Monthly Archives: September 2016

EAST’S NICK WATRY DOUBLE THREAT ON VOLLEYBALL COURT

If you understand how cool it is to have a home run hitter who can pitch or a point guard who can rebound, then you understand how happy Brookfield East boys volleyball coach Tim Owen is to have senior Nick Watry the past four seasons.

Watry is one of the state's two non-seniors who earned All-State honors (high honorable mention) last fall. He returns this season with a chance to send the Spartans to the WIAA State Boys Volleyball Tournament for the third time in his four seasons.

What makes Watry so special is his ability to be a setter and an opposite hitter, which has totally different skill sets. As an opposite hitter, Watry, a lefthander, plays in the front row on the right side and is an offensive player. As a setter, he is in the back row and it is his job to set up (pass) other hitters.

"I think it definitely keeps it interesting, playing lot of roles and making a big impact," the likeable Watry said.

Owen pointed out it is very unusual to have a player who can do both.

"It's uncommon. Most high schools - probably because they have one guy who is head and shoulders above the other guys - mostly run a 5-1 (with a setter in the back row all the time)," he said. "Not many run the 6-2 (two setters). Being a lefty helps a little bit, as he plays the opposite position (right side), which is more natural for a lefty to hit. It was a natural for him.

"In a 6-2 there are always 2 setters who set when they are in the back row. You rotate in volleyball but can't skip spots. At all times in a 6-2 there are 3 front row attackers - meaning there are a total of 6 attackers where as in a 5-1 it's the same setter so when the setter is in the front row only 2 attackers are with the setter. A 5-1 stands for 5 total attackers and 1 setter.

"For example when Nick is front row he hits as an opposite attacker and at that point Noah (Wilgus) is in the back row and sets for his 3 rotations. When Nick rotates to the back row he becomes the setter. Noah would rotate to the front row. We sub Noah out but his position becomes another attacker so when Nick sets back row there are 3 front row attackers.

"He is very rare if you look around the state; being a setter, who can also hit. I can't think of too many more. It's very rare and he's very dynamic, in terms of his swing as well."

Owen recalled first seeing Watry play the summer before his freshman year.

"Right away Nick stood out as being highly skilled," he said. "Boys change so much. He was young and small. but highly skilled and continued to improve a lot."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

When asked how long it took Watry to pass 'the eye test,' Owen quickly said "About 15 seconds. With a guy like Nick when you are coaching long enough, it doesn't take long to see. To make a varsity team as a freshman, that doesn't happen every year. We haven't had many freshman make the team, let along start on a team that went to state."

Watry has had an excellent career at East, starting with his freshman year, as he was part of a 6-2 in team which lost in the semifinals of the state tournament.

He was honorable mention all-conference and started on a team, which was ranked tops in state at one point, that lost in the sectional finals.

"It was really disappointing," he said about missing out on state. "I take it really hard. It was definitely a sore wound for a couple months. But the next season I wanted to come back and get to state."

Last season he made it back to state and lost in the semifinals. He recorded a triple double in terms of kills, sets and digs in the quarterfinals.

"It was an awesome experience coming back," Watry said, "having a lot more impact than I did my freshman year. As one of a couple leaders on the team, it was a really cool experience to do all of that again as a junior."

The first time I walked out as a freshman, I was really, really scared – there were like 1500 people there. But I had been there before and I just knew what was expected of me.”

- Nick Watry on returning to state last season

Watry admitted that the second time around helped him at state.

"I think it helped with nerves," he said. "The first time I walked out as a freshman, I was really, really scared - there were like 1500 people there. But I had been there before and I just knew what was expected of me."

The Watry, a first-team all-conference selection, when asked about his goals for this season talked about his team first.

"As an individual, I just want to help to lead my team to state and everything else will follow," he said. "I know what it takes to get there. And if we do all that correctly, I think we can get there.

"State is an amazing experience. It was definitely not something I expected. But once you experience it, all you want to do is go back and experience it again."

Looking back, Nick talked about how he got into volleyball in the first place.

In sixth or seventh grade, I watched my sister (Kate) play," he said. "Volleyball looked like a lot of fun so I went out and tried it. It's fast-paced and had a lot of movement. I could have a big impact. It's not like other sports where you might not get the ball.

"I really didn't have any experience at all. I just was able to grasp this sport really quickly. I never stopped playing and that's where I ended up."

Owen talked about 'where' Watry has ended up recently.

"One thing that stands out is he has started for us since his freshman year, so it's his knowledge of the game," Owen said. "He has a very high volleyball IQ. Sometimes you have setters who are just ball placers. They're more the quarterback, the catcher in baseball. They can run the show.

"Nick knows everything that's going on there. He can tell if the middle takes a step the wrong way, we can get a 1-on-1 (hitter on a blocker). He is athletic enough that he can get to balls that other guys can't get to and still be able to deliver it. He can save balls.

"But his IQ and skill set athletically allows him to do that and you don't see that very often."

But Nick knows he isn't perfect.

"I need to work on my defense, passing the ball, which is the first contact after I serve," he explained.

Watry was a member of High Performance A1 team the last three years, a feeder program for the Olympics tryouts for the top 40.

Last year he played up a grade at the club level and they took fifth in the nation on the 18-and-under team.

"These are a lot of Division 1 players, who are 6-feet, 6 inches," Owen said, "So they are always 5-1 with Nick as the setter."

Watry admitted volleyball keeps him busy year-round.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"Off-season! There is no off-season," he laughed. "I play year round. The club starts two weeks after school ends."

Owen thinks Watry will have a place in the Spartans volleyball history.

"His experience and knowledge of the game, that's where he demonstrates some strong leadership. Nick might go down as one of the more decorated players for team success," he said.

"What a 4-year stand he's had. He understands where things are at. We're transitioning guys in new roles and he's a teacher now."

Watry enjoys playing for Owen these past four years.

"He is very low key. It takes a little adaption to his coaching style but once you learn his coaching style I believe he's the best coach in the state," the star pupil said. "He gets the most out of all his players. He makes them better and keeps the team in a cohesive group to get something out of every single person."

And Watry is a good example of that.​

QUESTIONS FOR NICK WATRY

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Cotton Candy.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Jon Bellion (Pop).
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Comedies (Shark Tales).
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: White Collar.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: AP Government (college class on politics).
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Cape Cod on the ocean.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Watch Netflix. Take a nap.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield Central.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Going to state tournament last year.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Major in Economics, Business and play volleyball at the next level.

A Look at Fantasy Football – Week 4

MIAMI (1-2) AT CINCINNATI (1-2)

Bengals: Miami allowed an average of 137 yards rushing in its first two games and 148 yards to Cleveland last week, so Jeremy Hill is chomping at the bit to face the Dolphins. Andy Dalton is averaging 313 yards passing, with only two TD passes.

Dolphins: Forget about the rushing game and hope Ryan Tannehill, who has  averaged 353 passing yards with 5 TDs the last two games. WRs Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker are the ‘big three.’

INDIANAPOLIS (1-2) VS JACKSONVILLE (0-3) IN LONDON

Set your alarm clocks early for this one, which starts at 8:30 am our time. There should be plenty of points on the board if the teams wake up on time.

Colts: Jaguars have allowed 3 TDs per game and Andrew Luck has averaged 330 yards per game vs Detroit and San Diego. I like RB Frank Gore a little bit and WR T.Y. Hilton.

Jaguars: For what it’s worth, Jacksonville beat Indianapolis 51-16 last December and the Colts have allowed the 2nd-most points in the league. I like Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson for sure and my dark horse is Allen Hurns to get in the end zone.

TENNESSEE (1-2) AT HOUSTON (2-1)

Titans: With J.J. Watts on the IR, the Texas don’t look as intimidating. Look for RB DeMarco Murray to be effective and watch Marcus Mariota dink and dunk. That’s about it.

Texans: Houston is 4-0 vs Tennessee the past two years. RB Lamar Miller might wear out with all the touches he’s getting before reaching the end zone. WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are struggling because of Brock Osweiler’s inability to get them the ball more.

CLEVELAND (0-3) AT WASHINGTON (1-2)

Browns: Their biggest hope is the Redskins have a let down after beating division rival New York Giants. RB Isaiah Crowell is second in the league in rushing, but a lot are garbage yards, which doesn’t matter in fantasy. The flavor of the week is Terrelle Pryor, who has come on as a WR but also plays in the wildcat in the red zone.

Redskins: Kirk Cousins has plenty of weapons in DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon. The leading kicker in the NFL is Dustin Hopkins, so pick him up if you need help at PK.

SEATTLE (2-1) AT NEW YORK JETS (1-2)

Seahawks: Injuries and a bad offensive line have decimated the Seattle offense. Can’t even count on Russell Wilson who is banged up – I know he’s my QB. Two bright spots, TE Jimmy Graham hit the 100 yard mark and scored a TD and gets better every game and RB Christine Michael had perhaps the best game of his career with 100 yards and 2 TDs. But against the Jets defense, I don’t expect a lot.

Jets: These teams are a mirror-image of each other. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 6 picks last week and WRs Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are beat up. Matt Forte is being run into the ground, so enjoy it while it lasts. Look for WR3 Quincy Enunwa to be a dark horse here.

BUFFALO (1-2) AT NEW ENGLAND (3-0)

Bills: Their offense is pretty one-sided with LeSean McCoy getting most of the work. Tyrod Taylor isn’t living up to his contract, but an injured Sammie Watson’s absence is killing them.

Patriots: Three years in a row the Patriots have failed to score more than 20 points in one of their games against Rex Ryan’s defenses. QBs Jacoby Brissett/Jimmy Garoppolo have suited up in practice, but only Bill Belichick knows who will start. Play RB LeGarrette Blount and Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, but the latter two only if you’re desperate because of the QB situation.

CAROLINA (1-2) AT ATLANTA (2-1)

Panthers: Carolina should wake up against this defense, even with a limited running game. Cameron Newton should have a big game and Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin will bounce back. WR Ted Ginn, Jr. is my dark horse to get in the end zone.

Falcons: Matt Ryan is having a good season, but can he keep it up? RBs on Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have been very good, while Julio Jones even struggled against the Saints last week (1 catch, 16 yards). Jacob Tamme has been solid at TE.

OAKLAND (2-1) AT BALTIMORE (3-0)

Raiders: QB Derek Carr has played well, but this is a tough test. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree had 16 catches, 220 yards and 2 TDs against the Ravens last year.

Ravens: Joe Flacco is having a solid year (258 yards a game) and has TE Dennis Pitta and WRs Mike Wallace and now Steve Smith, Jr. playing well. RBs are vanilla in Justin Forsett and Terrance West.

DETROIT (1-2) AT CHICAGO (0-3)

Lions: Matt Stafford is having a good season, Marvin Jones has been awesome, Golden Tate disappointing, Anquan Boldin steady and TE Eric Ebron is coming on. There is no running game. This should be more than enough against the injured Bears defense.

Bears: Still looking for their first win, Brian Hoyer played well the other night, Jordan Howard is the FA flavor of the week for people seeking RB help and WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Zach Miller could do well.

DENVER (3-0) AT TAMPA BAY (1-2)

Broncos: If Trevor Siemian continues to improve the passing game, then suddenly DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are worth something once again. Toss in some C.J. Anderson and this team will be meeting the Pats in the AFC Title game.

Buccaneers: Jameis Winston has 8 TD passes, but he will be lucky to throw 2 scores against this defense. The running game is nil and Mike Evans has scored in each game. Watch two no-names – WR Adam Humphries and TE Cameron Brate – for future purposes.

LOS ANGELES (2-1) AT ARIZONA (1-2)

Rams: Their offense was supposed to be awful and it has been. Todd Gurley is averaging 3.1 YPC with 2 TDs and he is the only Ram worth starting.

Cardinals: Carson Palmer is struggling (287 yards average, 5 TDs) so the WRs are struggling, but Larry Fitzgerald is a good start, although he hasn’t scored against the Rams since 2013. But the best running back in the NFL might be playing for the Cards in David Johnson, who should start every game for you if healthy. He is the total package.

NEW ORLEANS (0-3) AT SAN DIEGO (2-1)

Saints: This team does have an offense and Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, Mike Thomas and Willie Snead (groin) can score. Coby Fleener finally had a good game against Atlanta, but keep you eye on him.

Chargers: Tip of the cap to Phil Rivers and Melvin Gordon, who carry the offense. WR Travis Benjamin has been getting help from my dark horse Tyrell Williams. TE Hunter Henry is playing more because of a hamstring injury to Antonio Gates.

DALLAS (2-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (1-2)

Cowboys: Plenty of weapons in dual threat Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant (hairline fracture of leg???). Dan Bailey is also an outstanding PK. This game might be lower scoring than people think. I hope not, I’m starting Prescott with Russell Wilson’s problems.

49ers: RB Carlos Hyde is a perfect example of a garbage time scorer, but in fantasy it doesn’t matter. A last minute TD in the opener kept me from being undefeated in one of my leagues. TE Vance McDonald is a sleeper to keep you eye on with bye weeks coming up.

KANSAS CITY (2-1) AT PITTSBURGH (2-1)

Chiefs: Alex Smith is a lower end bye week QB. Spencer Ware will carry the load – he got ripped off on a TD last week – but Jamaal Charles might play. But I think they will hold him off until after the Week 5 bye week. Jeremy Maclin is a solid WR and TE Travis Kelce has been disappointing. Cairo Santos is a good PK.

Steelers: Le’Veon Bell’s receiving skills should help out Antonio Brown, who isn’t getting much help from Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers. Ben Roethlisbeger will have to be strong in the pocket against the KC defense.

NEW YORK GIANTS (2-1) AT MINNESOTA (3-0)

Giants: No running game, but Eli Manning has Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz to throw to. Josh Brown is a solid PK. Should be a test for the Vikings fine defense.

Vikings: This team will live and die with Sam Bradford throwing to WR Stefon Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph. PK Blair Walsh needs to be more consistent.

A TIP OF THE CAP TO PREP STARS

There were some nice performances by some of my former prep teams and I wanted to tip my cap  to them.  Here is a closer look with comments.

Brookfield Central running back Zach (What the) Heckman had a huge night as the Lancers (6-0, 4-0) probably clinched first in the Greater Metro Conference with a fourth-quarter 35-30 win over Marquette.

Heckman rushed for 238 yards on 42 carries (5.7 avg.) and scored twice in the fourth quarter to key the rally. Trailing 24-14, Heckman brought the Lancers back with a 60-yard touchdown run and followed it was a 3-yard run for a 35-24 lead.

Wide receiver Thomas Gibson grabbed 6 passes for 145 yards (24.2 avg.) and TD catches of 56 yards and 3 yards.

Sophomore quarterback Drew Leszczynski was 7-for-10 for 170 and 2 touchdowns.

HUGE win for Lancers and coach Jed Kennedy.

First-year coach Ben Farley’s Brookfield East Spartans (5-1, 3-1) bounced back with a 49-0 win over Wauwatosa East. RBs Gavin Post rushed for a 58-yard TD 121 yards in only 10 carries (12.1 avg.) and Sam Santiago-Lloyd ran for a 15-yard TD and 74 yards in 9 carries (8.2).

East has to play at Menomonee Falls (2-2), at MUHS (3-1) and then hosts Sussex Hamilton (2-2) in their final three games.

New Berlin Eisenhower (4-2, 4-1) lost a tough game to Pewaukee, rallying for 17 points in the fourth quarter in a 26-24 loss.

Bryce (Air) Miller was 32 for 51 with 317 yards and 2 touchdown passes. Jake Belongia scored on a 5-yard rush and caught 8 passes for 138 yards and an 11 yard scoring pass.

New Berlin West blanked Wauwatosa West, 16-0, as QB Nate Egofske and Joe Robey connected on an 86-yard scoring pass and Mad Max Meleski scored on a 31-yard TD run and rushed for 119 yards.

But the biggest key was first-year coach Ben Chossek’s defense, which tossed the shutout.

A Look at Fantasy Football – Week 3

For those of you who know me, I am a fantasy football nut. I first began playing in 1984 BEFORE there were fantasy football sites all over the internet. I thought it would be fun to look at each NFL game from a fantasy football angle – for just that week only, not for the season.

So let’s get started.

NOON GAMES

HOUSTON AT NEW ENGLAND

The Texans are at New England, who is down to their third-string QB, in a battle of two 2-0 teams.

Houston (2-0): Fantasy-wise, Houston has three offensive TDs in two games. RB Lamar Miller averages 95 yards a game (3.6 YPC average).  DeAndre Hopkins caught a season-low 3 passes against the Pats last year.

New England (2-0): You knew Tom Brady wouldn’t be around, but did you know Jacoby Brissette will be starting at QB? He’s been sacked 8 times in 65 pass attempts (exhibition). Rob Gronkowski might play, while Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola are good, but whose is going to get them the ball. This game from a fantasy point of view comes down to LeGarrette Blount vs. the Texans’ defense.

ARIZONA AT BUFFALO

Arizona (1-1): The Cardinals scored at least 39 points in half their road games last year. Look for Carson Palmer to throw over 300 yards and at least 2 TDs. Ageless Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd have the best chance to catch them. Watch for Jaron Brown who is starting over John Brown. If Matt Forte had a field day last week, look for David Johnson to have a big game.

Buffalo (0-2): The Bills scored 7 points in their first game and had TDs passes of 88 and 71 yards and a defensive score in last week’s loss. Not a lot of consistency. LeGarrette Blount, Doug Martin and Charles Sims collectively averaged 3.1 yards per carry against them, so I don’t see LeSean McCoy breaking out. Add to that Arizona has only allowed 10 rushing scores in 18 games.

OAKLAND AT TENNESSEE

Raiders (1-1): Here’s a stat – 9 TDs in first two games (granted against New Orleans and Atlanta. Still impressive. Derek Carr (618, 4 TDs) is better than Shaun Hill (236 yds) and similar to Matthew Stafford (260, 1 TD, but 2 TDs called back) the Titans first foes this year. I like Tim Crabtree over Amari Cooper so far and Latavius Murray is in a timeshare, so he’s a gamble.

Tennessee (1-1): The Titans might have to play from behind again, even if they like running the ball. DeMarco Murray (5.2 YPC, 12 passes for 91 yards and 2 TDs). Marcus Mariota could have at least 2 TDs (Maybe one run) as the Raiders have struggled against the pass (7 TDs, 410 ave). Delanie Walker is the guy to look for on the other end since Oakland struggles against tight ends.

CLEVELAND AT MIAMI

Browns (0-2): Cody Kessler at QB – ugh. Isaiah Crowell is their best fantasy player with no QB to speak of. Corey Coleman looked good and fracture his hand. That’s it.

Miami (0-2): RBs Jay Ajayi, Isaiah Pead and Kenyan Drake (sleeper) don’t really scare any one. Ryan Tannehill looks like a top-10 quarterback this week. WR Jarvis Landry has a league 17 catches (stat of week). DeVante Parker caught 8 for 106 against New England, so watch for him.

BALTIMORE AT JACKSONVILLE

Ravens (2-0): The Ravens should score at least 24 points here, considering the Jags allowed 150 yards rushing at San Diego. QB Joe Flacco will toss at least two TDs, WR Mike Wallace and TE Dennis Pitta have been very good and watch and see if Steve Smith, Sr. can get all the rust off this week.

Jaguars (0-2): Won 22-20 last year with only 278 yards of offense. Brian Bortles has been good (300 yds, 3 TDs) and bad (3 picks, 5 sacks) and needs to straighten out or this team isn’t going anywhere. RB Chris Ivory needs to return because T.J. Yeldon has been terrible. Allen Robinson, one of the top WR in football, has caught only 9 of 20 passes; Allen Hurns has 9 of 15, so hopefully they will wake up against the Ravens.

DETROIT AT GREEN BAY

Lions (1-1): Matthew Stafford is off to a good start and he has tossed at least 2 TDs a game vs. Green Bay in his last 3 outings. Look for Theo Riddick doing a good job catching (his strength). A sleeper here is WR Anquan Boldin and I like Marvin Jones usually, but I think Golden Tate could score here. Eric Ebron is off to a good start and Packers struggle against TE’s.

Packers (1-1): I see Aaron Rodgers scoring 3 times, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson once and Eddie Lacy rushes for one. Either Richard Rodgers or Jared Cook will score. Also see Mason Crosby nailing at least 3 field goals.

DENVER AT CINCINNATI

Broncos (2-0): Brandon McManus is their biggest threat. RB CJ Anderson is assured of 20 touches, QB Trevor Siemian has one more TD pass than I do and WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (10 rec, 137 yds, 3 TDs last 3 games vs Cincy) aren’t worth much until the kid QB comes around.

Bengals (1-1): Jets, Steelers and now Denver, who did the Cincy schedule! Andy Dalton (ankle) may be limited, but AJ Green is worth a TD. That’s it for WRs. Denver allowed 7 TDs to WR all last year. RB Jeremy Hill might sneak in for a short score. Should be a low-scoring game.

MINNESOTA AT CAROLINA

Vikings (2-0): Let’s see if this team is for real. Their defense better be good, because their offense won’t score 20 points. If a RB scores, my money is on Matt Asiata, the short yardage guy. QB Sam Bradford vs the Panthers’ defense – NOT. Stefon Diggs has to start. He will get yardage, but I think Kyle Rudolph scores the TD.

Panthers (2-0): I have the Vikings defense in my one league which has defense (I hate playing a defense). I do think it is a good defense, but the Panthers have the top offensive player in the league in Cam Newton, who can pass or throw for scores. Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin should get in the end zone as they both are off to a great start, but speedy Ted Ginn, Jr. and Devin Funchess are also threats. Graham Gano with this offense is a top PK.

WASHINGTON AT NEW YORK GIANTS

Redskins (0-2): Looking for their first win (2-0), QB Kirk Cousins (league-high 89 passes) must face a tough Giants defense, which has held them to 21 or less points in each of the last four games. DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and my favorite Jamison Crowder are each getting their share. But the Redskins have no running game.

Giants (2-0): Which Eli Manning will show up? He has 11 TDs in last 4 games vs. Washington and ran in a fifth score. Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz give Eli some good targets. I’m looking for a 28-24 type game.

Here’s a look at the 3-3:30 p.m. games

LOS ANGELES AT TAMPA BAY

Rams (1-1): It’s amazing that fantasy owners are thinking of benching Todd Gurley, but that’s how bad their offense is (2 TDs or less in last 11 games). I see him scoring a TD, but not having a big yardage game. I see Case Keenum (4-3 as a starter) throwing a TD pass to Kenny Britt or Lance Kendricks.

Buccaneers (1-1): Charles Sim could score a TD as Doug Martin’s replacement, but I think Jameis Winston will have a bounce back game (2 TDs, may one’s rushing) and WR Mike Evans might have a big game (2 TDs, 80 yards).

SAN FRANCISCO AT SEATTLE

49ers (1-1): The 49ers haven’t scored more than 13 points in any of their last four games in the series, an average of under 7 points in those games. RB Carlos Hyde may hit the 60 yard mark and get in the end zone. Vance McDonald is the other 49er threat with Hyde in my book.

Seahawks (1-1): I have suffered with this team in fantasy. Russell Wilson needs to get healthy and I see him throwing 2 TDs here. Christian Michael will play a bigger role in the running game with Thomas Rawls being banged up. Ty Lockett had a better second game after being invisible in the first (He scored 3 times vs 49ers last year). But Doug Baldwin is banged up and must be healthy. TE Jimmy Graham is getting healthier and saw more action last week, but he didn’t do anything when he was healthy last season.

NEW YORK JETS AT KANSAS CITY

Jets (1-1): QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall (knee), Eric Decker (shoulder) and Quincy Enunwa (rib) are always a threat, although the Chiefs have a tougher defense than most. I’m predicting two TDs out of these three guys. Matt Forte is always a threat for yards, but I don’t see him scoring a TD.

Chiefs (1-1): Nothing exciting here, but both teams need a win. RB Spencer Ware, WR Jeremy Maclin and QB Alex Smith are solid – PERIOD. TE Travis Kelce needs to finally step up.

SAN DIEGO AT INDIANAPOLIS

Chargers (1-1): Despite the loss of key players (Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead), QB Phil Rivers has thrown for 463 yards and 5 TDs. RB Melvin Gordon should get in the end zone and look for WR Travis Benjamin to play well. My sleeper is WR Tyrell Williams.

Colts (0-2): QB Andrew Luck could throw 4 TDs this game, because the Colts have no running game right now and the offensive line is shaky. WRs T.Y. Hilton and Phil Dorsett (Donte Moncrief out 4-6 weeks broke scapula) should benefit. PK Adam Vinatieri is an option this week.

PITTSBURGH AT PHILADELPHIA

Steelers (2-0): With QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing to WRs Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton (shoulder), Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates and TE Jesse James, this could be a shootout. RB DeAngelo Williams should get in the end zone.

Eagles (2-0): Rookie QB Carson Wentz brings the Eagles into the game with top WR Jordan Matthews (13 rec, 185 yds, TD) leading the way. Watch for Dorial Green-Beckham in the red zone where he is most effective. In their last 18 games, the Steelers have allowed only 7 TD runs, not good for RB Ryan Mathews.

SUNDAY NIGHT

CHICAGO AT DALLAS

Bears (0-2): Positive – Alshon Jeffery has 9 catches for 201 yards on a bad team. RB Jeremy Langford has 2 TDs in 2 games and there is talk of him being replaced. Zach Miller is 7 for 47 receiving and is a solid TE. That’s it!

Cowboys (1-1): Look for QB Dak Prescott (should throw first TD), WR Dez Bryant and RB Ezekiel Elliott to have big days, with the latter two scoring. Jason Witten (12) and Cole Beasley (10) have 22 catches between them. PK Dan Bailey is perfect on FGs (6-for-6).

MONDAY NIGHT

ATLANTA AT NEW ORLEANS

Falcons (1-1): QB Matt Ryan and WRs Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and TE Jacob Tamme should get on the board. Either Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman will score, with the latter being used on the goal line.

Saints (0-2): Warning – The Saints have scored only 23, 17, 20 and 14 points in four of the last six encounters. QB Drew Brees has one TD and over 300 yards in each of the games the last two years. WRs Brandon Cooks and Willie Snead have played well and should again Monday night. RB Mark Ingram could have a big day.

SUMMARY

Week 3 is here, let’s have some fun.

Lancer’s Leah Neustedter is running to success

When Brookfield Central junior Leah Neustedter ran her first competitive cross country race in eighth grade, she was not expecting much. But when it was over, she certainly had a change of attitude.

"A friend and I decided that we would both join together," Leah recalled. "Neither of us had run before, so it was a 'if you do it, I'll do it sort of thing.' Didn't think too much of it. In middle school it's not that serious.

"In my first race my goal was to get in the top 50 and I ended up getting eighth. I finished higher than I expected to be so I thought, 'Maybe I had a future in this.' So I decided to join in high school."

She certainly made the right choice.

Neustedter earned Greater Metro All-Conference honors as a freshman, finishing sixth in conference. She qualified for the WIAA State Cross Country Meet, taking 13th place with a personal-best time of 19 minutes, 10 seconds and earned second team All-State honors.

She finished fourth and earned all-conference honors as a sophomore, finished 19th at the state meet (19:19) and earned second team All-State once again. She was Central's Team Most Valuable Runner.

She also excelled in the distance in track and field at state, taking seventh in the 1600-meter run (5:04) as a freshman, finishing fourth in the 1600 (5:00.73) and 12th in the 3200.

The unheralded Neustedter quickly passed the 'eye test' with Lancers coach Lorie Lewis her freshman year."​

Photos by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

The first 2-3 weeks of the season, I could see how she ran," Lewis said. "Her body-type. I knew that she would be good. (Freshman) Abby (Mauermann) had a lot of accolades coming in and she was our top runner, our most valuable runner. But then last year it was Leah."

Having two talented runners like Neustedter and Mauermann both made them better according to Lewis and Leah.

"The first half of her freshman year, it was evident that Leah and Abby would be able to run together," the veteran coach said. "They're very good friends and they train together.

"They have a real good friendship with it and there is not a lot of competition between the two of them as far as who will beat who. They are connected with the friendship and it has benefited both of them that they were friends and can do it together."

Mauermann missed her sophomore season with an injury and it hurt Leah's training program.

"Abby was out for season and it was so hard because Leah had to work out on her own," Lewis said. "The fact that they have each other is beneficial to both of them."

But Neustedter and Mauermann are back together again as juniors and it is going well.

"Every workout this year Abby and I have been together," Leah said. "Definitely having someone next to you to run with you is so helpful. When she ran her freshman year, she didn't have anyone next to her and she had to push herself. When we're together we speak to each other and say 'You got this, keep going.' Having a teammate by your side for your workout who pushes you helps a bunch."

She doesn’t get caught up with who she is racing against. She’s about running with what she has. She is very calm. She is managing the pressure, the expectations very, very well.”

- coach Lorie Lewis

But Leah emphasized, it was not a competition between the two of them.

"It's a lot more encouragement," she said. "But then if we are in a race together we wouldn't hold back. We both would do what we had to do because we want to go for it."

Leah talked about the difficulty of the sport.

"I think it's a very challenging sport. All the kids who do it are of a different brand," she said. "It challenges you every day to be the best person you can be and push yourself a little harder and test the elements.

But Leah emphasized, it was not a competition between the two of them.

"It's a lot more encouragement," she said. "But then if we are in a race together we wouldn't hold back. We both would do what we had to do because we want to go for it."

Leah talked about the difficulty of the sport.

"I think it's a very challenging sport. All the kids who do it are of a different brand," she said. "It challenges you every day to be the best person you can be and push yourself a little harder and test the elements.

"I didn't expect much at the very beginning. I worked hard (wanting to peak) toward the end of my season as my goal, being patient in races, putting that work into every workout. I wanted to be stronger at the end than I was at the beginning, I think that is a big strength."

Leah recalled her first varsity race and how she learned about strategy the more she ran.

"I don't go out hard at the beginning," she said. "I start in the middle and work my way up. My first varsity race I held back more. I wasn't sure how far toward the front I should be. Just hang back until you're feeling too comfortable and then move on; try and gain places."

Neustedter said she needs to work on her second mile.

"I'm pretty strong in the first mile, but in the second mile - a lot of runners, me included - grow weaker. Everyone has a lot of energy, but that last mile is always the hardest. I need to work on being stronger and having my split be as fast as my first mile."

Photos by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

So what do you do to improve that second mile?

"Mentally I have to tell myself I can go as fast in the second mile as I did the first one," Leah said. "Not slowing down, I need to push myself harder. I have endurance workouts, trying to have your miles be as fast for both the second and first."

Leah feels attitude has a lot to do with improvement.

"It's definitely very helpful. Before a race I try and keep my spirits up," she said. "I tell myself 'You're going to do great' - you just have to be positive for a race because I think negative thoughts will definitely affect your thoughts or your workouts.

"I'm positive when I'm ahead. Even when I'm tired, I tell myself, 'Yes you can do this, get going' and that definitely helps me push myself."

Being this year's top runners brings on pressure, but not early in the year according to Lewis and her top runner.

"She started out the season as one of the top runners in the meets we have run," Lewis said. "Being the top runner is a great deal of pressure that many runners have trouble managing that.

"She doesn't get caught up with who she is racing against. She's about running with what she has. She is very calm. She is managing the pressure, the expectations very, very well."

It's how you start the season, not finish it according to Leah.

"There's always a little bit of pressure, but I don't let that affect me," she said. "I don't think about it that much. There's more pressure once you get to the bigger meets like sectionals and state. Early in the season there is not that many expectations at this point. It's just going out there and running as hard as you can."

Neustedter has a career personal best time of 19:10. She feels it is a realistic goal to break 19 minutes this year.

"She still has untapped potential," Lewis pointed out. "The sky is the limit on where she can eventually go. As a coach I don't feel I have seen all the talent she has in her. That has come out. It's a part of learning run, of becoming a better runner for everybody.

"She has a lot in her."

QUESTIONS FOR LEAH NEUSTEDTER

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Broccoli and cheese soup.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Adele (Very empowering as a woman).
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Comedies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friends.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Computer (Visual Communication, Digital Imaging, Graphic Design.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Haiti, Guatemala (on mission with her father)
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Listening to music, jump on trampoline.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield East, DSHA.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Placed second at sectional freshman year.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Go to college; may or may not run, depending on school.

Packers – Who are these guys?

I have mixed emotions over the Green Bay Packers 17-14 loss to Minnesota on Sunday at the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Before the season I predicted that this would be one of the Packers 5 regular season losses. Then in the final minutes of the game when the Packers took over on offense, I told my son, Scott, Aaron Rodgers would throw an interception that would cost him them the game.

I nailed both.

My son said he wasn’t going to watch the games with me anymore because I was a jinx. I thought of myself as more of a genius (sarcastic).

It would have been better if Rodgers didn’t throw an interception and the Packers won and the heck with my predictions. But it is what it is.

Watching the Packers at the end of last season and the beginning of this season, all I could think of was the famous ‘Who are these guys?” line from the movie ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

So here are my thoughts on how to answer that.

OFFENSE

RECEIVERS – Jordy Nelson will eventually become the threat that he has been, just give the guy some time. He is coming off a major injury. Randall Cobb proved last year that between the dropsies and his inability to get yards after the catch (YAC) he can’t function effectively without Nelson. I look for him to get better now that Nelson is back.

Anyone who knows me knows I CAN’T STAND DAVANTE ADAMS. He has shown me next to nothing in his first two years, yet he is one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite receivers despite the fact he’s getting worse, not better. Which makes me question A-Rod’s thought process (more on that later).

Not being a big Badger fan – I do cheer for them and I bleed red because that’s the color of my blood – so I am objective when I talk about Jared Abbrederis.

He is smart, knows how to run routes and has good hands – none of which Adams possesses. So why doesn’t he play more? Because he is not in Rodgers’ good graces. You tell me. His only negative is you ask WHEN will he get injured, not IF he will.

Ty Montgomery is supposed to be a bigger version of Cobb, yet he was invisible last night. I feel Montgomery and Abbrederis are BOTH better than Adams, but they are not a second-round pick.

Speedy Trevor Davis is coming off an injury and speedy/strong Jeff Janis has a club on one hand, which would leave him as trustworthy as Adams is with two hands, but they aren’t in the picture just yet because of the injuries.

Bottom line is this group is overrated. Not terrible, just overrated.

RUNNING GAME

It all starts with the offensive line which can’t run block against a good defensive line. They are better defending against the pass, but then you saw Rodgers running for his life last night.

I have never been a David Bakhtiari fan, but he is a good left tackle – just not worth the contract he signed. I feel the Packers have two good young centers in J.C. Tretter and Corey Lindsey, with the former being able to move to left guard where the great Lane Taylor is playing.

I feel T.J. Lang must be signed because of his leadership ability as well as his football skills, but Ted Thompson stuck it to Josh Sitton because he didn’t agree with some stupid decisions, so Lang better be careful.

Bryan Bulaga’s better days are behind him, but he is playable, and in Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy the Pack have people who can eventually fill in for him.

As for the backfield, I am not a fan of either of the running backs. I hope Eddy Lacy has a fine year, but he looks no thinner than he was last year and can’t gain a yard if his life depended on it. Sometimes good running backs have to open their own holes.

As for James Starks – why is he on this team and what does he add except for a some key fumbles.

QUARTERBACK

Aaron Rodgers – It all starts with the Packers QB. Something is wrong. Talk all you want about him being the Packers best player, but he needs to step up and play like it.

The fumbles Sunday night were terrible, but rare, and he moves around quite well. He still can make the miraculous throw, but it’s the easy ones he’s missing on and with some of his receivers they are limited when it comes to helping him out with great catches.

I think his biggest weakness is falling in love with receivers who can’t catch the ball. If he doesn’t trust you, you don’t play even if you are better than his favorites.

DEFENSE

I would never felt like I would say this, but if the Packers are going deep into the post-season this year it will be because of the defense.

It was very disappointing that the young defensive backs were taken to school by the Vikings 1-man wide receiver corps (Stefon Diggs), but the bottom line is Green Bay allowed 17 points – PERIOD. If this defense allows 17 points per game, they should win many games.

With Letroy Guion, Clay Matthews, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett banged up, that’s a lot of injured experience, so they need to make it back quickly.

I like the young linebackers and Nick Perry and Datone Jones have played well and Julius Peppers stepped up and made a couple big plays.

I just hope it doesn’t come to this – the defense carrying the load – because this is not Denver.

IT DIDN’T WORK, MIKE

Coach Mike McCarthy talked about we’re only two games into the season and it takes awhile for the offense to get in step. But what this is, is the Packers exhibition season because everyone sat on the sidelines this spring wrapped in bubble wrap.

So now the offense is suffering and upcoming the schedule of Detroit, New York Giants, Dallas and Chicago doesn’t look that easy to me.

Playing at home will enable the Packers to play their ‘speed-up’ offense and that seems to get their offense going.

Let’s hope it works.

 

WEEK 1 PACK, TIP OF CAP TO BREWERS

PACKERS REVIEW, TIP OF CAP TO BREWERS

PACKERS

WEEK 1

The best thing about the Green Bay game on Sunday was that it was a win. The first game of the season is always a crapshoot, especially on an opponents field against a team with an improved defense with the stadium as hot as the Sierra Desert.

I felt the Packers deserved a C+ for their efforts on offense. Even though we’ve been hearing how great Lane Taylor is against the run and the new svelte Eddie Lacy (who are they looking at?) is playing for a contract (61 yards), their offense got by with a victory.

Aaron Rodgers was rusty – but effective – that’s why he’s A-Rod – and Jordy Nelson was eased back into action and had a TD.

But I felt the most impressive Packers on offense was WR Davante Adams, who is not one of my favorite players. He grabbed three catches for 50 yards with a beautiful diving catch of an impossible Rodgers’ throw, showing when his hands make an appearance, he can play in this league.

I felt the defense deserved a B- because they played – and will play short-handed – until DL Mike Pennel and Demetri Goodson serve their suspensions. Then Sam Shields got a concussion and DC Dom Capers moved his players around like chess pieces. People who don’t appreciate Capers just show how little football they know.

WEEK 2

If the Packers weakness right now – their defensive line – can control Adrian Peterson, who ran for 39 yards (1.6 average) against Tennessee – and I don’t think they can – this game might not be as close as people think.

The reason is their defense can survive because of the QB situation (Shaun Hill/Sam Bradford). But if AP runs wild like he has against the Pack, the Vikings excellent defense will give the Packers offense a hard time. Add to this the opening of the new stadium and the place will be rocking.

I did pick Green Bay to lose this game in August, but that was with Teddy Bridgewater, who I think is a good game manager, whose offense believes in. But a Packer win would be huge, because their schedule finds them playing Detroit at home, followed by a bye, and then three more home games against the New York Giants, Dallas and Chicago.

BREWERS

Want to take a minute to tip my hat to Brewers manager Craig Counsell. He has this team giving an effort in 99 percent of their games even though the final results are meaningless.

Taking two of three from the Chicago Cubs and splitting a two-game series at St. Louis was impressive.

Orlando Arica, Jonathan Villar and Keon Broxton are the kids who have stood out, Domingo Santana has shown some flashes when healthy and Hernan Perez has surprised everyone with his offense and versatility. Veterans Ryan Braun and Chris Carter have also done their share.

It will be interesting to see if the Brewers trade Braun in the off-season – and I wouldn’t do it for a head case like Yasiel Puig – because anyone who complains about Braun’s contract doesn’t know much about the finances in the game today.

My biggest worry is that “Dealin’ Dave” Stearns will sit on some of the young talent another year – it seems like the Brewers are the only team who can’t bring a stud up from Double A to make their roster.

Making their young stars play at the next level at a Mickey Mouse stop like Colorado Springs does nothing to develop talent. They say they can’t use it as a crutch, but why let it kill a young man’s confidence. On the hitters side it makes .300 hitters out of people who are average.

I would sooner see a Double A stud ease in with the Brewers than play at Triple A.

Overall, though, I’m seeing progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lancers’ Gwen Gustafson – Making a name for herself

When Brookfield Central girls swimming coach William Twitchell talks about junior Gwen Gustafson, he compares her to a thoroughbred.

“We have an understanding,” Twitchell said. “Like maybe like a racehorse. I’ll get her to the starting line and she does the rest.”

‘Does the rest’ included earning the 2015 Swimmer of the Year as a sophomore while winning the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and being a member of the 200 medley and 400 free relay at the Greater Metro Conference Championship.

When asked if it was a goal to win the GMC Swimmer of the Year, Gustafson had an interesting answer.

“No, I had no idea. I didn’t even think that was a thing,” she said. “It feels good, but obviously It (winning fourth straight title) was a whole team effort.”

Ironically, Gustafson came into the program with almost no fanfare according to Twitchell.

“I have a colleague who coaches with the swim club,” he recalled. “I heard the names of the best freshmen of the year she was coming in and her name wasn’t on it? She came in very quietly, talented, but not recognized. She went into being - not anonymous - but not at the top of the heap - to being best freshman in the community.

“She had a fantastic freshman year as a high school student and she continued that excellence back at the club. It was kind of a coming out party for her.”

Photos by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

The talented Gustafson gets excited when asked about her favorite sport and playing on her school team.

“I just love to race. I have always been so competitive,” she said. She enjoys swimming for the Lancers, “especially compared to club teams. This team is like sisters.”

This level of athlete knows the race result before they race. They will tell me I’m going to beat her. And there are times they will tell me I can’t beat her.”

- William Twitchell, BC swim coach

It was easy to see how Gwen got involved in swimming, as she lived in Arizona until she was 5 years old and had a pool in her backyard. She moved to Springfield, Illinois when she was 8 years old and started to swim competitively.

When they moved to Wisconsin it were her club teammates and friends who got her on the team.

“After 11 years of swimming you grow to love it,” she said. “I love to compete. You can stay in shape.”

Twitchell talks about Gustafson as a swimmer and a person.

“As a swimmer she’s very efficient and also very powerful,” he said. “You put the two together and she’s fast. She’s just plain fast. As a person, she is a bit of a puzzle for me still. I’ve worked with her a couple years now and she’s a tough nut to crack. I don’t know how to exactly communicate or motivate her.”

Gwen feels she can lead but defers that role to seniors

“This year with some of the freshmen I have tried to take them under my wing,” she said. “But we have excellent seniors on this team. They help organize everything, give speeches. Caitlin Locante (diver), Natalie Daniel and Emily Russell are our leaders.”

Twitchell has talked to Gwen about being a leader.

“We’ve had that conversation,” he said. “I’m pushing that leadership mantle onto her. She’s a bit reluctant. If you have the best athlete on the team demonstrating the behavior that we want, then the rest of the team will fall in line. She’s biding her time.

“In a different situation she could have been a captain this year, but she doesn’t want that right now, hoping that next year she will feel comfortable being a natural leader on this team. She is so unique, being an underclassman and being so much better. She just does her business and her training and that’s the way she speaks to the team.”

Twitchell raved about her skills in the pool.

“We talk about feel for the water,” he said. “She’s very efficient and has a high capability of the fast-twitch motion. She recently swam in a national level meet and took fourth in the 50 free. She is a heartbeat away from an Olympic trial cut. Now I have to stretch that sprinting to the middle distance and beyond. It’s a good challenge to have.”

Gustafson agreed with her coach about trying other things.

““The 50 free is my favorite,” she said. “It is so quick and you can give it a 1,000 percent. This year I want to branch out; do the 200 free, the 100 breast.”

Twitchell had a surprising answer when asked what he felt Gustafson needed to work on.

“Interesting enough, her confidence, belief in herself,” he said. “The 50 happened so quickly, she has no doubt within the race. I believe she is strong enough to do those (longer) races right now. She’s very confident about the 50.

She needs to build that confidence for those other races. The 50 is over in 23 seconds for her. The 100 free could be over in 50 seconds; not a long race. She just needs to stay focused for a little bit more.

“This level of athlete knows the race result before they race. They will tell me I’m going to beat her. And there are times they will tell me I can’t beat her. I think I have to work on the second situation. There are very few girls in the state of Wisconsin where we can say, you can’t beat her.”

Gwen also works on the mental part of her game.

“Recently I read this book on mindset,” she said. “I want to stay focused. Focus on what I need to do. I feel I can help the team more to get better, so we can push each other. I feel like we all play a part. So I feel a little extra pressure to perform my best so the team could do well.”

Gustafson, who wants to be recruited by Cornell University, also said her faith is important to her as she makes time to attend a church class from 6-7 a.m. and a bible class at night.

It's all part of who she is and what makes her successful - in and out of the pool.​

QUESTIONS FOR GWEN GUFTSAFSON

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Any kind of pasta.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Jason Derulo (pop).
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Romantic comedies; I cry a lot.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Reality cooking shows (Master Chef, Top Chef). I love to eat but I'm not a good cook.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Physical Education; like being athletic.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Italy (Pasta was pretty good)
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Read or take a nap in the sun.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield East
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Winning the 400 free relay against Brookfield East and that was the winning event.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Go to Cornell and become either a foot scientist or a dietician.

FOR CORWIN, HORNEFFER IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR

Brookfield East tennis players Emma Corwin and Emily Horneffer didn’t have to look far for inspiration growing up.

Corwin had two older brothers who starred for the Spartans boys team - Tim, a senior who plays for DePaul University - and two-time state champion, Felix, a junior at the University of Minnesota.

Horneffer was inspired by her brother, David, who finished second twice, won the WIAA State Championship this past spring and now plays at Kalamazoo College.

“It was really cool to watch him and everything he accomplished,” Emily Horneffer said. “He is definitely inspirational to me. It made me want to try harder.

“We would go out a lot and play and he kind of gave me lessons. We were never competitive; it's always just fun. I was so excited at the state tournament (last spring). He worked really hard and I was really proud of him. He comes to watch me and I go to watch him. We just hope for the best for each other.”

Corwin agreed.

“They are the reason that I love this sport,” said Emma, East’s No. 1 singles player. “It's in my blood because of them. They showed me what's it like to have a passion and reach a goal. Growing up I would hit in their group, but I was always the little weakling. Those ages I wasn't very good at tennis and they were playing in national tournaments.

“Both of them when playing high school tennis and now playing in college continue to have the same love of the game. It has really motivated me to continue working on improving and being a good leader for my team and eventually, go on to play college tennis as well.”

Dancing vs Tennis

Horneffer, who plays No. 2 singles, got started in tennis around 4 years old - or ‘whenever I could hold a racquet,’ - she recalled. Her parents, who both play tennis, entered her in local tournaments to get her started. But she found a different atmosphere in high school.

“I was really excited to play high school tennis,” Emily said. “There was team spirit and it was a lot more fun than individual tournaments.”

Photos by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

East tennis coach Linda Lied was happy to get her, because she was also a skilled dancer (pom pon).

“She is a very talented dancer,” Lied said. “She focused on dance. She was very competitive. At freshman orientation I told her ‘I would love to have you on the court.’ She was not sure about playing tennis.

“But David had a lot of influence and pushed her into giving tennis a try and the rest is history. She comes from a neat little family; she’s a good role model. It was a huge win for us.”

Lied could immediately see how good Emily was with a racquet in her hand instead of a pom pon.

“As a freshman he was very talented. Her strokes were pretty good, her movements were fantastic. She was fundamentally sound, but she needed match experience. We played her at 3-4 singles, at a level she can compete at.

But I couldn’t succeed if it wasn’t for what my brothers and coaches have taught me.”

- Emma Corwin, Spartans No. 1 singles player

“He had good composure, she was very stoic. She was amazingly mature. She was a smart young lady, who sees the court well. She knows the angles.

Horneffer was a special qualifier at state with a 24-4 record as a freshman.

“I never expected it at all,” she said. “I was really excited. The team did so well, it made my freshman year real easy. It was awesome and we got to the finals of state which was insane. It (state) was very intimidating. I've only played in tournaments, but it’s been at local courts. The big stadium (Madison’s Nielsen Tennis Stadium), it was a really, really cool experience.”

And Emily feels she will be better this time around.

“I think that experience last year helped me and I can definitely go in more confident with that under my belt. I need to work on my consistency on attacking balls; just going out and playing my best every time. I think that will come with time and experience.

“A majority of the game is mental toughness for sure. Going out and playing a match, you have to be so prepared.”

All in the family

Corwin, meanwhile, was surrounded by tennis growing up.

Emma’s father, Timon, was a college coach in Florida and he worked for the USTA.

“He told us ‘You guys can do this sport if you love it,’” Emma recalled. “He played college tennis and he got us into it when I was little. I loved hitting with my brothers. They were a little too good for me, but I kept saying I'm going to catch them, I'm going to catch them.”

Before coming to Wisconsin when she was 11, Emma played in a tennis camp every summer when she was 7-10 years old. She was able to play tennis year-round as an individual. She had a coach and had weekly group lessons.

“Sometimes I would sign up for a USTA tournament. That's what all my experience was. I would go to a tournament, I would win, then I would lose, lose.

“I really started playing tennis when we moved to Wisconsin when I was 11. It wasn't until eighth grade I started traveling in the Midwest and growing my confidence. I never did big national tournaments, but the more I played, the better I got.”

Lied recalled when Emma came out for the team.

“She was a bubbly kid, a really sweet girl. She enjoyed the high school program. She liked the team environment, cheering on her teammates and them cheering her on.”

Emma agreed.

“I was so used to playing for myself, it's a different sport for me (in high school). It's so fun. I love high school season; being able to cheer people on when they play tennis.

“I like being the last match out there. I like everybody watching my court and cheering me on. That fires me up. It's a different competition because it's now just the girls in Wisconsin. But now I have a team behind me wearing the same uniform, playing for our school.”

Corwin went to state seeded 10th and took a 22-6 record with her.

Lied saw the improvement over the years.

“Her sophomore year she had some tight matches that she did not come out on top,” Lied said. “She played a good match, but was not winning. Then as a junior, you could see the switch go on.

“She had a disappointing individual tourney, but when we finished at Team State she came on and beat two girls she lost to - and beat them solidly. She is really amazing and can be a rock star.”

Corwin didn’t hesitate to talk about an important part of her success.

“My demeanor. I miss a shot and it's not the end of the world,” she said. “I'm like 'C'mon Emma let's do this.' Every single points counts. I'm going to go and make it all count. I'm not going to lose my focus. I'm confident in my abilities. I don't need to worry.

“Mental toughness that's what makes my game. I can have the best forehand in the state. I could have the best serve. I can be pretty competitive, but none of it matters if I can't hold my composure and it all gets to my head. If I can't handle losing a game love-40, then I can't handle any of this. You have to be mentally tough. You can't be so emotional. You have to put it aside.”

Being a senior and the Spartans top player, Corwin welcomes the leadership mantle.

“I feel that I've always been a leader - in classes, on the court,” Emma said. “Not just because I'm in the No. 1 singles spot, it's who I am. I want this team to succeed. I know what it takes to get to team state. We've done it.

“During practice I'm trying to get the most out of it. I have fast runs doing our lines run. I'm on time. I want everyone to follow my lead because I know the right path. I think you should follow me because I've done this and I've had success and I want our team to have success.”

Emma remembered when she turned her game around.

“Passion is the leading part of my game,” she said. “When I was in seventh grade I went to a big tennis tournament in Illinois. I lost and lost and I came back and was sitting on a bench with my coach and I was crying.

“My coach asked me ‘Do you love this sport?’ and from that moment the results didn't matter. I kept playing and getting better and better. I do love this sport. It's my passion that motivates me to get better. I don't run fast if I'm thinking how poorly I'm hitting my forehand. I'm running fast saying ‘Go Emma, this is your time, let's do this.’

“But I couldn't succeed if it wasn't for what my brothers and coaches have taught me.”

QUESTIONS FOR EMMA CORWIN

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Beans.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Folk, Alternative.
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Stranger Than Fiction.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Mad Men
  • FAVORITE CLASS: English, Art.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  France.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Music, Take a bath.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: DSHA, Brookfield Central
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Taking second in Team State last fall.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Play tennis in college.

QUESTIONS FOR EMILY HORNEFFER

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Parmesan cheese.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Pop.
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  Hairspray.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Grey's Anatomy
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Biology
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Hawaii.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Sleep.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield Central.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Beat Eau Claire in Team State semi-finals last fall.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Teach high school English.

NFL WEEK 1 – WHAT TO WATCH

Let’s take a look at the first week of the NFL from different angles – match-ups, fantasy and my thoughts of the game. I am not really picking the winners – with the spread – because if I was any good at that I would have retired years ago. So please don’t place any bets on what I say. Just have fun with it.

CAROLINA PANTHERS AT DENVER BRONCOS

MATCH-UPLast year’s Super Bowl opponents, a game won by Denver’s defense behind OLB Von Miller (2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) as neither offense stood out.  Will it be more of the same in the opener? Will QB Cam Newton return to MVP form? Will now healthy WR Kelvin Benjamin team with TE Greg Olsen and WRs Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn, Jr. to make a dent on the Bronco defense?

FANTASY – Watch TE Virgil Green, who has moved on to many experts Top 10 list.

I THINK – The big story is how will QB Trevor Siemian run the Denver offense. If he can connect with WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos could be one of the best teams in the AFC once again.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT TENNESSEE TITANS

MATCH-UPThe rugged Vikes defense will battle the Titans, who look to pound the ball this season. The defending NFC North Champions They have a solid defense, which will have to carry them if their QB situation (Sam Bradford/Shaun Hill) doesn’t develop. The running game will have to perform to give second-year QB Marc Mariota a chance.

FANTASYWatch Tajae Sharpe, the Titans’ top WR as a rookie. Might be on the waiver wire in your league. Also watch the time share RB program for Murray/Henry, the latter who could start for many teams.

I THINKWill DeMarco Murray and Derek Henry make a dent in Minnesota’s defense. If not, the Titans could be in trouble with one of the weakest receiving corps in football.

 

CHICAGO BEARS AT HOUSTON TEXANS

MATCH-UP Do you think JJ Watt will be fired up to hit someone after sitting out with back surgery?  It will be interesting to see what QB Jay Cutler, RB Jeremy Langford and WR Alshon Jeffery can do against the Texans defense? Not much, probably. Houston newcomers QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller join WR DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best in football. Edge goes to Texans.

FANTASYPlenty of things to watch here. Miller at RB, Osweiler at QB and former No. 1 draft pick Kevin White with the Bears.

I THINKHow quick Osweiler develops could be the key to Houston having a great season vs a good season. Josh Sitton or not, I think it’s going to be a long year for the Bears.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

MATCH-UP – RGIII debuts as a Brown against Eagles rookie Carson Wentz and that’s the story to look for. Key for Cleveland is to get something out of the RB-Tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and keep the ball away from Philly. But until Josh (Flash) Gordon is eligible, Cleveland doesn’t have a real threat for RBIII to throw. Ryan Mathews can have a good season if he can stay healthy because there is no real time-share in the backfield.

FANTASY Two good fantasy players to watch are TEs Gary Barnidge of Cleveland and Zach Ertz of the Eagles. Others – RGIII, rookie WR Corey Coleman and converted WR Terrelle Pryor for Browns. Same with Philly’s WR Jordan Matthews if he is healthy enough to play.

I THINK Neither of these teams will contend for anything this year, but in the screwy East Division, who knows. Eagles should win easily.

 

BUFFALO BILLS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS

MATCH-UPUsually this a defensive battle, but Bills have suffered several injuries and Baltimore was not as good last year at in the past. But Neither offense is really exciting. RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins and QB Tyrod Taylor give the Bills a good starting point. Ravens have several RBs and WRs, but the talent is questionable.

FANTASYWatch the Bills’ Big 3. See Joe Flacco’s and Steve Smith, Sr.’s comebacks from surgery. Figure out who does what in the Ravens’ backfield (Justin Forsett, Terrence West) and look for the development of Baltimore’s Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman. The Ravens have been raving about Mike Wallace.

I THINKThere could be more points scored in this game than usual because the defenses aren’t as good. But that doesn’t mean anyone will reach 24 points.

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

MATCH-UP – Could be a game in the high 20’s – could be. Phil Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates are a good place to start. Danny Woodhead, you know what you have, and Melvin Gordon, you don’t, although he should be better. Alex Smith is a game manager, who sometimes can win a game by himself. Jeremy Maclin is what the doctor ordered at WR. Chiefs have plenty of RBs.

FANTASY Chiefs backfield is what to watch for as Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles will split time until the latter looks healthy, but Ware will be the goal line guy. Watch Gordon’s development and Gates will catch a TD.

I THINK Defense is the name of the game and only one team on the field has one, so I like the Chiefs.

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

MATCH-UP – Points should be quickly showing up on the scoreboard with David Carr, Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Tim Crabtree and Drew Brees, Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks all getting in on the action.

FANTASY – Want to see Carr’s continued development after a fine season last year. Also want to see Cooks become a big time WR. Plenty of fantasy talent here.

I THINK – Saints are hard to beat in the dome, but Oakland has a solid defense and offense and could make it interesting.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS

MATCH-UPThe better defense will win this game, but the game is at Atlanta. Might end up being a field goal game.

FANTASY Julio Jones is the best fantasy player on the field by far. Hopefully he is healthy (ankle). Watch how much he helps Mohamed Sanu or vice versa. See how much Tevin Coleman cuts into Freeman’s time. Watch Winston’s progress.

I THINK – Doug Martin vs Devonta Freeman/Coleman could be the key to victory. Matt Ryan needs to get his act together this year. Jameis Winston is growing.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT NEW YORK JETS

MATCH-UP – Hard one to call because each has offensive weapons (Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte) and solid defenses.

FANTASY – Watch how much NJY RB Bilal Powell takes away from Forte. Watch RB Giovani Bernard and WR Ty Boyd – is he really a threat for Cincy.

I THINK – Despite all the weapons, we’re looking at a score in low 20’s. I like Bengals defense better, but the Jets are at home.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

MATCHUP – Seattle at home will fillet the Dolphins. Russell Wilson, Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett vs Ryan Tannehill, Arian (Yes I’m still playing) Foster and Jarvis (I don’t score TDs) Landry – SERIOUSLY?

FANTASY – Watch the C-Mich/Rawls breakdown and see how much Lockett plays since Kearse moved ahead of him in the depth chart. Watch Foster and see if he gets into the second half until he gets hurt.

I THINK – Add the famous Seattle 12th-man into the picture and this should be a runaway.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS

MATCH-UP – Could be a heck of a football game. Rookie quarterback and running back and All-Pro WR in Dez Bryant for Dallas. Veteran Eli Manning, All-Pro WR in Odell Beckham, Jr. and interesting rookie WR. It was only exhibition season, but the Giants offense was pitiful.

FANTASY – Should be fun watching QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. NYG WR Sterling Shepard is being hailed as a top rookie. Will Victor Cruz finally be a threat again?

I THINK – Giants improved defense will get their first chance to show something. The Dallas rookies are for real and the game is in Dallas, so I’m taking the Cowboys.

 

DETROIT LIONS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

MATCH-UP – Lots of points could be scored here, since neither team has a defense. Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief have the ability to put points on the board.

FANTASY – Want to see if Luck bounces back from injury and a terrible season. Want to see how Jones affects Tate and Moncrief affects Hilton.

I THINK – The game is at Indy and the Colts have more weapons and the Lions and Bears will fight to stay out of last in the NFC North. I think Indy’s Adam Vinatieri might have some key field goals.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS

MATCH-UP – With Jimmy Garoppolo at QB and the game on the road, this will be one of the Pats’ losses without Tom Brady. RBs LeGarrette Blount and James White, WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski will have to carry the load. QB Carson Palmer struggled at the end of the year and Michael Floyd is the only healthy starter at WR. Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and John Brown (concussion) aren’t 100 percent.

FANTASY – Watch the health of the Arizona WRs and look for Chris Hogan to be a surprise fantasy contributor this year.

I THINK – David Johnson could be the best player on the field and he will key the Cards offense, despite all the weapons on the field.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS

MATCH-UP – Lots of firepower on both sides and should be high-scoring.

FANTASY – Second year in a row DeAngelo Williams will fill in for suspended RB Le’Veon Bell. See if WRs Marcus Wheaton and rookie Eli (I’m a sleeper) Rogers make up for Martavis Bryant and take some pressure off the best WR in football Antonio Brown. Watch for Redskins RB Rob Kelley behind the injury-prone Jones.

I THINK – It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh’s offense responds to the loss of Bryant who is suspended for the season. Is Kirk Cousins for real? Huge year for him contract-wise. TE Jordan Reed and WRs DeSean Jackson and a healthy Matt Jones gives Cousins weapons. The Steelers are the better team, but I think the Redskins will ride the Monday Night Football, Opening Night emotional wave and get the win.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

MATCH-UPThe Rams must beat the 49ers – I think SF is one of the worst teams in football – because LA won’t beat a lot of other teams. Probably a low-scoring game since the Rams have Todd Gurley and the 49ers have a backup QB who gets all the attention for kneeling during the National Anthem because he’s not worth much on it.

FANTASY – Gurley and Carlos Hyde, but with the 49ers trailing all the time how much work will he get.

I THINK – The kickers will play a big part in this game, a 13-10 thriller.

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

MATCH-UP – Saved the best for last. Both teams defenses are improved and the offenses have plenty of talent, but have struggled a bit in spring training or haven’t even played together. Aaron Rodgers, Blake Bortles, Eddy Lacy, T.Y. Yeldon/Chris Ivory, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

FANTASY – Watch how Jax uses Yeldon/Ivory. Watch Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery. One of them has to come through this year because the overrated Devante Adams won’t.

I THINK – I am very interested to how much sitting A-Rod down and not playing Nelson at all affects the offense. Watching all the young talent in the defensive backfield against Robinson and Hurns will be a real test. They are one of the best duos in all of football. Packers should win, but a Jaguars upset wouldn’t surprise me at all.