The Cape May Tech and Holy Spirit High School boys swimming teams have waited and prepared for more than a year for their next meeting.
Now it’s just one day away .
Cape May Tech meets Holy Spirit at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Spartans’ home pool at the Dr. Martin Luther King Westside Complex in Atlantic City. The winner takes the lead in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference.
Cape May Tech beat the defending conference champion Spartans 107-63 on Dec. 9, 2011 at Tech’s pool in Cape May Court House. The Hawks (8-1) went on to win the National title, the first conference crown for Cape May Tech in any sport. Tech coach Matt McElroy was chosen The Press Coach of the Year in boys swimming.
Tech’s Trevor Gehring and Holy Spirit’s James Muller each won two individual races at that meet, and they’ll be the team leaders Thursday.
“Our guys were ready last year. They were representing the entire school in that meet,” said McElroy. “This year I don’t know if they’re too satisfied. We can’t go in saying we’ll win because we won last year. This year we’re a different team, and they have to carve out their own legacy.”
Cape May Tech is 5-1 this year and 5-0 in the National Conference. Gehring has combined with teammates Mitch Iannello, Ahde’ Wilson, Sean Gerber, Pete Adams, Chase Bader, Tom Doherty, Tommy Daniels, Vinny DeRitis and others to win some tough conference meets.
The Hawks topped competitive Buena Regional 89-81 on Dec. 11. Tech edged much-improved Middle Township 86-84 on Dec. 14 at the yard pool the two teams share, the Cape May County Special Services pool.
Tech’s loss was 106-63 on Dec. 20 to Oakcrest of the CAL American Conference. Oakcrest is ranked 11th in The Press Elite 11.
Gehring is an all-around swimmer for the Hawks, specializing in the butterfly.
“We’ve been practicing for this meet (with Holy Spirit) since before the season,” said Gehring, a 17-year-old junior and Wildwood resident. “I know it’s going to be exciting. We talk about the lineup a lot. Mr. Mac will have to figure out where to put everybody. The only thing that’s disappointing is that the meet won’t be home. Last year the support was unbelievable. But we know our families and some of the kids will be there.”
Holy Spirit is 4-2 overall and 4-0 in the National. The Spartans lost to 10th-ranked Atlantic City 120-50 on Dec. 4. Three days later the Spartans topped a vastly-improved Ocean City team 88-82, rallying from an 11-point deficit in the final three races.
Holy Spirit won three more conference meets, including a 99-71 win over Wildwood Catholic in its most recent meet on Dec. 21. Cape May Tech beat Wildwood Catholic 91-77 in its first meet on Dec. 4.
The Spartans were humbled by sixth-ranked Mainland Regional 129-41 on Dec. 20.
“Our kids are working hard, and we know we’ll have to swim our best to be successful,” Holy Spirit coach Nick Steffanci said of the meet with Tech. “I’d say we’re definitely the underdog. Matt is doing a great job. On my part, I’m doing my best to prepare our guys. Anything else is in their hands.”
In addition to Muller, Holy Spirit features Drew Remy, Fred Bishop, Matt Stewart, Chase Malia, Harrison Gargel, Sean McGettigan, Dan Miller and Eric Feuerstein.
The Holy Spirit-Cape May Tech meet last year was only the second of the season.
“We’re thankful the meet is later in the season this year,” Steffanci said. “Last year was kind of a bummer because no one could swim at their best. I’m sure both teams are happy it’s later this year and they’ll be better prepared.”
Holy Spirit finished at 7-5 last year, which was Steffanci’s first as a head coach.
“Holy Spirit is a team with a lot of pride,” McElroy said. “I have a lot of respect for Nick Steffanci and the others on their coaching staff. They have a lot of knowledge from a lot of years. Muller is back, plus guys like Bishop, Gargel and Malia. I don’t know if we have an answer for every part of their lineup. They went 1-2-3 in the breaststroke over Ocean City, and that’s our weakest event.”
Muller, a senior, is a sprint freestyler and butterflier.
“I feel like the team will do our best,” said Muller, a 17-year-old Absecon resident. “We know what it’s like to lose, so we’ll try to come back. I’m excited. We expect a close meet. Coach was going over the lineup with us. It will probably come down to a couple points, who out-touches who.”
The meet will be a double-dual with a girls meet between Holy Spirit and Cape May Tech.
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