The Top 5 Teams to Watch in 2011
We've given you the top 5 athletes, now on to the top 5 teams to keep tabs on in 2011.
By ALEX SIBLEY
The sports team at the Erie Reader brought you earlier this week the top 5 athletes to watch for in 2011.
Now, without further ado, we present to you the top 5 teams that could make waves in the upcoming sports year.
The best way to describe the Otters thus far in their 15th season in the Ontario Hockey League would to compare the squad to a rollercoaster. Find the biggest rollercoaster with ups and downs, twists and turns and that's been the season as we hit 2011.
Erie's season has been riddled with injuries to key veteran players, including Anthony Luciani and Mike Cazzola, who each recorded more than 30 goals last season. Tyler Hostetter, a Philadelphia Flyers draftee, still remains out with a broken hand and Andrew Yogan, A New York Rangers pick, also remains out until mid-February with a healing shoulder.
But the club, often shorthanded and dealing with injuries, has maintained a steady pace and is above.500 going into this weekend's slew of games.
With the club competing with the roster they have now in a wide open league, once Erie gets everybody back and starts firing on all cylinders, this could be a team competing for the league championship come spring.
Villa Maria Girls Basketball
If you walk into the gymnasium on the Villa Maria campus for a girls basketball game, don't adjust your glasses, the familiar faces that won two state titles and four district championships have all graduated.
The six seniors, which included Notre Dame product Kayla McBride, was arguably the best senior class in D-10 history.
It will interesting to see how Villa coach Scott Dibble rebuilds his program. Dibble's team doesn't appear to be rebuilding with the success so far in 2011, but reloading for another deep playoff run.
The names have changed, but anybody that knows Dibble knows he expects the same results inside the walls of Villa Maria no matter who is on the court.
It will be a lot tougher for the Victors this season, but keep your eye on them, you never know what can happen with this great program.
Gannon University Men's basketball
Some would say the 7-2 start to the season would be a surprise for the Gannon University men's basketball team.
But after the last two seasons that have been considered disappointments from the tough Gannon basketball fans, coach John T. Reilly had to put a good, no, very good team on the Hammermill Center court this season.
With Tanner Furno and Travis Brannen as key returning players, along with a slew of transfer students such as Kelvin Agee, Gannon rolled through the Gary Miller Classic and the Porreco Cup to start 7-0 at home this season.
The PSAC will bring much tougher competition that will challenge the Knights. But if the start of the season is any indication, Gannon could be playing for a conference championship come early spring.
Iroquois coach Raf Burgos has turned the Braves into a playoff contender every season since his arrival at the high school.
He's been just a couple players away from a deep run every season.
With pitching ace Alex Tombaugh returning for his senior season, Burgos has stability on the mound.
But with former Villa Maria standout David Marnella joining the Braves for his final season, the hardnosed shortstop/pitcher brings a true leadoff hitter and strong fielding to an already good team.
Marnella, who was the Victors best pitcher last season, gives Burgos another arm in the rotations and brings the leadership that this team could be lacking come spring training.
As a Class-A school, Iroquois will have trouble winning Region 3 with Mercyhurst Prep returning a loaded team that made a run into the PIAA playoffs last season.
But they should have no problems finding their way to May baseball, and with two good pitchers, this squad could make waves this season as a true contender.
After a disappointing 2010 under skipper Phil Nevin, which saw two eight-game losing streaks that saw the team out of contention will before the end of the season, Nevin left the team and general manager John Frey brought in Chris Cronto manage the 2011 season.
It's hard to say whether this team will be loaded with talent or on its way to another shameful season until the Detroit Tigers break camp in late March and set all of their minor league rosters.
But the SeaWolves struggled with attendance this season and gave frustration to a lot of their fans with the poor effort in 2010.
It's crucial for the Howlers to compete in 2011. But if history as anything to do with it, Erie normally has a very competitive season after an embarrassing year.