A last look back: the top 10 athletic moments from 2009-10
(Posted July 30, 2010)
By Pete Lefresne, Assistant Athletic Director
HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- It's officially "change out the desk calendar" season in the Juniata Sports Information Office. 2009-10 has been officially put to bed, and work can finally begin to get ready for 2010-11. A vacation or two might slip in there somewhere as well.
Amid the filing of old game programs, shuffling around of archived box scores and what have you, it's easy to get lost in the memories of some unforgettable athletic performances and moments from 2009-10. So, as I did a year ago, I put together a list of my favorite moments in Juniata Athletics from the past 12 months.
Assistant SID Dan Lauletta (now former assistant SID, unfortunately, as Dan is moving on to the University of Delaware) offered me his top 10, and I factored in a list of my own. Ties between our two lists were broken by... well... me, and I had a pretty good winning percentage on those (sorry, Dan...). There was no committee, no voting, no consulting an octopus in Germany - just me looking over dozens and dozens of stat sheets and web pages, and trying to bring order to all the memories I had from 2009-10.
So, without further delay, the best ten moments of 2009-10 - at least from my perspective as Juniata's sports information director.
10. Women's swimming knocks off Hood College, 46-42; Lauren O'Donnell's first collegiate coaching win
It might have been the last meet of the season, but I'm guessing that didn't make the win any less sweet as Juniata downed Hood College 46-42 for the women's swimming team's first win of the season.
The moment was definitely a sweet one for first year head coach Lauren O'Donnell; the former All-American and NCAA qualifier from TCNJ logged her first win as a head coach, and was flashing a smile all around the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center for days after the team returned from its win at a January 30th tri-meet at Penn State Altoona.
O'Donnell is a bright and energetic young coach, who has been a great "get" for Juniata Athletics. I'm willing to bet that this will be the first of many "W's" for the Jersey native.
9. Larry Bock records 1,200th coaching victory at helm of Juniata women's volleyball
Juniata head women's volleyball coach Larry Bock's victory odometer rolled over the 1,200 mark in early October, as the Eagles dispatched the University of Mary Washington (Va.) by a 3-1 score at the Christopher Newport University Invitational.
The win came in the first of two Juniata matches of the day, with Juniata recording Bock's 1,201st win just hours later with a 3-0 pounding of Salisbury University.
The win offered one of the best performances of the season by talented newcomer Ashley Schnader, who whipped down 11 kills on 16 attacks and had a hand in two of Juniata's three blocks.
Juniata finished the season in the national championship match, dropping a 3-1 decision to Washington University (Mo.). But a strong nucleus returns for 2010, so expect to see the Eagles in St. Louis, site of the 2010 Division III women's volleyball championship, battling for their third national title.
8. Football downs Moravian, 10-3, at Rocco Calvo Field
The game began with the unlikeliest of plays, and ended with Juniata claiming its first gridiron victory in Bethlehem, Pa., in six seasons and Carmen Felus posting his first win as a head coach in Juniata's 10-3 triumph over Moravian College.
Moravian opened the game with an onside kick, which Juniata recovered at the Greyhound 42-yard line. That set up the Eagles for a 30-yard Alex Snyder-to-Abe Mellinger touchdown pass four plays later, scoring the game's only touchdown.
The Eagles tacked on an 18-yard field goal by rookie kicker Scott Andrews in the first half, and held a 10-0 lead at the half. The Juniata defense held Moravian to just one field goal over the final 30 minutes of play, securing the 10-3 win.
Coach Felus has elevated the intensity around the Juniata football program, and his 2010 recruiting class boasts more all-state caliber players than I've seen among the previous three recruiting classes that have taken to Knox Stadium. With a little more patience, there is reason to think that more wins will be seen on fall Saturdays at Knox Stadium in the near future.
7. Men's basketball coach Greg Curley sets record with 104th win at Juniata College
Seniors Jeff Berkey and Ryan Jones each poured in 22 points, leading Juniata men's hoops to a 72-66 win over Moravian College on January 16 at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center.
Beyond giving the Eagles back-to-back Landmark Conference wins, the win was the 104th victory for head coach Greg Curley at the helm of Juniata men's basketball and most by any Juniata men's basketball coach.
Curley surpassed the previous record of 103 wins, set by Arnold "Doc" Greene between 1949 and 1961.
Juniata led by just one point with barely over two minutes left on the game clock, but a Berkey three-point bucket and a traditional three-point play by freshman point guard Alex Raymond quickly stretched the Eagles' lead. The win gave Juniata a weekend sweep of conference play, after torpedoing the University of Scranton, 63-56, the night before.
Curley took the win in stride, pointing out that amassing the 104 wins was tougher for Greene - who was also a dentist in Huntingdon.
"I wasn't as smart as he (Greene) was. The reason I'm a coach is because I couldn't get into dentist school."
Perhaps, but Curley has proven he's got all the basketball smarts needed to help make Juniata men's hoops a perennial threat in the Landmark Conference. He landed seven of his top 10 sought-after players in recruiting this season, so perhaps hitting the 150-win milestone won't be far off.
6. Men's soccer ties Saint Vincent in final minute, and wins in overtime
Did England's Robert Green really play a year of collegiate soccer under an assumed name at Saint Vincent College?
The idea IS a little far-fetched, so the answer is probably not. But Juniata men's soccer's "home" debut clash against Saint Vincent under the lights at Huntingdon's Detwiler Field did produce one of the most memorable finishes in recent years. It also produced a goal that made a certain U.S. goal in the World Cup seem like a dÃ?Â©jÃ?Â vu moment for all those who witnessed the Juniata comeback win over Saint Vincent back on September 8.
Trailing 1-0 after Saint Vincent's goal in the 24th minute, Juniata sophomore David Grim sent the game into overtime. Grim buried a shot from about six yards out, taking advantage of a loose rebound off a Drew Steffen scoring attempt.
In the 106th minute of play with a light drizzle falling, Luke Waddell put a shot on goal from just outside the 18-yard box. Saint Vincent keeper Green, er... Gabe Cooper... handled the attempt in an eerily-similar fashion to the unfortunate Englishman: making the initial stop, but watching the ball slip through his hands and roll slowly - almost painfully so - across the goal line.
Don't believe? Watch Dan's video recap, especially around the 1:10 mark. You be the judge.
The victory was one of seven in 2009 for Juniata men's soccer, the most by the squad since 1996.
5. Softball downs not-quite-ranked Susquehanna
March 10, 2010.
Juniata softball was rolling along on day four of play in its 2010 spring break trip to Surfside Beach, S.C., when senior pitcher and shortstop Stacy Nagy was sidelined with a quad pull - kind of a crushing injury for the Eagles, since Nagy was one of only two pitchers on the roster.
That began what seemed like an insurmountable run of bad luck for the Eagles, who had several other players would go down with injuries - including their top pitcher, senior Alyssa Erb. Erb dislocated her kneecap while batting against Drew University on April 3, and was out of the lineup for several more weeks. That left all the pitching duties in the hands of Nagy - who last pitched on a regular basis early in her high school career, and was far from 100% when she was pressed into duty pitching both ends of doubleheaders for nearly three weeks.
When all was said and done, Juniata softball would play nearly a month-and-a-half before an already-thinned roster would see all 17 players healthy and available for duty in any one game.
But that day came on April 22, as the Eagles hosted Susquehanna University in an avoid-a-sweep-at-all-costs doubleheader. Not an easy task, given the visiting Crusaders were one spot out of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Coaches Top 25 poll.
But with Stacy Nagy back in the circle and able to hit, plus three-hit performances by both Rachel Nagy and Amanda Gerlach as well as a pair of hits by Sarah Eckard, Juniata downed Susquehanna 5-2 in game two and even almost pulled off the upset in a 4-3 loss in game one.
Gerlach's one-out ground rule double in the fifth placed the sophomore in scoring position, and she crossed a few pitches later when a Steph Frith grounder down the first base line was mishandled by the pitcher. RBI singles by Rachel Nagy and Melissa Moffat later in the contest padded the Juniata lead.
That win over Susquehanna marked something of a turning point for the Eagles, who won five of their last six games coming down the stretch.
Juniata went on to reach the Landmark Conference Tournament - only to be eliminated by Susquehanna on a walk-off single in extra innings. But the win over Susquehanna was a sweet "W" over Juniata's conference archrival, and helped Juniata finish with a 20-18 mark - the program's third straight 20-win season.
4. Alyssia Gordon caps Juniata WBB win over top seed Delaware Valley in ECAC South tourney
For the second year in a row, the Juniata women's basketball team saw its post-season play extended with a berth in the ECAC South Region Tournament.
And, for the second year in a row, the Eagles went in as the eighth seed, with the unenviable task of facing the tournament's top seed on its home court.
And, for the second year in a row, that didn't bother Juniata in the least. Juniata upended Delaware Valley College, 67-65, on March 3 in Doylestown, Pa., sending the eighth-seeded Eagles into the ECAC South semifinals.
This time, however, there was an element of drama added, as the Eagles had to beat back a late charge by the Aggies. DelVal erased Juniata's 11-point lead over the final eight minutes of the contest, finally knotting the game at 65-65 with just 20 seconds left on the clock.
Sophomore guard Ashton Bankos drove the lane against DelVal as the clock wound down, drawing in several Aggie defenders. That left Alyssia Gordon open on the wing for the kick-out pass, and she cooly drained her two-point shot with just six seconds showing to give Juniata the win.
The Eagles went on to knock off Widener University in the semifinals, before finally falling to host Saint Vincent College in the tournament championship game.
3. Field hockey and women's volleyball both defeat Susquehanna to win Landmark championships
Juniata field hockey and women's volleyball made it a "two-for" day on November 7, 2009, as both Eagle squads captured Landmark Conference championships and automatic qualifiers into the NCAA tournament.
Both Landmark championships came at the expense of Juniata's closest conference rival, Susquehanna University.
For women's volleyball, the 3-0 championship win over Susquehanna marked Juniata's 29th consecutive conference crown and its 315th straight win over a conference opponent in either regular season or post-season competition.
Senior opposite Paige Johnston racked up 14 kills to lead the Eagles, while sophomore pin hitter Drew Barnhart put down 12 terminations. Senior libero Megan Sollenberger sprawled for 13 digs, pacing a Juniata squad that turned up 52 digs to Susquehanna's 46.
The third straight Landmark title launched yet another run deep in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles rolled past Cabrini, Mount Union and Eastern to take the Mid-Atlantic regional trophy, then crushed Trinity (Texas) and Wisconsin-Oshkosh en route to the championship match. Juniata's bid for a third NCAA crown was denied, however, as the Eagles dropped a 3-1 decision to Washington-St. Louis.
Field hockey captured its third straight title with a 1-0 win over the Crusaders, with Kim Amrod's first half goal proving to be the difference.
The only team to ever win the Landmark field hockey crown, this year's accompanying automatic berth was the first in the program's history - which meant the Eagles got to relax during their 36-hour wait until bracket day, instead of the usual anxiety to see if Juniata's efforts would be rewarded with an at-large bid into the NCAAs.
Juniata's NCAA tournament experience was a short one; the Eagles were eliminated 5-3 by 10th-ranked Lynchburg College on a cool and rain-drenched night in Lynchburg, Va.
But pay no mind to any of that - because November 7th was a good day to be a Juniata Eagle.
2. Baseball downs Scranton on final day to clinch Landmark playoff spot, start post-season run
Following its spring break trip and the first two Landmark Conference series of 2010, Juniata baseball probably wasn't thinking much about post-season.
The Eagles were 3-16 overall, dropping 12 straight games after knocking off John Carroll University, 8-1, in the season opener. Juniata was 1-5 in Landmark play, and had been outscored by its first two conference rivals, Moravian and Catholic, by a combined score of 58-29.
But then things began to turn for the Eagles, who swept Drew and Merchant Marine and then picked up a win off Susquehanna. That brought Juniata's post-season hopes down to its final conference weekend, a three-game set at the University of Scranton.
The tournament math was simple: whoever took two games in the series was in, and the other team was out.
Scranton won game one of the series, 7-2, but Juniata rallied to steal a 5-4 victory off the Royals on their home field in game two.
In a for-all-the-marbles showdown against the Royals, junior John Love spun a complete game win for the Eagles in a 16-3 victory to give Juniata the final Landmark tourney berth.
Love scattered eight hits, while Greg Hoffman paced Juniata at the plate with a 5-for-6 effort with two runs batted in and three runs scored. Kyle Saxman and Ian Thorne each belted their first collegiate home runs, and Saxman stroked a two-run single as part of Juniata's seven-run uprising in the eighth inning.
Once in the Landmark tournament, Juniata took full advantage with elimination wins over Susquehanna and Catholic. The Eagles finally crossed paths with Moravian in a championship game situation for the Greyhounds, but dropped a 19-2 decision.
The Eagles peaked when it counted, winning four of their final six games. It's an old truism that in tournament baseball, a little momentum and heart will take you a long way - especially in the Landmark Conference, where a lower seed had won both of the previous Landmark championships. Juniata brought an abundance of both those qualities over the first two weeks of May, and took fans on a wild but enjoyable ride.
1. Matt Bailey's entire senior season
Matt Bailey was studying abroad during the Spring 2009 semester - and therefore missed the bulk of the 2008-09 indoor and all of the 2009 outdoor track and field seasons.
But, oh - how he made up for it during his final two semesters as a senior.
Bailey capped his final cross country campaign by becoming the first Juniata male to compete in the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, after finishing 27th in the NCAA's Mideast Regional qualifier. For that, he was named a United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA - surely the most ungainly acronym in sports) All-Region selection.
Moving into the indoor track season, Bailey ran the anchor leg for Juniata's Landmark champion squad in the Distance Medley Relay at the 2010 Landmark Indoor Track & Field Championships, and finished fourth in the 5,000m.
Drawing his collegiate career to a close, Bailey won the 10,000m run at the 2010 Landmark outdoor meet, and again finished fourth in the 5,000m.
It's pretty easy to make a case that Bailey is the best distance runner to ever pass through Juniata College. He is an All-Landmark Conference performer in several times over, in cross country as well as indoor and outdoor track. He holds Juniata's outdoor records in the 10,000m, the 5,000m and the 3,000m. Indoors, he has the Juniata record in the 5,000m and is a member of the record-holding quartet in the DMR.
Most people would be ecstatic with those accomplishments over the course of a career; he did it in a season. Even head cross country and track coach Jon Cutright has to offer a "you gotta be kidding me" to that performance (although, he probably wouldn't use the word "kidding"...).
Honestly, I don't think I saw Matt run after competing in the Landmark cross country meet that Juniata hosted in November 2008. For that matter, very few people from Juniata other than his teammates and coaches probably did either. In terms of points, he managed just 49 points for the Blue and Gold at conference indoor and outdoor track meets - such is the lot of a distance runner, explained Cutright, since they can only compete in one or two events per day and maybe not much more than that over a two-day meet. But in any event in which he was entered, you could count on Matt being a factor.
Matt's impact on Juniata's cross country and track record books was such that he will be remembered for a long time. He's also someone who probably hasn't received his due for what he did this past season or over his entire career - so I'll give it to him now. And I'll pick the entire season as a "moment" as a cop-out for picking just one performance off Matt's impressive resume.
So that's the list - the top 10 moments of 2009-10, according to Dan Lauletta and I. Agree or disagree? Then send an e-mail to email@example.com and let me know. If we get a interesting alternative suggestions for events and moments that should have been included, I'll post them on juniatasports.net.
Our readers respond...
Contact Gabe Welsch at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 641-3131 for more information.