Top 10 NCC sports achievements
Asst. Sports Editor
10. Men’s soccer team accomplishing its first 10-win season since 1999:
After finishing last season with an overall record of 5-10-3, the Cardinals did a complete 360 by going 10-5-2 this season. Though they lost their season opener to Loras College, NCC went on to win six in a row. During that six game win streak NCC goalies surrendered only one goal. Leading the Cards this season were all-conference players Jake Musczynski, ’14, Paul Box, ’12, and Michael Curtis, ’12. NCC cooled off a little bit during conference play, finishing with a CCIW record of 2-3-2. The North Central men’s soccer team has a lot to look forward to for next season, as most of their underclassmen are expected to return for next season.
9. Krista Cota, ’13, and Elizabeth Composto, ’15, qualifying for the Indoor Championships:
Cota and Composto both qualified for the NCAA Division III Indoor track and field championships this season. Cota qualified in the mile race while Composto qualified in the pole vault competition. Cota finished in ninth place overall in a race that featured several collisions. Meanwhile Composto earned All-American honors after finishing in eight place. Composto said it was an honor to compete at nationals as a freshman. “Being at indoor nationals was a huge honor,” said Composto. “Having the opportunity to compete alongside such talented athletes put me in a great position to experience the highest level of competition. Since it was my first national competition, I was obviously nervous. But after reminding myself that it is all about the opportunity, I was able to compete well and take in every moment.”
8. Dominique Collins, ’12, being selected to the USA Division III Soccer All-Star Team:
Collins completed a terrific four-year career here at NCC. In fact, she started 59 of the Cardinals 69 games over the course of her four-years here along with being awarded a first-team All-CCIW selection this season as a defender. Collins is just one of 13 to be selected to the USA Division III All-Star team. Collins said it is an honor to be selected to such a new team. “It’s an incredible honor,” said Collins. “The title itself sounds prestigious, but just having the opportunity to tour Brazil and play the game I love is amazing. When I came to NCC I was just coming off a broken leg and never imagined me starting all four years let alone be selected.” Collins also said she is really looking forward to traveling to Brazil from both an athletic and academic standpoint. “Funny but I’ve never been on a plane before,” added Collins. “That will be an experience itself. Not only do I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity, I plan on speaking Portuguese as much as possible. As far as skill level I am excited to play defense against these Brazilians and show them what I've got.”
7. Nathan Fitzenreider, ’13, finishing in second place at 125 pounds in the NCAA Division III Individual National Tournament:
Fitzenreider finished with an overall record of 35-5 this season along with advancing to the division III national finals match at 125 pounds. Fitzenreider started the season at 133 pounds but made the drop to 125 pounds midway through the season. Fitzenreider, a two-time Division III All-American, has a career record of 120-16 so far and looks to capture a national title next season. Fitzenreider’s 120 wins puts him in seventh place on the all-time wins list. “It would mean a lot to finish as the all-time wins leader. It’s something that I was able to accomplish at my high school and a goal I had set for myself when I entered college,” stated Fitzenreider.
6. Women’s Cross Country qualifying for Nationals:
After missing out on the Division III national tournament the past four years, the Cardinals returned for the second time in school history. The Cardinals finished in 16th place out of the 32 team field, being led by Krista Cota, ’13, who finished in 45th place overall. Cota said being one of the leaders of the team was a great experience. “Being one of the top runners on the team and a team captain throughout the season was a great experience,” said Cota. “It was a great feeling to be representing North Central and the other girls on the team at big races.” Rounding out the top five for NCC were Kala Bingham, ’12, in 57th place, Alicia Zimmerman, ’12, in 58th place, along with Maggie Lapinski, ’13, and Amanda Marek, ’13. Cota said it was the team’s hard work that allowed them to prevail. “We had all worked so hard training over the summer so we were physically ready to start the workouts and races at the beginning of the season,” added Cota. “Throughout the season we trusted in our coaches and our training plans, we went into races with confidence.”
5. Football team advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament:
After losing their season opener to Redlands University, the Cardinals went on a 10-game winning streak to take home another CCIW title along with clinching another outright birth to the NCAA Division III playoffs. NCC cruised through conference play, as the Cards slimmest margin of victory was by 21 points. The Cardinals were led by a great running attack and an even better defensive front. Defensively, NCC was led by nine All-CCIW defensive players, along with CCIW defensive player of the year Peter Bulandr, ’12. Bulandr, a defensive lineman, finished the season with 30 total tackles and 7.5 sacks as well as being selected as one of 10 finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy. Bulandr said it was an honor to be named the CCIW defensive player of the year. “It was a huge honor to be selected for the award,” said Bulandr. “To be able to be mentioned in the same breath with someone like Matt Wenger, ’11, an outstanding football player and all-around great guy is something that will always be very special to me.”
The Gagliardi trophy is an individual award that honors achievements in the classroom, on the gridiron, and within the community. Bulandr said he was speechless when he found out he was nominated for the Gagliardi trophy. “Being nominated for the Gagliardi trophy as a defensive lineman is something relatively unheard of, and once I heard I was being nominated I was speechless,” added Bulandr. “To be able to be in the company of nine other outstanding athletes across the country was a huge compliment and one, which I hold near and dear to me.” Offensively, NCC was led by running back Nick Kukuc, ’13, who rushed for 1200 plus yards on just 140 carries along with 12 touchdowns. The Cardinals look to be just as competitive for this upcoming season as they were this past year says Bulandr. “I think this year’s team will be able to keep the CCIW Championship streak alive and will be able to give our 12-win season in 2010 a run for its money,” stated Bulandr. “I am excited to watch the guys compete and will be there for every home game helping support the Cardinals.” North Central brings back eight of their of 11 starters on the offensive side of ball from last year, along with head coach John Thorne, who is NCC’s all-time leader in coaching victories and winning percentage.
4. Kyle Fiedorowicz, ’12, being invited to the New Orleans Saints 2012 rookie minicamp
When Kyle Fiedorowicz, ’12, first came to North Central, playing football was not exactly part of the plan. But after switching from basketball to football, the Cards such were glad Fiedorowicz did so. This past season Fiedorowicz led the Cardinals offense with 25 receptions, 381 receiving yards and eight touchdowns along with tallying three first team All-CCIW selections as well as being selected as a 2011 All-American tight end by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D3football.com. Not to mention Fiedorowicz finished his four-year collegiate career as North Central’s second all-time leader with 22 touchdown receptions. Fiedorowicz was one of only 64 players to be added to the Saints rookie minicamp roster.
3. Men’s basketball team advancing to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16:
Not many expected the Cardinals to make a run like they did this season in the NCAA division III postseason after completing non-conference play with a record of just 6-5. But the Cards went on to lose just three more games the entire year. Senior captain and starting point guard Kevin Gillespie, ’12, said it was after a loss to University of Wisconsin-Platteville that the team realized they had to pick up their play. “The game at Wisconsin Platteville was definitely the low of the season, if not my career here at NCC,” said Gillespie. “After that game we sat in the locker room for what seemed like hours just going around the room talking about what needed to change and that people needed to start to step up and play for their teammates as opposed to playing for themselves. I really think the heartfelt discussion that occurred there really woke people up to what we needed to be doing and that if we did not come together as a team we would just remain an average basketball team that wouldn’t see much success. From that point on we started to look like the basketball team we knew we could be and after the injury bug went away and we were able to get everyone healthy again, that’s when we started to make the run that we did. From that point on it was all about trusting each other to be in the right spot and to know that they would be there to help on and off the court that allowed us to just play basketball the way we know how.” The Cards won the conference title for a second straight season with a CCIW regular season record of 12-2. After losing in the CCIW tournament last season, the Cards hopes of advancing to the NCAA division III tourney were diminished. But after defeating Augustana College by a final of 63-56 in the first round of the conference tourney, the Cardinals needed a win over local foe Wheaton College to assure an automatic birth to postseason. The Cards had lost twice to the Thunder earlier in the year, and were hoping the third time would be a charm. And that’s exactly what happened. NCC blew out the Thunder by a final of 75-58 behind Gillespie’s, game-high 22 points in front of a packed out house at Gregory Arena. Gillespie said playing Wheaton for a third time really helped the team defeat the Wheaton Thunder when it mattered most. “The nice thing about losing to Wheaton the first two times that we played them, was that I knew we would get to face them one more time in the conference tournament,” added Gillespie. “When we got that chance after beating Augie and them beating Wesleyan, I knew that there was no way our team was going to lose a third time to those guys, we were way to talented and tough for that to happen.” Gillespie also said it was his mindset that allowed him to play as well as he did in the CCIW championship game. “I think that mindset is what allowed me to play more relaxed in that championship game and I was able to play with more confidence and poise because I knew we could beat Wheaton, we had just gotten unlucky the first two times that we played,” said Gillespie. “And the fact that if we didn’t win that game, we might not get into the national tournament created all the motivation we needed to step up and take that game over. At halftime Mitch Raridon came up to me and asked me if I was going to let this be the last half of basketball I ever played and that really seemed to wake me up and made me realize that if I didn’t step it up then what I had been working for my entire life could all disappear in a moment’s notice. That night was so special to me and by far the most fun I have had on a basketball court at anytime,” The Cards won both of their first two games in the postseason by a combined seven points before falling short to Wittenberg University in the Sweet 16. This season North Central was led by CCIW All-Conference players Landon Gamble, ’14, Derek Raridon, ’13, and Aaron Tiknis, ’13. The Cards have a lot to look forward to for next season according to Gillespie. “Now that this team has seen that the rest of the nation isn’t a bunch of D1 players but instead a lot of guys like themselves, I expect nothing less than to see them in the final four next year,” said Gillespie. NCC looks to be just as competitive next season, as the Cards only lose Gillespie and Ryan Broyles, ’12, due to graduation from this season’s squad.
2. Men’s Track & Field winning the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships:
The Cardinals won their third consecutive national title at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field championships behind two individual national champions. Dan Benton, ’12, captured his first indoor national title this season in the 400-meter relay along with Josh Winder, ’13, who captured the national title in the pole vault competition. Winder said it is feeling words cannot even describe on behalf of being part of a team that has won three consecutive national titles. “There’s no way to describe the feeling,” said Winder. "I think there are a lot of people who sit back and don't realize how much we have accomplished. Stuff like national championships doesn't happen every year, let alone every five or ten years. Having been a part of three indoor national titles in a row is nothing short of a God-sent.” Winder joins his brother Jake Winder, ’10, as the first brothers in NCAA Division III history to win the same event at indoor nationals. The Cardinals also claimed the 4x400-meter national title behind Bai Kabba, ’13, Dionte Hackler, ’14, Benton and Mustapha Olaoye, ’15.
1. Men’s Cross Country Team winning the NCAA Division III National Championships:
The Cardinals claimed their second national title in the past three seasons in a drama-filled race. With a couple of collisions at the start of the race, the Cardinals still managed to win it all once again behind Matt Perez, ’14, who finished in fifth place overall and in first place on the team. Following Perez was Neal Klein, ’12, in 10th place overall and Daniel Kerley, ’13, in 30th place overall. Rounding out the top five for NCC were Kevin Sparks, ’14, and John Crain, ’14, who finished in 31st and 36th place respectively.