By Shannon Slater, Staff Writer
After a rocky season a year ago, especially with the weather, softball came back to campus this fall ready and excited for the season ahead. Returning for her second season as head coach, Hannah Griffin decided to use the fall season to help the team focus on meshing together and the winter to focus on communicating. The team has greatly improved in this important aspect of the game, and it is one the team has previously considered a weakness.
With last season being the first for Coach Griffin, her and the returners have used the struggles as a motivator. However, they don’t want to talk about what an emotional roller coaster it was. The newcomers have a fresh start and Griffin wants it to remain as such. “Last season was tough and something that is hard to let go of,” said Griffin. “However, it’s a new era in FPU softball. I don’t like speaking about last year.” Griffin was excited as the team’s season approached, and ultimately opened with six games in Arizona on Feb. 17-18.
This is the team’s first time in recent memory playing before spring break and they were one of the first teams in the conference to play. “Tomorrow starts a new journey for FPU Softball and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone but these 20 girls,” said Griffin, on the eve of the season.
In his first season as head coach of Franklin Pierce baseball, Mike Chambers took his team to the NE10 Championship, and finished as runner up to University of New Haven. “The biggest lesson I had to learn from my experience was to be aware and control my emotions,” said Chambers, looking back on his first year. “As a head coach, my emotions can drastically affect how the players feel and perform. The emotion is great for practice intensity, but once the game starts we just have to manage the game and let them play.”
Chambers’ ideas for the routine of the season hasn’t changed; the team has a very structured practice that had yielded great results in the past and the coaching staff does not see a need to change it. Last season was also riddled with unlucky injuries, but this year the team looks healthy and should be at full strength going into the season. The only real change the team made going into this season was to cut down the roster earlier than usual. Normally this is done before leaving for trips in the spring, which allows more time for players to prove they are cut out for the team. Chambers changed it this year, and made his cuts earlier, to allow the guys on the roster to get more repetitions in and to have more coaching during critical times.
Chambers’ roster is filled with good returners, who have all experienced some sort of trip to the NE10 Championship or NCAA Regional play. “Having a seasoned roster is a huge advantage,” said Chambers. “The veteran leadership has made the transitions for our new players seamless. The college baseball season is extremely grueling and it helps to have people who have experienced it before.”
After a successful fall season for the men, they are in the hunt for a regional bid for the NCAA Championship. Currently the team is ranked seventh in the region, and the top 10 teams will travel to NCAAs. The team’s goal for the spring is not only make the postseason, but make into the top five before heading to the tournament.
In preparation for a potential Regional appearance, the men have three tournaments on their spring slate and are looking to play consistent and solid golf, just as they did in the fall. “We are hopefully looking to climb up above the seventh spot, and the way we do that is just by playing good, team-oriented golf, putting good scores together and working hard,” said Bishop.
The team mostly focused on strength and conditioning training over the winter to get stronger and to be able to put together the consistent scores they are looking for.
It has certainly been a big year for women’s golf already. For the first time in team history, the team captured the NE10 Championship this fall. This automatically gave the team a bid to the East Super Regional of the NCAA Championships in May. This will be the second time the team has been represented at the tournament. This year follows the run of senior Camden Morrison, who represented the team as an individual last year, and made it all the way to the National Championship.
To prepare for the Championship, the team will have three spring tournaments and then head to Big Rapids, Mich., for the tournament. This goal at the tournament is to qualify in the top three or four spots, and get the invite to the NCAA National Championships. Back in September, Morrison had this to say about the team: “It is amazing to see how far we have come as a team and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this team. We [as seniors] wanted this one because it's our last year to qualify for Regionals and we got it, so I couldn't be prouder."
Back in 2015, the men’s lacrosse team had its first postseason bid, but has missed out each of the last two seasons. “Those guys who were freshmen at the time are seniors now, and they want to get back to the postseason; they have been there before, and I have to think that’s a pretty sustainable goal for them,” said head coach Rick Senatore. When he came to Franklin Pierce, the Ravens were one of the weakest teams in the country, and within his first few years, he was able to help them become a competitive team in one of the nation’s most-competitive conferences.
“For this season, the team looks good going into this season, but lacrosse is a complicated game,” said Senatore. “We put 22-23 guys out there, and they all need to be athletic and good players. There are some areas where they are strong and some where we have good athletes, but we might be a little young. We are hoping that in the places where we are a little inexperienced, that we can get a little stronger here in the preseason,” said Senatore before the season began.
The focus leading up to the season for women’s lacrosse started with focusing on small games and skills, handling the ball better, and trying to cut down on turnovers. “We’ve really pushed our 2018s, 2020s, and 2021s, focusing on the fact that each person has the ability to make an impact on attack and each has the ability to 1v1 [individual matchups],” said Coach Lonergan.
The team used small games of 6-on-6 and 7-on-7 to build up slowly instead of building up quickly during the preseason. While they have not been tested yet this year, in the past, the method has proved to lead to a bigger output in scoring. “The defense is also looking strong for the season, with the 1v1s looking stronger, and we’ve seen they can read the angles and keep the shot at a lower angle to make it easier to stop,” added Lonergan.
Of course, the big story with this team is the senior season for the Sweeney twins, Briana and Catilin. The midfielders have made a big impact on the team thus far in their career and are looking to continue that into their final season. Lonergan had this to say of the sisters: “The great thing about them is that they are completely self-driven, so they push themselves automatically.”
“Our big focus is beating the bubble teams: Bentley, Assumption, Saint Anselm, and Southern New Hampshire,” added Lonergan, looking at the schedule. “If we beat them it pushes the team into playoff contention.”
The rowing team is not a new team on campus but is still trying to make a name for itself up against the more-established sports on campus. “We are looking to have a presence more on campus, where people can recognize us,” said head coach Sarah Caruthers. “We are practicing in the bubble and other athletes are seeing our hard work and we will be practicing in the afternoon so people see us on the water.”
The team used their fall races to prepare for the spring season, and the squad’s fall season this year went above and beyond its usual expectations. Caruthers is looking to make the team the best it can be by racing above their level, and taking on the top Division I and Division III teams in the region. She wants to use those races to show the team its potential future.
“As a first-year coach this season, my goal is to focus on rebuilding our program, focus on our technique and focus on what our potential is moving forward.”
Men’s and Women’s Track and Field
With a long-standing tradition of national-class mid-distance runners, it’s no surprise head coach Zach Emerson has picked up another one in Hugo Arlabosse. In his short time at Franklin Pierce, he has already proven to have what it takes to compete nationally in the 800 meters. As for how the team looks to do this season, coach Emerson stated in an email interview: “We are looking for a top-three finish at the NE10 Championship and to get 1-2 athletes to the NCAA National Championships in May.”
As for training to prepare for the spring season ahead, that is a little hard for both the men’s and women’s teams. The challenges don’t stop them however, as they do what it takes to improve their teams and get themselves ready for the competition. This also improves as the weather gets nicer, when there is more to do in terms of preparing for the meets. “We must be creative in getting the work in, and this speaks to the character of our team,” said Emerson.
The women’s team is also looking to make a name for itself this season, looking to improve on what they have already done. The bigger stories to follow with the women are seniors Nicole Galewski and Emily Quinn. Galewski, who is a diverse competitor for the Ravens, is headed into the spring of her senior season looking to do just as well as she has in the past. She holds the school records for indoor long jump, outdoor high jump, indoor pentathlon, outdoor heptathlon and is a member of the record holding 4x200-meter relay team. For her part, Quinn, “a beast” as coach Emerson called her, is expected to continue to be a nationally competitive thrower in the outdoor season.
The men’s tennis team has its sights set high for the upcoming spring season, as the squad looks to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2005. In limited action this fall, the team put together a 3-2 mark. Already this spring, they have opened with wins in the first two matches of their conference schedule.
Junior James Bisazza and sophomore Yuval Barak return for the Ravens, while freshman Roberto Chong has joined the squad for the 2017-18 campaign. The trio gives Franklin Pierce three players who can be competitive at the conference level, and potentially the regional level, as the team tries to snap its long postseason drought.
The Ravens have a proud tradition within the NE10, with four all-time appearances in the semifinals of the NE10 Championship, including a pair of runner-up finishes, most recently in 2005. This year’s squad is eager to take the program’s first step back towards those high-water marks.
Matthew Janik, Director of Athletic Communication, also contributed reporting to this article.