by Andrew Stark
Covenant Day girls soccer team coming up big
The Covenant Day girls soccer team has won seven consecutive Metrolina Athletic Conference regular-season and conference championships and currently are in a strong position to make it eight in a row.
Behind 2011 all-conference selections Sarah Brace, Anna Melton and Emily Hicks, and the added scoring punch of Rachel Blong, the Lions have started the year with a 4-1-1 record after defeating Rock Hill Westminster Catawba, 4-1, on March 20.
Lions coach Jeff Foltz has been pleased with the start to the season, although he knows it is early. And with only 14 players on the roster, injuries could be hard to overcome.
“(This) team has technically skilled players at every position and has a high work rate and athleticism,” Foltz said. “Our overall conditioning and health, as well as the timing on the field, will allow for our conference and state participation to remain intact. I am confident that we have an excellent and committed group of players who will persevere and excel in their efforts to compete.”
Foltz said the tandem of Blong and Melton has stood out so far.
“We actually have created many opportunities to date due to the high work rate of both Anna Melton and Rachel Blong and the strong midfield distribution we are developing,” Fultz said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen either player close to their peak yet, as the team is still attempting to get the timing of runs and spacing down. But once that happens, I think we’ll be a threat to score more than what we have to date.”
With increased offense and Nancy Pendleton and Bekah Fultz combining in goal to hold opponents’ scoring down, the Lions seem ready to continue their streak of conference supremacy.
Patriots’ pitching, defense solid early on
The Independence baseball team has begun the season with a 4-6 record, but coach Matt Dykema is expecting the Patriots to come around on offense, where they have struggled at times to score runs.
While the bats have been relatively quiet, Dykema has been impressed with senior pitcher Clay Tiderman (4.60 ERA in 13 innings) and sophomore right-hander James Hicks (2.10 ERA in 13 innings). Aside from one bad inning against Hopewell, Tiderman has had a great season, Dykema said.
Dykema said the Patriots have played good defense. And despite getting behind in counts and letting too many good pitches go, he is confident the offense can rebound.
“I do believe the bats will come to life soon,” he said. “We have too many good hitters in our lineup for this trend to continue. I am confident we will turn it around.”
While the offense as a whole has struggled some, there have been many bright spots. Junior shortstop Nick Salisbury, who hit .380 last year, is off to a torrid start, batting .435. Tiderman, who plays first base when not on the mound, and senior catcher David Fowler are both batting .333 and have been productive hitters.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before we wake the bats up,” Dykema said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen on this team, and I know they are the type who can handle adversity and get the job done.”
The Patriots got three hits from Salisbury against South Mecklenburg on March 20, but fell, 4-3. They play at Rocky River on Friday, March 23.
Seniors setting example for Butler soccer
After falling to Ardrey Kell, 1-0, on March 20, the Butler girls soccer team’s record dropped to 6-3 on the year. However, Bulldogs coach Junior Nyemb is optimistic they are a force to be reckoned with in the tough Southwestern 4A conference.
Nyemb said his seniors have set a positive example for the younger players and have been the key to the Bulldogs’ good start. Goalkeeper Jessica Bunce, forward Bailey Grassel, midfielders Kelly Culicierto, Logan Garman and Sammie Minor and defenders Victoria Sneyd, Liz Bloom and Madelaine Fishman are all having strong seasons.
“The season is going well so far,” Nyemb said. “The girls are working really hard during games and at practice, and that has been the determining factor in most of our victories. Each game is a battle, and luckily the girls understand that it takes hard work and discipline to beat every opponent.”
Butler tied Mallard Creek, 2-2, on March 21 and is scheduled to host Providence on Friday, March 23.