For Bona athletics, 2014 was anything but dull

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

There are many words that can be used to describe the year in St. Bonaventure athletics, but one thing’s for sure: there was hardly a dull moment. It was a roller coaster year for the university’s teams, with major victories, heartbreaking losses and abrupt changes.

How did each sport, and the athletic department as a whole, fare in 2014? Let’s take a look back.

One of the grandest days of 2014 for the entire Bonaventure community was Sept. 19, when the university dedicated the Tom and Michelle Marra Athletics Complex, which was followed by the first night soccer game on the new turf. The Marras were honored for their $1 million donation to jump-start the project, which workers labored all summer to complete. In the soccer game, the Bona women put on a show, defeating Binghamton 3-1 in front of 1,248 fans. The day could not have been more beautiful, literally or figuratively. The weather was great and a new era for Bonnies athletics had commenced.

The women’s soccer team couldn’t parlay a successful opening night into a winning season, however. Lauren Hill, Brittany Charles and Abby Maiello were all able to register in the double-digits for points, but the team finished 7-11-1 on the season, with four losses in the last five games, and missed the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Despite a disappointing end to the season, coach Steve Brdarski continues to build, as his first recruiting class paid immediate dividends. Freshman Danielle Vis scored four goals and added an assist in her first season in brown and white, leading to a spot on the conference’s All-Rookie Team.

The men’s soccer team ended the year in transition. After a 1-15 season and 0-8 conference record, coach Mel Mahler stepped down and Canisius assistant Kwame Oduro was hired as the seventh head coach in team history. Oduro’s first task is recruiting, which will be crucial with the team losing 12 seniors to graduation in May.

The Bona baseball team had its struggles in a 12-30 season, but had some incredible offensive performances from big hitters such as Joel Rosencrance. Rosencrance was the offensive leader, with a .354 batting average, five home runs, 26 runs batted in and a .563 slugging percentage. Those numbers were good enough to land him on the A-10 second team, while his work in the classroom garnered him All-Academic honors.

Like the baseball team, the softball team struggled to win games but had a lot of encouraging individual performances. The team was led by superior hitters Emily McDonough, Kelli Rohan and Katie Sinclair. McDonough, currently a junior, was first on the team in batting average (.394), slugging percentage (.468), and on-base percentage (.436). Rohan, a senior, had a .352 average and was first in runs and hits, with 21 and 43 respectively. Sinclair, a senior, compiled a .321 average with a .376 on-base percentage and a team-leading 18 runs batted in. All three of Bona’s “leading ladies” will be on the 2015 squad.

The women’s lacrosse team is one of the most excited groups to have turf for their upcoming season after “home games” in 2014 had to be played at neutral sites due to the unplayable conditions of the old grass field. It was a very unfortunate circumstance for the team, and what followed was a winless season. The girls hope to bounce back in the new year with a fresh start and solid returnees like LeighAnn Stauffer, who scored 32 goals in 2014, and Mikayla Place, who scored 20 and added 14 assists.

The golf season was headlined by a fantastic year on the links for Josh Stauffer. The then-sophomore finished third in the A-10 Championship, holding the lead until the final round. He was just the second Bona golfer to ever record a top-five finish at the Championship.

The men’s and women’s tennis teams have never been a powerhouse, but men’s player Andrew Blair and women’s player Marisa Brossard showed promise. Blair had an overall record of 3-3 on the year, while Brossard went 15-5 and won her last three matches. Both teams are young overall, with plenty of room to grow in the coming years.

Many Bona athletes had strong individual performances this year, but no one dominated their sport more than cross country runner Kerry Caher. Caher, a junior from Clifton Park, New York, won four races this fall and finished fourth at the A-10 Championship, the best finish ever by a Bona runner. What Caher has done in her collegiate career is nothing short of spectacular.

When it comes to best team performance, the Bonaventure men’s swimming and diving team took the crown once again this year, repeating as conference champions and breaking 11 conference records along the way. Sophomore Michael Pilyugin was named Most Outstanding Performer of the Week, while head coach Sean McNamee was named Coach of the Year.

The Bona women’s team finished ninth in the 2014 A-10 Championships, but finished an impressive second out of ten teams in the Pittsburgh Invitational before the Thanksgiving break. Sophomore Tanja Kirmse has emerged as one of the top performers on the team, with impressive finishes in the 500 and 200 yard freestyles at the Pittsburgh meet and an Atlantic 10 Performer of the Week honor on November 4.

Coach Jim Crowley and the Bonaventure women’s team had an emotional 2014. They won 24 games in the 2013-14 season, the most in program history, but they mourned the tragic loss of assistant sports information director Brian Moretti. Moretti died of cardiac arrest two days before the women played their first game of the conference tournament in Richmond. The team played admirably in the wake of Moretti’s death, defeating La Salle 54-42 before falling to Fordham in the tournament semifinals. They earned a bid to the Women’s NIT, where they won their first round game at home against Charlotte before losing in the second round to Bowling Green.

The Bonnies, who have started the 2014-15 season with a 10-3 record, have been led by forwards Katie Healy and Hannah Little as well as guard Nyla Reuter. Healy scored her thousandth point in a win over Georgetown on December 22 and has averaged 13 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the brown and white. Little had a breakout performance last year, nearly averaging a double-double with 10.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Reuter is a knockdown shooter for Bonaventure, with 11.4 points a game this season and a 38.6 percent career mark from three-point land. The best part for Bona fans is that their “Big Three” are all juniors, and will still have one more season in an SBU uniform after this year.

The men’s basketball team had a memorable 2014. They entered the year 10-4 after a decent 2013 non-conference slate, then had a couple big wins in conference play, with a win over the ranked UMass Minutemen at home leading to a court-storming. The win over the Minutemen was the first win over a ranked opponent at the Reilly Center since 2000.

The program also took some time to honor one of the greatest players in its history when Andrew Nicholson’s jersey was retired into the rafters on February 22. The ceremony was a superb one as Nicholson, a man of few words, briefly thanked the crowd and talked about how much the Bona family meant to him.

The Bonnies entered the 2014 A-10 tourney with an average 16-14 record, but led their fans on a memorable ride in Brooklyn. After beating LaSalle, they found themselves in a quarterfinal tilt with the number 18 Saint Louis Billikens. After being down by ten at halftime, they stormed back in the second half, taking the lead on a Matthew Wright three-point jumper with 39 seconds left only to have the lead erased by a Dwayne Evans triple with 24 seconds to go. With time running down, Charlon Kloof drove and Youssou Ndoye set a pick to free Jordan Gathers. Gathers received the Kloof pass at the top of the key and drained the three at the buzzer. The Barclays Center erupted as the players mobbed Gathers, celebrating a moment that will go down in Bona lore.

The Gathers shot was number one on that night’s Sportscenter Top 10 and was arguably the most memorable moment from the entire tournament, even though the Bonnies lost to St. Joseph’s the next day and could not come to an agreement with the College Basketball Invitational to play postseason ball. Gathers’ departure a couple weeks ago, and the questions surrounding it, will not overshadow that shot, either. He will always be remembered for stepping up in the clutch and delivering an outpouring of excitement to students, alumni and fans across Bona Nation.

April was marked by rumors of a head coaching change, as Mark Schmidt interviewed at Boston College but decided to stay in Olean, a beneficial choice for both sides.

This year’s edition of Bonaventure men’s basketball features new faces with tons of potential. Freshman guard Jaylen Adams and junior guard Marcus Posley have been starters from the beginning of the season, and they hope to guide this team to a consistent and winning 2015.

Finally, one of the major stories of the 2014 athletic year didn’t happen on a field or court. On the night of November 11, Intrepid reporter Joseph Pinter broke the news that Athletic Director Steve Watson had accepted the same position at Loyola University Chicago. The university confirmed it the next day and the search for a new AD began. In 2015, Bonaventure will have a new athletic director, who will face a big responsibility as the program continues to strive for new heights and earn more recognition nationally.

2014 was a momentous one for St. Bonaventure athletics. What will 2015 bring for the Bonnies?

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