By Sean Budlong
The winter sports season has gotten off to a strong start in Schoolcraft.
The two-time District Champion girls’ basketball team enters 2017 with a 4-1 record. Its only loss was on the road at undefeated Galesburg-Augusta. The Eagles only field 10 players, but they are deep in experience. Seniors Sophie Woodhams, Winn Stitt, Amber Overley, Madison Saxman, and Morgan Warnaar were high-impact players last season. This year their leadership will be crucial to Schoolcraft’s success. Juniors Lydia Goble and Kennedy Leighton consistently lead the team in points, steals, and overall hustle. A first team All-Conference selection as a sophomore, Goble has led the team in scoring in three of the five games this season.
This core led the Eagles to the Regional Championship last season, and they are motivated to return. “The chemistry is great because we have been playing together since elementary,” Leighton explained. “Whether it was rising stars or courthouse leagues, we have been teammates. We have a big group of athletic seniors who want to win. We know how good we can be.”
Schoolcraft Head Coach Doug Flynn runs an up-tempo system that takes advantage of the speed of Leighton, Saxman, and Woodhams, while Stitt, Overley, and Warnaar do their damage in the half court. The Eagles can rely on Goble to create offense from anywhere on the court, whether it’s feeding the post or hitting a three-point shot.
Boys Basketball Has Perfect Record in Early Play
The Schoolcraft boys’ basketball team has also started the season on a tear. The Eagles have outscored the opposition 256-128 to enter 2017 with a 4-0 record. A high point so far in the season was the victory over Galesburg Augusta which was Head Coach Randy Small’s 300th coaching win.
Schoolcraft is led by a deep senior class that allows Small to utilize both size and speed. Jason Feddema, Matt Schuppel, and Blake Bales are the returners that provide the size, while Max Kulczyk and Nolan Anspaugh provide the speed. After taking his junior year off of playing basketball, Ricky Clark is back to terrorize opponents with the versatility that earned him back-to-back MLive Player of the Year in football.
The Eagles will get a lift midway through January when two transfer students become eligible to suit up in games. Caleb Eustice, a Kalamazoo Gazette Dream Team selection at Portage Northern, and Hunter Johnson, from Otsego, will join the lineup on January 17. This senior class is accustomed to athletic success – two undefeated regular seasons in football, playing for the Regional title in baseball – and Small has them working to regain that success on the hard court.
Wrestling Team Works Hard
The Eagle wrestling team lost significant skill and leadership through graduation. That hasn’t changed the attitude of the team as it heads into 2017 with a 11-8 record. Seniors Ethan Sharp and Spencer Fox are undefeated and ranked in the top five in D4, while Justin VanDyken recorded his 100 career victory in December. On a team with nine freshmen, the leadership of the seniors is crucial. Sharp, Fox and VanDyken are joined by fellow seniors Scott MacFarlane, Wade Polmateer and Jeremy Froehlich. This group is counted on by Head Coach Rob Ling to lead through example every day in practice and in matches.
Schoolcraft always schedules tough tournaments and opponents to prepare for the post season. This allows the Eagles to take their lumps early and learn from their mistakes. While this can be difficult for the younger wrestlers, it leads to success over time for those athletes that continue to work. River Fox is an example of an underclassman who was solid last season and outstanding this year (ranked 10th in the D4 at 285 lbs).