By Nick Curcuru
---- — The 2012-2013 winter high school sports season opens up officially in one week when the Gloucester track teams hosts Revere.
The winter season is ripe with teams looking to take their games to the next level, looking for redemption after disappointing 2011-2012 seasons, and looking to rebuild after being hit hard by graduation.
Here’s some things to watch out for this winter on the high school sports scene.
Year of the Viking?
The Rockport hockey team has made a steady incline up the Division 3 North rankings over the last four seasons under head coach Derek Papalegis, and the team is looking to take yet another step up with a roster loaded with talent this winter.
The Vikings return seven of their top eight scorers from last season, a season that saw the Vikings travel all the way to the Division 3 North Semifinals for the first time in program history.
Conor Douglass and Mike Tupper return coming off a season where each scored 28 points and were named Commonwealth Athletic Conference All Stars, Douglass needs 20 points for 100 career points. Rockport also returns goalie Colby Foster, who has 34 career wins in net and is coming off an All Star season last winter where he had a 2.50 goals against average with a pair of shutouts, one coming in the playoffs against Marblehead.
Rebuilding or Reloading?
The Gloucester hockey, Gloucester girls basketball and Manchester Essex boys basketball teams were hit very hard by graduation.
Gloucester hockey graduated its top four scorers from last season, Manchester Essex graduated its top three scorers and are entering the season with a first year head coach (Bryan Shields) while Gloucester girls basketball graduated its top two scorers, as both Heather Cain and Audrey Knowlton took their games to the collegiate level.
All three teams will have to rely on a plethora of new starters but all three teams also return some talent.
Gloucester hockey returns three year returning defenseman Mike Muniz, four year returning forward Alex Webb and Jesse Glidden in goal for his third year as the team’s starting net minder.
The Gloucester girls return senior co-captains Sophie Black and Katie Ciaramitaro, who were key contributors to tournament teams over the last two seasons.
The Manchester Essex boys return forwards Max Nesbit and Taylor Ketchum, key players in last seasons 19-3 campaign, along with guards Liam Aldrich and Petey Morton.
Will these teams pick up right where they left off last winter or will it take time to break in some new starters?
Bounce back Seasons
Gloucester boys basketball and Rockport’s boys and girls basketball teams each had tough seasons a year ago with the Gloucester and Rockport boys posting a single win each and the Rockport girls picking up five wins. But there is optimism surrounding both teams, who each enter this season with returning players all over the court.
The Vikings boys will look a lot like last year’s team, as every player from last season is returning including leading scorers Tucker Meredith and Shaun Aspesi. The Lady Vikings graduated just one player from last year’s team, while the rest return no older than juniors. Heather MacArthur and Abby Hood, both junior guards, are the team’s top two returning scorers.
Those lineups may have taken a few lumps last winter, but this winter both teams enter the season with older, wiser, and more experienced teams. Squads that know and understand the rigors of the Cape Ann League. Look for both Vikings teams to build off the promise they each showed last winter.
Gloucester boys basketball also returns some players to look out for including senior guard Jason Vizena, who led the team in scoring last year. Sharp shooting junior forward Conor Adkins and Sophomore guard Devon Murray also return with a wealth of experience from last winter.
There will be a lot of individual talent on display on the track this winter as Gloucester and Manchester Essex each have athletes that are the cream of the crop in the Northeastern Conference and Cape Ann League.
The Gloucester girls return Bianca Giacalone, who broke the school record in the 300 last winter and looks to improve upon that record this winter.
Sophomore Olivia Lantz is also a runner to watch this winter for Manchester Essex as she placed fourth in the two mile in the New England High School Championships last winter as a freshman.