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Spring in Their Steps

by Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci
Two Teams Set The Tone For Spring Sports Season

Besides concentrating on the competition of their designated sports, our spring athletes and coaches have to contend with a list of end-of-the-year high school traditions, like senior trip, prom and graduation. So, along with diagramming the X’s and O’s to beat the opponent, a coach has to guard his or her team from the temptation of senioritis, especially as the weather breaks.

Yet, as proven countless times, the coaches in the area have done an excellent job keeping the student athletes focused on the competition. It’s why so many spring sports teams in the recent past have not only dominated in South Jersey, but earned a national reputation.

Such is the case once again as we here at Suburban Family magazine round up our list of the top local schools in our High School Spring Sports Preview.

There are nine different sports offered by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) during the spring. Many schools field eight and some have all nine. (Not all offer volleyball). For preview purposes, Suburban Family is featuring 15 South Jersey schools spanning three counties: Bishop Eustace, Camden Catholic, Cherokee, Cherry Hill East, Cherry Hill West, Eastern, Gloucester Catholic, Haddonfield, Lenape, Moorestown, Moorestown Friends, Paul VI, Seneca, Shawnee and Washington Township.

Two teams that come to mind, which have a far-reaching reputation and figure to contend for a spot in the national rankings this spring, are Gloucester Catholic’s baseball team and the girls’ lacrosse squad of Moorestown.

Gloucester Catholic was the consensus South Jersey No. 1 team last year after going 31-2 and earning its second consecutive state Non-Public B title. The Rams have now won 15 state titles since the advent of NJSIAA state championships in 1971, more titles than any other team in the state.

Gloucester Catholic also finished as the No. 8 team in the nation in the final ESPN Rise Powerade Fab 50 rankings.

The lofty expectations should continue. While the Rams will miss left-hander Cody Brown, who was the consensus South Jersey Player of the Year after going 12-0 as a senior, Gloucester Catholic should still earn its share of national attention.

The Rams already have five seniors who have made Division I commitments, and another player, senior catcher-outfielder Elliott McCummings (pictured), is another prospect. Currently, McCummings hasn’t decided whether he will play college football, baseball or both.

McCummings, also a wide receiver prospect, hit .435 with nine doubles, two home runs and 30 RBIs last year. There is a chance he could be selected in the upcoming Major League draft.

McCummings enjoyed a strong summer helping Brooklawn’s Senior American Legion team reach the national World Series. The Brooklawn team consisted of a majority of players on this Gloucester Catholic team.

So the Rams, whose top pitcher is junior right-hander Mike Shawaryn, should continue to enjoy a high national profile.

Some coaches don’t like the attention and pressure a national ranking brings, but not Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth, who has guided his alma mater to a 457-100-2 record.

“You can’t control the rankings, but it is good for the program,” Barth says. “Most of all, I like playing nationally ranked teams.”

In last year’s final computer rankings, Moorestown’s girls’ lacrosse team finished 18th in the country after going 22-4, winning the state Group 3 championship and advancing to the Tournament of Champions final before losing 10-9 to Group 4 state champion Ridgewood.

Moorestown has nine seniors who have made college lacrosse commitments, led by All-American Stephanie Toy, a Notre Dame recruit.

So the expectations remain high for a Moorestown program that won 10 consecutive Tournament of Champions titles from 2000-2009 and is coming off last season’s state Group 3 title.

“Our No. 1 goal this and every year is to win the Tournament of Champions and go undefeated against a difficult schedule,” says coach Deanna Knobloch.

That is a difficult goal, even for Moorestown, because the Quakers play an ambitious schedule that always includes national powers.

Knobloch, like Barth, will go down as one of South Jersey’s top coaches, regardless of sport. Her career record stands at 399-29-4. Also like Barth, she doesn’t worry much about the national rankings, but understands they are a byproduct of the program’s consistent dominance.

Other teams this spring will certainly flourish, but Gloucester Catholic baseball and Moorestown girls’ lacrosse have set the bar high. Still, don’t be surprised if others in South Jersey follow that lead.

Photo (Marc Narducci): Elliot McCummings battling for Brooklawn American Legion.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family’s High School Spring Sports Preview, January, 2012.
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