Category Archives: Sports

Rye’s defenders get some work in before a preseason scrimmage. Rye’s defense will be tested against some quality opposition this year.

Garnets gear up for season

By MIKE SMITH
With the start of the 2013 field hockey season less than a week away, the Rye Garnets are looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Lakeland in the section finals. But with a talented group of returnees and some fresh faces, the Garnets should bounce back to once again vie for a Class B crown.

Chief among Rye’s returnees are Meredith Tibbals and Alex Bennett, two all-state talents who will look to lead Rye this year. Bennett, who moved from midfield to defense last year, is back in her natural position, something that head coach Emily Fitzgerald will be a boon to the team as the season goes on.

“We had to fill some holes last year, but we were able to move her back this year,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to help us, having her controlling both the offense and the defense this year.”

The Garnets will have many capable players on the offensive end as veterans and rookies alike figure to play big roles this year. Both Emily Antonozzi and Fusine Gouaert, a ninth-grade transfer student from the Netherlands, figure to jumpstart a Garnet offense that wasn’t known for prolific outbursts in the 2012 season.

“I think we have good experience both at mid and forward,” said Fitzgerald. “One of our biggest goals is to be well-balanced and we did have some trouble finishing last year.”

As always, Rye will play an extremely challenging schedule, taking on stiff non-league competition, including teams like last year’s Class A champs from Suffern and the Class C champion Bronxville squad as well as Section I stalwarts like Mamaroneck and Nyack.

“We play our regular league schedule, but with all the games we picked up, those are good teams,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s definitely a tough schedule.”

So far, however, Fitzgerald has been happy with the team’s preseason play, especially the team’s performance in scrimmages, and believes that, when the dust is settled, the Garnets will be in the mix for a title come November.

“These girls have another year under their belts, we’re pretty deep in our forwards and we have a good amount of subs who can go in and play well,” she said. “We’ve got those fresh legs, we’ve just got to click.”

The Garnets will kick off the season on Sept. 9 when they travel to Valhalla to take on the Vikings. They won’t play their first home game until Sept. 17, when they take on Briarcliff in non-league competition.

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Two Huskies square off on Aug. 24. The team recently took a trip to Lake George to compete in a four-team tournament.

Huskies ready to start, finish in 2013

By MIKE SMITH
In 2012, the Harrison girls soccer team had just about everything you would expect a top-flight team to have: good goaltending, strong defense, solid midfielders and athletes all over the field. The one thing they didn’t have? The ability to finish. Heading into the 2013 season, head coach Jon-Erik Zappala said that putting the ball in the net will be a focal point from the get go.

Despite being young this year, Harrison returns five starters from the 2012 squad, including Paige Brabant, Rula Samad and Gina Gerusso, who should serve as veteran leaders in the 2013 season.

“We haven’t picked our captains yet,” Zappala said. “But it terms of leaders on the field, we’ve got at least one player in the defense, midfield and attackers, so that is going to help.”

Zappala has been pleased with the chemistry of the young group–many of the holes left by graduation will be filled by sophomores and juniors–and he has been especially impressed with the play of up-and-comers Maia Samad and Erica Lamanna. Samad is a versatile player who can be used in a variety of roles, while Lamanna could be one answer to the Huskies’ scoring problems.

“Maia can be moved between striker and midfield,” said Zappala. “And Erica is a striker who has shown a lot, so far.”

But the Huskies’ ability to put the ball in net will be predicated on more than simply the play of Lamanna and Samad. According to Zappala, finishing is as much mental as it is physical.

“A lot of it is just you have to have that instinct to go and let it rip,” he said. “But the difference between scoring and not scoring is something as small as getting the ball on your left foot, and moving it to kick with your right.”

To that end, the Huskies have been drilling heavily with off-foot touches and, so far, Zappala likes what he sees from his young squad.

“It’s kind of like if you don’t practice penalty kicks all year and then you get into the postseason and have to make a penalty kick,” he said. “If we weren’t practicing that, as a coach, I’d be dropping the ball.”

On Aug. 26, the team took a trip to Lake George to not only compete in a four-way tournament, but also to spend some time forging bonds between the players. By the time the season opens up on Sept. 7 against Albertus Magnus, Zappala said he believes that his squad will be ready for the long season ahead.

“These girls are gamers,” he said. “We have some big teams on the schedule, but they’re not easy to shock. This team is ready to rise to the challenge.”


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Panthers eye season opener

By MIKE SMITH
With an undefeated regular season and one of the top defenses in all of Section I last year, the Rye Neck Panthers enjoyed a spectacular resurgence, the payoff for a couple of lean years in the early 2010s. The scary prospect for other Class C team this year? The Black Hats look to be even better in 2013.
With roughly 80 percent of last year’s team returning, Panthers fans—and players—are looking to recapture, and surpass, last year’s phenomenal campaign.

“The excitement level has been unheard of, everybody has been so enthusiastic,” head coach Nick Ianello, whose team finished 7-1 last season, said. “There’s something about winning that does that to a team.”

And most of the players that spurred on the winning culture will be back in uniform this year. Senior Thomas Pipolo will once against be under center with a supporting cast in the backfield that might be one of the deepest in the section. All-State running back Jakob Calvini will be back, as will fellow runners Ryan Morningstar and Dom Brescia, giving the Panthers a very balanced running attack.

“Last year, we had four running backs and they all got about 25 percent of the carries,” said Ianello. “We’ve got power backs, a couple of finesse backs so that’s pretty tough to stop.”

The Panthers lost two guys up front on the offensive line, prompting last year’s fullback, Pedro Cueto, to switch positions. Cueto is penciled in as the team’s center.

“He knew we needed help on the line,” said Ianello of his new center. “He made that move to help the team.”

In general, Ianello has seen a willingness for players to abandon their natural positions for the betterment of the team, something he said started with Calvini’s willingness to play all over the field in his four years on the varsity.

“He’s a great role model for the rest of the kids,” said Ianello of his captain. “They see how hard he works, how humble he is, and that pays off.”

Calvini’s leadership will be especially important on the defensive end, as the Panthers defense–which posted five shutout wins last year–is again expected to be dominant.

The quest to see if Rye Neck can duplicate last year’s success starts off with a tough test on Sept. 7, when the Panthers will travel to Tuckahoe to take on last year’s Class D runner-ups in the Tigers.

“We’re just looking at one game at a time this year,” said Ianello. “Tuckahoe’s a good team, made it to states last year and they have a great coach in [John] D’Arco. It’s going to be a great game.”

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Rob Wilkins hits a backhand on Aug. 25 at the Buffalo Wild Wings Open. The first event of the Pro Squash Tour was held at the Westchester Squash Club.

Local squash player wins PST tournament

By MIKE SMITH
On Aug. 24 and 25, the Pro Squash Tour made a stop in Mamaroneck, pitting some top international players against each other in the Buffalo Wild Wings Open. South African Tertius Raubenheimer came away with the tournament win, topping Ricky Weisskopf in the finals on Sunday afternoon.

Raubenheimer claimed the championship with 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 win over the four-time El Salvadorian national champ in the first leg of PST’s season.

Raubenheimer beat close friend Ned Marks in to reach the finals on Saturday, and said that the playing conditions this weekend worked in his favor.

“I had played a hard match the night before, but I also felt like it was a really hot court and it simulated playing at a high altitude,” he said. “That makes it harder to control the ball, but I was in better condition since I’m training for the New York City Marathon.”

American Ned Marks took third place earlier in the day with a hard-fought victory over Welshman Rob Wilkins, beating him 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9.

The win was the first PST victory for Raubenheimer, a member of the tour since 2011. Since he resides in Pelham and also coaches squash in Bronxville, Raubenheimer considered this tournament especially important, considering it was being played on his home turf.

“It felt really good to do it in my home, in my community,” said the champ. “I had friends who could come out to this one, which definitely made it a little more special.”

The Pro Squash Tour has been around since 2008, holding tournaments in both America and Asia, gaining a solid foothold in the eastern United States. As both a player and a coach, Raubenheimer has been pleased to see how American fans have taken to the sport.

“This is a big deal wherever I go,” he said. “It’s a fantastic thing to have these local pro tournaments so people can see the game for themselves and get involved with it.”

Even for those who aren’t interested in a squash career, said Raubenheimer, the game can be quite rewarding.

“It’s a lifetime sport and it’s fun,” he said. “It’s something you can play from when you’re very young to very old.”

The PST season runs through May, when the World Championships will be held in Detroit, Mich. The next event will be the N.Y. Open, which will be held in New York City on September 24.


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A receiver hauls in a pass on Aug. 19. The Broncos will look to get back into the postseason this year.

2013 Bronco Field Sports Calendar

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Harrison’s new Interim Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics, Stewart Hanson. Hanson has worked in education for 35 years and most recently served the Lakeland School District. Photo/Mike Smith

Harrison has new AD in Hanson

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Harrison’s new Interim Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics, Stewart Hanson. Hanson has worked in education for 35 years and most recently served the Lakeland School District. Photo/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
With the school year set to kick off, there will be hundreds of new faces gracing the hallways of Harrison High School’s campus. One might be a bit more visible than others at various sporting events, though, as Harrison has hired Stewart Hanson to serve as the interim director of health, physical education and athletics.

Over the course of his 35 year career, Hanson has helmed the program at Middletown High School and, most recently, served as the athletic director and assistant principal at Lakeland High School. He was with the Lakeland School district for 11 years.

“I’m elated to be here, it’s a wonderful opportunity that I’m looking forward to,” Hanson said. “And the support that I’ve received from central administration and other administrators has been wonderful.”

Through the interview process, Hanson said it was apparent just how invested the Harrison community is in the athletics and physical education department‑and the infrastructure in place made the job an attractive one.

“Even though I’ve been doing this a long time, and some people would just hand me the key, it’s great to know in talking to people like the coaches, and even Assistant Superintendent Brian Ladewig, that I have people that I can bounce ideas off of,” Hanson said. “Even though I have a lot of experience, I’m not closed-minded and I always believe there is room for improvement.”

Over the course of his first week on the job, Hanson was able to meet with several of the Huskies coaches and has gotten the lay of the land with regard to Harrison’s athletic traditions. Unarguably, the most visible part of that tradition–the annual game against Rye–is something that Hanson is not wholly unprepared for. As the athletic director at Middletown High School, Hanson saw his share of high-profile football games with the annual “Erie Bell” game–one of the oldest rivalry games in the country–against Port Jervis.

“Being a Section I athletic director, I know about Harrison-Rye, and, when I was in Middeltown, the Bell game was always a standing-room-only affair,” he said. “But, in speaking to the coaches here, I know it’s going to be five, six, seven thousand people.”

Hanson will also oversee the health and physical education departments. A firm believer in the P.E. for Life movement, Hanson was encouraged by Harrison’s recent advancements in the physical education curriculum and hopes to continue to grow the program.

“Fitness is a life skill, not a supplement kids have to do in order to meet a state requirement,” he said. “We moved it forward in Lakeland to make it a life skill, and I understand that there are wonderful things going on here in the Harrison P.E. department and I’m looking forward to meeting the phys-ed staff. It’s important for me to stress that, even though I have the word interim in my title, I’m not going to just be sitting here without doing anything. I want to be involved and work hard to continue to make this school successful.”
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Hazel Ortiz-Rosado hits a ball in 2012. Ortiz-Rosado, now a sophomore, will be asked to lead a talented Mustangs team back to the national tourney in 2013. Contributed photo

Mustangs eye another trip to nationals

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Hazel Ortiz-Rosado hits a ball in 2012. Ortiz-Rosado, now a sophomore, will be asked to lead a talented Mustangs team back to the national tourney in 2013. Contributed photo

By MIKE SMITH
After reaching the NCAA national tournament last year, expectations are high in New Rochelle for the Monroe Women’s Volleyball team this season. For Monroe’s returning core‑as well as the head coach‑last year’s success is both the benchmark for the program’s aims this year, as well as a frustrating reminder of the improvement the team needs to make in 2013.

The Mustang’s 35-7 regular season record and hot play through regionals earned the team their first-ever run in nationals last year, once at nationals, however, the Mustangs’ season stalled as they dropped their first two games.

According to head coach Nephtali Delgado Reyes, that early ouster at nationals will be a rallying cry in the 2013 season.

“We went to nationals, but we didn’t play well,” said Delgado Reyes. “But I think, this year, the experience that our sophomores got going to nationals; I think that’s going to give them more confidence as we get ready for this year.”

Although reaching the finals is by no means a given–the team will have to win regionals and districts in order to advance to the big stage–he feels that with the talent the team possesses, if they play to their capabilities, another shot that the national tourney could be in the cards.

Sophomore Hazel Ortiz-Rosado was quick to point out that, for the returnees, the goal is to erase the bitter taste from last year’s tourney run.

“One of the main things we’ve been talking about is how bad we did at nationals,” she said. “But we’re going to show a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication this year.”

Ortiz-Rosado also believes that this year’s team could have more talent than last year’s squad, thanks in part to the high number of returnees–including Ortiz-Rosado, Lydia Ortiz and All-American Tathiana Cordero along with a stellar recruiting class. The Mustangs have brought in seven new players, four of which hail from Puerto Rico, where Delgado Reyes is a highly regarded volleyball mind.

“Being from Puerto Rico, I know all the players on the island,” he said. “But we’re also looking for players in other areas too; Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey as well.”

One incoming freshman, outside hitter Lee Ann Ocasio, said that the tight-knit Monroe Communitiy–and the leadership demonstrated by the team’s older players‑has her excited for the season to kick off on Aug. 23.

“This is a strong team and I think there’s a lot of confidence,” she said. “It’s been great so far. The other girls have all been supportive and so have all the other teams here.”

“Everybody has clicked really well so far,” added Ortiz-Rosado. “We’ve had some really good practices so far.”
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Liliane Lindsay, left, is one of two local rowers who got the nod to compete in the World Rowing Junior Championships in Lithuania this week. Joining her is Melissa Curtis of Rye. Contributed photo

Curtis, Lindsay take fifth at Worlds

 

Liliane Lindsay, left, is one of two local rowers who got the nod to compete in the World Rowing Junior Championships in Lithuania this week. Joining her is Melissa Curtis of Rye. Contributed photo

Liliane Lindsay, left, and Me lissa Curtis brought home a fifth-place finish at the World Rowing Junior Championship on Aug. 15. According to Lindsay, the chance to face-off against the best young rowers in the world was a “humbling” experience. Contributed photo

By MIKE SMITH
On Aug. 15, half a world away, two local rowers, Lilian Lindsay and Melissa Curtis represented the United States in the World Rowing Junior Championships. Though the duo’s boat didn’t come away with a medal, the experience was certainly a high point on the year.

Racing as part of the Junior 8 boat in the Trakai, Lithuania, Lindsay and Curtis took fifth place, no small feat considering their competition.

“Coming in, our goal was to do as well as last year’s boat did,” said Harrison’s Lindsay. “They came in second and really, it was kind of a lofty goal.”

Lindsay said that the relative youth of the boat–seven out of the eight girls will be eligible to compete next year as well–may have been a factor in the finish, but the chance to go back next year should serve as motivation until next summer.

“I think overall, we were satisfied,” she said. “It was a very young boat.”

The girls were selected to the national team in mid-July and, after a few weeks of training together, were paired-off into boats, giving the Junior 8 about three weeks to
prepare as a cohesive unit.

According to Lindsay, who was a hopeful for worlds the last few years, the chance to represent the USA was a tremendous honor and something of a surprise, despite the strides she has made over the last few years.

“Even if things were looking in my favor, hearing the selection, it’s really shocking because you never know what is going to happen,” she said. “It’s definitely a great way to validate all of the training you’ve been doing.”

Once she got to Lithuania, however, Lindsay admitted that the thrill of just being there took a backseat to competition.

“There was definitely a lot of focus on the race,” she said. “You’re only there for two weeks so you’ve got to be focused.”

The Harrison senior did admit that she was taken aback by some of the other teams–and the fact that her boat was able to compete with those elite rowers was yet another validating experience.

“It’s definitely a humbling experience,” she said. “From rowing with these various high school programs, you’re competing with everyone just to get to this level. Then you come here and you see all these elite rowers, people who have been training for this for years. It’s a wonderful experience, a whole new level.”
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Pitcher Adonis Flores delivers a pitch during the WAB’s first-ever tournament on July 1. The WAB hosted a whopping five tournaments this summer. Photos/Mike Smith

Westchester Academy Baseball completes largest year to date

By MIKE SMITH
Westchester Academy Baseball grew by leaps and bounds this year, experiencing its biggest expansion since its inception.

According to WAB head Edwin Diaz, the organization thrived thanks to support from local communities.

The Academy, which fielded two teams in 2012, put seven teams on the field this summer, ranging from a 13U squad to the program’s elite 18U team. While players came in from all over the county, Diaz said it was really his close work with both the Harrison and Rye communities that led to the expansion.

“Rye and Harrison both wanted the best players to come in, they were seeing players leave the programs,” Diaz said. “So we came in and kind of took over those Babe Ruth summer programs and tried to bring the best competition back here.”

Due to the rapid expansion, Diaz was forced to wear many hats over the course of the summer, working with several of the teams while his partner Chad Carney handled the flagship 18U squad. Diaz rounded out the coaching ranks‑on the assistant level anyway‑with some former WAB players as Brian Lobel and Ryan Crawford both helped out with their old 18U team.

According to Diaz, while the older groups came in with the intention of catching the eye of college coaches, the younger teams served as more of a place where area ball players could hone their skills.

“At those younger ages, we’re still teaching the kids a lot of basics,” he said. “Some of the kids lack some fundamentals, so that’s what we really worked on.”

The WAB also hosted five tournaments this year, two in Harrison and three in Rye, although Diaz said they might reign that number in next year.

“I think it was ambitious,” he said. “We probably won’t host five again. Maybe two. I think we’d like to maybe travel a little more to other tournaments.”

And while WAB squads may not have taken home any tourney titles this year, Diaz said he’s pleased with the performance of his organization, especially the 18U team, which managed to secure a three-peat as Westchester Baseball Association champions.

“It definitely wasn’t easy for them, there are a lot of good teams in that league,” Diaz said. “Coach Carney did a really great job with that bunch. Across the board, I think we had some real top quality coaches. I’m very proud of the work we did.”

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A camper takes part in a home run derby competition on July 22. Gurney and Rising Star use lots of video techniques to break down each player’s mechanics. Photos/Mike Smith

Rising Stars shine at New Rochelle camp

By MIKE SMITH
In 1998, then head coach of the New Rochelle baseball team, Darren Gurney, began a summer camp aimed at fostering a love for the sport of baseball in the area’s youth. Fifteen years later, his Rising Star camp is still going strong, and laying the foundation of fundamentals–and community–for New Rochelle’s aspiring baseball stars.

The Rising Star baseball camp’s curriculum is based mainly off of Gurney’s recently published baseball training book, “Covering All the Bases.” The book, said Gurney—who left the New Rochelle job in 2005 to serve as an assistant coach at Iona College, helps the camp’s instructors follow certain cues as they run drills with Rising Star campers, who range in age from four to 13.

“I think what separates us from other camps in the area is that we’ve got a very personalized coaching staff,” Gurney said. “And our curriculum provides a basis—for coaches, whether their working with pitchers, hitters or fielders.”

But that’s not the main thing that separates Gurney’s camp from others in the area. The operation is distinctly New Rochellean in nature, with current and former Huguenot varsity players—most of whom were at some point campers themselves—something that Gurney feels has boosted New Rochelle’s baseball community for over a decade.

“I think the kids come, they see the coaches, who are current varsity guys, and that inspires them because they want to emulate that,” Gurney said. “That was one of my initial goals when we started, to increase awareness that would filter up to the varsity level.”

In some cases, that step-by-step maturation is personified by one single family. Gurney points to one such family, the Almontes, as an example of exactly what he hoped to accomplish with the Rising Star program. Oldest brother Jared, who completed his first varsity season last year, serves as a coach at the camp, while brothers Matthew, 13, Joseph, 11 and Daniel, 8, all participate in the camp as well. The youngest brother, Gabriel, takes part in the one-hour class offered in the four-to-five age range.

“This is kind of like a metaphor for the camp,” he said. “The Almontes are an exceptional family and this is what we hoped to do, to groom exceptional athletes and have them come back and coach with us.”

Gurney also fosters the spirit of community by taking campers on field trips of a sort, including a July outing to see the Yankees play, and a 2012 jaunt to Citi Field to watch former Rising Star Camper—and now starter for the Miami Marlins‑Tommy Koehler pitch against the Mets.

“I think Tommy stands as an excellent model for others campers to follow, and we take tremendous pride in what he’s done,” Gurney said. “He was someone who worked very hard on his fundamentals and worked in the offseason to get stronger, which is what we hope to see from our players.”



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