Girls basketball in D-IV will also be a more wide open division than it has been in recent years. Littleton was in a league of their own last season. Not only did they go undefeated in division play, but they won every game by 17+ points. The only game they lost all year was to D-III champs White Mountains.
Before that the division belonged to Groveton, as head coach Tim Haskins' squad won four straight D-IV titles from 2008-2011.
But this season it's anybody's league. Littleton graduated four starters, including their 'Big Three' of Julia Winn, Alyssa Keefe and Taylor Glidden. The Crusaders will surely fall back to the pack this season, but how much?
Also, how much will Derryfield slip? This will be the first year in the 'Post-Bethany Era' for the Cougars. Bethany Kalliel scored 1,000 points, won back-to-back D-IV Player of the Year awards and carried the team for the past few years. But now she has graduated.
Pittfield was last season's runner up, but they also figure to slip a little bit as they graduated their two best players off last year's team in forward Colleen Corliss and point guard Jennifer Tyrell.
While Littleton, Pittsfield and Derryfield all figure to be down a little compared to last year, each team also has some of the better returning players in the division. Littleton has senior forward Dori Horne, Pittsfield returns Rebekah Adams and Derryfield will be led by junior guard Hannah Comeau.
Opening night didn't go very well for Derryfield, who got throttled by Hinsdale 50-20. Pittsfield meanwhile took care of business vs. Epping in a 31-15 win. Littleton meanwhile opens up their season Tuesday night vs. Profile.
If you had to pick a favorite to win this year's title, it would be either Hinsdale or Groveton. Hinsdale defeated Groveton in last year's quarterfinals in a hard fought battle. Groveton however, had their leading scorer Makenna Burke go down with an injured ankle in the 1st quarter of that game.
Both Hinsdale and Groveton have 11 players coming back from last year. Burke was the only non-senior on last season's D-IV first team all-state team. She is a preseason Player of the Year candidate and has a chance to score 1,000 points.
"Her offensive game has improved from last year and will hopefully continue to improve as the year goes on" said Groveton head coach Tim Haskins. "Talia Bedell will be a third-year starter at guard, and has also added new dimensions to her offensive game. Jena Wheelock also started last year, and will need to provide us with more perimeter offense this season as a shooting guard. Becca Rogers has worked hard in the preseason - she’s not tall for a forward but has a good nose for the ball and has been hustling to rebound on both ends and hustles in the transition game. Sadie Conroy and April Smith help provide a defensive spark and are good in the transition game - both need to find a way to contribute more offensively."
Hinsdale meanwhile has literally EVERYBODY back from a team that went to the Final Four last year, including all-state players Skylar Bonnette (daughter of head coach Terry Bonnette) and Allison Scott. Bonnette is a hard nosed player and Scott is a solid shooter. Also watch out for 6-foot-1 junior forward Bridget Bourne, who is a difficult match up inside.
The two other teams to watch out for in D-IV are Sunapee and Colebrook.
Colebrook is quite a story. Last season they had zero seniors, 2 juniors, 2 sophomores and 5 freshmen on the roster - and they somehow went 12-6. Are you kidding me? How their head coach Steve Cass could win that many games with a roster like that and not win Coach of the Year is beyond me. Look for senior point guard Josee Brunault to be one of the division's top players. She's only 5-foot-1 but is quick, fearless and can really score the basketball.
As for Sunapee, they are also a serious title contender. They return 4 starters and 11 total players from a team that went 16-5 last season and advanced to the Final Four. The Lakers won three straight D-IV titles from 2005-2007, and this season have a new head coach. Tim LaTorra takes over for previous coach Ed Kehoe. LaTorra coached the Sunapee boys for 5 years and then last season he was an assistant at New England College.
Sunapee returns all-state player Erika Waterman, as well as 3 other starters who are back in Mariah Tenney, Maddy Fowler and Megan Clarenbach.
"We have a nice mix of speed and height" said Coach LaTorra. "Our posts have the ability to get out and run which will help us. We are going to look to our seniors and juniors to help lead the younger players who have not had a lot of varsity experience. We do not have any outcome goals. Our goal this year is to get better every day. We have ways of looking to see if this is accomplished. Our focus is on us and our improvement and we will let the result speak for itself."
Also keep an eye on Woodsville and Wilton-Lyndeborough. Newmarket returns all-state player Annaliese Schmidt, but Wilton defeated Newmarket on opening night 45-33. Woodsville meanwhile went 12-6 last year and returns all-state player Tiarra Beatrice. They won 51-25 at Profile in their first game of the season.
Preseason All-State Team
Makenna Burke (Groveton), Bekah Adams (Pittsfield), Skylar Bonnette (Hinsdale), Erika Waterman (Sunapee), Josee Brunault (Colebrook)