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Owl Notebook

Owl Notebook
Who's making news in Owl Sports

Graduation Gift: ECAC Championship
A Pitcher-Perfect Game
Men's Lacrosse Earns ECAC Berth
Hickman Sets Owl Home Run and RBI Marks
KSC Announces Athletic Awards
Keene State Claims President's Trophy, LEC Commissioners' Cup
In Case You Missed It...
KSC Cheerleaders Place Fourth in National Competition
Alumni News

Graduation Gift: ECAC Championship
Keene State junior Michelle Mason came up with the perfect graduation present for the seven seniors on her lacrosse team. And it's a gift none of them will forget. With 1:23 left in sudden-death overtime, Mason circled the net and while falling down, somehow managed to score to give the Owls an exhilarating 17-16 victory over Eastern Connecticut and the program's first-ever Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship.

"I just went for it," Mason said. "I didn't know it was in until everyone was on top of me. I figured either it went in or they were all mad at me."

Mason, who was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player, netted nine goals in the game to set a KSC record.

An intense battle that featured 11 ties and five lead changes, the game went into overtime thanks to Natalie Kent, one of those seven seniors, who knotted the score at 16-all with just eight seconds left on the clock.

It was a hectic day for the seven seniors – Kent, Diana Gorse, Nicole Lemire, Melissa Grondin, Erin Mehner, Liz Maddocks, and Jamie Litch, who had to leave their graduation ceremony early to play in the game.

"We literally got our diplomas and ran out of the place," said Litch, the team's goalie.

Keene State concluded its season with a program-best 14-5 mark and a second-place finish (4-2) in the Little East Conference.

A Pitcher-Perfect Game for McLoughlin
On the subject of perfect, that's exactly how Keene State softball pitcher Meghan McLoughlin was feeling after tossing a 2-0 perfect game against Eastern Connecticut late in the season.

"It's a great feeling," said McLoughlin, who retired all 21 batters she faced. "I'm a perfectionist and I want to be perfect in softball." Later in the season, McLoughlin, a junior from Brattleboro, Vt., pitched an 8-0 no-hitter against Plymouth State University.

McLoughlin, who was named the LEC Pitcher of the Year, finished the season with a 14-5 record, with 163 strikeouts and a sparkling 0.34 ERA.

Receiving a berth in the ECAC Tournament, the Owls won the LEC regular-season title with a 29-12 (12-2 LEC) record. Caroline Kurkowski, who belted four home runs and knocked in 19 runs to go with her team-leading .344 batting average, was named LEC Offensive Player of the Year while Charlie Beach was the recipient of the conference's Coach of the Year award.

Men's Lacrosse Earns Third Consecutive ECAC Berth
Becoming a perennial LEC powerhouse, the Keene State men's lacrosse team (11-7, 5-2 LEC) advanced to the tournament championship for the second consecutive year and made its third straight ECAC Tournament appearance.

In the LECs, KSC rolled to wins over UMass-Boston (11-4) and UMass-Dartmouth (15-2), before falling to ECSU (12-9) in the title game.

Seeded fourth in the ECAC tournament, Keene State overpowered fifth seed Roger Williams University (10-4), but had its championship hopes dashed by top seed Western New England College (10-6) in the semifinals.

LEC Offensive Player of the Year Joe Branciforte led the Owls in scoring with 57 points on 38 goals and 19 assists. Branciforte and teammate Brian Walsh were All-LEC first-team selections.

Hickman Sets Owl Home Run and RBI Marks
After posting 20-plus win seasons three of the past five years, the Keene State College baseball team finished with a disappointing 14-23-1 (5-9 LEC) record this spring. Season highlights included the team's spring week trip to Florida and a pair of regular-season victories over long-time LEC rival Plymouth State University.

Earning a place in the six-team LEC tournament, the Owls upset fifth seed R.I. College (9-0) behind freshman pitcher Peter Bergeron, who tossed eight shutout innings.

Justin Hickman (6 HR, 33 RBIs, .376 BA) had an outstanding senior season for the Owls. The talented third baseman set KSC career home run (16) and RBI (111) marks and was named to both All-New England and All-LEC teams.

Coach Ken Howe was pleased with the development of several of his younger players, including sophomore first baseman Jeremy Schilling (6 HR, 23 RBI, .343 BA) and the freshman trio of catcher John Grainger, and pitchers Rick Stromgren, and Bergeron, who are all expected to play prominent roles on the team next season.

KSC Announces Athletic Awards
Chris Timson was named Keene State College's male Athlete of the Year and Jennifer Ortisi and Tanya Strong were selected co-female Athletes of the Year at the College's 2003-04 Athletic Awards Dinner.

In addition, Chepina Witkowski and Megan Perkins were the co-recipients of the Scholar-Athlete Award and the Keene State women's swim team was presented with the Don Carle Award for having the highest GPA among Owl teams.

Timson, a senior forward on the men's basketball squad, averaged a team-high 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds to lead KSC (25-6, 13-1 LEC) to its first conference championship and first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, where the Owls advanced to the Elite 8. Timson, a Beverly, Mass., native completed his career fifth on KSC's all-time scoring list with 1,448 points.

A senior midfielder on the Keene State women's soccer team (14-6-3,5-1-1 LEC) Ortisi capped her four-year career by earning NSCAA second team All-America honors this fall. Ortisi, an Allenstown, N.H., native, tallied a team-high 14 goals, six assists, and 26 points this fall and completed her career fourth on KSC's all-time scoring list with 106 points.

Named to the 2003 All-America second team, Strong shattered Keene State (19-6) records with 30 goals, 10 assists, and 70 points this season. The senior from Hatfield, Mass., was named both the Little East Conference's Offensive Player of the Year and the MVP of the ECAC Division III New England Tournament. Her 148 career points are second on KSC's all-time scoring list.

Chepina Witkowski photo A junior member of the Keene State women's cross country team, Witkowski excelled on the trails and in the classroom this year. A Dean's List student every semester, the math/education major spent the spring semester on exchange at New Mexico State University. Witkowski, from Keene, N.H., had her most successful cross country season this fall, earning All-LEC/Alliance honors.

A health promotion/fitness major, Perkins ran the women's cross country team this fall. A diligent competitor, Perkins overcame several injuries to compete this season. The junior from Weare, N.H., studied abroad at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the spring.

The women's swim team is the first Owl squad, other than women's volleyball, to claim the Don Carle Award since it was first presented four years ago. Collectively, the 16-member team – which posted a 7-2 dual meet record and placed fourth at the New England Division II-III Championships – has a cumulative 3.09 GPA.

Keene State Claims President's Trophy, LEC Commissioners' Cup
The President's Trophy has returned to Keene State. The Owls bested their longtime rival Plymouth State 10-5 in head-to-head regular season competition this season. Holding a slim 5-4 lead following the winter schedule, KSC swept baseball and softball doubleheaders and notched a decisive win in men's lacrosse to pull away from the Panthers. Keene State has claimed the trophy four times since it was first contested in 1997-98.

Keene State averaged 6.168 points to finish ahead of runner-up Eastern Connecticut State University (5.944 points) and capture its fourth consecutive Commissioner's Cup, presented to the top program in the Little East Conference.

Keene State, which captured three team titles during the course of the 2003-04 competitive year, has now won the Commissioner's Cup in each of the four years it has been presented. The Owls were triumphant in the sports of men's and women's cross country and men's basketball.

In Case You Missed It...
Keene State College added two more athletes to its long list of All-Americas at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships, held at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Dave Bridgewater, a junior from Unionville, Conn., earned the honor with his sixth-place finish in the 1,500-meter race, while Shannon O'Brien, a junior from Tilton, N.H., received her first All-America award with her eighth-place finish in the 800-meter event.

The Keene State women's basketball team completed its season with an 11-14 (6-8/5th LEC) record. The Owls' season concluded with a tough first-round loss to UMass-Dartmouth (80-64) in the Little East Tournament. Forwards Stacey Morse (10.4 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) and Andrea Arsenault, the squad's senior captain, were All-LEC second-team picks.

Owl athletes earned two major awards and captured a combined eight individual and relay titles at the 2004 New England Division II-III Swim/Dive Championships held at Bentley College.

Lisa Wandeloski was the recipient of the Kay Fromer Award, given to the senior women's swimmer with the most career points at the New Englands. Wandeloski, a native of Westfield, Mass., finished her career as one of the all-time best women swimmers at Keene State. The New England champion this season in the 200-yard freestyle and a member of the victorious 800 freestyle relay, Wandeloski has amassed a combined 14 New England titles (eight individual and six relays) while earning All-New England honors in 25 events.

Zach Hastings was selected the men's diver of the meet. The sophomore from Weston, Mass., finished first in one-meter diving (336.90 points) and third the three-meter event with 338.95 points.

KSC Cheerleaders Place Fourth in National Competition
The Keene State College Cheerleading team ended their season by placing fourth at the NCA National Collegiate Cheerleading Championship, which took place at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Receiving its second bid ever to the competition, the team recovered from an injury that left them one person short. After taking only 30 minutes to re-work their routine, they went on and nailed their performance to place high enough to compete in the finals.

The KSC Cheerleading team extends a special thank you to the Alumni Association for their grant that helped make the trip possible.

Alumni News
Michael Theulen '80, a standout basketball player who played for his father Glenn at Keene State, has returned to coaching at Western New England College. Theulen, who had successful runs as both men's and women's coach at Springfield College, will coach the men's team at WNEC in addition to retaining his position as the college's athletic director.

Another former Owl hoopster, Tory Verdi '97 is currently serving as a special assistant coach with the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA. He spent the winter coaching the Springfield Spirit of the NWBL.

Already a member of the KSC Athletic/Alumni Hall of Fame, Tina Gonyea '90 was recently inducted into the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. A three-sport athlete while attending Platt High School in Meriden, Conn., Gonyea was a record-setting point guard on the only Owl team to qualify for the NCAA (Division II) Tournament.

Anne Valihura '02 has landed her first baseball job, with the Norfolk (Va.) Tides, the New York Mets' top minor league team. Valihura, a top track and field athlete for the Owls, recently completed her master's degree in sports management at Georgia Southern University. Hired as a sales representative and assistant to the business manager, Valihura will wear many hats for the Tides. On game days, she will be responsible for the money that passes through eight stands in the stadium. And when it rains, the Reading, Mass., native becomes a member of the tarp crew. "It's really one of the fun parts of the job," Valihura told the Keene Sentinel. "Everybody is cheering for you."