FCL Preview: Can Wave win it all?

  • Frontier’s Amelia Sobieski (14) and Mahar's Abby Bonk (15) both return to their respective teams this winter. The Red Hawks and Senators have their eyes on postseason berths out of the FCL North. FILE PHOTO/Dan Little

  • Pioneer's Olivia Rowe (11) battles under the hoop with Athol's Haley Bigwood (12) last year in Northfield. The duo are the top returning scorers for their respective teams this winter. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield's Samantha Smith goes in for a layup with Mahar's Jazmyn Vautour in pursuit. Both seniors will look to lead their respective teams in the FCL North this winter. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writers
Published: 12/13/2018 10:16:27 PM

It’s time to see just how high Greenfield High School can fly.

For the past four years, the Green Wave girls basketball team has been building toward a WMass Division 3 championship and this is the year that two key players have hit their senior seasons. Raegan Hickey and Samantha Smith combined to average 32 points per game last winter to lead the Green Wave to the semifinals at Curry Hicks Cage, but the team fell in overtime to eventual state runners-up, Hampshire.

Greenfield enters this season as one of the favorites again in Division 3. Sophomore Katie Haselton joins Hickey and Smith on offense to form a potent scoring trio, and one that should win the FCL North again this season.

While Greenfield is the favorites in the North, the rest of the division should also be competitive. Mahar has a strong senior class that should get the Senators back into the postseason, while Hopkins Academy has one of the top offensive threats in the league in Samantha Jenks. Frontier lost two key players from a year ago but has a lot of talent coming up that should have the Red Hawks in the mix as well. Athol won just three games last season but with a group of talented juniors, will look to improve on that this winter.

Pioneer and Turners Falls each reside in the FCL South along with Ware, Southwick and Putnam. Ware and Southwick both project to be strong this season, while Pioneer figures to be in the mix as well. Turners Falls has a new coach and lost several key seniors, but will look to rebuild and try to keep its three-year postseason streak alive.

Mohawk is joined in the FCL West by Easthampton, McCann Tech, Smith Academy and Pope Francis. The league is typically the weakest of the three featuring local clubs, though Mohawk should be competitive in the division.

Here’s a look at the local teams:


COACH: Kelly Kaczmarczyk, 2nd season



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2016) Lost to Mt. Greylock in Div. 3 first round

ROSTER: Juniors — Taylor Cleveland (F), Angelica Baptista (G), Haley Bigwood (F/G), Jenna St. Cyr (G), Sophie Putnam (F), Haley Wrigley (C), Aryah Lee (F); Sophomores — Lily King (G); Freshmen — Kendall Deleo (G), Reily Polana (G).

OUTLOOK: After winning just three games last season, the Red Raiders tackle this winter with the goal of climbing up the Franklin County League North standings under second-year head coach Kelly Kaczmarczyk.

“I think it all depends on the girls and what kind of season they want to have,” explained Kaczmarczyk. “Sometimes we have really good games and then next time out, it’s a bad one. When they’re playing well, they’re capable of doing good things. But they have to bring that every game this year.”

Junior Haley Bigwood is the team’s top returning scorer after registering 8.3 points per game last winter. Bigwood is part of a talented junior class, that also features point guard Angelica Baptista who is back for her second year as the starting floor general. Junior Taylor Cleveland (7.2 ppg last year) is another key starter for Athol, while classmates Jenna St. Cyr and Haley Wrigley are also in the starting mix this winter.

“All my juniors are showing a lot,” said Kaczmarczyk. “I think they’re ready to have a good year.”

Freshman Reily Polana should factor into the rotation immediately, and Kaczmarczyk expects her to be one of the team’s top shooting options. Fellow freshman Kendall Deleo is another youngster to watch.

The Red Raiders opened their season with a win over Murdock, and they’ll look to improve to 2-0 tonight against Turners Falls.


COACH: Rick Recore, 1st season



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2018) Lost to Palmer in Div. 3 first round

ROSTER:Seniors — Ariana Walker (G); Juniors — Marie Diemand (G), Tori Speth (G), Amanda Fuller (G); Sophomores — Olivia Deane (G), Charlotte Doulette (C), Abbe Roberts (G), Amelia Sobieski (F), Sierra Warren (G), Macy Ring (F/C); Freshman — Kaitlyn Mackin (F), Alena Maes-Polan (G).

OUTLOOK: A young but talented roster has new head coach Rick Recore thinking big with his Frontier squad this winter. Recore, who previously coached the boys team at Franklin Tech and takes over for Marty Sanderson, likes what he’s seen from his Red Hawks thus far.

“The players in the program are extremely hard-working,” said Recore. “It’s an athletic team and they’ve been a joy to work with so far.”

Frontier graduated top scorers from last year’s team in Ella Deane (10.1 ppg) and Lexa Boyden (9.4), though there are some important pieces back offensively as both junior Marie Diemand (4.9) and sophomore Amelia Sobieski (5.3) are back and ready to go.

Guard Ariana Walker is the only senior on the roster, and Recore expects big things from her on and off the floor.

“She’ll definitely play a huge role in our success,” offered the new coach.

Junior Tori Speth, sophomores Olivia Deane and Charlotte Doulette and freshman Kaitlyn Mackin are all back after being part of the rotation a year ago.

“There’s a phenomenal core here,” said Recore. “We’re deep. We’re going to play fast and very aggressive defensively. Our strength will be on the defensive end. We’ll look to try and manufacture points off our defense and be more up-tempo.”

Recore, a South Deerfield native, said he’s happy to be home.

“The opportunity to come back and coach at Frontier is an honor,” he said. “I love the school and the kids.”


COACH: John Hickey, 8th season



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2018) Lost to Hampshire in Div. 3 semifinals

ROSTER: Seniors — Raegan Hickey (G), Samantha Smith (F), Olivia Joy (F); Juniors — Kristina Reed (F), Bryanna Rivera (G); Sophomores — Katie Haselton (G), Eva Pruitt-Dahl (G/F); Freshmen — Racquel Provost (G), Kelsey Richardson (F), Madyson Kuchieski (G); Eighth-graders — Lillia Kachelmeyer (G/F).

OUTLOOK: Things have been building toward this winter for Greenfield.

The Green Wave broke through to reach the Curry Hicks Cage a year ago, making the WMass Div. 3 semifinals. The path nearly brought Greenfield to a WMass championship, but Hampshire Regional forced overtime in the semis, picked up the 63-59 victory, and rolled to the sectional title a few days later. The Red Raiders wound up as the state runners-up.

Greenfield lost a few key pieces from last year’s team, but the core of the roster remains intact. Seniors Raegan Hickey and Samantha Smith, along with sophomore Katie Haselton, combined to average 46.5 points per game last year as the team’s top three scorers. Hickey won the Franklin County scoring title at 17 ppg, followed closely by Smith (15 ppg) and Haselton (14.5).

“Everyone knows we have Raegan, Sam and Katie,” began Greenfield head coach John Hickey. “People are going to be gunning for us so it’s going to be a season where we have to be mentally tough just as much as physically tough.”

Hickey and Smith got off to strong starts, as he scored 25 points in the team’s season-opening win over Chicopee Comp Tuesday night.

“We have our expectations set high, but we still have to take it one game at a time,” Hickey said. “That said, that end result is in their sights, for sure. They want to make a deep run. Last season, one mental breakdown against Hampshire cost us the game. We have to learn from that and know that sometimes that’s all that it takes to have your season come to an end.”

Senior Olivia Joy, who hasn’t played since her freshman season, returns to the fold and will see some time at forward and rounds out the senior class along with Hickey and Smith.

Freshman Racquel Provost came off the bench last year but jumps into the starting rotation, while juniors Kristina Reed and Bryanna Rivera are going to see their minutes increase as well.

“Those are all younger players who are going to play important roles for us this year,” said Hickey.

Greenfield’s difficult independent schedule, which includes games against West Springfield, South Hadley and Groton-Dunstable, will hopefully pay dividends come late February and March.

“Hopefully when we enter the playoffs at the end of the season, our schedule has prepared us to get through close, tough games,” Hickey said. “You can’t replicate things in practice like that.”


COACH: Larry Fisher, 14th season



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2018) Lost to Monument Mt. in Div. 3 first round

ROSTER: Seniors: Jazmyn Vautour (F), Tori Tenney (F), Abby Bonk (G), Sophia Apteker (C), Sarah Graeff (F); Juniors: Jordan Fournier (C), Maryanne Prescott (G), Courtney Page (F); Sophomores: Delaney Parker (G), Micalyn Mailloux (G), Siobhan Davis (C).

OUTLOOK: The Senators are a perennial tournament team from the area and are a yearly threat to make it to Curry Hicks Cage as they did two years ago, but the team will have to withstand the loss of leading scorer Hannah Paul from a season ago.

Paul was a four-year starter for Mahar and averaged over 11 points per game, and her void will be noticeable, but Mahar coach Larry Fisher believes he has plenty of leadership to get his team back to the postseason.

“I’ve got seniors who know how to score and I’m looking forward to their leadership throughout the year,” Fisher said. “They have to play the way they can and lead these younger kids.”

Senior forward Jazmyn Vautour will be one player looked upon to lead the offense as she finished with nine points per game last winter to finish just behind Paul for the team lead. Sophomore Micalyn Mailloux is another player likely to see her scoring rise. The starting point guard averaged 4.5 points per game as a freshman last season. Senior Abby Bonk will start at shooting guard, and classmates Tori Tenney and Sophia Apteker will start at forward and center respectively.

“The players we have should step right in,” Fisher said. “I expect that we will be a competitive team and make the playoffs.”


COACH: Larissa Harrison, 4th season



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2009) Lost to Wahconah in the Div. 2 quarterfinals

ROSTER: Senior: Ashley Reynolds; Juniors: Grace Poplawski, Reagan Dupree; Sophomore: Grace Ward; Freshmen: Tess Rancourt, Mya Lesieur, Octavia Crawford, Courtney Allen, Stella Clark.

OUTLOOK: Mohawk coach Larissa Harrison hopes that hard work can put an end to a lengthy postseason drought.

The Warriors have not been to the postseason in nine years despite coming close several times since then. Last year, Mohawk began the year 5-6 overall and appeared to be in position to make a run at the tournament, but a 2-7 record over the final nine games of the year left the team on the outside looking in.

One problem that has plagued Mohawk is numbers, as small rosters leave Harrison with a short bench and also having to pull up players who might not quite be ready for the varsity level.

“Mohawk doesn’t have the numbers I wish we had, which means I have to pull up some girls,” she said.

The Warriors lost six seniors from a year ago, including many of their top scorers. The lone returnee with significant offensive contributions is junior Grace Poplawski, who led the team in scoring with 8.7 points per game. the next three leading scorers from a year ago all graduated.

That leaves plenty of holes to fill for Harrison to fill on offense and she has a very young team to do so with. Ashley Reynolds is the lone senior on the team but returns as one of the top rebounders on the team. Reagan Dupree joins Poplawski from the junior class, and Grace Ward is the lone sophomore, which leaves the team with five freshmen to round out the roster. 

“I’ve been walking away from practices happy,” Harrison said. “This group of girls works hard, they want to learn and they have great attitudes. You tell them something in practice and they do it right away.”


COACH: Meg Burrington, 7th season



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2017) Lost to Quaboag in Div. 4 quarterfinals

ROSTER: Seniors — Olivia Rowe (C), Autumn Flagg (F); Juniors — Steph Scoville (G/F), Aliyah Kimball (G), Abby Briggs (G); Sophomores — Paige Loughman (G), Julianna Ackerman (G/F), Emily Tibbetts (F), Sarah Ellis (G), Lily Faille (F), Charlotte Kahler (G), Sarah Johnson (G); Freshmen — Alena Cecunjanin (G).

OUTLOOK: It could be a big step forward for Pioneer this winter. The Panthers return a plethora of important pieces from last year’s squad, and a strong sophomore class hopes it can begin a multi-year postseason run for head coach Meg Burrington.

“My whole varsity team is returning except one so we’re excited about what this season can potentially be,” offered Burrington. “It’s a great group of kids who are working hard.”

Senior Olivia Rowe sets the tone inside. The team’s center averaged a double-double as a junior, averaging 11.5 points and 14 rebounds per game to go with three blocks. Rowe gives the Panthers an anchor along the front line.

“She’s still improving every day,” said Burrington of Rowe. “And she’s got a good team around her that’s going to open things up for her as well.”

Sophomore Paige Loughman had an impressive all-around season for the Panthers, averaging 9.5 points and 8 rebounds per game as a freshman. The guard can do a little bit of everything on the floor.

“This is her second full year running the point,” Burrington said of Loughman. “She can change a game in a moment and she did for us last year.”

Junior Steph Scoville is another key returning player. The three-year varsity player is a workhorse and leader who averaged 7.5 points per game a year ago.

“She’s probably our purest athlete,” lauded Burrington. “I think she’s going to have a standout season.”

Juniors Aliyah Kimball and Abby Briggs both return, and Briggs should be among the team leaders in assists. Senior Autumn Flagg joins Rowe as the two members of their class.

Loughman highlights an eight-member sophomore class that hopes to establish a winning culture in Northfield. Lily Faille and Emily Tibbetts are both top interior options from the sophomore contingent.

“They’re all playing year-round together and that’s the best thing a coach can ask for,” said Burrington.

The Panthers didn’t win a league game last year, going 0-8 in the FCL South. They were 7-5 in their independent games.

Turners Falls

COACH: Ed Marvell, 1st season 



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: (2018) Lost to Mt. Everett in Div. 4 quarterfinals 

ROSTER: Seniors: Vanessa Moreno (G), Kate Garcia (G), Sarah Waldron (G); Juniors: Eliza Johnson (G), Karissa Fleming (G), Aly Murphy (G/F), Dabney Rollins (F/C), Hailey Bogusz (F), Lucy Spera (C), Lindsey Whiteman (G); Sophomore: Lana Spera (F); Seventh-grader: Lily Spera (G/F).

OUTLOOK: It’s a brand-new looking team in Turners Falls.

Not only did most of the regulars from a season ago graduate, former coach Ted Wilcox also hung up his clipboard following last season’s quarterfinal loss to Mt. Everett.

Enter Ed Marvell, who knows a thing or two about Turners Falls athletics, having been a part of a coaching staff since 2004. Marvell is an assistant on the Turners softball team, and has coached junior varsity basketball in the Powertown. He also spent one year as head coach at Franklin Tech. Jim Cadran and Jason Salls join his staff.

He is left with a team that will look very different than it did one year ago as the team graduated much of its offense. While the team may be entering a bit of a rebuild, the recent players did help rebuild a program that had been a perennial doormat. Three years ago, Turners qualified for the postseason for the first time in 21 years, and two years ago the team played at Curry Hicks Cage. Last season, Turners qualified for the tournament for the third straight season before falling in the quarters.

If the team is going to make it four straight postseason appearances it is going to have to replace players like Maddy Chmyzinski (11.2 ppg), Chloe Ellis (10.2), Abby Loynd (7.3) and Aliyah Sanders (6.2) who all left to graduation. Junior Dabney Rollins is the team’s returning leading scorer with 5.7 points per game a season ago, and will start at forward, while classmate Karissa Fleming will start at the point. Junior Aly Murphy will start at a guard or small forward, and classmate Hailey Bogusz is a starting forward. Senior Sarah Waldron — one of just three seniors on the team. 

The team features seven juniors, although many are moving up from varsity or were primarily bench players from a season ago. Sophomore Taylor Murphy would have been a big contributor this season as well but was lost for the year due to a shoulder injury. 

“We are trying to get it all in one direction,” Marvell said. “We want to stay positive at all times. I think they are starting to realize that we’ve had two weeks of practice and they are doing very well.”

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