Fall sports at Thomas Dale

BOYS VOLLEYBALL
The Thomas Dale boys’ volleyball program is looking to “return to that glory” in the words of first year head coach Josh Forbes. The program’s success is one of the most storied in the Central Region, as the Knights won 15 straight Central District Tournaments, a state championship in 2007, and were state runner-ups in both 2005 and 2008.

“Our motto this year is to return to that glory,” said Forbes. “The guys know the history and some have experienced parts of that success.”

The pieces certainly appear to be in place, though the Knights have some tough competition with the new region alignment in Cosby and James River. The Knights are 3-2 on the season as of press time, with both losses coming at the hands of the Titans and Rapids, but both games were closely contested.

Led by seniors and college prospects Will Ragland (outside hitter) and Andrew Ray (opposite hitter), the Knights have a formidable attack and play a fast paced offense, which is relatively uncommon in the sport.

Ragland is a division two or three prospect collegiately, and the same could go for Ray, as both currently have schools interested in them. Through five games, Ragland has 66 kills and Ray has 52 kills. The Knights also receive solid play from senior libero Taylor Trueheart, who has tallied 58 digs on the year.

When it comes to the outlook for the postseason, Forbes stated that Thomas Dale should be “in that discussion.” With many team members playing new positions, much progress has been made thus far in 2013 as the Knights will look to qualify for the postseason.

“We will have to click at the right moments to make things happen,” stated Forbes. “I believe this team has enough talent to do that.”

After home games on Monday (Clover Hill) and Tuesday (Meadowbrook) earlier this week, the Knights face off with former district rival Colonial Heights this Thursday at 5:45 p.m.
 
GIRLS VOLLEYBALL
Also with a new head coach in Arianne Haywood, the ladies of Thomas Dale volleyball are looking to rebound from a 6-14 finish in 2012, and look poised to do so. Off to a 2-3 start, the Knights have room to grow, and a mixture of experience and youth.

The leaders of the team are sophomore middle hitter Sydney Frink, junior setter Makala Cribb and senior outside hitter Bethany Brown.

Brown, a team captain, is Dale’s leader.

“She’s a natural leader on an off the court,” stated Haywood. “She gets the other girls together and she’s great for team morale.”

In addition to her leadership, Brown plays with an attack first mentality and has great volleyball knowledge. Though Brown is talented enough to play at the next level, Haywood said that the senior also participates in chorus, and may go to a college that focuses on that.

Despite being younger players, both Cribb and Frink are “very talented” pieces of a Thomas Dale puzzle that’s pushing to improve in 2013. Cribb possesses great hands and has racked up kills this season, while Frink, though just a sophomore, has great game knowledge as a middle hitter in addition to playing great defense. Both figure to play collegiately upon graduation.

“We have some great players with great court awareness,” said Haywood. “They have the skills down and the drive to attack the ball.”

Haywood applauded her squad for their serving and passing skills and aggression to hit the ball, but also pointed out at times that over aggressiveness can lead to the ball being hit into the block.

After matches with Clover Hill and Meadowbrook early in the week, The Lady Knights will also face off with Colonial Heights on the road this Thursday at 7 p.m.

FIELD HOCKEY
Another historically dominant program at Thomas Dale is field hockey, which comes in riding a streak of eight straight Central District championships under head coach Beth Clark, with four straight region championships from 2004 to 2007. In 2012, the team was the Central Region runner-up. In 2013, the team has gotten off to a 3-3 start with close losses to Cosby and Maggie Walker, but is looking to contend in the four team conference tournament this year.

“We’re been playing beautiful hockey, but we’ve had some trouble scoring,” explained Clark. “We haven’t found that person that’s going to be our scorer all of the time yet.”

The team is led by a pair of “Maddies” in senior Maddy Kendrick and junior Maddy Smith. Kendrick, a center/midfielder has started all four years on varsity and will be playing collegiately at Longwood next year.

“She sees the needs of other players and works with them in practice,” said Clark. “She really steps in when she needs to.”

Smith has also played varsity since arriving at Thomas Dale. The junior has played field hockey since a young age, and could be the most versatile player on Clark’s roster.
“I can play her anywhere,” Clark stated.

The Knights also receive solid play from senior goalkeeper Bridget Schindel, who also plays soccer for Dale. Clark applauds her for her ability to communicate to the defense, and her knack for blocking a shot when needed. The three players discussed are the team’s captains for 2013.

Under the new conference tournament format, Thomas Dale will qualify for a four team playoff with Cosby, James River and Varina this season. The top two teams qualify for the regional tournament.

The Knights’ next contest will be against Matoaca next Monday at 4 p.m.

GOLF
After graduating five seniors, the defending Central Region and District champion Thomas Dale golf squad is having some growing pains- but those pains have gained them five wins and three second place finishes through 11 matches.

“This is the first time these guys have played these courses,” said Thomas Dale golf coach Dave Duncan. “They haven’t faced this level of competition until now.”

The team’s number one this year is senior Kemper Elder, who was the number six on last year’s loaded squad. Duncan has been pleased with how Elder has handled his new role as a leader.

“I’m glad it was him to step into this role,” said Duncan. “He’s had normal frustrations that any golfer has, but he’s really handled it well.”

The depth of the team this season has proven to be solid despite the heavy turnover from last year’s team as junior Tommy Barron, sophomore Daniel White and freshman Swedish exchange student Tommy Sopanen all play “pretty consistent” golf in the words of Duncan. Sopanen recently shot a season-best round of 40 at the Highlands, but will only be at Thomas Dale through this season. For the girls, Rachel McDaniel will go to the state qualifier and has a shot to make it into the field.

Under the new playoff system, golf is now in a conference with James River, Cosby, Varina, Franklin County and Patrick Henry (Roanoke). While the two will still play the old “district schedule” for two years, the new alignment separates Matoaca and Thomas Dale, who have traditionally battled it out for Central District supremacy year in and year out.

The golf team is preparing to play in the conference three tournament on Monday, September 30 in Moneta, Virginia.

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