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Saint Leo Women’s Lacrosse

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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. 

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

Women's Volleyball wins 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 wins the Sunshine State Conference title

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.

University’s 21st sport, Acrobatics & Tumbling, begins competition

Acrobatics and Tumbling

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

Saint Leo lacrosse player Ashley Salvett

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

Saint Leo basketball player Kyran McClure

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 DanielMatthew 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).

Saint Leo swimmer Mitrovic doing the breaststrokeKosta 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.

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.


Anya Cole
Anya Cole (Images courtesy of Rising Lotus Photography)

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