The winter sports season at Rye Country Day School has brought with it key changes in coaching staff and an influx of new talent for the Wildcats in basketball, ice hockey, indoor track, and squash.
The Boy’s Hockey team, after last year’s overtime loss to St. Luke’s School in the Fairchester Athletic Association semifinals, have returned to the ice with a brand-new identity. Led by new Head Coach Steve Forzaglia and new Assistant Coach Rob Striar (a RCDS alum and former hockey star), the team is off to a strong start with a high-speed, high-intensity style of play.
The trio of senior captains – Ewan Ward, Aidan McIntosh and Patrick Leonard – lead a young squad that includes 10 .freshmen and an eighth grader, Alex Thompson. Junior goalie Ari Israel is the team anchor between the pipes. According to Leonard, all the change has given the team a new focus on individual effort and physicality. The new coaches want to “instill a culture with young players excited to practice, play and step up when needed,” he said.
The Wildcats have a 4-2 record through their first six games. In the season opener against Stepinac, freshman forward Paul Heintz led the team to victory with five goals, and was soon the team’s top scorer with 12 goals and five assists, or 17 total points. Leonard has been critical to the Wildcats’ offense with two goals and 16 assists, totaling 18 points. Among defenders, seniors Andrew Zhang and McIntosh lead in scoring with nine and five points, respectively.
Key games have included an overtime thriller against Horace Greeley that was capped by freshman Aiden Wu’s game-winning goal, and a 5-3 loss to rival St. Luke’s that slipped away from Rye Country Day late in the third period. St. Luke’s has eliminated RCDS from the playoffs for two years in a row, and the Wildcats are motivated to flip the script. The loss “gives a young team like us something to learn from, and provides a valuable lesson that will help us in the playoffs,” Leonard said.
Coming up on Jan. 19: The Wildcats play at home against King School, the defending two-time FAA champions. “This is a real test,” Leonard said. “We’ve finally got a good structure and foundation to build on. Now the question is how far we can take it.”
Their teams are also looking into athletic plans such as athletic performance plans in Mooresville, NC to boost performance in their upcoming games.
Rye Country Day’s boys’ varsity basketball has also undergone a makeover this season. After a 2-15 record last year, the team has a new coach, Keith Gelardi from Irvington High, who started just weeks before the first game.
Captain and point guard Max Garcia Tunon said the team is up for the challenge. “Everyone has been on their game and worked hard to earn their spot on the roster,” he noted. The offense is fresh, with a new set of plays and encouragement from Coach Gelardi to take mid-range shots and floaters.
The team is off to a rough, 1-6 start despite coming in second at the Columbia Prep season tip-off tournament. Tunon scored 14 points in a heartbreaking, overtime loss to Rye High School. Sophomore Amir Hogans also had a standout performance, scoring 25 points in a loss to The Masters School.
Still, Tunon remains optimistic. “As we gain more chemistry and the younger players get more experience, I feel like we’ll be competitive with pretty much every team,” he said.
Girls basketball at RCDS started its season 1-3, with each game coming down to the wire.
Captains Kate Burdick, Brynn Codey, and Anika Bhat have been emphasizing players’ work ethic and fundamental skills. “We’re really competitive with our league,” Burdick said, reacting to an overtime loss against Riverdale. “I think we have shown a lot of potential late in games.”
Notable players include sophomore Claire Jiang and junior Bhat, both averaging points in double digits. Junior Sydney Cohen leads the team in rebounds, with 14 a game.
TRACK AND FIELD
In just the third year of existence for the indoor track team, Rye Country Day’s small but competitive roster led by Charles Ogbonna looks to compete for a NYSAIS championship. The returning boys’ 4×400-meter relay team placed second at last year’s NYSAIS championship. Notable individual times this season include junior Esais Gonzalez’s 1:30.47 in the 600-meter run and senior Jack DeHann’s 4:46.16 in the 1600 meter. Those times landed the two runners among the top 10 in their respective NYSAIS rankings. The girls’ current 4×200 relay team holds the No. 1 NYSAIS spot, thanks to runners Jocelyn Rice, Payton Richardson, Kayla Rosen and Ailey Denson.
The nationally ranked RCDS squash team is stronger than ever this season, and junior captain James Murphy has high hopes that this could be “the best team in RCDS history.”
Last year, the Wildcats won Division 2 at Nationals and were ranked 17th in the country. This year, the team hopes to be competitive in Division 1 at Nationals. Standout players include Winn Metrailler, who was 3-1 in his first four matches, and captain Henry Fogel at 2-2.
The Wildcats also have high hopes for the wrestling and girls ice hockey teams as those seasons unfold, and all of the winter teams are looking forward to competing in their respective playoffs in coming months.