Club sports teams close fall seasons at nationals

| Senior Sports Editor

Courtesy of Matt Guiang

Senior Ryan Lichtarge attempts a cross during the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association Soccer Championships in Phoenix. The Washington University men’s club soccer team lost its first two games at nationals this year by scores of 1-0.

Though the top-ranked Washington University women’s soccer team missed out on a travel opportunity to San Antonio for this weekend’s national semifinals, the women’s club soccer players had punched their tickets to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Soccer Championships Nov. 21-23 in Phoenix.

The men’s club soccer team also headed to Phoenix for the tournament, yet its final two days were cancelled due to a rare rainout. As a blogger for the tournament wrote, the 31 hours of almost nonstop downpour postponed high school football playoff games in the area as well.

The soccer teams were two of several club squads to compete in nationals during the fall season, and others got to compete the full way through.

For the third straight year, the men’s water polo team advanced to the finals of the Division III National Collegiate Club Championship, but it fell short in the title game for a second consecutive season. After a 15-3 trouncing of Carnegie Mellon University on Nov. 2 at Franklin & Marshall College and a 16-5 semifinal triumph over Emory University the next day, Wash. U. took on the University of California-Santa Cruz.

The Banana Slugs had battled in a conference with club teams from the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University, among others. The Bears lost 13-9 in the championship game.

“We were up 3-1, and I don’t know what happened,” junior and team president Vedad Karahodzic said. “I think we just got tired, and they were physically better than us. Tactically, they adjusted, and we didn’t.”

Without a varsity squad, club water polo is the highest level of the sport at the school, and the Bears are among the best club teams in the Midwest. They finished third in the Missouri Valley Division behind two Division I schools, Lindenwood University and St. Louis University. Lindenwood went on to place second at Division I nationals, and the Bears received an automatic bid to Division III nationals as the top divisional team in their conference.

“We’re happy with second [at nationals]—obviously not overly thrilled because we won two years ago, and last year, we ended up losing in sudden-death overtime,” Karahodzic said. “So it was kind of bittersweet, but it was a great season. I thought we had a lot of freshmen step up, so we should be really good next year as well.”

The club running team turned in its top overall performance in program history Nov. 16 in Hershey, Pa. Women’s runners edged 10 Division I teams, and the men’s squad bested six.

First-year graduate student Merissa Harkema set records in place and time for the women’s team, finishing the 6-kilometer course 34th overall in 24:27. Senior Brian Lebow ran a 29:27 8k time to post a team-record 184th-place performance for the men. Both teams finished as the best in Division III and the state of Missouri.

“We raced against very big names—all of the Big Ten is there, Virginia is there, [University of Connecticut, Duke University]—a lot of big schools,” senior and team president Anthony Tyrpin said.

The men’s soccer team lost its first two games in this year’s nationals, both by a score of 1-0, before the rainout. The defeats came at the hands of Division I schools, the University of Connecticut and San Diego State University.

Courtesy of Michelle Knopp

Senior Brian Lebow ascends a hill during the club running national championships.

“Our best season we’ve had in a long time was actually last year’s season,” senior and team president Felipe Cuartas said. “But this year we still had a really good team.”

Last season, the Bears made it to the Final Four and bowed out only after a loss to Michigan State University, which has one of the 10 largest student enrollments in the country. The Bears have been anchored by Ikenna Odinaka, who played varsity collegiate soccer as an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University. Odinaka graduates this year.

The women’s team lost 1-0 to San Diego State and 3-0 to Northeastern University in its two Thursday contests.

“We were the only Division III school there,” senior and team president Christina Ruggieri said. “So it was cool to be able to represent Wash. U. and play against some really high-caliber teams.”

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