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Tie-breakers add thrills to championship seasons
fall 99 sports season culminated in some unprecedented successes,
along with plenty of suspense. Thoroughbred volleyball and field hockeyteams
that have gone from nuthin to nationals in a few short yearscapped
their dramatic turnarounds with tight championship battles that electrified players
and fans alike.
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 its 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 Tbreds had never placed higher than fifth in the state tourney. In the
regular season, they hadnt 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 Tbreds took the Upstate Collegiate
Athletic Association title in both 98 and 99.
At their first
match of the NYSWCAA tourney in November, the Tbreds 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 Tbreds 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 (Skidmores 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
a really tough schedule this year," says Lee, "but we played our hardest
all the way to the end. Thats one of our best attributes as a team: we are
very determined." Coach Hilda Arrechea, who arrived in 1995 and has guided
the teams upswing, agrees it was "a great team effort. Our bench is
very deepif someone was not on, someone else was there to pick
her up." Lee attributes the teams depth, strong defense, and consistency
to "skilled and dedicated coaching." But Arrechea points to true grit:
"This is a young team, but theyve learned never to give up. Theyre
8-0 in five-game matches, and thats a real tribute to their desire to win."
the state tourney, the Thoroughbreds were the No. 3 seed entering the NCAA national
championshipsthe teams 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 Skidmores 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. Its 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."
Collins '00 outraces a Susquehanna defender in the first round of the NCAA national
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. Its 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 OHara
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 Ill 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, OHara 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 Amhersts offense, which
managed only one shot on goal, while Skidmore itself got off nine heart-stopping
shots but still came up empty.
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 wasnt to be.
The two scoreless
overtimes led to one final spine-chilling opportunity/ordeal: a penalty-stroke
shootout to break the tie. Amhersts 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 Skidmores
freshman goalie Kristine Osmond 03.
It was an agonizing
way to lose, but OHara 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
by Ed Burke