This fall, the Belmont Abbey College Crusaders are looking to add to the ever growing collection of Conference Carolinas championship banners hanging in the Wheeler Center. Last fall, both Women’s Soccer and Women’s Volleyball won their respective conference championships in stunning fashion (and Men’s Basketball won in the spring), and this season they are looking to repeat that success. Men’s Soccer also hopes to join the ladies when they take to the field and make a run at turning losses into wins.
There is no reason why the Women’s Soccer team should not be able to make it to the conference championship rounds this season. Last year, the Lady Crusaders made their sixth NCAA tournament appearance, their third in the last four years. This season’s squad returns eight starters that were part of last year’s championship team and includes fourteen new freshmen. The team’s fitness training and successful preseason could foreshadow a winning season.
Things are going “better than last year,” Coach Lynch said. “The team came into camp at a good fitness level; a testament to their desire to achieve our goals again this year. These goals include graduating leaders of virtue and excellence, dominating and winning the Conference Carolinas, and advancing at the NCAA Tournament.”
When Coach Lynch was asked what the team’s weakness was this season, he responded, “Our defending back line as we graduated three of the four in the back (Alana Ryzcek, Kristin Foster, Kiera Woerner, all four year starters). Their shoes are big ones to fill. However, I am confident we will find a few players ready and able to step in.”
In September, the ladies faced another very tough non-conference schedule against top-ranked teams in the region including Tusculum, Newberry, Lees-McRae and Pfeiffer. These teams “certainly show us where we need to keep working,” said Coach Lynch.
According to Coach Keating, the Men’s Soccer team has no weaknesses, but rather, “only under-developed strengths. Our biggest goal is to infuse the program with a culture built around our 15 core values. Everything must flow from that.” Abbey sports teams have many great values, making cheering for them that much more rewarding. Some of the values that our Men’s Soccer team focuses upon include selflessness, classiness, respect, humility, resilience and perspective.
The Women’s Volleyball team is also looking for a repeat Conference Carolinas championship with several strong players returning and a full list of solid, fresh players joining the team as well. Head Coach DeJute said that this intensive number of new players, thirteen freshmen in all, will be a weakness on which the team will need to work.
Victoria Jensen, a senior Elementary Education major, was part of the conference championship team last season. “This year,” she said, “we are building chemistry on and off the court with our new freshman. They are an awesome group of girls and have so much energy and passion for volleyball.” When asked what challenges the team faced at the start of the season, Jensen responded, “[They] include getting back into the habit of morning practices (which preseason prepared us for) and needing to bond quickly with all of our new teammates, which has been going really well!”
Women’s Cross Country
The Women’s Cross Country team will be looking to improve on last year’s fifth place finish at the Conference Carolinas meet, as well as working to be a top twelve team at regionals. Last fall, the team placed seventeenth in the regional meet, which included ten schools in the conference and thirty-four in the region.
The team is led by sophomore Lucy Schmitz and senior Ally Craven. Both girls are returning All-Conference runners, and Craven was All-Regional last Fall. Schmitz and Craven, along with sophomores Brianna Mosby and Kaitlin Howard and freshmen Elena Fea and Marilyn Guevara, are projected to be the top five runners for the ladies this fall, according to Coach De Witt.
Schmitz developed into the second-best freshman distance runner in Division II last spring with her school record performance in the 10,000m run. She was also the only Division II freshman 5,000m runner to qualify for the USA National Under-20 Championships held in Des Moines, IA over the summer.
Men’s Cross Country
Like the ladies, the men are also looking to improve their previous success by advancing up the ranks in the conference and in the region. They hope to be in the top five for the region. To achieve this goal they will be working closely with the top two programs in the conference and region, King’s and Mt. Olive. Last fall, the Men’s Cross Country team was third out of nine in the conference and eighth out of thirty-three in the region. Last season was the first time the team ranked and placed in the top ten of the region since joining Division II.
All-Conference performers senior Tim Gill (also a returning All-Regional runner) and sophomore Ryan Caulley hope to lead the team to a successful season. Gill and Caulley, along with seniors Dustin Stewart, Frank Spicer and Mike Rogers and sophomore Dave Iverson, are forecasted to be the top six runners this fall.
“In cross country, the goal is to run your best individual races,” said Coach De Witt, “which contributes to the team performance at the most important meets. I consider all of the other meets as practice for the regional meet at the least and the national meet as the goal. We do not gear our training to be at our best for the [conference] meet; it is just the final meet in the progress to be ready for regionals.”
For more information, including live stats, please visit the Abbey Athletics’ website at abbeyathletics.com.