by Robert D. Cornell
What a sensational fall season for Colgate Red Raider athletic teams! Four Patriot League championships, one ECAC title, the first NCAA tournament appearance by a Colgate women's team, and several regional and national individual honors are among the highlights.
The fall campaign also featured an overall winning percentage of .695, the first winning season in football since 1990, and the lead in the 1996-97 Patriot League Presidents' Cup race, awarded annually to the institution that accumulates the highest point total over the course of the academic-athletic year.
Colgate's first appearance for a women's team in an NCAA tournament came in volleyball. The Red Raiders qualified for the tournament by winning the Patriot League championship (27-7), and then defeating Rider University (3-0) of the Northeast Conference in an NCAA Play-In match.
The Red Raiders traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for a first-round matchup against the University of Wisconsin out of the Big 10 conference. The Badgers showed their experience with a 15-5, 15-3, 15-11 win.
Setting a record for winning percentage (.794), the volleyball team captured several postseason individual honors led by senior Autumn McKenzie as Patriot League Offensive Player-of-the-Year and senior Julia Civardi as co-Defensive Player-of-the-Year.
Head coach Vicky Chun '90 deservedly won the Patriot League Coach-of-the-Year award. She is the first coach in the league's history to win the Patriot League Tournament as a player and coach.
Football resurgence was recognized by the patriot league, which selected a trio of Red Raiders for post-season honors. Freshman quarterback Ryan Vena became the first player in the history of the league to be named Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player. Dick Biddle was named Coach-of-the-Year after his first season at the helm and running back Anthony Carravetta '97 was the Offensive Player-of-the-Year.
What can be said about the football program's turnaround that hasn't already been said or felt by Red Raider loyalists? This year's team accomplished the first winning season since 1990, and became only the third school in Division I or I-AA history to go from an 0-11 record to a winning season (6-5).
First year head coach Dick Biddle, along with an outstanding group of players who hung tough throughout the season, put the excitement back into Colgate football.
The biggest spark came from freshman quarterback Ryan Vena, who became the first player in Patriot League history to be named the Most Valuable Player and Rookie-of-the-Year. The 5-foot-10, 198-pounder moved into the starting lineup after four games, and led the team to six straight victories and into the title game for the Patriot League championship.
Vena, who was also named the ECAC Rookie-of-the-Year, finished his first season with 323 yards rushing and five TDs, and completed 85 of 138 passes (62 percent) for 1,330 yards and 12 TDs.
Also capturing major awards were senior running back Anthony Caravetta, who was named the PL Offensive Player-of-the-Year, and Biddle, who was selected Coach-of-the-Year.
In addition, eight Colgate players were named first team all-Patriot League, while three players grabbed second-team honors. Joining Vena and Caravetta on the first team were sophomore wide receiver Corey Hill, senior tight end Chris Young, senior offensive lineman Rob Puntel, junior defensive end Blair Hicks, senior linebacker Adam Sofran and senior defensive back Marcus Cameron.
On the second team were junior running back Daymon Smith, junior offensive lineman Tim Girard and senior defensive end Derik Liberatore.
In what is proving to be an annual rite of fall, the Colgate women's soccer team captured its third straight Patriot League championship and the sixth in the program's history. Despite a final record of 19-2, the Red Raiders were left out of the NCAA Tournament, a bitter disappointment.
Showing true character, this outstanding group of athletes put their feelings behind them and captured their second straight ECAC Division I championship and third in the last four seasons.
Leading the way for coach Kathy Brawn's club was senior midfielder Jennifer Hughes, the Patriot League's Offensive Player-of-the-Year and ECAC and Patriot League Tournament MVP. A four-time first-team all-league selection, she finished her career as Colgate's all-time leading scorer.
Hughes was joined by junior teammate Nicole D'Orazio on the Northeast Regional Division I team. Hughes was a first-team selection while D'Orazio earned third-team honors.
In addition, Hughes and D'Orazio were first-team all-league along with sophomore back Heidi Schmitz, while senior Lindsay Barnett captured second-team honors.
Two-time all-America Jessica Tuthill '96 had her number retired this season and coach Kathy Brawn presented the former sweeper with her jersey. Jessica's parents Howard and Wendy (daughter of Jack Wells '41) were on hand for the ceremony.
The team that overcame the biggest odds was Cathy Foto's field hockey squad, which was picked sixth in the PL preseason poll. Seeded fourth in the Patriot League Tournament, the Red Raiders proceeded to upset top-seeded and seven-time regular season champion Lafayette 2-0 in the semifinal round, before taking the title with a 3-1 win over second-seeded Lehigh.
Colgate's first field hockey championship earned the Red Raiders a spot in an NCAA play-in game against Ivy League champion Princeton. The Tigers unfortunately brought the season to a conclusion with a 7-1 win.
Foto was named the Patriot League Coach-of-the-Year for guiding her club to a 12-8 record. Also recognized by the league was sophomore Hilary Meyer, who was named co-Defensive Player-of-the-Year, and senior captain Josette Wood, who was MVP of the PL Tournament.
Senior back Amy Mooradian and Meyer were first-team all-Patriot League and Mideast Regional All-America selections, while junior Karly Henney earned second-team all-league status.
The Hall of Honor grew by five members last fall. Inducted were running back Kenny Gamble '88, football and hockey player and coach George Akerstrom '35, hockey coach Terry Slater (whose award was accepted by his wife Agatha), wide receiver Tom Rodgers '82 and tennis and softball player Sue Aery '81.
Colgate's fourth Patriot League title came in women's tennis under coach Scott Thielke. Overcoming a fourth seed, the Red Raiders became the first Patriot League team to successfully defend their title.
The Red Raiders defeated Army 5-3 in the championship match, after beating regular-season champion Lafayette, 5-1, and blanking Lehigh, 5-0.
Sophomore Samantha Kohn was named tournament MVP after defeating Army's Amanda Sentelle in the championship final, 6-3, 6-0. Kohn and senior captain Alex Alton represented Colgate on the all-league singles team, while Kohn and junior Leslie Frank were picked all-league in doubles competition.
Other Colgate athletes earning all-Patriot League selection in the fall were Jon Ryan (golf), Chris Ashfield (men's cross country), Betsy Cunningham (women's cross country), and in men's soccer - Michael Neal, Nate Jackson and Erik Ronning (first-team), and Freddie Song and Jeff Lipman (second-team).