Monthly Archives: April 2017

BUCKS’ FUTURE IS GETTING CLOSER

The future is getting closer to being owned by the Milwaukee Bucks as they have been advertising.

Having just been beaten (4-2) by the No. 3-seeded Toronto Raptors – and only being blown out of one game – the young Bucks are closer to being a top contender in the Eastern Division of the NBA.

Here are my thoughts on this team.

        KEEPERS

Giannis Antetokounmpo –  Of course, the ‘Greek Freak’ is one of the best players in the NBA and should make second-team All-NBA at least. Besides being talented, his work ethic will go a long way toward him being a true MVP candidate down the road. Forget about 3-point shots, he needs to work on his free throws and his mid-range jumper. The treys would be a bonus.

Jabari Parker – He was coming into his own when he went down with the devastating knee injury (20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG). Unfortunately, he will miss most of the season, so I don’t think he will be much help next season. But I like his future.

Khris Middleton – Made a nice comeback (14.7 PPG, 4.2 RPB, 3.4 APG) from his injury, but his shooting skills lost something in the playoffs when he was especially needed. His FG% and 3-PT% from the regular-season (45.0, 43.3) to the playoffs (39.7, 36) went down. He definitely gives the Bucks a legitimate 3-pronged attack.

BRIGHT FUTURE

Thon Maker – I was incensed with this pick because the Bucks needed another ‘project’ like I needed another 10 pounds. I felt if you draft this guy, play him! When he had some instruction and talks with Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd started getting him some exposure, he showed an excellent outside shot – especially for a 7-footer – and shot-blocking ability. Now he needs to spend time in the weight room so he can bang heads with many powerful NBA big men.

Malcolm Brogdon – Possible Rookie of the Year candidate, but he lost some luster with a C grade at the best in the playoffs. Intelligent player, a steal by GM John Hammond in the second round. His court sense is beyond his years.

PLEASE STICK AROUND

I have been a Greg Monroe fan all season. He lost weight, improved his defense and was a threat inside or from the 10-foot mark. He accepted his role as offense off the bench and showed some solid passing skills on the pick and roll. He has a $17m option and I don’t know how the Bucks feel, but I hope he takes it. He was a key player when finally given an opportunity to play on a consistent basis.

Tony Snell – I wasn’t excited about the trade that brought Snell to the Bucks, but that’s why Hammond is a NBA General Manager and I’m a fan. Snell brought the defense and the length that was expected of him, but he added an important quality – a solid 3-point shot (45% from field, 40.6% from the 3-point line) and became a threat. He will be sought after as a free agent if he doesn’t accept his option.

LET THEM HANG AROUND

Jason Terry and Gary Peyton II add something to this team. Despite his age, his experience, his locker room presence and his ability to still shoot the 3 is a good reason to hang on to Terry, an ad hoc coach already. I put Peyton II here because of his defense and he signed a 2-year deal.

TRY TO MOVE THEM

Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson and Mirza Teletovic – I would try and move all three of them. Don’t like their production for the salary they are being paid. I like Delly’s punch you in the face attitude, especially in the playoffs where the Bucks were pretty meek. But I don’t need him shooting as many 3’s had he had to. Henson doesn’t see much action because of injury and coach’s decisions and his lack of time in the playoffs really showed that. Telly didn’t perform from the outside in his limited action and disappeared in the playoffs when a veteran is needed. If Hammond can give these guys away and free some of the salary he would be a genius.

SEE YA

Michael Beasley, Spencer Hawes and Rashad Vaughn – two veterans and an unfulfilled rookie who is supposed to be shooter. They certainly can be upgraded.

COACH

I was not a Jason Kidd fan. By that I mean I didn’t want him fired, but I couldn’t figure out his thought process when it came to the rotation. Sometimes I wondered if he knew what he was doing. I admire his coaching style on the sideline, I like the fact that being a Hall of Famer, players want to come here and play for him and he has a good coaching staff.

FRONT OFFICE/OWNERSHIP

John Hammond has done a good job, although I’m not a fan of all his moves. But he is right more than wrong. Now if the ownership will spend less money on the surrounding neighborhood and let Hammond spend some big money on some free agents that will bring the future here quicker, that would be nice.

 

CENTRAL’S BRANDI THOMSEN KEYS TOP RANKED LANCERS KICKERS

CENTRAL'S BRANDI THOMSEN KEYS  TOPPED RANKED LANCERS KICKERS




When you have eight returning all-conference players on the state's top ranked girls soccer team, it might be easy to get overlooked.

But not for Brookfield Central junior midfielder Brandi Thomsen. As sophomore Thomsen not only earned first-team All-Greater Metro Conference honors, but second-team All-State recognition besides.

However, Brandi is surrounded by players like sophomore forward Emma Staszkiewicz, a first-team All-State and All-GMC performer, and seniors Caroline Busch, a first-team All-GMC forward, and Claire Haynes, a first-team All-GMC and honorable mention All-State midfielder.

Now add to that second-team All-GMC selections - junior midfielders Jenny Cape and Sarah Knopp, junior defender Meghan Stritesky and senior goalkeeper Sarah Pasternak and you have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

"It's awesome," Thomsen said. "You can feel yourself being pushed every day, in practice especially. I can tell the difference from club to high school. In club we have good players, but in high school we have even better players. Isn't that crazy. It's usually the other way around. That's something I look forward to every high school season.

"Everyone is really talented - we're a very deep team. You know they're going to have your back. If it's not your best ball (on a pass) they'll make something out of it."

Coach Dan Makal, who also coaches the boys team, takes over a girls team which tied Divine Savior Holy Angels for first last year but then lost to the Dashers in the sectional semifinals in a shootout.

He knows his squad is talented and deep and plays their roles well.

"It helps when those players like Emma, Caroline and Claire are around, but we have a lot of other players who factor in with their roles," he said. "They're understanding of how each of them fits. Sometimes peoples' pieces are bigger in the puzzle, but it doesn't matter because it's still a puzzle."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Then he talked about Brandi's role.

"Sometimes her piece of the puzzle is really big," he said. "She has the ability to step outside of her role, but she hits her role every time she plays. She's just super consistent. She splits her role. She's an attacking player for us and provides a lot of great defensive cover. She goes along with how we structure (our game plan), how we play it. She's completely unselfish.

"The thing about Brandi is she's not going to be a massive stat person. If you look at the stats in the paper, she is not going to totally show up there. But if you watch her play, every coach wants her. She's already built for college (she accepted a scholarship at the University of Cincinnati)."

Last season Thomsen finished fourth in scoring (23 points) behind Staszkiewicz, Busch and Cape with 6 goals and 11 assists. She had a goal and an assist through the first 5 games this season.

Making sure things go well on the field is Thomsen's main job and she handles the pressure well according to Makal.

"Yeah, you can't see a real demeanor change," he said. "Anything you say at halftime, she is always real receptive to it, asks questions. She's not a kid that's really rattled. If we're losing, it's a matter of what's next. It's a matter of refocusing. You can never tell if she was down by her body language."

The other coaches know the quality of player she is. Her ability to take over situations because she’s improving so well is one of the things that make her better than the average player.”

- Coach Dan Makal

Brandi breaks her role down in simple terms.

"I come to practice and come to every game and bring positive energy and push my teammates," she said. "Setting the pace for the game; setting the tempo."

So what about the pressure?

"It's not coming from my parents (John and Liz), not coming from my coach," she said. "It's kind of on myself. I want to score, but I know there are other people who are in position to do it. So when I look back at the bigger picture, it (her role) makes sense. Hey, assists are good (she laughs)."

Makal talked about Thomsen's comeback from injury which caused her to miss her freshman season.

"Brandi broke her ankle the Friday before tryouts her freshman year," he said. "She missed the season and it crushed her. Last year was her first year of full competition of high school soccer. Watching her work back to being able to play again and having this pivotal role on the team was something. She made all-conference as a sophomore, second team all-state as a sophomore. The other coaches know the quality of player she is. Her ability to take over situations because she's improving so well is one of the things that make her better than the average player."

Brandi first got into soccer when she was 7 years old, playing for the Elm Grove recreational team. She knew she would stick with soccer in 7th grade and credited John Burke, her coach.

"Coach Burke was really influential and I knew I wanted to play collegiately too," she said, already looking forward to college at that young age. "I also liked the team atmosphere. Growing up I always had friends on my team. I liked my coaches. You get good exercise obviously. It was something creative. It was almost like an art. There is always something to learn. It's like trying to problem solve with your teammates."

Thomsen has carried this over to her high school career.

"I connect with my teammates pretty well," she said. "Searching the field I'm pretty good at. Being on the same page as my teammates. Across the whole team, we're pretty good at that."

Another thing Brandi has carried over is her work ethic.

"I'm a hard worker," she said. "I want to be able to eventually say I've fulfilled my potential and I think the way you get there is working hard."

Makal feels that Thomsen is always looking to get better and look for ways to help out the team.

"The team rules. The first goal is to score," he said. "If you can't do that, can you set someone else up to score. So often if Brandi doesn't set somebody up to score, she sets somebody up, who sets someone up to score.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"She is so good on the ball she doesn't make many turnovers. If she does, she'll steal the ball back right away. She is the first they (backline) want to find. She knows where the ball needs to go. She really understands the whole style of what we try to do. When your players are out there doing it, that's the best part."

Makal had to pause before answering the question 'What does Brandi need to work on?'

"That's a tough question," he finally said. "The idea of growth, there is no ceiling to what you can become. If she decides what she wants, the sky's the limit."

Not surprisingly, Thomsen was more critical when asked the same question on improving.

"I need to work on my explosiveness - on the ball and off the ball," she said. "I also need to work on my finishing all around. For example Emma Staszkiewicz uses her speed with the ball in a way the opponent doesn't know what she's going to do with it. I'm not that fast. I need to use my abilities to slow, slow, QUICK and be able to throw off the defender."

So how do you work on 'explosion.'

"By dribbling through the cones or dribbling through defenders," Brandi said. "Going to make a move and then accelerating. I've been happy with my progress."

Leadership is another important part of Thomsen's improvement, as she was named a junior captain to go along with seniors Busch and Haynes.

"When we choose captains we have some different ones," Makal said. "Claire is more vocal and Caroline's the gamer. She's the athlete, she'll fight for everything. Brandi's in the middle. She more of the technical one and she leads by example. Leadership just drips out of her - kind of like sweat."

Being a captain is something Brandi is proud of.

"I think it's very important," she said. "I was surprised (she was named captain) because there are so many leaders on this team. I can't think of one person who is not a leader.

"I'm working on being more vocal, but I lead by example. I look up to both Caroline and Claire Haynes. Claire's very positive. Like when someone needs that pick me up, she'll say 'OK, you'll get this next one.'"

Brandi is looking forward to the rest of the regular season and then the post-season when everyone starts out 0-0 again.

"We realize all the rankings but that doesn't mean anything," she said. "We still haven't won state."

QUESTIONS FOR BRANDI THOMSEN

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Raspberries.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP:  Carrie Underwood
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Pink Panther' with Steve Martin, Animated Movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  Friends
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  Abnormal Pyschology
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Phelps, WI (grandparents cottage)
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Sleep.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  Divine Savior Holy Angels.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT:  Beating Brookfield East, 6-0, last season.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Accepted scholarship to play soccer at the University of Cincinnati. Interested in possibly studying dentistry or psychology. Wants to be a soccer coach.

















LANCERS NAME CO-HEAD BOYS VOLLEYBALL COACHES

John Jablonowski & Riley Stone have been selected as the new Co-Head Coaches of the Brookfield Central Boys Volleyball Program.

Jablonowski is a 2011 graduate of Franklin High School where he played volleyball for 4 years. As a senior, his team qualified for state. Jablonowski earned 1st Team All-State Honors and was named MVP of the Southeast Conference. Jablonowski went on to attend UW-La Crosse where he continued his playing career, earning MVP honors twice as a member of the NCVF D2 National Champion teams in 2012 and 2015. He earned 1st Team All-Tournament honors in 2013 and 2014, and was named Wisconsin Volleyball Conference MVP in 2014 and 2015. Jablonowski coached JV girls at La Crosse Logan High School in 2015, and has coached the Franklin High School Freshman team for the past two years, where he currently serves as a high school science teacher. He has coached the 16-boys and 17-boys for the Milwaukee Sting since 2015. Jablonowski stated, “This is a great opportunity, at a great time with the new direction of the program. I am excited to get to work on further improving and developing this team to its utmost potential.”

Stone, also a 2011 graduate of Franklin High School, was a 2 year captain for the boys volleyball team there, qualifying for state his senior year and earning Honorable Mention All-State honors. Stone went on to attend UW-La Crosse where he played for the 2012 D2 National Champions. He transferred to UW-Milwaukee in 2014. Stone has coached the Franklin Freshman Boys Volleyball team for the past 3 years, and is currently in his 3rd season coaching 14-boys for the Milwaukee Sting. Stone stated, “John and I have been fortunate enough to play and coach alongside many great volleyball minds over the years. We look forward to using that experience to put our own stamp on the boys’ volleyball program here.”

“The selection committee was impressed with Coach Jablonowski’s and Coach Stone’s volleyball background, their shared vision for player development regardless of skill level, and their commitment to increasing student interest and participation in boys volleyball at BC”, said Don Kurth, Athletic and Activities Director at Brookfield Central. “We are thrilled that they will be joining our staff.”

LIZ BUECKERS BRINGS WORK ETHIC, TALENT TO TOSA EAST

LIZ BUECKERS BRINGS WORK ETHIC,
TALENT TO TOSA EAST SOCCER



Wauwatosa East junior Liz Bueckers has adapted well after seeing her role change every season for the Red Raiders soccer team.

"My role has changed every year, but now we're playing a really high press formation," the fiery forward said. "My job this year, for example, is to score goals and high press their forwards - just get everybody up the field, tell everybody where they're supposed to be because it's kind of a new formation for everybody and I want to help them understand it."

Coach Eric Dale expanded on how much Bueckers' role has changed because of her experience and talent.

"She is a leader and she is our scorer," the veteran coach said. "She can do so many other things too, but when the ball comes to her feet, she can do some special things. She is able to run (with the ball) and not lose a step. She accelerates with the ball at her feet. She's gifted with the ball.

"She's a born scorer. She has a knack for finding the net. She is also very unselfish, which makes her a unique soccer player. She's dangerous both with the ball at her feet and she can play balls in too."

Bueckers (pronounced Beckers) is a two-time All-Greater Metro Conference selection - named to the second team as a freshman and first-team as a sophomore last year.

Bueckers' success isn't surprising looking back at her career.

"I started playing when I was 4-5 years old with a little Micro-Soccer program," Liz recalled. "Then I played 'rec' with boys. When I got to middle school I played girls club soccer."

Photo by Tom 'Sky' Skibosh

Playing at the club level is what really sold Bueckers on the game.

"When I got to the club, I just fell in love with the traveling, the competitiveness," she said. "My team was very good and we were successful. It just made me want to keep going. I played with the Tosa Kickers in middle school and with the Elm Grove Soccer Club through high school."

Dale, who was a varsity assistant at the time, recalled when he first laid eyes on Bueckers.

"It was the summer of her 8th grade season, she was going to be entering Tosa East in the fall," he said. "(Then head coach) Rob Bukowski and I had heard she was quite a club player and had seen her in tournaments and things like that. We knew we were getting a special player when Liz came up here. The nice thing about it is she has a great supporting class. The junior class is exceptionally strong. She was a finished product, so now it's just a matter of fine tuning things."

It didn't take long to know the Red Raiders were getting an outstanding talent.

"It took all of 20 minutes of tryouts her freshman year to make us realize she was ready for varsity play physically and skill-wise and her speed really sets her apart too," Dale said. "Her competitiveness is really the draw with her. I've coached hundreds of athletes at Tosa East and she is easily one of the most competitive."

Dale and his staff are harder on Bueckers, looking to make her even better when she plays at the next level since she accepted a scholarship to play at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI).

"She knows I kind of hold her to a higher standard when we she has things in her game that she needs to improve," he said. "She speaks her mind. She's played the game long enough that I think she has a decent feel for the game, but we also want her to know that just because she is one of the better players on the field when she steps to that next level of college she is going to be expected to do more for them.

"We're tough on her, maybe more than we need to be at times, but I think that's something we can help her with. If she improves that mental toughness - she's pretty strong already - but can move that up a notch, the sky's the limit for her."

Bueckers laughed when told what Dale had said, but understands where he is coming from.

"Definitely (they expect more from me). Last year it was right at the beginning of the season. It was kind of difficult because I was no longer a freshman," Liz recalled. "If we were doing a drill or something - our team has a very wide range of players - ability-wise - and someone else will get the 'Oh, good job' and they kind of did it 'OK.'

"If I thought I did it good and I was proud of myself, sometimes I would get a 'This is what you need to do better' instead of 'you did a good job.' But I kind of take that as they're just trying to make me better. They want me to succeed."

Dale talked about one of Bueckers' most important qualities.

"That willingness to compete in everything," he said. "She's an excellent student, a high honor roll student. She's going to be a National Honor Society student I'm sure. She recently signed with IUPUI. She was hell bent on doing it. To commit as a junior is a rare thing, in soccer especially, but her tenacity and her competitiveness and her enthusiasm just really set her apart from a lot of kids she plays with."

I’ve been at Tosa East for almost 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of athletes. I’ve seen Devin Harris, I’ve seen Jerry Smith, Tony Walls, I’ve seen the Cupertino brothers. She is on that level in terms of competitiveness and desire, which is all so exciting.”

Coach Eric Dale

Liz also has played varsity basketball for for two years, earning honorable mention honors this season. When she came to Tosa East, going out for basketball was something she had to think about.

"I was actually kind of debating playing or not," she said. "I really wanted to focus more on soccer because I wasn't committed (to a school) yet. I wanted to improve myself as much as I could because I know that's what I want to play in college. But I have never heard anyone say multi-sport athletes are a bad thing. It exercises different muscles, prevents injuries, keeps me fit through the winter."

Liz is a perfectionist in whatever she does and took a moment to describe her unbelievable drive.

"For the past few years in high school if we lost a game and I knew if I was doing something bad in the game it would make me want to go work on my game on my own the next day," she said. "I would just have to work at it, work at it and work at it harder. I just love to see it pay off in the games. Scoring a goal just makes me know I'm doing something right."

Bueckers knows her strengths, but she also knows what she needs to improve on.

"My mental toughness and aggressiveness; my ability to go past players and my speed and my ability to score goals are my strengths," she said. "My strength has always been to just blow past everybody, so I really didn't need the foot skills.

"I now need to improve my agility with the ball, getting quicker. I need to improve my shot, so I can place it better and using my left foot. But now, if I'm going to play at a higher level, I need to get my game together all-around."

It's not surprising that Bueckers is one of three junior captains along with Sarah Lessila and Elyse Reagan.

"Our girls always select the captains for next year and Liz was the leading vote-getter from the students who graduated," Dale pointed out. "They saw potential in her as a leader. She needs to be a little more vocal. She's vocal in a way that is beyond rah-rah. She wants people around her to step up their game as she steps her game up."

At times Bueckers' competitive nature comes through too strong in her leadership role.

"Sometimes she doesn't know how to handle (a situation) with kid gloves necessarily because she's such a competitor and she's fiery," Dale said. "We can rein that in a little bit, but she is a motivator too. All the girls look up to her. When we need something to happen on the field, they'll look to Liz too. There's that level of expectation."

Photo by Tom 'Sky' Skibosh. Liz Bueckers with coach Eric Dale.

Liz admits she is very proud to be a team captain and takes her role seriously.

"It's really important considering my coaches hold me to a higher standard," Liz said. "I wear the captain band now everybody's expecting me to do better. I really hope I can step up to those standards and it's really important that I live up to that role.

"It definitely means more to be named (captain) by one of my own teammates. Being named by a coach is still nice, but knowing my teammates feel I have the ability to lead the team (is important).

"I've been more accepting to the role as the season has started rather than in the past season. My teammates are starting to listen to me. I really just show them how hard I work at practice so they can work as hard too. Show them how good we can be. Show them my drive to win games; see if I can spread it throughout the team."

Dale feels no one will outwork Bueckers, ranking her among some of the hardest-working players ever to wear the Raider red.

"I've been at Tosa East for almost 20 years and I've seen a lot of athletes," Dale said. "I've seen Devin Harris, I've seen Jerry Smith, Tony Walls, I've seen the Cupertino brothers. She is on that level in terms of competitiveness and desire, which is all so exciting. Beyond high school she has got so much more ahead of her. She wants to go into engineering.

"Like I said, the sky's the limit with her. She is easily one of the best competitors, best enthusiast for the game that I've seen at Tosa East."

QUESTIONS FOR LIZ BUECKERS

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Cheesy Potatoes
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP:  Hip Hop, Rap
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Divergent' Series, Action, Comedies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  Criminal Minds
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  Pyschology
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Hilton Head, S.C.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Sleep, Clean, Organize.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  Wauwatosa West
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT:  Free kick goal in 70th minute to tie Tosa West last year, 1-1.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Accepted scholarship to play soccer at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and study engineering. 

















HOLD ON FOLKS, THE BREWERS HAVE PLAYED ONE WEEK

My thoughts on the Brewers start.

Brewers

Baseball – Brewers and fantasy – is off an running and I can’t wait to sit in front of the TV or go out to the ball park and watch.

I predicted the Brewers would win between 68-72 games last year in the first year of the rebuild – and they won 73. Jonathan Villar, Hernan Perez, Carlos Torres, Junior Guerra and Zach Davies were good all season. Others like Keon Broxton, Wily Peralta, Chase Anderson and even Matt Garza had solid finishes.

For those fans who don’t understand the word ‘rebuild’ and there are a lot of you out there based on the ridiculous negative reaction of the 2-5 opening homestand, here’s what you should be looking for in Rebuild – Year 2.

1 – What players who did well last year are repeating their performances?

2 – What players have come down to earth?

3 – Who has shown signs of improvement?

4 – What have the new additions added?

***

1 – What players who did well last year are repeating their performances?

So far – of the players I mentioned – based on eight games – 8 games – Broxton, Torres,  Peralta and Anderson have been solid.

2 – What players have come down to earth?

Villar, Perez and Davies fall into this category and Guerra and Garza (surprise) got hurt. What does this mean after eight games?

Nothing.

For Villar to do what he did last season would have surprised me. I still think he will have a solid season offensively – 15 homers, 30+plus steals. What has shocked me is his struggles defensively at second base. That is a shock and has to turn around.

Perez has played good defense but is struggling at the plate. But once again I think he played over his head last season and if he comes down to earth some he is still valuable because of his tremendous versatility.

Davies is a control pitcher who hasn’t had any in his first two starts. He started slow last year. When he is precise, he is a solid No. 4 or No. 5 starter. If he can’t regain his control, forget it. The jury is out on Guerra and Garza (not really).

3 – Who has shown signs of improvement?

If he stays healthy, Domingo Santana has power and a great arm. But he can’t perform from the DL.

People need to understand that Orlando Arcia will become a better hitter – have some patience – but right now he is an absolutely outstanding defensive player with a cannon of an arm. His fielding is worth the price of admission. If you don’t think so, you don’t know baseball. Personally, I think he will eventually be a .270 hitter who can steal 20 bases.

I have liked Manny Pina since he came up and he has done a solid job with the bat and an excellent job defensively.

I have hope that Jimmy Nelson gets his act together. I really think he can pitch like he did at the beginning of last season and not at the end.

Jacob Barnes and Corey Knebel look like they have finally come around to what the Brewers are expecting.

4 – What have the new additions added?

What haven’t they?  Travis Shaw has been outstanding offensively and solid defensively. Jesus Aguilar got hot in spring training and carried it into the first week. He has also flashed some very impressive leather.

Eric Thames has sat some games to get Aguilar in the lineup, but also has the ability to play the corner outfield spots and has hit well.

Nick Franklin was a good addition and Kirk Nieuwenhuis did a nice job as a fill-in last year, but with all the outfield talent most of his playing time will be as a pinch-hitter, late-game replacement.

Jett Bandy has teamed with Pina to give the Brewers a solid catching combo. He handles pitchers well, throws out runners and displays some power.

Jhan Marinez was a solid pick-up last year and Jared Hughes was a good last-minute pickup and has performed well in week one, while I don’t think Tommy Milone would be on this team if he wasn’t left-handed, but I hope he performs.

Neftali Feliz has hit 100 mph on the radar gun and gotten off to a solid start. If he does well he will help this team and then be turned into some young talent at the trading deadline.

Old reliable

And then there is Ryan Braun, an important part of helping this team win now. Unless you get a ton back for him, I wouldn’t think of trading him.

So watch the players I have hit on and see what happens before you give up on the team after one week.

One thing is for sure – David Stearns and Craig Counsell will do all they can to change faces on this roster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMPETITIVE UPBRINGING HELPED MAKE EAST’S TONGAS A SUCCESS

COMPETITIVE UPBRINGING
MAKES EAST'S TONGAS SUCCESSFUL



Growing up with four older brothers, Brookfield East senior Eleni Tongas had a lot of competition to deal with in her own household.

That competitive drive developed in her younger years has paid off for Eleni in track and field and school in general, as she has excelled in the high jump and 100 hurdles, among other events for the Spartans, who finished second last spring at the WIAA Girls Track & Field Championships as her tie in the high jump gave East the half point advantage to finish second.

"I always want to get better," the expressive Tongas said, recently after practice. "I always work hard because I'm really competitive growing up with four brothers (Demetri, Nikita, Peter, Steven). We were always in competition of some sorts. I think because of my competitive drive I always want to get better and achieve the most I can."

Tongas is determined to make her third straight trip to the state, where she finished fifth in the high jump last year. The Lady Spartans as a team are off to a good start, as they won the Greater Metro Conference Indoor Championship so far this season. Eleni was first in the high jump, second in the triple jump and third in both hurdle events.

Coach Lisa Farley talked about other reasons why Eleni, who holds the conference relay record in the high jump, has been so successful.

"Her passion for her events for the team is why she has the results she has," Farley said. "She works really hard. She's focused, she's dedicated as an individual but also with the team.

"We've won a lot of conference championships and she wants to keep that going. It keeps her focused on the team as well. During meets you never hear she is nervous. She's always excited and goes out and gives her best, running back and forth between events."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Farley talked about the multi-tasking Tongas when it comes to her events.

"She'll take part in the 100 hurdles, high jump, long jump and the triple jump," Lisa said. "We weren't sure about the triple jump. At conference she did it and we were counting on her for 32 feet and she went up and beyond (34). So we might have something there.

"But her best event is the high jump (she had a personal best at 5-feet, 5 inches in the sectional last year). She is so graceful, fun to watch. Her dance competition helps her with that."

Tongas agrees with her coach.

"The triple jump, long jump, I don't get to practice them as much, but this year I might focus more on them," she said. "I got second in conference at triple jump - I came out of no where. I'm excited for that. I think that will be fun too."

But high jump is a special event for Eleni.

"I like high jump the most. I think I like high jump because that's what got me started in track," she said. "It's just kind of been something to push myself in. You always have to try the next height, so you never get to stop and get off easy.

"You have to keep going and keep pushing yourself. If you see yourself miss a height, you want to clear it more. So you go to practice and you have to work harder."

Despite her success, Tongas does have parts of her game to work on.

"I definitely have a lot of things I can work on," she said. "I need to work on my blocks starts. First one to the first hurdle, first one to the finish line, that's my mindset. In the high jump, when I get to the higher heights, I need to keep my form."

Adds Farley.

"Everyone - no matter if you're the best Olympic athlete or not - have things to work on," she said. "To be able to pinpoint specifics on high jump and hurdles, it's the little things that are achieved which will get her back to state."

Tongas remembered her start in track came in her seventh-grade gym class.

"We did all the events, but I liked high jump. So I did it in middle school," she said. "I quit soccer for track. That was the game plan because I played soccer my whole life and you can't do soccer and track (same season) in high school. I just enjoyed it (track) more."

Growing up with a Greek family, four older brothers, being very vocal, that’s a part of her personality and background as well. So when she was around the older girls, the younger girls, it didn’t really matter who she was around, she’s comfortable around everybody.”

- Coach Lisa Farley

Tongas admits people look at track as an individual sport, but it's the bigger picture that she enjoys.

"It's an individual sport, yes, but then it links to the team sport," she said. "I thought that was cool because you are able to push yourself individually because you want to help your team. I just kept wanting to get better to help our team. It's an individual sport because you run your own race, but you can see how the team points pay off, especially at sectional and state."

Farley recalled when she first knew she had something special in Tongas.

"She stood out at high jump in her freshman year, but in the JV conference outdoor we had her run the 100 hurdles … and it just clicked," she said. "She won it and we said 'OK, we're going to see some things.'

"She is personable, a great teammate, works hard and wants to do her best. She is somebody who is always super busy."

­Her freshman year she was second in the high jump in the Greater Metro Conference meet and eighth in the long jump and finished fourth in the high jump at regional.

Her sophomore year she was second in high jump, third in 100 hurdles and eighth in the long jump in conference and third in the high jump and 100 hurdles at regional.

It was her first exposure at state and she participated in the high jump and 100 hurdles, but didn't place. Eleni recalled the moment.

"State was the craziest experience," she said. "You walk in and it's literally roaring. There are so many people in there. It was really cool my sophomore year too because I focused in on high jump and then at regional I qualified in hurdles. So then it was go big or go home.

"I feel that (hurdles) are one of the craziest ones (events) at state because it's so fast. I think when people think of track, they think of hurdles a lot of times. I just want to have fun there in the individual race."

Well, Tongas had fun her junior season.

During the regular season, she finished first in the high jump, fourth in the triple jump, fifth in low hurdles and seventh in the high hurdles in the Indoor. In the Outdoor she was first in the high jump and third in the 100 hurdles.

In the postseason she won the high jump and was third in the 100 hurdles at regional and won the high jump and was fourth in the 100 hurdles. At state, was placed fifth in the high jump.

Tongas' leadership skills go back to her family according to Farley.

"Growing up with a Greek family, four older brothers, being very vocal, that's a part of her personality and background as well," Lisa said. "So when she was around the older girls, the younger girls, it didn't really matter who she was around, she's comfortable around everybody.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"That's why I sought her out right away as a junior captain. She was able to fit with whoever and ask people to step up.

"She is very committed to our team, that's why she's been a team captain for the second year. She leads by example but she also gets the girls to follow along, which is great."

Tongas enjoys wearing the leadership mantle.

"I think it's really important to be a good leader in track," she said. "A lot of times people get down on themselves if they are not competing at their best. I try to be a role model for the girls so they have someone to look up to.

"I can demonstrate what they should do - leave your events in the moment. You can't carry them with you. If you had a bad high jump, you can't carry that to the hurdles."

Eleni was quick to point out that the Spartans have four captains, with the other three being Meg Swietlik, Erin Donnelly and Natalie Rouse.

"But we're all in a variety of events," Tongas said. "We can answer a lot of random questions, but a lot are track oriented. We try to create an environment where they can ask whatever they want.

Tongas then spoke about how important teamwork is in a sport that's filled with individual events.

"It's really nice to see your hard work pay off," she said. "So many crazy things can happen. We won the GMC (Indoor) by 5 points and finished second at state by 1/2 point. I think that's important that we all work as a team. Sometimes you have to do a bunch of events, but you have to do that to benefit the team."

And that's what Eleni Tongas is all about.

QUESTIONS FOR ELENI TONGAS

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Greek Food
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP:  Bruce Springsteen, Oldies, Alternate, Rock
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Wreck It Ralph,' Romantic Comedies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  Friends
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  English
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  Greece
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Play Mario Kart on Wii
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  Brookfield Central
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT:  Finishing fifth in high jump at state last year.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Attend the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Study School of Human Ecology or Fashion. 

















DEFENDING STATE CHAMPS HAVE DEVINE SHORTSTOP

DEFENDING STATE CHAMPS
HAVE DEVINE SHORTSTOP



Katey Devine still gets goosebumps when you bring it up. The New Berlin West shortstop flawlessly fielded a ball hit to her and threw to first for the final out to give the Lady Vikings the 2016 State Softball Championship last spring.

"The ball was hit to my left, no one was on and if it went past me it wouldn't have been the end of the world because I had faith in (pitcher) Cheyenne (Sowinski) and the rest of my team. So I went for it, got it on the short hop - I love doing running throws - so I just did it. The throw was right on and it was awesome."

It was ironic that Divine made the play to end the game since she also missed a had hop to open the game on a similarly hit ball.

"I tried to get past it because it would have grinded on me the rest of the game," she said of the first-inning error.

West Coach Greg Klotz went over to talk to her after the inning and her answer didn't surprise him.

"She came in and said 'I was back on my heels, I knew what I did,'" Klotz recalled. "That's why it was great that she got the last out of the game. She was not going to make the same mistake twice. She knew it and it was a little redemption for her."

Divine finished with a single in three at bats, two putouts and three assists in the 2-1 title game win over Delavan-Darien.

"The atmosphere was like what you see in the movies," Divine said. "I'm talking about it again and I'm getting goosebumps. My sister came back from college. My parents were there, grandparents. Every time I stepped on the field I just tried to take it all in because you never know whether you will get that again."

Katey then talked about how everything fell into place last year.

"It was something I've been working for a long time," she said about going to state. "It was something I knew we had a shot doing when I saw who the teams would be. Everything paid off, but it still unexplainable, indescribable. I get goose bumps talking about it honestly. It was once in a lifetime."

Photo by Tom "Sky" Skibosh

It's no secret that Sowinski and third baseman Cam Koltz are the most talented players on the Lady Vikings team, but Divine is the glue which holds this team together.

"Obviously, we've been told we can't take anything for granted this year," Divine said. "We're 0-0 to start the year, last year means nothing. We have grown closer, we have a lot of returners and the chemistry's there. We know what we're capable of. We go into every game - not knowing that we'll win - but kind of expecting it because we've done well before."

Klotz talked about Divine's key role with this team.

"She knows the game. She has a good read with what's going on," he said. "She uses her smarts as much as her ability to put pressure on the other team.

"She knows what the other team is trying to do. She is motivated to do well and she is more cerebral than most players. She gets it done. Other people might get it done, they might have had better players, but Katey wants - and gets - us to play together. Those are her leadership skills there."

She’s a special player, a special kid. She is never down and she picks people up. She is one of my favorite kids to coach and I’ve coached 100s of girls.”

- Coach Greg Klotz

Divine talks about her major skills.

"My communication," she said. "I try to talk to my pitcher between every pitch. I let everyone know to make sure we're on the same page. It's rare that I'm quiet during a game.

"I also try to stay really positive and I try to keep my team like that. But I also have to stay level-headed and can't get too excited or things can slip away pretty fast. I think my positivity also is important as well."

Klotz then talked about Divine's ability to lead - on and off the field.

"She has the ability to get people to follow her," he said. "Her family is active in their church. She does so many things. She received a full ROTC scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. The other day she read an email at open gym to the student-athletes on hand, saying how important school is."

Photo By Tom "Sky" Skibosh

Divine had a good answer when asked about her leadership skills.

"Maybe this is their (Mary, Jim her parents) bias - but they always told me I was a natural leader," Katey said. "So I've kind of been in that mentality since elementary school. I've taken on leadership positions in school in different clubs and in cross country I was a captain this year.

"But I don't need that validation (captain title). I know I don't need the label because I know I can lead by example or by doing my thing. I definitely try to talk to all the players, whether I have a strong relationship with them or not. I try to keep them motivated if they're down or praise them when they're doing something great."

Klotz first saw Katey play 10 years ago with the New Berlin Magic and ended up coaching with Tim Minik, who has been Klotz' varsity assistant. Minik and Klotz coached Katey and former West star Mallory Klotz for two years.

"Katey was always the smartest, had the most game sense," Klotz said. "She pitched, played first base and was a team leader. I'd love to have her at first base now.

"She doesn't have the strongest arm, but she charges the ball and does everything just right. She's a special player, a special kid. She is never down and she picks people up. She is one of my favorite kids to coach and I've coached 100s of girls."

Devine ran for the Lady Vikings cross country team for four years, making it to state last fall. She started at shortstop her sophomore and junior seasons as West finished second and first. She made second-team all-conference the last two years.

Katey's sister, Carey, played volleyball and softball at West and is attending Tulane University in New Orleans. Jamey, who played volleyball and ran track, is a sophomore at UW - Madison.

Katey, whose first memories of softball went back to when she was 3 years old, playing whiffle ball in the backyard with her dad and sisters.

After getting involved with fastpitch, Katey was hooked.

"I loved it. It was something I always enjoyed playing," Divine said of softball. "I always wanted to go out there and practice. There's been times I wanted to do track because I love running, but it was always softball. I couldn't give it up."

Divine talked about her softball relationships.

"We spend a lot of time together and we have to rely on each other on the field. It's one of the most heavily-involved team sports. You also just develop great relationships with them and obviously we all love it. We've been in it at least 8 years and we spend a lot of time together."

Klotz talked about his relationship with Katey over the years.

"She is still the same kid," he said. "She has a huge heart. She wants to be the best she can be. Academically she is solid. I've been proud to coach her."

QUESTIONS FOR KATEY DEVINE

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Beef Stroganhoff
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP:  Catfish and The Bottleman, Indie, Alternative
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Remember The Titans,' Romantic Comedies
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  How To Get Away With Murder
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  History
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:  New Orleans
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Lay in bed, listen to vinyls on her record player.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  New Berlin Eisenhower
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT:  Getting the final out to win the State Softball Championship for New Berlin West last spring.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Attend the University of Pittsburgh, Major in International Studies. Accepted into Army ROTC program.