Coal Ridge athletics set for strong fall across the board
Coming off of a strong athletic season overall in New Castle, the Coal Ridge Titans return for the fall looking to continue a run of dominance in athletics, namely in boys soccer and girls volleyball, where head coaches Michael Mikalakis and Aimee Gerber return a handful of key players from last season’s state playoff runs, while golf coach Greg Gortsema and cross country coach Chris Ozminkowski look to build off of strong individual seasons from last fall, putting the Coal Ridge programs in good position to once again make some serious noise on the Western Slope.
Following an up-and-down regular season on the court, the Titan volleyball team turned it on when it counted most, rolling through the regional bracket on the road at Resurrection Christian to win the regional bracket, clinching a spot in the state tournament for the fourth year in a row.
However, the Titans were unable to accomplish their goal of winning a match at state, falling just two points shy in a thrilling five-set match against Sterling at the state tournament. Now, with three key seniors lost due to graduation, a group of six seniors and a large number of underclassmen will look to keep the volleyball program firing on all cylinders this fall.
In boys soccer, the loss of 10 seniors to graduation would cripple most programs, but the Titans’ program under Mikalakis will keep on rolling, thanks to a deep talent pool and familiarity with the coaching staff and the system put in place.
Last season, the Titans made a state playoff run that ended in an overtime loss in the quarterfinals to eventual-state champion Kent Denver. Despite losing 10 seniors to graduation, Mikalakis sees a handful of key seniors return, while a few underclassmen could step up in a big way this fall in hopes of keeping Coal Ridge near the top of the 3A Western Slope League once again.
In boys golf, Gortsema looks for the young group of golfers to improve off of last season, while Ozminkowski takes over a program with plenty of young talent coming up through the system.
Head Coach: Michael Mikalakis, sixth year
Last Season: 16-2 (8-1 3A WSL; finished second in league), lost in the 3A state quarterfinals to eventual-champion Kent Denver
Key returners: Marcus Amaya, Sr., MF; Ezequiel Contreras, Sr., MF; Ezequiel Vazquez, Sr., FWD
Players to Watch: Jordi Serna, Sr., MF; Kade Frees, Jr., FWD
Season Outlook: Although the program did lose 10 seniors due to graduation, expectations will again be high for one of the top high school soccer programs on the Western Slope, and arguably in the state in 3A. Under Mikalakis, the Titans have been consistently one of the top three teams in the 3A Western Slope League, while also putting together some impressive state playoff runs over the last few years. With Amaya, Contreras and Vazquez back, along with bigger contributions from Serna and Frees, the Titans have a good shot at being right back in the thick of things. “We have to continue to build from where we left off the year before,” Mikalakis said. “We need to come back with the same level of intensity as the year before and bring the same overall level of play. Yes, we lost a lot of talent to graduation, but I want to see this group play and act like it’s not going to affect us moving forward.”
Head Coach: Aimee Gerber, third year
Last Season: 17-10 (8-1 3A WSL); won 3A Region 7 championship before losing two straight matches at state tournament
Key Returners: Emily Wright, Sr., L; Santana Martinez, Sr., DS/OH; Cassie Green, Sr., OH; Paige Harlow, Sr., MH; Cheyenne Williams, Sr., DS/S; Kara Morgan, Jr., OH; Jessica Feese, Sr., MH/RS; Alexa Wiescamp, Jr., MH; MacKenzie Crawford, Jr., S/RS
Players to Watch: Taylor Wiescamp, Fr., MH; Lyanna Nevarez, So., OH/MH; Jaelyn Price, Jr., RH
Season Outlook: Three of Coal Ridge’s top players from last season graduated, but in steps a deep senior class with tons of experience, as well as an impressive junior class and one freshman that has the looks of soon being one of the top players in the area during her time at Coal Ridge. Following another state tournament berth, Coal Ridge is chomping at the bit to get back to the Denver Coliseum in hopes of finally winning a match in the state tournament after dropping a heartbreaking five-set loss to Sterling by just two points last season. With six experienced seniors back in the fold and some key juniors ready to take on larger roles, Coal Ridge has the makings of a league champion this fall and a possible deep state tournament run. This could arguably be the deepest team Gerber has had in her time at Coal Ridge. That’s saying something, considering the talent than has come through in recent years with college players Kaitlyn Detlefsen and Kaitlyn Harlow, as well as standouts Dana Kotz and Nicole Mooney in the last two years.
Head Coach: Greg Gortsema, second year
Last Season: no golfers qualified for the state tournament
Key Returners: Austin Gerber, So.; Sean Mooney, So.; Ryan Kotz, So.
Golfers to Watch: Billett Porter, Sr.
Head Coach: Chris Ozminkowski, first year
Last Season: Senior Justin Allen was the lone Coal Ridge runner to qualify for the 3A state meet. He placed 39th overall.
Key Returners: Jose Briceno, Sr.; Stephen Jones, Jr.; Claudia Buchholz, Sr.; Erin Flaherty, So.
Runners to Watch: Josh Brooks, Sr.; Aidan Boyd, Fr.; Ivette Salazar, Jr.
Season Outlook: After sending just one runner to the state meet in the final year under Craig Parks, first-year head coach Chris Ozminkowski comes into the fold as the new leader of a program looking to take the next step this fall with quite a bit of talent returning to Peach Valley. Senior Jose Briceno and senior Claudia Buchholz headline the teams for Coal Ridge, as both finished the year strong at the regional meet in Delta and should be able to improve off of last season’s finish. Outside of the two seniors, junior Stephen Jones and sophomore Erin Flaherty add some solid depth for the Titans, giving Ozminkowski a nice base to work with. “As a new coach at the high school, I’m just trying to figure out what we have,” Ozminkowski said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to build up our program and to help our kids improve every week.”