File photo Brian Larrabee

As the fall sports season comes to an end for Harwood Union High School, the winter sports teams are gearing up for their first few practices. Before the season officially starts in the last week of November, The Valley Reporter spoke with the varsity coaches to get their perspective on the end of last season and what they look forward to the most this year.

Girls’ Ice Hockey

As the head coach for the girls’ ice hockey program in his 10th year, Mike Vasseur said he was most looking forward to the combined team he has this season.

Due to a lack of numbers for girls’ ice hockey coming up through the feeder programs statewide, Northfield High School is teaming up with the Harwood team this season. The squad will dress in Harwood’s jerseys and host some games and practices at both home locations.

Vasseur said the combined team should have around 15 players. When asked if his team lost many standout seniors last season, he said, “We lost some key seniors but should be fine with the players coming from the other schools.”

After ending their season last year, Vasseur is excited for this season with new possibilities. “I am looking forward to seeing our seniors be able to play a more balanced and complete game. We should have a couple of lines that can compete this year.”

When asked, what's the best part of coaching the varsity team? he said,  “The kids are by far the best thing.”

Harwood Boys’ Hockey

The Harwood boys’ ice hockey program will see a new head coach this year, but a familiar face.

Shaun Morse, who has been assisting the boys program for 15 years, will be taking over the head coach position after his father, Dave Morse, left the program after last season. Shaun Morse will be assisted by Harwood hockey alum Jon Grace.

Morse is ready to start off the upcoming season: “My assistant Jon Grace and I are excited and nervous to take over the reins. I think we have a skilled team, but it's hard to tell how we will be compared to the rest of the league.”

When asked how his line up looked for the first few practices and if Morse thought they lost key players last season, he said, “You never know who the other teams have gained or lost as well. I do know that we will be better at the end than we are in the beginning and we are looking forward to the process of improving.”

Varsity girls’ basketball

When asked what the head coach of girls’ basketball, Tom Young, was most looking forward to this season, Young said everything. “Everything about the season. I look for the varsity team to continue to grow and learn and become more competitive both in practices and in games. I am excited for the girls to start to see some benefits from the off-season commitments that many of them have dedicated themselves to over the past two years.”

Girls’ basketball will have roughly 30 players coming out for the junior varsity and varsity team this year. Young, in his third year as head coach with prior years’ experience coaching JV and assisting boys’ basketball, said that there has been a rise in numbers in recent years that feed into the program.

“Instead of having a Valley and Waterbury-Duxbury program, we have one unified program that will streamline efforts and allow for a much more equal and overall more quality experience for each player. The HU athletic director, middle school principals and many youth program volunteers have been a big factor in this change and the credit all goes to them,” said Young.

Last season the team lost three seniors. When asked how the team will rebound, the coach said, “Anytime you lose a senior, you lose leadership and valuable experience, but I have many girls chomping at the bit to take their place.”

After last season, Young hopes to see continuous growth in his program and in the female leadership of the team.

“We achieved several team goals last year and look forward to building off those and setting even loftier ones this year. It would be nice to be able to host a home playoff game, but we will have our work cut out to achieve that,” said Young.

When asked what the best part of coaching is, Young said, “I get to coach a group that wants to work hard and have fun while doing it. They make me laugh but also push me to be better for them. Their effort and commitment is contagious and coaching them is an absolute privilege.”

Varsity boys’ basketball

In his 17th season, seventh season as head coach for boys’ basketball, Mike Woods said he was looking forward to working with the senior class this upcoming season.

“They are a great group of athletes and individuals who have solid varsity basketball experience. I also look forward to watching how they integrate with the players making their varsity debut,” said Woods.

Woods said that both the JVand varsity team projected good numbers for the season. Last season the boys’ team lost valuable seniors, but Woods is confident that it won’t deter the team from pushing forward this season.

Our seniors from last season were some of the tallest players on the team and led our team in scoring. This year's team will be shorter than in past years so we will become more of a zone defense team and utilize some zone defensive presses, too. We have plenty of players who can score,” said Woods.

Woods said that he hopes to see the team get a home playoff game at the end of the season.