The Mighty Oaks men's and women's cross-country and soccer teams participated in the 2017 Fall USCAA National Championships. The annual tournament, held in Virginia Beach, Virginia features more than20 different USCAA colleges and universities competing in volleyball, soccer and cross-country championships.
The Mighty Oaks cross-country teams both finished second in the Cross Country National Championships. The finish was an improvement over last year's fourth-place finish for the women and fifth place for the men.
Junior Marissa Lathrop ran a fantastic race for ESF, covering the 6k course in 24:03, earning her a fifth-place overall finish, a dramatic improvement from her 15th-place finish in 2016. Lathrop's top five finish qualified her automatically to the USCAA All-American First Team.
Lathrop received lots of scoring help from her teammates with a trio of Mighty Oaks finishing in 14th (Erin Cocca - 25:15), 15th (Erin Cuddihy - 25:17) and 16th (Laura Wengert - 25:21) place overall. Cocca's 14th place finish qualified her for the USCAA All-American Second Team. For junior Cuddihy, her 15th-place finish was an improvement from last year's 23rd-place finish.
Twelve schools and more than 120 runners participated in the race.
For the men, the freshman duo of Mark McClenahan and Tom Keenan paced the Mighty Oaks for a second-place finish. McClenahan and Keenan finished 11th and 12th overall with almost identical times (27:44.46 and 27:44.47). The finish qualified both freshmen for the USCAA All-American Second Team. Junior Ethan Appelgreen placed 16th overall for ESF with a time of 27:51 while freshman Anders Proft finished 18th overall (28:06) in the 8k course. SUNY Delhi was the overall race champion. The race featured 157 runners from 22 schools.
"I am so proud of both teams this year. Early in the season, they bought into what the coaches were asking from them to do. They did the work and were clearly able to see the results. We hope to build from this season, especially knowing how young we are," said Head Cross-Country Coach Mike Melfi.
On the soccer pitch, the ESF women's team came into the USCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed, with an 11-1 overall record and an HVIAC conference championship. The Mighty Oaks looked to advance to the finals once again. The team faced off against Florida College (8-5-1) in the first game of pool play. The Falcons played ESF tight throughout the match, not intimated by ESF's success. A lone goal by senior Lauren Archer at the 75th minute finally gave the Mighty Oaks the advantage they needed to get the win.
In the second game of pool play, ESF faced Cleary University. It looked dreary for ESF as Cleary took a 2-0 lead into halftime. Sophomore Alyssa Hughes finally got ESF on the board at the 77th minute with goal. Sensing a potential comeback, ESF continued to pressure the ball up top, resulting in a tying goal by Archer with only three minutes remaining in the game. One minute later at the 88th minute, senior Anna Bishop scored the game winner off a pass from senior Jessie Smith. ESF went on to win 3-2.
The Mighty Oaks faced another Florida school in the semifinals, the Conquistadors of Florida National University in Hialeah. The Mighty Oaks gained an early advantage with a goal by senior Shannon Gordinier eight minutes into the match. ESF held on to that lead into halftime but freshman Donella Massola got the Conquistadors on the board 10 minutes into the second half. Another goal by Florida National 10 minutes later gave the Conquistadors the lead and eventually the win. The Mighty Oaks ended their season with a 13-3 overall record.
The men's team came into the tournament as a No. 9 seed, receiving an at-large bid. Despite being the HVIAC regular season champions, the squad hobbled into Virginia Beach with a rash of injuries to several starters. To add insult to injury, ESF found itself in a difficult group in pool play.
In the first match, the Mighty Oaks faced No. 4 seed Florida College. The Falcons came into the game with a 12-1 record. Senior Chris Lawrence gave ESF an early lead with a goal six minutes into the game with an assist from sophomore Joseph Kulikowski. The Falcons answered at the 38-minute mark with a goal by Josh Valverde. Florida College forward Groutchov Pierre netted another goal for the Falcons a minute before the halftime break, giving Florida College a 2-1 lead. Five second-half goals by the Falcons overwhelmed the Mighty Oaks (including a hat-trick by Pierre) as ESF fell 7-1.
In the next game of pool play, ESF was defeated by No. 5 seed Dean College, 4-1. Lawrence scored early once again for ESF four minutes into the game off a pass from senior Jean Carlo Barrientos. The Bulldogs answered with three straight goals in the first half to go into halftime with a 3-1 lead. A misplay by the ESF goal keeper gave the Bulldogs another goal in the second half in a match that was very physical and featured four yellow cards and 26 combined fouls. The men's soccer team finished its season with a 12-6-1 overall record.
"It was an excellent season. Both teams won some tremendous games. All the team members, especially the seniors, showed great character and heart to achieve all the success they did. It is something the entire campus community should be very proud of," said Dan Ramin, head coach of both teams.