The athletes at Stevens Institute of Technology don’t duck around! Four teams are headed to the NCAA Tournament. This past weekend, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer , and Field Hockey all walked away with championship titles. The Women’s Volleyball received an at-large bid for the tournament as well. This is the first time Stevens is represented by four teams in the NCAA tournament. Stevens is one of two schools in the nation with this many teams participating.
The Field Hockey kicked off the tournament today at 3:ooPM against SUNY Geneseo at the De Baun Athletic Complex. The girls were playing tough, and keeping the ball down the opposite end of the field. At halftime they still hadn’t managed to get the ball past the SUNY Geneseo goalie, and the score remained 0 – 0.
This is the girls’ third Empire 8 title, all of which were won consecutively. The girls come into the game with a record of 10 – 10, winning 10 of their final 15 games this season. The opposing Blue Nights come in 18 – 1, on a 17-game winning streak, as the State University of New York Athletic Conference champ.
Junior captain Mallory Swanson, midfielder, leads the Ducks with six goals and 14 points, and is tied for the team-lead in game-winners with three. Freshman Caitlin Chamberlin has 13 points on five goals, and a team high of three assists. Sophomore Mary Nikish has four goals and two assists. She has netting three game-winers, which were crucial for the team. Senior and captain Lauren Griggs, junior Jillian Price, and freshman Chelsea Cresci each have two tallies apiece.
Senior captain Ellyn Griggs was named the Empire 8 Championship MVP following two shutouts in the tournament. Ellyn has a 0.804 save percentage and has stopped 111 shots this season. Senior Karen Federico, freshman Katie Achilles, and sophomore Samantha Weisman have only allowed one goal-against in the past three games.
Men’s Soccer has achieved their fourth-straight Empire 8 title. “It’s a great feeling,” said Head Coach Tim O’Donohue. “This feeling never gets old and every one is unique. I am proud of our guys and am looking forward to the NCAA tournament. They were selected to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Championship at the De Baun Althletic Complex. The Ducks welcome Hunter College, Muhlenberg College, and Keene State College. Stevens and Hunter will play at 11:00AM Saturday, while Muhlenberg and Keene State face off at 1:30PM. The two winners will square off at 1:00PM on Sunday. All games will be webcasted and have live stats.
The boys are ranked 13th in the NSCAA poll, 6th in the D3Soccer.com poll, and first in the East region, with a record of 14 – 1 – 3. Senior goalkeeper Zach Carr has only allowed four goals the entire season, with an against average of 0.21 which is second in the nation. The defensive line holds strong with first-team All-Empire 8 selections Bryan De Faria and Peter Bednarsky, and second-teamer Anthony Roden. Carr is ranked nationally in goals-against average, shutouts (15), and save percentage. His 54 career clean sheets is an unofficial all-time NCAA record.
Offensively, the Ducks are led by Empire 8 Player of the Year, senior Nolan Sandberg , with 13 goals, 6 assists, and 32 points. Sophomore first-team all-conference picks Zach Adler and Victor Daza, along with freshman Stephen Palmer, have aided in the offensive attacks. Senior midfielder Michael Quijano was an honorable mention all-conference performer.
This is the Men’s eighth consecutive trip to the tournament, and ninth overall. In 2008, the Ducks reached the National Championship match, and in 2009 made it to the round of 16 for the seventeenth time in the program’s history.
So how have the boys kept an outstanding record of 164 – 22 – 17? Coach O’Donohue shared some of the behind-the-scene insight with us. The program’s philosophy is rather simple: “We want excellent student-athletes that are a good for for Stevens,” he said. “Additionally, we want to recruit excellent soccer players that can play soccer in a very competitive environment.” How about practice? We know every coach has their own styles. Coach O’Donohue tries to replicate the games in training. “We have very intense, competitive training sessions that prepare the players to be ready on game day to excel.”
Offensively, the Ducks want to have the ball a majority, if not all of the time. And when they don’t have the ball, the boys are doing everything to win it back. “We want to generate enough chances throughout the game to be able to win consistently,” he added. And defensively, the boys want the ball too! “Soccer it a territory game,” said O’Donohue. “When we don’t have the ball, we want to be very organized and cohesive defensively.”
When communicating with the athletes, O’Donohue says it varies; It all depends on the athlete himself, and what motivates him. “I try to challenge my players to perform in their comfort zones,” he said, “but we also want to emphasize that the game is the best motivator.” And when it comes to top priorities at Stevens, academics must be first. However, “we want soccer to be at the top of their list of academics,” added O’Donohue.
Captains play a big role out on the field, and help win games. So how are they chosen for the Men’s soccer? By the coaching staff. “We don’t want it to be a popularity decision and players do not always recognize who the best leaders are on the team.” So how do the Ducks win games? “You win games by having better players than your opponent,” commented O’Donohue, “but a good program develops their players and makes them better throughout coaching and training.”
What does a typical week look like? “We train every day with Sunday off from about mid-August until we are knocked out of post-season in November or early December” (or they keep going until they win it all!) This is a very crucial time in the boys’ season. Does practice structure differ at this point? The only difference is that the practices go a litter shorter. Coach likes to keep them fresh as the season continues.
What makes a great defender? “First, a good defense in soccer needs all 11 players. The team has to be very organized and have all players buy into the system.” O’Donohue continued that “a good defensive team must have a good back four, with a good goalkeeper.” So what about the offense? “Players need to have good individual skill and players that have excellent pace that can separate themselves from their opponent,” he said.
O’Donohue commented that this season has been excellent thus far. “The team is a true pleasure to work with,” he added. So are there any players we should keep our eyes on? “Nolan Sandberg (#10) will most likely be an All-Amerian this year. He is one of the best players in the country. Zach Carr (goalkeeper) was a first-team All-American and is the All Time leader in shutouts in all three NCAA divisions.
So what outcome is the Coach expecting? “Ofcourse, I am hoping to go to the NCAA Division III Final Four, as we did in 2008, but we take it game by game.” This upcoming game will definitely be a test for the boys to see where they stand as a team. “We approach the tournament one weekend at a time.” He added “each weekend is a mini-NCAA tournament.”
The Women’s Soccer has earned their first ever Empire 8 title, and secured themselves an automatic bid to the tournament. This will be their sixth NCAA tournament appearance (the first since 2006), as they take on William Patterson University this Saturday, November 13th, in Carlisle, PA. The girls were ranked 23rd on D3Soccer.com’s top-25 poll.
The girls finished out with a 14 – 3 – 1 overall mark, and a 5 – 3 – 0 league record, and landed a spot as the number 3 seed. This will be the first time since 2005 the Ducks have taken on the Pioneers. Stevens has split four games with the Pioneers since 2002, both going 2 – 2.
Six ladies earned all-conference honors for their hard work this season. Junior Kathleen Schuckers and freshman Bridgette Barden lead the way. First-team all-league pick, Schuckers, drives the team in 26 points from nine goals and eight assists. Barden is also a first-team selection and the league’s Rookie of the Year. She has made a huge impact her first season with the Ducks, with 16 points on six goals and four assists. Sophomore Paige Allen, junior midfielder Sarah Lehman, senior forward Mary Chew, and junior goalkeeper Kaitlin McClymont all received all-conference recognition as well! Chew scored the team’s champion-clinching goal with 30 seconds to spare against Nazareth. This upped her tally to eight goals this season, a career-best. Lehman recorded five goals and five assists. McClymont has a 0.72 goals-against average and six shutouts this season.
“We’re excited be back in the NCAA Tournament,” said head coach Jeff Parker. “We’re going to do our best to represent our conference well. We’re fortunate to be a part of such a competitive league. We’re sending two teams to the tournament and Nazareth just missed getting in (as well). We have a tough opponent in William Paterson from the New Jersey Athletic Conference and Dickinson and Centenary are teams we’ve seen before. We’re familiar with all three programs (in our pod) and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to put our best foot forward and hopefully we’ll be at our best next weekend.”
Coach Parker’s program philosophy has gotten the girls to where they are: the path to success will be attained through competitive excellence based on constant improvement and execution of fundamentals on and off the field. “We train hard in order to get better every day,” he said. Offensively? “We play as a team, keep possession, and try to score more goals than the other team in the alloted time.” So what about defensively? It’s all about quickness. “We defend effectively so we can regain possession of the ball,” he said.
The top priorities for his athletes are simple: “They are student athletes who try to be better today than they were yesterday, then again better tomorrow than they were today.”
How does this season reflect and relate to past seasons? “Every season is different,” he said. “Different student athletes, different opponents, different circumstances. However, each team must find a way to overcome their individualism and obstacles along the way in order to give themselves to the group.”
“This team will post one of the NCAA’s best one-year turnarounds going from 6-12 a year ago to 16-3-1 (currently) this fall,” he added. The game “will be tough. William Paterson is a veteran team that will be a stiff challenge to us. However, we have played a very difficult schedule and have seen some of the best teams in the country already and are looking forward to rising to the occasion.”
The Duck’s Women’s volleyball won 20 of its 21 final matches, and leaves a season record of 32 – 5 for the regular season. Their appearance in the NCAA tournament on Friday will be their seventh. Stevens takes on Johnson & Wales University.