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Spring junior varsity athletes make mark

For many young high school athletes, there is no such thing as a clear path to the varsity.

While there are unique stories of talented adolescents who head straight to the senior circuit from the onset of their high school careers and contribute there until graduation, many other youngsters must first grow and learn the fundamentals on a much less prominent stage before getting the anticipated call-up.

Even Michael Jordan, often considered the greatest basketball player of all time, had to spend his sophomore year developing his game at the JV level before flourishing on varsity the following two years.

It is with that in mind that we contacted each school, through its athletic administration, and asked for information on their JV teams. Here's what we heard back:

Boys lacrosse

Talbot Gottwalls ended his season with the most goals (18) for Atholton, which finished 5-6. Noah Foster led the team in assists (18), Colin McMahon won the Outstanding Defenseman Award, while Hunter Brown and Darren Kasoff were both Norman Flecker recipients for stellar play in the goal.

Coach Wendell Thomas referred to sophomore Jakob Topper as the team's unsung hero, and Jack Kavka as the team's most-improved. Jackob Brochart was the team's Coach's Award winner.

"I was particularly pleased with the defensive effort we put during our last three ballgames, losing by two to Glenelg, two to Mt. Hebron and one to Reservoir," Thomas added.

Captained by Dougie Barnes, Justin Lidard, Noah Schlossberg and Brendan Smith, Centennial finished with a record of 3-8. Barns, the team's goalie, was a player who "other guys could rally around," according to coach Tom Carlson. Lidard worked as the team's No. 1 midfielder, wracking up eight goals and 63 ground balls on the season.

"He helped us in games by controlling the tempo of our offense and working hard to create opportunities to shoot for our team," Carlson said.

Schlossberg, a defender, also spent some time at long stick midfielder. His hard work in practice and in games set a good example for the rest of the team, the coach added. He finished with 30 ground balls, five goals and four assists on the season.

Carlson highlighted the team's wins against Long Reach and Hammond as the most important moments of the season. Downing the Lightning represented the Eagles' first victory of the year. Against the Golden Bears, the players "really showed what they had learned over the course of the year by playing the best game they had played all season," he added.

Hammond ended its season 2-12 overall, with Zach Wehrmeister (eight goals, 62 ground balls), Stanley Springer (seven goals, 58 ground balls), Ben Whipps (two goals, 54 ground balls) and Noah Wadsworth (two goals, six assists, 40 ground balls) leading the way. Coach Matt Bounds also commended the work of goalie Dylan Sicca (saved 50 percent of shots) and defender Kyle Sinclair (35 ground balls).

Bounds said the team's win against Long Reach was the pinnacle of the season.

"I told them with the hard work and perseverance we had shown throughout the season, we earned the right to win that game, but we had to go and take it, and we did," he said.

Fifteen of the team's 23 players were freshmen, with many of them learning the game of lacrosse for the first time in an organized team setting.

"It was great seeing this group grow together and improve each and every day, not just on their individual skills, but also on playing as a team," said Bounds. "It was a joy coming to practice every day, and I believe the future is bright for Hammond lacrosse."

The Howard Lions emulated the varsity program's success with a 10-2 overall record of their own. The team returned just one starter, and only three players from last year's roster. The team's captain, Alex Stephanos, was 59 percent from the faceoff X. He scored 22 goals and notched 22 assists. Malik Anderson scored 23 goals, wrangled 49 ground balls and notched 12 assists. Michael Travisano scored 20 goals for Howard, and defender Vanden Vale caused 22 turnovers. Goalie Colin McClennon allowed just 28 goals on the season before he was moved up to the varsity level.

Marriotts Ridge finished 8-3 in the county, 9-3 overall, with Ian McGann, Casey Allwein and Ryan Tuma leading the way as sophomore captains.

Allwein's close defense and McGann's 72 percent effectiveness in the cage were pivotal for the Mustangs.

Faceoff specialist Luke Goonan was 78 percent successful from the X, and along with midfielders Lewis Anania and Jake Polinski, the extra possessions came more often than not. Chris Simpson added 32 ground balls, and Anania had 34.

Tuma joined freshman Mitch Cassidy to combine for 57 points on the year.

"Perseverance and determination of the athletes putting in time and getting quicker, stronger, faster in the offseason showed in close games, particularly versus Mt. Hebron," said coach Abe Dyer, who described the game against the Vikings as "a great contest against a very talented team, (with) strong play from both sides."

Coach Michael Tittsworth's Mt. Hebron squad went 8-4 overall this season, thanks to team captains Scott Mackrell, Michael Marino, Chris Munko and Jeremiah Watson.

"Regardless if it was practice or a game, they were the ones pushing our team and leading by example," Tittsworth said.

Freshman Midfielder Jacob Edmondson also played a valuable role for the Vikings from the faceoff spot.

Two days before tryouts, Tittsworth said his team was without a goalie. Three players stepped up to volunteer: Nolan Aberdeen, Shaber Ahmad and Garrett Currie –– proving to the coach that "there are still players out there willing to step beyond their comfort zone, to do what is best for the team."

Oakland Mills finished the season with a 3-9 record, having collected wins against Hammond, Long Reach and Meade High School during out-of-county play. Khaaliq Canada led the team with 15 goals, highlighted by a last-second interception and finish against the Lightning. Kevin Paez won the team's Ground Ball Award, and became a reliable dodging midfielder. Faceoff specialists Deep Biswas and Cole May helped control possessions this season, allowing the offense more opportunities. Andy Osiander played strong between the pipes, and earned some time up with the varsity squad by the end of the season.

In a county full of competition ripe for success at the varsity level, the River Hill program proved to be the most successful. Going 11-0 in county play, the team was led by Derek Isaac, Tim French, Spencer Gray and Tyler Bond.

Isaac was in charge of the faceoff duties, all the while facilitating the transition game. French — the leader of the team, according to coach Kennedy Paynter — was the defensive backbone.

Gray allowed just 22 goals all season, while Bond stood out as an emerging leader in the eyes of his coach.

The team grabbed its first win against Glenelg since 2005. The 3-2 victory was highlighted by Ryan Erskine's goal with just over one minute to go in the contest.

Paynter described his club as a "great group of kids that really came together, played like a brotherhood and never lost site of the undefeated goal."

The coach added that the team exceeded his expectations, and changed the perception and attitude of River Hill lacrosse.

"These student-athletes now expect to win, and expect to dictate flow in every facet of the game," he said.

Girls lacrosse

Atholton coach Martie Dyer said her team improved "dramatically" by the end of the season. Though the Raiders only won four games this year, much of their roster hadn't played lacrosse before this spring. Freshman Sophia Khezri led the team in scoring, notching 18 of the team's 66 goals on the year.

Highlighted by wins against both Howard and River Hill, the Centennial Eagles finished the season 8-3.

"We were fortunate to return a lot of freshmen from last year's team who had a lot of game experience," coach Brittany Coughlan said. "The older girls helped set the tone and expectations for the eager incoming freshmen, who rose to the challenge."

Peyton Conley led the team's attack with 33 goals on the season. The sophomore also had 24 draw controls.

Reese Western scored 28 goals, and led the team in assists (15) and draw controls (31).

"Her presence on the field the past two years was undeniable," Coughlan added. "Her speed and smart decision-making at the midfield position gave teams a lot of trouble this year."

The coach said that the play of freshman Olivia O'Connell made a big impact on the team. Her 17 goals and 27 draw controls were crucial to the team's success, as was her ability to "come out of her shell" by mid-season.

Glenelg, known for its success on the varsity level, won't have to look far to fill the voids left by graduating seniors with promising young talent.

Coach Chris Beil's squad finished 11-1 on the year, thanks to Sammi Pearce (20 goals, seven assists) Kendall Dillard (17 goals, seven assists), Elena Mobley (16 goals, 16 assists) and Gabbi Griffith (16 goals, 11 assists).

"This could be the best team I have ever coached," Beil said. "I had a great bunch of girls that got along and wanted to win."

Captain Katie Twigg (24 saves) and Laney Tracey (18) produced three shutouts and five one-goal games. The defense got its power from Carrie Hesen (27 groundballs), Logan Miller (nine goals, six assists) and Courtney Shuemaker (22 groundballs).

Beil also commended the work of captain Sophie Harrison (four goals, 16 assists) and Zarah Jamalodeen (13 goals, 10 assists).

The team's best win of the season came against eventual county champion Mt. Hebron, where Mobley scored the game-winner with just two seconds to go.

Hammond captains Joshlinn Hissom, Maddie Lehner and Sydney Monthe "understood that no one person was more important than another, and that everyone brought something amazing to the team," according to coach Amy Holly.

The Golden Bears finished 3-9 overall this year, playing with a roster that featured only three girls who had ever played lacrosse before the season.

"We had an amazing group of girls come out this year and really embrace the sport," Holly said. "We are very excited to see what the next season will bring. All the coaches and I could not be more proud of them."

Howard coach Kelly Borth said this season was all about watching the young, inexperienced Lions grow from a team that "struggled with stick basics, to a team that was making plays, pressuring the midfield, causing turnovers and passing the ball."

The team finished 6-6, and was led by its three captains: Riley Sipes, Maura Mead and Marissa Penn.

Sipes was the team's highest scorer and strongest offensive player, Mead led the team in assists from the midfield spot and Penn was the team's goalie.

Another program that will look to reload from its talented ranks is Mt. Hebron. With the varsity team winning the county title, the JV team also finished with high marks. An 11-1 overall record tied the team for first place.

The Vikings allowed just 25 goals on the season thanks to a solid defense led by Peyton LeConte, Laura Radov, Lyndsey McLamb, Brittany Wartman and Morgan Cargiulo in the goal. Standouts in the attack/midfield were Katie Anderson, Kaylee Toth and Grace Kelly.

"Half of the team was made up of experienced returning players, and the other half of players with limited playing experience, or players who were total beginners," coach Jeannette Ireland said. "It was exciting to see how this team came together with the experienced players helping the younger players, making it a very successful season."

Reservoir finished the season with a 6-5 mark, which capped off a noticeably improved season from the two victories last year.

Maria Janush (22 goals, 12 assists), Sydney Lanham (13 goals, 13 assists), Lindsay Allen (14 goals, 8 assists) and Maddie Petrusky (18 goals 11 assists) led the team offensively. Overall, the Gators scored 106 goals and tallied 63 assists.

Lanham's 30 draw controls were also crucial to the team's success, as was freshman goalie Elizabeth Hyde's 67 saves on the year.

Sophomore Naimah Kargbo and freshman Eva Macek anchored the defense.

Coach Lindsay Beil said the highlight of the season for the Gators was the team's last game against Atholton — a 14-4 win.

"As a coach, the most you want out of your athletes is to see improvement from the start of the season and I couldn't have asked for anything more from our players this year," she said. "They believed in the expectations of the coaching staff, pushed each other to be better every day and always wanted to take their game to the next level, which we were able to do.

Defender Bridgette Frankhauser, attack Paige Caprara and midfielder Natalie Ryan led the River Hill Hawks to a 7-4 record this season. The three girls also acted as the team's captains this season, according to coach John DiFato.

The team struggled to find and keep a goalie all season long. In its game against Howard, it came down to a big save from Maddie Craney to seal the deal.

"She was new to the position and made an amazing save at the last second for us to win, 13-12," DiFato said. "It was a great game. Both teams played well."

Softball

On its way to a 9-8 record, Atholton put together a six-game winning streak and played some of the county's top teams to one- or two-run losses. Overall, the Raiders averaged three more runs per game than their opponents.

"Every season of JV players has set the stage for the following year and this was the best runs' ratio that I have seen," coach Patti Mascone said.

Leading the offensive charge was freshman Bethy Medina, a versatile catcher, shortstop and third baseman who reached base in every game. She scored runs in 14 of them and compiled 20 RBI while batting in the clean-up spot.

The team's powerful table setters — including Caroline Siil, Dana Dissinger and Caitlyn Burmester — loaded the bases eight times during the course of the season and Medina brought in runs in every one of those situations. Burmester, a sophomore, blasted 11 extra-base hits, including four triples and a home run. Dissinger also had a home run.

Pitcher Ryley Hannon set the tone on defense, displaying maturity and poise in the circle. She struck out 61 batters, around one per inning of work. Behind her, the infield defense aggressively went after lead runners to keep games close and outfielders Kristen Noppinger and Kira Thompson made plenty of outs as well.

"We never gave up and we also had fun no matter the score," said Burmester, a co-captain.

Sophomore Becca Silver played catcher, along with Medina, and called pitches and developed into the team's vocal leader both behind the plate and when she was playing third base. Among her season highlights was making three straight outs in one inning against Howard while playing the hot corner.

"(Her) consistency, game knowledge and clutch singles were the bedrock for this young team," Mascone said.

Most importantly, though, Mascone says this year's group has laid the groundwork for future success at the next level.

"When you know you can make plays at every base and swing the bat against up-and-coming pitchers, the transition to varsity can come with confidence."

Centennial compiled an 8-4 record under coach Maureen Shacreaw.

"(The biggest) highlight was the improvement of players who had never played before to becoming contributing members of the team," Shacreaw said. It was also great to see the "excitement of players making plays and contributing to games and the team."

This spring season was about much more than wins and losses for Hammond.

"Although we did not win any games, they showed the greatest heart and will to learn of any squad I have coached," said coach Jody Zepp. "Only four of the 14 players this year had some experience, however, the girls had a tremendous love of the game."

The Golden Bears had to learn the basics throughout the season, including batting stances, how to throw and catch, what a cut-off throw is and how to play as a team. Despite that inexperience, the team was shutout just once.

"It speaks volumes of their grit and determination to learn and become better players and athletes," Zepp said.

Brooke Costs, Ebonie Alston and Karina LaCroix were even called up to the varsity by the end of the season.

Each player on the roster received an award at the season-ending banquet. They were: Cassidy Werle (Best Arm Strength), Caitlin Walker (Most Enthusiastic), Zoe Newman (Most Improved), Unique Johnson (Most Versatile), Sabrina Barkley (Most Love of the Game), Gerrylyn Bracewell (Heart of the Team), Keche' Arrington (Most Dedicated Player), Mattie Tolson (Most Hits), Brooke Costs (MVP), Amber Rockwell (Best Designated Player), Ebonie Alston (Most Committed), Abby White (Best Sportsmanship), Karina LaCroix (Best Pitching Effort) and Tristan Henkel (Coach's Award).

Rockwell, Alston, White, LaCroix and Henkel each also received a Scholar Athlete award.

For the sixth straight year, Howard finished the season undefeated. On their way to that 12-0 record, the Lions allowed just 11 runs against.

The team's pitching duo of sophomore Jamie Bahrijczuk and freshman Ally Weiman was terrific the entire way. In both games against Wilde Lake they combined to pitch a perfect game with the maximum 15 strikeouts. Then against Oakland Mills and Long Reach, the two combined to pitch no hitters with at least 10 strikeouts each time.

Seven times the Lions' defense recorded shutouts.

There were a few close games, including a game against Glenelg where the team was actually trailing 1-0.

"Glenelg was our biggest game this season. Both teams did not start scoring until late into the game," coach Jennifer O'Neill said. "We had to come from behind for the first time this season to win 4-1."

Another highlight was a game against Wilde Lake where the team combined for four home runs. Natalie Capone and Eryn Keenan hit back-to-back shots to leadoff the game and then Brittany Rhinevault and Rachel Oliver later added shots of their own.

Seven players batted for a .500 average of better. Bahrijczuk (.619 average), Oliver (.577 average, 5 doubles, triple, home run, 18 RBI) and Capone (.552 average, triple, home run) were the top three on the team in terms of average.

Katelyn Penix (5 doubles, 2 triples) and Lydia Maruschak (4 doubles, triple, home run) were among the team leaders in extra-base hits. Maria Blaskiw chipped in with 13 RBI.

Long Reach made great strides over the course of the season on the way to a 3-11 record. Each player, according to coach Becky Cummings, made significant improvements.

"Our main success came in the form of overall growth through the year," Cummings said. "As the season progressed, we gained momentum and, by our last game, all the fundamentals we had been working on fell into place."

The standout players for the Lightning were Allie Lerman (catcher, second base), Ashley Sedlak (first, third base), Shelby Ewart (shortstop), Rose O'Neil (third base, outfield), Kasey White (second base, outfield, pitcher) and Sam Benitez (outfield).

After a slow start, dropping two of its first three games of the season, Mt. Hebron regrouped to win six straight going into spring break en route to eventually finishing 12-4 overall.

During that six-game winning streak, the Vikings scored 110 runs and allowed only 16. Late in the year, the team rolled off another string of four straight wins.

Offense was again a key to Mt. Hebron's success, with the team batting a combined .464 overall with an average of 12 hits and 14 runs per game. Of the 15 players on the roster, 11 had an OBP of over .500.

Sophomore Rachel Veslany led all hitters with a .605 batting average, 23 RBI and nine extra-base hits. Behind her, sophomore Dani Pitts and Emily Turner each batted .500 and combined for 20 RBI and 27 runs scored.

Also contributing at the plate was freshman shortstop Alex Marasa, who was third in hits with 21, led the team in runs scored (37) and walks (21), while hitting for an average of .467.

The defense, which allowed only four hits and five runs a game, was led by sophomore pitcher Abri Segal. After injuries to freshman pitchers Jude Jawhar and Katherine Stagg, Segal ended up throwing most of the innings for the Vikings. She went 10-3, had a 2.35 ERA and limited opponents to a .180 batting average.

"Abri, who herself batted .475 with 20 hits, was a true work horse that kept us in games and allowed our bats to get the job done," coach Bob Gibbons said.

Before getting injured, freshman Katherine Stagg showed promise with a 2-1 record and 12 strikeouts.

Freshman catcher Jordon Malcolm was behind the plate for most games and recorded one error in 70 chances. As a hitter, Malcolm batted .447 with five extra-base hits and 16 RBI. She was also hit by pitches a team-leading six times.

The infield consisted of the hard-hitting Veslany at first, Emily Turner at second, Marasa at short and freshmen Ann Joseph, Casey Holihan and Iman Whyte splitting time at third.

Freshmen Jazz Luu and Whyte anchored the outfield and combined with sophomores Casey Fuentes, Teresa Beatty, Dani Pitts and freshman Katherine Stagg to cover the lines.

"Even though we went through a couple of rough patches, the girls kept working hard, believed in each other and found a way to win," Gibbons said. "Although their performance on the field will always stand out, it was the way this team rallied around our two players who had their seasons ended by devastating injuries that I will always remember about the 2014 JV Vikings."

With a team of nine freshmen and six sophomores, Oakland Mills got better and better with every passing game.

"It was a team that came together and was really playing well at the end of the season," coach Tim McCoy said.

Sophomore Emily Yarn was the No. 1 pitcher and had the team's highest batting average. She was called up to varsity for the playoffs where she pitched a scoreless inning against Hammond.

Ijeoma Okeke, in only her second year of catching, provided great defense and batted clean up. Sophomore Shannon Danzilo had a good year at second base, while freshman Lizzie Yu was a multi-talented player that played very strong at shortstop and served as a leadoff hitter. Yu also filled in at catcher and pitcher when called upon.

Other freshman stars that will make their mark at Oakland Mills in the future were centerfielder Gintare Meizys, Shayla Love (second, outfield, pitcher), first baseman Jordyn Reese and outfielder Kara "Cupcake" Lee.

"The biggest season highlight was a triple play against Centennial and big wins against Hammond and Wilde Lake," McCoy said.

Wilde Lake went 1-15 this spring, but coach Julie Provino says that mark doesn't tell the whole story.

"Although our record may not show it, the team grew and continued to improve throughout the season," Provino said.

Freshman Kim Reider developed into a strong pitcher by the end of the season. She pitched a total of 10 games and had 18 strikeouts. Reider also pitched the win against Oakland Mills on May 6.

"Kim had no previous experience playing softball, let alone pitching, yet she worked hard to become a consistent and reliable pitcher," Provino said.

Among the season highlights was on April 23, in a double-header against Reservoir, when sophomore Avery Haigh hit a 3-run home run. She played both catcher and shortstop for the team and was an all-around solid utility player.

Baseball

The Atholton JV baseball team had a promising season, posting a 10-7 record, and winning six of its last eight games. The Raiders were led on the pitchers mound by their two aces, Ethan Lee (3-1, 2.64 ERA) and Ryan Thomas (4-1, 2.84 ERA). At the plate, Greg Harris (.366 AVG) and Tyler Ferace (16 RBIs) led the team offensively, while Brian Cook served as the foundation of the defense, committing only one fielding error all season.

According to coach Dave Appleby, the highlight of Atholton's season was an 11-8 victory over rival Marriotts Ridge.

For a team with 12 freshmen and only four sophomores, the Hammond Golden Bears held their own, going 6-9 against league opponents and 7-9-1 overall.

Sophomore Calvin Smith was the veteran leader on and off the diamond, batting .432 with 19 hits and 14 RBIs, and serving as the ace of the pitching staff.

"He brought his leadership to the field each practice and game," coach Malcolm Anderson said. "He played any position that we needed. He singlehandedly shut down opponents on the mound and consistently hit the ball well."

Sam Wiedorfer was the team's most consistent and clutch power hitter, batting .447 with 17 hits and 20 runs, and "provided a great deal of athleticism and speed in the outfield for us," Anderson said.

Freshman Gavin Walls manned the hot corner at third base, but also contributed to the pitching staff and was clutch in the offense (.459 AVG, 17 hits, 11 runs). Freshman Marcus Anderson quickly established himself as a speedy outfielder who made several outstanding catches. Anderson also pitched, and did whatever he needed to get on base (11 hits, 11 runs, .475 OBP), where he was a productive base stealer.

Eric Waid started the year as a role player but worked his way into the starting line-up.

"He is a strong kid who had good instinct for the ball in the outfield," Anderson said. "At the plate he provided key hits in pressure situations (.421 slugging) for us this year."

Anderson, who was assisted by Jeffrey Mouton, called a 12-9 win over Mt. Hebron the team's defining moment.

"We made major errors in the first few innings that provided Mt. Hebron with a number of opportunities to score runs. In addition to these errors, our opponent hit the ball very well which knocked in runs early. They scored seven runs in the third inning and we thought the game was close to getting out of reach," Anderson said. "We brought in our top pitcher and held them to two hits for the remainder of the game. In addition to responding on defense we began to hit the ball solid. We took the lead in the sixth inning and held on for the victory. Our veteran leadership came through for us in the clutch and our freshmen rode the wave of excitement and did their jobs."

Mt. Hebron finished 8-9 this spring through tumultuous weather, led by Daniel Brouse and Joel Thomson.

Dealing with snow and rain early on presented a challenge, coach Eric Duke said.

"Having only practiced outside three times, we started off the season with coughs and fits," he said. "Once we started playing regularly we got better as a team, both offensively and defensively. And while we didn't win as many games as we lost, we finished off the season on a four-game win streak, culminated with a doubleheader sweep of Atholton."

Just like its state-champion varsity counterpart, Reservoir had a dominant season, finishing 12-3 overall under coach Zach Nunn.

"We had a solid incoming freshman class that helped contribute offensively and defensively," Nunn said.

With a deep pitching rotation led by Daniel Kim, Max Goron, and Arush Gupta, the Gators were well equipped to navigate up to four games per week.

"These three guys did a great job pounding the strike zone and pitching to contact in order to keep their pitch counts low," Nunn said. "We were defensively sound, keeping us in every ball game."

Kyle Fehr (who got called up to varsity for the state championship run), Mitch Mahanand and Patrick Alexander led the offense, helping the Gators score at least one run in the first inning of 10 of their 15 games, and outscoring the opposition 157-57.

"This was a great group of kids to coach and many will help contribute to an already competitive varsity team," Nunn said.

Despite winning only two games against 14 losses, Wilde Lake inspired hope for future success this spring.

"Some of the highlights came from games that we didn't win but really fought hard," coach Darryl Nicholson said. "My kids worked hard to play as a team … We were a very young team with very few kids who played at the little league level. We played hard and aggressive … Overall we made significant strides in becoming better."

The team was led by Zach Johnson, Frank Beleno and Jackson Schaffer.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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