UWRF Falcon athletic teams conclude fall seasons
The UW-River Falls football team came into the season with high expectations. After close losses to both St. John’s University and the University of St. Thomas, then ranked No. 2 in the country, the Falcons were in familiar territory at 0-2.
Against Simpson College, the team squandered a double digit lead in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 35-34 loss. The team would enter conference play without a win for the fourth year in a row.
After blowout losses at the hands of UW-Stevens Point, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville, the Falcons faced the other teams near the bottom of the WIAC.
A narrow 13-6 loss at UW-Eau Claire was followed by an overtime loss to UW-La Crosse, in which the Falcons blew another late double digit lead. For its final home game, the team played rival UW-Stout, but dropped another close game 19-18.
After a total of four close losses, one of the Falcons’ play-by-play announcers Chris Liermann remarked that the Falcons simply have not learned how to win yet.
“It make take one, it might take a couple, but they still have to learn how to get one,” Liermann said.
The football team finished its season at No. 5 UW-Whitewater, again losing by a large margin. The loss capped off a season which saw the Falcons lose every game, conference and non-conference, for the first time since the WIAC began play in 1966.
The team, which played so many close games, only graduates seven seniors and will return many key players next season.
Men’s Cross Country
The men’s cross country team came into the season without some of its top runners from a year ago.
“The men’s team went into the season short handed having lost their number one and number two runner to transfer,” said Co-Head Coach Scott Sekelsky.
Because of this, the men’s team featured a very young core of runners, with only one senior running in the top seven. While the team’s talent was primarily with the younger runners, Sekelsky said that the importance of the seniors should not be overlooked.
“We had great senior leadership from our captain Derrek Pedersen as well as seniors Christian Kressin and Scott Jensen. They taught the young runners on the team how to go about the business of training and racing hard,” Sekelsky said.
The season had both its ups and downs for the team. An eighth place, out of 26 teams, finish at the Roy Griak Invitational, one of the nation’s largest races, was a high point. Conversely, the team finished in last place at the WIAC championships, a low point in the season.
However, the team ended the season on the up-swing at the regional meet.
“They ended on a great note by having six out of seven run personal best times at the regional meet where they placed a very respectable 15th out of 40 teams,” Sekelsky said.
The men’s cross country team will only lose one of its top seven runners to graduation, and return the core of its top runners.
The volleyball team began its season on a tear. It won eight of its first nine games, all played on the road. In fact, the volleyball team only played four of its 31 games in front of the home crowd.
The Falcons also featured a very young roster. Only two seniors and one junior were on the team this season. Despite having such a young team, the Falcons were still able to compile a respectable 16-15 record.
“We had very successful season considering we were such a young team. This team played hard every match and many players got some quality experiences,” said Head Coach Patti Ford.
The team’s marquee win came against then ranked No. 24 Stevens Point. The Falcons won 3-2, and are the last team to defeat the Pointers, who are currently in the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
While the young team struggled down the stretch, Ford said this team is going places in the future.
“Experience is the teacher and if this team stays together the future looks very promising. I am excited to see how much we grow and develop in the off season,” Ford said. “This will be a very exciting team to watch in the future.”
The team will only lose the two seniors going into next year. Jean Theis, one of the two seniors, was named to the All-WIAC first team.
The women’s golf team also had a roller coaster type of season.
The team’s highest finish was a second place finish at the Border Battle, while its lowest was a 15th place finish at the Midwest Classic tournament.
The Falcons completed their season at the WIAC tournament where they placed sixth.
Much like most other fall teams at UWRF, youth is a theme for the golf team as the team only had one senior on the squad.
Sophomore golfer Gillian McDonald was named to the All-WIAC second team at the end of the season.
The women’s soccer team began the season with a 2-1-1 conference record and a 6-7-1 overall record. However, four straight losses derailed a potential WIAC tournament appearance.
The future should be bright, though, for the team as it only has three seniors on the roster.
The team has already proven it can compete against some of the elite conference teams. When the team faced off against eventual conference champion and national qualifier Whitewater, it only lost by one goal.
The team will also return three of its four top scorers from this season in Alex Swatloski, Nina Abrahamson and Alyssa Manor.
Senior Anna Kouba was named to the All-WIAC team at the end of the season.
The tennis team endured a bumpy season on its way to a 1-9 record and a sixth place finish in the WIAC tournament.
The team’s lone win was a dominating 7-2 victory over rival Stout.
Continuing with the trend of youth for the fall sports teams, the tennis team featured no seniors on the squad. The team will, therefore, return a bevy of experienced tennis players.
Women’s Cross Country
The women’s cross country team enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history.
The team finished third at the WIAC championship, its highest ever at the meet. It also defeated six-time defending conference champion Eau Claire.
“Finishing just eight points out of second place at the conference meet to eventual national qualifier Stevens Point was a great accomplishment for the ladies,” Sekelsky said.
Another significant finish for the team was its ninth place finish, out of 29 teams, at the Roy Griak Invitational.
The Falcons finished 10th at the regional meet and missed out on qualifying for the national meet as a team, which was one of the goals at the beginning of the season. However, the season is not over for all of the Falcon runners.
Harris will be running at the national meet in Hanover, Ind., and is the first Falcon to qualify for the meet since 2008.
Despite falling just short of its goal, Sekelsky said the season was a definite success.
“While the women didn’t make the national meet as we had hoped it was still with out a doubt the best season for the women in UWRF history,” Sekelsky said.
The team will graduate eight seniors after this season, all of whom Sekelsky said were key contributors to this year’s successful team.
“We had a tremendous group of seniors that helped lead us to our best season ever,” Sekelsky said. “Because of the hard work and dedication of our seniors Amanda Rothbauer, Brittany Nordland, Hillary Geipel, Kaylee Nelsen, Chelsey Turner, Briana Berthiuame and Anna Kehn we were able to turn the program around over the past four years.”