Saint Leo University Vice President and Director of Athletics Francis X. Reidy was recently selected as the chair of the 2020-21 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Committee. The committee has direct oversight responsibilities for the men’s basketball championship.
Reidy joined the committee in 2017-18 for a five-year term that extends through 2021-22. He succeeds the outgoing chair, Jon Mark Hall, the director of Athletics at the University of Southern Indiana.
Reidy acknowledged the uncertainty that the committee faces because of COVID-19 as he spoke about his new assignment.
“I have been fortunate to have served in many roles over the years, but being on this committee has been a highlight. We have a talented collection of coaches and administrators on our committee, and we are fortunate to have Donnie Wagner from the NCAA as our liaison. Donnie is one of the best in the business. I know this coming year will be dramatically different, but I am confident our committee is up to the challenges we will face in the coming months.”
Reidy, a Saint Leo Athletic Hall of Fame member, has served on several NCAA committees over the years, including serving as chair of the Division II Championships Committee in 2014-15. He is a three-time Under Armour Division II Athletics Director of the Year honoree and is entering his 22nd year at the helm of the Saint Leo Department of Athletics.
Saint Leo University Athletics is enjoying another reason to celebrate the accomplishments of its athletes during the 2019-2020 year. A record number of student-athletes were honored for the high grades they earned while competing on the playing fields, courts, track, golf course, and running trails, and in the gymnasium and pool.
There were 139 Lions named as recipients of the Division 2 Athletics Directors Association (D2 ADA) Academic Achievement Award. To receive the honor, a student-athlete must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale, have attended a minimum of two years (four semesters) of college-level work, and have been an active member of an intercollegiate team during his or her last academic year.
Baseball led the way for the Lions with 14 honorees, followed closely by softball with 11 recipients. Twenty sports were represented in all.
Having so many student-athletes overall named recipients of the award is, in itself, a distinction: Saint Leo’s 139 award recipients surpassed the previous university record of 101 honorees. That record was set during the 2017-2018 academic year.
Among schools in the Sunshine State Conference, Saint Leo ranked second behind Florida Southern College’s 167 honorees. Saint Leo ranked 14 overall among Division II programs.
A complete list of Lions honored is available for viewing, with the athletes’ names organized by their sport. The award recipients represent more than30 percent of the 455 student-athletes who competed during the year.
After a spring season that was cut short, Saint Leo Athletics saw 10 programs finish the 2019-2020 academic year ranked nationally by their respective associations. Four of those 10 were inside the Top 10 and one, men’s tennis, ranked inside the Top 5 nationally at year’s end.
Three fall programs finished the season with rankings. The volleyball program won the south region and advanced to the national quarterfinals, while women’s and men’s cross country teams reached the national championships.
Volleyball finished the year as the 21st ranked program in the country with one All-America honoree, senior Anilise Fitzi. Men’s and women’s cross country teams each finished as the 30th ranked programs in the nation. Both squads took third at the regional competition.
Men’s swimming represented the winter sports in the national poll, rounding out the year in 20th place after sending Matthew Daniel and Kosta Mitrovic to the national championships. The duo received College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) All-America nods for their performances in the pool.
The Lions saw six programs finish the year in the Top 25, in which men’s tennis led all programs with a national rank of fourth. Women’s tennis, softball, and women’s golf all were at eighth in the final polls of their respective associations. Men’s golf rounded out the year as the 13th ranked team, according to GolfStat, where the Lions saw Dave Longhini earn the program’s lone All-South Region nod, announced by the (GCAA). Women’s lacrosse was off to a 4-3 start, and finished as the 19th ranked program in the country in the shortened season.
Saint Leo’s Lions saw their winter and spring seasons cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, but they still represented the green and gold with pride. Here are some highlights:
Volleyball wins 1st NCAA South Region championship
Saint Leo’s volleyball team captured the program’s first NCAA South Region Championship in a back-and-forth five-set contest against Barry University in December. Two of the five sets went into extra points as the teams battled to make the trip to the NCAA National Championship in Denver, CO. The Lions fell in the NCAA National Championship Quarterfinals to 11th-ranked Regis University.
The Lions concluded their season with a 24-11 record under first-year head coach Jason Skoch. Six seniors led the team to new heights with the South Region Championship and a trip to the national tournament.
Men’s cross country claims 4th Sunshine State Conference championship
Saint Leo men’s cross country team raced to the program’s fourth title at the Sunshine State Conference Championships on October 26. The championships took place on the 8K course at the Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, FL, with a total of 40 points.
Then-junior Shane Bracken ran ahead of the pack to take first place, becoming the sixth individual title in program history. In addition, Bracken helped lead the team to a third place finish at the NCAA South Regional and placed 30th at the 2019 NCAA DII XC National Championship in Sacramento, CA. He was a U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-South Region honoree.
The university’s 21st intercollegiate sport, Acrobatics & Tumbling (A&T) embarked on its inaugural season in early February with its first meet against Limestone College in Gaffney, SC.
Before the team could hold its first-ever home meet, its season was ended with the suspension of spring athletics events.
Acrobatics & Tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, acrobatic lifts, and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events, including compulsory, acro, pyramid, toss, tumbling, and team.
One of the fastest growing sports among NCAA institutions, acrobatics and tumbling is Saint Leo’s 12th offering in the women’s athletics program.
Saint Leo player earns first women’s lacrosse All-America nod
Ashley Salvett on May 5 became the first Saint Leo women’s lacrosse student-athlete to receive an All-America title. The 2020 Inside Lacrosse Women’s Maverik Division II Media All-America listed Salvett among the two defensive honorable mention selections.
The Cicero-North Syracuse High School (NY) graduate transferred to Saint Leo for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The prestigious All-America title rounds off her list of accolades which includes being the program’s first All-Sunshine State Conference (SSC) First Team selection (defensive) and Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) All-South Region Second Team honor (defensive), as well as being named to the SSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
New Saint Leo records set in men’s basketball
Kyran McClure became the all-time program leader in three-pointers made in a single season, as well as the free throws-made leader in a single season. Making 207 free throws placed McClure at the top of the NCAA Division II in 2019-2020.
McClure’s 207 free throws eclipsed the mark Tyrone Graves set in the 1991-92 season with 165. McClure also broke the program’s single-season record for three-pointers with 92, passing the prolific Marcus Dewberry’s 88 in 2015-16.
Joining McClure in the record book for assists and points was Isaiah Hill. He tied McClure with 276 career assists and became the 25th player to score 1,000 career points.
Swimmers compete at nationals prior to cancellation
Matthew Daniel was the lone Saint Leo men’s swimmer who was able to compete at the 2020 NCAA Championships on March 11 prior to the cancellation of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He competed in the morning session of the opening day and took 16th in the 1,000-freestyle, earning a point toward the team total and earning honorable mention All-America honors from the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
Kosta Mitrovic was scheduled to race in the 200 breaststroke on day four of the championships but was never able to compete following the cancellation. He earned his career first team All-America honors from CSCAA after earning honorable mention All-America honors in 2018, while finishing 14th in the 200 breaststroke.
For the women’s swimming team, Vittoria Bonsanti Feniello also was able to compete at the 2020 NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships on March 11, prior to the cancellation of all sports. The pair represented the Saint Leo men’s and women’s swimming teams in the 1,000 freestyle during the opening session of the championships. Bonsanti Feniello took 24th overall in the 1,000 freestyle.
Then-junior Henrik Dahrendorff etched his name firmly in the Saint Leo swimming record books this past spring, achieving a feat that no other Lions swimmer has accomplished in the program’s history—he became the first NCAA national champion.
After overcoming a heartbreaking finish in the 100 breaststroke the day before, he was able to claim top honors in the 200 breaststroke. Dahrendorff seized the championship with a Saint Leo record-setting time of 1:56.09, which surpassed his previous program best set earlier in the season.
Dahrendorff is now one of three Saint Leo student-athletes who can call themselves an individual national champion, joining Marie Coors ’17 of women’s golf and Hugo Bernard ’16 of men’s golf.
Tennis Player Racks up Three Honors during Freshmen Year
Bruno Faletto of the Saint Leo men’s tennis team added three distinct honors to his long list of accomplishments following his first season of collegiate competition. Faletto, from Santiago, Chile, was named a men’s singles All-American and National Rookie of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), as well as Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year.
Faletto played in the No. 1 spot for the Lions during the Green and Gold’s 16-10 season, advancing to the first round of NCAA Division II South Regional II. He helped Saint Leo reach its highest team national ranking of fourth in the country.
In individual rankings, he tallied a season-high singles ranking of ninth on April 24. Faletto notched victories over three other All-Americans throughout the season, including No. 3 Serdar Bojadjiev (West Florida), No. 12 Valetin Masse (Hawaii Pacific), and No. 13 Nicolo De Fraia (Rollins).
Faletto earned a 19-3 record in first singles and closed his freshman campaign ranked ninth in the ITA national poll with a 23.20 season average.
Saint Leo Golfers Compete Internationally
Saint Leo Senior represents Trinidad and Tobago in Pan American Games
During the summer, Saint Leo senior Izzy Lawrence was selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago, her native country, in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. She was one of 98 athletes selected and was the lone golfer on the list. The Pan American Games, also referred to as the Pan Am Games, brings together athletes from the Americas every four years before the Summer Olympic Games to compete.
“I’ve played for my country for a while now, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be chosen to play at the Pan Am Games,” Lawrence said. “Playing for my country is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I am honored to be given this opportunity to compete at this level.”
Lawrence, a three-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association Scholar All-American, will look to guide the women’s golf team to a top-three finish at the Sunshine State Conference and travel back to the NCAA tournament this year.
“What an honor to play for your country,” Head Women’s Golf Coach Lyndsey Bevill said. “Not only is she representing Trinidad and Tobago, but she is representing Saint Leo University at a high level of competition. I am so proud of all she has accomplished thus far on and off the golf course.”
Alumna Wins German National Championship for Golf
Saint Leo alumna Marie Coors ’17 won the 2019 Deutsche Meisterschaften (the German National Championship) with a 273, 14-under par at the Golf Club Valley in Munich, Germany.
Coors, the lone female NCAA national champion in Saint Leo history, opened up the tournament with a four-under 68. The former Lion then carded a five-under 67 before shooting a two-over 74 to sit at 209 (-7) for three rounds.
Heading into the final day of the championship, Coors fired off a seven-under 65 to capture the national championship crown with a four-round score of 14-under 274.
This year marked the 73rd championship games in Germany. A total of 50 women and 89 men competed in the golf championship.
Saint Leo Athletics Hall of Famer John Swart Passes Away
Former Saint Leo University coach and athletics administrator John Swart passed away May 1, 2019, at the age of 82. Swart served as an assistant athletic director; assistant men’s basketball coach; junior varsity baseball coach; head men’s soccer coach; head women’s basketball coach; NCAA compliance officer; and director of the intramurals department during his 40-year career at Saint Leo.
Swart was elected to the Saint Leo University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000 and is a member of three halls of fame—Saint Leo, Lincoln College, and Illinois State University.
“John was one of the pioneers for Saint Leo Athletics,” said Saint Leo University Vice President and Director of Athletics Francis Reidy. “When I arrived in 1988, he was really good to me and provided insight into coaching and NCAA compliance. He served Saint Leo well in many different positions through the years, was the ultimate professional, and remained a loyal fan during his retirement days.”
In August of 1968, San Antonio (FL) became his permanent residence as he became a professor of physical education and sports management at Saint Leo College. Swart was a professor at Saint Leo for 40 years and continued as an adjunct professor for three more years. He was the first coordinator of the physical education major, and the designed concepts of wellness programs at Saint Leo. He was also the president of the Florida Intercollegiate Soccer Coaches Association and chair of the Sunshine State Conference Women’s Basketball Coaches Committee.
He served as the men’s soccer head coach for 12 seasons (1971-1982) while acting as the head coach of the women’s basketball program for nine years (1983-1992). Swart retired from Saint Leo in 2008 and was an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Dade City, FL.
Seven alumni were inducted into the Saint Leo University Athletic Hall of Fame during homecoming weekend in November. Since 1986, the athletic hall of fame has honored former students, coaches, and administrators who excelled in Saint Leo athletics throughout the university’s history. Please join us in congratulating the following alumni.
Ernie Robinson ’68 was a dual-sport athlete, competing for the men’s basketball and baseball programs as a Monarch at Saint Leo. During his senior year, Robinson was voted as the J. Barthle Scholar-Athlete of the Year for carrying a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom. He was the 1968 captain with a .335 lifetime batting average on the baseball team where he caught for Saint Leo Athletic Hall of Fame pitchers Thomas Crosby, Fred Cambria, and Raymond Korn. Today, Robinson is retired from a 33-year teaching career in New York. In 1973, he was named teacher of the year in New York where he helped bring several cross country, basketball, and baseball championships. He was a founder of a baseball camp, which gave free instructions in baseball and life skills for 41 years in New York.
Brian Dayett ’78 was a member of the 1978 NCAA tournament baseball team and a two-year student-athlete, where he led the team in multiple categories. In two seasons, Dayett logged 197 total bases, 78 runs batted in, 26 doubles, 11 home runs, and 10 triples. During his sophomore season, in which he played every game, Dayett put together a .311 hitting percentage. He followed with a .381 average his junior season. In 1978, the New York Yankees selected Dayett in the 16th round of the draft. In 1982, he was named the AA Southern League Player of the Year, with 96 runs batted in and 34 home runs—a Nashville Sounds single season record that still stands today. In 1983, he was named New York Yankees Minor League Player of the Year. After playing five years in the major leagues with two clubs (the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs), Dayett played in the Japanese Pacific League before beginning to coach in 1997.
Pierre Augustin ’90 remains as one of the top all-time leading scorers in Saint Leo men’s basketball history, competing for the Monarchs for two seasons during which he amassed 1,037 points. His highlight night was against the University of Tampa. On January 25, 1989, he scored 40 points—the program’s first ever win over the Spartans. While competing on the hardwood for the Monarchs, he played in 53 games with a .483 shooting percentage and a .417 three-point percentage. Augustin hauled in 272 rebounds in two seasons and dished out 126 assists. He was the executive secretary and founding father of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter at Saint Leo. Following his time at the university, Augustin started Universal Distributor Inc. in 2003.
Eusebio Herrera-Montoya ’09, who was named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American as a senior, was a four-year member of the Saint Leo men’s soccer program. He ranks third in the Saint Leo record book for career goals with 46, and career points with 115. He was a three-time All-Sunshine State Conference (SCC) honoree, including a pair of first team nods, and the 2005 SSC Freshman of the Year, helping the team win its first championship and No. 2 national ranking. As a sophomore, he received the Personal Improvement Award at the Saint Leo athletic banquet. Herrera-Montoya works at Saint Leo as a Financial Aid manager.
Ashley Urbanik ’09 enjoyed a strong four-year career with the softball program, both at the plate and inside the circle. A two-time All-Sunshine State Conference selection, Urbanik ranks among the top 10 in 10 career categories inside the Saint Leo record book, including seventh as a pitcher and third as a hitter. She sits in second for career homeruns; third in wins, shutouts, strikeouts, and appearances; fourth in runs batted in (RBIs) and complete games; fifth in innings pitched; and sixth in earned run average and at bats. She helped lead the team to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances in 2006 and 2008 and ranked among the top in NCAA Division II in 2008 in her earned run average, wins, hits allowed per seven innings, home runs per game, and strikeouts per seven innings.
Kyle Marceau ’10 is the first Saint Leo men’s lacrosse student-athlete to enter the university’s athletic hall of fame. Despite only playing for three seasons, Marceau put his name all over the Saint Leo record book. He scored 77 career goals in just three seasons, while dishing out 53 assists. He still ranks among the top 10 at Saint Leo in points, goals, assists, shots, shots on goal, and man-up goals. He was named the Saint Leo Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year as a senior and was also a United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Academic All-American that season. A 2010 US Lacrosse All-American, he was a two-time, Deep South Conference first team selection and was named to a pair of Deep South All-Tournament teams. He was Saint Leo’s first representative for the USILA North/South All-Star game following his senior campaign. Marceau works for Lincoln Financial Group in Concord, NH, and is an assistant lacrosse coach for Concord High School.
Kaitlin McKenna ’11 was a four-year standout on the Saint Leo volleyball team and holds the career records for attack percentage and block assists, while ranking in the top 10 in four other categories. She is second in total kills, total blocks, and games played, and seventh in solo blocks. She posted the best single season attack percentage in program history as a freshman at .452. As a junior, she was a College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District First Team selection for her prowess in the classroom and on the court. In 2007, McKenna was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association South Region Freshman of the Year and the Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year. She is also an honorable mention and two-time All-Sunshine State Conference selection and three-time NCAA South Region All-Tournament Team honoree. McKenna works for Ernst & Young in Detroit.
This spring, the Saint Leo University men’s lacrosse, men’s golf, women’s track, and softball teams all competed for NCAA Division II National Championships—two of which were first-time appearances for the programs.
Making Sunshine State Conference History
This past spring, former Saint Leo University President Dr. Arthur F. Kirk Jr. was one of nine members inducted into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame. Kirk, who served as the university’s president from 1997-2015, became the 16th Saint Leo Sunshine State Conference Hall of Famer. A two-time president of the Sunshine State Conference, Kirk raised Saint Leo’s national profile by placing 18th in the Learfield Director’s Cup in 2014, increasing to eighth in 2015, and second in 2016. Under his leadership, the Athletics Department doubled in size and captured its first Mayor’s Cup, while adding a tennis facility, softball stadium, parking garage with a lacrosse field installed on top, a soccer-only facility, and lights at each of the new venues.
Fran Reidy Named Athletic Director of the Year
For the third time in six years, Saint Leo Vice President and Director of Athletics Francis X. Reidy was named the Division II Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year. Reidy was one of 28 athletics directors to earn the award this year from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). The ADOY Award highlights the efforts of athletics directors at all levels for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses, and their surrounding communities.
Saint Leo Athletics Places Fourth in Learfield Directors’ Cup
“We have an incredible staff and student-athletes who strive for excellence,” said Francis X. Reidy, vice president and director of athletics. “Our five-year run of great finishes is a remarkable feat when you consider where Saint Leo was just a short time ago. We are proud of our two top-five finishes over the last three years as we strive to be one of the best all-around programs in Division II.”
After climbing seven spots at the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional, men’s golf earned a spot to advance to Muscle Shoals, AL, for the 2018 national championships. In the end, the Lions fell 3-2 to Sunshine State Conference foe and No. 3 seed Barry University.
Men’s golf player Alberto Castagnara (sophomore)
A group of men’s soccer alumni and former staff paid tribute to former teammate Jules Verdin during Senior Day ceremonies, prior to the final home game of the 2017 season on October 25, 2017, against the University of Tampa. Verdin, the 2014 Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year who passed away in July 2015, would have been a senior. Honoring him with the tribute were (left to right) Coach Emmanuel D. Mulowayi, Bafou Sanogo, Chris Madden, Vincent Wiskowski, Bo Barry, Franck Bayebanen, Mike Painter, Davis Hall, Jorge Braham, Andy Garcia, Brandon Rivera, and Henry Adu.
Marie Coors ’17 Earns National Award
Former Saint Leo women’s golfer, Marie Coors ’17 (pictured with Athletic Director Francis X. Reidy) was honored with the NCAA Today’s Top 10 Award at the NCAA Honors Celebration on January 17 in Indianapolis, IN. In competition for the Lions, Coors won the 2017 NCAA Division II women’s golf individual national title. She was also named the 2016-2017 Sunshine State Conference Golfer of the Year, Women’s Female Athlete of the Year, and Woman of the Year, among many other accolades. She graduated with a 4.0 grade average, rounded.
Women’s Cross Country Claims NCAA South Region Crown
In November, the Saint Leo women’s cross country team turned in a dominating performance befitting its veteran lineup and captured the program’s first NCAA South Region title. In addition, Colett Rampf captured her third straight NCAA South Region individual crown, crossing the finish line in 20:49.14, a full 52 seconds ahead of the second-place runner. Rampf (at far left) was also named Sunshine State Conference Runner of the Year and came in eighth at the NCAA D II cross country national championship.
Saint Leo’s tennis teams volunteered at Love One Another at the Pasco County Community Services Nutrition Center in Dade City, FL, on Sunday, November 12. Love One Another is an outreach ministry that serves a hot meal to those in need every Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Clothing, toiletry items, and dog and cat food for pets are also distributed. Saint Leo’s men’s and women’s tennis teams served meals.
Saint Leo’s Own Beastmaster
In Season One, Episode Nine, of Netflix’s Ultimate Beastmaster, Ken Corigliano ’06 did his nation proud by winning the competition against 11 others and being named “Beastmaster.” After giving his all, Corigliano placed fourth in the finale for Ultimate Beastmaster.
“As one of the top four, I bested 104 athletes including five other show winners,” the U.S. Air Force major explained. “These athletes were pros, medalists, or they owned gyms. I used what I learned from my time as a Saint Leo athlete to compete against the world’s greatest.”
Corigliano ran cross country for the Lions. He was also chosen to represent the SSC as a member of the NCAA Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team in 2013. Corigliano noted that he initially
failed his fitness test at Saint Leo. What a transformation!
A look at student-athletes who are making their mark.
Women’s Soccer • Senior
The defender who transitioned to the left wing midyear saw action in 15 games with two goals and a .625 shots-on-goal-percentage. She scored the game-winning goal against Nova Southeastern on November 6 to lift the Lions to the Sunshine State Conference Tournament title. As one of five seniors set to return to the pitch in 2017, Covas will help the Lions squad build off a 13-4-1 season and an NCAA Second Round appearance, which Saint Leo hosted at University Field.
Women’s Cross Country • Junior
Ormond Beach, FL
Bayliff took All-South Region and All-Sunshine State Conference honors during her sophomore season, and finished in second place at the SSC cross country meet with a time of 21:05.64. She also placed seventh at the NCAA South Region meet on Saint Leo’s challenging home course at The Abbey Course, posting a time of 22:38.61. Bayliff scored points in all seven events in 2016 as the Lions’ No. 2 runner.
Baseball • Junior
Jensen Beach, FL
Bauman was arguably Saint Leo baseball’s most reliable pitcher during the 2017 season. The lefthander from Jensen Beach and transfer from St. John’s University (NY) paced the Lions with 81 strikeouts, tied for eighth in the Sunshine State Conference, and posted a 4.75 ERA over 85-and-a-third innings pitched. Bauman finished the 2017 season with 12 strikeouts over six complete innings of work in a 5-4 Saint Leo victory over No. 23 Florida Southern.
Men’s Lacrosse • Senior
Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
Jake Bye made an immediate impact for the Lions in 2017. The defenseman started every game, leading the team with 26 caused turnovers, and adding 37 ground balls. Bye also added three goals on successful clears. His feats earned him a Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor, and he was the lone Lion to earn All-SSC First Team honors.
Men’s Tennis • Junior
In his first season, Thomas Grinberg cemented himself as the No. 1 singles player and was part of the No. 1 doubles pair all year. He finished as the No. 5 player in the DII national singles rankings, and earned All-American honors. His successes in doubles matches earned him All-American honors as well. He was named the South Region Player of the Year and earned First Team All-SSC honors.
Women’s Basketball • Sophomore
Gina Brierley finished her rookie season averaging 6.9 points and 2.3 assists, and posted a season-high 22 points at Eckerd (12/10) where she went 8-for-8 from the field. This summer, Brierley was picked to represent Great Britain at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) U20 Women’s European Championship, which took place July 8-16 in Eilat, Israel.
Marie Coors graduated last spring as the most accomplished student-athlete in Saint Leo University history, period. There is nobody even close.
2017 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Individual National Champion
NCAA Elite 90 Award recipient
2017 WGCA Division II Golfer of the Year
2017 WGCA First Team All-American
2017 WGCA All-American Scholar
2017 NCAA Woman of the Year nominee for the Sunshine State Conference
2017 Sunshine State Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year
2017 Sunshine State Conference First Team All-Conference
2017 CoSIDA Division II At-Large Academic All-America of the Year
2016-2017 Sunshine State Conference Female Athlete of the Year
2016-2017 Sunshine State Conference Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year
2016-2017 Sunshine State Conference Woman of the Year
Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award recipient
The nature of collegiate women’s golf is such that few on the Saint Leo University campus probably ever saw Marie Coors swing a club or make a putt. Hers was probably never among the most recognizable faces among Saint Leo student-athletes.
But you can bet that on the golf course, in every tournament in which she played, the rest of the field knew exactly who Marie Coors was—and where she was on the scoreboard. She was simply that fearsome an opponent.
Individual national champion. Two-time Sunshine State Conference individual champion. National athlete of the year in her sport. Academic All-America of the Year for all of NCAA Division II.
That last honor alone puts her in rarefied air. For comparison, consider who has won the Academic All-America of the Year award in the media-centric world of Division I athletics: five-time FCS football champion Carson Wentz from North Dakota State, Alabama’s NCAA all-around gymnastics champion Kim Jacob, and Oregon distance runner and Olympian Galen Rupp. Also on the list: UConn basketball players Maya Moore and Emeka Okafor, Utah quarterback Alex Smith, and Tennessee football legend Peyton Manning.
Coors’ steely-eyed determination on the golf course gave way to equal resolve in the classroom. She graduated with a 4.00 grade point average, rounded; the only thing that marred her near perfect academic career was the A- she received in SLU 100, “First Year Experience,” a one-credit class during her freshman year after arriving from Gross-Zimmern, Germany. Coors concluded her Saint Leo experience as the recipient of the 2017 Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award, presented to the member of the graduating class with the highest GPA obtained over four years at Saint Leo.
She was Saint Leo’s first recipient of an NCAA Elite 90 Award, which goes to the student-athlete with the highest GPA in a national championship event. And the awards may continue to roll in well after this magazine appears in your mailbox.
Perfection is in the eye of the beholder on the golf course. What is the perfect way to play any given hole? What club is the right one for the situation? Victory can be a relative concept when the opponents are both your fellow competitors and the course itself. Not to mention the fact that excelling in a round of golf is as much cerebral as it is physical—but which is more important?
Over four years at Saint Leo, Marie Coors—a champion both in the classroom and on the golf course— made the question irrelevant because time and time again she triumphed at both. As a student and an athlete, she found perfection without being perfect.
And if you were among the relative few who saw her play or got to meet her in the hallways around University Campus, count yourself fortunate for the experience.
The Saint Leo softball team won its second consecutive Sunshine State Conference title, its third in five years, after posting a 17-7 record in conference and 37-15 overall. Since returning to her alma mater, head coach Erin Kinberger ’07 has guided her teams to 37 wins or more in her third straight season. Kinberger was named the SSC Softball Coach of the Year.
A Different Kind of Home Field Advantage
When you ask college coaches what makes their programs special, you may hear among their answers that the team is like a family. Some may even say their college is like home. Not all programs live up to that ideal, but when they do, great things can happen.
As the 2017-2018 year begins at Saint Leo University, we welcome two new head coaches—one who is returning home and the other who has found a new home.
When Coach Tony Paris first joined Saint Leo more than 20 years ago in 1996, he served as assistant men’s soccer coach. Working closely with Fran Reidy—then head men’s soccer coach and current director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Saint Leo—he quickly embraced the Saint Leo culture. He left in 1999 to work with a Scandinavian soccer club and returned the following year to start the women’s soccer program at Saint Leo. By 2003, the new program had a remarkable season and he was named the Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year. Along the way, he committed himself to the core values, which he says speak to him and have stayed with him even when he is not at Saint Leo. “They are my road map,” he said.
“It is a great opportunity that Saint Leo gave me to come back. For me, it isn’t work; it’s a passion, a love for this college.”
— Coach Tony Paris
In 2005, Coach Paris was lured away from Saint Leo once again, by the same Scandinavian club, but his heart remained with the Lions. Now, all these years later, he has returned to Saint Leo to serve as head men’s soccer coach. “It is a great opportunity that Saint Leo gave me to come back,” he explained. “For me, it isn’t work; it’s a passion, a love for this college.”
Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Coach Rick O’Dette had been enjoying a successful run at St. Joseph’s College, a private Catholic institution in Rensselaer, IN. Over 17 seasons as head baseball coach for his alma mater, he had amassed a 494-407-4 overall record and led the Pumas to NCAA Regional play four times. He was dug in, surrounded by staff, faculty, students, parents, and players who really were like family.
“My family and I are thrilled to be part of this great community.”
— Coach Rick O’Dette
During the 2016-2017 year, Coach O’Dette and the rest of the St. Joseph community learned that the college was experiencing financial difficulty—so dire that the school would close at the end of the academic year. Telling his wife, Sherry, and his children, Ricky and Alyssa, was “the worst night of my life,” he said. Suddenly faced with losing his home, both on the field and off, O’Dette and his family were searching for a new place to live and work.
To the benefit of the Lions, Coach O’Dette chose Saint Leo as his new home and joins the university as its new head baseball coach this year. As an added bonus, many St. Joseph Pumas fans have stated they are now Lions fans and will be following Coach O’Dette’s success at Saint Leo.
“I feel fortunate to have found a situation similar to St. Joe—the people, the administration, all caring about the players,” said O’Dette. “My family and I are thrilled to be part of this great community.”
Chad Berryhill, who captured a national championship as head coach at Hillsborough Community College (HCC, Tampa, FL), has been named the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Saint Leo. He spent the past four seasons as head coach at Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI), guiding his team to the “final four” of the 2016 NCAA Division II Men’s Tennis Championship. As Ferris State’s head coach, Berryhill was the 2015 and 2016 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. While at HCC, Berryhill was a four-time Florida Community College Athletic Association Coach of the Year from 2006 to 2009, and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Region IV Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
Berryhill, a native of Lansing, MI, is a 2005 graduate of Ferris State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing. He went on to receive his Master of Science with a concentration in physical education from the University of South Florida in 2009.
Saint Leo Hosts NCAA DII Cross Country Championships
On Saturday, November 19, Saint Leo welcomed cross country teams from around the United States and Canada to the NCAA Division II Championships. The meet was staged at the Abbey Golf Course, across State Road 52 from University Campus. Both the Saint Leo men’s and women’s teams qualified for the championship. In the end, the Adams State men and Grand Valley State women brought home the 2016 team titles.
“This was a great day for our veterans and a learning experience for our rookies,” said Kent Reiber, Saint Leo’s head men’s and women’s cross country coach.
Saint Leo senior Rafal Matuszczak placed 39th overall in the men’s race, and junior Colett Rampf placed 14th in the women’s race. Both came away with All-America honors.
“It was a privilege to be able to host the entire NCAA Division II community on our campus for this national championship, and showcase all that Saint Leo and the larger Tampa Bay region has to offer,” said Francis X. Reidy, Saint Leo’s director of athletics. “We will continue to seek opportunities to allow our student-athletes to compete for national championships at their home venue and build our Saint Leo brand.”
Head Cross Country Coach Kent Reiber was named the 2016 SSC Coach of the Year for men’s and women’s cross country. He earned the SSC Coach of the Year title for men’s cross country in 2015.
Volleyball Head Coach Sam Cibrone was named the 2016 SSC Coach of the Year. This marks the second-straight year that Cibrone earned the Coach of the Year honor and his third overall.
The Saint Leo women’s soccer team defeated Palm Beach Atlantic 4-0 on October 30 to claim the Sunshine State
In May, the Lions Athletics program accomplished a remarkable feat as the men’s and women’s tennis teams and the men’s and women’s golf teams all earned trips to the NCAA Division II National Championship Festival in Denver, CO. Representation by four teams was the most by any Division II school—and what a run they had.
Women’s Tennis— National Semifinalists
The No.2 Saint Leo women’s tennis team took care of business as it defeated No. 24 University of Indianapolis, 5-1, after three quick wins in singles play.
The women’s tennis team was headed to the NCAA Semifinals after a 5-1 victory over No. 18 Southwest Baptist University.
A matchup of the top two teams in the nation proved to be as riveting in person as it was on paper in the NCAA Semifinals as the No. 2 Saint Leo women’s tennis team fell to undefeated No. 1 BYU-Hawaii, 5-3, in a battle of the best.
Men’s Tennis—National Runners-Up
The No. 1-ranked Saint Leo men’s tennis team took down No. 15 Cameron University (OK),
The men’s tennis team swept No. 12 Northwest Missouri State, 5-0, in its first-ever NCAA Quarterfinals match.
The team headed to its first NCAA National Championship match after taking down No. 2 Armstrong State (GA), 5-2, in the National Semifinal match.
The dream season came to an end when the No. 1 Saint Leo men’s tennis team fell to No. 3 Hawaii Pacific, 5-3, in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship match.
Women’s Golf—Fourth-Place Finishers
May 18 The Saint Leo women’s golf team finished the first round 10th out of 12 teams with a 305 (+17), 15 strokes out of the lead.
The women’s golf team fired a 294 in the second round, climbing to fifth on the team leaderboard at the tournament’s halfway point.
Saint Leo slipped to seventh on the team leaderboard with a three-day score of 896 (+32)—25 strokes off the pace set by leader Rollins College (FL).
May 21 Saint Leo women’s golf climbed three spots in Saturday’s final round to finish tied for fourth at the 2016 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf National Championship.
Men’s Golf—National Champions
With cold and rainy conditions in the first round, the Saint Leo men’s golf team shot a 278 (-10) to head into the second round in first place.
Saint Leo men’s golf carded a 15-under 273 in the second round to extend its team lead to 11 strokes.
The men’s golf team was atop both the individual and team leaderboards at the completion of stroke play. Freshman Hugo Bernard shot an even-par 72 and finished stroke play at -13 (203) to win the NCAA Division II individual championship.
No. 2-ranked Saint Leo defeated Wilmington (DE) in the medal/match quarterfinals in the morning, before knocking off Lynn (FL) in the afternoon semifinals on the match play tiebreaker. After 90 holes of golf, the top two teams in the nation advanced out of the semifinals and headed to the national championship.
The Lions men’s golf team pulled it off and made history. The Lions used a 3-2 score in match play to take down Chico State (CA) and claim Saint Leo University’s first ever team national championship.
June 6 Head Men’s Golf Coach Chris Greenwood was named the 2016 Dave Williams Division II National Coach of the Year.
Bradley Bee is a director of Athletics Communications and traveled with the teams to Denver.
Katie Adamson Volleyball • Senior Nelson, New Zealand
The middle blocker was a force at the net in the 2015 season, leading the team in both total blocks, at 103, and blocks per set, averaging 0.87. She tallied a career-high eight blocks in three different matches last season. Offensively, Adamson put away a total of 159 kills in 2015, tallying a career-best 11 against Eckerd College (FL). As one of three seniors, Adamson will help the young Lions squad build off a 21-11 season and an NCAA Second Round appearance.
Hannah Beard Women’s Soccer • Class of 2010 Grassendale, Liverpool, England
Hannah Beard is a former Lions women’s soccer player. Originally from England, she is playing professionally with the Western Sydney Wanderers in the Australian W-League. She was one of the best players in program history to date, winning several individual honors and helping the team reach the NCAA tournament in each of her four years at Saint Leo, and the program’s first Sunshine State Conference Tournament Championship.
Tyreece Brice Men’s Basketball • Junior Rock Hill, SC
Tyreece Brice made an instant impact on the court for the Lions in the 2015-16 season as the sixth man. Brice averaged the second most points on the team, 15.5 per game, and finished the season as a 2015-16 Sunshine State Conference All-Newcomer team selection. He played in 31 games with 14 starts and tallied 481 points in 977 minutes for the Lions. Along with his 15.5 points per game, Brice averaged 4.2 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game. Brice scored a career-high 31 points against Alabama-Huntsville in the first round of the NCAA South Regional tournament. Brice helped lead the Lions to a 19-12 record and a fourth-place finish in the SSC with a 10-6 mark.
Sommer Pollard Softball • Junior Clearwater, FL
Sommer Pollard was the everyday starter behind the dish for the No. 1 pitching staff in all of Division II, owning a 0.93 earned run average. Pollard played in all 47 games, with a .991 fielding percentage with only three errors on the season. She recorded 300 putouts behind the plate, with 19 assists. A Second Team All-Sunshine State Conference selection, Pollard finished the season with a .366 batting average (41 hits in 112 at-bats) while scoring 24 runs and driving in 17. She recorded one triple during her sophomore campaign against Colorado Christian, where she went 2-for-2 from the plate. Pollard recorded 15 stolen bases over the course of the season.
Brandon Rivera Men’s Soccer• Senior Orlando, FL
The local product out of Lake Nona High School in south Orlando has come a long way since his freshman season when he saw action in just two matches. In fact, in his junior campaign, Rivera saw action in all 18 games for the SSC regular season champion, including making 13 starts. He scored a career-best four goals on the season, adding a career-high four assists, including his first career assist that came against Lees-McRae (NC) in a 4-1 victory where the midfielder saw three passes find the foot of the goal scorer. Rivera’s breakout game came in the SSC Tournament Semifinals, where he tallied two goals in the Lions 2-1 win over the 2014 reigning NCAA National Champion Lynn (FL), earning himself a spot on the SSC Tournament team.
Maftuna Tuhtasinova Women’s Swimming • Sophomore Tashkent, Uzbekistan
A native of Uzbekistan, Maftuna Tuhtasinova competed in the final four regular season events and the Sunshine State Conference Championship for women’s swimming and made an immediate impact on the team. The freshman was a finalist in three events at the SSC meet, including a third-place finish in the 200 Backstroke with an NCAA “B” cut mark and Saint Leo record time of 2:02.01. Her 100 backstroke time also qualified as an NCAA “B” cut time, and Maftuna was a part of 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay teams that set new Saint Leo records.
Zach Whitaker Baseball • Senior Land O’Lakes, FL
Zach Whitaker was Saint Leo’s top pitcher in 2016, recording a 4.38 earned run average over 72.0 innings pitched, with a 6-1 record and one save. He finished among the top 10 in the Sunshine State Conference in ERA, and held opponents to a .277 batting average. Whitaker fanned 62 batters over the course of the 2016 season, tied for most on the team.
Jim Cerbie ’79 got his 400th win as head baseball coach for The Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC, on April 5, 2016. During his 29-year baseball coaching career at Providence Day, he has seen 28 of his players sign to play college baseball at some of the most prestigious programs and schools in the country.
James Jacobsen ’70 is the golf coach at Bergen Catholic High School (NJ), where he won his 1,000th match on April 22, 2016. This gave him an overall 34-year coaching record of 1023-33-1. He was named Coach of the Year by the Star Ledger, The Record, and The Bergen County Coaches Association.
The 2015-2016 year was a remarkable one for Lions Athletics, with multiple conference and tournament championships, as well as the Sunshine State Conference Mayors’ Cup (above right) for the men’s program.
Men’s Program Captures SSC Mayors’ Cup
For the third time in four years, Saint Leo University captured the Sunshine State Conference Men’s Mayors’ Cup, representing overall supremacy among SSC institutions in men’s conference competition.
The Lions finished second in the race for the Women’s Mayors’ Cup for the second year in a row.
Points in the Mayors’ Cup race are earned based on order of finish in the final Sunshine State Conference standings in league sports. The Men’s Mayors’ Cup competition awards points in soccer, cross country, basketball, swimming, golf, tennis, lacrosse, and baseball, while the Women’s Mayors’ Cup is decided by competition in the sports of volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, swimming, golf, tennis, softball, and rowing.
Saint Leo walked away with the Men’s Mayors’ Cup with 46 points, besting its nearest rival in the standings, Florida Southern, by 10 points. In the Women’s Mayors’ Cup final standings, Nova Southeastern came out on top with 53.5 points; Saint Leo was close behind with 48 points.
Spring 2016 SCC Championships
Saint Leo captured four Sunshine State Conference spring championships with regular season crowns in softball (above), men’s tennis, and women’s tennis, and men’s tennis also claiming the SSC tournament championship.
These were the first SSC championships for the tennis teams. It was the second title in program history for the softball program, with the first earned in 2013. The 2016 senior class has now been a part of the two SSC championship teams at Saint Leo, its freshman year in 2013 and its final season in the Green and Gold.
Lions Take Second in Learfield Directors’ Cup
Saint Leo University finished the 2015-2016 academic year ranked second among 307 NCAA Division II institutions for the Learfield Directors’ Cup, presented by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
The Lions finished the year with 723 points, trailing only Grand Valley State (MI), which earned 1,070 points and won its second-straight Division II Learfield Directors’ Cup and 11th overall.
Saint Leo’s second-place finish eclipses the previous high of eighth, set in 2015.
“This is an incredible moment for Saint Leo Athletics. The class that entered Saint Leo in August 2012 arrived when we had broken the top 100 in the Directors’ Cup standings for just the second time in program history. That class graduated this past April as part of the second-best overall athletics program in all of Division II. Those student-athletes believed in our goals and mission, as did our coaches and staff and university administration, and together they made this achievement possible,” said Francis X. Reidy, Saint Leo’s director of athletics.
Troy Sieber Chosen by the Houston Astros
Saint Leo junior first baseman Troy Sieber was selected by the Houston Astros on the third day of the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft. He was taken in the 24th Round, and was the 727th pick of the draft.
“We’re very proud of Troy and all the hard work he has put in to make this happen. We wish him all the best and we will miss him,” said Sean O’Connor, Saint Leo’s head baseball coach. Sieber is the fifth Saint Leo player drafted under O’Connor, who recently completed his fourth season as the Lions head coach.
An ABCA/Rawlings Second Team All-American and finalist for the 2016 Tino Martinez Award as Division II Player of the Year, Sieber batted .457 this season, leading the Sunshine State Conference and ranking fourth in all of Division II.
Anthony Crocitto Named Head Women’s Basketball Coach
A veteran Division II head coach with experience at all three levels of NCAA women’s basketball, Anthony Crocitto has been named Saint Leo University’s new head women’s basketball coach.
”We were looking for a coach with a proven record of success in Division II women’s basketball, and out of an incredibly deep pool of applicants we found an ideal fit in Anthony Crocitto,” said Francis X. Reidy, Saint Leo’s director of athletics. “I believe that Coach Crocitto’s passion for the game, coupled with his experience at identifying, recruiting, and developing talent at this level, will quickly lead to greater success for Saint Leo women’s basketball.”
Crocitto comes to Saint Leo from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), where he has served as the Bears’ head women’s basketball coach for the past seven seasons. Under Crocitto’s guidance, NYIT has logged three 20-win campaigns over the last four seasons, rejuvenating a program that was 4-23 in the year prior to his arrival at the Old Westbury, NY, campus.
July 7, 2015. It is a day that will not be forgotten by any of the young men on the Saint Leo soccer team. On that day, they learned that Jules Verdin, their teammate and friend, died tragically in a hiking accident in Switzerland. Verdin, a native of Tongeren, Belgium, was hiking with his family near the Jungfrau in the Swiss municipality of Lauterbrunnen when the accident occurred. Verdin, who wore the No. 5 jersey, was named the 2014 Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year and a Second Team All-SSC selection. He had completed his first year at Saint Leo, recording two goals and two assists for six points.
“Jules was like a little brother to me,” said senior Henry Adu, a native of Ghent, Belgium, located just 90 miles from Verdin’s hometown. “When I got to Saint Leo, I dreamt that someone from Belgium would join the team, someone who spoke Dutch and shared the same interests and understood the Belgian lifestyle. From the first day we met, we became connected. We hung out almost every day.”
[Video was created and shared on YouTube by teammates of Jules Verdin]
Adu recalled, “I was in Miami at a CVS store when I heard the news from his mum. I was preparing to fly out of the country back to Europe for the summer. It was the most shocking and painful news I have ever experienced in my life. I broke down in the CVS store crying like a little child. The first person I called was Coach to tell him about it. I had no choice but to tell my teammates about it. The most difficult time was my 10-hour flight from Miami to London; all I could do was cry. I never got a second of sleep. I was just living in the memories and looking at his pictures.”
Rewind to November 21, 2014. The NCAA South Regional Final saw two SSC foes face off for the second time that season as the Lions met No. 3 Lynn on the Young Harris College (YHC) Soccer Field in Georgia. Lynn, the eventual 2014 National Champions, got the better hand, taking the game 3-0, ending Saint Leo’s season. Looking back now, it is fair to say that while ending a season can be tough, that is not why those men will remember YHC Soccer Field. Instead, it was the last time Verdin stepped on the field in Green and Gold.
Fast-forward to September 3, 2015. About 10 months passed since the Lions had gazed upon the YHC Soccer Field, an air of remembrance drifting among them as they took the pitch for the first time in the 2015 season. In a match-up of nationally ranked squads, No. 13 Saint Leo faced host No. 3 Young Harris. The team placed the No. 5 jersey across the bench, the place it would remain all season long.
“We came out flat, and we started the day exactly the same. We fought hard, we continued to battle, but we needed to focus on our composure and technical ability. [It] was very emotional for the team knowing this was the last place Jules Verdin played with us,” Head Coach Keith Fulk said, following the 3-0 defeat.
“This season was an emotional roller coaster for us, but I am extremely proud of every single one of my teammates for staying together and picking each other up”
— Matt Campbell, team captain
September 5, 2015. Just two days later, the Lions remained in Georgia for a neutral site game against Lees-McRae on YHC Soccer Field once again. In an opportunity to rid the field of demons that haunted it, Saint Leo entered the game with sharp focus. Less than one minute into the game, the team scored and eventually took the game 4-1.
“It was by far the most emotional week for these kids; they wanted to win so badly. In the first game they came out flat, [but the second game] was the complete opposite. They were outside on their ‘hype zone,’ and at halftime, I got them to calm down. Now it’s time to move forward,” Fulk said after the game, delivering a phrase that sat with the Lions all season.
It’s time to move forward.
September 19, 2015. Another memory, another moment. Saint Leo hit the road to face No. 1 Lynn. The same Lynn that bounced the Lions out of the NCAA Tournament the previous season. The same Lynn that Jules Verdin faced in his last game. Sometimes it’s hard to move forward, when forward resurfaces the past. The Lions reveled in this resurfacing, however, as they knocked off the top team in the nation, 3-1, on their own field.
Maybe it was a high they were not expecting. Maybe it was a high they could not handle. Following the win over Lynn, the wave of emotion hit a lull, sending the then 3-1 Lions on a three-game losing streak, bringing them to just 3-4 on the season, and 1-2 in SSC play. The path was not easy.
Bonding helps a team in any situation, but in a situation like this? Ultimately the most important thing a team can do is find their way back to the winning course without getting caught up in the emotion.
“This season was an emotional roller coaster for us, but I am extremely proud of every single one of my teammates for staying together and picking each other up,” senior and team captain Matt Campbell said. “Jules was such a huge part of our team. He was not only an unbelievable player, but he was a great teammate and was always willing to lend a helping hand, or give some comic relief when needed. His death was hard on all of us, and I believe it showed at the beginning of the season. It took some time for us to grieve together and learn how to cope with the loss of our brother.”
“… he would have run to the fans and slid on his knees and would start chanting, ‘Champions! Champions!’ All he wanted was to win a trophy for Saint Leo University and celebrate with the team. It felt very special to win something for him.”
— Henry Adu, teammate
Something clicked. Following their 3-4, 1-2 opening to the season, the Lions rebounded, turning in five-straight wins, taking down Nova Southeastern, Christian Brothers, Embry-Riddle, Tampa, and Florida Southern. They turned their record to 8-4, 4-2 in SSC, finding themselves right in the race for the SSC regular season title, with three games left, two in conference.
A game with Stetson, a Division I foe, ended the winning streak, but it was trivial in the ultimate storyline, as the Lions followed that Monday game with a Thursday game versus Eckerd, and a Saturday game versus Barry.
The Lions downed Eckerd, 4-2, in a heated battle, giving Saint Leo an opportunity to play for the championship.
October 31, 2015. Heading into the match-up with Barry, there were four teams that could earn the No. 1 seed for the SSC Tournament and the regular season title, depending on how Saturday finished. But the Lions had the upper hand. This was the final game to be played in the SSC regular season as all other games had already taken place, and Saint Leo knew that a win or a tie solidified their spot as the regular season champions.
Once again, the Lions took the pitch, with the No. 5 jersey on the bench. Eighty-five scoreless minutes passed before Barry lined up for a corner kick. The ball sailed off the foot of the Barry player, crossing the goal box, finding the head of a teammate who knocked it in. It seemed as though the Lions’ chances had ended with just five minutes of action remaining. But if there was one thing the Lions had learned over the season, it was resiliency. And resilient they were, as they charged down the field, earning a foul outside the box, giving Saint Leo an opportunity to score. Junior Maximilian Schulze-Geisthovel stepped up to the ball to take the free kick, blasting it past the wall of defenders, but Barry’s keeper was there to block the shot, sending it straight to the foot of freshman Yuga Yanagisawa, who was trailing the ricochet. Yanagisawa sunk the rebound and tied the game. Maybe it was divine intervention, fate, chance, destiny, or someone watching from above—call it what you may—but the Lions capitalized on the opportunity in front of them and hung on to the tie through the final three minutes of regular play and two overtime periods. The Saint Leo Lions were named the 2015 Sunshine State Conference regular season champions.
“Oh, my gosh, that day! This was the very first time I cried in front of the team about Jules,” Adu reminisced. “I thought, ‘What would he do if he was here?’ Knowing him very well, I know he would have run to the fans and slid on his knees and would start chanting, ‘Champions! Champions!’ All he wanted was to win a trophy for Saint Leo University and celebrate with the team. It felt very special to win something for him.”
The path to success is usually not a paved road; for the Saint Leo men’s soccer team, a single day in October proved that no matter what happens, you can find triumph in any tragedy.
Every great basketball team can benefit from a sixth man—a talented, multifaceted player who comes off the bench with great energy and effort.
During the 2015-2016 season, the Saint Leo men’s and women’s basketball teams experienced a different sort of sixth man—a group from the local community who offered invaluable support and encouragement. Led by Lake Jovita residents and longtime Saint Leo fans Terry and Linda Spaight, couples and families in the surrounding areas—including Lake Jovita, Dade City, and Zephyrhills—rallied around the players and invited them into their homes.
It all started four years ago when the Spaights decided to have a season tip-off party for the men’s team. As the years followed, they learned—since the university Dining Hall is closed during the Christmas holidays—coaches were often responsible for making sure the players were fed while on break. With that knowledge, the couple began organizing team meals, and enthusiasm began to grow.
Joining in the effort was a group of snowbirds from Zephyrhills. These men and women, proudly donning their bright green and yellow sweatshirts, are known for cheering on the teams at home games. Hailing from Illinois, Maine, and other northern states, the snowbirds have quickly become an important part of the fan base.
Over the 2015 Christmas holidays, the teams were treated to a total of 22 meals. Along the way, players were partnered with couples and families and got to know them. They enjoyed food, played games, and bonded with these adoptive parents and grandparents. As an added bonus, the two teams—who often see one another only at practice and games or in the weight room—enjoyed spending time together in a family atmosphere. As Linda Spaight explained, “It was a wonderful way to connect the community with Saint Leo.” Her hope is that the momentum will continue to build and the community support will continue to grow in the years to come.
“I believe their support is irreplaceable, not only to Saint Leo athletics but to the entire community. They are truly our sixth man. It’s very comforting when I walk in the gym and see them there.”
—Coach Vince Alexander
Being a student-athlete at Saint Leo means long hours in the gym, multiple practices a week, and juggling games and matches amid academic responsibilities. However, those demands are not so daunting when compared to the lives that young runners in Kenya lead. In December 2015, the cross country coaching staff saw firsthand what it is like to live and go to school in this African country. Head Coach Kent Reiber and Assistant Coaches Adriane Wunderlich and Connor Callahan traveled with 2012 Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir and his wife, Canadian runner Tarah McKay, to work with children in Cherangani Hills, Kenya, who show academic and athletic promise. They read to the children, helping them to improve their English skills, ran together, and accompanied them to and from church. Most of the children’s homes are tiny mud huts with no electricity and running water. But what the young people lack in material goods they make up for in spirit and determination. The goal for Korir, who is a native of Kenya and ran for the University of Louisville, is to encourage the children to get a good education so they can grow up and make Kenya a better place. “It was a very humbling experience,” Coach Reiber explained, and perhaps the first of many trips to Kenya.
Imagine being a young girl fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). While other girls may run and play, you face daily back and leg pain and constantly have to be vigilant against infection. This is the life that Anya Cale has been dealt. After being diagnosed in 2014, she has undergone chemotherapy, as well as alternative treatments, to fight this cancer. Along the way, Anya has made great friends, including the members of the Saint Leo women’s lacrosse team. These women have rallied around Anya, inviting her to practice and games. Anya’s mom, Heather (Ehrman) Harvey ’10 of Wesley Chapel, FL, has had to take a leave from her teaching job to help Anya battle ALL, so the additional support has been invaluable to the family. As Head Coach Lesley Graham explains, “Having a relationship with Anya has helped us gain perspective. Whenever we have a bad day, we can look to her and understand what facing a challenge is all about.”
“Anya spends so much time in the hospital, and getting treatments that she’s unable to participate in team sports at this time. The opportunity to get involved with Saint Leo Women’s lacrosse was such a treat for us, and it makes her feel like she is really part of a team!”
—Heather (Ehrman) Harvey ’10