Dragons poised for big fall
WESTPORT—A new school year brings renewed hope for the Greens Farms Academy fall sports programs.
A lot of young talent returns to campus this fall and the coaching staffs are hoping that experience carries the programs further into the postseason than last year.
While each of the Dragons’ fall sports teams qualified for the postseason a year ago, only boys soccer and cross country advanced into New England play.
This fall, more teams hope to go further.
An experienced front line that most opponents have to look up to could propel the GFA volleyball team through a season to remember this fall.
That coupled with some strong senior leadership has Dragons coach Paul Groves excited for what’s to come.
“We have a powerful and aggressive front-line attack and great senior leadership,” Groves said. “Our team goals are to start the season strong and peak at tournament time. If we continue to work hard, build strong team relationships I am confident the success will follow.”
All-FAA middle hitter Kirwan Carey (Westport), a senior captain, will lead the charge with both her skill and momentum-changing positive emotion and fire.
Carey is far the only experience on the Dragons front line, though.
Senior middle hitter Kristiana Modzelewski (Westport) was second on the team in blocks a year ago while junior Jesse Boolbol (Greenwich) was third in kills and second in service aces.
Sophomore outside hitter Elena Mota (Darien), who was second on the team in kills as a freshman, is back a year better, as well.
Setter Meg Nesi (Fairfield), a junior who has three years of experience and was All-FAA Honorable Mention, returns to set up that front line, as well. She also led the Dragons in service aces last year.
In the back row, senior Alex Nason (Darien), the other co-captain, returns after leading the team in digs a year ago, as well.
Other returning varsity players expected to provide an impact this season at senior defensive specialist Leah Attai (Bridgeport), junior setter Kelly Mooney (Southport) and junior Ava Ewing (Darien) as a right side hitter.
Junior Jessica Cramer (Wilton), a defensive specialist, makes the jump to varsity along with sophomores Cayla Bernstein (Norwalk) and Samantha Freeman (Shelton).
Greens Farms Academy boys soccer coach Chris Mira found himself in a good news/bad news situation heading into the new fall season.
The bad news? Thirteen players graduated from last year’s squad, which went 12-5-4 and qualified for both the Fairchester Athletic Association and Western New England Prep School tournaments.
The good news? Only five starters graduated from the team, meaning there is a lot of core talent returning to rebuild around.
“It’s hard to say what the season will look like with so many new faces filling big holes in the line-up,” Mira said. “Any time you have to replace five of 11 starters, it takes time for them to learn to think as a team and play to each other’s strengths.”
Perhaps the biggest question that will need to be answered is who will take over in goal, as three-year starter Henry Holzinger has graduated?
Senior Ethan Phan (Bridgeport) and sophomore Max Yates (Fairfield) are both in the running to fill those cleats, but both also could be used on defense and in the midfield, respectively.
Mira said the midfield lineup has a lot of strength and experience.
Senior co-captain Zach Liston (Wilton) leads the midfield efforts along with juniors Charlie Benson (Darien) and Ethan Lior (Fairfield).
Defensively, co-captain Will McCall (Westport) leads the way along with junior Mitch Colonna (Norwalk) and sophomore Aidan Murphy (Darien).
Junior Kyle Merzon (Greenwich) is another returner who should have an impact in either the midfield or up top on attack.
Players moving up from the JV level include: juniors Jack Ramsay (Darien) and Jack Seegers (Stamford) on defense, and sophomores Will Whelan (Fairfield) and Elek Krizsan (Westport).
Andrew Henry is going into his first year as the GFA Dragons' head girls soccer coach and his initial impression and overall outlook is that it will be an exciting and successful season in 2018.
“Losing only three starters from 2017 squad, the leadership and talent is nothing short of brilliant,” Henry said. “Our style of play will be possession-based. We will look to move the ball with combination passes and utilize our midfielders and wingers en route to creating goal-scoring opportunities.”
This year’s team will be led by senior captains Lilah McCormick (Westport) , Kelly van Hoesen (Greenwich) and Ella Murphy (Darien).
A host of other key players return as well as Elyse Kimball (Westport), Annika White (Southport), Samara Cohen (Westport), Clare Foley (Southport), and Margot Goldsmith (Darien) all return after seeing a lot of playing time last year.
GFA has added depth at key positions, as well.
Senior striker Sophie Staeger (Southport) is representing GFA for the first time at this level while talented newcomers Lauren Lior (Fairfield) and Ava McCormick (Westport are young but command respect along with freshman Shealeigh Crombie (Westport).
Lane Murphy (Darien), a freshman, will bring keeper skills to complement goalie Marygrace DelliSanti (Wilton).
Players like Julia Edwards (Westport), Isabella Whelan (Fairfield), Lillian Breier (Fairfield), Sofia Segalla (Stamford), Sarah Logan (Darien), Stephanie Wistreich (Wilton) and others will provide experience and security in front for our goalies.
Last season, in what was a rebuilding season for the Greens Farms Academy field hockey program, a very young squad flirted with the .500 mark.
This season the Dragons are still young, but their goals are to surpass that record while continuing on its upward trend in the FAA and Western New England ranks.
“There’s a lot of promise from our season in 2017 and we are looking to build on what we started with in 2016,” third-year coach Elizabeth Schuellein said. “Making the FAA tournament last season was encouraging and we have our sights this season to finish over .500. We've been focusing on new systems and trying to consistently play 60 minutes.”
Seniors and sophomores make up the crux of the unit and those two groups playing together for a second straight year is going to help the program grow, the coach added.
From that senior class, captains Luzy Holzinger (Norwalk), a center mid; Alex Nesi (Westport)), a center back; and Bryn Morrison, (Weston) left midfielder, lead the charge. Another senior, Francesca DeVita (Darien), brings experience to the team’s front line while senior Lindsay Offerman (Bedford, NY) adds depth and experience to the back line.
Junior Nikki Farber (Westport) split the goaltending duties a year ago, but she’ll be in the cage this season and is armed with growing experience and talent from her hard work.
Sophomores Keely O’Shea (Darien) debuted with five goals and four assists last season joining Holzinger (6 goals, 1 assist) and DeVita (5 goals) as the team’s biggest scoring threats.
Other sophomores playing key roles are Zoe Koskinas (Fairfield)), Rari Bellingeri (Stamford), Kate Millard (Southport), Lucy Nelson (Westport), Annie Lew (Darien) and Faithe Murphy (Westport).
Freshman Anna Reynolds (Rowayton) should make “an immediate impact” according to her coach.
A handful of new faces are bringing a breath of fresh air to the Greens Farms Academy cross country program, making two very young programs deeper along the way.
Coach Glen Colello starts his 14th year in charge of the trail-charging Dragons and is excited about the next step this year’s teams appear to present.
“Both teams are a year away from being championship-caliber provide they work hard in the summer,” Colello said. “This fall our hopes are to stay healthy, continue improving and possibly surprise some teams in the FAA and NEPSTA Division III.”
On the boys side of the trail, four key returning runners are leading the way—and there is not a senior among them.
Juniors Owen Minson (Darien) and Charlie Bohnsack (Darien) return along with Larson Palmgren (Fairfield) and Will Magrone (Darien).
Oliver Diamond (Rowayton) is a senior who has switched to cross country for his final season and could crack the top seven spots, as well.
Two freshmen—Connor Minson (Darien) and Gus Bachner (Weston)—have also impressed through early season workouts.
“We are not top heavy, but have eight solid team members,” Colello said. “And 11 of our top 12 runners will be back in 2019.”
As for the girls, the numbers are up and so is the talent—thanks in big part to a talented transfer and some impressive middle school runners.
And, like the boys, there is hardly a senior in sight.
Junior co-captains Kaitlin Reed (Southport) and Bella Worrell (Westport) are a year more experienced while sophomore Caroline McCall (Westport), pictured at left, is returning after performing as last year’s No. 1 runner.
The addition of Haley Nilsson (Fairfield), a transfer from Fairfield Ludlowe, is also expected to bolster the Dragons.
Freshman Katie Gabriele (Westport) is out for the team for the first time.