A look back at Flagler’s first year competing in NCAA Div. II
This December marks the end of Flagler’s first full calendar year in NCAA Div. II and it has been a year to remember.
The major announcement was made that because of a NCAA rule change, Flagler is now a year away from full membership in NCAA Div. II, instead of the three- to four- year probationary period originally expected. Though full membership is just around the corner, conference affiliation is still up in the air as Flagler waits on a decision from the Sunshine State Conference.
On the fields and courts, each sport had its up and downs as it adjusted to a new level of competition.
Most memorably, the men’s basketball team faced the University of Florida for an exhibition game on Nov. 1, losing by 46 points. The game was by far the most anticipated match the athletics department has participated in.
While the game at Florida may have been the most high profile match of the year for the team, it also kicked off the second NCAA season for Saints basketball.
In their first season, the team encountered the growing pains of starting, at times, three freshmen, and they finished 14-13. The Saints best player was senior Sam Jozenville. Jozenville led the team in field goal percentage, scoring and steals and at times put them on his back to get a win. His contributions earned him Independent College Athletics Association Player of the Year honors. While Jozenville has moved on, the team returned most of its core. The team also recognized Flagler great John Randolph this year by retiring his jersey.
The women’s basketball team entered the NCAA with a new coach and heightened expectations. Though the team finished at 13-16, strides were made and the program is on its way up. Senior Jamie Allenbaugh earned all-ICAA first team honors in leading the Saints with 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Coach Sherri Abbey-Nowatzki brought a recruiting class of five in with her in her first season, and has added six additional players this season as the team is moving back to the forefront after years in the shadow of the men’s team.
Men’s soccer had some great recruits and coming off of a 9-10 overall record from last year, coaches and players assumed they could achieve similar success. But the team did not fair quite as expected, losing eight of their first nine games — a development that was unforeseen entering the season. Undoubtedly this year’s struggles will serve as motivation for the returning players, and hopefully next season the adjustment to Div. II will be less obvious.
While the men’s soccer team struggled, the women’s team rebounded from a three-win season in 2006 with a 10-9-1 record in 2007. The team was led by freshman Annika Hogberg a recruit from Sweden. Hogberg earned co-Women’s Soccer Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors from the ICAA. Head coach Teddy Meyer was named co-Coach of the Year by the ICAA.
Saints volleyball experienced its seventh straight 20-win season under coach Taylor Mott. While a roller coaster season left their record pretty even at 20-15, the team did get a monkey off its back by beating rival SCAD for the first time in two years. Senior Krista McAra set a career mark, breaking the all-time block assist record — her 305 are now first. Sophomore Justine Burkhardt earned ICAA Player of the Year honors and is on her way to shattering numerous school records in the coming years.
Flagler baseball also faced a rough road in its first Div. II season. The Saints finished with a 25-27 record, but ended the season winning eight of their last 11, seemingly getting all their parts in place as the season came to a close. Senior catcher Shane Darnofall experienced a breakout season with a .379 average, three home runs and 27 RBIs. Wade Lamont enjoyed his first, and only, Flagler season. Lamont batted .320 with 11 home runs and tied with Kenny Ray for the team lead in RBIs at 47. Lamont was then drafted by the Detroit Tigers, the team his father Wade Lamont coaches for.
While one former Flagler player was beginning his road to the majors, another was honored for making it to the show. Flagler retired the number of former shortstop Chris Barnwell — who played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006 — with a ceremony at Flagler Field.
Cross country thrived this year, adding a new coach to the women’s team and continuing to improve within their races. New women’s coach Christy Calderon-Castelli was named Coach of the Year and pushed her team to another strong season. The Saints can be proud of a season that included all-ICAA honors for several players including Lindsey DiBona and senior standout Jamie Stanish.
The men’s golf team took little time to adjust, winning the North-South Intercollegiate in Jacksonville for the second straight year. Flagler set a school record for the lowest round with an opening round seven-under 281. Though the team had a successful season, they enter this year with a new coach. Don Robbins, coach for nine years, retired and was replaced by Jay Jennison.
The women’s golf team also added a new coach. Betsy Larey was named head coach after spending the last few seasons as assistant to Coach Taylor Mott. The Saints finished fifth in their final tournament of the fall and will look to move up the leaderboard this spring.
Coming off of a forgettable season, both the men’s and women’s tennis programs will look to dramatically improve this season under seasoned Head Coach Walter Shinn.
The men’s team graduated several top players this year and needs production out of the younger team members to compete in the upcoming season. The women’s team fared slightly better than the men last season, but lost their final match to rival SCAD.
With the bumps and bruises of their first full season in the NCAA behind them, Saints teams can now set their sights on tougher competition in 2008. And while the challenges are expected to get more difficult, Flagler coaches and players seem set to make it another stellar year.