Spring 2014: making up for lost time

Despite all evidence to the contrary like looking outside your window, the time has arrived for our spring athletes to begin their 2014 seasons and finally put their long winter practices to good use. 2013 was a horror year for spring athletes, with Minnesota’s prolonged winter shortening seasons and forcing competitions indoors. St. Olaf’s baseball, track and field, softball and tennis athletes will all be hoping for better conditions in which to compete this season.

First, let’s take a look at the St. Olaf baseball team. Last season was a tough one for the team, with horrendous weather and playing conditions forcing the entire conference schedule to be re-drawn in April. As if things weren’t bad enough for the Oles, they were announced as the sixth and final seed in the MIAC playoff tournament after compiling a 9-9 MIAC record. Except they weren’t actually sixth. An error was found in one of the league’s tie-breaking mechanisms, and the Oles were dropped from the tournament. The Oles will be hoping to break their way into the playoffs this season, led by Jack Schechinger ’14, Nick Kulla ’14 and Chris Paradise ’14. They begin their season on March 7.

It promises to be an exciting spring for the men’s and women’s outdoor track and field teams. The men’s team finished fourth last season, slightly edging out Hamline University. The fact that the Oles recently claimed the cross country national championship will undoubtedly be a boost to their track performance in the long distance events this season. Head Coach Phil Lundin will look to Grant Wintheiser ’15 and Brian Saksa ’14 to continue their excellent distance careers this spring, and sprinter James McFarlin ’16 gives St. Olaf hope for the shorter events. The women’s team will be looking to better a strong 2013 performance that saw them finish in third place, just eight points behind Concordia College. Bolstering their chances will be the return of Danielle Larson ’15, Jorden Johnson ’15, Moriah Novacinski ’14 and first-year cross country champion Noelle Olson ’17.

The St. Olaf softball team, like baseball, was also harshly affected by 2013’s winter weather. Despite having 22 scheduled conference games, the team only managed to complete 16 of them. Disastrous weather aside, the Oles managed to finish the MIAC with an 8-8 record, enough to see them win their pool and reach the double-elimination playoff rounds. The team will be looking to build on the back of this strong performance, assisted by All-MIAC Becca Walz ’16 and the return of Haley Schreier ’15. The team has ten home games in the span of two weeks in April – a period which will be hugely important in determining their title aspirations.

And finally, 2014 shapes up to be a big one for both the St. Olaf men’s and women’s tennis teams. The men’s team will be looking to build on 2013’s fourth place MIAC finish, opening their campaign with eight matches on the road, including three in Florida. The season marks Scott Nesbit’s 25th year in charge of the Oles, who will return several players from last year’s line-up. The Ole women will be looking to improve on last year’s fifth place finish and 6-4 conference record. Bolstering their chances is the return of their top singles player, Lisa Hall ’16. The team has finished in the top five of the MIAC standings, and they are hoping that 2014 will be no different.

There’s plenty to look forward to this spring for Ole fans and athletes alike. I mean really, the weather surely can’t be as bad as it was last year. Can it?