Locals girls hoop teams out to make some noise

Scott Szuksta and Brad Kreick may be first-year head coaches at Alvirne and Bishop Guertin, but their respective rosters are full of experience and skill.

Neither Szuksta’s Broncos or Kreick’s Cardinals can be overlooked this winter as the Division I girls basketball season tips off Friday night.

While Alvirne – which returns starters Jess Baker (senior guard), Sam Ratte (senior guard), Amanda Wetmore (junior forward) and Marissa Sweeney (junior forward) – may be more of a darkhorse chasing two-time defending champion Londonderry, 2014 finalist Winnacunnet and 2013 finalist Bedford, BG is considered one of the top five teams to beat.

The Cardinals return a strong core in senior point guard Marie Laplante, junior shooting guard Meghan Cramb, junior forward Molly Dee and junior center Abbi Field. Yet they are much deeper than those four. Add fellow varsity letterwinners Sara Sherburne (senior guard), Caroline Hoffer (sophomore forward), Meghan Donovan (junior guard) and Gillian Lindquist (sophomore guard) to the mix and BG’s rotation is as solid as they come in the paint and the backcourt.

Kreick was quick to point out those teams still in front of his Cardinals on the preseason pecking order.

"Londonderry, because they are the two-time defending champions and return a senior point guard in Jackie Luckhardt, who is one of the best leaders in New Hampshire girls basketball," he said. "Winnacunnet, because they return the vast majority of last year’s D-I state finalist team – including one of the state’s best post players in Meg Knollmeyer – and Bedford, because they return a dynamic backcourt combination of seniors Nikki Tucci and Bri Purcell – both of whom were D-I first team All-State selections last year."

Joining Alvirne in the darkhorse conversation is Nashua North, which returns the dynamic backcourt of seniors Adaeze Okorie and Sara Cordova along with up-and-coming sophomore Alana Choate, and the paint presence of junior Isabel Dunning.

All three locals in Division II show signs of contending with defending champion Coe-Brown and 2014 finalist Goffstown. Five other teams can’t be overlooked either, as Portsmouth, Windham, Lebanon, Oyster River and Hanover have strong returning casts.

Locally, 2014 semifinalist Milford returns the talented junior backcourt of Devany Pitsas and Erin McGuire. Likewise at Hollis Brookline, the Cavaliers junior duo of Cassandra Stapelfeld and Kenzie Day cannot be ignored.

Souhegan has a strong starting quartet returning in seniors Hannah Chick, Caitlin Watson and Ciarry Formby-Lavertu, as well as sophomore Mia Len.

The Sabers, Cavaliers and Spartans could all make some noise come tournament time.

Milford

COACH: Richard Parent (second year).

LAST YEAR: 21-3, lost in semifinals.

RETURNING STARTERS: Devany Pitsas, jr., G; Erin McGuire, jr., G.

OTHER RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Jen Carson, jr., G; Ava Simon, jr., G; Joy Ingram, sr., F; Ari Devine, jr., F/C; Christina Arnoldy, jr., F; Breanna Degroot, so., G.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Emma Gray, so., G; Nicole Brooks, fr., G; Elizabeth Paul, fr., F; Sydney Osorio, jr., C; Lilly Erdody, so., C

COACH’S COMMENT: "This year’s team will be young with strong team leaders," Parent said. "This team will need sustained commitment to improving every day. Success this year will not be measured by our record but rather our improvement by the end of the season."

Souhegan

COACH: Mike Heaney (third year).

LAST YEAR: 8-11; lost in preliminary round.

RETURNING STARTERS: Hannah Chick, sr.; Caitlin Watson, sr.; Ciarry Formby-Lavertu, sr.; Mia Len, so.

OTHER RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Alli Canavan, sr.; Emma White, so.; Lindsay McCool, jr.; Maddie Mauris, jr.; Ally Roberts, jr.; Jill Roberts, jr.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Beth Greenwood, so.; Abby Tasconi, so.; Kianna Darrow, jr.

COACH’S COMMENT: "We were young an experienced last year," Heaney said. "With many returning players, and some exciting newcomers, our key is to build on the experience we acquired last year, grow individual skill sets and compete as a team.