Finally! The high school fall sports season is here, with a full slate of local games on the horizon and as we continue to get things rolling here at the paper, watch for my "fall sports guide" to appear in the September 23 issue of The Messenger.
However in the meantime, there are lots of changes going on within the Marble Valley League this season.
In Bellows Falls, the Terrier football team is dropping to Division III which probably should have been done a year ago, but don't think for a second that the shift will make life any easier for coach Bob Lockerby's "Purple Gang" as BF still faces a tough schedule with the likes of local powerhouses Springfield and Windsor, as well as Woodstock, Mill River and non-league juggernaut Moriah of Port Henry, NY., who just so happened to reach the D III title game last year.
The change in divisions should help the BFUHS girls soccer team, who have gutted out a couple tough seasons recently.
However despite not getting any wins last season, the Lady Terriers came oh-so-close to winning matches on several occasions, therefore you have to think the shift in divisions could turn some of those close losses into wins.
Coach John Broadly has also been grooming senior goal keeper Tia Billado since she was a frosh and I have a hunch that Tia is going to be the Lady Terriers secret weapon this season. You can't beat someone if you can't score on them, therefore Billado needs to step up to the plate this season and help lead her team to some victories.
In Chester, the Green Mountain soccer team has been on the brink of threatening for a state championship the last couple seasons under third year coach Julie Walton.
After posting six wins (but also three, close-call ties) two years ago and nine wins last season, the Lady Chiefs seem to once again, possess the athletes, coaching and enthusiasm to once again make a run-despite the loss of graduated goal keeper Morgan Solomon.
There are a number of key returning players at all positions and watch out for little Laura Hofmann, who is this sports editor's pick to have a break out season for the Lady Chiefs.
The Green Mountain boys' soccer team will be looking to improve upon a five-win season last year, as third-year coach Ed Laffaye continues the transition from the past "two up front" European style, back to a traditional 4-3-3 set.
The Chiefs should be deeper and more fresh at the end of games, but also keep an eye on sophomore goal keeper Jacob Walker who takes over in net.
He is quick and anticipates well for a young keeper, but also has the "goalie" in his blood for his father Scott was a great GM keeper in the 1980's.
In Springfield and talking about close matches, the Lady Cosmos soccer team lost an incredible five games in overtime last season, which indicates they were oh-so-close to having a much better seed in the tournament (13th) last year.
However numbers are also low for coach Don Thomas and he will rely heavily on the continued improvement of sophomore goal keeper Alaina Orth and the offense of senior striker Taylor Thomas.
On the Springfield boys' soccer side, seventh-year head coach Paul Kendall should once again have a strong team after notching 11 wins last season, however they also have a tough schedule in facing three Division I teams plus a Hartford squad that just dropped to Division II.
The defending champion Cosmos football squad will have the challenge of living up to last years' undefeated season and despite losing the likes of Grant White, Keith Cook and Stephen Miller, will return plenty of experience with Brandon Boyle, Billy Wheeler and Corey Sprague.
The Cosmos field hockey team should have an interesting season, their first without Joy Benson, who stepped down last season after 23 years at the helm.
Despite losing a couple co-captains to graduation in Claire Hammond and Hanna Reeves, the Cosmos certainly return many seniors this season including Emily Reeves, Autumn White, Kayla Perham, Becca Trombly and Katie Mellish.
Also watch for junior standout Maria Stern and juniors Jessie Haskell and Brittany Grant to make their mark on this squad.
In Ludlow, the Black River High School girls' soccer team is looking for an unbelievable fourth consecutive Division IV state championship under Pat Pullinen, who is in his eleventh season as head coach.
Despite losing sharp-shooter Courtney Rohrig to graduation, the Lady Presidents once again appear loaded for another run at the title.
A few key returning players include Katie O'Neil, Amanda Chambers, Zoe Trimboli, Tina Valente, Emily Hammond and Angela Valente, to name a few.
After going undefeated last season en route to the championship, it seems like there is no where to go but down, but don't be surprised if the Lady Presidents have another repeat performance in them because after all, they are somehow getting used to all this winning.
On the boys' side, head coach Tony Valente, now in his thirty-first season as Presidents coach, also lost some firepower after after winning a state title last year, however Black River always seems to find a way to plug in the holes and put forth a competitive team.
After losing a few key seniors to graduation, coach Valente still has a strong core of players heading into this season including Kippie Turco, Jacob Covell, Victor Cucullo and Dillon Normyle.
In Manchester, the Burr & Burton Academy boys' soccer team appears loaded and have some unfinished business to attend to.
After posting a 14-win season last year and losing in the semi-finals, the Bulldogs return several key players - including Dan Favreau, Ben Pierce, Chris Antonez and Brandon Ogilvie - and appear poised to take the next step.
However, the bulldogs are also moving up to Division I this season, which I am sure will present some new challenges.
On the girls' side and after posting their own 14-win season last year, the Lady Bulldogs will also face the challenge of moving up to Division I.
However, coach Dan DeForest has several returning varsity players which will help in the transition, including Jenna Hoffman, Jenny Coppin, Alicia Trombley, Carla Coppin and Katie McDonald.
In Townshend, the Leland & Gray girls' soccer team is looking to build upon last season's six-win season, despite the loss of top-gun Morgan Mahdavi, who set the school record for career goals.
This season, lady rebel coach Evan Chadwick will look to key returning players Keira Cappancelli, Kerry Johnson, who returns from an injury last year.
On the boys' side, head coach Chris Barton is looking to improve upon last season eight-win record, and is returning over a dozen players from last years' squad to help make that happen. Therefore experience should not be an issue.
The Rebels will look to several returning players this fall such as Noah Chapin, Colin Nystrum, Tyler Russell and Shawn Stine to lead the way.
In Brattleboro, the Colonels will look to improve upon last season's eight-win season, with coach Paul Sather looking to seven returning seniors to lead the way.
Facing a tough schedule in Division I, Brattleboro will look to his experienced players such as Zack Emond, Jose Silva, Joey Charmichael, Dan Rivers and Gray Grandy, who is returning from an injury that ended his season last year.
On the girls' side the Lady Colonels will look to improve upon last years' eight-win season and first round loss in the tournament.
Coach Edwin De Bruijn has some solid returning players in Hannah Szec, Erin LaBlanc, Kayla Hansel and Taylor Kerylow, but will also look to infuse some younger players as well including freshman Leah Short and Hailey Lang.
In Rutland, coach Kirk Abrahamson is looking to improve upon last seasons' five-win mark, and has plenty of veterans to help reach the goal of getting into the tournament.
The Raiders have several returning seniors including Wes Henderson, Sean Kennely, Nick Levens, Tyler Barsalow and Dan Wigmore.
Others looking to make their mark include Brendan Bucksbaum, Keegan Stewart and Greg Roy.
On the girls' side, the Lady Raiders certainly have some un- finished business after going 12-1 last season, before being upset in the first round of the tournament.
Although facing a very challenging schedule, coach Lori McClallen has plenty of experience to lead the way this season including Angie Ludien, Claire Maass, Whitney pratt, Alyssa Morre and Liz Douglas.
Others looking to make their mark include Nell Reis, Marisa Kiefaber, Kristy Charnock and Kate Candon, which should give the Lady Raiders a interesting bland of youth and experience.
In closing and as I begin to map out my game coverage for the week, I realize that there are several teams not mentioned in this column... however do not fret!
My new Messenger "sports guide" section will appear in the September 23 edition of the paper. It will be packed with all the information you will need to follow your favorite team on their tournament run. Good luck to all our local teams!