Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hornets Nest for December

A look at the Kirtland Hornets winter sports seasons.

Hornets projected to win the CVC

The Kirtland Hornets open the 2017-2018 with a giant target on their backs after the league coaches picked them to win the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title this season.

Kirtland finished one game behind Cuyahoga Heights for the league championship last winter and returns six starters from the squad that won 18 games last year.

“We’re off to a little slow start because the soccer team had such great success,” said Kirtland coach Bob Bell. “Several of our starters, Jenna Sayle, Lauren Lutz and Katie McCollister, have only had three actual practices. We’ve had a couple of scrimmage games but we’re still trying to find our timing and so forth. Once it comes together I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”

McCollister suffered an ACL injury last winter, which forced Julia Camino into the starting lineup. Both return this winter, along with leading scorer Sydney Snyder, who averaged 19.4 points per game last year. Lauren Snyder, Lauren Lutz and Sayle round out the projected starting lineup.

Sydney Snyder, a Baldwin Wallace commitment, will be a handful for any team in the league to contend with.

“She brings all of her experience and an incredibly good attitude,” Bell said. “Her work ethic is as good as it can get. She’s 100-percent business on the basketball court. She leads by example. I hope she brings that 20-plus point average to each game. That’s what we’re hoping for her and her rebounding too. She was also our leader in steals with over four per game. She’s a good player and captain.”

Sayle averaged 11.2 points per game while Lauren Snyder dropped 6.5. Lutz pulled down 7.5 rebounds per contest last winter.

Kirtland’s bench will provide quality depth for the Hornets.

Riley McCrory, Amber Yurick, Haleigh Getchell, Leah LaVerde, Haley Coso, Morgan Carpenter and Brandi Martz all play aggressively on defense and can step in at any time.

“It’s nice to have Riley and all the other girls as backups,” Bell said. “Amber Yurick is a bull in a China shop; she gets it done. She’s a very aggressive kid. Leah LaVerde is out with an injury, but she’s a solid player, and Amber Yurick should impact theh varsity. She’s probably only about 5-foot-6 but she’s very athletic and a good defensive player. She blended well with the varsity girls over the summer. Haley Coso can help us too.”

At 6-foot, Carpenter brings a bit of size to the Hornets but she’s learning on the fly and Martz could make an impact in the paint.

“Brandi Martz is a post player,” Bell said. “She can definitely go in there and spell Lutz some and Jenna once in a while. She’ll get some JV time too, like a lot of the other kids, but she’s a strong kid that can help us defensively and rebounding.”

Kirtland opened the season with a 60-26 win over Riverside on Saturday.

BOYS HOOPS

Kirtland’s boys’ team returns three starters from the team that finished 11-12 last winter but head coach Nick Gallo is going to have to wait a bit longer before he gets a look at how his players developed during the offseason.

With the Hornets playing in the Division VI state championship football game on Dec. 2, Gallo has been without four of his projected starters during the preseason.

He is fortunate to have a solid core of returning players and a good understanding of what to expect when the Hornets hit the floor.

“This will be a very scrappy, tough-nosed team with skill at every position,” Gallo said. “The team will look to get better every day and know that the season is a marathon. Hopefully we’ll be playing good basketball by late January.”

Seniors Brandon Samsa and Dylan Fulco and juniors Dominic Capretta and Jack Bailey are expected to fill four of the starting spots. The other is up for grabs.

Samsa, a guard/forward, averaged 13.1 points, 2 assists and 3 rebounds per game last winter, while Fulco, a forward, knocked down five points and pulled down four boards per contest.

“Brandon is primed for an outstanding season. He can guard 1-4, and has one of the best jump shots in the league,” Gallo said. “Dylan’s leadership qualities translate from the football field right to basketball. Dylan’s length and athleticism allows him to guard multiple positions.”

Capretta, a point guard, earned honorable mention all-league honors last winter after averaging 5.6 points, 2.5 assists and 3 rebounds per game. Bailey, a forward, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds per contest.

“Dominic is a gamer. We will look for him to be more and more of a floor general this upcoming season,” Gallo said. “Jack will be a load in the interior. His ability to rebound and also the ability to step out and hit outside shots allows him to a dynamic player.”

Juniors Sean McGill and Adam Mueller also will be counted on to make an impact for the Hornets this season.

Wrestlers eager to compete

The numbers are up and so are the expectations surrounding the Kirtland wrestling program.

Head coach Scott Francis won’t have an exact count of how many wrestlers he’ll suit up until the conclusion of the football season, but the outlook is promising.

“You can never tell with football still going on, but we’re looking at having all the guys wrestled last year that could be back are back and we added in a few more. We should be around 16 or 17 this year.”

The Hornets will fill nearly all of the 14 weight classes, with a few wrestlers to spare.

“We’re awfully close to full but we’re having a hard time finding someone to wrestle 113,” Francis said. “The light guys don’t like to wrestle. They figure they’re undersized, but those weight classes take care of that. This is the sport for them. If a kid that is smaller but a good athlete, he can come out and shine.”

Junior Konnor Duncan (120), sophomore Brayden Adkins (145) and senior Kevin Dages (182) all had solid seasons last winter and are expected again to push their way through the postseason tournaments.

Duncan suffered an injury that kept him out of the postseason while Hepper and Dages both advanced to the district tournament.

“Konnor was injured the week of sectionals last year but he would have made it out. I’m looking forward to having him back in the lineup to see what he can do in sectionals and districts this year,” Francis said. “Hepper was kind of our dark horse last year. He made it to districts and got really excited about it. That’s what we like to see. He stepped it up toward the end of the year and took it more seriously. He saw how well he could do. I’m excited to see him improve upon that this year.”

Dages wrestled in high school for the first time last season after having success in middle school.

“That was a good learning situation for him,” Francis said. “He did really well in junior high and he was expecting to step in and go from there. He did a lot of learning and he’s eager to get going. I’m really interested to see what he can do. He has a lot of potential.”

Sophomore Carter Williamson (106), freshman Kelly Faber (126), sophomore Ethan Thomas (132), junior Nathan Cardon (138), sophomore Brayden Adkins (145), freshman Aidan Marsh (145), sophomore Anthony Blasini (152), sophomore George Shuppe (16), sophomore Will Robertson (170), senior Austin Mayo (195), junior Spencer McClelland (195), sophomore Jeff Kusar (220), junior Noah Grassie (220), junior Khalid Alabsi (285) and senior Mickey Tutolo (285) round out the projected roster.

“We have enough kids,” Francis said. “It’s just hard to get them spread out where we need them. We’re bunched up a little bit.”

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STEVE HARE/OHIOVARSITY.COM

Katie McCollister is healthy for the Hornets, who are favored to the CVC Valley.

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