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Morning practices, miles of running, buckets of sweat, endless sprints, and the grind to enhance oneself. It all means one thing during the first semester at Principia: the dawn of a new fall sports season.
The excitement and energy can be felt around campus. The start of the school year brings hopes and dreams to all the teams as they strive to accomplish the goals they have set, and generates a sense of camaraderie as students cheer for their beloved blue-and-gold. The athletes and coaches have worked tirelessly for the past few months, some throughout the whole year, to represent the College on the course, pitch, or court.
Whether the temperature is hot or cold, or whether the conditions may not seem suitable, the cross country teams are prepared and willing to take the necessary steps to achieve their goals this season. Running cross country requires self-determination to fulfill goals and helpful support from loving teammates that surround the runners every day.
Sophomores Nate Richards and Shane Witters-Hicks lead the men’s team as its captains, and senior Sarah Litwiller is in her second year as the women’s team captain. “They bring a light-hearted maturity and generosity of spirit to the teams,” head coach Chuck Wilcoxen said of his captains. “I learn from them every day.” Being a second-year captain, Litwiller looks to successfully juggle the task of leading a young women’s team and repeating as conference champions this season. “I really enjoy being captain,” Litwiller said of her leadership role. “I just really love and care about the team so much that it feels sort of natural to want to take the extra steps to make sure people are being taken care of, and needs are being heard and met.”
The most interesting factor the cross country teams bring to the conference is the youth factor. “The team looks young,” Wilcoxen said, “We have two freshmen men and two freshmen women scoring for us already. The other three men who have scored so far are sophomores, and the women only have one senior in the top five. As young as we are, we looked composed in our last race against a very tough field.” Witters-Hicks commended the freshmen, saying that “I think they’ve done a really good job. Last year, we had a really big team of seniors, and though we have lost some key runners, I think we have had some really good success, and they are pretty dang good for freshmen.”
The future looks bright for these new freshmen, as they have already made great statements in their first year. “All of the freshmen are key freshmen, they are all contributing already,” Wilcoxen said. “Zach Matthiesen comes in for the men with the most experience, and is racing towards the front of the pack in our meets so far. Brittney Wright comes in with the most experience for the women, and is running towards the front as well. Josh Keeley, Brie Burns and Mason Switzer have already adapted to collegiate racing much faster than I anticipated.” It will be very exciting to hear what great feats these young collegiate athletes will accomplish this year and beyond.
Both teams are aiming to be conference champions. By striving to run with the theme of being “24-hour runners” – meaning to always think of your teammates throughout the day – as put by Wilcoxen, the Principia cross country teams looks well-prepared to capture the school’s heart and deliver hard-earned conference championships.
While the world was fixed on the World Cup in Brazil this summer, the men’s soccer team was gearing up for a conference championship . Coached by Vitalis Otieno, an All-American during his time at Principia, this year’s squad boasts some highly talented returners and intriguing new freshman to complement their performance.
Led by two captains – seniors Gustavo Batista and McGuire Semnacher – achieving the team’s highest goals this year will be well within the grasp of this squad. “We have a great opportunity to win conference,” Batista said. “We have depth and talent, all we have to do is put the pieces together. But if it doesn’t happen this year, this team has the potential to get only better.” Key freshman this season include defenders David Bader and Akime Ogilvie, while Briggs Hurley serves as the artist of the midfield, using his deadly distribution skills to stroke opposing defenders aside. Senior Nate Waters engineers the attack with Semnacher, and senior defenders Leif Carlson, Toby Raine and Christian Thomas hold the backline for senior goalkeeper Gavin Thomas.
Last year, the Panthers finished one spot out of making the SLIAC Conference championship tournament, making them even hungrier for revenge and proving themselves among the conference’s elite. This year, they have the advantage of great leadership, and will be coached by a few familiar faces from around campus. Assistant coach Abi Carper graduated last year from Principia, and brings a spirited mentality that emphasizes the midfield and the intricate shaping this year’s 4-3-3 formation. Principia alum Yaw Danso is also an assistant coach, and brings his All-American skills to the attacking perspective of the game. Buck House resident counselor Dana Byquist, another alum, returns as an assistant coach specializing in defensive tactics.
The combination of the knowledge of these three young coaches, the experience of the head coach, and the work ethic of the players, make for one potent recipe for a successful season. Only time will tell whether the fruits of their labor will conceive into the greatness these young men aspire for.
Many weeks into the season, it is clear that the women’s soccer team is a tight-knit group with the potential to have an excellent year. Almost half of the team is comprised of freshman who bring a lot of enthusiasm to the team dynamic. Head coach Jess Semnacher told the Pilot, “I think this is one of our more unified years. We’ve got a lot of freshmen, and I think that’s a big difference. It’s kinda fun because you have this group that’s not really been together, yet at the same time they’ve done a really great job.”
Not only are there many new faces on the team, but the team has also decided to shake up the traditional team leadership roles. Senior Becca DeNicholas, a four-year veteran of the program, explained that, “This season is definitely different than the past few years. We are all more even in our playing abilities, and we are trying a new team leadership model in which we don’t have captains, because everyone is a leader.” With this new model, everyone has the opportunity to lead, and DeNicholas agrees that everyone is “stepping up on the field.” On the same note, senior Kenzie Keller said, “It is definitely still a work in progress, but we feel this will help our team be well-rounded and that everyone will know they have an important role on our team.”
While the team does not have one specific metaphysical theme, Keller discussed one of the teams main ideas. “One of the things our team has been focusing on metaphysically is setting up our ‘armor of truth’ and what it consists of. Many girls have come up with a whole spiritual armor that is going to help them fight any mortal mind that comes along our journey.”
She continued, “One thing I have noticed throughout my years being on the Principia women’s soccer team is how metaphysically strong our team is. We have fought so many hard battles and overcome many bumps in our path, but not once have I seen anyone of the women give up. We are constantly pushing each other and holding great expectations. There is no doubt in my mind that every player on our team has grown in some way from being on this team.”
Looking to remain as an imperative force within the Gateway Collegiate Rugby Conference, the Principia Thunder Chickens aspire to follow up their national championship in sevens and defend last year’s conference championship in 15’s with a successful upcoming season. Led by three seniors – club president Marshall McCurties; captains Jordan Anderson, who covers the backs; and Kendall Shoemake, who front-runs the scrum – the team strives to be hardworking in its nature and bring the best out of everyone.
The Thunder Chickens have come into this season with a new and fresh look to their roster after losing seniors Naveed Hosseinmardi, Trevor Marunde, Jake Milner and Dillon Siewert. “Jake and Trevor were a great 9-10 combination for two years, and they gave us a solid start to our offense,” Patterson said. Though the team lost some excellent starters, refurbishing the squad is to be expected at a four-year college, and has allowed many newcomers to make their names known. “This year, we have a fantastic class of new players – talented, spirited and hard-working,” Patterson said, “Every one of them has a role to play, and value to add to our program. Robby Butler, Sean Lynch, Evan Cooling, Justin Wu and Zeya Kyaw lead the bunch, but there are many great players developing, and the future will be wonderful to see.”
When looking at the team’s progress thus far this season, McCurties said, “I feel great about it. This team is learning a lot and grabbing as much as they can. They’re hard working, curious and ask questions during water breaks.” With such dedication from so many young players, it is easy to see that the squad has great potential to do some wonderful things throughout the year.
Every day on the field brings out new challenges for the team to accomplish. Successes and failures aside, a brotherhood has been formed through the dedication, passion and toughness required playing the sport of rugby. When asked about what he is looking forward to most this season, Patterson responded by saying, “Week-to-week development and improvement as a team, and as a group of men. The best outcomes are the individual success moments that change a man’s life.”
Those individual success moments will come in all shapes and sizes, but the Thunder Chickens are looking to take those moments and making their biggest goal of competing in nationals at 15’s a reality. The limits are endless with this year’s squad, and the school will continue to support the Thunder Chickens’ course all the way to nationals.
With many players taking on new roles and stepping up to the challenges faced, the volleyball team has a strong foundation. “The season is going well, even if our record right now doesn’t show it,” senior Jess Bushong said. “Our team is an amazing group of girls that love playing volleyball, and I know we are going to do great things. I think our team has great potential to go farther than in previous years.”
Senior Savanna Sprague shed some light on what makes the team. “The team relationship is really strong. I feel like the volleyball court is such a small court compared to a basketball court or a soccer field. We’re all very close together, so we don’t really have room to be frustrated with each other,” she said. “And when we are frustrated with each other, it doesn’t last long, because it can’t. The points happen so fast, and the court is so small that we have to keep moving together and communicating about what’s bothering us, and what’s working and not working, and then fix it.”
Sprague added, “One of my goals for this year is, once we start our conference play, to really see ourselves and have that confident view of ourselves to know that we can win. We are the top dogs, and having that confidence in ourselves, I think that will just play out in our games, and we’ll see it on the scoreboards more than we have in the past.” Bushong said, “My personal goals for the season are to be the best leader I can be, and to play with so much freedom and joy.”
The overall theme for the season can be summed up in two words: “semper peratus,” meaning “ever ready.” Sprague explained, “You can take that in a metaphysical way, that divinity is ever ready, and we’re always in connection with that divinity.”