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Winter 2000

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Squeakers:
Tie-breakers add thrills to championship seasons

Skidmore’s fall ’99 sports season culminated in some unprecedented successes, along with plenty of suspense. Thoroughbred volleyball and field hockey–teams that have gone from nuthin’ to nationals in a few short years–capped their dramatic turnarounds with tight championship battles that electrified players and fans alike.

Volleyball players hit the deck
Digging: Volleyball players hit the deck for a team picture.


For the volleyball team, the ’99 season was "one of those great dreams that continue even when you think it’s time to wake up," as sportswriter Cornell Woolridge ’00 rhapsodized in the Skidmore News. Racking up a 38-5 record, including a 21-match win streak, the Thoroughbreds earned the No. 1 seed in the New York State Womens’ Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. Just being ranked at the top of the 12 best NYSWCAA teams was hot news, since the T’breds had never placed higher than fifth in the state tourney. In the regular season, they hadn’t broken .500 in several years. But when it came, the turnaround was rapid: the team went 11-14 in 1995, 14-14 in ’96, 17-20 in ’97, and then 25-9 last year. The T’breds took the Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association title in both ’98 and ’99.

At their first match of the NYSWCAA tourney in November, the T’breds handily defeated Oneonta in three straight, 15-9, 15-6, 15-9. The next day brought a tougher battle, against No. 4-seed Brockport, and it took the T’breds all five games to emerge on top. That meant Skidmore faced No. 2 Elmira for the championship later in the day. It was a grueling match, and by the end of game three, Woolridge wrote in the News, "the wear and tear of playing 11 games in two days was getting to the Thoroughbreds." But the pressure only intensified. To accelerate the tie-breaking fifth game (Skidmore’s 10th game that day), a rally-point scoring system awarded a point for each change of possession as well as each regular point scored. The teams dueled to 14-14, until Skidmore finally triumphed, 16-14, to take the NYSWCAA title for the first time in team history. Named to the all-tournament team were Kathy Tschampel ’02, Tina Hutten ’01, and co-captain Courtney Lee ’01.

"We played a really tough schedule this year," says Lee, "but we played our hardest all the way to the end. That’s one of our best attributes as a team: we are very determined." Coach Hilda Arrechea, who arrived in 1995 and has guided the team’s upswing, agrees it was "a great team effort. Our bench is very deep–if someone was not ‘on,’ someone else was there to pick her up." Lee attributes the team’s depth, strong defense, and consistency to "skilled and dedicated coaching." But Arrechea points to true grit: "This is a young team, but they’ve learned never to give up. They’re 8-0 in five-game matches, and that’s a real tribute to their desire to win."

After winning the state tourney, the Thoroughbreds were the No. 3 seed entering the NCAA national championships–the team’s first-ever national berth. The first day they quickly dispatched Hunter College in three games, but that pitted them against powerhouse Ithaca College in the second round. Of Skidmore’s four losses this season, two were to Ithaca. Now the postseason ended with one more, as Skidmore succumbed in three straight.

Despite the loss at nationals, "We had a great time and were incredibly excited to be there," says Lee. Notes Jordan Grow ’01, "I only joined the team last year, and it was already on the turnaround path. It’s been a good time." Arrechea knew her team was exhausted when it made nationals, and afterward "I told them to take a couple weeks off and relax. But no! Within 48 hours of the final loss, I saw three of them working with weights and on the treadmill. They wanted to keep training for next season." Says Lee, "It was an incredible season, and it will only get better from here."

Jen Collins in action!
Jen Collins '00 outraces a Susquehanna defender in the first round of the NCAA national tournament.


Only getting better is what the field hockey team has been doing lately too. After many years of struggling, the team has been shattering records left and right. It finished 5-11 in 1995 and 6-10 in ’96 and then went 12-6 in ’97, 15-4 in ’98, and a brilliant 18-2 this year. It’s no coincidence that Coach Katharine Perry DeLorenzo, who came to Skidmore in 1995, initiated a new, intensively offense-oriented strategy in that 1997 turnaround season. This year, the team scored an average of 5.35 goals per game, while allowing only 1.35 into their own net. Senior star Molly McClellan ’00 led the team (and broke the record) with 20 goals and 20 assists for 60 points; Jen Collins ’00 scored another 20 goals. McClellan, Collins, and Lacey French ’01 were named NCAA Division III All-Americans.

Says Kait O’Hara ’00, "Our skill levels have increased 10-fold in the past four years, and the team acts as one unit. Our coach is an excellent strategist and spectacular motivator. The thing I’ll miss most about Skidmore field hockey is the camaraderie." When the Thoroughbreds learned they were seeded second in the NCAA national tournament and would host the first rounds at the Skidmore stadium, O’Hara says, "I was ecstatic and excited by the heightened level of competition." Skidmore made nationals for the first time ever last year, but lost in the first round.

This year the national contest began against Susquehanna University; bracing fall weather and bleachers full of boisterous fans (some showing their Skidmore colors with green face paint) helped spur the Thoroughbreds to a 3-2 win. The next day, Skidmore and Amherst locked horns. Amherst claimed an early goal, but Skidmore scored three times before the half-time whistle. Amherst seemed to buckle down in the second half, and regulation play ended in a 3-3 standoff. As Matthew Tebo ’00 reported in the Skidmore News, "Skidmore fans could only look on knowing that the six top-scoring Thoroughbreds would play in the overtime." As it happened, there were two overtimes, each a relentless 15 minutes of full-throttle, six-on-six competition. Through both periods Skidmore stifled Amherst’s offense, which managed only one shot on goal, while Skidmore itself got off nine heart-stopping shots but still came up empty.

Carrie Weiner in action!
Carrie Weiner '01 heads for the Susquehanna net.


"The pressure in overtime was amazing!" Thoroughbred Taryn Howard ’03 told the News. She was on the bench at the time, but "the fans were incredible and I was honored to be on the field," she said. According to McClellan, "Giving up was never on our minds. It was cold, we were tired, we were numb, but we were determined to score and make our fans and ourselves happy so they could go home and get warm." But it wasn’t to be.

The two scoreless overtimes led to one final spine-chilling opportunity/ordeal: a penalty-stroke shootout to break the tie. Amherst’s dauntless goalkeeper Beth Sensing hung tough, scotching the best efforts of Skidmore shooters Collins, French, and Carrie Weiner ’01, while cunning Amherst shooters finally bested Skidmore’s freshman goalie Kristine Osmond ’03.

It was an agonizing way to lose, but O’Hara still says, "I believe we had what it takes to go all the way." And McClellan told the News, "As senior captain, I could not have asked for more heart, desire, hard work, dedication, fun, excitement, and love from my teammates. We proved that Skidmore field hockey . . . is one of the best." –SR


Photos by Ed Burke

 


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