By Rich Davi
Coming off one of the best spring seasons in College history, the 2008 fall season looks promising for the Gaels. SMC's six fall sports are working to return to national prominence. Women's volleyball will attempt to get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, while the men's and women's soccer teams want to build on last year's successes. Cross country is on pace to have one of its best seasons in recent history, and the men's golf team wants to pick up where it left off the 2007–08 year with an NCAA Championship appearance.
Men's soccer gears up for the 2008 season with three returning West Coast Conference honorees, including junior First Team All-WCC midfielder Dylan Leslie, senior Second Team All-WCC defender Corey Heldreth and WCC Honorable Mention honoree midfielder Justin Kim. The Gaels have added eight new players to the program. In the preseason, the team will play Navy, Penn State, UC Irvine and the nationally ranked Cal Golden Bears, then will battle tough WCC teams, including top-ranked Santa Clara and Portland.
Women's soccer looks to improve on its 6–11–2 record in 2007 with two All-WCC returners and a talented group of newcomers. The Gaels' recruiting class, which includes eight new players, was ranked 14th in the West by SoccerBuzz.com. Junior midfielder Stefani Rocco, a First Team All-WCC selection, and sophomore defender Jessica Menzhuber, who garnered honorable mention recognition in 2007, will provide leadership for the freshman class. The competitive schedule begins Aug. 16 against 18th-ranked Cal and includes games during conference play against top-10 teams Portland and Santa Clara.
The women's volleyball team will benefit from the return of 2007 WCC Co-Freshman of the Year Megan York. Middle blocker Shannon Lowell and setter Kapua Kamana'o, a 2007 WCC All-Freshman Team selection, also return to the Gaels, along with senior Taylor Groess, who was second on the team in 2007 in kills per game with 3.49. Joining the team are new recruits Chanteal Satele and Missy White, whom coach Rob Browning says, “measure up in every way to our strong and growing-stronger volleyball program.”
The men's and women's cross country teams will benefit from top returning runners and new talent. Leading the women's team are senior Karrie Hagedorn, who holds the second-fastest 6K time in Gael history (22:50), and sophomore Tess Grannemann, who finished in the top two for the Gaels in every 2007 race. Fresh talent will come from California state top-three finisher Natalie Sojka and All-Los Padres League runner Erin Riley. On the men's side, Mario Mendoza leads the Gaels after he finished 12th at the WCC Championships a year ago. Nick Shea, Mark Blucher and David Stiles also return for competition, with added depth from California state champion Graeme Faulkner and California top-five finisher Robert Van Wyck.