Fort Wayne diocesan teams welcome spring season
FORT WAYNE — After unseasonably warm, 80-plus-degree days to kick off the spring season, Fort Wayne area athletes are more than ready for their 2012 debuts on the courts, links, fields and tracks. Bishop Luers and Bishop Dwenger will continue their domination in their Summit Athletic Conference (SAC) pushing for new records and lengthy post-season runs.
The Bishop Luers girls’ tennis team is returning senior captain Samantha Rahrig at the No. 1 singles position. Rahrig made it all the way to semi-state in 2011, finished with a 20-3 record, was first-team all-conference, first-team regional and second-team state.
“I believe she will have a great senior year and will continue to be a fantastic leader for our team,” explained Coach Brady McArdle.
Just a sophomore, Natalie Rahrig is also back at No. 2 singles. “Natalie could have a break out year in 2012,” McArdle predicts.
Senior Christina Regan returns at No. 3 singles. McArdle continues, “Christina has worked hard on her game over the winter and should see solid returns this year.”
All-conference selections Abby Oberley (co-captain) and Maddie Brown return as the top doubles team and are expected to have a solid year again while Courtney Witte returns at No. 2 doubles. Her partner Julia Hellinger was unable to play this year, so junior Andrea Choka will step in to fill that position.
“Overall, we are looking forward to a fun and exciting Bishop Luers tennis team this spring,” McArdle concludes.
Tom O’Brien’s boys’ golf team is expected to be much improved from a year ago thanks to hard work in the off-season.
O’Brien explains, “Many of our team members spent long hours dedicating their summer to improving their golf game. I think Bishop Luers will surprise some people this season.”
A top medalist as a sophomore, Joe Leja returns for the Knights along with varsity players Parker Watts, Ben Mauch and John Fink and the team is also looking for big things from sophomore Joe Korjenek.
In his fourth season with the boys’ team, O’Brien was just in the try-out stage of his pre-season at the time of the interview, but adds, “We have nine strong golfers, so depth will be a definite strength. We have a group of boys that love the game of golf and have the best work ethic I have seen by far.”
The father of the Indiana State Amateur Women’s Champion, Kristi O’Brien, O’Brien hopes to get his team out of the sectional this season.
Coach Erin Brady returns to coach the Bishop Luers Lady Knights’ track team this season listing 50 girls on the roster. Ten seniors will provide strong leadership and 17 freshman will add new talent. The Knights had two early indoor meets to get them started and saw great performances while stand out, Chris Widner qualified for the Indiana State Finals during the indoor season throwing the shot put.
Brady reports, “We are working on building our relay teams and home to watch some outstanding individual performances as well. The weather has cooperated and given the team some excellent opportunities to train on the track.”
Bishop Luers will be led on the baseball field this season by seniors Zack Millard and Mason Coy. Millard with play either short or third and hit .227 last year for the Knights. Coy, who went 2-3 a year ago, will anchor a group of young pitchers for the Knights. The junior-dominated group which gained valuable experience last year includes: Tyler Green at first (.254); Jeff Cardenas third (214); Cam Gallaway catcher (.250); Matt Williamson, Aaron Lamaster and David Hamel. They will be joined by sophomore Jack Schultheis at second base.
Coy, Williamson and Cardenas all saw time on the mound last year. Newcomers expected to help out will be Adam Reust, Dylan Call and Austyn Rybicki.
Coach Gary Rogers returns hoping to get his team back on a winning track after three losing seasons following the 2008 Class 2-A state championship.
“The outlook for the future is bright and most of the players returning this year have a year of varsity experience under their belts which we are hoping turns into more wins for us this year. Our pitchers will need to keep us in the games and we will have to find ways to score runs. Our goals are always the same, win 20 games or more and win a state title,” Rogers summarizes.
Third-ranked Concord High School graduate and former Indiana Tech lacrosse player Sam Ponn has been named the new head coach at Bishop Luers. He has a senior laden roster with 11. The Knights got off to an impressive 4-0 start before spring break, already improved from last year’s 3-9 finish.
Ponn feels confident with his experienced players and the good chemistry they have built, and says, “One of our main goals is to continue learning the fundamentals of the sport. We also hope to have a winning season and make it to the post-season playoffs.”
Bishop Luers, who plays their home matches at St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel, will be led in 2012 by two of their “top-10” ranked seniors: midfielder Brian Nichter (eight goals, 18 assists) and Jake Golden (14 goals, seven assists).
Also making their home diamond at St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel is the Knights’ softball team under the direction of Jeff Doll in his 14th season at Bishop Luers (12 years as head coach).
Bishop Luers lists 18 on their roster, but just two seniors. Kayla Girod and Morgan Eckert will serve as leaders and captains. Also returning is the talented pitching and catching duo of sophomore Darby McFann and junior Julia Hayes.
Although they are a young team with nine freshman and the outfield lines up all new faces, Doll explains, “We have a tough defensive team and strong infielders.” The Knights hope to improve on a fourth-place conference finish a year ago and have two simple goals for the season: win the SAC and get to state.
Jason Draper is back this spring for his 13th season to coach both the girls’ and boys’ track team at Bishop Luers. The Lady Knights list senior Kori Current and juniors Robin Schafer and Keirsten Baumgartner as the top returnees, while freshman Corinne Zay, Audrey Deiser, Amanda Rectanus and Emilia Miles will be young newcomers to watch.
For the guys, seniors Matt Rupright and Corey Leffers, juniors Luke Martinez, Sean McManus and Nick Deiser, along with sophomore Isaac Case will lead the way for Bishop Luers.
According to Draper, first time arrivals to keep an eye on will be Charles Gaston, Matt Harris and Josh Ware.
The boys’ track outlook at Bishop Dwenger is very positive with a full slate of returning lettermen and large group of newcomers.
Distance specialist and University of Dayton recruit Andrew Eckrich will lead the pack, while Luke Miller, James Myers and Luke Offerle were also regional qualifiers a year ago. Bryan Tippmann and Josh Bessen are back in the throws with Bobby Jauch, Keenan Schon and Chris McGraw paving the way for the sprinters.
With 36 years under his belt, veteran Coach Herb Widner predicts, “Jauch is outstanding and has a good chance to make it to the state finals.”
In early action, Jared Shipper placed sixth in the pole vault at the 2012 state indoor meet. In 2011, the Saints finished fifth at sectionals, eighth at regional and were 33rd at the state meet.
As for the goals for this season, Widner reports, “We hope to stay healthy, have fun and do well at both the North Side and New Haven relays. We want to win the SAC and qualify as many as possible from sectional to regional and state.”
Widner summarizes, “We have good balance in our events and hope for a very competitive season. We have a very strong schedule which should prepare us for a good post-season.”
According to Coach Dave Scudder, Bishop Dwenger has an all-star line up back to hit the course for 2012 after a 11-2 finish a year ago. 2011 first team all-conference selection golfers, senior Carter Eifert (39.8), junior Casey Cooney (40.3) and sophomores, Jake Leonard (39.1) and Drake Eifert (40.1) will lead the way for the Saints. Adding to the mix this season will be newcomers Michael Filler, Spencer Gillig and John Hope.
Equipped to continue their domination in the SAC, the Saints will seek to defend their title, vying for a 10th conference championship in 12 years.
The Saints baseball team returns their leading hitter in Chaise Kahlenbeck (.379) this season as well as senior teammates Sean Herberger (.288) catcher, Brett Lochbihler (.279) outfield and Jon Harrison, pitcher. Herberger and Kahlenbeck will serve as captains for Bishop Dwenger and welcome newcomers T.J. Gabet (12), Paul Geha (11) and Luke Palmer (10).
Coach John Tone lists winning the conference and winning sectionals as his team’s goals for 2012. He is counting on a strong batting line-up and solid outfield to make that happen.
Under the direction of first year coach, Jeremy Patterson, the Bishop Dwenger girls’ tennis team is full of experienced players. Leading the way will be seven seniors and four returning varsity players.
“We have a solid group of underclassmen that are pushing all of the returning players to improve. We are a hard working team that wants to improve on last years’ season,” says Patterson.
The Saints hope to return to state competition and win in 2012 after getting beat out in the first round a year ago.
“It may take some time to blend as we have new pitchers plus some of the girls are moving to a different position than they may have played last year (P, C, 1B, SS, LF),” Coach Dave Moyer admits, but with seven experienced varsity players back, the Saints have high hopes to win another conference title and make a run in the 2012 post-season.
Ranked No. 1 all year in Class 3-A, Bishop Dwenger finished 23-3 last season.
In his ninth year as varsity softball coach, Moyer reports juniors, Julie Bazur, Erica Miller and Kelsey Richard will captain his squad as he lists no seniors on the Saints’ roster. Sara Spalding also returns for her third varsity season along with sophomores Demetra Burns, Allie Dennie and Jordan Schneider. Finally, Moyer points out that Sierra Fisher, Allie Irvine and Madi Snyder will be newcomers to watch.
Saint Joseph’s hope to cap legacy at old school
SOUTH BEND — The final athletic season on North Michigan Street holds plenty of promise for the Saint Joseph’s High School Indians.
The spring of 2012 will be the last season conducted at the current school, before the new one opens in August. Indians’ teams are hoping to cap a legacy of excellence at their old school.
In each of the last three years, the Indians have reached the state quarterfinals. Head coach Bill Mountford jokes of the 2012 campaign “this will be the year I find out if I like to coach.”
With five starters departed due to graduation, the Indians build their team around seniors Darby Mountford and Alaina Roberts. “They are our co-captains,” notes Coach Mountford. “They have incredible experience and they provide leadership. Because of them, I think we’ll still be pretty good.”
Sophomores Syd Corrigan, Haley Powers, Maddie Minaudo and Amanda Hastings will all be battling for spots. “We’re still sorting out the lineup, so right now our expectations are a lot more modest,” admits Mountford.
Mike McCarthy guided his team to the best year in school history last season. He says that status may not last 12 months.
“I’m very excited,” exults McCarthy. “We have a number of girls that are three-year state finalists. We have at least three girls that are Division I prospects. I really like what we have across the board in all 16 events. I think we have a better team for sectionals and regionals than we have ever had before. I think we can stockpile a lot of points.”
Senior Mikayla Chamblee returns as the second ranked hurdler in Indiana in the 300-meter low hurdles. Classmate Morgan Carroll anchors the sprint crew in the 100-, 200- and 400-meters. Fellow senior Michelle Potter is a versatile talent who can handle the middle distances.
“We just want to start the outdoor season well,” notes McCarthy. “We had a strong indoors season. We need to put the puzzle together and then we can look at the team results to contend with Penn, Mishawaka and Adams.”
McCarthy’s optimism carries over to the boys track squad as well.
“The No. 1 thing for us is we have a great senior class,” notes the reigning Northern Indiana Conference Coach of the Year. “It is by far the strongest and most balanced senior class we’ve had. We have an excellent thrower. We have one of the best distance crews in the state of Indiana, and we have a very good 200 and 400 group as well.”
Senior distance runners Josh O’Brien and Connor Method already are part of the school-record distance medley relay team and they give the Indians a potent 1-2 combo in the distance races.
“We look at the season in three phases … indoor, city and the state tournament,” declares McCarthy. “We finished as state runner-up indoor. I’m very happy with performances and times. We’d like to regain the city title. Riley took it from us last year and we’d like it back. We’ve had it six times in eight years. Then we get ready for sectionals.”
John Gumpf’s team has sprinted off to a 7-0 start this season, winning six of those by nine runs or more. The Indians know a challenging Northern Indiana Conference season awaits them.
“We’re very excited,” says Gumpf. “We have a lot of juniors and seniors with a lot of confidence. The NIC is very strong with Elkhart Central, Marian and Penn. We have to do the little things, and we’ll be all right.”
The Indians are very strong up the middle. Both shortstop Evan Witsken and second baseman Brad Hartman are seniors who could play Division I at the college level. Junior catcher Neal Dowling gives the Tribe a threat from the left side of the plate.
“Our pitching rotation is solid,” exudes Gumpf. “Nick Carmola, Jake Stone and Connor Brown give us three solid dependable arms.”
The goals never change for veteran coach Earl Keith.
“We always want to win the NIC and sectional,” notes Keith. “I expect we can be a strong squad by tournament time.”
Three-time all-conference selection Emily McCollester-Purlee and two-time all-NIC pick Annmarie Lindzy spearhead the attack. Alyssa Plenzler and Christina Gillis help give the Indians a solid infield.
“We have a lot of experience, however we have players who are now starters that need more game experience to mesh together,” admits Keith.
Saint Joseph’s golf coach Ron Wilcoxson sees a lot of opportunities for his team in 2012.
“The ultimate goal is to go to state, but realistically we’d like to make a good showing at regionals,” comments Wilcoxson.
Senior A.J. Frank drops the hockey stick to pick up the golf club and lead the way, with juniors Jason Rink and John Dean battling for the No. 2 slot. Now the key is to build depth.
“We have a lot of strong potential from our players coming up from JV,” says the optimistic coach. “We’re going to be a really competitive team.”
Momentum to push Marian spring sports
MISHAWAKA — There is still a buzz around Marian High School as the boys’ basketball team made it to the semi-state for the first time in school history, and the Knights are hoping that momentum will push the spring sports into a couple of championship games.
“We are very blessed to have some of our most experienced coaches leading our spring teams,” commented Reggie Glon, athletic director. “Jim Kryder our golf coach and George Grenert our softball coach each have more than 20 years at the helm. That speaks volumes of their dedication and success.”
“Larry Daher is the father of our rugby program that is more than a decade old, and Tim Prister is working on his ninth year as head of our baseball program,” continued Glon. “We have added a new face in girls’ track with the hiring of David Walsh, but he is new to Marian only as he brings with him more than 30 years of coaching at the Cincinnati Country Day Program.”
“When you have experienced coaches in these positions it lets them focus on development and game competitiveness without the little administrative distractions that accompany newer staff members,” remarked Glon. “Our capital focus has been on the academic side of the house, as for the athletic facilities, our strategic plan has new bleachers in the gym as one of our primary goals.”
Last season the Lady Knights finished 23-2 and boasted the sectional championship. This spring they look better than ever and are ranked No. 1 in the state.
“We feel pretty good right now. We have not emphasized our top rating or put any extra focus on it. We are just playing solid softball,” commented skipper George Grenert. “I think that our strength is our speed and defense. I would like it if we could be a little more consistent with our hitting.”
“This team is as athletic a team as I have ever coached and they have collectively quick speed,” continued Grenert. “The girls do so many little things right. We preach proper mechanics and this team has really bought into it.”
“The defense starts with our pitcher Ariel Sheets, who has thrown for us since her freshman season,” said Grenert. “Senior Kathleen Kavanagh has started the season off hitting around .650 and that includes an out of the park home run.”
“Senior Ellen Nagy worked very hard in the off season and it is obvious in her increased production and defense behind the plate,” added Grenert. “Another of our many bright spots is the great outfield play of Emily VanTornhaut. There are some catches that I’m not sure she would have made last year.”
“It is pretty simple. The girls all worked their tails off in the offseason. We would have 18 girls in open gyms consistently,” continued Grenert. “I think they all know they are pretty good, but they are keeping it quiet and playing together.”
The Knights finished state runner-up for the second time in four seasons and the fourth ranked squad is looking to make another trip down state.
“The kids have worked very hard in the offseason. Once you make a run at the state title, the energy and competitiveness it takes to get playing time is multiplied,” commented Tim Prister, tenured coach. “Our turnout in open gyms and team workouts were solid.”
“The big change in the game this year is with the BBCOR bats, they reduce the pop off the bat from previous years,” Prister said. “The advantage goes to the teams with the better team pitching and team defense and that is what our strength is.”
“We are definitely senior led and are getting solid play from Matt Hammond, Drew Hasler, Bobby Norell, Andrew Price, Charlie Creighton and Matt Gibson,” added Prister. “Sophomore Josh Turnock is behind the plate and is handling those duties like a veteran, and junior centerfielder, Vince Rovotto, is probably one of the finest high school defense players that I have seen.”
“We are still searching for some consistency in the middle of our order and we have adopted the approach of what happened to the University of Connecticut basketball team. They won the championship in 2011 and then didn’t make the tournament this year,” Prister explained. “We have to focus on one game at a time, the fundamentals of good baseball and work to get back to the state finals.”
Coach Jim Kryder has guided the Marian golf team for 22 seasons and has the Knights striving for another run at playing in the state finals.
“We have started off well in our opening matches. If we continue to play the way we are capable of playing we could be competing for another conference title and some state honors as well,” commented Kryder. “We are considered a young squad with our make up of two seniors, five juniors and seven underclassmen.”
“Sophomore Michael Makris qualifies and played in the individual portion of the state finals last year and is expected to anchor the team again this year,” explained Kryder. “While Makris follows Kryder’s eight former ‘all-staters,’ the talented group also includes Alex Disberry, Matt Rozycki, Connor Isban, Alex Stopczynski, John Wallisch, Peter Murphy and John Kramer.”
“We are working on our focus and consistency as a team,” Kryder said. “Potential, potential, potential. We have the capability to become successful, but we will have to learn and grow during the season with each match.”
A new coach but an old tactician, Marian welcomes long-time Cincinnati Country Day skipper David Walsh.
“I’m just getting up to speed on the area track programs, but more important than keeping my eye on the competition is honing our strengths,” commented Walsh. “Believe it or not, I’m a 1965 Saint Joseph’s High School graduate and my wife and I have just recently moved back into the area.”
“I think that we have a strong nucleus and I am pleasantly surprised at the quality of athlete that we have at Marian,” Walsh continued. “We are being competitive. We are starting to score some points. One of our girls set a new school record already this season and good things are beginning to happen.”
“I think that our team’s strengths are the field events, middle distance and our technical events so far,” Walsh said. “We have a young team. Our lone senior is Tracy Scott, but we returned state qualifier Maggie Hartnagel in the 400.”
“I hesitate to mention some of our key contributors because the team is still growing, but Elizabeth Ebersole just broke the school record in the pole vault, Brittany Duszynski and Gabbie Rovotto are scoring in our technical events as well as Taylor Pooley in the hurdles,” continued Walsh. “Shannon Hendricks and Jordan Bueter are definitely key contributors, and Holly Glon works as hard as anyone out here.”
“The exciting part is that the team has begun to realize that they can become good,” exclaimed Walsh.
Depicting the boys’ track team as young would be an understatement, with 75 percent of the 40-man roster being underclassmen. The season will be filled with development and more development.
“We have a great group of seniors that are leading and showing the younger kids the ropes,” commented distance coach Andrew Gray. “They are stepping up and because of their unselfishness, the team is getting better.”
“Senior Tony Spaulding is anchoring our distance events. Brian Florin has led in the sprints and long jump,” added Gray. “Eric Plude has continued to be a consistent in the sprints and Luke Street has been a great mentor in the shot and discus.”
“We are looking forward toward the conference meet and I think we will have a couple of athletes really shine,” remarked Gray. “I think the best quality that this team possesses is unity.”
The banner of the Knights’ rugby team will not only include athletes from Marian but two other local schools — Mishawaka and Saint Joseph’s High School.
“We are one of the smaller schools competing in the highest level of competition in the state,” explained Coach Larry Daher. “Our kids don’t back down. We finished at 8-6 last season and hopefully we will be hitting on all cylinders by the end of the season.”
“Because this sport isn’t a traditional mainstream sport and there aren’t feeder teams, we do a lot of teaching every season,” Daher said. “Basketball players pick up the game’s spacing, football players crossover with the conditioning and tackling fundamentals, but the most important trait is the athlete’s ability to enjoy physical contact.”
“This team has some tough and hard-nosed kids,” Daher continued. “That combination means that they can become good rugby players.”
“We have a senior dominated team with Tommy Stachowiak (USA National Team Pool), forward Michael McNamara and back line player Sheehan Probst leading the pack,” Daher said. “The kids are fun to coach and a joy to be around, and that’s what really excites me about this team.”
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