• Centaur Nation

  • Ostaszewski named Connecticut Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 5/3/2019

     

    Brenden Osatszewski was recently named Connecticut Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year

    Ostaszewski honored

    Standing in the new strength room at The Woodstock Academy, strength and conditioning coach Brenden Ostaszewski was all smiles on Tuesday.

    Just the weekend before, he had learned he had been named the Connecticut High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year.

    Both The Connecticut state director and the regional director of the National High School Strength Coaches Association had nominated him for the award.  

    “It’s a great honor,” Ostazewski said. “I couldn’t be here without the help of the (Woodstock Academy) administration, the support that the donors have provided for us for the new strength and conditioning weight room, and the student athletes who come in here and work every day.”

    Ostaszewski came aboard at The Academy in the fall of 2017 and has quickly raised the level of fitness for student-athletes from the freshman class through the prep basketball program.

    Ostaszewski hails from Philadelphia.

    He played basketball for a year at Keystone College, a Division III school in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but realized his true calling was in athletic conditioning. He transferred to Temple University where he studied Exercise in Sports Science and Kinesiology.

    He took a job at a Philadelphia Catholic School as a physical education teacher but continued to work with collegiate athletes at Temple and the University of Pennsylvania.

    Ostaszewski, through his contacts at the colleges, met a friend of former Woodstock Academy prep basketball coach Tony Bergeron who told him about the need for a strength and conditioning coach at the school.

    Ostaszewski packed his bags and came out to the countryside, much to the delight of his Woodstock Academy colleagues.

    “He is a total professional,” Woodstock Academy athletic director Sean Saucier said. “He has greatly impacted the student-athletes at the school and it’s nice to see him get recognized. He works hard professionally and personally and it’s nice to see that hard work pay off.”

    The National High School Strength Coaches Association hasn’t been in existence for long.

    It came together in 2016 as more schools across the country began to realize the need for such training at the high school level.

    “It wanted to create more opportunities for strength coaches in the high school setting. Strength coaches are very popular among the professional and collegiate ranks and (the Association) identified a need for them to serve the younger population especially among the high school-aged students,” Ostaszewski said.

    Ostaszewski has since been joined by Jeff Higgins at The Academy and the two work with a growing number of student-athletes in the new training facility which opened in November.

    “Coach Higgins has helped us a lot and has allowed us to reach more students. The new space is great. We can fit more student-athletes here,” Ostaszewski said.

    He said there is always room for more.

    He would like to see some of the training equipment offerings expanded because of the larger number of student-athletes utilizing it.

    “We have some room for improvement in that area and we’re also researching some new ways with technology to access all the analytical data to track progress. Hopefully, we will be able to step into that realm and provide student-athletes with a better experience,” Ostaszewski said.

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  • The Woodstock Academy names new boys prep basketball head coach

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/30/2019

     

    The Woodstock Academy has named Jacque Rivera as its new boys prep basketball head coach

     

     The Woodstock Academy names new boys prep basketball head coach

     

    Excited and humbled is how Jacque Rivera described his emotions after learning that he was the choice to be the next head coach of The Woodstock Academy prep boys basketball program.

    Rivera will replace Tony Bergeron at the helm of the Centaurs.

    Bergeron stepped aside recently to become an assistant coach with the University of Massachusetts Men’s basketball program.

    Rivera has been the head coach of the prep basketball program at the MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass. for the last five years.

    He has taken MacDuffie to the New England Prep School Athletic Council AA postseason tournament in three of those seasons.

    “We’ve had some really good kids. We have guys heading off to UConn (James Bouknight from the 2018-19 team), Ismael (Massoud) is going to Wake Forest. Omari Spellman (now with the Atlanta Hawks) played for me,” Rivera said. “I don’t keep track of my personal record, I care more about the success of my players.”

    The 31-year-old Rivera grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. and played for Bergeron in high school at Wings Academy. He moved on to Elms College in Chicopee, MA. where he earned his bachelor’s degree in social work and his Master’s degree in education. His first head coaching job was at Dean Vocational Technical School in Holyoke, MA.

    “He’s an outstanding guy. A very passionate coach and person,” said Woodstock Academy Sean Saucier of Rivera. “I think he will be a great fit here. He’s a community-oriented, family guy. We’re very excited to have him.”

    Saucier said Rivera’s close ties to Bergeron will help with the program’s transition.

    Rivera understands the task ahead of him, comparing it to the person who will eventually succeed Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski.

    “I’m following a guy who has had 20 years of success and will continue to have success in college. Everywhere he has been, he has been successful. It’s big shoes to fill. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Coach Bergeron who took me under his wing when I was playing for him,” Rivera said. “I think I have some of the same qualities that he has. I’ve learned some things myself along the way. Hopefully, I’m just going to build on the success he had.”

    Bergeron guided the Centaurs to a 73-7 record in their first two seasons as a prep program, winning the Power 5 Conference title in both years and earning two invitations to the National Prep Championship tournament at Connecticut College.

    “We had the vision of creating a program that was one of the best in the country and provided great opportunity to student-athletes who were involved in getting into college. In the two years that Tony was here, he far exceeded what our expectations were,” Woodstock Academy head of school Chris Sandford said. “While we’re sorry to see him go, we are honored and happy for him and his family that he has accepted this promotion, essentially, to UMass.”

    Rivera said Bergeron has already recruited some very good athletes for the Centaurs next season. His job will be to make sure they end up at The Academy in the fall.

    “I really believe the guys we have will fit in our community, going to fit in what we’re asking them to do as people and they will do what we ask them to do athletically. I think we have some really good guys who will be excited to be a part of Centaur Nation as a whole and we have some kids that people will be impressed with,” Rivera said.

    Rivera will be the head coach of the program and The Woodstock Academy Gold team. Denzel Washington, who has worked as an assistant with the program for its first two years, will be the head coach of The Woodstock Academy Blue team. Washington takes over for Nick DeFeo who left recently to begin a similar prep program at Notre Dame-West Haven High School.

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  • 2019 girls track season preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/28/2019

    2019 Preview: Centaurs are young, but have good examples to follow

     

     

    There is one word that describes the Woodstock Academy girls track and field team to perfection.

     

    Inexperienced.

     

    The Centaurs had a nice turnout of student-athletes with 40 coming out for the program, but many have never experienced the sport before.

     

    “More than half the roster is freshmen and sophomores and many are first-time track athletes. Several of our junior and seniors are also out for the first time so we’re young,” said girls track and field coach Josh Welch.

     

    But there is a silver lining.

     

    There are a host of athletes who are coming back from indoor track and cross-country to compete in outdoor track.

     

    “Those people have a better foundation and are able to start doing more intense workouts than just starting from ther ground floor,” said senior Aria Gianfriddo.

     

    Welch agreed and added that not only will that experience help when it comes to performance on the track, but will also help the overall attitude of the team.

     

    “I think that group will help establish a challenging and supportive team culture focused on growth for both the individual and the team,” Welch said.

     

    Among that group is junior Julia Theriaque who excelled in the indoor season in the high jump where she qualified for the New England championship after a seventh-place finish in the State Open.

     

    “She played a tremendous leadership role with the team in the winter. She is toying with the idea of competing in the (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) Heptathlon competition at the end of the season. That will be exciting to work toward,” Welch said.

     

    Gianfriddo, who did well in the relays, middle distance and hurdle events in the indoor season, will continue to mix it up this spring. She does, however, want to concentrate on a couple of events including one she didn’t get too much work in during indoor.

     

    “I want to focus on the 300-meter hurdles and long jump. I want to try (long jump) again, I used to do it in middle school. I also want to stick with the 800-meter or below because I’m not as good as I should be in distance,” Gianfriddo said with a laugh.

     

    The senior will be one of those competing for a last time in a Woodstock Academy uniform before graduation in June.

     

    “It’s kind of bittersweet,” Gianfriddo said. “I really like this team, but I’m happy to be moving forward.”

     

    In the meantime, Gianfriddo has also found a new role – mentor.

     

    “Aria is also a great help teaching new athletes the ropes,” Welch said.

     

    In addition to the indoor track team being a source of strength, Welch will also get help from the cross-country squad.

     

    Freshman Linsey Arends, who placed 10th in the State Open cross-country championship in the fall, has set her sights on competing in the mile in the outdoor season.

     

    Distance events will also be covered by senior Shannon D’Alessandro, junior Megan Gohn and sophomore Iris Bazinet.

     

    “This gives most of our cross-country team training this spring, which is also great for the coming fall as well,” Welch said.

     

    Senior Maddie Grube returns to work in the long and triple jumps while freshman Sydney Couture will continue to try and hone the craft of pole vault, something she did over the winter indoors and Welch is looking forward to seeing what she can do with a little more air time this spring.  

     

    The Centaurs have moved up to Division I in the Eastern Connecticut Conference this fall.

     

    That means there are only three dual meets to compete in, Fitch, Norwich Free Academy and East Lyme, but more time to train and prepare.

     

    “There is less meets to be able to qualify (for state competition), but it’s good that we get to compete in the new division,” Gianfriddo said.

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  • 2019 boys track season preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/28/2019

    2019 Preview: Big turnout, few meets

     

    A plus and a minus.

     

    That’s how Woodstock Academy boys track and field coach Pete Lusa looks at the Centaurs ascension into Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season.

     

    “We only have three dual meets because there are only four of us (teams in the division) so unless we try to start scheduling some other people in there, we get a lot of training and a little competition which may be a good model for some of these kids to not be going, going, going, and needling an injury,” Lusa said. “Get them trained down and then, trained back up for the next competition.”

     

    Lusa said it also doesn’t concern him that it will be too little in the way of competition as the Centaurs will also intersperse a couple of invitational meets. They will travel to the Ledyard Relays at the end of April and to the Middletown Invitational at the beginning of May.

     

    “Those are a chance for the kids to go against good competition,” Lusa said.

     

    Lusa, in an early practice, was excited about the turnout.

     

    He had to two pages of names that he was trying to muddle through.

     

    “We’ve got some good, strong, returning veterans and some new kids with enthusiasm. They’re not tested yet, but it’s that raw energy and enthusiasm that I like,” he said.

    Woodstock Academy finished with a 1-5 overall record and a 1-4 mark in ECC Division II last season.

     

    Gone from that team are weight man Mark Dumas; sprinter and middle distance runner Natanael Colon and hurdler Dan Crème.

     

    But Lusa, in his eighth season of coaching, will have seniors to work with.

     

    Distance runner Kenneth Birlin returns as does Andrew Roy (discus, shotput); Danylo Ntamwemizi (shotput, discus, javelin) and Connor Starr (shotput, discus, javelin).

     

    “It’s sad because this team has become another family for me. I don’t know if I will really be able to say goodbye. I think I’m going to hang around next year and try to help out,” Birlin said.

     

    Nathan Craig (hurdles, long and triple jump); Ben Green (sprints, middle distance); and Thomas Waldon (shotput, discus, javelin) will be the key juniors for the Centaurs.

     

    The sophomores will be well represented with Ethan Aspiras (1,600, 3,200-meter); Tyler Barrett (1,600, 3,200, 800, 400); Eric Phongsa (sprints, hurdles); Jackson Dias (400, 800, 1,600, pole vault); Dylan Ponkala (long jump, high jump, pole vault); Jeremy Romano (shotput, discus, javelin); Noah Salsich (800, 1,600, 3,200) and Adam Schimmelpfennig (sprints, hurdles, pole vault) all expected to contribute.

     

    “It’s a really big team and it’s diverse,” Birlin said. “There are people from every grade. We’re going to have a strong team this year and for the next few years.”

     

    Birlin also realizes that it will not be easy competing against the likes of Norwich Free Academy, East Lyme and Fitch, but he, like Lusa, likes the idea of less dual meets for the most part.

     

    “We’re going to get to train a little more which is good,” Birlin said. “I like it because you can get stronger, but there are less chances to, if you want to run an 800-meter for example, to run it and gauge how do I run it better next time. In practice, you are not just going to be running 800’s, you are going to be doing other workouts.”

     

    The team does have a strong returning group from indoor track and also got a hand from cross-country which is why Lusa feels he has a strong group of distance runners.

     

    “There is a good carry over from indoor and Josh Welch ran a good indoor program so that the athletes have kind of got it engrained, ‘Here’s what the expectations are. Here’s how we act.’ The new kids are kind of looking around and figuring out that this is what we do. It will become a culture and I’m enthused about that,” Lusa said.

     

    Lusa feels the field events should garner some points for the Centaurs and the sprinter/hurdle crew is also pretty deep.

     

    “I think we’re poised to have an excellent season in the ECC and at states, but we will always be going against better opponents. The kids who are looking to advance, will always have people to chase. If we were going against Division IV teams and clobbering them, the kids wouldn’t have to try as hard and they would still be getting the accolades and that’s not good for them either,” Lusa said.

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  • 2019 girls golf season preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/27/2019

    2019 Preview: New and returning faces could make for strong season

     

    Golf in the spring is never easy.

     

    The Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys and girls golf teams got their first taste of the outdoors on March 19.

     

    When they will be able to set foot on a golf course is another story.

     

    “It’s spring in New England so we have to deal with what we have,” said Centaurs girls coach Earl Semmelrock standing on the Woodstock Academy Commons watching his team practice shooting balls into a bucket on a blustery and chilly March afternoon.

     

    Snow still lined the ground behind his players.

     

    Fortunately, it wasn’t feet deep and there was a lot of dormant grass to be seen.

     

    “We’re cautiously optimistic that, because there is only a little bit of snow on the ground that we will have an early opening,” Semmelrock said. “Typically our home course (Quinnatisset Country Club) doesn’t open until the middle to end of April. Maybe that can be sped up, but the good news is that most of our matches in April are away from our home course and the courses along the shoreline in East Lyme and Norwich will likely be open. We just may be at a deficit if we don’t get much time on the course.”

     

    The Centaurs girls had a bigger than anticipated turnout.

     

    Semmelrock looked over the Commons and saw 22 girls working on their chipping.

     

    “I’m really excited. I wasn’t expecting this many girls to come out,” senior captain Katherine Harrington said. “We’ve got a lot of returners but some new faces too and some promising new faces. I think we have a really good chance at being a competitive team this year.”

     

    Semmelrock said the turnout, if it continues, may mean the team will have to make cuts, and while that prospect is never looked forward to, it does show an interest in the program.

     

    The Centaurs finished second in the ECC last year with a 6-2 league record, second to Waterford’s 8-0 mark. The Lancers will not field a girls team this season. The Centaurs finished with a 10-7 overall mark.

     

    Gone from that team are Caroline Eaton and Caitlin Cannon.

     

    Harrington is one of the anomalies for Semmelrock who enters his sixth year as head coach of the program – a four-year player.

     

    “Her attendance is impeccable, she strives to get better all the time, and she’s a leader,” Semmelrock said of Harrington.

     

    “It takes a couple of weeks to get in shape,” Harrington said. “Over the winter, I try to get out there and keep my swing together, but it’s going to take a couple of weeks, a little transition, some practice, by the time we get to the course, we’re usually ready to go.”

     

    Harrington said her goal is to win the ECC individual title, get her average to around 50 per nine-hole match and get someone from the team to qualify for state competition.

     

    Off the course, Harrington has other hopes.

     

    “I want to get really close to the team, be a good captain, and get to know all my teammates,” she said.

     

    The Centaurs also return ECC All-Star Kailey LaChappelle.

     

    The sophomore finished third in the ECC championship match last season with a 45 to earn All-Star status.

     

    Juniors Linda St. Laurent, who shot a 50 in the ECC championship, and Avery Jones (54) also return.

     

    Newcomers include Olivia Ott, Ciara MacKinnon, Rachel Roberts, and Maria Santucci.

     

    “We want to win the ECC, which should be attainable, we only lost last year by (5 strokes). I would love to see an individual, if not the whole team, qualify for states. We’ve been knocking on the door for a number of years and just can’t seem to bust it down. Maybe this will be the year,” Semmelrock said.

     

     

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  • 2019 girls tennis season preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/27/2019

    2019 Preview: Centaurs primed for run

     

    The goal of the Woodstock Academy girls tennis team is easy to say.

     

    “Beat Stonington,” Woodstock Academy sophomore Hannah Darigan said.

     

    That’s not so easy to accomplish.

     

    Many Eastern Connecticut Conference teams try to do that on an annual basis.

     

    Few experience success.

     

    The last time the Bears lost in the ECC was in 2014 when they fell twice to Waterford and once to East Lyme.

     

    Still, veteran coach Ann Rathbone thinks the Centaurs could make something happen this season.

     

    “I think we have a legitimate chance to win the league,” Rathbone said. “We have lots of potential. We’re solid in singles and we just have to figure out the doubles.”

     

    The Centaurs did lose their top singles player, Clara Siegmund, who is now playing at Rhode Island College and experiencing success at the next level.

     

    But Rathbone, who enters her 32nd year at the helm of the girls program, has some solid players returning and Darigan said the team also has a little intangible going for them.

     

    “We have a great group of girls this year, an amazing chemistry, better than ever before and a lot of talent, too,” Darigan said. “I felt at home with the program right from the beginning. The girls have been so welcoming and with the amount of freshman we have this year that is really good.”

     

    Seniors Mari Ruggeri and Morgan Bassett will be atop the singles to start and the Centaurs (15-6 last season) success may be somewhat predicated on theirs.

     

    “They have to step up to being Nos. 1 and 2,” Rathbone said.

     

    Junior Rachel Holden saw some singles activity last year and Rathbone thinks Darigan has the potential to also move up from doubles.

     

    “It’s been a goal of mine for a while,” Darigan said. “I played doubles last year, I loved it, but once you get a taste of singles, there is no going back.”

     

    To make that a possibility, Darigan and some of her teammates have been working in the offseason.

     

    According to the sophomore, it shows.

     

    “A lot of people have improved their game. A lot of people in the offseason were going to outside coaches and there has been a lot of improvement in both power and placement,” Darigan said.

     

    Although she is young, Darigan has quickly learned the importance of honing one’s craft.

     

    “It’s everything,” Darigan said of the offseason work. “Throughout the season, you don’t have much time to practice the little skills that you need improvement on because you’re just trying to win. Offseason is very important.”

     

    Juniors Caitlin Sroczenski, Emma Durand, Izetta Asikainen, Rachel Lambert, Sophia Rakovan and Annabelle Bastura are all in the mix for both singles and doubles play.

     

    Freshmen Adeline Smith and Jacqueline Trudeau have also been nice additions for the Centaurs.

     

     

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  • 2019 boys tennis season preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/27/2019

    2019 Preview: More depth could mean better results

     

    Two of the singles spots on the Woodstock Academy boys tennis team are taken this season.

     

    The rest is up for grabs.

     

    Junior David Fleck argues that, actually, everything is up for grabs.

     

    “It’s tough because we definitely have more competition this year (from within) than last year,” Fleck, the returning No. 1 player, said. “I feel like everybody knows how to play so we will see how it turns out.”

     

    For that reason, while the spots on the team remain largely unsettled, coach Ann Rathbone still has high hopes for the team.

     

    “I think we can improve on our record and we should do well in (Division II of the Eastern Connecticut Conference),” Rathbone said.

     

    Woodstock Academy did lose its No. 2 singles player, Fabian Meiser, to graduation. He is now playing at Manhattanville College.

     

    Meiser posted a 10-8 record individually last season.

     

    “It was very tough to lose him because he was the leader of the team,” Fleck said. “We have to come up with a couple of new leaders this year and fill that in.”

     

    Fleck, who posted a 9-9 record playing at No. 1, said his game has to improve in an area that you will not find on a stat sheet anywhere.

     

    “Mental toughness,” Fleck said. “That’s the most important thing for me. Being a singles player, you have to believe in yourself, and be confident out there. I lacked that last year.”

     

    In addition to Fleck, sophomore Riley Douglas (11-6) also returns to the Centaurs who finished 10-9 as a team last year.

     

    The battles will be waged after that.

     

    “The turnout has been better and so is the depth,” Rathbone, who is in her third year at the helm of the boys’ team, said. “We have more players who know how to play the game and a lot of them have been working on their game in the offseason.”

     

    Seniors Matt Tiffany and Aidan Stewart and sophomores Stefan Chervenkova and Connor Quinn all have a chance to break into the singles ranks.

     

    “I think it’s fun to play singles because everything is on yourself. You can’t really blame anything on anyone else, it’s a good learning experience,” Fleck said.

     

    Senior Luigi Boselli is a newcomer who will likely see time at doubles while freshmen Evan Haskins and Jai Abrams will add depth.

     

    Unlike the girls tennis team, which was elevated to Division I, the boys will remain in ECC Division II. The Centaurs are joined by Stonington, Waterford and Bacon Academy in that division.

     

    “I wouldn’t put it past us,” Fleck said of possibly winning the Division II title. “We are definitely a team to be watched this year.”

     

    In addition to its ECC opponents, the Centaurs will play non-league games against Ellington, Masuk and Suffield.

     

    “I don’t know if the schedule will be as difficult as last year’s, but last year’s schedule helped prepare us for this year,” Rathbone said.

     

     

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  • 2019 boys golf preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/27/2019

    2019 Preview: Weather makes for slow start

     

    Golf in the spring is never easy.

     

    The Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys and girls golf teams got their first taste of the outdoors on March 19.

     

    When they will be able to set foot on a golf course is another story.

     

    “It’s spring in New England so we have to deal with what we have,” said Centaurs girls coach Earl Semmelrock standing on the Woodstock Academy Commons watching his team practice shooting balls into a bucket on a blustery and chilly March afternoon.

     

    Snow still lined the ground behind his players.

     

    Fortunately, it wasn’t feet deep and there was a lot of dormant grass to be seen.

     

    “We’re cautiously optimistic that, because there is only a little bit of snow on the ground that we will have an early opening,” Semmelrock said. “Typically our home course (Quinnatisset Country Club) doesn’t open until the middle to end of April. Maybe that can be sped up, but the good news is that most of our matches in April are away from our home course and the courses along the shoreline in East Lyme and Norwich will likely be open. We just may be at a deficit if we don’t get much time on the course.”

     

    The Centaurs experienced good turnouts for both the boys and girls programs and likely were going to have to make some cuts with 20 out for the boys team and 22 for the girls.

     

    The Centaurs boys finished with a 14-7 record and tied for second with Stonington in Division II of the Eastern Connecticut Conference with a 7-3 league mark.

     

    Gone from that team, however, is two of its top talents, Jack Gelhaus, who averaged a 40 in dual matches last spring and with a 9-5-3 win/loss record and Eli Child (12-6-2, 42.8).

     

    “We have a nice, eclectic mix of grades, talent sets and experience which should prove to be a competitive group of golfers,” said coach Rich Garceau who enters his 15th year at the helm of the Centaurs.

     

    Mason Stewart tops the list of returnees.

     

    The senior finished tied for second on the team with a 42.8 dual match stroke average and posted a 13-3-1 record.

     

    Stewart won the Crestview Junior Invitational in Agawam, MA.  over the offseason with a four-over par 76 and took the runner up spot in the Sandri Junior Invitational at Fox Hopyard. He finished tied for first with a 1-over, 72 in that match but lost in the playoff.

     

    Seniors Owen Borski (16-3, 47.5) and Robert Maheu (10-7-1, 50) also return as do juniors Jake Starr (2-3) and Nick Zogrodney (1-2).

     

    “Although we haven’t been on the course as of yet, the team has proven themselves to be a dedicated group that have been studying the fundamentals of golf. This group has worked hard in the summer and fall to improve themselves and will be ready when the season opens,” Garceau said.

     

    Other returners for the Centaurs include Aidan Anderson, Eddy Chen, Pan Chrisovechotis, Justin Marcotte, Rockwell Valentine and Grayson Walley.

     

    The Centaurs are scheduled to open on Thursday, April 4 at home against East Lyme.

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  • 2019 Baseball Preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/12/2019

    Building a culture

    Tryouts had just ended and standing before Woodstock Academy baseball coach Brian Murphy inside the South Campus gym was his 14 varsity players.

    He had a warning for them.

    Things can change.

    He told them he wanted to see all of them up on the railing this season, cheering on their teammates and into the game.

    Murphy has seen his team make some progress in his first two years at the helm of the Centaurs.

    Woodstock Academy posted nine wins in 2017 and climbed the ladder to 10 last season.

    But to go up even more rungs, Murphy realizes he has to instill something else – a baseball mentality.

    “We’ve had decent seasons but we don’t seem to have that baseball culture, that winning attitude,  but I’m thinking that it’s starting to turn the corner,” Murphy said.

    Murphy hopes that attitude adjustment will begin with his three senior captains, Luke Mathewson, Nathan John and Eric Preston.

    “That’s very important to our team,” John said of the approach to the game by the team. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for us at all. We have a lot of dedicated players who want to be here and who want to work hard. When there is energy on the bench, there is more energy on the field and more energy at the plate. You just perform better. If your team is just sitting on the bench, you’re not performing that well.”

    Murphy is putting a lot of confidence in the three.

    “They’ve been here, they want to leave everything on the field. They want to win every game. That’s the culture we want. We want to play hard and be in every game. We don’t want a culture where it’s ‘We’re going to East Lyme or Fitch and we’re going to get beat today.’ That’s out of the question,” Murphy said.

    It’s easy to do.

    The Centaurs play in the Eastern Connecticut Conference and there are few tougher conferences in the state in baseball.

    “The ECC is very tough. East Lyme, Fitch, Waterford, are all big baseball schools, Montville is too. There are no slouches in the ECC. But it’s time that this program and this school rises to that level and competed. The competition is good. You get better when you play better teams and those are great teams to play,” Murphy said.

    The place it all has to start is on the mound.

    At the end of last season, due to arm troubles and injury, the Centaurs (10-13) were down to two starting pitchers, Mathewson and Preston, and their exit was rather quick from both the ECC and state tournament.

    Murphy thinks the pitching staff is pretty deep this season.

    “We have some young pitchers who we can, hopefully, add to our rotation because we were a little short last year, unfortunately, when one of our pitcher’s hurt his arm. He’s coming back so pitching should definitely be better,” Preston said.

    Tommy Li, who threw a no-hitter last season at Windham, injured his arm midway through the season and finished with a 2-2 record.

    The junior is back as is Mathewson (3-5 record, 79 strikeouts), Preston (3-2) and junior Pete Spada (1-1).

    “I think we have enough pitching. We have four for-sure starters and definitely a lot of good arms coming in relief,” Mathewson said.

    Mathewson will be headed to Westfield State University in the fall to play baseball at the Division III level.

    “Westfield got votes for (Division III) national rankings in the preseason. It got off to a great start this season. I’m looking forward to next year, but I’m focused on this year, my senior year,” Mathewson said.

    In addition, Matt Roethlein returns to the team this season and will throw with senior Matthew Moffitt and freshman Jonathan Smith also likely to see time on the mound.

    The offense was spotty last season.

    Mathewson led the team with a .444 batting average, 10 doubles and 21 runs batted in. Preston hit .303 with four triples while Li hit at a .280 clip and John finished with a .246 average.

    The numbers started to dip after that.

    “This offense could be great,” John said. “We’re not going to be a power-hitting team (Preston had the only homer last year), we don’t have a lot of big kids on this team but we’re very capable of playing small ball. We can hit-and-run, bunt, move players base-to-base and there are some clean-up kids on this team who can get the RBIs when we need them.”

    Murphy said there is one aspect offensively where the Centaurs have to improve.

    “We’ve been working hard on situational, especially two-strike, hitting. We struck out too much last year with two strikes. Any good college or pro coach will tell you that 90 percent of the time when you have two strikes, it’s going on the outside corner. We have to do a better job with our two-strike approach this year and put the ball in play,” Murphy said.

    Murphy said he feels the team will also be improved defensively especially in the outfield where the team struggled at times a year ago. Murphy recalled a game in Waterford where the Centaurs dropped three fly balls in the first inning and quickly found themselves down, 4-0.

    “You can’t have that happen,” Murphy said.

    There is a little bonus for the baseball team early on.

    As it did two years ago, the Centaurs will travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C. during spring vacation. 

    “I can’t wait to get to Myrtle Beach, warm weather down there,” Mathewson said with a laugh.

    “They love it,” Murphy said. “The first group we took two years ago still talk about it today. They forgot they were 0-for-4 in a game, but they remember the bass they caught. It’s part of the experience that you want to give the kids to play teams from across the country (the Centaurs will play a regular season game versus Westbrook, Maine while there), have a little fun, but it’s also a lot of work.”

    The Centaurs are scheduled to begin play at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 at home at the Bentley Athletic Complex against the Capital Prep-Achievement First cooperative.

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  • 2019 boys lacrosse preview

    Posted by Marc Allard, Sports Information Director on 4/12/2019

    2019 Preview: Familiarity may breed more success

     

    It’s the second year for Woodstock Academy boys lacrosse coach Michael Noel.

    That’s a good thing.

    “We are motivated this year. They kind of know more how I work and how I want them to work. I think we’re ahead of the game,” Noel said. “I learned a ton last year about what kind of talent we have and I think we’re more athletic this year.”

    Last year, the Centaurs doubled their win output of the year before and finished 6-10.

    That was just one win away from securing a Class M state tournament berth.

    It might be a little tougher this season.

    Woodstock Academy was bumped up by the Eastern Connecticut Conference to Division I and will have to play the likes of East Lyme, Fitch, Norwich Free Academy and Waterford twice each.

    “That was a little bit of a surprise,” Noel admitted. “I think we’re up for the challenge. We have some great returning players.”

    The Centaurs lost only three starters from a year ago.

    Ryan Wojciechowski, who finished with 21 goals and 9 assists, will be tough to replace in the midfield.

    “He’s going to be missed with his scoring prowess and he was also a very good defender. Hopefully, his little brother (Alex) can step up and take his place,” Noel said.

    The Centaurs also lost goalie Carson Hadley to graduation and defenseman Liam McDermott (9 goals, 7 assists) who opted to play golf this season.

    A player new to Woodstock Academy, Colin Liscomb, will fill Hadley’s spot in front of the net.

    “He transferred in this year and he’s pretty good at goalie,” senior Ethan Holcomb said. “Carson will definitely be missed, but Colin is pretty good”

    The Centaurs still have some key pieces in place.

    Last year’s leading scorer, Holcomb (25 goals, 18 assists), returns for his final year before heading to Keene State to play lacrosse at the Division III collegiate level.

    “It’s definitely special,” Holcomb said of his final year in a Woodstock Academy uniform. “I played (lacrosse) from fourth through sixth or seventh grade, stopped, came back in my freshman year, found I liked it again, and now, I’m going to college to play.”

    Holcomb returns in the middle along with sophomore Guerin Favreau (23 goals, 17 assists).

    “Guerin and I can run, we found that out last year,” Holcomb said with a laugh. “Last year, he and I had pretty big scoring seasons and I think (Ethan) Haas (16 goals, 4 assists) will step up along with a few other attack men like Seth Libby (1 goal).”

    If there is one place that Noel would like to see improvement, it would be up front.

    “We were looking for more from our attack last year. We would like to be able to score from the bottom and from X and I think we have the talent to do that this year,” Noel said.

    In addition to Favreau and Holcomb, Austen LeDonne (6 goals, 2 assists) and Sean McCusker (4 goals, 1 assist) will patrol the middle with Gabe Geyer as a long-stick middie.

    “We are most athletic in the back,” said Noel. “We have Zach Douglas, Bailey Canedy, and Ryan LaTour, who I have high hopes for. I’m hoping these guys learned from last year that they have to keep their composure and not hurt the team. We need to make sure we’re playing solid defense with our feet and our sticks and not just hacking away.”

    Will it all add up to, at least, one more win and a state tournament berth?

    “I think we definitely have the potential to make the state tournament this year,” Noel said. “It’s always a goal. I’m liking us this year. I think we’re ready, even with being in ECC Division I, to take the next step.”

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