Gene's Blog: Toms' 26 AA honorees include surprises
June 05, 2012
Ashley Maher emerged quickly as a standout setter as a senior for the Tommies. (Greg Smith photo)
St. Thomas had at least four unexpected All-America honorees this school year if you factor in previous statistics, past college experience or early-season numbers.
Two are named Maher, but aren’t related: volleyball’s Ashley Maher of Hutchinson and baseball’s Steve Maher of Burnsville. Another is baseball's Dylan Thomas of Lakeville North. The other is softball’s Kimmy Hassel.
That foursome is among 26 Tommie individuals from 13 different sports to receive All-America distinction in 2011-12. The honorees included 16 non-senior athletes –- five juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen.
Ashley Maher was a three-year backup to All-America setter Emily Foster. Maher made junior varsity as a freshman, and in her next two seasons on varsity, she played in 39 games and had one assist, eight aces and 41 digs. But Coach Thanh Pham put his faith in Maher, and the senior blossomed last season with 1,463 assists, and her 11.61 apg led all Division III setters. Maher’s steady play helped the Toms share the MIAC championship, win the regional championship, advance to the eight-teamnational tournament, finish 32-5 and get a No. 7 final Division III ranking. Maher also received elite Capital One Academic All-America honors with her 3.85 grade-point average.
Steve Maher had potential but little college game experience before the 2012 season. He threw a no-hitter as a junior for Holy Angels and had a 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio in prep and summer Legion baseball. He redshirted as a freshman in 2010 at Division I Illinois State, but transferred to Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge for 2011. He was slowed by injuries at Iowa Central and worked just 9 2-3 innings, went 0-1 with one save and had an ERA over 12.00. While UST coach Chris Olean saw promise in his sophomore righthander, he didn’t see an immediate staff ace. Maher beat nationally-ranked St. Scholastica in his first game and never looked back. He went 10-0 in February, March and April, and finished his sophomore year with a 13-2 record and 2.77 ERA, while posting 105 strikeouts and just 22 walks. His 13 wins broke the MIAC record for season wins, and his 105 Ks broke a 49-year-old Tommie record. He was named first-team All-America and Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year by both the ABCA and D3Baseball.com. He pitched three times in six days in the College World Series to help the Tommies take third in the nation.
Thomas, a junior RHP-designated hitter, made ABCA and D3Baseball.com All-America and was MIAC Pitcher of the Year and Midwest Region Player of the Year. A dynamic athlete in high school, Thomas had solid stats in his first two college seasons at Des Moines Area Community College, where he was 7-3 with no saves and had a 4.95 ERA in 71 innings over two seasons. On March 23, he was 0-2 with a 5.57 ERA in his first five UST pitching appearances and just one plate appearance as a batter. Then everything clicked. He went 8-0 with an 0.98 ERA in 11 mound appearances, including a complete-game win over eventual NCAA champ Marietta. At the plate, Thomas batted .361 over his last 29 games in the lineup with 39 hits, 13 walks, 33 RBI, six HRs and 23 runs.
Hassel showed flashes as a freshman in 2010 when she started all 48 games, hit .287, and had 35 hits, 21 runs and 14 RBI. In 2011, she slumped and had only seven hits and five RBI in limited chances in 21 games. This year, Hassel played lights out -- possibly the most improved player in college softball. The MIAC Player of the Year, Hassel played in all 46 games and batted .487 with 75 hits and 41 RBI, and had just one error in 192 chances and helped turned 22 double plays. Her 75 hits were third most in MIAC history. The Bloomington, Ill., native was also good in the clutch as she hit .463 with runners in scoring position and batted .550 with two outs. She had 27 multi-hit games, a .701 slugging percentage and .527 on-base percentage. She scored 46 runs in 46 games, had 10 doubles, four triples, five HRs, 13 walks, 17 steals and only struck out seven times in 171 plate appearances.
Did You Know?
--One amazing streak continued in track and field. St. Thomas had two women's relays advance to the finals at outdoor nationals. That's the 30th year in a row that either the UST women or men qualified a relay team to the outdoor T&F finals. The Toms' 4x100 team took seventh will no seniors, and their 4x400 team placed fifth with only one senior.
--Tony Danna became just the second Tommie linebacker in 37 years to make All-America. Eight different Tommies have made All-America in football in Coach Glenn Caruso's four seasons.
--Taylor Young became the Toms' first women's hoops All-America player in 10 seasons.
--Three of St. Thomas' All-Americas come from Hudson, Wis.: women's hockey goalie Alise Riedel, and track and field twins Angela and Erika Tipp.
--St. Thomas had gone 21 years without a male runner winning an individual NCAA championship, but it had two in 2011-12 with cross country's Ben Sathre and indoor track 800 champ Mike Hutton.
--With Maher, two-time honoree Jane Gibbs and three-time recipient Foster, Tommie volleyball has had an All-America setter in six of the last 10 seasons.
--After having no softball All-Americans in the program’s first 20 years, St. Thomas players have won the elite honor 22 times in the last 10 seasons under Coach John Tschida's leadership.
--St. Thomas baseball has had five different pitchers receive All-America distinction in the last three seasons: Matt Schuld, Matt Nelson, Bryce Gapinski, Maher and Dylan Thomas (utility pick).
--Hutton was an NCAA champ indoors and NCAA runner-up outdoors in 2012. In his four-year UST era, he played in more than 100 competitions in the sports of soccer, indoor and outdoor track and even one cross country race. Along the way, Hutton competed in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, southern California and northern California. He's now off to Virginia for competition of another kind -- six months of U.S. Marine training in Quantico, Va.
2011-12 Tommie All-Americas
(all seniors unless noted)
--Football: Fritz Waldvogel, Dan Chapman, Tony Danna, Colin Tobin, Curtis James (JR)
--Volleyball: Ashley Maher
--Men's Cross Country: Ben Sathre
--Women's Basketball: Taylor Young (SO)
--Women's Swimming & Diving: Emily Punyko (FR)**; Jen Easton **
--Women's Hockey: Alise Riedel (SO)
--Women's Indoor Track & Field: Kayla Goeman (FR), Emily Van Heel(SO), Larissa Peyton, Taylor Berg (JR)
--Women's Outdoor Track & Field: Emily Van Heel (SO) 2X, Larissa Peyton, Mallory Burnham (SO), Christina Rozeske (SO), Angela Tipp (FR) 2X, Erika Tipp (FR), Taylor Berg (JR)
--Men's Indoor Track & Field: Eyo Ekpo (JR) 2X, Ben Sathre, Mike Hutton
--Men's Outdoor Track & Field: Ben Sathre, Mike Hutton
--Men's Golf: Alex Kapraun (FR)
--Softball: Kimmy Hassel (JR)
--Baseball: Steve Maher (SO), Dylan Thomas (JR), Bryce Gapinski
**-Honorable mention AAs, scored points in NCAA meet/Directors Cup