The Champlain Valley girls basketball team faces a level of uncertainty as the high school winter season begins. One thing that is not uncertain is their plans to return to the top of Division I.
The Redhawks lost eight seniors to graduation, including Gatorade and Burlington Free Press players of the year Laurel Jaunich and Sadie Otley, and will have to replace all that talent if they want to make it five state titles in a row.
But while the team on the court may look different, CVU coach Ute Otley is sure there is one area where they will look equally dominant to previous teams: defense. “We are going to be able to reach the standard of last year on defense; this group can be that good defensively,” Otley said. “It’ll be defense first and we will figure out the offense later.”
Here are three players that will be key to CVU’s plan to make it five straight perfect seasons.
Marlee Gunn, senior: The senior guard is a versatile weapon for the Redhawks with a good scoring punch and improved ball-handling, Otley said. “She has been there,” Otley said. “She has been in big games for the last two years.” Gunn’s veteran composure will be key to a team relying on a host of new players.
Abby Thut, senior: Another of CVU’s returning players, Thut will provide experience under the basket, particularly in the rebounding game. “She is a veteran post defender,” Otley said. “She is not going to be our tallest forward but…the experience is going to make up for a differential in height.” The forward has also added a 15- to 18-foot jumper that will help the Redhawk offense.
Shannon Loiseau, junior: With such a large number of talented seniors last season, Loiseau found herself splitting time between the JV and varsity squads. When she hit the floor later in the season for the varsity squad, she made an impression. “She became a defensive force,” Otley said. “She is very long, good shotblocker.” With the forward’s shotblocking potential, Loiseau becomes a defensive weapon for CVU.
Other names to watch are Katie Usher, senior, forward, an ultimate, all-around utility player, and she does all the hard work; and Jaime Vachon, senior, guard, a very good distance shooter, and a real outside threat who can help with point guard responsibilities.
The season opener is on Dec. 22 at home versus Brattleboro.