Ask Lions tennis coach Scott Dicheck what to expect from the women’s tennis team this season and he can answer you in one word: excitement.
“There’s a lot of excitement and optimism heading into this season,” Dicheck said. “After last season’s successes, we expect to play better – and we will.”
Dicheck, who has been at the helm of the College’s tennis teams since fall 2000, believes that last year’s success will translate into more this season.
“Last season was our most successful season thus far, and the energy we had was unbelievable,” he said. “This year, I feel that energy will only be greater.”
Much of that energy can be attributed to senior Christina Contrafatto. The three-year starter and three-time All-American has emerged as a true leader. Her experience will prove vital to the young team.
“(Contrafatto) has seen this team go through a lot, and she will definitely be a huge help to the younger kids,” Dicheck said.
Speaking of younger talent, newly recruited freshman Amanda Berg has the veteran coach excited and enthused. Out of West Morris Mendham High School in Mendham, N.J., the highly-touted singles prospect has the Lions, especially her new coach, buzzing.
“(Berg) is definitely our top recruit,” Dicheck said. “I’m really excited to coach her throughout this year and beyond.”
Not short on youthful ability, sophomore Jackie Shtemberg proved she had more than enough talent to make a difference in 2006.
With her play soaring much higher above the average expectations of a freshman, Shtemberg proved to be a key factor as the College reached the NCAA Regional Finals where they fell to Amherst College in a heartbreaker.
“It was tough getting that far and not accomplishing what we wanted to,” Dicheck said about his No. 17 nationally-ranked team, “but with the returning team we have, we’re only going to build off of our success from last year.”
Summing up his outlook on this season, Dicheck said he will continue to focus on two main goals.
“Obviously our main goal is to move past the regional finals and on to the NCAA Championship,” Dicheck said. “Also, our 116 in-conference win streak is important, but ultimately going far and winning the title is what we want.”
The men’s tennis team will open its season at the Swarthmore College Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 15.
-Michael O’Donnell, Staff Writer
Coming off an impressive 2006-2007 season, the men’s tennis team is looking to improve upon its 11-2 record.
Dicheck has led both the men’s and women’s tennis teams to successful seasons since coming to the College as head tennis coach in the fall of 2000. He credits much of the team’s success to the attitudes of all of his players.
“I’m confident going into this season,” Dicheck said. “I know the amount of hard work that all of these kids put in.”
This year marks the third consecutive year seniors Michael Klimchak and Roger Mosteller will play together as the Lions’ top doubles pair. After a loss in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Division III Doubles Championships, the duo is set on improving on their lifetime record of 38-8 as a pair.
Also returning to the Lions’ lineup is senior Eric Ferriere who ended last season with a 19-3 record. Ferriere, who has worked his way into the No. 2 doubles spot, was named the most improved player for the 2005-2006 season and is someone whom Dicheck described as a “natural leader.”
Hard work prevailed last season for the team as its posted 11-2 record in the regular season allowed it to advance into the playoffs. The team was also ranked No. 10 regionally in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll.
The team will begin its season at home on Wednesday, Sept. 12, versus Rutgers University-Newark.
-Kristen Lord, Sports Assistant
The cross country teams are looking forward to a successful season, according to head coach Phil Jennings.
“We returned a strong core of both our men’s and women’s teams,” he said.
The men’s team returned its two All-American members, junior Christopher Guerriero and senior Brian Kopnicki. Jennings said he believes Guerriero and Kopnicki will prove to be key runners as the team attempts to take home its 14th consecutive conference title.
The women’s team, one year behind the men’s as it works toward its 13th consecutive conference title, returned top-finishing juniors Megan Donovan, Martine McGrath, Megan O’Leary and Stephanie Herrick.
Herrick earned All-America honors last season in the track and field 800-meter competition while O’Leary took home a 2006 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Runner of the Year award.
The men’s team finished well at Nationals last year, coming in eighth place, while the women’s team came in 22nd place.
“It was disappointing,” Jennings said, regarding the women’s Nationals finish. “We felt like were going to do better than that.” He continued to say the team will work hard to improve its standing this year.
This season’s cross country schedule, which Jennings described as “pretty strong,” has the team traveling to meets as close as the Blue/Gold Alumni Run in Titusville, N.J. and as far as the Oshkosh Invitational in Winneconne, Wis.
The Blue/Gold Alumni Run, the team’s first event this season, will take place on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Washington Crossing Park.
-Allison Singer, Sports Editor
The Lions’ field hockey team is looking to make a championship run this season. After suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss to Messiah College in the third round of last season’s NCAA Division III Field Hockey Tournament, much of the team has returned to finally take a championship title.
Now in her 23rd season as a coach for the College, head coach Sharon Pfluger is set on taking the field hockey team to the NCAA Championship Tournament for its 27th consecutive year.
She currently has an overall field hockey coaching record of 400-70-9, with 391 of those wins happening at the College.
The team faces challenges this year after losing defender Meg Hess and forwards Jessica Berkowitz and Allison Greene.
Returning to the College’s lineup this year is junior defender Sheri Grondski and sophomore midfielder Jessica Falcone.
Last season, Grondski played a key role in helping the Lions advance in the tournament. She was named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association South Atlantic Region Second Team for her efforts.
Falcone was selected by the NJAC as the 2007 Rookie of the Year with nine goals and three assists.
The team’s matchup against rival Salisbury University on Oct. 13 promises to be an intense game. The team suffered its first loss of the season to the Salisbury Sea Gulls last year.
Opening the 2007 season ranked fifth in the STX/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Preseason Poll, the Lions were also tabbed to finish second in the NJAC behind Rowan University.
The lacrosse team will begin playing on Saturday, Sept. 1 when it heads to NCAA Division III opponent Millersville University. Then, it will return home the next day to face Ithaca College in a 1 p.m. start at Lions Stadium.
-Kristen Lord, Sports Assistant
After two consecutive NCAA Division III Finals appearances, the women’s soccer team is ranked second in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll.
The team is also the current favorite to win its third consecutive NJAC Championship.
With a record of 18-2-3 last season, the team is looking to build upon its already-impressive resum?.
The team claimed the NJAC Championship in seven of the last eight years and finished last season with a record of 8-0-1 against NJAC opponents.
The Lions have also secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the last 16 consecutive seasons.
Both of last year’s All-American honorees are returning for the Lions this season. Senior defender Courtney Krol helped the Lions amass a total of 16 shutouts last season while contributing six goals and four assists to the Lions’ offense.
Two-time senior All-American forward Dana DiBruno netted 12 goals and had five assists in the 2006 season.
Also retuning is sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Clarke who will look to build upon her stellar freshman campaign, which included finishing with 12 shutouts.
The Lions’ season will begin on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Frostburg State University in the Elizabethtown College Blue Jay Classic.
-Justin Jez, Staff Writer
Heading into the 2007 campaign, the football team is ranked seventh in the NJAC preseason poll. The Lions finished last year’s campaign with a record of 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the NJAC.
The Lions will have to replace a pair of offensive weapons since losing wide receiver Ryan Ross and running back Cory Schoonover to graduation. Ross, former team captain, led the team in scoring last season with 44 points. Schoonover was third on the team in points with 20 and contributed an average of 57.8 yards per game in rushing.
“Ross was a huge part of our offense,” senior safety Andrew Larkin said. “A lot of what we did revolved around his ability. The offense is going to look to spread the ball out more – young wide receivers and young running backs have already shown that they can shoulder some of the offensive load.”
The Lions return three senior all-conference players with Larkin, tight end Chris Opdyke and defensive lineman Joseph King. Larkin tallied 50 tackles and two interceptions in 2006 and Opdyke led the Lions in receptions with 19 and totaled 316 yards.
King led the NJAC with 11.5 sacks last year and tallied 39 tackles.
Head coach Eric Hamilton is the longest tenured football coach in the NJAC and sports a solid career record of 179-115-6 in his 30 years of coaching.
He remains optimistic for the team this season.
“Our goal always is, and our expectation is, to win the NJAC,” Hamilton said. “Our other goal is to help create a competitive atmosphere on campus and get our students out of the dorm and into the stadium with Friday night lights.”
Kicking off the season at home, the Lions will square off against the Mules of Muhlenberg College on Friday at 7 p.m.
-Justin Jez, Staff Writer
After a 7-8-1 2006 season for the men’s soccer team, some fear a possible downward spiral. Head coach George Nazario, however, is not worried.
“We have a good bunch of guys returning for this season,” Nazario said. “We got some bad breaks last season and that really hurt us, but with the team we have and the schedule we have, we’re going to be competitive.”
Nazario, in his 12th year with the College, has the tough task of turning a team around from a sub-.500 season.
The veteran coach believes newfound experience and talent will increase the team’s chance of success.
“This group of kids knows what it takes to succeed, and it’s going to show,” Nazario said. “The older guys will make the difference. When you look at successful teams they’re usually laced with many juniors and seniors.”
The “older guys” include this year’s senior captains, midfielder Joey McGinley and forwards Frank Fiorilli and Craig Langan. With these three players leading the charge, the College soccer faithful have every right to have high hopes for the season.
The Lions boast several returning sophomores and juniors as well as a few incoming freshmen who Nazario expects will get some playing time.
“Some of these young guys may see themselves on the field sooner rather than later,” Nazario said, “so I expect them to be ready.”
This season, the Lions play six of their first eight games away. Nazario has no fear when it comes to the challenge.
“The schedule we take on – with mainly road games to kick off the season – has been like that since I got here, so we’re used to it,” Nazario said. “We have two tournaments within that stretch and doing well in those would be a huge confidence boost to our team.”
When asked about what he’s most excited about this season, Nazario pinpointed one specific date.
“On Oct. 6, we have a home game against two-time national champion Messiah College,” he said. “That is a huge game for us, as they beat us in the 2005 (NCAA Division III) sectional championship, so this game could set the tone for what we want to accomplish this year.”
The Lions will take on Baruch College on Friday at 6 p.m. at Rowan University during the Harrison House Invitational.
-Michael O’Donnell, Staff Writer