It’s the start of a new school year and that means the start of a new athletic season. This year, RIT sports should be nothing short of stellar as 21 of RIT’s 24 athletic teams make the switch from the Empire 8 conference to the more challenging Liberty League. The only teams unaffected by the conference change are men’s and women’s hockey and wrestling. The competition will be more intense, the stakes will be higher, and emotions will flare even brighter than before, making this the perfect year to ramp up your school spirit and cheer (or roar) for our mighty Tigers.
On the men’s side, the cross country squad returns several top runners and will be trying to best last year’s 14th place finish in the Regional Championship. Other accomplishments from last season include a fourth place finish in the Division I Buffalo Stampede Invitational and a second place finish in the Empire 8 Championship. In the off-season, they received Division III United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic honors for the sixth straight year. To qualify for this honor, teams need a cumulative team GPA of at least 3.1 and compete at the Regional Championship. The RIT team finished with a 3.15 GPA.
On the women’s side, the 2010 season started with a second place finish in the Cobleskill Invitational and a fourth place finish in the Highlander Invitational. Like the men, they also placed second in the Empire 8 Championships, but also placed 14th out of 33 teams in the Atlantic Regional Championships. Individually, fourth year Nicole Varble and second year Rachel Zoyhofski were both named to the All-Empire 8 second team. Fourth year Abby Aker, a solid competitor who often finished in the top five was named the RIT Sportswoman of the Year for cross country. This year women’s coach Dave Stevens will be looking to his underclassmen after seeing five seniors graduate. October 15 will be a great opportunity to see both squads run as they compete in the Yellowjacket Invitational/Tiger Den event at Genesee Valley Park. Starting time will be at 11:15a.m.
The women’s soccer team enjoyed a solid season under head coach Liz Masterson in 2010. They finished 9-6-3 and were fourth in the Empire 8 standings, ultimately reaching the Empire 8 semifinal. Five players collected Empire 8 all-conference honors last season, including then-first year Alexa Martinez, fourth year Sarah Frisicano, and fourth year Shireen Irani.
Coach Masterson stated through an email that although she lost four seniors, she is looking forward to having many of her starters return along with the new talent coming in this season. “Although we lost four important players, we acquired some very talented attacking players that will make us a stronger team this year. We also have two transfers to join the squad this year. We are returning eight starters, including our top three goal scorers. Our freshmen class is very strong, and we expect several of our newcomers to be big contributors.” Be sure to catch them playing against the University of Rochester on September 14, 4 p.m. on the RIT Field.
In 2010 head coach Bill Garno’s team also had a fine season. The men finished 8-6-3 and came just shy of the making Empire 8 tournament, suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 loss dealt by cross-town rival Nazareth. This year Garno is looking forward to a fresh start after four of his seniors graduated in May. “We’ll definitely miss the contributions made by last year’s seniors, particularly Bret Dietz and Jake Yates, both three-year captains, along with Dom Colaprete, and Alan Nicholson,” says Garno. “All four played key roles over their careers. Some of the younger players we had on last year’s team have had a season and off-season to develop and mature. The returnees committed themselves to our off-season strength and conditioning program and played well during our spring season.”
Like almost every other RIT coach, Garno is excited about the prospect of playing against unfamiliar opponents. “This season will offer the challenge of playing in a new conference, the Liberty League, which includes some of the top NCAA Division III teams in the country. Our ability to consistently maintain a high level of play will be critical. Consistency as a team will come not only from more consistent individual player performance, but from greater depth throughout the roster. If we can demonstrate both of these attributes as a team, I am confident we will be able to compete with everyone we play this year.” A sure-to-be-heated match will be played September 20 against Nazareth at 4 p.m. on the RIT Field.
The 2010 season was a tremendously successful season for head coach Jim Lodes and the women’s volleyball team. They finished 22-16 and advanced to the Empire 8 semifinal. Fourth year Rebecca Schaffer had an excellent year, earning the 2010 American Volleyball Coaches of America Division III All-Region team and honorable mention All-American accolades. She led her team with 549 kills and placed second in digs with 409.
This year, coach Lodes will be looking to his returning players to build off of their success from last season. 15 players will return, including one of last year’s captains, now fourth year Lauren Craft. You can catch the volleyball team September 16 against Buffalo State at 3 p.m. in Clark Gym. The first home Liberty League game of the season will be on October 14 at 5 p.m. against Vassar.