Winter Sports Seasons Ready to Begin

With the fall sports season now one for the history books, the attention of local sports fans turns to the panoply of winter sports on the local scene.

Although the accomplishments of last year’s WHS teams will be hard to duplicate, Viking fans once again can expect the WHS basketball and hockey teams to be vying for league titles and state tournament berths. The Holland Gymnasium and Larsen Rink both should be hotbeds of excitement in the coming months.

Defending state champ boys hoop team readies for another run at title

The defending Division 4 State Champion boys basketball team lost four key members of that Hall of Fame-bound squad (when they’ll all be a little bit paunchier and thinning hair a decade or so from now!), but Coach Dave Brown has two key returning frontcourt players, Joe D’Amore (whose fourth quarter scoring spree against Cohasset at the Garden will live forever in Winthrop sports annals) and lanky, high flying Quinton Dale.

A pair of junior transfers, Josh Babb (from Bishop Fenwick) and Jeff Laguerre (from Lynn Tech), both of whom burned up the cross country trails for Winthrop in the fall, also will loom large in Brown’s lineup in the backcourt.

Relative newcomers to the varsity whom Brown will be counting upon to make a big impact are junior center Dan Feeley, senior Amar Zebic, senior Joe Levesque, and junior Ervin DeJesus.

The Vikings captured the South Division of the Northeastern Conference en route to its state title run with a 15-7 mark during the regular season and 20-7 overall, including the state tourney games. Once again they should be in the mix for a South title repeat with Danvers and Saugus their chief foes. The other NEC schools in the South are  Swampscott (which has a lot of returning veterans), Gloucester, and Marblehead.

“We have a lot of new players to the varsity and some who are new to the program, so there will be a learning curve at the start of the season,” noted Brown.

The Viking hoopmen open their 2011-12 campaign at home against Swampscott Tuesday at 7:00.

Boys hockey seeks repeat of NEC title

The WHS boys hockey team stormed past its NEC foes to capture an undisputed championship in 2011. Coach Dale Dunbar has a number of key returnees, led by Captain Chris LeBlanc, an all-league selection and the top scorer in the league, and fellow Captain Mike Paulsen on defense.

LeBlanc figures to be on the first line with sophomores Danny Eruzione and Chris Page. The other two lines are shaping up with asst. captain Mike Paulsen, senior Matt Todisco, and junior Jake McKinnon on the second line and Drayton Chastine, Derek Eruzione, and Hershey Beard on the third line.

Assistant captain Jimmy Barker, senior Adam Lundberg, sophomore Steve Goddard, and junior Luke Hodgkins will join Mike Paulsen on the blue line.

The goaltending spot features a trio of worthy candidates, led by junior Steve Waites, freshman Ray Feeley, and freshman Tom DiBenedetto.

“We have experience in some areas, but young players in others,” said Dunbar. “But overall we feel we’ll be among the top teams in the league.” Dunbar feels that Saugus and Beverly should be the Vikings’ chief competition for the top spot in the NEC, but noted that the depth of the teams in the NEC means that on any given night, any team is capable of knocking off any other.

Dunbar and his Vikings will compete in the NEC Jamboree Sunday morning at Salem State and then open their season next Wednesday at Danvers.

Girls hockey team ready for another tournament run

The Winthrop Lady Bulldogs girls hockey team, the cooperative team among Winthrop, Lynn, and Saugus (almost every girls hockey team in the state is a co-op team), will skate into action this Saturday at Larsen Rink in the season opener against Barnstable.

Although Coach Anthony Martucci’s squad lost their league MVP in defenseman Taylor Brown (who is playing at Nichols College) to graduation and all-league goalie Katie Burt to Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols, the Lady Bulldogs have a strong nucleus of returning veterans from a team that went 15-3-1 in the regular season and made it to the tournament finals where they lost a controversial decision in a shootout to Hingham, 5-4. (A tape of the game clearly showed that the ref took away a Winthrop goal in overtime, with the puck plainly hitting the back of the net.)

Winthrop will be led by Captain McKenzie Clark, who is the all time leading scorer in the Lady Bulldogs’ history with 137 points. Assistant captains Chelsey Bartlett, Amanda Cordes, and Hannah LoPresti all have been mainstays of the program’s success these past few years.

Winthrop will be playing in the Northeast Division of the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Ice Hockey League with rivals Beverly, Masconomet, Medford, and Everett.

“Beverly should be very strong this year and Masco always is tough,” said Martucci. “We’re looking forward to another competitive season and hope to continue our success.”

Girls hoop looks to build on last season

Another of the Winthrop girls’ teams seeking to duplicate its success from last year is the Winthrop High girls basketball team. Second year coach Ignacio Oyola’s squad reached the post season state tournament last season and has all but one member of that squad returning.

However, that one player was 6-2 center Johnna Fisher, who led the Lady Vikings in virtually every offensive and defensive category. Johnna is playing at Division 1 Central Connecticut State University where she is playing well and making an impact with 13 minutes per game of playing time.

However, Captain Taylor Duplin will lead a large contingent of girls who have amassed a lot of experience as freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. They also will be boosted by a newcomer, sophomore Ashlyne Babb, a transfer from Bishop Fenwick.

“We’re hoping to build on last year’s success as we reboot the program,” said Oyola. “We have a lot of returning varsity players who are continuing to grow as basketball players.”

The Lady Vikings will have a tall order, literally and figuratively, in their season opener, when they travel to Swampscott Tuesday, which features three returning Northeaster Conference all stars and is the pre season consensus to be the top team in the NEC South.

“Swampscott figures to be the strongest opponent in our division (the NEC South) and Lynn English the best in the North,” noted Oyola. “Our mission is to improve on what we did last year and keep the program moving forward.”

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