-- Coach: Dave Shehadi (2nd season)
-- Last year: 15-8, lost to MSJ in Division II semifinals
-- The team: Less nine graduates from last season’s Final Four club, one that had the unenviable task of facing the powerhouse Mounties four times, the Bulldogs are looking for the right mix to surround a trio of experienced senior captains in Jake Stalcup, Weston Muench and David Shehadi. "We’re going to give a lot of guys an opportunity to step up to the varsity speed," coach Dave Shehadi said. Stalcup, an all-MVL selection last winter, is the top returning scorer and main post presence. Sophomores Joey Shehadi and Wilson Vickers are part of a promising crop of newcomers, while seniors Taylor Fuller and Chris Redding are new to the team. Shehadi said defense will be a priority, especially early in the season, without the familiarity of last year’s group. "We’re working hard. It’s going to be an interesting year," he said.
-- First game: Monday at Brattleboro, 7:30 p.m.
-- Austin Danforth
-- Coach: Ed Lewicki (3rd season)
-- Last year: 21-1, won Lake Division state championship
-- The team: Lewicki is only missing five players from last year’s title team, but it couldn’t have been a more high-impact quintet. The short list includes now-sophomore Abby Marmer, last year’s state player of the year, who transferred to prep school, in addition to the rest of the top four scorers and top defender Charlotte Palmer as the Bulldogs transition back to the Metro (Division I) level. Senior goaltender Meg Chandler backstops a defense that has returns three of its top four rotation in senior Cara Corvino and freshmen Ryder Ferrone and Lucy Bisselle. Senior Erin Thompson, who scored the dramatic overtime winner in last year’s semifinals, returns to lead the offense along with seniors Jessica Dorr and Olivia Warren. Sophomores Jordan Harmon, Daisy Sullivan and Kristi Lewicki, as well as talented freshman Aggie Bisselle, also figure prominently in attack.
-- First game: Saturday at Brattleboro, 4:45 p.m.
-- Austin Danforth
-- Coach: Pete McNealus (16th season)
-- The team: The forecast is still undeniably sweet for the two-time defending state champion BBA boys team as McNealus returns four racers who contributed in each title team. Even losing Mark Nebraska from last year’s undefeated squad, the Bulldogs still have Ben Alexopoulos, Tim Swinarton, Skylar Clark and Andrew Sherras. Stratton Mountain transfers Dylan Bibeau and Tanner McGrath add depth, as does freshman Richard Sherras and senior Kevin Sullivan. The girls team, meanwhile, is "bigger than ever and just as talented," McNealus said. Sanderson Kemp, Emily Cowles, Megan Knight and Devon Thiele return after solid winters, while twins Katie and Sara Lochner, senior Morgan Crabtree, and newcomer Katie Bourque round out a potent group. It should be an exciting winter on both sides, McNealus said, staying cautiously optmistic. "On paper we look very good, but, as always, it’s up to that one day of the state championships and how everybody skis on that day."
-- First race: Dec. 18 at Bromley
-- Austin Danforth
-- Coach: Ian Black (2nd season)
-- The team: Having only lost one student to graduation last year -- Eric Kittross -- Black is returning most of last year’s squad. Nine new skiers join the team as well. While Black expects one of the returning boys to turn in strong performances this year, it is a newcomer that will have the biggest impact for the girls. Freshman Helena Bigelow has skied for West River and Stratton Mountain and now attends BBA. "I’m expecting her to have a strong year," Black said. "[For the boys] I think [junior] Thomas Kittross will be the strongest. In addition to Kittross, Kevin Pollio, Minhao He, Abby Lord and Marika Mayberry are back. New are the team are Simon Aborn, Nikolai Sands, Noah Wetherald, Patron Marion, Anders Proft and Max Mackson, Ali Leiter and Raili Utiger. "We’ve got a lot of young skiers. A lot of freshman and sophomores. Š It’s a mixed bag as far as experience goes," Black said. "Everyone’s got a good attitude. They like to have fun. So, we’re looking forward to a good quality year."
-- First meet: Dec. 15 at Prospect Mountain, 10 a.m.
-- Brandon Canevari
-- Coach: Terry Merrow (third season)
-- Last year: 6-15, lost in first round to Rutland
-- The team: The Bulldogs graduated three starters and two key bench players from a season ago, but there is optimism in Manchester. Senior guards Devin Brown and Rory Halligan are co-captains for Merrow’s squad. "The way it looks right now we’re really deep in [the] guard position. We have four or five guards," Merrow said. "Center position, we have three kids, four kids there too. One just happens to be a freshman who shows a lot of potential. When she adapts we’ll be all right, but again the forwards it’s wide open. People are going to compete for playing time." Sophomore Deidre Walsh and junior Angelina Gaiotti are just two of the players that will get playing time. Freshman Hannah Nicholson looks to be a major part of the group as well. Merrow said the team is stressing defense and the team has bought into that philosophy. "We’re quick. We’re real quick," Merrow said. "We have a desire to play defense and that’s very rare when you get to this level. They’re really buying into the defensive part of the game. So, I’m excited."
-- First game: Tuesday at Hartford, 7:30 p.m.
-- Adam Samrov and Brandon Canevari