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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 29, 2007

Dutchmen focus on having banner season

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Chomping at the bit, the 19 players on the Guilderland baseball team go through their war- ups in the gym.

The Dutchmen would rather be outside on the field, preparing for what could be a fantastic season.

Despite all that, the Dutch do not lose any focus. And the coach notices. When the warm-ups are over, Doug LaValley praises his players’ focus.

The players know it can be a banner season.

"They believe," LaValley said. "I stress to the guys that there is a fine line between cocky and confidence. You want to have a swagger, but not get cocky. And I try to stress that. I wouldn’t get on the bus if I didn’t feel I had a chance to win. That has changed over years I’ve been here. I think that we expect to win and that’s new. I don’t think they had that mindset here in years prior. That comes with a lot of hard work."

LaValley has 19 players on his roster this season, large number for many high school teams.

"I have four guys that’ll just pitch," LaValley said. "This is a good bunch, I felt we’ll go bigger than in years past. We have a lot coming up this year, and we have a lot of kids that I felt were eligible to move up."

"Tight-knit group"

The Dutch have seven seniors on the roster. Ten juniors and two sophomores also dot the line-up.

Out of the 19 players, 10 are returning from last year’s team that lost to Colonie in the Class AA quarterfinals. Colonie, which Guilderland beat in the regular season, made it all the way to the state title game.

The returning seniors are Ben Henderson, Greg Barcomb, Mike Goldstein, Joe Lima, Nick Polsinelli, Jimmy Sabbag, and Ryan Winne. Henderson, Polsinelli, Goldstein, and Winne are the team’s captains.

"That kid was voted in as a captain," LaValley said of Winne. "I don’t know if he will start. But it tells what the players think of that young man. I’d be proud to call him my son. That’s the type of kid he is."

The other three returning players are juniors Jake Colavito, C.J. Sohl, and Andrew Simpson.

The newcomers to the team this spring are juniors Pat Gareau, Kyle LeClair, Josh Lochner, Chris Murray, Ivan Plata, Nick Ranalli, and Jason Westervelt. Sophomores Steve Anderson and Kyle LaValley, the coach’s son, round out the roster.

"This is a tight-knit group," Coach LaValley said. "There are a lot of guys, but there are no cliques. They all get along."

The Dutchmen finally got on the field this spring, but had to travel to New Jersey to do it. Guilderland took part in some scrimmages in Millville. A group of the baseball players went to Florida during February break with Nick Colavito, Jake’s father, and head of the Capital District Knights baseball program.

Changing goals

The Dutchmen are looking forward to taking the field and making some noise in the Suburban Council this season. They are in a new division — the Gold — and will be mixed in with Columbia, Bethlehem, and Ballston Spa.

"A lot of the teams in the Suburban Council are good," LaValley said. "And, on any given day, no matter how good you are, your guard can’t be taken down. You can’t overlook anybody."

There are some other good teams in Class AA, but LaValley is focused on the league schedule.

" Our goals have changed over the years," LaValley said. "Our goal used to be just to make sectionals. But we are beyond that. We want to be the number-one seed and get the bye. But at sectionals, you can run into a number-one guy and it can make it a long day for you."

One of the reasons why the goals have changed for the Dutch is talent. Guilderland has a few players who will be moving on to play baseball in college.

Henderson will be heading to Division I Jacksonville University in Florida next fall. Polsinelli will take his talents to the Division II level at The College of Saint Rose. Goldstein will play at the State University of New York College at Brockport next year Barcomb will be going to SUNY Cortland in the fall but will be playing football.

Juniors Simpson, Colavito, and Sohl will also be playing college baseball.

"We have more and more guys going to the college level," LaValley said. "I feel it’s my job to get them ready for the next level, just like the junior varsity to varsity."

"Success breeds success"

What adds to the players’ talents is the work they have put in to get better.

"During the last week of lifting," LaValley said, "we had 91 kids in there counting three days. When I first started, we might have had 20 or 30 the first week then it would tail off. We’ve come a long way.

"We started having success," LaValley said. "More people got involved. Success breeds success."

The Dutch will come into the season with a whole lot of confidence. They finished last year with a 9-5 league record and won their first-round playoff game against Christian Brothers Academy and the Brothers’ top pitcher, Greg Holle. Holle will be going to Texas Christian University and is one of the top players in the Northeast.

"We have big expectations," LaValley said. "We’ve got some lofty goals. I believe we’ll get there if we stick together. I don’t know how good a team is until you go through your first adversity and how they deal with it and if they respond in a positive manner."

Lady Dutch taking baby steps to top

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland softball team wants to continue to make strides and take another step in being a top team in the Suburban Council.

The Lady Dutch have six players returning and six new players this season. Last year, Guilderland qualified for the Section II playoffs, but lost in the first round.

"Since I’ve been here, we’ve gotten better every year," said Guilderland Coach Jen Ficarra (nee Maxwell). "We made sectionals our goal and now we want to take it to the next step. We want to win a sectional game."

Last year, the Lady Dutch finished with a record just slightly better than .500 and got into the playoffs.

Among the six returning players, only one is a senior. But the Dutch do return starting pitcher junior Jen McCutheon.

Guilderland has five sophomores new to the varsity level.

"They were all on j.v. last year," Ficarra said. "I’m anxious to see what they can do. They looked good in tryouts and looked good in the gym. We need to get outside to really see what they can do."

Senior Amanda Neal is back after not playing last season.

"This year, she’ll do most of the catching,’ Ficarra said.

Tricia Loux is also returning for her senior year. She played at first base last spring.

Michelle Giwerc returns and will play third base. Sara Heller returns to the varsity, too, and will be at shortstop this season. She also might do some catching.

Junior Nicky Marcucci is a newcomer to the team.

"She was on the j.v. last year," Ficarra said. "She was a real surprise at tryouts. She’ll play in the outfield."

Lauren Napoli, a sophomore, returns to the outfield. She played left field last year, but will play in center field this spring.

Sophmore Deb Schildt will pitch some this season to spell McCutcheon.

Also on the team are Meryl Kremer, Marissa Valletta, Kristina Marilla, and Rachel Vein.

"We have a lot of people in the same positions," Ficarra said. "It’s a tryout for them to earn a position on the team."

Curve ball

There will be a curve ball thrown into the season. Ficarra is eight months pregnant and is due May 1. She will miss the last few weeks of the season.

Jess Allen, an assistant and new physical education at Guilderland, will take over.

"It’ll definitely be hard for me," Ficarra said. "But I trust Jess to do a good job. But I’ve built up the program, and I’ll have to leave halfway through. The season will be different. It’s definitely weird, but I wanted to be here to pick the team and help the juniors get adjusted. Hopefully, I’ll bring the baby to some of the games. But it’ll hard to be sitting there and watching what you’ve built up go on without you."

The Dutch catch a break in that they are in the middle division of the Suburban Council.

"We only have to play Shenendehowa, Shaker, and Colonie one time," Ficarra said. "That gives the girls a little more encouragement toward the season."

The Dutch are in a division with Columbia, Bethlehem, and Ballston Spa.

Ficarra is looking forward to getting out of the gym when the snow melts. Her team did this past weekend as the Dutch competed in a scrimmage in Herkimer. The Lady Dutch will also have a full slate of games this spring. They will have 24 scrimmages and games this season.

The Dutch are looking to have a winning record when those games are all in the books.

"Our goal is to be over .500," Ficarra said. "A lot of girls are playing softball all year long. They have high goals for themselves and that will help us."

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