Column: Flyers fall sports lived up to the hype
By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor
As the calendar inches closer to turning the page to a new year, there is no better time to reflect on the fall semester.
As some of you may remember, a column by yours truly was printed in the Sept. 9 edition of Flyer News describing the great opportunities students had this fall to go see and cheer on some great UD sports teams.
I had some high expectations, which is why I was so passionate about trying to get readers to go see for themselves, but I’m not sure even I could have expected just how successful the four on-campus fall sports teams—football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball—were in 2015.
The four teams had a combined record of 60 wins, 22 losses and six ties, including a 30-6-1 combined home record. Football, men’s soccer and volleyball each won its respective conference and/or conference tournaments and qualified for the NCAA Tournament, with men’s soccer and volleyball advancing to the second round.
It was a season filled with team and individual success and awards, including some breaking and setting of program records.
Senior women’s soccer forward Ashley Campbell broke the program’s all-time scoring record with a goal against Rhode Island on Oct. 22, the 59th of her storied career. She extended the record to 63 through the end of the season.
Campbell’s teammate, classmate and fellow Canadian midfielder Nicole Waters set UD’s all-time assist record in the team’s next game Oct. 25 against St. Bonaventure. She set a new record of 51 career helpers and extended that record to 54 by season’s end.
Head coach Mike Tucker also got his 300th career win leading the program when the Flyers beat Fordham 3-1 on Oct. 18 at Baujan Field.
The women’s soccer team went 10-9-1 on the season, including an 8-2 conference record that earned the team the second seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Flyers were upset in penalties in the first round by seven-seed Duquesne, who ended up winning the tournament.
Head coach Rick Chamberlin’s football squad dealt with the loss of star running back Connor Kacsor four games into the season by going 10-2 and winning the Pioneer Football League title. That clinched the conference’s position in the NCAA FCS Championship, the program’s first trip to the tournament. They hosted a first round game at Welcome Stadium and gave up 24 unanswered points in a 24-7 loss to Western Illinois.
The team saw the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Jeske, who began the season second on the depth chart. He entered the season-opener at Robert Morris in the second quarter and helped orchestrate a 27-24 win and nine more consecutive wins to start the season 10-0 for the first time since 1996.
The Flyers thrived in close games, with five of their wins decided by five points or fewer.
Chamberlin was named PFL Coach of the Year and received American Football Coaches Association Region 4 FCS Coach of the Year honors, as well.
The men’s soccer team finished the season with a 13-5-5 record and made its third-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, and first since 2008.
Baujan Field also hosted an NCAA Tournament first round matchup this year, as the Flyers hosted Oakland for a rematch of a regular season home game, when the Grizzlies gave Dayton a 2-0 defeat. The rematch was a thriller, with Dayton ultimately prevailing 4-3 in penalty kicks after playing to a 2-2 tie through regulation and two overtime periods.
Dayton faced another regular season rematch in the second round, and it proved to be another thriller. The Flyers traveled to Columbus to take on Ohio State, who had beaten Dayton 2-0 in Columbus during the season. The game once again went to penalties after tying 1-1 in regulation and overtime, but, this time, Dayton failed to come away with a win, “>losing 4-3 in penalties.
The Flyers boasted the best offense in the country, leading the NCAA in goals per game with 2.52. Senior midfielder Amass Amankona was named the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player and Midfielder of the Year and led the offense all year, finishing the season with 13 goals and five assists for 31 points. That total tied for seventh nationally.
Amankona was also one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann award, college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Head coach Dennis Currier joined Tucker in the 300-win club during the season. Currier finished up his 22nd season as a head coach and 11th at Dayton.
Last, but certainly not least, the Dayton volleyball team might have had the most impressive season of the four. Head coach Tim Horsmon’s Flyers started off slow at 2-5 but then rattled off 25 straight wins through the rest of the regular season, the Atlantic 10 Tournament and the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton won all 16 games against conference opponents, going 14-0 in regular season conference play and beating George Washington and Saint Louis in the conference tournament to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
The Flyers were matched up with Penn State in the second round for the second consecutive year, as well. First, Dayton had to overcome Villanova in the first round. And after losing the first set 25-21, UD won the next three to advance. UD fell to Penn State once again, 3-1. However, the Flyers won the second set by an impressive 25-13 score.
Dayton had four repeat conference award winners, led by senior outside hitter Alaina Turner earning her second consecutive A-10 Player of the Year award. Senior libero Janna Krafka won Libero of the Year, sophomore setter Jane Emmenecker won Setter of the Year and Horsmon shared Coach of the Year honors with Rhode Island’s Bob Schneck.
2015 was quite a season for fall sports here at UD. Hopefully you had some chances to see these teams in action, and if you didn’t, I hope this season grabbed your attention for next year.