Raptors optimistic heading into fall season

When the 2012 collegiate sports season begins on August 31, there will be plenty of optimism among the Rutgers-Camden athletic programs.

The Scarlet Raptors enter the season looking to defend one New Jersey Athletic Conference crown in men’s soccer and compete for their first conference title in other programs. Their golf team will return as a force in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, while several programs continue to improve with strong recruiting classes, including the second-year women’s tennis team.

The strong volleyball program opens the fall semester with action Aug. 31 at Gettysburg College. A day later, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams compete in tournaments as the season kicks into high gear prior to Labor Day.

Men’s Soccer

Coming off the best season in program history, the Rutgers-Camden men’s soccer team has plenty of reasons for optimism as it heads into its season opener against Wesley College Sept. 1 (7 p.m.) at Johns Hopkins University’s Blue Jay Classic.
Mitch Grotti...D3soccer.com All-America Second Team
The Scarlet Raptors posted a 19-3-2 record last season, won the first New Jersey Athletic Conference title in program history and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. In addition to tying a program record with a 17-game undefeated streak (15-0-2), Rutgers-Camden earned its highest NCAA rankings ever, finishing fifth in the final NSCAA national poll and eighth in the final D3soccer.com Top 25.

The Scarlet Raptors featured a pair of D3soccer.com All-Americans in forward Mitch Grotti (Milmay, NJ/Millville) and goalkeeper Tim VanLiew (Deptford, NJ/Deptford), topping an impressive post-season awards haul. The long list of honorees included VanLiew and back Kevin Burke (Sewell, NJ/Clearview Regional) both earning Academic All-America Third Team recognition, the first time in school history a team has had two Academic All-Americans in the same season.

“Last year was definitely a magical run for us that was filled with a ton of fun and excitement for our players, our coaching staff, and our school,” said seventh-year Head Coach Tim Oswald, who earned NJAC Coach of the Year honors last season as the Scarlet Raptors dominated the all-conference voting. “As much as we want to accomplish all of our individual and program goals again in 2012, we will have to channel all of that into positive energy, hard work and commitment to each other that results in great chemistry. On talent alone, we have an amazing collection of individual players that are both returning from last year's team and that are new recruits, but talent alone won't win us games. If we focus on the small details and the little things that enhance the experience and if we can do that, we have another chance to do some special things.”Joe Auleta...NJAC Rookie of the Year, NJAC Second Team

VanLiew, who holds practically every program record for goalies and who also earned the Division III national championship in the javelin in May, is the biggest graduation loss for the Scarlet Raptors. He was named the NJAC Goalkeeper of the Year for the second straight season in 2011. Another key loss was NJAC Second Team midfielder Chris Edelschein (Medford Lakes, NJ/Shawnee).

The rest of the Raptors’ loaded lineup returns almost intact and includes junior forward Grotti, a D3soccer.com All-America Second Team star who was named the NJAC Offensive Player of the Year while setting single-season program records with 19 goals, nine game-winning goals and 45 points. Senior back Matt Lanouette (Hopewell, NJ/Hopewell Valley Central) was the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, while sophomore midfielder Joe Auleta (Atco, NJ/Hammonton) was the NJAC Rookie of the Year. Auleta and Burke were both NJAC Second Team honorees, while back Bobby Foster (Burlington, NJ/Burlington Township) earned NJAC Honorable Mention last season as a sophomore.

An outstanding recruiting class adds to the Raptors’ depth, including the Newark Star-Ledger New Jersey State Player of the Year and NSCAA High School All-American Mike Ryan, who scored single-season and career records with 33 and 64 goals, respectively, at Cherokee High School.

Women’s Soccer

The Rutgers-Camden women’s soccer team finished its 2011 season with a 2-11-2 record, but the Scarlet Raptors posted a 2-1-1 mark in their last four games and barely missed a berth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs. Fourth-year Head Coach Kris Anderson is hoping his young team can build on that momentum this season.Sarah Kooistra
Michelle Barbone
Three of Anderson’s young charges earned New Jersey Athletic Conference Honorable Mention as freshmen last season: sisters Kelly and Michelle Barbone (Blackwood, NJ/Highland Regional) and Rebecca Gougher (Galloway, NJ/Absegami). Another freshman, Katie Angelosante (Bridgewater, NJ/Bridgewater-Raritan) earned the NJAC Rookie of the Week honor on Oct. 24 and finished as the team’s leading scorer with three goals for six points. That group returns as sophomores this season except for Kelly Barbone, who will be lost for the year with an injury.

The youngsters will join a strong junior class that includes Sarah Kooistra (Mantua, NJ/Clearview Regional), Bec Garretson (Atco, NJ/Hammonton) and goalie Leighanna Milby (Blackwood, NJ/Highland Regional). Garretson and Kooistra earned team honors as the Most Valuable Player and Most Dedicated Player, respectively, last season.

“We are hoping to build off the momentum created toward the end of last year,” said Anderson, whose club opens the season Sept. 1 when it faces host Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham at 1 p.m. in the FDU Classic. “With a talented returning group of players, along with an influx of new players, our goal is to make the NJAC playoffs. If we work hard and dedicate ourselves to that task, I believe it is an obtainable goal. We've started to establish an identity last year as a possessional-type of team and had early struggles to find the back of the net, but we were playing pretty good soccer. Once we started finding net, the results were better and we hope we can start off in the form in which we ended the season last year.”

Volleyball  

After three Kristin Koloskiyears as an assistant coach at Rutgers-Camden, Matt Dever took over the Scarlet Raptors’ head coaching duties in 2011 and led his team to a 14-17 record and its second straight berth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference semifinals.
Catherine Tadeja
Dever is looking for more success this season, with a strong nucleus of letterwinners and an impressive recruiting class.

“After finishing third in the NJAC the last two years my seniors are hungry to improve on that this year,” Dever said. “They have been working hard during the offseason to be ready. My coaching staff did a great job of bringing in solid talent that will make us an even stronger team. Newcomers Olivia Rowland (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough), Sydney Allen (Somerdale, NJ/Sterling), Marissa Kozlowski (Temecula, CA/Temecula Valley) and Kristin Bellamy (Springfield, PA/Cardinal O'Hara) look to make an immediate impact this year. Sophomore Michelle Dixon (Sicklerville, NJ/Eastern) is extremely ready to accept an even greater role than she had last year and will be key piece to our success.”

Middle hitter Morgan Halbruner (Voorhees, NJ/Eastern), in her first year of intercollegiate volleyball, earned NJAC Rookie of the Year honors last season. She also joined libero/defensive specialist Catherine Tadeja (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) on the All-NJAC Second Team. Both players return for the senior-dominated team, which includes three-year letterwinners Tadeja, setter Stephanie Miller (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East), outside hitter Olivia Murphy (Somerdale, NJ/Sterling) and middle hitter Kristin Koloski (Cinnaminson, NJ/Cinnaminson).

The Scarlet Raptors open their season Aug. 31 in the Battlefield Classic at Gettysburg College. They face both Penn State-Harrisburg (3 p.m.) and Penn State-Mont Alto (7 p.m.) in opening-day action of the two-day event.

Cross Country

Alec Connelly (Cherry Hill, NJ/Paul VI) had a stellar junior season in 2011, running the third-fastest 8K time in program history (25:17.53) while finishing 100th out of 279 athletes at the NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country Championships. Connelly, an All-New Jersey Athletic Conference First Team runner last fall, returns this season to anchor a promising Rutgers-Camden men’s program.
Alec Connelly
Connelly will receive a lift on the men’s team from senior Chris Kelly (Washington TownshiGabriella Schwalbep, NJ/Washington Township) and junior Joe Meehan (Mullica Hill, NJ/Kingsway Regional), who were both among the team’s top runners despite health issues last season, and sophomore Andrew Berger (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East).

The men’s team finished 20th of 40 teams at the NCAA Atlantic Regional in 2011 and lost three runners to graduation.

The Lady Raptors, meanwhile, will be looking to build with a young team following the graduation of their top runner, Tracy Dobkowski (West Deptford, NJ/West Deptford). Veteran Gabriella Schwalbe (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) returns to anchor the team, along with Phuong Nguyen (Oaklyn, NJ/Camden Catholic).

“The men's team will be younger and less experienced than last year, but I feel that another top 20 placing at the NCAA Atlantic Regional is a realistic goal,” said 10th-year Head Coach Joe Puleo, whose men finished fourth and women placed fifth at last year’s NJAC Championships. “Alec Connelly and Joe Meehan have dedicated themselves to having stellar season's with Alec hoping to achieve All-American status after qualifying for Nationals last year. Also, Chris Kelly is hoping to follow-up a very solid spring track season with a vastly improved cross-country campaign. On the women's side, Gabriella Schwalbe has parlayed hard work and diligent training to improve from a non-runner into the captain of the team, and a very solid distance runner in three short years. She will be supported by PT Nguyen and Junior College transfer Meg Castro.

The season opens Sept. 8 in Lebanon Valley College’s Dutchmen Cross Country Invitational.

Tennis

Head Coach Lloyd Pearson enters his second season after reviving the long-dormant Rutgers-Camden tennis programs last fall. The Lady Raptors finished 0-11 in their first year back on the courts last fall, but the men’s program went 2-2 in the fall before posting an 8-2 spring mark.
With aHead Coach Lloyd Pearson year of recruiting under his belt, Pearson is expecting big things this fall from his women’s program. The Raptors’ improvement will be aided by new Assistant Coach Britta Olsen.

My Lady Raptors are bolstered with a new line-up,” Pearson said. “Leading the way is Amanda Hickman, from Millville High School. Amanda arrives having won 100 matches in her high school career. Morgan Kelly arrives having played #1 singles at Paul VI. Avery Forte and Kelly Bates starred at Gloucester County College where they helped the college to the nationals. Jordan Crawley also is a former number 1 at Timber Creek High School. Maddie Parker is a doubles specialist from Shawnee High School. This season promises to be very exciting for the Lady Raptors.

“New coach Britta Olsen is brought on board to help keep the girls strong!”

The Lady Raptors, who open the fall season with a non-conference match Sept. 5 at Immaculata University (3:30 p.m.), are looking to improve upon their first-year 0-6 mark in New Jersey Athletic Conference competition.

The men’s limited fall schedule begins with a home scrimmage against Gloucester County College Sept. 10 (3:30 p.m.) and then a 12 p.m. match at Misericordia University Sept. 15. The men will play the bulk of their schedule in the spring, when they will compete for the first time as a member of the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

Golf

Rutgers-Camden Head Golf Coach Bob Cardea enters his 18th fall season with one goal in mind: prepare his Scarlet Raptors to recapture the North Eastern Athletic Conference title next spring. The Raptors, who are entering their fifth year in the NEAC, won the conference crown in each of their first two seasons before finishing as the runner-up the last two years. Quentin Griffith

Rutgers-Camden lost a pair of talented golfers to graduation in NEAC First Team members Joe DeVito (Washington Township, NJ/Washington Township) and Andrew Pierson (Camden, NJ/Paul VI). The Raptors have plenty of returning and new talent, however, including sophomore Louis Wilson (Pitman, NJ/Pitman), an All-NEAC Second Team member, and senior Quentin Griffith IV (Pennsauken, NJ/Camden Catholic), who owns the top returning average from the spring and earned NEAC Third Team honors as the conference championships.  
Louis Wilson
“Quentin Griffith is our lone returning senior,” Cardea said. “I have high hopes for him. “Louis Wilson, Chris McDonald (Washington Township, NJ/Paul VI), Chris Engel (Alloway, NJ/Woodstown) and Nick Chilelli (Mantua, NJ/Clearview Regional) are returning players who have a great chance to contribute. Tara Bolger (Haddonfield, NJ/Haddonfield Memorial), Vito D’Arcangelo (Winslow, NJ/St. Augustine Prep) and Joe Miller (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) are returning with high hopes of cracking the starting lineup.”

Cardea’s roster also has several impressive newcomers.

“We have some new players with a chance of contributing,” he said. “Frank Magin was the No. 1 player from Highland High School. Frances Diodato was the No. 1 player from Camden County College and Tom Schultice is a transfer from the Golf Academy of America in South Carolina.”

The Raptors open their season Sept. 17 at the Franklin and Marshall College Fall Invitational.

Crew

In his second season as the head coach of Rutgers-Camden’s rowing program, Sean Kendall is looking to build up his small women’s roster, which was hit hard by the graduation of All-Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference performers Rachael Showell (Sweetwater, NJ/Oakcrest) and Samantha McClernan (Mantua, NJ/Clearview). Returning sophomore Casey Foedisch (Riverton, NJ/Palmyra) captured All-MARC Novice Team honors as a freshman.
Casey Foedisch
“Casey emerged as a team leader last year, and we are confident that she will continue to emerge in that capacity as our young team grows,” Kendall said. “We are excited about our incoming freshman, particularly local recruit Shannon Brown, who brings experience after rowing out of the Camden County Boathouse for South Jersey Rowing Club in high school. We'll look for her to set a positive example for the rest of the freshman rowers.

“On the men's side, we were also hit hard by graduation as some of our most successful rowers are moving on. We are looking for junior Shawn Neal (East Greenwich, NJ/Kingsway Regional), who emerged as a standout last season, to continue his success and become a team leader. We are excited to add freshman recruits Connor Wilsbach, Alex Webber and Sean Slusarczyk, who each bring a strong foundation of high school rowing success to the team.”

The short fall season includes three events as the Scarlet Raptors gear up for the bulk of their schedule in the spring. The fall schedule begins with the Navy Day Regatta on the Schuylkill River Oct. 13.