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.
When Mark Reda ’73 and Stephen Garrison ’71 played on the men’s golf team at Saint Leo University, they were only acquaintances. Garrison was a senior, and Reda a sophomore. While they shared mutual friends and played golf together on occasion, their social circles did not often overlap.
It wasn’t until several years later, when they were thousands of miles away from Florida, that the two were able to form a friendship that ended up saving Reda’s life.
Garrison, who grew up in New York, moved to the same city in New Jersey as Reda. “I’m coming out of church one day, and I see this guy who looked really familiar, but I couldn’t figure out how I knew him,” Reda said.
While there wasn’t an opportunity for Reda to connect with Garrison then, he got a second chance when they ran into each other at a park. After acknowledging their Saint Leo connection, the pair became friends, meeting for dinner and playing a round of golf from time to time. It was a serendipitous meeting because little did Reda know, but Garrison would be key to saving his life. In 2016, Reda was facing health problems, and doctors told him he needed a new kidney to live.
Reda had family members and friends offer to help, including two former Saint Leo roommates. However, for one reason or another, none were an acceptable match.
Reda didn’t share much about his health problems with his friend. While Garrison knew he wasn’t doing well and needed to have surgery, he didn’t know how dire the need was until after talking to Reda’s wife, Debbie. At that point, he learned that he might just be a perfect donor match and decided to help.“To me, it was a pretty simple decision,” Garrison said. “I know that it’s not uncommon for people to donate kidneys. I knew I’d be sore for a little bit, but that I would go on to live a normal life. I would feel terrible if something happened to Mark and I didn’t help him.”
After meeting with doctors and learning more about the transplant process, Garrison was confident in his decision to move forward. Reda received his kidney, and today both men are doing well and are still close friends.To pay tribute to Garrison, three years ago the Redas created the Stephen Garrison ’71 Scholarship fund at Saint Leo to support golf student-athletes who exemplify selfless generosity.
“It’s just a very humbling experience when the people in your life volunteer to help,” Reda said. “It’s the kind of thing that chokes you up when you talk about it. Establishing the scholarship is a way for me to memorialize what he did. His grandkids can see the scholarship and be able to know what their grandfather did.”
If you are interested in learning about Saint Leo University’s scholarship program and how you can help, please contact Dawn Parisi at email@example.com or (352) 588-8251.
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)
Griffin Clark, 21, a sophomore criminal justice major and member of the men’s golf team, passed away on July 4. He was involved in a car accident near his home in Chesterfield County, VA. Griffin helped lead the golf team to its recent NCAA Division II National Championship, in Denver, CO, playing in the final match-play pairing against Chico State (CA) and winning by three strokes.
“Griffin was an outstanding young man. We were so blessed to have him be part of our Saint Leo family,” Saint Leo men’s head golf coach Chris Greenwood said. “I have so many good moments with Griffin, but the one I will always remember is standing in the 18th fairway together the final day in Denver.”
Frederick “Fred” William Colby Sr. ’84, registrar emeritus, passed away on July 7. A decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served from 1952 to 1979, including tours of duty in Singapore and Tokyo, as a Naval intelligence specialist. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo College and was a member of the Saint Leo staff for 24 years, retiring as registrar.
Dr. Diane Johnson passed away on May 10. She was an assistant director of the Center for Online Learning from 2005 to 2014. After retiring from that administrative role, she continued to teach as an online adjunct professor. She is remembered for being supportive of Saint Leo’s students and guiding them through their educational development.
On May 20, Dr. Kurt Van Wilt passed away at his home. A humble and devoted English professor, he dedicated his life to the education of Saint Leo University’s students, to their spiritual and intellectual growth and development. A respected poet, he was the master of the sonnet, a form that appeals to the kind of artisan who enjoys the rigor of structure, the triumphs achieved through simplicity. An expert in comparative mysticism and Native American literature, he authored three critically praised books for Millichap Books. He was also a co-founder of The Sandhill Review literary arts magazine, The Lightning Key Review electronic journal, and The Green Rabbit chapbook series.
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.