Urbana Spring Sports Preview

Photo | Hannah Schipper Boys’ lacrosse intends to use its speed, overall athleticism and improved stick skills to create sheer chaos throughout the field. The Hawks beat Middletown, 14-3, on March 26.

Photo | Hannah Schipper
Boys’ lacrosse intends to use its speed, overall athleticism and improved stick skills to create sheer chaos throughout the field. The Hawks beat Middletown, 14-3, on March 26.

Boys’ lacrosse

With virtually its entire offense back—plus some impactful additions—the Hawks look to build on last year’s 10-6, Class 4A North Region final campaign. Urbana returns both points leaders from a year ago, sophomore twins Eric and Jason Kolar, to what should be quite a productive attack. Jason scored a team-high 60 points in 2018, off 36 goals and 24 assists; Eric finished with 17 goals and 19 assists from the midfield.

Senior midfielder Brendan Schmitz, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 25 goals, is also back and the Hawks welcome sophomore transfers—also twins—Jason and Jack Jozwiak, who play club with the Kolars and have already proven to bolster the team’s offense.

“They know how to play with each other so right from the jumpstart this preseason, they’ve fed well off each other, are very unselfish players and it benefits our offense as a whole,” said Coach Gavin Donahue.

On the defensive end of the field, Urbana returns goalkeeper Kevin Medina, who allowed an average of less than six goals per game, and defenders Joey Masson and Steven Drabick.

The Hawks have been working on fitness with trainer Josh Hosey since November and it has paid dividends—Donahue said the team is the fittest and quickest he’s seen in his three years with the program. Urbana intends to use its speed, overall athleticism and improved stick skills to create sheer chaos throughout the field.

“We’re just going to be flying all over the field creating chaos; even if we don’t score off a shot, we’ll try and regain possession of the ball as quickly as possible because we love playing offense,” Donahue said. “(The team) loves playing that style and understands why our practices have to be uptempo; they’ve bought in as a group. They understand what type of team we are, the opportunity we have, the talent we have and embracing this opportunity.”

Photo | Urbana Girls LAX The Hawks have proved that they can compete at the highest level.

Photo | Urbana Girls LAX
The Hawks have proved that they can compete at the highest level.

Girls’ lacrosse

With so many young players making such a big impact last year, it took a good portion of the short spring season for the  Hawks to truly understand how to play with each other as a team. By May, they were ready to make a run to the Class 4A North Section II final. Through its first four scrimmages this season, 60 percent of Urbana’s goals were assisted.

“The girls are really unselfish and trust each other,” said Coach Ann Lewis. “And the (younger players) are gaining confidence.”

Though Urbana fell 8-7 to perennial Montgomery County power Walt Whitman in its season opener on March 21, the Hawks played like a seasoned team to come back from an early four-goal deficit and tie the game at 7-7, Lewis said. Performances like that, and in last year’s tight section final loss to Sherwood, have helped prove to the Hawks that they can compete at the highest level—especially if they can focus on their own game.

“Whether a team is much better than us, or weaker, we see every opponent as equal and go hard every game,” Lewis said. “We look at teams and try to prepare for each game, but most of the time our game plan is to play Urbana lacrosse. And if we perfect the little things that we do, I think this can be a very good season.”

Urbana has started the season off without typical leading scorer and Monmouth recruit Shaye Morrell (35 goals, 15 assists in 2018), who is expected back from injury within the next week or two. But her absence has required other players to step into more prominent roles—Lewis said each game has featured four or five scorers—which should help the Hawks in the long run.

“Normally we’d want the ball in (Morrell’s) hands when we need to score, but it’s exciting to see girls step up into roles I knew they could play,” Lewis said. “We’d rather have (Morrell) playing but it’s not bad for the other girls to step up because next year she’ll be at Monmouth.”

Urbana returns all but one to its midfield rotation and attack, including seniors Lilly Stephens (27 points) and Alyson Casey (13 points), junior Brooke Collins (38, 11) and sophomores Natalie Voorhees (13 points) and Avery Hines (12 points). And sophomore goalie Emma Regan has done well to step in for 2018 graduate and current Slippery Rock University freshman Grace Phillips—Lewis said Regan has averaged a 60 percent save percentage.

Though Urbana had a few holes to fill, most players came in having picked up valuable minutes last season.

Baseball

Though last year’s pitching staff featured two current college athletes—current University of Tennessee freshman hurler Trey Lipscomb and Jake Wills (St. Mary’s College)—the Hawks only had about four or five pitchers they could truly rely on. This season, there are eight. That improved depth isn’t just limited to the mound; the Hawks (17-7 record in 2018) are deeper in  general, and that could serve as their biggest strength this season, Coach Michael Frownfelter said.

“There aren’t too many superstars, like we’ve had before, but as an overall team, we might be stronger,” Frownfelter said. “If someone isn’t playing well, we can take them out and have confidence in the people on the bench, that they can step up
and contribute.”

Such depth has led to more productive practices—players know they can’t slack off because someone is waiting in the wings at every position.

Though Urbana, which won its second consecutive Central Maryland Conference title in 2018, graduated five starters from last year’s Class 4A North Region final run—the Hawks lost by one to eventual state champion Howard—it returns six starters, including two four-year varsity members: infielder Ferris McIlmail and catcher Graham King. Third-year varsity player Kameron Walters and senior Tyler Kitchen lead a strong pitching contingent that also includes juniors John Dhima and Kyle Wang, sophomore Garrett Osborne and freshman Brendan Yagesh, and is backed by a solid infield. Third-year varsity outfielder Elias Hagerman has great range in center field and should help control the outfield, Frownfelter said.

“There are no (weak) teams in Frederick County; you can’t just show up and think the other team is going to lay down,” Frownfelter said. “Because we have been successful, every team circles you on their schedule and wants to beat you. But if we play hard every day, and play to win, I think we can have a very good year.”

Photo | Urbana Athletics At the Urbana Invitational on March 23, Piper Jons was recognized as Outstanding Female Runner of the Meet.

Photo | Urbana Athletics
At the Urbana Invitational on March 23, Piper Jons was recognized as Outstanding Female Runner of the Meet.

Track and field

Fresh off this winter’s first-ever state indoor track title, the Hawk girls look to ride their depth to a successful championship season run this spring—Urbana finished third at states last spring. Pole vault, led by indoor state champion Payton Bohrer, defending outdoor state champion Kelsey Calabrese and Rachel Custer, and distance events, featuring Brin Strouse, Mary Miller and Sara Jarman, should remain standout areas for Urbana. But the Hawks are capable of scoring across the board. Sophomore Ella Auderset, who finished second and third, respectively, in the 800-meter run and 400m dash at last year’s state championship, her older senior Susannah and freshmen Emily and Karly McDonnell anchor a strong middle distance corps and sprinter Piper Jons is poised for a breakout spring. Juniors Oni and Ezri Scott should score major points in the jumping events as well.

The Hawk boys finished eighth at states a year ago and look to remain a top 10 contender this spring. Seniors Cole Jiron and Seth Hajzus, who finished third and sixth, respectively, at last year’s state meet, should remain reliable scorers. Newcomer Ryan Beach and Evan Schwab lead the sprinters and hurdler Tim Ogunsola should also pick up important points as well.

Softball

Despite falling just short of last year’s Class 4A North Region final, Urbana’s section semifinal win over five-time state champion Sherwood helped give the Hawks a pretty good idea of just how capable they are of making a deep postseason run. With seven starters back this spring, including sophomore left-handed pitcher Spencer Rupinta, catcher Ashlyn White, junior third-year starting shortstop Taylor Roberts, Cheyenne Thrasher—who led the team in triples last spring—and Lauren Lombardo, Urbana is in good position to pick up right where it left off.

Though Rupinta serves as Urbana’s No. 1 pitcher, sophomores Paige Barnard and Sydney Clark and freshman Charlene Payne provide the Hawks with depth at the one position that can make or break a high school softball team. After two years as a stalwart second basemen, Lombardo has moved to join returners Thrasher and Emma Bedford in the outfield to help strengthen the team’s defense.

The Hawks should continue to be propelled by a consistent batting order that’s strong from top to bottom and until its offense heats up as the season progresses, Urbana will be driven by its pitching and stingy defense, Coach Frank Husson said.

“We have pitchers who are going to be around the plate and force opponents to hit, so we can rely on our defense,” Husson said. “Our defense can carry us until our hitting comes around.”

Boys’ tennis

The Hawks return seven of their top eight and nine of their top 10 to a team that won its third straight Frederick County championship last spring. Sophomore Kevin Li, who in 2018 became the first freshman to win the county championship in 15 years—and followed it up with a Region I title—returns to No. 1 spot even stronger than he was a year ago, Coach Jon Walton said.

“He was a polished player as a freshman but added things to his game, so there isn’t much that stands out for elite opponents to take advantage of,” Walton said. “Most notably, he’s really improved his return of serve. It’s more versatile. And he has a fair amount more bite on his kick serve.”

Freshman Charles Lowery, who is ranked 295 of 761 players in the U.S. Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section Boys’ 14s, is likely to step into the second singles slot. Kevin Lige, Richard Lombardo and Van Holson all return to the top two doubles positions. Lige, who teamed with Holson to reach the boys’ doubles region final and state quarterfinals last spring, has joined forces with Lombardo at No. 1 doubles. Lombardo won the regional mixed doubles title last spring. Holson anchors No. 2 doubles. Walton said there are about four to six players with a good chance to rotate in at third doubles.

“We have an interesting mix of experienced guys and young guys who have experience,” Walton said. “And, more than any other year, we have a lot of new guys who came in with a clear idea of how to play doubles, which is great. It makes them viable right off the bat.”

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