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Gene's Blog: Celebrating the most Ws this side of Walla Walla, Wash.

LIam Doyle photo
LIam Doyle photo

Hey Tommie sports fans, let's trade notes:

  • Did it seem like autumn just flew by? (Yes)
  • Is it really this cold on November 12? (Yes)
  • Is the Tommies' November sports calendar ridiculously crowded? (Yes)
  • Is that a bad thing? (No)
  • Is Johnny Tauer's hoops team really going to open its season in Walla Walla, Wash., this Thursday? (Yes)
  • Are the Tommie CC teams really going to Iowa on Saturday... but not traveling to watch the Gopher football team at Kinnick Stadium?
  • Have Tommie women's teams lost any games on campus is 2019? (Not many)
  • After 99.5 years, do we really only have 18 months left competing in the MIAC? (Sigh...)
  • Are there really only 50 days left in this 2010s decade? (Yes)

So much figurative sunshine for the Tommies... not enough literal sunshine for the fan base.

As we adjust to the early winter, here are 11 things you may have missed behind the headlines:

 

1) Points-a-palooza

After more than 500 football games on campus over 115 varsity seasons, last Saturday produced a record statistic. The Tommies' 57-36 win over Gustavus, led by Josh Parks' five touchdowns, produced the most combined points ever -- 93 -- in a St. Thomas game played at Cretin and Summit Avenues.

The old record was 92 notched in 2014, also against Gustavus. That was a 57-35 Purple victory, led by five Brenton Braddock TDs.

The MIAC single-game touchdown record is five held by several players, the last two being Braddock and Parks. The Tommies' 7.3 touchdowns a game this season are third most in all of NCAA football.

 

2) Streakbusters

Goals by Luke Radetic and Johnny Panvica in the final 6:02 last Saturday night let St. Thomas Men's Hockey score a 4-3 comeback victory at No. 1-ranked UW-Stevens Point, last year's national champion.

In the process, the Tommies ended a nine-game losing streak to the Pointers dating back to November 2004. They also ended a UWSP streak of 31 wins in a row in non-overtime games.

 

3) Wise Coaches

Back in August, 12 head coaches from MIAC women's soccer cast ballots for the 2019 season race (no vote for your own team, rank all other teams from No. 1 through No. 11). That poll resulted in a dead heat between St. Thomas and Augsburg: six first-place votes each, and 116 points apiece, meaning either a 1 or 2 vote on each outside ballot.

Fast forward to Nov. 2: the two teams won and tied for the regular-season title at 9-1. Then seven days later, the teams played to a 1-1 tie through two overtimes in the playoff finals. In the tie-break shootout (penalty kicks), the score was deadlocked through five rounds as the first 10 shots were converted. The Toms prevailed in round six to deny the Auggies and take the playoff crown. Both teams are now preparing for NCAA tournament play.

No surprise: The Auggies and Tommies are 5-5-3 in head-to-head contests over the last nine seasons.

 

4) Home Sweet Home, I

Four Tommie women's teams have been nearly perfect in on-campus outcomes during the 2019 calendar year, with a combined 48-2-2 record: Women's Basketball (13-0), Volleyball (9-0), Soccer (8-0-2) and Softball (18-2).

That includes a 17-0 home postseason run in those four sports.

 

5) Home Sweet Home, II

When Coach Sheila McGill's Tommies face Monmouth (Ill.) on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the NCAA Playoffs, it will mark the first home NCAA women's soccer playoff game for the Purple in 17 seasons.

The Tommies have qualified for the NCAA playoffs each of the previous three seasons and traveled to Whitewater or La Crosse for those contests.

 

6) Consistent

Coach Thanh Pham has led Tommie Volleyball into the NCAA playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons. The Tommies' 29-4 record so far includes a 11-2 mark thus far against teams that have advanced to play in the national tournament.

 

7) Next Woman Up

No. 4/9-ranked Tommie Women's Basketball returned just two of its top nine scorers from a 30-2 team of last winter, and has no seniors on its roster.

Yet coach Ruth Sinn's team came home from a Saturday-Sunday trip to San Antonio with a 14-point win over East Texas Baptist, and a three-point road comeback victory over Trinity University. Trinity won by 19 points one day earlier against No. 8-ranked George Fox.

Five of their leading scorers -- Brynne Rolland (15.5 ppg), Macy Hatlestad (14.5), Allie Spaulding (7.0), Shayla Wallin (6.5) and Amber Darge (4.5) -- have combined to average 48 points in the two games. Those five combined to average just 11.0 ppg as role players all last season.

 

8) Hoopers

Sinn and Tauer's varsity rosters include freshmen guards who grew up near the Iowa border in towns eight miles apart: Mason Tapp of Dexter, Minn., population 337, and Jordyn Glynn of Grand Meadow, Minn., population 1,137.

Tapp played at Hayfield High and averaged 21 points, seven boards and three assists as a senior. Hayfield improved from five wins with Tapp injured as a junior, to 24 wins with him back at 100 percent last winter,

Glynn started at Grand Meadow since seventh grade, and scored 2,000 career points. She collected 18 varsity letters in four sports for the Superlarks.

 

9) Media Watch

Local media and even a west-coast media outlet talked with Tauer and Glenn Caruso in the last week.

After the huge Gopher football win, Tauer spoke on the psychology of local sports fans to WCCO Radio and to KARE-11 TV.

A Salt Lake City newspaper that covers BYU football did a story about how college football blends with a university's mission, and interviewed Caruso.

 

10) Marathon, not a Sprint

St. Thomas Men's and Women's Cross Country has seven current seniors in their top group who have been in the program all four seasons. Since their freshmen years, all seven have shown steady -- or in some cases massive -- improvement.

Over the last four MIAC Championships:

  • Karl Wachter has improved each season from 94th place to 13th to fourth to third in his career;
  • George McGivern climbed from 103rd to 80th to 44th to ninth place in his four seasons;
  • Colin Kiley moved from 65th to 39th to 37th to 31st place;
  • Sara Ness moved from 20th to 16th to 12th this season (injured in 2018);
  • Jenny Launder placed 115th then 18th then 19th then 13th;
  • Katie Breuckman improved from 30th to 26th to 17th to 15th place;
  • Molly Clarke climbed from 49th to 43rd to 24th to 19th place.

Those runners will be in action Saturday at the NCAA Regional races in Waverly, Iowa, as they look to get their teams into the Nov. 23 nationals race in Louisville.

 

11) Back in '18, a Football Memory

It was 101 years ago this fall, with World War I being waged, that Gopher Football traveled to play St. Thomas in a road game. A scarlet fever outbreak in the city of Minneapolis prompted the game to be moved to St. Paul. Minnesota won 25-7.

Many Gopher fans that day reportedly rowed the boat. No, really, it was 1918, and there weren't as many cars or mass transit. Legend has it that fans rowed boats down the Mississippi River to get to the game.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it...

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Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is in his 26th season at St. Thomas and 32nd overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at ejmcgivern@stthomas.edu