Meet the local high school kids poised for a big spring season.
Jordan Krug, Cherokee lacrosse
A senior attacker who was all-South Jersey in 2014, Krug has led the Chiefs in scoring the last two years. He was also a linebacker and tight end in football for Cherokee’s back-to-back sectional championship teams, and was a standout wrestler during the winter.
SJM: How tough is it to go from football to wrestling to lacrosse? Would you rather have more of a break or do you like staying active the whole time?
JK: I’m real big on having something to do. I always have stuff on my plate; I’m always running around. I feel like when I slow down, everything changes. So I don’t mind the quick switches. It takes me a little while to get in the mood for the next sport, but once I’m into it I just keep going, and whatever’s next I just keep doing.
SJM: Have you always played all three sports since you were young?
JK: I used to play baseball before lacrosse, and I played basketball when I was real little, but I wasn’t too good so my dad got me into wrestling. Ever since fifth grade, I’ve been doing all three.
SJM: But next year in college you’re just focusing on lacrosse, right?
JK: Yes, I’m going to Cabrini College to play lacrosse. It’s definitely going to be different. I’ll always be checking in on football and wrestling. No matter what, I’m still going to love those sports. But it will be good for me to improve my lacrosse skill and IQ. I’ll be focusing on that year round.
SJM: Did you choose to focus on lacrosse in college because you think it’s your best sport?
JK: When I was younger, football was my main thing, and I was really thinking about going with that. But I just fell in love with lacrosse and it clicked once I hit high school. I knew that was what I wanted to do. Watching college lacrosse and the pros, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
SJM: What did you like about Cabrini?
JK: The team is really good and the coach is awesome. They’ve been in the top 10 for the last 10 years, so they’re a successful team. I was looking to go somewhere we could possibly win a Division III national championship. That was really big, and the school is great. It’s a really good location, and there’s not too many kids, so I’ll be able to focus on my education way more than I would at a big school. Also, I’m going to be able to play there. I talked to the coach, and he expects me to be playing my freshman year. I don’t want to be the kid sitting on the bench for two years and then playing my junior year. I want to get in there, make an impact for the team and help everyone get better.
SJM: After leading the team in scoring the last two years at Cherokee, what are your goals for your final season?
JK: Team-wise, I want to win a championship. I think we have the perfect amount of skill that we need for this year. I really want to lead the team to a championship, and individually I want to get my 100th goal. But I’m not really looking at that, because I don’t want to get too caught up with myself. I want to make sure the team is getting better.
SJM: You had a tough loss in the playoffs last year as the No. 2 seed, and you’ve fallen in the quarterfinals the last two years. What is going to be different this year?
JK: I think this year the whole senior class and the varsity are better chemistry-wise than we were in the past. The last two years, us younger kids were playing a lot as sophomores and juniors. Me and Timmy Carroll have been starting attack the last two years and we were just sophomores and juniors. I think this year we’ll have older veterans on the team, and we all have the taste of losing the last two years. We remember how much it sucked last year, and we’re all thirsty to keep on going. We’re all confident enough to be able to say no matter who we play we can beat, because we can beat everyone on our schedule. And everyone can beat us, too. But we’re all in the right state of mind; we’re not thinking about ourselves or [college], because a lot of us have already committed. So we can all come together as one, keep our heads straight and keep going down the right road.
SJM: There are so many good teams in this area. Who do you consider some of the best players in South Jersey? Are there any particular goalies that give you a hard time?
JK: The Seneca kid [Tyler McCormack], I have a couple kids on my team that play summer [lacrosse] with him. Last year when we played them, I realized he was really good. … I think about how we lost to them last year, it was a really close game, we lost by two. So this year I have to change it up and try to score on him.
Me and a couple of the Cherokee kids played South Shore with a bunch of the Shawnee kids, and we’ve grown up being competitors in football and lacrosse since we were little kids. They’re really talented. Curtis [Corley], the defender, is a really good athlete and he’s going to Maryland for defense. That’s someone who I can see my skill level when I go against him. I know it’s going to be really good competition against them this year with our strong offense and their strong defense.
SJM: Do you have a favorite moment in high school sports? I guess winning back-to-back championships in football would be hard to beat.
JK: That’s something that’s really big and when I get older I’ll always look back on that. But I think how close both the football and lacrosse teams have been, and the memories that we have [are what stand out]. Not even the stuff on the field. Of course, almost going undefeated last year [in football] and being so dominant was great, and so was making first team all-conference in lacrosse. But I think spending all this time with my friends is something I’m never going to forget, and our friendships are never going to go away. It’s really tough to pick out one thing because there’s so much success we’ve had at Cherokee.
SJM: What’s the best feeling—scoring a touchdown in football, pinning your opponent in wrestling or scoring a goal in lacrosse?
JK: I think scoring a touchdown in football is probably the best. Football has been Cherokee’s [best sport] for so long, and you have so many people there when you score a touchdown or make a big hit. My two interceptions last year in the championship game were really big, and that feeling of the whole crowd going nuts is great. There are so many people that have gone through the system before you have, and being able to be one of the ones that’s remembered, it’s definitely different than scoring 30 goals a year in lacrosse.
SJM: When you’re not playing sports, what are you usually doing?
JK: Spending as much time with my family and friends as I can, just hanging out. During the summer, people are gonna start leaving left and right for school around the country. So we’re trying to bond and hang out as much as we can. Obviously, I spend a lot of time with my parents and my sister too, since I’m gonna be leaving next year. It’s gonna be weird not coming home to the same house and sleeping in the same bed or eating home-cooked meals. So I’m trying to enjoy the time I have of being a teen and being a kid.
SJM: At least you won’t be too far away at Cabrini.
JK: Yeah, that was another good thing. I really wanted to get out of state and get a taste for a different lifestyle, but it’s close enough where my dad can come up, because he’s involved with everything, and my whole family can come up.
SJM: If you can look down the road a little bit, where do you see yourself in 10 years? Is there a certain job you’d like to have? Do you think you’ll be starting a family yet?
JK: I’ve thought about it. In 10 years, I could definitely see myself trying to settle down or find someone. Career-wise, my dad is a salesman, so he can really make his own schedule and work around stuff, so he’s always there for us and he’s really successful at work. So I’d like to do sales. I’m really good at talking to people and selling myself and all that. I’d [also] like to stay involved in sports. I had so many people who put in the time to help make me better. When I’m 30 or older, I want to coach my kids and help out the younger players who are trying to beat my records.
Aine Filler, Moorestown golf
Despite just committing to the sport at the start of high school, Filler has become one of the top female golfers in South Jersey. The senior placed third at the Central Jersey Golf League Tournament and 18th at the Girls Meet of Champions last year, and will continue her golf career at Muhlenberg College.
SJM: Heading into your senior year, what are your goals for yourself and the team? Any big tournaments you’re really aiming to win?
AF: I want to make it to states again, that’s my goal every year. I was there last year and did really well. I think I have a good chance of winning Carl Arena, as long as I play well. We’re just gonna try to win as much as we can.
SJM: Do you like playing in tournaments like Carl Arena where the boys and girls compete together?
AF: I like competing with the guys because it’s good competition. But in some ways, we’re smarter than the boys, because the boys just go for it, but the girls think about it.
SJM: How long have you been playing golf and how did you get started?
AF: I’ve only been playing for school and I started because my parents made me do a spring sport. So I picked golf.
SJM: Did you have success right away?
AF: No, my freshman season I was No. 4 [on the team]. I had to work really, really hard over that summer and I took a lot of lessons. It all paid off.
SJM: But the enjoyment was always there?
AF: Yeah, I really liked it. It’s different from any other sport I’ve ever done. I played soccer my whole life, but golf is so different. I can just rely on myself in golf. I’ve learned a lot from golf. I’ve learned to be very independent. If I make a mistake, it’s on me to fix it.
SJM: Do you get frustrated like any other golfer?
AF: I try not to get frustrated. If I do, I just think about something that makes me happy, because when you get frustrated, that’s when you mess up.
SJM: Going to your happy place—did you get that from Happy Gilmore?
AF: (Laughs) Yeah, I guess.
SJM: So you have never thrown your clubs on the course or anything?
AF: Actually, I broke my driver the day before I left for a college combine because I was so frustrated. But ever since then, I fixed my frustrations.
SJM: I think that happens to everyone; it’s such a challenging sport.
AF: Yeah, but that’s the best part about it. It’s a very unforgiving sport, but at the same time, when you succeed you just feel so much better about yourself.
SJM: Your team plays home matches at Moorestown Field Club. What do you like about that course?
AF: I wish that we got the opportunity to play at Laurel Creek like the boys, because I’ve been a member there for a really long time. But I like the Field Club because it is very challenging. It’s very narrow and all the holes are surrounded by bunkers or water.
SJM: Do you have a favorite course in South Jersey?
AF: Probably Laurel Creek. I like Blue Heron, I like Shore Gate and Seaview is really nice. That’s where they have the LPGA Shoprite [Classic].
SJM: If you could play any course in the world, what would it be?
AF: I would play Pebble Beach. I really like California, it’s so different from here. It’s so beautiful, all the pictures I’ve seen.
SJM: How about if you could play in a foursome with any three people. Who would you choose?
AF: Probably Adam Levine from Maroon 5, because I love him; Tiger Woods, because I did my research paper on him and I could tell him I did that; and I like [PLGA star] Stacy Lewis, so I’ll go with her.
SJM: When you’re watching the pros, can you take elements from their game and apply them to yours?
AF: I like watching the girls more than the guys because the girls are more relatable. I pay attention to what they do to focus and what they do to relax and all of their pre-shot routines, because what they do works. I try to translate that to my game and I think it helps.
SJM: Will you be playing golf in college?
AF: Yeah, I committed to Muhlenberg in Allentown, Pa. I liked it because it’s academically challenging. It’s like a pressure-cooker. I liked the golf team because I think I can have an impact there and I think I’ll be able to succeed there.
SJM: Do you know what you want to study?
AF: I’m either going to do accounting or pre-med. I really don’t know, but one of those.
SJM: Do you think you’re a golfer for life now?
AF: Oh yeah, definitely. I want to play for the rest of my life. It’s so much fun and you can do it forever, unlike other sports like soccer or lacrosse where you have a lot of wear and tear on your body.
SJM: What are some of your interests away from the golf course?
AF: I go to the gym a lot. I still try to play pickup games in soccer with my friends. I ski a lot and I like the beach.
SJM: What do you like about growing up in South Jersey?
AF: I like South Jersey because we’re 45 minutes from the beach, we’re close to Philly. You can get anywhere from here—the Poconos, New York. It’s a really good location. I’m really close to my family, so I wanted to be close for college. I want them to come to all of my tournaments.
Taylor Gilligan, Shawnee softball
A senior catcher, Gilligan was an all-South Jersey selection in 2014, when she had a .538 batting average and led Burlington County with 11 home runs. Also a contributor on Shawnee’s back-to-back South Jersey championship teams in basketball, Gilligan will focus on softball next year at Dominican College in New York.
SJM: You got another late start to softball season this year because of the basketball playoffs. Can you describe what that ride was like to make it to the state final in consecutive years?
TG: It was incredible. It’s so fun with the group of girls we have. We’ve been playing together since sixth grade. I didn’t worry too much about softball because of how crazy the run was [in basketball].
SJM: The softball team seems to have the potential to go on a similar run as the basketball team. What are the keys for a successful season?
TG: I think we definitely have a chance. We have pretty much every starter back except for one senior from last year. We’re in a great position and we have great team chemistry this year.
SJM: Last year was such a breakout season for you personally. Why did everything click?
TG: I don’t know what it was. I was just feeling good [at the plate] all season. The season didn’t really end the way we wanted it to. I had a good season, but unfortunately the team didn’t.
SJM: Did you surprise yourself with all of your offensive success?
TG: I expect that out of myself. Sometimes I have a tough time and get into a slump. Last year I just felt good all season, and luckily the results were good.
SJM: As a catcher, do you feel like your defense is just as important as your offense?
TG: In a way, yeah. As the catcher, I have to look out for everyone else on the team and calm everyone down when things get crazy. I think defense is more important than offense. If you don’t get the stops on defense, your offense isn’t going to do much.
SJM: Who are some of the toughest pitchers you’ve faced in South Jersey?
TG: Last year it was [Washington] Township’s pitcher, Jenna Mills. For some reason, I could not hit her. Taylor Coroneos [pitched for Washington Township] in my freshman and sophomore years, and she was really good too. One year I think we played Township three or four times during the season. It’s nice when you play these competitive teams throughout the season, because it prepares you so well for the playoffs.
SJM: How do you like growing up with a twin sister [Connor, a third baseman/pitcher for the Renegades] and playing softball with her? Are there more positives than negatives?
TG: I think it’s definitely more positive, even though she’s standing right next to me right now like a weirdo. Growing up, she was a pitcher and I was a catcher. She was such a dominant pitcher and I never wanted to catch her. I think I was 11 and my mom bribed me to catch her finally. I forget what she bribed me with, but she needed me to catch her. I think it’s going to happen again this year; she’s finally going to pitch [for Shawnee].
SJM: Do you argue at all on the field?
TG: Oh, definitely. There’s times when she’s having a tough time and I go out there and say, ‘Connor, come on, you have to pick it up.’ She yells at me and tells me to back to home plate. But we always end up laughing it off.
SJM: You two are going to different colleges next year, right?
TG: Yeah, unfortunately. We always planned on going together. … With athletics, it’s hard to get one coach interested in two of you. So once we got older, we realized it might not happen. It’s going to be tough, but I think we’ll be alright.
SJM: With Connor in West Virginia at Shepherd University and you in New York, do you think you’ll be constantly calling and texting each other?
TG: Yeah, she won’t leave me alone.
SJM: What went into your college decision?
TG: Distance-wise, it was a great fit. Academic-wise, they have what I’m looking for. I’m not sure if I want to go into athletic training or education, but they have a really good athletic training program. So that was a big positive.
SJM: What do you think you’ll miss most about home when you go away?
TG: Definitely my family and my dog. I’m not really sure what kind of dog she is—she’s a German shepherd mixed with something. I also have a 25-year-old sister and 23-year-old brother. They both finished college and are living back at home right now.
SJM: You seem like a big sports fan in general. Who are some of the athletes you enjoy watching?
TG: I don’t pick out athletes, but I just love watching college sports. I’m obsessed with watching college basketball. Every time I’m home, it’s on. I really love the Notre Dame basketball team.
SJM: Aside from sports, what are some of your interests?
TG: I don’t really have any interests other than sports. Either I’m at practice or watching a game or I’m at school. I like being at home and relaxing with my family.
SJM: What do you like about going to school at Shawnee?
TG: I love Shawnee. The whole staff is so kind and they help you with everything, and the athletics are a huge plus. These past four years that I’ve been here, all four classes have brought so much success to the programs. It’s awesome to be able to say you go to Shawnee. … Even the academics are great.
SJM: I notice you’re pretty active on Twitter. Is that a platform you like to use?
TG: I like keeping up with everything. [During basketball season] we were able to tell everyone to come support us during the South Jersey final or the state final. During the sectional final we had a huge turnout from our fans. It’s good to use Twitter to get that out there. Even when we were waiting to hear who we were going to play in the state final, I was refreshing every five minutes to … find out who were playing. It’s awesome to get second-by-second updates.
Tommy Dodson, Haddonfield tennis
A senior, Dodson has been the second singles player the last two years for a dominant Haddonfield team. Last year, he posted a 43-5 record, won the Camden County singles championship and helped the Bulldawgs win their 10th state championship.
SJM: What’s it mean to you to be part of a great program with so much tradition?
TD: It’s really special to be able to play for Mr. [Jeff] Holman, because he’s had such a great career, and to be part of a school with such a good academic and athletic history. It feels good to be able to contribute to that.
SJM: When you guys take the court, do you think a lot of teams are intimidated right off the bat?
TD: Certainly in South Jersey, I think we’re regarded as one of the best teams. But when we go to North Jersey, it’s more about proving ourselves, and I like to think we’ve done that the last couple of years.
SJM: There were so many highlights last year, from Coach Holman winning his 1,000th career match to the sectional and state championships and then reaching the Tournament of Champions final. Which one stands out when you look back on that season?
TD: It was probably the state championship, because we had been so close the last couple of years. The Tournament of Champions is more like the icing on the cake. If a couple of matches went a different way, we could’ve had that too.
SJM: You had your own success with the county title. Were you happy with what you accomplished on an individual level?
TD: Yeah, I’m always happy with what I’m able to do for the team. I definitely have some goals this year for the state singles tournament because I feel like I’ve missed out the last couple of years. My freshman year, I didn’t qualify; my sophomore year, I didn’t make it very far; and last year I was hurt. So hopefully this year I can make it a couple rounds further.
SJM: Do you feel like you’re in position to take over the No. 1 spot this year since Max Oberholtzer graduated?
TD: I hope so. I’ve played a few years with some really good guys, Mike Alberto and Sam Oberholtzer, and they’re going to pose a threat for that spot too.
SJM: If you do earn that spot, do you think there will be a lot of pressure that comes with it?
TD: I think there’s pressure, but I think a positive that comes out of it is being in a leadership position. It means more to me in that sense. I’m not really concerned with playing the best players.
SJM: What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses and what kind of style do you like to play?
TD: I definitely play an all-court game. I played a lot of sports when I was younger and I like to use my athleticism and my size to my advantage. Also, playing a lot of sports helped me with pressure situations. I feel like I play much better under pressure.
SJM: Are you a fan of the professional game?
TD: Oh yeah, I’m a big fan. I wouldn’t say I base my game off anyone, but I certainly enjoy watching it and studying what they do.
SJM: Who is your favorite player out of the big four in the men’s game—Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray?
TD: Probably Federer. I kind of like them all equally. He seems like he’s the most sportsmanlike and he’s such a class act all the time.
SJM: If I could give you two tickets to any tournament, which would you pick and who would you take with you?
TD: Ooh. I’d have to say Wimbledon, just because of the history behind that one. And I’d definitely take my dad. He shares the same love for tennis that I have. He was my first coach and the first person to put a racket in my hand.
SJM: Have you made your college decision yet?
TD: Yeah, I committed to play at Villanova next year. It came down to a couple of schools, and Villanova was really attractive to me because it was by far the best combination of the academic side—which meant a lot more—and had the best team I could play for.
SJM: So you won’t be too far from home. Tell me what you like about growing up in Haddonfield, because it’s such a unique town.
TD: Yeah, it definitely is. Playing for a storied program and being in such a competitive academic atmosphere, it drives all of us to compete more. It’s nice to contribute to that. You see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, it’s kind of a Haddonfield tradition.
SJM: Are you more nervous or excited for going away to college?
TD: I’m more excited. I’m ready to move up to the college game and ready to move up to college living.
SJM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Is there a certain job you’d like to have, or do you see yourself settling down and starting a family?
TD: It’s hard to say in that regard, but I am going to the business school at Villanova. I’m really enjoying my environmental science class, and if there’s a way to combine those two, I’d be interested in that—along the lines of business solutions for ecological problems.
SJM: What are the team goals for this season—can you get back to the state championship?
TD: I think we can certainly make it back to the state championship. I think we would have a tough match there, but I think we can do it. Even though we graduated some great players, everyone on the team got much better.
Sydney Jackson, Eastern track and field
One of the top sprinters in South Jersey, Jackson has placed in the top 10 at states in the 200 meters each of the last two years. Also a standout in the 100 and the long jump, she is looking to close out her career with a strong senior season.
SJM: Are you excited to get outside for the spring season after a long indoor season?
SJ: Yes, I am excited, except for the cold. The rest of the season should go pretty well. When it gets warmer out, we all get excited.
SJM: You’ve already had an outstanding career. What’s on your to-do list for your final season at Eastern?
SJ: My biggest goal is to go for English Gardner’s 200 record [at Eastern] and I’m not too far off. The record is 24-flat and my best time is 25.2, so a lot of hard work and dedication will hopefully get me there.
SJM: English Gardner is now one of the top sprinters in the world. Do you know her at all?
SJ: She was before me at Eastern but I have met her a few times. She’s been to some of our practices.
SJM: You have another talented sprinter on the team in Melanie Edwards. What’s it like having a strong competitor like that to push you and are the two of you close?
SJ: Yeah, we’re close. She pushes me a lot and I push her. That makes both of us stronger.
SJM: How old were you when you got involved in track?
SJ: I started when I was in second grade but I wasn’t really into it that much. I continued to play soccer, and then I started back up with track in middle school. When I got to high school is when I really got serious about track, even though it was still my second sport behind soccer. The end of my sophomore year is when I knew I wanted to pursue track in the future.
SJM: How old were you when you realized you were a lot faster than other girls your age?
SJ: I realized at an early age from playing soccer, but I wasn’t really in the track world yet.
SJM: You also do the long jump. Do you have the same love for that event that you do for the sprints?
SJ: That’s just something I do. I haven’t really been focusing on it a lot the past couple of seasons. But when I do it, I try to do my best in it.
SJM: How do you prepare for a big race? Is there a routine you stick to or certain music you listen to before the race to get in the right mindset?
SJ: I have a playlist for myself and I listen to it before every big meet. It has Migos, Kendrick Lamar, people like that. Then we do a warmup and I do some of my own stretches that help me personally. That helps me get even more ready for whatever event I’m competing in.
SJM: Have you made your college decision yet?
SJ: Yes, I will be attending Hampton University in Virginia. I was looking at Rutgers as well for track, but my running style wasn’t really progressing the way I wanted it to, and I wasn’t getting scholarship offers. So I got into both schools, but I got an academic scholarship to Hampton, and I’ll also be a fourth-generation [student] at Hampton, so that made my decision easier.
SJM: So it’s a family tradition. Did you grow up hearing about Hampton?
SJ: Yes I did, and I’ve been there many times. My mom went there, my dad and his twin brother, my grandmom, her other two sisters, and her parents also went.
SJM: Do you plan on running track in college?
SJ: I plan on walking on, that sort of thing.
SJM: Do you think it’s going to be weird not playing soccer in the fall?
SJ: It will be weird, but it might be fortunate for me because Hampton is actually just starting a soccer program. Obviously, they won’t be as prestigious as some other schools, but it will be something where I can still play and be able to have fun. So I might do that if the program does start next season.
SJM: What was it like to be part of a dominant girls soccer program at Eastern?
SJ: I loved it. The girls were amazing, we’re all really close. We all pushed each other and it wasn’t just a one-person team. Everybody puts in their all and contributes in one way or another, whether they’re a big star or coming off the bench.
SJM: Do you have a similar group in track?
SJ: The girls this year are really hard-working as well, so I think we can get pretty far.
SJM: What will you miss most about going to school at Eastern?
SJ: Definitely my teams. They’re like my sisters, we’re all a family. We talk every day, and not just at school or practice; we’re always talking on the phone and helping each other with different situations. We’re all really close so I’ll miss them the most.
SJM: What are your interests aside from sports?
SJ: I took one class in photography and I really liked it. I didn’t expect to like it, but it was actually a lot of fun, just being able to go into a darkroom and see how pictures develop. It was different than a basic art class with paints and stuff, which I’m not personally good at.
SJM: Do you know what you want to study in college?
SJ: I want to study sports management, maybe with a minor in business or finance. I want to work some way with professional athletes.
AJ Wright, Cherry Hill West baseball
A varsity starter since his freshman year, Wright is coming off a junior season in which he hit .471 with 27 RBIs and was named to the all-South Jersey first team. He will play college ball at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
SJM: You entered your senior season just a few hits away from 100 for your career. What does that milestone mean to you?
AW: I guess it’s a good accomplishment, because it means I’ve been doing my job and helping the team. But we really haven’t had too much success in the playoffs, so this year I’m hoping I can produce even more hits and help the team go farther and make it to a state final.
SJM: That leads into my next question. After making the all-South Jersey team and playing in the Carpenter Cup, are team goals the most important thing left for you to accomplish?
AW: Yeah, definitely. We made it to the playoffs all three years that I’ve been here, but we haven’t made it past the second round. This is the year I feel the most confident in the team, because I think we have eight guys returning from last year. I feel really confident about our chances.
SJM: Before you were born, Cherry Hill West was a powerhouse in the late 1980s. Are you aware of that history?
AW: Yeah, we have a couple signs that get hung up in the outfield [that have] the top five or top three rankings in the [country on them]. And I know a couple guys who played on those teams, and I’ve gotten to talk to them about it. They said they played really well together, and it seems like they had a lot of success.
SJM: What stands out as your best memory on the field, whether it was in high school or Little League?
AW: Just playing with the guys I’ve been playing with; we’ve probably been playing together since I was 6 or 7 years old. They’ve become really close friends, and hopefully I’m going to enjoy this last year that I have with them. It’s been a long ride and I want to end on a good note.
SJM: Who are some of the toughest pitchers you’ve faced in South Jersey?
AW: There’s John Murphy from Gloucester Catholic, definitely. There’s a couple of kids from Bishop Eustace, Tyler Phillips and Justin Hagenman. They’ve been conference rivals since I’ve been here so hopefully I get to face them again this year.
SJM: Is it tougher to face a guy who’s throwing real hard or a guy who has nasty off-speed stuff?
AW: I think it’s definitely harder to face a guy with off-speed stuff, because there’s more diversity with his pitches than somebody who just throws in the upper 80s. I’ve been playing travel ball for a while, so I’m kind of used to [hard throwers], but you never really know what you’re going to get from these guys with the good curveballs, sliders and changeups.
SJM: I hear your dad is a groundskeeper for the Phillies. Does that lead to any perks for you?
AW: It’s cool that he gets to watch major-league ballplayers every day and he tells me all about it. I get to a handful of games each year and it’s awesome to see what it’s like at the pro level. I’ve been on the field a few times; not much recently, but when I was younger I used to go to work with him a lot. I got to take ground balls on the field a few times. I hit in the cage underneath [the stands], but never on the field.
SJM: Are there any specific big-league guys you look up to?
AW: Ever since I was young I was always a fan of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley because I’m a middle infielder myself, and I like to watch what they do and see if I can replicate it. They’ve had a lot of success at the big-league level and they give it their all every game, every pitch.
SJM: So are you comfortable at second base and shortstop?
AW: Yeah. I grew up mostly at shortstop and moved to second base around 13, so I’ve always had the ability to play either. For high school I’ve played shortstop for the most part, and travel it’s been mostly second.
SJM: Was it always a dream to play college ball? What went into your decision to attend UMBC?
AW: When I was younger, probably 5 or 6, my goal was to be a major-league ballplayer. As I got older, I realized it doesn’t happen to everyone, so the fact that I can play past high school and still pursue my dreams of being a major-leaguer, I just jumped at the opportunity. We’ll see what goes on from there.
SJM: You never know what can happen. Looking at a guy like Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, who’s a small guy, does that give you hope?
AW: I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest guy either. I’m probably 5-10 on a good day. The fact that Pedroia and even Jose Altuve [of the Astros] are the smallest guys out there and play with the biggest hearts, that shows that there’s a chance for anyone in the league.
SJM: What do you like about growing up in Cherry Hill?
AW: I moved to Cherry Hill when I was 9 from Pennsauken, and I played most of my baseball here. It’s been fun. I’ve met most of my friends here and I can say I’m going to be friends with them for the rest of my life.
SJM: What’s it like to be part of the rivalry with Cherry Hill East and do you already have those games circled on your calendar?
AW: Yeah, definitely. I actually live on the eastside of Cherry Hill, but of course I go to Cherry Hill West. I know a lot of kids from East who play baseball and other sports. It’s a friendly rivalry and it’s always good when you see them coming up on the schedule. The last few years we just played them once because we were in separate [divisions], but this year we’re in the same [division] so we play them twice.
SJM: If you’re not playing baseball, where can you usually be found?
AW: I’m a good student in school, I get pretty good grades, so that’s always a priority. So a lot of times I’m doing schoolwork or hanging out with my friends.
SJM: If a pro career doesn’t work out, do you see yourself staying involved in baseball as a coach or playing in a local men’s league?
AW: I want to stay involved with sports in general. I’m a big sports fan—hockey, football, basketball, whatever. So I’d like to stay involved in sports.
Chris Haruch, Washington Township baseball
In his first full season in the Minutemen’s starting rotation last year, this right-handed pitcher posted a perfect 6-0 record with 36 strikeouts in 40 innings. Now a senior, he is ready to take over as the team’s ace before moving on to Rowan University.
SJM: Going undefeated as a pitcher is never easy, but especially with the schedule you guys play. Why do you think you were able to do it last year?
CH: It was because of our offense and our defense. The offense was able to get big leads early in games, and that’s a huge part of relaxing and allowing yourself to go out there and throw strikes without trying to do too much. Defensively, I can’t tell you how many double plays that were turned, and little things like that definitely made it easier on me.
SJM: In your sophomore year, you earned a big win over Vineland in the Diamond Classic. How important was that for your confidence?
CH: That was huge. To come in as a sophomore in a tournament like the Diamond Classic, it was really big. I had heard stories about it and it has all of the top teams. When I found out I was coming up, it was pretty awesome. I was nervous, but to get that win was huge.
SJM: Do you feel like you’re ready to be the ace this year with the graduation of Mark Scarpa?
CH: Oh yeah, definitely. Last year, he got the conference games and I was usually the tournament guy. It kind of prepared me to take over his spot this year. I definitely think I’m ready for it.
SJM: What did you learn just being around him?
CH: Mark is the biggest competitor I’ve ever played with. The guy does not want to come out of a game without a win. He’s a bulldog, he fights to the last pitch. Being around him and his work ethic—he never takes a day off—that was big. He always encouraged us to do an extra workout … because it would all benefit us in the long run.
SJM: How many pitches do you have?
CH: I throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a split fastball and a curveball. I also mix in a change occasionally. I throw the two-seam fastball more than the four-seam, and last year the curveball was probably my biggest out pitch.
SJM: Have you always been a pitcher going back to Little League?
CH: Yeah, I’ve always been a pitcher, but I became just a pitcher my sophomore year. That’s when they told me I’d just be focusing on pitching for the program. That’s when I stopped hitting, and now I get DHed for.
SJM: Does that bother you?
CH: A little bit, yeah. I kind of want to get out there. I’d like to hit again in college.
SJM: Who are some of the toughest hitters to face in South Jersey?
CH: I have some buddies in the conference that I played with last summer for Tri-State Arsenal. Guys like AJ Wright from Cherry Hill West, Ryan Shinn from Northern Burlington, Davis Schneider from Eastern. Eastern also has a freshman that’s supposed to be really good, he’s already committed to Maryland. I know those guys are pretty good, but for the most part I try not to really pay attention to names. I just try to go out there and throw my game.
SJM: What are you like on the mound? Do you get mad when you give up a walk or a hit, or do you try to keep your emotions in check?
CH: I think it’s safe to say it’s a happy medium. I definitely don’t let my emotions get the best of me, but I do think they come out a little bit. I don’t want anybody on base at all, so if I walk someone, I just have to go after the next hitter. I like to win every at-bat I’m a part of.
SJM: If you could pitch in any major-league ballpark, what would it be?
CH: Definitely Citizens Bank Park, just because I’m a Phillies fan and I grew up watching them. I went to the World Series games when they won and all that.
SJM: Will you be pitching in college?
CH: Yes. I had a bunch of D-I offers, including Manhattan, but I chose to go to Rowan University. I followed [head coach] Mike Dickson over there because I developed a good relationship with him. Our assistant coaches, Mike Schatzman and Rob Swift, both played under him at Gloucester County College and won a national championship. So they were big influences in me getting recognized over there. I started talking to Dickson at the end of last summer and it grew from there. He’s a proven winner.
SJM: Was staying close to home a factor?
CH: Yeah, I wanted to stay in the Northeast. Rowan is only 15 minutes away for me, so it’s pretty cool.
SJM: What are you going to miss about Washington Township High School?
CH: I’d say the baseball atmosphere. After four years, you build strong relationships with the coaches and I love the home field. It will be tough, but it’s time to move on to college.
SJM: Your high school coach, Bill Alvaro, was a pitcher. Does that mean he’s extra hard on you?
CH: He’s definitely more critical of the pitchers; he’s always hanging over them. Especially this year, we’re very pitcher-heavy and we have a lot of good young guys. But he has a lot to offer us, so it definitely helps when your head coach is a former pitcher himself.
SJM: Do you like the fact that the pitchers are being asked to carry the team this year?
CH: Yeah, we have Rich Racobaldo and Nick Evangelista, he’s a junior who came up as a freshman, so he’s been here for a while. We have a sophomore, Mike Piperno, another senior, Tom Seagreaves, who’s gonna be a big part of our team, and another junior, Eric Mastran, a lefty who’s gonna be a huge part. I definitely like that we have a lot of pitching; it’s the most pitching we’ve had since I’ve been there. It makes it easier when you have four conference games in six days, or you’re coming off the Diamond Classic and the state playoffs start the next day. That’s always a hectic time, trying to find a pitcher who’s ready to throw. So I think being pitcher-friendly is going to be a big advantage this year.
SJM: Do you know what you want to study at Rowan?
CH: I’m going to double major in accounting and finance.
SJM: So where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CH: Hopefully I’ll be in an accounting firm in Philadelphia or New York City, or even Jersey City; just somewhere in the Northeast area. I would definitely like to stay involved in baseball, maybe coach or something.
Gabby Fornia, Lenape lacrosse
Fornia burst onto the scene last year as a freshman, scoring a phenomenal 70 goals to help Lenape set a school record with 21 wins and claim the Group IV state championship. She has already committed to Vanderbilt University.
SJM: Did you ever imagine you have that much of an impact last year as a freshman?
GF: No, I didn’t even know if I was going to make the team or even play. But everybody is very welcoming and they make you feel like part of the team as soon as you get there.
SJM: Was there a moment when you realized you belonged on the varsity team?
GF: I would say the first couple of games when me and Carlee [Braverman]—we were both freshmen on varsity—started scoring goals. It became evident that we should be there.
SJM: It was such a special year, setting the school record for wins and winning the state championship. What is your best memory?
GF: I think it was after the state championship, on the bus ride home we were all singing and cheering. It was just really happy, and we took so many pictures. It was just a great way to wrap up the season, even though we ended up losing in the Tournament of Champions. We felt like we already achieved what we were aiming for.
SJM: But even in that Tournament of Champions game against Moorestown, you gave them a good game, didn’t you?
GF: Yeah, we were winning in the beginning and we were excited to be running with them. This year, I think it’s going to be a really tough game, but I think we can beat them.
SJM: You lost three important seniors from last year’s team. Does that mean you have to take on a bigger role?
GF: I think that since the seniors are gone, a lot of people have to step up. I think the whole team is feeling the loss, but we’re definitely making up for it.
SJM: How did you start playing lacrosse?
GF: I started playing in fourth grade I think. My friend Carlee [Braverman] started playing when she was in second grade, and I wanted to be just like her, so I started playing.
SJM: Did you realize early on that you had a talent for lacrosse?
GF: Well, when we first started playing there wasn’t much competition, so I really didn’t know what to think. As we got older, I started doing summer leagues, and that’s when I started getting better.
SJM: How important has playing for South Jersey Select been for your development?
GF: There are so many good girls, and of course a lot of them are from Moorestown. They push you to be better, even though you go to different schools.
SJM: What made you pick your college so early?
GF: I was hoping I wouldn’t have to pick it so soon, but the process is starting earlier and earlier. The coaches are really nice and I love the campus. I visited and I fell in love with it.
SJM: Nashville is far away, but the head coach at Vanderbilt [Cathy Swezey] is a Moorestown native and she recruits heavily in the area. Was that appealing to you?
GF: Yeah. It’s really far from home, so it will be nice to have a few people in the same situation as me who are from here. [Swezey] played for K.C. Knobloch, who I play for in the summer, so it was a good connection.
SJM: You also play soccer at Lenape. What’s it like being part of one of the best programs in the state?
GF: There’s a lot of pressure, we always have high expectations. There will be big shoes to fill next year, we lost 11 seniors. So we’re trying to recruit girls to come out and we’re hoping we’ll be just as good next year.
SJM: Do you love both sports equally, or is lacrosse clearly your No. 1 sport?
GF: I clearly like lacrosse better. I play soccer more for fun and to stay in shape, but I love lacrosse.
SJM: When you’re not playing either sport, what do you do for fun?
GF: I do clinics in the winter for lacrosse, so I basically play all year round. When I have my offseason, I just focus on school to keep my grades up.
SJM: What do you like about growing up in South Jersey?
GF: I’ve always lived here and the towns are really nice. Our school is really big, so you have a lot of opportunities with school and sports. It’s a great place to live.
SJM: After such a great season last year to start your high school lacrosse career, what other things are you looking to accomplish the rest of the way?
GF: I’m hoping to improve as a player, obviously, and expand my range; instead of just playing attack, I want to play midfield as well. And also I want to win more state championships.
More topflight athletes to keep your eye on this season
Denny Brady, Buena: The Pitcher of the Year in New Jersey last season as a junior, this East Carolina commit went 10-0 with a 0.46 ERA and led Buena to its first-ever state title.
Sean Breen, Gloucester Catholic: The senior second baseman, an Iona recruit, was all-state second team last year and also earned MVP honors over the summer in leading Brooklawn to its second straight American Legion World Series title.
Nick Browne, Bishop Eustace: A senior outfielder, Browne led South Jersey with 11 home runs in 2014 and was named all-state first team. He will continue his career at the University of Maryland.
Jared Gold, Moorestown: Gold, a senior, shines on the mound and in the infield for the Quakers. He was an all-county second-team selection last year.
Jon Hansen, Cherry Hill East: Hansen, a senior third baseman, hit .489 and made the all-South Jersey first team as a junior. He has committed to George Mason.
Jack Herman, Eastern: Expectations were high for Herman before he even stepped on the field in a Vikings uniform. The freshman has already committed to the University of Maryland and should have an immediate impact at Eastern this spring.
Brian Marconi, Cherokee: An all-conference first-teamer in 2014, this senior will continue his career at George Mason.
Tyler Mondile, Gloucester Catholic: A junior pitcher who has already committed to Florida State, Mondile went 6-1 with a 1.54 ERA as a sophomore.
John Murphy, Gloucester Catholic: A senior right-hander, Murphy has been in the Rams’ rotation since his freshman year and has been an all-South Jersey first-teamer the last two years. The Maryland recruit went 8-2 with a 0.70 ERA in 2014.
Angela Antonini, Gloucester Catholic: An all-South Jersey second-teamer as a junior, this senior catcher will continue her career at Rowan.
Callie Forzley, Moorestown: The junior hit .515 for the Quakers and could possibly take over as the No. 1 pitcher this year.
Becca Gurst, Cherry Hill West: A junior outfielder, Gurst was named to the all-conference second team as a sophomore and also played in the Carpenter Cup.
Jessica Hughes, Washington Township: One of the state’s best players, Hughes has been a leader offensively and defensively for the Minutemaids’ back-to-back sectional championship teams.
Madison Morano, Eastern: Morano, a junior outfielder, was named to the all-South Jersey second team and helped the Vikings to a 19-6 season.
Sam Sack, Paul VI: A sophomore catcher, Sack started and batted third as a freshman, finishing with a .554 average, five home runs and 36 RBIs.
Lauren Sandelier, Washington Township: A senior third baseman, Sandelier hit .346 with 30 RBIs as a junior to make the all-South Jersey second team.
Kaila Smith, Millville: Smith was an all-state first-teamer in 2014 as a sophomore, when she hit .594 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs. The first baseman is one of the best power hitters in New Jersey.
Cody Cassise, Seneca: This junior has been Seneca’s first singles since his freshman year and advanced to the third round of the state singles tournament last spring.
Zac Castagna, Pitman: A senior, Castagna entered the season seeking his third straight Gloucester County Open singles championship.
Chase Eldridge, Washington Township: A four-year varsity starter and the Minutemen’s first singles since his sophomore year, Eldridge placed third in the Gloucester County Open in 2014.
Sam Oberholtzer, Haddonfield: A junior, Oberholtzer teamed with Isaak Anderson to claim the program’s first-ever state doubles title in 2014. He is expected to move into the singles lineup this year.
Harvey Robin, Moorestown Friends: This junior played first singles in 2014 and was named to the all-Friends League team. He helped the Foxes win the Non-Public B state crown.
Zach Silver, Lenape: A three-year starter at singles, this senior was named to the all-county second team last year.
Eric Tecce, Shawnee: A junior, Tecce played second singles last year for the Renegades’ sectional title team. He was named all-county first team.
Tyler Cavarocchi, Eastern: This senior outside hitter was named to the all-South Jersey third team as a junior. He helped lead the Vikings to an 18-3 record.
Stan Storchevoy, Kingsway: Storchevoy, a senior outside hitter, was fourth in South Jersey with 220 kills and also had 98 digs.
Trevor Allen, Moorestown: A senior thrower, Allen took third at sectionals and fifth at states in the shot put and competed at the Meet of Champions.
Noah Culbreath, Kingsway: This senior took second in the mile and fourth in the two-mile at last spring’s Group IV sectional meet and was the Tri-County Conference champion in the 800.
Aaron Groff, Cherry Hill East: A junior, Groff was the South Jersey Group IV champion in the 3200 meters last spring and went on to place second at states and ninth at the Meet of Champions.
Dan Helfand, Cherry Hill East: This senior placed second in the 800 meters in last spring’s Olympic Conference Championships and was an all-South Jersey cross country runner in the fall.
Cinque Hill, Eastern: This senior shines in the sprints, the triple jump and the long jump, an event he made it to states in last season.
Shawn Hutchison, Bishop Eustace: This senior distance runner set a school record in the two-mile last year, posting a time of 9:17.06 for a seventh-place finish at the Meet of Champions.
Jake Liebling, Lenape: Liebling, a senior, was the Burlington County champ in the high jump and went on to place second at sectionals and fifth at states in the event.
Stefon Moore-Green, Paul VI: One of the fastest runners in South Jersey, this junior was the Non-Public A champion in the 100 and took second in the 200 at sectionals. He competed in both events at states and the Meet of Champions.
Greg Pelose, Haddonfield: This junior placed in the top 10 in the mile at both the sectional and state meets in 2014.
Luke Petela, Haddon Township: An all-state third-teamer in the 1600 last spring, this senior is coming off a winter season in which he won the event at sectionals, states and the Meet of Champions.
Sterling Pierce, Rancocas Valley: This senior took first in the 200 at the Meet of Champions during indoor season.
Nathan Shivers, Clearview: This distance runner took second in the 3200 and third in the 1600 at sectionals last year. He went on to place fifth in the state in the 3200 and run at the Meet of Champions.
Austin Stoner, Haddonfield: Stoner, a junior, had top 10 finishes in the 800 at both sectionals and states.
Nina Bendixen, Shawnee: A senior distance runner, Bendixen placed fifth at sectionals in the 3200 and competed at states.
Gabrielle Bennett, Winslow: A senior who will continue her career at UMass, Bennett took home the high jump crown at the Meet of Champions this winter.
Carly Bonnet, Haddonfield: A senior, Bonnet notched South Jersey and state championships in the 400 hurdles last spring and also shines in the 200 and 400.
Thaila Cooper, Kingsway: This senior ran the 400 and the 400 hurdles at last year’s Meet of Champions and is also a standout in the 100 hurdles.
Melanie Edwards, Eastern: A senior sprinter, Edwards placed second in the Olympic Conference and seventh at sectionals in the 400.
Briana Gess, Haddonfield: Just a sophomore, Gess has already established herself as one of the premier distance runners in the state. Last year as a freshman, she claimed the Meet of Champions title in the 3200 and state championships in the 3200 and 1600.
Kiara Lester, Deptford: During the winter, this junior won the 200 meters at the Meet of Champions to go with state titles in the 55 and 400.
Bria Mack, Williamstown: One of the top sprinters in the area, Mack was all-state third team in the 100 last spring and earned the same honor in the 55 over the winter.
Carly Pettipaw, Lenape: Pettipaw, a senior, was part of Lenape’s state championship-winning 4x400 relay last year. She also took second in the 400 and 800 and fifth in the 400 hurdles at sectionals.
Kaela Schrier, Cherokee: A junior, Schrier is the latest standout thrower to come through Cherokee. She was the Burlington County champion in the javelin last year, took second at sectionals and fifth at states.
Nick Barbieri, Bishop Eustace: This senior set a school record with 51 goals last year and was named to the all-conference first team. He helped the Crusaders set a school mark with 17 wins.
Curtis Corley, Shawnee: Corley, a senior, leads the Shawnee defense and also added 12 goals in 2014. He will continue his career at the University of Maryland.
Matt Donnelly, Clearview: A senior attacker who has committed to Penn State, Donnelly had 74 goals and 34 assists last spring and was named to the all-South Jersey first team.
Kevin Gray, Seneca: Gray was an all-conference first-team player in 2014, as he scored 49 goals. He has committed to the University of Tampa.
Austin Haynes, Moorestown: A senior defender, Haynes helped the Quakers win the South Jersey Group III title and reach the state championship game. He will continue his career at the University of Delaware.
David Smith, Shawnee: A senior midfielder, Smith had 38 goals and 15 assists and made the all-South Jersey first team. He is headed to the University of Virginia.
Brandon Stern, Cherry Hill East: This senior, who will continue his career at Penn State, had 35 goals and 21 assists in 2014 and entered this season with 84 career goals.
Connor Wolfe, Lenape: Wolfe had 52 goals and 30 assists in 2014 and earned all-South Jersey second-team recognition. The senior attacker led the Indians to a 14-8 record.
Lily Argyle, Shawnee: A four-year starter in goal, Argyle will continue her career at Vanderbilt.
Melanie Becker, Moorestown: A senior all-county midfielder, Becker will continue her career at Vanderbilt.
Kristen Biche, Bishop Eustace: A junior midfielder, Biche led the Crusaders with 56 goals last year and was named to the all-conference first team.
Gianna Bowe, Clearview: Bowe, a senior, had 28 goals last year despite tearing her ACL about midway through the season. She is back to full health and primed for a big season before heading to North Carolina to continue her career.
Abbey Brooks, Moorestown: A senior attacker, this Rutgers recruit had 28 goals last year for the Group III state champs.
Jillian Calandra, Washington Township: A senior attacker, Calandra had 28 goals and 29 assists last year and has committed to Manhattan.
Megan Drum, Seneca: This senior led Seneca with 47 goals last year and will play Division I lacrosse at Wagner.
Caroline Farley, Shawnee: A four-year starter and all-South Jersey midfielder, Farley led the Renegades with 62 goals and 44 assists last year. She is headed to Delaware.
Shannon Gallagher, Lenape: This senior anchors the defense for Lenape and was an all-county first-team selection. She has committed to San Diego State.
Maggie Handlan, Moorestown: This senior was named South Jersey Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and helped the Quakers to an undefeated season. She will play lacrosse at Michigan.
Jessica Havers, Cherokee: A senior attacker, Havers led the Chiefs with 66 goals and was named all-South Jersey second team. She will continue her career at High Point.
Megan Kilpatrick, Camden Catholic: This Lock Haven recruit led the Fighting Irish with 69 goals last year.
Frankie Paterno, Gloucester Catholic: This junior attacker has led the Rams in scoring since her freshman year. She had 58 goals in 2014.
Natalie Peel, Lenape: Peel, a senior, had 57 goals for the state champions last year and will continue her career at San Diego State.
Alexis Pettisani, Eastern: As a freshman last year, Pettisani led the Vikings with 54 goals to go with eight assists.
George Frake III, Shawnee: A senior, Frake was Shawnee’s highest finisher at last year’s Burlington County Open in 15th place and also had a strong showing at the Carl Arena Tournament.
Colin Geary, Cherokee: A senior, Geary was the Burlington County individual champion in 2014 and helped the Chiefs capture the team title. He also tied for fifth at the Olympic Conference Tournament to earn all-conference first-team honors.
Max Goldstein, Shawnee: A key varsity golfer since his freshman year, Goldstein has earned all-conference recognition the last two seasons and is primed for a huge senior season.
Max Haggerty, Shawnee: Another standout on a deep Renegades roster, Haggerty carded an 82 at the Olympic Conference Tournament and an 88 at Carl Arena in 2014 as a junior.
Erica Han, Lenape: This junior won the South Jersey Ladies Invitational as a sophomore and took second in the girls Tournament of Champions. She also placed third in the Olympic Conference Tournament for all-conference first-team honors.
Jacob Hanzel, Washington Township: Graduation hit the Group IV state champions hard, but this sophomore is a promising returner. He was all-conference second team as a rookie and had the team’s second-lowest match average.
Jake Klaus, Haddonfield: A senior three-sport star, Klaus has won the Colonial Conference Tournament the last two years and tied for seventh at the Carl Arena Tournament last season.
Shea Wolfle, Clearview: Wolfle made an immediate impact as a freshman last year, tying for second at the Tri-County Conference Tournament and placing 10th at the Gloucester County Tournament.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April, 2015).
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