Season over for men’s soccer, women’s volleyball teams
The 2013 fall sports season is rapidly coming to a close at St. Xavier University.
Only an appearance in Saturday’s NAIA Championship for the Cougars men’s cross country team and female runner Leslie Rosario remains. Everyone else closed up shop last week, including the men’s soccer team, which lost in the semifinal round of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
SXU fell behind Olivet Nazarene University 2-1 in the 19th minute of last Wednesday night’s match in Bourbonnais and was never able to recover, eventually suffering a season-ending 5-1 setback. Sophomore forward Roger Ciszewski notched the Cougars’ lone marker in the 11th minute of play, doing so after receiving a pass from sophomore forward Marco Gutierrez.
Junior midfielder Brandon Simoes had two shots on goal for SXU (7-10-2, 6-4-1), but the locals took a total of just five shots. In his final outing, Cougars senior netminder Kyle Held was credited with five saves, but the Tigers also managed to register goals in the fifth, 30th, 71st and 89th minutes.
Also playing for the last time in 2013 was the Cougars volleyball squad, which lost 25-16, 25-19, 25-16 to Cardinal Stritch University in an opening-round CCAC Tournament match last Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
Junior middle hitter Marie Hackert and sophomore right-side hitter Meghan Falsey both put down 10 kills to pace the SXU attack. Sophomore Heidi Gregerson added six kills for the Cougars (16-14, 9-8), who racked up 28 kills as a team but also committed 22 hitting errors.
Junior setter Kelli Shaffer and junior libero Dominique Aramburu chipped in 23 assists and 14 digs, respectively, on SXU’s behalf.
Brad Karp isn’t the only big fish in the Cougars’ basketball pond.
The University of St. Francis (Ind.) might have been a bit shocked to discover the truth of that statement, but Michael Simpson reinforced the point Friday night — 28 times, in fact.
Simpson’s 28 points were one more than Karp scored, and together St. Xavier University’s dynamic duo led the way for their team, which stayed perfect on the young season with an 84-73 victory at Trinity Christian College’s pre-Thanksgiving tournament. Karp also grabbed seven rebounds and made four steals.
The main storyline, however, centered on Simpson, a transfer from defending NAIA Division II national champion Cardinal Stritch, which hosted the Cougars in a CCAC contest this past Wednesday in Milwaukee. A year ago, he shared a starting role, but Simpson is quickly impressing SXU boss Tom O’Malley as an early contributor.
“Simpson played exceptionally well,” O’Malley said. “He handled the ball well, plus he’s a good defender. He really knows how to play and I’m very pleased with him at present.”
Simpson, who hails from West Chicago, had an unusual reason for wanting to depart a national champion’s program. It wasn’t anything the Wolves did wrong, but something the Cougars did differently.
“I called their coach right away when I first heard from [Simpson],” O’Malley said. “He said, ‘He wants to play with a team that plays faster,’ and that’s exactly what Simpson told me when I asked him.”
Fast certainly described the manner in which SXU seized control of Friday’s matchup. Only five points separated the Cougars and USF at intermission, and the latter was still within 48-43 when SXU embarked on a momentum-shifting 17-2 run early in the second half.
Simpson contributed three layups to the surge, while Karp deposited a 3-point basket and hit two free throws. Also scoring for the Cougars were Tony Core (layup) and Stagg alumnus Darius Draper (four foul shots).
Although O’Malley felt his guys “tried to live on our laurels a little bit after that,” SXU never was in any danger of suffering an unfavorable outcome following its run. The closest USF got to the Cougars in the remaining time was nine points.
“That was a tough team and a good win [for us],” O’Malley said. “We played real well in the second half.
“Brad, of course, was Brad. He’s almost always one of our leaders, and he also creates things with his steals, but we got really good play out of our point guard [Simpson].”
Josh Mawhorr chipped in 11 points and five rebounds on SXU’s behalf. The Cougars were efficient with the ball, as they were charged with just eight turnovers. Their defense, meanwhile, hounded USF into 18 miscues, a dozen of which resulted directly from steals.
“That gives you a little bit of an advantage as far as the overall game,” O’Malley said, referring to the turnover differential.
SXU converted those errors into 20 points for itself, which enabled it to prosper despite shooting a slightly lower percentage from the floor (52-48) than USF.
St. Xavier 108
Great Lakes Christian 68
O’Malley didn’t figure on his squad getting pushed too hard on Saturday, and sure enough the Cougars took care of business with little difficulty. SXU (4-0) was up by 32 points at halftime and saw its advantage peak at 42.
“We got out to a big lead because we outmanned them a little,” O’Malley said.
Karp was his usual self as he deposited 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Junior Brandon Marren matched that boards total en route to tallying 14 points, and both Simpson (17 points, four assists) and Core (10 points on 5-of-6 shooting) did their part to vanquish Great Lakes.
Twelve players reached the scoring column for the Cougars, who canned 54 percent of their shots.
While O’Malley isn’t about to complain about his club’s rapid break from the gate this season, he also didn’t want his players to become too enamored with the positive early returns. The aforementioned game with Stritch, plus a Friday encounter with Arizona Christian and two contests next week at its own holiday event should give SXU several stern tests.
“We really won’t know how good we are until after the next four games,” O’Malley said. “We’ve played three relatively easy games so far. If we’re 8-0, then we’ll have accomplished something.” — Ken Karrson
Coming off a thrilling one-point upset of NCAA Division I University of Illinois-Chicago the previous week, the Cougars got back to NAIA business last Wednesday by hosting Trinity International University in a CCAC contest.
Making the game stand out more than a typical early season tilt was the fact that the floor of the Shannon Center was renamed in honor of coach and school athletic director Bob Hallberg that same night. A ceremony officially announcing the new name was held prior to tip-off, and members of Hallberg’s 1971 men’s team at SXU and the 2000 women’s team — his first one — were among the guests on hand to celebrate with him.
Hallberg said he was deeply humbled by the honor the university bestowed on him, one that typically comes after a famous figure is deceased.
“It was a great couple of events this past week — one [was] being able to go back to where I coached and beat UIC, and the other was having a court named after me,” Hallberg said. “That lasts a lifetime. Now, people who come to the gym and don’t know who you are, it’s permanent.
“There are victories in your career that you’ll never forget — for me, it was Illinois, Michigan and Marquette. I’ll never forget that, but [other] people forget that. People forget I was at Chicago State; some people don’t know me outside of being a women’s basketball coach. This is historic and a conversational piece for years to come.”
And having his two “first” teams present for the ceremony certainly initiated further reflection on a career that has seen Hallberg win 907 games over a span of 47 years.
“Having the 1971 team present was real nice,” he said. “They were the first five guys I brought to the St. Xavier program in ‘71. They named themselves the ‘Five O’s’ for the Five Originals moniker. And when you add the first women’s team from 2000 that I coached, it made for a neat ceremony.
“When they unveiled the covering, the women were on the one side and the men were on the other side. It made the moment really historical to me to reflect on the two programs that I really initiated from scratch.”
Making the evening perfect for Hallberg was a strong performance by the Cougars, who overpowered the Trojans 87-46.
The news was only partially good over the weekend, as SXU split two games at Grace College’s Bennigan’s Terry Polston Hoops for Hope Tournament. Defending NAIA Division II national champion and No. 1-ranked Indiana Wesleyan doled out an 89-62 defeat on Friday, but the Cougars roared back to down the 19th-ranked host school 84-63 on Saturday.
“We came away 2-1 this [past] week, and we learned some things about ourselves,” Hallberg said. “The win on Wednesday was part of a memorable evening. We learned more about ourselves, however, in Friday’s loss, and we bounced back on Saturday.”
Junior forward Morgan Stuut had a huge night for SXU against Trinity as she posted team-best figures of 22 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. The Cougars shot well in their conference opener, hitting 33-of-69 shots (48 percent).
Redshirt freshman guard Sidney Prasse, who hit the winning 3-pointer versus Illinois-Chicago, nailed five long-range shots against the Trojans, part of a 17-point output. Prasse also had a game-high four steals. Junior guard Suzie Broski chipped in 12 points on 6-of-8 marksmanship.
SXU’s defense was just as impressive as its offense, as the hosts recorded 17 steals and limited Trinity to 29 percent accuracy (20-of-68) from the floor. The game was tight early on, but a 13-all tie that was in place at the six-minute mark disappeared beneath an 18-4 run by the Cougars.
“We have a lot of depth and all good ballplayers,” Hallberg said. “I don’t have a starting five set in my mind yet; of the 11 players I have, I’m not afraid to use anybody [because] they all do different things.
“Wednesday was a nice 40-point win over Trinity. Everybody got to play and everyone had a good time.”
Stuut posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to Indiana Wesleyan, but foul trouble plagued the Cougars throughout the game. SXU was charged with 27 infractions, which resulted in 41 free throws for the Wildcats.
Senior guard Niara Harris was the only other SXU player to score in double figures on Friday as she finished with 10 points.
The Cougars had difficulty controlling Indiana Wesleyan’s hot shooting in the first half. The Wildcats sank 15-of-23 shots, which created a 48-30 halftime lead for them. After breaking a 12-all deadlock with an 11-0 run, Indiana Wesleyan remained in control.
The Wildcats cooled off a bit after intermission, but they still connected on 56 percent of their field-goal tries (28-of-50) for the night to prevent SXU from taking a run at them. Indiana Wesleyan went 6-of-10 from behind the arc.
By contrast, the Cougars shot at just a 36 percent clip (22-of-61) during the evening.
“Friday was the good and bad — we thought we were just as good as the No. 1 team in the nation, and they really outplayed us,” Hallberg said. “It wasn’t any one thing that we could pin down as the main reason, defensively or offensively. We didn’t play well on either side of the floor. If you’re not hitting your shots, you better be on your defensive game — and we weren’t defending their shooters.
“You often learn early in the year when you play good competition. I always like to play a hard schedule because you learn a lot about yourself, and that was definitely the case on Friday.
“We didn’t learn about ourselves in the 40-point win — we didn’t even come close. You don’t make adjustments when you’re beating teams by that many points. You learn so much more in a loss than you do in a win.”
In the victory over Grace College, Stuut scored a career-best 35 points. The Cougars (3-1) shot a season-best 57 percent (32-of-56) from the field in the game, including 45 percent (5-of-11) from 3-point range.
Stuut had a huge first half, scoring 25 points before the break on stellar 9-of-11 shooting to help stake SXU to a 46-41 halftime lead. Broski also had a solid outing for the Cougars with 16 points. Senior forward Dana Sibley just missed a double-double with eight points and career-best 11 rebounds, and Harris provided a nice lift by scoring 12 points.
SXU’s defense was just as impressive as it made 11 steals and caused a total of 20 turnovers. The Cougars were also sharp at the foul line, where they sank all but one of their 16 free throws.
SXU built its lead slowly during the first half. Stuut’s 3-pointer with 7:25 remaining gave the Cougars a 34-23 edge, but the Lancers were back within five (46-41) at halftime. The game stayed relatively close until the final seven minutes of regulation, when SXU really applied defensive pressure and closed out the game with an 18-3 run.
“We went back to the drawing board and redesigned some things with our offense,” Hallberg said. “It helped us and we shot well as a result.
“We’re not going to be able to run the offense we ran against Indiana Wesleyan. That loss woke us up, and the girls responded. It really showed up, and we benefited against the No. 19 team in the nation.”
The Cougars resumed CCAC play this past Wednesday against No. 15 Cardinal Stritch and compete in the Olivet Nazarene Classic over the weekend. Huntington University and Mid-Continent University will provide the opposition for SXU.
“Cardinal Stritch used to dominate their side of the conference before we merged [the two divisions into one],” Hallberg said. “They’re always a challenge, and it will be on their court. And our opponents at the Olivet Tournament -- they’re two programs with success historically.
“It’s an intense week where we’ll keep learning about ourselves.” — Anthony Nasella