FALL SPORTS RECAP
January 25, 2021
The 2020 fall sports season at Cherry Hill High School East was one that will be remembered for decades to come. 7 varsity teams were able to compete amidst the devastating coronavirus pandemic, bringing a sense of normalcy that has been hard to come by over the past few months. The boys and girls soccer teams, boys and girls cross country teams, football team, field hockey team and girls tennis team each adapted to the unique circumstances, performing at high levels when it was easy to give in.
Cherry Hill Athletic Director Michael Beirao said “we moved past each and every obstacle to continue on the path forward… I was so impressed by the resiliency and commitment to success displayed by our student athletes despite all of the issues that arise when you have a season in the middle of a pandemic.” This retrospective package looks back on the individual seasons for the Cougars 2020 fall varsity athletics.
Although Fall Sports this year were not adorned in East’s popularized “red-outs” or viewed by spectators from all levels, many East sports teams have managed to keep up their spirits and continue to put all their effort and work into owning the fields. The East football team may not have had their best year, but they definitely kept their heads held high despite whatever losses they faced. With their season being cut short due to the global pandemic, East Football ended the season with a record of 1-5.
The team anticipated two extra games at the end of their season but lost that opportunity due to new circumstances. The Cougars’ faced a tough season yet again, but the seniors of the team did not let that stop them from carrying out their last year on the East fields in a way that they were sure to remember for years to come.
“I knew it was going to be my last year so I just wanted to try and be a leader and show some of our younger guys what the right way of doing things was, especially the Juniors who are going to be the new captains next years; I think that they saw that and they know how to act now, being a leader in their own ways,” said Seba Miller (‘21).
With many ups and downs throughout the previous year, finding a positive outlook on their season was exactly the mindset they needed, especially from senior players.
“I feel like [what] I contributed [was] boosting the moral… but I wasn’t the only one. Every starter contributed equal amounts in my opinion,” said Nick Brown (‘21).
Through every tunnel, there is a light at the end of it, and in this case, Jadon Louis (‘21) found that within his final season of highschool football.
“I knew that being a captain on the team gave me responsibility so I had to step up, bring energy to the team, and make big plays.”
The season may not have gone their way, but there were definitely some takeaways. The team played with an entirely new coaching staff and they are in midst of a complete turnaround, with 30 freshman players in the prior season compared to 10 in the past. The future of Cherry Hill East Football is bright; the players and coaches look forward to East’s fortune in the years to come.
The 2020 Cherry Hill East Boys Soccer team will hold a place in East athletics history. A playoff run that included a win in penalty kicks over Rancocas Valley, a dominant win over Vineland, and an overtime victory over Washington Township paved the way for their appearance in the Southwest Group 4 championship game. This would be the first time East reached the championship game since 2001, and although they would suffer a defeat to Shawnee, this team accomplished what few thought they could. A decent regular season record of 6-4-3 designated East as the No. 6 team in the bracket entering the playoffs, but they would play way above their seeding. With a mix of sophomore and senior talent, the Cougars were able to knock in over 30 goals on the year, giving up only a little over 20. They finished as the 9th best team in South Jersey according to the Courier Post. This season will go down as one of East boys soccer’s best ever, and any doubt people had about them early on is long gone.
This team came together early on and played with a tenacity every single practice and game. By sacrificing many aspects of their social life and time during the offseason and especially during the season, their dedication is a big part of their success. With depth at almost every position and a substitute rotation that allowed for lots of moving pieces, they were able to withstand the obstacles of injuries and COVID to reach a championship. With large doses of raw talent, this team was a force to be reckoned with and will continue to be one moving forward.
While the team boasted a wealth of upperclassmen talent, there was a lack of full experience at several positions. With sophomores in key roles, it took the development of the season for this team to truly come together and reach their full potential. Early on there was a tunnel-vision type of playstyle seen in the first few games, where the flow of possession was too focused on attacking and less on outplaying the opponent overall, but this would not last long as they corrected these issues and started to play well down the stretch.
Coaches Thoughts: Mr. Melograna
What adversity needed to be overcome?
- Quick changes
- Lose Trey Shaw
- Getting down, not quitting
- Overcame self doubt
- Got together quick
How historic was that playoff run?
- No conference, division or sectionals
- Culmination of hard work (Nobody can take that away)
- 3 wins 2017, 8 1-goal losses
- Work ethic, pride, motivation
What does this senior class mean to you (legacy)?
- Leadership (captains down, roles and young guys)
- Building successful culture
- People put into positions to succeed
- 18 seniors, Robbie
Any thoughts for the future of the program? (2021 Outlook)
- Lots of guys coming back
- Open positions
- 5/6/7 kids w/ varsity experience
- Other teams in division will be great “Our division will be absolutely loaded next year”
- Learning moments from this year
- Getting the most out of guys (Focus on 4 sophmores, 2 juniors and positioning)
- Stats: 10 goals, 3 assists on the year. Game winner v WT. Second team All South Jersey, All-State.
- Quote: “Everyone knew their roles and bought in. When we went down there were a couple of us who really did our best to motivate the team to get back into the game.”
- Stats: 5 goals, 3 assists on year.
- Quote: “I knew that if I could improve myself and help my teammates improve then we would be successful. At the end of the day every role on the team is just important as the other.”
- Stats: 70 saves on the year. Game winning penalty kick saves v RV.
- Quote: “I thought about how much we’ve worked over these last four years to get to this point.”
- Stats: 3 assists. Defensive Anchor.
- Quote: “We had countless different players step up and become leaders and I was able to be one of them. We had a lot of talent going forward and allowed our team to be creative knowing we would be in the back to close down anything that came our way.”
Boys Cross Country
Boy’s Cross Country had a successful and exciting Fall season and overcame the difficulties of running during a pandemic. Finishing the season in second place in the Camden County Championship and the South Jersey Sectional Championship, Boy’s Cross Country came to an end but the brotherhood that sparked while running in harsh conditions or rooting for one another during a tiring race lives on.
Boy’s Cross Country had their most successful event of the season when they won the Olympic Conference against Cherokee because it changed the course of South Jersey running as Cherokee dominated the Conference for the last few years. Winning the Olympic Conference brought the team together unlike before. East witnessed some of their best races that day and won the team championship for the first time since 2014. Aidan Groff (‘21) came in the first place, winning the race with a time of 16:05. Coming soon behind him were other top teammates, Gabe Rodriquez (‘21) in 5th place and Aidan Eyre (‘21) in 10th.
The Junior Varsity Team finished the year with a victory at the JV Championship at Dream Park in Gloucester County. Mason Bulicki (‘21) led the team with a first-place finish in 17:35. East also took the Boy’s Freshman Championship with Raine Guidarelli (‘24) winning with a time of 18:40.
“The end of the season could’ve gone a little better, but overall I am super happy with how my senior year went. I made some big improvements both time-wise and [place-wise]. I was able to win the Olympic Conference [Championship] after finishing 19th as a Junior, I finished 10th at sectionals [this year] after finishing 27th as a Junior, and dropped 39 seconds off my best time from last year” said Groff.
The lowest point of the season came towards the end of this year’s races. Being one of the longest seasons the runners have had, most were all feeling a little tired by the end and it was hard to continue to improve.
The team went into Sectionals with the goal of winning, and then, came in second. “It was a hard day, and a lot of us just did not perform to the standard that we knew we could perform at. I could have improved on being more goal-oriented with myself and my teammates. I did not share my goals as loudly as I have in previous years” said Eyre.
However, the Cross Country team has a special bond centered around their friendship. They are there for each other, give each other advice, and encourage each other to be the best runners and people possible. Most importantly, the team is able to joke around and have fun with each other at the end of a hard day or run.
“Even with losing four guys from our top seven, I think this team can still have a bright future. If everybody continues to work hard and focus on what they’re doing I know they will succeed,” said Groff.
East Cross Country has a lot in store for the future because of the never-ending talent at East and the runners who continue to work hard to achieve their goals.
“Coach Corey does a great job coaching our team, and I think he learns something new from every season,” said Eyre.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, major races like the State Championship and the Meet of Champions were canceled. Coming into the season, the team had the goal of winning those races and when they were called off, motivation was left adrift. The pandemic separated Coach Corey from his team for part of the season and the runners took on additional responsibilities to make sure they were still practicing to the best of their abilities.
The team was unable to meet officially until August, negatively affecting the commitment and tangible skill of the runners because many consider the summer as almost half of the season in high school sports. The players missed out on a chunk of time to meet up and complete runs, which they had to complete in groups of two or three while maintaining distance. The favorable traditional large group workouts were compromised, making it difficult to connect with all members of the team in-person. The team took additional health precautions before and while running– filling out a health questionnaire, temperature checks, and masking up for all parts of practice.
“The team did a great job of holding one another accountable and ensuring that everyone was fully invested in our team’s aspirations of achieving our goals,” said Rodriguez.
With the postseason canceled, The boys’ team was accepted a non-affiliated invitation to compete against some of New Jersey’s best programs at the Holmdel Race Invitational on November 25.
“There were lots of highs and lows throughout the season. But, the thing that kept pulling me through was my team because I knew we were all going through it together,” said Eyre.
Hanging above the heads of all the runners, the quote “we will persist until we succeed” has become a motto of East’s Cross Country runners and has taught valuable lessons about motivation and brotherhood, encouragement to become the best, and commitment to a team of near-invincible runners.
2020 was definitely an unforgettable season for the East Girls Varsity Soccer Team. The soccer season was like no other considering all the COVID-19 restrictions. However, the girls persevered and made the best of the unfortunate situation. Despite COVID, the girls soccer team was still able to play in all their scheduled games. Unfortunately, the team didn’t win as many games as they hoped, leaving them with a record of 5-9. With this being said, they were eliminated early in the regional playoffs. However, they still gave it their all and tried their absolute best until the very last second of the season. The East Girls Varsity Soccer Team all agreed that the highlight of their season was defeating Camden Catholic on their senior night. This was a big confident boost and motivated the team for games later in the season. Despite this major win, the team still played inconsistently and struggled to win consecutive games. At the end of the season, East Girls Varsity Soccer Team recorded an overall of 25 goals and 20 assists. They also managed to earn 105.5 power points, which is the way the State weighs wins and losses. This left the team 11th out of 20 teams in the Group 4 division. Although the team didn’t do as well as they hoped, each member of the team still feels very fortunate to have a soccer season and spend time on the field with their teammates. The East Girls Varsity Soccer Team hopes to have a ten win season and win the playoffs in the 2021 season.
This was a very hardworking team with the love and passion for soccer. Despite the challenges of this season, all the girls worked very hard and showed up to each practice ready to work, even though they had no idea what the season would hold. The East girls soccer team had a high number of goals and assists this season: 25 goals and 20 assists. Not only that but the team was very hard working and persistent. They never game up and fought their hardest until the very end of each game. During the senior game against Camden Catholic, the two teams were tied during the second half. However, the East Girls Varsity Soccer Team worked even harder to score and secure the win. Overall, the East Girls Varsity Soccer Team will always be remembered for their grit, dedication, and perseverance.
The East Girls Varsity Soccer lacked consistently. Some days they played great and other days they didn’t. The team couldn’t figure out what to do to consecutively win games. Not only that but, the East Girls Varsity Soccer Team always allowed the opposing team to score first. This was a major setback each game because the East Cougars always had to work even harder to catch up to the opposing team. This was both mentally and physically draining. Another setback for the East Girls Varsity Soccer Team was the lack of team bonding. Due to COVID, the team couldn’t have their traditional bonding activities. This impacted the team, because the girls were not as close as past years. The team was unable to hold their annual psych parties or attend pre-season practices. This was very upsetting because the team bonding is one of the best parts of being a part of the team.
- Stats: 3 goals, 3 assists
- Quote: “This season I was honored to be nominated in the top 85 high school girls soccer seniors in NJ. My biggest accomplishment was being named an NJGSCA South All State Honoree, as well as being named on the South Top 20 player list. I wouldn’t have accomplished any of this without the help of my coaches and teammates this year.”
- Quote: “Our season was drastically different, our conference and total number of season games were reduced and travel was restricted. We were also unable to hold normal team bonding activities due to covid restrictions. In the end, we were extremely grateful to just be given the opportunity to play.”
- Stats: 4 goals, 4 assists
- Quote: “Most of us have been playing with each other for years so it’s going to be different without my teammates. We’ve all been through so much together inside and outside of soccer that we’re like a family.
- Quote: “I was fortunate enough to be nominated as a captain this season and help lead the team.”
- Stats: 8 goals, 5 assists
- Quote: “It might be a cliché, but we managed to avoid major injuries, which can be devastating to a team’s momentum and sense of purpose. Personally, I contributed 8 goals and 5 assists, leading the team in both categories.”
The 2020 Cherry Hill East Girls Tennis team was an unstoppable force all season long. Losing one match over the stretch of 12 games, they were able to defeat Williamstown, Rancocas Valley and Lenape on their way to a 19th trophy in 22 years. With talent across all grade levels, this team dropped only 5 total matches all season, winning a collective 54. Entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, they lived up to the expectations and took home the Group 4 Southwest Sectional championship. After losing their first match to top team Shawnee, they went on to win 11 straight, cementing themselves as a Group 4 powerhouse once again. The girls have continued the tradition of excellence within the program, and are still one of the best tennis teams in the state
The individual sport of tennis did not seem so independent with this team. The girls not only played every match to have fun, but as a team of elite players they were able to unite and form a winning mentality. By visualizing well and pushing each other each and every day, this team came together and won when lots of people thought they couldn’t. With each player taking leadership roles and acting with grace the entire year, the girls tennis team took 7 individually talented players and blossomed them into one of the best teams in the state.
With only two seniors on this year’s team, their only weakness was a lack of experience on the varsity level. 5 new players were thrown into the toughest level of competition, and although it was a new setting, they were still able to each succeed.
Coaches Thoughts: Mrs. Jewett
You guys have now won 19 of the last 22 Group 4 Southwest sectional championships, what type of pressure does that put on your players?
- Will miss Nancy and Sofia
- Return most of team
- No predictions, chips don’t matter
- Confident they’ll be incredible again (young this year)
- As long as team can gel and mold
- No pressure
- Don’t discuss past
- Pressure not put on them by anybody
- Do their best as part of good program
- Discuss what we have and the future, goals, no past
What made this specific team special?
- Camaraderie, close friends
- Everyone were great athletes, tennis players, and very intelligent
- JV, Doubles to lead roles (Improved!)
- People wrote them off as having a rebuilding year
- Personal goals and gameplay
As a team and a sport that does not fill the headlines or get the amount of love at this level it deserves, how would you describe the legacy of East Girls Tennis during your tenure?
- Used to lead headlines
- Defeated odds
- Spurred them on
What is in store for the future of this program? (2021 outlook)
- Will miss Nancy and Sofia
- Return most of team
- No predictions, chips don’t matter
- Confident they’ll be incredible again (young this year)
- As long as team can gel and mold
- Stats: 9-3 record on the year (Singles 1). All-Group 4 Singles.
- Quote: “This year, the most important thing for me was really just to contribute to the team in some way. I think I’ve always looked up to East’s tennis team and I’m really grateful to have been part of it this year. This season, Coach Jewett always reminded us to be ‘humble yet intense’ and I think that’s going to continue to be my mindset moving into next season.”
- Stats: 11-1 record on the year (Singles 2). All-Group 4 Singles.
- Quote: “Everyone knew coming in that they had to step up. The mentality that we had to be competitive and work hard to reach success this season helped us feed off each other’s energy and lead to wins. With five new varsity players we were viewed as underdogs, but we came together to have a very good season.”
- Stats: 11-1 record on the year (Singles 3).
- Quote: “I felt pressure to keep improving throughout the season and always playing to the best of my ability, especially during sectionals. I will step up as a junior next year by making sure I guide and motivate the freshmen and sophomores throughout the season and try to be a good role model for others. Especially by having a positive mindset through difficult matches.”
- Doubles Stats: 12-0 (Doubles 1). All-Group 4 Doubles.
- Quote: “It was a lot of leading by example because just telling people what to do is not good leadership.”
Girls Cross Country
Through a pandemic that has forced thousands to disconnect from their jobs and true-blue passions− Cherry Hill East Girls Cross Country has found a way to continue running, grow stronger, and spark a sisterhood-ignited flame that revolves around their commitment to persevere and work harder.
Although most of the team improved previous times from last year or the beginning of the season at the Cougar Invitational, they found lots of success leading to the Group IV Sectionals because the Girl’s Cross Country Team ran most of their meets at Dream Park. Leading the team’s charge to finish second at the Group IV Sectional Race, the team’s best finish since 2006, Lexi Tepper (‘23) became the Group IV sectional champion. Following in 5th place, Marykate McCurdy (‘21), in 12th, Madison McNiff (‘22), Inesa Grace Linker (‘23) came in 13th, and Sabrina Rounds (‘21) came in 30th.
“The connection that running gives us is truly special as running is completely a mental sport, and because of that, a runner always needs constant support [system] like [being able to] rely on her teammates to push her to the finish line,” said McCurdy.
The team learned to celebrate their little successes and accomplishments as individuals− completing three sets of a workout or getting a PR at a specific course turned little victories into stronger motivational bonds. However, many of the runners felt that the team’s lowest point was not winning the Conference and following after the pursuit of East’s victory during the previous two seasons.
McNiff says another one of the rock-bottom positions of the season was the Camden County Championships because the team did not do the best, subsequently putting themselves down because of it. The low hanging heads forced the girls to dig themselves out of a hole that they kept putting themselves in and change the outlook from a little bump in order to overcome it.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty and low motivation were at an unfortunate peak but the girls persevered and learned to band together. “I think that the summer was disappointing because we were always wondering if we were even going to have a season. However, we have so many positive influences on the team that helped us train harder, knowing that our work would put us on top if we did have some sort of a season” said Tepper.
Usually, during the season the cross country runners are used to running together in packs, but due to forlorn external forces, the runners had to social distance, taking away some of the best conversations and memories that stem from running together and team bonding. Additionally, practices differed from other years because of mask mandates, running “pod,” new and ever-changing information, and required health checks.
Tepper said, “Our ability to understand that, while we were practicing, other teams were still disheartened and not training as hard as they would during a “normal” season, [helped] us push ourselves past the odds… I think we were lucky to have races with everything going on, and by the end of the season, we were able to come together as a team to prove ourselves.”
Girl’s Cross Country has a bright future ahead at East because of the sisterhood and running relationships that continually get passed down from class to class. The program has exponentially grown over the preceding few years. “Watching the girl JV members of the team is very inspiring. At practice, they always put in their best effort and put themselves in the fastest groups” said Rounds.
The team’s sense of family will help them move forward in the future as it is key to performance, strategizing, and working together. Although many say running is an individual sport, it is also very much of a team sport. Leading the team to triumph, Coach Maniscalco and Coach Brake make the transition for new runners seamless as they help runners reach their full running potential and kindle motivation by displaying expert tips.
“Cross Country has been affected by [the global pandemic] in many different ways, especially, the team aspect. There were no pasta parties, which was a great way to get to know your team better. Another was [the lack of and the absence of] underclassmen… because there was no communication without being in school” said McNiff.
Overall, the Girls Cross Country team has found success by safely coming together despite the many difficulties of holding a season during a global pandemic.
Girls Field Hockey
The Cherry Hill East field hockey team did not let the Covid-19 restrictions slow them down. Although the season started later and the season had less games, the girls worked hard and pulled out some wins. The team suffered a tough loss to Cherry Hill West, but defeated Old Lady of Mercy and scored their most goals of the season. Even after facing injuries, the girls still maintained a strong team dynamic both on and off the field.
“This team is so special because we were more like a family. Whether we were at practice, warming up for a game, or singing together on the bus, our bond was like no other.” said captain Juliane Alcamo (‘21).
With the new addition of JV head coach, Lisa Patron, the future looks bright for East Field hockey. The team already has many underclassmen with a lot of skills and experience.
“There is so much talent the team just needs to work on applying it to game situations” said captain Mary Fleichman (‘21)
COVID-19 made its mark on their season early on, preventing lots of contact.
East’s cheerleading team made the most of a difficult situation this football season. With a lack of fans, COVID-19 precautions in place and a confusing football schedule, these girls had to come together and persevere like every other team. Cheerleading is much more than meets the eye- it takes the innate ability to stunt, the enthusiasm to yell for four quarters and the ability to unite over a dozen girls into one voice.
COVID-19 made its mark on their season early on, preventing lots of contact.
“We could not stunt for a while,” said senior captain Joy Thomas. “A new struggle I faced was keeping everyone motivated.”
These words were echoed by fellow captain Aubrey Bohem (‘21).
“It was an important season for me as a senior captain because I got to help lead and guide my team through the season,” Bohem said.
But the navigation of the pandemic had some silver linings hidden. The need for creative alternatives to practices led to closer bonds between the girls that previous seasons prevented.
“We tried to create a sense of normalcy by having outdoor and virtual workouts,” said senior Maddie Graham. She also said that they had outdoor fundraisers that brought the team together to raise money.
Cougar pride flows through each of these girls, and it shows year in and year out. Even during a year where they cheered for minimal to no fans, the girls brought the same spirit that they would before thousands of spectators.
“No matter what grade you’re in we all connect with each other and bond,” said Thomas when asked about how special this team is. “We all work really hard and encourage each other to reach our full potential which makes it fun and feel supportive.”
This work ethic sets a precedent that will be followed by the succeeding cheer teams.
“There are a lot of experienced cheerleaders coming to East next year,” said junior captain Alexa Atlas. “Not only that, but it will be our coach Amanda Farrel’s third year leading the team. She is very determined to make the team the best it can be and always pushes us to try our best.”
Cheer coach Farrel echoed these sentiments.
“This team gained so much skill in such a short time and had such an amazing outlook throughout. Their compassion and drive never ceased to amaze me,” she said.
So in a fall sports season that saw each and every team find special ways to maneuver within the pandemic, the cheer squad at East was no different. These girls came together and learned from one another while cheering on East’s football team this unique season.
The East cheerleading team is in a good position to continue their excellence in the upcoming years, and this season was an example of how enthusiasm can breed greatness.