Anthony Cittadino, Sports Editor
The Utica College baseball team has begun their Spring 2017 workouts and are gearing up for another season.
The Pioneers finished the 2016 season with a record of 9-25-1 and a conference record of 6-12. This may seem like a rebuilding season, but the Pioneers did pick up one big post-season win against conference rival, St. John Fisher who only lost two conference games last season and made an appearance in the NCAA Division III College World Series.
UC did have a brief fall ball season that went well according to Assistant Coach, Angel Zapata. “It was a good few weeks. We used it as time to evaluate our players. We played Mohawk Valley Community College and it was good because all our players got to play a few innings,” said Zapata. The Pioneers are looking forward to getting back on the diamond and their first chance will be the weekend before spring break as they travel to New Jersey to play at a Diamond Nation which is a turf complex. The following week, UC will take their annual trip to Florida for their first eight games of the season. UC has their last season in the rear view and only has one goal in mind for this year. “Our goal is to finish in the top four so we can make the conference tournament, that’s all that matters to us,” said assistant coach, Christopher Podlucky. “We hope to make the tournament and hopefully we go on a little run. In baseball anything can happen.” The Pioneers begin their 2017 campaign March 5 at 12:30 p.m. in New Jersey.
The Utica College Softball team is ready for another great season. Last season the Pioneers finished with a record of 22-18 and a conference record of 9-5. They nearly went unbeaten at home with a blistering record of 11-1. UC fell short in the post season going 0-2 to get knocked out of the first round. Head Coach, Patrick Mineo is certain this team seems determined to make it back to the Empire 8 conference tournament. “We’re shooting to do better this year, but last year we were able to get to the conference tournament so I would be satisfied if we can come up with around the same outcome for the regular season.” Mineo has his hands full but he has great help with Assistant Coach, Danielle Alpi. “We have a great group of girls this year, it should be a strong year,” Alpi said. This year is looking good for the Pioneers as their season approaches. Mineo also weighed in on whom he expects to step up as leaders this season, “We have eight great freshmen that came in, but I expect our leaders to be our one senior, Kassidy Ogren, and the rest of our upperclassmen as well.” UC will begin their season on March 12 against Springfield College in Kissimmee, Florida, which will start their 10-game spring break trip.
MEN’S LACROSSE PREVIEW
The men’s lacrosse team is gearing up for another season this spring. The Pioneers finished last season with an overall record of 4-11 and a conference record of 3-5. Last year was tough for UC but there is only one goal in mind as this season approaches, “This year our mantra is play in May. Our only goal is to be a playoff team,” said head coach Mike Parnell. “It’s on the back of our t-shirts; it’s how we great each other. All we say to each other is play in May and that is our only goal.” This is a great mentality moving forward for this team. The past has not been too kind to this program but there is nothing on their minds besides every game on their schedule coming up. “Having the bubble helps tremendously for practices. It’s nice to have the climate controlled and to be able to teach at a slowed down pace,” said Parnell. “The morale is good, we have a very motivated team this year and bottom line is, they’re hungry.” UC was able to play a few games in the fall to evaluate their new talent, which was very successful. They played Marywood University and Misercordia and couldn’t have been happier with the result. Parnell expects big things out of both senior captains, Tyler Nicolaus and Liam Wheatley moving forward. “Our two captains are ready for a big season; they couldn’t be more ready to lead this team.” The Pioneers begin their season on March 8 as they host Hamilton College for their home opener.
WOMEN’S LACROSSE PREVIEW
The Utica College women’s lacrosse team is eager to get back out on the turf this spring. The Pioneers have been practicing inside and outside for the past few weeks and have nothing on their mind but winning. “Our big focus is one more. The last nine seasons here we have been one game out of playoffs and there is no doubt that we want to be there,” said Head Coach, Kristin St. Hilaire. “Playing in May is our focus and we know we have to put in more work. We can’t keep doing the same things we have been doing. We want to get that one game to get in be in the top four of the Empire 8.” UC finished their last season with an overall record of 9-7 and a conference record of 4-4. Like Halaire stated, this team will need better than a .500 record for the post season in this conference. This team seems hungry and has the coach at the wheel to guide them. “The girls are really driven, they’re hungry, and they want it. You can see it in practice, day in and day out, and bottom line is they want that extra game, bad.” Halaire has a great handle on everything and couldn’t be more perfect for this program. This team has many leaders but Halaire expects a few to really step up this season, “On the attacking end, we have Rebecca Plunkett and Brooke Miller who are two of our top returners on that end. We also have midfielder, Colleen Dowling which we are so happy to have back on the field.” The Pioneers will get back out on the turf on March 4 as they host SUNY Potsdam.
MEN’S TENNIS PREVIEW
The Utica College men’s tennis team is hoping for a better campaign this season due to a rough 1-10 overall record last year. Their 0-8 conference record earned them nothing as they sat at home for the playoffs. The Pioneers lonely win was against Sage College who also finished with a beaten up record of 2-9. There is no telling how the Pioneers could do this season but the best guess is not good in the slightest. This program has only won 13 matches in the past 11 years on top of 93 losses. It’s safe to say Head Coach, John Nigro has a full plate this upcoming season if he wants to turn this program around. UC will begin their 2017 season on April 4 at home against Alfred.
MEN’S GOLF PREVIEW
The Utica College men’s golf team is almost ready to resume their 2016-17 season. Earlier in the fall, UC had a rough time on the links playing in six matches and coming up short in all of them, including the Empire 8 championship coming in fifth place. The Pioneers have not won a match since their 2013 season, which was against Morrisville State. UC has five matches coming up including another run at the conference championship. There is no telling how this team will do but it’s safe to say they have their work cut out for them if they want to raise any trophy by the end of the season. Head Coach, Dave Clausen and his team return to the tee box on April 11 against Hamilton College.
WOMEN’S GOLF PREVIEW
The Utica College women’s golf team looks to continue their good start to the 2016-2017 season. UC played in five matches this previous fall and competed well in all outings. They began with a successful match at St. Lawrence and followed up with the Utica College Invitational at the Yahnundasis Golf Club coming in sixth place. UC then took first place at the SUNY Canton Invitational. The Pioneers finished off the fall coming in third place in the Empire 8 championships. Clausen also coaches the women’s team so his hands are full this spring. UC returns to the links on April 11 against Hamilton College.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO PREVIEW
The Utica College water polo team is ready to dive back in the pool this spring. The Pioneers finished last season with a 0-17 overall record. Last year was not ideal for UC but this year, Head Coach, Erin Knight is ready for a great season ahead. UC has their first game against Connecticut College on March 11 and won’t return home until next year. This season the Pioneers will not have one single home game, which is always a disadvantage. This team seems determined to forget about last season and move on to their first win in almost two years.