With the fall sports season approaching, we will quickly learn who are the haves and and who are the have-nots of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). While they, too, crowd the streets of Fountain, waste hours on Netflix, and would never ever swipe right to that Person (unless it’s a Friday night), they also defend the name of the Old Methodists against our bitter rivals across the ’Cac. Here, you will learn more about these protectors of pride, and those you should expect to see in the Argus headlines this fall.
Men’s Soccer: The Cardinal footballers lost just two seniors to graduation last spring and are returning three all-NESCAC first-teamers. Eight rising seniors serve as a strong foundation for the squad, having all been a part of the team’s 2011 Little Three title winners, their first outright win in nearly 20 years. Holding down the defensive unit is Co-Captain Ben Bratt ’15, who anchored the Cards in their eight shutouts last season and was named second-team all-New England. Bratt’s strong ability to disrupt shots in the backfield will prove invaluable in the coming season. Co-Captain and midfielder Daniel Issroff ’15 is looking to make a return in his senior year after missing much of last season with appendicitis. Last season’s anemic offense will surely benefit from Issroff’s deceptive moves through the attack.
Women’s Soccer: Coming off a season in which it managed a tie in five of its 10 conference matches, the biggest question mark for the women’s soccer team will be its ability to finish goals. Sarah Sylla ’17 was the only multi-goal scorer on the Cards, who were last in the NESCAC with 12 goals in 15 games. Sylla and her fellow attackers will have to come up big for the team if they hope to overcome the perennial powerhouses of the ’Cac. The team will rely heavily on its defensive core of Co-Captains Hannah Stone ’15, Brynn Hansson ’15, and Katy Hardt ’15, along with goalkeeper Jess Tollman ’15. Tollman finished fourth in the conference in goals against average and save percentage last year, and eyes will be on her to continue her dominance in the clutch.
Football: Expectations couldn’t be higher for the football team, which should be looking to avenge the bitter end to its 2013 campaign, when it lost its final game of the season against Route Nine Rival Trinity College. Wes hasn’t defeated the Bantams since 2000 and will surely have to do so if it expects to win its first-ever all-out NESCAC championship, after having shared the title with Amherst and Middlebury last season. The team is returning four all-NESCAC first-teamers and three second-teamers. Reigning conference-leader in rushing yards LaDarius Drew ’15 will be chasing history early in the season. Drew is 347 yards and four touchdowns away from setting new Wesleyan career records and is looking to secure his place as perhaps the greatest offensive back in Cardinal history. On the defensive side, captain and defensive back Donnie Cimino ’15 has high hopes for a strong season anchoring the Cardinal backfield. He is a pre-season all-American after leading the squad last year with 27 solo tackles.
Field Hockey: The field hockey team has much to be excited about this fall, after nearly shocking top-seeded Amherst in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. They finished 4-6 in NESCAC play last year, but will look to further improve their standing in the most competitive field hockey conference in Division III. Netminder Sarah Grundy ’16 started all 15 of the Cards’ games last year and was third in the ’Cac with a .786 save percentage. She and the scrappy Wes defense will have to maintain a strong performance if the Cards hope to pursue a playoff run: the team was ninth in the conference in goals scored last year and graduated their two top scorers. Offensive production will have to come from somewhere if this team is to find success.
Men’s XC: The men’s cross-country team is returning its entire team from last fall, which surely bodes well for their odds of improving on a weak 2013 campaign. During the outdoor track season last spring, a couple runners stood out as candidates to lead this fall’s team to success: Juniors Taylor Titcomb and Keith Conway ran the 5000m in 15:00.25 and 15:22.98, respectively on the track. Evan Bieder ’15 also threw up a 15:10.89 in that event, as he looks to maintain his strong showings from last year.
Women’s XC: With just one senior anchoring the women’s cross-country team, the runners hope to improve after last year’s rebuilding season. They will expect consistent performances from Caroline Elmendorf ’17 and Molly Schassberger ’17, who both found success in the track seasons last year. Elmendorf ran an 18:24.51 in the indoor five kilometer, and threw up a 4:57.79 in the 1500m during the outdoor track season. Schassberger ran 18:43.29 and 38:35.12 in the five and 10Ks last spring.
Men’s Crew: The male rowers have some big seats to fill in their Varsity Eight, having lost three all-NESCAC athletes. Returning first-boaters Chris Nanda ’16 and Collin Mattox ’17 will anchor a young 1V team this fall, as it rows through the fall in big races at the Head of the Charles and Head of the Fish. The most crucial determining factors for the team will be building chemistry through the season, and young athletes will surely have a chance to contribute on the grandest of stages this fall.
Women’s Crew: Coming off a fifth-place finish at Nationals last spring, the women’s crew hopes to make another strong impact on its NESCAC competition this fall. Having lost four members from their 1V, which finished third in Division III, the Cards will look to their fifth-placing 2V crew for reinforcements. Emma Koramshahi ’16 and Annie Dade ’16 are the eldest returning 1V rowers, but will likely be joined by upperclassmen from the strong 2V squad.
Women’s Tennis: An influx of young talent will determine the fate of the women’s tennis team, which finished seventh in the NESCAC last year, one spot out of the conference tournament. Coach Mike Fried took a very active role in recruiting last year, and his incoming class was ranked by Tennis Recruiting Network as the third-best in the nation. Olivia Koh ’17 will be a force for the Cards, perhaps looking to jump up in the lineup after a strong 2013-14 campaign at first doubles/third singles.
Men’s Tennis: Much like the women’s squad, the men’s tennis team will benefit from a nationally recognized recruiting class. Coach Fried brought in four blue-chip prospects this year, the second-rated group in America in a concerted effort to reclaim a playoff spot after falling one victory short last year. Top singles players Jake Roberts ’17 and Michael Liu ’17 will both return after each playing better than .500 against the top players in the NESCAC.
Volleyball: Following an 8-15 finish last season, the volleyball squad hopes to make significant improvements this fall with six freshmen arriving to compete for spots. Many of the newcomers are over six feet tall, and hope to reshape a core that the team lost to graduation last year. Three 2014 graduates accounted for 75 percent of the team’s kills last season, and the Cards will need to find a way to replace that offense. Co-Captain Claire Larson ’15 will be entering her fourth year as the team’s setter and is surrounded by solid group of veterans in hitters Abigail Southam ’16 and Sara Warnock ’15. Libero Rachel Savage ’17 will also be back, having led the team in digs last season.