Springing into summer: Spring Sports Preview

Bridget Walsh

Sports Editor

It may not feel like it outside, but it is finally time for the spring sports season to begin for our athletes. The snow is slowly melting away and teams are moving from the recreation courts inside Billera to their fields outside. After taking their respective spring break trips, our teams have returned to Center Valley prepared to complete their non-conference schedules and dominate the conference.

 

Men’s Lacrosse

2017 Record: 7-8 (Freedom Conference 4-3)

Returners: 20

As announced by the conference office, the men’s lacrosse team has been ranked third in preseason polls behind Misericordia University and Eastern University. After finishing conference play last season 4-3, the Bulldogs advanced to the MAC Freedom playoffs but fell in the semifinals to Eastern. Despite losing some key role-players to graduation, the Bulldogs brought in a talented freshman class to complement some strong returnees.

“I think one of our biggest strengths this season is the freshman that we had join us,” said senior Bryan Weber. “They are all very talented players and big contributions to the team.”

Notable returnees for the Bulldogs include four players that received All-MAC Freedom Second-Team honors including sophomore Frank Krug, who was also the MAC Freedom Rookie of the Year, juniors John Ramos and Matt Barry and Weber.

So far this season, the Bulldogs have posted a 1-3 record with their lone win coming on their spring break trip to Clearwater, FL. They defeated Emmanuel College 12-3 led by senior Joe Neggia and freshman Zach Bowen with three goals and an assist each.

“Our team was off to a rough start, but after our first win in Florida we can really start to see our team come together and play to our full potential,” Weber said. “It is still very early in the season and we still have the rest of our non-conference games left, but I can say that with the talent that we have on our team and how hard we continue to work, the rest of our season looks bright.”

Head coach Matt Brancaccio is set to lead the Bulldogs in his fourth season. In 2016, he earned MAC Freedom Conference Coach of the Year, and enters this season 10 wins away from having the most wins in program history.

 

Women’s Lacrosse

2017 Record: 5-12 (Freedom Conference 1-6)

Returners: 13

In the program’s second season, the women’s lacrosse team has been slated seventh in the MAC Freedom preseason poll.

The Bulldogs return sophomore Katarina Polyviou who was the lone Bulldog to receive postseason honors being honored on the All-MAC Freedom Second-Team as a defender. The Bulldogs also return its top four scorers in seniors Danielle Burke, Kelly Meade, Sydney Mursko and sophomore Katie Kingsland.

After their spring break trip to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Bulldogs stand at 1-4 with their lone victory coming at home to Gwynedd Mercy University, 23-13. Top performers for the Bulldogs include freshman Eillis McCall, who tied the program record for goals in a game with six, and freshman Rachel Sheubrooks who broke the single-game record with 17 saves in goal.

“Our goals constantly revolve around taking that next step forward as a team,” said Mursko. “The work ethic is incredible all around. Everyone comes out every day ready to make each other and the team better. We’re also a very balanced team with all players contributing to play. After earning our first win of the year, we’re looking for more victories throughout the rest of the season. Last season as a first-year program we got our first ever conference win and now we’re looking for more.”

The Bulldogs are led by head coach Rachel Smith in the program’s second season. In her first season as head coach, Smith earned the program’s first five wins, including a 14-7 conference victory over Wilkes University.

 

Baseball

2017 Record: 26-16 (Freedom Conference 17-4)

Returners: 25

The baseball team has been picked second just behind conference rival and defending champion Misericordia University. Last season, the Bulldogs fell in the championship game after earning the top seed in the tournament with a 17-4 conference record.

Despite losing several key players to graduation, the Bulldogs are returning plenty of talent this season. Senior Andrew Schuler returns on the mound after receiving All-MAC Freedom First-Team honors, posting a 6-5 record with a 4.01 ERA in a team-high 76 ⅓ innings pitched. Also being honored on the All-MAC First-Team are juniors Preston Amato, who led the team in hits and runs scored with a .401 average, and Tommy Epsaro, who batted .312 and led the team in doubles, home runs and RBIs.

“North Carolina, West Virginia and Florida were tough trips against some good teams to start the season,” said senior Conner Lafferty. “We learned a lot about our team identity and look forward to getting back to conference play. We are out to prove to everyone we are the best team in the MAC and are looking to capitalize that with a championship in May. We are very close and have good team chemistry. We have a lot of leadership and a good group of guys that work hard.”

The Bulldogs returned from their spring break trip with a 5-7 record, with both of their wins in Winter Haven, FL earned in extra innings. Despite the difficult weather conditions, they are set to open their conference season with a home doubleheader with FDU-Florham on March 18.

 

Softball

2017 Record: 13-25 (Freedom Conference 4-10)

Returners: 13

Last season, the softball team fell short of the MAC Freedom playoffs. This year the Bulldogs are slated fifth in the preseason polls and received one first place vote from the conference coaches.

“Ranking fifth in the preseason polls only reiterates how hard we need to work during practice and puts emphasis on perfecting basic skills to be able to handle tough situations mentally and physically,” said senior pitcher Hailey Warner. “Our biggest goal is to make it to the MAC tournament. We haven’t been since my freshman year and we are itching to get back there. We are really focused on improving communication during games and perfecting basic skills. I think if we continue to work hard and build confidence any team we play, we have the capability to win.”

Warner returns for her final season on the mound along with fellow senior pitcher Andrea Artesani and two other returning pitchers. Warner pitched a team-high 91 innings last season, appearing in 22 games and starting, and finished 5-11 with a 3.69 ERA. Artesani threw for 90 ⅔ innings, posting a 6-9 record and a team-low 3.63 ERA.

Along with the pitching staff returns the lone all-conference honoree in junior Carly Benjamin. She earned Honorable-Mention All-Freedom batting .347 with two home runs and 16 RBI. Against Manhattanville College, this year’s preseason favorite, last season, Benjamin went 4-for-6 with two doubles.

Over spring break, the team travelled to Osceola, FL to compete in the Sunkissed Games. They posted a 3-5 record with a notable 13-0 victory over Simmons College on the final day of the trip. Warner tossed a 5-inning no-hitter to lead the Bulldogs.

“I think spring break really showed what everyone can do and how each member of the team can contribute,” Warner said. “Our team is relatively big, and we have a lot of freshmen. It was great to see how everyone played together and areas in which teammates complimented one another on the field.”

The Bulldogs are led by head coach Rachel Turoscy who is entering her 17th season. She reached her 300th career victory last season and has the most wins as a softball coach in DeSales history.

 

Men’s Track and Field

2017 Record: Sixth in Middle Atlantic Conference

Returners: 28

The men’s track and field team placed seventh out of 13 teams at the MAC Indoor Championships in Feb. They then proceeded to place 10th of 32 teams at the ECAC Indoor Championships at the beginning of spring break. Both indoor track competitions have helped prepare the team for the outdoor season.

Highlights from the ECAC Championships include a second-place finish in the 500-meter by sophomore Marc Brown (1:06.79) and a third-place finish in the 800-meter by freshman Matthew Kraus (1:57.34). Other top finishers include sophomore Chris Brinkman who placed third in the weight throw (53-04.25) and sophomore Alain Severin who placed fourth in the 1,000-meters (2:40.45).

The MAC Outdoor Championship is set for the weekend of May 3 at Widener University, and the Swarthmore College Final Qualifier on May 14.

 

Women’s Track and Field

2017 Record: Sixth in Middle Atlantic Conference

Returners: 17

The women’s track and field team placed seventh out of 13 teams at the MAC Indoor Championships in Feb. Then, they went to the ECAC Indoor Championship and placed 25th out of 28 teams. Junior Robyn Somers led the Bulldogs at the ECAC Championships, finishing seventh in the 400-meters (1:00.15).

At the Tufts National Qualifying Meet, senior Veronica Wheeler broke her own record in the 3,000-meters, placing second (9:50.09), which put her in position to compete at the NCAA Indoor National Championship. At the National Championship, Wheeler earned All-American honors with an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meters (17:09.12) and also placed 15th in the 3,000-meters (10:01.39).

The MAC Outdoor Championship is set for the weekend of May 3 at Widener University, and the Swarthmore College Final Qualifier for the NCAA Division III National Meet is on May 14.

 

Golf

2017 Record: Tied for fifth in Middle Atlantic Conference

Returners: 8

In their fall matches, the golf team posted a 1-0 record against conference opponents. They have also finished in the top 10 in three of their invitationals.

They opened their fall season at the Elizabethtown College Invitational where they placed 10th of 28 teams. Then, they finished tied for fifth out of 12 teams at the Moravian College Fall Invitational, tied for seventh out of 18 teams at the Muhlenberg College Fall Invitational, and third of three teams at the Makuvek Cup hosted by Muhlenberg. They completed their fall schedule posting a 324-394 victory over conference rival Delaware Valley University.

The team is led by seniors Schuyler Hart and Ryan Gutshall, junior Chris DellaSal and freshmen Jax Buist and Albert McFadden. In the fall, Hart averaged a team low 78.6, followed by Gutshall (80), McFadden (84), DellaSala (85) and Buist (85.25).

The Bulldogs are led by head coach Jim Booros. He is in his 10th season as head coach of the program. Booros has helped the team to third place finishes in 2011 and 2012, and consecutive program-best second place finished in 2013 and 2014.

 

Men’s Tennis

2017 Record: 6-10 (Freedom Conference 3-3)

Returners: 10

After posting an undefeated 4-0 record in their fall matches, the men’s tennis team are prepared for their spring matches. In the program’s second season since being reinstated, they were ranked fourth in the preseason conference polls. They reached their first MAC Freedom playoffs since the 2005 season after posting a 3-3 conference record in the regular season.

“Our team’s goals are to beat the teams that beat us last year, especially in our conference,” said senior Brian Hayhurst. “Last year we came in fourth in the conference, so we want to do at least one better. [Being ranked fourth] helps because we were placed last last year since we were a new team. We beat a lot of teams we weren’t expected to, so I think it’s just that same motivation to beat the teams that we’re not expected to beat.”

In the fall, the Bulldogs were led by freshman Danny Lynn who posted a perfect 4-0 record at the No. 1 singles position. Sophomore Ahmad Kanan also earned a 4-0 record, split between the No. 4 and No. 6 singles spots. The team also brought in a handful of talented freshmen to compliment the veterans, which will hopefully help in the long run.

Over spring break, the team travelled to Hilton Head, SC to compete against a variety of teams. They split their matches, going 2-2 with a 9-0 win over Heidelberg University and a 7-2 win over Defiance College.

“I think it’s a great head start over teams that don’t do something like that because otherwise we can’t play unless we have indoor courts, and I think it helps the team bond a lot,” Hayhurst said.

Head Coach David Kurvink earned the MAC Freedom Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to their second playoff appearance in school history.

 

Women’s Tennis

2017 Record: 17-3 (Freedom Conference 5-1)

Returners: 7

The women’s tennis team startled the MAC Freedom conference last season, finishing in second place overall. This season, they were ranked second in the preseason polls just behind defending champion Wilkes University. After a successful fall season where the team went 3-1 with their only loss coming to local rival Moravian College.

“Coming out of last season, our goals for this season are to place at least second in the conference and to come back stronger against teams that we either may have lost to or won in a close match,” said sophomore Amber Achenbach. “We lost a lot of seniors, but we were lucky enough to gain four freshmen who have great potential and give the team a lot of depth. Seeing second was a huge victory for us. Last year being a first-year team, we were picked sixth out of seven and ended up finishing second. Wilkes has an outstanding team but being picked one spot behind them shows the other teams that we’re on the radar and we’re here to stay.”

Senior Kelly Nguyen led the Bulldogs last season and was named the MAC Freedom Rookie of the Year, as well as the All-MAC Freedom First-Team. In the fall, she went 3-1 at No. 1 singles and teamed with Achenbach to finish 4-0 at No. 1 doubles. Achenbach also returns this season after being honored on the All-MAC Freedom Second-Team last season.

The team travelled to Hilton Head, SC over spring break where they posted a 3-1 record with their lone loss coming to the University of Mount Union. They rebounded in the next match to sweep Heidelberg University, 9-0, along with impressive victories in their next two matches. The Bulldogs hope to continue the momentum back home when they compete in both non-conference and conference matches.

“We got a good taste of who plays best at what position and how each of us responds to pressure,” Achenbach said. “As far as the MAC teams, we’ve faced them last year and we know, for the most part, which ones we really need to be playing our best for.”

Kurvink also led the women’s team to an impressive overall record of 17-3 in the program’s first season after being reinstated. The team also broke the school record for consecutive wins at 16 and reached the MAC Freedom Championship match where they fell to Wilkes. Along with the men’s team, Kurvink was honored as MAC Freedom Coach of the Year for his impressive inaugural season with the team.

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