HAMMONTON The Hammonton High School field hockey team will be hard-pressed to match last year’s success, but Rosie Santiago’s squads seem to always be near the top of the standings.
The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams have a host of returning players, which could mean more wins ahead. That certainly is the case for the boys’ cross country squad, which returns everybody from 2014. The girls’ cross country team may surprise some teams this year while the girls’ tennis team is in rebuild mode with a new coach.
The following is a look at all the Hammonton fall athletic teams:
The Blue Devils were a win short of .500 last season, but believe they can be on the winning side this year.
“We have high expectations for ourselves,” Hammonton coach David Thompson explained. “Coaches have high expectations because we are not having to deal with the transition from JV to varsity. We also have some young players come into the program this year who are surprising us.”
The Blue Devils strength lies in their defense, but expect to be a more balanced team as the season progresses.
Some of the players back on defense are seniors Vinny Maimone, Tyler Oster and Vinny Piccari. Juniors Matt Norcross and sophomore Logan Stafford are also expected to bolster the defense. The defense will be playing in front of either junior keeper Josh Donovan or freshman Devin Piro.
Senior Jose Contes returns to the midfield along with senior Vinny Mocarski, who missed most of last season with an injury. Senior Jared Yamada and junior Zack Piro will be asked to find the back of the net as forwards.
“We have quite a bit of experience in the back so I hope to be able to stop a lot of teams defensively,” Thompson said. “But we are trying some things offensively to try to generate some offense. Hopefully we can score some more goals this year.”
The Blue Devils struggled in their first Tri-County Conference season with five wins, but they are looking to make major progress this season with 17 returning letterwinners.
Having so many returners only helps the Blue Devils with cohesiveness. Hammonton coach Krista Verzi has already seen an improvement during summer practices.
“I think the girls are used to playing with each other,” Verzi said. “I think a lot of the girls got a lot of varsity time last year because of some injuries so they don’t have to get adjusted to the varsity level. They are ready to go.”
Among the key players back is senior sweeper Elizabeth Thackston, who led the team in scoring in 2014. Junior Gabby Tancredi returns to give the Blue Devils an experienced 1-2 scoring punch.
Senior Marissa DelTufo and junior Madison Chiola give Hammonton a talented and experienced duo in the midfield. On defense, junior Breanna Oltman is a stalwart defender on the back line.
Oltman, along with Thackston, stands out on defense, which only helps keepers McKenna Forry and Alexa Gardner.
The Blue Devils would love to continue its success from a year ago when it cruised through the regular season undefeated, and continued their winning ways into the Group III South final. However, Hammonton lost to state power Ocean City in the championship game. It was the second consecutive season the Red Raiders ended Hammonton’s season.
If the Blue Devils want to regain their form, they will have to find a way to make up for several key losses, including Jane Donio-Enscoe, who graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and playmaker Raelynn Genovese.
“I know that the teams will be giving 110 percent when we play them this year,” said Hammonton coach Rosie Santiago in an e-mail. “Our team is going to be young this year with a lot of girls that haven’t had varsity experience yet, and we are working to fill some big shoes that we lost this season and find the perfect combination to work together.”
Among girls returning are senior back Brooke Beebe, junior midfielder Ashley Renere, who both made the conference All-Star Second Team last year.
The Blue Devils will also have standout senior goalie Madison Mathes in the fold along with senior back Sierra Scola and senior forward Giana Mortellite, who will have more opportunities to score this year. Sophomore Paige Beaudry, a versatile defensive player, picked up valuable minutes in 2014.
Boys’ cross country
The Blue Devils are thinking big and have every reason to be optimistic.
Hammonton’s Top 7 from a year ago is back, including seniors Joe Dougherty and James Brady. Dougherty may be the No. 1 runner so far, but Brady is close on his heels, giving the Blue Devils two elite runners.
What gives the Blue Devils potential to contend is a strong second pack led by sophomore Shawn DiBona, and juniors Phil Iuliucci and Jordan Ciocco. Junior Jeff Bailey and senior Dalton Attanasi round out the Top 7.
With so much experience and talent back, the Blue Devils expect to be above .500 in the conference, and make their mark in big meets.
“First is to try to contend for the Atlantic County title, which we run at (Hammonton Lake Park) in late October. We have been close a couple times since I’ve been here, but we have never been able to bring it home,” coach Dave Majofsky said. “I think we can contend, and at least be in the mix. Then we are looking to improve on our place in the Tri-County Conference meet where we were 10th overall last year. Obviously our big goal is to improve our standings at the sectional meet. We got sixth last year and just missed going to states.”
Girls’ cross country
When first accessing the upcoming season, Hammonton coach Michelle Woloski thought it was going to be a rebuilding year.
After all, she lost half her squad to graduation including standouts Jen Plummer and Brianni Martinez. However, the current crop of runners and their dedication to the sport has made the Blue Devils coach reconsider.
“The girls ran over the summer and I’m pleasantly surprised how well things are going so far,” Wolosky said. “I think we can continue going off what we did last year even with losing people.”
Sophomore Diane Hoffman is currently the team’s top runner with fellow returners junior Marina Elias, junior Megan McFerren and sophomore Riley Patterson not far behind.
“As of now, (Diane) is clear No.1. She has been leading all our workouts,” Wolosky said. “The three girls behind her are not that far behind. They all improved drastically. Diane as well. They all have improved drastically from last year.”
Adding to the coach’s optimism is newcomer and senior Isabella Massey, who is coming out for the team for the first time after playing soccer in past years. Massey is already keeping up with the lead pack.
Like Massey, senior Maria Mattioli and sophomore Brittany Oehler also played other sports before settling for cross country this season. The newcomers round out the Top 7.
Rachel Scutti is now the head coach and her team has quite a few new faces in the lineup. Despite a lineup featuring several underclassmen, Scutti is optimistic about this season and beyond.
As of publication, the top spot belongs to junior Kayla Lisek, who played No. 2 last year. Freshmen Kara Samuel and Julia Harrington are at second and third singles, respectively. Samuel could challenge for the top of the ladder.
Sophomore Hannah Cohen returns at first singles with junior Alexandra Guillot as her new partner. Sophomore Sara Richardson and junior Julia Clancy are slated for second doubles.
Despite the new faces, Scutti believes the overall strength of the team is improved.
“We have a lot of new players and they have experience because they have been playing since they were younger. I think it’s going to be a good year,” Scutti said.
She added: “I think (the returners) are getting better because the new players are playing well. So they are getting better with the challenges. They are loving it.”
Scutti wanted a new attitude for the program, which won just four times a year ago. So far, the players are following her lead.
“What matters most is that they are improving and we are improving as a team,” she said. “I want us to demonstrate leadership to one another and not be ego-centric, and caring about the team as a whole. We want more wins, but also helping each other out.”