WU teams set out for spring break games
The great Bear migration
Each fall, thousands of polar bears peacefully pass through the town of Churchill in the northern reaches of Canada on their annual migration. Polar bears are the only bears in the natural world to have a set annual migration, but in the sports world they are joined by the Bears of Washington University. Each spring, various Wash. U. teams travel thousands of miles, flying to preseason warm ups, tournaments against high-ranking opposition and even national championships. Here is your primer for Wash. U.’s spring sports migration.
Indoor track and field
Spring break for track and field teams means the grand finale of the indoor season, with the two teams traveling down to Birmingham, Ala. for the NCAA Indoor Championships. The indoor national championships are the culmination of four hard months of the indoor track season, and an opportunity to build momentum before heading outdoors at the end of March. Last year, the women’s team took home a national championship indoors, and then were the wire-to-wire No. 1 team in Division III the whole spring before winning another national title outside.
Ranked fifth in the nation now, the women are not quite a lock to win their third national title in the space of a year, but they are still a highly competitive national program, and Wash. U. women have qualified for six events in Birmingham. The women’s qualifiers are highlighted by the distance medley relay (DMR) team of junior Abby Martin, sophomore Nicky Althoff and seniors Annalise Wagner and Alison Lindsay, who posted the fastest time in Division III this season last weekend in the Wartburg Qualifiers. The four women of the DMR team are the Bears’ best shot at an individual title this weekend, though several other athletes are within striking distance, including Wagner, who currently holds the second-best time in the 800-meter. Sophomore Paige Lawler also has a good shot at a national title in the 5,000-meter, and junior Heidi Nassos has a chance to challenge in the pole vault.
On the men’s side, Wash. U. only qualified in two events, so a national title is even less likely. However, the men also boast a strong DMR team, and the quartet of graduate student Ethan Brodeur, senior Thomas Gales, sophomore Nick Matteucci and freshman John Harry Wagner head to nationals with the second best indoor time this season under their belts.
While the Bears are unlikely to replicate last year’s track and field dominance, they will still get a chance at more than a few individual national titles in Alabama before turning around and beginning the outdoor season.
The women’s golf team often flies under the radar on campus, but they are also flying out to their biggest scheduled competition of the season over the upcoming break, playing in the UAA Championships in Hammock Beach, Fla. starting Monday. The Bears have very quietly been having an excellent season. They are ranked fourth in Division III per Golfstat, and are fresh off capturing first place in the 16-team Golfweek Division III Invite.
The star for the Bears so far has been sophomore Samantha Haubenstock, who won a share of first place at the Golfweek Invite. Haubenstock won UAA Freshman of the Year honors last season, when she also hit the third-best score at the conference championships and helped Wash. U. secure second place. This year, the Bears are narrowly behind conference rival New York University in the Golfstat rankings, and hope to pip the Violets for the UAA crown this year.
Baseball and softball
Both the baseball team and the softball team travel to Florida for a competitive slate of games. Both teams face a gauntlet of ranked teams, with the softball team facing two top-15 teams, and baseball only facing one unranked team.
The baseball team heads into spring break with a decent bit of momentum, righting the ship after a shaky start to the season. The Bears opened the year with an 0-3 trip to Conway, Ark. which included extra-innings losses to Hendrix College and University of Texas at Dallas. Last weekend Wash. U. opened its home schedule and had a much easier time, winning all four games. The pitching staff stood out in the Bears’ three-game sweep of Buena Vista College, with freshman Ryan Loutos striking out 13 batters in six innings of work in the last game of the series and junior John Howard tossing a dominant one-hit shutout in the first game.
Wash. U. will need the rotation to be on top form in Auburndale, Fla. this coming week, when they will come up against No. 21 Wheaton University, No. 11 Oswego State University, No. 10 Southern Maine University and No. 24 Salve Regina. Against the Southern Maine Huskies, the Wash. U. bullpen will have to neutralize pre-season All-American Dylan Hapworth. The sophomore outfielder is projected to be one of the best power hitters in the division this year, after a rookie campaign in which he posted a .394 hitting percentage and a .700 slugging percentage.
The softball team comes into the spring slate after splitting a two-game series with Webster University to start the season. As expected, senior pitcher Anna McKee was dominant in her first start this season, and only allowed two hits in a 5-1 victory. Her fellow senior Maggie Clapp, the other key to the Bears’ bullpen, struggled in her first start, and allowed four first-inning runs.
The Bears will hope that Clapp can recover from the rough start for a slate of games that includes No. 16 Ithaca College and No. 12 Ramapo College. Wash. U. will also hope that freshman catcher Julia Flores’ first game in college was a sign of things to come: The first-year threw out a Webster player trying to steal second and had a double and an RBI in her Wash. U. debut.
Men’s and women’s tennis
The two Wash. U. tennis teams travel to southern California for what might be the most brutal set of matches for any of the spring teams. The men’s team starts their break Sunday with a double header against No. 11 Carnegie Mellon University and Division I Lehigh University.
As if that wasn’t enough, the next day they launch into the Stag Hen Invitational, a field that features No. 14 Pomona Pitzer and No. 9 Amherst. All in all, the Bears will play five matches in as many days. Head coach Roger Follmer will have to rely on some squad rotation and will look to shuffle players who missed ITA Indoor Nationals like junior Radha Vishnubhotla and senior Jason Haugen into the lineup, depending on their health.
Women’s tennis had a somewhat disastrous start to their indoor nationals last weekend, only winning four matchups in the first two matches. They finally got a bounce back in the final match against Johns Hopkins University and will hope to carry that momentum into their own tough slate of games.
The Bears take on four teams between next Sunday and Wednesday, and cap off their spring break with a matchup against No. 5 Bowdoin College. The key for Wash. U. against these top teams will likely be a combination of senior Grace Deering’s adaptation to No. 1 singles after spending most of her career behind now-graduated Rebecca Ho, and the performances from highly ranked freshmen Ally Persky and Ashley Lessen. If those three play well, the Bears should be able to churn out results like the Johns Hopkins win regularly.