Spring Sports Preview

Source: ucpioneers.com

Source: ucpioneers.com

Nick McAdam, Sports Editor

Women’s Lacrosse

Last Season: 13-4 Overall

The Pioneers rode a six-game win streak in the middle of the 2019 season, which helped push them into Empire 8 play where the team lost to Stevens University by a score of 6-11.

Despite this, Utica finished second place in the conference trailing only St. John Fisher. Last season was headlined by two wins by a score of 22-0 over The Sage Colleges and 26-0 over Alfred University. 

The Pioneers also finished last season above the opponent average in every offensive category except shots on goal percentage. The team also doubled the conference clear percentage with a final rating of .776%.

Goalie Hali Vandermeulen said she is excited to see what this season brings and believes the program is filled with promise going forward.

“The team looks amazing and we have a strong foundation set from last year with a lot of returners,” she said. “We also acquired six new freshmen and they’re crushing it and really bringing a lot of fire to practice. I’m super excited for this season we’ve got a great group of girls.”

Men’s Lacrosse 

Last Season: 7-9 Overall

The story for coach Mike Parnell’s squad this season is trying to build off of the team’s 4-4 home record from the 2019 season. Utica will get two chances to do this as they kick off the 2020 campaign against Wilkes University and SUNY Poly.

The Pioneers went towards the bottom of the Empire 8 last season due to a 1-6 stretch from March 23 through April 17 until rebounding with two concluding wins against Elmira College and Houghton College, both of which were the biggest team wins on the season.

Utica hosts a young squad heading into the new year with more than half of the team comprised of sophomores and first-year players. 

The team doubled the opponent average in turnovers caused from last season but were less in categories such as goals, assists and shot on goal percentage with a .336.

Softball – Last Season: 18-20

The Pioneers finished with a record of 6-8 in conference play last season with a majority of the team’s wins coming away from home turf.

Utica finished in second place in the Empire 8 in overall batting statistics with a .306 average from the plate and 206 runs off of 322 hits. The team did not crack the top five in fielding and pitching.

Catcher Jamie Miller said she bases the team’s expectations on hard work, which is a quality the team not only has but excels in.

“Our expectations this season are to make playoffs and just continue to work hard,” she said. “We have a hardworking team and our coaches put so much time and effort into helping us and making sure we are doing the best we can.”

While the campus is closed for Spring Break, the Pioneers will be traveling down to Florida for training before the season opener in Utica on March 25 against Morrisville State College.

Baseball – Last Season: 15-24

Baseball will also be traveling down to Florida for training in mid-March with expectations of growth from last season’s middle-of-the-pack campaign. Despite going 15-24 overall, the Pioneers finished with a record of 9-9 in conference play and a 6-2 home record. 

Utica’s .500 record was the split in the Empire 8 standings between a .722 win percentage from Stevens University and a .333 record from Houghton. The team dropped the final six games of last season, three of which were Empire 8 play.

The Pioneers opponent count reduced significantly over the off-season as Ithaca, Stevens and Elmira all will not be counted in Empire 8 standing this season.

Sophomore Joshua Brickman is entering his second season with the team and is seeing a lot of difference especially in offensive categories.

“With a ton of new recruits, both freshmen and transfers, our offense is going to turn around,” he said. “We have a good chance of taking the conference this year.”

The team has already kicked off the 2020 season with two losses allowing a total of 25 runs.

Men’s Tennis – Last Season: 3-10 Overall

Men’s tennis finished with a 1-6 record in conference play and a 2-6 home record. The season was capped with a 9-0 win over SUNY Delhi, one of the program’s biggest wins in recent years but then followed with a four-game losing streak to conclude the season.

The program is looking for growth, a project spearheaded by coach John Nigro. The team has not updated rosters for the 2020 season but with growth projection from last season, the team should be filled with young faces.

Water Polo – Last Season: 1-12 Overall

The story of water polo at UC proves the range of sports in the athletic department. Utica happens to be not only one of the few colleges in the northeast with water polo but in the entirety of Division III in the NCAA.

Utica’s roster is getting older by the minute. To put it into perspective, if graduation were today, the team would only contain seven players. The struggles also continue in the pool with last year’s win also being one of the first for the program in recent times.

Regardless, Emily Czerwonka, one of the team’s seniors, said she believes in the team’s chemistry and ability to look forward with optimism.

“We have a few incoming girls that will help grow our numbers and everyone is really excited to begin,” she said. “We just recently got a new coach, so we think that having her around is going to make some big changes for us. Our team is like a family, so I’m excited to see how our friendships grow as well.”