BENNINGTON >> The New England Collegiate Conference have the Southern Vermont College women's cross country team selected to finish in fourth place at this year's championship meet by votes from the league's coaches.
SVC is led by head coach Kathleen Newton, who returns to the Mountaineers for her fourth season at the helm. Her team finished fourth at last year's title race with three of her runners placing in the top 10, and the crew is determined to do even better at the 2016 championship.
"My expectations for the women's team this fall are high," Newton said. "We have a strong core group of returning runners and younger runners who will also make a difference and impact the team.
The 2016 Mountaineer squad consists of eight returners, four seniors and two juniors. Additionally, Coach Newton added one more senior to the group who is expected to compete as such and mesh well with the rest of the team.
Included in those returning for Southern Vermont is senior captain Shelby Whitman, who placed second overall at last year's championship meet after being the NECC Runner of the Week three times during the season. She is joined by Bennington College junior Annika Kristiansen, who finished in third at the NECC title race, and SVC senior Skye McGuire who made the All-NECC Second Team with a ninth-place showing.
"It's a catch-22 how I feel about the senior-laden team," said Newton about her group of soon-to-be graduates. "I'm excited knowing they want to have the best cross country season ever. Most of them are seasoned runners, so that helps the younger women. They also are great leaders; they set good examples, have a strong work ethic, and are also great mentors for the rest of the team. I'm excited for them, but I will miss each of them very much!"
Additional seniors returning for the Mountaineers are Emily Lesure and Kaylee Cross who are both expected to improve upon their rookie cross country performances from a year ago. Along with them are veteran sophomores Morgan Arleth and Morgan Kaeppel, a pair of seasoned runners who bring more experience to Newton's crew.
"During preseason, I have been really impressed," said Newton about her team's training. "They look strong in workouts, and they are pushing and encouraging each other. They are not afraid to hurt, and all are competitive. They know the key is to work together, and they will improve as a team. It's a team effort, and each workout, practice, weight room session and drill sets them up for success. It's also a great group to coach. They listen and make adjustments; they want to improve. They are motivated and looking forward to the season."
As Southern Vermont lost only one runner from last year to graduation, the Mountaineers are hoping to carry over their momentum from 2015 to climb the conference results this season.
"I think the reason for our success last year was the same as I see for this season," Newton claimed. "They are in this for the team, and they all want to improve for their team. Their determination, drive and passion for the sport is there. They were ready to make a mark last season — which they did. Now it's time to move forward, and the future looks bright for SVC women's cross country."
The Mountaineers begin the 2016 season on Saturday with their home meet, the Mountaineer Invitational being set to start at 10:30 a.m. on the SVC campus. The NECC Championship is slated for Saturday, October 29 at Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass.
With two of the nine possible first-place votes, Lesley University topped the preseason poll while Regis College took second with a lone first-place nod. Wheelock College, the 2015 NECC Champion, received five top selections but still ranked third overall.
NECC men picked seventh
BENNINGTON >> The Southern Vermont College men's soccer team was chosen to finish seventh in the New England Collegiate Conference poll announced on Tuesday.
The Mountaineers will have a significantly different look to them this year, starting with the touchline that will see first-year head coach Greg Gilmore taking charge of the team. He brings in a wealth of newcomers to the program while welcoming back four players from the 2015 squad.
"Our goal is to compete day-in and day-out," Gilmore said. "We're young, and we are going to face a tremendous amount of adversity throughout this year. One of the biggest challenges guys will face is recent history; our goal is to return to the NECC playoffs, and that starts with an unwavering belief from our players that we are truly beginning a new era at Southern Vermont soccer."
Among those returning for SVC is senior Taylor Baker, a second-year captain who has been a starter in the Mountaineer defense since his freshman season in 2013. Sophomore Nikolas Joseph also comes back to don the Mountaineer jersey once again; he scored five goals and had a team-leading six assists last year on his way to being named to the All-NECC Second Team.
Additional returners include sophomore Kieran Enright (Perth, Australia) and Matthew Hatch (Sahuarita, Ariz.); Enright had a goal and an assist from the backfield in 2015 while Hatch had a pair of each out of the midfield.
"We need to be mentally tough and expedite the learning curve when transitioning to college-level play," Gilmore continued. "We have a lot of youth, but we can't afford to act young."
The Southern Vermont coach is optimistic about his newcomers, expecting the eight fresh faces to make an immediate impact like seasoned players.
"I think for a summer that involved a late coaching change, we've been pretty fortunate to still bring in a considerable amount of talent," Gilmore noted. "Depth will be an issue, but guys need to understand that while they're going to be challenged-- this is a great opportunity for them to really put their name on the future of this program.
"We have a lot of youth, and with that comes a belief that change is coming," he added. "If we can respond to adversity as a team, we will be successful. There are going to be times this year where things don't go according to plan and where we make mistakes we shouldn't be making; a lot of this season will be defined by how we respond in those moments. If we respond as a team that's ready to fight for one another, regardless of the situation, then we will be successful this season."
SVC begins the regular season with its home opener on Thursday against the College of St. Joseph (Vt.), kickoff for that match slated for 4 p.m. at Everett Field. The Mountaineers start NECC play September 24 at Daniel Webster College.
Daniel Webster, the two-time defending NECC Champion, was selected to once again claim the regular season title with eight of the nine possible first-place votes in the poll.