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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

General Fall Sports Preview

Field Hockey
Six consecutive PC field hockey seasons have been curtained with a dose of Connecticut Husky vinegar. The first four cases (2002-2005) all pre-arranged season finales where the more potent half of the Battle for Southern New England sent the hapless Friars packing with a decisive shutout. Under a more recent trend, an upgraded PC program –owing largely to rising junior goalkeeper Rachel Chamberlain- has struck up a habit of finishing above .500 and venturing into the Big East playoffs, only to submit to UConn in the conference title game and delete any fantasies of an NCAA tournament excursion.

The 2008 Friars will warm up with seven uninterrupted nonconference games –beginning next weekend with a two-night stay at the Virginia Cavaliers’ invitational- before one change of pace has them beginning their five-game Big East schedule with a stop at Storrs, where they had been scoreless in four preceding visits before last October’s 3-1 falter.

Forecasted to finish in the fourth and final playoff slot this year –behind the regal Huskies, Syracuse, and Louisville - according to last week’s coaches’ poll, PC will need a third Goalkeeper of the Year performance out of Chamberlain and a simple round of offensive upgrades to prove they are indeed the ones to overthrow the four-time defending Big East champions. Much more tormenting than the 1-0 upshot of last year’s conference championship was the disproportionate second-half shooting gallery (attempts: 12-0 UConn).

The Friars will be returning four of their six reigning double-digit point-snatchers (Nellie Poulin, Meghan Holden, Julie Ruggieri, Jessica Lane), but the polls are suddenly putting a little more trust into the Orange and the Redbirds. That said, PC’s new wave rep as a contender is still theirs to set in cement.

Cross Country
All but three of PC’s 14 NCAA-seasoned runners are back for more and many of the dual citizens of Ray Treacy’s cross country and track and field domain are coming into the 2008 autumn season with hopes of building on their latest track milestones.

Four bold-faced names: Danette Doetzel, the reigning Northeast Regional cross-country queen who also made respectable ripples at the 2008 NCAA indoor and outdoor track championships.

Hayden McLaren, who with the since-graduated Max Smith packed a 1-2 PC finish at the Northeast Regional and later earned a passport to the indoor track championships when he ran charged up a sub-4:00 mile in January by a literal split second (final time 3:59.50).

Kate DiCamillo, who accompanied Doetzel to the outdoor track finals earlier this summer and finished second behind the top Friar finisher in five cross-country meets in 2007.

David McCarthy: a track redshirt and the returning Friar with the best showing at nationals (68th place among all individual runners), behind only the proficient graduate Ahmed Haji.

Ideally, the Friars could stand for little else than to avoid another brusque snuff-out on the national platform. Leading up to the NCAAs last season, the PC men never finished worse than eighth in any meets, the women never lower than ninth. Once at the final frontier, though, the Friars succumbed to the bog of thicker national talent. The men finished 27th in a field of 30 institutions, the women 26th out of 31.

So, now ninth-year head coach Margot Royer has may patience worth the while by guiding her spikers to their first winning record (19-12) since her first year on the Divine Campus in 2000. This coming after the 2006 installment of PC volleyball snapped out of a protracted bog of futility through a 14-18 transcript, much better compared to the preceding five seasons of single digit W columns and no fewer than 20 losses per year.

Royer’s expressed next step is reviving the Friars’ Big East membership, which has been lacking since 2002 (coincidentally the most forgettable season in Royer’s reign). The Providence-headquartered conference will again conduct its season with 15 of its established tenants under the volleyball heading, leaving out the still-independent Friars. More patience will be required in the immediate future as Royer and Co. continue with that sidebar priority. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt for the exponential improvement on the floor to persist.

Women’s Tennis
Combined record in team events between the fall and spring sects of last season: 9-10, with a three-game winning streak rounding out their campaign only after a profuse seven-match losing skid. For the fall half of the 2008-09 venture, which is all that has been disclosed for the moment, Providence is slated to double its sparse frequency of one-on-one matches, visiting URI October 1 and bringing in Hartford (September 16), Monmouth (October 4) and Holy Cross (October 8). Other than that, it’s predominantly the same old invitational-saturated agenda –West Point, Fairfield, ITA, New England Championships- plus a day trip to Newport for this year’s ECAC Invitational (September 13).

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