Spring has arrived as the high school season is getting off the ground in a big way this week. With the debut of our softball column, it’s a good time to project what to expect this year.
Last year’s tournament had its share of no-brainers with Gardner rolling into the final, but also had a few surprises with Nashoba getting to the final. The Chieftains turned into the “red-hot at the right time” team du jour, and upended a very good Marlboro team many people were thinking could take it all – given their two wins over the Wildcats in the Mid-Wach B League. However the Chieftains showed why you can expect anything in softball and they nearly won it all. Will it happen again this year?
I think Gardner looks strong again – big surprise. I’m a firm believer that in order to be a championship contender, a softball team needs to have a dominant ace and the Wildcats certainly have that in Julia Barrett. She’s light’s out every night and if Gardner can find the bats to surround Nikki Boris, they should be able to contend for another title.
I think Marlboro has to be poised for another strong season. The Panthers return nearly their entire lineup from last year – including Kelsie Bryant and Meghan Ney. Marlboro went 18-3 last year and could be even better this year.
One of the teams I like a lot is St. Peter-Marian. The Guardians return a very strong team with players like Liz Griffin, Toni Scola and Bridget Lemire. They also have a handful of all-star caliber players like Sam Mulhern and Noelle Lussier to comprise a pretty loaded lineup that should get them far in the postseason.
I think Milford could contend this year thanks to a dominant pitcher like Andrea Smith and strong bats from Marissa DePaolo and Taylor Archer. The Scarlet Hawks were the top seed last year, but fell to Gardner in the tournament, so they’re looking for a little payback.
Nashoba is another reason the Mid-Wach B will be the toughest division in softball this year. The Chieftains return a huge weapon in Stef Martinek, but also have strong players like Kelsey O’Donnell and Mary Temple. Playing Gardner, Marlboro and now Hudson (who moves up from the Mid-Wach C) twice a year will help them tremendously heading into the postseason.
Two perennial contenders should also be in the mix this year, as Burncoat will give some teams headaches with players like Chelsea Kaczowka, Brianne Bisceglia, Brianna Kewley and Katie Roy. Shrewsbury should also be strong with Alexa and Tia Ferraro and Kaitlyn Duval.
I think Algonquin could be a sleeper this year and also watch out for teams like Holy Name (Jessica DiPilato is the real deal), as they may have graduated a lot of seniors, but they always manage to reload.
Should we just go by history and pencil in Hudson for this spot? The Hawks always manage to get the job done no matter how many players they graduate. Will this year be any different? I like Michelle Serrentino and Sarah Caragian and think Emily Pollard should have a good season, but like I mentioned earlier, the move up to the ultra tough Mid-Wach B should be a good test for them heading into the Division 2 postseason.
Millbury could be back in the final, as the Woolies return some stars in Beth Nietupski and Meg McCausland along with Tory Miles and Sam Lussier.
Watch out for Notre Dame Academy this year. The Rebels have some strong players in Jenny Foley, Tatiana Chunis and Rachel Massad and that could be enough to get them back in the Division 2 championship game.
Grafton should be another interesting team here, as the Indians lost some stars to graduation, but they return Emily Felbaum and Kara Collette and could reload enough to contend.
I also think Sutton could make some noise this year, as Courtney Roberts, Meghan Sullivan and Katie Boutot should have the Suzies in the mix, while Jackie Lebrecque is poised for a good season.
I think you have to defer to last year’s champs here in Monty Tech, and while the Bulldogs will miss Kelly Lacroix for most of the year because of injury (she could return for the end of the season, I’m told), Monty Tech should be strong again. Ivette Tejada, Alyssa Babineau and Katie Haney should keep the team afloat until the playoffs.
Hopedale should continue their spring with what has been a very good girls’ sports year for the Blue Raiders. Katie Bresciani, Heather Kapatoes, Kelly Hyland and Anna Siefring are all returning DVC all-stars and should have Hopedale in the mix at the end.
I think Murdock should be in the mix this year as it returns quite a handful of strong players like Ashley Perry, Jess Mahan, Brittney Howe and Jocelyn Agnelli.
Tahanto is always one of the best teams in D3 and that won’t change this year, as the Stags get Rebekah Cocks, Jessica Cox and Elisa Clark back on the field this year.
West Boylston was winning with a young team last year and the Lions will be even better this year with Amanda McKernan and Nicole Shepard back in the mix.
I also think Uxbridge can make some noise this year, as the Spartans have Hailey LeFebvre, Kelsey Norberg and Taurie Gniadek, who are three players to look for in SWCL all-star season.
Who do you think should be there at the end? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best of the best this year. It’s still early, so everyone looks good at this point in the season. I’m looking forward to what should be a tremendous season in high school softball.