Athletic year ends with accolades

March, 1, 2019, Amherst, Massachusetts, United States: during a NCAA Tournament matchup between Geneseo vs Vassar at LeFrak Gymnasium. Photo by © Brian Foley.

As seniors reflect upon and celebrate their time at Vassar, The Miscellany News Sports section would like to highlight just a few shining moments from the graduating champions of the Burgundy and Gray.

The athletic triumphs that marked the 2018-2019 Brewers campaign included women’s basketball rattling off 16 straight wins en route to the NCAA tournament, field hockey earning its first-ever Liberty League title, women’s rugby team capturing an NCAA championship, and two men’s basketball players joining elite company as 1,000-point scorers.

Seniors involved in these legacy-leaving moments shared their thoughts, both on their successes this year and in their entire Vassar careers.

Despite these many individual and team achievements, athletes across all Vassar sports agree that being a Brewer transcends the boundaries of the court, field, pitch or track. The student-athletes interviewed for this article are all connected by the sense of community and family they found within their teams, and how that in turn catalyzed their collective accomplishments.

Women’s Basketball Wins 16 Straight

Over in the AFC gymnasium and globetrotting around the Liberty League, the women’s basketball team was on a streak of historic proportions. In a period just north of three months, the Brewers could not be beat. The team won 16 straight games, thanks in large part to a strong team culture that emphasized lockdown defense and commitment.

Senior guard Maddie Leong, the Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, commented on the feeling in the locker room during the streak. “It felt like everything we’ve been working for for the past four years finally came together,” Leong explained. “During the winning streak it felt like everything we did worked and no one could beat us.”

Although their streak eventually came to an end, it was not the final triumph to cap off a remarkable season for the team. The Brewers also earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. Although they would fall in a close fight against SUNY Geneseo in the first round of the tournament, the selection itself was a testament to the Brewers’ incredible performance throughout the run.

Leong said that success of the season could be attributed not just to their talent and hard work, but also to their camaraderie: “This year’s team was really special,” she explained. “Everyone was incredibly dedicated on the court, and we were all friends off the court too, which I think is rare.”

Vassar’s Field Hockey Team.

Field Hockey Claims First Liberty League Title

Vassar’s field hockey team also relied on defense to great success this year. Behind a league-first defense that allowed only eight goals across 20 league games, they took home their first ever Liberty League title, ultimately stifling the Rochester Yellow Jackets in a nail-biting 1-0 game in the final match of the league tournament.

Senior Monica Feely, who won the Most Outstanding Player award for the tournament, reflected on the significance of the win for a team that had lost in the first round of the last three tournaments. “It was an incredible feeling to win the Liberty League Championship,” she explained. “It made it even more special that this occurred while I was a senior because it was a culmination of the hard work that my class put into the program for four years. I cannot think of a better way to end my career as a field hockey player.”

Feely also emphasized how the team’s character and hard work helped them throughout the season. As the team achieved greater success and national recognition—ranked as high as fifth in all of D3—they stayed humble and kept striving to improve on every aspect of their game. Even as her team achieved unprecedented success, Feely, like the rest of senior Brewers, said she will take memories of the people, not the plays, into her years beyond Vassar. “As cliche as it is, I will remember all of the memories made with my teammates,” Feely reminisced. “Most of my fondest memories at Vassar stem from the field hockey team, It was the people I met and developed strong relationships with on and off the field, that I will remember the most.”

Vassar’s Rugby Team.

Rugby Wins NCAA Championship

For women’s rugby, this year’s NCAA Division II championship was a storybook ending and a fitting reward for four years of hard work and dedication. Having finished fourth in the country as first-years, third as sophomores and second as juniors, it seemed only fitting for this year’s class to go out on top of the DII women’s rugby world. They defeated last year’s champion, Winona State, soundly, with a final score of 50-13.

This season’s top scorer and team captain, senior Oshana Reich, described that although this was a momentous occasion, it also felt like just another victory for the consistently dominant Brewers. “There was very much that sense of accomplishing something that we’d been working towards, striving for for so long, but on the other hand it felt so normal because like it’s just what we do,” Reich explained. “It was this strange combination of being, like, so surreal and all this work [we had put] into it but then also being so normal and just like being on the field with my teammates and playing the game we love.”

Reich went on to detail that the team’s commitment and ability to learn from past experiences, along with their incredible on and off-field chemistry, was vital on the road to the championship. She described the team as a singular unit, supporting each other and building friendships that last even beyond a player’s time at Vassar. “I’ll always be part of the rugby family and that’s something I’m grateful for,” Reich affirmed.

Grinde and Seff Break 1,000 Points

While women’s rugby secured the ultimate team accolades, individual achievements shone in men’s basketball. This year marked a rarity for the program, as two players broke the 1,000-point mark for their careers. Seniors Alex Seff and Paul Grinde became the 16th and 17th Vassar players, respectively, to join the elite club. Seff commented on the magnitude of this achievement, reflecting, “Becoming a 1,000-point scorer for Vassar was a very surreal experience. Coming into school, it was never something that even crossed my mind and it’s an honor now to have my name next to all of the great players who achieved 1,000 points.”

The achievement, impressive regardless of circumstances, was especially so for Grinde, who missed his entire sophomore season due to an ACL injury. Next year, Grinde will play out his final year of eligibility for the Clemson Tigers, a D1 program.

Despite his and Seff’s impressive individual achievements, Grinde stressed that the team aspect of Vassar basketball was what made his time special. When asked what he would remember most, he explained: “[I]n all honesty it was the guys on the team that made it worthwhile. We have been through so much together and I’m walking away knowing I’ve made some friends for life that have been through it all with me.”

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