Cougars runners poised for big finish
A return to Kansas wasn’t only part of Dorothy and Toto’s agenda.
Some St. Xavier University male athletes want to do the same. The only difference is that, in place of a yellow-brick road, they plan to follow a green-grass course.
It was on that latter surface where the Cougars shone at the NAIA Pre-Nationals Invitational, which was held Oct. 12 in Lawrence, Kan. Pitted against 33 other top-tier NAIA cross country teams at Rim Rock Farm, SXU fashioned quite an impressive showing.
Buoyed by senior Brian Corcoran’s 12th-place individual effort, the Cougars ran fifth overall. Corcoran, who was named the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week a couple days after the race, posted an 8K time of 25 minutes, 28 seconds, which was only eight seconds behind the No. 7 finisher in a 272-competitor event.
Lawrence will also be the site of the NAIA National Cross Country Championships in November.
SXU’s other scorers at the Pre-Nationals included sophomore Eric Hancock (27th place in 26:04), senior Chris Shellenberger (58th, 26:40), junior Kyle Counter (61st, 26:42) and senior Chris Sarna (62nd, 26:42). Also competing on the Cougars’ behalf were senior Brian Meyer (111th, 27:23), senior Shane Kenney (121st, 27:34) and freshman Abel Hernandez (141st, 27:53).
SXU coach Ed McAllister was elated with what his squad, which wound up ahead of four top-25 programs and five others receiving NAIA poll votes, accomplished.
“This was undoubtedly the finest performance of this season, and probably many seasons past,” he said. “The real telling point for our success was the three-man combination of Shellenberger, Counter and Sarna. By running as a pack, this group really created great depth for us.
“Much of the credit for the success [that] Saturday must be given to [assistant coach] Arturs Bareikis. Coach Bareikis created a race plan that proved to be on the money. Everyone followed it perfectly, and we enjoyed our greatest success of the year.
“It will be necessary to continue our serious work and training for each of our next two extremely challenging meets. However, for one day, we can rest on our laurels and be proud of our accomplishments.”
The Cougars, who garnered votes in the most recent national poll, will take part in the Great Lakes Invitational on Saturday at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Two first-half goals by freshman forward Mariana Hoerr enabled the Cougars to pull out of their tailspin and register a CCAC victory over Calumet College of St. Joseph last Tuesday at Bruce R. Deaton Field.
Behind Hoerr’s performance, SXU defeated the Crimson Wave 3-0 to snap a four-match losing streak. Along with Hoerr’s offense, the Cougars benefited from freshman keeper Alex Perry’s work, as she made eight saves en route to recording her third shutout of the season.
Hoerr tallied in the 41st minute on a breakaway to give SXU the only marker it needed to prevail. Junior Marissa Graves and freshman Delanie Bosworth earned assists on the goal. Junior Morgan Graves and sophomore Lexi Cozzi then set up Hoerr’s second score just three minutes later.
Marissa Graves completed the Cougars’ production in the late going on a header following a free kick from sophomore defender Rachel Didier.
Morgan Graves finished with a pair of shots on goal, but the Cougars could not find the back of the net on Saturday as they dropped a 3-0 verdict to Trinity Christian College at Schaaf Field.
SXU (4-9-1, 2-6) unleashed just eight total shots, compared to 24 for the Trolls, who placed half of those on target. Besides Graves’ shots, the Cougars had only two others that required Trinity netminder Becky Gold to make saves.
The Trolls tallied twice in the opening half, with freshman midfielder Kayla Diemer converting in the 29th minute and freshman midfielder Abby McDonald slipping the ball past Perry with less than two minutes remaining before intermission after receiving a pass from junior forward Rachael Webb.
Perry turned aside four other Trinity attempts in the first half. Junior Danielle Koncius (Stagg) manned the nets after intermission and was credited with five saves. Webb scored the Trolls’ second-half goal in the 86th minute, off an assist from Diemer.
SXU faced Cardinal Stritch in a CCAC match this past Tuesday in Milwaukee.
Sophomore forward Marco Gutierrez continued his scoring magic and junior midfielder Brandon Simoes also found the back of the net last Wednesday night at Deaton Field, as the Cougars slipped past Calumet College of St. Joseph 2-1 in a CCAC encounter.
Gutierrez, who had a four-goal output and hat trick in two recent matches, put SXU ahead in the 22nd minute by converting a Simoes pass into a score. Simoes supplied the difference-making marker in the 52nd minute on a free kick from 10 yards out after getting a feed from junior midfielder Tom Lojek.
In between, the Crimson Wave’s Stewart Thur ruined Kyle Held’s whitewash bid by redirecting Andrew Yousif’s free kick. However, the Cougars’ senior netminder stopped seven other Calumet College shots on goal.
SXU, which remained in a second-place tie within the CCAC by winning, got off 12 shots in all, 10 of which were on target. Gutierrez, Lojek and Simoes combined for eight of those shots on goal.
Simoes’ hat trick gave the Cougars all the juice they needed to defeat Trinity Christian College 3-1 on Saturday at Schaaf Field.
Simoes snapped a 1-all tie in the 70th minute on an unassisted shot from the top of the box, then tacked on an insurance marker 18 minutes later after receiving a pass from senior defender Dale Judickas. Simoes’ initial goal was set up by Lojek and scored in the 33rd minute.
The Trolls created the halftime stalemate with under two minutes remaining in the opening session on senior forward Noe Quirarte’s tally, which was assisted by senior forward Joey Bahena.
Netminder Held earned the victory after making three saves for SXU (6-7, 6-2), which won for the fifth time in its last six outings. The Cougars met Cardinal Stritch this past Tuesday in Milwaukee.
Junior middle hitter Marie Hackert notched a career-best 17 kills and equaled another personal high with eight blocks, an effort the Cougars rode to a grueling 25-11, 23-25, 25-15, 21-25, 18-16 triumph over Illinois Institute of Technology last Thursday night at the Keating Center.
Sophomore middle blocker Heidi Gregerson backed Hackert with 13 kills and nine total blocks, both of which were season-high numbers for her. In all, SXU (11-10) registered 57 kills and 28 blocks in the nonconference match.
Also contributing to the win were junior setter Kelli Shaffer (career-best 47 assists, five kills, eight digs), junior outside hitter Jessica Galotta (10 kills, season-high 18 digs), junior libero Dominique Aramburu (25 digs) and sophomore right-side hitter Meghan Falsey (career-high 22 digs).
The Cougars returned to CCAC play this past Tuesday versus North Division leader Cardinal Stritch in Milwaukee.