By Mason Archer and Liam McGlynn, Staff Writers
// As Acalanes fall sports teams finish up their seasons with North Coast Section (NCS) and state playoff runs, winter sports teams gear up for another strong season. Looking to improve on last year’s campaigns, each team embraces the challenges of learning to play with new teammates and quickly elevating their level of play.
Coming off an exciting season last year, the wrestling team comes back with an even stronger squad this year and hopes to triumph over rival schools. Replacing the previous head coach, former assistant coach Ken Trainer is especially impressed with the commitment of the returning wrestlers.
“Our returning wrestlers have done a lot of off-season work on their own. It looks like they’ve stayed in shape and they’re watching their weight on their own. I think this is a turn of the page for Acalanes wrestling,” Trainer said.
With an extremely strong group of freshmen, the team is looking to effectively incorporate the new wrestlers into the program.
“This is probably the most physical group of freshman I’ve seen,” Trainer said.
Since the change in the coaching staff, daily practice routines have drastically changed to ensure that all members of the team stay in shape.
“We spend what amounts to about 3 hours a day working on bettering our technique and getting huge, unlike many other sports. In wrestling your laziness could result in you actually getting hurt,” sophomore Lucas Haase said.
Wishing that more people will attend wrestling matches, Haase argues that the team’s commitment will hopefully improve student turnout.
“People always go to football games and soccer games because they are the big school sports everyone cares about but that completely belittles the massive effort that we put in as wrestlers,” Haase said. “I’d say that wrestling proceeds to become a lifestyle throughout the season regarding your behavior and your appetite all so we can become better athletes.”
Having only one senior graduate last year, the women’s basketball team returns this year with a veteran squad. After winning last year’s league title, the players aspire to defend the crown and achieve an undefeated league record.
With a few pre-season games under their belt, the Lady Dons continue to prepare for another tough season.
“We’ve been practicing daily and going hard each day,” senior Lauren Kobashigawa said. “We are working to improve our game and make our teammates better.”
The Lady Dons look to overcome their heartbreaking overtime loss to Redwood in the playoffs last year.
“We play Redwood on December 13th at home,” Kobashigawa said. “We lost to them last year in the second round of NCS in overtime, and have been looking forward to this game since last season.”
The chemistry between the seniors and juniors continues to remain strong as the team develops a stronger bond now in their third year together.
“We’ve also been spending a lot of time together to build relationships and trust that will transcend onto the court,” Kobashigawa said.
The talented varsity team is ready to put on a show this year as they battle it out with challenging opponents in Castro Valley, John Swett, and St. Francis.
Tenacious defense and a frenetic pace of play will translate into wins for the Lady Dons.
“Our coach has been having us focus on our defense and pushing the ball up the court in transition,” junior Gabby Schneider said.
After a rough transition from the 2017-18 season to the 2018-19 season where there was only one returning player, the Dons went 9-17 and missed the NCS playoffs last year.
With the youth of the team playing a big factor in the unsuccessful results of last year’s season, four of the five starters from last year’s team return to this year’s varsity squad. The starters are going to need to play a more prevalent role in this upcoming season; meanwhile, the Dons have already begun preparing for the beginning of the season well before tryouts began.
“We’re just doing a lot of practicing right now, but we’ve been working the whole summer,” senior Aidan Bodner said. “Right now since we got a lot of new players, so we’re working on ironing out the kinks in terms of the offense and chemistry.”
Using last year’s rough season as an encouragement to do better this season, the Dons view this season as an opportunity to bounce back.
“We’re trying to build off our season last year and win more games,” Bodner said. “Most notably those against Campo, Miramonte, and College Park.”
With two new freshmen, the five returning upperclassmen must take it upon themselves to make the young players feel welcome.
“Team chemistry is very important which is why we are happy to have five returning varsity players as opposed to only one returner last year,” junior Jackson Aris-Dumas said. “The five returning players including myself will have to be leaders on the team in order for us to have success.”
Coming off a tough loss against Campolindo in the second round of the NCS playoffs, the Acalanes women’s soccer team seeks revenge this season.
After a challenging league schedule last year (4-4-4), the Lady Dons come back with an even stronger roster.
“This year, we have a lot of depth on the team. I feel that everyone on our team is very good and can contribute a lot,” senior Jordan Pratt said.
Although the team lost several players to graduation, the recent additions have proved their worth to the team, showing that they can play at the varsity level.
“I believe that the new girls are great players and really fit well with the team,” Pratt said.
Looking forward to the rest of the season, captain and senior Kate Carter can’t wait to play against their rivals.
“I am looking forward to playing our rivals like Campo and Miramonte,” Carter said. “But I’m also excited about playing Northgate and Las Lomas because they always have strong teams and are good competition.”
Hoping for higher student attendance at games, Carter believes that this year’s team is very unique, having 13 seniors.
“I think people should come and watch this year because there is a variety of grades in our starting line up. Our senior class is very dominant this year and there won’t be a class this big for a while,” Carter said.
With a commanding group of seniors and some highly skilled underclassmen, the Lady Dons have an opportunity to establish themselves as fierce competitors this upcoming season.
“Overall I think this year we will be a super strong team and we will hopefully win many of our games,” Carter said.
The Dons look to turn last year’s disheartening 10-4-6 season around after coming up short in NCS playoffs.
With high hopes, the team wishes to push further into the playoffs.
“This year we know where we want to go and that is to win the NCS championship,” senior co-captain Nick Geannacopulos said.
With over three weeks before their first game against Richmond on Dec. 2, the Dons continue to strengthen chemistry among the team. This year’s varsity’s squad has an unusual amount of underclassmen, though the seven sophomores will likely play a prominent role in the dynamics of the team.
“Seven sophomores might be an all-time record on the varsity soccer team, but I don’t think it is a bad thing,” Geannacopulos said. “We have a lot of talented young guys that took the potential roster spots of older players.”
While the inexperience may play a factor when it comes to playing in big games, the talent level is certainly apparent.
Coach Paul Curtis has played an integral role in the success of the soccer program over the years. Curtis develops a program that is nonchalant and fun, but also knows how to be disciplined as well as focused when needed.
Players not only learn to become better athletes but learn life lessons and vital skills necessary for succeeding in the real world.
“Paul has a very unique coaching style, on top of teaching us how to play well as a team, we learn how to become better men and citizens,” senior co-captain Aidan Mosley said.