CWRU Fall Sports Preview

Five sports and seven teams are back in action for the 2021 fall semester

Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor

Following a tumultuous year inundated with much uncertainty and adversity, Case Western Reserve University athletes will finally return to divisional competitions this semester. 

When the global pandemic began last March, there was optimism about returning to “normal” life in the summer; the plans for college sports reflected such views. Late last May, the Division III Administrative Committee took a measured approach and reduced the number of required contests by 33%. The pandemic, however, worsened as the summer went on, and the committee recommended all Division III conferences not to compete in the fall of 2020. The University Athletic Association (UAA), the athletic conference that includes CWRU and seven other universities in the eastern U.S., took the recommendation and canceled all fall and winter sports.

Fortunately, CWRU’s fall sports season will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Women’s volleyball will kick off the semester with a home game against Oberlin College at 7 p.m. The women’s soccer team will simultaneously begin their season on the road against Capital College in Columbus, Ohio. Men’s soccer will round out the opening day schedule on home turf, battling Marietta College at 7:30 p.m.

Here is a look ahead to the CWRU sports teams you can follow for the upcoming months:



The CWRU football team has finally returned for a full season this fall after only getting the opportunity to play one game last spring. Though two exhibition games were originally planned for early April, the Spartans only played against Denison University, losing 14-6. The second game against Ohio Wesleyan University was canceled.

Thankfully, the upcoming season will have no shortage of games, something which students, coaches, athletes and their families alike are excited for. With 104 players strong, the team has been preparing for their 10-game season the last few weeks with the aim to build upon their success from the 2019 fall season. After going almost undefeated in the regular season with a 9-1 record, the Spartans lost 21-24 to Union College in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament. After essentially having almost two years off, the athletes are expectedly itching back to get on the field.

“The team has been taking this year’s camp in stride, and you can just feel how excited and hungry they are to be back and able to finally compete for another PAC championship,” said fourth-year running back Donald Day III. “It’s been two years since we were last able to play in competition, so that’s been a huge driving force for the players and coaching staff as we finally can get back to doing something we love.”

Day had a remarkably successful season in 2019, carrying the ball 100 times for 361 yards overall 11 games and finishing the season with a team-high five rushing touchdowns. Day capped off the 2019 season earning UAA Fall All-Academic honors; he earned the same recognition in 2020 and was also selected to the PAC Academic Honor Roll.

Coming in as a fourth-year, Day is excited for the upcoming season and is seamlessly fitting into his leadership role.

“[The pandemic] was a really challenging time for us as a team,” Day relayed. “What kept us connected as a team were the small moments we had together during the fall and spring when it seemed like everything else around us was falling apart. As a leader on the team, I want to really try and connect to the younger guys because they are the ones who will ultimately carry on the team’s culture. In my first three years here I’ve never been a very vocal person, but this year I’ve been finding myself standing in front of a bunch of guys who seem to look up to me.” 

The Spartans will be traveling to Rochester, New York for this first game on Sept. 4 against Rochester University. The team will remain on the road for the second game of the season against Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania. In a long-awaited homecoming game, the football team will battle against Westminster College on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.  


Women’s and Men’s Soccer 

Both the CWRU women’s and men’s soccer teams had an abridged season in the past spring. The women’s team was flawless, going undefeated in their three games against Hiram College, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ohio Wesleyan University. The men’s team meanwhile went 1-1-1 that semester, tying the match against Walsh University, defeating Hiram College and losing in a close match against Ohio Wesleyan.

The women’s team, sporting 32 total members with eight first-years, is looking to continue their success on the field in the following months. Carolyn Koutures, a first-year forward, is incredibly excited to play soccer at the college level and emphasized the camaraderie between teammates. Though she has just been introduced to many of her teammates, she is “looking forward to creating a [tight-knit] bond with the [CWRU] team,” similar to the one she had with her high school club team.

 There are 28 athletes on the men’s soccer team after having introduced six first-years to the team. As with many other CWRU athletes and teams, the men’s soccer team is looking forward to a fantastic season after a moderate showing in the exhibition games this recent spring. 

Following the game against Capital College next Wednesday, the women’s team will play an away game against Otterbein University on Sept. 4 followed by a two-game homestand against Adrian College on Sept. 8 and Baldwin Wallace University on Sept. 11. For the men’s team, they will continue their home-opening trifecta with their second match on Sept. 4 at home against the State University of New York at Fredonia and on Sept. 7 against Hiram College.


Women’s Volleyball 

Unlike several fall sports teams, the women’s volleyball team did not have any games in the last school year. The Spartans finished off their 2019 campaign with a 13-16 overall record, ending the season on a two-game win streak to secure a fifth-place finish in the UAA conference.

Nonetheless, the athletes are trying to spring into a successful season after going through a rollercoaster of situations over the last couple of years and starting to practice just this past month.

Sara Rogers, a third-year player on the team, is “looking forward to bringing everyone together and [is] excited to finally be able to play as a team. Every team is facing the same situation with the pandemic, so it feels like we all have a blank slate and can come out of the gate with no preconceived expectations of our competitors.”

The team is incredibly young, bringing in 12 first-years for a total of 24 players. With this raw but exciting team composition, Rogers believes that the “main goal is to come together and rise to the occasion of a competitive season … We are looking forward to seeing how we can all play together and find a great team dynamic that helps us be the most successful.”

 The Spartans will be playing 13 games in September. Following the first game against Oberlin on Sept. 1, the CWRU team will be hosting the CWRU tournament from Sept. 3-4 and are scheduled to play Albion College, Bethany College and Earlham College. The last few games of the month will be against fellow UAA institutions in the UAA Round Robin before the month ends with an away game against John Carroll University.


Women’s and Men’s Cross Country

The cross country teams last competed in the fall of 2019, with the women’s team finishing in the top five in three out of nine competitions and the men’s team finishing in the top five seven times. 

First-year Victor Nash has been adjusting to college sports amid these unprecedented times, and despite the limited interactions, he has enjoyed his experience with the team: “The pandemic has restricted a lot of what we could do, but it did open up opportunities to connect virtually this summer.”

In terms of expectations and goals for the cross country season, Nash believes that the team wants to “establish ourselves in a relatively small meet as a real contender for bigger things this year.” With the home meets, “there’s sure to be a factor of pride that makes us perform better.”

The women’s and men’s teams share competition schedules and they are slated for three events in September. The Sudeck Classic will take place on Sept. 2 in Hunting Valley, Ohio, before the team travels to Cedarville, Ohio for the All-Ohio Championships on Sept. 17. The Alumni Meet will be the final competition of the month on Sept. 25, also taking place in Hunting Valley, Ohio.


Women’s Tennis

One of the handful of teams that had the opportunity to play in spring 2021, the Spartan women’s tennis team boasted a 5-1 record, their only loss coming at the hands of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartans. The Spartans were dominant in the doubles matches, which propelled them to three doubles sweeps and two full game sweeps in their six games last spring. Recent graduate Madeleine Paolucci was the team’s main star for the last couple of years, reaching the round of 16 in the 2021 NCAA Division III Singles Tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She earned All-American after winning in the first round but fell in the next match, concluding her spectacular career at CWRU. She received numerous honors, being named ITA All-American as well as becoming CWRU’s first women’s tennis CoSIDA Academic All-American. 

The team’s first competition will be the Oberlin Invitational at Oberlin College from Sept. 10-11. The following weekend, the team will travel to Granville, Ohio to compete in the Denison Invitational. To conclude the first month of the fall season, the Spartans are slated to participate in the ITA Central Region Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Friday, Sept. 24-27.