Winter Sports: Bearcat Teams Offer Many Reasons to Roar

With more than half of the student body playing on 17 different teams this winter, there are countless opportunities to cheer for the Bearcats throughout the season. Three new faculty will also be making their head varsity coaching debuts in the Mars Athletic Center (MAC), so it should be an exciting winter. Follow along with us @hotchkissathletics for information on games, scores, and players/teams to watch! Or join Bearcat Army in the MAC this winter and be loud, be proud, and BE TRUE!


Photo: Zach Lewis ’24

Boys Varsity Basketball
Head Coach: Joe Busacca (1st year)
Captains: Will Groot '23, Brandon McCreesh '23, Dean Hogans '25
2022 Record & Highlights: 23-1, New England Class A Champions, Founders League Champions
2023 Home Opener: Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 3:15 p.m. vs. Cheshire

The 2022 New England Championship boys basketball team has high expectations going into this winter season. Brandon McCreesh ’23, All NEPSAC Class A Team from 2022, will lead the charge for the Bearcats. Alongside him will be veteran players Will Groot ’23, Davyn de Jongh ’24 and Dean Hogans ’25, all major contributors to last year’s successful run to the New England title. Newcomers, Arop Arop ’23, Owen Larbalestier ’23, Carter Warren ’24 and Preston Merrick ’26, will be relied on heavily to provide immediate impact to the team as well.

In his first year as head coach, Busacca is looking forward to getting the season officially underway. “Our goal is to get better each day. Our guys have fallen in love with the process, understanding that the results will take care of themselves. Every game will be big for us this year. So taking it day by day and not looking ahead toward any one specific matchup will be a key focus for us this year. We have an exciting group, 1-12, and these guys really enjoy getting in the gym and getting better. I am excited to see the continued growth we make throughout the season.”


Girls Varsity Basketball
Head Coach: Doug Kneeland (9th season)
Captains: Amber Bretz ‘23, Leanna Wells ‘23 and Biz Watson ‘23
2022 Record: 10-9, New England Tournament Quarter-Finalists
2023 Home Opener: Wednesday, Nov. 30 vs. Green Farms Academy at 5:15 p.m.

The girls basketball team is excited to welcome back former head coach Doug Kneeland ’98 who previously coached the team from 2011-2018. Coach Kneeland is just as excited to inherit this talented group of players which features 12 returning athletes from last year’s team, including team MVP Kalia Richards ’25. Amber Bretz ’23, Angel Allen ’24 and Leanna Wells ’23, instrumental players that helped the 2022 team earn a bid to the New England tournament, will also be relied upon heavily. Newcomer Biz Watson ’23, a postgraduate, will be a terrific addition to an already solid group. Kneeland says, “She’s a natural scorer and can play big and guard. The goals for the season are simple: compete each day, both in games and practices, so that we put ourselves in the driver’s seat down the stretch.” Coach Kneeland, who is trying to get the girls to focus on one game at a time, went on to say, “All games will be of great significance.” He said it’s a great group with a lot of experience and talent, and he and assistant coach Eileen Sullivan are all looking forward to an exciting season.   

League rivals, Taft and Loomis, will be games to watch as this team vies for another Founders League Championship. The last time the team won the coveted title was back in 2013 when Coach Kneeland was at the helm.


Girls Varsity Ice Hockey
Head Coach: Kelsie Fralick ’11 (1st year)
Captains: Caroline Bergin ’23, Luna Lu ‘23, Sofia Marcktell ’23
2022 Record: 8-9-1, New England Tournament Quarter-Finalists
2022-23 Home Opener: Monday, Dec. 5 vs. Berkshire at 4:45 p.m.

With the loss of an influential senior class, both in size and talent, the team is looking to find what they’re made of with the majority of the roster returning this season, 18 out of 23 players from the 2022 group. Captains Luna Lu ’23, Sofia Marcktell ’23 and Caroline Bergin ’23 have been leading the team, providing great leadership on the ice thus far. First year head coach and former standout goalie for the Bearcats back in 2011, Coach Kelsie Fralick commented, “The team has been pushing themselves hard in practice and we're excited with the talent, speed, and skill we have on the roster. Newcomers Caroline Bliss ’25, Heather Wolff ’25, and Nikki Ferraro ’26 will add nice depth for us along with many strong returning players from last year’s team that earned a bid to the New England Class A tournament.”

Fralick continued, “The group is looking forward to traditional rival games of Taft, Nobles, Andover and Williston. They have strong programs and will be a good test of what we really have as a team. Our main goal in each game will be to grow as a team, as individual players and have fun! After all, we are out on Schmidt Rink each day and there is nothing better than that.”


Boys Varsity Hockey
Head Coach: Mike Doyle (1st Season)
Captain: Shayne Bjorn ’23
2022 Record: 4-16
2023 Home Opener: Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. Canterbury at 4:15 p.m.

After graduating nine seniors from the 2022 team, boys varsity hockey will lean heavily on multiyear veterans to continue the traditions of the team. With 13 returning players and a host of new players including Jake Owens ’24 and Connor Towle ‘25 and new head coach Mike Doyle, the team is hoping to come together as a group quickly. Coach Doyle and his staff will emphasize playing sound defense capitalizing on offensive opportunities when they arise. Encouraging his players to stick to their core values as well as the process should hopefully bring some wins for the team as they hope to get back over .500 this season.

Nothing will come easy for the Bearcats this season so they will need to stay healthy, especially when they play Salisbury, Avon and Taft. Up first though is Canterbury at 4:15 p.m. this weekend, so stop by Schmidt Rink to see the boys in action!


Boys Varsity Squash
Head Coach: Bobby Burns '08 (3rd year)
Captains: Callan Venkatesan '23 & Christian Waldron '23
2022 Record: 15-5, 5th at Nationals
2022 Home Opener: Wednesday, Jan. 11 vs. RCDS at 4:15 p.m.  

The boys varsity squash team has seven players returning this season, four starters and three seniors. There is also excitement with new additions to the team preps, Rohan Gupta ’26, Dwyer Illick ’26, and Arvaan Motwane ’26 and the team hopes they will make an immediate impact.

“This was a reloading year for the boy's team. Although we are younger, we feel fully equipped to maintain our position in the league and National tournaments,” says Coach Burns.

The team has some lofty goals this season, mainly to finish in the top 3 in NEPSAC and top 4 at Nationals. Last year the team placed 5th losing to Deerfield in the final match up even though they had beaten them in the regular season. A few other goals are to win the league sportsmanship award and to have all 10 of their players play in at least 10 matches and be injury-free as much as possible!

Both the boys and girls varsity teams will look to a potential Founders League title, this would be a repeat for the girls who won in 2022.


Girls Varsity Squash
Head Coach: Maja Clark (4th Season)
Captains: Mary Wood ’23 & Lauren Sonneborn ’23
2022 Record & Highlights: 9-4, Founders League Champions, 6th in New England, 10th in the Nation
2023 Home Opener: Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. Deerfield at 4 p.m.

Expectations are high for this team. Coach Clark said, “We didn't graduate anyone and added two strong players to the lineup. We are still a young team with a lot of upside.” The girls were undefeated in Founders League action last year winning the program’s 12th title.

Newcomers, Ellis Chung ’25 and Makeda Moshi ’26, will add a cushiony depth to an already solid lineup. Coach Clark commented, “Makeda is an incredible defender with a fantastic backhand flick. Ellis plays targeted, disciplined squash. They add great complexity and experience to our team,” says Clark.

Upper mid, Maya Mansoor, has been playing high level, creative squash. She just won a U19 tournament in Ontario and came in second in an American Gold level tournament over Thanksgiving break. Coach Clark went on to say that, “Maya is ready to roll! So are other top returning players, Elise Kang ’25, Virginia Wood ’25 and Campbell Burke ’24.” 
“Mary Wood ’23 and Lauren Sonneborn ’23 have hit the ground running as second year captains. They are continuing to build on the culture and camaraderie that led to our many successes last season,” says Clark. “I am proud of their continued spirit and hard work. They are terrific role models and leaders.”

The team goal is to play solid, clean squash all season. While the girls start the season playing their toughest opponents, they hope to peak at the end of the season with New England and National tournaments. “Our team is going to work hard and have tons of fun on the way,” states Coach Clark.

Biggest rival games will be Deerfield and Greenwich Academy. Last year the girls lost a tight 4-3 battle with the Big Green so they are hoping to switch that out for a win this Saturday at home. Come to the Cullman Courts to cheer on the Lady Bearcats!


Boys Varsity Swimming & Diving
Head Coach:
Keith Moon (34th season)
Captains: Alex Tolis ’23, Ryan Tse ’23, and James Yae ’23
2022 Record & Highlights: 2-3, 3rd in the Founders League Championship
2023 Home Opener: Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. Avon Old Farm at 3:30 p.m.

Hotchkiss has many exciting returning swimmers and divers on a veteran team, including several with at least one 2022 Founders League championship under their belts. The three captains, Alex Tolis ’23, Ryan Tse ’23, and James Yae ’23, are all significant swimmers in their respective events, and two lower mids, Oliver Johnson '25 and Brayden Kavanagh ’25, represent a bright future.

Coach Keith Moon comments, “We have relatively few new athletes on this team, but we are looking forward to the emergence of some returning swimmers (Daniel Li ’24) and our veteran diver (Nolan Jennings ’24) as real strengths this year.”

“As a team, we stand to do fairly well at the front end of meets, though our lack of depth may be a factor in close meets. Still, this should be an exciting season. We look forward to meets against Connecticut rivals Hopkins and Kent as good indicators of what sort of season we are having,” Moon adds.

The team’s goal is a simple one, but a staple for athletic teams. “We are interested in being a closely bonded and supportive team and we hope to swim faster than we ever have before in our lives. To us, the two things go hand in hand,” says Moon.


Girls Varsity Swimming & Diving
Head Coach: Michelle Repass (9th Season)
Captains: Ella Monhanram ’23, Abby Renger ’23, and Amelie Zhang ‘23
2022 Record & Highlights: 3-3, 3rd in the Founders League Championship
2023 Home Opener: Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. Miss Porter’s at 3:30 p.m.

Head coach Michelle Repass and her squad return 13 swimmers from last year’s team. Newcomers Sophie Perkel ’24 and Sydney Berger '25 should help add some needed depth to the roster as the team opens up on Saturday against traditionally strong rival, Miss Porter’s, at home in Hixon Pool.

“Despite challenging and unpredictable circumstances around training and competing, we ended the season last year on a real high note at Founders,” Coach Repass says. “We're excited to get back to steadier training patterns as well as coming together to race as a team with plenty of new and returning talent.”

Repass adds, “We graduated one senior last year who had a sizable impact on the team, and we will definitely feel her absence. However, I'm really excited to see what this team can accomplish when they come together to race, especially at the end of the season when we host Founders and return to New Englands for the first time in three years.” 


Varsity Wrestling 
Head Coach: Cooper Puls (5th Season)
2022 Record & Highlights: 8-7
2023 Home Opener: Wednesday, Dec. 7 vs. Wilbraham at 3:45 p.m. 
Captains: TBD

The wrestling team returns 15 athletes from last year’s 8-7 season as they get ready to compete in their new space in the MAC. Newcomers Grant Carle ’25 and Cannon Ridinger ’25 should make an immediate impact. 

Coach Puls reports, “The team is in really good shape and we hope to finish in the top five at the Western New England tournament which will be held just down the road in Watertown, CT."

Puls went on to say, "Returning team MVP, Sean Donovan ’23, will be wrestling heavyweight this year and should dominate his weight class throughout the regular season. I also believe he has a real shot to place high at the New England Tournament and hopefully Nationals.”
The team always looks forward to the Hopkins match up which will be held on February 1st down in New Haven. However, Coach Puls is careful to make sure his athletes take it one meet at a time. He and assistant coach Mr. Dittmer feel pretty confident that the team can place their top three wrestlers at the end of the season tournament. 

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