The Foote School winter athletes perform to their full potential in action-packed seasons
Updated: Apr 28
By Rick Menning
NEW HAVEN, CT -- Whether on the courts or in the pool, the student-athletes who participated in basketball, swimming and squash at The Foote School certainly drew the attention of their opponents with their grit and determination to always give 100 percent.
The Falcons collectively answered the call to compete at the highest level and once again brought pride to their campus and the entire faculty and student body. Their willpower and perseverance were warmly welcomed by fans and supporters.
Looking back on each team's season, it is clear that those who wear the maroon and grey uniforms always strive to be at their best regardless of the final outcome on the scoreboard.
Boys Junior Varsity Basketball
Within any junior varsity sport, the name of the game is progressing along the learning curve and gaining experience with every game.
Mission accomplished in both respects.
The finishing touches to a commendable campaign came in the form of two extremely close games that left the JV Falcons proud of their efforts.
"What made the games exciting was how supportive the players were of one another and how different players stood out," noted Coach Kossouth Bradford. "Players who were new to the game or whose skill level wasn't quite as high as their teammates to start the season played a significant role in the victory or in keeping the game close."
Bradford loved the fact that all the players on the bench wanted to be in during the end of both of these games, and he was especially thrilled that they supported and cheered on the players who were in the game with everything they had.
"It was fun to feel the growth of camaraderie and cohesiveness during those last few games," Bradford continued.
That growth factor peaked at the right time in the form of players excelling when, earlier in the season, they were still becoming familiar with the sport. They gained invaluable experience as the season progressed.
Bradford mentioned one player who came through with multiple 3-point shots including the game-winning trey with seven seconds remaining.
"Another (memorable) moment was when a player who was new to the game and struggled on the offensive end realized the value of rebounding and defense and ended up with about 10 rebounds, at least five of them offensive -- and also four steals -- by the end of the game ... It was a great example of the fact that one doesn't have to score a basket in order to have a significant impact in the game of basketball," Bradford said.
Team Roster: Matthew Bergantino, Quinn Byron, Jack Ginnetti, Mason Lamprea, Gage Lang, Gus Larsen, Owen Lasater, Matty Matouck, Will Matouck, Gus Nast, Eric Silva, Fisher Smith, Prince Starling, Rohin Turanga, Owen Whang, Eli Wilderman.
Titanium Falcon Award: Owen Lasater
Boys Varsity Basketball
Perhaps no better indicator of what Coach Ross Holzschuh referred to as the "integrity and tenacity" of the boys' varsity basketball squad took place during a home game against Wintergreen ACES.
Excitement during that encounter on the hardwood was at a fever pitch, and the encouragement and support symbolic of true team spirit was noteworthy.
"I was impressed and pleased by the players' commitment to cheer on their teammates ... whether it was starting a defense chant or applauding great plays," Holzschuh said. "It bolstered morale and encouraged positive team interactions."
Despite a loss to Kingswood Oxford in their first game, the Falcons ballers used it as a learning experience and rebounded to defeat Independent Day School in their very next challenge.
When the final buzzer to cap the season was sounded, The Foote School squad took pride in a successful run that included two wins against both Hamden Hall and Renbrook School. There was also an exciting hard-fought victory over Hopkins in the finale at home.
"Our best basketball was played in that first game against Wintergreen and our final game of the season against Hopkins," Holzschuh said. "We were running plays and communicating effectively on the floor."
Team Roster: Justin Aseme, Will Eden, Sammy Fisher, Archer Fitton, Ignacio Granda, Lucian Halpern, Daven Kaphar, Kachi Ikekpeazu, Jai Makam, Julian Peccia, Simon Podos, Dylan Sanchez, Jackson Shaw, Charlie Sudmyer.
Triple Threat Award: Charlie Sudmyer
Girls Junior Varsity Basketball
With a standing-room-only crowd cheering every play, The Foote School and The Country School competed at an extraordinary level. When the final buzzer sounded, the hard-charging JV Falcons earned a 21-18 victory.
With the score tied and only about a half-minute remaining, the Falcons made a long-distance connection that swished through the net for the thrilling win.
"(The victory) was well deserved with all of their improvement over the course of the season," said Coach Carrie Boyce.
Team Roster: Lorelei Burke, Avery Earnshaw, Noor Gonzalez, Pelin Kayaasari, Isla Kelly, Willa Kennedy, Lucy Rapkin, Eve Reilley, Ava Rose, Ava Vidal, Maryam Zagmout.
Girls Varsity Basketball
Also finishing its season on an extremely positive note, the varsity Falcons not only defeated Choate's Thirds team but also put the exclamation point to the home stretch with a triumph over Wintergreen ACES.
"The exuberance displayed after the final buzzer sounded (in both games) for a Foote victory was amazing," Boyce recalled. "The girls put a ton of points on the board in these two games and held their defense strong."
Team Roster: Salome Del Rio, Libby Gladwell, Lola Giraldez Greco, Chase Gore-Grimes, Zahabiya Kohka, Luciana Lombardi, Ally Pine Maher, Aggie McPartland, Dorothea Myers, Lila Pisani, Caitlin Reilley, Gopika Sheth, Logan Slebaugh, Cordelia Thompson.
Girls Basketball (Summary)
In summing up their seasons, both the girls' varsity and junior varsity teams experienced a real shift in attitude and teamwork over the course of the schedule.
After experiencing some hard losses and tough times, the squads coached by Shafton Haley and Jim Renehan bonded together and became more of a team as the season progressed. The girls were challenged to be there for each other and became a new team the second half of the season.
"The 9th grade leadership was particularly noteworthy, as Ally and Zahabiya really took ownership of their captain role and set an example for their teammates," Boyce said.
Girls Varsity Basketball Head in the Game Award: Zahabiya Khokha
Girls Junior Varsity Girls Basketball Swish Award: Willa Kennedy
With a squad composed primarily of beginners, and despite competing against veteran teams, Falcon pride and commitment shone through with stellar showings.
Despite setbacks resulting from injuries and illness, Coach Chloe Shaw's student-athletes took the court for each and every match with a resolve to showcase their skills at the highest level.
"I couldn't be more proud of my squash team this season ... They showed up to every match wanting to do their best, but also always wanting to learn," Shaw said.
While the majority of the Falcons' opponents were high-school level, The Foote School always represented itself in a very positive manner.
"For (our) team of sixth-ninth graders, that can be pretty daunting yet they handled those matches with courage and kindness," Shaw said.
That kindness led to a "wow" moment for Shaw and the team.
Noticing that her high-school opponent (a beginner) was having difficulty trying to serve, a Falcons' sixth-grader took the time to help her with that particular skill.
"The sportsmanship stood out to me and our willingness to work with other teams in respectful match play," Shaw said.
As with the other winter sports, the drive to get better as the season went on reaped huge dividends.
"The first match of our season was against Hopkins, an incredibly experienced and strong team," Shaw recalled. "We played them again later in the season and every single player did better than that first match, not only in points won, but also in confidence. I hope they carry that memory with them because that's all you hope for as a coach: witnessing improvement and resilience -- especially under challenging circumstances."
Team Roster: Lexi Baez, Michael Batsu, Sofia Chung, Pablo Cruz, Ezra de la Cruz y Carmin, Jake Fasano, Abe Harris-Sturges, Kaya Heeger, Ally McCormack, Poppy Shor, Sid Srihari, Lucy Sunshine, Luhao Tang, George Thompson.
The Boaster Award: Jake Fasano
The resilience and determination of The Foote School's swim team was never more evident than in one particular meet against Hopkins.
With the match-up taking place on a Thursday instead of the usual Wednesday time slot, many swimmers on the team weren’t able to compete due to scheduling conflicts.
"Those swimmers who did compete at the meet rose up to the challenge of a limited roster and swam events they normally didn’t swim," Coach Sheila Lavey said. "I’m proud of Louis especially who challenged himself for swimming the 100 free for the first time in that meet."
In fact, as the season went along, the Falcons always shone through in their ability to handle all types of adversity.
"There were times when swimmers weren’t feeling well and couldn’t swim their events. In these cases, I was proud to see their teammates take on the mantle to swim in their stead," noted Lavey, who also gave a special shoutout to the club swimmers.
"Despite having club swim obligations and busy training schedules, they still made the time to come to the meets and practices. They were an inspiration to the rest of the team," she exclaimed.
Although the sport of swimming by its very nature tends to spotlight individual performances, at the end of the meet it's all about the overall team result.
"A team’s morale is critical in creating an environment of motivation, discipline and success," Shaw said. "I’m proud to say that the swim team developed great esprit de corps throughout the season."
Assistant coaches Dorje Wu and Phoebe Yeh also were appreciative of the squad's effort, enthusiasm and energy.
"It’s these good qualities of theirs that led to such a successful season," Wu said. "I hope they will continue swimming as an athletic endeavor, but regardless of whether or not they do, I know their hard work will take them far in and out of the pool."
Added Yeh: "I was extremely proud that all the swimmers came together at the end of each meet to thank the other team regardless of the meet outcome. It was great to see friendships develop across teams."
Team Roster: Emilia Adams, Cody Bershtein, Shayann Bershtein, Louis Calderwood, Natalie Curtis, Nathan Dai, Desi Freidah, Aiden Gomez, Silvia Gozar-Zimbrean, Barrett Hansen, David Ionescu, Zee Lang, Molly Larsen, Alex Rowenhurst, Kameron Shahid, Lulu Tang, Lydia White, Rosemary White, Tessa Wilhelm, Tyler Witkowsky.
F.I.S.H. (Fortitude Inspiration Sportsmanship Honor) Award: Lydia White, Molly Larsen, and Emilia Adams