Category: Athletics

Eventful fall: 16 events we’re looking forward to in Fall Term

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Pull out your cozy sweaters and go find your pumpkin-carving kit, because fall is upon us. Personally, I love fall. The cool weather, leaves changing colors, cute fall outfits — everything about fall is just perfect. And I get it, some of you may be sad about summer ending. But honestly, there is no reason to be sad over summer, because Fall Term is jam-packed with so many fun things to do on and off campus. That is why I have created this list of things Lawrence students can look forward to this fall. 

1) Soup Walk 

This is exactly what it sounds like. On Oct. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m., restaurants in downtown Appleton will have their best soups for people to try. With your soup ticket, you can walk into the participating restaurants on College Avenue and try their soups. And once you’ve had all the soup your heart desires, vote for your favorite. Tickets for the soup walk are $20 and go on sale Oct. 1. There’s is nothing better than a bowl of soup on a cool autumn day. 

2) Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade 

The Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade always takes place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That’s Nov. 26 this year. As odd as that might be, it’s great for Lawrence students because we are still on campus for it! The parade takes place on College Avenue, meaning you can see the parade from campus. It is filled with floats, bands, Santa Claus, even floats that shoot out fire to make sure everyone stays warm. If you want to watch the show from College Ave., be sure to get there early because the streets do fill up. The parade starts at 7 p.m.  

3) Octoberfest

Who doesn’t love fancy cars and good food? On Sept. 27 and 28, Appleton will be hosting its annual Octoberfest. The first night of Octoberfest kicks off with a classic car show called License to Cruise. The car show is filled with about 400 cars, live music, and great food. And if you think that’s great, the second day of Octoberfest is a huge block party — Appleton’s largest block party of the year. The party boasts five stages with live music, an arts and crafts station, and more delicious food. Luckily for us, Octoberfest takes place right on College Avenue, only a few blocks from campus. 

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center as seen from College Ave.

4) ‘Hamilton’ in Appleton 

Your eyes are not deceiving you; Hamilton is coming to Appleton! The Broadway production that took the world by storm will be at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center for a multi-week run in October. And unlike trying to see Hamilton on Broadway, you may actually be able to get tickets thanks to their lottery system. Check the PAC website for show dates and details.

5) Apple picking 

This is a fall classic! As a kid, my favorite school trip was going to the nearest orchard and going apple picking. I didn’t really like eating the apples; I just really enjoyed picking them. Luckily for us, Appleton has a ton of apple farms, (see what I did there?), meaning we can take part in this fall ritual. The Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard is the closest orchard to campus, and they also have a pumpkin patch! 

6) Fall Formal  

Get your outfits ready! Every year Lawrence International hosts a Fall Formal, which is happening Sept. 27. The formal will be taking place at Liberty Hall in Kimberly, which is about 15 minutes from campus. If you don’t have a ride, no worries. There will be a shuttle running from campus to Liberty Hall every 15 minutes.     

7) Convocation 

A new academic year means a new Convocation Series. Every year, the Convocation series is kicked-off with the Matriculation Convocation. This Convocation is special because it is led by our very own president, Mark Burstein. This year, the Matriculation Convocation will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 19 in Memorial Chapel.  

Dancers perform traditional Native American ceremony in Warch Campus Center on Indigenous Peoples Day.

8) Indigenous Peoples Day  

Every year, the Lawrence University Native American Organization (LUNA) hosts an Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration. This year, the celebration will be held on Oct. 14 on Main Hall Green. The celebration is typically filled with music, food, and traditional dancing that is sacred to indigenous cultures. This celebration gives indigenous students a chance to celebrate and share their culture with the wider campus as it also gives non-indigenous students a chance to learn about indigenous cultures.  

9) The Price is Right  

Lawrentians, come on down! As a way to celebrate Lawrence’s annual Giving Day, the Student Ambassadors Program (SAP) will be hosting a game of The Price is Right. Students will be able to dress in funky costumes and guess the price on different items around Lawrence to win prizes … just like the game show! The game will be held on Oct. 10 in the Mead Witter Room (second floor Warch), starting at 6:30 p.m. Giving Day will also have other events for students. Stay tuned.  

10) Blue and White Weekend  

Let’s go Vikes! As a way to celebrate the Lawrence community, Lawrence University hosts an annual Blue and White WeekendFrom Oct. 3-6, Lawrence will be filled with different events for families, alumni, and students. Last year’s Blue and White weekend was so much fun! There were different sporting events, concerts, and lots of places on campus to get free food, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year! 

Portrait of four members of Brooklyn Rider
Brooklyn Rider

11) Artist and Jazz Series 

The performers coming to Lawrence during 2019-20 season have been announced! Brooklyn Rider will be the first group to kick-off the Artist Series, preforming Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Brooklyn Rider is a strings quartet that creates music focused on healing. The Jazz Series, meanwhile, will begin with the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekendwith the Miguel Zenon Quartet as the first featured performance. Miguel Zenon is a Grammy-nominated saxophonist who will be preforming at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9. You will not want to miss these performances, and the best part is, they’re free for students.

12) Game Night  

As a way to ease the transition from high school to college for first-year students, Lawrence University’s Black Student Union (BSU) will be hosting a series of game nightsThe game nights will be open to the entire campus with a focus on being a space where students of color can have fun and get to know each other. The first game night will be held at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Diversity and Intercultural Center.  

13) Events from S.O.U.P. 

S.O.U.P. is the Student Organization for University Planning. All the fun, really random things that happen on campus are typically brought to us by S.O.U.P.  This year will be no different, as S.O.U.P. continues to bring new events to campus for student to enjoy. On Sept. 28, S.O.U.P will be hosting Blacklight Zumba and bringing magician Peter Boie to campus. Be sure to be on the lookout for more events hosted by S.O.U.P happening this fall. 

The Vikings offensive line faces University of Chicago football players on the Banta Bowl field.

14) Fall Sports  

TOUCHDOWN! Fall term means fall sports. Be sure to stay up to date on the schedules for the football, volleyball, soccer, and tennis teams so you can support our Vikes! 

15) Wriston Art

Let there be ART! The Wriston Art Gallery will soon be opening its fall exhibitions. New pieces will be displayed in the gallery with an opening reception at 8 p.m. Sept. 27. Come check out the incredible art right here on campus. 

16) World Music Series 

The World Music Series is keeping the ball rolling from last year with a performance from Çudamani: Gamelan and Dance of Bali. This group is considered Bali’s most forward-thinking ensemble and will be coming to campus at 8 p.m. Sept. 23. The World Music Series is free for students, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see performances from around the world. 

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office. 

Lawrence to add women’s ice hockey in 2020-21; first new sport since 1986

Photo shows Lawrence University Hockey signage at the ice arena in Appleton.
A women’s hockey program will join the men’s program on the Lawrence University athletics lineup for the 2020-21 season. The search for a coach will begin this summer.

Story by Joe Vanden Acker / Athletics

Lawrence University will add a 22nd varsity sports program when women’s hockey begins play in the 2020-21 season, Director of Athletics Christyn Abaray announced.

“We are excited to bring intercollegiate NCAA women’s ice hockey to Lawrence University with a competitive start date of the 2020-21 academic year,” Abaray said. “The time is right. We can grow our regional footprint, increase the athletics opportunities for women student-athletes and enhance the overall experience of athletics at Lawrence.”

The addition of a women’s hockey team brings the roster of Lawrence women’s sports to 11, matching that of men’s teams. It marks the first program to be added to Lawrence athletics since men’s hockey achieved varsity status in 1986.

The work of getting the program up and running begins now with the hiring of the person to guide the team. Lawrence is conducting a national search for the program’s first head coach.

“We will hire a head coach this summer so that person has the full year to recruit our first varsity women’s ice hockey roster and integrate into the athletics department and greater institutional environment,” Abaray said. “It truly is an exciting time to be a Viking.”

The addition of the Vikings brings the number of NCAA Division III women’s hockey teams to 67, and Lawrence is in the middle of fertile recruiting ground. Minnesota has the largest girls’ hockey participation in the country, and Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois rank fourth through sixth, respectively.

The Lawrence women’s team is the 10th member of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, the premier hockey conference in the country and the home of the Vikings men’s squad.

“The NCHA is extremely pleased and enthusiastic with Lawrence University’s decision to sponsor an intercollegiate women’s hockey program, bringing membership in the women’s division to 10 programs,” NCHA Commissioner Don Olson said. “The conference is particularly pleased to have a present conference member initiate competition in women’s hockey and add to the strength and depth of the women’s division of the NCHA. In addition, Lawrence’s decision further establishes the NCHA’s leadership in the NCAA Division III hockey community as Lawrence becomes the fourth conference member to initiate sponsorship of women’s hockey in the past five years.”

The NCHA women’s conference started in 2000 with five teams, but the league was reshaped in 2013 when four teams, all from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, departed. At that point, the NCHA had seven members, Adrian College, Concordia University Wisconsin, Finlandia University, Lake Forest College, Marian University, St. Norbert College and the College of St. Scholastica. Aurora University, Trine University and Northland College began NCHA play in 2017. The league has nine members heading into the 2019-20 season.

The winner of the NCHA playoffs receives the Slaats Cup and an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. NCAA women’s hockey championship competition began in 2002 with Elmira College winning the first title. Plattsburgh State took the crown in 2019.

The Lawrence women will play at the Appleton Family Ice Center, which has been home to the Lawrence men’s team since 1999. The Lawrence women will move into the current quarters of the Viking men’s program as an expanded men’s locker room, student-athlete lounge, athletic training area and office space are currently under construction on the south side of the building.

Joe Vanden Acker is the director of athletic media relations at Lawrence University. Email: joseph.m.vandenacker@lawrence.edu


“Breathe,” an opera performed in the water, ready for its debut at Lawrence

A photo link to video of "Breathe" rehearsal at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool.
Take a sneak peek at what “Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera” will look like this weekend in Lawrence University’s Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool. It will be performed Saturday and Sunday.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Odds are, you haven’t seen anything like this before.

Yes, it’s an opera performance. And, yes, many of the usual expectations are there — there are opera singers and percussionists, trumpets, a cello, even a flute. There are dancers and a keyboardist and a bass player. Tuxedos will be worn. 

But there’s a twist.

The stage? Well, it’s a swimming pool. A fully functioning swimming pool.

Welcome to Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera, set to be staged this weekend at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool at Lawrence University. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“When we normally consider the arts, we put it on a stage and we sit, and there it is,” said Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, the composer and musical director for the production. “But here the audience is going to interact in a much different way.”

The mastermind behind Breathe is Gabriel Forestieri, a Boston-based choreographer and director who teamed with Dempster two years ago to stage the water opera at Middlebury College in Vermont. He, along with Dempster and author and visual artist Adrian Jevicki, will try to bring that same magic to the pool at Lawrence this weekend, an invitation that came from Margaret Sunghe Paek, who is married to Dempster, is an instructor of dance in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and curates the Lawrence Dance Series.

“I saw the video of them in the water,” Paek said. “I said, ‘We need to bring that here to Lawrence. We need to bring some version of that here.”

It’s taken two years, but it’s finally here. This version is heavier on musicians than the one at Middlebury, a nod to the diverse talents available courtesy of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Unusual as it might be, it wasn’t a hard sell, Dempster said.

“With the conservatory here and the wealth of really great musicianship available and people who are really excited to try something different, you find there is a curiosity there,” Dempster said. “It’s really doubled in size.”

Gabriel Forestieri and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster float in the water while performing "Breathe."
Gabriel Forestieri and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster will reunite for “Breathe,” a water opera.

Innovative opera nothing new at Lawrence: Mass broke down barriers

More on Lawrence Conservatory of Music here

There are more than 20 performers in the cast. Some are students from the conservatory, some from the college, some are athletes — including a diver — and some are professional dancers from the community.

“I saw a diver doing dives one day,” Paek said. “I went up to her and said, ‘Would you want to be in a water opera?’ And she’s in it. Things like that happened.”

That diver is Maddy Smith, a freshman biology major and member of the Lawrence swimming and diving team. It’s been a thrill, she said.

“I get to do diving in a different way, a more artistic way,” Smith said.

In the second to final scene, she’ll be on the board for seven dives. The biggest challenge, she said, is slowing everything down.

“They’ve been talking to me about how I need to slow down all of my dives and just kind of listen to the beat of the music and just go through it all at a slower tempo.”

Trial and error

Dempster said he had his doubts when Forestieri first broached the water opera idea. He had to go into the water to convince himself it was doable.

“Gabe was working with dancers and bringing them to the pool in Middlebury,” Dempster said. “The question was, can I make sound underwater or even play the cello underwater? So, I messed around with that, and eventually figured out that, yes, it kind of works. After a bunch of experimenting and reading and doing research, I found you can buy a hydrophone, something that would be used by a marine biologist to record whales or sounds of marine life, and you can use this to record playing underwater.

“I have this cheap cello, or strange-looking box cello, as I call it, that when you dunk it underwater, it still has enough air in it to create a resonator, so when I play on this hydrophone, it makes a sound of some kind. Definitely not like a regular cello. It has a very watery kind of sound.”

Safe to say, this isn’t like any cello recital you’ve been to.

“It very much has the effect of performance art,” said Dempster, an Appleton resident who teaches at Lawrence, has a private cello studio, and is a guest artist at Renaissance School for the Arts. “We wear our tuxedos and get in the water. There are always these different things happening. It evolves into a thing with singers and percussionists and trumpet players.”

Dancers use float belts as they rehearse for "Breathe" in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool.
Dancers use float belts as they rehearse for “Breathe” in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool. The water opera is set for 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Not all of the instruments are getting wet, of course. Some are played above the water. There’s even a kayak in one scene. Much of the musicianship and dancing takes place on the deck or on the water, but almost every cast member ends up in the water at some point, and the entire pool is basked in dramatic lighting.

The audience — restricted to no more than 250 or so because of limitations of the space — is encouraged to move around during the performance, best to experience a variety of angles.

“It’s really about transforming the space,” Paek said. “Gabriel’s hope is that people will go into the space and feel it and experience it differently. Even if they go swimming there every day, they’ll be aware and present in a new way.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge as showtime draws near has been getting in the needed rehearsals. This performance, as you might expect, comes with its own set of challenges.

“We can only rehearse when there are lifeguards,” Dempster said.

WATER OPERA

What: Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (March 30-31)

Where: Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool at Lawrence University

Admission: Free, but reservations are required by calling the Lawrence Box Office at 920-832-6749. Access is limited to about 250 people per performance.

‘Tonight is perfection’: McKees’ outdoor rink is an Appleton oasis on ice

An aerial view of the ice rink in the McKees' yard.
The McKee ice rink measures more than 100 feet in length and hosts pickup hockey games three times a week.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Welcome to The Venue.

It’s a Tuesday evening in February, and the super snow moon — the biggest, brightest full moon of the year — is hanging over the outdoor ice rink in the Appleton yard of Chuck and Lesley McKee, shining like a beacon on a scene that screams, “This is how we all should embrace our Wisconsin winters.”

The rink, more than 100 feet long and 35 feet wide, is crafted with detail; the ice tended to with care, perfectly smooth on this 20-degree night. A dozen friends and acquaintances, pads on and hockey sticks in hand, ages ranging from 30s to 70s, skate across the rink in a game of pickup hockey, navigating around a large shagbark hickory adorned with lights while firing pucks into mini-sized goals.

“Tonight is perfection,” says Bill Carlson as he scans the scene that unfolds on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons — weather permitting — during the winter. He’s been coming to these makeshift hockey games at the McKee house along Green Bay Road — just a few blocks north of the Lawrence University campus — for 25 years.

“This is called The Venue, and this is the finest athletic facility in the state,” Carlson says with a wink and a smidge of exaggeration. He smiles and gives a nod to Chuck McKee ’68, the architect who has lovingly tended to this winter oasis for nearly three decades.

The McKees are alumni of Lawrence — both 1968 graduates — and are longtime friends and supporters of the school. Chuck, who retired three years ago after a long career as an Appleton physician, was a football star for the Vikings in the 1960s. He was a captain on the 1967 team that went undefeated and was inducted into the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago. Individually, he was a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 1996.

The McKees have stayed closely connected to Lawrence through the years, attending shows and games, serving on boards. Chuck once served as director of the wellness center on campus and assisted as a doctor for LU athletic teams. Lawrence hockey players will sometimes come to the McKee ice rink to play low-key pond hockey after their season ends.

In many ways, this house is an extension of Lawrence.

Lawrence alumni connections: Learn more here.

Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame: See Lawrence honorees here

A party on ice

It was the McKee daughters who first inspired an outdoor ice rink in the years after the McKees moved back to Appleton in the late 1970s. The rink was much smaller back then. But through trial and error, it would grow and become a more elaborate undertaking.

Others have taken notice.

In its January edition this year, Better Homes & Gardens magazine featured the McKees’ rink, showcasing an outdoor ice-skating party they threw last winter — it was dubbed Moon Over Ice and featured everything from homemade ice lanterns to an outdoor spread of food and drink. The elegant party was initially launched in the 1990s when the McKees thought it would be a good excuse to get friends and neighbors outdoors in the winter. It was halted after a couple of years, then revived again a few years ago.

“Everybody wore old-fashioned fancy clothes and I had a tux that I wore,” Chuck says. “It was really fun.”

If the weather cooperates, it can be a fabulous experience. If it’s too cold or windy or the ice doesn’t cooperate, then not as much.

The 2018 party fell into the fabulous category, a blessing considering the presence of the photographer working for Better Homes and Gardens. It was like a dinner party in a snow globe.

“That day it snowed all day,” Chuck says. “People were out setting up stuff from 10 o’clock in the morning, hanging lights and fashioning the snowbanks to put the tables on. We had a 30-foot-long table on the ice. It was really nice. The whole idea was to spend all that time outside, and everybody loved it.”

A player brings the puck up the ice during a Tuesday night game at the McKee outdoor rink.
Players range in age from their 30s to their 70s. “You lose yourself in this, in the hockey. You’re all the same age out there,” says 72-year-old Chuck McKee ’68.

Then there’s the hockey

The activity on the ice the rest of the winter is a bit less sophisticated than a dinner party. It’s about hockey, but mostly it’s about camaraderie.

There are upwards of 25 guys who come for the hockey games on a semi-regular basis, usually 12 to 15 on any given Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday, skill levels varying from some to none. They’re not necessarily friends outside of the hockey get-togethers, but they come because they’re drawn to the casual nature of the hockey and the friendly banter that comes with it, not unlike pickup basketball games or weekly softball leagues that draw players well beyond their athletic prime who still revel in friendly competition. This just happens to be at somebody’s house, a side yard transformed into an elaborate ice rink and a basement turned into a makeshift locker room.

“I’m most taken by how these various people got here,” Chuck says. “The only thing we do together is play hockey. Otherwise, very few of us have any close relationship.

“Probably only half or a third of the people who try this actually stick with it. We’ve had a lot of people who have said, yea, I want to give it a try, and then said, nah. It’s hard to predict who is going to stick with it.”

Marty Thiel came to the group this year. He’s 62, has been playing hockey since high school but had put his skates mostly on the shelf while his kids were growing up. They’re out of the house now, and one day he was asking around about where he could play some “old guy hockey.”

A week later he got a call from Chuck and an invite to join the group.

“Now I’m here three times a week,” Thiel says. “It’s everything and more. I’ll be sad when the season ends because the setting here is just perfect.”

The group helps the McKees keep the rink in working order. They come together on a weekend in December to help set up the rink, and then tend to it during the winter as if it were their own.

“It’s a human labor of love,” Carlson says. “During intermissions, about 15 shovels come out and we shovel the ice. It’s like a Zamboni with shovels. And then at the end of the night, there are a few guys who use the hose and spray another layer so it’ll be ready for the next time.”

Getting the ice just right took years of starts and stops, Chuck says. He found silage film, typically used on farms, that he cuts to size and places on the ground before making the ice. He puts up 6-inch-wide boards around the rink, turning his yard into a massive bathtub. He replumbed a faucet in the basement to accommodate a 1-inch hose.

“So, we take that hose out of the window in the basement and I just let the hose run for 18 hours when I know it’s going to be sub-freezing for five days or so,” Chuck says.

Then it’s a matter of chasing falling leaves as the water freezes.

“Brown oaks are usually the last trees to drop their leaves,” Chuck says. “And these shagbark hickories, one of them didn’t drop its leaves this year until January.”

Aerial view of hockey players making their way across the ice on the McKee outdoor rink.
A rotating cast of players show up on a given weeknight or Sunday afternoon to play hockey on the rink in the McKees’ Appleton yard. They navigate around a shagbark hickory on the east end of the ice.

But now, on this Tuesday night in mid-February, the leaves are no longer an issue and the ice is gleaming, the super snow moon providing a glow.

“Now is the sweet time,” Chuck says.

When the hockey is done, the players return to the basement, remove their pads, drink some beer and hang out. It’s a ritual that’s been playing out over and over again, with an ever-changing cast of characters, for nearly 30 years.

“Here’s what I think,” says Chuck, who at age 72 takes a back seat to no one on the ice. “Who gets to do this at my age? Who gets to sit down in a locker room and drink beer and play darts? I suppose I should be reading AARP books instead. You lose yourself in this, in the hockey. You’re all the same age out there.”

Chuck, who on this night was not playing because he had broken a rib on a freakish fall during a game a couple of weeks earlier, says the rink isn’t going anywhere, even when he eventually hangs up his skates. This ice thing is a hobby he can’t quit.

“Honestly, I’m going to make ice even if I’m not playing hockey,” he says. “It’s really fun. It’s like winter gardening.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

When March Madness came to Lawrence: 15 years later, bonds stay strong

“That’s when you start
thinking, man,
this is kind of a big deal”

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Sometimes madness can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

Those who have even a passing curiosity of college basketball know the month of March is an unfolding tapestry of drama and strategy, unabashed joy and cruel heartbreak, playing out on hardwood courts across the country, often in spacious arenas housing hoops royalty but sometimes in small but achingly charming gymnasiums far from the spotlight.

So begins our flashback to 15 years ago, when the men’s basketball team from Lawrence University began its own magical dance through March Madness. It was a run that took the Vikings to the Division III Elite 8 before they suffered an agonizing 1-point overtime loss to the eventual national champions in a game that the then-Lawrence coach calls one of the greatest college basketball games ever played — even though the gymnasium in Tacoma, Washington, was mostly empty.

No, this is not a story that ended with a national championship. History rarely remembers a team that came up two games short.

But March Madness is different. A good Cinderella story has legs, made of moments and memories that live on.

Until March 2004, Lawrence had never won an NCAA tournament game. Ever. It hadn’t happened in 101 years.

They would win three on this post-season journey, a fourth slipping from their fingers, a Final Four berth just a few ticks of the clock out of reach.

Division III gets little love from national media, so this wasn’t quite the hysteria of Maryland-Baltimore County beating top-seeded Virginia last year. But it was big here. The Post-Crescent, the daily newspaper in Appleton, chronicled Lawrence’s run through the 2004 tournament with equal parts excitement and astonishment.

— — —

“Those brainiacs over at Lawrence showed they can ball with anybody on the Division III level, and those of you who were paying attention no doubt had quite a ball following their Shock the Nation National Tour. One point, one play from a spot in the NCAA Division III Final Four. Lawrence University? Tell you what, folks, on a larger scale, this would be like Lehigh making it to the Elite Eight in Division I.” Mike Woods, The Post-Crescent

— — —

Still winning

As we check in with that 2003-04 team 15 years later, we find that those players who posted a 24-5 record and went undefeated at Alexander Gymnasium were far more than basketball players. It turns out they were scholars, embracing the academic side of Lawrence as fervently as they attacked their basketball preparations.

Chris Braier, a sophomore that season who would go on to become the most accomplished player in Lawrence history, would also earn the status of Academic All-American. Now 34 and a physician assistant in Chicago, he earned his MBA in December from Northwestern University and has added clinical health care consultant to his resume.

Three other players from that team are now doctors — Kyle MacGillis, a hand/wrist/elbow surgeon in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Jason Holinbeck, an orthopedic surgeon in Wichita Falls, Texas, and Brett Sjoberg, a radiologist in Madison.

Kyle MacGillis drives to the basket against UW-Stevens Point in the 2003-04 NCAA Division III tournament.

Chris MacGillis, brother of Kyle and the leading scorer with 22 points in that Elite 8 game, earned his law degree and is now a partner in a Milwaukee area law office.

Ben Klekamp earned his doctorate and now works as an epidemiologist in Florida.

Another is a college basketball coach, another a financial advisor, another a director of business development, another a manager of a regional business. The list goes on.

Count John Tharp, the then-34-year-old coach of that team, impressed. Not surprised, but impressed.

“The greatness of that run wasn’t necessarily just the wins,” Tharp says as he chats from Hillsdale College, where he now coaches the Division II Chargers. “The greatness of the run was the collection of people that we had in the program at that time. You want to epitomize what a student-athlete is, it was the collection of guys that were on that basketball team.”

— — —

“This whole experience has left a mark that will never go away, and that’s a good thing. For the journey was full of tales and memories that have no shelf life.” Mike Woods, The Post-Crescent

— — —

An historic run

By the time the tournament began in early March 2004, the Lawrence campus had already taken notice that something special was going on. Despite having no player taller than 6’6″, the Vikings had imposed their will as they marched through the Midwest Conference schedule.

As the season rolled on, Alexander Gymnasium got down-right rowdy. It was full. It was loud.

The Appleton Fire Department had to turn people away because of fire code concerns.

“The vibe around campus, people were really excited,” Braier says. “The first game, there was a row of chairs along the baseline at Alex, and by the end of the year they had to build a whole new bleacher section on the baseline because of the crowds.

“When you would come to games, a lot of times the women would play before us, so you would come in during the first half of the women’s game, and you started noticing that there would be a line to get into our games. You couldn’t find a parking spot an hour and a half before the game. That’s when you start thinking, man, this is kind of a big deal.”

They won all 12 home games.

Chris Braier, here playing against Sul Ross State in the 2003-04 NCAA Division III tournament, was inducted into the Lawrence Athletic Hall of Fame three years ago.

Then came the tournament. The run began with a first-round 86-51 blowout of Lakeland at a packed Alexander Gym.

“I can remember diving for a loose ball into the standing room-only crowd in one of the corners and realizing that they’re 10 deep in the corners to watch this game,” Braier says.

Then it was on to Storm Lake, Iowa, a seven-hour bus trip into the round of 32.

“When we went to play Buena Vista and we were in Storm Lake, Iowa, we had a ton of students who were at that game,” Tharp recalls. “That’s a great effort to be there. It was amazing. To come out of that locker room and to see how many Lawrence kids were there, and just people from Appleton who were not even necessarily connected to Lawrence, that was incredibly special.”

Lawrence would beat Buena Vista 72-66, sending them to the Sweet 16 in Tacoma and a match up with Sul Ross State, a team from Alpine, Texas, loaded with size and talented junior college transfers. It was unchartered territory for any school from the Midwest Conference, which had never seen a team advance past the second round.

A thrilling 86-79 overtime win that included a late double-digit comeback moved the Vikings to the Elite 8 and a showdown with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a Division III power located just 60 miles west of the Lawrence campus but light years away in terms of basketball history. The Pointers at the time had advanced to the Elite 8 twice in the previous decade and would go on to win back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005.

It was a nail-biter, neither team giving ground, filled with drama to the end — witnessed by no more than 400 or so people in a college fieldhouse nearly 2,000 miles from home. A late Stevens Point three-pointer sent the game into overtime — a bonus five minutes — and then Lawrence’s improbable journey came crashing down in the waning seconds of that extra period.

A made basket by the Pointers to retake the lead. Then a last-second shot that would have won the game for Lawrence fell short. The scoreboard read 82-81.

“I just remember being completely exhausted, dropping to the floor,” Braier says.

Just like that, the ride was over.

“You felt like that last shot, how does that not go in?” Braier says. “It’s like we were in a movie. In the movie, that shot goes in.”

Puget Sound, the host school, had lost the night before to Stevens Point. Thus, witnesses in the arena that night were few.

“There weren’t more than 300 or 400 people in the crowd at that game, and it was probably one of the greatest college basketball games ever played,” Tharp says. “It was a phenomenal game.”

Rob Nenahlo buries his head as he falls to the floor at the end of the game against UW-Stevens Point.
Rob Nenahlo falls to the floor as the game against UWSP ends one point short.

Stevens Point would roll through the next two games to claim a national championship. Lawrence was left with what might have been.

“I think when you talk to everybody they all think we were one or two possessions away from maybe having a chance to win a national championship,” Tharp says.

After the game, even the Stevens Point coach wished aloud that both teams could move on.

— — —

“The Vikings would have gladly jumped at that invitation to play one more game together. On Sunday, though, the talk in the airport was already moving to this week’s final exams on campus, spring-break trips and other ‘real life’ adventures. The team knew that this particular group, like all teams, only receives one chance to write its story.” Dick Knapinski, The Post-Crescent

— — —

“I think there was a sense of disappointment and heartbreak after that loss,” Tharp says. “Afterwards, and over the years, I think there is an obviously special place in everybody’s hearts about the run that was made.”

For Chris MacGillis, a senior on that team, the end of the journey hurt more than missing out on a chance at a national championship.

Chris MacGillis

“I wasn’t emotional because we lost and I thought we should have won,” he says. “I just remember becoming emotional because of how proud I was and how happy I was to be with this group of guys. We were a very tight group. We all relied on each other and we all cared about each other, and we still do to this day. I was more emotional about not being able to do this with these guys anymore than I was about losing.”

Lawrence would continue to dominate the Midwest Conference for the next couple of years, going undefeated in the 2005-06 regular season and claiming the school’s first-ever No. 1 national ranking. They’d win a couple more tournament games, as well. But they never quite recaptured the glory of 2004.

“It really was magical,” MacGillis says.

Still together

Fifteen years later, most of the players on that team remain connected. There are job changes and weddings and children and other life moments to navigate. But the bonds formed during that memorable season remain to this day. For basketball players, a March Madness experience, no matter if it’s under the bright lights of D-1 or in the more dimly lit shadows of D-3, lodges in your soul and stays there forever.

When Braier was inducted into Lawrence’s athletic hall of fame three years ago, many of the players from that team made their way back to Appleton. Braier said it was a reminder to him of how special that group was.

“I always thought, man, these guys are ridiculously smart,” Braier says. “That was my first thought when I first dealt with my teammates.

“I don’t think at the time you realize how special of a group of individuals this was. It was just an everyday thing. … Everyone was such a high achiever. You didn’t think it was anything different. But then when you stepped away or you talked to friends from other teams, that’s when you realized it.”

The coaches remain as connected as the players, despite a decade and a half of travels and life experiences separating them from those three weeks of madness.

“Those guys are part of my life, and obviously things have changed a little bit with me being at a different school and those guys are all over the country now, but I think everyone knows where everybody is at and what everybody is doing,” Tharp says. “But what makes it special, I still think to this day if anybody needed anyone else on that team, I think everybody would still be there for each other.”

Braier is getting married in September and most of his Lawrence teammates will be there.

There’s also a Las Vegas getaway every March that reunites many of them. No better time than March to recall that fleeting moment when Lawrence basketball got to dance.

“Man, I could talk about this forever,” Braier says.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence’s Banta Bowl recognized with national “distinguished facility” award

Lawrence University’s Banta Bowl has always been a home to winners, but the facility itself is now a winner as well.

The recently renovated Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl has received an award from the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA). The new-look Banta Bowl, designed by Rettler Corp. of Stevens Point and constructed by The Boldt Co. of Appleton, was honored in the Distinguished Field Facilities category.

A fisheye photo of Lawrence University stadium Banta Bowl.
Renovated in 2015, Lawrence’s Banta Bowl was recognized by the American Sports Builders Association with an award as a “distinguished field facility.

“It is exciting to be honored with this award,” Lawrence Director of Athletics Christyn Abaray said. “The foresight and vision displayed to show what this could be, and the deliberation and expertise utilized to make the Banta Bowl a reality are commendable and remarkable. We want to thank everyone who supported and continue to support this effort. This is an example of how impactful positive change can be.”

The ASBA, the national organization for builders and suppliers of materials for athletic facilities, presents these awards annually to facilities built by ASBA members and exemplify construction excellence.

The 3,634-seat Banta Bowl, tucked into a natural ravine just south of the Fox River, underwent the major renovation during the spring and summer of 2015.

Renovations began with raising and widening the playing field to accommodate a soccer pitch. The stadium, home to Lawrence football since 1965, now also houses the Lawrence men’s and women’s soccer teams. The natural grass surface was replaced with FieldTurf to allow for more and varied use of the stadium.

The fan experience was greatly improved with aluminum grandstand seating and an LED scoreboard that houses a new sound system.

Fans enter the Banta Bowl through an inviting plaza at the north end of the stadium. The new Gilboy Athletic Center houses Lawrence’s football locker room, an athletic training room, an officials’ room, concessions, ticketing and restrooms. The building was named for Steve ’62 and Joan Gilboy, who provided a leadership gift for the stadium renovation.

The naming of Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl honors Lawence’s legendary football coach and long-time director of athletics, Ron Roberts, at the behest of Tom Rogers ’65, who gave the lead gift for the renovation.

Lawrence surpassed the goal of $4.5 million to renovate the stadium, and the final piece of the renovation is set to be completed in 2017. The original press box will be replaced with a new multi-level facility for game control personnel, the media and coaches. It is expected to be ready for games in the fall of 2017.

“This was an incredibly collaborative endeavor that bore a result of which all involved can be very proud,” Abaray said.

“Thanks to the leadership of Lawrence for this project from the Board of Trustees, President Mark Burstein and Vice President for Alumni and Development Cal Husmann,” Abaray added. “In addition, thank you to Mike Szkodzinski, director of athletics/head hockey coach at the time of planning and construction, and Rettler Corporation for their significant contribution to the renovation. Finally, thank you to Lynn Hagee, instrumental in the aesthetic appeal of the Banta Bowl, for her assistance.”

The football teams at Lawrence have embraced the Banta Bowl and made it a home to champions. The Vikings, under the leadership of Roberts, captured seven of their 16 Midwest Conference titles since moving into the stadium in 1965.

The Banta Bowl would not have been possible without the generosity of George Banta Jr. ’10. Originally called the Lawrence Bowl, the stadium was an anonymous gift from Banta and was renamed in his honor after his death in 1978.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Christyn Abaray named director of athletics

Christyn-Abaray_newsblog
Christyn Abaray

Christyn Abaray is the new Lawrence University Director of Athletics, President Mark Burstein announced today.

Abaray takes over for Mike Szkodzinski, who announced this past spring he was stepping down to devote his full attention to coaching the Vikings’ ice hockey team. Abaray has served as director of athletics at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, since June 2012.

“Lawrence University’s liberal arts focus comes to life for me in the engaged learning process both on the playing field and in the classroom,” Abaray said. “I find myself drawn to this type of environment, where students are learning for the sake of learning and are developing the skills necessary to be the future leaders of our ever-changing and interconnected world. It’s exciting to join the Lawrence community and become a part of their journey, learning along the way myself.”

Abaray was selected after a national search that resulted in an applicant pool ranging from coast to coast, according to Burstein.

“We were very fortunate to have many talented individuals interested in joining Lawrence thanks to the momentum established by Mike Szkodzinski and our coaching staff,” Burstein said.

“It was clear from our first conversation with Christyn that she knew how to lead a successful athletic program within a liberal arts college environment. Her passion for the scholar-athlete experience, her focus on excellence, both on the playing field and in the classroom, and her interest in sustaining a welcoming campus community for all Lawrence students made her the perfect choice.”

Part of Abaray’s motivation for joining the team at Lawrence was the potential of the Vikings’ athletic program.

“I truly feel that Lawrence is in prime position for athletics success with its dedicated coaching staff and its aspirations for more, with its commitment illustrated by resource allocation to human capital and by improvements in the physical plant,” Abaray said.

Abaray currently oversees 19 intercollegiate teams and a group of more than 40 coaches and staff at Buena Vista, an institution of 1,225 students that competes in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. She also serves as the college’s Title IX coordinator.

During more than three years at Buena Vista, Abaray oversaw the conversion of the athletic department’s in-house website to PrestoSports and was a player in a fundraising effort for new lights at the baseball and softball complex. Abaray noted that during her tenure at Buena Vista, she has worked to build a strong sense of community within the athletic department along with more integration of athletics into the larger fabric of the university.

“Christyn’s commitment to having a high-quality athletics program that contributes to the education of our students is very exciting for all of us here at Lawrence,” Provost Dave Burrows said. Abaray reports directly to Burrows, who added, “She clearly has great energy and is very positive about the future of athletics at Lawrence.”

In speaking with Abaray’s colleagues, praise was universal for her and her work. Abaray’s associates describe a woman who “understands that athletics is about student development first and foremost.” Another colleague said, “her vision is two-fold. It’s all about the student-athlete experience, but she is also very competitive. She wants winning programs.”

[Christyn’s] passion for the scholar-athlete experience, her focus on excellence, both on the playing field and in the classroom, and her interest in sustaining a welcoming campus community for all Lawrence students made her the perfect choice.”
— President Mark Burstein

Colleagues at Buena Vista describe Abaray as a great thinker, honest, tough, compassionate, accessible and a wonderful advocate for her department.

“Hopefully that is who I am,” said Abaray, who has a husband, Chris, and two children, Jackson and Jade. “I know that’s who I think I am, and that’s who I try to be every day.”

Abaray spent nearly eight years working at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania before her stint at Buena Vista. She joined the Swarthmore staff as the assistant director of athletics in August 2004 and was promoted to associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator in 2007. From that point, Abaray supervised all sports, coaches and fundraising accounts. Abaray also served as the department’s compliance coordinator, was a liaison for the Dean’s Office and the adviser for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

While completing her master’s degree in exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina from 2001-03, Abaray served as an intern in the athletics business office.

Abaray is a 2001 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where she earned bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and environmental studies. Abaray, who was inducted into WashU Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, was a four-year starting defender for the women’s soccer team.

A three-time first-team All-University Athletic Association and All-Central Region selection, Abaray earned All-America honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 1998.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Renovated Banta Bowl field to honor Lawrence legend Ron Roberts

The name Roberts Field will sit atop the new scoreboard in the Banta Bowl.
The name Roberts Field will sit atop the new scoreboard in the Banta Bowl.

APPLETON, Wis. — The field of the renovated Banta Bowl will honor legendary Lawrence University football coach Ron Roberts, university officials announced.

Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl is the new name of the facility where Lawrence’s iconic coach prowled the sidelines for 20 seasons. The naming of the field was done at the request of Tom Rogers, Lawrence class of 1965, who provided the lead gift for the stadium renovation.

“It was a fitting way to recognize what Ron Roberts had done for Lawrence. He just did an amazing job,” Rogers said.

“When we were talking about the Bowl and the naming rights, it was very apparent to me that he was the person after whom we should name the field. His former players said he was an amazing coach, and he had the ability to inspire them to do some great things they didn’t think they were capable of doing.”

Rogers was a student at Lawrence when Roberts began his coaching career in Appleton. Rogers was a soccer player who helped establish that program at Lawrence, but he was impressed by what Roberts did for the football team.

“They had the beginnings of some very good teams, and I was very aware that Ron Roberts had a tremendous impact on the football program,” Rogers said. “It was a very obvious choice.”

Lawrence Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski said this is a fitting tribute to a Lawrence legend.

“The Roberts family has been tremendously supportive of our programs,” Szkodzinski said. “Ron Roberts’ legacy is something that people continue to marvel at even today. Coach Roberts demonstrated excellence in every aspect while at Lawrence and in life. The idea of naming the field after Coach Roberts is absolutely appropriate, and we appreciate the generosity of Tom Rogers.”

Ron Roberts, left, coached the Lawrence football team for 20 seasons, won six Midwest Conference championships, reached the semifinals of the 1981 NCAA Division III playoffs and compiled a record of 121-54-1.
Ron Roberts, left, coached the Lawrence football team for 20 seasons, won six Midwest Conference championships, reached the semifinals of the 1981 NCAA Division III playoffs and compiled a record of 121-54-1.

Ron Roberts served as Lawrence’s head football coach from 1965-83 and for a single season in 1992. His teams won six Midwest Conference championships and reached the semifinals of the 1981 NCAA Division III playoffs. Roberts compiled a career record of 121-54-1 and retired after the 1992 season with the 12th-best winning percentage (.690) in NCAA Division III football history.

“I wrote a thank you note to Tom Rogers,” said Marlene Roberts, Ron’s widow. “Tom said Ron had a positive impact on his life. His gift will have a tremendous impact on Ron’s memory so he will remain a visible part of Lawrence athletics.”

Ron Roberts passed away in December 2012, and Marlene said their three children, Ron Jr. ’84, Carrie ’86 and Elizabeth, were excited to hear the news about Roberts Field.

“I was so happy for Ron because this is something he would revel in,” Marlene said with a sparkle. “He would love it.”

The Banta Bowl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall, is in the midst of a renovation project that will give the historic stadium a facelift. Lawrence has received $4.15 million toward the goal of $4.5 million for renovations. Lawrence’s Development Office is in a final push to complete the fundraising campaign.

The stadium floor will be raised and expanded to accommodate both football and men’s and women’s soccer. The grass field is being replaced with FieldTurf, an artificial surface that will allow more use of the facility.

Construction work on the Banta Bowl is progressing rapidly and scheduled to be completed in September.
Construction work on the Banta Bowl is progressing rapidly and scheduled to be completed in September.

A new building is currently under construction that will house the Lawrence locker room, a visiting team room, bathrooms, concessions and ticketing. The concrete structure of the stadium will be covered and new bleachers will be installed. A new scoreboard and sound system are also set to be installed.

A memorial to Bernie Heselton, long-time coach and director of athletics, is set to be included in the renovated stadium. Heselton served as Lawrence football coach from 1938-64, won six Midwest Conference championships and compiled a record of 111-79-5.

A fundraising effort also is under way to include a memorial for Carl Berghult ’64, a friend and fraternity brother of Rogers. Berghult, a native of Chicago, Ill., was a running back for the Vikings and played in the final years of Heselton’s tenure. After graduating from Lawrence, Berghult was a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve, and he was killed in the flight deck fire aboard the USS Enterprise on Jan. 14, 1969.

The aggressive construction schedule calls for having the field completed when Lawrence opens its football season with a non-conference game against Rockford University on Sept. 5.

Ron Roberts was the first-year head coach of the Vikings when the stadium, a gift from George Banta Jr. ’10 that was called the Lawrence Bowl until 1978, opened in 1965. Lawrence christened the stadium with a 26-21 victory over St. Olaf College on Oct. 2, 1965.

“I do remember the pressure was on to win that game,” Marlene Roberts said. “Ron was so happy to beat St. Olaf. To open the Bowl with a win was wonderful. Ron always thought the best of his players. He thought his players could do anything. He genuinely believed that. I think that incited and inspired them.”

A native of Chicago, Ill., Ron Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin. A Professor Emeritus of Physical Education at Lawrence, Roberts earned an advanced degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Brigham Young University.

A charter member of the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame, Roberts came to Lawrence in 1963 as the offensive line coach under Heselton. Roberts, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996, also coached the wrestling and men’s tennis teams upon his arrival in Appleton.

Roberts won his first Midwest Conference championship in 1966 as the Vikings finished 7-1. In just his third season, the 1967 squad finished 8-0 to become only the fourth unbeaten, untied team in school history and won another conference title. Roberts’ teams would go on to win four more conference championships (1975, 1979, 1980, 1981).

Ron Roberts, right, shouts instructions to the field while being flanked by All-America quarterback Chuck McKee '68.
Ron Roberts, right, shouts instructions to the field while being flanked by All-America quarterback Chuck McKee ’68. McKee helped lead the 1967 team to a perfect 8-0 record.

In Roberts’ tenure as head coach, the Vikings posted 14 winning seasons, including an impressive 10-year stretch from 1974-83. During that time, Lawrence never lost more than two games in a season and posted a 77-15 record. Lawrence also put together a school-record 18-game winning streak during that time.

The 1981 season was perhaps the pinnacle of Roberts’ coaching career. Lawrence won the Midwest Conference championship and finished with a 9-0 regular-season record (10-1 overall). Lawrence then became the first Midwest Conference team selected for the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Lawrence also became the first Midwest Conference team to host, and win, a NCAA playoff game when Lawrence defeated Minnesota-Morris in the quarterfinals. Lawrence was finally eliminated in the national semifinals but no Midwest Conference team has ever advanced farther in the Division III playoffs.

Roberts, who also was Lawrence’s director of athletics, stepped away from football after the 1983 season but returned to the team to coach the 1992 season before retiring. When Roberts finished coaching football, only Cornell College’s Jerry Clark had won more games in the Midwest Conference.

Roberts also served as the head coach of the wrestling, tennis and track teams during his time at Lawrence. Roberts coached the wrestling team for 19 seasons in three different stints (1963-69, 1972-74, 1985-93). He coached the men’s tennis team for six seasons from 1964-69 and the team won the 1968 conference championship.

Roberts took over as director of athletics following Heselton’s retirement in 1971 and oversaw the introduction of women’s varsity sports at Lawrence. Women’s basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, tennis, track and field, swimming and softball all began varsity play during Roberts’ tenure as director of athletics.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Senior Amanda Jaskolski named Midwest Conference Softball Player of the Year

Lawrence University softball star Amanda Jaskolski has been named the Midwest Conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Amanda-throwing_newsblog
Lawrence senior shortstop Amanda Jaskolski was named the Midwest Conference Softball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Jaskolski (Shawano, Wis./Shawano), a senior shortstop, earned the honor after leading the conference in several offensive categories and helping Lawrence to the North Division title.

Sophomore catcher Sam Belletini (Gurnee, Ill./Warren Township) also was named to the first team, and senior pitcher Liz Barthels (Sheboygan Falls, Wis./Sheboygan Falls) was chosen for the second team.

Jaskolski, who was the North Division Player of the Year in 2014, hit .462 on the season with 37 runs scored, 13 home runs and 46 runs batted in. She led the league in on-base percentage at .573 and was first in RBIs, homers and walks (31) and finished second in hits, slugging percentage and runs scored.

Jaskolski decimated the Lawrence season records in 2015 by tying or setting six marks.

Her 13 homers eclipsed the record of 12 set by Carli Gurholt in 2009 and her 46 RBIs topped Gurholt’s 2009 mark of 45. Jaskolski obliterated the total bases record with 104. The mark was 79, set by Jenny Burris in 2001 and Gurholt in 2009.

Jaskolski’s 54 hits broke the record of 51 set by Burris in 2001, and she tied Burris’ record of 37 runs scored in 2001. Jaskolski also smashed the season walks record as teams consistently pitched around her. Jaskolski drew 31 walks, topping the mark of 22 set by Stephanie Ash in 1992.

amanda-batting_newsblog
Senior Amanda Jaskolski battered the Lawrence record book this spring, tying or breaking six season marks.

In conference play, Jaskolski hit .439 with three doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs. Jaskolski also was walked 15 times, which helped her score a team-best 16 runs in league play.

Belletini had a tremendous season behind the plate for the Vikings and was named to the all-conference team for the first time. Batting in the clean-up spot, she hit .367 with 13 doubles, four homers and 24 RBIs. Belletini, who was named the conference Player of the Week twice in 2015, tied the season doubles record set by Alex Goodson in 2009. Belletini also was very good defensively and threw out eight of 18 runners attempting to steal.

In Lawrence’s 14 conference games, Belletini hit .551 with seven doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs. He had a .600 on-base percentage and a staggering .939 slugging percentage.

Barthels also was honored on the all-conference team for the first time. She went 13-6 with a 1.97 earned run average, the ninth-best season ERA in school history. In a team-high 117 innings pitched, Barthels struck out 44 and walked just 10, an average of 0.6 per seven innings.

Named the conference Pitcher of the Week once during 2015, Barthels tossed a pair of shutouts and picked up two saves. Barthels tossed a three-hit shutout in a 7-0 win over Knox College and allowed just five hits in an 8-0 shutout of Ripon College.

In conference action, Barthels posted a 5-2 record with a 2.13 ERA. In 42.2 innings, she struck out 20 and walked just four.

Lawrence won the North Division title for the first time since 2005 and finished second in the Midwest Conference Tournament. The Vikings finished with a 28-12 record to post the most wins by the team since setting the school record with 31 victories back in 1999.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence strengthens athletics with full-time hockey coach and new department head

Lawrence University is set to begin a new chapter by hiring a full-time director of athletics, university administrators announced today.

Mike-Szkodzinski_newsblog
Mike Szkodzinski

Current Director of Athletics and Head Hockey Coach Mike Szkodzinski said he is ready to return his focus solely to leading the hockey program. Despite splitting time between the roles of administrator and coach, Szkodzinski has put together a record of significant achievements during his nearly six years as athletic director.

“It has been a pleasure working with Coach Szkodzinski during my tenure here. Even with Mike’s high energy and strategic approach to leading our athletic and hockey programs, it is evident that a full-time director of athletics is something Lawrence needs to reach our aspirations,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “Traditionally, the model at the University has been to have one of the coaches also serve as the director of athletics but bearing that sort of workload has become simply too much even for Mike.”

Lawrence will conduct a national search for a new director of athletics, said Burstein, who praised the work done by Szkodzinski on a variety of fronts.

“Intercollegiate athletics are an integral component of our liberal arts mission and Mike has been a strong leader for our coaches and student-athletes,” Burstein said. “With our growing investment in the athletic program, we want to be certain we continue the positive momentum Mike has started in the department of athletics. Having a full-time director of athletics is a crucial part of that formula for success.”

Burstein added that Szkodzinski will remain at the head of the department of athletics, which consists of 20 full-time coaches and staff overseeing hundreds of student-athletes, until a successor is named.

“Mike has done outstanding work in leading our department of athletics, but I know, in his heart, he is first and foremost a hockey coach,” Provost Dave Burrows said. “I know he wants the hockey team to have greater success in the best conference in the nation. To do that, he needs to devote all his energies to that team.”

Szkodzinski was named the director of athletics in July 2009 and has coached the Lawrence hockey team for nine seasons. He has balanced that workload with family commitments to his wife, Tori, and three young children.

Mike-Szkodzinski_action_newsblog
Named head coach of the Vikings’ hockey team in 2006, Mike Szkodzinski has guided the team to the most wins in school history.

“This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time and the support of President Burstein and Provost Burrows made it possible for me to hand over the reins of the department of athletics with the confidence that we are moving in the right direction,” Szkodzinski said.

The department of athletics has seen a number of changes during Szkodzinski’s tenure. Szkodzinski worked to increase the number of full-time staff members and was responsible for the hiring of standout coaches like Jason Fast (men’s and women’s cross country, track), Lisa Sammons (women’s soccer), Steve Francour (men’s and women’s tennis), Ashley Wellman (women’s basketball) as well as Rob McCarthy, Lawrence’s new football coach.

In addition, Szkodzinski has played a leading role in the renovation of the Banta Bowl, which is underway. Szkodzinski’s leadership, in partnership with Lawrence’s development office, has spearheaded efforts to raise more than $4 million for the renovation of the venerable stadium. A renovated Banta Bowl will debut in fall 2015 to celebrate its 50th birthday and serve as the home of Lawrence football as well as men’s and women’s soccer.

Under Szkodzinski’s leadership, the Lawrence tennis courts were recently resurfaced and had lights installed. Other facilities upgrades include a new track surface for Whiting Field and improvements to Alexander Gymnasium as well as both the baseball and softball fields.

“I am so proud and pleased with what we have been able to accomplish over the past six years,” said Szkodzinski, who has won more hockey games than any coach in Lawrence history. “I believe we are positioned to succeed in the Midwest Conference and the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. I’m excited about the prospect of returning my primary focus to our hockey team, but I’m ready to assist the new director of athletics as well.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.