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West Essex Spring Sports Outlook

How will the spring shape up in North Caldwell?

The  Knights will look to continue their recent run of dominance on through the spring, where they are returning a couple of defending champions. Here is a look at some of the teams returning this spring.

BASEBALL
The Knights have turned into a Group 2 powerhouse over the last few seasons. Last spring, they claimed their third consecutive North II Group 2 state sectional championship, and reached the Group 2 final for the second season in a row. In 2010 West Essex won, but last season they fell in the final to Governor Livingston. With the graduation of several key players in both the lineup and pitching rotation, the boys will be very young and inexperienced this spring. They've also moved up to the ultra-competitive Super Essex Conference American Division, after winning the Liberty Division the last two seasons.

Key losses: Dave Jesch (p), Dan Gautieri (p), P.J. Lawless (p), Jimmy Kenny (of), Ralph Velardi (of)

Key returnees: Vin Cosenzo (1b), Ryan Rinsky (c)

Looking ahead: The move up to the American Division coupled with the graduation of West Essex's three top starters could be a recipe for a rough early start. But as the saying goes, winning breeds winning, so who knows what this team will look like during the midseason? Don't count on another division championship, but a few wins in the Greater Newark Tournament or a nice run in the state playoffs could be possible.

GIRLS LACROSSE 
West Essex returns as the defending Essex County champions, which is saying a lot when you play in the same county as Glen Ridge, a state powerhouse. The locals finished 14-7 and lost in the North Group 2 state sectional semifinals to Summit, 10-8. The girls took some losses to graduation but return a solid group of players.

Key losses: Nikki Maxman (71 pts), Kayleigh Thies (60 pts)

Key returnees: Amanda Cassera (mid), Natalie Cafone (mid), Kim Wolverton (att), Maria Krup (def), Alexis Miller (mid), Melissa Laible (mid), Christine Laible (gk), Stephanie D'Ascoli (att), Zoe Elfenbein (att)

Looking ahead: The Lady Knights can hang their hats on a county title a year ago, but will have their work cut out for them if they are to do it again. Glen Ridge is very strong this season and will be tough for West Essex within the conference and in the county tournament. West Essex will undoubtedly be one of the top teams in the county and will likely make another deep run in the state playoffs.

BOYS LACROSSE
The West Essex boys finished up 12-9 last spring and made a nice playoff run, reaching the Group 1 semifinals, before falling to Mountain Lakes, 8-2. They also reached the Essex County semifinals, losing 9-6 to Glen Ridge. Like the girls, the boys lost some key players, but have a large contingent returning, and should be strong this season.

Key losses: Pat Farrell (48 pts), Phil Lapone (45 pts), Mike Wiatrak (gk), Joe Fusco (49 pts)

Key returnees: Anthony Perrotta (mid), Matt Garvey (mid), Mike Drumm (mid), Tucker Noel (att), Anthony Campanella (att), Tom Filipow (def)

Looking ahead: The boys have a good group of players back and some capable scorers. Expect them to be an above average team this spring with similar results to last season. They may not go quite as far, missing so many goals and starting a new keeper this spring in net.  

SOFTBALL 
A year after winning the North II Group 2 State Sectional championship in 2010, the Knights took a bit of a step back last season. The girls finished 12-14 last spring and reached the state sectional semis, where they were defeated by their cross-town rivals, Caldwell. the good news is that they're returning their starting pitcher, Jenny Shaw. The bad news is they've lost their best hitter from a year ago, Brianna Schauer.

Key losses: Jackie Marturana, Brianna Schauer, Alexa Ramos, Allissa Kerr

Key returnees: Jenny Shaw, Valerie Tully, Jill Casolaro, Courtney Mensch, Shannon McGlynn, Heather Prinzo

Looking ahead: Having your starting pitcher back after she was the starter during her freshman season can only mean good things for the Knights. West Essex has a solid amount of returnees, but also have some youth in the lineup. To say they'll go farther this season than they did last is tough, because they made a nice run as the 13 seed last spring, and the defending sectional champs, Caldwell, will be good again this spring. That said, expect West Essex to be pretty good this season with a better win-loss record than last year.

BOYS TENNIS
It's a new beginning for the boys tennis team this spring, following a season in which they finished 4-19 and made a run to the North II Group 2 State Sectional quarterfinals. After two years of being stuck in the Super Essex Liberty Division (possibly the best division in the state, which currently features three top five teams), West Essex has moved down to the Liberty and will be a very dangerous team as the spring moves along. The boys will be pretty young this spring, however, with just three seniors returning.

Key losses: Corey Marx, Jed Entin, Jeremy Celmer, Matthew Iama, Eliot Alter

Key returnees: Dave Shields, Alex Schwartz, Jim Fiore

Looking ahead: Expect West Essex to be among the top teams in the Liberty Division this spring, as evidenced by a recent 3-2 win over defending division champs, Caldwell. The boys bring back two seniors at the top of their lineup in Shields and Schwartz, and also have another senior, Jim Fiore, on first doubles, alongside sophomore Jared Ingoglia. Sophomores Michael Colavita and Joe Giuffe will man second doubles, while junior Chris Martin takes over at third singles. West Essex's win-loss record should improve dramatically this spring and they will be in contention for a division title. As far as within the section, the win over Caldwell is encouraging, but they'll still have a very good Bernards team to deal with if they hope to win it.

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