MARCY, N.Y. – As the cold set in on the 2013 fall athletics season, SUNYIT sports teams couldn’t have been hotter.
In total, Wildcat Athletics grabbed 2 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Tournament Championships, 2 NEAC Regular Season Championships, and saw a trio each of coaches and players take home the top honors in their respective sports.
Said SUNYIT Athletic Director Kevin Grimmer, “This fall our sports teams have had tremendous success - the best start in school history.”
The SUNYIT Men’s Cross Country Team started the postseason success off with a dominant win in the NEAC Men’s Cross Country Championship, which the team hosted on November 2nd. The Wildcats cruised to 1st place in the race, as SUNYIT’s entire scoring five runners placed in the top-10 overall. Sophomore Derek Struck (Knox, N.Y. / Berne-Knox-Westerlo) won the race with a course record time of 26 minutes and 33 seconds, particularly impressive given the wet conditions on race day.
With the win Struck was named the NEAC Runner of the Year, and his coach Bill Tylutki won his second Coach of the Year award, after winning in 2010 (the last time SUNYIT won the NEAC Championship).
The SUNYIT Women’s Volleyball Team was the recipient of the next batch of awards. After setting a program record by finishing the regular season 28-4 and 9-1 in conference, the Wildcats earned a share of the NEAC Regular Season Championship. For her efforts as team captain and the team’s leader in kills and service aces, senior Kaitlyn Harrington (Central Square, N.Y. / Paul V. Moore) was voted the NEAC Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year for the first time in her career.
Sharing much of the credit with Harrington for the team’s success was Head Coach Jake Bluhm, who was rewarded with the NEAC Coach of the Year honor, his first such honor. Bluhm guided the team to a program-best 29-5 overall record that included a Runner-Up finish in the NEAC Conference Tournament, as well as a 24-match winning streak at one point during the season which was, at the time, the longest active streak in the nation.
Finally, on November 10th, the SUNYIT Men’s Soccer Team capped off a remarkable year by winning the 2013 NEAC Tournament Championship. The Wildcats, who had already earned the conference Regular Season Championship by going 7-1 in the NEAC, defeated Morrisville State in a thrilling game that went to a penalty kick shootout after neither team was able to score through the first 110 minutes (including 2 overtime periods).
The victory gave SUNYIT’s its 3rd NEAC Championship in 4 years, as Head Coach Peterson Jerome has built the SUNYIT program into a dynasty within the conference. For his efforts, Coach Jerome received the NEAC Coach of the Year award for the third time. In addition to the school record mark for wins, Coach Jerome also led the team to big wins over local rivals Utica College and Hamilton. The latter victory, a 1-0 contest at home on September 17th, marked the first time the Wildcats defeated the Continentals in the 28-year history of the rivalry, a stretch of 23 games dating all the way back to 1985.
Leading the way on the field for the men’s soccer team in 2013 was senior goalkeeper Malick Faye (Bronx, N.Y. / MLK). Faye had the best year of what was already a magnificent career, leading all of Division III soccer in save percentage, while being 2nd in goals-against-average. No doubt benefited by a stellar Wildcat defense, Faye nevertheless recorded 10 shutouts in the regular season to lead the conference by a wide margin, and was awarded the NEAC Player of the Year trophy for the second time in his career. Almost as an afterthought, Faye was also named conference Goalkeeper of the Year for the 4th straight season, an incredible achievement.
The success wowed Athletic Director Grimmer:
“It’s remarkable that SUNYIT has three coaches of the year along with three players of the year in the same sports. It's a tribute to them and to where the Wildcat sports program is today."
Of course, plenty of credit belongs to Grimmer as well: since engineering the program’s move to the NEAC Conference in 2008, the Wildcats have had tremendous success, winning the conference’s President’s Cup for Best Overall Athletic Program in three of the past four seasons.
For two of SUNYIT’s five fall programs the season continues: after earning the NEAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcat soccer team is getting ready to take on the University of Rochester on Saturday at the Yellowjacket’s Fauver Stadium, while the men’s cross country team hopes to send star runner Struck to the NCAA Nationals when they compete this Saturday at the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship.