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.
Exciting things are happening at Saint Leo University. Here’s a top-five list of recent developments you may be interested to know:
At the start of the new academic year, Saint Leo University re-imagined its three major academic units, and each is now a college rather than a school: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia College of Business. This subtle, but strategic move was made to reflect the plurality of subject areas taught within each of Saint Leo’s academic divisions, as well as the current prominence of graduate degree programs among the mix. It also positions the university for future growth. Additional colleges will be added in the coming years to reflect Saint Leo’s focus on academic excellence in teaching and learning and to make explicit particular groupings of programs and new program areas.
In May, the new Doctor of Education: School Leadership and Doctor of Criminal Justice (specializations offered in homeland security and education) degree programs were approved by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The programs quickly met enrollment goals for their first classes.
During the summer, Saint Leo University Athletics announced it will add acrobatics and tumbling to its intercollegiate athletics program in 2020. Acrobatics and tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, and acrobatic lifts and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events.
The Saint Leo University College of Education and Social Services recently launched the Educator Preparation Institute, a program that provides an alternate route to teacher certification for mid-career professionals and college graduates who were not education majors. After passing the general knowledge and one subject area competence exam and securing a letter of eligibility from the state, individuals can enroll in the program to prepare to take the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. The Educator Preparation Institute program is available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For more information, visit saintleo.edu/educator-preparation-institute.
Political science major Jeanine Ramirez ’20 and social work major/American politics minor MacKenzie Jones ’19, spent two months this summer in Washington, DC, in a selective internship program. It is called the Congressional Fellows Program and admits only 35 undergraduates for the eight-week summer program. The fellows work three days a week in the offices of members of Congress. Time is also spent each week on community service and leadership development. This fellowship placement is a first among Saint Leo students.
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!
Growing up in Belgium, Emmanuel Diyoka Mulowayi loved playing basketball. Part of a big family from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he also developed a strong faith and a commitment to helping other people. “My mom is the one who introduced me to Christ and to the love of people,” he said. “She is a woman of great values who always pushed me to keep my eyes on Christ and pursue my dreams.” Now as a graduate student at Saint Leo, he is able to cultivate all those parts of his life at once.
He came to Saint Leo based on advice from his friends Nick Catt and Benjamin Dupont ’10, but he has made his experience his own. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies in 2015 and is pursuing an MBA with a project management specialization. A former semiprofessional basketball player in his home country, he lends his talent to the Saint Leo Lions as an assistant basketball coach—for the women’s team in 2015-2016 and this year for the men’s team.
“Emmanuel is one of the most humble young men I’ve ever met,” said Men’s Basketball Head Coach Vince Alexander. “He demonstrates the core values of Saint Leo and is a representative of our institution wherever he goes.”
In addition, Mulowayi is a graduate assistant in the University Ministry office. “It is beautiful to see students give their life to Christ,” he explained.
In 2013, he took on an internship in Congo. He worked with rape victims in Kivu, a region of war. That experience “opened my eyes,” he said. “I realized how fortunate I was to grow up in Belgium and get an education in America.”
Mulowayi notes that being a student at Saint Leo has given him the confidence to pursue his goals, which include one day working with an international organization to provide assistance to young people in Africa. He hopes to help them build skills and develop opportunities to play basketball or other sports in high school and college in America. “I hope that through sport I can impact and help kids in Congo to become the future of the country.”
‘‘Join the Army—See the World” boasts the well-known U.S. Army recruiting advertisement. While seeing the world certainly was a motivating factor for Captain Morgan Mander ’06 to join the military, she never expected she would visit 39 countries during a 36-month assignment in Europe.
With a love of travel instilled in her by her parents, she began an education and career that has led her to places far away from her hometown of Dade City, FL, near University Campus.
Athletic aspirations kept her close to home as she chose to attend Saint Leo University. As a Lion, she played volleyball and tennis along with a few cross country runs. In 2006, she received the Elaine Evans Spirit of Saint Leo Award at the annual National Girls and Women in Sports Banquet, honoring her outstanding leadership and sportsmanship.
Capt. Mander was not solely focused on Saint Leo athletics, however; she graduated with honors with a major in biology and a chemistry minor. Tackling athletics and a challenging academic schedule prepared her for what was ahead.
A love of animals and caring for them steered her to studying veterinary medicine. Besides the usual dogs and cats, Capt. Mander’s mother taught her how to rehabilitate orphaned squirrels, birds, and opossums. She also raised chickens and rabbits through 4-H. While in high school, she worked at the Dade City Animal Clinic.
“I probably wanted to be a vet since I was 3 or 4,” she said. “I even received a white lab coat one Christmas.”
Following her graduation from Saint Leo, she enrolled at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, where she earned the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship. She graduated with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees in 2010, and entered the U.S. Army as a captain.
While in veterinary school, the travel for Capt. Mander began. For a conservation medicine course—the Envirovet Program—she spent three weeks in South Africa. “One main focus was the One Health Initiative,” she said. “Disciplines need to work together to obtain animal, human, and environmental health.”
That trip spurred her interest in global health. “An estimated 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases come from animals,” she said. “These diseases can then be transferred to humans. An interest in these relationships at their interfaces is what drove me to get my master’s in public health.”
While she unrealistically was hoping for a coastal assignment with the Army, Capt. Mander found herself at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota after completing her initial training at Fort Sam Houston, TX.
As a military veterinarian, Capt. Mander not only takes care of military working dogs, but also cares for the pets of servicemembers, while providing their owners with public health education. Also, one of the little known duties of military veterinarians is ensuring food safety and security. They check shipments of food and inspect food-processing plants.
Capt. Mander’s most recent assignment found her responsible for veterinary care in Spain and Portugal for three years. She also visited three African countries for work. “But most of the rest of my travel has been leisure travel,” she said.
When her parents, Chip and Deanna Mander, came to visit her in Spain, there was no staying home. “I wanted to go see the world,” she said, laughing. The Manders made a road trip to the Balkans and cruised the Baltic Sea, among other travels. “The off-the-beaten-path places stick out in my mind,” she said of her trips.
Among her favorite travel moments are snowshoeing in Slovenia, hiking in Guatemala, and visiting the tulip gardens at Keukenhof Gardens outside of Amsterdam.
“The toughest part [of her overseas assignment] was being away from family and friends,” Capt. Mander said.
Her biggest regret: not learning the language while in Spain. “I learned mostly food words,” she said of her Spanish skills, “but my schedule was irregular and finding time for the classes was difficult.”
Her time at Saint Leo prepared her both academically and personally for her post-graduate education and career. “I especially appreciate Saint Leo’s core values of community and excellence,” she said.
As a base veterinarian, she experienced the camaraderie of the military family and put into practice the university’s core value of community. The leadership skills she learned on the gym floor and the tennis courts helped her lead soldiers during her last assignment.
Now, Capt. Mander is at Fort Campbell, KY, assigned to a Veterinary Service Support field unit. “The unit is actually currently deployed,” she said, so another trip could be in her future.
She hopes to pursue more travel opportunities and to focus on one-health issues. “I just love learning and trying to solve complex health concerns,” she said.
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.
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
Ask Coach Erin (Brunt) Kinberger ’07 about how the 2015 Saint Leo softball season ended, and you get no visible reaction. No expression in her face, nothing glistening in her eyes, no slumping of shoulders.
But, sitting in the same chair in Saint Leo’s Student Community Center where she learned in early May that the Lions’ 39-12 record would not send them to a seventh NCAA tournament appearance, it all comes out in her voice.
“I knew, based on the research that my assistants and I had done, that the odds were against us,” said Kinberger, delivering a sigh. “It was kind of gut-wrenching to see them eager to find out, and yet there were seven seniors I knew were probably going to be crushed. I mean, how do you feel when you’re 39-12 … and there’s only a slim chance you’re going to the post-season?”
That ending only slightly diminished what was otherwise a spectacular freshman campaign at the helm of Lions softball for the Saint Leo alumna. Erin Kinberger—or Erin Brunt, as she was known when she was behind the plate for the Lions from 2004 to 2007—guided the Lions to a 10-win improvement over their 2014 tally, perfecting a winning chemistry with players recruited by predecessor John Conway.
In the Sunshine State Conference, the Kinberger-led Lions posted a 15-9 record, just the second winning record in conference play over the past seven seasons.
Other milestones piled up along the way.
A 23-3 record at University Softball Stadium, best home record since 2008. An 11-game winning streak to end the season, with 50 consecutive scoreless innings and seven straight shutouts. Three-game sweeps over SSC rivals Eckerd, Lynn, and Florida Southern. Individually, junior Alana Tabel was Division II’s top pitcher with a 0.94 earned run average, after posting a 3.40 ERA the previous year.
But first on the agenda for Kinberger upon her return was changing the culture of the program.
Saint Leo softball is no stranger to post-season success, with an SSC title and six NCAA tournament appearances to its credit. But those six NCAA tourney trips have been buckshot across a span of 16 seasons, with sustained success having eluded the Lions.
Kinberger, her reputation built in part as a fiery competitor on two of those NCAA-bound teams, has brought purpose and passion to the diamond as Saint Leo’s head coach with the goal of making the Lions a consistent post-season player.
The purpose has taken the form of structure and paying attention to details—a John Wooden-esque requirement for players to wear the exact same T-shirts to practice, for example—while the passion came out in everything Kinberger and her staff did, from encouraging their outfielders to dive for balls to simply asking the young women how they were doing each day.
“At first, the kids were probably a little intimidated by that, but it really felt like overnight they just bought into it,” said Kinberger about her staff’s approach. “Bring in three young women who are passionate about the game and can’t imagine their lives without it, and that becomes contagious to the athletes.”
With newfound values having taken root in the program, Kinberger hopes that lessons and accomplishments of this past season have set the table for Saint Leo softball to rise to the top of the conference. No SSC team has reached the Division II national championship game since 2005; Kinberger’s Lions would love to break that streak.
“It comes down to building a tradition and a mentality,” said Kinberger. “Teaching them to believe what we’re capable of and post-season is where we belong, and turning it into an expectation.”
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) released the final standings for the 2014-2015 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup in June, and Saint Leo University ranked eighth overall—the highest finish among all Sunshine State Conference institutions for the first time in school history.
The Lions led the Sunshine State Conference as the lone institution to finish in the top 10. In the Directors’ Cup 20-year history, the conference has only had nine teams rank among the top 10, and three schools rank among the top 5. Saint Leo’s eighth place ranking is the conference’s first top-10 finish since 2013, and is the best finish since Tampa ranked fifth in 2005.
Saint Leo University’s own Taylor Perez, a shortstop who completed his junior season in 2015, was selected in the 28th round (pick 845) by the Seattle Mariners.
Perez, from Winter Springs, FL, played in 47 games this season for the Lions, finishing with a .312 batting average in 189 at-bats. The junior racked up 34 RBI and 36 runs scored on the year with help from his 12 doubles, three triples, and two home runs. Perez stole eight bases this season which tied him for second most on the team. He contributed 17 multi-hit games to the Green and Gold’s effort this season.
Taylor Perez is the fourth Lion to be drafted in the last three seasons.
Jake Gilmour Men’s Lacrosse • Sophomore Pickering, Ontario, Canada Jake Gilmour had an immediate offensive impact for the Saint Leo men’s lacrosse team in his rookie campaign with 28 goals and a team-best 14 assists for 42 points, second on the team in scoring. He scored at least one goal in all 14 of the Lions’ games in 2015, and charted four goals in games against Adams State and Lynn. A Sunshine State Conference All-Freshman Team honoree, Gilmour’s five assists versus Lees-McRae was one shy of the school record.
Jonathan Glenn Soccer • Class of 2011 Iceland Jonathan Glenn was a member of the Trinidad & Tobago men’s national team that reached the quarterfinals of the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup. Glenn was one of the leading scorers in the Icelandic Premier League in 2014 and recently moved to Breiðablik.
Amanda Jakobsson Women’s Golf • Sophomore Gothenburg, Sweden Amanda Jakobsson joined the Saint Leo women’s golf team for the Spring 2015 semester, and immediately became a dynamic force on the team. She finished the season with a team-best 76.11 stroke average over 18 rounds, and was tied for fifth at the Sunshine State Conference Women’s Golf Championship with an eight-over 224. Jakobsson went on to shoot a 227 over three rounds at the NCAA Super Regional, finishing 19th overall.
Jordan Pendleton Baseball • Sophomore Palm Harbor, FL Jordan Pendleton started off his freshman year battling for the third spot in Saint Leo baseball’s weekend rotation, and finished the year in the No. 2 spot with a stellar freshman season. He logged a 7-1 record with a 3.73 earned run average over 60.1 innings pitched, including Sunshine State Conference wins over Eckerd, Rollins, and Barry. Pendleton finished the season with 34 strikeouts, and was a Second Team All-SSC selection.
Abbie Ross Women’s Lacrosse Sophomore • Orlando, FL Abbie Ross turned into a scoring machine for Saint Leo women’s lacrosse, charting a team-best 29 goals and three assists for 32 points in her rookie season. She scored in all but two of the Lions’ 15 games in 2015, including hat tricks against Pfeiffer, Bloomsburg, Newberry, and No. 10 Limestone. A Second Team All-Sunshine State Conference selection, Ross scored 29 goals and is tied for second among single-season goal leaders in the program’s 4-year history.
Alana Tabel Softball • Senior Loxahatchee, FL The No. 1 pitcher for Saint Leo softball, Alana Tabel finished her junior season ranked No. 1 in all of Division II with her 0.94 earned run average, after allowing just 18 earned runs over 134.0 innings pitched. Tabel posted a 16-5 record during her junior campaign, and recorded 105 strikeouts in 2015 after recording 144 Ks during her first two seasons combined.
How did an Ogden, UT, native end up on the Saint Leo Lions volleyball team? “It’s a long story,” Britt Sederholm explains.
While in high school, the young volleyball player knew she wanted to compete on the collegiate level, was set on Division II, and was focused on a college in New Jersey. However, while competing in a tournament in Colorado, she caught the eye of Coach Sam Cibrone, who was there with his Tampa United volleyball club. One thing led to another, and she decided to pay Saint Leo a visit. She toured the campus, met the team, and instantly knew that the Lions were the team for her. Another important moment from that tournament? She spiked the ball on one play, hitting Maddy Powell—from the opposing team—right in the face. But no hard feelings—the two players are now roommates at Saint Leo.
Britt admits that moving to Florida was a hard transition at first, but her family has been very supportive. Her parents, who adopted her at birth, keep in touch—in fact every day her father texts her and her mother Snapchats. She explains that her parents were very eager to adopt her, as well as her older sister, Shay. “Shay is part Mexican, and the adoption agency was worried that my parents would have a problem with that. They said, ‘We don’t care if she comes out with antennas!’ ” Britt, at five-foot-eleven, jokes that she and her sister look nothing alike: “She is short and brown, but even though I look down on her in height, I look up to her in life.” And Britt claims that her niece, Kylah, is perfect. “She is my favorite person in the world—a little ball of happiness.”
Before Britt was born, her birth mother had one instruction: she did not want the baby growing up in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) home, which is a tall order in Utah. Jeff and Tamra Sederholm had no problem with that requirement and raised their daughters to be open to all religions. Britt attended a Lutheran school through eighth grade and then a Catholic high school. She explained that at public schools in Utah, almost everyone is LDS and “you can almost feel like an outcast if you’re not.” That was another benefit that Britt sees at Saint Leo, a Catholic institution that welcomes people of all backgrounds and faiths.
What does the future hold for this talented outside hitter? She is majoring in business marketing and would like to work for a professional sports team, following in the footsteps of her best friend and godsister, Julie Johnson.
For now, when she is not studying or playing volleyball, she serves as an assistant coach for Tampa United. “Britt is a great person with awesome energy and devotion to our sport,” commented Coach Cibrone. “She coaches to learn about the game and always gives 100 percent on the court. She is a huge asset to our team.”