Sandy Spring Friends School

 

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Highlights from 2023-2024 Winter Sports Season

Highlights from 2023-2024 Winter Sports Season

Congratulations to all SSFS student-athletes, coaches, and families for a fantastic winter season. In addition to bringing home numerous PVAC championship banners (US Women's Varsity Basketball league and tournament champs; US Men's Varsity Basketball league and tournament champs; US JV Men's Basketball tournament champs), many of our individual athletes were also recognized with league honors. Special shout-out to Jake Tringone '24 and Noel Motley '25, who were named "Player of the Year" in their respective divisions. This is a huge, well-deserved accomplishment!

BASKETBALL

Middle School Boys Basketball - Gold Team
Head Coach Edward Graves

The Middle School Boys Gold Team embarked on this winter basketball season with a focus on honing a cohesive defensive strategy, a skill that quickly translated into two early victories, despite facing a setback in the first game. The team dedicated the post-winter break period to mastering the concept of 3-man basketball, a strategic move that, when combined with their already solid defensive foundation, led to a commendable season record of three wins and two losses. Notably, the losses were hard-fought battles, with the Gold Team maintaining close scores until the final quarter. This season was a testament to the team's resilience, strategic development, and the spirit of collaboration, showcasing their growth and potential on the basketball court.


Middle School Boys Basketball - Green Team
Head Coach Frank Horton

The season started with an impressive first game victory. We then encountered some ups and downs as the season progressed, with close wins and disappointing losses, but the players had a lot of fun building and working together to round out into a team. I specifically would like to highlight the fact that most players on the team were able to make at least one three-point basket in a game. Several players had games where they were able to score multiple three point baskets (Kaiden, Trevor, Isaac, Mazi, Pete and Nate). Ben, through his hard work, was able to lead the team in rebounding, and Kaiden, with crafty layups and three-point shooting, led the team in scoring. Max, Ibou, and Mazi were the best defenders this season. I hope the boys will continue to work on building and refining their skills to become better basketball players.


Middle School Boys Basketball - White Team
Head Coaches John Fitzgerald and Joel Gunzburg 

When the season started, approximately half of the players had rudimentary basketball skills. However, they came to practice every day with a great deal of enthusiasm—and eagerness to learn. We spend a great deal of time working on all types of basketball skills, including dribbling, passing, rebounding, and shooting. We accomplished this by creating teams of players with all skill levels and playing five-on-five and three-on-three scrimmages nearly every day. We were only scheduled to play six games. Our season began with resounding success. Our team played very cohesive, very unselfish basketball in the first two games, winning each game by a large margin. As the season progressed, the competition ramped up--and the team rose to the challenge. Despite losing the next three games, the team charged back from 10-point deficits in two of the games to make the score close. In our last loss, the opposing team was clearly much taller and much more skilled than our squad. In our final game of the year, the team was down by nine points at halftime, rallying in the second half to win the game by two points. Our players were extremely excited about this accomplishment. I believe all of the players had fun, which is the most important takeaway from a middle school season. Moreover, I believe many of our players learned more about the game of basketball, improved on one or two fundamental skills, and learned to play unselfishly and distribute the ball. 


Middle School Girls Basketball - Green Team
Head Coach: David Milord

The Middle School Girls Green Team was a fun group to coach. Watching the steady improvement of each player week to week, and seeing them pick up on various concepts of the game, led to us building momentum and better understanding of the game as a team, winning 4 games this year. All but two of the girls had played on the green team the year prior, so they were all fairly new to the level of competition and skill-based training that we worked on each practice. We started off a little slow (and extremely quiet!) but really turned it on as the year progressed. It was a great season because all players were able to get a lot better, worked together, and continued to learn and incorporate all the different aspects of shooting, defending, communication, and schemes (offensive sets, team defense, inbound plays) in each game. All players made valiant contributions to our team success and everyone had a lot to be proud of. While I hope that they grew their love for the game of basketball this year, I am confident that ALL players walked away with a lot of experiences, lessons, and skills that will carry them far in life off the court as well.


Middle School Girls Basketball - Gold Team
Head Coach: Chris McGrew

SSFS Girls Gold team had a great season with two signature wins and improvement both on and off the court. The team made up of mainly 6th graders competed hard and stayed in games against older competition. The shooting and rebounding skills were a big part of the success of the team. This group has a chance to be special in future years to come with the team chemistry and willingness to learn.


Upper School Men's JV Basketball
Head Coach: Luis Lopez

JV Men's Basketball Collage

The SSFS JV Boys basketball team had an amazing season and established themselves as a team that was well-respected throughout the DMV. With a mix of conference and out of conference games, the boys ripped through the conference in the regular season going undefeated with all double-digit victories and finished 8-3 in out of conference games. They finished the season with a nail-biting victory in overtime in the conference championship and won 4 games in a single day to win an invitational tournament the following weekend. The final record of the boys was an astounding 20-3 overall record claiming 3 championships: Regular Season Champs, Conference Playoffs Champs and President’s Day Tournament Invitational Champs. These kids are extremely special and worked hard all year learning a new system with a new coach, and they embraced it with positivity, great energy, and most importantly, with great character. I am very excited to see what their future holds, especially since they have 4 starters returning next year, and they will have a giant target on them as the team to beat. Great season kids!! 'Beests on 3, Family on 6!!!


Upper School Men's Varsity Basketball
Head Coach: Azhar Shamsudeen

Varsity Mens Bball Collage

The Sandy Spring Boys Varsity Basketball team achieved remarkable success in the 2024 season, securing their third consecutive PVAC Championship with a triumphant three-peat. Finishing the season with an impressive 24-8 record, the team demonstrated consistent excellence on the court. Their stellar performance earned them a coveted spot in the Maryland private school state tournament, showcasing their prowess at a statewide level. Additionally, the team expanded their horizons by traveling to Florida for a competitive tournament, further solidifying their reputation as a formidable force in high school basketball.

In addition to their on-court success, the Sandy Spring Boys Basketball team celebrated the achievements of three standout seniors who committed to playing college basketball. Jake Tringone's commitment to Lander, Donovan Blackman's decision to join Alfred University, and Jaison Nkala's commitment to Warren Wilson College further highlight the team's impact in developing talented players ready for the collegiate level. These commitments underscore the program's dedication to fostering both athletic excellence and the academic pursuits of its student-athletes.
 


Upper School Women's Varsity Basketball
Head Coach: Chris McGrew

Varsity Womens Bball Collage

SSFS Girls Varsity basketball team had a fun and successful season. The team finished with an impressive 17-6 record and a PVAC championship. The team was led by five all conference student athletes, and the PVAC tournament MVP Julia Platts and the PVAC player of the year Noel Motley. The team had signature wins against Rockbridge Academy in a thrilling comeback and took home a victory at the Palm Springs National Invitational against the Benjamin School. 

The team had a good mix of upperclassmen leadership and a talented group of young players. We thank our two seniors Franne Obi and Layla Cushenberry for their major contributions on and off the court and we wish them well in their bright futures. In league play, 'Beests went undefeated and got major wins at the Theresa French Invitational and The Ben Uzzell Tournament. We thank the SSFS community for their unwavering support and look forward to big things in the future.
 


CLIMBING

Upper School Rock Climbing Team
Head Coach: David Ciamarra

US Climbing Team Collage

The '23 SSFS Rock Climbing team had brought a resilient effort to each and every comp this season, along with having incredible poise, and an overall desire to succeed. Throughout the season, after having many incoming new climbers, each student was able to develop many skills such as belaying, rope/knot-tying, learning climbing commands, as well as incorporating new drills in practice on a frequent basis. In other words, this year’s climbing team had come a long way after only doing so in such a short amount of time. To conclude the season in Crystal City for our championship comp, the team had featured two climbers (one on each team) finish in the top 8 overall, as well as each member climbing until the final buzzer. Overall, the '23 SSFS Climbing Team showed tremendous effort all-around, and should be proud for their season-long progressions, and overall accomplishments. 
 


SWIMMING

Upper School Swim Team
Head Coach: Erin O'Leary

US Swim Team

Our first full season went swimmingly!  We began having practices at the University of Maryland pool for the first time this year and had a full team.  We were able to compete in two meets this year: the Stone Ridge Invitational, which, while not scored, provided a solid introduction into high school swimming for our athletes.  Then came the PVAC championship, in which our girls team finished 5th overall, and our boys finished 3rd.  The boys 200 freestyle relay team of Luke Amberman, Abraham Watts, Owen Grahl, and Brennan Shaw won the PVAC championship, while each of these swimmers also placed 2nd in at least one of their individual events.  We said goodbye to our two seniors: captain Kaydin Knappenberger, and manager Gus Romanow, and wish them the best in the future!
 


HOCKEY

Upper School Co-Op Hockey Team
Head Coach Kevin Esser

Ice Hockey Photo Collage 2024

Since 2010, Sandy Spring hockey players have played in the Montgomery Hockey Conference, which is part of the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League, as members of a Co-Op team. Co-Op teams are made up of several schools that combine to make one squad. For the past five years, SSFS players have suited up with the Sherwood HS Warriors. This years' team set out to defend its Montgomery Hockey Conference Championship, but knowing it would be a rebuilding year, having graduated a strong senior class in 2023.

Although sporting a sub .500 record over the course of the regular season, the team racked up key wins against traditional rivals Blair and Richard Montgomery, and skated to a one-goal loss against state powerhouse Bethesda/Chevy Chase, in a game that turned heads across the conference. The team headed into the playoffs winning 2 of its 3 final conference games. The team won 2 of its first 3 double-elimination playoff games, including over Rockville Magruder in the Quarter-Finals, scoring 3 unanswered goals late to seal the victory. The team's season ended in the Conference Semi-Finals, with a strong showing in a loss to Upper Montgomery.

As has been the case for the last five years, SSFS's contributions to the Sherwood Co-Op hockey team have been small in number, but large in impact. Senior and Assistant Captain Vincent Mele anchored the team's defense - playing in all situations and providing a strong physical presence in the Defensive Zone. Junior and Assistant Captain Noi Jonasson was the 2nd leading scorer on the team, scoring 22 points in only 8 games. Noi was honored with selection to the Montgomery All-Conference team. Underclassmen Ken Johnson and Teddy Donaldson played important roles on the team and are part of the core of returning forwards that will be leaned on next year.

Coach Kevin Esser (father of SSFS alums Aidan '14, Sage '16, and Quinn '19) said of this year's team, "The hallmark of this group has been their commitment week after week to growing and improving. After winning only 1 of the season's first 8 games, they put in the work and closed the season going 4-3, beating teams that had overpowered them earlier in the season, and coming up only one game short of a chance to defend their Conference crown." After more than 30 years' coaching youth and Varsity High School hockey, at the team's Senior night, Coach Esser announced his retirement. "Working to help young people on their journey to mature and learn is the most important thing any of us does on any given day." He added, "Coaching has been one of the great joys of my life, I am better for it and am fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve in this way for this long."

The team will begin practicing in September for the 2024-25 season; contact Athletic Director Bruce Nkala if you are interested in playing.


INTRAMURALS

Upper School Athletic Enhancement Program
Led by Sal Benitez

The AEP had a wonderful winter season where we saw our students continue to develop and grow. This winter season, we were able to order new equipment that included new bench and squat bars, new resistance bands, bosu balls, and two hex deadlift bars. Over the season, we saw 6 students break their personal best record on both the bench press and back squat. We look forward to continuing the great work. 

Upper School Intramural Games (Morley Games)
Led by Demetri Orlando

Morley Games had fun this season focusing on Frazleerham, though the cold weather made for an abbreviated season. The players developed their ability to use strategies to their advantage... Opposing teams rotated players throughout the season so that everyone got to know each other. It was marvelous as a coach to witness how much better they played as a team by the end of the season, once they knew each other and knew the skills of the game. Simply by using teamwork, a larger team was able to compete positively with a smaller but more athletic team. In other words, they learned to use numbers to their advantage. 

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