Raider Review Sports
Teams on pause, but athletes keep training
By WHH Staff
Since they were 5 years old, three boys have been playing soccer together and now they’re playing for the Raiders.
Juniors Cole Thompson, Andrew Sexton and Andrew Eigenfeld had been separated from each other since grade 9, when they were all at Staunton River together. Thompson arrived at North Cross last year. Andrew Sexton switched to Salem High last year. Eigenfeld remained at Staunton River by himself last year and was the only boy who continued to play team-soccer.
Thompson said that he did not want to play last year, because he didn’t have any friends. So he recruited his old teammates.
“Andrew E. has played the most of the group early,” coach James Brown said in an email interview. “He attended the team camp with us back in July, so he was able to get a jump start on learning the system. With Andrew’s great size and speed we have been able to use him in a number of different positions. He has done well and as he continues to learn. He will only get better and better.”
Eigenfeld, a former striker, who said he now gets placed at right-midfield in the new system, has scored three times and assisted on five goals for a total of 11 points in 19 games.
“Andrew S. and Cole also give us more experience and depth,” Coach Brown said. “This is important as we manage our way through a difficult regular season. Having fresh bodies to continually throw at teams is always a plus. With only one senior, our junior class has to really step up and lead. They have been able to help in this leadership thus far. When the three of them are on the field together, it is evident that they have played with one another for a while.”
Both Sexton and Thompson have scored one goal each.
The boys also face transitions academically.
Now, Sexton takes two AP classes —AP Physics and AP English after taking AP U.S. History last year at Salem. He expressed disdain for Salem’s grading system, which only assigns an A to 94% or above.
“Salem was a lot harder because of their grading scale,” Sexton said. “So like 94.5% is an A . . . 79 is a D and here it’s one point from a B”.
Eigenfeld is also taking AP English.
Despite their promising abilities, none hopes to play soccer in college.
“I used to,” Sexton said during the interview, “but not much anymore.”
Meanwhile, the team is doing well. So far, the defending state champions have a record of 13-4-1 after tying Carlisle in a storm-shortened game.
The veteran members of the team say they work to build team chemistry with the new players.
“We need to move the ball quicker,” said Spencer Brown ‘21, who will return to play center-midfield after suffering a stress fracture in his foot. He said the team needs to stop dribbling into trouble and pass the ball more often.
Brown, who scored the winning goal in the state championship, has 12 points to his credit this year.
Rees Wenk ‘22, who shares right-midfield responsibilities with Eigenfeld, noted the fact that the tie with Carlisle felt unjust, but it happens with rivalries.
“Especially Carlisle,” Wenk said. “[The rivalry] feels kinda salty.”
The team will not have to play any rivalry matches for a while. During Homecoming week, they only played Southwest Virginia Home School, who they defeated 4-1 on a hat trick by Geist Pollock. Then, they played a succession of tough Division I teams - a schedule designed to prepare the squad for the rigors of post-season play. The team knows it will not be easy to repeat.
“Feels like there is a target on our back,” Brown said “Every team tries harder when they play us.”
By WHH Staff
The boys cross-country team enters the final meet of the season with one of the deeper pools of talent in recent years.
Henry Robinson ‘22 transfered from Patrick Henry and began summer workouts with the team after a rugged regimen of hiking and backpacking with a National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming.
That rigor made Robinson tough enough for Middle School Hill and the Raiders’ demanding schedule. Robinson’s best 5K this year was 18:59 at the CHARCS invitational. Like most runners, Robinson’s time on the Raiders’ home course is about a minute slower.
“Henry came to the team with a level of experience and dedication that added immediately to the depth of our boys’ team,” said head coach Ed Dickenson. “From the first day, he trained with the front group and supported his teammates and our team philosophy with total enthusiasm. He is one of those athletes who commits himself to the team effort and knows how to push himself to the next level. He knows how to dig in during tough practices and keep going even when he is at his limit, and that is a special quality. We needed another runner to add depth to our top 5, and Henry (and Kyle Thomson) showed total commitment . . . . to carry on the best traditions of our cross country team.”
By WHH Staff
Caroline Lystash ‘20 won the BRC singles title over teammate Kylie Schaefer ‘23 (8-3) last Saturday at VES, which will allow NCS to host the event next year.
Previously, Emma Cartledge ‘17 and Charlotte Cartledge have won the singles title.
Chloe Hunt ‘21 won the consolation match to secure third place, making the tournament a clean sweep for the Raiders.
The girls’ tennis team has beenranked No. 7 in VISAA Div. II, impressive for a team comprised of five underclassmen.
No. 1 singles player Lystash has been on the team for five years, and is undefeated in singles.
“We have a really good team this year,” Lystash said. “I think we are going to win it [the conference championship.]”
Indeed, the Raiders won. Last year, the team lost to Virginia Episcopal School, but the Raiders are ranked ahead of VES, and the young players are gaining competitive toughness heading toward playoffs.
“Reagan Karlen is a very consistent player, and is an integral part of the team,” Lystash said, “as well as juniors Chloe Hunt and Genny Chandel.”
By Kevin Dinh
Climbing the 2.55-mile to the top of Poage Mt. culminated six years of tough training in the cross-country program for Patrick Daly ‘20, the team leader.
“The last mountain run was bitter-sweet,” Daly said, “because it is my favorite workout and really checks our fitness before states and knowing it was my last time running it.
“It was great to see how well our team did and put in a really great hard effort . . . . I was very excited to break the record set by Harry Pearson by 10 seconds.”
Coach Ed Dickenson said the mountain run goes from pavement to gravel up 27% grades in various places. “Patrick killed it,” he said.
The team bonds over the rigorous run, taking team photos at the top, including a mini version of the unoffical team mascot - the sloth.
Initiated by Kerrigan Chaney ‘24, who recently placed fourth in the state championships for middle school girls, the sloth adds levity to the grind.
“We didn’t choose the sloth,” said Michael Habib ‘20, “the sloth chose us.”
Daly recounts it with glee.
“We chose sloth as our mascot because during track and field Kerrigan carried her sloth to practice one day and we loved it. Sam [Karlen] and I thought sloth was so funny, and then she brought it to the cross country team and now it is the team animal.”
The boys are approaching their final race of the season by making goals.
Habib hopes to place as all-state and help the team get top-three.
“This year at states,” Daly said, “I hope to achieve a top-10 place after receiving 4th at conference.”
By WHH staff
Most Raiders’ fans know the big names who score most of the points on an offense averaging almost 40 points per game.
We know Zae Baines ‘20 is one of the most widely recognized football talents in the history of the school.
While Head Coach Stephen Alexander emphasizes the way in which stellar players like Baines play well as a group. “It helps that those talented players play well together,” he said.
“Zae is probably the best athlete that I’ve coached in my career,” Alexander said. “He’s very gifted in terms of his size, speed, quickness and athleticism. He’s typically the best player on the field almost every game.”
Maybe people don’t know how many touchdowns he has scored this season (12), but we know he will be playing at rising FBS power Temple University next year.
“It’s inspiring to be playing with Zae because he’s going to a DI school,” said cornerback Juwan Jackson ‘21. “I get to be on the field with a DI talent.”
We know Baines might have even more touchdowns if defenses didn’t spend so much time trying to double and triple-team him.
The team has a balanced passing and rushing attack because the healthy Isaac Harris ‘20 is distracting defenses with his powerful running. Maybe people can’t keep track of how many touchdowns (21) he has scored, but we know he is a big deal since the Roanoke Times has put his picture in the paper on three different occasions and featured him in a major story.
“He’s healthy, and he’s strong,” Alexander said about Harris, “and he’s quicker than he’s ever been. He’s added a very valuable dimension to our offense.”
We are starting to notice that quarterback Gabe Zappia ‘21 set a single-game record for passing yards (436) against the second-ranked team in VISAA Division II. He has passed for 25 TDs this year and rushed for two by himself.
“Gabe has done a good job of maturing from last year,” Alexander said. “And he’s more accurate. He has a very good group of seniors who he can throw to. Again, football is very dependent on the players working well together. Gabe is playing well, and so are his receivers.”
Most of us do not focus on what happens after the big names score all those touchdowns. That’s when Vedant Muse ‘22 converts the point-after-attempt. Because of all the scoring, Muse has attempted 60 PATs and converted 49. He kicked his first field goal of the season in a loss to Trinity Episcopal.
In other words, Muse is one of the top four scorers on the team with 52 points.
“Vedant has been a very pleasant surprise for us at place kicker,” Alexander said. “He joined the team late in the summer and has provided with a level of consistency at kicker that we have not had in awhile. We’re excited to see him develop in the next two years.”
Muse learned to kick by playing soccer, and he also shares kick-off duties with Baines. Recently, he started learning some of the other positions to be ready to substitute for other players in case of injury. For now, he gets to specialize.
“I always wanted to be a kicker,” Muse said, “and I have been kicking for a long time. So I asked coach and he let me try.”
By Nathan Seidel
The baseball team has started the year red hot, pummeling three out of their first four opponents by 10 or more runs and coming from 10 runs down to top Roanoke Valley Christian 14-10.
Several Raiders have been on a roll hitting the ball, with two players’ batting averages at .400 or above. Justin Jensen (‘16) and Josh Greenway (‘17) have led the team so far, as they have combined for 32 runs scored and 25 RBIs (runs batted in) between the two of them.
Even after the fast start, the team lost a blowout to the Eagles of Covenant. Greenway thinks the team can perform at a much higher level than they played against Covenant.
“Our season started off really well,” Greenway said, “We’ve only lost two games, but we haven’t been playing as good as I thought we should.”
The highlight of the 2015 campaign was a game where the Raiders found themselves down by 10 runs to RVCS and managed to claw their way back for a four-run victory. RVCS’s pitchers walked 18 hitters in the game, allowing the Raiders to score 13 runs in the sixth inning to take the lead.
This win was big for the Raiders, showing that they do not crumble when down big. The win gives the team momentum for the rest of the season.
“As the season goes on,” Jensen said, “We’ll get better and hopefully make a run at states.”
The team is looking to purge the memories of last season, when they lost in the state semifinals to Fuqua 5-4.
Even with the momentum of revenge driving them, the Raiders fell to Fuqua again last Saturday by one run, 6-5. Fuqua scored five unearned runs in the second inning, dealing a mortal blow to the Raiders.
The team’s first six games were blowouts, but they have played in more close games of late. Next up for the Raiders is a showdown with the Bulldogs of Liberty Christian (LCA), a familiar foe that has already achieved a 7-0-1 record so far this year. The Bulldogs’ last two games were a 23-0 shellacking of Virginia Episcopal School (VES), and a 13-0 victory over Fishburne Military.
The LCA game will be a tough test for the Raiders, and a victory would likely catapult them even higher than their state ranking of third overall. The team wants to do everything it can to go deep into the state tournament again this year.
Coach Eric Lawrence shares the goal of his players. “I think that making it to the state title game would mean that we came together as a team,” he said, “and accomplished some things that even we didn’t know we could accomplish.”
By Piers McGinn
The boys lacrosse team (1-3) has gotten off a to a shaky start, but players and coaches believe through hard work and determination, they can turn it around and make the state tournament.
“I think we can definitely turn it around,” attackman Holden Johnson (’15) said. “[Stephen] Belderes is a great coach. We, as a team, are figuring out the best lineup and as the season progresses, we should be able to compete for a spot in states.”
The team lost their first game of the season at home against cross-town rival Roanoke Catholic School 8-7. Isaiah Harris (’15) led the team in both goals and assists with 3 and 1, while Will Perry (’16) had 15 saves.
“We should have won that game,” said midfielder Ryan Dent (’15). “We did not execute as well as we should have, but I think if we watch the film and learn from our mistakes we can beat them next time we see them.”
The team went back to work over the next few days to prepare for Nansemond-Suffolk, the No. 1 team in the state at the time. The team lost 5-3. Gray Pollock (’18) led the team with two goals, Massey Semler (’17) had one assist, while Will Perry (’16) had 12 saves.
“The defense played great,” Dent said. “We held the No. 1 team in the state to only five goals, but we did not execute as well as we should have on offense”
One big test for the Raiders was when they played Liberty Christian Academy (LCA). At the end of the fourth quarter, there was a sense of relief from the team. They had won their first game of the season, 13-4, against one of the few Division I teams they will see. Harris (’15) led the team in assists with two, while Will Perry (’16) had 10 saves.
“We came out firing on all cylinders,” Johnson said. “We executed on both sides of the field and as a result we got the W.”
Most recently, the team traveled four hours to Blue Ridge School to face-off against the Barons (3-4). The Raiders started off shaky being out-scored by six at half, but began a rally in the second half, out-scoring the Barons 6-3. Eventually, time ran out before the Raiders could cap off their run, and the team lost, 10-7.
“We were low on energy,” Harris said. “We should have had more energy, and that includes myself.”
Up next, the team will take a long road trip to battle Virginia Episcopal School (2-1). Belderes sees a key area in which the team needs to improve.
“We need to improve our ball possession,” he said. “We need to value the ball.”
By Dre Colston
Sarah Maurer (‘16), a versatile player who loves to play in the goal, also excels in the field as the team’s leading scorer with 18 goals.
Ever since Maurer lived in the state of Utah she has always had a feel for playing goalie. Maurer plays for the Roanoke Star Soccer Club outside of playing for the school team. The unique thing about Maurer is that she has the ability to play in the goal for Roanoke Star Soccer Club and play on the field for the Raiders. That is especially useful because the Raiders can put another great goalie, Katie Sayers (‘15), in front of the net.
“I have always played in goal first because I liked it, but when I started travel soccer in Utah my coach put me there because I was the best at it,” Maurer said. “Ever since then I’ve just been the best on the team and that’s where I played.”
Some would think that playing as a goalie might be very boring, but it requires quite a bit of focus at all times than one might expect.
“The hardest part about being in goal is being mentally engaged at all times because in some games you won’t have to do anything, and then there might be a breakaway and you have to make a save,” Maurer said. “There is a lot of pressure to be perfect when you are in goal you can’t afford to make mistakes.”
By playing on the field and in goal, Maurer is torn between which position she enjoys most but is sided more towards playing in the goal.
“I like both, but I enjoy being in goal for big games because it comes down to like one or two saves,” Maurer said. “When you are in goal, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. In the field it’s totally different because I have help from my teammates.”
While she has a high motor on the field and plays with hard-nosed intensity, maintaining that intensity off the field has been a challenge.
“The hardest part for me about playing in the field is getting in shape,” Maurer said, “And not to be so hard on myself when I don’t do as well, because it’s not the primary position that I play.”
“She’s always been really good at soccer and been able to play wherever she’s needed even though her natural position is goalkeeper,” said Mary Kate Graeff (‘16), who has been Maurer’s teammate for three years for the school’s team and seven years for Roanoke Star. “It’s nice to play with someone who is so well-rounded.”
“She’s scored many goals for us this season, she probably strikes as well as any female in the state,” Head Coach James Brown, “She’s one of the best athletes on the team, I can play her up top, in the middle and even in the goal if there’s a problem.”
The team has a record of 11-1 with an upcoming game against Eastern Mennonite on April 21.
The 2-1 golf team has renewed hopes for the season, partially due to the emergence of two of their youngest players.
This year, eight golfers play on the school team and have achieved several impressive victories in the season so far. In a match against Timberlake Christian on April 9, for example, the Raiders scored 189 strokes, over 20 strokes below Timberlake’s 218.
Richard Cook has been coaching golf for seven years, and said this season is both similar and distinct from previous ones.
“This year is similar in that we have one very good player, a few players with some experience, and then several players who are learning the game,” he said. “I am optimistic regarding our performance this year. If Philip, Bennett, Sterling or all three step up and shoot in the high 40s, we will be good. I think our greatest challenge this year is to shoot under 225 in the VIC Tournament; that would be great if we could pull that off.”
Cook thinks that the most promising player this year is either Nathan Seidel (‘18) or Bruce Ferrell (‘17). Farrell’s average score this year for nine holes is 56, while Seidel’s average is 46.
“Bruce and Nathan have a lot of potential,” Cook said, “but both need to improve over the next few weeks.”
Ty Olinger (‘16) is the team’s top player. Having played the game for over 15 years, Olinger is an extremely experienced player, and also competes in golf tournaments outside of school. His average score for the school team this year playing nine holes is 39.
“I’ve been playing golf ever since I could swing a club so since I was 3 or 4,” Olinger said. “My favorite part about golf is just being on the golf course. It’s always relaxing and it’s a nice getaway.”
Olinger said he was looking forward to the rest of the season and felt optimistic about the team’s prospects.
“I’m really excited about this year,” Olinger said. “Our team is definitely looking a lot better and I think we will compete well with everyone this year.”
Coming off of one of the best years for the program, the defending Blue Ridge Conference champion girls’ tennis team lost two key seniors to graduation and has struggled to compete as well.
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