compensate for a lack of height with aggressive defense.

Fitch

Coach: Dave Huber (16th year)

Key returnees: Sr. C Lexis Foster, Sr. G/F Brittany Murphy, Jr. F Caroline Entwistle, Jr. Erica Russell, So. G/F Jackie Lewis, So. C/F Sofie Clark, So. G Jaliyla Griffin.

Top newcomers: Sr. F Catherine Lanyon, Sr. G Sam Curth, So. F Jasmine Jenkins, Fr. G Mackenzie Aldridge, Fr. F Caroline Taber, Fr. G Mae Sefansky.

Outlook: Fitch lost its two leading scorers from last year's team which was 11-9 (Aunisha Dillion and Haley Cooper), but can rely on Foster, as well as having a talented freshman class. "They've been great, teriffic," Huber said of the addition of the underclassmen. "I wish I had another two weeks to practice, however. ... As far as enthusiasm and hustle, there won't be any lack of that."

New London

Coach: Kerrianne Dugan (1st year)

Key returnees: Jr. G Lexus Childs-Harris, Jr. F Tamia DeBarros, So. G Deanna McCarvell.

Top newcomers: So. G/F Jasonia Ramseur, Fr. F Charee Osborne.

Outlook: Having played as recently as 2011 at Central Connecticut State University, Dugan, the Whalers' first-year coach, had to tone down her approach just a little. "I forget that in high school, it's a little bit different: not everyone wants to play basketball 24-7," Dugan said. "I need to kind of remember that." The Whalers (2-18) will likely absorb some of that enthusiasm, however. "Everything's going great," said Dugan, a 2007 Waterford graduate. "We've been working really hard, conditioning. I expect us to be pretty competitive this year, a physical, athletic team. We're going to surprise some people."

NFA

Coach: Bill Scarlata (21st year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Somone Cooper, Sr. F/G Kayla Donovan, Sr. F Olivia Marks, Sr. F Brittany Molkenthin, Jr. F Emily Devito, Jr. G Shania Homiski, Jr. F/G Olivia Ouellet, Jr. G Alyssa Velles, So. G Maya Bell, So. F Olivia Lane.

Top newcomers: Sr. G Kendall Simmons, So. F Markayla Brisbane, Fr. G Reide Jacksin, Fr. F Cebria Outlow, Fr. F/G Hannah Slocum.

Outlook: The Wildcats are the defending ECC tournament champions, topping Waterford 39-36 in the final paced by 25 points from Velles, named the tourney's MVP. Velles (15.7 ppg) returns, as does the rest of the team which finished 16-8 overall. Scarlata said the team is still overcoming a few preseason injuries, but expects the Wildcats to contend for the Large Division title.

ECC MEDIUM

Ledyard

Coach: Adam Baber (3rd year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Samantha Boyd, Sr. F Kylie Fustini, Jr. G Alana Church, Jr. G Olivia DelGrosso, Jr. G Katie Duplice, Jr. G Ariana Fustini, Jr. F Hannah Hutchins, Jr. F Hannah Lawrence, Jr. G Bianca Matira, So. F Michelle Klinikowski, So. G Francesca Matira.

Outlook: Things are at a high point in Ledyard. Already this school year, the Colonels won the first volleyball state championship in program history. Now, with many of those same volleyball players, the basketball team returns everyone in its quest for a Medium Division title. Kylie Fustini was an All-ECC selection last year for the Colonels (15-9) and Klinikowski and DelGrosso earned honorable mention honors. Baber lists depth as one of his team's strengths.

Montville

Coach: Derek Wainwright (9th year)

Key returnees: Sr. F Rachael Orbe, Sr. G Meghan Autencio, Jr. G/F Jamie Hill, Jr. C Cassidy Bundy.

Top newcomers: Jr. F Mallory Tassone, Jr. C Catherine Matzul, So. G Kiah Strickland, So. G Taylor Lavallie, Fr. G Naomi Clark.

Outlook: Bundy, the Indians' center, and Hill, a talented outside shooter, were both named Medium Division all-stars last year as sophomores, leading Montville to a 16-4 record during the regular season. Wainwright's team has that duo back, in addition to four-year letterwinners Orbe and Autencio, and should challenge for the division title.

Stonington

Coach: Paulla Solar (22nd year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Amanda Roy, Sr. G Mackensie Crowley, Sr. C Falecia Cabral, So. F Margot Calmar.

Top newcomers: Jr. G Tia LaFrance-Boyce, Jr. G Samatha Shroyer, Jr. F Annie Knizeski, Fr. G Tatiana LaFrance-Boyce.

Outlook: Stonington was 1-6 last year before rallying to finish 10-10 in the regular season with berths in the ECC and Class M state tournaments. Calmar and Cabral provide Stonington with a presence in the frontcourt, joining what will likely be a three-guard lineup. Roy, an All-ECC defender for the Class S state runner-up field hockey team, returns as the Bears' leading scorer.

Waterford

Coach: Rob Von Achen (17th year)

Key returnees: Sr. C Julia Zawacki, Sr. G Kate Haff, Sr. G Megan Spellman, Sr. G Talia Rickerson, Sr. F Kelley Dugan.

Top newcomers: Jr. C Meghan Elphick, Jr. G Courtney Wells, So. F Sarah Pacheco, Fr. G Kazi Walker, Fr. G Claire Hurley, Fr. F Shea Spellman, Fr. F/C Vanessa Kobyluck.

Outlook: All Waterford has to do is find a way to replace the starting backcourt of Adily Martucci and Alyssa Hancock, both named to The Day's All-Area team a year ago, as well as starting center Christine Hadfield, all of whom have graduated. The Lancers, last season's Medium Division champs (21-5 overall, 10-0 ECC Medium), will begin the season today under interim coach Ed Kolnaski while Von Achen battles difficulties with his health. "Just trying to figure it out ... those are three big-time scorers right there," Kolnaski said. "But, honestly, the seniors have been very good leaders. We're going to be young and make mistakes, but it's a great bunch of kids."

ECC SMALL

St. Bernard

Coach: Mike Nystrom (30th year)

Key returnees: Jr. G/F Brittney Walenta, Jr. F Casey Sullivan, So. F Kaitlyn Berkel.

Top newcomers: Sr. G Grace Kirkpatrick, Sr. C Shannon Griffen, Jr. G Ali Patterson, Jr. F Ali Regan, So. G Erica Massad, So. G Shannon Amarello, Fr. G Courtney Rose.

Outlook: The Saints lost all-state guard Kayla Paris to graduation from last year's team which went 15-9 and reached the second round of the Class S state tournament. Nystrom calls this year's team inexperienced, but St. Bernard has several all-around athletes, many of whom played for the ECC Small Division champion girls' soccer team. Said Nystrom: "I like the potential of this team."

Wheeler

Coach: Dan Baker (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. F/C Summer Cipriani, Sr. G Ashley Souza, Sr. G/F Kayla Collins, Sr. G Ali Neddeau, Jr. G Jess Morgan, Jr. F/C Jess Muller, So. G Kate Morgan, So. G/F Mckenzie Brayman.

Top newcomers: So. F/C Kylie Baker.

Outlook: The Lions have some height - Baker, Brayman and Collins are all about 5-foot-10 - as well as the ability to shoot from the outside, giving coach Baker a versatility he likes as Wheeler works to improve on last year's 3-17 mark. Cipriani and Souza are captains.

OTHERS

Grasso Tech

Coach: Jeff Duda (2nd year)

Key returnees: Sr. F Christine Murray, Sr. C Amber Hickey, So. G Miranda Murray.

Top newcomers: So. G Serenity Kidd-Brewer, Fr. G Keila LaStraglio, Fr. Tabitha Ford

Outlook: LaStraglio and Kidd-Brewer, a pair of freshmen, will start at guard, combining with three returning starters to give the Eagles a "much-improved season" over last year's 0-20 mark, according to Duda. Grasso also has a more experienced bench, adding some depth.

Norwich Tech

Coach: Adam Lachendro (4th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Ashley Ziroli, Sr. F/C Tyra Wolchesky, Jr. G/F Kianna Dailey

Top newcomers: Fr. C Saige Laquitara, Fr. G/F Connor Sulik.

Outlook: Norwich Tech's challenge: improve on last year's 6-14 record despite fielding a young team, including two freshmen in the starting lineup and an inexperienced bench. Lachendro is optimistic that will happen, however, relying on the leadership and toughness of Wolchesky and Ziroli.

Old Lyme

Coach: Don Bugbee (14th year)

Key returnees: Jr. G Hannah Behringer, Jr. G Kristina Cain, So. G Meredith Aird, So. C Hannah O'Brien.

Top newcomers: Jr. F Lauren Romeo, Jr. Fiona Barrett, So. Catie Quaratella, So. Hannah Paynter, Fr. Sloane Sweitzer.

Outlook: The Wildcats graduated three starters from last year's team that went 6-14 during the regular season and also lost their only senior starter, Aggie Forstein, to a knee injury she suffered during the state soccer semifinals. Bugbee is hoping for a turnaround similar to that of the soccer team's, however, as the soccer team did not make the state tournament a year ago either. "Like everyone at this time of the year, the kids are working hard and competing for spots," Bugbee said. Behringer was the Shoreline Conference Player of the Year and an all-state midfielder during soccer season.

Williams

Coach: Eliza Smith (1st year)

Key returnees: Junior F/C Marion Philippe, So. G Paola Vangjeli.

Top newcomers: Fr. F Amy Burzin, Fr. G Maggie Hillegass.

Outlook: Williams is 0-1 after losing its opener to Christian Heritage, a game in which Philippe had eight points and 17 rebounds. The Blues are looking to use their speed and tenacity to force turnovers, Smith said, while needing to replace about half of last year's team.

East Lyme's Jenna Schumacher is a returning ECC All-Star who hopes to lead the Vikings to a Large Division title this season.
Day File Photos East Lyme's Jenna Schumacher is a returning ECC All-Star who hopes to lead the Vikings to a Large Division title this season.
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