PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior Alex Pecora was a first-team all-conference choice. Junior Mary Kate Dunne is moving from outfield to center. Other returning starters are Brianne Innamorato, senior Hayley McKnight and junior Amber McKnight. Key returning letter winners include senior Krista Morgano, senior Melissa Morgano and sophomore Paige Murphy.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Camden Catholic is the perennial favorite to win the division.
OUTLOOK: After a 9-9 season and third place finish, the Crusaders are poised to contend this season. Pecora gives them a strong foundation on the mound and there are enough experienced players to make this a very competitive team.
Camden Catholic Fighting Irish
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior Susan Wysocki was a first-team all-conference first baseman who will pitch this season. She has already made a verbal commitment to the University of South Florida. Junior Ali Summers was a first-team all-conference choice. Three second-team choices are senior Danielle Frasca, senior outfielder Jen Varallo and senior Justine Reed, who has made a commitment to Stockton. Another key returning starter is senior outfielder Tori Juliano.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Paul VI and Eustace could be contenders.
OUTLOOK: The Irish were 16-6 last season and 8-0 in winning the National Division. Despite graduating All-South Jersey pitcher Laura Messina, they are not only the division favorites, but are expected to be among South Jersey’s top teams.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Gina Gryniuk was a second-team all-conference choice. Other returning starters are seniors Jamie Nehila, Bianca Iamurri, and juniors Shelby Rohrer, Katie Oligino and Ciara Catling. Two outfielders who are key returning letter winners are sophomore Samantha Albertson and senior Lauren Tarabocchia.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Eastern and Washington Township should help make the Olympic American Division among the most competitive in South Jersey.
OUTLOOK: The Chiefs shared the American Division title with Washington Township and once again will be a major contender and potential Top 10 team.
Cherry Hill East Cougars
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sophomore Casey Clark started in center field but will likely move to shortstop. Junior Rebecca Froyd is a third-year starter at first base. Sophomore Megan Martin was a starter at second base and has been recovering over the winter from ACL surgery. Juniors Lindsay Savar and Emily Shaffer are third-year starters at third base and left field respectively. Senior captain Gabriel Whiteley is both a pitcher and outfielder. Among the key returning players are sophomore pitcher Michelle Sachais and seniors Rachel Viggiano (left field) and Alison Wigand (center/outfield).
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Eastern is the team to beat. Washington Township and Cherokee should contend for the Olympic American title.
OUTLOOK: Improvement is likely over a deceptive 3-15 record. The Cougars lost six games in the last inning and the experience gained from these tight games should pay dividends this season.
Cherry Hill West Lions
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Alyssa Sims was a first-team all-conference choice and a La Salle recruit. Three second-team all-conference selections are sophomore Sierra Machinski, senior Alyssa Garcia and sophomore Alicia DeFlavis. Other returning starters include senior outfielder Jessica Tadley and senior Caitlin Sablich, who minds second base. Other players expected to contribute include sophomore pitcher Jamie Robertson, who won her only varsity start in a first-round playoff game, sophomore infielder Chelsea Holiday and junior Caitlyn Somers.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Triton and Shawnee appear to be the teams to beat in the Olympic Patriot.
OUTLOOK: With a nice mix of younger players and experienced ones, West won’t be a preseason division favorite, but the Lions will be a tough competitor for many teams. Improving on last year’s 12-9 record is a realistic goal for the Lions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Steph Vuono is expected to be among the better pitchers in the area after going 17-4 with a 1.64 ERA. Other key seniors include catcher Gen Gaynor, Julie Heaton, Melissa Parker (.412, 3 HR, 18 RBI), Cherelle Chambers (.365) and Stephanie Wolfrom (.459). Experienced juniors include second-base Madison Tiernan, shortstop/outfielder Jax Buckley, third-base Megan Parker (.448), outfield/center Maddie Haftel and shortstop/outfield Kim Jevic.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Washington Township and Cherokee will be contenders in the Olympic American and S.J. Group 4.
OUTLOOK: With virtually the entire team returning, the Vikings will not only make a run at the division title but also be a factor in the South Jersey Group 4 race. Vuono will keep the Vikings competitive with any team on their schedule.
Gloucester Catholic Rams
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Cait Eltzholtz is the catalyst at the leadoff spot. Junior Carly Todd is among the best shortstops in South Jersey. Junior Abby Merryman was an all-conference pitcher. Other returning starters are sophomore Annie Robinson, sophomore utility player Maria Petrongolo and junior outfielder Katie O’Shea. Junior Kate Wright is a key utility player, up from JV.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: In the competitive Tri-County Diamond Division, GCIT and Deptford will be contenders.
OUTLOOK: Coach Tom Sullivan has quite an encore to perform in his second season after guiding the Rams to a 21-4 record and state Non-Public B title in his inaugural season. While the Rams lost some key players to graduation, this is a team that has a great tradition and enough experience to make another run at a division, South Jersey and state title.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Catherine Senopoulos was a first-team all-conference selection. Other returning starters are seniors Rebecca Senopoulos, Maura Trotman and Marilyn Day, junior Rachel Cipolla and sophomore Natalie Motolese. Senior Kate Quinn is a key returning letter winner while juniors Isabella Reed and Lauren Potts are others expected to contribute.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Defending Colonial Liberty Division champion Haddon Heights will be difficult to unseat.
OUTLOOK: This should be a competitive team, but the Bulldogs can’t be considered a Colonial Conference favorite. That could change because there is a strong group of core players, but the Bulldogs have to show they contend.
Lenape Indians (pictured)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sophomore Dallas Hogan was a first-team all-conference choice. This year’s seniors, Nicole Bensel, Nicole Bay, Samantha DeSalvo and Katie McGee, were second-team all-conference choices, while senior Katelynn Rehmann is another key returning starter. Senior Tara Dunning has experienced shoulder problems and will likely only be able to hit this year, but should still be a big contributor. Returning junior starters are Paige Lillie, third base, and Brittany Simonka, outfield and second base. Senior Liz McGrogan and sophomore Melissa Olt are key returning letter winners.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Eastern, Washington Township, Cherokee, you name it, in the Olympic American Division.
OUTLOOK: The Indians return a veteran team and could contend for the division title. They won’t be favored, but can’t be discarded either.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Returning starters include sophomores Audrey Weller and Alexa Massa, juniors Allison Francisco, Jess Carlino, Jacquie D’Argenio and Alyssa Lukridge, and senior Kristen Fetchko. Another expected contributor is senior Samantha O’Donnell, who pitches and plays first base.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Rancocas Valley and Northern Burlington are the teams to beat in the Burlington County Liberty Division.
OUTLOOK: Moorestown won’t be listed as the division favorite, but has enough experience to contend. A key will be to get more consistent offense.
Paul VI Eagles
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Returning players include senior Victoria Farrell, senior Rebecca Gilbert, senior utility player Samantha Harner, juniors Stephanie Heresniak and Jessica Castiglia, and sophomores Brielle Pietrafesa, Dylan Jarvis and Bailey Stang.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Camden Catholic remains the team to beat in the Olympic National.
OUTLOOK: The Eagles have a strong nucleus back although replacing infielder Melissa Swain (now at William Patterson) will be a difficult task. Still, this is a program that continues to show improvement, but won’t be listed as a preseason division contender, but could be a spoiler.
Seneca Golden Eagles
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Alyssa Stillwell is a fourth-year varsity performer who was a second-team all-conference choice. Another returning starter is Samantha Foster.
BIGGEST?COMPETITION:? Defending Olympic National champion Camden Catholic remains the team to beat.
OUTLOOK: Few teams lost more to graduation than the Golden Eagles, who also saw catcher Brianna Wilson transfer schools after earning second-team all-conference honors. So this will be a rebuilding season for the Golden Eagles.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Returning starters include seniors Rice Fazio and Audrey Pagnotta, juniors Jacquie Pezzato and Lily Shontz and sophomore Shannon Stang. In addition, junior outfielder Miranda Martine and sophomore center Alexis Gordon are returning letter winners.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Triton and Cherry Hill West should make it an interesting three-team race with Shawnee in the Olympic Patriot.
OUTLOOK: The Renegades went 10-8 and have enough experience to improve on that mark and make a run at the division title. The infield is experienced and among the strongest in the
division which will be Shawnee’s biggest strength.
Washington Township Minutemaids
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior pitcher/outfielder Taylor Coroneos and junior center Kylie Mulholland were first-team all-conference choices. Senior shortstop Nikki Sandelier was a second-team selection. Senior Keli Margiotta is a team captain, while junior Kristi Turner, who plays first base, is another returning starter. This year’s seniors Abria Tinsley, Bernadette Gibson and Sarah Robertson, and junior Barb Barron have varsity experience, while junior infielder Stephanie DeNardo comes up from the JV team.
BIGGEST COMPETITION: Eastern and Cherokee are the teams that will make the Olympic American a highly competitive division.
OUTLOOK: The Minutemaids were 22-6 and while there were some key losses to graduation for coach Tracy Burkhark, they have the talent to defend their titles in the Olympic American and South Jersey Group 4.
Click here for the spring schedules.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family’s High School Spring Sports Preview, January, 2012.
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