Almost every team in the Dover High School spring sports lineup is facing some major player personnel changes this year. But despite that high turnover of players, the coaches of the various sports are not wavering on their goals and expect the same level of success as always, if not better.


Almost every team in the Dover High School spring sports lineup is facing some major player personnel changes this year.

But despite that high turnover of players, the coaches of the various sports are not wavering on their goals and expect the same level of success as always, if not better.

Baseball
2009 record: 11-9
State tournament: Failed to appear
Next game: 4:15 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at Milford High School

Coming into this spring season, the Dover High baseball team is hoping to erase the inconsistencies of the past.

A year ago, Head Coach Kevin Turner’s squad had a solid record, but missed the state tournament and only once was able to win more than two games in a row.

Turner hopes the lessons learned during that up-and-down campaign carry into this season, and he’s setting the team’s goals with that expectation.

“Getting into the tournament is one of our goals,” he said. “We’d like to be competitive and compete in the north for a title and then if we can do that be in contention for a conference title.”

To get to that point, however, Turner said some replacements need to be made and an attitude has to get installed.

The Senators graduated the core of their offense last year, meaning they will rely heavily on ace pitcher Danny Gatto to keep scores low, Turner said.

Following a damp preseason that kept his team indoors for long stretches of time, the coach said he still hasn’t put his finger on how things could pan out.

“Our goal is working together, playing together, trusting each other, working with the coaching staff and just building a real family type atmosphere so we can depend on each other when the time comes,” Turner said. “But once they say ‘play ball,’ we’re all going to find out what we have.”

Boys Lacrosse
2009 record: 7-8
State tournament: Did not appear
Next game: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, vs. Sussex Central High School

For a few years now, the Dover High boys lacrosse team has been building toward this season.

In dealing with injuries and youthful rosters the past few seasons, the Senators are uncharacteristically healthy and experienced as they kick off their season, Head Coach Ryan Naftzinger said.

In the off-season, Naftzinger’s players dedicated themselves to getting better, work that showed through the preseason.

“We’ve got a good core of juniors and seniors who have been in the mix for several years now,” he said. “Then we’ve got kids that have stepped up and come through summer leagues and all that. Then there are other guys in the middle of that. It’s a really nice blend.”

Naftzinger said he is not a fan of setting certain win standards for his team, preferring instead just to see his team progress and be the best it can be.

That said, he added the Senators failed to live up to their potential last season and hopes they can redeem themselves this time around.

“We think we can reach states and do very well this year,” Naftzinger said. “We’ve had a drought with reaching states, and in order to win a championship you have to get to states.”

Leading the way for Dover this season will be senior Cody Palmer, attack, who led the team in scoring last season.

Despite not being the biggest player on the field, Naftzinger said Palmer works harder than anyone and has set a great example for his peers.

“He’s one of the hardest working and toughest players I’ve ever coached,” he said. “He makes the other guys better and that’s something you can’t teach.”

Golf
2009 record: 8-8
State tournament: Did not place
Next match: 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25, vs. Milford High School, held at Maple Dale Country Club

It’s tough to judge any team on paper before a season begins, but for the Dover High golf team, things are stacking up well early.

The Senators return their top two golfers from a year ago in senior Andrew Devine and junior Alex Kimbro, something Head Coach Robert Clark said immediately helps his team this year.

“I’m expecting lower score from the both of them,” Clark said. “They need to play leadership roles now for the freshmen coming up and hopefully they can get us close to a conference championship.”

He said the preseason moved slowly, much like everyone’s, because of the weather, but with a few nice days last week he got to gauge his team on the course.

The team went 8-8 a year ago and 5-8 in the conference, and with tough teams like Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest and Cape Henlopen high schools strong again this year, Clark said he could see his team as a potential sleeper.

“The conference is going to be tough,” he said. “But we’re looking to make some noise there then qualify for the states as a team.”

Girls Lacrosse
2009 record: 6-8
State tournament: Did not appear
First game: 7 p.m. Friday, March 26, vs. Cape Henlopen High School

For a few years now, Dover High girls lacrosse Head Coach Molly Phillips has been trying to build a consistently successful program.

With a strong JV program now in place and a core of players leading the roster this year, Phillips said she’s ready to see Dover take the next step.

“The biggest thing we want to do is improve,” she said. “We’ve built the program and now we’re starting to want to see some results.”

The Senators’ record dropped off from two years ago last year, which Phillips said was somewhat of a step back.

However, with the schedule getting shortened this season due to budget cutbacks, Dover has eliminated some of its regular competition that might be a level above it, and will play some more evenly matched teams in their place.

Phillips said another strength the team has this year is that it is adding athletes from other sports, most notably the girls basketball team.

“We have seven basketball girls out now,” she said. “Girls lacrosse defense is pretty much exactly the same as basketball so they know how to play defense already.

“Now it’s just building up the skills, the throwing and catching, that kind of stuff.”

Girls Soccer
2009 record: 9-4
State tournament: No. 9 seed; beat No. 8 Delmar High School, 1-0, in first round; lost to No. 1 Padua Academy, 7-1, in second round
Next game: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25, vs. Delmar High School

The Dover High girls soccer team will be making some changes this year due to a high player turnover from a year ago.

Head Coach Kristen Lupo said the team is changing up its formation this season to play to the strengths of the new players.

To do so, Lupo is going to lean heavily on co-captains Allie Ford, a senior, Brianna White and Tere Crawford, both sophomores, to get her message across.

“I need their leadership and their experience because they have been starters,” she said.

Even with the changes, Lupo said the goals will stay the same for the Senators and that she does not foresee any kind of drop off.

“It’s no different than if we had the girls from last year,” she said. “It’s just going to be a different year with a different bunch. We expect to make the tournament again.”

Softball
2009 record: 2-15
State tournament: Did not appear
First game: 4:15 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at Milford High School

When Melanie Settle took over as head coach of the Dover High softball team a year ago, she decided her aim for each year if her tenure was to win one more game than the year before.

This season, while Settle is not backing off that goal, she is beginning to see the promise her team has and the quickness of its growth.

“I would like to see us go 9-9, which I think is attainable,” she said. “We have a few new additions that I’m excited about. We know we’re not a powerhouse team. Our goal is to get a team, get these players together and get them started as freshmen and work up to seniors.”

Settle said she’s starting to see that maturation process take shape, as the program is fielding a 25-member JV squad this season.

That, she added, means the Senators are getting more girls at a younger age, which is crucial to development.

And while Settle is expecting, or at least hoping for, a noticeable improvement, she understands playing in the Henlopen Conference won’t be easy.

“It’s very tough,” she said. “We have to go up against the best every week. But you don’t get better until you play the best.”

Boys Tennis
2009 record: 14-0
State tournament: Placed in all five categories
Next match: 4 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at Smyrna High School

Following a stellar 2009, the Dover High boys tennis team is prepping itself for yet another run at both the conference and state level.

The Senators are set up in their singles slots with returning player Mike Schwartzmeyer back in the first slot, followed by former doubles players Daniel Rakes and Vybav Hiresave in the second and third slots.

With new players in the doubles positions, Head Coach Richard Duke is hopeful for his team this year but said it’s going to be tough to match last year’s success level.

“We’re not as strong as we were last year,” Duke said. “We’re not loaded from top to bottom like we were last year. So those three returning players are going to have the burden of carrying us. The test will be, can they win every time out there?”

The coach quickly added, however, that every season he has some players that surprise him, which has made Dover such a strong school in boys tennis in recent years.

If those unknown stars identify themselves early, Duke said, it could be a pretty good year for the Senators.

Girls Tennis
2009 record: 8-2
State tournament: Placed in third singles and second doubles
First match: 4 p.m. Thursday, March 25, vs. Smyrna High School

Dover High girls tennis Head Coach Tom Welch is putting a lot of stock in the first week of his season.

The Senators took on Caesar Rodney High School in its first match March 23 and will host Smyrna High School at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 25.

The Riders, Welch said, should be one of the top teams in the conference and possibly the state, while the Eagles are middle of the road team.

“We need to get a feel for both of these two teams to find out where we stand in relation to them,” he said.

Until his team can gauge where it stacks up, Welch said the Senators are not going to set any kind of expectations, though he does assume they’ll be strong and competitive again.

Email Brian Citino at brian.citino@doverpost.com