Behind every championship trophy or national competition, behind all the winning headlines and first-place accolades, there are dedicated coaches that hold teams together from practice to the big game. We’ve picked 12 of the best coaches of the past year, from high school sports teams to youth recreation leagues. Get ready to meet the faces behind your favorite local teams and fixtures in our recurring stars pages—plus a few new names that caught our eye.
Jim Balzan, Mike Carvin, Dan Dengler and Spence Epstein (pictured)
It’s not always easy to gain recognition for elementary school-aged teams, but Medford’s 10u baseball team, lead by Balzan, Carvin, Epstein and Dengler, earned headlines when they captured the southern New Jersey Cal Ripken championship and advanced to the mid-Atlantic regional tournament. This is the third straight year the Medford squad has advanced to regional play. They won as 8-year-olds and again last year as 9-year-olds, also winning the regional title the previous year. Medford wrapped up the title with an impressive 8-0 win over Bayshore and then triumphed over Mount Laurel in the final, with a score of 7-0.
The 14u Marlton thunder red travel softball team, trained by lynch and two assistant coaches, made it all the way to the 2011 United States specialty sports association world series in Orlando, Fla., where they competed against some of the best softball players in the nation. At the tournament in August, the 13-year-old players also got to meet with a gold medal-winning Olympian, softball pitcher Cat Osterman, to talk strategy and sports advice.
Carusi middle school’s Lady Mustangs, led by head coach Hanna, won the South Jersey middle school softball league championship last June for the fourth consecutive year. The team finished with an excellent record of 11-1.
Eastern’s field hockey program has seen 13 successful years under Heilig. The Vikings are recognized nationally for their unbeatable game, as demonstrated in their 2011-2012 season, when they went undefeated with a 27-0 record and beat West Essex to claim the school’s 13th consecutive state title. To sweeten the season further, Heilig reached a personal milestone of 300 wins, an accomplishment only few can claim. The Vikings’ coach also has eight undefeated seasons and a national scholastic coach of the decade achievement under her belt.
Last August, Furman’s Marlton Chiefs baseball tournament team won two championships in one week. The 7-year-old players beat Marlton’s other 7-year-old tourney team in the Bob Didonata Glendora little league tournament, then conquered Washington Township’s team in the Medford Killer B tournament.
Cross country coach Ricci’s positive influence has not gone unnoticed—so much so that more than 25 people nominated him for our coaches of the year awards. Ricci, who serves as head coach for the mount laurel striders, is involved in the mount laurel municipal alliance and the big brothers big sisters, in addition to organizing Laurel Acres day. Last year, Ricci coordinated a 59-mile river to shore run to benefit big brothers big sisters of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, a relay consisting of youth runners pairing up with adults for three-mile stretches.
Stockl has set a standard with the Minutemaids girls’ lacrosse program. Among her resume of accolades, titles and championships, Stockl can boast five Olympic Conference championships, Group IV titles in 2009 and 2011, and a spot in the New Jersey Lacrosse Foundation Hall of Fame. But now she’s been named the state’s 2011-2012 coach of the year by the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association and was chosen out of coaches from eight states as the 2011-2012 Northeast Section Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High Schools Coaches Association.
After more than a decade with Haddonfield Memorial, the varsity boys’ soccer head coach won his 600th personal coaching victory in a game against Sterling high school on October 5. Falana is one of just six coaches in South Jersey to achieve this milestone.
Girls’ lacrosse at Moorestown high school is nationally ranked, feared and equally respected. The team has seen an unprecedented 20 years of success under Knobloch, with 10 straight Group III state titles and a 228-game streak. Knobloch boasts a spot in the New Jersey chapter of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame and vice presidency of the Lacrosse Club of Southern New Jersey. Additionally, she is the coach and director of South Jersey select, a travel lacrosse club. Knobloch’s career record is an impressive 335-22-4; she reached her 300th win last May.
The Moorestown 8u district recreation baseball team won the Cal Ripken South Jersey Championship for players ages 8 and younger, held in Hamilton, after beating Marlton 9-6. Coach Gerber’s team of elementary school-aged athletes went undefeated for 20 straight games, advancing to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals in Great Kills, N.Y. in August.
The Lenape girls’ soccer coach was honored late last spring as ESPN’s National Girls’ Soccer Coach of the Year. The team secured its fifth straight title, a season record of 24-2-1, and a shut-out effort in the Group IV state championship versus opponent Basking Ridge.
Earning 300 career wins is no easy feat. But it’s even more impressive when that record stretches over a career of 18 years at one local school. Cherry Hill East boys’ volleyball coach Moehlmann surged ahead to claim this achievement in May, quicker than any South Jersey team has previously, and was the first coach in the Olympic Conference to reach this milestone.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 12 (February, 2012).
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