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New Canaan High School Spring 2013 Sports Preview

New Canaan High School Spring 2013 Sports Preview

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Published by Hersam Acorn
New Canaan High School Spring 2013 Sports Preview
New Canaan High School Spring 2013 Sports Preview

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Published by: Hersam Acorn on Apr 04, 2013
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SPORTS PREVIEW
NEW CANAAN HIGH SCHOOL SPRING 2013
 
2D
NEW CANAAN ADVERTISER, NEW CANAAN, CONN., THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2013
By Dave Stewart
Sports Editor 
The New Canaan Rams’ girlslacrosse team has featured a dramaticone-two punch with Olivia Hompeand Sarah Mannelly during the pastcouple of years.The two all-starsweren’t just a jab, either,it was more like a round-house which left eventhe best of opponentsreeling on the turf.Mannelly, the Rams’ field gener-al, has headed north, graduating lastspring and now attacking the cageas a member of the Boston CollegeEagles women’s team.The loss of Mannelly leaves somehuge shoes to fill, but head coachKristin Woods isn’t worried. She’sbeen through this before.“After Jenny Simpson graduated(in 2009), I thought no one wouldever score as many goals as she didas a senior, but AnjalieChristie stepped rightin and tied her the yearafter,” Woods told the
 Advertiser
. “It just goesto show that when theopportunity is there,kids step up and take advantage.”This year’s Rams certainly appearready, willing and able to make a runat FCIAC and state championshipsin 2013.New Canaan is coming off a phe-nomenal campaign which included aperfect 16-0 regular season record,a 21-1 overall mark, and its secondClass M title in three years.The Rams suffered their only lossto Darien in the FCIAC semifinals,but rebounded with four straightwins in the state tournament, out-scoring their opponents 57-27. Theyalso avenged their loss by beatingthe Wave 9-6 in the quarterfinals,and then pounded Wilton 17-9 in thetitle tilt.This season, New Canaan returnsnumerous key cogs from last year’smachine and the result figures to beanother big year at Dunning Field.“We have high expectations asalways. FCIACs and States would beideal,” Woods said. “And we bringback quite a few starters. After thefirst scrimmage, it’s interesting to seehow different a team is when you’re just missing three or four kids (fromlast year). But we have great kidsand we’ve got great leadership withKelly Armstrong, Liz O’Sullivan andOlivia.”That trio has assumed the roleof senior captains for 2013 and alsooffer the experience of being three-and four-year starters to the team.Defensively, the Rams are stackedas they return four starters.In the net is Liz O’Sullivan, athree-year starter who will continueher career at Notre Dame next sea-son.“Liz O’Sullivan in goal is sort of our quarterback getting everybodyorganized,” Woods said. “She’s veryresponsible and on top of things.She’s definitely a force in the cageand we’re glad to have her back for athird year in a row.”Armstrong is a three-sport stand-out, having played soccer, basketballand lacrosse for four years at NCHS.A fast and tough defender, Armstrongwill make life difficult for opposingattackers.“Kelly is a spectacular defender,”Woods said. “She sort of runs thingsdefensively for us and does a great job clearing the ball. She’s a strongathlete and I usually have her on theother team’s best attacker. She’s astrong kid.”Also returning to the defensiveside of the field are Wheatley Raabe,who will play collegiately at Cal-Berkeley, and Brianna McEwan.Senior Abigail Sawabini, who sawplenty of playing time last sea-son, will slide into a starting spotwith the graduation of Julia Tuttle.Sophomore Elzabeth Miller will playdefensive midfield.“It’s veteran experience and theseniors that are back there all have astrong, athletic build,” Woods said.“That will help is in the big games.”Also figuring into the defensivepicture are senior Jessica Karl, whois injured at the start of the sea-son, and Elizabeth Burke, a juniorreturnee.Junior Nathalie DeNey, freshoff a spectacular season with theRams’ girls ice hockey team, willback up O’Sullivan in the goal, withsophomore Bailey Pindar givingNew Canaan a trio of solid optins inbetwen the pipes.Hompe will be a focal point onoffense and defense, after scoring ateam best 84 goals last spring.She also led the Rams in drawcontrols and groundballs, and wasnamed the MVP of the state finalwhen she scored nine goals anddished out two assists.“In the midfield, we’ve got Oliviaand she’s all over the place,” Woodssaid. “We’re going to look for hernot only defensively, but in transitionand on offense.“There’s going to be a lot morefocus on Olivia, but I think it’llopen up a lot for kids who neverhad the opportunity before becauseSarah and Olivia have been such abig force.”New Canaan features severalplayers who are capable of becom-ing scoring leaders.Starring on the attack are returningstarters Bea Eppler and Lily Citrin,both seniors, and Isabel Taben, asophomore who netted 32 goals asa freshman last spring. SophomoreGrace Freyre is also back with thevarsity team this season.In the mix for playing time arethree freshmen: Katie DeMarino,Catherine Granito, and SammyStewart, each of whom has impressedthe coach and earned a spot on thebig club.New Canaan won’t have muchtime to relax once the season beginsthis week as they host Wilton in arematch of last year’s Class M finalat 3 on Saturday, April 6.They won’t face FCIAC powerGreenwich this year, but rival Darien,Loomis Chaffee, Newtown and FoxLane on New York are on the sched-ule, along with Farmingdale fromLong Island, and Longmeadow fromMassachusetts.Woods said playing top-flightteams get the Rams ready for theplayoffs.“It’s good to play good teams andteams you haven’t seen,” Woods said.“You don’t know who they have,who their big players are or what toexpect, so you have to make game-time adjustments. You never knowwhen it comes to FCIAC and stateplay what everyone’s going to throwat you, so this gets you ready.
Rams at a glance
Head Coach Kristin Woods
(7th year)
2012 Record:
21-1, FCIAC semifinalists, Class M champions
Captains:
Olivia Hompe, Liz O’Sullivan, Kelly Armstrong 
Others to watch:
Wheatley Raabe, Kelly Armstrong, Lily Citrin,Bea Eppler, Isabel Taben, Brianna McEwan,Abigail Sawabini, and Elizabeth Miller
Coach’s Comment
“After the first scrimmage, it’s interesting to see how different ateam is when you’re just missing three or four kids (from last year).But we have great kids and we’ve got great leadership with Kelly  Armstrong, Liz O’Sullivan and Olivia.” 
— Kristin Woods
Dave Stewart
Brianna McEwan, a senior, returns to a veteran Ram defense whichshould give opposing teams fits this spring.
Experienced Rams ready to defend the crown
New Canaan looks for third state title in four years, and elusive FCIAC championship
GirlsLacrosse
The Rams, including BeaEppler (6) and Lily Citrin(18) celebrate a goal by Olivia Hompe (22) during their 9-6 win over Darienin last year’s Class M quar-terfinals.
Dave Stewart
 
NEW CANAAN ADVERTISER, NEW CANAAN, CONN., THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2013
3D
 
By Dave Stewart
Sports Editor 
The New Canaan Rams camewithin four outs of capturing a statechampionship last spring, a perfor-mance which was historical evenwithout the final trip to the winner’scircle.New Canaan was making its firstappearance in a state title game since1972, and was looking to win its firstchampionship since 1950. The Ramsfell just short, as Fitch of New Havenrallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 6-4 decision.Despite that defeat, New Canaanmade some tremendous strides, andis looking to get back to the promisedland again this year, and perhapseven take that one final step to acrown.“There has been a tremendousamount of carry-over,” Hoffman toldthe
 Advertiser.
“The biggest thing forus is the experience. The experienceof having the ability to deal with win-ning, what it takes, and how it feels.We’re playing to win games and Ican see it in their attitude. They’relooser and there’s a confidence factorbehind them in a positive way.”The Rams have good reason to beoptimistic this spring.With a deep lineup loaded withtalented hitters, plenty of speed onthe basepaths, a strong stable of pitchers, and a good deal of experi-ence, the sky’s the limit for NewCanaan.Thanks to a midseason hittingslump, New Canaan finished outsidethe FCIAC playoff bubble last year,going 10-10 during the regular sea-son, but they bounced back in theClass L tournament, winning fourstraight games before falling in thetitle game.“Last year was a good experiencefor them getting to within four outs(of a state championship), and kindof playing with the house’s money,”Hoffman said.Headlining the Ram nine areseniors Casey Ouellette and AndrewCasali, both experienced veteransand two-year captains. Ouellette hasspent four years as New Canaan’sstarting catcher, while Casali, whowas injured as a freshman, hasplayed varsity for three years as acenterfielder and a pitcher.“We consider our captains ascoaches,” Hoffman said. “It’s not justokay, you’re the captain; we expectthem to lead the team. We give a lotof freedom to our guys and Caseyand Andrew help with the wholeatmosphere based on experience andthe people that they are.”Ouellette is the on-field quarter-back, directing the game and thepitchers from behind home plate. Healso has atypical speed for a catcher,and will leadoff at the plate, givingthe Rams a potent stolen base threatto start things off.“Being a catcher myself, Caseyand I can think along the same lines.He’s been with me for four years,so I’m sure going to miss him,”Hoffman said. “Uniquely enough,he’s a catcher and a leadoff hitter,which typically fit, but he’s the sparkof the team behind the plate and atbat because he starts it for us.“I couldn’t ask for anything moreout of him than what I’ve seen so farin terms of his demeanor, his leader-ship and his guidance.”Casali will bat the three-hole andhas the biggest power bat the lineup.Like Ouellette, Casali is a threat tosteal, and also has great range incenterfield.“Andrew looks phenomenal,”Hoffman said. “He’s very looseand relaxed and he’s having fun.He’ll pitch, play center and hit third.Andrew is a very complete hitter.Being who he is, he’s not going tosee a lot of great pitches so he needsto make sure that he’s patient. He’sa kid that if you try to pitch aroundhim and he gets on base, he’ll turn itinto a double or a triple because he’sgoing to steal. He can hit the ball andhe can run as well.”The Rams can also boast of astrong and deep pitching staff, withthree varsity veterans on the mound.Junior J.R. Anderson earned astarting role last year and made themost of it, working his way into therole of ace.“J.R. is our inspirational lead-er,” Hoffman said. “He’s extremelyvocal, he has tremendous tenacityand he goes after it every single timehe’s out there. Even when he’s sittingon the bench because he’s not pitch-ing, he’s still a leader in terms of getting the team where it’s supposedto be mentally. I can’t speak higherof J.R.”Junior Dan Rajkowski, who cameup big during the state tournament,is also back, but has been dealingwith an injury during the preseason.Hoffman said Rajkowski is on a pitchcount for the time being, and hopesto have him back at full strength forthe second half of the schedule.Sophomore David Giusti movedup from the J.V. team and will startthis season, with the third and fourthspots going to Casali and sophomoreAlex LaPolice, a left-hander.Junior Jeff Chen, another lefty,and Luke Montgomery, a righty, willalso see time on the mound.“Pitching is the name of thegame,” Hoffman said. “We teachgetting the ball to the right parts of the plate, understanding how to pitchahead, and pitching with confidence.This year, we have the ability to letthe older pitchers we have teach thesophomore pitchers we have whatthey need to do.”The Rams will have a new lookon the infield with the losses of Doug Reilly, Gogo Jones and WillieBurger.Seniors Henry Lavieri and BrianMoran will split time at first base,with Moran serving as the DH whenhe’s not in the field. Moran, theRams’ cleanup hitter, was a star dur-ing the state tournament, comingwith numerous clutch hits.“Brian’s going to hit in the fourspot for us and he knows his role,”Hoffman said. “He’s hitting behindAndrew, so they can’t pitch aroundAndrew, they can’t pitch around both.Brian’s got some experience underhis belt and he’ll be fine there.”Sophomore Brandon Abate andsenior Grady Amrhein will be at sec-ond base, with juniors Matt Toth atshortstop, and Erik Jager at third.The outfield will feature Casali incenter, with junior Nick Cascione inright, and LaPolice in left. SeniorsAlex Curto and Ned Galluzzo arealso in the outfield mix.Backing up Ouellette behind theplate are senior C.J. Altman, whosaw time last year when Ouellettewas sidelined with an injury, and junior Griffin Donnelly.Hoffman said the influx of newtalent coupled with the veterans hasbeen a potent combination for theRams this spring.“There’s a lot of older faces here,but they’ve been welcoming the newfaces as well,” the coach said. “Lastyear, we were good, but we some-times looked for the next guy to hitthe ball. Now, we’re playing where if everybody just does their job, we’regood.”
Rams at a glance
Head Coach Mitch Hoffman
(4th year)
2012 Record:
14-11, Class L runner-up
Captains:
Casey Ouellette and Andrew Casali
Others to watch:
J.R. Anderson, Brian Moran, Nick Cascione,Dan Rajkowski, Alex LaPolice, Matt Toth, Henry Lavieri,Brandon Abate, Grady Amrhein, David Giusti, and Erik Jager
Coach’s Comment
“The biggest thing for us is the experience. The experience of hav-ing the ability to deal with winning, what it takes, and how it feels.We’re playing to win games and I can see it in their attitude.” 
— Mitch Hoffman
Dave Stewart
Junior J.R. Anderson, who emerged as an ace during his sophomore sea-son, will be back at the top of the rotation this spring.
New Canaan roster filled with diamond gems
Ram baseball team looks to build on historic 2012 state tournament performance
Dave Stewart
New Canaan seniorAndrew Casali followsthrough on a hit during a game at Mead Park lastspring. Casali and Casey Ouellette will be teamcaptains for the second year.
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