This is the first story in a two-part series previewing spring sports at area high schools. Next week, the Village News will offer a glimpse of what’s in store this season at L.C. Bird and Meadowbrook high schools.
As the days grow longer, the grass greener and temperatures warmer, area high school athletes are taking to the fields to prepare for the spring season.
DALE HOOPS TO CONTINUE WINNING WAYS
This year has been a memorable one for the Thomas Dale High School nation. The Knights excelled in every sport this school year, which was highlighted by a Division 6 football championship, and they have little doubt this success will continue during the spring season.
Much of the excitement centers on coach Dennis Jones’ softball team. Though there are only two seniors on the roster, the youthful Knights are very solid defensively and pack a considerable amount of wallop at the plate. Led by Logan Tollison, Kate Watkins and Ashby Bryant, the Knights will definitely score their share of runs this season. The top of the Central District is very strong, with the Prince George, Colonial Heights and Matoaca games all looming as huge tests.
Over on the baseball diamond, coach Chris Marshall’s Knights feature two of the area’s best arms in Bill Cullen and Ryan Moore. Their presence should help sustain the club as it looks to replace much of the firepower that was supplied by last year’s graduating seniors.
Coach Mark Fowler’s boys soccer team starts a new era as it goes to battle for the first time in five seasons without a player with experience in a state championship game. The squad is young, having only three seniors.
“We have a tremendous freshman class,” Fowler said. Dale is led by Jack Bates, brothers Dan and Vito Lauretano and Bill Groben. “Although Matoaca is the clear district favorite, we will be ready to challenge them some good football,” Fowler added.
The tennis team sees the return of former athlete Cory Neal as coach. Austin Hamilton has seemingly transitioned from the fairway to the court in taking over the No. 1 position for the Knights. On the girl’s side, Courtney Cox holds down the No. 1 slot for coach Carol Watt as the Knights attempt to challenge Prince George in the district.
Coaches Doug Sable and Dick Anthony welcome over 130 athletes to the track this season.
“We’re very excited about both the present and the future of track and field at Dale,” Anthony said. Sam Hartman, Quintin Fulghum, Lorenzo Fields, Byron Robinson, Kristen Greene, Katea Jemott, Siobhan Ford-Holland, Sarah Fulghum and April Wilson lead the team, which should battle for both the boys and girls district titles.
MATOACA: NO LONGER JUST A FOOTBALL SCHOOL
At Matoaca High School, the athletic complex is abuzz with hundreds of student-athletes hoping to make their mark as the most successful spring sports athletes in school history.
Nowhere is the excitement as high as on the diamond. Coach Fred Stoots’ baseball team is loaded with both talent and experience, including almost unheard of depth on the mound. Cory Ramsey and Brandon Lindsey are the aces of the staff. Of his 11 seniors, five have signed to play at the Division-I level, while at least two others will continue their careers at the Division-III level.
“We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves … so much that happens in this game is beyond your control,” said Stoots.
Austin Kilbourne said camaraderie is felt among the seniors.
“We have grown up as a family, and we are going to ride this season out as a family,” he said.
On the softball diamond, coach Scott Driskill is almost beside himself with the prospects of the coming season.
“Before we play our first game, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is our best team ever. We have speed, defense, hitting and pitching. And we’re still young,” Driskill said.
Alyssa Zebrowski has been the cornerstone of the team. The four-year starter at shortstop will continue her career at UVa-Wise. Melissa Skoff and Berkeley Driskill are the talented battery mates.
Coach Corey McConville’s soccer team is poised to rise to the top of the Central District. A talented group of seniors have led the progress of this team going back to their sixth-grade season.
“Spencer Koch has made tremendous progress in goal,” said McConville. Mason Page, the Warriors all-time leading scorer, has plenty of support from Wil Topping, Dylan Prendergast, Ryan Clapman and a host of others.
The girls’ soccer team is also coming of age, as the core players enter their junior seasons. Ashley Yelverton continues her steady play.
On the tennis courts, both Steven Bond and Darrya Uzell should challenge for individual district honors. Justin Johnston and Emily Bell provide strong support from their No. 2 spots.
Track and field is led by Sam Gunther, Jameel Harris, Isaiah Cox, Joel Reynolds, Emily Brock, Melanie Wyman, Eloria Bailey and a host of strong throwers and jumpers. Coach Jamie Moore is hopeful that the talent will come together to challenge for a boys district title.