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ATHLETICS

Pfeiffer Athletics Year in Review: Titles, Tragedy and Triumphs Sum Up 2011-2012

MISENHEIMER, N.C. – Seven months ago, Pfeiffer University athletics began the incredible season-long journey of 356 sporting events, 155 at home, in just 242 days that came to a close on April 29th.  The year was filled with plenty of emotion covering the highs of a Conference Carolinas tournament and regular season title down to the lowest of lows with a rare, unwanted case of unfortunate tragedy. Let’s now look back with our annual Pfeiffer Year in Review.

With more total events (up 43 from 2010-2011), more at home (up 13), we look back to the featured 342 hours of time spent playing the games at home, equivalent to 14 days of round the clock action, not including the practices, conditioning, time spent the athletic training room and traveling to/from away games. As we remember the times, we’ll recap each sport season-by-season and try to rank them in our order of finish.

FALL

To begin the fall sports, we’ll start with Men and Women’s Cross Country as both teams had very successful years that included knocking the dust off some records in the NCAA II Regional Meet. Kaitlyn Mullis again led the Lady Falcons this season as the Pfeiffer women took top honors at the Hagan Stone Classic, just a week after finishing in the runners-up spot at the Bulldog Stampede. In her last collegiate race at regionals, Mullis set a new personal-best time of 24:12 while Vlada Mouravieva finished with the fastest 6k (just over 3.7 miles) time in more than eight years for Pfeiffer at 24:18. As a team, the Lady Falcons averaged just over 25 minutes which turned out to be over a minute faster than the previous school mark.

On the men’s side, Will Oliver guided the Falcons to a pair of top-five finishes, including second at Winston-Salem State, as five of the seven meets resulted in top-10 days for the guys. Oliver saved his best effort for the season-ending region race in Charlotte posting a personal and school-record time of 34:08 on the 10k (6.2 miles) course. The Falcons put a bow on the season averaging a 36-minute race which became the second-fastest in almost a decade.

Women’s Soccer started the year’s events with a 1-0 loss to Newberry in the match’s final minutes leading to an 0-4 start and eventual 9-10-1 overall record despite a plus mark in league play at 7-4-1. The first four losses may look bad to the normal eye, but came against Peach Belt power UNC-Pembroke (4-0), conference rival Belmont Abbey (1-0) and a 2-1 overtime loss at Lenoir-Rhyne, ranked #7 nationally at the time. The trip to Hickory would be the first of four matches ending up in extra time during the season. The Lady Falcons would enter the conference tournament as a #7 seed and head to Mount Olive. Playing in a downpour with temperatures in the low 50’s, Hannah Hill warmed things up quickly with a goal in the 60th minute to provide the game-winner in a 1-0 victory to eliminate the eastern division champs. Hill finished second on the team with five goals and two assists while senior Alyssa Wombwell scored 10 with six assists. Wombwell leaves Pfeiffer as the all-time goal scorer and points leader in school history with 39 career goals en route to 94 points.

We now move inside to review Women’s Volleyball after a 10-15 season going 7-10 in league play. Things started very well for the Lady Falcons beginning with a 3-0 mark at the Queens Invitational with wins over Virginia Union, St. Augustine’s and Winston-Salem State. Just as quickly as it began, it seemed to end as the Lady Falcons dropped five-straight before coming back with three-straight wins. That would turn out to be a sign to sum up the entire year for Pfeiffer athletics in general (more on that later). Pfeiffer volleyball did pick up three-straight wins at home over Barton (3-1), Mount Olive (3-2) and Coker (3-2) entering the year end tournament as the third seed from the east falling at Erskine 3-0 as the two seed from the west. Freshman Cate Glendenning led the Lady Falcons in assists (759), aces (37) and digs (200). Fellow rookie Kelly Lancellot led the blocking department with 58 total blocks including 17 solo.

Wrapping up the fall slate was Men’s Soccer struggling through a rough 3-13-1 campaign going 2-8-1 in conference play. Pfeiffer dropped their first two contests of the season taking on national powers USC-Aiken and Clayton State in Georgia. After rebounding for a 2-1 home-opening victory over Francis Marion things turned south in the form of an eight-game skid with seven of those coming by two goals or less. By the time the Falcons snapped out of it with a 2-1 win over St. Andrews, their playoff fate had already been sealed becoming the first of four Pfeiffer teams on the year to not qualify for the conference tournament. Fahret Salihovic led statistically with five of the team’s 17 goals on the year while another 10 came from freshman. 

WINTER

We crank up the colder portion of the year with Men and Women’s Swimming and their 11-meet season. Both teams started the year with six-straight top-five finishes adding three more in December and January meets. Team wins came over Milligan in October and Mars Hill in January while the men also took first over Lenoir-Rhyne just before Thanksgiving. At the Bluegrass Mountain Conference meet (since Conference Carolinas doesn’t have enough schools with swimming to qualify as a conference sport), a half-dozen school records fell beginning with the first night’s 200 freestyle relay teams for both the men and women. The Falcon men also added a new record in the 400 medley relay before Elijah Bohon broke two individual records in the 100 and 200 backstrokes.

Next, we move on to the hardwood as we start with Women’s Basketball just by flipping a coin and seeing them pick up one more win than the men. Basketball was a bit of a mystery season for both sides with the Lady Falcons getting the ultimate shaft due to the unlucky fact of unbalanced divisions with St. Andrews now out of the mix. The top five teams in the west division made the tournament while just three from the highly-competitive east division moved on. Despite having a tremendously better record than the fifth-seeded team out of the west, the what-would-have-been fourth-seeded Lady Falcons were left out of the playoff picture.

Let’s rewind the women to the night of November 3rd, 2011, up the road at a historic place known as Cameron Indoor Stadium. The year began with an immediate experience that no one will soon forget taking on the Blue Devils in an exhibition in Durham. Jodie Lemons would begin her collegiate career hitting the first two Pfeiffer shots, both from behind the arc, en route to a team-high 12 points. The real season began with a heartbreaking 84-82 overtime loss at Lenoir-Rhyne before the first win came just four days later in a 74-65 victory over Anderson. The Lady Falcons, behind Brittany Cox who racked up every imaginable postseason award including national All-American (but not, ironically, the conference’s player of the year award), started the conference season 3-1 before a four-game slide pushed the Lady Falcons back a bit before rebounding for three-straight wins over Belmont Abbey, St. Andrews and Converse. The Lady Falcons would eventually be eliminated with a seven-point loss at Barton during the final week of the regular season.

Men’s Basketball came down to the 26th and final game of the regular season at home against Coker. With a winner-take-all scenario, as in the winner moves on to the conference tournament, loser ends their season, the Falcons found themselves stuck with option #2 after an 88-74 loss to Coker to complete their season 12-14. Backing up to the season-opener, the year ahead looked exciting with a thrilling overtime and comeback victory over Catawba 95-89 in the Highway 52 Shootout (will be hosted by Pfeiffer in November 2012). The non-conference part of the season played out just about as well as anyone could have wanted with the four losses coming at Livingstone (revenge was taken later in the season), at Barry, at Lincoln (PA) and at home to Apprentice School. League play started with two quick wins over St. Andrews and Mount Olive with KC Anuna hitting a jumper as time expired in overtime to knock off the Trojans. The tough league schedule threw up its first red flag to the Falcons with a rare road loss at Lees-McRae before adding losses at Queens and at home to Limestone. The Falcons certainly had to battle night in, night out with the rough league schedule eventually falling to Coker on the season’s final night. Danny Smith led the Falcons averaging just under 19 points per game.

SPRING

We now enter the most hated part of the year for most everyone in athletics. Why, you ask? Because as we transition into the spring, Pfeiffer will have 13 of our 18 teams overlapping in regular season play between the end of winter and beginning of spring. This also includes the sports of baseball and softball who averaged 65 hours (softball) of just pure game time competition and 57 hours (baseball) accounting for just two of the 13 teams in action.

Let’s begin the spring on the most pleasant note of the year in Men’s Volleyball. Undoubtedly, the Falcons put together the best season of the year with a regular season and tournament championship in just their third year of competition, first under new head coach Steve Bintz. After falling to Ball State in the season-opener at home (the first true division one school to visit Misenheimer in decades), the Falcons reeled off a school-record 11-straight wins that took them through the entire month of February. Just four games into the season, the Falcons hit their first moment of championship realization coming back from down 0-2 to knock off the two-time defending champs on their home court at Mount Olive. The rest as they say is history! The Falcons just steamrolled through Conference Carolinas play winning the regular season title before gaining the #1 seed and home-court advantage through the playoffs. In addition to the league’s Coach of the Year and Player of the Year honors going to Quentin Moore, Pfeiffer annihilated the record books tying or breaking a massive 20 records during the year. A part of that record-book assault came with a 21-6 overall record going 9-1 in league play.

Following right on the heels of Men’s Volleyball, Men’s Lacrosse came up with their own record-breaking season with 12 wins and another trip to the conference tournament championship match. The promising year began with a 9-1 win over league-newcomer Coker before a quick pair of stumbles against Lake Erie and Catawba here at home. Later in the year, the Falcons would get back on track with six-straight win and nine victories in 10 attempts heading into a showdown with the defending national champs and current #1 team Mercyhurst. The Falcons would trail by one entering the fourth quarter having their chances, but came up just short to the nation’s top team 8-6. A week later, Pfeiffer traveled down to Limestone to take on the Saints. Trying to create a new power at the top of the conference standings, the Falcons saw a healthy lead disappear late before Limestone claimed an eventual 8-7 overtime victory over the Falcons (chalk this one up in the heartbreaker category as well). After coming back to defeat Queens in OT during the tournament semifinals, the Falcons again came so close against Limestone falling 9-5 in the championship match. James Shepherd led the way with 47 goals and 14 assists on the year while Luke Gillespie was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year.

We’ll stay outside for the remainder of our review heading out on the links with Women’s Golf. Chelsea Demers and Steph Peareth led the Lady Falcons all season long that included a pair of wins in the Pfeiffer Intercollegiate and head-to-head matchup with West Chester. The year saw five top-five finishes including the yearend conference tournament. Shortened to two rounds after a rain out on Sunday, Peareth finished tied for sixth overall as the Lady Falcons concluded third in the ten-team shootout. Demers and Peareth (also on the all-tournament team) landed on the conference’s first team while Lauren Lyle topped the third team.

For Men’s Golf, Luiz Jacintho and the Falcons topped the record books in just their second tournament of the year winning the Pfeiffer Intercollegiate. Jacintho fired a second round 65 to set the single round record on his way to the two-day total record of 138. Jacintho fired a 73 in round one out at Badin before his final round 65. The Falcons took home seven top-five finishes over the 2011-2012 season including another victory in the Irish Creek Intercollegiate held in Kannapolis. Troy Bulmer landed on the conference’s second team for his yearly efforts while Tyson Louth and Michael Blair ended up as third teamers.

Women’s Lacrosse suffered through a rare season finishing 2012 with a 9-8 record and first-round tournament loss to Limestone in the conference’s semifinals. The Lady Falcons did take on some of the nation’s best teams during the season and suffered four losses by just a single goal which could easily turn 9-8 into 13-4. Highlight victories came in the form of 15-13 over #12 Gannon and 13-10 on senior day against #12 Florida Southern. Liz Melesh led the way with 48 goals on the season, finishing just two ahead of teammate Shannon Bonnel. Bad luck would strike the Lady Falcons during their spring break trip to Florida as senior Natalie Marvin went down with a season-ending injury that cut a collegiate career too short after just nine games. Katherine Athens would also lead the way for Pfeiffer setting a school-record for caused turnovers with 41 in 2012.

We now move onto the diamond (the bigger one) with Baseball. The Falcons finished at an even 25-25 overall, 16-11 in league play, getting swept out of the conference tournament with losses to King and Mount Olive. Every team had its issues over the course of a season and for the Falcon baseball team, that became the relief pitching. The Falcons certainly had the bats to put up some runs on their side of the board, but pitching and defense would let the Falcons down in a handful of games that seemed to all come at the wrong time like most things in life. Ironically, one of the bright spots of the season came from the department of, you guessed it, pitching! Early in the season, southpaw Keith Little took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Tusculum, who was unbeaten and ranked #12 nationally at the time, before surrendering the only Pioneers hit of the game with one out, coming two outs shy of baseball greatness. Freshman sensation Craig Bolton would nail down the final two outs for Little in one of the exciting home games of the year (right up there with Bryan Tuttle’s shutting down of Mount Olive in April).

Led by conference Player of the Year Alena Krutkina, Women’s Tennis rebounded from a somewhat slow start to 2012 to make the league tournament as the seventh-seed. Krutkina would win every conference singles match and will go down as one of the best women’s tennis players to call Pfeiffer home. Krutkina sealed the deal with victories over nationally and region-ranked Erskine here at home back on March 28th. Freshman Taylor Lindsay made an immediate impact in his first year playing at #2 singles and #1 doubles with Krutkina all year, eventually being named to the conference’s third team. Men’s Tennis suffered one of those seasons that just come around every once in a while where nothing seems to go right. Much like men’s basketball, men’s tennis needed to win their final match at home, this one vs. Erskine, to clinch the tournament’s final berth. For the second time this season, the Falcons would be denied a playoff berth on the regular season’s final day in the village with a 6-3 here to Erskine.

We saved Softball for last trying to avoid remembering the sudden tragedy suffered back on March 19th. The first half of the season had its ups and downs but things looked to turn upward for good after a successful 4-1 spring break trip to Florida. Not only would softball lives change forever on the ensuing Monday the 19th, but those in the Pfeiffer community and athletics world would be rocked by the news of assistant coach Ray Harrington passing. Most everyone knew of “Coach Ray” from either softball, athletics, in the classroom or even during the lunch hour in the cafeteria. He was and still is one of the most loved coaches, co-workers and person that you could ask for. Right up there with men’s volleyball championship season, another proud Pfeiffer moment came just a day later when the Lady Falcons honored Coach Ray with a 7-4 game two victory over Erskine after nearly gaining a sweep with an extra-inning loss in game one.  With Coach Ray’s initial on the field before every home game, the Lady Falcons would struggle their way through the rest of a turbulent 2012 season just missing the conference tournament.

Late in the year, everyone pondered why this year “seemed longer” and/or “seemed more taxing” than year’s past until we realized, it really was. The Athletic Training department is by far the hardest working crew at Pfeiffer manning every athlete, practice, workout, conditioning session and game at various hours of the day. Multiply that by, oh say February with 13 teams are in season, and you’ve got the recipe of a lot of sarcasm, fun and “is it May yet?”

Over the course of 242 days and 342 hours of just games equaling two weeks of the year (again, we’re not counting practice, conditioning and workouts, just the actual games) we’re all ready for the summer break. Until the “itch” returns somewhere at the beginning of August, most everyone will enjoy their time off consisting of vacations, weddings and afternoon naps. Until that “itch” returns in a few months, we will conclude with passing along that all 2012-2013 schedules are in the final stages of construction as women’s soccer will again kick off the new year of Pfeiffer Athletics on Friday, August 31st taking on Carson-Newman at the Queens Soccer Classic.

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