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Fall preview: Warriors looking for success

CANTON, Sept. 9, 2009 – With the dawn of a new campaign, the Canton High field hockey team is seeking to come together as a team. The graduation of seven seniors left holes throughout the lineup but fifth-year coach Sara Beaudin is pleased at the progress that the Warriors are making in training camp.

“We’ve got some great chemistry and a great attitude,” she said. “Every girl wants to work hard and we’re in a good place.”

The Warriors were 7-7-2-1 a year ago and 7-3-2 in the NCCC, good enough for third place behind co-champions Avon and Granby. Canton scored 30 goals but 15 came in three lopsided NCCC contests.

Canton has some solid experience in goal with Robin Donaldson, who will start for the fourth year. Donaldson has 26 career shutouts, including 11 as a freshman when Canton won a league championship and 10 as a sophomore when Canton finished second in the league and lost to Granby in the Class S championship game.

Defender Mary Beth Davis, midfielder Kelly Nedorostek and forward Kassie Grecula are three of the senior veterans that Canton will be building around.

Along with its challenging league contests with Avon and Granby, Canton has non-league games with Cheshire, Glastonbury and Simsbury that will test their mettle.

BOYS SOCCER: The Warriors (8-8-2, 5-7-1 NCCC) graduated 14 seniors but field a squad with 12 seniors this fall. “Any one of those 12 could be a starter,” long-time coach Bill Phelps said. “That’s how good they are. It’s a group with some good skills.”

Senior goalie Mike Setzler, who split time in net a year ago with Albert Gray, will be out for a few weeks with torn ligaments in his foot. Setzler was hurt playing basketball over the summer. Seniors Jon Phelps, Sean Haendiges, Brian Lockner, Connor Smyth, Andrew Crowley, Blaine Houlihan, Ryan Gallagher, Steve Carpenter and James Solomon will see playing time along with junior defender Mike Pepin, defender Nick Turbach, defender David Shahverdian and Matt Grisevich.

Canton needs to win earn 16 points (two points for a win, one for a tie) to qualify for the Class S tournament. “We should be able to play well against the Class S schools in the league and give the Class M and Class L teams a hard time,” Bill Phelps said.

With the departure of Tolland from the NCCC to join the Central Connecticut Conference, Canton will play four league teams twice (Bolton, East Windsor, East Granby and Somers). The second game is one of the 12 games that will count in the league standings.

As always, the competition in the NCCC will be stiff. Last year, Ellington won its second Class M title by beating Granby in the championship match while Suffield and Tolland advanced to the Class M quarterfinals. Avon lost in the Class L semifinals while Somers won a share of the Class S championship.

GIRLS SOCCER: Canton (9-9-1, 4-8-1 NCCC) set a school record by scoring 37 goals last year and getting as far as the Class S quarterfinals. The Warriors return eight starters including junior forward Shiny Douglas, who led the team with 12 goals.

Senior captains Amanda Bronson, Alessandra Summa and Lucy Mentzer return along with Sarah Sapia and Danielle Coutu. Sophomore starters Morgan Smith and Allie Coutu (6 goals) are also back.

Senior defender Maggie Bahre looks to crack the starting lineup along with freshman forward Katherine Winsor.

“They have some good skills,” Canton coach Tom Peterson said. “They’re more aggressive and are one of the better skilled teams we’ve had. We need to learn to play together as a team.” Peterson hopes that Canton can be in the upper half of the league this season and is aiming for 10 victories.

BOYS CROSS COUNTRY: Three of Canton’s top seven runners from its magical 2008 campaign graduated but there is plenty of talent left this fall for another strong season. A year ago, Canton (21-5) finished second in Class SS and was fourth in the NCCC.

The team will be led by senior Brian Magna, a three-time All-NCCC selection, who became the first Canton runner to earn All-New England honors by taking 17th at the regional event. Sophomore Jon Cahill and junior Kevin Kurnat also return. Senior Mike LeDuc, who qualified for the State Open in the 3,200 meters last spring, will run for the first time.

“We had 11 or 12 kids who could run in the top 7 a year ago and seven of them are back,” Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said.

Many of the athletes ran over the summer but many ran track in the spring as well. “No longer do the kids just run for eight weeks in the fall. That helps us,” he said. “It’s a good group.”

Even with the move of Tolland to the Central Connecticut Conference, competition in the NCCC will be difficult. Suffield and Class S champion Bolton return the majority of their squads. Avon is always formidable. The best chance for a championship banner could come in the CIAC Class SS meet but that is several weeks away.

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Coach Linda Cavanaugh has been with the Canton cross country program for years. She was the head coach of the girls team from 1995-98 and in those five seasons, Canton finished second in Class S twice and took third once.

She has been assisting O’Donnell with the boys and girls program over the past five years. But this year, she is the one in charge of the girls program and it’s a decision that works well.

The boys team has 28 athletes. The girls have about 10. With some veteran runners, including an All-New England caliber athlete in Magna, O’Donnell says the workouts this fall will be challenging as the team contends for a NCCC and possible Class SS championship. The girls team is simply at a different level with several new runners.

Sophomore Kendra Asklof and junior Jessie Chance are the top two returning runners for the Warriors (14-12), who were seventh in the NCCC and third in Class S last fall. Three of the top five runners graduated.

Senior Aylanah Dylag is out for the squad along with three athletes from the track and field squad – Elise Minichello, Deanna Nappi and Frances Klimczak.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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