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Vol.25, No. 02 Sept. 10, 1999

Fall Sports Preview: Highest Expectations for Men's, women's Soccer Teams in '99

WOMEN'S SOCCER

Following the most successful season in the history of Columbia women's soccer, the Light Blue lost only two players to graduation. The team ( 12-2-5 last year) features tremendous balance, highlighted by a defense which last fall yielded only 0.55 goals per game, sixth-best in the nation.

Record-setting goalkeeper Ali Ahern, a co-captain, allowed only two opponents to score more than once in any match.

Senior co-captain Kerry Martin led the Ivy League in scoring last year, and should contend for the conference's Player of the Year honor in 1999.

On attack, the team is led by seniors Rachel Toomey and Kriszen Williams, as well as a batch of talented first-years.

MEN'S SOCCER

Bolstered by Head Coach Dieter Ficken's best recruiting class in more than a decade, men's soccer looks to rebound from only its third sub-.500 season in the last 23.

The team, which returns 15 of 18 letterwinners, will again have a stifling defense. Senior co-captains Jesse Leff and Soroosh Seyhoon will be its anchors. Increased scoring is key to the team's success; junior co-captain and All-Ivy striker Leslie Fitzpatrick looks to have a major breakthrough campaign, and the Lions will rely on several talented freshmen for the essential second goal-scorer.

FOOTBALL

Forty-one returning lettermen and a fine recruiting class give Head Coach Ray Tellier the material on which to build a successful season and to surprise, perhaps, the rankings that have Columbia finishing sixth in the Ivies this year, well behind favorites Penn and Brown.

On offense, the Lions are strongest at running back—with senior Norman Hayes, junior Kirby Mack (All-Ivy) and sophomore Johnathan Reese, the 1998 Ivy League Rookie of the Year—and at wide receiver, where seniors Armand Dawkins, Mark Cannan and Justin Meadlin all return.

On defense, the Light Blue boasts one of the Ivy League's most experienced backfields, led by Jason Bivens and Andre Ogundare. It also has experience in linebacker Kevin Wright and tackle Jon Sproul. The season's biggest challenges will be rebuilding both lines, and identifying a starting quarterback.

VOLLEYBALL

Volleyball is building on its strongest nucleus of players in Coach Carolyn Elwood's three years. This year, not only do the Lions have returning talent but their largest recruiting class also.

"For the first time since I've been here we have depth in every position," Elwood said. "With this many high-level players we will have some great competition for starting positions, something that hasn't happened in this program for a while."

The Lions have two junior co-captains who should lead them on and off the court: Rachel Miller and Rebecca Shumsky. And starters junior Candace Cedar and sophomore Serena Lewis are also returning. The Light Blues will nevertheless rely heavily on their first-years to fill important roles, especially those of primary passing, setting and middle blocking.

FIELD HOCKEY

The young Columbia Field Hockey program is steadily gaining ground on the rest of the Ivy League. Sixteen letterwinners return, 11 of whom started during the 1998 season. Now there are seniors in the program with three years of varsity experience who can help Coach Susan Eichner direct the efforts of her 1999 team.

The forward positions are led by the speedy and athletic junior Ellen Werner. Accompanying her are sophomores Alon Donohue and Page McGranahan.

The midfield has a pair of outstanding runners with incredible skills and shooting desire in sophomores Tina Fernandez and All-Ivy Nikki Campbell. They are joined by newcomer Florencia Battilana, who will generate speed in the transition game from endline to endline.

The defense has maturity, poise and desire. The sides will be controlled by the exceptional marking abilities of senior captains Antoinette Allen and Daira Tramontin. Sophomore Cameo Roehrich will hold the center. Whitney Weems, a three-year starter, returns in goal for her final season.

MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY

The Lions finished third at the Heptagonal (Ivy League plus Navy) Cross Country Championships in the last two seasons, marking the team's best finishes since winning the event in 1979. Additionally, the squad won its third consecutive Metropolitan Championship.

The team lost two first-team All-Ivy harriers to graduation—including Heptagonal Champion Mike Grant—but return All-East honoree James Langstine, as well as seniors Ray Biersbach and Jason Gibbons, each of whom are first-team All-Ivy caliber.

WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY

Last fall was a season of superlatives and firsts for women's cross country. The team had its best-ever finish at the Heptagonal Championships, won its first-ever Metropolitan Championship and had five runners break into the school's all-time top 10 list for the 5,000-meter course at Van Cortlandt Park.

No one was lost to graduation and Head Coach Willy Wood added the best recruiting class in the program's brief history. Senior Kara Kerr became the first runner for Columbia women's cross country to earn first-team All-Ivy honors when she finished third at Heptagonal Championships.