With the beginning of second semester, spring sports began early tryouts, practices, and games. After their 2020 seasons were cut short by COVID-19, many teams are looking to make up for lost time. One of these teams is the varsity girls soccer team. “I think we could’ve done really well last year had our season not been cut short, and I’m ready for our revenge tour,” said senior Caroline Janki.
This season, head coach and fourth grade teacher Declan Traquair brought on two new coaches for the varsity team, Ross Keenan and Daren Silberman. Upper School English teacher Tamara Neiley and first grade associate teacher Kaitlyn Kerrigan will coach the JV team. This is the first time girls soccer has had enough players for both a JV and varsity team. “So far, the underclassmen are super impressive,” said junior Hannah Genser. “I am excited to see how the two teams mesh together as the season goes on.”
The girls ended their shortened 2020 season with a 5-5 record, notably defeating the Lovett School 5-0. Going into the 2021 season, the team hopes to hold their own with 5A and 6A competitors. “As always, we aim to top our conference to put us in the best position going into playoffs,” said Coach Traquair. “We also play some of the best schools in the state, so we expect to learn a lot from competing against top programs.”
The varsity boys soccer team also aims to top their successful 2020 season, which ended with an 8-1-2 record. With a 29-player roster, the boys team also has enough numbers for both a varsity and JV team this year, giving them hope for successful seasons to come. “I’m happy to see that our numbers have continued to grow every year,” said head coach Lucas Moreno.
“We have the same goal as always, which is playing to win the state championship,” said junior Jeffrey Ramos. “I think the team and I are excited for what the 2021 season has prepared for us and we are going to work hard to be the best team out there.” Similar to the girls team, the boys have a tough schedule ahead of them as they will compete at a higher level than ever before. To measure up to their competitors, the team began training during first semester. “We all understand that hard work has to be done, and that is what drives us as a team,” said senior Jack MacRae.
Both the girls and boys soccer teams are abiding by the COVID-19 protocols implemented by GHSA and Pace. All players and coaches will mask up during practices and before games, only taking off masks while playing in a game. In addition, all members of the teams will test regularly.
TRACK AND FIELD
Varsity track and field competed in only two meets during their 2020 season, giving them the desire to make up for lost time this year. Multiple cross country runners have made the switch from their previous spring sports to running long-distance track for the 2021 season. Among these runners is junior Jordan White. “After playing soccer for so many years, I decided to pursue running, which has recently become a passion of mine,” said White.
With many decorated long-distance runners, including AA State Champion and junior Edward Blaha, the team looks forward to a successful season. “ I think this season will be awesome for the team — we have a great group of people, especially seniors,” said senior Laura Romig.
The team is also stacked with talented short-distance runners such as junior John Catherman. “I am most excited to run again after our season was cut short and I think our team has a great chance of doing well at state,” he said.
The boys and girls rosters amount to a combined total of 56 runners, making it tough to bond as a team while also following COVID-19 protocols. Runners must wear a mask while around the whole team. Once they break up into smaller running groups, they may remove their masks and put them back on once they finish running.
Similar to the boys team, many of the girl golfers either picked up or improved upon their game since last year. “I’ve played on and off for a while but picked it up again over quarantine, said sophomore Peach Wilson. “I decided to do the Pace team because even though out of school tournaments are fun, I wanted to be part of a team where we were all practicing and playing together.”
The girls team, composed of 10 golfers, is full of newcomers, making this a learning year for everyone. “This season will be interesting as I know that some of us, myself included, are fairly new to golf,” said senior Lizzy Kaye. “I’ve played here and there over the years, but just this past summer I started playing more often and learning areas I need to work on, but really enjoying it.”
Being outside and distanced makes golf the perfect pandemic sport. Many players have worked on improving their game over the lock down in the spring and into summer, giving them hope for a successful season. After only playing one match in their 2020 season, players are itching to get back out on the greens. Head coach Scott Shupe is “most excited to see if any of [his] returning players improved their game during quarantine.”
“[It is] tough to anticipate how the season will go, but with some focused 10th and 11th grade boys trying to win tournaments, I’m expecting to perform better than we have in the past few years,” said Coach Shupe. Junior William Baker has been playing and competing in tournaments throughout the last year in preparation for this season, making him one of many golfers who is expected to have a strong season.
Because the team is fairly small, players and coaches are able to make close connections with each other. “My favorite part about playing golf is creating strong bonds with many different people while playing the game I love,” said sophomore Ronak Lalaji. “While playing in tournaments off season is really fun, I’m excited to get back to playing with my Pace team.”
The girls on the varsity tennis team are still the reigning state champions after their victory in 2019. After a shortened season last year, the girls are excited to get back on the court. According to head coach Matt Marsico, one of the keys to their success will be their doubles lineup. “ A big goal would be to win the state championship,” he said. “But in order to do that, we will have to learn a lot about each other and how we like to play doubles.”
Many of the girls have been preparing for the season for months. “I have been training, playing and competing through USTA all year,” said sophomore Caitlyn Pinsker.
Senior captain Sidney Funston hopes to help create a strong team bond between all the girls. “I really want to get close again as a team like we were [my] sophomore year, especially because there will be a lot more girls this year,” she said. She believes that this season is likely to be a successful one. “I think the team has a lot of potential with some of our incoming girls and with the reclassification,” said Funston.
The composition of the team and the practice schedule will look a little bit different this year with COVID-19 protocols. “We are only allowed to have 16 people on the courts at any time,” said Coach Marsico. “We are having to alternate practice days with the boy’s team. We are also doing the JV and varsity kind of together as one girls program, so we will be practicing all together as one cohesive unit.”
Just like the girls, the boys tennis team is also beginning the year having been crowned state champions at the end of their last complete season in 2019. “I am excited to get back out there and start playing matches again,” said senior captain Jordy Elster. “Ever since the season was canceled last year, we’ve all been counting down the days until we can get back to work.”
Head coach Neil DeRosa has high hopes for the team, but first and foremost is maintaining team chemistry. ”We have talented players, however the keys to success will be the quality of genuine support the players have for each other, and the pride they take in giving their best for the team,” he said.
Coach DeRosa understands the importance of a team effort. “The chief goal starting the season is establishing a ‘team first’ over a ‘me first’ mentality,” he said. “In a tennis team, the players compete against other teammates for playing positions on the team. Unfortunately, there are no substitutions, so players play in the match or they don’t play at all. The guys will have to first compete to win their spots and then transition to help their teammates get better for the benefit of the team.”
The boys have been working hard in order to prepare for the season. “I spent all summer playing tennis five or more hours a day so I can be ready for the season,” said sophomore Hunt Stevens. “I have been doing workouts with the team over the past few weeks so we are physically in shape for our season.”
Looking toward the end of the season, Elster is excited for post-season play. “Our goal for this season is to defend our championship,” he said. “We didn’t get the chance last year and are even more motivated this year.” Their next match is scheduled for Feb. 17 against Walton High School.
The girls lacrosse team is thankful to have the opportunity to play this season. “I’m just excited to get out and play since the little playing time we had last season was taken for granted,” said junior goalie Kathleen Glass.
In these unprecedented times, head coach Kelsea Ayers expects disruptions, but she knows her team can handle it. “I expect some hiccups, and I expect that our players are not going to be rattled by it,” she said. “As a coach and as athletes, a big thing is just being smart and to make sure the choices that we make puts us in the best position to keep our season.”
After last season’s sudden ending, the girls are aware of the potential they could lose their season again. “My goal is to give every practice and game my all, especially since the season could be ended any day,” said Glass. “Last season was cut short and that taught me to appreciate every practice and every moment on the field,” said sophomore Anna Nuckols.
Just like the players, coach Ayers is thankful to be back on the field. “Having our season end so abruptly last year, I’ve just been eager to get back on the field to continue to build relationships with the girls and have the opportunity to pick up on where we left off.”
The varsity boys lacrosse team is led by six experienced seniors this year: Tommy Assaf, Bennett Boushka, George Creasman, Evan Karetsos, Steven Morrisroe and Tripp Trimble. According to head coach Grady Stevens, they will be the largest factor this season. “The seniors need to take ownership of the team,” said Coach Stevens.
Coach Stevens wants his players to understand how fortunate they are to even have the opportunity to play. “My mentality right now is every day we get to go on the field and be together is a privilege,” he said. “We have a lot of talent and there is a potential for us to have a successful season, but none of that is possible if we have to shut down for two weeks at a time.”
Trimble is optimistic about the season ahead. “I think the fact that last season was cut short will make the team more eager and motivated this year,” he said. He agrees with Coach Stevens that the seniors have a responsibility to take charge of the team. “I think our senior class can lead us to a very successful season,” he said.
Ambitions for the team are high this year. “I am excited to have a strong playoff push and hopefully win state,” said Trimble. Their next game will take place tonight at home against Kell High School.
As they head into the spring, the varsity baseball team is looking forward to a full season of play. “We have been preparing all year,” said sophomore Forest Pollard. “We have had weekly workouts in the weight room and have been throwing often to keep our arms in good condition.”
Head coach Donice Bloodworth wants the boys to reach their full potential by being smart and staying healthy. “I want to make sure they are physically and mentally prepared to make the best decisions possible to stay healthy so that the talent of this group will be the thing we focus on and not anything else,” he said.
Due to COVID-19, the team must implement some new protocols in order to ensure their safety. “There are a lot [of protocols] coming down from GHSA that will change some of the traditional things in baseball [like] sanitizing balls as they go in and out of play,” said Coach Bloodworth. “The pitcher has a lot of new restrictions, like no licking their fingers and no blowing on their hand. It will be a big shift for them to break some of those habits.”
Just like the other spring sports teams, the goals of the baseball team are ambitious ones. “My goal for the year is to do whatever I can to help us win a state championship,” said junior Jonathan Merlin. The team’s season starts on Feb. 15 at home against Westlake High School.
Top photo: Sophomore Anna Knuchols sprints across the field in a varsity girls lacrosse game against Mount Paran Christian during their shortened 2020 season. Photo: Ashford Little