Although the Greenwich High School boys and girls ski teams lost some key talents to graduation last season, the Cardinals are still looking to make some waves during this year’s ski season.
Helping Big Red along the way this season has been Mother Nature.
“Every year we start and wait for snow, but the Woobury Ski area started blowing snow in late October and that enabled us to get through tryouts and get a solid idea of where we are at and what their skill level is,”
Greenwich head coach Lindsay Pontieri said. “We do two weeks of strength and conditioning and the third week we were able to get everybody on the snow and get a team set up by Christmas.
“That enabled us to get a few good practices in and let us come off Christmas break in a good position,” added Pontieri. “We have gelled as a team and are meeting our expectations.”
Getting ready for the start of the season, Pontieri has been able to get her team on the mountain twice a week, whether at Mount Southington. In addition, Big Red has traveled up to Vermont for its annual Stratton day trip.
“It’s a great day of skiing, Pontieri said. “It’s really intense though. We get up early and work on skiing all day long. We’re tired when it’s over and we are on our way home, but it’s worth it because of how much we improve as a team.”
Five out the boys team starting six graduated last season and three seniors on the girls team graduated last year. Thomas Newberry and Mackenzie Nocek were two huge losses because they contributed as the team’s top skiers for numerous years. Those are two losses certainly changed the dynamic of the team.
However, that doesn’t mean the Cardinals are going to be any less competitive.
Roger Winters and Kristin Sitarz are both returning from last year’s team and will be leading the way for Greenwich High.
“Kristin has skied and has nipped at the heels of Mackenzie for years now,” Pontieri said. “She’s a really talented skier and she has spent her weekends and vacation time racing in Vermont for years. Mackenzie had a phenomenal season last year for us, but this will be Kristin’s year to shine and take on that No. 1 position. Roger is in the same situation. He’s raced at Okemo for years and did ski patrol up in Vermont. He’s aggressive and attacks the course. Combined they have both blossomed into great captains and great leaders.”
“We’ve been working a lot on our foundation, so we’ve been doing a lot of drills on the mountain to build that strong foundation,” Sitarz said. “That will hopefully set us up for a good season. We are feeling strong and confident. We lost a lot of key players last year, but the returning racers are showing a lot of potential and the freshmen are showing that same potential. This team has a really strong bond and spend a lot of time together on those long bus rides. We are a close team.”
Federico Mato and Kara Gallagher are two other captains on the team. Pontieri said that the two have made solid contributions on the team for numerous years and have helped the Cardinals become a successful program. Mato and Gallagher will be both skiing in the top six.
“We are a close-knit group and spend a lot of time together,” Gallagher said. “We lost a lot of key players last year, but we still have a lot of potential. I am optimistic because we have a lot of rising players and a lot of great new freshmen. It’s so much fun to be on this team. We learn from each other. As a freshman I didn’t know what I was getting into, but the older kids were really helpful and I learned a lot from there. I am doing the same thing that those seniors did with me as a freshman.”
On the boys side of the team, Filip Mark, who had a solid season last year, will be returning and will be looked upon to improve his game. Aidan Rafferty didn’t wasn’t a member of Big Red last year, but is still familiar with the program, as he skied for the Cards as a sophomore.
Newcomers to the boys team will be Will Siscan, who is a regular on the racing circuit up in Vermont, and Philip Goransson.
“Our boys team is a big unknown for us right now,” Pontieri said. “The kids on the team were all skiing six, seven, eight or nine last year for us. Others were straddling junior varsity and varsity last year.”
In addition to Gallagher and Sitarz on the girls side, Big Red will be joined by returning athletes Caroline Markowitz, Syndey Cole and Lesley Nolan. Sydney Powers and Sabrina Piersol will also be familiar faces to the team, while sisters Isabella and Alice Pehrson will also be joining the girls team on the slopes.
“We definitely expect to make it to states,” Sitarz said. “I would like to think that this team could do well at the state championship meet. Last year we didn’t work on the skills on our racing this year, but this year we’ve really put a focus on that. We do drills every day in every practice and that’s really made a huge difference in our skiing.”
For the boys team, Pontieri believes that the biggest strength is the team’s captains, Mato and Winters, and how they are helping out all the other skiers on the team.
“Our captains are really hungry to win and as a result of that, the tone and standard they have set is great,” Pontieri said. “They have all stepped up to the plate. They are doing what we ask them to do and do it well, they take that to the next level. They are looking to do more drills on snow and improve the team. I think that they are two leaders that are taking the team to the next point and who are really willing to work together in order to improve as a team.”
For the girls, although the lost three varsity starters to graduation, the remaining players on the varsity squad are basically all returning with a year of experience.
“It’s a huge strength,” Pontieri said. “They are mostly all coming back. They know one another and I know what they can do. They know what to expect when we get to Mount Southington on race day and have competed together before. They know that taste of having a great regular season and the disappointment of coming in eighth at states. That left a bitter taste in their mouth and that is driving them in terms of their work ethic.”
Although the lineup for the boys team is far from set and the girls team has a few openings on the varsity roster, Pontieri doesn’t see that as an issue. In fact, she’s noticing that her teams has been working harder than ever during practices, whether on the slopes or on the practice field.
“We can ski 10 on varsity and our 11th person will be skiing JV,” Pontieri said. “We let them know that there are 10 spots open for varsity and they really responded. I know what they can do, but want to see what they can do under the pressure of knowing that the better they ski at Mount Southington, the more likely they will be on the varsity roster. The kids are fighting to get into the top six because they are hungry for it. They want to be scorers at the varsity level.”
When it comes to both teams, Pontieri wants the Cardinals to improve on their knowledge of the course.
“We are improving on our carving, setting a line and not falling behind on the gates,” Pontieri said. “I want this team to balance the aggressive nature of the sport and not over-compensating on pushing to the point that they get out of control. You see that in skiing all the time. You see a kid going too fast or coming off a turn and losing their edge and fall. If that happens, you don’t finish and take yourself from maybe a third overall to eighth overall.”
So far, the Greenwich boys and girls teams have seen success on the slopes. During the team’s first meet of the year, the girls team went 3-0 on the day, beating Darien, Berlin and Glastonbury with a total time of 322.55. The boys team finished 2-3 on the day, beating Berlin and Litchfield, while falling to Darien, Glastonbury and New Canaan.