Spring sports preview

Sam Catanzaro, Sports Editor

catanzar@grinnell.edu

Ryan Penaflor ’16  and the baseball team are just one of many spring sport teams with high expectations this spring.  Photo by John Brady

Ryan Penaflor ’16 and the baseball team are just one of many spring sport teams with high expectations this spring.
Photo by John Brady

For members of spring sport teams, winter break is a time for them to prepare for the long season ahead.

Men’s Tennis

The men’s tennis team has won 12 Midwest Conference Championships in a row, but after having seven seniors graduate last year and playing in a Conference that is becoming more competitive, members of the team will have to stay in shape over break.

“There are two schools in the league who are coming hard and fast at us and that is Lake Forest College and Monmouth College,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85.

Among the lost seniors were the No. 1 and No. 2 players Elliott Czarnecki ’15 and Emilio Gomez ’15, but Hamilton is comforted by the talent the current senior class posses.

“We have seven seniors who can flat out ball,” Hamilton said.

In addition to this senior talent, the team’s top recruit, Jose Coloma ’19 from Bolivia, will bolster this already strong team at the No. 1 position.

“Our top recruit, Jose Coloma, is a dual threat. He can play No. 1 singles and is also a very fine doubles player as well,” Hamilton said.

All things considered, Hamilton thinks that this year’s team will be just as strong as it has been in years past, and perhaps better in doubles. In other words, a 13th straight Conference Championship seems likely. The team will begin their season on Feb. 7 when they host Graceland University at 9 a.m.

Softball

Another optimistic team is softball. After winning a total of one game in 2013 and 2014 combined, the team came out last season and won six games. Head coach Amanda Reckamp says this momentum will carry over into the spring.

“Our expectations are high. We saw that we can compete with some of the top teams in the Conference,” Reckamp said.

With eight first-years joining the team, Reckamp is excited to see how the season unfolds, as the returning players have created a program where everybody has a chance to stand out. This creates an environment of healthy competition.

“I think it is going to be interesting to see who rises to the top,” Reckamp said. “There is an open door for any of them to push through.”

With this in mind, Reckamp said that the team hopes to make the Conference tournament and beat some of the teams they suffered close losses to last season. The team will open up their season Mar. 19 versus Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. Their home opener will be Mar. 30 against Mount Mary University at 1 p.m.

Men’s Baseball

On the men’s side, the baseball team also has aspirations of winning Conference. However, head coach Tim Hollibaugh says that in order for this to happen, the team has to stay in the moment and focus on whatever game is at hand.

“The emphasis this year is more game to game,” Hollibaugh said. “We want to treat every game like it is a Conference tournament game. That way we are prepared once we get into that situation.”

In order for this to happen, the team will have to play to their strengths, which include a balanced offensive and an experienced pitching staff, in order to make up for their weaknesses, which include finding a first baseman and a fifth starter.

This being said, with the bulk of the starting lineup and pitching staff returning, Hollibaugh says the biggest challenge for the team will be playing to their full potential.

“The whole thing we are going to fight this year is complacency, knowing that we have a dang good team, so it’s our job as coaches to push these guys to expand their skills and get better,” Hollibaugh said.

The team opens their season Mar. 3 at home versus Marshalltown Community College at 4:30 p.m.

Women’s Track and Field

The women’s track and field team will face their biggest challenge over winter break. Most schools in the Midwest Conference have a shorter break than Grinnell and therefore are able to start practice earlier.

“Most schools will have had two or three tracks meets before we have even had our first,” said head coach Evelyn Freeman.

Despite this, Freeman is hopeful that her team will take it into their own hands to stay in shape over break to make up for this discrepancy. Furthermore, as the season progresses, she hopes that the conditioning of the athletes will get better and therefore the team will continue to improve.

With a large first-year class, Freeman admits that there is much uncertainty for the season ahead, but that does not mean the team has not set goals.

“We want to be committed and dedicated to each other and the program, and we want to continue to grow and develop as athletes and competitors,” Freeman said. 

The team will open up their season on Jan. 30 in Mount Vernon, IA against Cornell College. Fans can see them in action on Feb. 6 when they host the Grinnell College Invitational.