Tuckerton-Little Egg Harbor Leader Winter Sports Previews

Pinelands Girls Hoops, Bowling, Indoor Track Expect Positive Winter Season

By David Biggy | Dec 06, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy AIM TRUE: Pinelands sophomore Caitlyn Rodriguez will be one of the primary threats on the girls bowling squad this winter.

Little Egg Harbor — Graduating a bunch of seniors from a basketball team usually means the following season begins as an uphill climb for the squad, given it is faced with utilizing inexperienced players to try to win games early on. However, at times a team has enough of its core starting crew returning that it doesn’t become a major problem.

That’s the case for this year’s Pinelands Regional girls basketball team.

“We’re very young, but we can be competitive in most of the games due to hard work and discipline,” said coach Keith Lowe, whose Wildcats last year ended the season 10-14 before graduating four seniors. “I believe with the attitude to work to get better every day, we will improve throughout the season.”

A trio of returning players should make the transition into this season significantly easier, especially given the fact each contributed in every game last winter, integral components to the Wildcats’ 10 victories.

The frontrunner of that trio is junior guard Sunni DiElmo, who not only works hard on defense and leads by example anywhere on the court, but also can often score going to the basket. No doubt, the team’s leading scorer from last season likely will fuel the offense this season as well.

And then there’s sophomore guard Bridget Dudas, who broke into the starting lineup last season as a freshman and played a huge role in adding another dimension, especially defensively, to Lowe’s squad. Another hard worker and a very good athlete, Dudas helps trigger the transition game. She will also be called upon to score more points this season.

Junior guard Skylar Callahan also returns to the team after playing hundreds of quality minutes last season, adding some scoring pop while contributing quite a bit on the defensive side of the floor.

Beyond those three, though, the Wildcats are going to need young and inexperienced players to step up and fill some big roles, mainly on the interior.

Heading into the new season, which starts Dec. 20 in their home gym against Shore Conference Class B South rival Donovan Catholic, the weak spot on both offense and defense will be underneath the basket. Lowe is hoping that can change with the additions of forward Alyssa Breese – the team’s only senior – and junior forwards Maddie Stein and Emily Fence.

Two other newcomers, junior guard Tamar Beaubrun and sophomore forward Kayla Weber, are expected to provide significant minutes while they develop in their roles. Junior forward Rocky Towler also adds to the frontcourt.

Girls Bowling Squad

Returns Entire Crew

In the sport of bowling, experience isn’t as much of a factor as long as a bowler’s mechanics and understanding of the game are solid. But, obviously, experience doesn’t hurt, and the Pinelands girls’ squad is going to have the benefit of experience this season.

Coach Jim Becker’s crew has its entire starting five back from last winter, when the Wildcats finished 17-28 and posted solid scores throughout the season – at times showing flashes of brilliance that indicated better things to come. Becker probably found it hard to wait for the new season to start.

“We had a lot of growth between the past couple of years, as this team has stuck together for three straight years now,” Becker said. “We return all our starters to their varsity spots, and we’re looking to improve off of last year’s win total. We also look to give some of our division rivals something to think about this year and next year.”

Of course, the team to beat in the Shore Conference South B division is Manchester. The Hawks are a perennial powerhouse nowadays, but there’s no reason not to believe the Wildcats can make a run at the division’s second position and possibly even surprise Manchester on a really good day.

Leading the charge this season will be the two girls at the back of the lineup – junior Kaitlyn Edwards and sophomore Caitlyn Rodriguez. Both had solid seasons a year ago, with Edwards averaging 132 and Rodriguez averaging 149. With improved averages this winter, it should allow the Wildcats to operate from a position of confidence.

“From the get-go, this team feeds off of Kaitlyn Edwards and Caitlyn Rodriquez,” Becker said. “They both bowled over 200 in games, and had very good averages throughout last season. And both are poised to do that again.”

In front of Edwards and Rodriguez is a trio of experienced juniors: Catherine Allen, Courtney Burns and Kennedy Heinrichs. The expectation is that each bowler likely will have significantly improved averages over last season, and will contribute heavily to any success the Wildcats have this winter.

“Catherine, Courtney and Kennedy all continue to get better as we practice, and they plan on scoring high and bringing their averages up,” Becker said. “Our goal is to go to the Shore Conference Tournament as a team.”

Historically, that would be a lofty goal for a Pinelands girls bowling team, but this crew certainly has the ability to accomplish the feat. And the Wildcats got off to a great start, cruising to a 3-0 victory over Donovan Catholic behind solid efforts from their top bowlers.

Edwards kicked off the season by tossing games of 161, 152 and 175 for a 488 series, while Rodriguez, the team’s anchor, delivered consistency throughout with games of 150, 153 and 151 for a 454 series. At the front of the lineup, Allen scored a 150 to start the season and ended up with a 403 series, while Burns topped out at 138 in the second game and finished with a 396 series, and Heinrichs registered a high game of 132 on the way to a 359 series.

As for the boys’ team, coach Paul Millar has a tougher task for this winter, with new varsity players to replace graduates following last winter’s 8-37 campaign.

Ethan Edwards, who finished with a 151 average a year ago, is the only player back to the starting five. Climbing the South B division ranks might be tough this season. However, the Wildcats do have some promising bowlers toeing the alleys as they try to rebuild.

Among the newer crew expected to push Pinelands in a positive direction are Dylan and Ryan McGowan, as well as Jacob Dippolite and Andru Janits.

The boys also jumped out to solid start to their season, coming up with a 3-0 win over Donovan Catholic, as Dylan McGowan led the way with games of 148, 182 and 180 en route to a 510 series. Ryan McGowan fired a 430 series behind a top score of 160 in the third game, while Edwards managed high games of 142 and 141 for a 413 series, and Dippolite threw a 148 in the first game to help out. Janits topped out at 126 in the third game.

Pinelands Tracksters

On the Way Up

The indoor track season typically is a precursor of things to come in the spring. Both the girls and boys squads should have several athletes competing among the top of the field in their respective events this winter.

For the girls, senior thrower Liz Makar should be the main point-scorer, as she likely will compete for multiple shot put titles this season. Last year, Makar placed first in Ocean County, third in the Shore Conference and NJSIAA South Jersey Group II meets, second in Group II and ended the season in 14th at the Meet of Champions. She followed with a fantastic spring, again ending up in the Meet of Champions.

Additionally for coach Matt Fuller’s girls, senior Sarah Keady figures to be in the mix with the 400-meter dash, and junior Marlee Tharp in the 800-meter run. Keady took 15th in the county 400 before grabbing the ninth spot in South Jersey Group II. Tharp placed 11th in county 800 and ended the winter season with a 15th-place finish amid a loaded field at South Jersey Group II meet.

On the boys’ side, coach Don Angelini will be expecting bigger things from junior distance runner Mart Villanueva as well as sophomore sprinter and jumper Andre Simmons. Villanueva placed 11th in the 3,200-meter run at last winter’s sectional championships, and Simmons broke onto the track and field scene by scoring big at the Shore Conference Championships – taking third in the 55-meter dash and 10th in the high jump.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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