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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 22, 2007

BKW seniors have the Wright style

By Tim Matteson

BERNE — The kids are all grown up.

When Berne-Knox-Westerlo Coach Andy Wright took over the boys’ basketball program four years ago, members of this current senior class were in eighth grade. And now Wright will rely on those players to lead him and the Bulldogs to new places.

"These are the ones we started with in seventh and eighth grade," Wright said. "These are the ones that have been there the whole time we’ve been coaching, Coach [Brian] McCoy and myself."

And, with a couple of good juniors, BKW has high expectations for the upcoming season, which began on Wednesday in the first round of the Rensselaer Tournament.

"We want a top-three finish," Wright said after a scrimmage on Monday night.

Wright thinks his team matches up well with the teams in the Western Athletic Conference’s South Division.

"Canajoharie never lays down," Wright said. "But they lost a lot of seniors. Schoharie will be tough. Schenectady Christian is talented and got off their run last year. They’ve been champs or co-champs in the league for the last six years."

"Fun to watch"

But with eight seniors, Wright sees his team as experienced, even though just two starters from last year return.

"We have two of the better small-school guards in David Sikule and Matt Lounsbury," Wright said of his two returning starters.

And Wright will use those guards to dictate a different style of play than the past few years: Run, run, run.

"We’ll be fun to watch," Wright said. "We’ll run the court quicker than any team I’ve coached. And they’re excellent passers. If we are facing three defenders on a two-on-three, we’ll score."

"I’ve never been able to coach like this since I’ve been at Berne," Wright said. "My first year, I had an exceptional guard; after that, I’ve been catering to big men. We’ve sent the offense through the post.

"And we have a solid post player in Joey Conklin," Wright added. "He can also turn and face the basket, take a couple of dribbles in, and shoot. He’ll be tough to defend."
The fact that Wright has two starters back is a bit deceiving. Senior Josh Skinner started his whole sophomore season, but only started about half the season last year.

"He has valuable varsity experience," Wright said. "He is a very good three-point shooter. I would not be surprised if he has 30 three-pointers easily."

There will be some other seniors that Wright believes will step up this season.

"Ben Burton did not get as much time as last year," Wright said. "He worked hard in the off-season to get better. He’ll be a pretty valuable player. He’s a taller shooter at 6 foot, one inch."

Burton is one of the taller players on the team this season.

Small team with big heart

"We are a small team," Wright said. "But they have hearts. These kids have a lot of fire inside of them. This team’s record can be better than last year’s. I can see that happening even without height and size."

That attitude comes from his leaders and captains Lounsbury, Skinner, and Sikule.

"Lounsbury has the heart of a champion," Wright said. "He’ll be fun to watch. Any one of our kids can lead us in the scoring column. That makes us tough to play."

Wright would love to see his team’s hard work get rewarded right at the beginning of the season.

"I would love to see us upset Hoosick Falls," the coach said of his first game. "We lost to them in sectionals two years ago and last year we lost to them by two points.

"It would be great to open up by knocking them off and get a chance to play for the championship," Wright added of the Rensselaer tournament. "It could happen."

That would give the Bulldogs confidence for the season as they prepare for a tough WAC season and eventually sectionals.

"Small-school basketball is tough," Wright said. "Especially with Voorheesville and Watervliet coming down. Hopefully, that will make our kids hungry. Last year, Watervliet killed us. They wiped us out."

But with seniors Lounsbury, Skinner, Burton, Greg Mulson, Conklin, Keith Cunningham, Sam Viscio, and Eric Prescott all dedicated to the program, the Bulldogs are looking to go a long way.

Mulson and Cunningham will get a lot of playing time this season, Wright said.

"Some of the guys are willing to accept their roles to be part of something special," Wright said. "They know their minutes will be limited, but they come to practice and work hard every day because they want to win. Winning in basketball doesn’t always mean the men on the floor. It’s about all the guys on the team.

"I always tell the guys that basketball is an elitist sport in that only five guys can represent your school at one moment," Wright added.

By Tim Matteson

BERNE — The graduation of a couple of key players won’t hamper the Berne-Knox-Westerlo girls’ basketball team this season, their coach said.

After the Lady Bulldogs’ first scrimmage of the season on Thursday in Voorheesville, Coach Tom Galvin was optimistic after watching his players.

"The good thing is that we have three starters back," Galvin said. "With the two seniors we lost, it will be tough to fill their spots. But we’ve had two kids step in, in Katrina Yakel and Amber Pitcher, and they have done a good job.
Graduated are C.J. Vincent and Brittany Krimsky, who were not only good players but also captains of the team.

Coming back for the Bulldogs are starters Andrea Van Dyke, Anna Kusler, and Lauren Ford.

"They’ve both stepped in and did a great job today," Galvin said of Yakel and Pitcher after Thursday’s scrimmage. "They both played great defense. Amber and Yakel are similar to Krimsky and Vincent."

Galvin kept 12 players on the team — six juniors and six seniors.

"We are further ahead than in many years," Galvin said. "We work on basic things every day in practice. Today, Amber stepped in and hit a bunch of three [point shots]. Yakel is a workhorse. Kusler rebounded very well; she is an unbelievable rebounder. And Lauren Ford is the best penetrator I’ve ever coached. She can really get to the basket.

"Andrea’s Andrea," Galvin added. "She is tough and she can light it up. With those five girls, we’re really going to be pretty good."

The Bulldogs will have some experienced substitute players as well.

"We have three seniors off the bench who got experience last year," Galvin said. "And we have a core of well-coached JV players coming up."

Galvin said that most on his team played together in the off-season. The players formed an Amateur Athletic Union team last spring and last summer played in team camps.

"They’ve been together since last April," Galvin said. "Now that the real season is here, they want to get together and play."

Tough competition

Galvin said that the Western Athletic Conference will be tough, pointing out that Schenectady Christian will be the team to beat.

"They get a couple of players back," Galvin said. "It will be a scrape for the two to six positions. I don’t mind that, to have the underdog role and knock off a few teams."

After the Bulldogs get through a tough league schedule, they will face a tough Class CC Section II tournament.

"The CCs will be tough," Galvin said. "Voorheesville is back down and Watervliet is back, too. We want to win the league and win a couple of sectional games and go deep there. The league is much better and CCs are tougher."

Galvin also has a set number of games he wants his team to win this season.

"We want to win between 15 and 18 games," the coach said. "To do that, we’ll have to keep working hard. We’ll have to go through several games to see what type of team we’ll be...

"If they do everything that we are supposed to," Galvin added, "we’ll be very good. But, if they take shortcuts, we will be bad. It’s like that in any sport."

BKW has two more scrimmages on the schedule before they start the season the day after Thanksgiving at the Rusty Grestini Tournament in Cohoes. The Lady Bulldogs open the tournament against Ichabod Crane. The championship and consolation games are on Saturday.

"They were in the state tournament in Class A," Galvin said. "We are not playing Cupcake High School. Troy is a good team, Maple Hill went deep in sectionals, and Cohoes is a tough Class B team from the Colonial Council."

Galvin sees only benefits in starting the season with a tough schedule.

"Chances are we’ll be challenged," Galvin said. "It’s tough to play tough teams. I could schedule easy teams and be 2-0. But we need to be challenged, before we get to league play."

Playing in tough games worked last year for the Lady Bulldogs.

"We started 0-2 last year," Galvin said. "And we finished 15-8 and were playing well at the end of the year."

And the goal for the Lady Bulldogs is to be playing basketball at the end of the season in the sectional tournament.

"We might get punched in the month of November," Galvin said. "But we’ll wipe the blood off and be ready for February and March. That is always the theme here."

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — With one of the best players in the Colonial Council, the Voorheesville boys’ basketball team has high expectations.

The Blackbirds are doing things differently in the early weeks of the season. And the team looked pretty good after its first scrimmage last Thursday against Hoosick Falls.

"We’ve gone back to basics and changed things from what we’ve done in the past," said Voorheesville Coach Don Catellier after the scrimmage. "We’re working on defense a lot this pre-season. What I saw with the naked eye today looked pretty good."

The key for the Blackbirds will be to get the ball to senior center Evan Christner.

"We have to move the ball and obviously we want to get it to Evan," Catellier said. "We can get the ball into Evan and he’s done a good job of kicking it back out when he gets doubled, and we want to bring it back to him for scoring."

The Blackbirds will need others to play well on the offensive end to open things up for Christner and take some of the pressure off the senior center.

"We need to get some guys to step up opposite him from the outside," Catellier said. "That will open up the middle even more for him."

"Everybody will contribute"

Voorheesville has a few experienced players returning who will help on offense.

Macky Lloyd returns after having a successful cross-country season, and will play point guard for the Blackbirds. He battled injuries last winter, but is healthy so far this season.

Kevin Klembczyk will be asked to do more on the offensive end and continue to play excellent defense.

Catellier also sees good things for senior Bryan Wise who played on the junior varsity team last year.

"He has stepped up as a senior," Catellier said. "He is a wide body inside that can be physical and good."

Another senior will also help this year.

"Brad Donaldson is scrappy," Catellier said. "He is not hurt and is working hard on defense."

A bunch of juniors will be asked to contribute right away for Voorheesville.

"All the juniors are a solid group and are very good," Catellier said. "There is a good mixture.

"Nicky Kinisky will play two-guard," Catellier added. "He can slash to the basket and has a good outside shot. Mike Snyder can play inside or outside at the three or four [forward positions] and Mike Tesch is our zone breaker. And Nicky Blow will see time at point guard."

Rounding out the roster is 6 foot, 6 inch sophomore Ethan Mackey.

"We’ll get him back soon," Catellier said. "He broke his leg during football, but should be back around Christmas time. He has a nice outside shot. He’ll open up the inside for Evan."

Catellier expects all those players to be contributors this winter.

"Everybody will contribute," the coach said. "They are working real hard. It’s a battle every day at practice."

"A battle every night"

The Blackbirds are looking to be near the top of the Colonial Council at the end of the season and want to be ready to compete in the Class CC Section II tournament in February and March.

"We want to finish in the top three in the Colonial Council," Catellier said. "Every year, we want to go as far and deep into sectionals as we can. This group can compete for the CC title. If we stay healthy, we’ll be all right."

Albany Academy appears to be head and shoulders above everyone else in the league, Catellier said.

"It is going to be Academy and the rest of us," the coach said. "They are very talented and loaded. But nobody will go undefeated. Academy will fall at some point. In the league, it’s a battle every night. There are no slackers in the league. And that will help us with sectionals."

It will also come down to if any one can help out Christner on the offensive end of the court.

. "He’s going to get double-teamed. And we talked a lot about that," Catellier said. "Any team that doesn’t double him is crazy. He’s a force inside. He’s possibly the best big guy in Class CC."

Christner can do more than just wait for the ball inside. He is also capable of handling the ball as well.

"I’ll have him in the back-court as a press-breaker," Christner said. "He’s the only big guy I’ll let dribble up the floor. The rest, I’ve told to give it up."

Christner wants to play basketball in college, and has looked at several of Division III schools, such as Springfield College and the State University of New York College at Cortland. He also has looked at Skidmore College and schools in the Boston area.

The Blackbirds will have a couple of more scrimmages — including at Guilderland on Saturday — before they open the regular season.

Voorheesville will start the season on Dec. 4 with a league contest against Cobleskill-Richmondville.

One of the highlights of the regular season will be a trip out to Central New York for the Oneida Tournament in January.

"We’ll play East Syracuse-Minoa and Rome Free Academy," Catellier said. "It’ll be good to get out and see different parts of the state and let them see us. It’s a nice trip for the kids in January."

And another opportunity to prepare for a run at a sectional title.

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville girls’ basketball team has a new coach for the first time in almost 10 years.

The Robert Baron era begins this season, as the Lady Blackbirds look to return to small-school basketball prominence after two years of losing seasons.

"I’m pleased with the effort so far," Baron said. "We have 10 girls playing and it’s all new to them. This was our first scrimmage, and we got to work on the break, our man-to-man and zone offenses, and our man-to-man and zone defenses. We went up against an up tempo defense, and that was good for us."

The Lady Blackbirds scrimmaged against Berne-Knox-Westerlo last Thursday in their first competitive environment.

"It’s a traditional thing," Baron said. "It is a nice friendly rivalry when we get together. It’s hard to simulate game speed in practice. It’s good to get a scrimmage in so early to acclimate game speed."

Baron saw good things in the scrimmage.

"We played with effort and hustle," the coach said. "It was a much improved effort. We played at a very high speed. We pulled that off, and that helps you win. It all starts with effort, hustle, and desire."

Baron takes over the team after previous coach Jon McClement left to coach the varsity boys’ team at Albany High School. After public outcry both for and against Baron, a former school-board president, the board approved his appointment last month.

"Quite a blend"

He got to work quickly and picked a team that has a mix of players.

There are four seniors, three juniors, and three sophomores on the 10-player roster.

"It’s quite a blend," Baron said. "We have seniors that have game experience. But everything is new to them. We have 10 players that are doing something new together. They are becoming aware of everybody on the court and we are getting leadership from the seniors. The effort is there in what we need to put all things in."

The seniors on the team are Heather Bates, Courtney Bourque, Mary Kate Prendergast, and Brittany Vogel. The juniors are Casey Beccerra, Kelly Glath, and Sarah Goss. The sophomores are Brittney Creed, Elizabeth Madden, and Emily Norris.

After the first scrimmage, Baron said that the team had not sat down to go over the goals they want to meet this season. But he did say that he and all the girls on the team want to get better.

"The number-one goal is to improve," Baron said. "As far as team goals, we’ll do that together with the team. They have individual goals, and we’ll talk about them as a group. It is necessary that they all buy in. We want to improve the record and try and earn respect back in the league."

Return to glory"

Baron, a long-time Voorheesville resident, knows all about the Voorheesville mystique when it comes to girls’ basketball.

Baron’s daughter. Brittany, was a key member of Voorheesville’s state championship team in 2002, coached by McClement. Baron also has coached the St. Matthew’s Catholic Youth Organization team.

"The records the last year or two," Baron said, "I feel we lost respect among teams in the league. We want them to feel that you play Voorheesville, you’re in for a tough night. We want to get back to that and maintain it."

The players on the team are well aware of the past — eight consecutive sectional titles and nine in 10 years. But the last title came in Class B in 2004.

Baron knows he has to work with this team and not ones from the past.

"Everybody knows it’s there," he said. "In the early season practices, we are putting in things that go with what we got. We’ll have a good team defense. We have toughness and aggressiveness. We don’t want to put too much in now. We’ll put things in later in the season."

"Team concept"

Baron has a focus for his team right now before the first game on Dec. 3 against Cobleskill-Richmondville.

"I want them buying into the team concept," Baron said. "We’re going into the season as a team and give a total team effort. They are going to play together and play together as a team. We can play 10 deep and they all have opportunity to move up on the program."

Having younger players is nothing new for Voorheesville.

"In the history of the school," Baron said, "we’ve often played underclassmen. It’s not unusual at all."

After the first game against Cobleskill, the Birds will play the Academy of Holy Names on Dec. 7 and then play at the Albany High School tournament on Saturday and Sunday.

"I enjoy having a tournament early on," Baron said. "It’s a couple of games that we wouldn’t play in the Colonial Council. They’ll be good positioning for sectionals. And we’ll be a couple of games into the Colonial Council.’

By that time, Baron will know more about his team and the players will know more about him.

"Leaders will emerge," Baron said. "We’re asking kids to take leadership roles, and, if they do, it will be evident during the season."

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — There was no easing in for the Voorheesville girls’ volleyball team at the New York State tournament this weekend.

The Lady Blackbirds were thrust right into it as they made their first appearance at the state championships by facing two perennial powers at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday, losing to both.

The Blackbirds started their day by battling Westlake of Section I for a two-set match and then faced one of the top teams in the country — Eden of Section VI.

Voorheesville won its final match on Saturday with a two-game sweep of Center Moriches of Section XI, putting the Blackbirds third in the state in Class C.

"We are excited to go out on a winning note," said Voorheesville Coach Sandy Vorse. "That’s what we wanted to do. We were hoping to go to the finals. That was our goal, but we at least wanted to take one of the teams. We knew Eden and Westlake would be tough."

The Blackbirds saw Westlake at a tournament earlier in the year and Vorse was impressed by the program from downstate as well as by Eden from the Buffalo area.

"They both are strong programs with a lot of history," Vorse said. "We were the top scoring team against Eden. That was a nice match for us."

"A hard time"

Voorheesville lost in two games to Westlake, 25-15 and 25-12, as the Birds had trouble adjusting to the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Blackbirds could not string a series of points together against a good defensive team.

"We had trouble with the venue," Vorse said. "Most of the kids have never played in that type of facility. Initially, we struggled with our serve receive, which is usually our strongest skill. We had a hard time getting the ball to our hitters."

The match was familiar to Vorse, but, because of the format, with two games against each team, there is no room for error.

"It reminded me of the first two games against Hoosic Valley," Vorse said of the Section II Class CC/C contest on Nov. 6. "We lost the first two games, but came together to win. In this kind of tournament, it’s either make it or break it."

Next up was an even bigger challenge in Eden, which presented a couple of tall players who hit the ball hard. Eden won both games, 25-14 and 25-9.

"Eden is one of the only ranked teams in New York State," Vorse said. "They are very, very successful. Our goal was to try to keep up with them and not get totally dominated. We had a couple of good blocks against Heather [Henry], who is their best player. We tried to get them out of their system [on offense] a few times."

The Blackbirds actually had early leads against Eden but couldn’t sustain them against the talented Raiders, who swept Westlake to win the Class C tournament.

"A strong program"

After sitting for two matches, the Blackbirds closed out their tournament by winning two games against Center Moriches, 25-19 and 25-11.

"When I saw them play, I thought they were a team that we balanced out with," Vorse said. "They’ve been there a couple of times so they are a seasoned team. After seeing them, I knew we could take them. It’s too bad we played them last instead of first."

Vorse said that her players were excited about their finish, after the two tough matches. They ended the season as one of the top three teams in Class C in New York State.

"We knew that our cross-country team finished third," Vorse said of the boys’ finish at the state meet last weekend. "Our goal was to match them. The girls are excited about that, instead of losing all the matches. We’re a strong program, and we all worked so hard to do that well."

Vorse hopes that future players will look back at this team and try and match it.

"Hopefully, this will bring out more kids for volleyball and keep us competitive in volleyball," Vorse said.

Vorse will lose just three players to graduation, though they are three very important players — Taryn Smith, Kristen Lysenko, and Alyssa Cave. Cave and Lysenko turned down a class trip to Paris to play in the state tournament.

"They are three very strong leaders," Vorse said. "They did everything well. They are motivated, selfless, and giving, and had high expectations at the same time. I’m going to miss them.

"The program will miss them a lot," Vorse added. "I told them that I’m not done coaching and teaching them. They so invested their time, hopefully one of them will play in college."

Smith and Lysenko haven’t found the right match with college and volleyball, but neither is ready to make a college choice yet, Vorse said.

Vorse will have the rest of her team returning, and they garnered a lot of experience that will help them in the future.

Alissa Hatch, Kate Chiseri, Amanda O’Brien, Mollee Barone, Arielle Smith, Shayna Morse, Morgan Vandervort, and Seneca Gray will all return.

But the players weren’t ready to end this year.

"It was an amazing year," Vorse said. "We were able to stay together in the Lake George area. They really didn’t want to disperse the team. Rather than be sad, they were excited. They talked about how much they love each other, and everything they accomplished."

Bickel finished strong at states

GUILDERLAND — Guilderville swim team member Jenna Bickel competed in her first New York State meet last weekend on Long Island.

Bickel, an eighth-grader at Farnsworth Middle School, swam 1:01.96 in the preliminary round of the 100-yard backstroke. Her time did not allow her to advance to the championship or consolation finals.

Bickel did swim in the bonus heat for finals and swam a time of 1:01.22, which is a great time said Coach Brenna Autrey.

Bickel finished second in that heat and had the 13th fastest time overall for the event.

"I’m looking forward to four more years with her," Autrey said.

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