RHS Fall Sports Preview: Autumn is Championship Season for the Garnets

There’s nothing like autumn in Rye, and that’s especially true because of the high school’s talented fall programs, which seem to excel as the leaves turn color.

Published September 9, 2011 4:50 PM
12 min read


garfoottumbThere’s nothing like autumn in Rye, and that’s especially true because of the high school’s talented fall programs, which seem to excel as the leaves turn color.


By Jim Byrne, Melanie Cane, and Mitch Silver


There’s nothing like autumn in Rye, and that’s especially true because of the high school’s talented fall programs, which seem to excel as the leaves turn color.


Girls’ Soccer


gargsinFourteen seniors, nine of them starters, graduated from last year’s team, which was ranked No. 1 nationally for much of the season. But, rather than subtractions, it was an addition head coach Rich Savage wanted to talk about.


“After a year away, Kim Mooney is back. The energetic, positive-attitude assistant coach has returned, and I can sense the team is ready to gain from her West Coast experience.”


Players who’ve worked with Mooney before include the senior tri-captains, Kelly McRedmond, Lindsay Woelhelter, and Victoria Pacos. Savage had high praise for all three.


“A four-year starter, Kelly provides leadership and strength to the defensive line,” he said. “Her calm decision-making will help the Garnets become an excellent defensive team once again. Lindsay is a versatile talent who can play all positions on the field. She is a physical presence and helps provide leadership on the field. Victoria is a strong leader, defensive standout, and fast, physical player who is able to mark some of the top opposing players.”


The starting keeper, junior Lexi Hijazi, has big shoes to fill with the departure of All-American Tatiana Saunders, but she is up to the task.
“Lexi is one of the top keepers in the Section,” said the coach. “She’s able to make tough saves looks simple, and is an excellent leader for the back of the field.”


All-American Lia Bellizzi is gone, but junior Vania Ludman, second-leading goal scorer for last year’s State finalists, returns. She’s a talented, crafty player who is able to create many scoring opportunities for both herself and her teammates. Alexa DiCostanzo hustles and sparks the offense as does midfield player Mackenzie Kashchy. Seniors Sarah Jordan and Kirsten Colwell are also expected to make strong contributions to the team.
The top new players include sophomore Rachel Egan, “a defensive standout who has speed, physical strength, and is willing to mark top players from other squads”; juniors Audrey Love, Kelly Barnhardt, and Corina Finn; sophomores Kate Whiston and Addie Chabot, and senior Sasha Oswald.


The Garnets played a scrimmage against Stamford’s Westfield High on Labor Day and won, 1-0. Junior Carter Lahey took and made a perfect penalty kick for the team. The win was even more impressive with six injured Garnets on the bench.


The season began September 7  against Mamaroneck.




garfootThe 2010 season will forever be remembered for Rye’s transcendent 21-20 comeback victory over Harrison at home in the 80th installment of “The Game”. It was easily one of the all-time best contests in the history of Westchester’s fiercest rivalry.


For the current Garnets, however, it’s the game that followed that’s still on their minds. In the Class A Section quarterfinals, Rye was upset by Somers at home in a 35-14 shellacking.


The Garnets won’t have to wait much longer to wash that sour taste from their mouths. They visit Somers September 9 in the season-opener.

“We’re absolutely looking forward to it,” said head coach Dino Garr. “Somers is one of the teams favored to win the Section title, so it will be an opportunity to gauge how far we have come.”


It’s a new era for Garr and the Garnets – the coach will be without his best friend and trusted Lieutenant, Tom Maloney, who had been by his side since taking over the reigns in 1984. Also, for the first time since Franny Archibald was QB in 2006, Rye will not have an Eck under center. That duty rests on the capable shoulders of senior Jake Meyerson, who has also played defensive back for two years and will continue in that role this season.


“This is his team now,” said Garr. “He’ll be one of our key components and so far he has exhibited great leadership. He was tested last year when Connor Eck was injured, and he’s a big part of what we do on defense and offense.”


Joining Meyerson as senior captains are halfback/linebacker Joe Simolacaj, two-way linemen Matt Keough and Peter Wittwer, and tight end/linebacker Dylan Lynch. Garr said the captains and their fellow seniors learned a lot last season.


“Not just about playing together as a team to fight through injuries as you saw in the Harrison game, but in understanding there is always a game that follows,” said the coach. “They learned that you need to regroup after an emotional contest.”


Now in year three of Section A play after winning three of four Section B State championships, the Garnets understand the higher level of play. Any team can beat any team, so the goal is to make it to the crapshoot that is the Section playoffs. From there, it’s anyone’s title to win.


Field Hockey


garrfhThe Garnets took an undefeated record into the Class B Section final against vaunted Lakeland last year, and pushed the Hornets to their limit before losing 1-0.


“That was a tough game,” said head coach Emily Fitzgerald. “But the ending motivated the girls to work hard and this year’s senior class came into preseason in phenomenal shape. We are a very talented team and the girls want redemption. They are taking nothing for granted.”


It will be up to Rye’s 11 seniors to make sure their season doesn’t end in the Section championship round for a third-straight year. The Garnets – who outscored their opponents 72-7 last year – bring back virtually all of their offensive firepower, including captains Annie VanWagenen, Tori Virtue, Emma Brinkman, and G.G. FitzGerald.


“Our offense was good last year but the girls are working even harder this year on finishing more and taking advantage of every scoring opportunity,” said Fitzgerald.


Brinkman and Virtue combined for 40 goals in 2010, and will be assisted on the front line by Claire O’Callaghan, Abby Regan, and Lily Stearns. Katie Killip teams with VanWagenen and FitzGerald to make for an imposing midfield.


The flip side to Rye’s continuity on offense is the fact that their defensive core of players – including their starting goalkeeper – all graduated.


“Laurel Kennedy left big shoes to fill at center back but sophomore Alex Bennett has stepped up and is rising to the challenge,” said the coach. “Alex worked all summer on her skills and field hockey by playing on the Hudson Valley club team. Lacey Collins is our starting goalkeeper this

year and she is eager to learn and an extremely hard worker.”


Joining Bennett on a defense Fitzgerald expects to improve with every game are seniors Bridget Nagle, Kathryn Lavelle, and Courtney Cypher.


Rye hosts Byram Hills September 9 in their season-opener.


Boys’ Soccer


Head coach Jared Small enters his sixth season at the helm of the Garnets without an experienced goalkeeper and missing most of the attacking firepower from his 2010 squad. With Brandon Robinson, Luis Del Pezo, Arber Xhema, and Buck Reynolds all playing on collegiate fields this fall — and with James Rimmer no longer manning the nets — Rye will depend on its strong veteran defense to hold down the fort early on.


Senior center backs Ian Robinson and Henry Gager are the new captains. Rutgers-bound Robinson and future UPenn star Gager will be ably assisted by three more seniors, fullback Devon DiPalma and defense-minded midfielders Stefan Woort-Menker (“one of the keys to our season,” according to Small) and lacrosse sensation Greg Stern.


Key midfielders include senior Kamal Logue, whom Small describes as “one of our best athletes and a strong outside midfielder,” and Ryan Rogers, who’s had a strong pre-season. “We also have a new senior center midfielder in Matheus Gomes, a Brazilian player fans will enjoy seeing out on the field.” Senior Gregoire Pesty, a passionate and intelligent player in the center of the midfield, and Ignacio Mascolo, an Argentinian player who’s new to the program, will compete for playing time.


Still, if Rye and its 15 seniors are to wind up with even a third straight 9-4-5 season, two things have to happen: junior netminder Liam Harris must play as well on the varsity as he has while coming up through the ranks, and Rye‘s inexperienced forward line has to score some goals.


Senior forward Kenneth Chang scored twice during the team’s training swing around Boston, where they finished with a win, two losses, and a tie. Speedy senior Aaron Matthias and juniors Colby Ellis and Sean Pinson will get their chances as well.


Small made a special effort to highlight the work ethic and improvements made by Tyler Breckenridge and Russell Hanson. “They’re two of our fittest players. Tyler will see time on the outside, both as a midfielder and a fullback; Russell will make an impact for us at a variety of positions.”


Fortunately for the Garnets, they won’t be the only inexperienced team at key positions in Westchester. Out of the 22 players who were either first- or second-team all-stars last season in Westchester/Putnam, only two players are returning. Perennial Class A champs Byram Hills have lost all-everything Greg Shaheen to graduation, so the mantle this year may fall on the shoulders of the Port Chester Rams, who return more key offensive players than anyone else.


Rye opens the season at Rye Country Day September 13.


Girls’ Tennis


gartennisIt’s not often the coach graduates along with the players, but that’s just what happened to the 2010 edition of the Garnets when Cari Caulway bid farewell along with eight departing seniors.


Rye Middle School art teacher Tony Campbell picked up the reins and is optimistic that his squad will approach last year’s 8-2 record and League title.


“The team is deep, with tremendously talented girls right on through all of the doubles teams. I would expect us to repeat as league champs and hope to improve on our record; possibly send some girls deeper into the year-end tournaments.” Shades of Jets Coach Rex Ryan!


The seven returning seniors include tri-captains Molly Jordan, Olivia Singer, and Casey Berger. Claire Pfister, Jessica Jahnke , Natalie Gardner, and Megan Rogers are the other veterans.


Berger, Ali Sims, and Jordan should hold down the singles slots, with Singer as alternate. The doubles teams look to be Jahnke and Claire Pfister at No. 1; Singer and Paola Peraza No. 2; Emma Jennings and Rogers No. 3; and Farah Keuleers and Alanna Morque at No. 4.

Pfister and Jahnke were last paired as freshman and are glad to be back together. Chloe Jennings, the only freshman on the team, Julia Lynnette, and Natalie Gardner will contend for the doubles’ slots.


“We have such a strong group of senior girls who have been on the team since we were freshmen,” said Molly Jordan. “I’m thrilled to be playing singles. I also feel our doubles teams are really well paired and that all the partners are excited to be playing together. It’s great to watch our new sophomores, Alanna and Farrah, play together. This may be Coach Campbell’s first year, but we already know how dedicated he is. I know he was the right guy for the job.”


The Garnets’ first home contest is September 9 against always-tough Fox Lane.




garcrewRye will race in seven regattas over the course of seven consecutive weeks in October and November. The highlight event will be the Head of the Charles in Boston, the world’s largest two-day rowing event that attracts over 8,000 athletes internationally.


The year-old varsity team is ready to improve on last spring’s success which saw four boats progressing to the semifinals at the New York Sectional Championships and one boat qualifying for the SRAA National Championships. Of the eight returning rowers who qualified for Semis, six are seniors — Harry Cohan, Brian Cronin, Ben Lee, Whalen MacHale, Chris Reifsnyder, and Daniel Sundarum — and two are juniors: Connor Antico and Alex Martin. The rowers look forward to getting back in the water and working toward the collective precision required for a winning boat.




garvolleyNew head coach Andrea Reif, a former Division 1 volleyball player for Manhattan College who still plays in city leagues, and assistant coach Erica Poccia are looking to instill a winning attitude in a Garnets team that finished the 2010 season with a single victory.


Holding double practice sessions in the pre-season, including a mile run every day, has made a huge difference, according to the players. To motivate them, Reif also took the team down to New York University to watch star college players at work.


It succeeded. Last week the girls scrimmaged Irvington and Hastings and shut out both opponents.


Senior tri-captains Lauren Creadore, Kayla Staubi, and Nataliya Owen lead a squad of seven juniors and three sophomores. Reif lauded her captains, along with junior Heather Davey, a “hustler who’s really good outside”, junior Gianna Paganelli, “a leader and a great setter”, and sophomores Jessie Moore and Courtney Brown. Moore, who just moved here from Texas, “brings a lot of energy to the court”, while Brown is “aggressive and much improved, thanks to playing club ball year-round.”


Reif said the team’s goal this year is nothing less than winning the League and making the playoffs. She credits her girls with talent and tenacity.

The team’s first match was September 7 at Rye Neck. Their first home tilt is September 15 against Port Chester.




garxcRye’s cross-country program has quietly been one of the school’s most successful in recent years, and 2011 should be no exception. With 34 runners spread across the boys’ and girls’ teams, the Garnets are ready to blaze through the trails again beginning September 13 in Harrison.


“I feel that we have several outstanding leaders on the team and several strong juniors fighting for a spot on varsity,” said head coach Craig Sandhaus. “This is a very promising season.”


With Taylor Love, Thomas Mayo-Smith, Harrison Janart, Joe Viger, Dylan May, Chris McGinnis, and Jason Chen leading the way, the boys’ team – with 21 total runners – has the potential to be one of the best in the area. Love is the standout, having won the League championship in 2010 to go along with an All-Section nod and an appearance in the State finals. Mayo-Smith also excelled last year, earning All-League status.


On the girls’ side, team captain Ellie Friedman is the star, capturing All-League and All-Section awards on her way to the 2010 State finals. Rounding out the top are Elizabeth Bennett, Libby Burke, Ali Mackay, Caitlin Hartnett, Amber Altamura, and Liza Morrel.


Girls’ Swimming and Diving

Head coach Shannon Bolger is optimistic once again about her team’s prospects in the water. And why not? The two-time Divison III champs were undefeated last year, and have junior swim star Melissa Fulenwider and senior diving sensation Coco Darelius — among a host of strong athletes — back again.


garswimBolger knows her way around a pool, coaching at Orienta in the summers and with the Badger Swim Club the rest of the year. “We lost four really good swimmers, but we have 35 girls on the team this year, up from a season ago. I see us challenging our longtime rivals, Horace Greeley, for the title once again.”


Bolger, who’s going for her Master’s in Education at Mercy College, looks forward to working with and teaching her middle school charges: seventh-graders Sam Bluvol, Courtney Lyons, and Sakiko Nashida, and eighth-graders Amy Bryan and Julia Maclaury, along with five strong ninth-graders. “With six lanes to fill every race, we need more than the top two girls to score for us.”


Fulenwider, a State qualifier since eighth grade, will most likely concentrate on the 100-free and 100-breast this year, though she also sparkles in the shorter races and the IM. Bolger is also looking for more good things from seniors Lena Krikorian and Celia Palmer, among others.


Is there an unsung heroine on the team? The coach named a couple of sophomores: Camilia Perez-Segnini and Charlotte Nixon. “High school swimming is an individual sport performed in a team context. I love the way this group of girls is coming together.”


The team won’t compete for real for another two weeks, so they’re still doing laps and working on their conditioning. Speed work — and the vote to name the 2011 captains — comes next week. First dive for real into the Hommocks School pool, Rye’s home, will come Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m., against Fox Lane.

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