Several Yellowjackets squads have picked up momentum as the chilly days of November move in to replace the jam-packed athletic action of October. Fall is fading fast, and thoughts now turn toward the colder months, when the indoor sports of basketball, squash, track and swimming and diving replace their fall counterparts. Let’s take a tally of what to expect from the ’Jackets in the coming weeks:
Women’s basketball With a 21-6 mark in 2010-11 (including 10-4 in the perilous University Athletic Association) and
yet another appearance in the NCAA tournament, the women’s basketball team returns with a target on its back. Coaches across the country have already recognized the team’s tremendous potential this season, handing the Yellowjackets a preseason No. 8 national ranking.
It’s not undeserved. Despite the matriculation of All-American Melissa Alwardt, the team returns a pair of talented senior forwards in Jodie Luther and Madeline Korber. Luther was second to Alwardt last season in scoring (11.7 points-per-game) and rebounding (5.2 rebounds per game) while shooting an impressive 49.6 percent from the field. Luther’s efforts garnered her Second Team All-UAA and Second Team All-East Region honors. Korber played a solid supporting role on offense — averaging 7.5 points per game and five rebounds per game — but her real abilities were on the opposite side of the ball, as she tied for the team lead in blocked shots (23). Alwardt and Korber will lead a rather young team with an abundance of sophomores (seven of the 16 women on the squad are second-years).
No. 2 University of Chicago and No. 6 Washington University in St. Louis headline a strong batch of UAA competition, but the Yellowjackets are confident — they defeated the Washington University Bears at the Palestra last season and ended conference play with seven wins in their last eight games.
UR men’s basketball fans were able to get their first glimpse of this year’s squad last Saturday when the Yellowjackets took on Oswego State in a home exhibition contest.
The ’Jackets, who are ranked seventh nationally in the D3Hoops.com Men’s Top 25, fell to the No. 18 Lakers, but the preseason loss was not on my mind when I left the Palestra after the game. I could only think about two things: Last year’s magical season and the promise that 2011-2012 holds for the ’Jackets.
Last year, UR finished 22-6 (12-2 UAA) en route to winning the UAA Championship and advancing to the Sweet 16 of the Division III NCAA Basketball Tournament, before losing to Middlebury College.
But now, after an eight-month hiatus, basketball is back in Rochester. This year’s team has a chance to have as much success as the 1990 men’s team that won the National Championship. Expectations of a national championship come with the territory when you are ranked seventh in the preseason Top 25.
Saturday’s exhibition gave a good taste of what to expect this season, namely a dynamic offense.
All-American junior point guard John DiBartolomeo (17.7 PPG, 5.7 APG) looked even more poised on the court than he did last year, if that is at all possible. The reigning UAA Player of the Year hit a number of impressive mid-range jumpers — his signature shot — and a beautiful reverse layup late in the second half.
I was equally impressed with the rest of the starting lineup: junior center Rob Reid, sophomore forward Nate Vernon and senior forwards Nate Novosel and Chris Dende. Those four and DiBartolomeo give UR several potent scoring threats and will make for one of the top starting lineups in the nation.
The main issues the Yellowjackets may face this semester will be will be with their defense -— they were occasionally dominant in Saturday’s matchup, but still struggled at times to secure defensive rebounds. –by Nate Mulberg, Class of 2014
Men’s and women’s swimming and diving
While other winter sports teams can only contemplate their seasons to come, the swimming and diving teams have already jumped right in, having hosted a University Athletic Association quad-meet that included Case Western Reserve University, Carnegie Mellon University and New York University.
Despite only defeating one opponent during the two-day weekend (the event was scored as a set of dual meets), the men’s team emerged from the meet with optimism, as the lone victory came against an unlikely foe: the NYU Violets — a team the men’s squad had never defeated in its history.
The source of a majority of the Yellowjackets’ points in the meet was also a somewhat implausible one, as two freshmen claimed the home team’s only individual wins on the weekend. James Frauen won the 100 backstroke, while classmate Brian Wong took the 100 fly. Wong was later named the Men’s Liberty League Newcomer Swimmer of the Week.
Junior breaststroke swimmer Adam Bossert and junior freestyler Christian Vu add much-needed experience to the young lineup, while freshman sprinter Chris Doser and sophomore individual medley specialist Monte Jiran will further solidify UR’s lineup.
UAA contenders will look to tame UR at both the conference and national level, but with a surplus of young talent to go along with strong leadership from the upperclassmen, the men’s season appears to be a promising one.
Like the men’s team, the women’s swimming and diving squad opened their season earlier than most with the UAA quad meet. The Yellowjackets bested Case Western (216-154) and NYU (204-166), while not falling far behind No. 10 Carnegie Mellon (164-200) to go 2-1 in their season opener.
And, like the men, the women benefitted significantly from this year’s extraordinary freshman class, as two freshmen posted the team’s only individual wins. Teresa Xu won the 500 freestyle, and added to her total by placing third in the 200 free, sixth in the 400 IM, and swimming on the third-place 400 medley relay. Xu’s performance earned her the Women’s Liberty League Newcomer Swimmer of the Week award. Classmate Lauren Bailey was no slouch herself, claiming the 100 fly and placing second in both the 50 free and the 100 free while also swimming on the runner-up 200 medley relay.
Sophomore Karen Mees, a freestyle and backstroke specialist, and junior Megan Lawless, a butterfly specialist, will be looked to for points, as will senior Rachel deLaHunta and junior Sara Spielman on the boards.
The UAA is a force on the national scale, as No. 1 Emory, No. 10 University of Chicago, No. 11 Carnegie Mellon and No. 12 Washington University in St. Louis all await UR at the conference championships.
UR squash totes its No. 4 ranking from last spring into the fall campaign, and hopes that this will finally be the year the Yellowjackets down the 13-time national champion Trinity College Bantams.
Stars from all over the world combine every year to power the Yellowjackets to the kind of national stature they’ve become accustomed to. Senior Matt Domenick (British Virgin Islands) and junior Andres Duany (Peru), a second-team All-American, were top players in their countries before arriving in the U.S., and will be expected to cover up for the loss of Will Newnham (last year’s No. 2) and senior captain Hameed Ahmed — who will take over as an assistant coach — as well as for the absence of first-team All-American and senior Beni Fischer (the team’s No. 1) and senior Joe Chapman, both of whom have been abroad this semester.
This season, the Yellowjackets will look for vengeance over Princeton University, which edged UR, 4-5, to push us to fourth place in the National Championships, and will seek to settle scores with Yale University and Trinity College, both of whom dealt losses to the home team over the course of last season.
Men’s and women’s indoor track
While the late postseason is still in full swing for UR’s top cross-country athletes, many athletes have already begun reporting to Georgen Athletic Center and Fauver Stadium to prepare for the 2011-12 indoor track season.
The men’s sprinting corps lost a strong dasher in Justin Lyttleton from last season, but has a new talented front man in senior Nick Chisholm, who had a standout junior season and is eyeing an NCAA berth this year. The middle distance unit is perhaps the team’s greatest asset, as the men return a deep roster that includes seniors Andrew Fleisher, Greg Hartnett, James Meyers and Paul Kintner and sophomores Yuji Wakimoto and Andrew Keene — all of whom have proven themselves capable of competing with the state’s and region’s best.
On the long-distance side of things, senior All-American Jamie Vavra and classmate Jason Zayac lead the nationally-ranked distance team to the track to tack on more points.
The team will be nothing unless it can compile a full roster, however, which is why the success of sophomore hurdlers Jon Cyganik and Andrew McGrath, senior thrower Pat Single and senior pole vaulter Jake Hyer will prove crucial to the team’s ability to keep up with other talented squads.
The women’s team graduated nationally-acclaimed talents Jackie Cinella and Yaneve Fonge last spring, but that shouldn’t stop this year’s squad from making their presence known at many of the big meets this season.
Sophomore Abby Zabrodsky returns from an incredibly successful freshman campaign to lead the sprints, while juniors Consuelo Ramirez Candia and Ashanna Lynch will seek to continue the UR thrower legacy that Fonge left behind. Senior pole vaulter Kaily Abbott and junior Carina Luck, who was fourth in the triple jump and seventh in the long jump at the same meet, will each look for top finishes at the state and regional level later winter.
Junior Zarah Quinn and senior Hillary Snyder headline a strong mid-distance team, while sophomores Danielle Bessette and Kate Thomas and junior Meg Ogle anchor the distance corps. Freshman Victoria Stepanova will be counted on to supply points in her debut races as well.
The Yellowjackets will face elite competition at the NYU Division III Challenge and the ECAC Indoor Championships in March.
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2014.
Nate Mulberg is a member of the class of 2014.