Back in the Fold: Team Expectations
The field hockey team concluded the 2013 season with its first Empire 8 playoff appearance since 2009. The Bombers ended the year with a 10–8 overall record, finishing above .500 for the first time since 2002 and a 4–3 conference record, placing third in the Empire 8 Championship.
This year, the Blue and Gold seek a return to the Empire 8 playoffs, but they will be without the help of key contributors from last season, including back Andrea Pace ’14 and forward Katie Kennedy ’14, who both earned All-Empire 8 Second Team honors last season.
Despite the loss, head coach Tracey Houk said the team is looking just as strong coming into this year. Because of the amount of leadership and impact of players still on the roster, Houk believes the Blue and Gold can carry the momentum from last season’s playoff push.
“Last year was a great year for us, and we really felt that we were seeing some of the fruits of our labor finally pay off after a number of years of really hard work,” Houk said. “Our returners are a solid group of players because they have been focused, extremely hardworking and they have been building and learning new things, so we are looking very strong.”
The South Hill squad will look to fill the void of losing its top seniors with core returners, including sophomore goalkeeper Katie Lass and senior forward Danielle Coiro. Both players earned All-Empire 8 honors last season, and the pair will be sure to impact the Bombers in big ways in the fall.
After an unprecedented run to the NCAA Elite 8 last year that included an upset of 2012 National Champion Messiah College, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s No. 5–-ranked women’s soccer team features a younger squad as it looks for its first National Championship since 1991.
Of last year’s defense, which posted the seventh-best goals-against average in the country, only sophomore defender Aimee Chimera and junior goalkeeper Beth Coppolecchia will return. The backline, which featured the 10th-best shutout percentage in Division III, graduated starters Anna Gray, Alex Liese and Meredith Jones.
Senior Kelly Pantason, junior Kristina Buhagiar and sophomores Cate Douglass and Mallory Chick will likely compete for starting spots on defense.
Chimera, who was named Empire 8 Women’s Soccer Tournament Most Valuable Player last season, said the team needs to emphasize teamwork to make up for its lack of experience.
“Since we are going to be a young team, we will work on creating team chemistry on and off the field as well as individual and team confidence,” she said.
Chemistry will also be key on the offensive end after graduating midfielder Amanda Callanan and forwards Ellyn Grant-Keane and Jackie Rodabaugh. The Bombers will look to junior midfielder Kelsey King, who led the team with 14 goals last season — nine more than any other player — to provide the bulk of the offense.
Additionally, the team returns senior midfielder Jessie Warren and sophomore midfielder Taylor Baranowsky, who each earned All-Empire 8 Honorable Mention last season.
As the Bombers look to earn their 12th-straight trip to the playoffs, Chimera said the team will thrive off of last year’s success.
“We have a lot of talent and a very energetic group of players with strong individual personalities,” she said. “We have strong leaders across the board, starting with the seniors … and trickling down to the junior and sophomore classes. Everyone understands the expectations.”
Last year, in its second season as Ithaca College’s latest intercollegiate sport, the sculling team made significant strides on the water.
In five regattas, at least one pair on the team medaled in all but one of its races. The Bombers’ biggest success was medaling at Small Boat Collegiate Challenge on Nov. 3, 2013, a competition that placed the Blue and Gold against mostly Division I rowing programs.
Since the program is meant to encourage the continuation of rowing, a large portion of the team last season were seniors. Like last year, the team will be comprised primarily of upperclassmen.
Senior Delaney Pfohl is a key returner and was named captain while she was abroad last year. Sculling coach Beth Greene said she has faith in Pfohl to come back and lead the team because of the way she is able to motivate herself. Additionally, Greene said the biggest task for her captain and teammates will be to avoid injury.
“The challenge is making sure people are performing their best without ignoring their bodies,” Greene said. “As long as [Pfohl] can keep herself healthy in the fall, I think she will be an X factor. She’s one of those people who always moves the boat.”
After earning a record-best fifth place in the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championships last season, the golf team is hoping to have a total score of 320 or better in every match it competes in. To achieve this goal, each golfer must shoot an 80 or under.
With the Bombers holding themselves to such high expectations, senior Kelsey Baker said she understands achieving their goal will be a grueling and challenging process.
“Right now, we just want to hold our spot where we are in the national rankings and try to return to the national tournament,” she said.
Other players will need to elevate their game in order to fill the shoes of Elma Gonzalez ’14 and Amanda Failla ’14, who graduated in the spring. The players projected to fill their shoes are Baker and sophomore Kimberley Wong. Baker posted a score of 159 that helped the Blue and Gold capture their fourth consecutive Empire 8 Championship. Wong had the best score of any Bomber in the E8 tournament, with 321 strokes.
Along with Baker and Wong, the Bombers will return with five additional players from last season’s squad.
The team’s top player, senior Sharon Li, will look to continue where she left off last season: back-to-back top-20 finishes in the National Championship. Additionally, her performances throughout last season earned her Division III Player of the Year honors for the 2013–14 season by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.
Though playing smart and competing at the highest level possible are keys for every tournament, Baker said the opportunity to compete in strong competitions is all the Bombers really need to vie for a national title.
“Overall, our main goal is to make it to Nationals again and contend for a chance to win it all,” Baker said.
With the entire squad returning for the 2014 season, the men’s soccer team will take the field with the advantage of being one of the most experienced teams in the Empire 8 Conference. Senior forward Max Bjork said he believes this could be an advantage for the Bombers in their conference.
“I am expecting to win the Empire 8,” he said. “Since all players are returning, we should be stronger than last year.”
The Bombers will be under the leadership of head coach Andy Byrne, who completed his 30th year as the coach of the team last year. Along with Byrne’s extensive experience coaching at Ithaca College and a strong returning core of upperclassmen, the team has nine first-year players trying to make the final cut.
Additionally, the Bombers have been practicing twice a day since Aug. 18 to get in shape for the season. Senior midfielder Brandon Glass said, last year, the team’s lack of physical strength and stamina was a weakness.
“I think in some games we got dominated physically,” he said. “But we’ve worked hard over the offseason to get stronger, and I think that’ll show this fall.”
The Blue and Gold begin their season Aug. 30 against SUNY Oneonta in Oneonta, New York.
Returning seven of its eight NCAA Division III Women’s Cross-Country Championships qualifiers from last year, the women’s cross-country team will be building this season on a strong foundation of experienced runners.
Three of those returning from Nationals, seniors Hannah Wright, Alexa Rick and Meghan Cass, were voted by the team to be the captains this fall. This is Cass’ second consecutive year as captain, bringing valuable leadership to the team.
With so many runners returning this fall, head coach Erin Dinan said she is excited for the upcoming season and said her team is well-equipped to make another impressive showing at Nationals.
Trying out for the team will be especially competitive this season, as Dinan has decided to cut the number of runners down from last year’s 27 to between 18 and 22. Cass said the new system will aid the Blue and Gold as they strive to remain competitive in each event.
“It will be difficult to not be able to see all the amazing teammates we had in the past years at practice every day, but it is a necessary step to ensure our team remains competitive in the quickly developing region we are in,” Cass said.
This fall season, the Blue and Gold hope to qualify runners for Nationals for a third consecutive season. To help get them there, Dinan said she plans to utilize the resources that Ithaca College has to offer, such as the sports psychology department and the new head coach for strength and conditioning, Vic Brown.
“Greg Shelly, the sports psychologist on campus, is an excellent source for us to utilize, and I’m really looking forward to having him work with the team,” Dinan said. “That is something that I think is going to be crucial for the focus, and I think [Brown] is going to provide some valuable input.”
The men’s cross-country team returns this fall with an experienced group of runners that hope to improve upon last season. After winning the Empire 8 Championship and placing in the top 10 of the Atlantic region, the team expects to win the title again and finish in at least the top five of the region this fall.
Defending the conference championship and placing high at regionals is critical to making it to the NCAA Division III Men’s Cross-Country Championships, which is the primary team goal this season. Head coach Jim Nichols said he is excited about the Bombers’ chances in regional competitions this fall and hopes that the large number of returning athletes will help add to the Blue and Gold’s success.
“I think our team will be improved from last year overall just from experience,” Nichols said. “We had a young team last season, and we have most of our athletes back from last year’s team.”
Senior captain Dennis Ryan will provide experienced leadership to the team as he dons the captainship for the second year in a row. Ryan said he believes the team will make a strong push this season with the strong core already in place.
“I expect us to be one of the top teams in the region because of the depth and experience this group has,” Ryan said.
The volleyball team hopes to build off a 16–22 record from last season after failing to surpass a .500 record for a second consecutive season. The Blue and Gold made it to the semifinal round of the Empire 8 Championship Tournament last season before falling to host Stevens Institute of Technology in straight sets, 3–0, on Nov. 9. This marked the second successive year for the Bombers facing the Ducks in the E8 tournament semifinals, losing both encounters.
Additionally, the team went 4–3 in the Empire 8 Conference for a third-straight year and will look to improve off that in hopes of a better positioning in the conference tournament. Road worries also troubled the Bombers, as the team went 1–7 away from Ben Light Gymnasium in 2013.
The South Hill squad lost two captains, seniors Syline Kim and Justine Duryea, as well as freshman standout Shaelynn Schmidt. Eight freshmen will join the team this year, making up over half the team, thus a strong leadership presence must be filled.
After a solid rookie year, sophomore Siobhan Sorensen said she hopes to lead the Bombers further in the postseason this year and bring home the squad’s first Empire 8 title since 2010.
“We’re working on our positivity and creating a great atmosphere to have a winning season,” she said.
The Bombers will kick off the year with the Brockport Invitational on Aug. 29 in Brockport, New York, facing three teams on the road before their home opener of the Bomber Invitational at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 against Cazenovia College at Ben Light Gymnasium.
The women’s tennis team is seeking to find success beyond its conference, though it has not taken its eyes off winning a 10th consecutive conference title.
The Blue and Gold will return four seniors from last season’s Empire 8 Championship squad, including senior singles starters Allison Vizgaitis, Carly Siegel and Alyssa Steinweis. The Bombers will also have their leading doubles player, as Steinweis led the team with 22 doubles wins in 2013.
The Bombers lost two of their top performers to graduation, Cristina Nunez ’14 and Allison Young ’14, who helped lead the team to a ninth consecutive conference title. But sophomore Haley Kusak, who won the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year Award last season, showed poise in her first season and split time with Nunez in the No. 1 singles position.
Additionally, head coach Bill Austin is returning for his 15th season at the helm for the Blue and Gold. Austin has guided the women’s squad to a 165–100 record in dual matches and has helped lead the Bombers to the second round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Tournament in May.
This season, Austin said he feels confident and will rely on his veteran players to help get the squad to the top of the Empire 8 again, as well as stack up against some of the best competition in Division III.
“We have plenty of leadership that guided us last year, and we think we’re in a good spot to have a successful season,” he said.
The Blue and Gold will open their season on the road, as they face SUNY Cortland on Aug. 30 in Cortland, New York.
Know your Bombers: Players to Watch
Field Hockey: Danielle Coiro
Senior forward Danielle Coiro was a standout for the field hockey team in 2013. In her first two years, Coiro only registered two goals. Less than halfway through the 2013 season, Coiro had already netted five.
By the end of the year, Coiro tallied a career-high 10 goals, tying her for first on the team with forward Katie Kennedy ’14, and five assists. As a result, Coiro was at the forefront of the Bombers’ offense that finished with 25 points on the season.
Coiro’s breakout year helped the Blue and Gold reach double-digit wins for the first time since 2002. She said the Bombers look to build off last season’s success through strong team play.
“Our mindset going into this year is to surpass what we accomplished last year and to keep achieving more,” Coiro said. “We have a great team that really works together; we all have the same goals and work towards them as a whole.”
Her notable year earned her a well-deserved spot on the All-Empire 8 First Team, the only player on the squad to earn this distinction. Additionally, she received All-National Field Hockey Coaches Association Second Team honors, the first time a Bomber has earned a selection since 2008. Keep an eye on Coiro, as she is sure to be an offensive threat once again this season.
Football: Sam Carney
Helping the football team on both sides of the ball last season, senior Sam Carney will shoulder even more responsibility this year. The cornerback and return specialist will serve as a team captain for the upcoming season.
Additionally, Carney was named to the Preseason All-American Second Team by D3Football.com as a return specialist. However, Carney said the preseason honors are not as important as where the team is positioned when the season finishes.
“Preseason All-American honors are nice, but in reality, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot,” Carney said. “It’s up to me and my teammates to live up to the hype and see where they put us at the end of the year.”
Last season, Carney averaged 15.7 yards on punt returns, with one touchdown. He also averaged 30.1 yards on kick returns and recorded a 91–yard kick return for a touchdown in the Bombers’ second round NCAA Division III Football Championship playoff game against No. 14–ranked Wesley College on Nov. 30, 2013.
This year, Carney said he is planning on making an impact on the other side of the ball with a defense that is fairly young and unproven.
“We have a ton of young talent on defense; it’s just a matter of putting it all together,” Carney said. “We have a great group of seniors that will help the younger guys learn what it’s like to be a Bomber on defense.”
Women’s Soccer: Beth Coppolecchia
Junior goalkeeper Beth Coppolecchia earned Goalkeeper of the Year honors last season after a stellar sophomore campaign for the women’s soccer team, posting a .909 save percentage.
But even after recording D3Soccer.com’s highest honor, Coppolecchia said she has continued to broaden her skillset.
“All summer, I’ve been training to improve basics and specific parts of my game that aren’t my strong suits,” she said. “Specifically, I’ve been working on 1v1, reaction time and following the ball far post.”
Coppolecchia’s statistics speak for themselves. As a sophomore, she started each of the Bombers’ 22 games and recorded an Empire 8–best 10 solo shutouts. She saved 90 shots while allowing only nine goals on the season.
However, Coppolecchia has also readied herself for an even bigger role on the 2014 team. With most of last year’s defensive line graduated, Coppolecchia will look to step into more of a leadership position as an upperclassman.
“I’m going to be more of a vocal leader to help keep an organized defense along with helping to teach some of the underclassmen how our defense works,” she said. “Being the role model by always giving 100 percent during practice and talking a lot throughout scrimmages and drills will help me to become a bigger leader on the team.”
Golf: Taylor MacDonald
As one of the three seniors on the roster, Taylor MacDonald will have an important role in the golf team’s performance this year and is the player to watch during the 2014 season.
MacDonald has competed against every team on this season’s schedule and is familiar with many of the courses that she will be competing on.
Head coach Dan Wood spoke highly of MacDonald, saying her longer shots have progressed nicely over time.
“I’m very optimistic that she will be able to move into the top six scorers on the team, should she shave off some strokes within 50 yards of the green,” Wood said. “She has been very consistent during her time as a Bomber but will need to be even more reliable in her short game, an area she must improve in.”
With MacDonald and a strong senior class leading the way, the Blue and Gold hope to compete for a national championship this season.
Sculling: Jennie Peterson and Emily Morley
Senior Jennie Peterson and junior Emily Morley rowed together on the women’s crew team’s first Varsity 8 last spring, despite it being the pair’s first year on the team.
Though they were not as technically experienced as other varsity rowers, both learned quickly and became a dominant force on the water. The boat, which earned itself a spot in the 2013 NCAA Division III Rowing Championships in Indianapolis last spring, placed seventh after missing a bid the season before.
Head sculling coach Beth Greene said the pair was an obvious choice for the team this fall. Greene said Peterson and Morley have a classic rower’s build: long and lean, which makes it easy for them to make long, powerful strokes. Greene added she believes the bond they developed last year will bring them further success in a smaller boat.
“The two of them kind of have the size and the talent to do very well, but this will be their first season sculling,” Greene said. “I’m hoping that they will spend time getting boat feel and by the end of it really demolish people.”
Men’s Soccer: Sean Forward
As a freshman, sophomore forward Sean Forward had a huge impact on the men’s soccer team. In 16 games, he scored seven goals and recorded five assists, leading the team in both categories.
Senior forward Casey Williamson said Forward is an asset for the team beyond his statistical contributions.
“His movement and combination play as a striker are two invaluable parts of his game that help open up space and make the game easier for the rest of us,” Williamson said.
Forward also earned All-Empire 8 First Team honors, becoming only one of two freshmen who earned the honor. Last season, Williamson said Forward’s best qualities on the field were his touch on the ball and his finishing ability at the net.
“There were times last year when he would surprise us all with a goal or a pass that showed his skill on the ball, especially in the final third of the field,” Williamson said.
Women’s Cross-Country: Georgia Caplen
Getting added to the mix for the women’s cross-country team this season is a group of at least five freshman runners who were assessed during a time trial on Aug. 27. The trial dictates who makes the team this season. One of the incoming freshmen, Georgia Caplen, has already caught the eye of head coach Erin Dinan. Dinan said she has the potential to have a strong impact on the team from the beginning.
“She’s a girl who I think shows a lot of promise to be on our team this fall,” Dinan said.
Caplen’s experience has set her apart from her teammates. In high school, she competed in longer races that are uncommon for runners at that level. Running the 5k for her high school track team at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California, Caplen impressed Dinan with her ability to take on more challenging races.
Dinan said she expects this experience will help Caplen transition into succeeding at a variety of events at the collegiate level.
“As a freshman, I think she’s going to be an asset to our team,” she said. “I’m excited to see what she can bring, and I really think that she will fit nicely into our top 15, if not our top 10.”
Men’s Cross-Country: Dennis Ryan
Senior Dennis Ryan enters his second consecutive year as the captain of the men’s cross-country team and hopes to improve upon the team’s success from last season. After leading the team to its fourth consecutive Empire 8 Championship and a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship in Mount Morris, New York, last fall, Ryan said he has high expectations for the Bombers this season.
“Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the national championship in November,” Ryan said. “This is a very talented group of guys, and we have a great shot of [making Nationals] this year.”
Additionally, Ryan led the Bombers to the top of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association’s Division III All-Academic Team list, with the Blue and Gold tying Amherst College for the highest team cumulative GPA of 3.66.
In his final season with the South Hill squad, Ryan said he plans to once again help the team through the mental and physical grind of the season.
“Cross-country is a very long season with a lot of highs and lows,” Ryan said. “Injuries and mental fatigue are common, especially as the season wears on. Despite any setbacks we may experience, it’s my job to keep everyone excited and aware of what we as a team can accomplish.”
Volleyball: Carly Garone
Junior setter and libero Carly Garone debuted for the volleyball team in her freshman year, earning Empire 8 Rookie of the Year honors and a spot on the the All-Conference Second Team. Last season she made further strides, earning captain honors and playing in each of the team’s 38 matches, starting in 16. As a setter, she racked up 495 assists on the season, ranking second overall for the Bombers.
Her season-best performance came in a 3–0 victory over Wells College on Oct. 29 at Ben Light Gymnasium, in which she tallied 35 assists against the Express. Garone recorded 20 or more assists in 10 matches, exceeding 30 in three games.
Garone will look to continue her dominance on the court in her junior season. Garone said her leadership ability will be tested, having to help mentor eight incoming freshmen on the squad.
“It is just a matter of cultivating them into the Bomber tradition and culture, which [head coach Janet Donovan] really emphasizes,” Garone said. “Building relationships [is important], especially with the freshmen.”
Women’s Tennis: Haley Kusak
Sophomore Haley Kusak represents the wealth of young talent for the women’s tennis team this season. The Pittsford, New York, native took home the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year honors after finishing with 37 wins overall and going a perfect 6–0 in Empire 8 matches.
Kusak began 2013 in the No. 3 singles spot on the team, but after winning her first collegiate match 6–0,Kusak moved to No. 1 singles and rotated with Cristina Nunez ’14 between the first and second spots. As a result, Kusak will most likely hold the first singles spot throughout the season.
Kusak will also have senior Carly Siegel returning as a potential doubles partner. The duo went 4–3 in seven doubles matches in the spring, and the absence of Nunez will likely put them in the No. 1 doubles slot.
Head coach Bill Austin said Kusak’s playing style exemplifies the kind of approach he wants all his players to have during the fall season.
“She plays hard, she’s quick on her feet and she plays smart,” Austin said. “I really couldn’t ask any more from one of my players.”
With a similar schedule to last season, look for Kusak to become the next leader of the Blue and Gold this fall.