As fall turns into winter, athletic contests move from outdoor fields to indoor courts and mats.
But before we take a look at what the basketball, wrestling and swim teams will look like at Collingswood High School (CHS) in 2012, let's remember the CHS fall athletic season, a year that was equal parts successful and challenging.
No Collingswood team had more success this past fall than did its field hockey squad. A season that started out as a celebration of 100 years of history ended in the Panthers reaching the South Jersey finals.
Along the way, there was an undefeated Colonial Conference season, a record-breaking scoring performance from Krista LaMaina, 18 shutouts from Becca Hall, Coach Valerie Dayton's 100th win and a whole lot of fun for the Panthers.
“This was such a special season,” said Dayton. “From the very beginning, these girls knew they had a chance to have a great year, and they bought into what we were coaching them.”
Led by No. 1 singles player Sophy Siv and the motivational power of fresh bagels, the Panthers girls rattled off 17 wins against just four losses. The team finished in second place in the Colonial Conference behind Tournament of Champions winner Haddonfield, and eventually bowed to Woodstown in the Group 2 quarterfinals, 3-2.
The Panthers got strong play at singles from Siv, Jen Cotton and Cat Maienza and equally impressive doubles performances from the partnerships of Christina Abacan/Daria Parkinson and Samantha Smith/Maleeya Thompson.
“I think I have seen them play better in the past, but they went forth trying to win and put forth their best,” coach Miles Holland said after the loss. “That’s all you can ask of them.”
Collingswood will need to completely reload next season, as the team will graduate eight seniors.
It was a tough go for the girls’ soccer team as the Panthers finished the season 5-13-2, missing the Group 2 playoffs.
Scoring was at times an issue for the Panthers, who were shut out in 11 of 13 losses. When Collingswood did find the back of the net, it was typically off the foot of Kylee Schairer or Amber Stefano. The duo combined for 14 goals, with Schairer producing a team-leading eight goals.
The Panthers’ best performances came against Lindenwold and Paulsboro. Stefano scored twice in a 4-1 win over Lindenwold, while Schairer netted a pair in a 4-0 victory over Paulsboro.
Collingswood will graduate a host of seniors, including Schairer and Stefano, but also has 11 players returning that got their feet wet this past season.
The Panthers (4-15-1) were competitive in the majority of their games this season, but never seemed to get over the hump. Collingswood lacked a true goal-scorer, with no player finding the back of the net more than 4 times. Even lacking a go-to guy, they shouldered the load evenly: 13 different Panthers had at least one goal during the season.
Collingswood was able to qualify for the postseason, but lost in the opening round to Deptford, 2-0.
How good were the Panthers were when they were on top of their game? Their best performance of the season came Oct. 4 in a 1-1 tie against West Deptford. Just a few weeks earlier, the Eagles had dominated Collingswood, 5-0, en route to a South Jersey Group 2 championship.
The wins didn’t come as often as the Panthers would have liked, but that doesn’t mean head coach Jack McConnell wasn't proud of the effort his veteran players gave through the team’s 2-8 season.
“As bad as things have gone, this core of senior guys never stopped playing,” said McConnell. “They never gave up and we are going to miss them.”
Collingswood earned victories against Lindenwold and Overbrook this season with youth all over the field. The Panthers started a sophomore quarterback while several other underclassmen saw varsity time at key positions. That experience could translate into more wins down the line.
“We got a few young kids in some key spots,” said senior Forrley Gunby. “I’m happy how the season turned out—obviously not with the win-loss ratio, but just how we grew as a team.”
The season was all about personal achievement for Collingswood runners Aaron Kuchera, Nhat Do, Tyler Scheick and Donovan Santana—the Panthers’ top runners all fall.