By Lauren Read
The Champlain Valley Union High School girls basketball team enters this season with a bit of uncertainty as high school winter sports begin. One thing that is not uncertain: their plans to return to the top of Division I.
The Redhawks lost eight seniors to graduation last spring, including Gatorade and Burlington Free Press players of the year Laurel Jaunich and Sadie Otley. Their mission now is to replace all that talent, if they want to land five state titles in a row.
While the team on the court may look different, Coach Ute Otley is sure there is one area where they will look equally dominant to previous years’ 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 shot-blocker.” With the forward’s shot-blocking potential, Loiseau becomes a defensive weapon for CVU.
Other names to watch: Katie Usher, senior, forward — an ultimate, all-around utility player, she does all the hard work; Jaime Vachon, senior, guard — a very good distance shooter, a real outside threat that can help with point guard responsibilities.
Opener: Thursday, Dec. 22 at home, vs Brattleboro