St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers
Coach: Jack Driscoll (16th season)
Last Year's Record: 11-13, defeated No. 3 Rutland 27-24 in state championship
Graduation Losses: Britney Lane, Brittany Regis, Molly Moran, Hannah Rowe.
Returnees: Adama Kay, Sr., G; Bianca Calkins, Sr., F; Allyson Bruckner, Jr., G; Jessica Brown, Jr., F; Johannah Driscoll, So., G.
Newcomers: Allison Brown, Jr., F; Casey Carbone, So., F; Olivia Thomas, Jr., F; Christa Poulin, So., G; Sarah Lynch, So., F; Makayla Elliott, Fr., F
Players To Watch: Kay, an athletic guard who can shoot, slash and defend well, was a pivotal piece to last year's championship run. With a youthful group this season, the senior will play an even bigger role, especially as a vocal leader. Calkins is lean, but mean, and will stop at nothing to help the Hilltoppers inside. Willing to sacrifice her body, the team's only other senior will seek prevent undersized SJA from getting beat on the boards.
Season Outlook: The Hilltoppers shocked the state last season, going from 12 seeds to state champions. Gone, however, are four seniors who played pivotal roles during their amazing run. They return veteran seniors in Kay and Calkins, but beyond that, the team will be learning on the fly. With a lack of size, defense and rebounding will again be a point of emphasis.
"We are always expecting to get to Patrick Gym for the semifinals," said veteran coach Jack Driscoll. "That's the goal again this year. This is not last year's team and we haven't accomplished anything yet. We are starting from scratch and we need to work for everything. By the same token, going to the finals is still fresh in everyone's mind. We are all on the same page and working toward a return trip."
North Country Falcons
Coach: Christiane Brown (second season)
Last Year's Record: 6-15
Graduation Losses: Ashley McMichael, Sam Guyette, Britney Geoffrey
Returnees: Kassidee Keefe, Sr., G; Deanna Brandstetter, Sr., F; Emma Joslin, Jr., G; Nelle Pinard, Jr., F; Tiffany Morin, Jr., G; Jaime Kramer, Jr., G; Anna Bingham, So. G
Newcomers: Kelsrey O'Donnell, Jr., F; Britni Jewer, So., F; Brandi Thornton, Jr., G; Desiree Coffin, So., F.; Michaela Stanley, So., F
Players To Watch: Bingham, Joslin
Season Outlook: Coach Brown is excited about having a lot of players returning with experience. Joslin can bring the ball up against anybody and Bingham can get hot from outside against anybody. If Brandstetter can rebound and "take care of the garbage around the basket," Brown thinks this team will show improvement. The team will also have to find an identity offensively -- something that eluded them last season. "I'm going to emphasize that they look for their shot," Brown said. "I think they are going to fight and work through those tough times which are sure to come. I think we are going to be better than last year. Finishing, free throws, boxing out, and protecting the paint are our keys. I really want us to get after people. We can't have people penetrating the middle and scoring on us like they did last year."
Lyndon Institute Vikings
Coach: Bob Souliere (sixth season)
Last Year's Record: 16-7 (lost in semifinals)
Graduation Losses: Meagen Rosengren
Returnees: Sarah Cornell, Sr., G; Racheal St. Hilaire, Sr., G; Shauna Poole, Sr., PG ;
Hannah Ruede Sr., G; Riley Blankenship, Jr., F; Hannah Cornell, Jr., G.; Kayla Jardine, So., F
Newcomers: Maegan Moran, Sr., G, Denielle Riendeau, Jr., F; Rayne Engelmann, Jr., G
Players To Watch: "Our seven returnees will lead the way for us," said Souliere. "As our three newcomers transition to varsity level of play they will mix in well. Shauna is our floor general and sets the tone running our offense. Sarah, with her athleticism, runs the floor well setting the pace we seek. We are looking for Riley Blankenship to have a stellar season."
Season Outlook: "The season promises to be fun and exciting with this group," said Souliere. "Together we expect a return to the Aud with the objective of getting to the finals."
Lake Region Union Rangers
Coach: Mark Tinker (sixth season)
Last Year Record: 21-3 (lost in finals to Windsor)
Graduation losses: Abbey Lalime, Theda Bathalon, Ashley Schneider
Returnees: Danika Gallup, Sr. F; Paige Wells, Sr., F; Carly Perron, Sr., F; Katie Prue, Jr., G; Kylie Atwood, Jr., G; Cailyn Gallup, Jr., G; Emily Comins, Jr., G; Sarah Bedard, Jr., G; Sara Piette, Jr., G
Newcomers: Lydia Saaman, So., F/G ; Olivia Foster, So., G; Faith Curtis, So., F; Olivia Spooner, Sr., G; Nicole Roy, Fr., F
Players To Watch: Atwood, Wells, Perron, Danika Gallup, Prue and Comins
Season Outlook: Coach Tinker says, "If the team works together, we should have the personnel to have a competitive year and [we] hope to be in the mix down the stretch."
The Rangers are an experienced group, having played in four straight Final Fours. They'll miss 1,000-point career scorer Lalime, but Atwood, one of the state's top guards, could pick up a lot of Lalime's scoring load. Although none of them are six feet, Wells, Perron, and Danika Gallup all play big inside.
Hazen Union Wildcats
Coach: Gary Bellavance (fourth season)
Graduation Losses: Lydia Ducharme, Amanda Atwood
Returnees: Maria Vasiliadis, Sr., G; Jessica Brochu, Sr., F; Erin Whipple, Sr. F; Katie LaPorte, Jr. G; Emily Barber, Jr., Jena Williams, Jr., Hayley LeCours, Jr., Alyssa Whitney, So., G
Newcomers: Kendra Parks, Sr., Tabitha Collins, Sr., Meghan Forant, Jr., Renae Hall, So.
Players To Watch: According to Bellavance, any of the returnees are capable of turning some heads this season, but look for captains Vasiliadis, Brochu and Whipple to lead the way.
Season Outlook: "We are looking to break the curse of 12 wins each season for the past three seasons and hope to improve on that," Bellavance said.
United Christian Academy Crusaders
Coach: Sarah Roy (first season)
Last Year's Record: 11-10
Graduation Losses: Kelsey Huizing, Sarah Cochran
Returnees: Gina Clark, Sr., G; Ashley Bonin, Sr., F; Ivy Goss, Sr., F; Sally Kim, Sr., G; Laura Libby, So., G; Hannah Piette, So., G
Newcomers: Sarah Bedard, Jr., F; Sara Piette, Jr., F; Autumn Bedard, Jr., G
Players To Watch: Clark, Bonin
Season Outlook: Coach Roy has a lot of pieces returning from last year's team. "We've got the makings of a pretty strong team, she said. "We've lost some competitive girls, but we've gained some, too," she added. "Their attitudes are fabulous. Every day they learn something new and they are excited about it." Roy said it is her responsibility to prepare her team "as well as they can be prepared" for each game. The key, she said, will be the defense. "I think [defense] will create a lot of offensive opportunities for us." Roy will be assisted by former North Country star Kristen Roberge and UCA alum Molly Smith. "I feel like we have all the tools to make them successful," Roy said.
Blue Mountain Union Bucks
Coach: Gary Thompson (third season)
Last Year's Record: 15-7
Graduation Losses: Santasia Darling, Nicky Zambon
Returnees: Emily Darling, Sr., F; Katelyn Thompson, Sr., G; Natalie Page, Sr., G; Courtney Hart, Sr., C; Aimee Thompson, Jr., F/C; Ashley Ashford, Jr., F; Samantha Winget, So., G; Harley Davis, So., G
Newcomers: Shelby Enger, Jr., G; Kelsey Parker, So., F/G; Torie Peters, Fr., F; Josie Gombas, Fr., F; Myisha Reid, Fr., C
Players To Watch: Aimee Thompson will provide scoring and rebounding, Natalie Page will use here quickness on both ends of the court and Katelyn Thompson is the floor general and an outside shooter.
Season Outlook: "The league will provide us with tough battles every game," said coach Thompson. "We want to be in the top eight of our division and be above .500."
Danville High School Indians
Coach: Ashley Whitehill (first season)
Last Year's Record: 8-13
Graduation Losses: Meghan Pastula, Hannah Lazerick
Returnees: Alysia Vance, Sr., G; Cortney Elliott, Sr., F; Danielle Pelow, Sr., G; Taylor Marthers, Sr., G (back from ACL injury); Emily Leclerc, Jr., F.; Jessica Sweet, Jr., G; Jamie Cyr, Jr., G; Melanie Pastula, So., F; Erika Pastula, So., F
Newcomers: Colby Roy, Sr., G; Tasha Cochran, Jr., F; Pam Greaves, Fr., F
Players To Watch: Forwards Elliott and Erica Pastula and guards Vance and Cyr.
Season Outlook: "A big key for us is for everyone to stay healthy throughout the entire season," said Whitehill. "We are returning a core of players from last year so we are hoping that those experiences last year will carry over and help us this season. We are faced with playing in a tough league where we see mostly Division III schools. Key matchups for us include games with BMU and Twinfield, which will help us understand where we fit in among the top teams in D-IV. We believe, however, that our tough schedule will be to our advantage come playoff time. We will be looking to host a first-round playoff game which will help us gain momentum to go further in the playoffs."