It's almost time to kick of the spring high school sports season here on Cape Ann. This spring there are plenty of story lines surrounding Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester Essex High Schools and several strong teams that look to make deep tournament runs. Lets take a look at the top five story lines to watch out for this spring.
1. Encore performance: In 2011 the Rockport girls softball team won the Cape Ann League Division 3 title for the first time in school history and won a state tournament game. In 2012 the Vikings look like they are set up for another run at a league title and some tournament success. Vikings players that were youngsters with potential two years ago are now seasoned veterans. Pitcher Kristin Turner is now a senior with three years of varsity experience already under her belt. On top of that Sophomores Gabby Muniz, the CAL Division 3 Player of the Year in 2011 as a Freshman, and Mollie Watson form a dangerous tandem in the middle of the Vikings order.
This is a team to watch out for this spring.
2. Post merge success: A decade ago nobody would ever have envisioned the Gloucester track teams needing to add runners from Manchester Essex due to numbers issues. But today it is a reality as Gloucester will be playing with Manchester Essex athletes for the first time. The good news is numbers are up on both the boys and girls track squads and Gloucester also got a few nice imports from the other side of the Annisquam River including an all state qualifier from the indoor season in Sophomore Fiona Davis.
3. Looking for a turnaround: After failing to qualify for the state tournament in four of its last five seasons, the Gloucester softball team needed a shot in the arm. With new head coach John Nicastro at the helm the Gloucester softball program has a turnaround in mind and it starts this year. The program has fallen on hard times recently but Nicastro will surely work hard to bring it back to prominence.
The Fishermen have a solid nucleus back from last season and are hoping to take a big step in the right direction.
4. Chance to repeat: With high school tennis expanding from two to three divisions in 2011, the Manchester Essex girls team brought home the Division 3 State Title. The Hornets are always stacked with talent, and now that they don't have to deal with Winchester in the postseason (they stayed in Division 2) Manchester Essex is more than a viable threat to bring home another title. Don't look now but this could be the start of a dynasty.
5. Baseball Fever: As usual, the Gloucester and Rockport baseball teams will make a splash in conference play this spring, but both teams will have to do it with plenty of new faces. Rockport, always a contender in Division 4 after playing a grueling Cape Ann League schedule, is returning a strong junior nucleus of Tucker Meredith, Mike Tupper and Conor Douglass. Gloucester, on the other hand, is returning just a pair of starters in Jason Vizena and Kyle Lucido. But the Fishermen had to replace a ton of players last year and still qualified for the tournament for the eighth straight year. Postseason baseball is usually a lock in Cape Ann, and this season looks no different.