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​​​​A couple of steps ahead

Elise Gao ’26 

Jan 19, 2024

While most students spent their winter break enjoying holidays and festive meals, the Blue Storm’s basketball, squash, and wrestling teams returned to school early for training and competition. Wrestling competed in the Bissell Invitational and boys basketball faced the Naval Academy JV. Though their competitions were canceled because of inclement weather, girls basketball and boys squash trained rigorously nevertheless. 

Prior to winter break, these teams performed successfully. 

Wrestling head coach Matt Shirk said, “So far the team this year has been doing good. I’ve been really surprised and pleased with their performance. We won in a tournament we haven’t won in a long time, [Holloway], and we’ve [taken] four out of five duels in our home duels. We placed sixty-third at the Beast [of the East Tournament], which is sixty-third out of a hundred and sixty-eight teams with only six wrestlers, and we placed sixth at Bissell [Tournament] this past weekend.” 

Boys basketball also came out strong to start the winter season. Head coach Sean Crocker commented, “We’re definitely having one of the best years that we’ve had in a long time. We’re currently 10-2. We got to the championship in two tournaments, we won the boys’ Lakers tournament over break, and we’re heading into MAPL play pretty strong.” 

Similarly, several squash players have found success in the early weeks of the season. Squash head coach Dominic Benacquista said, “[We held] the Flanagan, which is our event that has been running since 1972, and both teams did really well. Ana Gaytan Botello actually went undefeated and beat the number two [player] in the US along the way. From the boys’ side of things, the undefeated players were Fawad Ali Jan and Santiago Medina.” 

Girls basketball, however, experienced some hiccups due to many players getting COVID-19. Annie Mohr ’26 said, “We were undefeated for six games and we played a couple games with COVID issues. I had COVID, Nia [Henley ’24], our point guard, had COVID.” Nevertheless, the team has stayed optimistic and has a positive outlook for the rest of the season. Alli Caretti ’26 said, “We were a little bit off–we had lost some of our starters, which meant some tough games. But other than that, we’ve been doing very well and we’ve been moving along steadily.”

For these teams, winter break presented a worrisome gap. Mohr said, “It was really beneficial for us to come back [early], not only for us to keep in shape, but also, we can only do so much by ourselves. It’s great to be in a team setting.” 

Basketballer Josiah Wright ’25 elaborated, “[Coming back early] definitely helped us out a lot. Just from the Christmas break—just having a cooldown and building it right back up helped us. So [coming] back early helped us to stay fit and stay well.” 

Wrestler Gavin Boyd ’27 observed a similar phenomenon. He said, “With the early start that we got, we got a good move on, and we’ve got momentum going really nicely. But the break really did set us back a little bit—it’s a three week break. But I think the practices that we’ve been doing [are] keeping us in really good condition.” 

Benacquista agreed that early training sessions helped the team return in its pre-break form. He said, “I think the thing is keeping structure and giving them time to adjust to the new routines. I think they’re all improving, and the more court time that they have, the better it is for them.” 

Despite a gap in the winter season, athletes came back stronger and with lofty goals. Sidarth Shah ’26 said, “So for squash, the big tournament is Nationals, with five divisions. Right now, we’re looking to be low division one or high division two. So if we keep playing like we’ve been, I feel we have a good chance on the higher end.” 

Wrestling is holding itself to high standards as well. Shirk said, “[The team’s goal is to] place top three at PAISAA duels, and I want to qualify ten to eleven guys for nationals this year. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a couple of all-national americans. To add more names to that board [of national placewinners].” 

Boys and girls basketball teams are both eyeing the MAPL and PAISAA tournaments. Caretti said, “We’d love to win the MAPL tournament. Last year, we made it to the finals and got second place, so we’re hoping to either get there or win overall.” Adrian Rios ’25 said, “Our main goal is to win–that’s always been our main goal. But I think having fun with it, just creating a culture and a place where we can all be happy at the same time–it’s a sport we love.” 

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