Fall 2009 Sports Previews

Football

Last season’s home opener victory for the Lions after then Junior defensive back Ryan Flannery blocked a fourth-quarter field goal. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Last season’s home opener victory for the Lions after then Junior defensive back Ryan Flannery blocked a fourth-quarter field goal. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

Following a lackluster 2008 season, the Lions look to bounce back and reclaim a spot near the top of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).

Preseason rankings have the College, far removed from their 2007 NJAC crown, sitting sixth after a 4-6 campaign last year. The Lions finished last season with three consecutive home losses, the lowlight being a 42-3 routing by the rival Profs of Rowan University in their final game.

The College opens the season at home for their first three meetings, hosting Buffalo State University (1-9 in 2008), Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham (1-6 in 2008) and Morrisville State College (0-9 in 2008).

Look for seniors wide receiver Cameron Richardson, defensive back Ryan Flannery and punter Marc Zucconi —  returning All-NJAC stars — to take advantage of the less competitive early schedule.

With more than three decades of experience coaching the Lions, head coach Eric Hamilton returns to the helm, hoping that senior quarterback Chris James can continue to produce, following his 2008 season which garnered 18 total touchdowns, and lead the Lions to a successful season.

— Bobby Olivier

Field Hockey

The field hockey team hopes to remain atop the NJAC this season. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)
The field hockey team hopes to remain atop the NJAC this season. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

Following a heartbreaking defeat in the final minutes of the NCAA quarter-finals last season to Tufts University, the field hockey team looks to improve upon its winning ways in the 2009 season. The College has sat on top of the NJAC the past three seasons, and is still hunting for that elusive NCAA Division III Championship title. Last year they finished the season 16-3, including a dominant 6-0 showing in conference games.

Junior forward and midfielder Leigh Mitchell returns to the team after being named to the Longstreth/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division III All-America First Team last season. She led the team in scoring with 19 goals for 45 points, including
two game-winners.

Sophomore midfielder and defender Alexandria Okuniewicz will return to the team after her incredible rookie season. She was second on the team in scoring with 15 goals and 34 points. Most impressive were her timely goals as she led the team with five game-winning goals. She was named the 2008 Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Rookie of the year, and looks forward to earning more honors this season.

— Garrett Rasko-Martinis

Women’s Soccer

The Lions will look to go deep into the NCAA Division III Tournament this year. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
The Lions will look to go deep into the NCAA Division III Tournament this year. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

After advancing to the sectional round of the NCAA tournament last season and the semi-finals the previous season, the Lions are looking to build on that momentum in this upcoming campaign.

Head Coach Joe Russo is returning for his 20th year at the helm, and with eight returning seniors ready to lead the charge, including ultra-talented forward Jamie Kunkel, the team seems to be confident.

Kunkel scored a team-high 31 points last season, comprised of 11 goals and 9 assists.

Midfielder Erin Cunliffe, another senior who produced high-octane offense, was the only other Lion to score 20-plus points in 2008.

Cunliffe notched 10 goals and two assists for the squad last season. The defense should be sturdy again this season, as junior Jessica Clarke returns for her third season in net. Clarke recorded a respectable .779 save percentage, averaging less than one goal against per match.

The College’s first contest of the 2009 campaign will take place at the team Soccer Complex on Tuesday, where the team will play host to New York University in a 5 p.m. start.

— Michael O’Donnell

Men’s Soccer

The men’s soccer team’s previous season was mired down by inconsistencies that they will look to correct this year. The No. 5 seeded Lions ended last season with a 9-9-2 record, and were eliminated in the first round of the NJAC playoffs after a disappointing 1-5 loss to the No. 11 seeded William Paterson University. This postseason appearance was the third for the College in the past four years, including the 2005 season when the Lions were the NJAC champions.

Instrumental to the Lions’ hope of returning to glory in the NJAC standings is the play of returning senior forward Kevin Luber. He finished last season as the Lions’ lead scorer with 26 points on nine goals, two of which were game winners, and eight assists. Luber was named to the 2008 National Soccer Coaches Association of America-adidas All-Metro Region Second Team and the NJAC All-Star First Team. The College hopes he can build upon this success and lead the team back to glory in the postseason.

— Garrett Rasko-Martinis