The standard is always set high for Hills West athletics. For the girls basketball team, they will look to build off of a promising 2017-2018 campaign. The season ended nearly ten months ago, with a tough 63-42 playoff defeat at Commack, and Hills West finished the season 11-10. The team will have to succeed this season after graduating many key players, including star senior Sam Hinke. Despite that, the Colts seem to be more than fine.
Hills West brings back a ton of talent this year, including a girl who is making her return to varsity basketball. Dani Alper returns to the hardwood for the first time since suiting up for the Colts in the 2016-2017 season. After taking a year off from the team, Alper returns to the Hills West program, which she first became a part of in 2014 as an eighth grader.
“I could not be more excited and motivated to bring it my all this year with this team,” said Alper of her return to the court. “I’m lucky to be playing my last year here with a group of girls and a coach that I know are just as ready as I am to take it all the way this season.”
The Colts, led by head coach Bryan Dugan, know they have all the pieces to make a run this year. “I expect our team this year to mark our place on High School West,” Alper said, “As a senior, my goal is to get up on the wall for Long Island champions before I leave. If we practice the way we play and keep bringing it our all, we have the potential to do it.”
At this point in the season, the Colts are 3-2, with a tough 50-45 loss to Whitman, a 57-24 drubbing of Patchogue-Medford, a close fought 37-34 loss to West Islip, and 2 impressive wins against Rocky Point and Kings Park, 53-22 and 48-38 respectively. Five games in, it’s clear to see who is starring for the Colts, who have all hands on deck. Junior sharpshooter and 3-point threat Emily Ross is averaging 10 points per game, while senior Kayla Robertson and junior Charlotte Anton are averaging 12.6 and 6.3 per game, respectively. Some other notable players thus far include Alexa Hinke, Carly Bloom, and Kristen Vaccarelli who have contributed as well.
It also cannot be understated how some girls have stepped in and contributed right away in light of the absence of other players. This includes freshman Reese Johnson, who did not log anything on the stat sheet in the season-opening loss. However, she played a much bigger role in the Colts’ first win of the season, scoring 8 points against Patchogue-Medford.
As of December 5th, Hills West began a 5-game stretch up until Christmas break. The remaining 2 games on the upcoming slate for the Colts will say a lot about their season moving forward, as winning at any level of basketball is no easy task. Those within the program, such as Alper, feel optimistic about the Colts’ chances, and time will hopefully tell the same as the season continues.
The wrestling team will look to improve on last season’s 6-9 record and they are determined to get back on track. The team lost some top wrestlers in Dylan Ryder, Tristian Delaney, and Anthony Dushaj who all won league championships last season.
With the loss of seven seniors, the team will rely on wrestlers Michael Stone and Yousef Harhash to lead the fight for Hills West. When asked about taking on a leadership role, Stone responded, “since we have a lot of new faces on the team this year, taking a role as a leader is important. Leading by example and showing the underclassmen the work that needs to be put in if they want to succeed is a huge part of how I intend to lead this year”.
A few other wrestlers to look out for this season include Brandon Waring and Kaleeb Barrett. Both guys will look to build off of their successes last season and get their games to the next level.
In total, the team consists of about 25 guys and only 2 girls and one of those girls is Nicole Kaplan. Nicole is excited about a fresh start with a new coaching staff and a new team mentality.
“I’m really excited for this year because we have new coaches and there are a ton more people. This year we’re going to work even harder and get everyone ready to compete instead of just the best guys.”
Coming off of their 12th straight County Championship, the combined district swim team will attempt to make it 13 as they splash into the 2018-2019 season.
Recent success for the Thundercolts has created an enormous amount of pressure on the group to keep the impressive streak alive. When talking to Alexander Steele, a member of the team, about the team’s main goal he responded, “the team’s main goal is for everybody to have a fun swimming experience and to succeed at reaching our time goals.
The team wishes to win another county championship and dive right into states this year and Steele believes it is possible, “The team looks promising with young, talented athletes who are training in double practices every day.”
The boys on the swimming team have worked hard in the preseason and are ready to win another championship for the district.
The boys basketball team is ready to compete for a championship yet again. Last season, the boys finished with a 15-6 record, but with the whole starting lineup off to college, it might be difficult for the Colts to make up for the lost talent. Last year’s starting 5 consisted of Spencer Weingard, Jeff Terry, Max Rogowski, Greg Gurin, and Derek Brower Jr. and with all of them not returning this season, other guys will be forced to fill their shoes.
Jamaur Williamson, a 6’7” senior center, said, “the loss of the seniors was tough since we basically lost all of our starters and a majority of the rotation off the bench, but this forces new players to take over bigger roles”.
Although the team has lost a great deal of talent, “everyone has improved from last year, and we have a lot of players coming back from injury,” said Williamson. As the early season practices charged on, players emerged as weapons on the team. “A player who has stood out is Benny Nacht,” Williamson said. The outstanding soccer goalie “has been absent from school basketball for a couple of years, but he has made a seamless transition back. He brings a lot of energy to the team and I feel he will be a valuable asset to have.”
The Colts also have a few members who were held out of last years play due to injuries, such as Bryce Bland who tore his ACL and Colby Jordan, the brother of Syracuse football star Cam Jordan, who hurt his elbow. Both guys are back and playing “like they never left” and they are very important pieces to the team. Some other notable players include Jaylen Seay, Bryce Bland, Jordan Rader, Cedrick Gordon, Ryan Turner, and Jelani Billett who have all contributed in the early part of the season. These players will continue to look to make an impact in the starting lineup and off of the bench.
This season coach Atkinson has implemented a focus on hustle, effort, and energy. The team’s goal is to “hustle and outwork the other team” every game.
“We focus on giving a lot of effort and leaving it all out on the court, so I’d say showing effort is a major goal,” Jamuar preached after he was asked about the team’s main goal. One positive for the Colts going into the season is that they moved down a division because of the drop in enrollment at West, from AA to A, so they will match up against teams they have never played before. As the future is uncertain, the boys will continue to “control what they can one day at a time” by following their season motto, “control today.”
To this point, the Colts are 4-1 in their first 5 games and have 2 more games to play before the winter break. They play host to West Babylon on Tuesday 12/18 and play at Eastport-South Manor on Friday 12/21.
The boys fencing team has one goal this year: win a championship. The Hills West and East joint-team had a successful 2017-18 season and will look to continue their winning ways.
When asked about the relationships he has made, junior fencer Poojan Pandya said, “having the East kids is really cool. They are great people and people I would never have met otherwise. The fencing team is an amazing community. I met my best friend and so many of my closest friends through fencing. I think it’s really one of the most tight-knit teams in the school. I highly recommend that everyone join the fencing team!” Usually, the rivalry between West and East is intense, but on this team, the schools have bonded together as one to accomplish the main goal.
Some fencers to pay attention to this season include seniors Steven Secreti, Frank Caputo, and Jake Kenny as they look to lead the boy’s team alongside Poojan this season.
Julia Jassey, Head Girls Captain and one of the sabre captains, believes the team can surpass the success they had last year.
“Our sabre girls, specifically, were one of the strongest squads in the league (in fencing there are three weapons — sabre, foil, and epee — which compete only against other fencers of the same weapon), so I think that we can continue that positive trajectory this year. I’m super excited for this season”.
The team is filled with youth, including a few middle-schoolers that will look to learn from the upperclassmen leadership and make an impact as well. When asked about taking on a leadership role Jassey responded, “A lot of the fencers on the team are either middle schoolers or underclassmen, so I really try to lead by example and motivate the girls to have confidence in themselves. When I was a freshman we had really strong captains like Crystal Chen, so I always try to emulate them as a captain. Our team is a family to me, and I’m so proud of all of the girls.”
The team will also introduce a new girls coach to the equation as Amanda Lewis, a 2014 Hills West graduate, will take over the reins and lead the girls this year. “She really understands us as athletes and individuals. We are really excited to be Coach Lewis’ first team, and she expects a lot of us. The goal for this season is really to come together as a united team and to fence with passion and heart,” said Jassey.
With new leadership and a want to win amongst this group, they believe that they, “definitely have the potential to win the County or Long Island Champship, and think that the sabre squad is definitely a favorite to win the Huntington Relay tournament.”