Spring Sports Preview

photo+courtesy+of+the+Pioneer+staff

photo courtesy of the Pioneer staff

Holden Foreman, sports writer

Golf

Varsity boys golf enters the season with high hopes, returning three of the top four golfers from last season. Coach BJ Kenyon is in his 22nd year coaching and is optimistic about the direction the team is headed after a 9-1 record last year. Despite the departure of JV coach Shawn Owens and state qualifier Ryan Rawlings, Kenyon sees the team as better than ever thanks to the additions of new JV coach Jeff Gutjahr and freshman Carson Postal.

“We have some kids rising up from JV that can fit in the five and six slots.  If they can do even better, great, we’ll take that,” Kenyon said.

Overall, Kenyon thinks the team is up to the challenge of competing in what he sees as the hardest districts and sectionals in the state. Now, he said, it is up to the players.

 

Girls Lacrosse

Varsity girls lacrosse starts the season with new coach Patty Dryer, who moved up from JV, looking to improve upon last year’s season.

“The girls are showing their commitment to the team, and it looks like they’ve done a lot of offseason work,” Dryer said. “That’s going to help us a ton during the season.”

Dryer believes the team is always improving, and this season should be no exception. As long as the players stay determined she sees them competing at a high level.

“A lot of people think it can be pretty easy, but it takes a lot of focus and learning the right technique,” Dryer said.

She hopes all of the girls, both new and returning, will use that technique to propel themselves to the varsity level and a successful season.

 

Boys Lacrosse

Giovanni Najarro, boys lacrosse head coach, enters his third season with a lot of praise for his team.

“This is the best lacrosse IQ team I’ve had,” Najarro said.

He said he expects players from multiple grade levels to have a large impact on the field, but in order to improve upon last season’s 4-9 record they must be on top of their game. This holds especially true for the offense, Najarro said, since it will be relied on heavily this season.

“There are three aspects to the game,” Najarro said.  “They are being fit, dedicated and having the IQ of lacrosse.”

Najarro said even as a coach he is always learning more about the game, and he knows more than ever heading into his third year.

“There isn’t a season that you don’t have to prepare,” Najarro said.

He hopes both his players and the fans at Kirkwood are prepared to kick off a great season at the home opener March 11.

 

Ultimate Frisbee

There are three tiers in St. Louis’s 24-team ultimate frisbee league, and this year’s KHS varsity team advances from the second to first tier to face new competition after going 8-0 last season. Assistant coach Rich Finley says the game provides a chance for both boys and girls to not only compete but find a hobby they are passionate for.

“It isn’t a mainstream sport,” Finley admitted. “It’s an alternative for those who aren’t into [other sports], but it’s a growing sport.”

This year KHS aims to field a varsity, JV and women’s team, and Finley said there is a place for everyone between the three teams. According to him, ultimate stands out from other spring sports.

“There’s a lot of running involved, but with the disc there’s a lot of things you can make it do that in other sports you can’t,” Finley said.

 

Baseball

A wave of JV players are making their way to KHS’s varsity baseball squad this season, and JV coach David Drury sees promise in his former players. In the last two years the current junior class has won 30 games, and Drury expects this success to continue onto the varsity playing field.

“I told them after their freshman year, ‘What did you guys do?’ and they won.  Sophomore year I said, ‘What do I expect you guys to do? Win,’ so junior year what do I expect them to do?” Drury asked. “I expect them to win.”

There is also no shortage of senior leadership on the team with numerous varsity starters returning for their final year. Drury thinks these veterans will educate the younger players playing varsity ball for the first time.

“It’s going to be young team that should be exciting to watch this year and then build on their senior year,” Drury said.

Besides their success in the games, however, the baseball team will give fans a play-by-play on the construction of the Walker Natatorium, which is being built behind center field.

 

Boys Tennis

Varsity tennis coach Nick Jannett is preparing for what he thinks will be an even better season than the last, and a combination of strong sophomore and senior players, according to him, are responsible for his confidence. Sophomore Takai Gilliam and his brother Kylel, senior, prove this depth since Jannett sees them both as key performers this year.

“I’m excited to see them play together on the same team because this is their first time,” Jannett said.

Jannett named many other standouts, and he is very excited for the team’s future.  He also feels he has an important role in helping them achieve their goals for this season and beyond.

“There’s minimal coaching as far as me being able to talk to the kids during the middle of points, but what I do say makes a difference,” Jannett said.

Jannett believes it all comes down to each player’s ability to stay determined throughout each game.

“It’s a really mentally tough sport for the kids because when you’re out there it’s you versus another player,” Jannett said. “Usually [the winner] is whoever can focus, play the hardest and want it more each and every point.”

 

Girls Soccer

After a year where six freshmen found their place on the varsity soccer team, head coach Philip Cotta believes the youth of his team will make for a season of growth. Injury, however, has taken its toll on a number of the team’s offensive players, and Cotta said the girls will need to step up to fill the holes that have been created.

“Quite a few of the players we were counting on to be big contributors this year have gotten hurt and injured to the point where they aren’t going to be able to play all season,” Cotta said.

On defense, Cotta is confident about the team’s ability to succeed but said there will always be ways for the team to improve, which is what he wants the most.  One part of the team he said is not quite put together yet is the midfield, and according to Cotta there will be some experimenting with which players to plug into those spots.

“We should be a solid team,” Cotta said. “It’s just finding where our goal scoring comes from, and we’re looking for more people to contribute on that.”

 

Track and Field

With an estimated total of about 130 athletes this year, KHS track and field is set for a fresh start. Most of the team’s top performers from last year have graduated, but head coach Roberta McWoods does not think this will be an issue heading into a new season.

“I live one year at a time for track and field,” McWoods said.  “Every year is different.”

McWoods said the girls will have plenty of senior leadership, but some underclassmen boys will need to step up. Although, she emphasized the speed at which things can change for a track team.

“Injuries are always a thing you have to watch,” McWoods said. “My expectation is that I’m starting at ground zero even if everybody came back.”

Regardless, McWoods sees no shortage of potential in the large team, and she thinks everyone will have an opportunity to contribute.

“We don’t cut anybody, which means that we can accept a large group of people as long as you have a great attitude, you work hard and try,” McWoods said. “From there we can mold people mentally and physically.”

 

Water Polo

Varsity water polo has only seven players entering this season, but head coach Colleen Lischwe would not have it any other way.

“I’m really looking forward to starting a new program with new coaching staff and building a team from basically the ground up considering we have so few players,” Lischwe said.  “We can kind of do whatever we want.”

Although they are one of the smallest teams of all the spring sports, Lischwe thinks they possess quality over quantity.

“Our entire varsity team played club together, so it will be really exciting to see them play together as a Kikwood team,” Lischwe said.

 

Boys Volleyball

After a losing season last year Keith Touzinsky said the boys volleyball team is ready for a much better showing this time around.

“We have a lot of height and a lot of athleticism,” Touzinsky said.  “There’s gonna be a lot of pressure on the players to play to their potential, but I think we are going to do really well.”

Overall, Touzinsky thinks the mental aspect is what makes volleyball so difficult.  Still, when KHS plays Marquette in the home opener March 30 Touzinsky said he will be confident in his team.

“It’s going to be a tough one to start off the bat, but every game is important,” Touzinsky said.

According to him, boys volleyball itself is becoming more popular, and the atmosphere should be better for fans and players this season.

“We are going to do some fun stuff this year and make sure we put a good product on the court,” Touzinsky said.