Two years ago, Dave Dominik took over the Kingsway High School head coaching duties from the long-time coach, Tony Barchuk. This was no small task, as Barchuk had led the program to many South Jersey championships- the last being in 2012.
However, Dominik, a fixture in the youth and travel softball scene as a coach, had a plan set for his program to continue the fine tradition that Barchuk had set forth. He focused his energies on skill development and retaining home-grown talent in the district. It seems as though his efforts have been rewarded.
On May 28, the Dragons, seeded fourth in the playoffs, upended second-seeded Shawnee, 13-3, to win the South Jersey Group 4 championship as the away team. This win came after defeating Brick Memorial, 1-0, in the semifinal round after a dramatic game-winning homerun by freshman Delaney Patella.
They also had a dramatic quarterfinal win over South Jersey powerhouse, Millville. They needed a grand slam from Tori Lipka to earn an 8-5 win over the Bolts.
Ultimately, they went on to lose to the eventual State Group 4 champion, Hightstown, in the state semifinal round, 5-0. However, that loss did not diminish the season that this team had. The girls ended the season with a 18-6 overall record, and they finished 7-1 in the Tri-County Conference Royal Division, finishing as division champions.
With the heavy graduation losses and wealth of new names in their lineup going into the season, many pundits predicted that the Dragons, perennial contenders for the South Jersey title, would fall well short this season. The pundits were proven incorrect.
“We simply grew together as a team as the season progressed,” said Dominik. “We started hitting the ball well the second half of the season and were able to gel at the right time. The momentum just built.”
Dominik, who spends countless hours during and after practice trying to find any advantage he can, is known for the amount of time and preparation he puts into coaching softball, and his girls adopted this mentality. They continued to grow as softball players, and then these players focused on morphing into a cohesive unit on the field, offensively and defensively.
This was on full display in the South Jersey championship game, when they exploded for seven runs in the first inning and then held the high-scoring Renegades to only two runs the entire game.
With a large group of players returning next year, the sky appears to be the limit for this program.
It appears that the beat goes on for this program.
By Christian Lynch