Coaches’ Preview of the 2017 Fall Season
Aug 29, 2017 03:44PM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
BHS coach Peter Lacasse shown with Sarah Edwards, after a successful 2016 event.
BHS Boys Aim to Contend for Title in Cross-CountryThe Bellingham High boys cross-country team, which finished with a 5-1 record last year, will be banking on depth and experience in an effort to finish on top in the Tri Valley League.
Coach Peter Lacasse (shown above), whose team opens at home against Holliston and Medway on Sept. 6, believes his Blackhawks will contend for the league crown because of a plethora of strengths. “We usually don’t have much depth, but this year we had 28 boys at pre-season practice,” he said. “We’re young, but that’s also a plus since we’ve got a lot of juniors who’ve been in the program for two years. We’re experienced and we’ve also got runners with speed and endurance.”
The nucleus includes senior captain Justin Laferte and juniors Mike Reissfelder, Philip Jones, Brandon Gillcrist, Brandon Williams and Ethan Carr. “They all ran as freshmen,” Lacasse said. “They’re athletic, work hard, have a combination of speed and endurance and focus on the task at hand. Justin is a vocal captain who’s mentally tough and provides leadership.”
The girls squad, which was winless last year, will be led by juniors Katie Reed and Maddi Vadenais. “Both are third-year runners,” Lacasse said. “They’ve grown in the sport, they’re competitive and they will score points.”
Golf Team Goal: Add to 4-Win SeasonCoach Brian DeDentro has some specific areas he’ll be emphasizing so that his Bellingham High golf team can continue to build on last year’s four-win season. The Blackhawks open their 2017 campaign at Millis on Sept. 5.
“We’ll be focusing on more short-game practice, more time on the range and classroom practice,” DeDentro said. “We’ll be utilizing New England Country Club’s short game practice area for putting, chipping and bunker shots. We plan on using technology to critique and improve players’ swings, and we’ll be teaching rules, etiquette and course management in a classroom setting. We’ll also have an instructional squad that introduces beginners to the game.”
This season’s captains are junior Owen Fitzgerald and sophomore Mikey Gamble. “Our captains are young, but I feel confident they will succeed in their roles on and off the course,” DeDentro said.
Besides DeDentro, BHS teacher Justin Townsend will be coaching along with volunteer John Fitzgerald, who’s in his third year with the program. Townsend will direct the jayvee team.
DeDentro also added that he’s excited about returning to NECC. “Their hospitality and dedication to Bellingham youth golf is unsurpassed,” he said.
Captains Big Plus for Field Hockey TeamThe Bellingham High field hockey team will be relying on three senior captains and a new slogan to improve the squad’s record last year, which included two victories and two ties.
The captains are Blake Silvestri, a center midfielder; Maureen Krysta, a forward-midfielder; and goalie Audrey Labonte. The theme will be “hustle, hit and never quit.” Coach Aley Thibault is bullish on her captains, who not only are capable leaders, but also talented players.
“Blake has great skill and knowledge of the game,” Thibault said. “She was named team MVP as a sophomore and has been a Tri Valley League all-star the last two seasons. Maureen is a great leader on and off the field. Our leading scorer the last two years, she pushes herself to improve. Audrey had multiple games with 30-plus saves last year. She’s got great instincts and she’s aggressive. She enjoys the game and she also pushes herself to improve every day.”
Thibault said that she and the captains have positive expectations and are aiming for all-around improvements. “We want to increase shots on net, increase goals scored, decrease defensive corners, decrease shots against, and decrease goals against,” said Thibault. “The girls all worked harder this summer, eager to start the season in better shape. Our theme is all about improvements and fighting the whole 60 minutes.”
The squad will begin the season on Friday, Sept. 8, at home against Dedham, the TVL’s newest member.
BHS Spikers Aim for ImprovementFive seniors have graduated from last year’s Bellingham High volleyball team, but coach Steve Mantegani likes what he sees from his returning players and is optimistic that there will be continued improvement in 2017, his second year at the helm. Last year’s team won three matches.
Returning outside hitters include Maddie Mantegani and Jenna Venuti, and his middle blocker is Gianna Sannicandro. “We’ll be looking for other returning players, such as Sonny Nelson, Cailey MacGregor, Rose Nelson, Makenzie Boucher, and Julia Milot to step in and get more court time left by our graduated seniors,” Mantegani said.
“Maddie is a third-year starter who’s athletic, passes the ball well and plays strong defense,” said her coach and father. “She’s a smart player at the net and getting stronger. Jenna is coming off a great freshman year, where she started as the other outside hitter opposite Maddie. She does a great job passing for us and is getting stronger as a hitter. We should be a strong serving team with seniors Sonny Nelson and Cailey MacGregor returning. Both play well in the back row and were among our top servers on the team.”
Coach Mantegani said his team will focus on controlling the ball, playing good defense, and being aggressive at the net when the opportunities arise. “We’re excited to have more young talent coming through the program to compete and strengthen all of our teams,” he emphasized. “In early August, we had 40 girls signed up for the tryouts. We held our first BHS volleyball camp this summer for grades 5-8.”
Mantegani noted that BHS will be moving from Division 2 to Division 3 this year, providing the team with a more competitive opportunity for the post-season. “We’ll still compete in the TVL, which remains one of the stronger leagues in the state with returning D-2 state champ Hopkinton and perennial D-2 powerhouse Medfield,” he noted.
The Blackhawks, who will open their season Sept. 6 at home against Millis, have three other coaches in the system. Chris Ridolfi will assist Mantegani, the jayvee coach is Whitney McKay and the freshmen coach is Deb Sacco.
BHS Cheerleading Roster Reaches 22Coach Tracey Elliott is optimistic about her Bellingham High cheerleading squad: “We’ve got competitors who are talented and should do well in competitions.”
The 22-member roster includes a pair of senior captains—Alyssa Provost and Ashley Champagne. Provost is back for her second season as a captain. “Both girls are leaders, they’re athletic and they’re a positive influence,” Elliott said. “We’re a young team with seven eighth-graders and two freshmen. All 22 of the girls will be on duty for football games.”
Elliott’s goals for 2017 are basic and emphasize a team-first approach. “We want to see the girls succeed by building on their knowledge and skills,” she noted. “The girls have worked diligently all summer and have shown lots of dedication. We’ll focus on every aspect of cheering and dedicate time to tumbling, an area where we’ve been lacking in the past.”
Besides the captains, the rest of the team includes seniors Julia Thibault, Lacey Spencer and Kiara McDonald Metiver; juniors Kaley Hammon, Alivia Dussault and Kylie Higgins; sophomores Jess Walsh, Katelyn Laughlin, Casey Montgomery, Kathleen Gallagher and Emily Champagne; freshmen Megan Thorell and Kaitlyn Little; and eighth-graders Courtney Barros, Ryanne Haynes, Emma Nealon, Hannah Mancuso, Lindsey Doyle, Rachel Newcombe and Lilly McFall.
The only competition that was scheduled at Bulletin deadline was for Oct. 15 in Milford.
BHS Girls Soccer Opens on Sept. 6Coach Len Gosselin will focus on day-by-day and game-by-game improvement as he enters his second year as the girls varsity soccer coach at Bellingham High.
The team, which opens its season on Sept. 6 at Norton, will be led by senior captains Bella Mancini and Taryn Martel. Mancini will play fullback and Martel is a forward. Another top-notch competitor is fullback Shannon Williams. “This trio is athletic, skilled and able to provide senior leadership,” Gosselin said.
Gosselin, whose first year unfortunately didn’t produce a victory, will be directing a squad that has only five returnees. “We’re young but I’m excited about our group,” Gosselin said. “They’re hard-working, their attitudes are positive and they’ve strived to be in great condition. We’ll be an aggressive team and we’ll be disciplined on offense and defense. Our team will be built from the back line.”
Two players Gosselin was counting on—freshman goalie Kaitlyn Rapose and senior Jesse Magerman, a halfback-forward—will not be competing for Bellingham. Rapose is at Bishop Feehan and Magerman is playing for the U.S. girls development team.
Positive Approach for BHS Boys SoccerBob Elster begins his first full season as head coach of the Bellingham High boys soccer team fully aware that the program not only has struggled but also endured a winless season last year. His positive outlook, however, should be a big plus.
“I believe the tide is turning,” he said. “We’re going to see a stronger program develop during the next several years. There’s been significant growth (numbers have doubled and a jayvee team has been formed). We’ve got a group of boys who’ve shown perseverance and a positive attitude. There has been a culture of losing and low expectations for too long, and I’m hoping to empower the players to break out of that pattern.”
Senior Victor Roman has been named a captain, and Elster may name another one as the season approaches. “Victor can play defense or midfield,” Elster said. “He’s got tenacity and a never-give-up attitude. He leaves everything on the field, always playing with great heart and effort.”
Three players, whom Elster labels as “team leaders,” are Jason Mardo (junior goalie), Ernesto Ramirez (senior defender), and Ramon Petrov (senior defender/striker). “Jason has passion for soccer,” Elster said. “This year he’s really stepped up as a leader and continues to improve as a goalie and field player. Both Ernesto and Roman add speed and physicality to the team. They’ll battle hard and meet challenges. Both are good leaders.”
Elster, whose team opens its season on Sept. 6 at home against Norton, also is bullish on sophomores Dennis Fuentes and Derek Ojukwu. “Dennis has a positive attitude, he’s a strong leader and he’s also got another year of club soccer under his belt,” he noted. “Derek is a natural athlete with lots of speed, which could help our team greatly.”
Successful Season for the BulldogsThe Bulldogs, Bellingham’s Senior Babe Ruth team, finished its regular season at 11-6-1, then faced Franklin in the playoffs, where it lost the best-of-three series, 2-1. The Bulldogs lost the opener, 11-1; tied the series by winning the second game, 10-8; then were eliminated in a 2-0 loss.
Coach Jeff Dunn was extremely pleased with the dedication and commitment his squad displayed throughout the season, especially improving on last year’s 7-11 record. “We had unbelievable leadership from multiple players: Jake Gagnon, John Reed, and others, including players who represented us on the all-star team—Sean Williamson, Derek Izzo, Ian McSweeney and Matt Montgomery,” said Dunn. “Our team played with grit and class and competed through any adversity we faced.”
Dunn thanked the players whose age prohibits a return next year: Danny Begley (pitcher/outfielder) and Derek Izzo (pitcher/outfielder). “I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach them and I was pleased with the way they played the game,” he noted. “Danny could shut teams down on the mound with a commanding fastball and Derek became one of the most feared, if not the most feared, outfielders in the league, making numerous spectacular catches in center throughout the season.”
Dunn said that he and his coaches welcome back those players who are eligible to return next year “so that we can continue to build off what we have been able to accomplish, put together another successful year and make a run at the championship.”