This year in Spartan sports

Peter Cooke and Shinichi Inoue

The past year was marked with seasons of record breaking performances all across the athletic spectrum. The men’s soccer team woke up and became a juggernaut under All-American striker Vinny Bell. Bell shattered the program record for goals by 11. The men’s counterparts on the pitch may not have claimed a UAA Championship, but the women were more than happy to punch their tickets to the NCAA Championship where both teams hosted the first weekend. The Veale Natatorium played host to 13 top 25 teams when the swimming and diving championship came to Cleveland. The men tied their best ever conference finish by placing third. On land, seniors Matt Jurcak and Erin Hollinger let remarkable performances do the talking as they each earned All-American laurels, and the year is not even over for either of them as they prepare for the outdoor track championships. Football bounced back to finish with a 9-1 record for its fourth UAA championship in five years. Softball and women’s tennis improved immensely with the addition of new freshmen cores.

All in all, the 2011-2012 year in athletics for Case Western Reserve University was one of the best of all-time. The year may not have had the multitude of national champions as it has in the past but the Spartans have proven that not only do each of their squads have depth in their respective sports, but they have quality across the board in every sport. The performances in the fall and winter gave the Spartans 219.50 points in the Learfield Directors Cup standings, the award given to the best overall Division III sports program. The Spartans are currently No. 43 in the nation, whereas last year they did not even crack the top 100. It was a great year for the Spartans and we can’t wait to see what next year has in store.


1. Records! All-Americans! UAA Champions!

The 2011 Spartan men’s soccer squad reached new heights. Case posted an overall record of 15-5 on the season with a dominating 7-1 record at home. In their first eight games of the season, the Spartans only lost a tight 3-2 match to Baldwin-Wallace. Senior forward Bell once again led the team in all statistical categories. The two-time reigning UAA Most Valuable Player finished the 2011 campaign with league-best and program records of 20 goals, 10 assists, 50 points, and 7 game-winning goals. Freshman Patrick O’Day quickly proved himself and had a brilliant first season. The forward was second in goals (11), assists (9), and points (31). The biggest win for the team came on a 6-1 victory over Westminster as six different Spartans found the back of the net. The Spartans made it into the second round of the NCAA Tournament after shutting out DePauw 3-0. However, that was it for the team as they were unable to break through against Ohio Northern.

Bell was nominated for first-team All-UAA for the third years in a row. The forward also won his first All-American First Team award. Senior defender Niro Wimalasena was named to the Capital One Academic Men’s Soccer Team.

2. Welcome to the playoffs!

The women’s soccer completed its season with the best record in the past five seasons. The team went 13-4-3 on the season including an impressive 8-3-2 record at home. One of the

new driving forces behind the team’s success was junior midfielder Kendra Simmons, who led the team

in goals (7), assists (4), and points (18). The Ohio native also scored a team-leading five game-winners. Simmons’ success helped her add a prized possession to her trophy case as she was selected to

the 2011 NSCAA/Continental Tire Division III Women’s Soccer All-American Team. This honor made her only the third All-American recipient in the program’s history behind Spartan Club Hall of Famer

Elizabeth Biegelsen (1985 First Team, 1986 Honorable Mention) and 1992 third-team All-American Sue Waniewski. Another major award winner was junior defender Kristina Vaci, who was named to NSCAA first team All-Great Lakes Region and All-UAA. The No. 19 nationally-ranked Spartans ended the season with school records for wins and shutouts (11). The team earned the program’s first-ever national ranking in mid-October and reached the NCAA Championship Tournament for the first time in program history.


3. Milliken and Wylam repeat as men tie program best third in UAA

Second year head coach Doug Milliken and assistant Emily Wylam claimed their second straight UAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Coaching Staff of the Year awards as the men’s swimming and diving team swam to a program best third place finish. The UAA Championship was hosted by Case in the Veale Natatorium where the men earned a handful of top three finishes and NCAA B-Cuts. While Emory University won the meet for the twelfth straight year, the Case men were in close contention for second place, finishing 43.5 points behind the University of Chicago. In addition to repeating as champions of the Wooster Invitational in December, the men’s swimming team moved up the national rankings throughout the season, hitting the No. 14 spot by the end of the year. While the team wasn’t able to send any athletes to the NCAA Championship in Indianapolis, the team has made enormous strides in the first two years under Milliken and Wylam and a trip to the national championship has never been closer.


4. They’re back. Football claims fourth UAA title in five years

The Spartans went 9-1 in the 2011 season, with its lone defeat coming from a 17-7 loss to Rochester in the first home game. The 9-1 record also won Case its fourth UAA title in the last five seasons. The biggest victory came on Homecoming Day when Case defeated Hiram 34-7, as junior quarterback Erik Olson completed 17 of his 27 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. The Spartans also proved they could win on the road, as they went 6-0 away from Case Field and ended their season on an eight game winning streak. Despite the stellar performance, the Spartans were denied an at-large bid for the NCAA playoffs. Twenty-five Spartans were named to the 2011 All-UAA team – a league-high 11 Spartans were tabbed first-team, including seven defensive players. Head Coach Greg Debeljak and his staff were also awarded. The UAA Coaching Staff of the Year award was the fourth for Debeljak and company, who have led the Spartans to an overall record of 48-6 in the last five seasons.


5. Fresh blood propels Spartans on the diamond

Junior center fielder Paul Pakan transferred from George Washington University to Case this season. The Ohio native quickly made his return noticed. In 41 games, Pakan is batting .325 while leading the team in hits (52) and home runs (7). He has helped the Spartans to a 26-14-1 record heading into the final doubleheader series of the season. On Feb. 27, Pakan was selected as the UAA Hitter of the Week. He batted .615 with six runs scored, five RBIs, five doubles, and three walks during the opening weekend. Junior lefty Jarrett Gish returns to the mound after missing the entire 2011 season due to injury. In 11 appearances, Gish has gone 6-2 and posted a 3.60 ERA. He also leads the team in innings pitched (65.0) and strikeouts (57). On April 3, Gish was tabbed the UAA Pitcher of the Week after going 2-0 and tossing 16 scoreless innings as he pitched back-to-back eight-inning scoreless gems. After a mediocre start, the Spartans have gone 10-4-1 in their last 15 games.


6. Women’s tennis flourishes with Erika Lim

The women’s tennis program took a major step forward this season. Junior Erika Lim earned the best finish in the program history by advancing to the finals of the 2011 United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region Championship. The California native, who advanced to the finals with an easy win in the semifinals, squared off with No. 1 seed Kendra Higgins of the University of Chicago. Lim entered the Championship as the No. 6 seed in the draw, opened play with three straight-set victories against Mary Faller of St. Mary’s College, Lilianna Broussalian of Denison University, and Theresa Petraskova of Washington University. Lim ended the season with an overall record of 21-8 and her sister, Alexandra, finished the season with an 18-6 record. Three other players also reached the 17-win plateau as Marianne Bonnan (17-10), Bianca Patel (17-8), and Kathleen Evers (17-7) all put together solid seasons. Lim also topped her personal best in win totals.

7. All-Americans bloom at indoor track and field championships

A pair of seniors on the Case track and field team have been having their greatest seasons ever as they round out their careers as Spartans. Hurdler Matt Jurcak earned his first ever All-American honors with a fifth place finish in the 60-meter hurdles. Jurcak ran a season-best time of 8.14 seconds at the NCAA Championship in Grinnell, Iowa. Not satisfied after his All-American finish, Jurcak also set a stadium record at Virginia Military Institute’s Read Memorial Track at Foster Stadium in the 110-meter hurdle. Jurcak also posted a top five time in the nation. Jumper Erin Hollinger finished a career high third place at the national championship, earning her third career high jump All-American laurels. Hollinger reached a height of five feet, five inches on her first attempt at that height, winning the tiebreaker over seven other jumpers. Hollinger also won three straight UAA Athlete of the Week awards as she finished sixth behind five Division I jumpers at the University of South Florida Invitational, where she hit five feet, six inches.


8. Softball finds the missing pieces on way to historic season

Second year head coach Josie Henry was confident that with an experienced pitching staff, the Spartan softball team would make enormous strides towards contention in the UAA. The 2012 season brought a three-woman pitching staff and an ace in Rebecca Taylor. Taylor made an immediate impact on the mound, instilling fear in the hearts of imposing batters. Taylor’s first month as a collegiate athlete saw her earn three UAA Pitcher of the Month awards in four weeks. In addition to the team winning its first conference games in three years, the Spartans managed to win a trio of games at the UAA Championship, including a sweep of nationally ranked Washington University. With Henry on the mound, the Spartans have already reached 23 victories, clinching a winning season and tying the team’s third best season of all time. But with two more games yet to play, the sun seems to be rising on the softball squad.


9. Spartans lose a legend in Del Rosa

The Case athletics family lost one of its most tenured and beloved figures this season. Wrestling coach Robert Del Rosa passed away this past summer due to complications from surgery. Del Rosa, 75, was entering his 50th year as part of the Case athletic department and his 46th year as the head coach of the wrestling team. A legend both within the Case community and the national wrestling scene, Del Rosa crafted four national champions, 37 national qualifiers, 18 All-Americans, and 35 NCAA Scholar All-Americans. He was inducted into the Division III Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1996 and the CWRU Spartan Club Hall of Fame in 2006.


10. Championship February at Case Western Reserve University

2/15-17 – UAA Championship Meet, Swimming and Diving Meet

Sophomore Gus Bailey placed runner-up in the 50-yard freestyle . The No. 14 nationally-ranked Spartans placed third out of seven teams that competed in day one of the 2012 UAA Championship at Veale Natatorium. Bailey also swam the opening leg of Case’s 200 meter free relay team that finished third. The Spartans improved one spot and finished second at the end of second day. Individually, sophomore Sean Nickley placed fourth in the 100 meter breaststroke. In the final event of the night, the 800 meter free relay team placed fourth. At the end of the meet on the third day, the Spartans placed third to match the best finish in school history.


2/11 – UAA Championship Wrestling

The Case wrestling team finished third as hosts of the 2012 UAA Wrestling Championship on Saturday, Feb. 11. The Spartans were 0-2 on the day with a 40-6 defeat at the hands of Chicago and a 43-7 loss versus NYU. Despite the losses, senior heavyweight Cale Harter posted a 2-0 record for the day to earn All-Association status for the first time in his career. Harter defeated Jeff Tyburski of Chicago 5-0, and Rudy De La Cruz of NYU 7-1. The senior captain improved his record to 19-11 for the season. Senior Kyle Weaver also won a 3-2 decision over Chicago’s James Layton and sophomore Brian Snyder won a 12-3 major decision over NYU’s Sam Friedfeld.