PITTSFIELD — With the girls basketball season set to begin, here is a look at how Berkshire County teams stack up for the upcoming campaigns.
Coach: Jenna Gangell (Third year)
Last Season: 9-13, lost in Western Mass. Division IV quarterfinals
Key Returnees: Karli Retzel, Kendra Williams, Cara Walker
When Jenna Gangell inherited the program from Gig Wellington, she had to start from the ground up with a freshman-heavy team.
Those girls are now juniors and ready to try and get Lee back to the summit.
Karli Retzel is a dynamic scorer capable of pulling up or driving to the rack. Kendra Williams provides an interior presence with a bit of range, as well, and sophomore Shannon Finnegan is another player the Wildcats will have to turn to in order to push the score up.
Alongside Williams in the post, Cara Walker and Brianna Hawley will see significant playing time.
Coach: Mike Nykorchuck (First year)
Last Season: 4-16
Key Returnees: Jackie Hathaway, Alice Najimy, Rose Pehlert
After leading the McCann boys last season, Mike Nykorchuck will now shift to coaching the Lenox girls.
The Millionaires are looking to improve on last season's showing, and junior Jackie Hathaway will be at the forefront of what Lenox tries to do. With size and the ability to step back and hit a shot, Hathaway's offense will go a long way for Lenox.
Sophomore Alice Najimy will be another Millionaire tasked with taking on a bigger role. Rose Pehlert, a junior, will be Nykorchuk's center.
Freshman Nicole Gamberoni will also see a lot of court time. Lenox's lone senior this season is guard Brie Lachance.
Coach: Scott Rote (15th year)
Last Season: 13-8, lost in Western Mass. Division IV opening round
Key Returnees: Jess Abbott, Emily Coon, Gwendolyn Carpenter
Mount Everett may lack the numbers, but Rote only has to replace two players from last year after Hannah Herrick graduated and Kayla Krom chose to play year-round volleyball.
The Eagles will lean on three seniors – forwards Jess Abbott and Parker Snyder and guard Emily Coon – and freshman dynamo Gwendolyn Carpenter, the team's primary ball-handler.
Senior Maura Robitaille also returns to the fold after two years away from the game, and will be a tough-nosed defender off the bench.
With only 10 on the varsity roster, minutes will be available for everyone. With a lack of height on the inside, Rote wants his team to play uptempo and force the issue against teams in an attempt to keep other sides off-balance.
Coach: John Jacobbe (First year)
Last Season: 12-9, lost in Western Mass. Division III first round
Key Returnees: Ari Walden, Haley Reinhard, Sarah Stripp
After coaching the jayvee team at Mount Greylock for the last five years, John Jacobbe takes over for Paul Barrett this year and is ready to put his own imprint on the team.
Jacobbe wants his team to use their athleticism to cover all 94 feet of the court. Senior Ari Walden returns for her fourth year on varsity and will run the point. Senior Haley Reinhard will work on the wing alongside junior Sarah Stripp, another four-year player for the Mounties.
Inside, senior Jacqi Byrnes and junior Jenna Benzinger give Greylock post presences, and sophomores Lauren Howard and Caroline Flynn will be looked at to take their games to the next level this season.
Coach: Peter Ellsworth (First year)
Last Season: 1-13
Key Returnees: Ilyssa Creamer, Kacey Sondrini, Liz Bean
Ellsworth is back at St. Joe after formerly serving as the school's athletic director, and he is out to bring some stability to the Crusaders after the team ended up forfeiting a handful of games last year.
St. Joe will not be a deep team, but the hope for Ellsworth is that what they lack in numbers the team will make up for in spirit.
Senior Ilyssa Creamer and junior Kacey Sondrini will look to lead the team, with Cramer running the point. Seniors Cate and Liz Bean will post up on the blocks to provide a one-two punch of twins.
The key newcomer to watch will be freshman Emily Hamilton.
Coach: Brian Flagg (First year)
Last Season: 5-15
Key Returnees: Katie Toomey, Molly Moulton, Sarah Lamarre
Coach Flagg, a 1987 graduate from Drury, has been angling for the Drury job for ages, and now he finally gets his shot to coach the Blue Devils.
After some growing pains last season, Drury returns a team with five seniors and a junior.
That will be important as Flagg tries to get his team back to playing "Drury basketball", which Flagg described as being based on a strong defense.
Senior Molly Moulton and junior Sarah Lamarre will be the main ball-handling guards, with Moulton getting a majority of time at the point. Seniors Jenna Moulton, Katie Toomey and Olivia Carlson should round out the starting five, and senior Nikky Crews will be one of the first off the bench. Freshman Brooke DiGennaro will also get a crack at playing time off the bench at the guard position.
Coach: Ron Wojcik (Fifth year)
Last Season: 22-3, lost in Division III state championship
Key Returnees: Madi Ryan, Cassidy McMahon, Fallon Field
Hoosac Valley once again puts out a strong team in search of a fourth straight Western Mass. championship, although this year — more than ever — the team will have to rely on some new faces to really step in.
With Western Mass. Player of the Year award-winner Emily Rosse and other seniors now gone, senior captains Madi Ryan and Cassidy McMahon, along with juniors Fallon Field and Kailynne Frederick, will be looked at to carry the load.
Ryan will handle the ball, Field is a dynamic scorer, Frederick will look to fill the gap in the middle, and McMahon is a pest on defense.
Fans of the program know what to expect with a press-heavy defensive system predicated on forcing turnovers. Sophomore Skylar Case will make a case to grab the final starting spot and newcomer Ellie Field, a sophomore, provides needed athleticism.
Two other players that will get a chance for significant minutes are sophomore Kayla Garabedian and freshman Alie Mendel.
Coach: Steve Soule (Second year)
Last Season: 13-9, lost in Western Mass. Division III quarterfinals
Key Returnees: Anika Helmke, Addie McLoughlin
The Spartans have promise, but must deal with the loss of three starters from last season. Vanessa Troiano and Kayla Aberdale graduated, and Sarah Sullivan transferred to a prep school for this year.
Sullivan's frontcourt partner Anika Helmke is back, and the 5-foot-10 sophomore forward will be a nightmare for opposing teams to hand.
Addie McLoughlin returns and will be the point guard for the Spartans.
Juniors Hailey Higgins and Kayla Dupont will be given the chance to increase their roles, and sophomore Hunter Hassett could be a pleasant surprise for Monument.
Coach: Joe Racicot (Fifth year)
Last Season: 19-4, lost in Western Mass. D-II championship
Key Returnees: Peyton Steinman, Allie Hunt, Bella Aitken
It's no secret that Peyton Steinman has established herself as one of, if not the, best basketball players in Berkshire County. But can Steinman help Pittsfield get over the hump?
After a bitterly disappointing end to last season, the Generals have holes to fill but do have the bodies to fill them.
Steinman, a junior, will be the focus, but lone senior Allie Hunt will provide a great inside presence on the block and sophomore Bella Aitken showed glimpses of a dominant scorer last year and should continue that development this year.
Junior Erin Murphy is another player that will get a bigger role under Racicot, as will sophomores Makailey Cookis and Toni Satrape.
Coach: Matt Mickle (Fifth year)
Last Season: 8-12
Key Returnees: Maddy Quinto, Jasmine Rodriquez, Ashley Rufo
Taconic is an anomaly of sorts, as the Braves have zero seniors on the roster this season.
Graduation decimated the Taconic front court, and as such Mickle's team will rely on its guards to try and make the Division II playoff field.
The team has already taken a hit with Shalee Conyers' injury from the fall season keeping her out for the winter, but no one at Taconic will use her injury as a crutch.
Junior Maddy Quinto will man the middle, and junior Ashley Rufo will step up from a reserve role to the starting point guard. Jasmine Rodriquez, a guard last year, will slot into one of the two forward positions. Gianna Paris also brings experience back for the Braves, and sophomores Riana Gittens and Aubrey Lazits will be given the chance to earn minutes off the bench.
Coach: Liz Kay (Second year)
Last Season: 12-10, lost in Western Mass. Division III quarterfinals
Key Returnees: Ashley Zink, Lily Pudlo, Mikayla Gagliardi
The Warriors had to learn a new system with coach Liz Kay last season, but their record isn't indicative of how well they played at times, losing several games by very slim margins.
Kay has to replace three starters from last year's team, and this year's squad is still heavy on players that will be back for next season.
Seniors Hannah Brennan and Mikayla Gagliardi are the elder statesmen of the team. Ashley Zink, a junior, started last year and will figure into the equation this season, as will Lilly Pudlo.
Coach: Mike Dowling (Fourth year)
Last Season: 6-14
Key Returnees: Kelly Dobbert, Brianna Tassone, Allie Gibeau
McCann Tech has the fortune of returning eight players this season, and coach Mike Dowling is hoping the continuity pays off for a team that does not feature a stand-out star.
Instead, Dowling says his team will have to be balanced to pick up results, and one of a handful of players will have to step up on any given night to help the Hornets pick up wins.
Senior Kelly Dobbert will roam the middle at center, senior Brianna Tassone and junior Allie Gibeau will work in the back court, and junior Alanza Quinones and sophomore Aimee Dowling will work as forwards.
Maria Deblois is the fourth senior for McCann.