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Stars of the Game

by Matt Cosentino; Photo by Tim Hawk

Meet eight standout high school athletes that shine on and off the field, and the athletes we think you should keep an eye on this season.

Mike Welsh, Shawnee football
A three-year starter at quarterback, Welsh threw 15 touchdown passes and also ran for 13 TDs in 2014 to lead Shawnee to its second straight sectional title. This fall, he is wearing No. 44, an honor bestowed upon a Renegades senior every year to honor Nick Garner, a former Medford youth player from the 1990s who died from a heart condition at age 9.

SJM: You’ve been part of two straight sectional championships at Shawnee. Was it easier to win the first one or to repeat last year?
MW: Well, neither was really easy considering we had to play against Timber Creek both times. I guess the first one was a little harder, just getting over that hump and because Timber Creek was such a great team that year.

SJM: Not every team can say they have a three-year starter at quarterback. Does having that experience at the most important position give your team an edge?
MW: I think it gives confidence to our guys. They know I can perform and step up in situations that maybe a less experienced player might not do as well in. I definitely think it’s an advantage to have a three-year starter at quarterback, from a leadership position and because I know what’s going on with the offense.

SJM: You also saw time as a freshman. Is it night and day between then and now in terms of your grasp of the offense?
MW: It was crazy when I stepped in as a freshman. The one game against Timber Creek was the craziest, going against that great team with [Dajuan] Drennon and Myles Nash and all of those great players. My head was spinning in that game. It really is night and day with how much more confident I am in myself and how confident I am running the offense.

SJM: You did a lot of damage last year with your arm and your legs. Do you feel like you’re a threat in multiple ways?
MW: I definitely believe I am. I’ve always been able to run the ball. I’m not the most shifty guy, but I can get some tough yards when it comes down to it. I do have the ability to run and throw, and I think people prepare for that. It’s an advantage for me that I’m not just a pocket passer who sits back. I can get out of some situations if they occur.

SJM: Have you always played quarterback going back to midgets?
MW: I started out at tight end, then I went to guard, and then I went back to tight end. Then I became a running back, and in seventh grade they needed me to play quarterback, because there wasn’t a quarterback our age. So I picked it up, but I was actually more of a linebacker coming into high school. But I really tried to develop myself as a quarterback and worked hard to get at the point that I’m at now.

SJM: Do you play defense at all anymore?
MW: I might come in occasionally this year, but I’m not a defensive specialist like I used to be. I love playing quarterback, it’s my favorite position, obviously. But I do miss defense every once in a while, getting a chance to hit somebody.

SJM: Do you have a favorite quarterback to watch, either in college or the pros?
MW: In college, I would say my favorite quarterback to watch is Trevone Boykin from TCU. He can change a game with his legs and he has an awesome arm. Their offense is a little bit similar to ours, and that’s another reason I like watching him. He’s such an electric player. I always liked Johnny Manziel when he was in college. He was a great player too, with a similar offense to us. In the pros, I’m a big Tom Brady fan because I’m a big fan of Michigan for college football. He has great leadership qualities and he’s one of the best ever, so I’ve always looked up to him too.

SJM: Shawnee has several rivals in the Lenape School District. Are those the games you look forward to the most?
MW: I get up for every game. … Maybe there’s a little more push for Cherokee or Lenape, but it’s really the same for every game. I’m always excited to get out there and help my team win.

SJM: Do you count Timber Creek as a rival now after your recent history in the playoffs?
MW: Yeah. They’re a great team and they have a ridiculous amount of talented players. We’ve played pretty well against them. I don’t even know how many Division I players they’ve put out over the last few years, but it has to be a lot. It’s kind of cool how we’ve gone back and forth with them. It seems like we play them every year in the playoffs; either we knock them down or they knock us down. It’s a good up-and-coming rivalry.

SJM: I know you got a college offer from Liberty. How has the recruiting process been going?
MW: A lot of teams want to see my senior film and see how I perform my senior year. A lot of teams are interested, though.

SJM: Has college football always been a goal?
MW: It’s always been a dream of mine to play in college. Playing quarterback wasn’t always the dream; I just wanted to play Division I football, at any position. But if I can play Division I football at quarterback, that would be an awesome experience. I’m really looking forward to it if I get that opportunity.

SJM: What about baseball—will your senior season at Shawnee be your last?
MW: I thought about trying to play baseball in college, but I’ve always liked football a little more. It’s my main sport. I never lost my love for baseball, but in college I think I would excel more in football,

SJM: Aside from sports, what do you like about going to school at Shawnee?
MW: First of all, it’s a fantastic public school. We have great students and the teachers are all awesome. It’s a very personable place; they really care about us as students and athletes. I just love going to school with my buddies and everything. SJM: Does your school have any special traditions for Friday night football?
MW: Other than running out on the field and touching the big “Go Blue” sign on our way out, we don’t really have any traditions. But those Friday nights at our field are electric. I love playing in front of our fans. It’s a great experience.

SJM: I know you graduated a lot of important players over the last two years, but do you think a third straight sectional title is possible?
MW: It’s always a main goal in the back of our mind … but no game is as important as the next one on our schedule. Obviously, a state championship is a cool thing, but we’re just focusing on week by week.

Jenna Patrone, Washington Township field hockey
A senior midfielder, Patrone has played varsity since her freshman year at Washington Township. The Kean University recruit had 15 goals and 14 assists last year to lead the Minutemaids to a 15-4-1 record.

SJM: You’re now in your fourth year of varsity hockey. Does it feel weird to be a senior?
JP: I remember going to tryouts freshman year and being terrified. It’s so weird that I’m a captain now. Everyone is looking at you for answers and it’s so bizarre because I still feel so young. I don’t feel like a senior.

SJM: Are you speaking up more?
JP: I think so. During my freshman year, I didn’t talk as much on the field or during practices, because I was a freshman on varsity and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or cause any problems. But now I feel comfortable and I know that what I’m saying is correct. It feels good to speak my mind and say positive things to help the team.

SJM: What would a win over Eastern mean to you?
JP: Everyone always asks that question, and it’s weird because I play on a travel team (Spirit of USA), and the entire team is Eastern players and me. So I know them all and they’re all my friends. I know how hard they work, and we work just as hard. A win would be really awesome, because it’s Eastern. If we were going to do it any year, I think this is the year we could do it. My sister’s team did that and made history, so I think it would be cool if we could do it too.

SJM: Is field hockey your only sport?
JP: Yes. I used to do a lot more, but I just fell in love with hockey and now it’s all I do.

SJM: Last year your older sister Lisa joined the coaching staff at Washington Township. How was that experience and are you glad to have her back this year?
JP: Not that I’m not respectful now, but last year I was a lot more respectful because I didn’t want to step on her toes and I didn’t know what the boundaries were. But now I’m more comfortable with it and I can call her Coach Lisa. Last year I called her Coach Patrone. She wasn’t even going to come back this year, but we talked about it. Since my little sister (Julia) is also on the team, she said, ‘How many chances am I going to have to coach two of my little sisters?’ So it’s cool that all three of us are there. It can be tough sometimes, because all three of us have distinct personalities. But I like it, and Lisa is a great teacher. She helps me out a lot.

SJM: Are you trying to show Julia the ropes?
JP: I’m trying, but Julia is very set in her ways. (Laughs). Ever since we were little, me and Julia have been playing together on teams. I would do all the work and she would score all the goals. She can take control in the circle and get corners and goal after goal. … She’s so big in the circle and I’m totally fine with her scoring the goals that I scored last year. She knows what she’s doing and I’ll just help her out.

SJM: Your mom played field hockey and now teaches the game, and even your older brother played, so it’s definitely a field hockey family. Does that make it fun around the house?
JP: There will be times when you have a bad game and you just wish you had one of those parents who has no idea what they’re talking about and says, ‘You did awesome.’ But I think it also helps that everyone knows so much about the game. Whenever I do something wrong, they can tell me how to fix it. They can all relate to it. We have this room in our house where we’d play field hockey all the time. We tried to get my mom to turn part of our backyard into turf, but she won’t let us do that.

SJM: Aside from field hockey, how do you like being one of five kids?
JP: There’s always something to do and there’s always something to talk about. There’s always a problem, too. (Laughs). But my mom is one of 11, so we’re used to a big family. If you ask anyone, I’m the quiet one. So I let everyone take the spotlight and I just sit back and keep to myself. But honestly, it would be weird if I wasn’t in a big family in the future, because I’m so used to it.

SJM: Have you made a college decision yet?
JP: I’m going to Kean in North Jersey. Originally, I wanted to go to D-I; my sister did and that was my goal too. But last summer, when a lot of the D-I schools [were recruiting], I had jaw surgery and I couldn’t play all summer. So a lot of the D-I money was taken up, which is understandable. I was upset about that, but I started to look around, and I knew a past Township field hockey player, Jordan Colna, went to Kean. So the coach told me to come out, and she was so nice. Her name is Leslie LaFronz, and she said, ‘Our starting center midfielder is graduating the year before you come, so we’d love for you to come and you can start at center mid.’ So I went and fell in love with the school. At least six of the players came to my visit, and they were so nice and so funny. Then I went to a camp there this summer … and the team was so friendly and welcoming to me. I guess you know when you know, and I knew.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study at Kean?
JP: I want to study marine biology, but Kean doesn’t have that as a major. What I ultimately want to do is work at Discovery Cove in Florida, or someplace like that, and become a marine mammal trainer and train dolphins. I think that would be so cool. You can actually go into psychology for that, so right now I’m going to do that. I can either become a marine mammal trainer, or I also like the idea of being a family psychiatrist.

SJM: Have you ever gone swimming with dolphins?
JP: Yes. Every year we go to a field hockey tournament in Florida. This past year, my dad said I could buy a ticket for Discovery Cove for the day and just go by myself. But I had field hockey the whole time, so I wasn’t gonna be able to go. Then my team lost, so we had a whole day off, and everyone was so upset, except me. I got to go to Discovery Cove. I looked like a weirdo, because everybody was with their families and I was by myself, but it was so awesome. I loved it.

SJM: What do you like about going to school at Washington Township?
JP: I’m involved in a lot of clubs at Township, and one is student council. I originally got involved because my brother was the president when I was a freshman. It’s the most awesome club ever. Student council has gotten me involved in so many things, from volunteering to being backstage for Mr. Washington Township to being involved with the homecoming court. I absolutely love it and I wouldn’t have had the same high school experience if I wasn’t on student council.

Grace Kim, Moorestown Friends tennis
A junior, Kim has played first singles for the Foxes since her freshman year. She won the Burlington County title and reached the state quarterfinals in each of her first two seasons.

SJM: When did you pick up a tennis racket for the first time?
GK: When I was 7 years old. It was just for fun. My parents love exercising, so one day they brought me to the tennis court. I saw these two players that were hitting really hard, and all of a sudden I was like, ‘I want to become like that.’ So I started training.

SJM: Did you realize pretty early on that you had a talent for tennis?
GK: Yeah, there were a couple of coaches who saw the potential in me. So I started taking the sport more seriously about six months after I started playing.

SJM: Have you been surprised at all by all of your success at the high school level?
GK: I didn’t really have any expectations. I just tried my best, and I was grateful for the results that happened. I never knew I could get so far, but each year I just try to go a little further.

SJM: So what are your specific goals this year? Do you have your sights on winning the state title?
GK: Well, I always want to win the state title; I think everyone does. That’s pretty much my goal, but if I don’t make it, there’s no disappointment. I just want to do better than last year.

SJM: As a team, you’ve been knocking on the door of a sectional championship the last few years. Do you think the team has a chance of breaking through this year?
GK: I think so. As a team, we work well together, we train hard together and we support each other. We lost a couple of seniors from last year, but we have a lot more freshmen coming in and we’re looking to do as well as possible.

SJM: Jess Ferber has played second singles right behind you since you were both freshmen. Do you two push each other in practice?
GK: We’re both competitive in our own way, and being one and two, we always make sure we train hard together. We can’t be lazy and we always push each other. Being the same age, I feel like I can relate to her more.

SJM: Who is somebody else from South Jersey who you really respect as a player?
GK: I would say Tess Fisher from Vineland. The first time I saw her was at a USTA tournament, and right away we became doubles partners. We used to train together and both of our families are really good friends. I see her as a competitor and a rival, but one of my best friends on and off the tennis court.

SJM: Where do you train when you’re not with your high school team?
GK: I train at the Moorestown Tennis Club, so I hit with different coaches, like George Crouse and Juan Suarez.

SJM: I heard you were at the U.S. Open this year in New York. What did you think of Serena Williams’ quest for the Grand Slam?
GK: I think it was inspiring. She always reaches for the top and makes it to the top. No matter how big the pressure is, she always seems to control it, and I admire that. I want to become like her; always being in control. No matter what people’s expectations are for me, I want to make sure I reach my full potential.

SJM: Is the U.S. Open your favorite tournament? If you could go to any tournament in the world with one person, is that what you’d pick?
GK: I think I would go to Wimbledon. Playing on grass is a big difference, and players have to adjust to that. And I would go with my mom, because she is one of my biggest supporters and she’s always been there for me, whatever I do.

SJM: What is the experience like going to school at Moorestown Friends?
GK: I like the community and how supportive everyone is. High school tennis takes a lot of my time, and my teachers are very understanding and they make sure I’m always on top of my academics. I also like how close I am with all my friends. It’s a small community, so everyone knows each other. We have a very close bond, which is very different from most schools.

SJM: Have you thought about playing in college?
GK: I definitely want to play college tennis. A lot of people say it’s so much different from high school, but I like how you’re part of a team in high school and college.

Nick Krake, Cherry Hill West soccer
A senior forward, Krake scored a team-high 14 goals to lead the Lions to the sectional semifinals in 2014. He entered his final season at West with 29 career goals.

SJM: How does it feel to be a senior?
NK: I’m pretty excited, but it’s pretty sad, knowing that it’s my last high school season. But it should be a good season.

SJM: Last year was a very successful one for you. Did you feel like you really established yourself as a key player?
NK: I think sophomore year was my biggest year. It was me and Gabe Watkins up front, and there was a lot of attention on him. I think I had 13 goals my sophomore season, and last year I just stayed in the rhythm I set sophomore year.

SJM: You had a real big goal as a sophomore in a playoff win over Kingsway. Does that stand out as your best moment of high school soccer so far?
NK: I would say the quarterfinals against Moorestown last year [stands out]. We went to overtime, and I didn’t score the overtime winner, but I did score two goals. I feel like that was the most dominant I’ve ever been on the field.

SJM: Your team has had some playoff success over the last three years, and has suffered close losses to the eventual sectional champion three years in a row. Do you think you can get over the hump this year and contend for a title?
NK: Yeah, I think this could be our year. We lost a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of young guys with potential. If all the pieces fall right, I think we can make a playoff push.

SJM: Have you been playing soccer since you were little?
NK: Yeah, I started playing when I was 3. I moved [to New Jersey] from California when I was in eighth grade, and middle school is when I started loving it. Ever since then, I’ve just loved soccer. I used to play basketball too; that used to be my main sport until soccer took over.

SJM: What part of California were you in?
NK: I lived in Sacramento. I moved there from Minnesota in fourth or fifth grade, and stayed there until eighth grade. I was actually born in Boston, but I only stayed there for a year before moving to Minnesota. I’ve been all over because of my mom’s job.

SJM: That must be tough having to leave your friends all the time, but do you like seeing different parts of the country?
NK: Yeah, I love it. I just love experiencing new things and I don’t have a problem with making new friends or meeting new people. I think it’s been good for me.

SJM: Do you have a favorite spot you’ve lived in?
NK: Definitely California.

SJM: Was there any culture shock moving all the way across the country from California to Cherry Hill?
NK: Yeah, there was a big change in diversity. I think California is much more diverse in food and people and all that. But I did live in Minnesota, so there are some similarities I was used to.

SJM: What’s something you like about South Jersey? NK: High school sports are a lot more competitive here, because it’s a smaller and more dense state. In California, we would never play teams outside of the Sacramento area. But here, there are a lot more rivalries.

SJM: Did people fill you in on the rivalry between Cherry Hill East and Cherry Hill West when you moved here?
NK: Yeah. I was introduced in middle school to the Carusi-Beck rivalry, and you kind of learn to hate the other side. It carried on to high school. I wouldn’t say I hate the east side as much as a lot of the kids on the west side do, but the rivalry is really important to me. I want to be better than them.

SJM: Have you thought about playing soccer in college?
NK: Yeah. I was planning on going to Lafayette all summer, but things became uncertain, so now I’m not sure. It’s still open where I’m going to go and I’m looking at a lot of schools. I missed a lot of the camps in the summer that I should’ve gone to, because I was pretty much verbally committed to Lafayette. But I found out that admissions doesn’t think my chances are that great, because it is a really good school. So as of now, I’ll be going to some camps in the fall and there are some schools interested. I have some decisions to make.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study in college?
NK: I’m kind of torn between physical therapy or taking the business route. I’m still deciding.

SJM: Are you a big fan of pro soccer?
NK: Yeah. I follow the EPL and my favorite team is Arsenal. My favorite player is Theo Walcott; I kind of see similarities in how we play. I’m all about making backdoor runs and getting behind the defense and finishing breakaways. I’ve loved him since he was young. He doesn’t get as much playing time anymore, but he’s still my favorite.

SJM: What are your goals for this year?
NK: My personal goal is to win Player of the Year for South Jersey. I’m also on pace to get the school record for goals, so that’s a big one. I believe the record is 54 and I’m at 29, so I’d need 25 goals this year. But the main thing would definitely be the team winning the Group III title. It’s been too long since the boys won anything here.

Stephanie Yanosov, Cherry Hill East tennis
After transferring to East from Bishop Eustace last year as a sophomore, Yanosov took over the first singles spot and reached the semifinals of the state singles tournament. This season, she hopes to lead the Cougars to another strong season along with her twin sister, Natalie.

SJM: Last year you missed the first 30 days of the high school season after transferring from Bishop Eustace. Are you excited to have a full season this year?
SY: Yes, very excited. I get to bond with my teammates and we can learn more about each other every day, instead of having to sit out and not going to practice. I feel like more of the team.

SJM: Was it tough to adjust to a new team and school last fall?
SY: I adjusted quickly, but I felt like I was at a little bit of a disadvantage. But I made it work.

SJM: How did you feel about leaving Eustace?
SY: It was very tough, because I made so many friends and I loved the teachers. Me and my sister were very sad to leave, but we had to do what we had to do.

SJM: You left a strong tennis team at Eustace, but the good news is that you joined a terrific program at East. What can the team accomplish this year?
SY: I think we’ll do serious damage. We have to bond as a team and work together, because if not we can fall apart. But I think we have the best team right now.

SJM: You have been successful in the state singles tournament each of your first two years, including a semifinal appearance last year. Do you feel like you thrive in that environment?
SY: Yeah. I think my footwork helps; I’m always moving and I try not to just stand there. And I’m smart on the court.

SJM: Is it intimidating going up against the best players in the state, or do you feel like you belong there?
SY: I feel like I belong there. I’m never really intimidated. I just have to go out and do my best and not worry about who’s hitting the ball.

SJM: After coming so close last year, have you set the state championship as your No. 1 goal?
SY: I want to win it. Hopefully I’ll be able to play in it, because I’ll have another tournament going on [outside of high school]. I’m not sure, but that is my goal.

SJM: So you play tennis year-round?
SY: Yeah, I do. I train with Ian Griffith and I also train with Rick Hoffman. It’s about 14 to 16 hours a week, with no time off [during the year]. I love it, but there are days I get tired and I don’t want to play.

SJM: How did you get started in the first place?
SY: I was 9. My mom played a little bit, and she got me and my twin sister involved.

SJM: Do you and Natalie play together a lot and push each other to get better?
SY: I used to not practice with her at all, because she stopped playing for quite a bit. But she picked up a racket again this year, so I’ve been hitting with her lately. I’m happy she’s playing again.

SJM: What are the best and worst things about being a twin?
SY: The best thing is probably that we have the same schedule and the same homework, so we can help each other. The worst thing is being the same size in clothes. She takes all of my stuff.

SJM: Are you looking to play tennis in college?
SY: Yeah, I’m hoping to play at the Naval Academy. My dad works as an electrical engineer for the Navy, so I always knew about it and I wanted to do it too.

Evan Powell, Cherokee football
A senior quarterback, Powell passed for eight TDs and ran for seven to lead the Chiefs to their second straight sectional championship in 2014. Also a stalwart on defense, he is receiving Division I interest at linebacker.

SJM: Do you feel a lot more comfortable in your second year as the starting quarterback?
EP: Yeah, going into last year I was a little shaky, because I had never started a varsity game at quarterback. But after last season, and this preseason, I feel comfortable with the offense and everything.

SJM: Do you consider yourself a guy who can hurt teams with your arm and your legs?
EP: Yes. I think probably more with my legs than my arm, but I think I can make throws when I need to.

SJM: Cherokee has had a couple of great seasons in a row. Do you feel like the team has a target on its back this year?
EP: I think other teams don’t want to see us succeed. I wouldn’t say we’re the team to beat, but a lot of teams want to see us struggle because in the last couple of years, we’ve come out on top. We just have to work hard and we can’t focus on that. We have to worry about ourselves.

SJM: Have you talked as a team about the possibility of a three-peat in Group V?
EP: Obviously, we’ve thought about a three-peat, but we can’t focus on that right now. We have to focus on the little things and take it day by day, game by game. Hopefully we’ll be on top at the end of the year.

SJM: You guys have a couple big rivals. What game do you look forward to the most?
EP: Probably our game at Shawnee [on Oct. 23]. We haven’t played at Shawnee since my freshman year, and last year they gave us a little bit of a whooping. So we have to try to bounce back this year.

SJM: Your two older brothers also played at Cherokee. Did you grow up going to games there?
EP: Yeah. Tyler graduated in ’09 and I went to all of his games. After him was Jake, and I played with him for two years. It’s been a family tradition and I love everything about it. I always imagined myself walking down that hill, and now that I get to do it, it’s a great feeling.

SJM: What do you like better, offense or defense?
EP: I would probably say defense, just because you can hit people and you can fly around and make plays. I’ve played linebacker my whole life, and I didn’t start playing quarterback until eighth grade, because we didn’t have a quarterback.

SJM: So you’re being heavily recruited at linebacker. What are some of the schools that are high on your list?
EP: A couple schools that offered me were Delaware, Colgate, Monmouth and Army. My dad went to Delaware and my older brother went to Delaware for baseball. Jake went to Delaware but he transferred to Monmouth this year. I can see myself anywhere as of now. We’ll just see how things play out.

SJM: You’re also a baseball player. Would you consider playing that in college, or will this spring be your final season?
EP: I’m always open to playing baseball. If somebody gives me a good opportunity, I would have to consider it, because it’s just as fun [as football]. We’ll see what happens.

SJM: What was it like growing up with two older brothers?
EP: Obviously, they were a little hard on me, but I look up to them a lot. … It was fun playing with Jake before he graduated.

SJM: Aside from sports, what do you like about going to school at Cherokee?
EP: There are a lot of good teachers and everybody is all about Cherokee pride. It’s just a fun place to go.

SJM: Do you know what you would like to study in college?
EP: I would have to say graphic design for advertising or logo design, something like that.

SJM: Back to football, do you have any players you look up in college or the pros?
EP: Probably the linebacker from Temple [Tyler Matakevich]. I went to the Temple-Penn State game, and he was flying around making plays and had a great game. Penn State is probably my dream school, I’ve liked them my whole life. But Temple is pretty good, so I was just watching that game and not really rooting for either team.

Briana Gess, Haddonfield cross country
One of the state’s elite runners, the junior will seek her third straight sectional title this fall and will look to reclaim the state and Meet of Champions crowns she won as a freshman.

SJM: After accomplishing so much in your first two years of high school, what are your goals for this season?
BG: Especially after last year, I want to come into junior year with not as many expectations; I just want to enjoy it. That’s what I did my freshman year. I had fun and enjoyed it, and that’s when I run my best, when I’m relaxed. So my main goal for this year is to stay relaxed and not get so worked up about the races. I think when I do that, I’ll be able to accomplish more than I did last year.

SJM: Do you feel like you put too much pressure on yourself last year?
BG: Yeah, it was all self-inflicted pressure. I was a head case last year. … I felt like everyone was expecting me to win everything, even though nobody was ever like, ‘Win this race, win this race.’ I put it all on myself and it kind of wore me down by the end of the season.

SJM: So instead of focusing on winning certain races, are you shooting for certain times?
BG: Yeah, I’m focusing on time goals instead of place goals, because if I go for time I won’t get as stressed about it. If I get a good time, I’ll get a good place anyway; they kind of go hand in hand.

SJM: In a successful program like Haddonfield, with so many talented runners, do you all bring out the best in each other?
BG: Everybody is so intense and involved in it. We have a really good team this year. We have some new girls: another junior came and she could be our No. 2 or No. 3 runner; we have a couple freshmen. We have a lot of depth and everyone is really excited.

SJM: Your brother is a promising freshman on the Haddonfield boys team. Do you train together at all?
BG: Yeah, I usually run with the boys on a daily basis. I grew up running with him, and it’s kind of cool that we’re on the same team now. I think he’s really figuring it out. The boys have been great to him and made him feel welcome. Whenever he has questions, I try to give him good advice.

SJM: Your father used to be the girls soccer coach at Haddonfield. How did neither of you wind up as soccer players?
BG: I grew up playing soccer as my main sport and I was going to play [in high school], but in eighth grade I switched to cross country. My brother was the same way; he played soccer until late last year, when he decided to run.

SJM: Did you just realize you had a talent for running?
BG: Yeah. I saw that I could maybe go somewhere with running, but I don’t want to say that’s why I made the decision. A lot of my really good friends were also runners, so that made me decide to try it.

SJM: What was your training program like this summer? Did you get any time off after spring track?
BG: After every season I take about two weeks off from running. Then I said to myself, ‘I’m going to train hard this summer and have fun with it.’ Hopefully that carries over into the fall.

SJM: You competed at nationals in California after your freshman cross country season. What was that experience like?
BG: That was incredible. We were treated like royalty. I stayed at a suite and everything was paid for. You’re right on the beach and everything. It was an incredible experience. I think I got so caught up in everything that I forgot I had to run.

SJM: But you did well.
BG: Yeah, I did well. It was such an incredible experience and I would love to go back.

SJM: Have you thought about college yet?
BG: I haven’t given it that much thought yet. I’m still just focusing on high school right now.

SJM: What is your favorite subject in school?
BG: I really love math and science, those are my two favorite subjects. Which is weird, because a lot of people don’t like math, but I love it. My mom’s also a math teacher at Haddon Township.

SJM: What’s it like having your mom as assistant coach on the cross country team?
BG: I like it. I’m not really with the girls team that often during practice, because I usually run with the boys, but she’s really, really dedicated. At home she’s always on the computer researching different foods that I should eat and different strategies we can take. I like that I can bounce ideas off her. It’s just nice having someone who knows a lot about it.

SJM: Is running cathartic for you?
BG: It can be. It’s one of those things where I don’t really realize how much I love it until I can’t do it, if I’m injured or something. When I have to take a couple of days off, I go insane. I can’t sit around the house.

SJM: You decided to run winter track last year after starting varsity in basketball as a freshman. Was that a tough decision?
BG: Yeah, that was tough, especially because that was one of the ties I had to my grandpa and my dad, just like soccer. But they’re really into running now, so that’s cool. But it was definitely tough. It’s always tough letting go of something you grew up with.

SJM: Can you describe the support Haddonfield athletes receive from the school and the town?
BG: It’s incredible. I’m so lucky to have an amazing support system from the community, my coaches, my friends, the school making announcements, the newspapers and people coming to watch when you win states. It’s an amazing atmosphere that I don’t take for granted. I know not everyone has the support system that we do.

Amirah Ali, Eastern soccer
Ali has already committed to Rutgers after earning all-South Jersey recognition in each of her first two seasons at Eastern. She entered her junior year with 36 career goals.

SJM: Did you surprise yourself by having an immediate impact on the varsity team at Eastern?
AA: In a way, it really did surprise me. Coming into a Group IV school and playing against a lot of good teams, I was really surprised by the outcomes, especially scoring 24 goals as a freshman. But I just know that playing on such a great team, it’s very possible to have a good season, for me and the team as well.

SJM: Was it exciting to become a varsity player right away for one of the best programs in South Jersey?
AA: Yes it was. When I was in middle school, I loved going to the games and seeing players like Madison Tiernan and the goalie, Imani Taylor, and Jaylyn Thompson, a player I’ve played with for so long. When I got there, it was so exciting to be playing with them.

SJM: Who took you under their wing and taught you what was expected of you?
AA: It was a couple of people. Jaylyn Thompson, Sydney Davis, Sydney Jackson, Miranda Konstantinides. They really took me in and I felt like it was a family.

SJM: Now that you’re one of the older kids, are you expecting even more from yourself?
AA: Yes, I am expecting more from myself this year. I have to set an example for the younger kids and I want to beat my [total] from freshman year, when I had 24 goals. I went down to 12 goals as a sophomore, so I really want to progress and help the team this year.

SJM: How old were you when you started playing soccer and what led you to the sport?
AA: I was about 4 years old when I started playing, so I’ve been playing for 12 years. When I was really young, like 2 or 3, my brother played soccer, and I would be on the sidelines and try to run in and play with him. Ever since then, I just fell in love with the sport.

SJM: Were you always a scorer, even from a young age?
AA: I started out as a defender, and playing from the back showed me the whole field. Then my coach decided to put me up top and I was able to score a lot of goals. I was really athletic and fast, and I just loved it up top, so I stayed there.

SJM: Where did you watch the World Cup final this summer and what did you think of Carli Lloyd’s performance?
AA: I was home with my family. We love watching it together. I definitely looked up to Carli Lloyd growing up, being that she’s from South Jersey. She played for PDA (Players Development Academy), who I play for. She’s been a good role model to look up to, and in the World Cup she did really big things. I’m hoping I can get there someday.

SJM: Do you play soccer year-round?
AA: Yes, that’s all I do. I also play indoor soccer in the winter and I really like that.

SJM: Does there ever come a time when you need a break?
AA: Every once in a while, on some weekends I need a break. But soccer is just a part of my life and I love it.

SJM: You are already committed to Rutgers. What led to that decision?
AA: Rutgers has a lot to do with the PDA program and the coaches are from there. Ever since I joined the PDA program, I fell in love with the coaches and everything. I’ve been to Rutgers many times and I love the campus. I feel like I’ll really progress there and become a better player.

SJM: There’s a great South Jersey influence at Rutgers, including Madison Tiernan. Are you able to get up there often to watch them play?
AA: I saw one of their scrimmages this year before their season started. After the game, I got to hang out with the team. They’re very accepting and they talked to me. I feel very comfortable with them.

SJM: Eastern has won the Olympic Conference American Division in both of your seasons. What other goals do you have as a team?
AA: We definitely want to win the Coaches Tournament, because we’ve been trying so hard to win that the two years that I’ve been here. We want to keep the conference going and we want to be [state] champions.

SJM: What’s it like to play in the Eastern-Lenape rivalry?
AA: Those games are very exciting. The teams are so competitive. All through the field—their defense is good, their midfield is good and their offense is good—and we like to match up with them. The crowds they bring and the great environment playing against Lenape, since they’re our rivals, along with great support from our school, make it every exciting.

SJM: Obviously, earlier this season your team suffered a terrible tragedy with the passing of freshman player Kara Lemanowicz. How has the team supported each other?
AA: Throughout the process, we really got closer as a team. We took it day by day and we continue to play hard for her. We wear wristbands for her and we like to represent her in every game we play, because she was such a big contributor to our program.

SJM: Head coach Jamie McGroarty has really helped create a family atmosphere in the program. How do you like playing for him?
AA: He can be a little tough on me, but I know it’s just to get the best out of me. He gives me a lot of advice and he encourages me to play hard. He’s a really good coach.

SJM: Aside from soccer, what do you like about Eastern?
AA: I really like the education programs. We have really good teachers and it’s a very nice campus.



Cameron Chambers, Timber Creek senior wide receiver: One of South Jersey’s most talented players will continue his career at Michigan State.

David Gajderowicz, Shawnee senior defensive lineman: A four-year starter, Gajderowicz had 70 tackles and 10 sacks as a junior.

Brad Hawkins, Camden senior wide receiver: Hawkins, who had 10 TD catches in 2014, is one of five Division I commits on Camden’s roster and will head to Michigan with teammate Ron Johnson, a defensive end.

Tommy Kadar, Haddonfield senior quarterback/defensive back: Kadar takes over at QB this season for the two-time defending S.J. Group II champions. He’s also a key player in the secondary.

Anthony Mague, Shawnee senior wide receiver/linebacker: William & Mary recruit earned all-South Jersey second-team recognition last year after making 41 receptions and five TDs.

Lonnie Moore, Paul VI senior wide receiver: Division I recruit had 35 catches for 739 yards and six TDs last year, and also ran for four scores.

Stefone Moore-Green, Paul VI senior wide receiver: Moore-Green is a threat as a runner and receiver and scored nine touchdowns last year. He will continue his career at Army.

Jamal Parker, Camden Catholic senior wide receiver: Division I recruit had 31 catches and 12 touchdowns last year.

Sam Pawlikowski, Seneca senior running back/linebacker: An important player on both sides of the ball, he was Seneca’s leading rusher and scored six TDs last fall.

Tryee Rodgers, Camden Catholic senior quarterback: The Old Dominion recruit threw for over 1,800 yards and 20 TDs and added 297 yards and three TDs on the ground last year.

Anthony Seas, Kingsway junior running back: Seas emerged as a star as a sophomore, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs.

Niles Turner, Moorestown senior fullback/defensive lineman: A starter and disruptive force on the defensive line since his freshman year, Turner also contributes at fullback.

Boys soccer

Justin Curtin, Williamstown senior forward/midfielder: A four-year starter, Curtin had 17 goals last season and entered his senior year with 28 career goals.

Jack Dugan, Haddonfield sophomore forward: Dugan will look to build on his impressive rookie season, when he led the Bulldawgs with 10 goals.

Harry Inglis, Moorestown senior forward: Inglis had a breakout season in 2014, leading the Quakers with 16 goals.

Ryan Logar, Washington Township senior forward: Logar was an all-conference second-team selection last year for the Group IV state champions.

Eamon McCarren, Cherokee senior goalie: This three-year starter was named to the all-South Jersey third team last season.

Zach Peterson, West Deptford senior midfielder: This four-year starter, who will continue his career at Long Island University-Brooklyn, had 16 goals and 12 assists last fall.

Luis Rivadeneira, Rancocas Valley senior midfielder: Rivadeneira had 14 goals and nine assists last year to earn all-South Jersey first-team recognition.

Nick Testa, Gloucester Catholic senior forward: Testa scored 13 goals last year to help the Rams win the Tri-County Classic Division title.

Girls soccer

Carlie Blessing, Moorestown senior goalie: One of the best goalies in the area, this Richmond recruit had 16 shutouts last year, giving her 41 for her career entering her final season.

Kylie D’Ambra, Washington Township senior forward: A Division I recruit, D’Ambra had 10 goals last year despite missing several games due to injuries.

Chelsea Fadio, Audubon senior forward: Audubon’s all-time leading scorer had 25 goals and 20 assists last year for the South Jersey Group I champs.

Tziarra King, Winslow Township senior forward: One of the best finishers in South Jersey, King erupted for 31 goals as a junior.

Kay Kupiec, Gloucester Catholic senior midfielder: Kupiec had 15 goals and 11 assists in an all-South Jersey third-team season last fall.

Shaye McGoey, Cherokee senior midfielder: McGoey led the Chiefs with 12 goals last year and earned all-South Jersey second-team honors.

Alexis Palladino, Shawnee senior forward: A Rutgers recruit, Palladino had 10 goals and five assists to help the Renegades reach the sectional final in 2014.

Justine Stoner, Lenape senior midfielder: Towson recruit had four goals and 10 assists last year and should be one of the Indians’ leaders.

Isabella Therien, Cherokee junior defender: Known as one of the top defenders in the area, Therien was an all-South Jersey third-team selection as a sophomore.

Jaylyn Thompson, Eastern senior midfielder: This four-year starter was all-South Jersey as a defender last year and will play center mid this fall. She has committed to Virginia Tech.

Field hockey

Kelli Connolly, Camden Catholic senior midfielder: This four-year starter has made the all-conference first team every season of her career.

Alanna Gollotto, Eastern senior midfielder: All-state second-teamer is a key to the Vikings’ defense and also had 10 goals last year.

Mackenzie Keegan, Eastern junior forward: All-state third-teamer had 36 goals and 13 assists a year ago.

Colleen McAninley, Washington Township senior midfielder: All-South Jersey third-teamer had 13 goals and 14 assists last fall.

Chandler McFeeley, Clearview junior midfielder: Drexel recruit erupted for 25 goals and eight assists last year to earn all-South Jersey second-team honors.

Madison Morano, Eastern senior midfielder: Penn State recruit had 26 goals and 23 assists in 2014 on her way to all-state first-team honors for the top team in New Jersey.

Susan Orth, Moorestown senior defender: All-South Jersey third-teamer had six goals and eight assists for the sectional champions.

Drew Pecora, Bishop Eustace junior midfielder: Marlton resident had 16 goals and 18 assists to lead the Crusaders to the state final in 2014.

Avery Powell, Moorestown sophomore forward: After recording 15 goals and 14 assists as a freshman, Powell could be in line for an even bigger role this year.

Katy Repholz, Moorestown Friends junior forward: Three-year starter led the team with 15 goals last year.

Nikki Santore, Eastern senior forward: In her first season as a varsity starter, Santore had 53 goals and 37 assists last fall and was named all-state second team.

Meghan Smart, Haddonfield junior midfielder: All-South Jersey second-teamer had 19 goals and 13 assists in 2014.

Breck Urban, Paul VI senior forward: Urban shared the team lead with 15 goals last year and also had 14 assists.

Brooke Yarsinsky, Cherokee senior forward: All-conference second-teamer scored a team-leading 18 goals as the Chiefs reached the sectional final last fall.

Girls volleyball

Kyra Bevenour, Washington Township junior setter: Minutemaids captain had 334 assists last year on her way to an all-conference first-team selection.

Abbey Griswold, Seneca senior outside hitter: All-conference first-teamer led Seneca with 69 kills.

Jessica Lail, Kingsway junior outside hitter: Had 100 kills and 104 digs for the Dragons and should emerge as a team leader this season.

Alayna McNally, Cherokee senior outside hitter: All-conference first-teamer is an offensive force for the Chiefs.

Trang Nguyen-Christensen, Clearview senior setter: One of the best setters in South Jersey, she had 359 assists and 149 service points last year.

Lindsay Przywara, Williamstown senior outside hitter: This all-state third-team selection led the Braves with 243 kills last year.

Rachel Robb, Paul VI senior middle hitter: All-conference first-teamer had 94 kills as the Eagles reached the state final in 2014.

Jordan Wahrenberger, Seneca senior setter: The Golden Eagles’ all-time leader in assists had 212 last year to earn all-conference first-team honors.

Jill Wilson, Eastern senior middle hitter: Wilson led the Vikings in kills and blocks to earn all-conference first-team honors last fall.

Girls tennis

Alex Boone, Moorestown senior: All-South Jersey singles player was in the top spot for the Quakers and qualified for the state singles tournament.

Chelsea Brown, Haddonfield senior: Four-year starter was the Colonial Conference singles champion last fall and helped the Bulldawgs claim their 13th straight sectional title.

Jess Ferber, Moorestown Friends junior: All-Friends League selection won her second straight Burlington County second singles championship as a sophomore.

Shannon McCarthy, Lenape sophomore: McCarthy played second singles as a freshman and helped the Indians win their first sectional championship in 22 years.

Julia Novick, Clearview senior: Pioneers’ first singles was the Gloucester County champ in 2014 and reached the final for the third straight year earlier this fall.

Caitlyn Sorelle, Bishop Eustace senior: Crusaders’ No. 1 singles player reached the Camden County final and qualified for the state singles tournament in 2014.

Gabrielle Zimmerman, Cherry Hill East senior: Last year’s Camden County singles champion also reached the Olympic Conference American Division final.

Boys cross country

Vipul Bhat, Eastern senior: Bhat placed fifth in Camden County and 21st at sectionals last fall.

Josh Clark, Highland senior: Clark placed 14th in the Meet of Champions last fall and was fourth in Group III at states.

Josh Dillon, Cherry Hill East junior: Dillon helped the Cougars win their first state championship last year.

Nick Falk, Cherokee junior: The 2014 Burlington County champion also placed eighth at sectionals and 15th at states.

Joe Grandizio, Kingsway sophomore: Grandizio had a memorable rookie campaign that included a 16th-place finish at states.

Aaron Groff, Cherry Hill East senior: One of the best runners in the state, Groff will be a leading contender at all of the major races this fall.

Greg Pelose, Haddonfield senior: Pelose is aiming for his first South Jersey title after placing third at sectionals a year ago.

Nicholas Pschunder, Eastern senior: A threat to win any race he enters, one of Pschunder’s many accomplishments in 2014 was a 31st-place showing at the Meet of Champions.

Jack Shea, Cherokee junior: Shea finished eighth in the county, 14th at sectionals and 22nd at states as a sophomore.

Nathan Shivers, Clearview senior: Shivers placed in the top five at the Gloucester County and Tri-County Conference meets and took 15th at sectionals in 2014.

Girls cross country

Kara Bonner, Shawnee junior: Renegades’ new No. 1 runner took 10th at sectionals as a sophomore.

Kaitlin Donahue, Clearview junior: Donahue was second in Gloucester County to lead the Pioneers to their first-ever team title.

Greer Field, Cherry Hill East junior: All-conference first-teamer placed sixth in Camden County and 16th at sectionals last year.

Alexa Gostovich, Haddonfield junior: Gostovich placed third at sectionals last fall and is a key runner for one of the top teams in the area.

Julia Rothstein, Clearview sophomore: Rothstein’s tremendous freshman season featured a second-place finish at sectionals.

Rachel Vick, Kingsway junior: Last year’s Gloucester County and Tri-County Conference champion should also be a contender at sectionals.

Joey Webb, Seneca senior: Veteran will look to cap her career in style after placing third in the Olympic Conference and Burlington County last year.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 7 (October, 2015).
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