Were the Lions great in Fall ’08?

Eight Lions’ sports teams took to the turfs, trails and tennis courts this semester hoping to make a mark for themselves and the college in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and beyond. Who rose to the occasion? Who was inches away but fell short? We look back at the Fall 2008 Lions’ athletics to find out.

Football

It was a rough year for the Jersey football Lions.

Rattled by graduation and constantly tested by a stronger than usual NJAC, the football team finished the year 4-6. Tough losses to newly developed conference powerhouses Rowan University and SUNY-Cortland held the team down, placing them sixth in a conference that saw five teams finish above the .500 mark.

The team did see several bright spots throughout its arduous campaign, mainly in its high-powered offense. The team averaged 27.1 points per game, and the offense averaged a powerful 336.1 yards per game.

Individually, James led the way through the air with 1724 yards passing and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He added 158 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing as well.

Among James’ most prolific targets were junior wide receivers Cam Richardson (42 catches for 542 yards and 3 touchdowns), Colin Weber (29 catches for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Jeff DeZutter (37 catches for 487 yards and 3 touchdowns).

On the ground, junior running back Chase Misiura ascended to the starting job with ease. Misiura finished the season with a team-leading 130 attempts for 559 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sophomore running back Michael Yetka looked promising as well, notching 73 attempts for 351 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The defense faced some real adversity, losing standout defensive lineman Joe King and some other starters from a year ago to graduation. The unit was forced to play somewhat inexperienced players, but it did its best to establish continuity on a week-to-week basis even in the face of such turbulence.

Two of the team’s co-captains figured prominently in the team’s defensive leadership scheme – senior defensive back Dave Fontoura (54 tackles, 5 for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery) and junior defensive lineman Marc Fabiano (team-leading 75 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss, and 9 sacks).

Defensively, the Lions were able to get some fresh faces on the field in live game situations.

Freshman defensive back Shawn Brown had a stellar performance against Western Connecticut State University that earned him NJAC defensive rookie of the week honors.

The College’s 4-6 represents the same record it tallied two years ago. Of course, the team was able to more than bounce back when they finished co-NJAC champions in 2007 and went 9-3 after advancing to the round of 16 in the playoffs.

– Duncan Slobodzian, Staff Writer

Men’s Soccer

With many young players in the fold this season, the Lions had moderate success, but did not accomplish their ultimate goal.

The College went 9-9-2 overall, with a 5-4 record in the NJAC. Included in that record was an early exit in the NJAC playoffs at the hands of William Paterson University.

The record may not seem like a rousing success, but much of that can be attributed to the team’s strength of schedule.

“The .500 record is a little disappointing,” junior forward Kevin Luber said. “We played one of the hardest schedules in the country, and even though it was not the season I had hoped for, we made progress and it gives a lot of hope for next year.”

Luber was one of the bright spots this year for the team, as he led the team with nine points, eight assists, and 26 points overall.

“Kevin is a great player,” senior midfielder Ryan McMahon said. “The last two years he has led our team in points and normally, whenever we’ve needed a big goal it comes from him.”

With only six seniors graduating and most of the team returning, including Luber, the Lions will look to feed off of 2008’s disappointment with much success in 2009. They believe the best is yet to come for this squad.

“For a young team like ours to play as well as it did was very pleasing,” Luber said.

Ray Nelan agrees, even thinking further into a possible playoff run.

“With next season in mind as a team, another .500 record will be unacceptable,” Nelan said. With the talent of our upcoming senior class we should make a strong run at the NJAC championship.”

– Michael O’Donnell, Opinions Editor

Women’s Soccer

Nothing came easy for the women’s soccer team this autumn, but under the leadership of a core group of battle-tested seniors, the Lions marched all the way to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III tournament before falling to No. 1 Williams University.

The Lions’ opened the season on a four-game winning streak, surrendering only one goal and few scoring opportunities to opponents until the middle of September, when a 4-3 loss to visiting Swarthmore College snapped their unbeaten streak. The squad took another punch to the stomach two weeks later when their 38-game NJAC unbeaten streak, which lasted since 2003, came to an end at the hands of Montclair State University.

The Lions nabbed the third-seed in the NJAC tournament but suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in the semifinals against rival Rowan University and their unbeatable goalkeeper, senior Sarah Volkomer.

Revitalized by an at-large bid to the national title tourney, a trio of tried and true veterans carried the Lions through their opening round contests. Junior goalkeeper Jessica Clarke blanked Moravian College and Western Connecticut State University, while seniors Jamie Kunkel and Coleen Weber showed flash on offense to propel the team into a quarterfinal date with the unbeaten Ephs of Williams University.

The Lions, sparked by Kunkel’s team-leading 11th goal of the season, were minutes away from forcing overtime against the Ephs, but fell just short, losing 2-1.

Kunkel and senior forward Erin Cunliffe lead the team in scoring with eleven and 10 goals respectively, while the Lions, who dominated in the shots on goal category in most of their matches, had five players with over 40 attempts on their opposing keepers. Kunkel led the team in that category too, with 85 chances.

The senior forward had a banner year for the Lions, also leading in assists (nine) and points (31).

Clarke showed that she will be an excellent asset to the team next season, finishing up the year with 53 saves and eight shutouts. She posted three shutouts in the post season, and snared 21 saves in the NCAA tournament.

– James Queally, Sports Editor

Cross Country

The men’s and women’s cross country teams completed a great 2008 season. Each team did well in its respective meets and had players winning awards in every category. Both the men’s and women’s teams had NJAC Players of the Week, Rookies of the Week and All Americans.

The men’s team was the 2008 NJAC Champion and saw numerous runners win individual awards.

Senior Chris Guerrerio was awarded All-America honors as well as many weekly NJAC and ECAC awards. Guerriero also won the NJAC men’s 8k race for the third consecutive year,making him the third runner in the 48-year history of the NJAC men’s meet to win the conference race at least three times.

Freshman runner Alex Yersak earned five Rookie of the Week awards during the fall season. Senior Brian Kopnicki picked up a Player of the Week award, while freshman Sean McGreever was awarded a Rookie of the Week honor. Sophomore TJ Bocchino earned a spot in the NCAA Division III Championships

The women’s team also had a great season, taking third place at regionals and qualifying to compete in the 2008 NCAA Division III Championships.

Senior Martine McGrath was chosen as an All American for the first time in her collegiate career. McGrath also racked up NJAC and ECAC Player of the Week honors and won the 2008 Mainline Invitational. Senior Sarah Best was also awarded NJAC Player of the Week honors.

The younger Lions also did well this season, with Katie Nestor and Sarah Smith earning Rookie of the Week honors.

– Danny Gustave Pazos, Staff Writer

Men’s Tennis

The men’s tennis team used its limited fall season to prepare for its full-length spring schedule.

Competing in the Lions’ Kickoff Tournament against Division I Villanova University, the Lions did not fare well as they won only one of the 16 matches during the two-day tournament. In the ITA Regional tournament, Lions’ junior Jeremy Eckardt earned the No. 3 seed and advanced to the third round of the competition.

Freshmen Steve and Stewart Fernandez, sophomore Jonathan Yu and freshman Daniel Lee also participated in the tournament.

The Lions are currently training for their spring season.

– Bobby Olivier, Sports Assistant

Women’s Tennis

The women’s tennis team had a fall season that will not be soon forgotten around campus. The Lions finished the fall with an undefeated record of 5-0, extending their ever-impressive NJAC win streak to 126 consecutive matches in the process.

In addition to their prototypical dominance, the College rose to a new level this fall as they did not lose an individual match and decimated each opponent 9-0. Doubles partners senior Haley Kutner and freshman Christie Pollin led the way for the Lions, winning the Inter-Collegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Tournament and earning a bid to the ITA National Tournament in Mobile, Ala.

The duo was defeated in the first round of the competition, coming in eighth overall to conclude the College’s season.

The team is currently preparing for its spring season.

– Bobby Olivier, Sports Assistant

Field Hockey

The Lions were able to overcome a multitude of obstacles throughout the season, including injuries to two senior leaders, but finally met their match at the hands of a questionable call from a confused referee.

Their dreams of a National Championship fell short with a 2-1 loss to the Jumbos of Tufts University in the elite eight of the NCAA tournament after the referee called a dubious penalty stroke with under two minutes to go in the game.

Despite the loss, the Lions recorded an impressive 16-3 overall record and another New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship en route to beating six top 25 ranked teams through the course of the season.

Led by Longstretch/NFHCA Division III All-America First Team honoree sophomore forward Leigh Mitchell and her team leading 19 goals, the Lions potent offense outscored its opponents 70-17 on the year.

On the defensive end, senior Kelly Mitchell helped anchor the defense along with goalie Shannon Syciarz who had a stellar freshman year in the net with goals against average of just .93. Kelly Mitchell also shared first team All-America honors with her sister while senior midfielder Katie Reuther earned third team honors.

– Kristina Shemming, Staff Writer