BRISTOL - After a winning season last year, the St. Paul boys golf team looks to serve as the areaâ€™s premier program yet again and the Falcons have a good chance to do so with the return of their top two players.
For the St. Paul girls team, in its second season, the Falcons return a standout from last season who will be entering her sophomore year.
As for the rest of the area teams, Bristol Central has some pieces in place to have a strong season. For the Rams, it comes down to the middle of their lineup.
Both Bristol Eastern and Terryville have much to replace from last season and the slow start to the season due to weather issues may show early in the season with less experienced golfers on the course.
Below is a more in depth look at the areaâ€™s boys and girls golf teams.
Head coach: Greg Boulanger (18th year)
Last year: 2-12
Key losses: Jake Rodjenski, C.J. Bleau, Alex Schaffrick
Key returnees: Brendan McMahon (senior), Kelsea Wyrebek (senior), Mollie Lewis (sophomore), Nick Jones (senior), Cameron Mace (junior)
Outlook: The Lancers lose a key player from last yearâ€™s roster in Rodjenski. He was a three-year varsity letter winner for Bristol Eastern and competed in more than 40 varsity matches in his career.
With him gone and still needing to build off of a 2-12 record, the Lancers have a lot of work to do and the weather has done no favors.
â€śWith so many newcomers and the lack of opportunity to see the student-athleteâ€™s golf ability there is a tremendous opportunity for someone to step in and excel,â€ť Boulanger said. â€śAs in past years I am looking at a player's maturity level, course management, and their ability to learn and apply themselves. As far as the conference is concerned I think there is going to be a dogfight for the top spot.â€ť
Head coach: Tim Barrette (5th year)
Last year: 7-8
Key losses: Cameron Reed, Ryan Suiter
Key returnees: Jacob NelsonÂ (senior), Preston Akerley (senior), Nick Osuch (senior), Adam Ward (junior), Ryan Dinoia (senior)
Outlook: The Rams are looking to improve on last season after just finishing under .500. If Bristol Central sees improvement, a lot of it will be attributed to Jacob Nelson and Adam Ward, who are expected to be the top two golfers for the Rams.
Performance out of its secondary golfers is the question mark.
â€śIf we want a chance at the conference title we need consistent performances from Osuch, Akerley, and Dinoia,â€ť Barrette said. â€śIÂ believe we have a chance to compete for the conference title this year but it will be a close race through out in a very even conference.Â MyÂ players are excellent students and return a ton of experience, which should help them through this very difficult season we haveÂ ahead of us.Â It has been a slow start due to the weather, but we are inÂ the same boat asÂ everyone else.â€ť
Head coach: John Odell (11th year)
Last year: 15-5
Key losses: Daniel Morelli, Marc Noujaim, Evan Winslow
Key returnees: Ryne Salius (junior), Matt Raymond (senior), Noah Defeo (senior), Michael Dolce (sophomore), Sam Mazzarelli (junior)
Outlook: St. Paul will once again be competing in a conference filled with tough competition.
Across the NVL the Falcons will have to get by Holy Cross, which was undefeated last season in league play. St. Paul will also face stiff competition in the conference from Torrington, Wolcott, Watertown and Sacred Heart.
While the competition will be there, the Falcons look to continue their progress led by a pair of seniors, juniors and a sophomore.
Salius was All-State last season as well as the Bristol city champion and will look to build off of his spectacular year as a sophomore now entering his junior season.
â€śWe expect to be competitive, especially with a strong underclass roster,â€ť Odell said.
The St. Paul girls golf team will be entering its second season as a varsity program. Along with Odell, Ryan Philipp will also share coaching duties with both the girls and boys teams, as each team will be playing a full schedule. Liz Nadeau will be a volunteer coach for the girls team.
Last year: 2-8
Key losses: Alyssa Daly
Key returnees: Bella Hamelin (senior), Natalie Millerick (sophomore), Sarah Richardson (junior), Jill Kiazim (sophomore)
Outlook: The Falcons will be tested in a tough schedule that features some of the stateâ€™s top teams including Mercy, Laurelton Hall, Northwest Catholic, Cheshire and Amity.
Head coach: Mark Fowler, Dean Martin
Last year: 6-10
Key losses: Mike Gudeczauskas, Christian Robinson, Robbie Lamarre, Michael Cote
Key returnees: Mike Hills (junior), Anthony Garuti (junior)
Outlook: The Kangaroos are trying to build up their program. With Hills leading the way, itâ€™s a good start.
Garuti is also rounding into form for the Terryville program.
While the two should have strong seasons for the Kangaroos, thereâ€™s still a lot of work to be done by Fowler and Martin.
Gilbert and Lewis Mills will be the teams to beat in the Berkshire League.
â€śOur team is filled with young players with limited experience but a willingness to learn and improve,â€ť Fowler said.Â â€śMike Hills is an outstanding player, and more importantly, a leader who will help guide the new players in the right direction.Â We hope we are able to improve throughout the season and be competitive in some matches.â€ťÂ