Commentary: Spring Sports Bring With It Optimism
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Mar 17, 2014, 11:12
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — As one final batch of winter weather honed in on our area over the last couple of days, the sports calendar shifts its focus to Spring sports. Yes, after a week full of scrimmages, weeks of indoor practices and the agonizing wait of one full year after some abrupt ends, high school teams are back on the diamonds, tracks and soccer fields once again.
Not too surprisingly, much like warmer weather seemingly puts people in better moods, so does the optimism around many teams before finally taking the field for the official start of their seasons. Coaches from Hopewell to Colonial Heights and Prince George to Thomas Dale have discussed at length how each of their teams can surprise this season.
Normally words at this time of year come with it the caveat of hope springing eternal, after all, if one does not think they can contend then what is there to play for? However, it's likely that this not just the optimism talking for plenty of these coaches.
There is real talent on every roster in this area, making it clear to all that a great season of action is about to be upon us.
Start with the Hopewell soccer teams where the boys captured two scrimmage wins last week by an aggregate score of 7-4 and the girls showed promise under a first-year head coach.
The Blue Devils showed incredible strength in the midfield to connect passes in order to methodically break-down a surprisingly centralized Appomattox defense. And when in the final third, Hopewell showed an ability to score behind the likes of Tyler Jordan and Addiel Gomez — all of which adding up to what could be a promising season.
"Our biggest thing is we're looking at all the mistakes we had last year and I have nine starters back, so we know what we did wrong," head coach Brad Dalton said after the game. "The goal this year is to create those mistakes ... we can compete with anyone if we play like we did tonight."
Meanwhile, the girls showed a dramatic improvement from the first to second half in defensive ability. It's the start of a process for a team just starting to grow together.
"Our goal this season is to create a lasting program," head coach Emily Michalek explained. "A program that has a good image in the community, so we're working on having positive attitudes on the field, encouraging each other, being here to support JV — all of that. I'm really working with them on building that program from the ground up."
But the optimism doesn't end in Hopewell, but continues to Colonial Heights where the baseball team tallied 17 runs in an exhibition win over Park View.
Manager Gerald Carsley had spoke about his lineup being solid, but was still concerned before their final tune-up game as he predicted that it would be his pitching staff that would carry the load. While the rotation did its part with Seth Markins, Jayson Maitland and Matt Young throwing some impressive innings, it was the offense which stole the show.
The Colonials may have one of the better hitters in the area in third baseman Zach Stewart. In his first three at-bats in the scrimmage, Stewart lined a single, scorched a double and hit a towering home run over the center field wall.
"He's real committed at the plate and he doesn't like to sell his at-bats short," Carsley said of his slugger. "If he finds a pitch he thinks he can hit, he tries to go after it."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
And the same optimism can be found at Thomas Dale over their baseball team with a returning core that is hungry after being dismissed in the playoffs last season.
It's a lineup which will pack a punch from the lead-off guy to the bottom of the order while the pitching staff will once again be led by Tommy Barron on the hill. It's enough for manager Chris Marshall to be excited about his team's chances even with realignment placing them in a tough conference.
"Half the team is seniors and half the team is juniors, so we have a lot of guys coming back," Marshall said of his squad. "Obviously, it is going to be a lot harder with Cosby and James River being in our conference, but we are excited and expect to be at the top."
And with the type of talent around the area, it's likely more than one of these teams will be at or near the top of their conference by season's end, so buckle up now. It should be a fun ride.