Fall sports preview: Watson strives to build strong cheerleading program
Updated 12:36 pm, Wednesday, September 14, 2011
For the seniors on the Staples cheerleading squad, they hope the sixth time is a charm.
The seniors had five head coaches in their first three years at Staples and with Avery Watson taking the reins as Lady Wreckers head coach, they will now cheer for their sixth.
"We're a very strong team this year and we have some great freshman," Staples senior co-captain Anna Gerla said. "We have a few new sophomores and juniors who are great. Our team is stacked."
Watson takes over from Amanda Giudice. Giudice was the assistant at the start of last year before taking over as head coach midseason and returns this year as an assistant coach (she's the head coach of the girls tennis team). The Lady Wreckers placed 11th at FCIACs and 11th at Class LL.
"This year is going to be great, maybe better than last year, because we have a new coach and she's great," Staples senior co-captain Jacquelyn Fritz said. "The girls have improved their skills and the team has done a lot of bonding."
The Lady Wreckers will miss two-time All-FCIAC cheerleader Neva Sanfilippo, who is cheering for the University of Illinois and was a co-captain last year. They will also miss retired co-captain Lindsay Nelson and classmates Holly Stewart, Carolyn Hamm and Kate Warren.
Despite losing five solid cheerleaders, the season looks promising for Staples. Watson, a Fairfield Warde Class '09 graduate and current Fairfield University student, hasn't retired from cheering. Currently, she's a cheerleader for a 14 and over international coed team for Xtreme Cheer in Norwalk.
Sanfilippo also cheered for Xtreme Cheer and Fritz, who was a fraction short of making All-FCIAC last year, was a National Cheerleaders Association All-American and also cheers for Xtreme Cheer.
Fritz is expected to have a standout year for Staples this year. Giudice's return also gives the program stability.
"I am super lucky because the girls are super talented and will put in as much work as I and that's how we'll gain success," Watson said. "I'm super excited and I have an awesome feeling for the season."
Last month, the squad attended cheerleading camp and learned a lot from it. The girls also took tumbling classes and attended stunt clinics.
"We learned new techniques, skills and stunts and it will help us at competitions and games," Gerla said. "Avery has a lot of experience as a cheerleader and is doing a great job as coach and will take us far this year. Avery is doing a great job, is a great leader and loves cheerleading, which shows when she coaches us. We'll practice a lot harder and we'll be much better this year."
The squad also came together at these sessions.
"We came together as a team at camp," Watson said. "Although we have strong individuals, we work well as a team, which makes us even better."
Being only three years older than her seniors and six than her freshmen might be an advantage for Watson.
"Avery's a good coach," Fritz said. "She's young and connects with all of us. She learned from all of her coaches, which will help us. She'll be the best coach we had so far. Our goal is to improve our program at Staples and prove to people we are a sport and we're a good team. With Avery, we can do it."
Watson said, "The good part about me cheering and being young enough to cheer helps me understand what my athletes are going through and I'm able to give them good advice."
Also cheering for Staples are seniors Ilana Bernstein, Juliana Lametta and Mikaela Kirby, juniors Alexa Casimir, Jasmine Henry, Hannah Weinberg, Olivia Stanley, Maddy Mann, Zoe Googe and Nicole McNees, a transfer student from Lauralton Hall; sophomores Emma Mikesh, Katie Kelly, Annie Raifisen, Amanda Streiter, Taylor Cusa and Eliza Yass and freshmen Olivis Blevins, Alexa Davis, Kana Higuchi, Samantha Troy, Lindsey Gianitti and Sarah Ellman.
"What's going to be key for us is that we're well-rounded," Watson said. "We don't have any weaknesses. We have many girls this year who are great tumblers and we have great stunt people and jumpers. When you take all that, we'll have great reviews."
Fritz said, "We need to believe we can do it, believe in each other and work together. The main thing is to be positive."