RMU Athletics Year in Review

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Men’s Basketball: 4-15 overall, 3-12 Horizon, 12th of 12 in conference standings, Horizon League Tournament First Round

After being picked to finish fourth in the Horizon League coaches preseason poll, the men’s basketball team had a lot of confidence heading into their first season of Horizon League competition coming off an NEC championship run and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Even though the team returned four out of five starters from the season before, the season did not begin as planned as they were forced to pause team activities due to COVID-19 concerns within the program. That put a wrench into the schedule as their opening game against Point Park was canceled along with matchups against Central Michigan, and Florida Gulf Coast and Saint Francis were postponed until the 2021-22 season.

The team returned to practice on December 2, and just three days later they opened the season at the UPMC Events Center against Point Park. After defeating the Pioneers 75-57, the team was forced to pause once again after another positive COVID test which canceled their game against no. 10 West Virginia and their opening conference series against Cleveland State. The team returned to the floor to play two more non-conference games then headed into conference play against Purdue Fort Wayne. They defeated the Mastodons 102-88 in their first Horizon League game. After that, the team struggled, going 2-13 for the remainder of the season. They faced off against Detroit Mercy in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament but lost by a score of 83-73.

One of the bright spots for the team over their rough season was senior guard Jon Williams, the four-year starter who put everything together in his final year on the team. He averaged 10 points per game, shooting 41-percent from the floor and 44-percent from downtown. Former Colonial forward AJ Bramah was putting up Horizon League Player of the Year numbers before he put his name in the transfer portal, averaging a double-double a night, 21 points and 10 rebounds in his shortened season.

Even after a rough season and finishing in dead last, Andy Toole and his staff have been hard at work this offseason revamping the entire roster and taking advantage of the massive influx of names in the transfer portal. With the work that has been done by Toole and company, don’t be shocked if this team is competing towards the top half of the conference next season.

Women’s Basketball: 4-13 overall, 4-12 Horizon, 9th of 12 in conference standings, Horizon League Tournament First Round

Just like the men’s team, the women’s team struggled to get on the court to start the season having their sole non-conference game against Norfolk State canceled. They were thrust right into conference play against Northern Kentucky on December 12 and dropped their first eight contests of the season. For a short time, it seemed as if the team was starting to figure things out, sweeping a red-hot Wright State team at home and then splitting their next series against Youngstown State who was led by Mary Dunn. Despite winning three games in a two-week span, the team struggled down the stretch, losing three of their last four regular-season games. They squared off against Northern Kentucky in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament but fell in Highland Heights, Kentucky by a score of 68-54.

Freshman Sol Castro led the way for the team, averaging nine points and five rebounds a game. She was the first RMU freshman to lead the team in scoring over the course of a season since the 2001-02 season. Esther Castedo also was a key part of the team’s performance this season averaging nine points per game.

Softball: 25-19 overall, 20-14 Horizon, 4th of 10 in conference standings, Horizon League Tournament First Round

Softball had a better indoctrination into its new conference than most of the other sports, looking right at home in its inaugural season. Ranked ninth in the preseason poll heading into the campaign, they split non-conference sets with NC Central and Howard before splitting their first Horizon League action against Detroit Mercy. After a rough road trip where they dropped three of four in Green Bay, they went 17-10 for the rest of the season, earning at least a split in every series against some of the league’s top teams. They earned the fourth seed in the Horizon League tournament, but the waters became choppy. Facing tournament host Youngstown State, they were silenced 7-0 and in their double-elimination game, a late comeback fell short, dropping to Oakland 5-4. Faith Miller was named to the All-Tournament Team for her efforts.

Natalie Higgins was the premier offensive threat on the team, batting .415 with nine home runs and 44 RBI, all at or near the top in school history in a single season and the second Colonial to bat .400 or better in a season. She was named to the All-Conference First Team. The pitching was solid all around, and the rest of the offense followed suit, batting .270 and pitching to a 3.42 ERA. Regardless of the result in the tournament, the future looks bright for this squad.

Volleyball: 4-12 overall, 4-12 Horizon, 9th of 11 in conference standings

Volleyball had a rough go of things in their first season in the Horizon League, but there were many positives to take from their season, especially towards the end. They were against the eight-ball heading in ranked ninth in the preseason poll, which turned out to be exactly where they ranked in the standings. The team did not win until they traveled to Youngstown down the stretch, finishing the season on a high note by sweeping defending league champion Northern Kentucky in their first match of two in the final weekend. It was a stark contrast from their 25-5 record and 15-1 record in-conference of last season as the volleyball team had a frustrating transition into their new league.

They were led by strong seasons from Alyssa Hudak and Alyson Londot, who had to step up after Emma Granger missed the majority of the season with an ankle injury. The freshman class looked promising, especially Abby Ryan, who had a great season for a rookie despite not getting recognition. Dale Starr had to continue to let the team know that it was not the Northeast Conference anymore and they had to earn victories as opposed to walking into them in their previous conference. A 4-12 record is not bad for the first season in a much better conference, and now that Starr has film on every team in the conference and has important pieces such as Emma Granger returning, the Colonials should only improve going forward as they settle into their second season as a member of the Horizon League.

Men’s Hockey: 15-9 overall, 10-5-1 AHA, 3rd out of 11 in conference standings, Western Division Champions

Due to COVID-19, many were uncertain how the 2020-21 college hockey season would play out. The Robert Morris men’s hockey team saw their prior season end after defeating Holy Cross in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. Their subsequent series with Sacred Heart never occurred. Fast forward 258 days and the Colonials, like every other Atlantic Hockey squad, were placed in two separate divisions.

In a difficult season full of cancellations and COVID-19 protocols, the Colonials made the most of it. RMU came out of the gates running, posting their best start in program history allowing them to reach no. 17 in the national polls. With that success, the Colonials finished the regular season with a 10-5-1 record in Atlantic Hockey making them the Western Division champions.

The Colonials saw a vast upgrade in offensive production from the previous season that helped fueled the team’s impressive regular season. While goal-scoring came at a premium in the 2019-20 season, the Colonials scored at a clip of 3.76 goals per game during the season, which ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

Senior co-captains Nick Prkusic and Nick Jenny played a major role in the team’s uptick in scoring, especially on the power play. While the team provided a punch from every line, the freshman class had a huge impact on the Colonials’ turnaround. Randy Hernandez tied for the team lead in points with Prkusic at 25 while leading the club with 11 goals. On the blue line, Brian Kramer also made his presence known game in and game out. Each freshman made their name known, but none may have been bigger than goaltender Noah West. In his first season, West stepped in and filled a massive role while looking at ease in goal. He recorded nine wins, 2.66 goals-against average and a shutout.

As the Colonials were making waves not only in Atlantic Hockey but in the national realm, they faltered in the playoffs. In the best of three quarterfinals round against Niagara, the Colonials secured the first victory in overtime due to an outstanding effort play from Cameron Hebert to Darcy Walsh who scored the game-winner. However, games two and three would feature the opposite as Niagara stole both games by just one goal. Robert Morris’ impressive season fell flat in the first round marking the end of a turbulent season but one full of successes.

Following a season to remember, the playoff series against Niagara may be the last impression the men’s hockey team will have. The university announced on May 26 that both of its hockey programs would be discontinued effective immediately.

Women’s Hockey: 16-8-1 overall, 11-7-1 CHA, 3rd out of 6 in conference standings, CHA Playoff Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round

After losing their star player to graduation in Jaycee Gebhard, the Colonials had to adjust to scoring by-committee more this season. After starting the season off 4-0 against the struggling Lindenwood Lions, RMU continued to have a funky schedule like most college athletic programs. It took the team a while to find its footing in the regular season as they lost to all of Mercyhurst, Syracuse, and Penn State at least once.

The emergence of young players such as Ellie Marcovsky, Joelle Fiala, Maggy Burbidge, and Marah Wagner gave the Colonials the depth they needed. The goaltending was stellar with Raygan Kirk, Molly Singewald, and Arielle DeSmet all getting time to shine. Add this to the star players that always seemed to contribute with Emily Curlett, Michaela Boyle, and Lexi Templeman, the Colonials looked better than their early-season struggles suggested heading into the postseason.

Due to their regular season struggles, the Colonials did not receive a first-round bye in the CHA playoffs like they had in years past. This served as a blessing in disguise as RMU got their feet under them and beat RIT, Mercyhurst, and then Syracuse to win the CHA title. They advanced to the first round of the NCAA tournament and lost 5-1 to Northeastern.

Of course, this all has been overshadowed recently due to the recent changes to the program as the university announced it would discontinue the two hockey programs. For more on that story, which is still developing, click here.

Men’s Lacrosse: 7-6 overall

The summer of 2020 was an eventful one for RMU Athletics as it saw many of its sports programs transition into new conferences. However, it left the men’s lacrosse team independent as it would need to wait until 2022 to become an affiliate member of the ASUN Conference. Due to an entire season full of nonconference matchups, the Colonials used it as an opportunity to prove its worth as a competitor on the national stage.

The Colonials opened up the season against one of the top teams in the nation, the Duke Blue Devils. RMU held their own throughout the contest, even putting the country on notice with a four-goal lead that extended late into the first quarter. After dropping their second contest of the season against High Point, RMU finally clinched their first victory against Colgate.

Over the course of the season, the Colonials took care of upcoming conference opponents Bellarmine, Cleveland State, Air Force and Utah. RMU also had three more cracks at nationally ranked programs from the ACC in Notre Dame, Virginia and Syracuse. While they dropped all three games, the Colonials made a statement in each game, showing their own talent pool and offensive prowess.

Speaking of talent and offensive prowess, the Colonials season was full of record-setting feats from the most prolific player in team history, Ryan Smith, who broke nearly every offensive record imaginable. The graduate senior set single-season records in goals (71), points per game (5.46) and goals per game (3.69). Smith took over the program record with points (217), goals (142) and games played (69). In their matchup with Bellarmine, Smith also reset two single-game records with 11 points and six assists.

Although the Colonials played the entirety of their 2021 campaign as an independent as they finished with a record of 7-6, they showed their future ASUN Conference opponents what they bring to the table.

Women’s Lacrosse: 14-2 overall, 10-0 MAC, 1st out of 6 in conference standings, MAC Regular Season Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round

With seven graduate seniors that only played seven games last season returning, the goal was to win a conference championship and head to the NCAA Tournament. That is exactly what RMU women’s lacrosse accomplished this season. In the new Mid Atlantic Conference, RMU crushed all opponents. They had a perfect record in the conference, allowing under 12 goals in every game against MAC opponents.

The Gandy twins of Mackenzie and Melanie stole the show for Robert Morris in their last outing collecting many records. Mackenzie set the clubs’ record in all-time goals, and points. Whereas her sister Melanie became the all-time leader in assists. RMU was very strong defensively this season as always with Shea McArdle, Kelly Colegrove, and Madison Bure all protecting goalkeeper Katelyn Miller. RMU has routed in the first round of the NCAA tournament against no. 5 Notre Dame, getting shut out 16-0.

Football: 0-3 overall, 0-2 Horizon, 5th out of 5 in conference standings

The football team got a small sample of Big South Football in a shortened spring season, dropping all three games that were played on their schedule. They also had three games canceled throughout the season due to a multitude of reasons. Even though the team struggled, they raised some eyebrows early on in the season dropping the first game of the season 36-16 to the number two school in the FCS James Madison. The Colonials went into the half tied with the Dukes and the defense forced three interceptions in the first half to put pressure on JMU. After their home opener was canceled, the team headed down to Kennesaw, Georgia to take on the Owls of Kennesaw State. They were flattened, getting shut out 35-0, and were dominated in every facet of the game. The following week, they took on Charleston Southern on the road and dropped that game 27-14.

Quarterback Geroge Martin threw for 520 yards in the shortened season while D’Andre Hicks led the team in receiving yards with 182. Alijah Jackson rushed for 174 yards over the course of the team’s three contests.

Golf: 5th out of 10 at Horizon League Championships

Despite only playing in five tournaments, the season for the Robert Morris golf team can best be described as the tale of two halves. In the opening half of the season, the Colonials stormed out of the gates with a third-place finish at the Carpetbagger Classic in late March and a tie for second at the Fairleigh Dickinson Invitational in early April.

However, to close out the season, the Colonials had some struggles, finishing 13th out of 13 teams at the Mountaineer Invitational, and 13th out of 17 teams at the Wright State Invitational. To close out the season, the Colonials finished fifth at the Horizon League Championships on April 27.

Despite falling apart in the second half of the season, individually, the Colonials were led by the pairing of Chris Sabol and Chase Miller. Sabol’s win at the Fairleigh Dickinson Invitational marked the Colonials’ only win of the season, while Miller wasn’t far behind, tying for second in the tournament. The only other top-10 performance by the Colonials was a tie for 8th by Kyle Grube at the Mountaineer Invitational.

Rowing: 9th out of 9 at MAAC Championships

The rowing team opened the season on a high note as Varisty Eight claimed gold in the team’s first competition in over 17 months at the Occoquan Sprints hosted by George Mason. At the MAAC Championships, Varsity Eight finished ninth in the grand final, and the second Varsity Eight finished in eighth, and in Varsity Four, the team finished in seventh. Senior Rachel Gress was tabbed with All MAAC Second-Team honors which were the first of her career

Track & Field:

Robert Morris track and field was one of the several programs to make a jump into the Horizon League for the 2021 season. While the Colonials as a whole often fell into the middle of the pack at invitationals, numerous individuals made a name for themselves this season.

During the indoor Horizon League Championships, Keturah Hunter broke a school record in the weight throw with a toss of 18.77 meters, earning her the first individual title for the school in the Horizon League. Estelle Katende also claimed gold at the championships in the shot put with a top throw of 14.64 meters. As the Colonials tied for fifth at the competition, Elicia Moore solidified their positioning with a silver medal in the 400-meter dash.

The Colonials once again finished fifth in the outdoor Horizon League Championships. Katende once against claimed gold, this time in the discus throw with a toss of 48.04 meters, inching out senior teammate Yessie Valencia who won silver in the event. Hunter won gold once again as well, this time the hammer throw with a distance of 56.83.

While many individuals had successful seasons, the biggest moment of the year for track and field came when it hosted its first home meet on Neville Island in seven years. RMU clinched six individual championships in the home meet.

Along with their first home invitational in years, Robert Morris will also receive upgrades to their track after a partnership with P3R.

Men’s Soccer: 1-6-1 overall, 1-6-1 Horizon, 10th of 11 in conference standings

It was a rough season for men’s soccer any way you slice it. Behind the eight-ball already having to play about 30 minutes away and indoors in Canonsburg, the team had to deal with the low ceiling in addition to some fierce competition in the Horizon League. They scored one goal all season, leading to their first and only win over Purdue Fort Wayne on March 6. Miller Masson recorded the goal, but outside that, the team was handcuffed on the offensive front.

The goaltending was generally solid all season as the tandem of Mike Zolnierczyk and Grant Glorioso did their best to keep balls out of the net, and Zolnierczyk had a solid season stats-wise as well. If the team gets some reinforcements in the freshman class for the upcoming season, they should only improve in regularly scheduled play and returning to their home base at the North Athletic Complex.

Women’s Soccer: 1-8 overall, 1-8 Horizon, 12th of 12 in conference standings

Similar to the men’s team, it was rough sledding for the Robert Morris women’s soccer team as well. Also playing in Canonsburg, it was there, on March 3, the Colonials’ got their only win of the season, beating Purdue Fort Wayne 4-2. In the contest, the Colonials scored half of their season goals, as they were outscored 29-8 over the course of the season. No player had more than one goal, however, Sheridan Reid’s goal and two assists gave her a team-leading four points on the season.

In net, Courtney Worstell saw action in all nine games, playing a total of 748:42. Bruckner allowed 24 goals on shots, giving her a save percentage of .684. Worstell also saved 5.18 shots/game which led the Horizon League.