Fresh Faces, Old Bloodlines, and Reigning Champions On the Menu for Garnets

New coaches and programs highlight the beginning of the winter, but by season’s end the Garnets should – as usual – be in contention for several Section crowns.

Ice Hockey

The expectations for the Garnets in 2010-11 remain the same as always, according to head coach Jason Friesen. Skate to the Section championship game, win the title, and move on to the State tournament. It may sound bold, perhaps lofty even, but those goals are based on the precedent of a wildly successful run.

Michael Benincasa

Friesen’s Rye teams have posted a combined 63-33-9 record over the last four seasons, with three Division II Section championships. After dropping the title at the end of the 2008-09 campaign, the Garnets bounced back to win it last year in convincing fashion. The skaters thrashed a senior-laden Yorktown squad 7-1 at West Point.

“I think our team’s success begins with very good hockey players,” said Friesen. “They have talent and a commitment to hard work that pays off. There is a culture that has been nurtured and grown here and it rewards each team year after year.”

There is no denying Rye graduated some all-time greats in Paul Mundinger and Taka Katsuta last June, but they were just two of three seniors on the previous team. That means the Garnets will benefit from a large returning group, which in turn provides Friesen with great depth and balance. Nick Rosenfield, Robert Holmes, and Tommy Sullivan are the captains for the upcoming season, and Friesen expects great leadership from them both on and off the ice. It’s up to the captains to teach the younger players the way Rye plays the game. Fortunately for the Garnets, the three captains aren’t the only players who can contribute.

“You have to start at the goalie position with Aaron Rix,” said the coach. “I think he is going to have a great year and could be the MVP of this team. Then, look for Ryan Rogers to have a great year and chip in all over the ice, especially by putting pucks in the net. Also, keep an eye out for Michael Benincasa, Chris Lipari, Matt Moran, and Jason Chin to have very good years.”

The puck drops December 8 at Playland against Byram Hills.

Girls’ Basketball

Make no mistake; the Garnets will look drastically different on the sideline this season. The team on the court, however, is nearly identical to last year’s 12-7 squad. Mary Henwood retired in the offseason, taking 24 years and over 300 career victories as head coach with her, but new skipper Brian Lavelle has the luck of taking over a veteran team. Lavelle, entering his 30th year of coaching basketball, is excited about what his new team has shown him thus far.

“I’m stepping into some big shoes, but Mary did such a wonderful job with this battle-tested group,” said Lavelle. “It’s a lot easier coming in fresh with an experienced team.”

Lillian McCabe, Catharine Greer, and Jillian Chittenden

Lavelle sees big things on the horizon for his captains, seniors Lillian McCabe, Jillian Chittenden, and Catharine Greer. McCabe and Greer combined for over 30 points a game last year, and should be even better from their guard positions this season. The new coach says McCabe is a quiet leader, but the hardest worker on the team. It’s a trait that younger players benefit from. Greer, fresh off the soccer field, hasn’t missed a beat. She astounded her teammates in a recent scrimmage after practicing just a few times, and was clearly the dominant player on the court. Chittenden, the most vocal captain, will be a force for Rye in the low post.

Grace Leishman, a junior, is another player Lavelle has high hopes for. He called her the second-hardest worker behind McCabe, and believes she can step up to become the third scorer Rye needs to be successful.

Despite a difficult early schedule including tilts with White Plains, Briarcliff, and Horace Greeley, Lavelle says his team has a realistic shot of making it to the County Center this season, and can perhaps win the Section championship.

“This team is going to play very tough man-to-man defense, and we’re going to full court press you as well,” the coach noted. “As Nolan Richardson once said, it’s going to be ‘40 minutes’ – 32 in our case – ‘of hell for our opponents’. Tough defense and a transition offense will lead to easy opportunities.”

Opening tip is at home December 6 against Tappan Zee.

Boys’ Basketball

Like the Boston Celtics, Rye has their very own “Big Three” this season. Head coach Chris DiCintio sees four-year starter Brian Pickup as his Kevin Garnett, the big man with the sweet stroke, and three-year starter Conor Smith as an all-around player in the mold of Paul Pierce. Joining the senior captains as the Ray Allen of the trio is emerging star Max Twyman, a sophomore shooter DiCintio feels is ready to make the quantum leap.

Brian Pickup

“We definitely have the ingredients for a County Center run this season,” said DiCintio, whose charges finished 10-11 after advancing to the Section quarterfinals last year. “Whether or not the chemistry develops remains to be seen, but the talent is certainly there. My job is to make sure we’re prepared.”

Twyman received much game time last year, but is an entirely different player now. DiCintio says he’s wider, stronger, and more mature, and no longer walks on eggshells, which was understandable for a freshman trying to fit in. He worked tirelessly in the offseason, and also benefits from a basketball pedigree. His grandfather, Jack Twyman, is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and his father played for Rick Pitino in college.

Twyman isn’t the only player on the roster with basketball bloodlines. New to varsity is Mike D’Antoni, son of the New York Knicks’ head coach of the same name. He’ll be a combo guard for the Garnets along with fellow sophomore Mike Garofalo. Teddy Ice, who is one part of a center tandem with Matt Keough, also benefits from his father’s experience. Michael Ice played for Jimmy Valvano at Iona College.

“I was speaking to a college coach interested in Conor Smith, and he was wondering the type of player he was, whether he was a good player on a bad team or anything to that effect,” said DiCintio. “I told him about the bloodlines of some of his teammates, as well as Pickup’s All-Conference ability, and the coach said to me, ‘Sheesh, there is more pressure on you to win than on me!’”

Despite their teammates’ lineage, Pickup and Smith are the straws that will stir the drink for Rye this year. Pickup, fresh from his heroics against Harrison on the gridiron, is a beast who can do it all on the court, and Smith comes off an impressive summer, earning a silver medal with the Hudson Valley team at the Empire State Games. Kamal Logue takes over for Tim Lonergan at the point, and provides leadership and a dribble-penetration game that opens the court for his teammates. Keough and Ice are vastly different individuals – the former a banger and the latter a run-and-gunner – who give Rye two different looks at center.

“We’re cautiously optimistic because, not only can we play physical defense that leads to fast-break offense — a trademark of the program — but we have the talent to score in the half-court both inside and outside,” said DiCintio.

Opening tip is November 10 at home in the Cliff Clinton Classic.

Wrestling

The Garnets will undergo a change of wrestling Matts this season, as new coach Matt Beatty steps in for the departing Matt Beckley. Beatty will benefit from the strong foundation that Beckley created in Rye, despite the graduation of six contributors. Seniors Donovan McSorley and Will Florio will hit the padded mats as captains, and should provide the necessary leadership.

Will Florio and Donovan McSorley

The Garnets’ JV team was particularly solid last season, something that should translate into success for the varsity team this year. Rye opens with a home tournament December 4.

Winter Track

Bolstered by a 12-man senior class, last year’s boys’ team was possibly the best that Jim Yedowitz has ever coached in his 30-plus years as Rye’s track guru. While stalwarts like Max Robinson and Mac Gager have graduated, optimism remains high for the Garnets.

Yedowitz noted that interest and turnout for track continues to be strong, with over 60 boys currently on the roster and a junior class that possesses great potential. Headlining that group are Taylor Love and Tom Mayo-Smith.

Taylor Love

“Taylor has been the one youngster who has shown he has no fear of the older athletes,” said Yedowitz. “He contributed all of last year as a sophomore, so his success this fall in cross-country came as no surprise. He should be one of the top 2-milers in the county. Tom is an unknown factor with lots of talent. He lacks only confidence and experience. His strength will be in the 600-1,000-meter runs, as well as high jumping. Those two are the future of the program.”

Yedowitz is pleased that a number of strong athletes decided to try winter track for the first time, and says the only question remaining is whether or not they develop into the competitors he thinks they can be. Tyler Breckenridge and Ian Robinson, Max’s brother, are two examples. In addition, Ben League, Henry Gager (Mac’s brother), Scott Hanley, Aaron Matthias, and Leo Matthews are all seasoned veterans in the mix. Yedowitz said they need to have strong campaigns if the Garnets are to have a shot at winning anything.

On the girls’ side, John McGee is also hopeful about his junior class. Ellie Friedmann and Nagomi Ogura arrive off the high of successful cross-country seasons, and Alison Mackay, Jordan Delane, and Lizzy Bennett should add to the strength of the girls’ distance events.

McGee singled out senior Annie Davies as an athlete who should perform well in the hurdles and triple jump. He also said high jumper Tori Virtue can only build on her outstanding winter last year. Morgan Kirby will compete in the long and triple jumps this season, and Matea Friedell is a freshman expected to fare well in the pole vault, relays, and middle distance runs.

“I have been very fortunate to have coached with John “Mitty” McGee for a long time; our program is successful in large part because of him,” said Yedowitz. “In track we have the unique opportunity to coach athletes for as many as 12 seasons – if they do cross-country, winter and spring track – so it’s fun to watch students grow from little kids to young men and women. The other interesting thing is waiting for the next talented group to emerge, and they always do. It’s a thrill to watch an athlete’s reaction of pride and thanks as you hand them their first medal.”

Boys’ Swimming and Diving

While Carle Fierro stepped down as Rye’s head coach, Garnet leadership remains in the family as her son, Chris Dewey, takes the helm. Dewey will benefit from an experienced group of senior captains – Kevin Hughes, Chris Lyons, and Kevin Miller. Both Hughes and Lyons qualified for the State championships last year after impressive performances at Sectionals.

The Garnets are deep behind their seniors as well, with seventh grader – yes, seventh grader – Liam Egan highlighting the group. Egan is strong in the 500-meter freestyle, the same race in which Hughes won the Section title last year.

Rye’s first meet is December 10 against Westlake at Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck.

Squash

After a few years of competing on the club level, the Rye boys’ and girls’ squash teams are now official varsity programs. Both squads practice at Apawamis Club with local professionals, and are working on putting together competitive schedules.

Forrest Henderson

Katie Geoghegan, Nancy Kelleher, and Katie Bouton are the captains for the girls’ team. Head coach Tony Campbell expects them to play vital roles in communicating with their fellow Garnets and in helping to organize the ladder and challenge matches. In all, there are 30 student-athletes signed on to play between the varsity and JV teams.

“One of our goals is to improve in our ability to compete with many of the programs that are older and more established,” said Campbell. “We want our athletes to grow in their involvement with this potentially lifelong sport.”

Matt Bruno is the head coach of the boys’ team, which features 12 athletes on varsity and 14 on JV. While captains have yet to be named, Bruno believes the Henderson brothers – Forrest and Tom – have the potential to be a pair of squash stars. The brothers are just two reasons Bruno is excited about the new program.

“We’re building something here and trying to set a precedent for the future,” said the coach, who has managed the JV baseball team for the past five years. “It’s great because these kids get to be part of a varsity team finally. There is a lot of energy, and the sport will only continue to catch on as kids see our team enjoying the game.”

Bruno says the squash team currently has five games on their schedule, but hopes to double that by the end of the season.

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One Response to “Fresh Faces, Old Bloodlines, and Reigning Champions On the Menu for Garnets”

  1. Mitty mcgees | Irisnicolef Says:

    […] Fresh Faces, Old Bloodlines, and Reigning Champions On the Menu …Dec 8, 2010 … “I have been very fortunate to have coached with John “Mitty” McGee for a long time; our program is successful in large part because of him … […]

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