A different year, a different set of expectations.
The graduation of eight seniors — including those with last names like Pearson, Olson and Zurowski, who were critical parts of three successive WIAA State Division 1 championships — will do that.
But coach Katie Moore knows that all things come in cycles and that for a rebuilding year, things won't be too bad for the FMOW team.
It opened its season with a credible third-place score of 137.175 in the eight-school Waterford Emerald Invitational on Saturday as long-time rival, the Burlington co-op, dominated the event with 145.325 mark and the Mukwonago co-op was second with 137.225.
"Overall I was happy with the team score," Moore said. "Adjusting to a new group of athletes will take some time for all of us to gel together and meet our potential. I really enjoy the new girls on the team, and I feel that they have some real talent that will begin to show in our scores as we get further into the season."
The top returnee for FMOW is Sam Balcerak, and she had a good day at Waterford against the high-powered competition, earning thirds on the uneven bars (9.25) and balance beam (9.05) and a fifth on floor exercise (9.2).
Another returnee, Taylor Oleszak, was seventh on the balance beam (8.8).
Junior Jerica Kotatak, a junior, was sixth in the all-around.
"I'm looking for her to really make an impact in the all-around when she hits her stride," Moore said of Kotatak.
It'll be a new look for the defending Southeast Conference champions as the 2013 graduation took a major bite out of the Sabers' talent base.
But coach Ross Lennertz is still optimistic, building around state place-winning diver August Beck, who is coming off a NOW All-Suburban football season at linebacker.
"Last year we lost a lot of strong swimmers," Lennertz said. "This year and next year will be rebuilding years, but we still have a strong team. August Beck has been doing great, already breaking the school record for a six-dive meet. He has also been looking very good in the water."
Lennertz has been impressed with the efforts of sophomores Andre Conrad and Luke Gavronski, who according to the coach have been training hard and swimming well.
Freshmen DJ Nowacki and Michael Fischer will be "great additions" to the team this year, he said.
"Past this we have gained a lot of new swimmers and our returning swimmers have been working their butts off," Lennertz said. "Although we are rebuilding, we still have a strong team with a lot of promise. I am very interested to see where the season will take us. If the boys keep working as hard as they are, I have no doubt we can do some big things this season."
The Knights, in their newly refurbished pool, have large numbers (50-plus) and are off to a competitive start, splitting a pair of Southeast Conference duals and taking a competitive third in the Caleb Gottinger Memorial Invitational at Milwaukee Riverside on Saturday.
Again coached by Joe Schoen, the Knights will be led by a strong group of divers, including seniors Danny Horner, Justin Hibbler and Spencer Cook. That trio went one-two-three, respectively, in the Gottinger meet, with Horner recording a winning 11-dive mark of 334.3 points.
Leaders in the pool for Oak Creek include seniors Jacob Wnuk (sprints and butterfly) and Justin Sporleder (sprints).
Schoen was pleased with the effort at the Gottinger, which was broken down into junior and senior and freshmen and sophomore competitions and then totaled up for a final score.
Overall, the Knights turned in a score of 506 points as Cedarburg won with 817, and Waukesha North was second with 529. Nine teams were involved.
The Knights also beat Racine Horlick, 103-82, in a Southeast Conference dual after falling to Kenosha Indian Trail in their opening dual, 95-84.
"We have our work cut out for us in certain areas," Schoen said, "but I honestly believe with the work we have been putting in and will continue to do we will be dropping time in every meet from every person on the team."
The Knights took on rival Franklin on Tuesday.
Nathan Hensley and Erik Martinson both claimed individual championships as the Panthers took second place in the Tom Burns Invitational on Saturday.
Hensley won the 113-pound crown, while Martinson prevailed at 145 pounds. Both wrestlers went 4-0 on the day, with Hensley notching an 11-2 major decision and Martinson posting a 5-2 decision in their title matches.
Greendale tallied 1431/2 points to trail only Oak Creek (233) in the 11-team meet.
The win didn't quite have the same cachet as it did last year, but Knights coach Steve Hluchnik was still pleased with the 49-39 road victory over defending state Division 1 champion Milwaukee Riverside on Friday.
"I thought we did a nice job of handling the pressure, of having to play known athletes in a great and difficult atmosphere," Hluchnik said. "... It was a very nice win, and it had a little bit of everything and gave us a little adversity to work against."
The edge was taken off the victory for the top-ranked in state 5-0 Knights because the Tigers, hit a bit by graduation and going up against a brutally difficult schedule, left the game with a 0-6 record. Last year, the Tigers started 1-4, including a one-point loss to Oak Creek, but still went on to win the state title.
The Knights, who also crushed Southeast Conference opponent Racine Horlick, 80-27, Dec. 10, will visit arch rival Franklin at 6 p.m. Friday in the opener of a girl-boy doubleheader (see separate story).
Oak Creek trailed Riverside 27-22 at the half, but then outscored the Tigers, 27-12, in the second half to pull away.
"We did a better job defensively in the second half, and we also handled their pressure better," Hluchnik said.
Senior post Stephanie Kostowicz had a breakout game with 18 points while Katie Finn put in 14, and Tamya Sims 13 for the Knights, who hit 17 of 22 from the foul line as opposed to just eight of 19 for the Tigers.
In the win over Horlick, 10 players scored, led by Hannah Settingsgaard with 15, Sims with 14, Katie Settingsgaard with 11 and Kostowicz with 10.
WHITNALL BOYS BASKETBALL
The Falcons extended their winning streak to three games with an 87-67 triumph over Shorewood on Dec. 10.
Nate Schaefer collected a game-high 32 points to lead the way, while Tre Borland put in 24 points and Mitch Brault 18 points.
The Falcons rolled up 35 field goals for the contest, including six from 3-point range. Brault connected for four shots from distance and Borland two.
Whitnall led 44-40 at the half and 61-54 after three quarters, then put away the game with a 26-13 outburst in the fourth period.
The Falcons improved to 3-2 in the Woodland Conference East Division and 4-3 overall.
They met Pius XI on Tuesday and visit South Milwaukee in a division game at 7:30 p.m. Friday. They are then off until Dec. 28, when they welcome Waukesha West.
The Sabers were a competitive 13th in the 23-school Battle on the Bay in Green Bay on Saturday.
Franklin will visit arch rival Oak Creek in a Southeast Conference dual at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Sabers scored 241.5 points for their spot in the Battle on the Bay as Bay Port cruised to the title with 559.
Gavin Devine, a 285-pounder, led the way with a fourth-place finish, recording three straight pins before losing tough decisions to East Troy and Mukwonago wrestlers.
Other good finishes included Brian Lacina in seventh at 220 (3-2), Xianou Xiong in sixth at 113 (3-2), Noah Larson in seventh at 132 (3-2), Steven Djuring in 10th at 182 (2-2), and Marcus Grimm in 11th at 195 (2-2).
Louden Brown lost his first two matches, but then won three straight tough decisions to take 17th.
FRANKLIN GIRLS BASKETBALL
The Sabers improved to 4-0 overall with an easy 65-36 Southeast Conference win over Kenosha Bradford on Friday.
Franklin (2-0 in Southeast play), will now host their arch rivals and top-ranked in state Oak Creek (2-0, 5-0) at 6 p.m. Friday in the opener of a girls-boys doubleheader between the two schools. The Sabers upset the Knights in WIAA sectional play in March in the last meeting between the two teams.
Against Bradford, the Sabers broke out to a 17-9 lead at the quarter and expanded that to 31-17 at the half. They coasted home from there, outscoring the Red Devils in every period.
total of 11 players scored in the game, led by Paige Bobos with 16, Montana Mack with 10 and Abby Schauer, Morgan McCuen and Taylor Schell with six apiece. Eva Oklobdzija had five rebounds and Sarah Neumann four blocked shots.
Emily Perszyk tallied 20 points and six steals to help the Panthers to a 43-33 victory over Cudahy on Dec. 10.
Ellen Davis added 12 points for Greendale, which tallied 20 second-period points to grab a 25-18 halftime advantage.
"We struggled in the first quarter," head coach Julie Hahm said. "In the second, Natalie Burton came off the bench to give us a spark and we found our rhythm to go on a 9-0 run. In the second half, the girls showed a lot of maturity in maintaining the lead and not letting Cudahy's pressure get to us."
The Panthers then fell to Shorewood, 44-29, Friday. Perszyk totaled 10 points but was the only player in double figures.
"We had trouble finding open shots in the first quarter (with just three points)," Hahm said. "Shorewood puts three players who are 5 feet-10 inches or more across the middle of the defense, and that caused problems for us."
Greendale fell behind, 18-12, at the half, then rallied to within three on a 3-point goal by Sarah Belanger late in the third period. The Panthers could not catch up, though.
Greendale (3-1 in the Woodland Conference, 3-2 overall going into this week) welcomes New Berlin Eisenhower at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Knights overcame an 11-1 deficit early but then were outscored 40-29 in the second half en route to a 63-50 Southeast Conference loss to Racine Horlick on Friday.
Oak Creek, which had won a 56-54 non-conference decision over Brookfield East on Dec. 10, will now visit arch rival Franklin in the nightcap of a girl-boy doubleheader on Friday at about 7:45 p.m.
In the loss to Horlick, Oak Creek closed the gap to 23-21 at the half, but then the Rebels were able to stretch it out to 42-34 at the end of three quarters.
The loss came despite a spectacular 30-point effort from guard Alex Medenwalt that included 12 of 14 free throws. Harrison Cleary added 11.
In the win over East, the Knights were down, 30-21, at the half but then outscored the Spartans, 21-6, in the third quarter to take a 42-36 lead into the fourth. Medenwalt again had a big game with 22 points (six of seven free throws) while Cleary had 15 and Tristan Garrivay eight.
Despite 14 points from Krista Stribling, the Falcons fell to Shorewood, 52-33, Dec. 10 in their only action of last week.
Ann Marie Bay tallied 8 points and Candace Pollock 5 for Whitnall, which slipped to 0-3 in the Woodland Conference East Division and 0-5 overall.
The Falcons welcome South Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m. Friday and West Allis Central at 2:30 p.m. Saturday to close out action for 2013.
— Compiled by Steven L. Tietz
and John Rech
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