It's late fall in the Monadnock region, there's a blanket of frost and a sprinkling of red leaves on the soccer field before an early evening game, and the Keene State athletics teams are putting the finishing touches on their seasons.
Owl field hockey and women's volleyball teams lead the highlight list so far this fall. As we write this in late October, the KSC field hockey team is shooting for its fifth consecutive Little East tournament title, while the volleyball squad appears to have what it takes to challenge for its first LEC crown.
Led by the All-America tandem of Erin Dallas and Alyssa Rowell, the Owl field hockey squad is aspiring to host the LEC tournament at the Owl-friendly turf field and earn a berth to the NCAA tournament. If this works out, chances look good for a first-round tournament victory.
For the second year in a row, the Owl volleyball team has gone undefeated in LEC play. The dynamic duo of sisters Brittany and Bridget O'Bryant, with record-setting setter Jordan Pokryfki and defensive specialist Sarah Peterson, make the Owls the team to beat in the conference tournament. KSC, on the verge of setting a record for wins in a season, attained its first-ever ranking in the New England poll this year.
The men's and women's soccer teams find themselves at opposite ends of the LEC standings. The Owl men, who have made NCAA trips nine out of the past 11 years, will need a late rally to earn a spot in the conference tournament. The young Owl women are in the midst of one of the best seasons in several years. Sophomore sensation Katie Bradford tops the team and LEC in goals.
Both KSC men's and women's cross-country teams have made great strides this season. The strong sophomore nucleus of Craig MacPherson, Brandon Schillemat, and Jeff Trethewey has led the Owls to wins at the UMass Dartmouth and KSC Invitationals. Ranked in both national and New England polls, KSC is looking to return to the NCAA championships for the first time since 2005.
The Owl women runners, who captured their own Invitational, hope to make their presence felt at the New England regional meet. Top runners for KSC include junior Rita Marcotte, sophomore Amy Knoblock, and freshman Heather Pierce, a three-time recipient of LEC Rookie Runner of the Week honors.
Perhaps by the time you read this, the trees will be bare, the soccer field covered with snow, and nets stored away for hibernation. The volleyballs will be replaced by basketballs at Spaulding Gym, Owl swimmers and divers will take the plunge, and KSC runners will move from the trails to the ovals. Yes, the change of athletic seasons is a beautiful time in the Monadnock region.