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<b>Burr and Burton Academy girls basketball players run through a drill during practice earlier this week. The Bulldogs will be led by new coach Ed Panzarino in the 2013-2014 season. (Brandon Canevari)</b>
Burr and Burton Academy girls basketball players run through a drill during practice earlier this week. The Bulldogs will be led by new coach Ed Panzarino
Burr and Burton Academy girls basketball players run through a drill during practice earlier this week. The Bulldogs will be led by new coach Ed Panzarino in the 2013-2014 season. (Brandon Canevari)

MANCHESTER -- When the Burr and Burton Academy girls basketball hits the hardwood for its season opener next Wednesday, spectators may a notice a few changes to this year's team.

One of the changes is at the head coaching position with Ed Panzarino -- who was one of the assistant coaches last year -- taking over for coach Terry Merrow who had coached the team for three years.

With Panzarino now in the head coaching position, he said spectators may notice some differences in the way team plays. One change, he said, is that the team will play more of the west coast style of a basketball - an up tempo, run and gun, style of play.

"It will be a work in progress throughout the season, but I think for the most part we want to get out and go," said Panzarino. "We want to get up a lot of shots in a game."

Another significant change from last year is that Panzarino has placed a greater emphasis on defense - something he said the team has taken to heart.

"I'm all about defense. I think that starts it. So, we will be very good defensively," said Panzarino. "There will be a lot of man to man and we'll be on the ball and we'll force you to make decisions. Everyone plays defense this year. They all bought into it so they're really working hard on defense."

While this year's team is young, many of them not only have significant varsity experience, but there is also a comfort level that exists between some of them as they have been playing together for several years, Panzarino said.

Former captains Rory Halligan and Devin Brown are the only two members of last year's team not returning as both graduated last year. Halligan was the team's starting point guard while Brown was the starting shooting guard and one of the team's top defenders.

One of the players that Panzarino expects to play a significant role, at least on the defensive side of the ball, is junior guard Hayley Sabol who moved up this year from junior varsity.

"Hayley Sabol is probably the best on ball defender we have. She's incredible," said Panzarino. "She's so fast and so smart. She's always yelling, always talking, and she really does a fantastic job on the ball."

Junior Deidre Walsh, who is a front runner for the starting point guard position and saw some minutes last season, is another good on ball defender who Panzarino expects to make a significant impact on defense along with sophomore center Hannah Nicholson.

When the season does begin, Nicholson will also play an important part in the team's offense.

"Hannah will definitely be a focal point of what we want to do on the offensive side," said Panzarino. "A lot of her points last year were hustle points, rebounds and loose balls and things like that. So, we want to give her the ball where she can do the most damage this year."

In addition to being a catalyst on offense, Panzarino said Nicholson is also one of the team's leading rebounders.

Junior Olson Humphrey - who is the team's best rebounder - will not only provide a threat on the glass, but she is also one of the driving forces of the team.

"Olson really makes the team run too because she rebounds, but at the same time she is a great interior passer," said Panzarino. "So, if they're doubling her she always makes the right pass. So, it's kind of nice to have that down there too."

Panzarino also expects junior Maggie Oliver, who will see time at the guard and forward positions, to make significant contributions throughout the season.

"She's our most improved player. She's come back with a vengence this year. Offensively, defensively, she could play one through five. She could run the point and then play center for Hannah," Panzarino said.

Another important aspect of this year's team is their depth, something Panzarino said will help give the team a number of different looks in putting a lineup on the floor.

Senior forwards Brianna Brockett, Angelina Gaiotti, and Allessandra Gaiotti, along with junior guard Hailey Brockett are expected to play a key role in the team's running game, but can also help in other offensive schemes as well.

"They could be playing forward and guard too," said Panzarino. "So, we could go really big if we wanted to and we also have a very, very, very quick team that we could go small with. So the opportunities of different lineups could really pose some trouble to the other teams I think."

Angelina Gaiotti, who Panzarino said has some good post moves and is a good rebounder, will likely back up Nicholson at the center position.

Guards Tessa Roberts and Stephanie Boucher -- who are new to the team this year -- as well as guard Hailey Brockett will all come off the bench and will be looking to score while sophomore forward Natalie Johnson will give the team a defensive presence.

"Natalie is probably our second best rebounder. She's just very physical and really gives us a defensive presence," said Panzarino. "And that's towards the end of our bench, which is kind of nice. Haley Goodrich (junior guard) can also come of the bench and shoot a little bit and she's a very good team defender."

The Bulldogs open their season against Springfield on Wednesday at BBA beginning at 7 p.m. Nordic Skiing

Coach: Ian Black

Last year: N/A

The team: The BBA Nordic team is returning a strong core of players this winter, with only two seniors graduating from last year's team.

On the boys side, senior Thomas Kittross will lead the bulldogs, while fellow seniors Kevin Pollio and Simon Aborn provide extra leadership. Junior Noah Wetherald and sophomores Paton Marion, Andrew Profit, and Max Mackson also return to the team.

Sophomore Scott Mooney highlights a group of five new skiers to the boys team.

"We've got Thomas Kittross coming back, and he had a really strong season on the cross country team," coach Ian Black said. "We've also got Scott Mooney. He transferred from Stratton Mountain School. I'm expecting him to be a really strong part of this team."

For the girls, sophomores Helena Bigelow, Raili Utiger, and Ali Leiter are the three returning members, but the girls picked up eight new skiers for the season.

"[Bigelow and Utiger] are both sophomores this year and they've got a good number of years of experience between them," Black said. "Helena and Raili have basically grown up Nordic skiing, and we'll be looking to them to help lead the girls and help some of the [younger] skiers, as well."

Opener: Wednesday at Mt. Top

-- Brandon Canevari

Boys basketball

Coach: Dave Shehadi

Last year: 18-3; reached D-II finals

The team: Heavy turnover this season means many of the faces fans were accustomed to seeing on the BBA team are gone.

Seven seniors graduated from last year's team, including four starters. The only returning varsity players are Joey Shehadi, Conor Harrington, Tieshawn Gadson and Drew Herbert. Shehadi, Harrington, and Gadson all saw meaningful minutes last year, and will be asked to step up as leaders this season.

"Those three guys are back and I expect them to have a pretty big impact on the team," coach Dave Shehadi said. "[They're] all juniors so to compliment them we are having some other juniors coming up from JV that are looking strong."

Simeon Iglinski, Taylor Muench, Ryan Smith and Will Tate should get significant time, along with forwards Jack Bunker and Cody Gilbert

Herbert is the lone returning senior on the team, but fellow seniors Jeremiah Parker and foreign exchange student Toby Zuh will join the team this season.

For Shehadi, the biggest question is how his returning players can fill the void left by the graduated players.

"The biggest differential is strength between a 17-year-old boy and an 18-year-old boy. It's a question that has to be answered," Shehadi said.

Opener: Saturday at MSJ Tourney, TBA

-- Brandon Canevari

Wrestling

Coach: Zach Monforte (1st season)

Last year: Club sport, first year varsity

The team: After a successful trial run as a club sport, Burr and Burton will welcome a varsity wrestling team this season.

Coach Zach Monforte will lead the team into its first varsity season in the Marble Valley League, and will welcome back six wrestlers who stuck through the club program last season.

Sean Anderson is the lone returning wrestler to post a winning record last season, going 14-13, and Ray Gormley will also help to lead the Bulldogs.

The team has also added 15 students this season, something that excites Monforte.

"Those are fantastic numbers, I couldn't be happier," said Monforte. "The word is getting out. We have a lot of support from the school and from the student body."

The team will also embrace the coed status, as Monforte will welcome several female wrestlers to the side.

"I'm not against girls wrestling. I actually give kudos to them to want to come in and wrestle," Monforte said.

The team will open with a tournament at AuSable Valley in New York, and the first home meet for BBA will be on Jan. 28.

"I'm psyched for [the home meet]," Anderson said. "I feel like there's going to be a lot of people showing up for our first home tournament. It should be huge."

Opener: Saturday at AuSable Valley, 8:30 a.m.

-- Brandon Canevari