Justin Tasch: It has been an interesting semester for Binghamton University athletics. There were some standout team performances, as well as individual performances. Which team do you think had the best season so far?
Justin Mathew: Despite what happened, I’d have to say volleyball. It was dominant in conference and just bumped into a single team it couldn’t quite figure out. The team even went on the road and topped rival Albany, who it was never able to beat in the past.
Tasch: I agree. Volleyball was a conference championship-caliber team with great senior leaders in Michelle McDonough and Anna Lejina. Volleyball impressed me the most.
Mathew: Well that begs the question, who disappointed?
Tasch: The most disappointing team to me was women’s soccer. The team was expected to compete for a conference championship after making the finals last season, but missed out on the playoffs altogether this season. The team had great contributions from Sarah Furminger and rookie Kaitlyn Cook, but their stars from last season, Jamie Holliday and Emily Pape, didn’t quite reproduce their success from 2009.
Mathew: I’m inclined to agree. They just couldn’t put the ball in the net. But if we’re talking about biggest heartbreak, it’s really between two choices: men’s soccer and volleyball.
Tasch: Certainly a tough call. Volleyball just couldn’t match up with UMBC this season, but to me men’s soccer had the bigger heartbreak. The manner in which the team lost its playoff game was devastating, especially on its home field against a team it had beaten a week before.
Mathew: I’ve got to say, I’m still haunted by the image of that ball going off Kyle Manscuk’s head and past Chris Hayen. Of course, I’m sure Manscuk’s having those same nightmares. What an awful way to go out.
Tasch: Indeed it was, but Manscuk had a great season, one of the better individual seasons this semester out of any Bearcat. He was named first-team All-Conference. Which individual do you think had the best season this fall?
Mathew: Now that’s a tough call, a lot of people had good seasons. Jake Katz is always underrated, there’s Manscuk’s like you mentioned, Erik van Ingen was very nearly All-American. I’m going with the upset pick in Julie Chambers. She didn’t get the accolades that her teammates got, but for her to step into the setter position all of a sudden because of Lindsey Mueller’s injury and then lead the conference in assists, that’s just clutch.
Tasch: A great choice, Chambers definitely deserved All-Conference honors. However, I’m going to go with Jake Katz. Katz had an outstanding fall campaign, winning the Cornell Invitational after shooting a 69 in the final round. He also finished in the top three in four other tournaments, and won four consecutive America Sky Men’s Golf Conference Golfer of the Week awards. He’s ranked in the top 100 in the nation individually.
Mathew: Oh, without a doubt he’s deserving. I mean, even if we went with Sven Vloedgraven I think it would be a solid choice. But let’s look at it from this perspective: At this point last year, the Bearcats had two conference titles. This year, none. Was last year a fluke, or is this an off year?
Tasch: Last year was no fluke. As we’ve already touched upon, volleyball had a great chance to repeat this year, but just couldn’t overcome one opponent. Men’s cross country would have repeated as champions if van Ingen had been able to finish the race. I wouldn’t describe 2010 as an off year, it was rather a series of unfortunate events. It’s also important to note how competitive the America East has become.
Mathew: It’s a fair point. It’s like the reason Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young: bad win-loss, but strong peripherals. Here we’re talking about a lot of individual successes, plus team successes that just didn’t translate. There’s volleyball and cross country, like you mentioned, plus the own-goal from men’s soccer. It’s unfortunate that the titles didn’t come with it, because that’s what you play for, but that’s not to say that teams haven’t been successful. Remember, volleyball was the No. 4 seed last year, and this year they moved up to No. 2. So one final question: what should we expect from this point on?
Tasch: There’s a lot to look forward to. The wrestling team is on the cusp of the top 25 in the country. Nate Schiedel is off to a fantastic start and it’ll be interesting to see how he finishes. I think both basketball teams will be competitive, with the women pushing for a conference title. Baseball, softball, and track and field should all be in for big seasons as well.
Mathew: Don’t forget the nationally ranked men’s tennis team, the women’s tennis team that’s received national attention, not to mention that swim and dive are off to hot starts. But make sure you appreciate the senior Bearcats. McDonough, Lejina, Katz, Vloedgraven, Greer Wright, van Ingen, Corey Taylor — they’re all outgoing seniors. That’s an All-Star cast right there.
Tasch: Absolutely. Should be a fun spring semester to watch. Good luck to all of the Bearcats.