• Dan Russoman

Fall teams begin practicing


Hammonton High School’s girls tennis team began preseason practices on August 9 as it prepares for the 2021 season. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Fall sports teams at both Hammonton High School and St. Joseph Academy will begin preparing for the 2021 season this week as practices and workouts begin for football and girls tennis this week with field hockey, soccer, girls volleyball, and cross country squads beginning workouts on August 16.


A year ago, the start of the fall season was postponed due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Teams played an abbreviated regular season and the playoffs were also shortened for some sports while others, like football, did not have state playoffs. The hope this year is that the season will be played in full without any long stoppages.


“Obviously, COVID is a still a concern, but we’re happy to be on the field and hope we can have as normal a season as possible,” Hammonton boys soccer coach Steve Adirzone said.


Last season, several teams saw games canceled due to virus outbreaks involving either their team or opponents.


“We missed a few games last year, and we’re hopeful that won’t be the case this season. All we can do is take care of things on our end and hope everyone else does what they’re supposed to do,” Hammonton football coach Jim Raso said.


Raso and the Blue Devils will look to build on last year’s 4-3 record. Hammonton lost several key players to graduation, and the Blue Devils will feature a much younger roster this season.


“We lost a lot, but we’re confident that some of the young bucks will step up and fill some key spots for us this year,” Raso said.


Head coach Rosie Staas returns to the sidelines for Hammonton’s field hockey team after missing last year while on maternity leave, and the Blue Devils hope to build on last year’s 6-2-1 finish. Hammonton brings back many of starters from a year ago and should be among the favorites in the Cape Atlantic League.


On the soccer field, Hammonton’s boys went 6-5 last season and bring back a number of key varsity veterans.


“We lost some top players, but we have a lot coming back. I think we’ll be very competitive,” Adirzone said.


Second-year girls soccer coach Ashley Koester faces a rebuild with Hammonton’s girls soccer team after the Blue Devils lost nine players to graduation. The Blue Devils finished with a 5-5 record last season and will need their younger players to perform well in increased roles this season.


Hammonton’s girls tennis team posted a 6-5 record last season, and should once again be near the top of the Cape Atlantic League (CAL) standings as coach Heather Flaim’s squad returns some of its key players from a year ago.


Both the boys and girls cross country teams at Hammonton performed well in their return to the CAL in 2020 and each has some strong runners back this fall.


Hammonton’s girls volleyball program saw its season postponed until March last year, and the second-year team finished with a 3-9 record. Mitch Morrell takes over as the head coach for the Blue Devils this season, and will lead a young team that lost six players to graduation.


At St. Joseph, the Wildcats volleyball team failed to notch a win last year, and will continue its rebuilding process this season. Depth will be an issue for the Wildcats this fall.


On the soccer field, St. Joe’s boys managed just one victory a year ago, and head coach Michael Sutts brings back a roster that has a solid mix of varsity veterans and newcomers who hope to compete against a tough schedule.


The Wildcats girls soccer program is currently trying to attract players, as the Wildcats may have to delay the start of their season due to a lack of players.


St. Joe’s field hockey team is continuing to grow under second-year coach Kassidy Wentzell, and the Wildcats will look for their veteran players to help the team build on its 5-7 mark from a year ago.


Finally, St. Joseph’s football team lost some of its top players to graduation, but as always, the Wildcats are focused on winning another state championship in 2021.


“We’ll be younger and not as deep this year, but I think we’ll win some games. Hopefully, we’ll be able to compete at a high level,” head coach Paul Sacco said.