Lots of Division II contenders will be after Cavaliers

Staff file photo by TOM KING Hollis Brookline's Christiina Balsamo, left, is back to run the offense for the defending Division II champion Cavaliers this season.

They have gone from hunters to being the hunted.

Yes, the bullseye is now on the collective back of the Hollis High School girls basketball team, so the Cavaliers are doing their best to prepare for what’s ahead as they being defense of their 2017-18 Division II title captured last March.

Patience, pleads Cavaliers coach Bob Murphy.

“Based on our recent scrimmages, we need to improve as a team,” he said. “And, we have a target on our back.”

The good news is the Cavs have four of their five starters back, losing perhaps their best all around player, Joanna Balsamo, to graduation. But the nucleus returns.

Many of the usual suspects are going to be hunting after HB this season: Hanover, Lebanon, Pelham, Bishop Brady and John Stark. The Cavaliers get right into it with a huge opening night road test tonight (Friday) at Lebanon.

“Hanover looks to be the strongest of the group,” Murphy said.

And it may be awhile before the Cavaliers get their strength back.

“We aren’t in game shape yet,” he said. “Many of the girls haven’t touched a basketball in some time.

“The girls are working hard but we need to play a few games before we get on the same page again. Then we’ll be back in the race again.”

Souhegan has a new coach in former Saber assistant/JV coach Mike Vetack, as former coach Mike Heaney left to become an assistant at Southern New Hampshire University. The Sabers graduated eight from a team that barely missed the tournament on tiebreakers, so there’s some work to be done.

Milford, meanwhile, had an extremely young team a year ago and hopes experience will help them improve from their 3-15 mark.

“We certainly hope to build on last year,” Spartans coach Len Kulikowski said.

Here’s a local look:

HOLLIS BROOKLINE

COACH: Bob Murphy (10th year)

LAST SEASON: 20-2, won Division II title.

RETURNING STARTERS: Elizabeth Atkinson, sr. 6-1 forward; Brodie Kelley, sr. 5-8 guard; Christina Balsamo, jr. 5-6 guard; Elizabeth Bonnette, jr. 5-10 forward.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Amanda Goclowski, jr. 5-8 forward; Abbey Magnuszewski, so. 5-6 guard; Brooke Allanach, so. 5-6 guard.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Maggie Crooks, fr. 5-8 guard/forward; Elizabeth Stapelfeld, fr. 5-6 guard.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “Hopefully experience will be a plus for us this year,” Murphy said. “Five of our girls were in the finals two years ago, and seven were there when we won the division last year. We did lose our best player from last year (Joanna Balsamo) but the rest of the girls have improved their game and the two freshmen will have impact right away.” 

MILFORD

COACH: Len Kulikowski (second year)

LAST SEASON: 3-15

RETURNING PLAYERS/STARTERS: Elizabeth Paul, sr. 5-8 forward; Nicole Brooks, sr. 5-6 guard; Meghan Cavenaugh, jr. 5-6 guard; Sarah Dobbs, so. 5-10 center/forward; Leslie MacGrath, 5-9 so. Forward.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jesse Gendron, so.; Kylei Greska, so.; Alexa Wilder, so.; Sydney Bailey, so.; Elizabeth Wesson, fr.; Hannah Ghidoni, fr.; Lana Tesh, fr.; Samantha Larouche, fr.; Alyssa Godlewski, fr.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We’re a very young team with only three upperclassmen on the roster,”Kulikowski said. “We expect to have a much improved 2018-19 season.”

SOUHEGAN

COACH: Mike Vetack (first year)

LAST SEASON: 7-11, did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Molly Driscol, sr. forward; Emma Parrott, so. Forward.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Devon McGrath, jr. guard; Halle Van Ballegooyen, jr. forward; Susie Wason, jr. guard.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Hunter Stonebraker, so.forward; Caitlin Cooper, fr.forward; Sabra Biddle, fr.forward; Lily Batchelder, sr.guard.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “After graduating eight impactful seniors lat year, we have 12 girls that are excited to step into bigger roles this year,” Vetack said. “One through 12 are practicing with full passion and just can’t wait for the games to begin.”