Year in review

Is there a better way to leave your post than in the sunshine, with a cool breeze and the weekend in the pleasantly-near future? In my last column as the Cynic Sports Editor I figured it was fitting to summarize the past year in UVM athletics – an eventful year, an entertaining year, but maybe not the most successful. Each team had many highlights and plenty to build on for next season, and though they may not have racked up the titles like seasons past they still had moments of glory. Expectations should be high for the 2006-2007 sports seasons. There is a buzz in Burlington (not the wind, for a change) and its coming from the top of the hill. The women’s soccer team made their first postseason appearance in seven years during their 2005 campaign. With a solid balance of experience and youth, they made it to the America East playoffs as a 4-seed, but fell to #5 New Hampshire 1-0 late in the second overtime. They lose some significant senior firepower in Amy Cochran and Nikkie Hessney but have a solid group of soon-to-be sophomores that include Lexie Kaknes, Erin Pichiotino, and Kaitlin Francis. In addition they garnered another solid recruiting class, so things are certainly looking up for Coach Kerry Dziczkaniec and co. The Catamount men’s soccer team had one of their best seasons in the history of the program in 2005. Reaching as high as #18 in the national polls, they too ended with a fate similar to their female counterparts. 110 minutes of soccer was unable to decide the first-round America East playoff game at home against Albany, so a shootout ensued. Albany converted five of five successful shootout tries, while Vermont missed their final attempt and fell one goal short, officially ending their season. Next season, the men’s soccer team will be led by a group of outstanding sophomores, in forwards Lee Stephane Kouadio and Jordan Crasilneck, back Connor Tobin, and goalkeeper Tom Critz. They graduated invaluable senior leadership, but look for big things from next year’s squad. The ski team, perennially the most consistent and successful Catamount program, once again lived up to their billing. After sweeping every carnival of the regular season they advanced to the NCAA Championships in Steamboat, CO, where they finished fifth overall. Thirteen UVM skiers were named to the All-East team and five garnered All-America honors – senior Jamie Kingsbury and sophomore Jilyne McDonald were named to the First Team while three other Cats made the Second Team. The Catamount ski team will graduate several of their most decorated skiers, including Kingsbury, Amy Cochran, Hilary McCloy, and Paul Epstein. In addition, McDonald, the talented sophomore slalom star is departing to join the US Ski Team. If past experience is any indication, the ski team should be able to reload and sustain their level of success but you’ll have to wait until the winter to see just how successful they will be. Many would say the men’s basketball team overachieved this past season, fielding no seniors and welcoming eight newcomers. In spite of their youth, they managed to advance to the America East championship game for the fourth straight season. Their record may have under-whelmed some opponents, but their hard-nosed and heady play kept them in every game. They put together an impressive conference tournament run that left them one win away from an NCAA tournament bid, but ultimately lost to a talented Albany team – one that nearly knocked off top-seeded UConn in the first round of the Big Dance. Another solid, talented recruiting class will only help Head Coach Mike Lonergan and the hoop Cats, but problems persist amongst their ranks. Early this spring, sophomores Josh Duell and Ryan Schneider announced their transfers from UVM with intentions of playing basketball elsewhere. Lonergan will need to prove his worth this next season with a much more experienced team, and hopefully that experience can push the Cats back to the upper echelon in the America East. Swimming and diving had their best season in years, bar none. Chalk it up: stellar performances in the America East and ECAC championships, fifteen broken records, and the first winning record in 14 years. Not only did they finish the season with a 9-7 record, they earned a team GPA of 3.23, the highest of any America East swim team and the fourth highest in New England. They graduate only three seniors, and many of their best performers this past season (Jessica Breitfeller, Rachel Kent, and Eryka Karz) were merely freshmen. Next season has the potential to be one of their best ever. The men’s hockey team had another solid season after spending several in the doldrums. They finished in sixth place during their first Hockey East campaign but fell in the first round of the playoffs to Boston College, who went on to be the national runner-up. Even though they started their season on a tear, winning their first seven games, and reached as high as #3 in the national rankings, their play fell off a bit down the home stretch. The hockey Cats finished with an 18-14-6 record, but didn’t perform well enough in-conference to seriously be considered for a NCAA bid. The hockey team graduates a deep and talented senior class that includes three-time captain Jamie Sifers, as well as goal scorers like Brady Leisenring and Jeff Corey. The past year’s freshman class had instant contributors and Coach Kevin Sneddon will be looking for even more from them next season with the team bringing in roughly eight newcomers. As always things should be interesting with the hockey team and now that they’ve proven they can play with the big boys in college hockey things won’t be getting any easier. This spring, UVM teams haven’t fared so well. Baseball got off to a rough start, but has picked up their play since entering the conference portion of their schedule. Softball has been up and down all season, but with postseason play on the horizon they should be looking to peak at just the right time. Men’s Lacrosse got off to a hot start but has struggled in conference play. Women’s Lacrosse has seen some of their diaper-dandies excel as Kristen Millar shattered the freshman scoring record with 53 points on the season. It’s been a busy year. It’s been a fun year. The air of hope and excitement on campus is palpable and next year should be a blast. Go Cats Go!