Youth will be served for Rifle’s spring athletics | PostIndependent.com

Youth will be served for Rifle’s spring athletics

Rifle's Bryer Rew receives a pickoff attempt at first base during a game at Cooper Field last season in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

The 2016-17 season was a very strong one across the board for Rifle athletics, but due to a large number of losses to graduation, Rifle will have to turn to a number of young athletes this spring to help uphold the standards that have been set at Rifle High School.

In girls golf, the Bears look to compete for a state championship under head coach Roger Walters. As one of the lone programs at Rifle this spring that will not be affected much by last year’s graduation, the Bears return their top two golfers in senior Elly Walters and junior Masi Smith, giving Rifle an elite duo to push for a possible state championship.

Track and field continues to build a foundation under second-year head coach Chris Bomba and should have a number of athletes representing the Bears at the state meet in May. Girls soccer continues to rebuild as first-year head coach Steven Soderstrom takes over a program that’s on its third head coach in three years. Fortunately for Soderstrom, there’s a ton of young talent coming up through the school system for the Bears to work with.

On the diamond, Rifle lost eight seniors from last season’s team, but with veteran head coach Troy Phillips still in the mix, and a number of players with varsity experience returning, the Bears will once again be in the mix in the 4A Western Slope League.

GIRLS GOLF

Head Coach: Roger Walters, fourth season

Last Season: Finished fourth in the state in 4A

Key Returners: Elly Walters, Sr.; Masi Smith, Jr.; Savannah Seay, Sr.

Golfers to Watch: Jacey Hauer, Sr.; Eve Miller, Sr.; Breanna Seay, Fr.; Peyton Caldwell, Sr.;

Season Outlook: Coming off of a fourth-place finish at the 4A state meet last spring that saw both Elly Walters and Masi Smith finish in the top six individually, the Rifle Bears’ girls golf team has a great shot at going all the way this season.

“We’re one of four public schools that could realistically win the state championship this season,” head coach Walters said. “We’re right there in the mix; some of the other schools lost some key golfers, and we’re returning almost everybody.”

With Walters and Smith leading the charge on the links, the Bears are looking to senior Savannah Seay to take another step forward in her final season, possibly giving the Bears a power trio in the state at the 4A level.

TRACK AND FIELD

Head Coach: Chris Bomba, second season

Last Season: Sent 10 athletes to the state meet

Key Returners: Sarah Wagler, Sr.; Ashley Manera, Jr.; Emilee Demann, Jr.; Riley Ellsworth, Sr.; Brian De La Rosa, Sr.; Bryce Schanche, Jr.;

Athletes to Watch: Jonny Hernandez, Fr.; Joel Lopez, Jr.; Tanner Vines, Jr.; Evan Gray, Sr.; Duke Brady, Jr.; Halie Holmes, Jr.; Delaney Phillips, So.; Jahiara Luna, So.

Season Outlook: Numbers might be a little low this spring for the track and field team at Rifle under second-year head coach Bomba, but the quality of the athletes available is high. While there is plenty of talent on paper for the Bears, Bomba is focused on changing the culture surrounding Rifle track and field into a positive one.

“We just want to go into meets and really compete,” Bomba said. “That’s going to be very important for this program to show kids that we can compete and change the culture around here.”

GIRLS SOCCER

Head Coach: Steven Soderstrom, first season

Last Season: 1-14 (0-12 4A Western Slope League)

Key Returners: April Quinones, So.; Amy Gomez, Sr.; Taygann Schoppner, Sr.; Natalie Diaz, Jr.; Josie Ayers, Sr.;

Players to Watch: Jessica Ramos, Fr.; Emily Vines, Fr.; Alejandra Carranza, Jr.

Season Outlook: The Rifle Bears’ girls soccer team has been down on its luck over the last few seasons, winning just nine games over the last three seasons, but with new head coach Soderstrom taking over, the future looks bright for the Bears, thanks to a strong freshman class coming up through the system.

The 2018 season will likely be a growing season for the Bears as they learn Soderstrom’s system, but with a number of young, talented players in the pipeline, the Bears could see brighter days moving forward.

BASEBALL

Head Coach: Troy Phillips, 23rd season

Last Season: 11-9, 7-5 4A Western Slope League, lost to Air Academy in first round of 4A state playoffs

Key Returners: Derek Wagler, So.; Eddie Medina, Jr.; Luke Ellis, Sr.; Connor Gould, Sr.; Randy Starks, Jr.; Colton Parsons, Sr.;

Players to Watch: Levi Warfel, So.; Wyatt Warfel, Jr.; Andres Vega, So.

Season Outlook: The Bears lost eight seniors from last season’s team, but Rifle returns a handful of players with heavy varsity experience this spring under head coach Troy Phillips, who is in his 23rd season in charge of the baseball program. Derek Wagler is the headliner for the Bears, after putting up a terrific freshman season at the plate and in the field last fall for Rifle. Wagler will be called on to pitch this spring, as will senior Luke Ellis and junior Eddie Medina, among others.

“We’re not as talented as last year’s team, but the attitudes on this team are good,” Phillips said. “If this group buys into the culture we’re trying to build here, it could make up the talent difference. It all starts with a team-first culture, and if we can do that, we’re going to be very competitive this spring.”


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