Fall Preview: Who to look out for this season

By Bridget Walsh

Sports Editor

A recurring theme this fall, as with any new sports season, is the transition within teams. Many new freshmen have joined the rosters, and preseason has finally concluded, making way for official competition. After the preseason polls have been announced by the MAC Conference office, the Bulldogs are prepared to represent the university and fight for that glorious top position in the conference and an eventual NCAA tournament appearance.

Volleyball 2016 Record: 23-13 (Freedom Conference 6-1) Returning: 11 DeSales University Invitational: Sept. 1-2

After losing just two members to graduation and claiming their sixth consecutive runner-up title in the MAC Freedom Conference, the DeSales University volleyball team has been ranked second in the preseason polls, falling just behind defending champion Eastern University.

“I actually feel like it is more pressure to be second than any other position,” said head coach Michele Zabinski, who is in her 13th season at DeSales. “In order for them to make the step closer to beating eastern, they have to beat us. So I just feel that there’s more hype on our game because we’re the team the rest of the conference wants to knock off first. That just means our team can’t forget about the rest of the conference.”

Notable returners for the Bulldogs include juniors Gabby Savite` and Natalie Gray and sophomore Morghan Shoemaker. All three were named to the AllMAC Freedom First-Team, and Shoemaker was also named the MAC Freedom Rookie of the Year last season.

One aspect the team has been able to take advantage of during preseason is their team chemistry. Despite a roster that totals 10 freshmen and sophomores out of 16 members, the team has adjusted to the young talent and expectations that go along with that.

“The seniors have done a really nice job making sure the team is progressing in dynamic and really moving smoothly through practice,” said Zabinski. “I think that’s a huge thing too that they’re not intimidated by the upperclassmen and feel like they’ve just been brought into the family. We ask the girls to fill out goal sheets over the summer and one goal for everyone was the chemistry. It helps to get over the hurdle when you come to campus and immediately have to play. I attribute that to the girls last year in the recruiting process.”

The Bulldogs opened their season with their home invitational. Conference action will begin at home on Sept. 13 against FDU-Florham.

Men’s Soccer 2016 Record: 9-9-2 (Freedom Conference 4-3-0) Returning: 25 Homecoming Game: Sept. 30 vs. FDU-Florham

After being eliminated in the semifinals of the MAC Freedom tournament, the DeSales men’s soccer team has been chosen fifth by the conference coaches in the preseason polls.

“The expectation this year is definitely to win the conference,” said senior Michael Bamundo. “Last year was the first year since I’ve been here that we made the playoffs, and we lost in the semi[finals]. This year we have a good group coming back and a bunch of good freshmen coming in so the expectation is to win it all and make a run in the NCAA tournament.”

One of the largest advantages for the Bulldogs this season is their notable returnees from last season. Among them are senior goalkeeper Dan Sulpizio, who received All-MAC Freedom First-Team, and junior Michael Kirby, who was honored on the All-MAC Freedom Second-Team after leading the team in scoring.

“Having the people coming back just brings experience,” said Bamundo. “It brings leadership, and especially with the freshmen coming in, it sets an example for them. The harder we have to work, the harder we have to play as a team. The chemistry we have to have, and it just sets an example and hopefully it translates into some wins.”

The Bulldogs opened their season last weekend on the road where they competed in the Herb Lauffer Memorial Tournament at PSU-Behrend. Conference action will begin at home on Sept. 30 against FDU-Florham in conjunction with the homecoming weekend activities.

Women’s Soccer 2016 Record: 9-10 (Freedom Conference 4-3) Returning: 15 Homecoming Game: Sept. 30 vs. FDU-Florham

With four of its top six leading scorers returning this season, the DeSales University women’s soccer team has tied for second with Wilkes University in the MAC Freedom Conference preseason polls.

“I think we’re trying to build off of last year,” said head coach Greg Ridout, who is entering his third season at the helm. “We have a lot of good solid returning players and 12 new players we’re trying to add into the mix. They’re injecting a lot of energy and a lot of prior soccer knowledge and definitely some talent, so we’re just trying to find the right balance between the two.”

Senior Angelica Bertola returns as the leading scorer from last season and the lone Bulldog to receive All-MAC Freedom FirstTeam honors. Sophomore Claire Bassetti also returns this year after receiving All-MAC Freedom Second-Team honors, leading the team in minutes played and starting all 19 games.

Other returnees include senior Gabby Lucchese, who scored a career-high seven goals as a junior, senior Rachel Logue who tallied three goals and one assist, and sophomore Sydney Amato who totaled two goals and two assists last season.

“I think the returning players have been tremendous,” said Ridout. “Their leadership has been really great to make the transition really easy for the new players. On the field, I think they’re setting the example of what we want our program to be about. The wins and losses will take care of themselves as long as we’re doing the right stuff on and off the field.”

The Bulldogs opened their season at home against Lancaster Bible College. MAC Freedom Conference play begins at home during homecoming weekend on Sept. 30 against FDU-Florham.

Field Hockey 2016 Record: 6-12 (Freedom Conference 1-6) Returning: 13 Homecoming Game: Sept. 30 vs. Eastern University

The DeSales University field hockey team has tied sixth with Manhattanville College in the MAC Freedom Conference preseason polls after returning four of its top six scorers and adding nine freshmen to the roster.

“Our team has always been known for our strong chemistry, and the freshmen definitely mesh well with everyone,” said senior Kelly Meade. “[The freshmen] all have very good skills and have been fitting in well with the upperclassmen. Hopefully the chemistry will transition on the field and we will accomplish our goals this year.”

Meade is leading the returnees this season after earning All-MAC Freedom FirstTeam honors last season in the midfield. Also returning for the Bulldogs are sophomores Madison Brader and Katarina Polyviou who both claimed Honorable Mention All-MAC Freedom honors last season.

“Our expectations for this upcoming season are to definitely come out hard every game. We have been working on our communication with each other on and off the field and I believe that will help us a lot this season.”

The team opened the 2017 season on the road at local Lehigh Valley rival Moravian College on Sept. 2. Conference action will begin on the road on Sept. 23 at Delaware Valley University.

Men’s Cross Country 2016 Record: Second in the Middle Atlantic Conference Returners: 14 Home Invitational: Saturday, Oct. 7

After finishing second out of 16 teams in the MAC Conference Championship meet and tenth out of 52 teams in the NCAA Division III Mid-East Regional Championship meet, the DeSales University men’s cross country team is prepared to repeat their success and improve this season.

“Everyone’s put in a pretty good summer,” said junior Kyle McCann. “Injuries haven’t really hit us, and we hope it stays that way. It’s a lot of upperclassmen so the freshmen get a good example of what to look to do on a day to day basis, especially transitioning from a longer race from high school to college.”

Notable returners out of the top sevens last season include juniors McCann, Brendan Fox, Kyle Gonoude and Gabe Lamm, and sophomore Nick Cauley.

In the past, races were mainly dominated by a few teams. This season, the dynamic within the conference has shifted with more programs growing and improving.

“Every year you want to win the MAC,” said McCann. “This year, it’s a different situation with so many different teams being competitive now. So instead of it being two or three team race it’s going to be a six or seven team race. It’s going to be whoever’s day it is that day.”

The team opened their season on the road last weekend at Delaware Valley University. The Bulldogs will host their home invitational on Oct. 7.

Women’s Cross Country 2016 Record: First in the Middle Atlantic Conference Returners: 7 Home Invitational: Saturday, Oct. 7

The women’s cross country team, the reigning MAC Conference champions, have been ranked as the sixth team in the USTFCCCA Mid-East Regional Rankings.

The Bulldogs are returning after a tremendous 2016 season where they added to their championship title by placing fourth out of 51 teams in the NCAA Division III Mid-East Regional Championships and competing in the NCAA Division III National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

“It was the first time ever,” said senior Veronica Wheeler of winning the Conference meet. “We’re definitely smaller than we were last year numbers wise. It’s going to require a lot of us to put in even more effort than before, but I think we’re still capable of good things.”

Out of the top five runners last season, three standouts are returning to continue their successes of last season. Wheeler was the MAC Individual champion and placed fourth in the regional championship. Other notable returnees include junior Meaghan Driscoll and graduate senior Beth Dauer.

“We pretty much just want everyone to be a part of the team,” said Wheeler of the expectations this season. “Communicate, get along and just have the expectation that everyone is going to work hard for everyone else on the team and help each other throughout the season.”

Competition opened this past weekend at Delaware Valley University. The team’s home invitational will take place on Oct. 7.

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