Hopedale Basketball Looking To Go Back-To-Back
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Having won it all last year, the Hopedale girls’ basketball team knows that this year they have a giant bullseye on their backs.
With everyone is gunning for them, the Blue Raiders look to go back-to-back with another Division 5 State Championship.
The Blue Raiders earned themselves a three seed in the tournament last winter and then proceeded to defeat Bromfield (71-39), David Prouty (69-40), Lee (72-44), Springfield ICS (58-56) the number four seed, and capped it off with a 55-45 win over the number one seed Hoosac Valley.
“Everyone will be shooting for us this year, but we’ll be ready,” Hopedale Coach Jason Rojee said. “Playing in the DVC (Dual Valley Conference) we play a lot of division 2 and 3 teams and by being a smaller school we have the opportunity to schedule higher divisions during our out of conference games. This opens us up and we’re ready by the time the tournament rolls around.”
Hopedale has seven returners coming back from last year’s State Championship team, however only one was a starter. Rogee believes he has a good nucleus of athletes that will take the court this year.
Freshman Phoebe Carroll, who started as an eighth-grader, will once again be playing the center position for the Blue Raiders when the season gets underway. Carroll averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds for Hopedale and was an instrumental part of the team down the stretch. In the Championship game she hauled down 23 rebounds to lead the Blue Raiders to the win.
“She’s a great passer for a big,” the Coach said. “When needed, she will definitely be the one we look for in the big spots this year.”
Outside of Carroll, the remainder of the returners all came off the bench last year. Juniors Bea Hava and Sienna Bayley both saw a good number of minutes last year. Both athletes will play the wing, have good shooting skills and can knock down the three when needed; in addition to being able to stretch the opposition’s defense. The duo will be both challenging for a starting position.
Three other juniors; Antonia Rolo and Emma Gosselin will see time at the guard position and Callie Costanza will be a physical presence with a good mid-range jump shot. The trio will all be battling for minutes and allow the team to have depth.
Rounding out the returners is sophomore MacKenzie Reynolds, the team’s back-up point guard last year. The sophomore is not only quick and aggressive, but she will also provide some strength. She will most likely be sharing minutes with Rolo this year and the two of them should see their share of early pressure from opposing teams.
The remainder of the varsity squad will consist of guards Lexi Carroll, Hannah Gallerani, Anna Fafard and Mia Casey. Also on the team will be center Layla Huntley and forward Emily Oliver.
Having lost four starters from a productive squad last winter, Rojee believes the girls returning have all learned a lot by playing with them.
“When you play with someone with the caliber of Bre Frongillo, you learn how to not only prepare but get better as the season goes on,” Rojee said.
Hopedale will be tested immediately as they open up with the Grafton Tournament where they will go up against Notre Dame in the first game and then either Grafton or St. Paul in the second contest.
“I think that we will be seeing a lot of different defenses thrown at us this year and they’ll probably try to press a lot to try and rattle the younger point guards as they bring the ball down court,” the Blue Raider Coach said. “Last year they couldn’t really press us all that much because Bre could just pull up and knock it down.”
Rojee believes that this year’s team will be involved in much more tighter games than in the past despite the squad having decent size and being able to move the ball quickly.
With the talent that the Blue Raiders possess, the main goal will be to be able to advance into the State Tournament, where once there anything is possible.
“A lot of it will depend on the draw we get. If we can keep games close this year and win games, we will be in a good situation,” Rogee said. “We match up with teams well, but will take our lumps having a lot of girls new to their roles.”
If the girls can adapt quickly to their roles then Hopedale will once again be making their way into the tournament and hopefully make another run at a second straight State Title.