Graduation forces owls to rebuild

With last year in the athletic history books, coaches and athletes across Keene State College look ahead to this season without their seniors from last year.

The Men’s Basketball team, guided by head coach Rob Colbert, parted ways with six seniors from last year’s roster. The loss of these seniors can be tough, but Colbert understands the process.

“We’re sad to see the seniors go. They were very accomplished seniors—we had nearly 4,500 points graduate. That’s a lot of points to graduate,” Colbert said of his team’s lost offensive production.

With losing such key players comes a need for a strategy to ensure that you maintain success.

Brian Cantore /  Photo Editor

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

“One of the things you have to do is plan four or five years out,” Colbert said. “You look at those skill sets that you have as kids are getting older and things that you’re going to need to replace.”

Colbert explained that there is a bit of an ebb and flow to the way athletes are brought into the program. For example, the basketball team plans on bringing in eight freshmen, a typically large freshmen class.

With that in mind, the team won’t have to reach so far to pick up more freshmen next season. Colbert also believes that sophomores and juniors are crucial to the program moving forward when seniors graduate.

“There’s a very different personality—between a senior and a freshman. It’s not that those two don’t get along, they’re just at different stages of their development in their lives,” Colbert said. “So, you want to have those middle cushion guys, those sophomores and juniors to try and bridge those gaps.” Colbert is not going to change his style for an incoming class, however.

“I think you tinker with the X’s and O’s and the philosophy to bring out the best of what you have,” he said, “but you still have an over-arching core philosophy of how you think the game should be played.”

Field Hockey head coach Amy Watson certainly understands the struggles of replacing seniors.

Last year, the field hockey team had no seniors. This year, they will field seven. She believes to succeed, one must plan ahead.

“You have to make sure you have people lined up to fill in and take [the seniors] places ahead of time,” Watson said.

“For example, this year we have six or seven seniors, so we’re going to graduate a big group —you have to think ahead to start grooming people to take their places.”

In terms of changing her strategy for the team, Watson tends to take an adaptive approach.

“We always try to play based on our personnel, so whatever our strengths are, we try to format our game plan around that.” Watson believes that losing key seniors does take its toll on the team, however.

She said that losing their on and off-field leadership is the hardest part, but the younger players have to be ready to step up.

“You have to hope that [the seniors] have done their job throughout the years representing themselves so that people are ready to assume those same responsibilities,” Watson said.

The coaches are not the only ones who experience this change, however. The student-athletes are hit just as hard as the coaches are.

“It is weird going into the fall, knowing guys that those you got so close to and learned so much from aren’t there anymore,” Shawn Egan said, senior captain of the baseball team.

“They knew how to goof around and have fun, but they know when it’s time to get work done,” he continued. He said that their leadership is the hardest part to replace.

“They realized they can have fun, play baseball and practice and everything got done under one time slot, rather than getting nothing done and fooling around the whole time.”

As someone who has been a member of a team for three years, Egan has seen three completely different teams, in terms of seeing freshmen come and seniors go.

“It kind of makes you worry sometimes, but you always know that people are going to step up because that’s what a good program does.”

Losing seniors is never easy, especially when you have a successful team on hand.

Coach Watson, whose field hockey team went 9-2 in conference games last season, certainly understands that you need to trust your underclassmen when you lose key upperclassmen.

When asked if she thinks that the underclassmen will step up and fill the leadership role, Watson said, “You just have to have faith and hope that they can.”


Ray Waldron can be contacted at

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