The Middletown Pride boys’ traveling soccer team won the highly competitive U12 Premier Division of the Monmouth-Ocean Soccer Association. The Pride’s final record of 6-3-1 included decisive victories over the Manalapan Wrecking Crew, Jackson Lightning, Freehold Revolution and the Marlboro Magic Blue. The Pride scored 19 goals and allowed only 11 in 10 games. The team’s goalkeeper, Corey Donahue, and the diamond defense of Mike Yabroudy, Mike Dorata, Colin Keaton and Joseph Pannullo led the team. Chris Broglia, James Carroll, Ken Ebner, Pete Gallagher, Corey Rague, Conor Monaghan and Jon Partman anchored the midfield. Dylan Maresca, Alex Rozycki and Tommy Carroll led the offensive attack. The team is coached by John DeGenito, assisted by Joe Pannullo and George Rague. The team is trained by three-time All-American Jason Cairns, formerly of the College of New Jersey (Ewing) and the New Jersey Stallions. Katie Howard, an 11-year-old student at Strathmore Elementary School in Aberdeen, took first place at the Level 5 State Gymnastic Championships, held at Henderson’s Gym in Edison. Her performance was highlighted by a record score of 9.625 for the floor exercise. She also scored 9.55 in the beam, 9.0 on the uneven bars and 8.9 on the vault. The championships involved 44 top gymnasts from throughout the state. The first-place finish was her fourth in five meets this season, and she also has a second-place finish to her credit. She also won the Level 4 state title last year. The Middletown High School South Eagles Baseball and Softball Players Clinic, for boys and girls in grades 3 through 8, will be held Feb. 23 and March 2 at the Middletown High School South Bubble. The camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon for boys and 1-4 p.m. for girls. The cost is $25 for one session ( $30 at the door) and $40 for two sessions ($50 at the door). Players receive instruction from South varsity baseball coaches or softball coaches, and participate in drills on proper stretching, throwing, hitting, pitching (baseball only), base-running, sliding and bunting. Among the coaches who run the clinic are varsity baseball coach Steve Antonucci and varsity softball coach Tom Erbig, as well as their full staff of assistant coaches, and Walter Woods, Middletown athletic director. All proceeds will go toward Middletown High School South baseball and softball programs. The brochure will be available for download from Middletown South’s baseball and softball Web sites. To download the registration form, visit the baseball and softball Web sites at www.eteamz.com/eaglesbaseball and www.eteamz.com/mseagles, or call Steve Dudzinski at (732) 747-6625. Registrations for BYAA spring baseball, softball and soccer, will be held Feb. 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 from 6-8 p.m. at Croydon Hall (at the trailer) in Middletown. Prices are as follows: Baseball — instructional co-ed ages 5-6, $60 and $10 raffle fee; minors (7-8), $70 and $10; majors (9-10), $70 and $10; juniors (11-12) $80 and $10; and seniors (13-15) $80 and $10. Softball — intermediate (7-9), $60 and $10; juniors (10-12), $70 and $10; and seniors (13-15), $70 and $10. Soccer — all ages (5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-16), $55. There is a family plan for three or more in one family for $160 and $20 raffle fee. Those registering must bring a copy of the child’s birth certificate to registration. Ages are as of July 31, 2003. Baseball also offers summer tournament teams for ages 8-15. For more information, call (732) 706-7372 for baseball and softball and (732) 706-7378 for soccer. National Wrestling Superstars make a spectacular return after more than a year to Keansburg High School on Feb. 1 starting at 7:35 p.m. Scheduled to appear on the card to benefit the football and wrestling teams will be television superstars Disco Inferno, Amish Roadkill, Julio Dinero, Malice and Cheerleader Kara. Also scheduled to appear will be Frank “The Addiction” Kuhl (son of Keansburg coach Frank Kuhl), as he takes on Ace Darling in what promoters are calling a grudge match. Tickets are $18, $16 and $14. For information call (732) 888-1704 Team USA/Youth is accepting soccer coaches’ nominations for youth soccer players for the USIS Memorial Youth Soccer Scholarships. The scholarships, ranging from $400 to $2,000, enable talented young soccer players an opportunity to compete internationally. To nominate players, coaches should go online to www.ussport.us/scholarships and enter their nomination. Players must have a birth year from 1984 to 1990. Nominated players are then required to complete an essay in order to be considered. Nominations will close Feb. 17 and awards announced Feb. 21. The scholarships are awarded in honor of servicemen and servicewomen who, because of their commitment to the armed forces, have had athletic careers deferred or ended. The scholarships are funded by gifts to the Team USA/Youth program and underwritten by United States International Sport, a nonprofit youth soccer development organization. Details of the Team USA/Youth programs are available at www.teamusayouth.org. The Jersey Shore Celtics of Middletown will be holding tryouts for their 13U AAU basketball team. Attendees must be male and currently in seventh grade or 13 years old or younger as of Sept. 1, 2003. Tryouts will be on Feb. 1 at 8 a.m. at St. Catherine’s gym in Middletown. If interested, please call Steve at (732) 787-9589, or (973) 252-9600, ext. 12, to make arrangements and receive further information. The Central New Jersey chapter of the New Jersey Football Officials Association is seeking candidates who are interested in becoming certified high school officials in New Jersey. Candidates must be 18 years old and residents of New Jersey. Classes will be held at Piscataway High School beginning the first Thursday after Labor Day. Cadets must be able to work Monday sub-varsity games and Friday freshman games, and will also work as part of chain crews at varsity games on Friday nights and at Saturday afternoon games. Deadline for entry is March 11. Cadets who are interested can write to Red Losiewicz at 82 Janice Drive, Spotswood 08884, or call (732) 251-0369. The Bayshore Bulldogs boys’ 12U team is seeking two players to commit to a nationally successful AAU program for the upcoming season. All sixth-graders are eligible. Call (732) 957-8259 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The Aberdeen/Matawan Soccer Association is hosting the USSF Entry Level Referee Class in Aberdeen Feb. 8-10. The class is open to anyone from age 11 to adult seeking to get a license to referee games for the spring season or looking to better understand the rules of the game. Contact Brian at (732) 583-1524 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer South girls knock off unbeaten Howell to earn shot at division title BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer JEFFGRANIT staff Middletown South freshman Shawna Hagen splits a pair of Howell defenders during Friday night’s Eagle win in Middletown. Holmdel High School basketball coach Tom Stead has felt all along that his Hornets could make their mark in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Playoffs — the problem was getting in. Holmdel solved that on Friday with a convincing 72-40 triumph over Keyport. The win upped the Hornets’ record to 9-9, good enough to qualify. Teams needed to be at least .500 at the end of play Friday to make the cut. It’s been kind of an up-and-down campaign for the talented Hornets, who have let several potential victories slip through their hands. That was not to be the case against struggling Keyport (1-16), as Holmdel came out flying and took a 2-7 lead at the end of the first period. Dave Caraggio, who leads Holmdel in scoring, scored 12 points, and 6-5 sophomore center Matt Kelly added 11 more, with nine of them coming in the opening quarter. Stead’s team is certainly a capable bunch, with Mike Fenimore, Jared Wright and Brendan Dunne holding down the other starting slots, and a solid and reliable bench that includes Chris Graziano, Dan Davidson and Andrew Stein. “We haven’t really been able to put anything together,” Stead said. “The guys have had their moments when they’ve played very well; it’s just that we can’t seem to put a winning streak together. Fortunately, we’re in the state tournament and there’s still time.” Meanwhile, the Hornets will be looking to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament; teams must be at .500 by the end of play Friday to make the cut also. Holmdel has two games this week, yesterday against RBC and Friday at Matawan. Notes… The only other local teams that found themselves in must-win spots this past weekend was the Keyport and Middletown North girls. The Lions entered Friday night’s game with Manapalan at 7-7, knowing a loss would knock them out the playoffs. The Braves have struggled this year to the tune of a 4-14, but reveled in the role of potential spoiler, giving North all it could handle. Fortunately, Danielle Beam had two free throws with 8.7 seconds left to boost the Lions to the 38-36 win, a berth in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. As usual, Laura Depko was the top scorer for North, netting 20 points. Keyport entered Friday night’s game with Mater Dei (10-7) at 8-9, and in need of a win to get the .500 mark. Unfortunately, the Seraphs spoiled the Red Raiders hopes for a playoff berth with a 53-44 win, keyed by a strong effort from Lauren Florio (11 points, seven rebounds) and some clutch free throw shooting (6-for-6 in the fourth quarter) from Shannon Gilmartin, and the entire Seraph team in general (15-for-17 in the fourth). The Matawan boys basketball team was on the other side of the spectrum, entering Friday night’s game with Red Bank Catholic as the potential spoiler. While the Huskies knew they were out of the playoff picture at 7-11, the Caseys were on the bubble at 7-7, and hoping to notch their second win of the year over the Huskies. But in the end, Matawan was too tough, as they overcame 27 turnovers to sink some clutch foul shots down the stretch and post the 46-43 win in Red Bank. Rasheed Edwards (14 points) and Jason Simmons (12) led the way for Matawan. Among the teams that have secured state playoff berths are Raritan (16-2), CBA (17-2), Mater Dei (12-4), Holmdel (9-9) and Middletown North (9-9) on the boys side, and St. John Vianney (11-3), Middletown South (13-3), Holmdel (10-6) and Mater Dei (10-7) on the girls side. With Saturday’s cutoff for the Shore Conference Tournament eligibility there are a couple of local teams on the bubble this week, including the Middletown North and Holmdel boys, and the Middletown North and Keyport girls. Keyport is at 8-10 and needs two wins the week to get in. Eagles hoping for share of division title While Middletown South’s girls knew they were in the state playoffs at 12-3, they still had plenty to play for when they hosted unbeaten Howell on Friday. With a win over the 16-0 Rebels, South would earn a shot at sharing the A North Division title. Mission accomplished. The Eagles overcame a 21-point second quarter by the Rebels to come back and post an impressive 42-36 win over the third-ranked Rebels, and make a statement that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with this coming postseason. The Eagles were down by as many as 12 points in this one, but turned up the defensive intensity in the second half (where they held Howell to just eight points) and created easy baskets at the other end. The Eagles outscored the Rebels by identical 13-4 margins over the final two quarters to emerge with the win. They were led by Michele Whalen’s 13 points, Brittany Hoffman added 10, and Christina Longo eight. The loss dropped the Rebels to 10-1 in the A North Division with one game remaining (last night at home against Marlboro). A win and the Rebels can do no worse than share the division title with Middletown South. The Eagles improved to 9-1 in the division and can catch the Rebels with a pair of wins against Ocean (last night) and Middletown North (Friday). Friday’s game against the Lions could have quite an atmosphere if a win could mean a division title for the Eagles or a Shore Conference Tournament berth for the Lions. Oh yeah, and there’s the rivalry issue as well.
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer Loses to Millburn in state final, finishes at 21-1 The Holmdel High School girls tennis team completed an outstanding season with a 21-0 mark and things look good again for the Hornets next season as only two players will be lost to graduation. Coach Chuck Chelednik’s team was on fire from the very start, winning 21 consecutive matches before bowing to Millburn in the NJSIAA North 2 Group III final. Along the way the Hornets won the Shore Conference Tournament for the third straight season, taking home the crown after beating a tough Wall contingent, 3-2, in the finale. Holmdel also reclaimed the Conference’s Class A Central title after finishing third a year ago. Chelednik’s girls have been division champs for four of the past five campaigns. As always, or so it seems, the Hornets fielded an outstanding lineup from top to bottom. Freshman Karolina Wojciak emerged as the number one singles player and compiled a fine 21-7-1 record. At 5-7, Wojciak easily gets to most balls and her baseline game wears down opponents. Anne Chen had a strong year at second singles where she was 21-6. The junior frustrates the opposition with an uncanny ability to keep the ball in play. Another junior, Jen Lee, led the team with 24 wins out of the third singles slot. Lee employs a big serve and is aggressive at the net. Holmdel’s first doubles tandem of Linda Hong, one of two seniors, and junior Lisa Yan compiled 22 victories against four losses. The second pairing, senior Morgan Chen and junior Stephanie Huang triumphed 18 times and lost just once. If that’s not enough, the Hornets are loaded with talented young players and Chelednik worked to get them in the lineup throughout the year. “Actually, our depth is our strongest point,” the coach said. “The girls work very well together, but they also challenge each other in practice. That makes all of the girls work harder and I think it shows in our record.” The coach used juniors Dorrie Lee and Kathy Tsai four times as a doubles unit and the duo came away with four successes. Sophomore Erica Lai and freshman Jessica Sher won three times at doubles. In addition, sophomores Vivien Chen and Amali Gunawardana and freshmen Ashley Tran and Freda Chuan saw some varsity action as well. Early in the campaign Chelednik stated his team’s goals as winning the division, the conference tourney and getting past the semifinals in the state tourney where the Hornets lost a year ago to West Morris- Mendham. “We’ll have almost all of the girls back and they’re only going to get better and better,” the coach said. “The depth we have on this team is so important. Not only do the girls push each other, they’re all ready to play when called upon. This was a particularly valuable year for our younger players as they got used to playing at the varsity level. That will help them next year as well.”
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The Lake Takanassee Race Series in West Long Branch will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer. The series, known as “Lake Tak,” will begin its series of Monday evening races on June 30.The historic series will run for seven straight Mondays from July 7-28 and August 4-18.Each session would start at 6:30 p.m. with the boys and girls 1,500-meter runs (about a lap and a quarter around the lake).Next would be the open 5,000-meter run for runners of all ages at 6:45 pm (a little less than four times around the lake). Then there is the 5,000-meter racewalk at 6:47 p.m.Being an anniversary year, the Jersey Shore Athletic Club, which stages the series, hopes to make these “Lake Tak” races very special occasions.No advance entries are ever needed. For addition information, go online to www.shoreac.org. Items for the Sport Shorts column may be sent to email@example.com. Please send items at least two weeks prior to a registration deadline or tryout date.
China’s Li Na overcame an attack of nerves and weathered a feisty challenge from Dominika Cibulkova before roaring to a 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 victory to win her first Australian Open title on Saturday.Heartbroken as runner-up last year and in 2011, the 31-year-old struggled on serve and battled an errant forehand in a tight first set, before finding her range in devastating fashion to become the oldest woman to win at Melbourne Park.Cibulkova gave up two match-points when the Slovakian pushed a backhand long and saved one of them when Li did likewise, but the 20th seed crumbled on the second to give the Chinese her second grand slam title after winning the 2011 French Open.Asia’s first grand slam singles winner, Li raised her arms in triumph and after shaking hands with her opponent, went straight to her section of the players’ box to embrace her coach Carlos Rodriguez and members of her entourage.“Finally I got her (trophy), last two times was very close,” the beaming fourth seed said at the trophy ceremony.Cibulkova put up a brave fight“Congrats to Dominika, she had a great tournament. Max my agent, makes me rich, thank you. Thanks for Carlos, who always believed I could do it. We worked so hard in the winter.“Thanks to my husband, now so famous in China, (my) hitting partner, fixes the drinks, fixes the racquets… You do a lot a lot of jobs. Thanks a lot, you are a nice guy. You were lucky to find me.”The pint-sized Cibulkova, who won plenty of admirers at Melbourne Park after upsetting Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska on her way to the final, scrambled hard but was simply overpowered by Li’s crunching groundstrokes in the second set.“These were just the most fantastic two weeks of my life and I think I’m going to cry,” the 24-year-old said.“I would like to congratulate Li Na, she had a fantastic tournament, she deserves to be here as a winner.”FOUND RANGEAt 31, Li became the oldest woman to win the Australian OpenAfter a nervous start for both players, Li was the first to settle and unleashed a blistering backhand down the line to gain a break point in the opening game against her feisty opponent, who promptly double-faulted on the next point.Under pressure from the counter-punching Cibulkova, Li notched two double-faults in a row to be broken back in the sixth game and the Slovakian then held with a big serve to move 4-3 ahead.Li broke Cibulkova for a second time in the 11th game and had a set point on serve at 6-5 but the 20th seed survived to take the opener into a tiebreaker.The temperamental Chinese found her range in time to march to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak but Cibulkova marshalled her defences with aplomb, scrambling to chase down everything and pulled back to 5-3.Li then blasted a huge return to earn three more set points but only needed one of them when Cibulkova netted a backhand.Once the first set was in the bag, Li appeared far more at ease and wound up a huge forehand down the line to bring up an early break point in the second and was soon 2-0 ahead when Cibulkova pushed long.Growing in confidence, Li began to swing at everything and broke Cibulkova again to lead 4-0 before completing an emphatic victory in her third attempt at Melbourne Park, the grand slam venue she has long described as her favourite.
By Andrew Downie, Andrew Cawthorne and Peter RutherfordWorld Cup favourites Brazil will be expected to defeat Mexico in the second round of Group A matches in Fortaleza on Tuesday but their Latin neighbours have no reason to feel overawed.The Mexicans have won big matches against Brazil before, beating them 4-3 in the final of the Confederations Cup in 1999 and more recently in the Olympic final in London.Although that game was not a full international, the match featured several players expected to line up in Fortaleza including Neymar, Oscar and Thiago Silva for Brazil, and Oribe Peralta, the striker whose brace gave Mexico a 2-1 victory.It gives Brazil pause for thought as they seek their 11th consecutive win.“We know that Mexico are a good team, they always give Brazil a hard time and it won’t be any different when we play in the next match,” Oscar, one of the stars of the 3-1 opening day win over Croatia, said at the team’s base camp.Mexico will also be encouraged by a rain-sodden 1-0 win over Cameroon on Friday when they received fantastic support from their travelling fans.The home side, however, have won 22 of the 38 previous encounters including the most recent match almost exactly a year ago in the same stadium in the Confederations Cup when Brazil romped home more comfortably than the 2-0 scoreline suggests.Both teams – and fans the world over – will also be watching the referee almost as closely as the players.Brazil were given a contentious penalty at a crucial moment of the Croatia match, prompting talk about home field bias. And TV replays showed Mexico had two good goals disallowed before they finally got the winner in their opener against Cameroon.In the day’s opening match and with a star-studded squad that makes a mockery of the old joke ‘who can name a famous Belgian?’, young and talented Belgium should breeze past Algeria in the Group H opener.Maligned as a non-entity in the past their nation may have been, but now the team trips off everyone’s tongues: Thibault Courtois in goal, Vincent Kompany marshalling the back, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku terrorising defences.Easy qualification, and a pool of thrilling young talent that is the envy of Europe, have made Belgium the bookmakers’ pre-tournament fifth favourites behind heavyweights Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany.Yet it is their first World Cup since 2002, meaning the team lack experience on the big stage. And they have some frailties, such as erratic finishing and a lack of flying full backs.Algeria come into the tournament looking underrated – who knew they were the highest-ranked African team? – and are probably happy all the pre-match hype is on their rivals.Looking stronger than 2010, Algeria have constructed their side around French-born players drawn from the massive migrant population in Europe. Many of them switched allegiance after playing for France at junior level.Group H is the last to get into action in Brazil, leaving both sides anxious as the goals fly elsewhere.“We are not really feeling the World Cup fever yet,” said Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen.“But after the opening game I’m sure it will be different.”Minus creative midfielder Roman Shirokov due to injury, Russia are unlikely to play an expansive, attack-minded game against South Korea in their World Cup Group H opener on Tuesday, focusing instead on rigid discipline.Just the way conservative coach Fabio Capello likes it.Russia, who since the break-up of the Soviet Union have failed to progress to the knockout rounds of the World Cup, are in fine fettle after an impressive 2014 qualifying campaign in which they pipped Portugal to top their group.Winners of four of their last five games, conceding just two goals, the Russians are making their first appearance at the World Cup since 2002 when the finals were co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.While Russia have enjoyed a seamless buildup to Tuesday’s match at the Pantanal arena in Cuiaba, it would be no stretch to say the Koreans are in disarray.Losers of four of their last five, including a 4-0 hammering by Ghana in their final warm-up on Monday, South Korea can only cast envious glances at their opponent’s defensive solidity having shipped 11 goals during the horror run.Coach Hong Myung-bo, who skippered the Koreans on their magical run to the semi-finals on home soil 12 years ago, has his work cut out to rebuild their shattered confidence, but there is no doubt the team have been playing well within themselves.
By Tim HanlonDespite Barcelona’s treble last season, Josep Maria Bartomeu faces a tough challenge to remain as president in Saturday’s elections due to criticism of his leadership and stiff competition from fellow frontrunner Joan Laporta.Victory in the Champions League against Juventus last month capped a memorable season for the Catalan club, who also won La Liga and the King’s Cup.Bartomeu, however, is tarred by the dealings that took place over the transfer of Brazilian Neymar to Barca in 2013, which have embroiled the club in court proceedings.Bartomeu replaced Sandro Rosell, who stood down over the Neymar scandal, last year and admitted that Neymar’s true cost was closer to 100 million euros rather than the 57.1 million euros previously claimed.Further problems including a FIFA transfer ban for breaching rules regarding the signing of under-age players, Barca’s stuttering league form and a bust-up between coach Luis Enrique and Lionel Messi prompted Bartomeu, in January, to bring forward elections by a year.Buoyed by Barca’s spectacular end to the season many fans are now happy to maintain the status quo though others are swayed by Laporta – president from 2003 until 2010 – who oversaw the building of Barca’s most successful side ever.Following the appointment of coach Pep Guardiola in 2008 they won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues during his four-year tenure.A brash figure who enjoys the limelight, Laporta also courted his fair share of controversy.He showed little humility and there were claims of a lack of transparency and corruption during his presidency.Agusti Benedito, who surprised many by finishing second in the last elections in 2010, is an outsider for the top job.He hopes to win the support of fans looking for change and fed up with the personal attacks between Bartomeu and Laporta.“Laporta, Rosell and Bartomeu are driven by hate and they are not capable of bringing a stop to this,” Benedito told Reuters.“Laporta made a lot of errors (as president) that included taking advantage of his position. As for Bartomeu, the judicial process should disqualify him from the position.”There is little chance though of an untried candidate winning the presidency with Bartomeu and Laporta neck and neck in the latest polls – some way ahead of Benedito in third.
By Martyn HermanWith three of the four grand slam titles and a record six Masters Series crowns scooped up in a year of domination, Novak Djokovic could be forgiven for using the ATP Tour Finals in London as a well-earned lap of honour.Not a bit of it.The 28-year-old world number one’s appetite for stomping all over his supposed rivals is insatiable.Serbian Djokovic will start as overwhelming favourite to claim a fourth consecutive title at the year-ender, having won 14 matches in a row at the Thames-side venue where last year ended in anti-climactic fashion as Roger Federer withdrew from their showdown with a back injury.The numbers Djokovic has compiled this year surpass even his dominant 2011 campaign when he also won three majors.He will arrive with a 78-5 win/loss record and on a 22-match winning streak, stretching back to his defeat by Federer in the Cincinnati final in August.He has owned the number one ranking since July 2014 and he will end the year there for a fourth time – the same as John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.“In terms of the grand slams, this has been a better season than 2011,” Djokovic, who would have won all four but for an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka in the French Open final, said in an interview with Sport Magazine.“It’s about the overall feeling of my game – the way I play and the way I feel on the court. I’m a more complete player physically; technically I’ve improved since 2011, and mentally I’m more stable.”Worryingly, no one seems to have a clue how to stop him.World number two Andy Murray, who is juggling the Tour Finals on home soil with trying to win the Davis Cup for Britain for the first time since 1936 the week after, has lost 10 of his last 11 matches against Djokovic.Murray failed to survive the round-robin stage last year when he was demolished by Federer.Since losing to Djokovic in last week’s Paris Masters final he has practised mainly on clay in readiness for Davis Cup duty in Ghent.He was, however, placed in the easier-looking group in Thursday’s draw, avoiding Federer and Djokovic.Federer, 34, always puts on a show in London – having reached the final four times since the event moved from Shanghai in 2009, winning twice.Unlike last year when several new faces qualified, this year’s eight are the usual suspects, with Japan’s Kei Nishikori the least experienced on his second appearance.A rejuvenated Rafael Nadal is back after missing out last year through injury and while still not quite the formidable foe he was at his peak the Spaniard will relish testing his improvement against Murray and Wawrinka in group play.David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych will do well to reach the semis, Wawrinka could be the dark horse after reaching the last four in 2013 and last year when he lost an epic to Federer.
The contingent of 16 (eight athletes and eight officials) will be led by Chef de Mission, Michael Henao and flag bearer, Mathew Stubbings (Tennis).PNG will take part in Athletics (men/women), Beach Volleyball (men), Swimming (men/women) and Tennis (men/women).Henao said it was a great honour as the Chef de Mission to lead Team PNG.“As we set foot in the Bahamas with our bright Black, Red and Gold colours, I will be a proud man leading you into the arena of the Commonwealth Youth Games.“Proud because I believe in you and the reason that we are here for these Games. I am confident that each of you has prepared well and will be giving your very best.“Be rest assured I have been supporting you for longer than you know. I am not here to tell you how to win but to push you on as you dig deep for that extra strength,” said Henao.He added the PNG Commonwealth Games Association’s vision for the 2017 Bahamas Commonwealth Youth Games is for Team PNG to have an excellent games experience and to encourage the development of youth sports programs in Papua New Guinea.President of the PNG Olympic Committee, Sir John Dawanincura added on by encouraging the athletes to do their very best.“Be a great ambassador for your family, your team, sport, country and yourself by conducting yourself well among your team mates and rivals.“Remember the PNG Commonwealth Games Association’s values of Honesty, Excellence, Respect and Openness as your guide.“Enjoy the challenge and learn what you can from this experience and don’t forget to have fun,” said Dawanincura.The 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games will run from July 18-23.