By Warren Rappleyea TThe Hazlet Swim & Tennis Club swim team will be looking for its first win of the season when it meets neighboring Holmdel today. Hazlet, under third-year coach Jean Marie Gillen, opened the campaign with a tie against Howell’s Candlewood Saturday. Following the Holmdel meet, the team will be back in action this Saturday against the YMCA of Western Monmouth County. As always, Gillen has a large team, 170 competitors to be exact, including a handful of 5- and 6-year-olds. And everyone competes. “We just want them to do the best they can, learn and to have fun competing,” the Raritan High School graduate explained. “One of our main goals is to teach good sportsmanship so that we’ll be good to other teams and they’ll be good to us in return.” All of Hazlet’s swimmers compete in four events: breaststroke, butterfly, back stroke and freestyle. For Wednesday meets, the girls compete in breaststroke and butterfly, while the boys compete in freestyle and backstroke. They switch events for Saturday meets. Having such a large number of participants does, however, create unique circumstances. The team practices five days a week, but there are three practices per day with team members split by ability and age. According to Gillen, who began coaching following her senior year at Raritan, coaching such a large number of swimmers takes some getting used to. “It was kind of overwhelming at first,” said Gillen, now entering her junior year at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. “Now that I’ve been the coach for a while, I know the kids and I see a lot of brothers and sisters coming along. They’re very respectful and they want to learn.” Competitions are broken up by age group: 8 and under; 9-10; 11-12; 13-14; and 15-18. Following are Hazlet’s top scorers by age group: 8 and under: Carly Bissett, Gina Del Russo, Brian Lendini, Lindsay Zuffanti, Kyle Bergslein, Brendan Costello, Michael Langan and T.J. Miara. 9-10: Casey Crist, Kara Kelsey, Helen McDonald, Kim Renna, Timothy Bergslein, Steven Dillulio, Patrick Langan and Joe Panullo. 11-12: Paige Bissett, Kelly Crist, Stephanie Del Russo, Monique Zuffanti, Chriss Coccaro, Peter Sadecki and Sean Walsh.
VERONICA YANKOWSKI St. John Vianney’s Jason Fischer tries to elude the grasps of Edison’s Bobby Wolf during the Jersey Shore Duals in Matawan on July 2. The Middletown High School North American Legion baseball team entered the summer campaign hoping to develop a few pitchers, and thanks to a large number of rainouts, several players will get a chance on the hill during the next two weeks. Middletown North has played just six of its 18 games and is 3-3, having defeated Middletown South, Marlboro and Freehold. Coach Bill Hemberger’s team has five games scheduled for each of the next two weeks. “That’s going to play havoc with our pitching, but it will also give players an opportunity to see what they can do on the mound,” he said. “One of our goals is to find a couple of pitchers who can help out the varsity next spring.” North does have two proven pitchers, hard-throwing lefty Bill Hemberger and right-hander Anthony Degennaro, both of whom are entering their senior year. The younger Hemberger was 2-3 for the North varsity this spring and is 2-0 for the Legion entry. VERONICA YANKOWSKI CBA’s David Chirichello (top) works on Bound Brook’s Reggie Perry during a 130-pound bout at the Jersey Shore Duals. Sophomore lefty Matt Marx and junior Ryan Daly are among the likely starters for this week’s games. “After that, we’ll see who wants to pitch and take it from there,” the coach said. Other members of the team include juniors Matt Fix, Steve Lopez and Dan Trezza; and sophomores Mark Baker, Kyle Folks, Denny Freshnock, Artie Kaylor, Garrett Maron, Lou Obregon, Matt Pignatello and Chris Susi. North is playing without junior third baseman Dan Walling, who is out with a wrist injury.
Brookdale Community College’s baseball team has a tough act to follow. PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff Above: The Brookdale baseball team greets first baseman Ryan Smyth at home plate during the game. The team is ranked fourth in America and is looking for its fourth trip to the College World Series later this spring. Below: Brookdale starting pitcher Jeff Frost pitches to an Ocean County College batter during the first inning of the teams’ game at Brookdale on March 28. The sophomores who dominated the 2007 have graduated, and with them, an era, in a way. They led the Blues to two straight Junior CollegeWorld Series appearances that include a fourth place last year. The Blues were 82-20 over the those two seasons, winning the Garden State Athletic Conference and Region XIX crowns back-toback. Among the graduated players wereAll- Americans Paddy Matera and Jimmy Principie. Principie was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, andMatera made the All-College World Series twice. Even though the 2008 Jersey Blues are a young teamwith only three starters, Brookdale started the season ranked No. 4 in the country. That’s because coach Johnny Johnson is always bringing top talent to the Brookdale campus. That’s why he is looking for a fourth straight trip to theWorld Series. Among the key recruits this year is Keith Weinkofsky, the Ocean Township High School grad who set a Shore Conference record last spring for career home runs.He’s slated to start at first base. WestwoodHigh School southpawpitcher Dylan Cacciola was an all-stater like Weinkofsky and bolsters the pitching staff. Right-hander Ryan Casey fromManchester adds depth to the pitching rotation. Transfers Andy Vega (New York City Player of the Year) and Gabe Torres are expected to make big contributions. The returning starters are Ryan Smith, Julian Media (Long Island, N.Y.) and Nick Alberino (Monroe). Smith, a co-captain, was a pre-season All-American. He batted .365 with five home runs and 26 RBI last year. He is a product of Don Bosco Prep. Johnson likes his team’s offensive balance. Smith, Eddie Galante (Wall) and Weinkofsky provide the middle of the lineup with power while Vega, Gabe Torres, Media, Ivan Rodriquez and Alberino can shake things up at the top of the lineup with their speed. They can create runs with their baserunning or be table-setters for the power hitters. Cacciola, Matt Padgett (Toms River), Ryan Casey and Chris Giblin began the season as the starting rotation. Padgett is the lone returner. Brookdale certainly lived up to its national ranking down in Florida. The Blues went 10-3 in the Sunshine State. The Blues started play in the Garden State Conference with an impressive 12-5 win over Union. Weinkofsky’s two-RBI double and Alberino’s two-run home run staked the Blues to a 4-0 lead in the first, and there was no looking back. Brookdale begins a three-game home stand on Friday hosting Monroe (N.Y.) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, the Blues play Del- Tech-Owns, a Region rival, in a twin bill that starts at noon. On Monday, they play the College of New Jersey JV. Brookdale is hosting this year’s Region XIX tournament finals May 9-11. The tournament begins May 3-4 at the home of the higher-seeded team.
By Nemanja BjedovCYPRUS’ two Europa League representatives Apollon and APOEL go head-to-head in Round 8 of the Cyprus championship on Saturday afternoon at 3pm at the Tsirion Stadium in Limassol.“APOEL recently changed their coach and he is trying to implement new tactics. We have already analysed what changes were made and we will prepare for them in the same way we prepare for any other game regardless if we play locally or in Europe,” said Apollon coach Christakis Christoforou“I want us to perform well and regardless of the outcome, our goals – which are focused on the Europa League – will not alter,” added Christoforou whose side top the table on 18 points. However, Christoforou will not be able to count on Abraham Gneki Guie, Bertrand Robert and Charalambos Kyriakou for the APOEL clash.“Charalambous started training with the team and hopefully he will be fully fit for the match against Lazio (on Thursday), while Robert is currently in Israel in the medical centre we cooperate with. Guie is currently following an individual training regime and it is still unclear when he will be able to help the team,” Christoforou added.APOEL coach Giorgos Donis recorded his first win with the Cyprus champions in the last round when the Nicosia giants overcame Anorthosis 1-0 at the GSP Stadium, and he will be looking to build on the result.“I believe this is an important game if you take into consideration the current standings. Obviously earning points is important and we do not want the gap between us and the teams on top to widen; however, at this time I am not entirely focused on the result,” assessed Donis.“My priority is to make my team play better, for us to improve as a unit. The final result definitely counts and this game is a big one, but we approach each match in the same way. We will analyse the opposition,” added Donis whose side lie sixth in the table, trailing Apollon by five points.APOEL central defenders Aritz Borda and Joao Guilherme are doubtful, but Donis has insisted that the missing players should not be an excuse and that his team must show themselves as being as strong as possible in every game.Elsewhere, on Saturday at 5pm, Doxa Katokopia host AEK Kouklion, while an hour later Alki take on Ethnikos Achnas.In-form Ermis Aradippou face AEL at the Ammochostos Stadium in Larnaca at 7pm.On Sunday afternoon at 4pm, Anorthosis meet Enosis Neon Paralimni, while at 6pm Aris and Omonia host AEK Larnaca and Nea Salamina respectively.
The results of the Cyprus Cup Round of 16, 2nd Leg matches played on Wednesday, January 28, are as follows:Ethnikos Achnas 2-2 AELAggregate: 2-3Othellos Athienou 2-1 ApollonAggregate: 3-2APOEL 3-0 OlympiakosAggregate: 4-0Already through to the last eight are Karmiotissa, Ermis Aradippou and AEK Larnaca.The Round of 16, 2nd Leg games still to be played are:Wednesday, February 4:Ayia Napa vs Omonia (0-4)Anorthosis vs Digenis Oroklinis (2-1)
By Martyn HermanDefending champion Novak Djokovic’s preparations for Wimbledon have been laid back in the extreme.The world number one has not played a competitive match since a gut-wrenching defeat by Stanislas Wawrinka in the French Open final at the start of the month, opting out of the Wimbledon warm-up events in what has been an extended grass court swing.Djokovic even posted a photograph of himself apparently asleep on one of the All England Club lawns this week but do not be deceived.Once the Serb walks on to Centre Court on Monday to begin his quest for a third Wimbledon title he will flick the switch and the warrior instincts are sure to return.Djokovic made it a mission this year to complete his career grand slam at Roland Garros and after back-to-back wins against Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and semi-finals his moment seemed to have arrived.An inspired Wawrinka slammed the door shut though.It was a heartbreaking defeat for Djokovic but a fortnight in the English country garden setting of the All England Club, with some expected warm weather too, will provide the perfect antidote for any lingering disappointment.“He was very close to achieving something that very few players have done … he probably needed some time away to rest and relax and get his head right,” said Wimbledon third seed Andy Murray.Djokovic’s most likely title rivals, Murray and 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, have been busy sharpening their grass court tools.Murray breezed to a fourth Queen’s Club title while Federer’s eighth Halle crown in Germany backed up the belief that, even at 33, the second seed could win an eighth Wimbledon crown to move past American Pete Sampras in the all-time list.‘Murray Mania’ will pump up to full volume over the next couple of weeks with the in-form Briton being tipped to win his first slam since beating Djokovic on Centre Court in 2013.He has lost eight in a row to Djokovic since then and such is Djokovic’s reliability that it is likely Murray will have to solve that conundrum if he is to triumph.“He has put himself back in the mix,” triple Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said of the Scot’s resurgence after a lacklustre 2014.“I think overall he is 10 to 15 per cent better and that is a significant amount at his level.”Two-time champion Nadal will arrive under the radar.Seeded 10th after a mediocre year, dethroned French Open king Nadal won his first grass court title for five years in Stuttgart a few days later and then lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov at Queen’s but no one will want to face him.“I think in certain ways it’s not about the shots, it’s more about what’s inside his head, how healthy he is,” said McEnroe.Last year’s tournament saw Grigor Dimitrov oust defending champion Murray, Australian trailblazer Nick Kyrgios hammered Nadal and Milos Raonic fell to Federer in the semi-finals and that trio will return with high expectations.The unpredictable Kyrgios, 20, has the ‘wow’ factor to shake up the establishment, according to fellow Aussie Darren Cahill who once coached former champion Lleyton Hewitt.“There are going to be highs and lows with Nick because he’s so young and goes for broke but he clearly likes the biggest stages and that makes him dangerous,” said Cahill.
By Martyn HermanBritain’s team for the country’s first Davis Cup final for 37 years was named on Tuesday with Kyle Edmund and James Ward vying for the second singles berth behind Andy Murray.Captain Leon Smith also named Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot for the match against Belgium which begins in Ghent on November 27.Dan Evans, who played in the semi-final against Australia, was not selected.Britain have not won the Davis Cup since 1936 and last appeared in the final in 1978 when they lost to the USWorld number two Andy Murray, currently in action at the ATP World Tour Finals, has spearheaded his country’s challenge and could play three rubbers on the claycourt in Ghent, as he did in the semi-final against Australia when he teamed up with brother Jamie to win a crucial doubles rubber.He also won both his singles matches in that tie while against France in the quarter-finals, Murray again earned his country three points, having played singles and doubles.The big question for Smith is whether to go with the experienced Ward or 20-year-old Edmund for the second singles spot against a Belgium side led by world number 16 David Goffin.Edmund did his cause no harm when he moved back into the world’s top 100 last week by winning his third ATP Challenger Tour title of the year on the clay in Buenos Aires.However, Ward produced a memorable victory in the Davis Cup first round clash against the US in San Diego, beating John Isner in five sets.“It’s an historic moment in British tennis and I’m delighted to name these five players for the tie against Belgium,” Smith said on the ITF website.“The team has had some incredible results this year, and we know that off the back of defeating the three other grand slam nations we carry great momentum going into the final, however we will not under-estimate the challenge in front of us.”“The Belgian team is full of top 100 talent and they will push us all the way.”
Julian Draxler scored twice as VfL Wolfsburg took a big step towards reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 3-2 victory over Gent in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.Draxler, who joined from Schalke 04 at the start of the season, struck in the 44th minute after a classy dribble past midfielder Thomas Foket and a quick one-two with Vierinha before tucking the ball past the keeper.Gent started the second half much improved, pushing for an equaliser, but Draxler netted again in the 54th minute as he capitalised on one of many errant passes by the Gent defence.Max Kruse then made it 3-0 and also came close to adding a fourth goal before the home team rallied with two strikes in the last 10 minutes from Sven Kums and Kalifa Coulibaly.The Belgian top-flight champions, making their first appearance at this stage of the competition, appeared nervous at times.Gent defended sloppily from the start and only began putting pressure on Wolfsburg’s inexperienced keeper Koen Casteels towards the end of the match.The Germans will now fancy their chances of going through when the teams meet in the second leg on March 8.
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri is convinced closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur will not give up easily and predicted a “terrible” last five games for his team who continue their surge for a maiden Premier League title.Leicester, seven points ahead of second-placed Tottenham, are three victories away from capturing their first English top-flight title but Ranieri would take nothing for granted.“It’s not done yet though. We’re in the Champions League, but the last five games will be terrible. Tottenham won’t give up and we have to stay focused,” Ranieri told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.“Our work rate? That’s our great asset. They’re good lads, facing the story of their lives with great responsibility… Nobody saves themselves or stops for breath.”Ranieri appeared moved to tears after his team outfoxed relegation-threatened Sunderland on Sunday to confirm their place in next season’s Champions League.“They weren’t real tears, they were unshed tears. It was an emotional moment… I have a public role and I try to be level-headed,” the former Chelsea manager said.“I have to give clear signals to my team, I can’t get carried away by emotion.”Leicester can take a step closer to the title when they host Champions League-chasing West Ham United on Sunday.
By Alan BaldwinFORMULA One world champion Lewis Hamilton took pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix with Mercedes team mate and overall leader Nico Rosberg set to start seventh after a grid penalty.Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg joined the Briton on the front row, only his second career top-two start, although the German was under investigation by stewards for a possible flag infringement.In a qualifying session marked by rain and dramatic suspension failures, with the finger of blame pointed at new kerbs, Hamilton made no mistake for his 54th career pole and second in a row in Austria.“It was a really fun session,” he told reporters. “Here it dries up so quickly, it’s like driving through fog at some stages. I think it just added to the excitement.“And being a new surface as well it was very, very slippery, but it was drying up corner by corner. At the end it was just about getting that last lap.”Britain’s Jenson Button ended up a remarkable third for misfiring McLaren, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fourth.Although Button qualified fifth, the 2009 champion moved up thanks to five-place penalties for Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel ahead of him.Rosberg, who has won in Austria for the past two years and leads Hamilton by 24 points ahead of Sunday’s race, crashed in final practice and needed a hurried gearbox change, triggering the penalty.The German was just relieved to have limited the damage, thanking the team for a huge effort to get his car ready for qualifying.“Even Lewis’s mechanics came over to my car to try to get it out in time,” said Rosberg. “It was really tight.“I think Lewis just did a good job there in the very end and that’s it. Second is not first but it’s OK. The five places will be very costly of course for tomorrow but I’ll make the best of it anyway.”The final phase of qualifying took place on a drying track, with the leaderboard constantly changing and some surprising names at the top at times.The pole teed Hamilton up perfectly for a possible victory at a scenic track he has yet to master. The champion finished runner-up in 2014 and 2015.Despite a reputation for going against the general trend on safety calls, Hamilton echoed his rivals in expressing concern about the kerbs.Red Bull’s Max Verstappen broke his car’s suspension in Friday’s practice, Rosberg added his name to the list on Saturday and was followed by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Force India’s Sergio Perez in qualifying.Kvyat’s incident could have been the most serious, with the Russian fortunate not to smash into the pit lane wall after his car skewed out of control in the first phase of qualifying.“For me, looking at it, those yellow kerbs are quite dangerous,” said Hamilton.“We’ve now seen a couple of incidents already. I don’t know how many more of those it’s going to take before a car ends up in the wall and someone gets hurt.”“The idea is good because they don’t want us running wide, and using the outside of the circuit, but perhaps another solution is needed.”