After a long summer, the high school sports season is just around the corner

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Above, Abby Rice competes for a loose ball during a soccer game last season. last season.

As summer comes to a close, we can only be reminded that the school year is rapidly approaching and the high school sports season is almost officially upon us.

The summer gives us time to wind down after a long year of local sports, but now that that’s behind us and our first football game is one week from today, let’s look ahead to the 2018-2019 school year and highlight some of the “things to watch” besides football this fall as we get going.

1. Silver Creek girls soccer: Oh boy could this team be special this season. The Lady Black Knights are bringing back the Rice sisters in Emma and Abby, each of which were named to a CCAA Central Division All-Star team this past season. Last season ended when Silver Creek ran into undefeated Maple Grove in the Class C semifinals, resulting in a 1-0 loss.

Nonetheless, the Black Knights finished the season with a 14-4 record, and will bring back a lot of firepower to this 2018 season.

One thing that will be interesting to watch is their situation at goalkeeper. With the graduation of four year starter Tessa Douglas, sophomore Alina Beadle will look to step in to a new role and excel as the Silver Creek goalie.

Seniors Kristen Wielgasz and Jaeleigh Cruz will look to anchor the defense in front of Beadle, while senior midfielder Andrea Olsen will look to score goals alongside Emma Rice to provide offensive spark.

When it’s all said and done, don’t be surprised if Silver Creek can knock off some of the best teams in Class C this year including Maple Grove, Allegany-Limestone and Holland.

2. Dunkirk girls soccer: While 2017 was a tough season for the Marauders, 2018 might be even tougher now that star forward Emilee Hanlon has graduated and is off to the Division I University of Tennessee to play softball. Not only are the Marauders losing Hanlon, but they’re also losing five other seniors to graduation including Kendra Welka, Olivia Manzella, Alexandria Charles and Julia Fred.

Despite losing to Springville in the B1 playoffs last year, the Marauders still rattled off five wins, and this season will be interesting to watch what athletes will step up with the loss of all these seniors.

One of my favorite things to watch is a young athlete get an opportunity and seize it, because when preparation meets opportunity, good things usually happen.

3. Dunkirk girls swimming: This one is going to look a little different than it has in a while, but Dunkirk High School is bringing back their girls swim team for the first time since 2015. Dunkirk has recently been consolidated with Fredonia and Silver Creek as far as girls swimming goes, and previously were on a year to year basis as to whether or not the team would come back the next season.

As for this season, meetings in June were led by athletic director Mike Sarratori until they’ve come to the conclusion that they will bring it back for the 2018 season. Most recently, Dunkirk native Riley Drummond has been the swimmer to watch in the area, but now as we transition into a new era of Dunkirk girls swimming, I’m excited to see what athletes will shine in the pool.

4. Cross country runners: Sometimes people forget how much time and training high school cross country runners put in. Often people don’t know the physical endurance you have to have to compete at a high level in the sport.

I’m sure these athletes would tell you the same thing, as they perhaps work harder than any other fall sport. Last year we saw athletes such as Fredonia’s Emily Brown, Diego Rey and Josh Johnson qualify for the statewide cross country meet at Wayne High School in Rochester. Along with them, Silver Creek’s Jaylah Cossin and Gowanda’s Lyle Warrior joined them, giving five local athletes a run at a state title.

Of those five, we’ll see Cossin and Johnson return to action this fall, and they’ll surely be some of the top athletes to watch during the fall of the 2018 season.

5. New faces: At the end of the day, you just have to be really excited to see young athletes step in and compete at a high level. The best thing to see each year is the new faces that step in and make you wonder what kind of player and person that they’ll be in a few years.

So as the season gets going, keep an eye on a freshman or sophomore or maybe even a senior that will step onto the scene and help their team win games. Whether it’s football, soccer, swimming, cross country, volleyball or tennis, watch closely as these athletes mature playing a game that they love.

This season is going to be one to remember, so come along for the ride.

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