Barrington High School winter sports preview

winter sports 3

Returning coaches and a state title defense are just some of the story lines to follow this winter as Barrington High School teams gear up for a new season.

The majority of local teams played their Injury Fund games over the last couple of weeks while regular season contests either kicked off last weekend or are slated to begin this week. Here is a brief breakdown on some of the teams.

Boys’ hockey

The boys’ hockey team is aiming for a return to the D-I championship game this winter. Last February, the Eagles wrapped up a 9-7-2 regular season with back-to-back losses in the title series against Moses Brown.

Head coach Derek Borek said this year’s team is looking “pretty good” and the players have been practicing hard.

Borek said the team lost a few of its top players to graduation but there is a good base of upperclassmen that he believes can step up, including senior forward John Kraunelis. Kraunelis joins fellow senior Andrew Galbraith, the team’s starting goalie, as a captain alongside junior defender Patrick Judge. Borek also pointed to senior forward Nicholas Vastano and junior forwards Brett Fay and Joseph Lombardi as leaders.

Overall, Borek said he believes the team will be stronger on defense than offense and could have some difficulty scoring goals.

“I’m hoping some guys can step up,” Borek said.

“We lost some significant scoring from graduation last year.”

Borek said he expects the division to be competitive, especially teams such as Lincoln, North Kingstown and Coventry.

“I think every game is going to be a battle for us,” he said.

The boys’ hockey team lost its first game of the season 3-1 against Burrillville Saturday night. The Eagles play Coventry on Friday night, Dec. 14.

Wrestling

The wrestling team will compete in Division II for the first time in two years this winter. Head coach Drew Genetti said the team has been moved back down after a couple years of struggling in Division I.

“We’re happy to be where we belong,” Genetti said.

Genetti also said that while the team only lost three seniors to graduation, two of them were state meet finishers. Eleven starters of the squad’s 35 total wrestlers are returning from 2011-2012.

The team’s captains are seniors Doug Flaherty and Gerard Lacerte. Genetti also said junior Noah Robey should be a leader for the team and has a potential to be a top three wrestler in the state.

Genetti said the goal for this season is to win the division and place at least two state finishers.

“That might be a reach, but it’s obtainable,” he said.

The wrestling team hits the mat for its first match on Saturday, Dec. 15 in a tri-meet with North Kingstown and Burrillville.

Girls’ hockey

It’s been nine months since the Barrington-Mt. Hope-Portsmouth girls’ hockey co-op took home the state D-I title but head coach Deneen Stebenne isn’t thinking about that — she’s focused on the new season and a young roster.

The squad lost its two starting centers to graduation last year. This winter, Stebenne said she is looking to younger players to step into leading roles. This includes a group of five sophomores — forwards Meghan Miller and Kelly Kraunelis and defenders Danielle K. Makucevich and Mia Hallgring alongside back-up goalie Helen Prates.

Other leaders are expected to include starting goalie Sophie Faxon, a junior, senior co-captains Jessica Doherty and Kathleen Saunders, both forwards, and junior defender Olivia Lucas. Stebenne also pointed to a promising group of freshmen that includes defender Allison Kelsey and forwards Casie Castello, Stephanie Galbraith, Lily Hallgring and Julia Harrigan.

Additionally, Stebenne pointed to sophomore defender Leah Hoder to have a strong season alongside junior forward Julia Flaherty.

Stebenne said every player has demonstrated a strong work ethic though it has been challenging to get the team together as a whole so far. Last Friday, one day before the team’s regular season opener, Stebenne said the squad had not had a single practice with every player in attendance because of injuries and illness.

“It’s a little frustrating with the first game on Saturday but hopefully this is it,” said Stebenne, who added the potential to repeat as state champs doesn’t put any additional pressure on this season.

Stebenne said it appears that team will be well-rounded and it looks like South County and Lincoln could be the squad’s toughest challenges this season.

The Eagles opened up the regular season Saturday night with 10-2 drubbing of the Smithfield-North Smithfield co-op. The team plays again Thursday, Dec. 13.

Swimming

Sandy Gorham is one of two coaches returning to a former team this winter.

The high school softball coach now leads both the boys’ and girls’ swimming squads, a role he previously held from 1973 to 1989. Gorham comes over from East Providence High School, where he served as swim coach from 2003 through last season.

Gorham said one of the factors that led to his return was the possibility of coaching his youngest son, currently an elementary school student. Gorham said he coached his two eldest sons in East Providence and the head swim coach position represented an opportunity that may never come again.

“That was a motivating factor to grab the job now, there’s no certainty it would be open later,” Gorham said.

But the potential to coach his youngest son wasn’t the only thing that attracted Gorham to the job. Barrington is where Gorham started his career. He said it is “really fun” to return and hopefully, it’s where he can end his career.

The swimming teams are currently practicing at the East Providence Boys and Girls Club while the Bayside YMCA aquatic facility undergoes an extensive renovation. Gorham got his first look at the groups in action last Thursday afternoon in Warwick. He said both squads performed well in their respective Injury Fund meets.

The girls’ team won three out of six relays — the 200 meter backstroke, butterfly and freestyle events — while the boys’ won the 200 meter butterfly relay.

Gorham said he expects seniors Zachary Herchen and Andres Solanot to be two of his strongest swimmers on the boys’ side, especially in the butterfly, freestyle and backstroke. Gorham also pointed to junior Zeke DeWitt whom he has known since childhood and has shown significant improvement in the butterfly.

On the girls’ side, Gorham said Herchen’s twin sister, Heidi, is a solid, versatile swimmer while freshman Grace Bellamy has the chance to be a “true superstar” and contend for a breaststroke title. Gorham said other strong swimmers include sophomore Emma Gurchiek and senior Olivia August.

Gorham said both teams have overall depth and flexibility, which is crucial in dual meets.

The swim teams began formal practices two weeks ago. Gorham said there were some “butterflies” his first few days with the team despite decades of coaching experience. The coach’s learning curve included everything from determining which athletes had been swimming during the off-season to each swimmer’s respective strengths and weaknesses.

The butterflies started to wear off by the second week of practice, however, as Gorham and the athletes got to know one another. Gorham said he is excited about the team and his new position.

“A new challenge is always good,” Gorham said.

“Every year is a new challenge. All the faces change. It’s exciting. I still get a really big kick out of doing this after all these years … I had butterflies for the first couple of practices but when I don’t have those butterflies, that’s probably something telling me not to do it anymore.”

The swim team hits the pool for its first regular season meet on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

Girls’ indoor track

Girls’ track coach Steve Turgeon has a lot to be excited about this year.

For starters, his team includes six of the seven runners that brought home Barrington High School’s second straight cross country state title and came within one spot of a nationals’ bid. That group — which includes juniors Abigail Livingston, Megan Verner-Crist, Juliana Portelli and Mary Kate Coogan in addition to seniors Alice Burgess and Fiona Paine — is expected to compete in everything from the 4×400 to the 3,000 meter races.

Then there’s Shenelle Teixeira. The senior is Rhode Island’s reigning outdoor 300 meter champion who finished second in last year’s 100 meter hurdles. Turgeon said she will be a lead hurdler and sprinter.

Teixeira was one of four runners that helped Barrington win the shuttle hurdle relay at last week’s Injury Fund. The group also included sophomore Chloe Mayhew, freshman Allison Army and junior Madison Smith, who qualified for states last year as a sophomore. Barrington also won the 4×200 with a foursome that included Smith, Teixeira, junior Cameron MacDonald and sophomore Sarah Uri.

The varsity track roster also includes hurdler Madison Meranda, who won the freshmen state hurdles title last year along with freshman Briana Gausland and Alexandra Medeiros — two members of the Barrington Middle School track team that made the 100 meter finals and won the state 4×100 relay title.

The team’s top throwers will be juniors Rebecca Egge and Olivia Casale.

Turgeon said the team is just as talented as a group that finished second to LaSalle at states in 2009-2010.

“I kind of thought that would be our only opportunity to go after a state championship. Given the size of our school and the strength of a private school, it was going to be unlikely to capture lightning in a bottle again,” Turgeon said.

“As it turns out, I was wrong. This group is just as talented as that group and we will be in the mix.”

Turgeon said he expects Barrington, Classical and LaSalle to be the state’s leading three teams this season.

He also said there has been plenty of early, good-spirited competition among teammates, something that tends to make everyone better.

“They’re kind of pushing each other,” he said.

“They really seemed to be committed to the work that goes into the track team.”

The girls’ indoor track team will compete in its first meet on Thursday, Dec. 13.

Boys’ track

A familiar face is leading the boys’ indoor track team this winter.

Bill Barrass returned to the team when regular practice commenced two weeks ago. Barrass previously coached both indoor and outdoor boys’ track beginning in the 2003-04 season. He returns to the team a three-year hiatus though he served as the assistant indoor coach last year.

“It feels great. I’m very happy to be back,” Barrass said.

“It’s a great sport. It sticks with you forever.”

The boys’ indoor track team is coming off of a Class B state title in 2011-2012.

Barrass said three of the squad’s stronger distance runners should include seniors Tom Barry, Will Casazza and Connor Royley. The trio led this year’s boys’ cross country team, where Barrass has served assistant head coach for several years.

Sprinters who are shaping up to play a big role this winter include junior Max Caro and sophomore Aaron Weisburg.

Off the track, senior Charlie Ionata is slated to be the team’s lead thrower and he is off to a good start.

The boys’ track team competed in an Injury Fund meet last week. Ionata not only won the 25-pound weight throw, his distance of 70 feet 3.5 inches was enough to break a 42-year old high school record.

Not far behind Ionata, however, was sophomore Adam Kelly. His throw landed at 65 feet 3.5 inches.

“I think we’re going to be pretty solid,” Barrass said of the team.

“I’m looking forward to the season.”

Barrington defeated both East Providence and LaSalle in its first meet of the year on Monday, Dec. 10.

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