Archive for August, 2009

Looking back at Field Hockey

August 31, 2009

By: Brian Laubscher

So hopefully you are enjoying reliving some of the outstanding moments from the recent past in W&L athletics.  Today we move on to the field hockey program.

There are two teams at W&L that I can claim to have been a part of since their inception and field hockey is one of them.  The other is equestrian.  Field hockey is the youngest sport at W&L, competing in its first varsity season in the fall of 2000.  The beginnings of the program can be traced back to 1999 when a dedicated group of women began to organize the club program to the point where it could be considered for varsity status.  I can’t remember all their names, but I can remember that Martha Cornbrooks ’01 should be recognized as having played a major factor in making it happen.

So in 1999, the team was playing their games on the law school lawn under probably horrible field conditions, but they stuck together and the next fall they had achieved developmental varsity status and would begin playing in a brand new Astroturf facility.  They weren’t an ODAC program at that point, officially joining the conference in 2001.

I was amazed at how quickly things came together for the sport.  Laurie Stagnitta (wife of then head men’s lacrosse coach Jim Stagnitta) guided the program through their developmental year and current head coach Wendy Orrison took over in 2001.  The rest is history – or at least memories.  Here are some of my favorite moments:

Kelly Taffe

Kelly Taffe

W&L claims its first-ever win with a 4-1 triumph over Randolph-Macon Woman’s College on September 28, 2000.  The first season was rough early on as the Generals dropped each of their first five games and didn’t score their first goal until Kelly Taffe found the cage in a 4-1 loss to Randolph-Macon, the fourth game of the season.  Just four days later the Generals came ever so close to getting that first win against rival Roanoke. They fell 2-1 in overtime.  Instead of hanging its heads, W&L rebounded to post that first win over RMWC just two days after the Roanoke loss.  W&L also picked up a forfeit win and defeated Bridgewater and Hollins on its way to a 4-8 record that first year.

The 2002 season resulted in the program’s first winning season as the Generals finished with a 10-9 overall record.  A 1-0 win over Virginia Wesleyan on November 2, 2002 not only allowed W&L to claim a winning season, but it was also the first ODAC Tournament win in program history.  The fourth-seeded Generals may have been the favorite, but it definitely felt like an upset for a team that was completing just its second season in the league.  W&L dominated by outshooting the Marlins 15-2 and Elisabeth Putney scored the game-winner off a feed from Taffe with 11:08 left in the game.  The Generals fell to top-seeded Lynchburg in the semifinals a few days later, but the win helped to propel the program into its current status as perennial ODAC title contender.

So in Division III field hockey, Eastern Mennonite has always been a major player.  The Royals have won 11 conference titles and have been a factor in the NCAA Tournament since the early 1990’s.  No offense to Lynchburg and their 12 ODAC titles and recent NCAA success, but in my mind, EMU has been the dragon.  On September 24, 2004, the Generals finally slew the dragon.  That day, W&L produced a 5-3 victory, its first over the Royals.  It didn’t matter that EMU finished that season 6-11 overall, certainly a down year for them.  This was a signature win in my opinion.  Kitt Murphy scored a pair of goals, Jane Beall had one goal and one assist and Courtney Harrison stopped six shots to propel W&L to the win.  It was the first win of the season for W&L and served as a catalyst for the Generals to close the season with nine wins in their final 14 games.

Elise Gelinas

Elise Gelinas

The 2005 season was a special one for the W&L field hockey program.  That was the year that the Generals would play host to the Division III field hockey national championships at the turf field.  How crazy would it be if the Generals actually made the NCAA Tournament that year?  Well, they did.  On November 5, 2005, W&L defeated Lynchburg 2-1 to clinch the program’s first conference title and first bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.  It only took five years for the program to complete its arrival.  The 2005 season is still the best in program history as the Generals finished 15-6 overall and 7-1 in league play.  The win over Lynchburg was no surprise after defeating the Hornets 3-1 earlier in the year and hosting the tournament, but it was an exciting time for the program and all involved.  The Hornets held a 1-0 lead at halftime, but Jane Beall scored a pair of second-half markers, including the game-winner with 11:05 left.  Harrison and Elise Gelinas combined for three saves, including one by Gelinas in the late going to preserve the win, a school-record 11th-straight victory.

Despite advancing to the NCAA Tournament and having good success in the conference with national powers Eastern Mennonite and Lynchburg, the Generals had still not produced a win over a ranked opponent until defeating 16th-ranked Catholic at the turf field on September 22, 2006.  Funny how you can remember some of the moments like driving through Baltimore when learning of the volleyball team’s win over Emory.  I remember getting this phone call as well.  Jeremy Franklin and I had just gotten back to our hotel room after having dinner.  We were in Lexington, Ky., as we were going to be playing Centre in football the next afternoon.  I got the call from then-assistant SID Austin Calhoun who, if you know Austin, was quite excited about the significant event.  That being said, I was pretty excited too.  We talked about whether it was the first-ever win over a ranked team and Austin confirmed it before writing the story about the game.  Sallie Armstrong scored the game-winner and Amy Volkmann provided the insurance goal with just over a minute to play.  Tara Rubenstein notched a pair of saves in the shutout.

Honorable Mention:

Sept. 17, 2003 – W&L notches its first-ever win over rival Roanoke, 2-1, in overtime.

Nov. 9, 2005 – The Generals fall to Montclair State, 2-0, in their first-ever NCAA contest

October 26, 2008 – W&L knocks off 17th-ranked Christopher Newport, 3-2, in overtime.

Volleyball at W&L

August 28, 2009

By: Brian Laubscher

So yesterday I presented the top football moments from the last 11 years at Washington and Lee.  Today, we take a look at the top volleyball moments in chronological order.

You wouldn’t think that it would be difficult to produce a good list for a sport that has gone a combined 246-51 (.828) over the last eight seasons, but their own success has ensured that they rarely play close matches.  Regardless, there have been several significant moments and I’ve listed them below.

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome.  Hope you enjoy!

VOLLEYBALL:

Lindsay Ruckert

Lindsay Ruckert

The first moment includes an entire season.  It was 1998, my first year at Washington and Lee.  The Generals finished the season 26-2, with only 12 matches actually going more than the minimum of three games. Despite losing their final match of the season way back on Sept. 26 and ending the season with 16-straight wins, W&L was denied a bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.  At that time, there were not automatic bids for the conference champion and W&L’s in-region ranking was not high enough to warrant an at-large bid.  The season was the first for Lindsay Ruckert, who earned the ODAC Rookie of the Year Award and was a four-time First Team All-ODAC honoree.  It was also the only season she did not receive ODAC Player of the Year honors, something I still maintain was only because the coaches did not want to set a precedent of presenting the award to a first-year student.  Despite the season that Ruckert produced (318 kills, .344 hitting %, 307 digs, 77 blocks, 39 aces) and considering that Nancy Reinhart, the 2007 ODAC Player of the Year, had another fine season (240 kills, 402 digs, 38 aces), a General did not win the award that year.  Obviously, I’m having trouble letting go.

W&L fell to Roanoke by a score of 15-4, 15-7, 15-6 on October 25, 2000.  It was not a good match, but it was a significant one.  The loss ended a home ODAC winning streak for W&L that had lasted better than six seasons.  That was not the significant moment.  Just days earlier, the Generals lost first-year outside hitter Kristin Shelton in a vehicle accident.  This was their first match back on the court.  The Maroons won quite easily and it wasn’t hard to understand why when you could see the players’ tears on the court.  They gave their all, but were still overcome with grief.  I remember the game because the team had the support of the entire W&L community and an estimated crowd of better than 1,800 showed up to cheer them on.  It is still the largest crowd that I have ever seen in the Warner Center and the only match that I ever called every single point over the PA system.  The Roanoke players gave the W&L players flowers after the game and the Generals began a new winning streak in 2001.  It would be another six and a half years before W&L lost another match to an ODAC foe.  Despite not playing a full season, Shelton was posthumously awarded the ODAC Rookie of the Year award for 2000.  She was talented and quite deserving.

How could I forget September 13, 2003?  The day had begun badly with the 36-7 drubbing that the football team took at Johns Hopkins.  Drubbing might be kind as W&L was outgained 508-174 on the day.  Former W&L sports information student assistant Jake Trotter and I were doing our first radio broadcast together and it was not going smooth.  I believe we made some wrong turns in Baltimore that day and were a bit tardy to the game.  No intro, just straight into the game, which had already begun by the time we got on the air.  I think it was rainy and humid – just miserable.  So, when I received the news on my cell that the volleyball team was about to defeat Emory, the day got significantly better.  I was weaving my way through the streets of Baltimore on my way back to Lexington and I decided to call then-assistant SID Cory Thornton to see how everything was going.  It was Cory’s first weekend with athletic events and I wanted to make sure all was good back in Lexington.  He was working the W&L Volleyball Invitational and informed me that we were ready to close out our match with Emory.  So I assume it is a loss, I mean Emory has always been a thorn in the side of W&L volleyball.  Then he says nope, just a few points away from a 3-0 sweep in the title match. I stayed on the line with Cory and he gave me the play-by-play of the final couple of points.  At that point I lost all focus on driving through Baltimore and nearly sideswiped a few parked cars along the street, but the news made my day and made for a much happier ride home. Michelle Chastain had 15 kills and 24 digs and Christine Gladysz posted 43 assists and 16 digs en route to being named Tournament MVP.  W&L went on to post a 35-4 record that season, best in program history.

Lauren Edmonson

Lauren Edmonson

The NYU match in the NCAA Tournament on November 10, 2006 was probably one of the most significant moments in program history.  Though the Generals had been extremely successful on a conference and regional level, until this match they had never made a statement on the national level.  NYU was the top-seeded team and ranked 16th nationally and W&L had never advanced past the second round of the tournament.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a Friday and I had driven to Cleveland to broadcast the football game against Case Western Reserve (ironically with Jake who was living in Ohio then).  I stopped off with the team at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and had just enough time to grab dinner and get to the hotel in time to catch most of the match through Duckcast (I think that’s what Stevens Tech’s online video streaming was called).  Not many Division III schools were streaming video at that point and it was pretty cool to watch the match in my hotel room.  You could feel the intensity of every point.  We went up 2-1 and the fourth game was a close one.  NYU pulled it out 31-29 and then the Generals won the fifth game 15-13 to clinch it.  Lauren Edmonson posted a school-record 11 aces and 25 digs and Kassie Bagley played awesome with 12 kills and eight digs while matching up with NYU’s three-time All-America middle Elena Drinka.  The Generals fell to host Stevens Tech the next evening, but the NYU match validated the program on a national level.

HONORABLE MENTION:

The entire 2001 season.  First team to win 30 matches (30-5).

The entire 2003 season.  Unquestionably the program’s most talented team.  They finished with a 35-4 overall record.

October 24, 2008 – The Generals nearly upset top-ranked and eight-time national champion Juniata on their home court.  W&L took them to five games before falling 11-25, 26-24, 25-27, 25-23, 7-15.

Jumping in Head First

August 27, 2009

By: Brian Laubscher

So this blog is pretty much my first leap into changing the way sports information conducts itself at Washington and Lee.  In the past, the athletic department’s web presence was admittedly quite bland, but that was by design.  The intent was to get you the information and as quickly and accurately as possible.  It may not have been exciting, but it did get you the information you were most likely looking for. However, as they say, times are a changin’ and I’m excited about the changes that we’ve made.  The response to the new website has been great and trust me when I say we have a lot of changes planned.

Over the course of time, you’ll see a lot more video on this site.  Whether it be the W&L Sports Weekly or interviews about team philosophy for recruits or maybe even a video diary of a team – we’re throwing around some ideas.  The sky is the limit and we hope to bring it all to you – the Generals’ fan, parent, student or alumnus.  You are not only going to get the scores, stats and information as you had, but we’re going to give you a little more in depth look at what W&L athletics is all about.

So, that being said, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking during my spare time (which is shrinking by the day) about what to provide in this blog.  I must admit that it doesn’t come easily to me, but I hope that as time goes by I’ll be able to open up to how a blog can be used.

My first thought was to relive some of the past.  The 2009-10 school year will be my 12th as sports information director at Washington and Lee.  During that time, I have seen some pretty amazing performances on both an individual and team level.  There have been great teams and crazy games that I remember quite fondly.  So, what I plan to do is list some of these favorite moments.  I can’t even begin to rank them so I’m just going to list them and let you reminisce and comment about them if you wish.  I can’t say that I was always there to witness these events, but after writing about many of them or even discussing them with coaches and student-athletes after the fact, I often times feel as though I was.

Today we’ll begin with football.  Tomorrow we’ll move on to volleyball and Monday we’ll touch on field hockey.  Tuesday will feature men’s cross country, Wednesday will be women’s cross country, Thursday will be men’s soccer and we’ll wrap up the fall list with women’s soccer on Friday.

So, are you ready to relive some of my top moments from the last 11 years of W&L athletics?

FOOTBALL:

While I said I wouldn’t rank the moments, I do admit that the first game that comes to mind for me in any sport is the October 30, 1999 parents’ weekend football game against Bridgewater.  The Generals trailed 31-20 until Brad Wiginton nailed a 28-yard field goal to make it a 31-23 game with 1:06 left.  W&L recovered the ensuing onside kick and Christian Batcheller found J.T. Malatesta with a 12-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining to make the score 31-29 with 38 seconds left.  The two-point coversion play seemed to last forever as Batcheller scrambled from sideline to sideline at least once before finding Malatesta in the corner of the end zone to tie it up and set up the Generals’ first-ever overtime game.  Bridgewater scored on its first possession to make it 38-31, then Batcheller found Chris Sullivan on the first play of its overtime possession to knot the score at 38-38. Batcheller again hit Malatesta for a 44-38 lead in the second overtime, but W&L’s two-point conversion failed.  I thought that could have ended up being our downfall, but the defense held on four straight plays allowing the Generals to walk away with the win en route to a 5-5 season.  With almost the same team, Bridgewater ended up playing in the Division III Championship game just two years later.

While we are on the subject of Bridgewater playing for the title in 2001, might as well recap the parents’ weekend W&L-Bridgewater game from October 27, 2001. The Eagles had climbed to No. 4 in the polls by the time they came to Wilson Field that Saturday afternoon to test their undefeated record.  This is the one that got away.  The Generals played so far over their heads that day — it was insane.  The Bridgewater offense that season was virtually unstoppable. I mean they averaged 42.9 points per game for the season.  So, when the Generals were winning 7-0 at halftime people in the press box began talking.  The Eagles finally scored with 9:12 left in the third quarter to make it 7-7, but W&L bounced back on the ensuing kickoff as Chris Sullivan returned it 89 yards to paydirt for a 14-7 lead. Late in the third quarter, it appeared as though the Generals had the Eagles on the ropes.  The two back system of Marc Watson and Chris Sullivan, who ended up as the top two rushers all-time at W&L, were just running the ball down BC’s throats and I was positive we were going to punch it in to go up by two scores.  Then, it happened.  Watson was stood up along the line and Jeremy Fox from Bridgewater yanked the ball away before the whistle and ran 82 yards for a touchdown to tie it up with 3:07 left in the third quarter.  I figured the 14-point swing would burry the Generals, but they strung together another drive capped by a Watson 28-yard touchdown run to go up 21-14.  Then, the quick strike Eagles again killed any momentum with a 52-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-21 and the Generals fumbled the ensuing kickoff.  BC scored again to go up 28-21 with 14:02 left, but W&L would not quit, tying it up at 28 all with 4:58 left on a 31-yard connection between Peter Dean and Watson.  The game headed to overtime and a nervous crowd watched as the Generals were forced to try a 53-yard field goal on their OT possession.  The kick missed and the Eagles scored on their first play to win.  They went on to finish 12-1 with the only loss being a 30-27 setback to Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl.

There was a period of time when just about every W&L football game came down to the wire and the most exciting finish was a 31-30 win at Guilford on September 21, 2002.  For the most part, it was a boring game and certainly one I figured would go down as just another game.  W&L trailed 30-25 when Ben Krasnoff stopped a Guilford runner on a 4th-and-2 play on the W&L 20-yardline with 1:30 left in the game.  The Generals drove to around the Guilford 20-yardline with no timeouts remaining.  In a maneuver which forced me out of the press box because cheering is not permitted and, well, neither is cursing, we decided to run Sullivan on a sweep that DID NOT GET OUT OF BOUNDS.  With the clock ticking and the Generals on the Guilford 17-yardline, I’ll let you watch what happened next. What was initially cursing turned into outright disbelief and then cheering. Watch the ESPN video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

For pure excitement, the October 15, 2005 game against Hampden-Sydney simply has to be on this list.  The Generals won the shootout by a 38-34 score and proved that they belonged among the elite in the conference.  The win elevated W&L’s record to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the ODAC.  The game featured a combined 904 yards of total offense and 52 combined points scored in the second half. Beginning with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Greg Tweardy to Colton Ward with 7:03 left in the third quarter, the lead changed hands seven times in the final 22:03 of the game capped off by Colton Ward’s 29-yard touchdown reception on a 4th-and-2 with 34 seconds remaining. Once again, I had to watch from outside the press box as Adam Turer intercepted H-SC all-world quarterback J.D. Ricca’s pass on the W&L 17-yardline with six seconds remaining to preserve the win.  Until Turer made the play, I was convinced that the Tigers would make the lead change for an eighth time.  I still claim that the 2005 team was the best all-around football team from my time at W&L despite falling in nailbiters (28-26 at GC & 17-13 vs. BC) the next two weeks in finishing second in the conference standings.

The final game on my list makes it not for being a particularly great game, but because of the significance.  It is the November 4, 2006 game against Emory & Henry, where the Generals won 24-6.  The two teams had just 468 combined yards of total offense, but W&L was able to grind out the win and hoist the ODAC Championship trophy for the first time in 21 seasons.  Doubting sometimes whether it would be possible for W&L to win a football title, it was gratifying to see that it could happen.  It may be a little sappy, but when the trophy was presented, I thought back to all the players I had watched play that would have loved to experience that moment.  After the game I headed to the locker room to congratulate the coaches and I swear they were children on Christmas morning once again – just a nice moment I’ll always remember.

Trust me, I could go on and on with this list.  Below are some honorable mentions and feel free to comment and make a case for your favorite game and why.  Remember, tomorrow we go with volleyball and the top moments from the last 11 years of that sport.

HONORABLE MENTION

September 30, 2000 – Generals snap a 10-game losing streak to Randolph-Macon with a dominating 34-6 win.

November 9, 2002 – W&L ends a 19-game losing streak to Emory & Henry with a 22-9 win.

October 11, 2003 – On homecoming, W&L trails Catholic 27-7 midway through the third quarter and comes back to win 31-27.

October 8, 2005 – W&L defeats Catholic, 27-24, on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tweardy to Jack Martin with five seconds left.

October 27, 2007 – The Generals defeat Bridgewater for the first time since 1999 with a 17-14 win in the final game played at the old Wilson Field.

It’s all getting started

August 24, 2009

Well the summer is quickly coming to an end as W&L athletics begins gearing up for the 2009-10 school year.

The football team has been on campus for a full week and practices seem to be going well.  The Generals will travel to Shenandoah for a scrimmage on Thursday at 7:00 pm and then the coaches should have a pretty good idea of their lineup and team capabilities as they begin preparing for the September 5 opener against Franklin & Marshall set for 1:00 pm.

The Warner Center definitely has a different feel this week as all the coaches return from their summer vacations and recruiting trips.  As always, there are some newcomers to the staff, most notably some assistant coaches.

Tim Cole takes over as the new assistant volleyball coach, Mike Kruger is a new assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Megan Moore is a new assistant women’s lacrosse coach and Rachel Buck is a new assistant here in the sports information office.

Coach Stickley and Pat Hall '99

Coach Stickley and Pat Hall '99

For those of you who may be interested, Coach Jeff Stickley caught up with former W&L baseball captain Pat Hall ’99 recently at an air show in Bath County, Virginia.  Pat is currently a Marine Corps Harrier Pilot.

Stay tuned for more regular updates to “From the Sidelines” in the coming weeks.  We’re working right now on securing our bloggers for the fall season.  We will have Director of Athletics Jan Hathorn, members of the athletic training staff and numerous coaches all involved in posting so stay tuned to hear their take on how things are coming along.

Welcome to generalssports.com and the blog “From the Sidelines”

August 11, 2009

Welcome to the new home of Washington and Lee Athletics — http://www.generalssports.com.  We hope that you find this new website to be a good resource for keeping up with the Generals’ sports teams.

In early spring, the University began looking into a new home for the athletics website and in April we decided to go with prestosports.  In May we began the transition process and after months of working with the company developers and transferring information, we are ready to begin a new era in sports information.

Have a look around and let us know what you think.  Keep in mind that we will be updating rosters, bios, pictures and season specific information once the fall teams break from their respective camps in the coming weeks.

Another new addition is this blog which is called “From the Sidelines”.  Here we will regularly blog about Washington and Lee athletics as we see it from the sidelines.  We will look to include comments from the sports information office, the athletic administration and the coaching staff.  We certainly hope that you enjoy all the changes in the way you, the fan, views sports at Washington and Lee University.  Stay tuned for more as the season approaches.

Sincerely,

Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director