AVON — Expectations are super high once again for head coach Rob Fries and the Braves’ boys basketball team this winter.
Fries, arguably the LCAA’s top coach along with Cal-Mum’s Dan Dickens, enters his 15th season after finishing 12-1 a year ago winning their second straight sectional title.
In 2019, Avon won the Class B2 title with the 17-point victory over Way-Co and last year they claimed the Class C1 crown with the 62-56 victory over Marcus Whitman.
This year could be a three-peat for Gang Green as Fries calls this squad the deepest shooting team he’s ever coached, high praise indeed.
Avon senior Zach Colvin could be the best overall player in the LCAA.
The 6-foot-3 forward does it all for the Braves averaging a double-double last year at 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. He also dished out two dimes per contest.
Sophomore Michael Rowland was Avon’s second leading scorer a year ago averaging 16 points per game along with four boards. He connected on a team-high 41 3-pointers.
Senior guard Andrew Rowland was also stat stuffer averaging eight points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
When Colvin and the Rowland brothers are on the floor together, good things tend to happen for the Braves.
“Seniors Andrew Rowland and Zach Colvin have been on the team since eighth grade and are four-year starters,” coach Fries said. “Along with sophomore Michael Rowland, they were our three high scorers last year. Zach has averaged a double-double the past two seasons and gives us a dominant inside presence while Andrew does a little of everything and is like having a coach on the floor. Michael has been our top outside shooter the past two years and would have been the sectional MVP last year if they had awarded one, after making 14, three-pointers in three sectional games.”
Other key returners include seniors Jack Browne (3 ppg, 2 rpg), Dylan Smith (4 ppg, 3 rpg) and Kaden Colt and juniors Lee Hartke (4 ppg, 2 apg) and Hudson Volpe.
“Lee Hartke and Jack Browne played key roles off the bench last season and should solidify our starting lineup this year,” coach Fries said. “Browne and Hudson Volpe are tenacious defenders and rebounders that won’t get noticed as much, but are the keys to our defense. Hartke is a great athlete, that as he gains confidence could become the best offensive threat we have some games. What makes coaching this team the most enjoyable though is our depth.”
Some of that depth Fries is talking about include newcomers Josh Harter (Fresh. G), Trevor Stroud (Fresh., G). Garrett Nelson (Sr., F), Cael Driscoll (Jr. G) and Matthew Malley (Jr., F).
“Every practice is a war and guys have to come at their best every day to earn their minutes,” Fries added. “Volpe and Dylan Smith give us two big, athletic reserves on the inside capable of playing big minutes if we need them and challenging Colvin every day. Kaden Colt, Josh Harter, and Trevor Stroud make us the deepest shooting team I have ever had and are capable of providing a quick spark off the bench. Garrett Nelson, Cael Driscoll, and Matthew Malley are also valuable members of the team that could play a role as the season goes on. The key for this year will be getting them all to sacrifice for the good of the team. None of them will play the minutes they probably want, so team chemistry and the ability of each player to know and play their role is the key to how good we can be at the end of the year. Challenging each other in practice daily, but then being able to support each other on the floor in the game will ultimately decide how good this team will be in a tough division and deep sectional bracket.”
There will be a changing of the guard this season as longtime head coach Pete Leone and his assistant coach Mike Manning have stepped away with former Dansville boys coach Kevin Greenway getting the nod.
Greenway coached 10 years with the varsity boys at Dansville while most recently spending the last eight years with the modified boys at Geneseo.
Avon finished 11-2 last year making the Class C1 sectional finals before losing to East Rochester.
Avon’s top returning player, 6-foot-2 junior forward Sarina McDowell, is coming off summer surgery and will be working back onto the court early in the year.
McDowell averaged a double-double last year with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game and her healthy return will be vital this season for the Lady Braves.
But until McDowell returns, “Others are being asked to push outside their comfort zone to provide that spark needed to be a complete team with multiple threats,” coach Greenway said.
The graduation loss of Alicia Faville will be tough to replace with her 12 points, 12 rebounds and most importantly her physical style of play inside.
The return of seniors Ali DiFranco (G/F, 2.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Ellie Cochrane (G, 1.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Emma Bondgren (G, 2.0 rpg, 1.8 spg) and junior Kennedy Fries (G, 1.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.2 apg) will help keep things steady initially.
Cochrane, last year’s LCN Co-Athlete of the Year, could be the league’s top defender.
Look out for top newcomer Courtney Yencer, a senior forward, who will add some depth to the backcourt.
“I am very lucky to have the opportunity to take over this proud program,” coach Greenway said. “The girls have had a great start and are working hard to build on the successes of the past. Players are being challenged to step into new roles on the team and as leaders on the court. They are accepting and rising to the challenge.”
Avon opens their season at home against Attica Dec. 3.
Avon/Geneseo wrestling enjoyed a tremendous 2020 campaign finishing 9-1.
Head coach Andy Englert returns for his 27th overall season and lost a lot of his top performers from last year and will call this a rebuilding year of sorts.
Look for several of his kids to make a run at some tourney titles this season including sophomore Chris Thompson, who went 10-3 last year and junior Ryan Farley, who was 12-2.
Sophomore Andrew Caudill was 5-0 a year ago before a mid-season injury put him out for the post season.
Also expected to contribute are seniors Will Greenwood (7-4) and Anthony Nicholson, along with freshman Hunter Rumfola (6-3).
Top newcomers include Michael Adkins (Jr.), Wesley Farley (Fresh.), Bryce Chambers (Jr.), Collin Sanders (Jr.), and Garrett Straton (Soph.).
“We have a good mix of wrestlers from both schools and are looking to fill our line-up,” coach Englert says. “We will have some young wrestlers but mixed with a group of experienced kids. We just need to work hard and get better every day.”
Swimming & Diving
Head coach Dan Paganin is back for his 14th season and his Braves are the defending 2020-2021 LCAA Division II champions finishing last year with a 7-2 record.
Newly NCAA D-I product Joleigh Crye (Butterfly and Breaststroke) returns for her final season after signing recently to the University of Cincinnati. She will be a force in the pool this winter.
Other seniors back this season include Logan Fogarty (Distance Free), Ian Gallagher (Sprint Free), Shea Leonard (Breaststroke and Freestyle), Alex Mayen (Distance Free), Max Mesi (Breaststroke), and Faithlynn Schwartzmeyer (Diving).
Returning juniors include Richie Brice (Sprint Free), John Dengler (I.M. and Free), Sydney Murray (Diving), and Claire Schirmer (Sprint Free).
A strong sophomore class includes Katrina Dale (Diving), Kaitlyn Geary (I.M. and Butterfly), Chris Hance (Sprint Free), Taylor Schneider (Diving), Abby Webster (Diving), and Amy Webster (Distance Free).
Several top newcomers are expected to contribute this season including sophomore Piper Vincent (Sprint Free); freshmen Allie Chaffee (Sprint Free), Hannah Cousins (Sprint Free), and Abigail Schutz (Backstroke); and talented eighth-graders Jessie Crye (I.M. and Backstroke), Brandon Hunt (Sprint Free), Jax Rene (I.M. and Breaststroke), and Brooke Schneider (I.M. and Breaststroke).
Paganin is excited about getting the season underway.
“I have been pleased with the work that the team has been putting in so far this season so I am excited for the upcoming months,” he said. “We have a lot of great student athletes who are putting a lot of effort into reaching their own individual goals, as well as the team’s goals, for this season. We also have a great mix of experience and youth this year and I am looking forward to seeing how the team gels together and continues to grow as the season progresses.”