Feature: 2015 fall sports in review
Written by Flat Hat Sports Desk|
December 2, 2015
While William and Mary football is still going, headed to the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, the rest of the fall sports have ended their seasons. Flat Hat Sports reviewed each of the seasons for sports that only play during the fall.
William and Mary finished another successful season this fall, with both men and women finishing as Colonial Athletic Association champions.
The men’s team placed where they were predicted to all season, a testament to their consistent efforts across the board. This includes first place finishes at both meets at Christopher Newport University, at home at the William and Mary Invitational and at the CAA Championships.
2015-16 was highlighted by the individual victories of the two-man team of redshirt freshman Ryan Thompson and junior Faris Sakallah at the CNU XC Opener, Sakallah again at the William and Mary Invitational, and junior Trevor Sleight at the CNU Invitational. A high point of the season was scoring a perfect 15 points at home by taking a pack mentality and finishing first, second, third, sixth, and seventh to own the home turf.
No race was more rewarding than the CAA Championships, which the Tribe has now won 16 years in a row, the fifth-longest streak in NCAA history.
But no race was more rewarding than the CAA Championships, which the Tribe has now won 16 years in a row, the fifth-longest streak in NCAA history. The win was established with scoring runners finishing in second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh places.
Sakallah’s season long efforts placed him consistently as the Tribe’s top runner, owning team bests of 24:23.00 in the 8,000-meter race and a tie for the best time in the 6,000-meter race at 18:49.00. This latter time is shared with senior Ryan Gousse, who ran well throughout the year at every distance for the Tribe, holding the fastest 10,000-meter race time at 31:05.20 and second fastest time in the 8,000-meter race at 24:33.60. The College finished its season at the Southeast Regional, where it finished 11th in a field of 32.
On the women’s side, the Tribe closes out around the season’s expectations, taking first place in all of the same meets as the men’s side. Strong running from sophomore Regan Rome led to her individual wins at the William and Mary Invitational and the Princeton Inter-Regional Meet and these performances join those of the two-woman team of senior Leanna Eisenman and senior Emily Stites at the CNU XC Opener and Stites again at the CAA Championships in a list of top performances for the College.
Rome grew into the role of the Tribe’s top runner this year, leading the team with times of 19:54.40 in the 6,000-meter race — ran at the highly-competitive Wisconsin Adidas Invitational and good for fifth place overall — and 17.44.30 in the 5,000-meter race, which she ran at the William and Mary Invitational for first place.
Being ranked as high as the No. 18 team in the nation at any given time requires strong finishes and a combined team effort. Notable consistent finishers included sophomore Molly Breidenbaugh and senior Meghan McGovern — both below the 21-minute mark in the 6,000-meter — and junior Molly Applegate, who was fifth on the team in the 6,000-meter with a season-best 21:24.90 and fourth in the 5,000-meter at 18:53.00.
The College had seven top 20 finishers to dominate the CAA Championships, retaining the title for the fourth straight season.
The College had seven top 20 finishers to dominate the CAA Championships, retaining the title for the fourth straight season. The Tribe is now tied with North Carolina State for third all-time in NCAA women’s cross country history for conference title wins at 21 total. This was headlined by Stites first place time of 20:00.2, the new conference 6,000-meter race record.
With the late-season loss of Stites to a leg injury, the Tribe traveled to the Southeast Regional, where the team finished fourth overall. Rome finished in fifth overall, earning her an individual berth for the NCAA Championships. In the Division I Championship 6,000-meter race, Rome finished 25th overall for her first career All-American honor.
William and Mary’s first indoor track and field events of the year start Dec. 5 at the CNU Holiday Open.
— Flat Hat Staff Writer Dominic Burkett
In early September, the preseason predictions of a fourth-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association seemed far too low a goal for William and Mary and its high powered offense: led by senior forward and captain Pippin Saunders, the Tribe stormed to a 3-1 start and scored 15 goals to just eight allowed. But after the predictable stumbling blocks of No. 13 Old Dominion and No. 4 Duke midway through the month, the College never recovered, steadily dropping games in two four-game losing streaks only interrupted by a lone win over Towson Oct. 4. Although the College claimed victory in two of its last three games, it wasn’t enough to erase the sting of an underachieving season. The Tribe finished No. 6 in the seven-team CAA with a 7-12, 1-5 CAA record, the lone conference win over a Towson team languishing in the CAA cellar with just two victories.
Although the young defense, with no returning starters in the back three, was originally the question entering the 2015 season, the Tribe did not find itself failing to keep pace in shootouts as one might expect with a strong offense and an inexperienced defense. Instead, what appeared to be the College’s greatest strength severely underperformed as the experienced offense suffered three consecutive shutouts mid-season and a fourth down the stretch, while the defense kept the game in reach. The Tribe being shutout more frequently than the three occasions in 2014 seemed unthinkable. From 2014, the College retained 68 percent of its scoring, featured preseason All-CAA forwards such as sophomore Emma MacLeod and Saunders, and returned starters in junior forwards Olivia Hajek and Olivia Pastor.
Still, the positives did not add up to victories. At least not for very long.
Statistically, the Tribe was decent throughout the year, finishing No. 4 in the conference in scoring with 39 goals. The defense outperformed the offense on the stat sheet, as William and Mary finished No. 3 in fewest goals allowed. Sophomore defender Booter Ellis earned second-team All-CAA distinction, while freshman defender Caroline Arrowood earned a spot on the All-Rookie squad. Only Saunders earned CAA distinctions on offense.
The combined record of opponents the Tribe defeated added up to a 44-84 record, and only one team, St. Francis, had a winning record
Yet the College breaks its No. 3/No. 4 statistical finishes in one key category: saves. The Tribe finished second-to-last in saves for the 2015 season in the CAA. Senior keeper Meredith Savage blocked 89 shots on the season, compared to the Towson high of 228. All other teams in the CAA with losing records — Towson, Northeastern and Drexel — finished No. 1 through No. 3 in this category, while the teams with winning records finished in the bottom of saves. This trend makes sense — the teams with worse defenses lose more often and will allow more shots, thus allowing for more save opportunities. All teams follow this trend except the Tribe, with just a few saves but no shortage of defeats.
Even the wins for the College weren’t particularly impressive in retrospect. The combined record of opponents the Tribe defeated added up to a 44-84 record, and only one team, St. Francis, had a winning record.
The 6-1 victory over Central Michigan didn’t carry much weight, as the Chippewas ended up 2-15 for the season, but the 5-3 triumph over eventual 8-10 Ohio showed the Tribe could be competitive in 2015. Against the elite competition of ranked Old Dominion and Duke, the Tribe put up two goals apiece and then edged out New Hampshire 3-2 in Williamsburg. As the Wildcats had beaten No. 18 Massachusetts earlier in the season, this looked to be the positive turning point for the Tribe entering conference play, with a 4-3 record amidst a tough schedule with an upset opportunity against No. 4 U. Va. on the docket.
Yet once again, the Tribe couldn’t keep pace with ranked opponents as the Cavaliers sprinted to a 3-0 lead en route to a 4-2 win. Thus began the Tribe’s first four-game losing streak, and its descent into conference obscurity. A 4-0 lopsided loss to eventual CAA champion Delaware proved to be the decisive blow to the season. A 2-1 loss to Northeastern in Williamsburg salted the College’s wounded season —the Huskies ended with a 5-13 record.
Saunders may well prove the lone bright spot of 2015. The sensational senior earned first team All-region distinction, the first William and Mary player to do so since 2005 to go along with first-team All-CAA honors. Saunders led the team in scoring with 13 goals, and added four assists as well. Saunders started 75 of 76 games in her four years at the College. She certainly will be missed, as the Tribe departs with the lead scorer of the last four years and the fifth-all-time leader in points in school history.
— Flat Hat Sports Editor Sumner Higginbotham
After graduating nine seniors last year, not many would have expected William and Mary to make a run at the Colonial Athletic Association championship in 2015. The Tribe pulled out several good results throughout the season, most notably a draw at No. 4 North Carolina and a win at home over then No. 10 Elon, but inconsistency plagued the team all year, resulting in a mediocre 7-8-2 record and a seventh place finish in the CAA, one spot short of playoff contention.
With a back line glaringly lacking senior leadership, the College defense struggled all season, giving up 28 goals. An average of 1.65 goals allowed per game was the highest in the CAA, while the 52 saves compiled by the Tribe’s goalkeepers was the conference low. Junior goalkeeper Mac Phillips earned the majority of the starts, saving 42 shots and earning three shutouts. If the College wants to be competitive once again, its defense must improve dramatically.
The Tribe did much better on the offensive end, topping the CAA in points per game and finishing second in goals per match. Overall the team scored 30 goals, a double-digit increase over last season’s number. The catalysts for the attack were the Eskay brothers, senior forward Jackson Eskay and sophomore forward William Eskay.
The catalysts for the attack were the Eskay brothers, senior forward Jackson Eskay and sophomore forward William Eskay.
Jackson Eskay led the team in both assists and points, recording eight and 20, respectively, both of which were the third-best in the conference. His consistently strong play earned him a spot on the All-CAA second team, and his production will be sorely missed heading into the 2016 campaign.
William Eskay finished the year with 18 points, co-leading the team in goals with seven — tied for second most in the conference — while also contributing four assists. His most memorable performance of the season came in the home opener against Liberty, when he recorded his first career hat trick — the first hat trick for the College since 2010 — to lead the Tribe over the Flames 4-2. William Eskay also received postseason honors from the CAA, as he was selected to the all-conference third team.
The Eskay brothers were complemented by a trio of all-CAA freshmen: midfielder Marcel Berry, forward Ryder Bell and forward/midfielder Antonio Bustamante. Berry was honored with the CAA Rookie of the Year award, sharing the title with North Carolina-Wilmington midfielder Ben Fisher, as well as spots on the all-conference second team and rookie squad. Berry finished his first collegiate season with 10 points on three goals and four assists, far and away leading the team with his .375 shot percentage.
Bell came closest to matching the Eskay brothers in points with 17, despite the fact he did not start for most of the season. He racked up most of the points with his seven goals, tied for second most in the conference, while also tallying three assists. He was also selected to the all-CAA rookie team.
This bevy of youthful talent should give the Tribe plenty of optimism heading into the offseason.
Bustamante joined his two classmates on the all-conference rookie team, while also being selected to the all-CAA third team. His 11-point season included five goals and an assist, most notably the golden goal to defeat Navy in overtime 3-2 back in September.
This bevy of youthful talent should give the Tribe plenty of optimism heading into the offseason, and with only three seniors graduating, the majority of the squad will be back in Williamsburg next fall to hopefully make a run for, at the very least, a spot in the conference playoffs.
— Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor Josh Luckenbaugh
William and Mary’s season ended in an uncharacteristic 5-2 loss to No. 6 Florida in the second round of the NCAA College Cup, just a few weeks after spilling away a 2-0 first-half lead to fall in the CAA Championship to JMU, 3-2. These two results illustrate the difficulties in the end of every season: a campaign that, although independently impressive, left players and coaches with the feeling that more could have been done.
However, focus should be placed on the tremendous achievements of the team.
William and Mary received little attention coming into the 2015 season, having not qualified for the NCAA College Cup since 2011. The Tribe finished No. 4 in the CAA last year and bowed out in the semifinals of the CAA Championships. Furthermore, the team graduated its two-time leading scorer and offensive dynamo Emory Camper, leaving a scoring void up front. Only senior goalkeeper Caroline Casey and senior defender Leci Irvin were selected to the Pre-season All-CAA team.
The Tribe suffered a host of early setbacks. Redshirt sophomore defender and likely starter Corinne Giroux suffered an injury before the start of the season. William and Mary also lost tenacious freshman Sarah Segan to a season-ending injury.
I would love to have seen what we could have achieved with those injured players,” Daly said.
Head coach John Daly responded to a question regarding his host of injured players, which included joint-top-scorer and senior Samantha Cordum.
“I would love to have seen what we could have achieved with those injured players,” Daly said.
He was speaking primarily about Cordum, who was hugely impressive in an explosive first half to the season before suffering her second season-ending injury in as many years. She scored seven goals and tallied two assists, tying her for joint-most points on the team despite playing just 11 of the Tribe’s 22 games. She matched her goals total from last year.
In a September interview with Tribe Athletics, Cordum described the injury that ended her junior season as “heartbreaking.” To end her college career in the same way, especially after leading the team in goals before the injury, was a cruel turn of luck.
However, after her repeat injury this year, the team rallied. Daly described the team’s resilience.
“When I saw the way people like [senior midfielder] Nicole [Baxter] and Caroline [Casey], the two captains and great leaders, were responding, and then [senior forward] Katie Johnston and other people were picking up the slack, I realized, ‘Well, we can still do something’,” Daly said.
After Cordum’s injury against UNC Wilmington, the Tribe buckled down on defense. Between Cordum’s injury and their 3-2 loss to JMU in the CAA Championship game, William and Mary only conceded three goals in a six-game undefeated streak. Everyone chipped in: Johnston, Baxter, freshman forward Mackenzie Kober, sophomore midfielder Rachel Moore, sophomore forward Sami Grasso and senior forward Barbara Platenberg all contributed goals.
When I saw the way people like [senior midfielder] Nicole [Baxter] and Caroline [Casey], the two captains and great leaders, were responding, and then [senior forward] Katie Johnston and other people were picking up the slack, I realized, ‘Well, we can still do something’,” Daly said.
After the disappointing loss to JMU, the Tribe nevertheless received an NCAA tournament berth and traveled to Florida to play Central Florida in the first round. For a team unmentioned in the national picture during the preseason, this was a huge accomplishment. Rachel Moore’s penalty kick and the ensuing celebrations provided a more fitting end to the team’s season.
The Tribe graduates nine seniors, including All-CAA choices Casey and Baxter (first team), and Cordum, Irvin and Johnston (third team).
Casey’s impressive season also included collecting the CAA Defensive Player of the Year Award and being named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. Defender Meghan Musgrove, defender/midfielder Jessica Van Dyke, defender Ashley Booth, and Platenberg are also graduating.
Several other William and Mary players also made All-CAA appearances, ensuring that next year looks to be a promising season for the College. Although the leadership presence on and off the field of Casey, Baxter, Cordum, Irvin and Johnston will be missed, players like Rachel Moore (second-team All-CAA), junior Clara Logsdon (first-team All-CAA), and Mackenzie Kober (CAA all-Rookie team) will lead the Tribe in 2016.
— Flat Hat Staff Writer Henry Trotter
Despite improvement from the previous season, William and Mary fought through another disappointing season this fall. Despite claiming a 3-1 win over Norfolk State and finishing first at the Tribe Invitational, the College was unable to sustain victory and was often overmatched throughout the season.
After winning the first tournament of the year, the Tribe only recorded four victories in its next three tournament appearances, even though it won two games against Western Carolina and Hampton at the East Carolina Pirate Invitational. Sandwiched in between those two victories was a difficult loss to Virginia Commonwealth, in which the average margin for each set was just three points. The College wrapped up the tournament schedule with a 6-7 record.
On the first doubleheader weekend of the year, William and Mary managed a road split between two games against Colonial Athletic Association opponents Hofstra and Northeastern. The Pride took out the College in straight sets, however senior Dessi Koleva carried the Tribe with 16 kills to beat the Huskies in Boston.
The College couldn’t carry over the momentum from its big road win, as it went on to lose four straight games at home, and five overall through the six-game homestand.
The College couldn’t carry over the momentum from its big road win, as it went on to lose four straight games at home, and five overall through the six-game homestand. Overall, the Tribe was unable to succeed at Kaplan Arena, finishing with a 2-6 record when playing in Williamsburg. The worst of those four losses was a 3-0 defeat to Charleston, the fourth team in a row that faced the Tribe with a winning record.
The schedule did the College no favors beyond the homestand, stacking a three-game road trip against teams like James Madison and Towson, who averaged 20 wins, 13 more than the College. Following these two defeats was undoubtedly the most disappointing loss of the year. The College went to North Carolina to take on 6-19 Elon, one of the few teams the Tribe was better off than in terms of record. William and Mary lost in straight sets, averaging over five points as a margin of defeat per set.
Ultimately, the College made an unlikely trip to the CAA tournament, where it fell to eventual champion North Carolina-Wilmington 3-0 in the quarterfinals, ending the season.
In spite of the long-term struggles of the program, freshman Heather Pippus and sophomore Sydney Biniak offer building blocks for next season and beyond.
Statistically, the Tribe faired reasonably well compared to its opponents, recording fewer attack and service errors than its opponents and notched more solo blocks and aces. While key categories favored the College, the opposition won 127 more points than the Tribe during the year.
In spite of the long-term struggles of the program, freshman Heather Pippus and sophomore Sydney Biniak offer building blocks for next season and beyond. In the 22 games she started, Pippus recorded an impressive 2.48 points per set and 2.13 kills per set. Pippus carried her team in a close match against Elon, earning 19 kills and 21 points in the 3-1 home loss. Biniak, who led all College rookies last year with 30 games played, averaged 2.55 points per set and 2.22 kills per set in her second season. The College will rely on both of these players to help the program grow and become a more consistent winner in the CAA.
— Flat Hat Staff Writer Vansh Bansal