Women’s tennis celebrating the 2019 National Championship (photo by Jamie Schwaberow).
After a historic 2017-18 campaign that featured the University’s first national team championship (men’s lacrosse) and a record-setting five-time individual champion in tennis (Eudice Chong ’18), the Cardinals raised the bar once again this past year with arguably the greatest all-around season in Wesleyan Athletics history.
The 2018-19 campaign was highlighted by the women’s tennis team winning the National Championship–becoming the first women’s team ever at Wesleyan to claim a national title–while Ivie Uzamere ’21 of the women’s track and field team won the National Championship in the weight throw at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Wesleyan’s women’s teams led the way this past year with historic performances across the board. The women’s tennis team won its first-ever Little Three Championship and first-ever NESCAC title before reaching the NCAA Tournament and hosting the first, second, and third rounds for the first time in program history. After cruising through the regional rounds and the quarterfinals, the Cardinals upset the top-ranked team in the country, Emory, 5-4 to advance to the championship match. In the Finals, Wesleyan earned another thrilling upset when sophomore Polina Kiseleva prevailed in the final match as the Cardinals defeated the defending national champions and No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 5-4.
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Sophia Antonio ’19 (women’s swimming & diving) was named to the All-Academic Team for the third time and was also on the All-NESCAC squad. (Photo by Ron Wimer)
The Wesleyan University winter athletic teams put a total of 73 student-athletes on the 2019 NESCAC Winter All-Academic Team, while eight Cardinals earned All-Sportsmanship honors as announced by the conference.
In order to earn a spot on the All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a minimum GPA of 3.50 or equivalent on a 4.0 scale. Transfer students are eligible as long as they have completed at least one year of coursework at the institution.
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Wesleyan men’s lacrosse head coach John Raba was inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame Jan. 24 at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. Raba is one of 11 individuals and four teams inducted into the 26th class.
“It is an absolute honor and privilege to be inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame,” Raba said. “I feel blessed to be recognized with some of Middletown’s finest. I feel extremely fortunate to have worked with so many great administrators, coaches, and players throughout the years. Without their support and effort, this honor would not be attainable!”
Raba has been at the helm of the Wesleyan men’s lacrosse program for 22 seasons; in 2018 he led the Cardinals to the University’s first-ever national team championship. Wesleyan had the toughest road to the finals as it defeated No. 8 Cabrini (12-7), No. 2 Tufts (12-11), and No. 1 RIT (19-18) before earning an 8-6 win over perennial powerhouse, No. 3 Salisbury.
In his 22 years, Raba has amassed an incredible 265-113 (.701) record with 19 winning seasons, while competing in arguably the most competitive conference in the country. The three-time NESCAC Coach of the Year became the winningest coach in league history this past season. He was also named the 2017 USILA Division III Coach of the Year and is a six-time New England Coach of the Year.
Raba has coached three national position players of the year and 43 All-Americans during his tenure. His teams have qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament on six occasions and are 14-5 all-time with four semifinal appearances. Additionally, Wesleyan has won two NESCAC Championships and its 23 conference postseason wins are third all-time behind only Tufts (31) and Middlebury (26).
Saadia Naeem ’20 has been a member of the Wesleyan golf team since 2016–17. She will serve as the new women’s golf team’s captain in its inaugural 2019–20 season. (Photos by Steve McLaughlin)
Wesleyan University has announced the addition of women’s golf to its list of varsity sports beginning in the fall of 2019. Women’s golf will become the 30th varsity sport and the 15th for women at Wesleyan, which will become the eighth school in the NESCAC to sponsor the sport. Jon Wilson, a PGA professional at Lyman Orchards, has been named the head coach of the program.
“There have been ongoing discussions for several years about adding women’s golf,” said Director of Athletics Mike Whalen ’83. “We feel now that we have enough interest on the part of our student-athletes that we are confident we can provide a positive experience.”
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The Cardinals claimed the Little Three title for the second year in a row and third all-time. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)
Wesleyan’s volleyball team won its second consecutive Little Three Championship Sept. 30 following a 3-0 sweep over archrival Amherst College on the road. The Cardinals (10-2) remain perfect in NESCAC play with a 5-0 mark. Shortly after, they saw their 10-match win streak come to an end as they fell to non-conference foe Endicott College, 3-1.
With Wesleyan’s win over Williams earlier this year, 3-1, the Cardinals claim the Little Three title for the second year in a row and third all-time.
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Wesleyan has announced its 2018 Athletics Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted Friday, Oct. 19, before Homecoming. The ninth class features James Carrier ’42, Philip Rockwell ’65, Allison Palmer ’95, Jed Hoyer ’96, Flo Stueck ’96, and Herb Kenny.
Wesleyan’s Athletics Hall of Fame (HOF), both online and on campus, is filled with entertaining and enlightening accounts of Cardinals past. It features exciting stories of accomplishment, character, perseverance, courage, loyalty, teamwork, and generosity. The HOF was founded in 2006 through the collaborative work of the Athletics Advisory Council, the Athletic Department, and the Office of University Relations and is on display in the Warren Street lobby of the Freeman Athletic Center.
James Carrier ’42 (Football/Track/Wrestling) – James, who is being inducted posthumously, was a three-sport athlete at Wesleyan who competed in football, track, and wrestling. He excelled in football and was named a team captain during his junior and senior seasons. James started all 24 games during his four-year career and led the football team to a Little Three Championship in 1939. He rushed for 12 career touchdowns, passed for 22, converted 35 points-after-touchdowns (PATs), and scored or contributed to 242 points during his career as a Cardinal. James also starred in the New Year’s Collegiate Football Classic in Mobile, Alabama, in 1942.
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Men’s tennis player Steven Chen ’18 was one of 125 Wesleyan student-athletes named to the NESCAC Spring All-Academic Team. (Photo by Christopher Winslow.)
The Wesleyan University spring athletic teams put a total of 125 student-athletes on the 2018 NESCAC Spring All-Academic Team on May 18, while 11 Cardinals earned All-Sportsmanship Team honors as announced by the conference office May 17.
To be named to the All-Academic Team a student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.40. Transfer students are eligible as long as they have completed at least one year of coursework at the institution.
Tufts ranked first in the conference with 157 athletes on the All-Academic list, while Middlebury checked in at the No. 2 slot with 131. Little Three rivals Wesleyan and Williams were tied for the third-most selections with 125 each, as a total of 1,165 individuals from the 11 NESCAC schools earned this honor.
The women’s crew team led the charge for the Cardinals with 19 honorees, while the women’s track and field program saw 16 players earn the achievement. Men’s lacrosse, men’s crew, and baseball each placed 15 people on the All-Academic unit, while men’s track and field (13), women’s lacrosse (11), golf (8), softball (7), women’s tennis (4), and men’s tennis (2) were all represented.
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The 2017–18 winter season was a historic one for the Wesleyan athletic programs, highlighted by the men’s basketball team winning its first-ever NCAA Tournament game, while Laila Samy ’18 of women’s squash, Caroline Murphy ’20 of women’s swimming and diving, and Isaiah Bellamy ’18 and Devon Carrillo ’17 of wrestling all earned All-American honors.
Here is a team-by-team breakdown:
Men’s basketball team guard Jordan Bonner ’19 earned Second Team All-NESCAC honors and was named NESCAC Player of the Week twice.
Men’s Basketball (22–7, 7–3 NESCAC) * NCAA Second Round / NESCAC Finals
- Set a program record in overall wins (22) and tied a program record with seven NESCAC victories.
Hosted first- and second-round games in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in program history.
Won the Little Three title outright for the second consecutive season and the third straight year overall, with a 3–1 regular-season record against Amherst (2–0) and Williams (1–1).
- Earned a second consecutive NCAA at-large bid and third tournament appearance in the past four years.
Defeated Southern Vermont in the first round, 101–71, for the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
Head Coach Joe Reilly won his 300th career game on Feb. 9, 2018.
- Jordan Bonner ’19 earned Second Team All-NESCAC honors and was named NESCAC Player of the Week twice. He was also a CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team selection.
- Jordan Sears ’18 was named the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year and Austin Hutcherson ’21 was named the Rookie of the Year. Hutcherson was also named the D3hoops.com Northeast Co-Rookie of the Year.
- Wesleyan led the country in total blocks (169) and ranked second in Division III in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 37.2 shooting percentage.
Women’s Basketball (17–8, 5–5 NESCAC) * NESCAC Semifinals
- After going 7–15 overall a year ago, the Cardinals turned things around in 2017–18 and finished with a 17–8 overall mark and 5–5 NESCAC record to earn the No. 5 seed in the NESCAC Tournament.
- Defeated fourth-seeded Middlebury on the road in the quarterfinals, 63–62, before falling to top-seeded and eventual national champion Amherst in the semifinals.
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Laila Samy ’18 concludes her collegiate career in dual-match play with an incredible 83-1 overall record. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)
Laila Samy ’18 highlighted the day for the Wesleyan women’s squash team as she was named the 2018 Betty Richey Award winner Feb. 18 at Harvard. The award is the most prestigious annual honor bestowed by the College Squash Association (CSA). With another win on Feb. 18, Samy concluded her dual-match season with a perfect 24-0 record; however, the 21st-ranked Cardinals lost to 18th-ranked Tufts, 7-2, to finish fourth in the Walker Cup “C” Division of the CSA National Team Championships.
The Betty Richey Award is given to the women’s college squash player who best exemplifies the ideals of squash in her love and devotion to the game, her strong sense of fairness, and her excellence of play and leadership. The winner is determined by a vote of both coaches and players—each varsity team casts one coach and one team vote.
Laila Samy ’18
The senior concludes her collegiate career in dual-match play with an incredible 83-1 overall record. She is a three-time First Team All-American and was named the 2017 NESCAC Player of the Year. She will have her eyes set on an individual national title when she competes at the CSA Individual Championships March 2-4 at George Washington University.
“Laila is at heart a team player and as a coach I could not have asked for more in Laila’s passion towards her teammates succeeding on and off the court. I consider her as an extension of the coaching staff and she has always gone above and beyond to help her teammates improve,” said head coach Shona Kerr. “Laila is well-liked and respected by other coaches, officials and players on other teams. She has grown as a player and as a person over her college career and will go on to be a great ambassador for college squash as she looks to pursue a career in the sport.”
Wesleyan Athletics Giving Days (WAGD) is a competitive fundraising initiative bringing together donors and volunteers in support of Wesleyan Athletics. For a week, athletic teams compete for the greatest percentage of donor participation for their sport. At the end of the week, the highest scoring teams—one men’s and one women’s—each win $5,000 for their most critical needs.
The program runs Feb. 21–28, 2018. Donors making a gift online or over the phone at 860-685-2110 increase their team’s overall participation percentage, moving them up the leaderboard. The WAGD website will be updated each day.
In addition to the winning men’s and women’s teams scoring $5,000 for their individual sport, if the number of participating donors exceeds 1,500, an extra $5,000 will be unlocked for Sports Medicine enhancements.
“Sports medicine is an essential part of the overall athletic experience for all Cardinal student-athletes, said Director of Athletics Mike Whalen. “Strengthening the Athletic Injury Care program to meet the needs of our athletes is one of many non-sport-specific reinvestment opportunities planned for Wesleyan Athletics.”
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(By Karl Ortegon ’18)
Gretchen Millspaugh Cooney ’83, who played field hockey and swam at Wesleyan in the late ’70s and early ’80s, recently returned home to Philadelphia after competing at the Ironman World Championships in Hawai’i. The race is synonymous with a super triathlon: swim 2.4 miles, hop on your bike and cycle through 112 miles of terrain, and finish it off with a 26.2-mile marathon. No breaks.
For the World Championships, one can only compete by first racing in a qualifying Ironman prior, and going fast enough at the qualifier to secure one of a few slots designated for one’s age group and gender. Cooney claimed her spot at the Ironman Maryland in 2016 to punch her ticket to Kona for this fall’s World Championship.
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The Wesleyan University volleyball team won its first Little Three title since 1992 on Sept. 30, as it swept arch rival Amherst College by scores of 25-15, 25-16, 25-14. Later in the day, the Cardinals defeated Stevens Institute of Technology in four sets (25-18, 30-32, 25-10, 25-23) to conclude the doubleheader sweep.
The Little Three title is just Wesleyan’s second in program history. Additionally, the win over the Mammoths is the program’s first since 2008, and it’s the Cardinals first sweep against Amherst in exactly 12 years to this day.
“It was great to win the Little Three Championship and meet another goal for the season,” said head coach Ben Somera. “Our execution in the Amherst match was the best it’s been all year, and we were solid in every phase of the game. It’s not easy to play well for a sustained period of time against two quality opponents. At times our focus and intention left us, but we were able to rebound and regain our form.”
Outside hitter Harper Graves ’21 was named the NESCAC Player of the Week for her stellar play during a 3-0 stretch for the Cardinals. In the two NESCAC victories, Graves averaged a .423 hitting percentage. Graves has played a huge factor in the team’s early success, as she ranks third on the squad with 2.50 kills per set.
Wesleyan continues to shine early in the 2017 season and is now 12-1 overall and a perfect 5-0 in the NESCAC. The Cardinals face off against Western Connecticut State on Oct. 5 in Danbury, Conn.
Read more details about the two matched in this Wesleyan Athletics article.