Weekly Feature

2012-04-18 / Sports

Rebuilding Blue Devils ready to win this year


The Kenmore West Blue Devils are definitely still rebuilding. The team won just twice last season with a young roster going through growing pains.

It’s been a long road back for Kenmore West since winning the Niagara Frontier League championship in 2008, the first season for head coach Lisa Siegel. Since then, the Blue Devils have posted just four wins, including a winless season in 2009. The Blue Devils had to replace a senior-laden roster following 2008 and have been slowly waiting for the development of new players.

One of the things that has Siegel excited for the 2012 season is that her veteran players have now been with the team for several seasons, going back to middle school. She believes the pieces are in place for Kenmore West to have a winning team.

“We’re now starting to make those building blocks,” Siegel said. “We’re looking forward to seeing it. These guys have been learning and building to be better.”

Kenmore West’s talented group of youngsters will lead the team at first singles. Kenmore West’s top singles player is freshman Nick Atallah. He’s followed by sophomores Niko Mancuso and Radomir Pupovac. Siegel recognizes her young group might struggle against more experienced players, but it gives them nice experience moving forward.

“We’re young at singles, but we have talent to build on,” Siegel said. “Singles is probably our strongest point.”

There’s more experience at doubles, where Kenmore West’s lone senior, Ichiyo Ajioka, pairs with sophomore Colin Flynn. Ajioka is an exchange student from Japan. Second doubles features Kenmore West’s lone junior, Taylor Speth, along with freshman Evan Dowdall.

With so much inexperience, the Blue Devils will rely on the leadership of captain Niko Mancuso. The sophomore was one of Kenmore West’s most successful players a year ago. Siegel has enjoyed watching him grow and develop since his early days with the team.

“He’s matured a lot individuall y,” Siegel said. “He’s been doing well. He’s been with the team since eighth grade, so it’s nice to see him go from a middle schooler to an adult.”

The Blue Devils have enjoyed a long preseason as a result of the warm, summer-like weather throughout March. That allowed the Blue Devils to get out on the court much earlier than usual. With more practice and more repetition, Siegel sees her team more prepared for a new season than they’ve ever been before.

“We benefited greatly from being on the court early,” Siegel said. “We haven’t had that much playing time before. It’s wonderful. Everyone knows their place now. When you can get out in March, you’re all set.”

Kenmore West will once again face top competition in the NFL from teams like Niagara-Wheatfield, Lockport and Niagara Falls. Siegel doesn’t see her team at their level, yet she feels it won’t be long before they can chase them down.

“We’re getting closer to those teams,” Siegel said. “It takes a while to build.”

The Blue Devils have been building since winning the league title four years ago. Wins have been tough to come by during the process, but Siegel believes the team has reached a point where winning is to be expected. She has made that the team goal for 2012.

We want more wins, definitely,” Siegel said. “We want to break our wins and losses. We had two last year, so we definitely want more. Individually, the guys have set goals for themselves to be better. We’re really looking forward to the season.”

Kenmore West opened the season on Tuesday against rival Kenmore East. The match began after The Bee went to press.

Kenmore West’s 2012 Schedule
4-19 Lew-Port ......................4 p.m.
4-20 @ Grand Island ............4 p.m.

4-23 North Tonawanda ........4 p.m.
4-24 @ Niagara Falls ...........4 p.m.
4-26 @ Lockport ..................4 p.m.
4-27 Niagara-Wheatfield ......4 p.m.
4-30 Kenmore East ..............4 p.m.
5-2 @ Lew-Port ....................4 p.m.
5-4 Grand Island .................4 p.m.
5-7 @ North Tonawanda ......4 p.m.
5-9 Niagara Falls .................4 p.m.
5-11 Lockport ......................4 p.m.
5-14 @ Niagara-Wheatfield ..4 p.m.

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