AVON — Head tennis coach Adam Wheeler has guided his Braves to three different sectional titles — 2010, 2011 and 2017,
He’s building towards making another run.
With a youthful squad this spring, which includes three talented junior newcomers, the 12th year head coach is optimistic about the future.
“We are really excited about our team this year,” Wheeler said. “We have been working hard preparing for this season. We hope to be very competitive in the league and sectionals again this year. We lost five of our top seven starting players from last year and have had a very competitive group of players challenging for the open starting spots.”
Wheeler’s top player this season will be senior Jonah Cousins, a varsity starter in 2019.
“Jonah will be stepping up as team leader,” Wheeler said. “We will continue to work hard and improve daily as the season progresses towards sectionals.”
Two other seniors — Emma Vincent and Griffin Meyer — will add to the experience.
Avon, who finished 9-6 overall in 2019, has three juniors Wheeler is excited about including Kaden Colt, Zach Colvin and Max Mesi.
Those three, along with several others coming up through the ranks, will keep the future of Avon tennis bright.
A tough 10-3 opening day loss to Hornell at home Monday for the Braves gave head coach Rob Fries a good look at several pitchers he intends to use this jam-packed shortened season with a lot of games in a short period of time.
The 13th year head coach did not pitch his ace Monday — senior Jake Jones — who returns after a solid 2019 campaign where he went 4-2 on the bump with a 3.00 ERA and 52 K’s in 39 innings.
Offensively, Jones batted .504 with 13 RBIs as a sophomore.
Jones will pitch in Avon’s divisional games mostly.
Junior Andrew Rowland is expected back later in the season after an injury took him off the football field.
Rowland will pitch and play centerfield. He returns after batting .262 with seven RBIs as a freshman.
Other key returning players include seniors Anthony Woodworth (P/RF) and Holden Volpe (2B/OF) and junior catcher/shortstop Thomas Welch.
Some top newcomers Fries thinks can help are seniors Cole Werner (1B), Cole Adams (OF), Joe Frazer and Lucas Findlay (OF); juniors Xavier Rivera (3B/P), Jack Browne (CF) and KJ Kominiarek (3B/OF); sophomores Christopher Kashorek (SS/1B), Hudson Volpe (C/OF), Lee Hartke (OF) and Evan Masten (SS/P); and freshman Michael Rowland (SS/2B).
“In a lot of ways, we are just happy to be able to play this year but ultimately you are always hoping to compete for the Division II title and for a sectional trophy in Class C1,” coach Fries said. “This has been the most unique preseason I have ever seen. Usually you have a good idea where you are putting players and you are trying to fill a couple positions; this year is like starting all over again as a program. Not having seen so many of these kids play before makes it difficult to get a grasp on your strengths and weaknesses as a team. Throw on top of that the success of the football team, which has created even more challenges as practices are split between different cohorts. I know Jake Jones is a solid number one starter for us but we will need to fill out the rest of the rotation. Anthony Woodworth and Andrew Rowland both have some experience they can draw on but both play football so they are not getting a typical start, and Andrew is recovering from a football injury that will sideline him to begin the season. I think we have some viable options but it may take half a season to see who rises to the top. Xavier Rivera should be a real force for us at the plate and again I think we have a lot of potential, but potential doesn’t mean much until guys see varsity pitching. I think our greatest strength will be our overall depth. We have many options at most positions and hopefully it will come together sooner than later. Depth can be a weakness though without the right leaders. Competition makes guys play harder which can help the whole group improve every day, but it can also hurt the overall chemistry of a team when guys can’t accept a role and place the team goals above their own. I am hoping we see some leaders emerge over the next couple weeks that can steer this team in the right direction. I don’t really want to single out too many guys individually because I think our first few weeks will be about figuring out which guys give us the best opportunities to win. I can honestly say I enter the year having no idea what to expect but somehow, I am really excited for the potential I see from so many guys. Regardless of what happens, it sure beats last year!”
Head coach Pete Leone returns for his eighth season.
His returning players include seniors Morgan Cornell (IF), Parker Hughes (1B) and Alyssa Smith (IF) and junior pitcher Joleigh Crye who is expected to be one of the top hurlers in the league.
Crye is an experienced pitcher who two seasons ago carried an ERA under two and averaged two strikeouts per inning.
Top newcomers include senior Isabela Braun (IF/OF), juniors Ella Hoskins (1B), Brianna Pierce (IF), Adrienne Priest (IF/OF), JoJo VanRy (IF/OF) and Courtney Yencer (IF/OF); and sophomore Olivia Pusloskie (C/IF).
This could be an interesting season for the Braves — for the good.
Not only has Avon never won a sectional softball title, but the Braves have never won an LCAA Divisional title as well.
“So the immediate goal would be to win a divisional title,” coach Leone said. “That won’t be easy though in a division that has been loaded with strong teams in recent years. This year is no exception as Division II has traditional power houses in Wayland-Cohocton and Warsaw along with strong teams in Letchworth and Perry.”
Leone can’t wait to get the regular season going.
“Crye and senior first basemen Parker Hughes provide both experience and power to a lineup that has potential,” he said. “They will be aided in the power department by newcomers in senior Isabela Braun and sophomore Olivia Pusloskie. Pusloskie and junior Courtney Yencer give the Braves catching depth and seniors Morgan Cornell and Alyssa Smith have varsity experience as middle infielders. Avon has found depth within their junior class as Ella Hoskins, Brianna Pierce, Adrienne Priest, Maddy Ruter and JoJo VanRy will all be solid contributors to this year’s team. With only a short two week preseason to prepare, the team has been working very hard on fundamentals and the coaching staff is trying to evaluate and assess the talent to make all of the pieces fit. If they remain healthy, the Braves should be capable of competing in a very tough LCAA Division II.”
Head coach Jerry Krupka returns for his fourth season and is excited about the prospects of 2021.
He has a strong group of sprinters and jumpers including juniors Adam Mariani and William Greenwood, seniors Aum Champaneri and Irving Jimenez and sophomore Dev Champaneri.
Champaneri and Carter Fronk will lead the throwers this season while junior Nate Zeluff is a returning distance runner.
Top newcomers include sprinters and jumpers Chris Hance (9th), Gavin Wade (9th). Derrik Graham (10th), Ian Gallagher (11th), Thomas Herberger (10th), Jacob Weslowski (10th), Ryan Farley (10th) and Matt Wade (11th); throwers Nolan Clar (10th) and Mike Thompson (12th) and distance runners Dom Patti (9th) and Michael Farmer (10th).
Head coach Scott Forrest takes over the varsity girls after being an assistant the past 13 seasons.
He has high expectations this season.
This team has several outstanding, versatile athletes and a top three finish at sectionals is definitely attainable.
Look out for junior middle distance specialist Ellie Cochrane to have a huge year. As a freshman in 2019, she made the NYS team in the 800 meter run.
Other top returners include Izzy Marzec (Distance), Emma Clarke (Middle Distance), Lauren Bondgren (Middle Distance/Distance), Emma Bondgren (Sprints), Sarina McDowell (Middle Distance/High Jump), Natalie Masten (Pentathlon/Hurdles/High Jump), Alicia Faville (Throws) and Olivia Montesano (Middle Distance/ Sprints).
Top newcomers include Kaitlyn Geary (Distance), Amy Webster (Sprints/Jumps), Olivia Caiazzo (Sprints/Jumps), Isis Salogar (Sprints/Hurdles/Jumps), and Maggie Vanderbilt (Sprints/High Jump).
“It is so hard to know how things will turn out given the circumstances and not having a track season last year,” coach Forrest said. “Our goals this year are to try to get better everyday and have fun. Missing the season last year has really put perspective on our season. We are happy to be competing again.”