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Dahrendorff Makes Saint Leo Swimming History

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.

Thomas J. Kaiser, MD, is achieving what many young biology majors everywhere hope for when they first walk into the science classrooms and labs.

ThomasKaiserKaiser, 30, is well on his way to becoming an orthopedic surgeon and specialist, a possibility he began contemplating as a high school and college athlete. The former Lions basketball forward (No. 25) is currently in the fourth year of the five-year residency program at the University of Florida Health System in Jacksonville. Residency is the period right after medical school (or other physician training) when licensed new graduates work under the tutelage of more senior doctors to acquire in-depth training in a particular area. Examples are family medicine, pediatrics, cardiology, or in Kaiser’s case, orthopedics—the care of the whole skeletal system of bones, muscles, ligaments, and joints.

While the young doctor (and newlywed) still has some milestones to pass, Kaiser has already completed the three most intense years of his residency program. Just getting an orthopedic residency is an accomplishment in itself. New doctors have to compete for limited spots; those who are not admitted have to make another plan.

Kaiser remembers first becoming intrigued with skeletal repair when he was growing up and attending Catholic schools in Tampa. Service projects periodically brought him to Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa, where his mother worked as a nurse. He encountered children who came from as far as Central America for procedures to repair limbs, and he discovered orthopedic medicine.

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Kaiser wore No. 25 for Jesuit High School, as well as Saint Leo.

Another interest took hold during his teens that played a part in his path: playing competitive basketball for the Jesuit High School Tigers in Tampa (wearing No. 25 then, too). “My dream was to play basketball in college. Saint Leo offered a full scholarship.” That meant he could study biology seriously and play basketball where his family could attend home games. Indeed, he played for three years and graduated summa cum laude. And then he was off—straight into the medical school of his choice—at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He graduated with his medical degree in 2014.

Looking back at his time at Saint Leo, Kaiser credits the rigor of being a student-athlete with instilling in him good time-management practices. Another benefit was being able to get to know and shadow the men’s basketball team physician for a couple of seasons, which further honed his interest in orthopedics. He may even seek a fellowship in sports orthopedics after this residency.

Academically, Kaiser was influenced by Saint Leo faculty to learn to look at problems in multiple ways for solutions, and to be a lifelong learner. That adaptability is vital in orthopedics, because so many different activities, maladies, and accidents require treatment, and patients span generations. So it is vital that orthopedists be able to work with all kinds of patients and be open to new or varied treatment options.

There are multiple challenges for the patient, too. The healing process involves more than just surgery. There is usually physical therapy, and patients may feel lonely, stuck, or withdrawn for a while. Things turn for the better as patients regain mobility and their spirits lift, Kaiser said. Then comes the point where the young doctor sees in his patients’ lives his professional reward: “Getting them back to functioning, back to their life before.”

A look at student-athletes who are making their mark.

 

101916_Wsoccer_001Victoria Covas
Women’s Soccer • Senior
Orlando, FL

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.
 

W-Cross-Country-10-22-187Alyssa Bayliff
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.
 

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Tyler Bauman
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.
 

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Jake Bye
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.
 

Thomas-Grinberg-ActionThomas Grinberg
Men’s Tennis • Junior
Vincennes, France

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.

 

Gina-(Blue)-vs-GreeceGina Brierley
Women’s Basketball • Sophomore
Manchester, England

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.

 

Amid the steady beat of the turning twin ropes, a girl jumps. She twists and high-steps to the cadence. What once was a simple game now reaches new heights thanks to the National Double Dutch League and alumna Lauren Walker ’92.

Walker’s father, David A. Walker, founded the league in 1973, when he was a New York City Police Department Community Affairs detective. He and his partner, Detective Ulysses Williams, saw few sports available to girls. “At that time, there were so many youth sports for boys—Pony League baseball, football, and basketball,” Lauren Walker said. “There was nothing for young ladies. He saw young girls jumping double Dutch, and he had the idea of taking this fun activity and turn it into a competitive sport.”

Walker joined in jumping double Dutch. “I jumped in middle school and high school,” she said. “But then I found my joy in tennis.”

She earned a four-year scholarship to Saint Leo, and the Bronx girl came to play tennis in rural Pasco County, FL. “I played under an amazing guy, Coach Tim Crosby,” she said. “He stressed the importance of balancing school and being on a sports team. It was about getting your education.”

Her mother, Judith, was an educator and also stressed the importance of education. Walker earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sport management. She completed an internship with the New York Yankees baseball team, which holds spring training in Tampa. That experience led to a management position with retailer Sports Authority.

“I had the opportunity to network with sponsors, volunteering for special events, classroom projects, and Hoop It Up (three-on-three basketball tournaments),” she said. “I honed my background in event management. That gave me a balance between traditional sports and grassroots sports.”

She worked hard before taking the reins of the National Double Dutch League as president, preserving the legacy of her father, who passed away in 2008. “I think double Dutch is an important urban activity,” she said. “It allows people in our community to have social interactions as well as a fun way to exercise.”

Another aspect of the fancy rope work is competition, Walker said. Double Dutch competition “has allowed this urban activity to have national exposure and has allowed the competitors to interact with other countries and cultures,” she said. “The benefits of double Dutch include teamwork, cooperation, healthy competition, physical fitness, leadership, and creativity. It only takes two turners, one jumper, and a set of ropes. It’s simple.”

Walker enjoys sharing these new cultures with the double Dutch competitors, much like she enjoyed being exposed to different races, ethnicities, and religions during her studies at Saint Leo. “That community prepared me and inspired me to do what I’m doing today,” she said.

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The annual Double Dutch Holiday Classic©, held at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, draws competitors from throughout the world. In addition, the Dynamic Diplomats of Double Dutch demonstration team earns accolades for its fancy footwork and is featured in commercials for companies such as Apple, McDonald’s, and Levis.

Walker’s next goal is to continue her father’s mission to introduce, develop, and promote the sport of double Dutch around the country and the world. “We hope to see double Dutch in the Olympics,” she said.

She also hopes to partner with organizations to get more children and young adults jumping. In addition to physical exercise, Walker wants those involved in double Dutch to “bring their different experiences in life and use them to inspire others.”

Photo above from left to right: Anderson Lora ’20, Derrick Wade ’18, Stephen Kubasek ’08, John Flaherty ’67, Lesny Flores ’20, and Gerard Wiltshire ’17

Christopher Fils ’18
Branch Manager, Morgan Stanley

FilsWhen Christopher Fils finished his undergraduate degree in December 2008, the conditions for launching a career in finance were not just unfavorable, but downright hostile. It was the start of the Great Recession, and the finance sector was shedding thousands of jobs.

Some may have opted for another line of work. But Fils still aspired to financial counseling. The son of immigrants and the finance sector was shedding thousands of jobs.from Haiti and Jamaica, he had begun reading popular financial titles like The Millionaire Next Door in his teens. He managed to get a foot in the door at a financial services company in Tampa in 2009 in customer phone services, and stayed for about a year. “But I wanted to be in front of people, helping them plan.” He started in personal banking at another company and has since kept acquiring skills, professional licenses, and responsibilities.

He and his wife have also moved physically, from Tampa, to New York City, to California. Currently he is a branch manager for Morgan Stanley in Los Gatos, the southern end of Silicon Valley. While Fils was intrigued with New York, the opportunity to live in California and witness the interplay of technology and innovation with growth and wealth was compelling. He oversees 25 employees and is in charge of all sales, investments, compliance, and hiring.

Fils is also within months of earning his MBA online from Saint Leo. “It’s amazing,” he said, a little stunned. “I’m 30 years old. I came up through the recession.” His path demonstrates advice he now passes along to younger people: Be alert to opportunities—they can come up suddenly and subtly. And when you see an opportunity, “Move on it quickly.”


Ally Vincent ’14
Second Grade Inclusion Teacher, Citrus Springs Elementary School

_DSC7891When Ally Vincent was an elementary education student at University Campus, her professors and fellow classmates knew she was destined for great things. An active volunteer for campus events and participant in SERVE (Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences) trips, Vincent was always eager to lend a hand.

After graduation, she was afforded the opportunity to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, as part of the Rotary Global Scholar Program. Through this yearlong program, she earned a Master of Science in Inclusive and Special Education. She said it was “an amazing year” during which she did research, observed other teachers, and presented at a conference. She was also made an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Portobello, her host club during that year.

This advanced degree led her back to Florida and to Citrus Springs Elementary School in Citrus County, where she teaches a second grade inclusion class. She explained that “almost half of the students have disabilities of some kind—developmental, physical, or intellectual.” Her job
is challenging, but she said it is all worth it when she  “sees the smiles of the kids, and I know I can help make a difference.”

She explained: “The kids definitely keep me on my toes. Many don’t get the love and support they need from home. So it’s important to have good role models at school.”


Heather Grimes ’09
Chief Administrative Officer, Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office

fullsizeoutput_ca8fHeather Grimes has worn many hats in county government, from customer service and performance development administrator to assistant county administrator. Today, Grimes is the chief administrative officer for the Pasco County (FL) Clerk and Comptroller’s Office, and she stated that in all her various roles she has enjoyed being able to give back to her community.

Grimes earned her MBA online from Saint Leo, and she continues to contribute to the university. In June, Grimes participated in the Leaders in the Industry webinar presented by Saint Leo WorldWide Career Services and offered advice to students about working in government administration.

“The benefits are great, and the pay is competitive,” Grimes said, “but you don’t come to government to get rich.”

In Florida, governments participate in the Florida Retirement System. Additional perks of government employment include excellent leave policies and tuition reimbursement. “My MBA was 100 percent paid for by Pasco County, and they encouraged me to go after my master’s degree,” Grimes said.

According to Grimes, no matter where you live, there is always a government job to be found and one for every interest. “Once you understand government and how it works, it is easy for you to be able to transfer to another government job [since] you can speak the lingo,” she said.

More importantly, it is interesting and challenging work. “You can make a difference,” Grime said. “There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you are giving back to the community you live in. Find your happy place, and you will do good things there. I tell my employees this all the time. Make sure it is somewhere you enjoy working.”


Christopher Stanzione ’08
Lecturer, Georgia Institute of Technology

Stanzione_HeadshotWhat attracted Christopher Stanzione to Saint Leo? The warm weather, the beautiful campus, and the great psychology faculty. In fact, he found Saint Leo to be the perfect fit and quickly got involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon, was active in the Psychology Club, and served as a campus tour guide.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Stanzione headed straight to graduate school at the University of North Florida, focusing on research, and received his master’s degree in 2010. He went on to Georgia State University, where he earned a PhD in 2014.

Today, Dr. Stanzione is a lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he strives to be an “authentic mentor” to his students. His specialization is child psychology, specifically language and cognitive development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. A second area of study is in personality theory, explaining that personality “is like gravity. You can’t see it, but you can feel its effects. Therefore, it’s important to measure personality traits from several angles.”

As an educational psychologist, one of his jobs is to study how individuals learn and retain knowledge, especially in classrooms. According to Stanzione, these areas not only include the obvious, like the learning process, but also extend to emotional, social, and cognitive outcomes for all students. However, it is not enough to solely study an area of psychology to become a good teacher. Teaching goes beyond methodology and involves creating real connections with students. One of his goals for each student is to become an informed consumer of knowledge. “As an instructor, it is my job to apply critical thinking techniques within my lectures and assignments. However, becoming an informed consumer of knowledge is not confined to the context of academic topics. I am also teaching students to be good people; celebrating those from different backgrounds or who have different views than our own, and this requires us to think critically, too.” His short-term goals include improving the teaching curriculum, increasing his effectiveness, strengthening the professor-student relationship, and helping students with research.

Down the road? “I hope to one day go on a sabbatical—go abroad and work at another university. I think that international experience would broaden my perspective.”


J.P. Ricciardi
Special Assistant to the General Manager, New York Mets

Ricciardi_Ricco0683What does it take to make it to the majors? For J.P. Ricciardi (standing left), his road to the New York Mets front office had some interesting turns.

It all started when he was recruited to play baseball for the Saint Leo Monarchs in the late 1970s. A second baseman, he came to Florida and soon found that the baseball team was like his family. When not in class, they spent most of their time playing and practicing together.

“The campus was great,” Ricciardi said. “But it sure has changed a lot—for the better. Saint Leo has come a long way, and I’m proud of what it’s become.”

Three years into his college career, Ricciardi signed with the New York Mets in 1980. He played in that team’s system for a few years, then went to work as a coach for the New York Yankees farm system. Along the way, he was also a minor league instructor and scout for the Oakland Athletics.

He landed his first job in the front office as special assistant to Sandy Alderson, the general manager of the Athletics. When Billy Beane assumed the GM role, Ricciardi transitioned to the director of Player Personnel. The success he had in those roles led him to being namedthe general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001.

“Saint Leo has come a long way, and I’m proud of what it’s become.” —J.P. Ricciardi

These days, 37 years later, he is working for the team that first drafted him, serving once again as special assistant to Sandy Alderson, now GM for the Mets. In this position, Ricciardi helps put the baseball team together, has a hand in player trades, evaluates the minor league system, and manages many of the operation’s processes.

“It’s a great job,” he said. “I get to be part of a terrific organization.”

When he is not in the office or on the field, he is spending time with his wife of 33 years and their two sons, who are both playing baseball in college—one a junior at Bryant College (RI) and the other in his first year at Florida Atlantic University.


John Flaherty ’67
Director of Alumni Relations, Salesian High School

_DSC5301Many alumni want to give back to Saint Leo but may not know what they can offer. For John Flaherty, the answeris simple: encourage high school students to choose Saint Leo for college.

A native of Yonkers, NY, Flaherty has worked at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, NY, for more than 50 years. A former principal, he is now director of Alumni Relations and has helped recruit more than 15 young men for Saint Leo. He says that all were happy with their choices and have gone on to find success in their careers. Among them are Stephen Kubasek ’08, who is now director of Advancement Services and Planned Giving at Saint Leo; Joseph P. “J.P.” Connellan ’85, Saint Leo trustee and a managing director at Citi; and current freshmen Michael Ahearn and Jordan Rivera.

Flaherty chose Saint Leo because he liked the small college setting. When he arrived, it was a two-year college, but then transitioned to a four-year college, so he stayed and completed his bachelor’s degree.

He said that at Saint Leo, he was able to try things that might have intimidated him at a large university, such as taking courses that were more difficult or outside his usual aptitude. He found that teachers and classmates supported him in all that he attempted.

In talking to high school students, he has discovered that “If you want to get into a student’s head, get there through his heart. Let them know that you care. That is what the Saint Leo faculty did for me, and I applied it in my career. The foundation of a Salesian education is based on the four educational principles of reason, religion, kindness, and presence.” Today, more than a dozen alumni can credit Flaherty for helping them make a good choice and join the Saint Leo family.


Mikael Angesjo ’08
Deputy Director, Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom

Mikael AngesioWhen Mikael Angesjo was considering where to attend college, he had many offers outside his native Sweden. In the end, however, he felt that Saint Leo was the perfect choice to continue his soccer career while gaining a good education. That education has led him to an interesting international career, including his current role as deputy director of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom.

As a student-athlete at Saint Leo, Angesjo was a business major with a marketing specialization and a member of the men’s soccer team that won the school’s first-ever conference championship. Looking back, he said, “The institution was like one big family, and such an atmosphere fosters excellence. I met some of my closest friends, excelled academically and reached Who’s Who, won the school’s first athletic championship in history, fell in love, and found God at Saint Leo. To do that in four years, I look back at it now and wonder how it was all possible.”

For a time, Angesjo was an agency-represented fashion model, working for some of the top international brands, including Armani, Calvin Klein, and Adidas, but these days he is focused on his director position with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, the largest Swedish business network in the world, where he has applied a lot of the skills acquired at Saint Leo. He explained, “I work in 50 different sectors at the same time. There is a satisfaction in connecting companies with completely different profiles, which otherwise never would have thought to cross each other’s paths, and ultimately see it lead to fruitful partnerships. However, acting as the main point of contact for 400 exporting companies, and doing so in a country [UK] in the process of a historic (and highly complex) ‘divorce settlement’ from the European Union, comes with a certain level of pressure.”

What is next for Angesjo? “My goal is not very specific but the same as it has been—to always be in an environment where I feel I am developing. When you feel that is no longer the case, it is time to move to the next chapter.” He continued, “There are some plans in place I cannot share at this very moment in time, but one has to continue to challenge oneself.”

A National Champ—and So Much More

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.


Conference Champions!

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.

Softball-team


A Different Kind of Home Field Advantage

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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.

Paris.jpg-good“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.

O'Dette-good“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.”