The 2009-10 school year already has been a banner one at Rye Country Day. With three State titles in the bag, the Wildcats are hungry for more as the spring season rolls in.
Rye Country Day was an unrelenting, buzzsaw in 2009, cutting opposing teams to ribbons in their march to a 17-2 record and both the Fairchester Athletic Association and Western New England Division II championship.
The two-pronged engine of that prolific offense – Cody Levine and J.P. Garry – has graduated, but the Wildcats possess a group of four captains who will form the backbone of the 2010 model. Seniors Harry Razook, attack, and midfielder Chris Seter will be heavily relied upon as the only two returning offensive starters. Goaltender Chandler Grinell and defensemen Jack Mandy, seniors as well, are a pair who can spearhead what Rye Country Day hopes is a physical brand of defense.
“We have a great group of seniors who have worked extremely hard throughout their time here and have meant a lot to this program,” said head coach Matt Rosolen. “Also, we return every defensive player from last year’s team and need their experience and talent to lead throughout the season, especially at the onset as we develop our more inexperienced players.”
Rosolen looks to continue last year’s high level of play, when the Wildcats were nine games better than their record the season before. Rising stars like Tommy Garry, the younger brother of J.P., will be asked to help add to their two championships. In addition, Rosolen has Rye Country Day pointed at winning the inaugural NYSAIS State title in boys’ lacrosse.
The Wildcats’ team quote this season – “Play against perfection, not the opponent” – should give you an idea how serious they are about excelling. Embodying that spirit are senior captains Hannah Lowentheil and Nealy Nimocks, a duo that knows a thing or two about the pursuit of victory. They led the field hockey team to a State title in the fall.
“I expect them to set a tone from the very first day we step on the field in Florida and throughout the season,” said head coach Georgette Summers, whose team finished 8-7 in 2009. “I know they will model the work ethic the coaches expect from all players. They both love the sport and want to enjoy their final high school sports season, but also lead this team to play the best lacrosse possible.”
While Rye Country Day’s roster won’t be finalized until their return from Spring training in West Palm Beach, the Wildcats could field an entire line-up of seniors. Summers said she is counting on Lowentheil, Nimocks, Allie Farber, Bridget Stock and Katie Yates as impact players in their quest for a NYSAIS State championship.
Ted Lawrence knew there would be growing pains last year, as his team attempted to defend the FAA championship without many of the seniors who helped capture it in 2008. The Wildcats still managed to finish the season a solid 12-8, and were eliminated in the semifinals of both the FAA and NYSAIS tournaments.
“We knew it would be kind of a rebound year with only a couple of kids coming back,” said the coach. “There just wasn’t much varsity experience.”
Now, with seven seniors, including flame-throwing ace Zach Tax, Lawrence feels he has a team that’s comparable to this championship squad. “We’re going to come out of the gates as a force.”
Tax is the standout on Rye Country Day, compiling a 13-1 record in two years as a starting pitcher. He broke the school’s single-season record for strikeouts as a junior with 85 Ks. Lawrence said one of Tax’s goals this season is to break his own record, which would in turn smash a RCDS record for strikeouts in a career.
It’s time for Jeopardy! Answer: The Rye Country Day softball team. Question: Who scored nearly five times as many runs as they allowed in 2009?
If you knew that, you know the 2009 Wildcats enjoyed the most successful season in school history. The 12-4 team finished second in the FAA and advanced all the way to the NYSAIS State finals before succumbing to Poly Prep. Gone, however, are several multi-year starters, and head coach Wendy Haft knows her squad has some work to do.
“As in the past, we’ll be aggressive offensively and defensively, and use every game as a teaching tool to gain as much experience as possible,” said Haft. “The players will learn and use it in the next game. We want to be playing our best softball in May.”
The Wildcats do return some exceptional players, including captains Alexandra Sabatini, an outfielder, and infielder Elexa Antweil. Both have been with the program since their freshman year. Lindsay Haut, Christine Cunningham, Hilary Stock, Kristi Licare and Kim McKoy will also play key roles. Licare, the starting pitcher, is set to form the Wildcat battery with the experienced McKoy.
With just four returning players and no seniors, youth will most definitely be served when it comes to Gil Castagna’s Wildcats.
“A goal of any coach is to get to the top,” said Castagna. “However, with such a young team we look toward improvement with each practice and match.”
Rye Country finished third in the FAA last year with an 8-6 record, and turns to juniors Paul Fanto and Brenton Howland to continue the camaraderie built by previous teams. The duo, who have been on the roster since their days as freshmen, are joined by returning sophomores Zach Needle and David Rosenzweig. The remaining eight roster spots will be filled during the team’s annual spring training trip to the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Wildcats captured the NYSAIS State championship at the end of the 2009 season. This is where it gets really scary for their opponents: Rye Country Day graduated just one player last year.
While the roster won’t look very different, there is a significant change at the top, where Steve Konopka takes over for Maryanne Lynch as head coach. Nevertheless, the RCDS value system, the secret to their success, remains the same.
“The number one goal is for the boys to go away with the feeling and memory that this golf season was a fantastic experience and one they will always remember,” said Konopka. “The second goal is to respect our opponents, coaches, Athletic Director, parents and the game, and to also represent the school with great pride and sportsmanship. Finally, we want to win the FAA title and NYSAIS State championship.”
Joe Barber, a senior, takes the helm as captain of a team that finished 14-3 in 2009. Konopka said fellow senior TJ Sarda is also expected to be a role model. Among the rising stars in the junior class are All-League golfers Colin McDade and James Kennedy. Brian Starker, Harrison Baker, Jon Kligman, Alex Friedman, Taylor Washington and Tyler McCaine round up the talented band of juniors.
Bob TeCarr needed only seven words to sum up his Wildcats, the reigning FAA league champions. “They’re young, talented and can play golf,” he said.
With no seniors and a roster full of up-and-comers, TeCarr is hoping for a season similar to last year’s where everyone played to their potential en route to a perfect 13-0 record. The captains this year are junior Lauren Schumaker and sophomore Catie Cole. Cole is one of three returning 10th graders who combined for a 26-2 match record in 2009. Skye McCaine and Taryn Clary are the others in that sophomore group.