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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top 15 moments is a great idea

These hot summer months, hotter than the collection of female team MVPs from various Mount teams this year, are as fertile for fresh stories as they are for planting corn. Fortunately a hot male MVP, if I may say so myself, (and I'm talking about myself, before you think I switched teams) continues to find loopholes.

This week it's the fact that is unveiling the "Top 15 Sports Moments" (no hyphen between top and 15) from this past academic year. While Nos. 1514 and 13 were revealed on Monday, Tuesday and today, respectively, there's still plenty of time to predict what Nos. 12 through one will be as the countdown continues Thursday.

Before I get to that, I want to throw my support out in front of the countdown. This is a great idea and a nice summer token for the fans other than schedule releases and personnel changes. I sense a pattern in the countdown already, but I'll get to that later.

First (no pun intended), I hate to ruin to for you, but the No. 1 moment is more of a lock than the Baltimore Orioles missing the playoffs. (I went to Sunday's 10-1 loss to Toronto - it was ugly. Amazing triple-comeback last night against the Rays, though.)

Any time you can put the words "buzzer-beater," "tournament MVP," "game-winner" and "championship" in the same second of the same moment - that's your winner of just about any countdown unless it involves Oprah or Beyonce - for completely unrelated reasons.

Then-freshman Andrew Scalley scored the game-winning goal for the men's lacrosse team in the 2010 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game as the buzzer sounded and he was named tournament MVP. What makes the goal even more special is that it was the last game to be played by the Mount in the MAAC as it will join the rest of the school's sports in the Northeast Conference next season.

After that selection I have three picks that are all great individual accomplishments (No. 1 was Scalley's "moment", but it was more of a team accomplishment than these next three), but a step below the rare combination provided by the top moment. At the same time, these are all certainly a step above any other Mount moment I can recall this year. If I'm wrong I'll put my foot in my mouth.

No. 2, in my opinion, is the dual accomplishment of rising redshirt senior Tom FitzSimons winning the decathlon in the Penn Relays as well as IC4As. Although FitzSimons did not qualify for nationals, he is surely expected to do so in his final two seasons of outdoor. What makes this an even greater accomplishment is the fact that FitzSimons was plagued by a stress fracture in his foot for parts of the last two seasons (outdoor in his sophomore year, indoor in his junior year) that caused him to redshirt unexpectedly.

The battle for the third spot is between two athletes of similar ilk. Kent Worthington allowed no hits (so yeah, he threw a no-hitter) in an 18-0 shellacking of NEC opponent Quinnipiac on March 28. Worthington's nemesis in this situation is rising junior Lizz Christiansen, who is the starting first baseman for the softball team. In her freshman season, Christiansen looked poised to break a number of single season records before incurring a season-ending leg injury while sliding into him during a mid-season game. Not quite 100 percent as the season began, Christiansen captured records that were inevitably going to be broken by the Harrisburg-area native.

In the May 7 season finale against St. Francis (Pa.), Christiansen belted a homer and knocked in five runs to give her single seasons records of 11 home runs and 50 RBI.

My nod goes to Christiansen for a number of reasons. Title IX probably won't allow us not to have a female in the top three of our countdown and she set two records in one game. Also working in her favor, and against Worthington's, is the fact that the baseball team won its game 18-0, so he had less pressure to hold a lead, and Quinnipiac was winless coming into that series (the Mount dropped the first game before taking the next three). So Christiansen's overall accomplishment was a season-long one, while Worthington's took place on a single day, although her moment was pretty big in itself since she truly "stepped up to the plate" (I couldn't resist) to get the record in the regular season finale.

To be fair, a couple things are working against Christiansen as well. The first of which, and most obvious, is that she plays softball. I'm sorry, but yeah, I said it. Secondly, the season finale against St. Francis (Pa.) was a make-up game, which neither team needed because they were about as far from the playoffs as the Orioles considering it was the last game of the season for both teams. I realize that is an unfair hit against her credibility, though, since the game was originally on the schedule and would have had to have been played if A. It influenced playoff scenarios or B. It hadn't been postponed in the first place.

With all that being said, both are great, unprecedented accomplishments as far as the Mount goes. When two moments are seemingly this close, you have to be critical to separate them. But let's not forget that they are likely top four moments for a school's entire athletic department in one season.

Outside of my top four, I can think of no other large-scale events that are locks for the top of the countdown. Two other moments stand out to me from the past year, but it's because I was involved in both of them and am completely biased.

(Skip ahead if you don't care about my first self-centered story.)

If I may wax poetic about my own accomplishment, I had a double eagle in the first round of the Rutgers Invitational in the fall. It was raining steady all day and I came to the fourth hole at +4 with six holes remaining. After hitting my drive in the right rough of the par five, I selected three iron from 229 yards as it was downwind and I didn't want to go over the green. I normally hit three iron about 200 yards to give you an idea of the wind and the rollout I was expecting.

At impact I immediately knew that I had executed the shot perfectly. That is, it was headed on a laser down my intended target line and I had hit the ball in the sweet spot. Exactly what happened next is anyone's guess because the front of the green is the upslope of a valley the begins in the last 50 yards of the hole and ends around the middle of the green. With the pin up front that day, I striped my shot, watched it disappear into the distant valley and walked down the fairway toward the green. When my two playing partners and me reached the green, we couldn't find my ball for two minutes. We searched probably 600 square yards of greenside rough without a trace of my ProV1X. Finally, the kid from Rutgers said I should check the hole. I insisted that was a bad idea as I'm very superstitious, and didn't want to unnecessarily look in the hole if my ball wasn't there. After my Judas-like denial of three times in succession, he finally checked the hole for me. Informing me my ball was at the bottom of the cup, I literally told him I would punch him in the face if he said it one more time and he was lying. Then he said it one more time and I found myself in a win-win situation: I was either going to have a double eagle - the rarest shot in golf - or get to punch a kid from New Jersey square in the face, probably multiple times, with no repercussions. It turns out he was not lying as the rain-filled cup yielded the blue markings on my ball indicating that I had in fact made an albatross. Just then my coach, Kevin Farrell, came walking through the trees of an adjacent hole like he was on the set of Field of Dreams. He just giggled that red-headed, potbelly giggle when I told him. Then I decided to yell across the course to Danny what had happened, except that it wasn't Danny it was Sage, who is considerably taller. I didn't really care, I had just hit the best shot of my life.

When we got inside for the round I found out some other bastard from Rutgers had made a hole-in-one on the par three 11th (ironically I had hit the pin on that hole earlier) and tried to steal my thunder. The next day, in the irony of all ironies, we were paired together along with the same kid from USC-Upstate that I played with in the first round. His name was Josh Gallman and he was a top 100-ranked amateur in the country. He shot 71-66 - always in the rain - and won the tournament going away. Suddenly the hole-in-one and double eagle didn't seem so amazing.

(Stop skipping now.)

The other great memory I have this year in which I was involved was the men's basketball season finale against Robert Morris. Trailing by what felt like 30 (actually 13) in the early parts of the second half, we erased a seven-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining to beat the Colonials 63-61. It was an important victory for a rivalry that was headed toward life support due to RMU's recent dominance, but suddenly turned into THE best regular season game of my five years as manager. It also guaranteed us the No. 3 seed and a home in the playoffs.

I won't begin to rate my golf moment, but I think the RMU comeback victory has to fall in the top six or seven. I would say No. 5, but I'm sure the experts in the athletic department have a surprise up their sleeves for the next moment on the list. With only one team conference championship this season, there are a number of moments in the running.

Now back to the pattern I think I'm sensing already. The first three events in the countdown were women's soccer goalie Sadie Winship scoring in a game, Chelsea Johnson winning a bunch of tennis matches to become second all-time in singles victories at the Mount and the women's basketball team scoring 86 points in a win against Quinnipiac.

I don't mind Nos. 15 and 14 because, as I said, I wouldn't know what else to put there, but No. 13 is a little shady to me. The women's basketball team had its worst season in the NCAA Division I era based on the fact that it missed the NEC tournament for the first time ever. So a high-scoring road win is hardly a top-15 (hyphen between top and 15) moment for all of our sports this season. If it had to be included, I think it should be right at the end as the 15th-best moment.

Since it was included, though, what I suspect is that each sport may get a moment in the countdown since we have - ta dah! - 15 varsity sports at the Mount. There are, however, some holes in my own theory. First is the fact that there are two teams each for cross country and track, which could cause problems. Additionally, some sports probably didn't have any moments worthy of making the countdown (ahem, women's basketball - a team of which I'm a huge fan of its players and coaches, but they just didn't do enough, along with other teams.)

So assuming that is the case with each team getting one slot, and it very well may not be, here are my selections for the best team moments this year and what order they would go in.


No. 15: Women's soccer/Sadie Winship, above
No. 14: Women's tennis/Chelsea Johnson, above
No. 13: I don't want to say it again.


No. 12: Men's tennis, something involving senior Thad Mostowtt or freshman Mike Salomon. It's difficult to pick a top moment for a team sport full of individuals whose points are all worth the same.
No. 11: Women's golf, Autumn Serruta finishes fourth at team's home spring invitational.
No. 10: Women's swimming, All swimmers allowed to wear two-piece swimsuits. Oh wait, that didn't happen. Uhh, something involving Jeanne Benedetti. If it were a two-piece announcement, we shouldn't complain.
No. 9: Men's soccer, Chris Wheeler's penalty kick conversion to beat Quinnipiac 4-3 in a shootout
No. 8: Women's lacrosse, something with senior Jackie Kearney, (possibly Ashley Johnson, though) maybe being selected for North-South All-Star game
No. 7: Men's golf, if I had to pick, yeah, I'd pick my own moment, but I'm randomly putting it at seventh so it's in the middle and I don't actually think we have a moment (as I don't think women's golf, men's tennis or women's swimming will either), so there's another hole in my theory.
No. 6: Men's basketball, RMU comeback
No. 5: Cross country, Freshman Megan Kinsella second at NECs
No. 4: Baseball, Worthington no-no
No. 3: Softball, Christiansen records
No. 2: Track and field, FitzSimons decathlons
No. 1: Men's lacrosse, Scalley game-winner

So there you go. I'll be honest, the only ones I'm confident about being included are one through four. The rest are based on my theory, and are shaky selections at that. I love the idea regardless, especially the fact that it's spaced out over 15 days. Again, great idea, and let the debate begin.

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