It is extremely rare for a school to have championship expectations for all of its varsity sports during a season.
But this is the case this season, as the College looks to join the Division III elite.
Now is the time for the spring teams to establish their place among the College’s all-time greatest.
With teams led by junior Mike Klimchak, junior Christina Lizzi, junior Karen Doane, freshman Jackie Shtemberg and senior Gerard Haran, it’s championships or bust.
Behind a talented group, the College’s baseball team is poised to improve upon a record-setting 2006 season.
Repeating as New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Champions last season, the Lions set a school record for wins (38), earned run average (2.92), runs scored (468), doubles (124), triples (34) and total bases (959).
At one point the No. 1 team in Division III, the Lions earned their 16th bid to the NCAA Division III Championships and came within one win of the College World Series after dropping the regional tournament title game.
The 2006 squad featured three players who earned All-America honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA): senior catcher Gerard Haran, senior first baseman Blake Bullis and shortstop Mike Bruschini, who graduated last year.
Outfielder Charlie Iacono signed a minor-league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers after his impressive season.
Other key players that have gradudated are outfielder Chris Wilson, third baseman Rich Kropp and pitcher Ryan Casey.
Returning for the Lions are five starters, including two-time All-Americans Haran and Bullis. The entire pitching staff, who set a school record for lowest ERA, remains intact.
Haran will look to continue his dominant college career behind the plate as he enters his final year. The reigning Rawlings-Division III ABCA Player of the Year anchors the lineup as the College’s all-time leading home run hitter with 35 and counting.
Most of the infield positions are still up for grabs for the Lions’ younger talent.
At second base, the starting role comes down to seniors Andrew Cosgrove and Matt Zonies. Cosgrove has been a regular starter for the past two years at the position and Zonies started 15 times in 2006, sporting a .321 batting average.
Third base and shortstop is wide open coming into the season. The host of players vying for those starting roles consists of sophomore Vince Mazzaccara, junior Dave Mebs and sophomore transfer Jeff Toth.
Bullis will be moving to the outfield this season, leaving his position open for junior Bill Kropp, senior P.J. Anzelone and sophomore John Maloney.
Bullis’ move to the outfield will help lessen the blow of losing NJAC All-Stars Wilson and Iacono to graduation. Senior Jeff Botti remains a staple in left field. Others looking for a place in the outfield are transfers junior Steve Turise and sophomore Mike Manges. Also competing for the position is junior Andrew Camelotto.
With two returning All-Americans and a record-breaking pitching rotation, the Lions enter the 2007 baseball season with their eyes on a third consecutive NJAC Championship and look to make another run at an NCAA Championship.
– Justin Jez, Sports Assistant
With nine returning seniors, head coach Sally Miller’s softball team looks to improve upon last season’s 25-16 record. The Lions are predicted to finish sixth in the NJAC Coaches’ Poll.
The College went 8-10 in conference play last year, including sweeping the season series against Kean University, Rutgers University-Newark and New Jersey City University. They also held NCAA Division III national champions Rutgers-Camden to one and three runs in both contests between the teams.
All-conference senior pitcher Julianne Lajiness returns to the mound for the Lions this season. Lajiness posted a 2.08 ERA with 70 strikeouts in her junior campaign, going 8-7. Her .323 batting average was second on the team and she led in stolen bases with 22-of-23 attempts.
All-conference senior outfielder Kristin Boyer is also back for her final season. Boyer posted a .302 batting average by knocking out 31 hits in 102 at-bats. All-conference junior outfielder Christina Lizzi also returns to the lineup. Lizzi was second on the team in hits with 35 and led the College with nine doubles.
The team opens its 2007 season at the College of Staten Island on Tuesday, March 13, before traveling to Salem, Va., for the Ferrum Invitational March 16-18. The Lions open their NJAC schedule on March 31 at Ramapo College.
– Michelle Martin, Staff Writer
Ranked No. 1 in the Division III preseason poll by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA), the Lions prepare for another playoff-bound season.
Having won back-to-back national titles the past two years, the Lions will be the team everybody is gunning for. Even with this accolade and an impressive track record, head coach Sharon Pfluger prepares the team the same way every year.
“My main concern is getting the team ready for our first game and staying focused so we improve on a daily basis,” Pfluger said.
Pfluger is also aware that the team will not be without its challenges this year. It lost several key players due to graduation, including goalie Megan Marquardt, defender Meredith Spangler and All-American midfielder Bridget Bigley. The biggest loss for the team is two-time Division III Midfielder of the Year Lauren Dougher.
The departures leave voids in the lineup, but Pfluger is confident that the seniors this year are up to the challenge. Seniors Jess Lacontora and Kate Neese are expected to make a big impact on the field this year, along with juniors Karen Doane, Toni-Anne Cavallo and Christine Cavallo. Sophomores Katie Reuther, Kelly Mitchell, Rachel Gordon and Breane Scullin are also players to watch.
Pfluger will rely on the speed, solid fundamentals and the heart of her girls to gain success.
“I think the greatest thing that we can do as a team is grow as one cohesive unit,” Pfluger said. “I look for the girls to develop quickly and challenge each other every day.”
Pfluger and her staff are very excited about this season and want to take it one game at a time. But in the back of their minds, the team shares one goal: proving to everyone that for the third year in a row, they are the best team in Division III.
– Chris Pine, Correspondent
Ranked No. 10 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northeast Region, the College’s men’s tennis team continues to dominate on the courts this season, carrying an undefeated 5-0 record overall.
The team has high hopes for the remainder of the season as the success it has experienced in the spring season has not been a surprise. The team displayed many impressive performances in the fall season as well.
Junior Michael Klimchak made a name for himself at the Swarthmore College Invitational by winning the Flight A singles title. He defeated the University of Delaware’s top player, freshman Austin Longacre, in the finals. Since then, Klimchak has continued to put up impressive numbers, claiming his 50th career win as a Lion last week.
Freshman Jeremy Eckardt made a name for himself at the ITA Northeast Region Championships at Vassar College by working his way to the singles semifinals before bowing out of the tournament with a loss to champion junior Mukhail Gurevik of New York University.
Since then, the Lions have proven they have been working hard by remaining perfect on the season. The Lions hope to make a championship run, and if past performances give any indication, that should not seem out of reach for the talented group of players.
“Based on this fall and the five matches we had so far this spring,” Klimchak said, “our team expectations are to not only make Nationals, but make a statement once we are there.”
– Kevin Gilligan, Correspondent
The women’s tennis team entered the year with high expectations from across the league as it was picked by the coaches to once again win the New Jersey Athletic Championship (NJAC).
This fall, the team fulfilled its expectations, extending its NJAC Championship streak to a 24th consecutive year. The team has held the conference crown since the inception of women’s tennis as a league sport in 1983, with this year’s championship bringing their NJAC match record to 116-0.
At the University of Delaware’s Tri-Fecta Tournament in September, freshman Jackie Shtemberg immediately caught the attention of many as she compiled a record of 3-1, losing only to Susan Pollack of Delaware. Shtemberg also took first place at the ITA Regional Championships. Since then, Shtemberg has continued to show her dominance, leading the charge in the Lions’ championship efforts.
In doubles play, the College’s No. 1 pair has been Shtemberg and junior Christina Contrafatto. The two are extremely talented as a pair, proven by the 2006 ITA Regional Championship title they hold for doubles play. Their confidence gives them high expectations heading into the championship season this spring.
“We both know that we work well together,” Contrafatto said, “and if we can continue with the confidence we have, then we can truly beat the top teams in the area.”
The team’s next match is against Ithaca College on March 9 at the Student Recreation Center at noon.
– Kevin Gilligan, Correspondent