Preview: Must-watch winter sports

The leaves are gone from the trees, nobody’s stopping to talk between classes anymore and it seems like the winter coats outside Stav Hall outnumber the students inside the cafeteria. These signs all point to one thing: winter. And as such, it’s time for St. Olaf athletes who compete in winter sports to finally start taking on the opposition as they look to build a strong 2013-2014 season. Mark your calendar for these must-watch winter sporting events. First, let’s take a look at the St. Olaf men’s and women’s basketball teams. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the 2012-2013 season was disappointing for both squads. The men’s team missed the playoffs by finishing eighth in the MIAC, and the women also failed to make the post-season with a seventh-place finish.

But it’s a new season, and both teams will be looking to bounce back better and stronger than ever. Mark Dec. 3 in your calendar. On this day, the Ole men will be looking to replicate last season’s home victory over Carleton College with a huge clash in Skoglund Center.

The Ole women will also be hosting our bitter cross-town rivals on the same day. These clashes could go a long way in deciding the fate of both teams in the forthcoming season.

It also promises to be an exciting winter for the St. Olaf hockey teams. The men’s team faces the tough task of replacing 2012-2013 MIAC Co-MVP Jeff Harris ’13 and his twin brother Kevin Harris ’13, also an All-MIAC pick. The team clashes with the traditionally strong University of St. Thomas at home on Nov. 22 in a must-watch encounter.

The Ole women’s hockey team also has the difficult task of replacing four-time All-MIAC forward Nicole Stumpf ’13, but they will be helped greatly by a pair of All-MIAC members: forward Margot Fleming ’14 and defender Shea Noerenberg ’15. The team clashes with conference favorites Gustavus Adolphus College on Dec. 7. Who knows what a parochial home crowd could inspire the team to do!

The St. Olaf swimming and diving teams will be looking to replicate their spectacular performances of last season, when the men finished 11th at the NCAA Championships and the women finished 16th. The men’s team further added to their 2012-2013 achievements by winning the MIAC conference.

What’s next for the teams? The MIAC championships in Minneapolis beginning Feb. 13 will provide the Oles with a chance to once again compete for the conference title and look to further establish themselves as one of the top Division III teams in the nation.

And last but not least, the indoor track and field teams look to repeat stellar seasons. The 2012-2013 season saw both the men and women take second place in the MIAC. The result was the men’s team’s best since 2005 and the best for the women since 1997.

As for this season? Both teams return several star performers and will be hoping to equal their efforts from last season at the MIAC Indoor Championship on March 7. Perhaps the best chances to watch these indoor athletes compete at home are Jan. 25 and Jan. 31, as St. Olaf plays host to a series of events.

Our winter teams hold a lot of promise over the coming months, and it would be fantastic if a least one tea,, if not more, could claim a MIAC championship over the coming months. And besides, it would be nice to have something to cheer about while we put up with the Minnesota winter.