Winter in Duck Country Brings Victories for Stevens Athletics

11/21/2011

As cold weather invades campus, things are just heating up for Stevens’ highly-accomplished winter sports teams. The Ducks are looking to build on winning campaigns in 2010-2011 as the seasons get underway for basketball, wrestling, swimming and fencing.

“Last year’s winter seasons were extraordinarily successful and everyone in athletics is excited to see what this year brings,” said Sports Information Director Rob Kulish.

Each of the teams is looking to build on notable accomplishments during 2010-2011 seasons. Men’s basketball had the second-most wins in its 95-year history, while women’s basketball won the Empire 8 and reached the NCAA’s for the second time. Both swimming teams were in the top-15 nationally and the wrestling team is already ranked among the nation’s elite. The fencing programs have long storied histories and the indoor track programs are primed to make an impact on the national stage.

“It’s impossible and unfair to quantify expectations, but I know we are definitely looking forward to seeing how everything plays out,” said Kulish.

Here is a preview of each of the teams who will compete this winter:

Basketball

The Stevens men’s basketball team returns four starters and 10 letter winners from a squad that won 22 games and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro title last season. Leading the Ducks will be senior co-captains Michael Cutri and Simon Smith. Cutri, a guard, averaged 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while leading the team in minutes and steals. Smith was a first-team all-conference selection in 2010-2011 after leading the league in rebounding by almost four boards per game and averaging 13.7 points per game. Other key contributors include junior guard Russ Thompson, the team’s returning assist leader and a sharpshooter from the three-point arc, and junior guard Sheldon Jones, the team’s returning scoring leader and last year’s ECAC Championship MVP. The team opened up the year 2-1.

Having started the year 2-1, the women’s basketball team is also looking to build on an impressive 2010-2011 season, when the Ducks posted a 21-7 mark, won an Empire 8 title and competed in the NCAA tournament. Key to success will be a talented returning frontcourt of Jillian Barrett and Victoria Webber, who led last year’s team in scoring with 11.5 and 11.3 points per game respectively. In the backcourt the Ducks return two more seniors – Dawn Garcia, who led last year’s squad in treys, assists and steals, and Isaura Guzman, another three-point threat – as well as sophomore Molly Spadaro, who started 25 games as a freshman.

Wrestling

The Stevens wrestling team finished the 2010-2011 season ranked No. 23 nationally by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) and racked up a school-record 14 wins, surpassing the previous best mark of 12 set back in 2008-09. The Ducks finished third overall in the Centennial Conference Championships with 60.5 team points. The team returns a core group of student-athletes that combined for a 91-34 record last season, including two-time All-American Ryan Bridge. Other top returners include Ryan Dormann, Jason Nowakoski and Joey Favia. The team has already jumped out to a commanding 5-1 start.

Swimming

The Stevens men’s swim team is coming off the most successful year in program history as the Ducks placed 14th at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships. Leading the Ducks this season are a trio of senior co-captains in Mark Bagniewski, Carl Nagle and Ben Watkins, who will all look shave time of their events and secure berths in the NCAA national championships. Other key contributors include junior Alex Benham, the school-record holder in the 500-yard freestyle and four-time honorable mention All-American; junior John Hu, Stevens’ most decorated returner who last year won Empire 8 Swimmer of the Year honors; sophomore Tyler Hessler, one of the Ducks’ top sprinters; sophomore Joe Huyett, a two-time first-team All-Empire 8 performer; and sophomore Nick Noga, who earned honorable mention All-America honors in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The Ducks have thus far compiled a 3-0 record.

Meanwhile, the Stevens women’s swimming team is coming off a 2010-11 in which they finished a program-best sixth at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships. Co-captains Deanna Carraza and Kim McCaffrey lead the Ducks. Victoria Baldwin is Stevens’ top returning distance swimmer and the Ducks also return Marissa Douglas, a two-time All-American, Hayley Hatfield, the team’s star freestyle sprinter, Sian Pearson, a veteran of the NCAAs, Natalie Fitz, a middle distance specialist, and Allison Henning, one of the team’s top sprinters. With the help other young talent in sophomore Megan Lisbon and Louise Moores, as well as a number of highly-touted recruits, the Ducks have jumped out to an undefeated start.

Fencing

The Stevens men’s fencing team (8-2) is coming off a 15-9 season, topped off by the best Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Fencing Association finish in school history. The Ducks return Dmitri Lamianski, who won a conference silver medal last season, but star fencer Tony Worthington is sidelined with an injury and Charles Steiner is unavailable while taking part in Stevens co-op program. Their returning teammates and incoming freshman fencers will have to hold down the squad this semester

Coming of a 22-win season – the second-highest total in school history – the women’s fencing team has already amassed seven wins and promises to be one of the most talented ever at Stevens. Head coach Linda Vollkommer-Lynch, in her 38th season, will look to lead the Ducks to victory in what could be their toughest schedule ever, with a slew of matchups against Division I foes. The team returns all its starters at sabre, including team captain Krista Sticco and Juliet Turlaski, the best technical fencer. The foil squad is also deep in experience with seniors Alexis Clyburn and Ann Destefano at the helm. At epee, Briana Nieradka, Sienna Batzli and Krystal Perkins top the depth chart and look to win a second straight ECAC championship.