As far as consistency goes, Danvers’ girls basketball squad set the standard for the North Shore squads last winter.
The Falcons were primarily led by a group of talented and unselfish seniors who guided their squad to a Northeastern Conference South title, a 16-6 record and a Division 2 North playoff victory against Somerville. However, with six seniors gone to graduation, Danvers will field a relatively young roster with only two returning starters from last season.
“We’re definitely a young team,” said head coach Patrick Veilleux, now entering his 13th season on the DHS sidelins. “But it’s a team that will be hard working and unselfish. I’m sure there will be growing pains, but I’m looking forward to the season.”
The 2018-19 Falcons plan to use everything they learned from their former leaders. Junior Maddie Montanari, who has been a consistent producer off the bench during her career, is set to take on a bigger role and is ready for the challenge.
“If there’s one thing I learned from last year’s seniors,” said Montanari, “it’s that if you have a great work ethic and don’t focus on individual achievements, then you’ll have a chance to be great.”
“Maddie has always been terrific as a reserve off the bench,” added Veilleux. “But I think she’s ready to take that next step and help us win a few games ... she’s been great in our practices and scrimmages.”
Veilleux and his squad may not have a plethora of experience, but Cheyenne Nessinger — who averaged 6.4 points per game and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore — is poised to have a breakout junior season as one of the team’s returning starters.
“When she came in as a freshman, no one really knew her.” said Veilleux. “She surprised us with her skill set and work ethic. When she’s not practicing, she’s at the Y playing pickup ball with all the boys. She went from being the last one picked to the first one picked very quickly.”
“Chey is a really good teammate who brings a lot to the court,” added Montanari. “She has great rebounding skills and will be really good for us playing down low. I’m excited to play with her.”
Nessinger and Megan Murphy, a sophomore who saw significant time on the court, will be bolstered by a number of new faces as well. Sophomore Autumn James saw decent minutes last winter and is slated to play a lot more this time around, with Veilleux reveling her enthusiasm thus far.
“She’s flying up and down the court and it’s been great to see,” said the veteran head coach. “Autumn was a great swing player for us last year, and it’ll be interesting to see her develop this season.”
It’s always hard to nail down realistic goals for such a young squad, but Veilleux isn’t concerned with replicating the success of last year’s squad. Instead, he wants his team to form an identity and play hard each night.
“I know it sounds generic,” he said. “But we just want to build good chemistry and figure out what kind of team we want to be. So far we’ve been a really fast paced and high-energy group, which is a contrast from last year. So I’m really eager to see what our identity will be.”