V845 Notebook: Swimming, softball and a senior night to remember

Standout performance

Highland’s Bri Rozzi had a senior night to remember, scoring 44 points, a career high, to go along with 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals to lead her team to a 73-38 win over New Paltz.

Swimming and diving

I wrote about New Paltz swimmer Leo Kuyl here, but I also spoke to his coach, Melissa Gruver-LaPolt. Although New Paltz lost to Minisink Valley in the Boys Division 2 Swimming and Diving Championships, Gruver-LaPolt was overjoyed with her team’s performance. Here is some of what she had to say after the meet.

On how she felt about the meet:
“It was everything we had hoped for and then some, really. It was everything we knew that they were capable of doing. We just wanted to make sure that they all showed up, and they showed up. It was a great day.”

On why they had a strong performance:
“They wanted it. They really wanted it and they know that they worked hard and they know that they are a talented group of kids.”

On why she tells her team to “Hold the rope”:
“If you’re dangling 20,000 feet above the air, the person holding the rope, you hope they’re going to hold it tight and they’re not going to let you down. So I said to them, we all have a piece of rope, and I said, you make sure you all hold the rope for your team today and they did. They held the rope. When one maybe didn’t go as good, the other one picked up [the slack]. So, we held the rope.”

Canadian softball

Monroe-Woodbury softball player Samantha Ryan will play for the Junior Canadian National Team this summer. You can read my full story here, and below is an extended look at what her coach Penny Roberts had to say about Ryan.

On watching Ryan grow:
“I’ve known her and her family for a long time. I’ve watched her grow up through 10-12U through the softball ranks and the travel scene and in Little League and Little League All-Stars, so I’ve watched her grow into the pitcher that she is today. She’s really a hard working kid, so then she came into the varsity program where she was the starting varsity pitcher as a ninth grader. She’s a junior now. She had two excellent years under her belt already. Last year, section finals. Third team all state at season’s end.”

On Ryan’s poise:
“We’ve been in so many great games, one-run games, and 1-0 games, sometimes we’re on the winning end, sometimes we’re on the losing end, but one thing I think that stands out about Sam is just her ability to perform under intense pressure is just amazing. I don’t know how else to put that. She wants the ball in the most pressured situations.”

On what her selection to the Canadian team signifies:
“I think it’s just another amazing door that opens up for her journey in softball. It’s just a great learning experience, so many life lessons learned, just a broader experience than softball. She has bigger dreams, just from getting into the Olympics, now that the Olympics are back in play for 2020. She’s definitely on her path to making the regular national team.”

On reflecting on Ryan’s best game:
“No matter what game, we’ve played in so many close games throughout her career, but it didn’t change her demeanor on the mound and I think that’s kind of what makes her such a special athlete is her mental game matches her physical game, and she’s just so mentally strong and has such a strong work ethic and she is going to find a way to beat you, no matter what she’s doing: offense, defense, pitching. She’s going to figure out a way to help her team win. And she really is a team player in all facets of the word. She really is a leader. She wants to have the ball in her hands. She wants to be the one to count on under pressure, so it’s hard to pinpoint one particular game, because that attitude she really carries through every single time she’s on the mound.”

Best sports journalism this week

Kalyn Kahler for Sports Illustrated tracks how a cow becomes a football.

John Krawczynski for The Athletic on a special bond between coach and player.

John Branch for New York Times on a former NFL player who struggled with C.T.E.

Alana Semuels for The Atlantic on the racial divide in youth football.

Ken Belson for New York Times on NFL retirees’ addiction to opioids.

Best pre-Super Bowl stories:

Jourdan Rodrigue for Charlotte Observer documents Todd Gurley’s beginnings and the mindset that led him to stardom.

Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports dives into the trend of NFL players adding Jr., II and III to their jersey nameplates.

Greg Bishop for Sports Illustrated looks back on a difficult week for the Rams, and how they dealt with it.

Alec Lewis for Columbia Missourian on Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

Natalie Weiner for SB Nation on Colin Kaepernick’s presence at the Super Bowl.

Steve Politi of NJ.com wanted to write about Rams head coach Sean McVay, so naturally, he visited a retirement home.

Best post-Super Bowl story:

Ben Baskin and Greg Bishop for Sports Illustrated on how Belichick, Brady and Kraft built an iconic dynasty.

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