By Mak Ojutiku
May is beginning now and that means the year for Kean’s spring sports team is just about over. Some teams are in the midst of post season tournaments while others are finishing their last regular season games. As one would expect, the last few weeks have been very important, for every team. Here’s a look at how the teams have fared.
The regular season might be winding down for Kean’’s baseball team but their play is still solid. They kicked off their NJAC conference play on March 29, in a 3-0 losing effort against Rutgers-Camden. The setback didn’t keep them down long though. They got another crack at the Scarlet-Raptors the following Monday and they took advantage of it, winning the game 7-5. Sophomore Ryan Reitmeyer, who hit a two RBI single in the sixth stanza to tie the game and came home later in the inning off of a wild pitch. That win gave them a 15-4 overall record and a 1-1 NJAC record going into April.
The Cougars started off April strongly with a 6-1 home win over the College of Staten Island. All but one of their next 14 games were against NJAC teams. The team went 9-3 in those games, winning at least one game against every team met. In their win over New Jersey City University, Junior Matt Mantione posted a complete-game 12 inning shutout. That performance got him an NJAC Pitcher of the Week award, making him the third Kean player this season to win the award.
The team recently won their seventh straight NJAC winning streak, which rose their overall record to 28-10. They’re ranked second in NJAC and eighth in the nation.
It’s safe to say that the last few weeks have been pretty good for Kean’s softball team. The team closed out March in a pretty big way by beating DeSales University 5-2. On the surface, a win over the 6-5 Bulldogs might not seem that significant but in context it certainly was. That win gave Head Coach Margie Acker her 300th career win for Kean’s program. Acker, who has coached the team since 2000, is the first and only coach in school history to reach the 300 benchmark.
The team opened up April with a doubleheader against New Jersey City University.
It was Kean’s first look at NJAC conference play. It also featured a historic performance from junior Courtney Yard. In the first game of the doubleheader, Yard threw a perfect game, the first perfect game in Cougar softball history. 44 out of the 58 pitches she threw were strikes and she had seven strikeouts. Yard started in the second game, and was perfect until she was relieved in the third inning. After a homerun was given up in the sixth inning, Yard returned to the mound and struck out the next four batters she faced. She gave up only one hit in the game. Yard’s performance helped the Cougars sweep NJCU, winning 9-0 in the first game and 4-2 in the second.
Yard was also instrumental in handing Montclair State University their first NJAC loss of the season. The No. 2 ranked Red Hawks came into the game with a 29-1 regular season record and a 12-0 conference record. Yard retired ten hitters in nine innings, giving up only four hits. Yard also hit a double that sent senior Megan Cegielski home. Kean won the game 2-1.
The Cougars finished their regular season with a 29-9 overall record and a 14-4 conference record.
The women’s lacrosse team has had a pretty back and forth season so far. In the second half of the season, the team didn’t win or lose more than two games in a row. The head coach of the team Jordan Trautman, says that consistency is one thing the team has been working on. “We’ve talked a lot about consistency this season.” Trautman said. “While we’re not a young team in how old the kids are, we’re definitely a young team in terms of experience. Some of our seniors just started playing this season so with our consistency, one day we come out to practice and no one can stop us, and then the next day we’re fighting to focus on the fundamentals, so consistency has been one of the things we’ve really focused on this season. That’s been our biggest challenge and something we continue to improve on.”
The team opened up April with it’s first entry into NJAC play. The team was faced up against 7-2 Rowan University. The Cougars lost 14-8 but it did feature a hat trick from senior captain Ciara Mastrodomenico.
Their next game was against 12-0 Montclair State University. After finding themselves in a 5-0 deficit midway through the first period, the Cougars went on a run, scoring five of the game’s next six goals. It was a 8-5 game in Montclair’s favor going into the second. With nine minutes left in regulation Kean got the lead down to one thanks to an unassisted goal from senior Carly Seidel. Montclair managed to hold on though and won the game 11-9. “We had an awesome game” coach Trautman said. “Unfortunately time just got away from us”
The Cougars got their first conference win of the season in a 14-8 victory over Stockton College. Kean overcame the 9-3 Ospreys thanks to hat tricks from Mastrodomenico and fellow senior captain Julie Knodt. “She just an exceptional kid, she embodies everything a student athlete should be.” said coach Trautman on Mastrodomenico. “She’s not just a great kid to coach but an exceptional teammate.”
After the win over Stockton, the team went on to win it’s next three conference games. The team currently has a 9-7 record but Trautman says the record undersells the team. “Although our record doesn’t show that we’re a top team, I think we’re playing like a top team.” she said. “We’ve improved our strength of schedule this year by a lot and the kids have really risen to the challenge. We’re very fundamentally sound. We’re doing things that very elite teams do. They’ve definitely exceeded my expectations in terms of what I was projecting for this season.””
Despite losing seven seniors to graduation last year, Kean’s men’s lacrosse team has been red hot this season. Head Coach Shelley Sheiner says the losses didn’t affect the team because of his philosophy of teaching “program” over “team”. “If you’re a college team sometimes when you lose guys they affect you, he said. “But we’re a program so what we do is we bring our guys in as freshman and they work really hard and they understand our system, then when they’re given their time a lot of them step to and rise to the occasion”
Going into April, the team was on a seven game winning streak.The Cougars opened the month with their first entry into Skyline conference play, against SUNY Maritime College.
The Cougar’s offense utterly obliterated Maritime for the entire game. Kean scored 14 goals in the first two periods of play. The game ended 20-0 in Keans favor, the largest margin of victory in the programs history. Sophomore Anthony Carpenter lead the team with four goals, while fellow Sophomore Jeff Christiano notched a hat trick, his first for the school.
The team used that momentum to push their winning streak to eleven. Sheiner attributes that streak to the team’s upperclassmen. “The leadership of our eight seniors, that’s really been the key.” said Sheiner. “Specifically the three senior captains we have, Joey Voto, Rich Cheifitz and Zach Williams. They’ve been kind of like the catalyst of the team and the other five seniors have been excellent all season.”
Cheifitz has been having a very productive season. He currently leads the team in goals with 44 and points with 63. One game he really shined in was their April 9 battle against Skyline rival Farmingdale State College. The Cougar’s found themselves trailing 4-0 after the first period. Cheifitz scored the team’s first goal early in the second period. After goals from sophomores Matt Speciale and Anthony Perrotta, the Cougars found themselves down by two. Cheifetz scored Kean’s next two goals, tying the game. Kean went on to win the game 13-9 and Cheifetz finished with five goals. “(Cheifetz is) very calm in high pressure situations, and a tremendous scorer” said Sheiner. “When it’s all said and done, he’s probably going to be the most decorated player to ever come through the program here at the university.”
The team’s streak was snapped by no. 12 Montclair State in a back and forth 10-8 game. With the regular season done, the team has a 15-2 record and is currently playing in the Skyline tournament.
On April 25 in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the men’s volleyball team’s impressive season came to an end. In the opening round of the NCAA tournament, Kean was bested in a competitive five set match by No. 3 ranked Juniata College.
Even though it didn’t end in the best of ways, the team’s last few weeks featured some undeniably impressive play. The Cougars went into the tournament with an eleven game winning streak. On April 12 the team secured its third straight Skyline Championship in a 4 set win over Ramapo College. Senior Bez Arslani lead the squad with 21 kills.
Arslani had a remarkable season this year. He lead the team with 329 kills on the season. He was fourth in the Skyline in hitting percentage (.290) sixth in points (4.14 ppg.) and seventh in kills (3.35 kpg). Those numbers helped the Cougars go a perfect 14-0 in the conference. It also lead to him being named the Skyline Conference Player of the Year as well as an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American. He’s only the second Cougar to be named an AVCAA All-American, the first being Steve Vahalla who won it last year and the year before.