Spring season preview: Mount Si athlete leaders ready to bring it | Photo gallery

  - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

As the season begins, team leaders in Mount Si's six spring sports bring different strengths, but are tied together by their inner fire and will to achieve.

Below, student athletes share their goals for the coming season.

Pictured: Rear: Daniel Besmer, Reece Karalus, Justin Henak; Front: Trevor Taylor, Ryan Atkinson, Trevor Lane

Lightning strikes: Mount Si Baseball

Last May, Mount Si baseball reached the highest pinnacle a high school team can attain: A state championship. Now, the nationally ranked ball team will see whether lightning can strike twice.

Head coach Elliott Cribby has six state-experienced seniors and a crop of younger players in what is expected to be a more fluid team in 2012.

Outstanding outfielder Daniel Besmer, big hitter Justin Henak, pitchers Reece Karalus and Trevor Taylor, plus Trevor Lane and Ryan Atkinson are back.

“Our defense and our pitching will be there,” said Atkinson, who will fill big shoes at shortstop. “That’s our priority... Replacing a lot of stolen bases, home runs, just runs period, that’s gonna be tough. But everyone wants to work hard, everyone wants to play. That’s going to make the competition to get in the line-up, just hot.”

Unlike 2011, expect the line-up to shake up as players step up.

“There’s going to be a lot of sharing,” Cribby said.

"One of the hardest things to do is repeat a championship," the coach added. "We're putting the same exact principles in place this year, with different pieces. It's a new group out there. The drive is there. Winning state has rallied this team to want it more…. We can do it again."

In a tough league, "we have the most depth, but you can never underestimate the opposition," Cribby said.

As in the past, team bonds will also play an important role in determining success.

"We're all good friends," said Atkinson. Multi-sport connections between players go back to Little League days.

Atkinson happens to have held down the quarterback position this fall for the Wildcats, and was also a starting guard on the basketball team this winter.

"I stay on the field and court as long as I can," he said.

"To be a Wildcat athlete means hard work as a team," Atkinson says. "No one wants to play us… we're not just talented, we work hard."

Maura Murphy and Lauren Smith

Mount Si fastpitch: Hearts in the game

Maura Murphy is sitting out the first few games of the Mount Si softball season with palpable impatience.

Sidelined by concussion, the would-be starting shortstop and one of the true die-hards of the Lady Wildcats can’t wait to hit the diamond.

“It’s killing me not to be able to get started with these girls, since I love it so much,” Murphy says.

The senior is co-captain with junior outfielder Lauren Smith on a reloaded Wildcat team that looks to be strong, amid a very tough KingCo league in 2012.

“Our goal is to compete at state,” said Smith. “But we want to get this group going for the future and work together as a team.”

Mount Si brings back sophomores Celine Fowler, Rachael Picchena and Britney Stevens, and has some promising freshmen. Plus, head coach Larry White is excited about Bonney Lake transfer Michaela Blad, a BYU-signed catcher who’s only a junior.

It’s a young team, but older teammates like Murphy are ready to pass on what they know.

“I play because I love it,” the senior said. “It’s a completely mental game. The secret is knowing the opposing team—the speed of their runners, their abilities—so that you’re prepared for whatever they’re going to it, before they actually do it.”

Smith’s position is all about vision and communication: “You have your whole eyes on the field.”  Softball has been her life since age 8.

“I can’t imagine anything without it,” she says.

Wildcat soccer players Nate Popp, Davis Karaica

Mount Si soccer: Leaders move on up

Nate Popp and Davis Karaica are among a four-year-varsity group of senior returners making up the hard core of the Mount Si soccer team. Both boys have already signed to play college ball—Popp at Western Washington University, Karaica at Seattle Pacific—so they will be expected to help lead what looks to be a deep squad.

“There were five of us who made it as freshmen, that went from being low to being leaders of the team,” Karaica said.

“I hope we see a lot of step-up from last year,” adds Popp. “A lot of our core players, like Alex (Anderson) and Dane (Aldrich) are going to contribute, a lot. Hopefully it takes us farther than the playoffs.”

To the handful of freshmen following in their footsteps, Karaica advises, “lots of hard work, and stay focused. It’ll come.”

Mount Si golfer Danielle Burns

Full focus: Mount Si girls golf

There’s hardly a better sight for Danielle Burns than a well-driven golf ball in flight.

“It gives me joy,” said Burns, a Mount Si junior and the leader for the Wildcat girls team this spring.

Burns, who has her sights firmly set on a college career in golf,  has spent five days a week in the off season honing her game. She went to state in 2011, picking up 77th place. Today, she’s planning to return to the championship and improve that score, working with an Eastside specialist trainer on fundamentals.

“For me, it’s all feel, and a lot of practice, every day,” Burns says.

She’s golfed competitively for three years, but was introduced young to the game by grandparents—”My family is a family of golfers,” Burns said.

“Being a leader means that I’m here for the girls, if they need questions answered. I’m here mentally to keep their spirits up, and make sure they play to the best of their ability, just like they can do for me.”

Mount Si track's Ryan Olson, Sophie Rockow

Mount Si track and field: On their marks

Distance runner Ryan Olson and sprinter/jumper Sophie Rockow took a quick break from practice on the Mount Si track to share their expectations for the dawning spring season. Both seniors say the squads forming around them are among the best prepared, physically, that they’ve seen in their years in Wildcat track and field.

“Coaches tell us this is the best conditioned team they’ve had to start with,” said Rockow, an expected leader in the 200- meter race, the triple jump, and in the relay, where she sees strong potential for younger athletes.

“We should possibly make it to state in all three (relays),” she said.

Distance runners have been preparing for this season throughout the offseason.

“In league, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Olson said. “Our expectations are high. For the guys in long distance, we’ve worked together, done cross-country together for the majority of the years I’ve been here.” He gives credit to distance coach Sean Sundwall, of Run Snoqualmie fame, as a help to progression.

Kelcy Sharp, Trina Eck, Mount Si tennis team athletes

Mount Si girls tennis: At tightly knit team

Team bonding was underway amid Mount Si tennis practice last week, with varsity players excitedly planning social activities.

Mount Si returned with a number of new, young faces. Expected to lead that group are returners Trina Eck and Kelcy Sharp, who will hold down some of the top brackets with Cheyenne Dixon.

“Even though we only have three returners, all the players coming up from JV have improved tremendously,” said Eck, who overcame a challenging 2011 season to be here today.

“Even though I was playing really hard girls, it prepared me for this year,” she said.

“I am an extremely competitive person,” says Sharp, who was taught tennis by her grandmother a few years ago. She loves tennis for its exercise and the team atmosphere.

“The girls… support everyone,” she said. “We have fun doing it.”

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