Meet eight amazing student athletes primed for big things this spring.
Eric Park; Cherry Hill East High School Golf Park burst onto the scholastic golf scene as a freshman, winning the Olympic Conference Tournament with a 73 and the Camden County Open with a 71. He also earned medalist honors at the South Jersey/Central Jersey Group 4 sectionals with a 75.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Do you have pretty high expectations coming off last year?
ERIC PARK: For the team, we just want to qualify [for the playoffs], because last year we didn’t get in. For me, the bigger, the better. I’d like to be the best, you know?
SJM: Last year you really seemed to shine in the biggest tournaments. Why do you think you play so well in those situations?
EP: For the [state tournament] me and my coach went to the course where the tournament was being held, so he showed me the layout and we discussed what [club] to play and stuff like that. So my coach helped me a lot.
SJM: Were you nervous for those tournaments?
EP: Yeah, I’m always nervous for every tournament. Last year I was a freshman so I didn’t know anything about the tournaments, I didn’t know what was going on. So I just practiced and went out and played.
SJM: Do you feel more comfortable now with a year of experience under your belt?
EP: I think so. I’ve gotten to know everybody on the team. I feel more confident this year and I think I’m going to do a little better.
SJM: How long have you been playing golf?
EP: I started playing when I was 10 years old, but I stopped playing for two years. So it’s been about three years total that I’ve been playing.
SJM: How did you get involved in the sport in the first place?
EP: My dad really likes golf so he let me play with him. I started liking it and started getting serious about it around middle school.
SJM: It’s a sport that can be very frustrating at times. Do you have those days?
EP: Oh yeah, I think everyone does. Sometimes my swing isn’t working the way I want it to. Sometimes I’m just pushing too hard. But I go to the practice range for a couple hours and try to figure out what’s wrong.
SJM: What are your strengths as a golfer and what do you need to work on?
EP: I think my best thing is driving. I don’t hit it very far, but I hit it straight. I’m not really great at putting, so I need to practice that more. It’s up and down, my putting. Sometimes I’m good but sometimes I struggle.
SJM: Were you surprised to have so much success early in your high school career?
EP: I was very surprised to win three out of five or six tournaments. There was some luck definitely; it can’t be 100 percent skill. But I think I did well.
SJM: Do you have a favorite course to play in South Jersey?
EP: I like Little Mill Country Club [in Marlton], that’s my home course. It’s hard and it has 27 holes, so I would say that’s my favorite around here. Our school home course is Woodcrest. That’s a really nice course too.
SJM: If you could play any course in the world, which would you choose?
EP: I would love to play Pine Valley, it’s ranked the No. 1 course in the world. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, unless I get to the PGA.
SJM: Do you follow the professionals, are you a big fan of the game?
EP: I don’t really watch TV that often, but sometimes I go to the Golf Channel. My favorite player is Rory McIlroy. He’s kind of short but he hits it far and he’s No. 1 in the world. I’m short too, so I hope that I can hit it far like him someday.
SJM: Can you learn tips from watching the pros?
EP: I think so. Sometimes I watch their swing and try to do it in front of the mirror. It doesn’t have to be Rory, I watch Tiger Woods too. I don’t have a personal coach right now, so I just practice on my own.
SJM: You mentioned Tiger Woods, who seems to be playing better and coming out of his slump. Do you think he can get back on track and break Jack Nicklaus’ record for majors?
EP: I’m not really sure. But he was No. 1 in the world and I think he can come back.
Jess Woodard; Cherokee High School Track and Field
Woodard established herself as the best discus thrower in the state as a sophomore, winning the event at the Meet of Champions with a throw of 142 feet, five inches. She also took fourth in the shot put at the Meet of Champions and won Group 4 state titles in both events.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Last year was such an awesome year for you. Do you feel any pressure to live up to that?
JESS WOODARD: I always think positively coming into a new year, setting my goals and expectations high. I don’t really feel a lot of pressure because if I can do my best and see the results of what I’ve trained so hard for, then I’m happy.
SJM: You’ve had some time to think about last year. Has it sunk in that you were a winner at the Meet of Champions and won two state titles?
JW: Yes it has. I was in shock for a little bit, but it’s a great feeling. You also know that people are coming after you, so it occurred to me to work harder.
SJM: Did you compete in the winter in indoor track?
JW: I did a few meets outside of school, but I also play basketball [for Cherokee]. But I went to indoor New Balance nationals and took third. ... That exceeded my expectations.
SJM: What’s it like competing in those national meets with the best throwers in the country? Is that nerve-racking?
JW: At first it is. I’ve kind of gotten used to it because I’ve grown up in competitions like this. It’s not as nerve-racking. I come in a little nervous, but it’s always great competing against the best in the country because it makes me better, it makes me step up my game.
SJM: Did you ever consider focusing on indoor track in the winter or do you just love basketball too much?
JW: It’s a good break from throwing and I also love my team to death. It would be hard to leave them. It’s going to be a tough decision next year and it’s one I haven’t come to yet.
SJM: What advantages do you get from taking a break from throwing in the winter? Is it a mental thing?
JW: I think it is a mental thing. Throwing is such an individual sport and it’s good to have a team to back you up. I also am so hard on myself and I set my expectations so high, it can be mentally draining. So it’s good to clear my mind and come into the spring with a new start.
SJM: You mentioned setting your goals high. Do you have specific goals you’re shooting for this spring?
JW: I do have some specific goals. We actually sit down and go meet by meet and come up with some numbers. I haven’t really come up with a final number yet. I just want to defend my titles and improve as much as I can possibly can.
SJM: Do you have a favorite event?
JW: I like discus better than shot put but I like them both. I think just because I came to high school and I improved so much in discus. Not that I didn’t improve in shot put, but discus has taken me so far. But I’ve been doing shot put longer, so it would be hard for me to stop.
SJM: Is there anybody who stands out who has really been a big influence on you?
JW: I actually have one throwing coach in season and one out of season. Coach [John] McMichael is a great coach, he always encourages me to push through whatever obstacles I’m going through and to keep working at it. He always has constructive criticism for me. My other coach, Coach Ed [Bradway], is also a great coach. He’s also helped me fix my technique.
SJM: This is a Summer Olympics year coming up. Will you follow that closely and are you a fan of other throwers?
JW: Yes, I love the Olympics. That’s my dream in life, to be an Olympic thrower. I’ll follow it closely, I look at the girls from around the country and see how far they’ve come.
SJM: Have you started the recruiting process and do you have a dream college you’d like to continue your track career at?
JW: We’ve started the recruiting process a little bit. They can’t talk to me until July 1 I believe, but I’ve received letters. I don’t really have a dream college yet, just because there’s so many opportunities for me at this moment. It’s hard to even imagine that all of these schools are looking at me.
SJM: Do you think you want to stay close to home? Does that matter to you?
JW: I don’t want to go too far from home. I think it would be good to stay closer. Villanova is a good one. I was looking at UPenn, just because their medical programs are so good and I want to go into sports medicine. There’s more in the South I was looking at too, like the University of Virginia.
Nick Tierno; Eastern High School Baseball
An All-South Jersey player as a sophomore last year, Tierno is known for his versatility and fields several positions for the Vikings. The speedy leadoff hitter helped Eastern go 19-7 and reach the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals last season.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: I know you can play a lot of different positions. Do you know where you’ll spend most of your time this spring?
NICK TIERNO: It’s mix and match. I take reps everywhere in practice, but it’s fun getting to play everywhere and be around everybody.
SJM: Do you have a favorite position?
NT: I get asked that all the time, and I really don’t have a spot that I like the most. There’s good things about every position that I play. I don’t have a favorite, just wherever I can help the team.
SJM: What positions have you played at the high school level?
NT: My freshman year I caught and last year I played second. This year, who knows? I haven’t played the outfield yet, but I can. I can shag some fly balls.
SJM: Has it always been like this growing up, were you always used at multiple positions in Little League?
NT: When I was younger I was a third baseman, but my dad always made me play multiple positions. I caught, then I played a little short in middle school. Once I got to high school they knew I could play everywhere, and my freshman year it just so happened that I could fit in behind the plate. Then last year we lost a senior so I played middle infield. My dad always said that if you can play every position, some team will find you.
SJM: You don’t pitch though, do you?
NT: I can make an appearance here or there, but it’s unusual to see me up there.
SJM: Offensively, was last year a breakout year for you?
NT: I would definitely say so. Going into the season, I just had the mindset of getting on base and letting the guys knock me in. Over the course of the season, I found myself knocking in some guys as well as scoring a couple. But all the credit goes to the guys in the middle of the lineup knocking me in. They make it easy for me.
SJM: Your coach, Rob Christ, calls you the ideal leadoff hitter. What does it mean to hear something like that?
NT: From my coach, that’s definitely an honor. I have a lot of respect for my coach, he always expects the best from me and all the guys on the team. I just work hard all the time, like the rest of my teammates.
SJM: Is knowledge of the strike zone really important for you?
NT: Oh yeah. Being a leadoff hitter, the biggest thing is being able to work the count. Even if I don’t get on myself, you’re letting the guys on the bench know what kind of pitches he’s got, what he’s going throw in certain counts. And getting him tired, even early in the game, is huge.
SJM: Is that a natural ability or something you’ve learned over time?
NT: It’s funny you say that, because I used to play a lot of Wiffle ball when I was younger. The ball would be moving all over the place and we had a little strike zone, so all of us had a good idea of the strike zone. When I got older, I realized that making the pitcher work and not swinging at bad pitches really gives you an advantage at the dish.
SJM: Is getting the school record for stolen bases in a season important to you?
NT: I either tied it or I was one short last year. I think I had 23 and the record is 24. It’s definitely something individually I’d like to do this year.
SJM: What’s the key to being a good base stealer? Obviously you have to have some speed, but do you really study pitchers and catchers?
NT: Our coaches have a system that we use against lefthanders and we get the catchers’ times and everything. I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but you have to study the catcher and we make it a point for the base stealer to make sure they’re ready to go. It’s not just getting on base and stealing a bag because you’re fast. We practice getting leads, getting jumps, everything. It’s not just something that comes overnight. We work at it.
SJM: Are you a big fan of the game on the Major League level?
NT: Oh yeah, I love watching the game. I just had a fantasy league draft the other day, I’m setting another one up. I can’t get enough, it’s nice to even sit down and watch a spring training game even though it’s guys you never heard of.
SJM: Are you a Phillies fan?
NT: I’m actually a Yankees fan, my family is from New York and North Jersey. My dad’s a Yankees fan and my mom’s a Mets fan.
SJM: Do you ever get up to Yankee Stadium?
NT: Oh yeah. My cousin is actually a season ticket holder and we go up there when we can, especially for the playoffs. We’ve been fortunate because the Yankees are in the playoffs every year, unlike the Phillies. Well, they have been lately, but before that they had some rough seasons.
SJM: Who are some of the Major League players that you admire and try to emulate?
NT: I’ve always loved Derek Jeter, he just does everything the right way. He always works hard, does what he can for the team. That’s how I try to play. I don’t go thinking that everything is about me. There’s lots of guys who are as important or more important than me.
SJM: You must have some battles with your teammates, who I assume are mostly Phillies fans.
NT: Yeah, especially come playoff time or during interleague play. But it’s fun, we have fun with it.
SJM: You play in the loaded Olympic Conference. Who do you see as your biggest competition in the conference and in South Jersey Group 4?
NT: Our conference is always tough. This year I think Cherokee is going to be a tough team to beat, and we have a nice rivalry with [Cherry Hill] East. As far as other teams, I know we’d like to face St. Augustine again after they knocked us out of the Diamond Classic last year. It would be nice if we could see them again.
SJM: How do you set your team goals? What’s most important out of the state tournament, the conference and the Diamond Classic?
NT: I think definitely getting to the Group 4 final and states is always the No. 1 goal. Then it would be winning the conference, then the Diamond Classic. That’s what we try to do every year.
SJM: Is this team capable of achieving those goals?
NT: Absolutely, I have no doubt. We all play for each other on this team, and there’s not a single person who doesn’t think we can go far.
SJM: What are your long-term plans, would you like to play in college?
NT: Playing in college would be a dream come true, that’s always been my goal to play at a big-time college. Growing up I always wanted to play for Florida State or Arizona State, one of those big schools. As you get older you get a little more realistic, and I just want to get into a Division I school.
SJM: Is the recruiting starting to pick up now?
NT: I have some schools looking at me and sending me e-mails. I think it’s kind of cool, honestly, just to know that people are watching you and all your hard work throughout the year is paying off. It’s an honor.
Owen Demmerly (pictured); Shawnee High School Lacrosse
As a junior, the Renegades attack led South Jersey with 82 goals and added 33 assists. He led Shawnee to a 17-6 record and a berth in the Group 3 quarterfinals.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Are you anxious for your senior season?
OWEN DEMMERLY: Absolutely. I’m always excited for a new season. There’s a lot of new, talented guys coming up and it’s always nice to see the team come together.
SJM: Lacrosse has some big numbers, but even for lacrosse 82 goals is a big number. Is it a staggering figure even to you?
OD: Yeah, it’s a pretty big number. I had a lot of great guys assisting me last year too, and we lost one of them. It was very exciting.
SJM: How long have you been playing lacrosse?
OD: Seventh grade was my first year, so it’s been a couple years now.
SJM: How did you get involved in the first place?
OD: I’ve always watched my brother [Braden] play, pretty much my whole life. He really pushed me toward it. I actually signed up when I was in fifth grade and backed out because I had some other sports I wanted to keep playing. Finally, my brother and my family pushed me into it and I’m really happy they did.
SJM: Was it something you took to right away, did you have a natural talent for it?
OD: Yeah, I think when I went into it, watching it so much helped a lot. My stick skills originally were a little bit off. But within a year, my coaches from [the South Jersey] Black Storm really helped me a lot and it all came together.
SJM: Did you always have a penchant for scoring?
OD: My first year I wasn’t much of a scorer, I set up plays. I was actually a midfielder when I started playing. My coach moved me to attack my eighth grade year and that’s when I started scoring some goals.
SJM: Is it a better feeling to score or set someone else up to score?
OD: I would say probably assisting feels better. Of course, scoring a goal is always exciting, it’s always a good feeling. But when you have a really nice assist, it’s indescribable.
SJM: What if I said to you that this year you would only score 50 goals but your team won the state championship in Group 3. Would you accept that deal?
OD: That would be my dream. I would be happy with scoring 20 goals this year if we won states. That’s my No. 1 goal. The team comes first. Personal statistics are fun and nice, but that’s not what I’m looking for.
SJM: You got to the state final as a freshman. Did you play in that game?
OD: Not too much but I got some time. That was extremely exciting to play in, and as a freshman extremely nerve-racking. It definitely shook me up a little when I got in, but once you got into the game you settled down.
SJM: When you’re a freshman you probably think you’re going to get to the state final every year, but now you know how hard it is.
OD: Yeah, it’s definitely a long road. We had an extremely talented team my freshman year. We lost a lot of good players but I still think we have some great players and some of the younger players have really stepped up. I think we have a very good chance this year.
SJM: Obviously you’ve proven you can score at this level. What are some of the weaknesses in your game you’re trying to improve on as a senior?
OD: Personally, I would like to improve on my vision of the field. I’ve had decent vision but I’d really like to find the open man through the lane and look for more assists this year. Leadership-wise, I really want to step up more. I was a leader last year, but I really want to step up and help out the team that way. I’ve been vocal, but I think I need to be more vocal and take control more.
SJM: Who are some of the teams you’re looking at as competition in your group and your conference?
OD: We always have one of our rival games with St. Augustine, as well as Cherokee. I believe both of them are actually night games this year, which I’m really looking forward to. We’re playing a couple teams from up north that are always competitive. I think this year we’ll be able to turn some heads and win some games we’re not supposed to.
SJM: You mentioned the night games. Do you notice the sport becoming more popular and more people coming out to games like that?
OD: It’s definitely picking up. My freshman year it didn’t seem like too many people came out to the games, but each year more and more fans are recognizing lacrosse. Especially our major games, like St. Augustine, we’re getting crowds for. I’m optimistic we can actually bring a crowd down to St. Augustine. I know it’s an away game, which is hard to get fans for in lacrosse, but I think a lot of people are excited for it.
SJM: Who would you say your biggest influence has been in this sport?
OD: My brother would definitely be my role model in the sport, and my role model in general. I’ve also had a lot of great coaches along the way, and I think each one has taught me something different. It’s hard to pick one person, but if I had to it would be my brother.
SJM: Have you made any college plans?
OD: I’m going to Goucher College, I’m gonna play lacrosse and I’m very excited. Ever since the first time I stepped on campus I had a very warm and welcoming feeling. It was a rainy, dreary day in the summer with nobody there and I still loved the school. I got in contact with Coach [Kyle] Hannan and he’s an extremely great man, and he really brought me toward the school. I went through my whole search and wound up back at Goucher College and I knew it was the place for me.
SJM: Your brother didn’t try to recruit you to Drew University?
OD: He did try, actually. I did like Drew University as well and I gave it strong consideration, but Goucher won out in the end.
Kylie Mulholland; Washington Township High School Softball
As a sophomore, the starting catcher had a .368 average, 26 runs scored and 18 RBIs. She helped the Minutemaids win the South Jersey Group 4 championship before a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Howell in the state semifinals when the only run scored on a wild pitch. Mulholland has already made a verbal commitment to Coastal Carolina University. SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Obviously last year was very successful with the South Jersey championship. Do you think you can get back to that level?
KYLIE MULHOLLAND: Yeah, I think we can go all the way this year. We have a lot of good underclassmen coming up and I feel like we’ll be really good this season.
SJM: How often do you think about your last game last season, a 1-0 loss in the state semifinals?
KM: I don’t like thinking about that game at all. Just the fact that we didn’t score any runs. And being the catcher and having a passed ball is not a good experience at all. We didn’t get any runs for our pitcher and every inning there was more and more pressure. Finally, we just didn’t do the job.
SJM: Last year’s team was so talented, was it a surprise you didn’t win the state championship?
KM: Definitely. I really thought we had the capability with all of those seniors. We just didn’t bring it to the table. We weren’t on our game.
SJM: What’s it going to be like this year replacing a dominant pitcher like Alissa Schoelkopf, who graduated?
KM: We definitely need some work but we’re going to be practicing every day. As the catcher I’m going to make sure our pitchers are great, I’m going to work with them. We have two or three pitchers and we’re going pick the best one and hopefully we’ll get the job done.
SJM: What can you do as a catcher to make the new pitchers’ jobs easier?
KM: I can take control on the field and help them feel comfortable. If you don’t have the confidence out there, obviously you’re not going get the job done. I just want them to be comfortable on the mound.
SJM: Have you always been a catcher?
KM: No, actually I’ve played all around. I’ve played shortstop, third base. I used to play outfield and second base and now I’m a catcher. I’ll play wherever [coach Tracy Burkhart] wants me. I used to be a backup catcher back in the day and my regular position was shortstop. Once I got [to high school], they thought I should catch, so I tried out and I’ve been the catcher ever since.
SJM: What do you like most about catching?
KM: I have a big mouth and I like using it. I like taking control and being a leader, pumping the girls up before the game.
SJM: You’re known as a solid defensive catcher but you also batted third in the lineup last year. Do you take offense just as serious as defense?
KM: Definitely, I’ve been working on it a lot. Hopefully I can do better than last year and meet my goal of becoming one of the best hitters in the league. I’m shooting for a real high average and I’m shooting to make All-South Jersey. Hopefully I get it done.
SJM: Now that you’re in your third year as a starter and the team lost a lot of seniors from last year, are you taking on more of a leadership role?
KM: Most definitely. My coach has faith in me that I can get the team going. Our team has a lot of skill and Coach Burkhart has it under control. But she has me and the other leaders to help our underclassmen and play well together.
SJM: Does playing ASA [with Newtown Rock Gold] give you a lot of confidence going into the high school season?
KM: Yes. We went to nationals last summer and took second. My coach helped build my foundation and helped me improve.
SJM: Do you play anything else besides softball?
KM: I used to play volleyball, I played last year, but softball has really taken over.
SJM: Who do you see as the biggest competition in South Jersey this year?
KM: I think it’s definitely Camden Catholic. The pitcher from my other team goes to Camden Catholic and she throws like 67 miles per hour, she’s got a wicked curveball. I’m really looking forward to hitting against her.
Dallas Hogan; Lenape High School Softball
Hogan broke into the varsity starting lineup from Day One as a freshman in 2011. The outfielder went on to hit .275, score 15 runs and steal 17 bases and was named All-Olympic Conference American Division first team.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Is it easier this time around, do you feel more comfortable now that you’re not a rookie?
DH: Yeah, I’m more used to how things are going. It’s not as nerve-racking as it was last year.
SJM: Tell me about last year. Did you expect to come in and play right away?
DH: Not at all. I knew there were people in front of me and I had to work hard. Eventually I got the starting position but that never stopped me from working hard.
SJM: When did you become a starter?
DH: I started the first game, but I finally became the starter at the position I wanted [center field] midway through the season.
SJM: Was there a certain point last year when you knew you belonged at that level?
DH: Yeah, around the middle of the season I started feeling more comfortable. Once I started playing well, it just felt right.
SJM: What was the toughest thing to get used to? Were the pitchers at a totally different level than you were used to?
DH: Not really. Hitting is always the hardest part for me, but I started hitting well eventually.
SJM: Who else do you play for besides Lenape, do you play ASA?
DH: Yes I do, I play for Mystics Gold in Medford.
SJM: So you’ve been a serious softball player for some time. How did you get started in the sport?
DH: I started when I was 5. I was always watching my brother play baseball and I started looking up to him. My dad and my mom helped me get into it too. When I was 10, I started to get serious.
SJM: Is center field where you feel the most comfortable?
DH: Yes, it’s my favorite position. It’s usually the most running and I can use my speed and I can see the whole field.
SJM: Were you a big fan of Major League Baseball or Olympic softball growing up?
DH: Yeah, when I was younger I liked a lot of sports. Just recently I started getting into softball, I love watching Olympic softball as well as the Phillies.
SJM: Any favorite players?
DH: I would probably say Natasha Watley from the Olympic softball team.
SJM: What do you think the outlook for Lenape is this year? Obviously you play in a really tough conference, do you feel like you’re going to make some strides this year?
DH: Yeah, I think we’re going to compete well if everybody works hard. We have the same capabilities as every other team out there in our conference.
SJM: When you’re coming into a season do you set personal goals for yourself, such as certain numbers you want to get to? How do you motivate yourself?
DH: I had just about 20 steals last year and I want to get over 25 this year. I was caught maybe twice and I’m trying to narrow that down to not getting caught at all.
SJM: The leadoff hitter is an important role in softball. What do you see as the key to being a good leadoff hitter?
DH: Just observing the pitcher and seeing what kinds of pitches she has. Just staying calm and staying focused on what you have to do.
SJM: I know it’s a few years away, but do you have aspirations to play in college?
DH: Absolutely. I hope to go Ivy League, because not only do I want to challenge myself athletically, but academically as well. I’m always up for a challenge and the Ivy League seems perfect. Plus, a lot of the schools are close.
SJM: Has the recruiting process started yet?
DH: I’ve had some schools show interest in me. I’ve gone to camps and gotten some feedback. But it’s still early.
Maddie Kiep; Haddonfield High School Lacrosse
Kiep is coming off a fantastic season in which she recorded 34 goals and 24 assists for the Bulldawgs. In its third year as a varsity program, the midfielder helped Haddonfield post an 18-2 record and win a division championship.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Is this season kind of bittersweet because it’s your last at Haddonfield?
MADDIE KIEP: I’m really looking forward to it, obviously, because I love the sport of lacrosse and my team and my coaches. But it’s definitely going to be a sad season because I feel like this program has come such a long way and it’s been really cool to see how it’s grown over the last four years, and I’m really going miss it next year. I’m really looking forward to our season because I love our team, but at the same time I’m going to be really upset when it’s over.
SJM: Last year must have been really special, going 18-2 in your third year as a program. Do you feel like the program really took a big step?
MK: We felt like we proved ourselves to a lot of people in South Jersey and we finally made a name for Haddonfield lacrosse. That was really exciting, and it opened up a lot of opportunities for this season. Now we have a tough schedule and we’re looking forward to playing those teams and trying to make it in South Jersey.
SJM: I know you lost some key seniors from last year, including your starting goalie. Do you still feel like you have enough returning players to build on last year’s success?
MK: We definitely accomplished a lot last year and we lost some very important players to graduation. There’s going to be a lot of big shoes to fill, but the girls are working really hard and we don’t expect anything less than what we accomplished last year. Right now we’re just focusing on the basics and we’re working hard and trying to get better every day. Even though we lost some key defenders and our goalie and some important scorers, that doesn’t mean we’re backing down at all. We’re coming to play.
SJM: In addition to the team’s success, do you feel like last year was a breakout year for you on a personal level?
MK: Yeah, I would definitely say that last year was a breakout year for me. Our team just really clicked last year. Freshman and sophomore year was a lot of learning for us, learning how to work as a team. Last year it all came together, and it really helped having my teammates around me. It really helped me get better and I think that’s why I did so well. Also, our coach has been encouraging us every day since my freshman year, saying “Girls, you can play with the best.” That also pushed me.
SJM: When was your first year playing lacrosse?
MK: I started playing lacrosse in seventh grade. Haddonfield doesn’t have a rec program, so I remember in sixth grade — it was actually pretty funny — my mom said, “A couple of your friends are playing lacrosse in Cherry Hill, do you want to play?” And I said, “No thanks, I’m not that interested.” But then I went to one of their games that year, and I was thinking, “I need to play this sport.” So I signed up the next year and I fell in love with the sport and I’ve been playing ever since then.
SJM: Why were you initially resistant to lacrosse?
MK: I also play soccer and basketball and those sports are really big for me. I hadn’t really heard of lacrosse before, so I was kind of hesitant about it. But seeing all my friends at that Cherry Hill game, I just wanted to play. It was one of the greatest decisions I ever made, it’s really opened a lot for me.
SJM: What do you love about lacrosse?
MK: I love team-oriented sports. ... I love how there’s so many things you can do on the field. You don’t have to be the No. 1 scorer, it comes down to ground balls and draw controls and assists and causing turnovers. It’s a great opportunity for every single girl on the field to make a contribution to the team. It just feels so good, whether you’re an offender or a defender, when a goal is scored. It’s fast-paced, you always have to be thinking, there’s no down time. I just can’t say enough about it.
SJM: What’s it like playing with your sister [Haddonfield junior attack Gretchen Kiep]?
MK: We’re very close off the field, and I love playing with her on the field. Even though she’s younger than me, I’ve learned so much from her, and she’s learned from me. We play off each other so well and we have this connection on the field. I know where she’s going to cut, she knows where I’m going to cut. We’re always picking each other up and encouraging each other. I can’t speak enough about playing with my sister.
SJM: You also played soccer and basketball at Haddonfield. How did you balance your time playing in back-to-back-to-back seasons and keeping up with your schoolwork?
MK: It’s definitely very busy, I feel like I’m all over the place. But I love playing three sports, and there’s something unique about each season. Obviously they’re all team-oriented, which I love. But each sport asks something different out of you. I’m always excited for each season to start but I’m bitter when it ends. ... It’s tough playing every day of the week for nine months out of the school year, but I’m glad I played all three sports for all four years of high school.
SJM: How did you come to the decision to focus on lacrosse next year at Cornell University?
MK: I love all three sports that I played in high school. For a while I really liked basketball, and the more I got into lacrosse in high school, the more I wanted to play at the next level. Going through the recruiting process, I went up to Ithaca [College]. One of the coaches at Cornell is actually a Collingswood alum, so we had that instant South Jersey connection, which was cool. And I just fell in love with Cornell, it’s so beautiful. It’s a great academic school, but they also have a competitive athletic program and the women’s lacrosse program is wonderful. The coaches are awesome, the team is great and they’re a competitive D-I school. I wanted to make sure I found a good academic school and a good athletic school, and Cornell was the perfect fit. I could see myself going there.
SJM: Do you know what you want to study?
MK: Right now I’m pretty undecided. I’m leaning toward science, but I’m not sure exactly what I want to do, if I want to do something with medicine or research or something in biology.
SJM: Aside from your high school team, did you play for any other lacrosse teams?
MK: I played club for South Jersey Select for two seasons, and it was definitely a big part of the recruiting process, playing in those big tournaments with elite teams and very good girls from across the country. It helped me improve my game. There’s a difference between high school lacrosse and club lacrosse in my opinion, and I just learned so much from my coaches and the girls on my team. I had more skills and better knowledge of the game when I got back to high school.
Pierce Cooper; Moorestown High School Tennis
The 2011 tennis season was a memorable one for first singles player Pierce Cooper and the Moorestown boys team. Cooper compiled a 36-6 record as a junior, winning the singles title at the Burlington County Tournament and finishing second in the South Jersey Interscholastic Coaches Association Tournament. He helped lead the Quakers to the South Jersey Group 3 championship and a spot in the state final, where they lost to Millburn, 4-1.
SJM: Last year was a special one for you and the team. Has it sunk in what you were able to accomplish?
PC: We had a good year last year, it was pretty nice.
SJM: Are you expecting to match what you accomplished last year?
PC: Yeah, we should be pretty competitive this year. We might be a little better than last year. We’ll see what happens.
SJM: The team came up short in last year’s state final. How often do you think about that match?
PC: I don’t really think about it that often. If we get to that stage of the season again this year, it would be nice. Millburn was better than we were last year, there was nothing we could really do about it. But we should be better this year so it will be interesting.
SJM: Do you think Millburn will be in the state final again?
PC: Yeah, Millburn is always in the mix. They’re consistently one of the top teams in Group 3, so they’ll definitely be there.
SJM: Which teams do you see as the best in South Jersey?
PC: Haddonfield should be really good this year, Lenape is always solid, Shawnee should be pretty good and Cherry Hill East is usually right there.
SJM: Do you consider yourselves the team to beat in South Jersey Group 3?
PC: I wouldn’t say that. There’s a lot of good teams. It’s too early to tell, we’ll just have to see how the season goes.
SJM: Out of all those accomplishments from last year, which moment stands out for you?
PC: I wouldn’t really say one specific moment stands out. All in all it was a good season, the team was pretty successful. I just want to see the team do well, [my personal achievements] aren’t that important.
SJM: How would you describe your game? Are you a big hitter, or do you like to play long points and let your opponent make errors?
PC: I would say I’m probably in the middle. I’m pretty consistent. I can make shots if they’re there. But I don’t fit into one specific style.
SJM: What factors dictate the style you’re going to play in a given match?
PC: You just try to be consistent. In the beginning, you see what your opponent is doing and take it from there.
SJM: How long have you been playing tennis?
PC: I started playing the summer leading up to seventh grade, so about six years I guess. That summer I just thought it would be fun, so I started playing.
SJM: Was there anyone who pushed you in that direction?
PC: My dad played tennis when he was younger, so I guess maybe he did. I played soccer up until seventh grade, and I just decided to switch and play tennis.
SJM: What helped you make the jump from playing doubles as a freshman to first singles as a sophomore?
PC: I guess I played a little more often than I had before that. We also lost a bunch of guys in between those two years, I think we lost four starters.
SJM: What did you do in the offseason to prepare for your senior season?
PC: I played a lot in the offseason to get ready, I hit around with guys on the team. I didn’t work on anything specific, just my overall game.
SJM: How tough was Shane Monroe from St. Augustine, who beat you in the South Jersey Tournament final last year when he was a freshman?
PC: He was good, he’s one of the nationally-ranked kids for his age. It will be interesting to see how much better he’s gotten since last year.
SJM: Was he the best player you’ve faced at the high school level?
PC: Yeah, I’d say him and [former Shore Regional star] Mike Lippens were probably the best two that I’ve faced. I think they played each other in the semifinals of the state tournament last year.
SJM: What did you like about The College of New Jersey, where you’ll continue your tennis career next year?
PC: It’s a good school, it’s close by. The coach seemed great and the team seemed great. It should be fun.
SJM: Who do you enjoy watching on the professional level and can you take anything from their game?
PC: I like the [Roger] Federer-[Rafael] Nadal-[Novak] Djokovic rivalry. I like watching all of those guys play. I guess you can take some stuff away, but they’re at a whole other level than me.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April, 2012).
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