The spring season will be one of adjustment at Knightdale, with half of its teams coming under new leadership.
It will also be one with well-defined goals. The baseball and softball teams look to get back to the state playoffs after missing out last season and the girls soccer team wants to get back to its old ways of winning the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference title.
Here’s is a brief look at players to watch for and what to expect from Knightdale’s spring sports teams.
Baseball: Coach Andrew Vaglio considers his team a work in progress as it looks to rebound from last year’s 7-13, 2-10 season.
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“We’re carrying 15 on the team, so we’re young in a lot of spots,” Vaglio said. “We have good work ethic, we’ve just got to continue to get better and that’s all.”
The team is led by seniors Garrett Wall (pitcher, catcher, first base), Jake Massing (pitcher, center fielder), Jake DeShields (pitcher, third base) and Logan Anderson (pitcher, catcher, fist base), and junior outfielder Matt Wall.
A goal is to improve in conference play.
“We just have to do better in situational baseball, cut down on errors and improve in hitting at appropriate times,” Vaglio said. “That’s just something we’re going to have to work on day in and day out.”
Boys Golf: Shawn Simpson returns as a captain for his senior season after making the regionals as a sophomore and a junior. He is getting over a hand injury, however, and hopes to get to play after spring break.
“We’re hoping if he gets back in time, he’ll get enough golf in to make regionals again,” said coach David Hawkins.
Hawkins is excited about junior Chris Sebastiani, who transferred from Cardinal Gibbons.
“He was on an extremely good team and was ranked No. 7 on that team. I think at least four on that team went on to play golf in college,” Hawkins said. “I’m really looking forward to his development this year, and he’s going to be a real force for us next year.”
Knightdale’s other golfers are sophomore Marcus Manley and freshmen Sam Ellis and Will Fichter.
Girls Soccer: The Knights’ season ended last year with a 2-1 loss to league rival Garner in the opening round of the state playoffs and with a 10-9, 8-5 mark.
Madison Shope is the new coach, taking over for Collin Dalton.
The team is down one key element in senior Elizabeth Snotherly, a Lenoir-Rhyne recruit who will miss the season with a leg injury.
Shope looks for leadership from senior midfielder Morgan Wiggs, junior midfielder Erin Giunco and sophomore midfielder/forward Taylor Ward.
“There are others, but they’ve been the most present as far as leading the team,” Shope said.
Shope, who has been assistant coach the past two years, wants to get the program back into conference championship form.
Softball: First-year coach Cliff Davis know his team is young but for that reason he’s looking forward to getting to know his team, which is composed of two seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores and a freshman.
“That’s one good thing about it,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of time to build these girls up.”
The Knights finished last season 4-15, 2-11 and missed out on the state playoffs. They opened this season with a 13-3 win over Sanderson in five innings on March 10.
“The talent is there, it’s just more field time and just them getting used to my practices and my way of thinking,” Davis said. “With us getting into the drills and getting hitting time, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Co-captains are senior Sarah Woodard and junior Lechonda Council.
Senior Taylor Whitley (right field) is key to the Knights’ defense.
Sophomores will play pitch and catch with Jena Massing hurling to Erica Edwards behind the plate. The coach also named speedy sophomore shortstop Taylor Rabitz and all-around sophomore player Cassie Tyson as players to watch.
Boys Tennis: First-year coach Jermod Mapp, also a football coach and leader of the wrestling team this year, expects much from junior returner Andre Willis and senior newcomer Kameron Ballen.
“We’ve got some senior leadership, we’re just new to the sport,” Mapp said. “Andre has the skills needed to be a very competitive No. 1 seed, but Kameron has that will not to lose.”
Other seniors returning to the lineup are Dominic Cao and David Nguyen. Another senior, William Snow, joins the squad.
Mapp is keeping tabs on the team’s top freshman, Tyrese Horton.
“He’s very new to the game, but he’s grasping things very quickly,” he said.
Track and Field: On the boys end, senior Jamie Brown returns to compete in the long jump and senior Kameron Ballen in the shot put.
Coach Mark Batey is excited about adding pole vaulting to his team’s arsenal thanks to senior Nick Lopez and junior Andre Ray.
“We’ve never had any pole vaulters to my knowledge,” Batey said. “We’ve always lost out to other teams in the conference because we never scored any points in pole vaulting. We’re just trying to add some kids to other events to give us more points.”
Junior Jordan Shannon is also long- and high-jumping.
“A lot of our better runners are freshmen and sophomores, so we’re really very young,” Batey said. “We only have one returning boys sprinter, senior Jovan Sanford.”
The girls’ side is also young, but talented.
Seniors Hannah Dunston (300 hurdles, long jump) and Jada Ballen (shot put, state-qualifying discus) lead the way in terms of experience.
“You’ve got Aleena Cruz (sophomore) and freshman Rebecca Davis who are mid-to-long distance runners,” said coach Darryl Postley. “Ishary Lopez is a freshman sprinter. Sophomore Tymia Atkinson sprinter and relay runner.”
The team features Akira Wiggins, Alexis Hill and Daijah Miles, three freshmen Postley signed up from the undefeated junior varsity basketball team who he said “are going to succeed at anything they do” All are expected to partake in sprints and relays.