Can the Saline Hornets win a team state championship in 2013-2014? Through the fall and winter seasons, the team has come close – most notably the girls cross country and swim and dive teams were runners up in the fall. But if no team goes the distance this spring, it will be the first time since 2008-09 since Saline was shut out in the state championship trophy count. Since then, the Hornets have racked up 10 state championships in 4 four years.
The Saline Post has identified several threats to keep that streak alive.
Which team do you think is the best bet to keep the streak alive?
Scott Theisen's Hornets know the way to Battle Creek. The Hornets are four-time runners-up, and made the state semi-final as recently as 2012. In high school baseball, if you've got pitching and defense, you can go a long way. With Hendrickson, Smith and Nearing on the mound, the Hornets' pitching staff is as good and as deep as anyone's. SS Thomas Miller and 3B Michael Barnett give Saline a terrific left side of the infield. Joey Sweigart brings speed and a flashy glove to the pasture in center. Trent Theisen is an experienced catcher who can handle Saline's talented lefties. The question is, can the hitting come alive? Sweigart and Miller set the table for Theisen and Hendrickson. Ryan Blake-Jones also swings a big bat for the Hornets. Keep an eye on the Hornets. It's a long road to Battle Creek, but they've got the horses for the journey.
Alicia Seegert's team lost a heart-breaker in the quarterfinals to the eventual state champs from Mattawan last year. The Hornets finished the season with a 33-3 record. Ace pitcher Kristina Zalewski graduated and will be tough to replace. But senior Laura Vaccaro is a fine pitcher in her own right – and she's big bat in the lineup and reliable glove in the field. Besides Vaccaro, the Hornets have skill and experience all over the diamond. Katie Alexander, just a junior, is back behind the plate for a third year. She's a big power hitter. Alyssa Heren is tough as nails and clutch. Angel Schilke covers a ton of ground in center and, like Sam Bruley, is a terror on the basepaths. The Harmon twins, Ashlee and Kaylee, also bring speed and experience. Freshman Riley Hecklinski will help Vaccaro on the mound.
Girls Track & Field
Take the championship cross country lineup (and if Lauren Green was healthy, the Hornets win the state title), then add a state champion hurdler, and state champion sprint relay runners. You've got a state contender. Led by champion hurdler/sprinter Quenee' Dale, the Saline track and field team boasts an incredibly strong senior class and a sophomore class that's nearly as impressive. Dale, Alexa Ross and Alana Hollis lead the sprinters. Elianna Shwayder, Abby Rentschler, Gloria Park, Gillian Walter, Kennedy Beazley, Lauren Green and Haleigh and Hannah Cummings lead the middle distance and distance runners. Saline will pick up a ton of points in the relays. The Hornets won their region and were state runners up last year. Expect coach Brian Boze's team to make a strong run for the state title.
Take last year's team, deduct the seniors who graduated, and you could probably pencil in coach Al Leslie's team for a regional championship and not look too foolish. The depth Saline has coming back is more than good enough to win another regional. But Saline has something it didn't have last year – star power. Logan Wetzel, back from injury and building on his great cross country season, tore up the tracks in the indoor season, setting indoor Saline records in the 800 and 1600. Ryan Gauche did the same in the 400. Kaj Althaus set Saline's indoor pole vault mark. Skyler Bowden has made big gains in the sprints. He's joined by Tyrone Miller, Cal Criner and Brad McCormick. John Smutny is already a state qualifier in the shot put and Nic Sawyer could join him. Wetzel will be joined by Kevin Hall, Ryan Wilke and Ryan Gauche in the middle or long distance relays, where Saline should accumulate all kinds of points.
Girls Water Polo
Saline hosts the girls' water polo finals this spring, and coach Katie Card has every expectation her team will be playing for the championship. Card has seniors starting in six of the seven positions. Hannah Lau, Emily McCullough and Ariana Brown have scored a lot of goals for the Hornets over the years and they're off to a great start in their senior year. Goalie Brynn Rohloff can be a wall in the Hornet goal. The Hornets have the shooters and a tenacious defense. If they're passing improves, Saline might have a home pool advantage in the state championship game.
The Hornet's boys and girls lacrosse teams look good early, but are they at the point where they can defeat the state powerhouses? Dana Restrick's soccer team lost a few key seniors, but have looked top notch to start the season. Is there a surprise lurking in the boys' golf team or girls' tennis team?
Past Hornet State Championships
2012-13 – Boys Swim & Dive
2011-12 – Boys Swim & Dive
2010-11 – Girls Golf, Boys Swim & Dive, Girls Swim & Dive
2009-10 – Girls Cross Country, Boys Swim & Dive, Girls Swim and Dive
2005-06 – Boys Golf, Boys Track & Field
1991-92 – Girls Golf
1990-91 – Girls Golf
1983-84 – Volleyball