In talking with Pinecrest Academy athletic director Chris Kane about the future of Paladins athletics, there is a common word that emerges: “exciting.”
About new head football coach Terance Mathis? “It’s going to be an exciting fall.”
About the direction of wrestling after getting its first state-placer in program history? “The wrestling program is really exciting.”
About the potential of the baseball program after its first state playoff appearance ever? “There’s a great group of eighth graders that Coach (Ryan) Weingart is really excited about.”
Pinecrest Academy Year in ReviewRegion titles: 0
Team state titles: 0
Individual state titles: 0
Director’s Cup finish: 25th in Class 1A (17th in girls, 52nd in boys)
Best boys state finish: T-Eighth, boys soccer
Best girls state finish: T-Sixth, cheerleading
College signees: 8
Athletic participation: 383 (226 boys, 157 girls)
On and on, Kane expresses excitement, both for a school year passed in which several teams had milestone seasons, and for what more might lay ahead.
Pinecrest’s girls basketball and girls soccer teams reached the state quarterfinals for the first time ever, while volleyball team won its first state playoff match. Girls lacrosse and baseball reached the state playoffs for the first time. Wrestler Joe Metz placed fifth at the GHSA Traditional Wrestling Tournament in just the program’s second season. Boys lacrosse had its first winning season.
Then Kane thinks toward the future, with exciting (there’s that word again) coaching hires in Mathis, Jamie Davison (boys lacrosse) and Gino Acevedo (volleyball) and winning the Commissioner’s Cup in the Metro 10, the new middle school athletic league Pinecrest helped to create.
FCN: Your girls basketball team reached the state quarterfinals with only seven players on the roster. What was that season like to watch?
Kane: “It's like, Wow, could you have ever imagined that? That was real fun and exciting for coach (Ken Lacy) and the girls. To do it with just seven healthy players was really exciting. The only thing I wished is that they didn't run in to (eventual state champion) St. Francis. Four times. Ken did such a fantastic job with them.
FCN: As successful as the team was, is it sustainable for that program to have just seven players on varsity?
Kane: “We don't want to be there. The big question mark is going to come not necessarily this winter but next winter, because he has four juniors. We're really trying to encourage girls to come out for the team and find some basketball people. Girls school enrollment in general at this school is low.
“We're really going to push with some of the younger girls, the fifth grade girls, to work with Coach Lacy this year. Obviously some are going to fall off and others will join. We're just trying to go day to day and try to get them at the younger ages to get excited about basketball.”
FCN: There seemed to be a lot of milestone seasons in the spring. What stood out to you there?
Kane: “Super busy, but awesome.
“The soccer teams – the girls went further than ever going to the state quarterfinals, and the boys went to the state quarterfinals again. Disappointed they didn't get to the semifinals, but Coach (Dominic) Martelli did a great job with both squads.
“It will be interesting on the girls side how the new Developmental Academy at the club level affects us. But the boys have a good group coming back and some eighth graders rising who I know coach is excited about.
“Lacrosse is on the up and up. The girls made the playoffs for the first time ever. The boys finished just outside the playoffs. I know they were heartbroken about that. But they've got to look at what they've built.
“And baseball had their historic season, and there's so much more to come from that program. It's crazy to think one of the oldest programs has never been to the playoffs in either GISA or GHSA. So that's why it was so big this year.
“They graduate four, which will hurt, especially when you lose somebody like Ryan McCarthy, but I know there's a great group of eighth grade boys coming up that Coach Weingart is really excited about. From projections, it looks like we're finally going to have that missing link, which is the pitching depth. Patrick O'Rourke and Caleb Bohn had great seasons. There are going to be a couple more young guys, freshmen and sophomores, that are going to have that opportunity. The future's bright with baseball. I can't wait.”
FCN: This was the first year of the Metro 10, the middle school athletic league you helped to create. How did that go?
Kane: “I thought it was a huge success. Talking to ADs from the other schools, they loved it. And the kids loved it. What we're going to start seeing is that rivalry build up. Of the other nine teams in the league, eight are in our region, and Mt. Vernon Presbyterian, the other one who's not, is somebody most schedule anyway. I think it's just going to build that comradery amongst the kids. I can tell you already boys lacrosse has a rivalry with Whitefield Academy.
“The Pinecrest teams did great. We actually won the Commissioner's Cup. We had five championships: boys lacrosse, boys and girls swimming, girls lacrosse and seventh grade boys basketball teams. Then girls soccer lost in the finals, baseball lost in the semifinals.
“It was a huge success. We were just delighted with the competition, the officials, how everything was run.
FCN: You have a unique sport that not many in the county or the state do in fencing.
Kane: “When I talk to people, everyone has that look: Fencing? Oh, that's pretty cool. We've had some families visiting the school and some have enrolled from the North, and I mention the fencing program and they're like, Oh, yeah, our school had fencing.
“I think it's becoming one of those growing sports, one of those niche sports. I didn't realize this, but I had just read an article from the NCAA how if you want to get a scholarship as a girl, fencing and golf are your best options. There are a lot of college programs out there, especially with Title IX.
“Every year we host one of the events for the Georgia High School Fencing League. Two years ago was the first time I ever came, and it's a sight to see. There are just kids all over the place. The team championship this year was held at Alpharetta High School. They were bursting at the seams will all the schools that were there. It was pretty neat.
“You don't realize, because it's not a mainstream sport, how many kids actually participate. They're really pushing forward. I think (the GHSFL is) working with a Georgia Congressman to get the GHSA to consider making it a varsity sport. I think they'd be surprised at how many schools are actually involved in it right now.”
FCN: What are some things you’re looking to do in the future to enhance Pinecrest athletics?
Kane: “We're going to implement the Pinecrest Leadership Academy, where we bring in two student athletes from every team, an upperclassman and a lowerclassman. We're going to start by discussing leadership – what is a leader and what it means to be a leader. They're going to be chosen by their coaches for their potential, and we’ll educate them with different talks and discussions and different speakers. We'll meet probably once or twice a month with them.
“And then another thing is we're going to have a captain's club, where we're going to meet with the captains of each team every season to really just talk through issues that every high school team deals with but doesn't realize that every high school team deals with. The goal is to try to open their eyes to the other programs, help each other solve problems and help them find some answers. When the captains are selected by their teammates and they come back and say, Hey guys, why don't we try this? They're a lot more open to it than someone dictating to them. Just trying to build that leadership and giving students as much an opportunity as possible to flourish.”