Russo’s return provides spark for Lady Lancers Coach looks to bring glory days back to JERRY WOLKOWITZ St. John Vianney’s Tami Coyle, who recently led the school’s girls soccer team to its first state title, will be expected to help lead the Lady Lancers basketball team this year, as they look to bounce back from the team’s worst season in 12 years. St. John Vianney By Doug mckenzie Staff Writer For most teams in high school sports, a 19-7 final record translates into a successful season. But for the St. John Vianney girls basketball team, that record last year meant the team’s worst season in 12 years. JERRY WOLKOWITZ Nick Russo has returned to lead the St. John Vianney girls basketball team after a two-year hiatus. In other words, the Lady Lancers are coming into this season as an experienced squad with something to prove to teams throughout the state. Last year was a freak occurrence, and this year they intend to show everyone why St. John Vianney, of Holmdel, has been home to the state’s most decorated girls basketball program for well over a decade. When Nick Russo left Vianney two years ago to raise his family, he left behind a legacy which is virtually unparalleled in scholastic sports. In 10 years as head coach for the Lady Lancers, Russo’s teams won nine state championships and produced a plethora of Division I athletes. The year following his departure, the Lancers won yet another state title, led by a group of experienced players who simply did not know how to lose. And then came last year, a season where the Lady Lancers watched Red Bank Catholic win the Parochial A state title they had grown accustomed to capturing, after Vianney suffered through a series of disappointing, late-season losses. But with Russo’s return comes a new series of expectations. So far, Russo has liked what he has seen from the team. “I’ve been very surprised,” he said. “They’re really playing much better than I thought they would at this point in the season.” The Lady Lancers played a pair of scrimmages against Rumson-Fair Haven and Mendham on Friday in Rumson, and Russo was happy with the way his team performed. “We did pretty well against a pair of good teams,” he said. Russo added that although spending the last two years away from the court have been great, he is very excited about returning to the Holmdel school. “It really is great to be back,” he said. “I’ve got a real nice bunch of kids on this team, and I expect some big things from them.” The Lancers, however, have some hurdles to overcome. The team graduated six seniors last year, including four starters. But the one starting player they have returning is a big one. Senior guard Tami Coyle is widely recognized as being one of the top two-sport high school athletes in the state. It’s been just a few weeks since Coyle led the Lady Lancers soccer team to its first state championship, beating what was thought to be an unbeatable Immaculate Heart Academy in the midst of a 56-game winning streak in the final. But since then, Coyle has been thinking basketball, and is excited about her team’s chances this year. Coyle said she was very pleased to see Coach Russo return, and feels that his presence will help the Lancers regain their championship form. She also said that with Russo at the helm, she expects her team to compete with anybody in the state. Russo is similarly complimentary of Coyle, calling her a “special athlete.” “She means everything to us,” he said. “She’s a leader who demands respect from her teammates, and she gets it. On and off the court, the girls look up to her.” Brilliant as Coyle has been on the soccer field this year, Coach Russo is expecting similar results from her on the hardwood this winter. With a number of Division I schools already clamoring over her for both soccer and basketball, Coyle will have some difficult decisions to make regarding her future after this season. “She’s been offered full rides for soccer and basketball, and I expect her to be playing both at the collegiate level,” Russo said. The latest school to get into the Tami Coyle sweepstakes was Rider University, Lawrenceville, which she visited recently. According to Russo, the school has offered her a soccer scholarship, although conversations he has had with the basketball coach indicate that she would be a welcome addition to that team, as well. Coyle, however, has not made any commitment as of yet, saying only that she doesn’t think she’s ready to stop playing either sport at this point in her life. But along with Coyle, Russo has a solid group of experienced players returning this year, starting with center Courtney Carpenter. The 6-foot senior will be the team’s other leader on the court, drawing attention in the middle. Senior Kate Gagliardi will join Carpenter in the frontcourt at the forward position, along with junior forward Mary Beth Kuenne. At the other guard position will be junior Sherry Wittlieb, a player who Russo expects to be another team leader throughout the year. Other backcourt players who will see substantial playing time are senior guards Allison Regler and Sue Wisneski, and sophomores Jamie Komar and Shannon Coyle (Tami’s cousin). Russo also has three newcomers whom he hopes will contribute to the team’s success throughout the year. They are junior forward Katie Brown, junior guard Lindsey Orose and sophomore forward Jackie Lang. The Lady Lancers will begin their season this Friday, hosting Nicole Jay (a University of Maine signee) and the Matawan Huskies. From there they will travel to Red Bank Regional on Tuesday before heading off to Orlando, Fla., for the KSA Holiday Tournament, beginning Dec. 27. Russo expects his team to get off to a fast start and build momentum from there. He is confident that the team will regain their championship form before long. “Just watching them play thus far, I can’t see anyone on our schedule that we can’t beat,” he said. That is sure to raise some eyebrows in Red Bank, home to the nationally ranked and defending state-champion the Red Bank Catholic Caseys. But it’s difficult to argue with a coach who has had the success that Russo has had in his career at St. John Vianney. Circle Jan. 12 on your calendar. On that day, the Lancers will travel to Red Bank Catholic. Then we’ll see if they really are back.
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer The Holmdel High School girls tennis team will wind up a very successful season – which included winning the Shore Conference Tournament – this week. Coach Chuck Chelednick’s team owns a fine 15-3 mark, good enough for second place behind Manasquan in the Shore’s A Central division behind Manasquan. The Hornets also finished second to the Warriors in the Monmouth County tourney. Holmdel got back at Manasquan in the Shore Conference Tournament. Both teams reached the finals, but the Hornets upset the Warriors behind singles victories by Arshia Chatterjee and Lisa Yan, and a win at second doubles by a pair of undefeated sophomores, Anne Chen and Stephanie Huang. A year ago the Hornets won their division and captured the NJSIAA North II Group III title, as well as the Tournament of Champions. With the loss of several players from that squad, the outlook was questionable this fall for the Hornets. Chelednick moved Stephanie Sher, who won 18 times at third singles in 2005, to the top spot, where the senior would have to face the top players in the Shore. Sher hung tough, using an accurate serve and a strong backhand to pick up seven wins. Chatterjee, who played doubles a year ago, moved into the second singles spot. She settled in quickly, and went 9-5 overall by using an accurate forehand to keep opponents at bay. At third singles, Yan emerged as the team’s most valuable player. The tireless sophomore compiled a 15-1 mark and was easily the team’s most improved player, Chelednick said. Yan’s ability to anticipate shots serves her well on the court. “We knew that we were going to have a lot of 3-2 and 4-1 matches this year, and we did,” the coach said. “Our goal from the start was to figure out how to get at least three each match.” Holmdel’s doubles team certainly helped in that regard. Sophomore Jen Lee and junior Linda Hong went 11-4 at first doubles. Lee’s big serve and aggressive style complements Hong’s steady, patient play. Chen and Huang were simply outstanding at second doubles, where they went 16-0. Consistency and quickness are their hallmarks. They also make few mistakes. Amanda Lee and Amanda Liu, a pair of seniors, and junior Morgan Chen and freshman Erica Lai kept the heat on the top doubles pairings for playing time. In the Monmouth County tourney, Lee and Liu narrowly defeated Chen and Lai in the third doubles segment. All four girls will be looking to break into the starting lineup next fall. Other members of Chelednick’s roster include sophomores Dorrie Lee, Ali Schultz and Kathy Tsai, as well as freshman Amali Gunawardana. “We have a lot of depth and a lot of talent,” Chelednick said. “We asked several girls to step up this year, and they were up to the challenge. Manasquan had our number all year, but the girls came up big in the Shore Conference Tournament.” The Hornets also qualified for the NJSIAA North II Group III tourney again, where they lost in the semifinals. Holmdel was slated to meet RBC on Monday, and Chelednick is hoping to reschedule a postponed match with Rumson-Fair Haven later this week to close out the campaign. BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer
Keyport High School’s Desmond Underwood (23) tries to outrun the Metuchen High School tacklers during an Aug. 27 preseason scrimmage in Metuchen. The Red Raiders will open the 2013 high school football season at home on Sept. 14, when they host Asbury Park High School. LAUREN CASSELBERRY
Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv, due to play Schalke 04 in the Champions League playoff round later this month, have been kicked out of the competition, European soccer’s governing body UEFA said on Wednesday.The decision by UEFA’s appeals committee came 10 days after Metalist lost an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over a domestic match-fixing case dating back to 2008.Metalist, runners-up in last season’s Ukrainian Premier League, have already knocked Greek side PAOK out of the competition and were due to visit Schalke on Aug. 21 with the return on Aug. 27.UEFA said it’s emergency panel would meet later on Wednesday to “consider the consequences of the decision on the competition.”Metalist could still appeal to CAS over UEFA’s decision and a ruling in their favour, which may not come until after the group stage has started, could throw the Champions League into confusion.CAS has already allowed Fenerbahce back into the competition while it considers an appeal from the Turkish club against their two-year ban from European competition over a domestic match-fixing case.CAS have said they will make a final ruling on Fenerbahce’s case by Aug. 28, the day after the Turks play the second leg of their playoff tie against Arsenal.Fenerbahce have already eliminated Salzburg from the competition.Earlier this month, CAS upheld a Ukraine Football Federation (FFU) decision to fine Metalist Kharkiv and FC Karpaty $25,000 each over the manipulation of a match played in April 2008.The tribunal also confirmed bans of between three and five years on six Metalist players, plus fines of $10,000 each.Metalist director Yevhen Krasnikov was banned from any soccer-related activity for five years.Two Karpaty officials were given suspended bans and ordered to pay “compulsory cash contributions” to the FFU while CAS upheld an appeal by a third official from the club.CAS said in its ruling that the two clubs “were held liable for the behaviour of their football players or officials under the principle of strict liability.”
By William Schomberg, David Ljunggren and Angus MacSwanFrance seek to extend their rampant start to the World Cup on Wednesday when they need a point against Ecuador to secure top spot in Group E and further banish the memories of their implosion four years ago.However, second-placed Ecuador will be desperate to pull off a shock win over the resurgent former world champions as they seek to book their own spot in the knockout stages ahead of Switzerland, who trail them on goal difference, and Honduras.France lead the group with six points, followed by Ecuador and Switzerland on three points with Honduras bottom with no points after two defeats.A win or draw for France would mean they will probably avoid meeting Argentina in their first knockout round match.France coach Didier Deschamps has transformed the national team from the bad boys of the 2010 tournament in South Africa into a side drawing comparisons with the World Cup-winning side of 1998 on home soil.In contrast to the lack of discipline four years ago, when the players went on strike and France were knocked out in the first stage, Deschamps has stamped his authority on the team, leaving top players on the bench when he sees the need.The match at the Maracana will showcase some of the most eye-catching attacking footballers at the World Cup.France, with eight goals in their first two games, are joint top scorers at the tournament so far along with the Netherlands.France’s Karim Benzema and Ecuador’s Enner Valencia are among the individual joint top scorers of the tournament with three goals each in two games.Switzerland meanwhile meet Honduras seeking to banish bad memories of 2010, when they scraped a goalless draw against the same opponents and crashed out early.Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, trying to repair his team’s spirit after their 5-2 thumping against France in the previous game, dismissed questions about the parallels with four years ago.Just as in 2010, the two sides are meeting in their final group game. Four years ago a Swiss win by a two-goal margin would have taken them into the second round.Hitzfeld said it was no use making comparisons “because we are going to win. It’s as simple as that. The team today has more offensive potential”.After underwhelming early performances, traditional Latin American top dogs Argentina and reigning African champions Nigeria have something to prove when they meet in their final World Cup Group F match on Wednesday.Argentina were among the favourites going in to the tournament but despite a much-vaunted front four, they have yet to come alive, with the exception of some moments of match-winning magic from Lionel Messi.Nigeria, representing Africa’s richest and most populous nation, have also laboured to convince as a team.Nonetheless, Argentina sit atop Group F with six points thanks to their less-than-emphatic wins over Bosnia and Iran.The Sky Blues have already qualified for the Round of 16 but will still want finish first to ensure an easier opponent – in principle at least – in the next stage.Nigeria have four points following a dull draw with Iran and a win over first-timers Bosnia. A draw would be enough to ensure qualification but a loss to Argentina could put them in trouble.Iran, who surprised many with their tenacious, bold play against Argentina, could still seize second place if they beat Bosnia and rack up a better goal difference.So a game that could see as much anxiety as adventure is on the cards.Messi’s sublime strike against Iran in stoppage time in Belo Horizonte only highlighted the danger of Argentina relying on the Barcelona man too much. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.He and his fellow strikers Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria form what should have been one of the most formidable attack forces in the tournament, but so far it has been rather blunt.The defence has also looked shaky, with central defender Ezekiel Garay repeatedly caught off guard against Iran.“We have a few causes for concern,” head coach Alejandro Sabella admitted after the close-shave against Iran.Argentina will be able to count on fervent support – tens of thousands of fans are expected to flood over the border into the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, a region which shares its gaucho culture but harbours an intense football rivalry.Nigeria may take heart from the fact that they made a slow start in the African Nations Cup before going on to take the title last year.The Super Eagles cannot afford to give anything away at the back but will need to hunt for goals if they are to be sure of qualifying for the Round of 16 for the first time since 1998.Playing in their fifth World Cup, Nigeria’s performance against Bosnia was an improvement on the Iran game, when they look bereft of ideas. But their defensive frailties were exposed on several occasions and that could prove fatal with a hungry wolf like Messi on the prowl.
By Tom HaywardControversial Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli was suspended for one match by the FA on Thursday and fined 25,000 pounds after posting an offensive message on social media.Earlier this month, the Italian showed a picture on his Instagram account containing racist and anti-Semitic connotations.“Mario Balotelli has been fined 25,000 pounds, suspended for one match with immediate effect, subject to appeal, and warned as to his future conduct after he admitted breaching FA rules in relation to social media,” the FA said in a statement.“The charge was that an image the Liverpool player posted on social media was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper.“The posting was considered to be an ‘aggravated breach’ as defined in FA Rule E3 (2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.”Balotelli, who quickly removed the picture and later apologised, has also been ordered to attend an educational programme.“Following the recent events related to my ‘Super Mario’ post, the FA decision has made it clear that it was wrong,” he said on his Twitter account on Thursday.“I am sorry my team mates and supporters of Liverpool FC have to be penalised for something I did and now come to regret. It is my intention to comply with the decision of the FA and make sure it never happens again.”The 24-year-old Balotelli, who has a history of on and off-the-field misdemeanours, joined Liverpool from AC Milan in August but has managed just two goals in 15 games for the Premier League club.
By Ossian ShineEngland coach Stuart Lancaster broke into a pained rictus on Saturday night as he picked over the wreckage of an England performance which severly dented the hosts’ dreams of World Cup glory.His grimace came as close to a smile as anyone in the England camp will crack in coming days. Having dominated for an hour, they were undone by indiscipline and poor decision making, falling 28-25 to a Welsh team which had looked on its last legs.Needless infringements; sloppy play, the lessons to be learned are plentiful.But while the mood in the camp is one of disappointment and introspection — “the boys are absolutely gutted” according to Lancaster — if any white-shirted player can allow himself a private sense, if not smile, of satisfaction it is Owen Farrell.On a night of such World Cup frustration against an obdurate Welsh side, the flyhalf stood out as a goliath, vindicating Lancaster’s faith in him, while all around had criticised his recall in place of the perceived more attacking threat of George Ford.Farrell had been selected for his robust physical presence, and for his phenomenal kicking skills, and both were on glorious show for England.“I though Owen Farrell had a great game,” Lancaster said, and there would have been few dissenters in the crowd.What sent the hosts’ fans home in frustration and disappointment was not missed kicks or tackles, nor was it a lack of any creativity — the main accusation levelled at Farrell by supporters of his friend and rival Ford.What undid England, and saw them lose a game they should logically have tied up well before the thrilling denouement, was the senseless indiscipline at the breakdown.Time and again the Welsh were handed needless penalties, a succession of three-pointers which stopped England from killing them off with Farrell’s laser-accurate kicking.“Games are won and lost on these moments. We’ve got to look at our decision-making. We were giving away penalties,” Lancaster said dolefully.Farrell lining up a kick is a curious sight. His head, chin down, moves from low to high repeatedly as he imagines the track of the ball sailing between the posts. Low to high, low to high, his head moves robotically, eyes burning.They call it visualisation technique — imagining an outcome vividly to enhance your ability to succeed. In his mind, Farrell draws a line from the ball to the spot he wants to hit, over and over again.On Saturday, Farrell drew dozens of those lines, while blocking out the white-heat intensity of the 81,000 Twickenham crowd.In all, he kicked 20 points via five penalties, a drop goal and a conversion and threw in a series of biting, telling tackles.Had captain Chris Robshaw given him the chance for a final shot at goal two minutes from time, to level the scores at 28-all, it might well have been Farrell, rather than opposite number Dan Biggar, who took the man of the match honours.It was not to be, but he had already done more than enough to vindicate his selection — and perhaps to warrant a place on the pitch for the crunch clash with Australia next Saturday.It is a must-win game for England, Lancaster said.England need a giant performance. You can be sure Farrell is picturing it already.
By Ken FerrisNewcastle United earned an important and highly improbable Premier League victory at Bournemouth on Saturday, snatching a 1-0 victory completely against the run of play thanks to a first half Ayoze Perez goal.Fans of the struggling home team at Dean Court could hardly credit what they felt was daylight robbery in the pouring rain as Bournemouth dominated proceedings, only to be thwarted by poor finishing and tremendous goalkeeping from Newcastle’s Rob Elliot.In a first half of one-way traffic in atrocious conditions, with Bournemouth raining 12 shots on the Newcastle goal, the visitors picked off the hosts with their only meaningful attack after 27 minutes.A couple of intricate flicks from Aleksandar Mitrovic and then Georginio Wijnaldum helped set up the unmarked Spaniard Ayoze to fire home past Adam Federici, who got a hand to the ball but could not prevent it trickling into the net.Bournemouth pressed constantly for an equaliser but were denied largely by the brilliant efforts of Elliot, who made a series of fine saves to ensure Newcastle prevailed on the road after 12 away matches without a win.The victory enabled Newcastle to leapfrog Bournemouth near the foot of the table, pushing them out of the relegation zone with 10 points from 12 games and plunging the south coast side into the bottom three still with eight points.
Wayne Rooney may not start Manchester United’s Europa League match against Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk (10.05pm) for his own protection as he is struggling with a back injury, manager Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday.Mourinho dropped his captain to the bench for Saturday’s Premier League game against Leicester City following a series of lacklustre performances and United beat the champions 4-1.“He didn’t train yesterday, he did just a little bit of the session on Monday. He had a back problem,” Mourinho told reporters.“So I was completely convinced of playing him tomorrow from the beginning with this situation in the last couple of days, but I am not sure if I do that because of the situation you created with him,” he added.“Because I am here to protect him and not to put him in difficult situations I have to analyse whether the best thing for him is to start the game if he is not totally ready for it.”United suffered a surprising 1-0 loss to Dutch side Feyenoord in their opening group game, and Mourinho said victory on Wednesday was crucial if they are to progress to the latter stages of the competition.“It is very important. We have to win. We have four matches after this and (if no win tomorrow) you have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult. So it is very important that we win the game,” he added.United full-back Luke Shaw will miss the game at Old Trafford through illness but forward Anthony Martial has recovered from a calf injury.Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from international football after Euro 2016, will lead the line for the hosts.“We have two matches and then, for him (Ibrahimovic), it is two weeks without football,” Mourinho said.“He has to play tomorrow and then Stoke. Then he will have plenty of time to rest.”The former Chelsea boss also praised Juan Mata, who left Stamford Bridge to join United in January 2014.“In my project at Chelsea he was a good player. In my project at Man United he is a very good player.“We are trying to play in a different way. It is very adapted to his qualities. He has found a natural habitat for his football.”
AS Roma’s all-time appearance record holder and top scorer Francesco Totti is to call time on his 24-year career with the club and retire from soccer at the end of this season, the club’s new sporting director Monchi said on Wednesday.Totti, 40, has been at Roma since he was 13 and made his debut in 1993. He captained the team to the 2001 Serie A title and back-to-back Coppa Italia triumphs in 2007 and 2008. He is out of contract at the end of the season.“There is an agreement with the club that this will be his last year and then he will continue as a director. I want him on my side because he is Roma and can teach me what Roma is,” Spaniard Monchi, who became the club’s sporting director in April, told a news conference on Wednesday.Totti, who also won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, has seen his playing time greatly diminish in the last two seasons, during which he has made just three Serie A starts. He was expected to retire last season until he signed a one-year extension.Totti has made 15 substitutes’ appearances this campaign and came on in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to local rivals Lazio in the Rome derby, which left Roma nine points adrift of Serie A leaders Juventus with four games remaining.He scored his 307th goal for Roma in a Coppa Italia game against Cesena on Feb. 1.