Know your teams: A guide to NU’s top athletes

Josh Walfish, Gameday Editor

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1. Football
Summary: There is a lot of optimism in Evanston surrounding Pat Fitzgerald’s bunch this season. After four straight bowl games and five straight seasons of bowl eligibility, the pressure is on the Cats to finally end the bowl drought in 2012. The non-conference slate is challenging with three BCS opponents and the Big Ten is always brutal, but you can always count on the Cats to pull an upset or two. With seven home games on the docket, there will be plenty of opportunities to spend your Saturday afternoon at Ryan Field to cheer on NU.
Player to watch: Junior Kain Colter, quarterback

2. Cross Country
Summary: Coming off the team’s best finish in the regional since 2002, April Likhite has got this team trending upwards. Most of last year’s top performers return including All-Big Ten honoree Audrey Huth. Unfortunately there are no chances for you to see the girls compete on campus, but you can follow their results right here in The Daily.
Player to Watch: Senior Audrey Huth

3. Field Hockey
Summary: Coached by Tracey Fuchs, the Michael Jordan of field hockey, NU is headed on the right track. Chelsea Armstrong set the school record for career goals and points in her first three seasons and with a talented experienced group around her, the Cats will make a push for an NCAA Championships bid. There are five straight home games in the middle of October so there will be chances for you to see the team in action.
Player to Watch: Senior Chelsea Armstrong, forward

4. Volleyball
Summary: No team showed more promise last season than Keylor Chan’s bunch. A 16-15 record was highlighted by an upset of No. 2 Nebraska in the season finale, but the Cats lost four five-set matches in conference play including on the road against No. 8 Penn State. With nine home conference matches, a trip to see this team will be well worth the journey to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Player to Watch: Junior Stephanie Holthus, outside hitter

5. Women’s Soccer
Summary: There’s only one way to go for this team after a two-win season a year ago and that’s up. Now under the helm of Michael Moynihan, NU will turn things around this season. It may be difficult for the Cats to contend for a postseason berth, but the team will be much more competitive than last year. There are only four home games during the school year, so make the most out of your opportunities to see them in action.
Player to Watch: Junior Bo Podkopacz, forward

6. Men’s Soccer
Summary: Tim Lenahan’s group will have a target on their back as the defending Big Ten regular season and tournament champions. A young core of talented players returns to Evanston and the Cats will be in contention to repeat as champs. There will be many chances to see the team in action this season with home games scattered throughout the end of September and all of October.
Player to Watch: Sophomore Tyler Miller, goalkeeper

7. Wrestling
Summary: One of the best teams at NU that doesn’t get attention, the Cats return all seven NCAA qualifiers from last season including both All-Americans. As many as four wrestlers will contend for a national title and a young team last season comes back with more experience and talent. The top-10 recruiting classes are starting to make an impact for Drew Pariano’s squad and the expectations are sky-high. The Big Ten is the best wrestling conference in the nation so come see the best of the best compete at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Player to Watch: Sophomore Mike McMullan, heavyweight

8. Fencing
Summary: To call Laurie Schiller’s fencers dominant may be an understatement. A perennial top-5 team, the Cats always face the best of the best and are always competitive. NU returns most of the core of last season’s squad and should once again compete for the Midwest Conference crown. I suggest you head over to Patten Gym to see some of their duals, if not for the fencing then at least to catch a glimpse of Schiller’s facial hair.
Player to Watch: Senior Dayana Sarkisova, foil

9. Men’s Basketball
Summary: The pressure to make the NCAA Tournament will once again fall onto Bill Carmody and his team this year. After coming tantilizingly close last season, the Cats will hope to get over the hump this season. A manageable non-conference slate should set NU up for the brutal Big Ten season which could propel the Cats to the Big Dance. The key will be closing out the close games and getting the crucial defensive stop. Last season the students packed Welsh-Ryan and was named the best student section in the Big Ten, so go help pack Welsh-Ryan Arena again this year.
Player to Watch: Senior Drew Crawford, forward

10. Women’s Basketball
Summary: The injury bug bit Joe McKeown’s group at the wrong times last year and the team struggled to play consistent basketball. After a promising start last season and almost everyone returning, this year’s squad will contend in the Big Ten. The team will travel to Italy for 10 days this summer and the bonding experience should lead to another strong start and better chemistry. With quality opponents visiting Evanston throughout the season, there is no reason not to go see a game or two.
Player to Watch: Sophomore Karly Roser, guard

11. Men’s Swimming and Diving
Summary: An up and coming team with lots of talent, coach Jarod Schroeder’s group will be much improved from last season. Led by Charlie Rimkus and Uula Auren, the team had many thrilling finishes last season and surely will have plenty more in 2012-13. Come check out their meets at SPAC and witness the excitement first hand.
Player to Watch: Sophomore Uula Auren, breaststroke

12. Women’s Swimming and Diving
Summary: Last year’s postseason was memorable with Jenny Wilson shattering the school-record in the 200-yard breaststroke event in the Big Ten Championships and then besting the 100-yard breaststroke record in an All-American performance at the NCAA Championships. Felicitas Lenz took the silver medal in the platform dive at the Big Ten Championships and Taylor Reynolds qualified for the NCAA Championships as well. Lenz and Reynolds return to this year and coach Jimmy Tierney will have his team in contention in dual meets.
Player to Watch: Senior Taylor Reynolds, freestyle

13. Men’s Golf
Summary: Pat Goss has found a way to get the most out of his seniors and last year was no different. With only one senior on this year’s squad, NU’s hopes will ride on the talents of a deep group of underclassmen. The Cats are always in contention wherever they play and have won the past three Big Ten Match Play Championships. NU will host two events this season, but spectators are not allowed, so follow The Daily’s coverage to keep up to date on golf.
Player to Watch: Junior Jack Perry

14. Women’s Golf
Summary: Emily Fletcher guided her team back to the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year and the Cats are still looking for their first NCAA Championships appearance since 2000. NU returns much of the young core the team relied on last season including Lauren Weaver, who can compete for a Big Ten title when she is at her best. The addition of Notre Dame transfer Nicole Zhang should give the Cats a boost to finally get back to the NCAA Championships.
Player to Watch: Senior Lauren Weaver

15. Women’s Tennis
Summary: For the first time in 13 years NU is not the defending Big Ten Tournament champion, but everyone returns from the Cats’ Big Ten regular season championship squad. Claire Pollard always has the Cats at the top of the Big Ten and in the top-15 in the country. NU will need to use last year’s experience to get back to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in three seasons. Head to SPAC to catch all the cold weather action or the courts along Sheridan Road to catch all the warm weather competition.
Player to Watch: Senior Kate Turvy

16. Men’s Tennis
Summary: NU got back to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2009, but a first-round exit was not what the team was looking for. The Cats return six players with experience and look to improve upon last season. Arvid Swan will need his players to improve on their performance if they are going to match last season’s winning Big Ten record.
Player to Watch: Sophomore Alex Pasarenu

17. Lacrosse
Summary: The defending national champions were tested last season and despite not winning the American Lacrosse Conference, the Cats found a way to take home the national title at the end of the season. Florida will still be a problem and the teams from the ACC won’t go away, but Kelly Amonte Hiller will have her team ready to defend their title. The high scoring games are a pleasure to watch and who doesn’t want to watch the defending national champions.
Player to Watch: Senior Erin Fitzgerald, midfielder

18. Softball
Summary: A return to the NCAA Championship was bittersweet for Kate Drohan’s bunch after not advancing out of the regional after upsetting No. 6 Texas in the opening game. The team will need to replace the offense of Adrienne Monka, but only losing two seniors means most of last year’s team returns. Go check out a weekend doubleheader at Sharon J. Drysdale Field and see if you can spot the purple cow in the outfield.
Player to Watch: Junior Marisa Bast, third baseman

19. Baseball
Summary: Paul Steven’s group struggled mightily last season and despite showing flashes of potential, fell in a bunch of close games. The Cats’ pitching staff was on point in Big Ten play, but a struggling offense kept NU from making the Big Ten Tournament. A lot of good young talent returns next season so there is hope for the future. Nonetheless, there are not many better feelings than watching a baseball game in the beautiful Evanston weather.
Player to Watch: Sophomore Brandon Magallones, pitcher

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