As the leaves start to fall and the days grow shorter, athletes move their game indoors in anticipation of the winter sport season. Both the Keene State College men and women’s basketball teams returned most of their players from last year, and look to build on last season. The men and women’s swimming and diving team lost a few key seniors, but are still returning several all-Americans from last year’s squad. Meanwhile the men and women’s track and field teams look to compete highly in most events and have some possible school record-breakers in their midst. The KSC Men’s Basketball Coach, Rob Colbert said the team has a lot of offensive firepower and no turnover from last year’s team. However, despite being so familiar with each other, Colbert said the team hasn’t moved forward as quickly in the preseason as he had hoped.
“We need the ability to trust everyone,” Colbert said. “And we need to share the ball and not take plays off, that’s what we’re working on.”
To be successful this year, Colbert broke it down very simply. “Guard: one word,” Colbert said. “We need to guard the ball and be stingy defensively.”Last year, the team got huge contributions from its new transfers, Ryan Martin and Rashad Wright. This year, Colbert said he expects some of his younger players to be able to step in and help out.
“Montel Walcott has the potential to step forward as a guy with size who can play in the big spot,” Colbert said. Colbert also pointed to his sole freshman as a player who could play a major role for the Owls this season.
“He’s a very good combo guard,” Colbert said, “he’s competing against sophomores, juniors, and seniors to play, and he’s going to play.” KSC was predicted to finish second in the Little East Conference, according to the annual LEC preseason coaches’ poll, but that’s not good enough for Colbert. He said he expects nothing less than a conference championship out of this group.
The women’s basketball team is in a similar situation with a previously senior-less group, now anchored by its three, now senior, returning captains.
“We have players with a lot of game experience,” Boucher said, “but we also has a influx of new players, who bring a fresh, renewed energy to the team.” The squad features seven freshmen on its roster, including forwards Courtney Roberts and Sarah Phelin, whom Boucher said could have big years. Boucher said he is very happy with this year’s recruiting class.
“Everyone has guards, but we needed forwards, and we got them this year,” Boucher said. Boucher said too few players played too many minutes last year, and hopes these new recruits breath new life into the team. Boucher expressed what he feels the team must do well to succeed on the court this season. “We need to do the big three,” Boucher said. “We have to defend, rebound, and value the ball.” The KSC women’s basketball team was selected to finish fourth in the conference this year by the preseason coaches’ poll. Another team experience an increase to its depth is the women’s swimming and diving team.
“The women’s team finally has depth,” Fabian said, ”and the depth we have are very solid, very competitive swimmers.”
Swimmers are all the team has however, as the women’s roster does not feature any female divers this year. A knock to the group’s depth however will be the absence of all-American and last year’s LEC swimmer of the year, Kaila Umbarger, from this year’s team. Fabian said not having any divers could really hurt the team, especially when they attempt to compete for the New England championships.
He said where other teams will be getting those points, KSC will be hard pressed to make that up in the pool. Fabian said the men’s team is a much smaller group, but is returning several all-Americans, including last year’s freshman sensation, Drew Ledwith. Fabian almost didn’t want to say how well Ledwith could potentially do again this year.
“I almost don’t want to say, but I feel he is already significantly faster than last year,” Fabian said. Fabian said the key to the Owls’ success this year is simply staying healthy. He said the team also has to build on the finesse they’ve built up so far this year over winter break, and work hard when the team goes to train in Florida in the spring. Fabian said he would like to see another women’s relay team get to nationals this season, despite Umbarger’s absence, in addition to a return trip by KSC’s top swimmers and relay teams.
To round out the winter sports teams, the men and women’s track and field team look to have several athletes with the potential to rewrite some of the KSC record book. Last year there was talk about the construction of the Expo Center, which would finally give KSC its own indoor track facility. Due to recent budget cuts however, the project was scrapped. Men and Women’s Track and Field Head Coach, Peter Thomas said he was upset when the plans fell through, especially how it hurt the program. Nonetheless, the Owls have another facility-less season ahead of them, which could potentially feature one of KSC’s strongest teams to date.
“The women should be good in all middle and long distance events, from the 500 [meter] to the 5k,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the team is solid in every event, except short sprints, and said this could be one of the strongest women teams KSC has had.
“The women are good in many areas,” Thomas said, “but the men’s talent is a bit more scattered.” Thomas said the men’s team is not quite as strong, but expects Kevin Hoyt and the cross-country runners to do well in distance events, as well as a few good jumpers and throwers here and there. He said the men’s team had a significantly larger turnover, and lost a lot of athletes from last year.
“The cross-country team had six seniors last year, and they all ran track,” Thomas said. “And we lost Bryan Kolacz, who is one of the best throwers in DIII history let alone Keene, and we won’t replace him, also Dante Hill is a good thrower, but had to get surgery.” As far as school records are concerned, Thomas said a few of them could be in jeopardy. “We had six runners competing for the women’s distance medley relay team, but whoever is on that could break the record,” Thomas said. “Also the women’s 4×4 [400 meter relay] team could, Paige [Mills] in any middle distance event, or … O’Brian in hurdles or long jump.” Thomas said as well that it is throwing coach, John Napolitano’s goal to set several records in throwing this season as well.