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By Tim Nolan
Fall Sports Preview
Fall athletics have begun at the high school. Consistent with CIAC rules, football was the first team to hit the turf on August 14th; all other teams started practicing on August 24. All seven teams: cross-country (boys and girls), field hockey, football, soccer (boys and girls), and girls volleyball have put in the work this past summer and hope to start the 2017–2018 school year on a high note.
Captains Anthony Spica, a junior, and Nate Orluk, a senior, lead the boys’ cross-country team. These two look to lead a strong team to success in 2017. Orluk credits a strong bond with his teammates as a major key for Coach Lobo’s group. “It’s a close group where everyone is more of a friend than a teammate and that makes people want to do well for more than just themselves,” he explained.
The girls’ cross-country team is led by senior captains Hannah Shoaf and Kennedy Baggott. Last year, Coach Hansen’s team placed 4th in the NCCC meet, and 7th in the Class M state meet, with Baggott and sophomore Amy Briggs earning All-Conference selections. Says Baggott, “I think summer training, as well as all of the training we put in during the season, is going to be a major part of what makes or breaks our team this year. We’ve got a lot of potential and I think this is the year that we’re going to put it together.”
The field hockey team is coming off yet another successful season. They finished the season atop the NCCC and made it to the semifinals of the state tournament. This season Coach Wickman-Mason’s team will be captained by seniors Cheryl Latona, Grace Hoeckele, and Taylorann Vibert. Hoeckele and Kari Marks are returning All-Conference selections for the Bears. These four ladies are the last remaining members of the 2014 state finalist team. In order to get back to the finals, Latona believes this team has to rely on its speed and youth: “We have a really fast team and a lot of incoming players with talent.”
The football team looks to improve upon last year’s 2-8 season. Despite the record, it was an important learning season for first-year head coach Erik Shortell and first-year varsity starters at 20 of 22 positions. This year’s more experienced squad will be led by senior captains Kyle Courtney, Matt Jacobs, and Tim Nolan, along with junior captain Ben Kibby. Kibby and junior Conor Hogan both earned All-Conference honorable mention last season. As explained by Courtney, “To have this team be successful this season we need players and coaches on the same page and making sure everyone is doing their job. If we work hard in the pre-season and everyone knows their plays, big things could happen this year.”
In volleyball, Coach Sprowson looks to continue his success at Granby, most recently going 22-5 and finishing atop the NCCC. The Bears went on to lose in the state semifinal to Seymour in four sets. This year’s squad is led by captains Madisyn MacDonald and Jalyn Brown. With the loss of a strong graduated class, highlighted by All-American Marieke Van Der Mark, the team is unfazed. As MacDonald shared, “Everyone keeps saying that this year’s team is a ‘growing year’. Yeah, we lost the best hitter in the state [Marieke], but if we work hard enough we have lots of potential. This year we have to be more passionate and work as a team. We have to leave our problems off the court. With enough dedication and focus, we could go far.”
Girls’ soccer had a strong season last fall, finishing third in the NCCC at 12-3-1 before falling in the second round of the Class M tournament to Watertown. Much like football, this was a very young team that gained valuable experience for years to come. Coach Moose’s team lost only one starter to graduation and returns three All-Conference selections: senior Mackenzie Stahl, junior Lucy Jacobs and sophomore Maria Nolan, with Stahl also garnering All-State honors. Stahl believes chemistry and experience will make this team successful. “Our team has many returning players, a huge asset since we are already familiar with each other. We have multiple people coming back at each position that can bring something special to the field consistently and help us win against tough competitors.” Senior captain Maddy Attianese echoes her teammate’s feelings: “We are a family, playing to each other’s strengths while making up for each other’s weaknesses. We have fast forwards, talented midfielders, and a strong back line,” the four-year starter said.
Last year the boys’ soccer team created the most excitement among students with their 17-3 record, including their first win over rival Suffield since 2002 and first NCCC conference title since 2006. Coach Emery’s team advanced all the way to the Class M State semifinals, but lost the match 4-3 in extra time to Ellington. This year’s team will be without a very talented graduated class, forcing other players to step up and fill the void. Senior captain and returning All-State selection Ben Ranicar, is no stranger to stepping up, having been a starter since he was a freshman. Ranicar sees this as an opportunity for his younger teammates, saying, “Everybody returning from the team last year is viewed as ‘key’, with every player excited to pull their weight in what we hope will be another good season.”
If you would like to see any of these teams in action, go to ciacsports.com, or follow Granby Sports on Twitter for game times and in-game updates. On behalf of all seven fall sports teams, we appreciate your continued support and look to continue GMHS’ athletic success.