Commentary: A wish list for Gator sports this fall

 It’s the beginning of the semester, so naturally it’s a time to outline some goals. Here are a few things I’d love to see this semester from some of our sports teams.

I’ll start with the cross country teams, which are historically the most successful of the fall sports here. The women have won the NCAC championship 11 times, while the men have won the past seven titles to bring their total to 10. I hope they can find a way for their dominance to continue.

For the men, this means finding a way to recover from losing some of their top runners. Last year’s team that climbed to No. 2 in the national rankings and finished. They were so good last year that it almost wasn’t news when they took the NCAC crown.

Without Chris Marker, Jeramie Parker, Ryan Sullivan, Andrew Mahone and Zac Ross, they are suddenly at risk of falling out of the top spot.

They will need strong performances from returners Mike Vlah, ’13 and Pat McGlaughlin, ’12. Junior transfers Kevin Edwards and Bobby Over will also need to make an immediate impact.

If the top five on the women’s team can come together, they have a shot at once again becoming a contender. Right now, Kelly Gallagher, ’13, and Kristina Martin, ’14, are clearly the top two on the team and major contenders for individual accolades.

The football team has the potential to take a step back this year after losing so many important players.

Losing players to graduation is a never-ending problem for teams, but the Gators lost some serious talent after last season. With no Salopek, Facaros or Mitchell, it’s more appropriate to think in the short term. They need to make sure they come out of their non-conference schedule with offensive and defensive identities.

My final wish for the fall is a bold one: for the women’s soccer team to win the NCAC championship. Last year they put together a historic season and went unbeaten in their first 15 games, but lost to Denison 1-0 in the conference finals following a thrilling shootout victory against Wooster the round before. They received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which was their first appearance since 2003. But the pieces are all in place for them to earn an automatic entrance to the national tournament this year.

For starters, they return goalkeeper Emily Karr, ’12, whose 10 straight shutouts to open the season allowed them to cruise through their non conference schedule. They also return experience in all three areas of the field, particularly at midfield, where seniors Becca Crissman and Kira Kliment played in more than 20 games last year. The team did lose its top two scorers in Nicole Mascia and Abby Silvester, but I expect Georgia Frost, ’12, to pick up the slack. She played in more than 20 games at forward last year and was third on the team in scoring.

I’m also pulling for the women’s soccer team because they seem to be the school’s best shot at a fall sports title (not including cross country) since 2003, when they last won the NCAC. Hopefully they can end the fall drought of conference championships in spectator sports. It’s been too long. This campus needs a fall champion, and I really think the women’s soccer team is the one that can pull it off this semester. They have all the tools and the time is right to use them.