(Sept. 10, 2021) The Worcester Prep fall sports teams have returned to the field and court and the athletes are ready to kick off the 2021 season.
“It’s going great. It’s been a great preseason,” said Worcester Prep Athletic Director Matt McGinnis. “Participation numbers are strong and everyone’s excited. Everyone’s fired up for another championship-caliber season. We have the potential to be in the top of the conference in a lot of sports. Were hoping to bring home some championships again.”
Because of covid, the 2020 season was shorter than normal with teams playing less matches and only competing against conference opponents.
Everyone’s really pumped up, especially the senior class. They’ve watched two senior classes have things taken away or paused because of covid. We’re hoping to be back to normal,” McGinnis said.
There are a number of protocols and guidelines in place to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Athletes do not have to wear a mask while playing an outdoor sport, but face coverings are required inside a school unless they are actively participating in a contest or game. Coaches and athletes on the sideline/bench must wear a face covering while indoors as well.
In addition, masks are not required for spectators of outdoor sports. They are required for those viewing sports indoors. Social distancing is also encouraged.
“We’re taking it one day at a time and following what the school task force has put together,” McGinnis said. “We’re asking coaches to be mindful, to let’s keep things moving forward and to take preventative measures so we don’t have to hit the pause button.”
The golf team began practices on Aug. 24. The squad got five holes in during its first match of the season on Wednesday, but play was halted because of thunder, lightning and rain.
There are 14 players in the varsity/JV program. Seven of the golfers are veterans and the other half are new to the program, including five freshmen.
“We’re a young team, obviously, but we’ve got a very good team, very experienced players, and they’re focused. It’s one of the better teams we’ve ever had,” said Prep Coach Don McMullen. “We have players consistently shooting the 30s … this is my fifth year coaching and the coaches looked at each other and we said talent-wise, this could be the best team we’ve had.”
The 2020 team went undefeated during the regular season and won the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference championship.
McMullen expects the Prep squad to be very competitive this year.
“When you have players shooting in the 30s and 40s, you can compete with anybody. We’re hoping to repeat as champions and set some scoring records,” McMullen said. “I’m very pleased with the showing so far and the outstanding attitudes. They’re enjoying themselves and having fun.”
Leading the group this season is senior captain Riley Schoch, a four-year member of the team, who’s “gotten better each year,” McMullen said.
“He’s doing an excellent job. He’s an excellent leader,” he continued. “He’s a great young man and the other players look up to him.”
Worcester’s next match is Thursday, Sept. 16, at 3:30 p.m. at Nutters Crossing in Berlin.
The cross country team, under the direction of new head coach, John Zirckel, was scheduled to compete in its first match of the season, the Rumble in the Jungle, in Cambridge, yesterday, Thursday.
Practices kicked off on Aug. 23, and there are 15 boys and four girls participating in cross country this season. A majority of the boys – about 10 or 11 – and two of the girls ran last year.
“So far [it’s going] slow and steady. We have a wide range of runners as far as abilities,” Zirckel said. “We’re working on conditioning and getting their mileage up, building them up without hurting them.”
Zirckel, who has been coaching cross country and track since 1980, was at Selbyville Middle School before taking over the Worcester Prep program.
“I think we have potential, the whole team,” Zirckel said.
Junior Caitlyn Hoen is back and will lead the girls’ squad. She earned Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference Runner of the Year in 2020.
Both the boys’ and girls’ Prep teams won conference championships in 2020.
“She works hard and has taken on the role [as a leader],” Zirckel said.
Several of the boys have stepped up as leaders. There’s a good, core group of about five to eight runners that are setting the pace and have the potential to score points for the squad this season.
“The goal is for us to reach our potential and do our best, [as well as to] have fun and learn the values of hard work,” Zirckel said. “It’s a nice group of kids. I’m excited about the season. I’m looking forward to them doing well and to keep improving.”
The next cross country meet is Thursday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. in Berlin.
The boys’ soccer team stepped back on the field for preseason on Aug. 18. There are 28 players in the program, split with 14 on varsity. There will be about four or five players floating between varsity and JV. Nine freshmen – all who have soccer experience – have joined the program, and several could be big contributors this season.
“There’s a few injuries were dealing with – nothing too serious, just some nagging injuries – and we’re trying to get the young guys some time,” Coach Jon Adkins said.
In the few scrimmages the team has had, Adkins said he saw some good things.
“The upperclassmen, the seniors have taken a good leadership role,” Adkins said.
Senior leaders include Michael Wehberg (midfield), Brice Richins (forward), Anderssen Taylor (midfield), and juniors Austin Gentry (defense) and Jack Gardner (goalie). Wehberg, Gardner and Richins have been named captains.
“They’ve stepped up and done a good job. The young guys look up to them. They’ve been more vocal this year,” Adkins said. “Our one constant, is Jack in goal. He’s done a good job keeping games close. He’s a beast.”
Gardner was named MVP of the 2020 ESIAC championship game.
Nineteen Mallards have returned from last season, when the varsity squad went 5-1 and earned its sixth consecutive Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference championship title.
Teacher Jake Perry, who worked with the middle school soccer program for two seasons, joins the varsity team as an assistant coach this year. Assistant Athletic Director JP McIntyre will work with the goalies.
‘Jake brings a lot of leadership and he’s good on the offensive side,” Adkins said. “We’re looking to dominate possession and be a more offensive-minded team this year, while still following our defensive principles. The last few years we’ve had to lean on our defense.”
Adkins said the goals are for the group to continue improving throughout the season and to win a seventh ESIAC title.
“We’ve got lots of talent on the offensive side, we just need to mesh. We’re looking for the right combination, to see who fits best where,” Adkins said. “We’re still a work in progress. We’ll probably be a team that never does the same thing because we have a lot of options. The guys can play anywhere … I’m excited about the direction we’re going.”
The team’s first game is today, Friday, at 3:30 p.m. in Salisbury against the Salisbury Christian Jaguars.
Coach Carol Hartnett has a large “soccer army” this year, with 32 Lady Mallards participating. Just 10 players are new to the program. The group, which started practices on Aug. 23, also welcomes nine freshmen.
There will be several freshmen/sophomore games so the younger players can gain experience. Hartnett said the younger girls are already starting to come out of their shells and getting more comfortable.
The team has strong leadership with 14 seniors on the squad. All of the upperclassmen have taken the younger girls under their wings.
“We’re well balanced. Our strength is spread throughout,” Hartnett said. “We have a nice, awesome group of girls. I feel confident about the health of our program overall.”
Seniors Morgan White (defensive midfielder) and Ava Nally (center back) have been voted captains.
“I’m super proud of them. They’re quiet and steady leaders,” Hartnett said. “The girls look up to them.”
They were both member of the team last season, which finished with two wins, a tie and two losses, and runner-up in the ESIAC. White was named MVP of the conference championship game.
“I’m looking forward to a great season. Our senior core, the whole program is built around them,” Hartnett said. “The group of 14 together is a solid group. The seniors should make it a fabulous experience – and it’s not just about the wins and losses – for everyone.”
Each player has set their own individual goals and noted what motivates them for success,” Hartnett said. “If you work hard and play hard, you’ll success together.
The first game is today, Friday, in Berlin at 4 p.m. against the Salisbury Christian Jaguars.
Mike Kelley has moved from assistant coach to head coach this season. He will be assisted by former head coach Cheryl Brown and Jim Jung, as well as Sarah Sharpley, who is new to the program.
“They’re fantastic. They’re chock full of knowledge,” Kelley said. “It’s a huge benefit having so much experience and knowledge. They have awesome drills and activities and I guess I’m the glue that just keeps things going. I just keep the scheduled going.”
The team, made up of eight players, got back on the court Aug. 18. There are only two retuning players from last season, which was only four games long because of covid – sophomore libero (defensive specialist) Natasha Richter and senior Ashlyn Roselle.
“We’ve tasked [Richter] with keeping the game under control and keeping everyone calm,” Kelley said.
He’s also put a lot of responsibility on the two young setters, freshman Avery Roselle and sophomore Sara Freih.
He plans to run a 6-2 offense, with two setters on the court.
“I’ve tasked the girls with some important roles and they’re meeting the challenge,” Kelley said.
Individually, the girls on the team have skills, it’s just putting it all together as a team, Kelley said.
“They’ve got to get used to each other and trust each other,” he added. “They’re working hard and they’re positive, which is exciting to see.”
Kelley has seen improvement each day, he said.
“I guess our strength is how fast they’re learning to play volleyball. They’re individual skill set – serving, passing, spiking,” Kelley said. “They’re very coachable, they just need some game play experience. Game play will be critical.
Day 1, Kelley said he told his players that the goal is for them to be better than they were the day before.
“I measure a successful season if you’re better that you were yesterday, and every game to say we played as well as we could and gave it our all,” he added. “It’s a great group of girls. I’m excited for the season.”
The squad’s first match is today, Friday, against the Salisbury Christian Jaguars at 4 p.m. in Berlin.