Brandeis Athletics Fall 2011 Season Preview

Amelia Lundkvist '14 (photo by Sportspix)

MEN'S AND WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY

The Brandeis cross country teams, under eighth-year head coach John Evans, will have big shoes to fill in 2011. The men are gunning for Brandeis's fourth-straight NCAA tournament berth, which would make Marc Boutin '12, Chris Brown '12 and Alex Hulse '12 the first senior class since 1993 to reach the NCAA cross country championships in each of their four seasons at Brandeis. The men will have to replace three of their top five finishers for the 2010 NCAA championships, when they finished second among New England schools and third among UAA schools. Brown, the University Athletic Association Rookie of the Year in 2008, and Boutin, have been among the team's top-three at their first three trips to the NCAAs, with Brown cracking the top 100. Both were All-New England honorees as juniors. Sophomore Ed Colvin, the 2010 UAA Rookie of the Year, just missed All-Region honors last season by placing 38th at the regional championships.

On the women's side, Brandeis will have to replace three of their top four runners from the regional championships, including All-New England performer and UAA runner-up Grayce Selig, who went on to finisher her career with four All-America performances in track and field. All-Association classmate Marie Lemay also departs. Senior Kate Warwick is the top returning after claiming All-Region accolades with a 27th-place finish at New England and a season that included a third-place finish at the UMass Darmouth Shriners Invitational early in the season. Evans will also look to sophomores Amelia Lundkvist and Victoria Sanford to step up in their sophomore campaigns.

The Brandeis men enter the season ranked eighth in New England and tied for 35th in the nation in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) polls, while the women are 10th in the region. The Judges open their season on Sept. 1 at the University of Southern Maine, with their only local meets at UMass Dartmouth on Sept. 24 and the Open New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston on Oct. 8.

WOMEN'S SOCCER 

The Brandeis women's soccer team is looking to build on one its most successful seasons in school history. Coach Denise Dallamora's squad earned an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament and reached the second round before bowing out. The Judges will have to replace their top two leading scorers and a key defender, but several important cogs are back as they look to claim their first UAA title.

Brandeis led the Association in scoring in 2010 with 50 goals on the season, but 20 of those goals came from players who have graduated. A talented group of sophomores will look to step up their scoring, including Hilary Andrews, who scored the team's game-winning goal against Castleton State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and Maddie Stein, who started four games. Both players had three goals and an assist in their first collegiate campaign. "Our offense will play a similar style to last season," says Dallamora. "But I think we have a little more speed up top, enabling us to get the ball in behind the defense. We should also be a little bit better in the air, which will make us that much more exciting to watch."

Senior forward/midfielder Mimi Theodore leads the returning scorers with five goals and nine assists for 19 point. Theodore was second in the UAA in assists and tied for fifth in points. Senior Alanna Torre, a second-team All-Association and third-team All-New England selection, had three goals and three assists in 2010 also helps control the midfield, as does sophomore Mary Shimko, who led Brandeis rookies with 16 starts last season. Senior Fran Shin, an All-UAA honorable mention in 2009, will also move up from the back line into the midfield. "Our midfield will be focused on possession," says Dallamora. "At the same time, I expect them to be shooting a little more and making deeper runs."

The Brandeis defense, which finished second in the Association with 10 shutouts, returns a couple of seniors in Ali Maresca and Ali Theodore, while classmate Jessica Schulman returns from injury. While the unit will miss four-year starter Taryn Martiniello '11, Dallamora says that a crop of strong rookies will push the returners, but the leadership will be a shared responsibility among the players. Between the pipes, junior Francine Kofinas was terrific in goal in her first season of regular playing time for Brandeis, finishing second in the UAA with 90 saves and posting a 0.82 goals against average, with newcomer Michelle Savuto and sophomore Katie Weil also looking to break into the lineup.

Brandeis opens the season on Sept. 1 at home against Clark University. The Judges, who finished in third place in the UAA last season, open the conference slate on Oct. 1 against the University of Rochester.

MEN'S SOCCER

The Brandeis men's soccer team will look to build on the momentum that propelled them to the 2010 ECAC New England title in 2010 as the tournament's fourth seed. With 54 goals (most in the UAA) and 2.70 goals per game (second in the Association), the Judges will look to keep their offense buzzing and bolster their defense in the hopes of returning to the postseason. "I think this year's team has as much depth as any I've had here in the past 10 years," says legendary head coach Mike Coven, who is entering 38th season.

Brandeis had a balanced attack on offense last season, with seven different players scoring at least four goals. Only two of their 54 tallies came from seniors. At forward, junior Lee Russo was one of only two UAA players to score 10 goals last season, while senior Luke Teece, an All-Association honorable mention, finished with nine goals and two assists in just 15 games. Teece's three goals in UAA play came in just five contests before he missed the final two games and the ECAC run due to injury. Add to the mix the return of junior Sam Ocel, the squad's top playmakers in 2009, from injury and rookie Tyler Savonen, a Boston Globe All-Scholastic selection from Orleans, Mass., and the Judges could be even more potent up top.  

In the midfield, junior Joe Eisenbies added eight goals and senior Alexander Farr had seven tallies in 18 games off the bench. Senior Theo Terris, who had a team-high five assists and earned second-team All-UAA honors, while another Globe All-Scholastic, Robbie Lynch, of Weymouth, Mass., has been added to the mix.

The sturdy Brandeis back line will be anchored by seniors Ari Silver – a second-team All-Association pick in 2010 - and David McCoy, who was All-UAA honorable mention in 2009. Sophomores Ben Applefield, the only rookie among four Judges who started all 20 games, Ethan Bercelli, who Coven called "one of the team's most improved players of the offseason" and Matt Brondoli, who started  five games before missing the rest of the season to injury also bring another season of experience to the pitch.

In net, the Judges will look to junior Blake Minchoff to replace two-time All-Association selection Taylor Bracken, with rookie Joe Graffy, an All-State selection out of Concord, N.H., in reserve.

The Judges open the 2011 season the weekend of Sept. 3-4 at the Keene State Classic, with their home opener against WPI on Sept. 14. Brandeis played five one-goal games in the University Athletic Association in 2010 – but dropped four of them. They hope to turn things around in the league starting with their Oct. 1 opener at home against Rochester. "A lot of hard work has led to a level of improvement in the off-season," Coven says. "Now we need to translate it to the field."

VOLLEYBALL

The volleyball team will be looking to bounce back from its first losing season since 2005, but it won't be easy, as Michelle Kim's team will have to replace three starters, including a four-year starter at setter in Abby Blasco, a 1,000-kill outside hitter in Blasco's twin sister Paige, and one of the top net presences in the league in middle blocker Nicole Smith. "Those three seniors left big shoes to fill," says Kim. "We're in the process of finding a new identity for our team, but the chemistry has been great from what I have seen so far."

Sophomore Yael Einhorn, who earned a handful of starts at setter as a rookie when Abby Blasco battled injury, will quarterback the team. Einhorn will also serve as the team captain this year. "It's a lot of responsibility for Yael," says Kim. "But it comes with the territory." Sophomore Si-Si Hensley, the squad's top returning offensive threat after averaging 1.75 kills per game in her rookie campaign - third on the team – will be another on-the-court leader as one of the squad's best all-around performers. Juniors Lauren Berens and Becca Fischer, the team's two returning six-footers, will help to pick up the slack at the net, having both tallied over 60 blocks in their second season. Fischer is a two-year starter who is likely to slide into Smith's role at the net, while Kim says that  Behrens' versatility will be key for the team's success. Defensively, junior Susan Sun, who saw her playing time increase dramatically last season, will anchor the back row. "Susan is a steady presence in the back," says Kim. "Her passing in consistent and her defense will keep us under control."

The team's top newcomers include a pair of All-State players: Liz Hood, of Albuquerque, N.M., who Kim calls a "solid all-around player who will provide firepower on attack", and defensive specialist Elsie Bernaiche of Plantsville, Conn. Other newcomers who will provide depth include Sam Heller of Pelham, N.Y.; Vicki Karkantis of Acton, Mass.; and Shemira Pennyman of Meriden, Conn.

The Judges open the season on Sept. 2 at the Western Connecticut State University Invitational, with their first home matches coming the weekend of Sept. 9 and 10 with the Brandeis Invitational tournament.