The fun part about a new season is taking a look at who has improved.
For example, will Tolland senior Dorothy Miller improve enough in the breaststroke and individual medley to contend in the State Open this season? She reached the Open in both events last season. What about Windsor junior Katie Roebelen, who was 10th in 1-meter diving at the Open a year ago? East Catholic finished second in Class L last season but lost Stephanie Ternullo to graduation. Are young swimmers such as Kayla Horan, Christine Jones and Krysta Taylor ready to step into the void? What Kimberly Love and Rachel Tshonas for Windsor Locks/Ellington?
In more traditional team sports, there are two parts to the question. Are their new teams ready to step in and challenge? Will those teams be led by new faces?
One of the most interesting questions comes in girls soccer where Tolland reached the Class M quarterfinals a year ago with a young team and was swept aside by a dominant and senior-laden Suffield team that went undefeated and won the Class M championship.
Suffield, which won its sixth title in the last 13 seasons, lost seven prominent seniors to graduation, including Grace Presnick, Ally Pasquariello, Kristi Chamberlain, Hadley Stevens, Stephanie Guminiak, Katelyn Wood and Tara Sullivan, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Junior Alexa Keney will lead a team accustomed to winning.
Tolland retains most of its top talent, including Allison Gallo, who was adept at creating dangerous chances for herself and her teammates last season. She will create more for teammate Kristen Carr. Will the Eagles talent and experience be enough to match the tradition of excellence in Suffield?
East Catholic was barely above .500 last season but has Annika Simmons and Laura Wysocki back, which means the Eagles should be improved. Manchester will rely on talented forward Ashley Boyle.
In boys soccer, Ryan Del Monaco is off playing for Iona but Fermi, which reached the quarterfinals in Class L a year ago, has thoughts of going farther this season behind Adrian Case. And Somers, the Class S champs look to repeat without Dan Whittle. The Spartans do have talent returning including Joe Pantuosco, Lorenzo Rolocut and goalie Alex Geas.
Perhaps the most interesting question concerns E.O. Smith, which was undefeated in the regular season a year ago but was stopped early in the tournament by Hall-West Hartford. Aidan Larson and Luke Melody are gone but Mitchell Taintor returns to try to reconnect E.O. Smith with its championship past.
In Tolland, Eric Venezia returns in goal, which gives the Eagles a solid foundation upon which to build and Ellington will rely on Cam King.
In volleyball, the questions surround whether E.O. Smith can duplicate its fine play of last season and whether Tolland, which made a wonderful tournament run to the quarterfinals behind the hitting prowess of Kristin Schatzlein can bring that level of performance to the regular season.
In field hockey, area fans will have to look for new faces as much of the top talent from a year ago has graduated. Suffield lost Paige Anderson, Enfield lost Taylor DeMur, Fermi lost Ashley Reid and Somers lost Amanda Smith.