• A look at some of the other top area golfers did at Kadet Invitational

    Fri, April 18, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Here’s how other Pikes Peak region top golfers did on Friday:

    Air Academy’s Kelsey McKenna looked unreal at times. The sophomore sensation, who finished 16th at state last year, looped a picture-perfect pitch feet from the hole to set herself up for an eagle on par-5 No. 14.

    She finished tied for fifth on the leaderboard with a score of 82.

    “My goal is to win (state) eventually,” said McKenna, who has already won two invites this season. “I feel like I’ve improved so much and I can get there. I’d like top 10 or a top-five finish this year.”

    Pine Creek’s Mary Kate Nelson finished sixth with a score of 82. To no fault of her own, the Navy-golf commit finished her round in 7 ½ hours.

    “That’s exhausting to be out there that long,” said Nelson, who carded four birdies on the day. “When you have some girls not knowing this course, or ready for it, it can be rough. You have to wait and wait for them — so it puts everyone off a bit. That’s probably why nobody shot in the 70s.”

  • 4A CSML puts emphasis on regular season

    Fri, April 18, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Last year, when Mesa Ridge chalked up 12 overall victories and finished second place in the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League regular season, it didn’t mean anything other than a moral victory.

    Especially when the Grizzlies lost to Widefield in the second round of the 4A CSML baseball tournament. That defeat, against a team they had beaten during the regular season, essentially cost them a spot in the playoffs because the league tournament was valued more than the regular season.

    Partially because of that, the CSML restructured its thinking to put more weight on regular season play. Now, the Grizzlies, who wrapped up the league title on Friday with a win over Coronado, are already guaranteed a playoff spot when districts open next month.

    The league tournament, which starts at the end of next week, will just be a chance for the teams to get in a few more games before 4A postseason rolls around.

    The top three teams in the 4A CSML qualify for district play.

    The Grizzlies could have the pieces in place to make a decent postseason run. 

    “We can make it deep in playoffs if we hit like we can,” said ace Jake Grotelueschen, who threw a complete game and struck out 10 in the win over Coronado on Friday. “And if our pitchers throw strikes, get out of the inning fast, our bats will handle it.”


  • BLOG: Decision to keep hockey unified sends Coronado into hibernation

    Thu, April 17, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    When Coronado’s football team hit a rough patch, many wondered about the sport’s future at the west-side school. Fortunately, the program had a chance to play down a class to revive the near-moribund program. Last November, the Cougars won a state championship after four years of reorganization in Class 3A.

    The Cougars, winless in 19 games last season, won’t have that chance in hockey.

    When the legislative council voted 39-33 Thursday to keep hockey in a unified class, Coronado athletic director Dave Howard had little motivation to continue. With two classes, the Cougars could play down in 4A and perhaps get things moving in the right direction again.

    But instead of fielding a team that has struggled to compete, Howard made the decision to discontinue the program, at least for the next cycle.

    “We had no opportunity to play down, and if you saw our records over the last six, eight years, it was pretty evident we were struggling greatly in hockey,” Howard said. “We just don’t have the numbers to put together a competitive team. All I know, and the only decision we’ve made right now, is that for the next cycle, Coronado will not have a hockey team. Believe me, the last thing an AD wants to do is stop programs.”

    The remaining Cougars can choose one of the other two District 11 teams at Palmer and Doherty.

    Howard recalled the days when Southern Colorado ruled the roost in hockey.

    “About 10 years ago, we were the schools that kept hockey alive,” Howard said. “Denver had so many issues up there, and they were cutting programs. At one time, there were 16 schools playing hockey, and the lion’s share were from Southern Colorado. But as soon as the Denver teams started coming back in and linking arms with other schools, we got this disparity in power.”

     - Kevin Carmody, The Gazette

  • Third Simpson sister will join first two at CU

    Wed, April 16, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Simpson, eh?

    While Mr. Montgomery Burns (Monty to his few friends) might not remember the last name of his most famous employee, Colorado volleyball coach Liz Kritza can’t forget it.

    Doherty setter Gabby Simpson signed a national letter of intent with Colorado on Wednesday. Photo by Christian Murdock, The Gazette.

    Doherty setter Gabby Simpson signed a national letter of intent with Colorado on Wednesday. Photo by Christian Murdock, The Gazette.

    On Wednesday, the third of three national signing days for student-athletes to sign national letters of intent, Doherty’s Gabby Simpson signed with CU, joining sisters Taylor and Cierra as Buffaloes.

    Getting Gabby to sign with the Buffs was a minor coup for Kritza. Until Jan. 6, Gabby had been verbally committed to in-state rival Colorado State.

    “Gabby will have a truly unique experience in donning a Buffs’ jersey alongside her older sisters, Cierra and Taylor, both part of a talented and motivated group we currently have in our program here at CU,” Kritza told CUBuffs.com.

    “The main reason why I switched was because I felt that I fit in better at CU than CSU,” Gabby told The Gazette after a signing ceremony at Doherty on Wednesday.

    Of course, the chance to play alongside her sisters was a big drawing point, too.

    “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to do that,” she said. “We only got to play together one time and it was for a few points my freshman year. I wasn’t very good then. I feel like the next few years are going to be awesome.”

    This season, Gabby proved she could do more than just set. Listed at 6-foot-3, she was second on the team in kills with 277, solo blocks with 27 and total blocks (72). She led the Spartans with 711 assists. She, along with Cierra, helped the Spartans win the 2012 Class 5A state championship.

    “I think hitting this year for high school did really help me out a lot,” Gabby said. “When I get the chance to (hit) I do. I don’t get to hit for club, so high school is the only chance I get to hit.”

    With the Simpson clan on hand to watch the third sister sign, Cierra, a freshman at CU, was ecstatic to officially welcome Gabby to another family.

    “It was the best news I’d heard all year,” said Cierra, who was originally verbally committed to Texas-San Antonio before switching to CU. “I was so excited, and I know Taylor was so excited, and everyone up at CU is just so excited to have her up here.

    “I think (Kritza) is really excited because she has seen how well we are able to work together. I think it’s rare to find three sisters who can work so well together. Usually people worry, oh, are they going to fight? We’re really close, so we have good chemistry together. I’m just really looking forward to see how it’s going to go on the court.”

    Gabby got more support from one of her biggest fans, Doherty teammate Haleigh Washington — Gabby’s main target to set to.

    “It’s so cool. This is such a great place for Gabby to be going,” said Washington, who signed to play with Penn State in the fall. “She’s excited for it, and I’m excited to see her go there and grow as a person and athlete. She’s incredible.”



  • Shook putting anxiety past her to lead Grizzlies into future

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    DENVER — There’s one certainty for the 4A girls’ basketball state champions: Mesa Ridge is Kylee Shook’s team for the next two seasons.

    Coach Jeff Beatty knows it. She knows it. And with a relaxed sigh at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, the Grizzlies’ 6-foot-4 sophomore said the notion doesn’t scare her quite as much as it used to.

    “I’m finding ways not to get so stressed about it,” Shook said after scoring she grabbed five rebounds (but was held scoreless)  at the state’s most prestigious high-school all-star basketball game, The Show. “I’m getting there.”

    The Grizzlies lose six seniors, including team captain Gabby Purnell, following a championship run that included a buzzer-beating layup to oust Pueblo South in the semifinals and takedown of Goliath Broomfield in the state finals.

    Beatty and Shook recently had a discussion about what the center’s role must be during the 2014-15 season.

    “I have to be much more aggressive on the offensive end. We’ve talked about that,” said Shook, who averaged a team-high 13 points last year, but wavered on the offensive end in the postseason and averaged less than nine points through the final five games. “I can’t let myself get so worked up out there. I can’t be as passive.”

    She admitted she was still too hesitant with the ball on Saturday’s big stage when Shook, Sand Creek’s Mikayla Reese and the White Team fell to Peyton’s Shelby Patterson and the Regis-heavy Blue Team 45-37.

    Shook, a starter, attempted just one shot.

    “Being nervous is just something I have to work on and get over,” Shook said. “I can’t be worried about making mistakes all the time. Who cares if I miss a shot or make a mistake? I need to stay aggressive. I’ll get better at it.”

    The Grizzlies sophomore already has four verbal scholarships, all from Pac-12 schools, all before NCAA rules allow college coaches to contact her directly next fall.

    Shook will be the team’s only returning starter next season.

    Brent W. New, The Gazette

    Twitter: @brentwnew @gazettepreps

  • 5 preps games to watch this week

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Every week, The Gazette staff will choose the five most intriguing events to keep an eye on. Here’s a glance at this week’s events.

    Game of the Week

    Baseball: Lewis-Palmer (8-3, 6-0 4A PPAC) vs. Palmer Ridge (8-3, 6-1)

    Where: Palmer Ridge High School

    When: Saturday, 10 a.m.

    Player to watch: Lewis-Palmer’s Paul Tillotson

    Outlook: Want ridiculous? Lewis-Palmer sophomore Paul Tillotson is 23 for 33 at the plate this season. In 10 games he has 13 RBIs, seven doubles and three home runs. Strangely enough, however, he’s only been walked four times all year. … Pitching, meanwhile, has been just as impressive for the Rangers, who still haven’t lost inside of the state borders in 2014. Junior-righty Colin Cicere (4-0) leads the staff with a 0.88 ERA to go along with 35 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. …  Palmer Ridge swept a two-game series over Vista Ridge after suffering its first league loss to Falcon a week ago. Jake Grubesic pitched four shutout innings and hit two triples in the series win. Carter Thorne, meanwhile, is hitting .472 with 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored. He’s on an eight-game hitting streak.


    Girls’ soccer: Manitou Springs (6-2, 2-0 3A Region 2) vs. The Classical Academy (3-6, 2-0)

    Where: The Classical Academy North Field

    When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.

    Player to watch: Manitou Springs forward Kaity Vogel

    Outlook: While the Manitou Springs Mustangs haven’t been the same team on the road (2-2) as they have been at home (4-0), they should bring a lot of confidence with them against host TCA. First of all, the Mustangs haven’t given up a goal since mid-March and have outscored their opponents 15-0 in the four games since. Secondly, junior Kaity Vogel has been one of the best players in 3A with 11 goals and eight assists on the year. … The Titans, on the other hand, have struggled — but, they are 2-0 at home. Freshman Hannah Burgo has eight of the Titans’ 23 goals this season, while no other player has more than two. … TCA beat Manitou Springs 1-0 in each of the last two seasons.

    Baseball: Pine Creek (7-4 overall, 2-1 5A Metro League) vs. Doherty (4-7, 1-1)

    Where: Pine Creek High School and Doherty High School

    When: Tuesday, 4 p.m. at Pine Creek; Thursday, 4:30 at Doherty

    Player to watch: Pine Creek’s Conner Deeds

    Outlook:  The Pine Creek Eagles are 6-1 inside Colorado’s borders. Their only in-state loss came in a 4-3 loss to Fountain-Fort Carson in the first game of the season. Since, the Eagles are 6-0 here, and 3-0 in one-run games. … Meanwhile, more questions than answers follow Doherty, which is coming off a split against Liberty last week. The Spartans rallied for five runs in the seventh inning to beat the Lancers 6-5 on the road Thursday before they were blanked at home 2-0 on Saturday. This has been the trend for them. The Spartans have scored 56 runs in 11 games, but have been held to two or fewer runs in five of them. … Pine Creek’s Conner Deeds has been exceptional out of the Eagles’ pen. The junior righty has a 2.26 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.

    Track and Field: Ray Campbell Invitational

    Where: Fountain-Fort Carson High School

    When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

    Player to watch: Fountain-Fort Carson’s Jai’shawn Thompson

    Outlook: Fountain-Fort Carson has dominated the sprints events – and that’s been without its fastest guy. Jai’shawn Thompson, who was the 5A state champion in the boys’ 200 last year, should return to full-strength Saturday after a nagging leg injury has kept him “cautious” and out through most of the first month of the season. “I’m just being careful so I don’t aggravate it,” he said at the Palmer Terror Invite.  On the girls’ side of the team, Rajon O’Quinn is looking for a state title in high jump after finishing second in 5A last year. Other teams attending include Canon City, Cherokee Trial, CSCS, Doherty, Fountain Valley, Hinkley, James Irwin, Pueblo County, Sand Creek, Sierra and Woodland Park.

    Baseball: Coronado (4-6 overall, 3-0 4A Metro) vs. Mesa Ridge (10-3, 3-0) 

    Where: Mesa Ridge High School

    When: Friday, 4 p.m.

    Player to watch: Coronado’s Carter Gerber

    Outlook: First-year coach Ryan Sheets didn’t press the panic button after Coronado started the season 1-6, and it seems to be paying off. The returning 4A Metro champions have won their first three league games of the season by a 35-12 scoring margin. … Carter Gerber has eight of his 13 RBIs on the Cougars’ three-game winning streak. … Still, Mesa Ridge looks like the deepest and most well-rounded team in the league. The Grizzlies have outscored their league opponents 41-6 through three games and have scored 10-plus runs in six of their games this year. Friday should go a long way to deciding the league winner.

    Brent W. New, The Gazette

    Twitter: @brentwnew @gazettepreps

  • Strong week for Cheyenne Mountain girls’ tennis

    Sat, April 12, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    The defending Class 4A girls’ tennis state champions showed they are ready for a run at another title.

    Despite losing several members and putting together a team with limited high school team experience, Cheyenne Mountain showed just how deep it is with an impressive week of competition.

    The Indians routed three talented teams who usually have title contenders. Cheyenne Mountain cruised past Colorado Academy 7-0 Tuesday, pounded Denver East 7-0 Thursday and breezed past defending 5A state champion Cherry Creek 6-1 on Friday.

    “It was a great week for Cheyenne Mountain tennis, that’s for sure,” Indians coach Dave Adams said Friday.

    Adams was quick to point out, that while the team scores proved lopsided, the individual matches were competitive and often could have gone either way. But they didn’t go any way but Cheyenne Mountain’s.

    Defending No. 1 singles state champion Kalyssa Hall gave up just six games in two matches and won Friday’s match by default. 

    Adams also changed a few things in doubles pairings, splitting up sisters Claire and Megan Dibble, pairing freshman Claire with Tory Louis (a state champ from last season) at No. 2 doubles and adding Megan to Chelsey Geisz at No. 3 doubles.

    The moves worked. Both pairings won in straight sets against Colorado Academy, straight sets vs. East and straight sets vs. Creek.

    “We just switched some doubles teams around this week,” Adams said. “… That’s been good.”

     At the outset of the season, Adams expressed concern with the youth on the team. The Indians don’t have a senior on the team and only have three juniors. That youth isn’t looking to be a problem. More like a benefit with all but one due back the next couple of seasons.

    That youth will get to again prove its worth at the Cherry Creek tournament next weekend and at home in the Indians own tourney the week after that.

    For now, Adams deservedly soaked up the victorious week.

    “For us to have three very pretty, doggone-strong performances, that’s got to give us some confidence,” he said. “Anytime you knock off Cherry Creek … it’s always kind of cool to win a marquee matchup like that.”

  • Stewart steps down from Pine Creek boys’ hoops

    Fri, April 11, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Pine Creek is hoping to elevate its boys’ basketball program to the level of some of its other successful programs.

    DuCaye’t Stewart stepped down recently, opening up the head coaching position for the Eagles – one that’s already drawn the interest of about a half dozen candidates.

    duke stewart

    “I think we can get that, get Pine Creek back to being competitive in boys’ basketball, as well,” athletic director Matt Mahan said Friday.

    The Eagles’ football and boys’ soccer teams each won the school’s first state titles in those respective sports in the fall. And the Eagles’ girls’ basketball team, coached by Stewart’s wife, Kelley, and led by a starting group that is all freshmen or sophomores, split the 5A Colorado Springs Metro League crown this season.

    The boys’ basketball team hasn’t had that same kind of success. Under Stewart, the Eagles finished above .500 just once in his first season in 2010-11.

    And this season had to rank among the most frustrating. The Eagles went 8-16, 1-9 in the 5A CSML. In league, the Eagles lost their first four games by a combined 10 points. And none of those by more than three points. They lost another two league games by single digits, beating only Palmer. The Eagles bowed out of the playoffs in the first round, as they’d done the three previous seasons.

    Those close losses earned them a reputation as a team to fear, Mahan said.

    “I think our kids responded well,” he said. “I never saw them give up or throw in the towel.”

    Mahan is hoping to have a new coach in place by early May, adding that there could be a teaching position available too, if an applicant were interested in both.

    “Duke did a good job while he was here,” Mahan said. “And we wish him the best in his endeavors.”

    Stewart finished with a combined record of 43-53 overall, 17-23 in league.


     Duke Stewart’s four seasons at Pine Creek.












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  • 5 preps games to watch this week

    Sun, April 6, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Every week, The Gazette staff will choose the five most intriguing events to keep an eye on. Here’s a glance at this week’s events.

    Game of the Week

    Girls’ soccer: Cheyenne Mountain (4-0-1) vs. Sand Creek (6-0)

    Where: Cheyenne Mountain High School

    When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.

    Outlook: Sand Creek coach Craig Decker isn’t bashful when he talks about playing the 4A defending champions. He said it’s the game his girls have been looking forward to all season. … The Scorpions will try to stay undefeated and grab their first win over Cheyenne Mountain in Decker’s four-year career as Sand Creek’s coach. His team lost 2-1 in 2011, 7-2 in 2012 and 3-2 last year against  Cheyenne Mountain. … The Indians beat 5A powers Liberty and Pine Creek to secure themselves as the 4A favorite — at least up to this point. Led by 12 seniors, Cheyenne Mountain coach Tomas Martinez said he hopes his team can make another “deep run” into the 4A playoffs. … Due to weather cancellations, Sand Creek will play a makeup game against Doherty the day before. “We’ll have a lot of games in a short amount of time thanks to this lovely spring weather we all have been having,” he said.

    Boys’ and Girls’ basketball: The Show high school all-star game

    Where: Pepsi Center, Denver

    When: Saturday, Girls at 1:30 p.m., Boys at 3 p.m.

    Outlook:  State champion Kylee Shook of Mesa Ridge will headline area players in this year’s high school basketball all-star game. The 6-foot-3 sophomore will be joined by Sand Creek senior Mikayla Reese on the girls’ white team, and will be opposed by Peyton senior Shelby Patterson on the blue team. … In the boys’ game, Cheyenne Mountain’s Ghassan Nehme and Sand Creek’s Dylan Clark will end their high school careers on the boys’ blue team.

    Girls’ soccer: Doherty (1-3) vs. Pine Creek (6-1)

    Where: District 20 Stadium

    When: Wednesday, 5 p.m.

    Outlook: 5A Metro League play begins with Pine Creek looking to bounce back after its first loss of the season came to Cheyenne Mountain last week. The Eagles have one of the best defenses in 5A, giving up only seven shots per game up to this point. Their freshman keeper, Jade Odom, has four shutouts and a .993 save percentage at the core of it. … The Spartans have struggled so far in 2014. After going 9-4-3 last year, and making it to the second round of the postseason, Eryn Gallagher’s offense has struggled to find the back of the net in its first four games. Six of her offense’s seven goals on the season came in a 6-1 win over Pueblo West.

    Girls’ soccer: Coronado (2-2 overall, 2-0 4A Metro) vs. Mesa Ridge (3-4, 1-0) 

    Where: Mesa Ridge High School

    When: Thursday, 4 p.m.

    Outlook: Coronado’s defense has made things a little easier for keeper Emily Lambert in the past three games. After allowing 37 shots on net and five goals against Sand Creek in the first game of the season, the Cougars have given up only two goals on 11 shots in their past three games. … The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have been a little more all over the place as they have yet to win back-to-back games this season. Mesa Ridge has lost 10-0 and 6-0, and has won 8-0 and 8-4 this year. Dakota Evans-Cerezo, Kaylee Gatzke and Darby Cross lead the team with four goals apiece.

    Baseball: Falcon (4-3, 3-0 4A PPAC) vs. Palmer Ridge (5-2, 3-0)

    Where: Palmer Ridge High School

    When: Tuesday, 4 p.m.

    Outlook: Somebody will lose their first league game of the season. … Carter Thorne has been on a tear for Palmer Ridge this season. The 6-foot-1 senior captain is hitting .500 with nine RBIs and eight runs scored. Last week, he drove in two RBIs to lead the Bears to a 4-2 comeback victory against Cheyenne Mountain. … Falcon, meanwhile, is 4-0 inside of Colorado’s borders. After losing three consecutive games in Phoenix, the Falcons return to Colorado for their first of back-to-back games against Palmer Ridge.  Benjamin McDowell (.500) and RBI-leader Trevor Alexander (9) have led the way for the offense, which has scored more than eight runs a game – and more than 12 runs a game inside of Colorado. … The two teams also play on April 10. 

    Brent W. New, The Gazette

    Twitter: @brentwnew @gazettepreps

  • Girls ramp up for 4A PPAC soccer

    Sun, April 6, 2014 by Scott Kaniewski with no comments

    Every other girls’ soccer team in the 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference is chasing Cheyenne Mountain (4-0-1). After a 4A championship last season, and wins against 5A powers Pine Creek and Liberty in the early portions of this year, nobody is questioning who the favorite is coming into league play this week.

    For now, that is. The Indians, who are 12 seniors deep, will get a pair of monumental tasks right out of the gate, facing Sand Creek (6-0) on Tuesday and Lewis-Palmer (4-0-2) on Thursday.

    “We are psyched about it,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Tomas Martinez said. “There are a lot of great teams in the league and we’re looking forward to them. As far as we go, we are pretty comparable to last season. We have 11 or 12 girls who could be named captains, leading us, and we’re getting a lot of strong play from a lot of different girls.

    “We’re hoping to make another deep run this year.”

    First though, they hope to hand the Scorpions their first loss. Bludgeoning opponents with a 39-2 scoring margin early into the year, fourth-year coach Craig Decker is fielding his best team yet.

    Led by a slew of talented seniors — including Christina Tafoya and her league-high 13 goals this season — Sand Creek is looking forward to another chance against 4A’s top team.

    “Three years ago when these seniors were freshmen, we put a scare into Cheyenne Mountain and lost 2-1 in overtime. We were a bit of an unknown then,” said Decker, whose team went on to lose to the Indians 7-2 in 2012 and 3-2 in 2013. “We don’t have the depth that Cheyenne Mountain does, but we’ll see. I’d put my starting 11 up against anyone in the state.”

    The Rangers, meanwhile, will get their chance two days later. After a 9-6-1 record in 2013, Lewis-Palmer has recorded five shutouts in six games in 2014.

    When asked about the notion of being a dark-horse contender in the PPAC, Rangers co-coach Joe Martin quickly turned aside the notion.

    “I wouldn’t say we are a dark horse. I’d say we’re in the mix,” said Martin, whose team has outscored opponents 15-2 this year. “What we have to do going forward is keeping playing the way we’re playing. No matter who we face.”

    Falcon (3-1) and Discovery Canyon (3-2) have outscored their opponents by double-digit margins through the first handful of games.Vista Ridge (2-5-1) is trying to get things back on track since a 2-0 start. And Palmer Ridge (1-3) and Air Academy (1-4), both of whom made deep runs in the postseason last year, are looking to recover in league after dropping under .500 during tough nonconference schedules.

    Brent W. New, The Gazette

    Twitter: @brentwnew @gazettepreps