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Winter Sports Preview

by Marc Narducci

High school athletes ready to heat things up this winter

It’s gearing up to be another competitive winter sports season in South Jersey, with a good combination of old rivalries and rising young athletes to round out the match-ups. With so many teams with records worth noticing and title championships piling up, you never really know how it’ll play out on the court—or the pool or mat—when they come face to face. So one thing’s for sure—this is going to be an exciting season. We have compiled some of the top teams from 14 area high schools: Bishop Eustace, Camden Catholic, Cherokee, Cherry Hill East, Cherry Hill West, Eastern, Gloucester Catholic, Haddonfield, Lenape, Moorestown, Paul VI, Seneca, Shawnee and Washington Township. This is just a quick capsule of all the great talent you can find among South Jersey high school teams and athletes. Of course, there are other greats not mentioned here that are bound to impress this season. Here are just a few we know you’ll want to keep your eye on.

Boys Basketball
If anyone wants to see where the strength of South Jersey is, just attend an Olympic Conference National Division game. Paul VI is the defending champion after edging Bishop Eustace by one game, with Camden Catholic in third place. All three are expected to be Top 10 teams in South Jersey, and don’t be surprised to see Eustace at the top. The Crusaders return virtually everybody from last year’s 21-7 team, led by senior point guard Carson Puriefoy, who averaged 21.4 points last season. “We have a lot of experience and confidence this year and we feel we have one of the tougher schedules around,” Puriefoy says. Other experienced veterans are 6-3 seniors Sho DeSilva and Dexter Harris, 6-4 sharpshooter Trevor North, heady guard Tom Falconiero and 6-0 Scott Highland. Ryan Bland, a 6-6 junior, is a transfer from St. Augustine, while two players who had strong summers are 6-5 Sean McLaughlin and 6-5 Sean Dumele. Maybe the most difficult task for coach Bob Falconiero will be to appropriate playing time. Others to watch: Paul VI is led by one of South Jersey’s top guards, senior Ron Curry, who averaged 14.8 points last season and has already accepted a scholarship to James Madison University. Camden Catholic has one of the top juniors, 6-4 Kyle Green, who averaged 20.1 points. In the Olympic Conference American Division, Eastern returns its top eight players from a 17-10 squad: senior guards Mike Wilson and Brett Knoblauch, 6-4 senior center Jared Ford, 6-5 junior Avery Walker, junior guard Devon Bell, 6-6 sophomore Matt Klinewski, 6-3 senior Jordan Ifill and sharp-shooting 6-1 senior Steve Schneider. Another team from the American Division to watch is Lenape, which has been one of South Jersey’s best defensive teams; this year should be no different. Lenape has no returning starters, but under coach Chuck Guittar, this team is an annual contender and one of the leading defensive groups. Senior guards Avery Brown and Kyle Robostello and senior forwards Evan Ward and Cory Jett will provide the leadership. Washington Township expects to improve with three returning starters—6-1 senior Michael Bach, 6-0 senior Shawn Smith and 5-11 senior point guard Marquise McCormick. Cherokee, which was rebuilding last year after winning the Group 4 state title in 2010, will be an American Division contender, led by three seniors—6-2 Shaquille Simmons, 6-2 Tyrone Ringgold, 5-9 Conor Kelly and 6-3 sophomore Jake Powell. From the Olympic Patriot Division, Shawnee will remain highly competitive. The Renegades lost some key players to graduation but have one of the best pure shooters in South Jersey in junior guard Josh Borrelli. Gloucester Catholic, which advanced to last year’s South Jersey Non-Public B final before losing 40-38 to Cardinal McCarrick, is led by senior sharpshooter Robbie Alessandrine. Haddonfield returns two starters, 6-3 junior Chris Biddle and 6-4 senior Mike Lacatena, and the Bulldogs should contend in the Colonial Conference Liberty Division, where Haddon Heights could be the favorite. Girls’Basketball
Washington Township’s last season was one of the most pleasant surprises in the division, thanks to a magical late-season run resulting in the South Jersey Group 4 title win. Now, coach Jennifer Natale’s team won’t sneak up on anybody; you’ll know they’re coming. Sophomore twin guards Kelly and Kylie Giedemann comprise a dynamic backcourt. Kylie is the shooting guard, who averaged 11.8 points and three steals. Kelly, who runs the point, averaged 11 points, four assists and three steals. Nobody should foul either side when the game is on the line; Kelly shot 85 percent from the line and Kylie was an 83 percent free throw shooter. “I think we will have a successful season after our remarkable Cinderella playoff run last March,” Natale says. Township lost to eventual state champion Rancocas Valley in the state Group 4 semifinal. Rancocas Valley will likely begin as South Jersey’s No. 1 team, but don’t be surprised if these two meet in the state semifinal again. Others to watch: Camden Catholic is led by senior Nicole Angelo (12.2 ppg.), among South Jersey’s finest point guards. Two other 5-5 seniors, Kelly Lineman and Kelsey Kilpatrick, are experienced players, but much of the success will depend on the development of a group of sophomores, such as 6-0 Michelle Obasi and 5-9 Olivia Crenney. “We are hoping to [come together] and, with some hard work, we should be right there,” says Camden Catholic’s Chris Palladino, among the top coaches in South Jersey. One of the teams expected to make a serious run in South Jersey Group 3 will be Seneca, led by top frontcourt player Brittany Snow, a senior, who averaged 18.2 points. Eastern, the No. 1 South Jersey team two years ago, was again hit hard by graduation, losing six seniors. Junior forward Danielle Genay, an 80 percent free throw shooter with three-point range, and 6-2 senior Carli Winiarski are among the returning players who’ll make the Vikings a competitive team. New coach Rob Hummel takes over at Lenape, a team that will be led by 5-11 senior Brianna Wylie, who averaged 13.3 points last year. Cherokee will depend heavily on a strong junior class which includes three talented guards: 5-3 Maddie Etkins, 5-3 Devon Cummings and 5-8 Megan Wallace. Haddonfield, backed by star senior point guard Catherine Senopoulos, can anticipate a strong rivalry with defending champion Sterling in both the Colonial Conference and South Jersey Group 2. Gloucester Catholic is the defending Tri-County Diamond Division champion and will be difficult to unseat. The Rams’ strength is in the frontcourt, led by 6-1 senior Nicole Fallon and senior forward Allison Murphy. Gloucester Catholic competes in Non-Public B, where Sacred Heart will be the likely favorite. Paul VI, led by 6-2 senior Adriene Small and junior guard Morgan Harris, could be among the more improved teams. Girls’ Swimming
Cherry Hill East will remain a contender to win a sectional title after reaching the Central A finals last season before losing to West Windsor-Plainsboro South. Coach Anita Ricci has an experienced group led by several returning swimmers, including senior distance swimmer Marlee Ehrlich, an individual state champion in the 200 and 500 freestyle; junior Jaimie Lynn Brookover, fourth in the state in the backstroke; and sophomore Natalie Simunek (backstroke/freestyle), who was part of a 200 free relay unit that placed seventh in the state. “Our goal is to always to make it past the Central Jersey final,” Ricci says. “We have some pretty good freshmen coming in and quite a few letter winners returning, so we are expecting to be strong.” Others to watch: Haddonfield will be a state title contender, paced by junior Emily Rollo, who was fifth in the state in the medley relay. Classmate Katie Kurtz placed fifth in the 200 medley relay at the state meet. Jessica Semar takes over as coach for Scott Sweeten at Cherry Hill West, where the team won the South B championship last season. Senior Courtney Patterson was third in the state in the 500 freestyle and fifth in the state in the 200 free. Sophomores Jenna Zagoren and Erin McBride were both part of a 400 free relay team that finished seventh in the state. Washington Township has another talented team, led by junior Brooke Liberto (freestyle/backstroke), senior Erin Malone (free, fly, IM, back), junior Natalie Drank (free/fly) and senior Katie Powell (free). Boys’ Swimming
While St. Augustine has dominated South Jersey boys’ swimming the last several seasons, Cherry Hill East and Haddonfield remain candidates to compete for sectional and state team titles. Haddonfield, which won a sectional title, is led by Will Manion, who will be a candidate for South Jersey Swimmer of the Year. Last season, he won the state individual title in the 200 individual medley and placed third in the 100 backstroke. Senior freestyle sprinter Sean Stevens is also among the best in South Jersey. Cherry Hill East senior Alex Dintino was a state qualifier in the butterfly last year and, according to coach Joe Cucinotti, should have a repeat performance in backstroke and individual medley this year. Junior Joey Andalora is the Cougars’ top freestyle sprinter while senior Ford Scott is a key distance freestyler. Others to watch: Moorestown is a contender for a sectional title, with many key returners. Junior Will Van Fossen (freestyle/backstroke) is expected to be among the top swimmers in South Jersey. Cherry Hill West will remain competitive, led by seniors Tom Rebecchi (backstroke, IM); Eric Hays and Jake Rosenthal (sprints); Chris Leyh (butterfly) and Mitch Renteria (breaststroke, sprints). Washington Township has an experienced unit, with veterans like Justin Harvie (free and backstroke), Kyle Hill (freestyle and breaststroke), Eric Emerson (backstroke), Jake Lightman (butterfly and backstroke), Conor Hornibrooke (fly and backstroke), Nick Schillaci (free and breaststroke) and Mike Mercurio (free distance events). Another potential Top 10 South Jersey team is Shawnee, led by seniors Andrew Fleisher (500 free, 100 fly), Jack Gilligan (100 back/100 breaststroke) and Josh Mitchell (100 breaststroke/100 free); juniors Alex Mesisca (100 free/100 breaststroke) and Paul Long (200 IM/100 back); and sophomore Bryan Mattingly (50 free/ 100 free). Wrestling
Timber Creek will likely begin the season as the No. 1 team in South Jersey and perennial power Paulsboro always remains in the mix, but of the teams we are covering, Camden Catholic should be the best. And it’s possible that the Irish could make a serious run at the No. 1 spot in South Jersey. Camden Catholic, with one of the strongest junior classes in South Jersey, has won eight consecutive state titles. "I anticipate us being pretty strong but I also expect a lot of other teams to be strong," said Camden Catholic assistant coach Jerry Boland, who was the head coach the previous three seasons. Due to increased job responsibilities and his growing family, Boland will be an assistant and former Camden Catholic wrestler Ryan McCormick, an assistant the past five years will be this season's head coach. At some point last year, Boland started 11 freshmen or sophomores on a 21-6 team. Leading the way is junior TJ Miller, who was 43-0 and a state champion at 135 last year. Junior Chad Walsh was 40-6 at 119. Senior heavyweight Marcus Coleman, a Syracuse football recruit, is among the team leaders. John Hennelly, a transfer from Delsea who was 29-3 at 112 pounds, is another welcome addition. Others to watch: Former Camden Catholic standout Mike Booth takes over at Cherokee and is expected to have the Chiefs move up. D.J. Mele will lead the way for Cherokee, after going 27-9 last season as a freshman at 119 pounds. Shawnee and Seneca have two of the better young wrestlers to watch. Last season, Shawnee’s Connor Muli was 33-2 at 103 pounds as a freshman, and Seneca’s Brendon Bush was 24-8 as a sophomore at 145. Shawnee should also benefit from the addition of Eric Wayns, a transfer from Cherry Hill West, who was a district finalist at 215. Cherry Hill West has five returning players who won 20 or more bouts. They are senior Tyler Layton (33-9), senior Connor Schuck (30-9), sophomore Tyler Brake (28-10), sophomore Mark Papaneri (24-15) and junior Mike Marini (24-12). Steven Passarella, who went 21-4 and was a District 30 finalist at 112, leads a young but always difficult Washington Township team. Last year, Haddonfield beat Paulsboro in the regular season, but fell to the Red Raiders in the South Jersey Group 1 final. Under new coach Bill Heverly, Haddonfield will again contend in Group 1, led by Rob Schlitt, who placed eighth in the state at 160 pounds and had a 37-8 record.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 9 (November, 2011).
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