Monthly Archives: September 2017

ON NOW THE FUN BEGINS

Here are some random thoughts on the prep season as some teams have already started the post-season.

I saw my first prep football game of the fall Friday – I have been rehabbing my left leg and can’t get around too well – and it was a doozie, as two-time defending champion Brookfield Central beat Brookfield East at East, 22-14.

The win left Central unbeaten (6-0) and dropped East (5-1) into second place with two games left.

Both Central and East fans packed the place and you had to walk blocks to find a parking spot. The place was rockin’.

Central has won the last two conference titles while East has won the last two post-season meetings.

In the next two weeks, the Lancers host Sussex Hamilton and travel to Menomonee Falls while the Spartans are at Germantown and host West Allis Hale.

Good luck to BC Coach Jed Kennedy & BE coach Ben Farley the rest of the way.

___________________________________________________

OTHER POST-SEASON SCHEDULES

GIRLS GOLF – Has already started with the regional this week (Sept. 27-28) and the sectional Oct. 3. The state tournament is at University Ridge in Madison on Oct. 9-10.

GIRLS TENNIS – The Subsectional is Monday, Oct. 2 or Tuesday, Oct. 3 and the Sectionals are Wednesday, Oct. 4 or Thursday, Oct. 5. The State Individual Tournament – is Thursday, Oct. 12, Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14 at Nielsen Stadium in Madison. The Girls State Tennis Team Championships are Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.

BOYS/GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY – The Sectional is Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21, while State is Saturday, Oct. 28, at Ridges Golf Course at Wisconsin Rapids.

BOYS SOCCER – Regional begins Tuesday, Oct. 17, Thursday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, October 21. Sectional follows on Thursday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 28.

The State Tournament is Thursday, Nov. 2, Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4 at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL – Regional is Thursday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 21 and Sectional is Thursday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 28. The State Tournament is Thursday, Nov. 2, Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4 at Resch Center in Green Bay.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL – Regional begins – Friday, Oct. 27 and Sectional is Tuesday, Oct. 31 and Thursday, Nov. 2. The State Tournament is Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11 at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING Sectionals are Friday, Nov. 3 (Diving) and Saturday, Nov. 4 (Swimming). The State Meet is Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11 at the  Natatorium at UW-Madison.

 

IKE’S JACK HIMMELSPACH FINALLY GETS TO CARRY THE BALL

IKE'S JACK HIMMELSPACH FINALLY GETS TO CARRY THE FOOTBALL



So far New Berlin Eisenhower junior Jack Himmelspach has finally had a chance to show what he can do with a football in his hands.

Himmelspach tops the Woodland West first-place, state-ranked Lions in rushing through the first 6 games and is a key part of their running attack. He began his football career as a youngster and couldn't play running back because he was too big and there are weight limits in the junior program.

But currently at 6-feet, 2 inches, 195 pounds, Himmelspach has finally taken advantage of the chance to play running back and it is paying off for the Lions.

And Lions head coach Matt Kern has been pleased with the results.

"His style has really been a great addition for our team," Kern said. "I think if you look at our team the last couple of years, we're known for a very good passing game. We've got good players at the skill positions on the perimeter. Joey Scaffidi was our main ball-carrier the last couple of years and he was a very talented kid, but just built differently.

"So we knew with Jack our running game was going to look different. We didn't know quite how different it would look, but we're seeing as the year goes on we're having a more 'power' type back. It's giving a really nice compliment to the rest out our offense."

Himmelspach has carried the ball 35 times more than the next runner and he has 487 yards rushing - a 6.8 yards per carry average - and 7 touchdowns. He has been a consistent performer for the Lions, but had 3 games that have stood out so far.

In a huge 38-14 win over Pewaukee, Himmelspach rushed 21 times for 141 yards (6.7 ave.) and a touchdown. In a 31-0 win over Greendale he rushed for 118 yards in 19 carries (6.2 ave.) and 3 touchdowns. Against crosstown rival New Berlin West he rushed 9 times for 93 yards (10.3 ave.) and 2 touchdowns.

Photo by Tom "Sky" Skibosh - Junior running back Jack Himmelspach led New Berlin Eisenhower in rushing through the first 6 games of the season.

He has been an excellent complement to quarterback Bryce Miller, who has 10 touchdown passes and running back Jake Belongia who is a dual threat with 7 rushing touchdowns and 4 touchdown catches. Leading wide receiver Steve Halusan also has 4 touchdown receptions and leads the Lions with 22 catches.

Kern explained some of Himmelspach's strengths as a running back.

"He has an underrated ability to make the first guy miss," he said. "I think he is seen as a straight-line runner, but he has a little shiftiness to him in the hole that shows up on film. He very rarely loses yards, even when he's hit in the backfield. And if it's a play that's not blocked the way we want it to, he will usually get a couple yards out of it. He's almost always falling forward and that is something you are looking for. He can turn 3-yard runs into 5-yard runs with a little extra effort at the end of plays.

"When a hole has been there, he hits it hard. He finds the hole. He's got really good vision. He's more of a natural for the position than we thought he was last year."

Himmelspach got into organized football in third grade with the New Berlin Generals, but he played guard, tackle and center because he was too big to carry the ball.

"Running back, I like it a lot," he said. "From third grade on I always wanted to play. I would try to cut weight so I could play it."

He’s already starting to grow in that (leadership) role. He’s not a loud boisterous type of kid, but he definitely has confidence. He definitely has the respect of his teammates. I think he will grow nicely into that role next year, I have no doubt about it.”

--- Coach Matt Kern

Himmelspach stuck with the game and he explained his thought process as he developed physically.

"Overall it was the team aspect of it," he said. "I was never overly athletic until 7th and 8th grade. My teammates - I had been with the same guys since third grade essentially - that's probably best part of it for me."

Eisenhower runs a spread offense, a running back and 4 wide receivers.

"It's not one offense, it's like a complex thing," Himmelspach said. "Probably this year it's been mostly passing. But we knew if we have enough success on the ground it would help us. I can also catch the ball since I have also played tight end. I've had experience catching the ball back at the beginning of 6th grade. I was one of the bigger eligible guys, so they played me at tight end."

But Himmelspach didn't hesitate when asked what part of being a running back he liked best - blocking, carrying the ball or catching the ball.

"Carrying the ball," he said. "I like to kind of take on the contact. I don't shy away from contact like some guys who run out of bounds and you end up losing yards. I like to lower my shoulder, get the guy on the ground and get the extra yard. That's something I've been trying to work on this year, more than every other year. Taking the hit and delivering the hit too. I would probably make a move, but decide what would have the best chance of breaking the tackle."

Being a junior, Himmelspach was asked what he wanted to get better at.

"I would like to get a little stronger," he said. "My agility, that's something else I need to work on. Being able to run through people can get you only so far. So I need to get some speed and agility in there."

"I think it's (leadership) is really important," he said. "(If done correctly), the young guys will feel that they are really a part of the team. We'll work together and accomplish so much more in the end.

Photo by Tom "Sky" Skibosh - New Berlin Eisenhower junior running back Jack Himmelspach is finally getting a chance to carry the ball and the results have been excellent.

Kern, on the other hand, hesitated when asked what Himmelspach had to work on.

"I don't know if there is anything that stands out at this stage," he said. "We'll sit down and start talking to him about goals for his senior season. We'll want him to be a bigger part of our defense next season. He could definitely help us on defense but we have the luxury of letting him play offense and save his energy there.

"A true two-way player next year is something we'll put on his plate. Also just continue to improve as a receiver. He already is a pretty good receiver, but we just don't need him in that role. Next year we might ask him to catch more balls. That's something we'll ask him to work on."

Kern looks back and recalled Jack's early years.

"He did a nice job for us at the youth level, so I knew of him at the 7th and 8th grade level. But it was not a running back until last year. He had a great season as a JV running back last year so we were watching him closely last season. We knew he had a chance to be a nice player for us at the varsity level.

"It was happening gradually throughout the JV season, especially towards the end of the JV season - the last couple games it was clear he was a man among boys at that level. We were pretty much giving him the ball on almost every play. We thought this is something we're going to have to take a serious look at next year."

The Lions have 5 senior captains, but Jack shared his thoughts on leadership.

"I don't think it's (being a leader) limited to being a captain," he said. "The captains are elected by the team, so they're probably the best leaders. But I think anyone can step up to be a leader no matter if they're a captain or not. Some of the guys under the captains are great leaders, some of the linemen. I'm working on being a better leader to the younger guys who are looking up to us."

Kern agreed with Himmelspach's assessment.

"Most definitely. He's already starting to grow in that role," he said. "He's not a loud boisterous type of kid, but he definitely has confidence. He definitely has the respect of his teammates. I think he will grow nicely into that role next year, I have no doubt about it."

Getting back to this season, Himmelspach was excited about the Lions' fast start.

"Coach has preached that he's seen teams get to this point in the schedule and they kind of get bored," he said. "Our goal is to aim higher. We've beaten good teams by big margins, now we have to beat lesser teams by bigger margins. Our goal is to keep a higher level no matter what part of the season you're in."

Kern then described Himmelspach's development.

"That's the nice thing about coaching high school ball, there is always an uncertainty about every season," he said. "Some of the kids who you only see at the JV level, to see them grow so much in just a year. Then transfer all those great things that they were doing at the sub-levels into the varsity level. It's been exciting for us for sure."


HANGING WITH JACK HIMMELSPACH

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Pizza
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:  '80'S Rock
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Tommy Boy.' Action movies
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  Last Man Standing
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  Math
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: New York
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Play video games ('Madden Football').
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  New Berlin West
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:  Beat New Berlin West last basketball game on JV.
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE: Attend college, play football and be a physical therapist.

















FOR CENTRAL’S MIRANDA WUCHERER VOLLEYBALL’S ALWAYS BEEN HER GAME

FOR MIRANDA WUCHERER, VOLLEYBALL HAS ALWAYS BEEN HER GAME




Ever since she first started playing volleyball, Brookfield Central's Miranda Wucherer knew this was what she was going to do.

"I like the team aspect of it and how you can do so many things that can impact the game," Wucherer said. "I like the feel of it. From a very young age, I knew this is what I was going to do."

Miranda's mom, who passed away when she was 7 years old, and her mom's sisters were really into the sport, as her aunts played in college.

"At a young age I was in the gym. I started in fifth grade at St. Joseph's in Wauwatosa. Then I got into club when I was 11.

Miranda has done her mother (Wendy) proud, as last season she earned All-State and All-Greater Metro Conference honors and was named GMC Player of the Year, the first Lancer to ever earn that honor.

When Miranda was 6 years old she went to the Jr. Lancers summer camps. Later on she was involved in the club volleyball scene and Central Scott Spiess was coaching there.

"She came to camp a few times and we kind of knew right away that we had something there," he said. "She had good athleticism and could do a lot of different things."

Wucherer (pronounced Wucker) started on the varsity as a freshman and helped the Lancers finish fourth with a 6-3 record in the GMC and 22-16 overall. She broke out as a sophomore, though.

"She started as a freshman, she was a little timid coming into new surroundings," Spiess recalled. "It took her a while to get comfortable. She played all the time, but she wasn't necessarily the 'go-to' player that she is today.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC --- Senior Miranda Wucherer became the first Brookfield Central volleyball player to be named Greater Metro Conference Player of the Year last year.

"But she kind of broke out her sophomore year where she was becoming more offensive from an attacking standpoint as well as her setting was starting to get better and developing more."

Miranda earned second team All-GMC honors as a sophomore as the Lancers improved to third place with a 5-2 record and 13-7 overall.

The athletic Wucherer splits her time between setter and outside hitter. She talked about the transformation in her game since her freshman year.

"When I was a freshman I was just a setter. I wasn't really a hitter at all," she said. "I wanted to be strategic. I wanted to mess up the other team, play mind games. Setting is a completely different mindset. That's what I was doing.

"In hitting you're going to score, you not going to set up other people. It's your turn to terminate the ball. You have to get in a different mindset. When I'm in the back row setting, it's all about setting. I have to know 'What are my matchups? What am I doing?' In the front row it's 'Where can I score? Where am I going with the ball.' I'm always looking through the net. I go from offensive hitting (as an outside hitter) to helping my team to go after it (as a setter)."

Spiess talked about her versatility.

"She has a really strong volleyball IQ," he said. "She really understands the game from both perspectives. I think being able to do both things, helps her in the other. From a setting perspective she knows where to put the ball to help the hitters get in a good position to score. The counterpoint to that - as an attacker she knows what to look for, what spots to hit to place the ball to cause trouble for the defense."

She’s a fierce, fierce competitor, but to be able to keep that cool demeanor she has to exude that confidence to her teammates, so they have that comfort level that they have one of the best players in the state on their side. It’s as if she doesn’t get rattled, then they don’t get rattled type of thing.”

--- Coach Scott Spiess

Spiess talked about that IQ when asked about her strengths.

"She has a great understanding of the overall game and how it can be impacted in so many different ways," he said. "From a physical standpoint - her arm - she's always had a fast arm. Which in volleyball equates to velocity on the ball. Which is then scoring points. With her jump serve and the speed of her attacking arm are something that is quite impressive when compared to other players. We call it 'using it like a whip' and she definitely whips it."

Miranda talked about how much her quickness helps her.

"If I'm going forward (as a setter) and the middle follows me, I have to go backwards quickly. I have to send the ball in the opposite direction," she said.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC --- Miranda Wucherer was named first-team All-State last season.

She also talked about her court vision.

"Seeing the court, the other side, but I'm also seeing my side of the court," she pointed out. "Knowing what are their strengths, kind of just breaking down the game as the game goes so quickly. I'm still being able to make those decisions and see the floor."

With the rest of the season in front of her and Northern Kentucky University in the future, Miranda knows she has parts of her game to work on.

"Every year I feel I can get better, no matter what it is," she said. "I know I'm super athletic and I know that helps me a ton being undersized (5-feet, 9 inches). But I'm always working on all my shots, working on my hand placements. still reading the ball. I feel like one of the biggest things I need to work on is defense because I'm more of an offensive player.

"But going to every practice I want to get better at anything I can. I'm trying to soak everything in instead of saying 'Hey, I'm good at this.' I want to get better at everything I can, especially going on to play at the next level."

Spiess agreed with his star player about improving her defense.

"As a setter she wants to get in there on her second touch," he said. "But there is a ball coming to her the first time and we want her to be able to get the ball up and trust her teammates to make the ball better. She has to think outside of that the mindset.

"She's a fierce, fierce competitor, but to be able to keep that cool demeanor. She has to exude that confidence to her teammates, so they have that comfort level that they have one of the best players in the state on their side. It's as if she doesn't get rattled, then they don't get rattled type of thing."

"When Scott told me I couldn't believe it. I was in shock," she said of her Player of the Year and her All-State honors. "I was like hoping I would be first-team all-conference. When he told me that and all the accolades started coming out, I was like 'Wow I actually did that.' I never came in actually thinking I would do that.

"It showed the hard work and all the practices and how my teammates helped me so much to get to that point. It's a team sport and without my teammates that would never have happened. It was crazy and I was excited it happened and I hope I'll be able to do it again this year."

Miranda is one of three captains this year, along with Cami Herman and Sara Ozolins.

"Each of our captains bring something different to the table," she said. I'm the one who is going to hold everyone accountable. I lead by example, show hustle and smarts. I hope people can see that in my game.

"I try to lead anyway I can. I try to get better as a leader. I've played a lot of positions and I try to help other people on the floor. I'm always trying to learn other people's positions that can help me on the floor."

Miranda was asked if all her accolades helped her confidence coming into this season.

"It helps a lot, but it also puts the pressure on you because knowing last year I could fly under the radar," she said. "Going into this year I know every team has their eye on me. My confidence is there, I know I can do the things I did. It's like taking every game, game by game, not worrying about the outside stuff, just focus on playing volleyball."

Spiess felt it was a positive and talked about her conference honors as well.

"Last year we sat in the all-conference meeting and I threw her name in the hat for Player of the Year," he said. "But we finished in fourth place - typically it comes from a player on the first or second-place team. It was almost unanimous from the other coaches in the league. She's a do- everything player. Even the matches we weren't winning she had a huge impact on the match.

"Once that happened and she was named first team all-state - those were kids she played with on the club level in the off-season - it did help her confidence that her name was mentioned in the same breath as those other big-time players."


HANGING WITH MIRANDA WUCHERER

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Chocolate Chip Pancakes
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:  Popular Music
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Remember the Titans' - Sports movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  'Friends'
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  AP Economics
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Utah
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Sleep
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  Brookfield East, Divine Savior Holy Angels
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:  Being the first Lancer to win the Greater Metro Conference Player of the Year honor.
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE: Attend Northern Kentucky University, play volleyball and study sports business.

















CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER HAS KEYED LANCERS’ ALEX MIRSBERGER

CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER HAS KEYED LANCERS' ALEX MIRSBERGER



The chip that Brookfield Central's Alex Mirsberger wears on his shoulder has really paid off for the senior midfielder on the Lancers' soccer team.

When asked why he stayed with soccer after starting to play in the local recreational league at 7 years old, Mirsberger laughed.

"As you can tell, I'm not the biggest person (5-feet, 8 inches, 145 pounds)," he said. "But it's not the size of the dog, but the fight in it. I've always had that little chip on my shoulder.

"I was pretty good early and I thought I could really see myself getting better and better."

Mirsberger, who earned playing time on the varsity as a freshman, played so well as a sophomore he earned honorable mention on the Greater Metro Conference team.

But last year he really cashed in, not only earning first-team All-GMC honors, but he was a first-team All-State selection as well.

Look out for this season.

"This year my confidence is huge. I knew I had a successful season," he said. "But I didn't really realize I would make all-state."

Lancers coach Dan Makal was right to the point when he talked about if he thought making All-State changed Alex's attitude.

"Nope," he said. "He is naturally a confident kid. His demeanor hasn't changed. Who he is hasn't changed. He just keeps on doing what he does.

"He's a really humble player. He always looks for his teammates first. His success he will probably tell you is getting his teammates working really hard."

As a midfielder, Makal nailed it when I asked Mirsberger about his role.

"My main role is to control the game, making other players look good," he said. "Make sure I get them the ball; control the game in general. Over the years the attacking part of it has gone forward more. My freshman year I played further back, but as things went on I played higher up the field."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC --- Last year as a junior, Brookfield Central's Alex Mirsberger earned first-team All-State honors.

Alex did have an interesting response when asked whether he would score a goal or earn an assist.

"I think it's pretty even," he laughed. "But that's a tough question."

Makal talked about playing the midfielder position with the Lancers.

"We kind of craft some different things for the guys," he said. "Alex is one. Playing the game instead of trying to play the formation or the system helps the rest of the team out. I think its been really massive for us."

Makal also spoke highly about Mirsberger's talents.

"He's explosive. When he has the ball he's always dangerous," he said. "He moves it very well. His ability is to process really well. He never seems to run out of gas."

Alex also talked about the positive side of his game.

"Being able to see the ball in play," he said. "Also playing with a chip on your shoulder, you're able to work as hard as you can, but still manage to stay into the game mentally, while working your hardest."

Mirsberger was honest about his speed.

Alex is pretty dynamic and I think that’s what helps him out. He scored some pretty big goals for us last year. He had a couple game-winners. Those things stand out.”

--- Coach Dan Makal

"I'm fast, yes. But I'm not the fastest on the team," he said. "I just try to run as fast as I can. I do look at that as a strength - being able to get from one end of the field to the other (quickly)."

Alex, who has accepted a scholarship to play soccer at Marquette University, is already looking ahead when asked about what he needs to work on.

"Playing quicker than I am now," he said. "Once you get to the collegiate level that's when it's like a whole new step. Always playing quicker is huge for my game."

Makal recalled when he first saw Mirsberger play.

"It was the summer coming into his freshman year," he said. "He came to our Lancer Camp. He was small, but he was really fast. He was really good on the ball. I saw him play there and I was impressed.

" He's kind of fearless. There's players who are very agile. They have the ability to move while making decisions. Alex was really good at that from the get-go. I felt that he was a kid who would do really well playing at the varsity level as soon as possible and turn out to be a 4-year varsity player."

Makal knew had he something special with Alex and the Schweinert twins (Andrew and Austen).

"Midway through his freshman year we had a lot of young guys playing then," Makal said. "The Schweinerts were both on the team playing serious minutes and Alex as well. We saw the three of them putting in some really good work, playing a bunch of minutes.

"What was different about all three of them - Alex does his thing and the Schweinerts do their thing - is what makes it a good balance on the team. it's been helpful that they've had so many reps on the varsity level. To have freshman playing, it's not very common. This year we have two freshman on the team as well. That's good for us."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC --- Senior Captain Alex Mirsberger uses his quickness and his ability to see the field  to key the Lancers' offense.

Mirsberger and the Schweinerts are now the senior team captains. Alex knows this a key part of his responsibility, but he feels there are more than three leaders on this team.

"I think it's (leadership) is really important," he said. "(If done correctly), the young guys will feel that they are really a part of the team. We'll work together and accomplish so much more in the end.

"All three captains have to be leaders, but every senior on the team is also a leader. Every junior is a leader. We're all leaders. We can learn from the freshmen also."

Makal knows Mirsberger will have to step up in is new role.

"He is going to have to change a little bit with people looking up to him more," he said. "In years past he could just focus on his game. But now he's kind of has to look out for others."

With Germantown and Wauwatosa West joining the Greater Metro Conference the competition should be better.

"It will be fun - we have no idea who they are - we never really played them," Mirsberger said. "It will be an adventure.

"We always have a team goal to win conference. We always in the top five spots. It's a big thing to put on your shoulders. It's a very competitive conference. The other teams will push you to do your best and that helps you in the post-season."

Mirsberger will, of course, be one of the keys to Central's success and Makal talked about what makes him special.

"Alex is pretty dynamic and I think that's what helps him," he pointed out. "He scored some pretty big goals for us last year. He had a couple game-winners. Those things stand out."

Not bad for a guy with a chip on his shoulder.


HANGING WITH ALEX MIRSBERGER

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Pizza
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:  County Music and pop
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Ironman' movies. Action movies
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  Modern Family
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  Math
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Puerto Rico
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Watch TV, Sit in hammock outside
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  Brookfield East
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:  Beat Arrowhead in sectional final, 1-0, scoring the winning goal.
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE: Attend Marquette University on a soccer scholarship and study business.

















FOR IKE’S BELLA PASSAMANI, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

FOR IKE'S BELLA PASSAMANI
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT




'You Don't Know What You've Got ('Til It's Gone)' is a song by 'Cinderella' which described Bella Passamani's swimming career at New Berlin Eisenhower at one point.

Passamani burst on the scene as a freshman, going to the WIAA State Tournament in 2014 in four events, including two relays. She was fourth in the 400 freestyle relay and tied for seventh in the 200 free relay. In the individual events, she was fifth in the 200 free and eighth in the 500 free.

With such a great start to her career, she was looking forward to her sophomore season.

But then it was gone.

"In May of my freshman year going into my sophomore year I started to feel pain in my hip when I was doing my club practices," she said. "We did a lot of running and I felt the pain."

So Passamani had an MRI which showed she had an impingement in her hip. She could have surgery to repair it or take a cortisone shot that would last six months and then have the surgery.

"I figured why not get the surgery over and done with," she said. "I was able to get back in the pool within three months, but I couldn't kick fully at that point. After six months I was back to normal swimming and I was able to recover pretty quickly."

Even though she was injured, Eisenhower swimming coach Alyssa Bauer had her on the sidelines.

"Even though she wasn't in the pool swimming, she was at practice every day helping us coach." Bauer said. "We called her the 'intern coach.' She had passion, even in that. We had one girl who couldn't do a flip turn, so Bella went home and researched and came back with a plan. She took that 'intern coach' as a big responsibility.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC --- After going to state as a freshman, Bella Passamani missed her sophomore season due to hip surgery. But she returned to state her junior year.

"I don't know that she had a big change, but being on the other side of the pool - being dry - let her appreciate being in the pool. When she came back her junior year she realized it was her passion whereas her freshman year she was just having fun and was really fast."

Bella recalled the situation.

"I got my surgery the second week of September. I was back on the pool deck in my crutches and my hip brace the next week," she said. "I helped out with the JV swimmers. It was very hard for me hearing all the varsity swimmers complaining about the sets 'Oh this is so hard.' I said I would give anything to be in that pool. For me, that was a turn of my mentality. I needed to be more positive and I need to be thankful for when I can get back in the pool, not take it for granted anymore.

"I think it was a blessing that I had all that go on at the time that I had it. You hear athlete's getting burned out all the time. That was a perfect time where I was not burned out because I had a little bit of a break. I think it actually worked out rather well."

Getting back in the pool her junior year worked out more than 'rather well' for Bella, as she helped Eisenhower finish fourth at the state meet.

Passamani won the 100 butterfly (56.27) and finished second in the 500 freestyle (5:04.66). She also placed second as part of the 200 medley relay and seventh in the 400 freestyle relay.

Bauer wasn't sure how Bella would respond after she missed her sophomore year.

"I didn't know what to expect when she came back, though I knew she came off a pretty good club season," Bauer said. "She was really excited to come in and swim. One of things that's really good about Bella she is really good in more than one event. Most of the season it was playing around with her events, seeing where she wanted to swim. The two she picked - 100 fly and 500 free - were kind of close together, so we talked about that. There was only one event in between them, with about a 15 minute break between them.

"Her whole mentality was different. She was happy to be in the water she picked the events she thought she would do well in and finished first in the fly and second in the 500 (at state)."

Bauer added that going to state as a freshman helped out Bella and she helped out the team when they went last season.

“If she has the lead she’s not going to give it up. If she falls behind she is going to fight back and do whatever she can to get the lead. She is my stubborn swimmer and she will do anything to get that lead. That makes her super special.”

--- Coach Alyssa Bauer

"I think it helped a lot. The year she went to state as a freshman, we had a couple seniors who were influential, very hard workers like she is," Bauer said. "They had outgoing personalities and didn't take things too seriously and I think it rubbed off on Bella a little bit.

"So when she was at state last year, she was one of the oldest - we only had juniors and under - it allowed her to step up and show the girls this is something we go to, we have a good time, we race and let the mental thing go."

Having gone to state as a freshman, Bella put a lot of pressure on herself coming back as a junior.

"It was pressure filled because I knew I couldn't take first place for granted," she said. "There are always people who come in and get faster, faster and faster. I couldn't automatically think I'm going to win again. I worked so hard in the pool to get back to where I was at. I was just trying to push myself so I could win again, so that way I wasn't expecting to win, I wasn't over-confident."

Bella had some doubts going into last year and Bauer had to give her a heart-to-heart.

"What if I don't make state. What if I do poorly. What if my hip prevents me from doing what I know I can do," Bella recalled. "Alyssa had to get me out of my mental funk. She told me 'Bella, you've done this before. You know how to swim. You can do this.'"

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC --- Senior Bella Passamani is a team captain and one of the leaders on New Berlin Eisenhower's swim team this year.

Bella, who has been swimming since she was 4 years old, talked about her strengths.

"Overall, I'm a very good racer," she said. "If you put me in a heat of girls, I will not lose. I do not want to lose. Sometimes I do lose, but I know I tried my best. I try my very hardest to stay with girls, even though I know they're faster than me.

"I think that definitely works to my advantage. In looking at my state events - in the 100 fly I was neck and neck with everybody. I pulled ahead at the end, just because I wanted to beat them.

"At practices, I'm a very hard worker. I try my best day in and day out, just to push everybody else to go faster. I like to have competition to race during practice. They help push me to reach my potential. I do have an internal drive but other people bring that out in me. I try my very best to use other swimmers to help me."

Bauer agreed with Passamani and added what she would like her to work on.

"I describe her as a very stubborn swimmer - if she has the lead she's not going to give it up," Alyssa said. "If she falls behind she is going to fight back and do whatever she can to get the lead. We noticed that right away in her individual events. She is my stubborn swimmer and she will do anything to get that lead. That makes her super special.

"She's an extremely hard worker. She is not cocky and is willing to take advice. She doesn't go into the thing that she's the best - which is a good and bad thing. She's always willing to take a step back and think about what she can do to get even better than she already is.

"I would like to see her improve on her confidence. Going into a meet, she tends to look at the other girls and the big names she's used to racing. She needs to take over and believe how good she is. Her ability is exceeding her expectations."

Being a team captain along with seniors Emma Oleniczak and Maddie Mainwood, leadership is important to Passamani, but she is not one to throw her weight around.

"I feel like it's the backbone of the team," Bella said. "In the past our leaders have done a great job. I just want to follow in their footsteps. We're trying our best to keep the team positive. We've done a 'quote of the week' every week, doing everything we can to keep the team morale up. We've done a lot of team bonding.

"I feel that the captain has to lead by example. If the captains are negative that brings the rest of the team down. If the captains don't cheer, nobody else will cheer. It's really important because everybody follows them.

"I'm not somebody to overstep my boundaries. I try to do my best and show that I'm working hard and show that others will follow me. If they don't, that's when I'll call them out. We (other captains) work well together."

Bauer sees the progress Passamani is making.

"She's learning to be a good leader. The beginning of the season she was very nervous telling people what to do. She didn't think it was her place. The season has gone on and I've given her opportunities to step up and she is very good at it. She is good at doing that one-on-one. She's good at heart-to-heart."

The bottom line is this - Bella Passamani is where she wants to be.

"I have always just loved the water," Bella said. "I feel I have a natural feel for it. When I first started I wasn't always a great swimmer. There were people passing me. But I would go to practice and see my progress throughout the years. Why go to practice if you're not going to work hard.

"Over the years I built my way up to the top of the club program to beat some of the people ahead of me. I liked to go out and race. I just think it's really fun. I couldn't see myself doing any other sport."


HANGING WITH BELLA PASSAMANI

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Strawberry. Raspberry Smoothies
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:  Alternative Music
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  'Tangled. Every kind of movie.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  'Modern Family.'
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  Speech, Business.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Arizona.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Color, locker signs, coloring books.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:  Greenfield and Whitnall
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:  Winning 100 butterfly at State. Watching 300 breaststroke rally to beat Greenfield at Conference Relay meet.
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE: Attend a mid-major D1 college to swim. Study Marketing, Sales, Accounting.