Spring sports preview: new Northampton boys ultimate coach Lee Feldscher likes team’s chances

For the Gazette
Published: 4/7/2016 7:00:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — With a new, ultimate-savvy coaching staff by his side and a team full of familiar faces, fifth-year coach Lee Feldscher likes his chances for the Northampton boys ultimate team in the upcoming season.

Feldscher is fortunate that he has two assistant coaches this year who are current ultimate players. They can relate to the younger Blue Devils and teach the philosophy of the game.

Northampton added Jeff Babbitt, a UMass student who is the Ultiworld defensive player of the year, and Jeremiah Berlin, a Pioneer Valley native who has played in Wisconsin and Seattle. Both coaches have played on national championship teams.

“This area is very unique because it’s not only very competitive and full of driven players and great knowledge, but it’s also a very supportive environment,” Berlin said.

The new coaches combined with Feldscher’s familiarity with the program creates an interesting perspective for building success. All three coaches want to improve on last season’s first ever tournament win at the Pioneer Valley Invitational as well as seventh-place finish at the Division 1 state championship.

“Well, the good news is one of our starters graduated, and only one,” Feldscher said. “That’s a big deal. If you had asked me at the beginning of last season, I would’ve said last year was a rebuilding year. I would’ve never picked seventh (at states). That’s a high finish for us.”

The Blue Devils’ roster has a lot of experience playing together, with only a few newcomers who will need to learn Feldscher’s strategy. Northampton has three senior captains — Sam Mescon, Zach Dietz and Zach Levitt — who are leaders on the field for the coaching staff. Feldscher is also excited about seniors Amiel Hanley, a top goal scorer for the boys, and Sylvan Norris, one of their best defenders.

Feldscher has played ultimate for over 30 years. Recently, Feldscher has learned to step back and let his captains lead.

The players “are already excited about the sport. I don’t have to build any excitement,” Feldscher said.

Amherst Regional is a perennial power that Northampton continues to chase. Feldscher said he and his staff will work to keep the Blue Devil focused and revved up just enough for their rivals, but not too much. He said he will tweak his strategy on a game-by-game basis depending on his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Hurricanes finished second at the state Division 1 championship and Northeastern Regional tournament last year, but are loaded with eight players who earned Under-19 tryouts for the U.S. national team. None of them made it, but all will be factors in Amherst coach Joe Costello’s game plan for the season.

“It’s hard to say outcome-wise, but I think our goals haven’t changed at all,” Costello said. “We want to win every tournament we compete in. We’ve renewed our motivation and we have just a little bit more experience.”

Amherst has 14 players returning who all started at one point last season and are hungry for the competition ahead. The Northeast Regionals are in Pittsburgh from May 21-22, and the Division 1 state championship is in Northampton from May 28-29.

Amherst Regional

COACH: Joe Costello, third year

Last Year’s Record: 25-3

Last Tournament Appearance: 2015, second at Division 1 state tournament

Returning Starters: Seniors — Dustin Baglow, cutter; Noah Fay, handler/cutter; George Holt, cutter; Jared Kannel, handler; Jacob Kaplan, handler; Lennart Knight, handler; Elijah Mishkind, handler; Oliver Fay, cutter; Solomon Rueschemeyer-Bailey, cutter; Luke Webb, cutter; Kale Wenczel, cutter; Juniors — Ryan Dinger, handler; Harrison Wolff Landau, handler/cutter; Ben Goldman, handler/cutter;

Newcomers: Seniors — Quentin Melnick-Kelley, cutter; Juniors — Noah Zobel, cutter; Isaiah Ruhe, cutter; Hieu Pham, cutter; Samuel Hare Steig, cutter; Avery Clotfelter, cutter; Sophomores — Caleb Seamon, handler/cutter;

Outlook: With a renewed motivation and hunger, Amherst looks to win all its tournaments this season. The Hurricanes boast a roster full of returning players that all had chances to start last season, so they have experience on their side.

Northampton

COACH: Lee Feldscher, fifth year

Last Year’s Record: 16-15

Last Tournament Appearance: 2015, seventh at Division 1 state tournament

Returning Starters: Seniors — Samuel Mescon, Zach Dietz, Zach Levitt, Amiel Hanley, Sylvan Norris, Henry Brown;

Other Returning Players: Seniors — Ben Sirulnik, Jason McGrath, David Plotkin, Jesse Carlino-Threlfall; Juniors — James Berger, Reed Young, Rory Milsark, Ezra Norris;

Newcomers: Seniors — Aaron Andrews, Sachel Davis-Delano; Junior — Steven Andrews; Sophomore — Oscar Fischer, Jasper Price-Slade, Tighe Ridley, Jesse Zeldes

Outlook: Feldscher added two coaches with more collegiate experience to provide a boost in knowledge of the game. The Blue Devils want to capitalize on the solid progress they made last year, and Feldscher will use several strong seniors who have played together in his system for many seasons.

PVPA

COACH: Darden Pitts, second year

Last Year’s Record: N/A

Last Tournament Appearance: 13th, at Division 1 state tournament

Returning Players: Seniors — Brahm Masla, Sam Gagnon, Ryan Lister, Billy Duri-Poliwada, Alex Robles, Rojo Hathaway, Phoenix Rios, Mathew Cruise; Juniors — Calvin Dolan, Noah Hornick, Jack Silverman, Devon Franz, Edward Stentson, Seth Barrett;

Newcomers: Junior — Seth Barrett; Sophomores — Kai Harwood, Patrick Ozcheski, Conor Gregerson, Kobe Tedone; Freshman — Sam Newman;

Outlook: Pitts saw spurts of excellent play from his team last season, but this year he wants to prolong those spurts into entire tournaments of solid play. His team is working hard at playmaking consistency.




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