Race car club prepares for Michigan International Speedway

St. Thomas’ Formula 1 Society of Automotive Engineers Race Car Building Club began in 2009 with just two members who wanted to build a race car, but today the club has expanded to 10 full-time members and recently moved into a new design lab.

The club is currently working hard to finish its year-long task of producing a race car to compete in the Collegiate Design Series at the Michigan International Speedway at the end of the school year.

When the club was founded, its original members, Stew Kern and John Halloran, shared their passion the right way, according to St. Thomas alumnus and former club member Patrick Connelly.

“The starting members could have worked with a small team to build a race car and then graduate, but instead they created the club. They got a room, they got the funding and set up events. They didn’t want the club to end when they graduated,” Connelly said.

The club’s first room on campus was the Prototype Development Lab in the basement of the O’Shaugnessy Science Hall. Although it was nice to have the space, it might not have been the best possible option for the club on campus. According to members, the space was small and the lighting wasn’t ideal.

This year, the club moved into a completely new location in the Facility Design Center on South Campus, which has better lighting and more space. Club President Luke Halloran said the new location is important to the group’s productivity level.

“The fact that we don’t have to take (the car) apart to be able to test between adjustments is huge. It allows the club to concentrate on finishing tasks rather than figuring out how they took something apart,” Halloran said.

Although the club has 10 full-time members, there is no shortage of time spent in the lab. Halloran said the members spend more hours at school working on the car than they do at home.

The ultimate goal of the club is to build a race car and compete at the end of the semester, but Connelly, who now works at 3M, said the the investment you make in yourself will most likely pay off after graduation.

“Companies want to hire engineers who have committed to proving their abilities and solving problems. It can be hard to get in doors at certain places, but SAE members get hired quickly. There’s a large culture out there of previous members,” Connelly said.

Halloran and Connelly both said the club is great because it gives students a chance to practice and apply what they have learned in the classroom and use it in a real life setting.

Last year the club’s membership numbers were down, which prevented the team from traveling to Michigan. After not competing last year, Halloran said he’s just happy the group is making the trip.

“I’ve only been to Michigan to compete once, and the competition two years ago is my most memorable experience with the club,” Halloran said. “We’re all really excited to get back there.”

The Formula 1 SAE team from St. Thomas will compete in the Collegiate Design Series at Michigan International Speedway May 13-16.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Football team excels in fundraising for St. Jude

The St. Thomas football team was named the top fundraising team in the nation after it raised the most money out of 3,405 university clubs, organizations and sports teams across the country for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Tight end Charlie Dowdle said the fundraiser was an unbelievable experience and that developing off the field is one of the St. Thomas football program’s goals.

“Being the top school is a tribute to the coaching staff and the players. We’re here to play football, but we love to do things like this,” Dowdle said. “It feels good, and it’s pretty cool to help out those who need it.”

The football program has worked with the hospital since 2004. The partnership began with St. Thomas hosting Up ’til Dawn events on campus and has grown tremendously over the years, according to both Dowdle and coach Glenn Caruso.

Caruso spoke of a young man at St. Jude battling cancer and said the boy’s attachment to the team allows the football players to see what exactly they are working for.

“There’s nothing better than fighting for a worthy cause, and St. Jude is as worthy as it gets,” Caruso said.

Dowdle said this year the football team wanted to do a fundraiser on its own to see what team members could accomplish together.

“The student body does their own fundraiser for St. Jude, and this year we did our own with the football team. We shared the info with friends and family, posted on social media and got the word out any way possible,” Dowdle said. “People donated. It shows all of us that we can do a lot together.”

The team raised around $14,000 for St. Jude and will be honored for its accomplishment during halftime of the annual spring football game on May 16 at O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

Dowdle said the most rewarding part of the fundraiser was witnessing the number of people who stepped up and made donations to support the cause.

“The cool part about it was how many people were willing to help,” Dowdle said. “So many helped out because they respect the program and what we do here at St. Thomas.”

St. Jude will reward a select few members of the football team by flying them to Memphis, Tennessee this summer for the annual Collegiate Leadership Seminar. Other students from across the country will attend as well to tour the facilities and learn more about the program and its mission. Dowdle said the experience will be special.

“We’re really excited. They do a lot of amazing work, and St. Jude is the biggest charity we work with, so it will be fun to see who we are helping out and see how it all works,” Dowdle said.

Caruso said he was extremely proud of his team for its accomplishment.

“Before we recruit athletes and football players, we recruit people and we try to recruit the right type of people,” Caruso said. “This achievement tells me that our kids are well-rounded individuals. People look at us on the field, but our team is much deeper than that.”

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Women’s tennis tops conference power Carleton

Junior Bridget Noack led the St. Thomas women’s tennis team to a 5-4 win over defending MIAC champion Carleton Saturday at the St. Paul Academy tennis courts.

The Tommies (14-1 overall, 7-0 MIAC) earned the No. 1 ranking in the MIAC preseason poll, but the Knights (11-2 overall, 7-1 MIAC) have been a conference powerhouse for the last three decades and hadn’t lost to a D-III opponent yet this season. The two teams will likely meet again in the postseason, and Noack said matches like Saturday’s would prepare the Tommies well for a future matchup with the Knights.

“Our team has been working hard over the past three years, and we’ve been getting better and better, so if there is any time to do it, it’s now,” Noack said.

Sophomore Lauren Williams credited the team’s success to its upperclassmen leaders.

“The leaders are amazing. They do a lot to help us out. We have a group text going 24/7. Nobody ever gets left out of anything,” Williams said. “The leadership is phenomenal.”

On Saturday, the usual suspects did most of the work for the Tommies.

Noack teamed up with senior Kara Lefsrud in the first doubles match and battled out a win over the Knights’ top pairing. Junior Shelby Henderson and freshman Jenna Czarnecki also grinded out a victory in second doubles. Freshmen Caitlyn Bakke and Jenna Zimmerman dropped third doubles, but the Tommies escaped with a 2-1 lead.

After dropping her first set in first singles against Kayla Becich 4-6, Henderson fought hard to get back into the match and take the second set 6-3. However, Becich took the match after winning a marathon third set 13-11.

Noack kept things rolling in second singles with a dominant win in straight sets to give the Tommies another crucial point in the match. Noack said she benefited from playing talented opponents over the team’s trip to Florida last week.

“Over spring break, I had some tough matches that I ended up winning,” Noack said. “It helps me back here playing conference matches knowing I can beat someone who is tough competition.”

Lefsrud and Czarnecki both dropped their singles matches, while Zimmerman won her match in straight sets to give St. Thomas, at the time, its second win in singles.

After Carleton fought back to win three of the first five singles matches, it all came down to one of the Tommies’ talented freshman. Bakke prevailed in a back and forth match that went to a decisive third set that Bakke won 10-8. Bakke’s victory gave the Tommies the 5-4 win over the Knights.

The Tommies improved to 14-1 on the season and remain undefeated in the conference.

“Sometimes we don’t always get the acknowledgement we deserve, so it would mean a lot for us to win the MIAC this season,” Noack said.

After ousting Carleton, St. Thomas can win the MIAC outright with three more wins. The Tommies will travel to Bethel and St. Olaf before hosting Gustavus on April 25 to end the regular season.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Softball splits doubleheader with Bethel

Game 1:

Designated hitter Danielle Tschann’s extra inning walk-off home run lifted the St. Thomas softball team to a 10-9 victory over Bethel in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at South Athletic Field.

Starting pitcher Kendra Bowe said she was it great to be back out here and playing in Minnesota.

“It’s great to play on our home field. We are so blessed to have the facilities we have. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, it was a gorgeous spring day. It felt great be out here,” Bowe said.

The Tommies (17-3 overall, 1-1 MIAC) didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard against the Royals in their conference-opener. Third baseman McKenzie Wergin smacked a leadoff single to center field, followed up by right fielder Annie Boyer’s double. Helped by two sacrifices, St. Thomas was able to record two runs in the bottom of the first inning to put Bethel (8-6 overall, 1-1 MIAC) in an early hole.

Bethel third baseman Micayla Moore homered to center in the top of the second, but that was all the scoring the Royals could muster in the inning. The Tommies were able to tie the game later in the inning on an RBI single off the bat of catcher Brooke Pantila.

The scoring festivity continued in the third as the Royals were able to push two runs across the plate, but again the Tommies answered.

Left fielder Katie Jo Delisle doubled to score center fielder Bianca Peterson. With two runners on base Micaela Trainor fouled off several pitches in a long plate appearance before delivering a three run home run to deep center. St. Thomas scored four runs on three hits and lead 7-3 after three innings.

The Tommie defense shut down the Royals in order to record a scoreless top of the fourth inning.

St. Thomas added to its lead with singles from Boyer, Petersen, Delisle and a double off the bat of Wergin. The Tommies scored twice more to go ahead by six runs after four innings. It appeared the home team was well on its way to a blow-out victory on a summer-like day in St. Paul, but Bethel had other ideas.

Two solo home runs for the Royals in the top of the fifth inning cut the deficit to four runs and for the first time in the game, the Tommies failed to answer with runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.

Four hits, a walk and a costly error by second baseman Heather Kascht in the sixth inning allowed Bethel to come from behind to even the game. St. Thomas was able to throw out one Bethel runner at the plate in the inning to keep the game tied at 9-9.

The defense for both teams took over the game late as neither team was able to get anything going offensively. Bethel shut down the high-powered St. Thomas offense in the bottom of the sixth.

After no score in the seventh, the teams went to extra innings.

After holding the Royals scoreless in the top of the eighth, the Tommies entered the bottom of the inning with a chance for a walk-off win. Tschann came up to the plate and sent an outside pitch over the right-field fence to give the Tommies the 10-9 win.

“She was throwing me outside and outside. I’ve been working on that pitch, and I was ready for it. I was made, I was ready to do some damage. I’m glad I got that pitch,” Tschann said. “I was relieved when it went out, I’m glad we won the game.”

Coach John Tschida said he was proud of his team for battling through the adversity and getting the win in the opening game.

“All year we’ve been playing from behind. We’re not winning the free games, but we are earning the other ones. Which is a good thing and a bad thing … We’ve showed a lot of character this season and a lot of fight,” Tschida said.

Game 2:

Trainor’s RBI tied the game in the fourth inning, but St. Thomas was unable to complete the sweep of Bethel, dropping the second game of Saturday’s twin bill 7-2 to the Royals.

While St. Thomas scored 10 runs in the first game of the day, the second game was a different story for the Tommies.

St. Thomas shortstop Angie Jackson’s throwing error and an RBI single off the bat of Bethel catcher Caroline Kivisto allowed the Royals (9-8) to take an 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

St. Thomas answered back with a run of its own. This time it was a solo home run from Boyer that tied the game at 1-1.

Bethel took its second lead of the game in the top of third inning. Two walks and a RBI single from designated hitter Kalyn Sorensen put the Royals back in the lead by a run.

Despite Tschann’s lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning, the Tommies again were unable to move her around the bases.

A Delisle single to left field and another RBI from Trainor tied the game at 2-2 for St. Thomas in the bottom of the fourth inning, but in this game it was Bethel who consistently answered the call. Trainor said she didn’t get the individual results she wanted during the Tommies’ recent trip to Florida, so she put in the work to be better at the plate.

“This is a game of failure, and when you aren’t getting the results you want, it’s about coming back here and grinding day in and day out. It’s having the purpose and the desire to be great. I didn’t put any pressure on myself today,” Trainor said.

The defensive struggles continued for the Tommies in the top of the sixth inning. Three Royal singles accompanied by two Tommie errors and a wild pitch helped Bethel score three times in the inning to increase its lead to 7-2. Tschida said the defense was a concern today.

“Our pitchers have been really good all year thus far, but today was an off day and it happens. They weren’t terrible, but there weren’t on. There was a small zone for both teams, so that made it tough. We made some good pitches, but then our defense let us down,” Tschida said.

St. Thomas will travel to Collegeville, Minnesota on Monday for two make-up games against St. Ben’s.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

St. Thomas runner helps injured competitor at conference meet

Although St. Thomas sprinter Megan Maki didn’t win her race at the MIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships she participated in a tremendous act of sportsmanship in the event that didn’t go unnoticed.

“Nothing mattered at that time. We were all in the race together. (Rochelle Hickerson) was in the lane to my left, and my first instinct was to go over to her and make sure she was OK,” Maki said.

The first heat of the 60-meter dash finals in St. Joseph, Minnesota, saw something rather unusual take place in the world of competitive sports. Concordia sprinter Rochelle Hickerson was making one last effort to cross the finish line when she inadvertently lost her balance and went into a full tumble on the ground. Hickerson successfully finished the race in good time, but went down hard in the process and was not getting up. Hickerson said she was in pain and nervous.

“I was really embarrassed. I’ve seen it happen before, but it’s one of those things that I thought would never happen to me,” Hickerson said.

Less than a second later rivals Maki and St. Benedict sprinter Valerie Clintsman crossed the same finish line. Maki and Clintsman didn’t hesitate for a second and quickly decided they weren’t going to allow Hickerson lay on the track. The two conference foes immediately reached down to help. Maki said she was just doing what anyone in her position would have done.

“I was just doing the right thing. Just because we are on different teams doesn’t mean we can’t help them out. We are all connected in a way because if the other two girls weren’t there, it wouldn’t be possible to compete,” Maki said.

Maki and Clintsman hovered over the injured and bleeding Hickerson before helping her to her feet. The Tommie and the Bennie each took an arm and carried the injured Cobber over to the Concordia medical staff for further examination. Hickerson said she was pleasantly surprised by the act of her fellow MIAC athletes.

“I didn’t expect anyone to come help me. It was really awesome. Their immediate reaction was to help, and I am not a teammate of either of them. I was just a competitor, so that was cool. It was an awesome situation,” Hickerson said.

Hickerson finished fifth in the race, Maki came in at eighth place and Clintsman finished the dash in ninth, but St. Thomas track and field coach Joe Sweeney said the results of the race didn’t matter. He said the competitive spirit among the three women quickly turned into compassion.

“The fact that it was so spontaneous says a lot about (Maki’s) character and that of (Clintsman). The act of kindness demonstrated the very best of the MIAC and Division-III athletics,” Sweeney said.

Maki and Clintsman each earned their team’s spot on the All-MIAC sportsmanship team, due in large part to their courageous act inside the gymnasium on a cool winter day.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Baseball defeats ranked opponents in Arizona

TUSCON, Arizona – Outfielder Jimmy Dolan’s 12th inning single led the No. 2-ranked St. Thomas baseball team to a 4-3 extra-inning win over No. 21-ranked Linfield (Oregon) Friday evening at the Kino Sports Complex.

Behind the left arm of starting pitcher Eric Veglahn, the Tommies held the Wildcats to just one earned run through eight innings. Veglahn said it felt good to be on the mound again.

“It felt awesome to get back out there. The weather was awesome, and we got off to a hot start in the first inning. We hit a little slump, but I was impressed with the team. We’re really young, and I was impressed with what we did tonight,” Veghlan said.

St. Thomas didn’t waste any time and got on the board in the first inning with a RBI fielder’s choice. The Tommies thought they had scored two runs in the inning, but umpires ruled St. Thomas batted out of order, nullifying the second run. After the first inning the Tommies led 1-0.

Friday’s game was a rematch of last year’s first round of the Division-III College World Series. Veglahn baffled the Linfield batters in that game, throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout as the Tommies knocked off the defending national champion Wildcats. Veglahn continued his dominance of Linfield in Friday’s win, cruising through the first four innings of the game with help from the St. Thomas defense.

Linfield finally responded in the top of the fifth inning. A two-out double sparked the away team, and a St. Thomas throwing error helped the Wildcats tie the game at 1-1. Linfield recorded another two-out hit, giving the team its first lead of the game.

The Tommies threatened in the bottom of the inning with two base runners but failed to score and still trailed by one run after five innings of play.

St. Thomas showed off its defense in the next half inning to keep Linfield off the scoreboard. Shortstop Brady Johnson said the coaching staff always preaches defense first.

“We lost a lot of our hitters last year, so we knew coming back that pitching and defense would carry us. Today it showed,” Johnson said. “We knew that if we took care of defense, we would end up winning the game.”

Once again in the bottom of the seventh inning the Tommies were able to get multiple runners into scoring position. This time St. Thomas had the bases loaded with one out, but a double play ended the inning.

Linfield used the momentum gained on the inning-ending double play to create a spark offensively. The Wildcats recorded back-to-back hits to go ahead by two runs.

Tommie outfielder Ty Vincent found a pitch he liked out over the plate and drove it 400 feet over the fence in right-center to cut the deficit to one run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Pitcher Greg Clute came on in relief to pitch the ninth inning for St. Thomas. Clute was successful as he shut down the Wildcats in order.

Two batters hit by a pitch had the Tommies in position to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Outfielder Kelvin Stroik had a long plate appearance, fouling off several pitches before earning a walk to load the bases with one out. Trailing by one, Dolan came to bat with a chance to tie the game. He grounded the ball to second base but hustled to first to beat out the attempted double play. Dolan’s fielder’s choice tied the game at three in the bottom of the ninth inning and forced extra innings.

Clute continued to dominate on the mound for St. Thomas, shutting down Linfield.

Infielder Jake Steinbach pinch-hit in the top of the 12th inning and smacked a single up the middle to get on base. Steinback later advanced to second base on a passed ball. Another beaned batter and a flyout to left field gave the Tommies runners on first and third with two outs. Dolan, who tied the game in the ninth inning, once again came to the plate for St. Thomas in a high pressure situation.

Dolan said he did what the coaches told him to do and just put the ball in play.

“The coaches have been saying just put the ball in play since the beginning of the game, even if it’s a grounder or whatever,” Dolan said. “I saw two pitches that I didn’t like, and the third one I swung and it hit the lip of the grass and bounced over the shortstop and we won the game. Fluke play, but it works out in the end.”

Dolan’s single scored Steinbach and gave the Tommies the victory. Coach Chris Olean said he was proud of the way his team continued to battle throughout the game.

“My expectations for the season are to keep getting better each game as we play. We have a ton of talent, we had some mistakes early in the game and we had some execution issues, but that will get better as we go. If we continue to stick around, we’ll find a way,” Olean said.

The Tommies played again later on Friday night and once again used extra innings to defeat a nationally ranked opponent. St. Thomas defeated No. 13-ranked Concordia (Illinois) 6-5 on a twelfth inning RBI double off the bat of junior Cory Quinlan to improve to 2-0 on the season.

The Tommies will play five more games in Arizona and five games in Florida, concluding with a College World Series rematch from last year against No. 1-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater on March 25.

St. Thomas begins MIAC play on March 28 when it hosts St. Mary’s.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Women’s hockey secures NCAA berth

 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minnesota – Forward Heidi Winiecki’s game-winning goal at 13:23 of the third period propelled the St. Thomas women’s hockey team to its second consecutive MIAC championship with a 3-2 win over Bethel Saturday afternoon at the St. Thomas Ice Arena.

With the win, the Tommies (14-9-4 overall, 11-3-4 MIAC) earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Divison-III playoffs beginning March 14. Coach Tom Palkowski said his team played hard and was deserving of the outcome.

“The kids have really worked hard this year. They’re a young group,” Palkowski said. “We took some growing pains, but we kept battling and our upperclassmen have really been great leaders.”

Each team took two minor penalties in the first period, but while the Tommies couldn’t capitalize with the extra skater, the Royals were able to.

Bethel forward Kathryn Larson got the scoring started in the contest when she tallied a power-play goal at 7:38 of the opening period.

Bethel held St. Thomas scoreless in the first period, but the Tommies were able to break through in the second frame. Forward Rachel Friberg tied the game six minutes into the second period with her ninth goal of the season.

Bethel regained the lead on the power play later in the period. Larson found the back of the net with 7:17 left in the second period for her second goal of the contest.

The Royal lead didn’t last long though.

Forward Heidi Winiecki broke the tie less than three minutes later with a power-play goal with 4:14 remaining in the second period. Forward Courtney Umland and defenseman Megan Juricko were credited with the assists.

Bethel earned a power play halfway through the final period and threatened to increase its lead, but goaltender Taylor Neisen stood tall and shut the door. Neisen finished the game with 17 saves but said her flurry of saves during the successful third period penalty-kill gave her team the momentum to finish strong.

“They had two powerful goals before that, so it was a huge turning point for our game. Our whole team had a step of confidence after that,” Neisen said.

The Tommies took their first lead of the game late in the third period. A rebound off forward Tara Baago’s shot bounced into the slot where Winiecki took advantage. She picked up a loose puck and beat Royal goaltender Michelle Klimstra with the shot. Winiecki was quick to heap praise on her linemate for the goal.

“(Baago) had an awesome pass across on the hustle, and it just popped right out to me. It was a good feeling,” Winiecki said.

St. Thomas will find out its opponent and seeding during the NCAA’s live online selection show on March 9 at 9 a.m.

“I don’t even have words. It’s so unreal right now. I honestly don’t know what to say, I’m so excited,” Friberg said.

Palkowski said he is looking forward to another week of practice and another round of the national tournament.

“We’ll take our chances against anybody,” Palkowski said.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Men’s hockey drops MIAC semifinal

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – Despite forward Nick Nielsen’s game-tying goal with 7:25 remaining in the third period, the St. Thomas men’s hockey team fell to Hamline 6-3 Saturday night at the St. Thomas Ice Arena in the semifinals of the MIAC playoffs.

The Tommies entered the post-season as the No. 1 seed after a weekend sweep of rival St. Johns. St. Thomas entered the game with a record of 10-1-2 on home ice, but the Pipers were able to find the back of the net six times to defeat the Tommies. Coach Jeff Boeser said the season is likely over.

“We’re done. It would be a long shot. We just don’t have enough wins,” Boeser said. “Crazier things have happened, but as of right now, I don’t think we’ll have a chance.”

Hamline entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and played just two nights ago, defeating the No. 4 seed Augsburg 4-3. The Pipers came from behind to defeat the Auggies and entered the game against St. Thomas with a high level of confidence.

St. Thomas forward Connor McBride got the scoring started two minutes into the opening period. Defenseman Charlie Donlin and forward Chris Cass were credited with assists.

Hamline forward Andrew Herbert responded just three minutes later when his backhand attempt sailed over the shoulder of St. Thomas goaltender Drew Fielding. Both teams had plenty of scoring chances in the remainder of the first period, but neither the Tommies nor the Pipers were able to break through.

The Pipers struck first in the middle frame as forward Jaycob McCombs tallied a goal to give Hamline its first lead of the night. Three minutes later, Tommie forward Willie Faust sped down the ice on a short-handed rush and fired a wrist shot off the post. The puck rattled around the crease before eventually crossing the goal line to tie the game. Boeser complimented the Pipers on their effort.

“Let’s give Hamline some credit, they played well,” Boeser said.

Hamline forward Kevin Novakovich recorded another goal with just over two minutes remaining in the period to give his team a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

Nielsen tied the game at 9:35 of the third period when he buried a loose puck in the crease. Boeser said his team had opportunities, but Hamline took advantage of theirs all night.

“We had a couple really good chances we didn’t cash in on, and they seemed to cash in on all of theirs,” Boeser said.

Once again, Hamline responded. The Pipers recorded two more goals late in the third period to ensure the victory. Forward Cody Mason scored on a pass from Herbert in the slot to regain the lead. Minutes later forward Brandon Zurn showed off his speed and beat Fielding on the short side to give Hamline its first two-goal lead of the contest.

Novakovich recorded an empty-net goal to add an exclamation mark to the victory.

The Pipers advance to the MIAC championship game on Saturday, March 7 to play for the automatic bid to the NCAA Division-III tournament. Hamline will be on the road once again taking on either St. Mary’s or Concordia-Moorhead.

The season is likely over the St. Thomas men’s hockey team.

“We have a lot of good guys. I wish it could have been a different outcome,” Boeser said.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

St. Thomas clinches 4th-straight MIAC championship

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – Defenseman Michael Krieg’s second-period goal tied the game at one, but forward Nick Nielsen’s tally less than two minutes later proved to be the eventual game-winner as the St. Thomas men’s hockey team defeated St. John’s 3-1 Friday night at the St. Thomas Ice Arena.

More than 700 spectators packed into the arena to witness the Tommies (16-5-4 overall, 10-3-3 MIAC) clinch their fourth straight MIAC regular season championship and the No. 1 overall seed for the conference playoffs. Assistant coach Parker Burgess said St. Thomas is excited to win another title, but the team’s focus has already shifted to the postseason.

“We’re a really focused group. These guys have been there before, and it’s a special accomplishment for them to win four straight conference championships in the regular season, but they haven’t won the ultimate prize,” Burgess said. “If you ask any of those seniors, they would trade all four of their regular season championships in for one national title, and that’s the mindset moving forward.”

St. John’s forward John Haeg opened the game’s scoring when he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and went in all alone on St. Thomas goaltender Drew Fielding. Haeg’s shorthanded goal was unassisted and forced the Tommies to come from behind for the second time in two nights. Coach Jeff Boeser said his team’s seniors were a steadying force throughout the game.

“To be honest, it is our senior leadership. They kept everybody calm, and they lead the way. They played well, and (Fielding) led the way tonight,” Boeser said.

Fielding recorded 29 saves in the game to secure his 52nd career victory with St. Thomas. Fielding said the pregame mindset Friday was to simply stay focused.

“It’s always a fun rivalry – Tommie-Johnnie. Any sport is big, and for us, they have been a big rival all four years that I have been here,” Fielding said. “We knew they were going to come out with everything they had; their playoff lives depended on it. We wanted to have the cut-throat mentality to end team’s seasons.”

Just over seven minutes into the second period, Krieg wound up for a slap shot off a faceoff win and beat St. John’s goaltender Saxton Soley through the five-hole to tie the game at one. Krieg said he was just trying to get the puck toward the net.

“I got the puck, and I was just trying to find a lane. I shot it wide, it hit off a skate and went in,” Krieg said. “It was pretty lucky, but we’ll take it.”

Just over a minute after Krieg’s third goal of the season, forward Nick Nielsen received a pass from linemate Bobby Murphy and deposited the puck into the back of the net to give the Tommies a 2-1 lead. Nielsen’s third game-winning goal of the season tied him with forward Alex Altenbernd for the team lead on the year.

Fielding made 10 saves in the third period to help St. Thomas hold off St. John’s frantic rally attempt, but a fluky goal sealed the win. Forward Willie Faust was credited with an empty-net goal with 1:13 left in regulation when a Johnnie player deflected his pass intended for forward Alex Altenbernd into the net.

For Krieg and the Tommies, any celebration will be short-lived.

“We’re done celebrating the regular season championship. It’s time to go to work,” Krieg said. “The real season starts now.”

St. Thomas will host the winner of the opening round play-in game between the No. 4 and 5 seeds on Saturday, Feb. 28. Six teams – Concordia-Moorhead, St. Mary’s, Hamline, Augsburg, St. John’s and Gustavus – are still alive in the MIAC playoff picture on the final day of the regular season, and matchups on Saturday, Feb. 21 will determine final seedings.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Women’s tennis ranked No. 1 in MIAC preseason poll

The St. Thomas women’s tennis team earned the No. 1 ranking in the MIAC preseason coaches poll, receiving four of 11 first-place votes to secure the top spot.

Coach Terry Peck began the season with a combined 574 victories between the men’s and women’s programs at St. Thomas and is back at the helm for his 25th season with the Tommies. Peck said the No. 1 ranking means his team is getting the recognition it deserves.

“(The ranking) means that our goals and our perception of our team is that we have gotten stronger and are respected in the midwest, and it’s validated,” Peck said.

St. Thomas women’s tennis players Kara Lefsrud and Bridget Noack receive a plaque for their All-American status in 2013. Lefsrud and Noack will play a monumental role this season on and off the court. (Photo courtesy of Kara Lefsrud)
St. Thomas women’s tennis players Kara Lefsrud and Bridget Noack receive a plaque for their All-American status in 2013. Lefsrud and Noack will play a monumental role this season on and off the court. (Photo courtesy of Kara Lefsrud)

Carleton College also received four first-place votes, but the Tommies earned 91 points in the coaches poll and edged out the Knights by one point to claim the top spot. Gustavus Adolphus College – the team that ended the Tommies’ season last year with a victory in the MIAC playoffs – received the other first place votes.

All-MIAC junior Shelby Henderson, who has a career record of 23-12 in singles and 23-14 in doubles at St. Thomas, said the team learned from the playoff loss last season.

“We learned that you have to be in the moment. You can’t hold back on anything. You have to play to the best of your ability and believe,” Henderson said. “We can’t treat the postseason as any other match. We have to put it all out there.”

The Tommies finished last year 8-2 in the conference and 15-4 overall. St. Thomas returns 10 players from last year’s roster and adds three new freshmen: Caitlin Bakke, Jenna Czarnecki and Jenna Zimmerman.

Among the returning players, last year’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association doubles All-America team of senior Kara Lefsrud (41-11 singles, 44-12 doubles) and junior Bridget Noack (26-6 singles, 31-7 doubles) will play a monumental role this season on and off the court.

“We all have to take a little responsibility. The three freshmen are so good, so positive and very confident with their game, so the biggest thing is just to make them feel welcome on this team,” Noack said.

Peck said he believes his team has what it takes to make a deep postseason run.

“The talent is there; they are having fun and putting the time in. I think our team is as deep as any team in the midwest,” Peck said. “We need to stay healthy – that will be the key.”

The Tommies as a team are unbeaten so far this year. St. Thomas knocked off Wisconsin-Stout on Sept. 17 before beating two Division-II opponents, Southwest Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, to start 2015. St. Thomas added a 9-0 win against Concordia for its first MIAC win of the season Sunday.

Noack said competing against D-II opponents early in the season provided great experience for the remainder of the year.

“It definitely helps to play Division-II opponents. They are very good, strong competitors, which makes good practice for all of our conference teams and our Florida tournament,” Noack said.

St. Thomas looks to remain unbeaten on the season when it hosts Northwestern College (Iowa) and University of Northwestern (Minn.) Feb. 21.

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

St. Thomas ranked No. 19 in EPA’s top 30 college and university list

Infographic by designer Kelly Olson
Infographic by designer Kelly Olson

St. Thomas was ranked No. 19 on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnerships top 30 list among colleges and universities nationwide, released Jan. 26.

The list is based on the total amount of energy used each year from sustainable sources. St. Thomas currently uses 34,134,560 kilowatts per hour, while the No. 1-ranked University of Pennsylvania uses 200,183,000 kilowatts per hour.

Bob Douglas, coordinator of Recycling and Central Receiving, said he believes the school sets an example for other colleges and universities.

“I’m happy that (St. Thomas) is getting recognized nationally for its commitment to reduce the use of carbon-based energy,” Douglas said. “Our position in the EPA Green Power listings shows that we are leading the way among state colleges and universities in our use of alternative energy.”

Douglas also said the ranking will give the university more recognition as a whole and increase students’ awareness of St. Thomas’ environmental priorities.

The decision to use Xcel Windsource energy on campus plays a bigger role in the St. Thomas community than most students and faculty are aware of, according to Douglas.

“We know that the continued dependence on carbon-based fuel not only heats up the environment, but the resulting warming cascades into an increase of disease, invasive species, catastrophic weather episodes … while reducing the clean air necessary to enjoy a healthy and vital lifestyle,” Douglas said. “Our present energy choices help determine the kind of future students of St. Thomas will live in.”

According to EcoWatch.com, Minnesota is one most environmentally friendly states in the country, with both Minneapolis and St. Paul earning a top 10 spot in the nation’s greenest cities. St. Paul is ranked eighth, and Minneapolis is ranked 10th.

Sophomore Melanie Bussan said she is proud of the contributions St. Thomas has made.

“I think it says a lot about us as a community that we really strive to lessen the impact that we have on the environment and to be more conscious of the world around us,” Bussan said.

St. Thomas recently added new solar energy panels to the Anderson Student Center that could eventually boost its overall ranking. The panels went online one month ago, and their contribution will be seen on the EPA colleges and universities list in January of 2016.

“The decision to invest in alternative fuels illustrates our desire to make the future environment a better place for all of our students and communities,” Douglas said. “Our environment is the platform on which the future will rest.”

Travis Swan can be reached at swan9954@stthomas.edu.

Weiers leads Tommies to big win over Gusties

Center Maggie Weiers scored a game-high 22 points to lead the No. 8-ranked St. Thomas women’s basketball team to a 76-43 rout over Gustavus Wednesday night at Schoenecker Arena.

The Tommies opened the game on a 19-7 run, and coach Ruth Sinn said the team’s fast start carried the team for the rest of the game.

“We like the pace to go up and down. We play a lot of players as well. The positive thing is when the pace starts to go up, we start wearing teams down,” Sinn said.

Gustavus hung around for much of the first half and cut the deficit to five points with just under three minutes to play in the half, but St. Thomas scored the final 7 points of the half and led by 12 at the break.

Weiers got the scoring started in the second half before guard Jenna Dockter scored on back-to-back possessions. Dockter tied her season-high points in the win, recording 17 for the second straight game. Similar to their first half start, the Tommies went on a 20-4 run to open the second half. Sinn said her team believes in its defense.

“Our girls are hungry. We have eight seniors on this team, and they buy into defense, and they understand that sometimes our defense is our bread and butter, and no matter what happens on offense, we are going to commit to the defense end,” Sinn said.

The Gusties managed 4 points at the halfway mark of the second half and failed to score 70 points for the first time this season. Turnovers plagued Gustavus – the team committed 15 turnovers in the second half alone.

Weiers recorded 10 points, and Dockter tallied 7 to lead the charge for St. Thomas in the second half.

Forward Ava Stock scored St. Thomas’ final points with just under two minutes remaining in the contest before the Gustavus tallied the last 3 points of the game, making the final score 76-43.

Although the Tommies scored 76 points, they turned the ball over 17 times offensively. Weiers said the team has been focusing on ball security and hopes to lower that number before the post-season.

“That’s been an emphasis for the last two years. We’re trying to get our average at 14 turnovers per game, and that’s been an issue since last season, so we’re working on that and are keeping track of where we’re at each half,” Weiers said.

Prior to this season, March of 2012 was the last time Weiers, Dockter and forward Anna Smith had all been healthy and playing together at the same time.

“We’ve been playing together now for four years, and it’s just a ton of fun. We know how each other plays, and we know each other’s tendencies. It’s just really fun to read each other out there,” Weiers said.

St. Thomas will host rival St. Ben’s in its next game of the season Dec. 6.

Travis Swan can be reached swan9954@stthomas.edu.