Women’s Lacrosse Starts Off Strong, Second in CAC

Sophomore Aubrey Mirkin has caused five turnovers. (Photos by Matt Molek)
Sophomore Aubrey Mirkin has caused five turnovers. (Photos by Matt Molek)

Coach Kara Reber and the 2009 women’s lacrosse team seemed to get off to a rough start against Washington and Lee on Feb. 21.  Suffering a significant 17-6 loss, the team used the game as a chance to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and get in gear to garner another successful season.  “We came out against W&L unprepared and a bit unsure of ourselves, and it showed on the field. The one good thing that came from that game was that we all knew we could do better,” said senior midfielder Allie Zerhusen.

Following their season-opener, however, it seems that the team has gotten their groove back.  On Feb. 24, they overtook Wesley in Seahawk Stadium with a substantial 24-7 victory, their first conference match and win.  Junior defender Karisa Carroll said, “After watching game film, and practicing on the things we needed to work on, Wesley came much easier.  We got to work out the kinks from the previous game, and everything looked a lot cleaner.”

Zerhusen said that the cohesive quality of the team is a great factor in the team’s potential for success.  “We are a fun group of girls and keeping the mood light is definitely something that aided our success last year. We have fun but we love lacrosse, and there is no better feeling than beating a team higher in the polls than you are.”

And they certainly looked like they were back in business against then-No.15 Dickinson College on February 28th.  The Seahawks notched a huge 10-5 win over the Red Devils who beat them by eight last year.  Senior midfielder Lauren Carrier commented on her team’s big win, giving the credit to the defense, particularly freshman goalie Colleen Simpson.  “The defense only allowed 5 goals to a team who was raved about in the US Lacrosse Magazine to be the next big team.  I think the win gave us some confidence that we need for upcoming games,” said Carrier.  Carroll added, “I think we really started to gel, and Dickinson is a huge win for our ranking, and for NCAA’s.”

The win was so significant for their ranking that on March 4th, the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association announced that the Seahawks jumped up three spots in their weekly poll.  Coach Kara Reber and her squad moved from No. 18 to No. 15, while Dickinson fell to the No. 17 spot.

The match was also a milestone for another impressive reason.  Carrier’s hat trick performance against Dickinson marked her 45th consecutive game in which she scored a goal.  This ties the NCAA Division III record for the number of consecutive games with at least one goal, a streak she has maintained since her freshman year.  Carrier was also named Player-of-the-Week by both CAC Lacrosse and Inside Lacrosse for the week that ended on March 1.

As their season really gets rolling, the team has the bar set high by last year’s great success and first-ever NCAA appearance.  Carroll said, “I definitely want to return to the NCAA tournament, and I definitely think there is no reason we shouldn’t.  We have so much talent, and I think it’s important that we play to our potential every game—and be consistent.”

It seems as though the women’s lacrosse team is aware of the tools they need to utilize to achieve their goals for a CAC championship and another NCAA bid.  “We need to play as a team and be confident to be as successful as last season.  We will have to keep working hard physically and focus all the time in order to do so,” said sophomore midfielder Aubrey Mirkin.  The team has the potential to do more great things this year and it seems as though they are ready to make things happen.  Zerhusen said, “I think we can really make a name for St. Mary’s lacrosse with this team this year, and I look forward contending with the top teams.”

Cross-Country Makes Varsity Upgrade

Next fall, the number of varsity teams that St. Mary’s sponsors will reach 17, as a new varsity cross-country team is added into the mix.

Director of Athletics and Recreation Scott Devine said that this addition has been on the agenda for some time now.  There has been considerable interest from prospective students, the sport is fairly easy to start up, and there is great potential to attract exceptional student-athletes to the college.  “The beautiful area that the College is situated combined with the numerous trails nearby make this ideal for the sport to grow and flourish,” said Devine.  “The Capital Athletic Conference is happy to see us add the sport as well because SMCM will strengthen the conference and the conference championships in cross country.”

The department plans to hire a part-time coach in the coming months to begin building up a team and to start the process of recruiting potential athletes.  The plan is to begin with a team consisting mainly of club runners and to incorporate new runners each year.  Devine said, “We will start in the fall with a good base of runners who are already here and then add to it over the next few years as the new coach works to recruit talented cross country athletes from around the state and the region.”
Assistant Athletic Director Shawne McCoy has been working out the schedule for the fall season.  It will consist of five or six regular season meets as well as the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championships and the men’s and women’s teams will travel together to away meets.

Another motivation for launching the varsity team comes from the great interest among the current club runners.  Vice President Tristan St. Onge says, “The majority of them ran in high school and miss that sense of competition and the idea of a real ‘team’ they can train with.”  This will provide the opportunity for these runners as well as others to showcase their hard work and talent in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Despite the varsity upgrade, the club team will stay intact for those who want a less competitive running experience.  “I believe that there will be interest in keeping the club as well since some of the club members like to run only for fun.  It is easier and more fun to run with other people than by yourself,” says St. Onge.

The club has been busy this season, participating in five road races thus far.  Most of these races were 5Ks, measuring 3.1 miles; however they have plans to run some lengthier distances this spring.  Senior Anna Vaudin describes, “There’s a race in Leonardtown in April where you can run either 5K or 10K, which is nice because the runners have a choice of distance while all participating in the same event.”  The team also plans to participate in a run to Point Lookout this semester.  “It’s a 12.5 mile run, so it’s a big accomplishment when you’re done,” Vaudin says.

This development proves that the college’s athletics program is moving in an exciting direction.  Devine said, “We are confident that we will fill both the male and female cross country rosters with student athletes who will train hard and represent the college in a first class manner. It will be fun to see the Seahawks competing in cross country this upcoming fall.”  Anyone who has an interest in the men’s or women’s cross country team next year should contact Scott Devine at swdevine@smcm.edu.  In addition to providing contact information please include any pertinent information about your running experience in high school, road races, trail running, etc.

Sailing Wraps Up Fall Season with Anticipation for the Spring

The team consists of sailors from all over the country, as well as outside. The recruitment process usually involves sailors “contacting us,” a sign of the status St. Mary’s holds in the sailing world. (Photo submitted by Jen Chamberlain)
The team consists of sailors from all over the country, as well as outside. The recruitment process usually involves sailors “contacting us,” a sign of the status St. Mary’s holds in the sailing world. (Photo submitted by Jen Chamberlain)

As most sports move indoors this time of year, the St. Mary’s sailing team toughs out the cold.  “It wasn’t too long ago that we all arrived on campus early to do boat work and prepare for the season. Now that our fall season is wrapping up I find myself in a dry suit all bundled up.  But as our coach always says, at least the water is still warm,” says junior Sara Morgan Watters.  The team concludes a most successful fall season: in a recent November national ranking, the coed team was ranked #2, while the women’s team was ranked #1 in the country.

Qualifying for each possible nationals event, including the men’s single-handed nationals, women’s single-handed nationals, and Sloops Nationals, the squad is proud of their accomplishments thus far.  They were only one point shy of winning a consecutive Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Sloop Nationals at the University of South Florida, and executed an exciting victory at the Co-Ed Atlantic Coast Championship, the most important double-handed event of the fall season.  Junior captain Ted Hale says, “I feel like the regattas we’ve had so far this season have gone really well, we are always in contention for winning every event, and have come home with some W’s. I think the whole team and the coaches are really excited and looking forward to the spring season.”

The team has high expectations for themselves this spring with their sights set on San Francisco, the location of the 2009 ICSA Women’s, Coed and Team Racing National events.  But to pave their way to the Golden Gate, they are firm believers in the adage “practice makes perfect.”  “Our goals for the spring season will be to continue to get better every day. As coach Bill [Ward] says, we are not just competing on weekends, we compete every day at workouts and practice  in hopes to work a little harder and get a little better than the other teams,” states Watters.

“Our biggest challenge will probably overcoming inexperience as we have a rather young but talented team,” says junior Jesse Kirkland.  Graduating a whopping eleven talented sailors last spring, the team is indeed a young one.  However, Coach Adam Werblow has faith in all of his athletes to keep the standards high.  “Our team is 15% smaller and that means we don’t have a person to waste.  If just a couple of people are doing less than their absolute best in our daily training; the results will begin to show it.  St. Mary’s College Sailing has a tradition of excellence and we hope and intend to be one of the teams capable of vying for national titles later this spring.”

The new River Center is an exciting addition to the campus that will be extremely beneficial to the sailing team.  “Our resources are more plentiful than ever and it is much appreciated by all the sailors,” says sophomore Michael Menninger.

The team is especially happy to have locker rooms for the first time, so that they won’t have to change out of their wetsuits in the frigid weather.  But although this addition to the campus is much appreciated by the sailors, Werblow hopes that the entire campus community will make use of the new waterfront as well.  “We hope the campus community as a whole couldn’t be happier with their new waterfront.  This facility is for the entire college community and we are excited to see it come online and fully operational.”

This weekend the Possum Bowl took place, an annual alumni regatta in which undergrads also participate and look forward to greatly.  Alumni from all across the nation flew in for the event to sail, reunite with college friends and teammates, and visit their beautiful alma-mater.  During this time, the River Center and Rowing Center were blessed.  With a great fall season and a stunning new facility, the team is rearing to go for the spring.  “The River Center has brought a lot of excitement to the team which we hope to translate to wins on the water,” says Hale.

Women’s Soccer Makes SMCM Sport History

Sofia Esparaza had three shots on goal in the game against York (Photos by Brendan O’Hara).
Sofia Esparaza had three shots on goal in the game against York (Photos by Brendan O’Hara).

With eleven hours and counting before they leave for Lynchburg to make program history, the ladies of St Mary’s soccer team are huddled around the Daily Grind for a Thursday night TNA coffeehouse, cheering for teammate Katie Klotz as she belts out an a capella rendition of Alicia Key’s “No One.”

Aside from the setting, it’s hard to distinguish the girl’s shouts of encouragement from the ones heard on their field at a typical game—but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  It’s that kind of continuous support–on and off the field–that the team cites for their extremely successful season which included a 12-2-3 record, a CAC championship, and a first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament.  “Things are clicking this year,” articulates senior captain Marie Oben.

And they certainly are—on top of a championship title, the Seahawks were recognized with seven All-CAC picks, matching a program record dating back to 1992.  Lauren Carrier was honored as CAC Player-of-the-Year, and managed to lead the conference with an average of 2.42 points per game and 1.08 goals per game, despite being forced to end her season early with a devastating knee-injury. Carrier’s injury on
October 15th was just another testament to the teams grit and togetherness.

Junior midfielder Sophie Esparaza describes; “the loss of Lauren really freaked us out initially but players stepped up, proved themselves, and we proved as a team that we could come back from that and not let it affect our chemistry on and off the field.”

And there’s no doubt in any of the girls minds that Carrier was deserving of her CAC honor; “even after missing those games, she [Carrier] still leads the conference in goals and assists,” says
Oben, “I’m glad they got that right.”

Joining Carrier on the all CAC first team was Oben, Esparaza, and senior defender Katie Klotz.  Junior defender Karisa Carroll, freshman forward Bridget McGovern and senior midfielder Taylor Cervenka all earned spots on the second team.  Excited as they are
about the honors, Oben and others don’t see this season as one about individual skills—“we’re all in this together” she says.

And that’s the attitude they carried with them into the tournament last weekend.  “Our team chemistry is fantastic” says CAC Coach-of-the-
Year Brianna Weaver; “Our goal throughout the year has been playing every game to the best of our ability, and that’s exactly what we hope to do on Saturday against Emory.”

Senior captain Taylor Cervenka describes how this year, the team and coach Weaver took a whole new approach to the season.  “Last year, we learned a lot about what to do differently and better,” she said.  It wouldn’t be surprising for a team whose been at it full-force since mid-August to be physically andmentally exhausted by this point, but Esparza says that Weaver makes sure that the girls maintain their composure and excitement going into the tournament.

“At this point in the semester and season people usually get stressed and burnt out. Bri’s done a great job of making it fun for us this past week while still working us hard. She always gives us days off and if people feel the need to take more time off to be completely healed and 100 percent for games she has no problem with that.”

Not only does Weaver coach a team of supportive and talented individuals, but she also makes a point to reach out to the greater St. Mary’s community.  “Bri strives for community outreach and wants to represent St. Mary’s outside of school.”

Junior midfielder Lea Gonzalez blocks the ball. She proved to be an essential player during the game.
Junior midfielder Lea Gonzalez blocks the ball. She proved to be an essential player during the game.

The team invited a few local girls, including St. Mary’s English Professor Ben Click’s daughters, to join them in a practice to participate in shooting drills, and the girls even came to some games.  Junior Brianne Carroll thinks that this outreach benefits the team itself as well as the community.  She says, “Seeing girls nine years old keeps us grounded and reminds you of when you were little, how you loved soccer so much, and how you still love it.”

And while the teams historic season ended in the first round of NCAA play with a 3-0 loss to Emory, all of this will serve them well.  Coach Weaver knows that the great success of her team this year will certainly benefit the program in the coming years.  “We had the fortunate opportunity to follow in the steps of lacrosse and basketball.

This will attract a higher level of soccer player to bring the [soccer] program up even more, and with it, the rest as well.”  This season marks the beginning of a very bright future for St. Mary’s Soccer, and this is all owed to Coach Weaver and her players.

Esparza says, “It feels great to be apart of the first team in the school’s history to win a CAC championship and I think it can only get better from here. The younger players have a lot to look forward to and the older ones are happy to have been a part of such a successful team.”

To end their historic season, the team lost to Emory University 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA Division III soccer tournament.

Water Polo Team Wraps Up with Hopes for Future

“Most people don’t even know we have a polo team,” says Day. (Photo submitted by Chris Sauter)
“Most people don’t even know we have a polo team,” says Day. (Photo submitted by Chris Sauter)

The St. Mary’s Water polo team recently completed their fall league, and moving on into the rest of the year, they hope to show their talents by garnering campus-wide awareness and attracting more athletes. “This year our team really made great progress. We joined the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) and competed in a month long, regional tournament with teams from both Maryland and Virginia,” says Senior player Chris Sauter.

The league consisted of three trips to University of Maryland, College Park, University of Virginia and James Madison University, from which the team earned a 9th seed going into the playoff tournament.

Sophomore Kalvin Day describes, “Unfortunately we had to forfeit every one of our playoff games because not enough players could go to the tournament.  We probably would have come in 8 or 9th had the team been able to come.”  The team posted forfeits against 4th seed UVA, 10th seed Loyola, and 11th seed Richmond.

But they are not dwelling on the past.  Moving into the spring, the athletes have many goals for themselves.  Day explains, “This year we plan on putting together some home scrimmages against College Park and Loyola, doing work at the Millersville University Invitational in the spring and hopefully hosting a home tourney in the spring as well.”

Day is also a member of the swim team and balances the two schedules throughout the year.  “It’s a lot of time and swimming is a varsity sport so it has to be the top priority,” he notes.  Many swimmers choose to play water polo as well to use their aquatic endurance in other ways and to stay in the water.  “Being a swimmer helps a lot with endurance during the games,” Day adds.

However, the team is not limited to those on the swim team, and many enjoy the sport for its fun atmosphere, while competing against top tier colleges and universities at the same time.  “The team is a great group of guys and the trips themselves are as fun as the games we compete in,” says Day. “With a lot of younger players, I am hopeful that the team will continue after I graduate. As always, our team focuses on the fundamentals of the game and caters to all (orno) skill levels,” Sauter added.

Moving forward, the water polo team hopes to become a more recognized club sport on the St. Mary’s campus, such as rugby and the St. Mary’s Ultimate team.  Day explains, “In the future I hope to see water polo become a full time club sport that has the respect of the campus.  Most people don’t even know we have a water polo team or how much fun water polo is.”