FROM PRESS ROW: THE CRYSTAL BALL LOOKS AHEAD TO NEXT FALL (2021-12-04)

The fall season just recently finished, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next year.

There were some amazing performances this fall, and next year big things look like they could be on the horizon again.

Let’s look sport by sport at what the crystal ball says about next fall.

Let’s start with the sports where we had state champions first.

CROSS COUNTRY
It was a year to remember for the Corning Hawks. Jack Gregorski won the state title. Ashton Bange took fourth and Matt Gensel gave the team three individual state medalist.

Corning’s boys were nearly unstoppable, winning the state title in dominating fashion and going one through five at both the STAC and Section 4 Championships.

The girls also had a dominant year, winning the STAC meet and sectionals and finishing fifth at states and Sarah Lawson was a state medalist.

While Gregorski and Gensel graduate, the Hawks return Bange, who will be one of the favorites in the state next year and overall they return seven of their top nine runners.

Horseheads returns both Axl and Ace Andrus, after Axl made states, while Elmira graduates state qualifier Ben Allen, but return Caleb Bellanger, who was 22nd at sectionals.

Lawson returns for the girls. While they lose the third through fifth place runners at sectionals, they also return Sadie Beres and Ella Grinnell who finished sixth and seventh. The Hawks return five runners that were in the top 15 at sectionals.

Elmira’s Vicky Mordvinova was a runner-up at sectionals and she returns, along with state qualifier Payton Ross and Emma Barends, who took 17th and was a sophomore.

Notre Dame state qualifier Piper Young also returns next year and there are some good young runners like Elmira’s Christina Peet, an eighth-grader, and Corinne DeFilippo who is a freshman for Horseheads.

I’ll make the prediction now, Corning boys bring home another state title and Bange will capture the individual title, while the Corning girls will get back to states and Lawson will finish top 10 in the state. I’ll also say either Young, Andrus or Mordvinova will be a state medalist next year.

SWIMMING AND DIVING
The star of the season was Corning’s Angie McKane, who won a state title in the 100 fly and also finished fifth in the 50 free.

The scary thing for everyone else in the state, McKane is only a sophomore. Expect her to be right back at states next year with a chance to repeat as a state champion, and potentially win a pair of state titles next year.

Corning’s Brooke Terwilliger, a state medalist in diving, also returns and will have a good shot to medal again next year, while the Hawks also return Kara Peters, who was a sophomore state qualifier in the 200 free. Carolyn Heckle and Audra Hilker, who both went to states in relays, also return.

Don’t be surprised to see the Hawks right back at states in relays and see them have multiple state medalists, with McKane having a good chance to win more than one more state title.

Notre Dame’s Allie O’Brien just missed states this year and she returns next year and will have a good shot of heading to states next year.

The Horseheads swimming and diving team won the STAC title and the Section 4 crown and they return a large group of swimmers, headlined by some really young swimmers like Sibby Lowe and Gabby Janeski, who were just freshmen this year. Emma Bachert who won sectionals and made states in diving also returns for the Blue Raiders.

Madelyn Cavalier was the newcomer of the year this year and she returns for Elmira, along with a big group of underclassmen, including Gabrielle Mattoon and McKenna Malone.

I’ll make the prediction that McKane wins another state title, and Corning and Horseheads will have epic battles for the sectional and STAC titles, both even more loaded than they were this year. I’ll also predict O’Brien makes it to states.

FOOTBALL
Next year might have a very different look for a lot of teams.

Corning graduates their entire starting offensive line, along with leading rusher Mason Smith and quarterback Landen Burch and fullback Dillon Kennedy and leading tackler Lucas Zawko.

Horseheads graduates a large group of athletes, including star running back Riley Loomis and Gannon Johnston, one of the most dominant linemen you will see. They also graduate quarterback Alex Chrisman and kicker Ben Massengale, among others.

Elmira graduates Tyler Marks and Mikey Middaugh along with running back Jelani Muhammad, among others.

Edison graduates star Noah Bennett, who anchored their offense and defense, and Notre Dame graduates standout receiver Eric Bukowinski along with quarterback Griffin English among others.

Elmira has quarterback Evan Garvin, a sophomore this year, returning and Amir Williams was just a freshman at fullback.

Corning loses a ton, but they return second-leading rusher Logan Booker and they return Will Kibler, who had nine interceptions on defense.

Horseheads returns top receiver Tyler Johns among other players. Edison returns more than almost anyone. Offensively they return DeShon Cook, Evan Bush, George Smith and Kyle Walborn, among others and they added five players from the modified team later in the season who all could play a big role next year.

The crystal ball is very blurry with football. I’ll say right now Edison should be much improved and be very competitive next year. Numbers were smaller for Notre Dame, so next year depends a bit on recruiting athletes out to the team next year. There are a lot of questions for the bigger schools. Elmira returns the most with their quarterback back, while Corning has some athletes returning, but needs to replace the offensive line and Horseheads will have a lot of new faces next year.

Don’t be surprised to see all of the teams to find new players and be right back in the sectional hunt next year.

GIRLS’ SOCCER
It was a successful year in soccer, and next year is shaping up to be just as good.

The Notre Dame girls made the state final four. While they lose some key players like Amanda and Rachael Simpson, they return first-team all-state goalie Shannon Maloney and they had a huge group of younger players.

Elmira brings back Emily Hanrahan and Mia Capilli among others from a team that won the sectional title. Hanrahan led the region in scoring.

Corning loses a good group of seniors but return players like Josie Loeber on defense. Horseheads returns a talented group next year, including newcomer of the year Katie Miley, who was only in eighth grade this year and Brooke Sumner and Tess Eisner.

Looking ahead to next year I’ll predict that Elmira and Notre Dame will repeat as sectional champions, and I think Notre Dame will make a run toward a state title. I also think Horseheads will be improved and be in sectionals fighting for a sectional title, and while Corning loses a lot, they’ll be right back in the hunt next year.

BOYS’ SOCCER
Corning, Elmira and Horseheads were all right in the mix this year. While Corning won the sectional title, all three teams were fairly close all year long.

Don’t be surprised to see the same thing next year.

I predict Corning will be right back in the hunt with newcomer of the year Carter Rosno and defensive player of the year Colton Loeber among the players back, and Preston Ogunwumi, who had a dominant start to the year, returning from injury.

Despite Micah Cornfield, the player of the year graduating, the Hawks will be right back in a position to win sectionals next year.

Elmira graduates Jacob Rose in goal, the goalie of the year, and Talon Wise, but returns some key players like Phil Nierstead and Jahmier Klee, while  the Horseheads boys had a good group of younger players like Elijah Friend and Ben Church, who were both freshmen, returning next year, along with junior Seth Wilsoncroft.

Notre Dame returns Jackson Potter in goal after a breakout season this year.

I expect the Crusaders to be much improved with Potter emerging as a star in the IAC and I expect all three large-school teams to be in sectionals, with one of them winning a sectional title.

VOLLEYBALL
The Horseheads Blue Raiders won the STAC title, they won the sectional title, and made the regional final.

The thing is, they could be even better next year. Taylor Malone, the All-Southern Tier Player of the year returns next year and should be a dominant force once again.

The team also returns newcomer of the year Macy Karpowich along with libero Mia Foster, among others.

Edison won a division title and loses MVP Maren Lutz, but returns all-star Emma Maggs and Gabby Milazzo.

Corning gets hit by graduation, but returns middle hitter Isabelle Moon and they add Hannah Smith from JV, a transfer into the school this past year from Elmira Heights who had to not play varsity due to transfer rules.

Elmira graduates star Lindsey Sperduto, but returns junior Paityn Chorney and Piper Hooey.

I’ll say right now that next year is the year Horseheads gets back to the state Final Four. I also will predict that Corning and Elmira will have strong squads, while Edison will be right back in the mix for a division title.
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IN PHOTO: Corning’s Ashton Bange. . . STSR FILE PHOTO