May 1, 2001

The Coaches' Take on the Year in Sports

Print More

There are moments.

Moments which show you what life is all about.

Moments which make you reach out to strangers.

Moments which make you thankful just for being alive.

Moments which make you thankful for coming to Cornell.

Moments which make you laugh. Moments which make you weep.

Moments in which you look over to your best friend, and you know. You just know.

There are moments.

Athletes produce them. Fans appreciate them. Coaches understand them.

Coaches see things we cannot see. They feel things we cannot know. They are in tune with the tide of the game, and more importantly, the tide of the season. They have voted for the top ten moments of the 2000-2001 sports season, and we present them here to you:

10 (tie). Baseball vs. No. 7 Miami.

A fine Spring Break witnessed Cornell’s coming-out party. Showing the nation where it truly belongs, the unranked Red battled national powerhouse Miami to a 10 inning thriller, finally falling 2–1 on a single by Jim Burt. Junior Eric Rico pitched a grand 7 2/3 innings in his hometown, giving up only one earned run and striking out six.

Cornell’s run came from outfielder Nick Graham on a one-out home run in the second inning.

10 (tie). Men’s rowing wins the Goes Trophy.

To win the Goes Trophy is to establish yourself as a national powerhouse. The race pits Cornell against perennial bigwigs, Navy and Syracuse. In winning the trophy, the Red not only broke a 10-year drought, but also boosted its presence on the national scene.

8 (tie). Men’s hockey beats Harvard twice.

For the men’s hockey team, Harvard is the bratty sister. The nerdy classmate. The arch-enemy. There is nothing sweeter than throttling the Crimson time and time again. To do so twice in one season is simply sublime.

Victory number one came on Harvard’s home ice moving Cornell ahead of the Crimson in the ECAC standings. Victory number two came at ever-magical Lake Placid, where the Red scored at will in a 5–2 thumping to advance to the tournament final.

8 (tie). Wrestling: Ivy League champions.

Enveloped in remorse after the death of freshman Graham Morin, the wrestling team played a host of inspiring matches in his memory. The team defeated rival Pennsylvania at home, 16–15, while dispatching Columbia, Brown and Princeton by an average of 23 points.

The title was the team’s second in three years, and showed that head coach Rob Koll and his team are ready to enter the national stage.

8 (tie). Basketball beats Princeton, 66–49.

After starting the season a disappointing 6–16, senior Ray Mercedes and co., had something to prove. Having just lost a 59–57 thriller to Pennsylvania the night before, the basketball team wasn’t given a chance against the Backdoor Machine. But Mercedes and classmates Kevin Cuttica and Greg Barratt proved everyone wrong by playing with the kind of passion that defines Cornell sports. Steve Donahue coached a brilliant game and gave the Red its first victory over Princeton in eight years.

6. Football season.

They called ’em “The Cardiac Kids” for their heart. For their resiliency. For their ability to put their fans into cardiac arrest.

Led by cannon-armed junior Ricky Rahne, the football team took the term “comeback” to a new level. In each one of its five wins, the team was behind in the fourth quarter, only to pull one great feat after another. Against Harvard, the Red was down 28–0 at the half before winning 29–28 on a Joe Splendorio blocked kick. Even in defeat, Cornell displayed valor. Losing 42–0 to Brown midway through the second quarter, the Red attempted to mount one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports, falling short by only 16 points, 56–40.

5. Men’s cross country finishes second in the IC4As.

Ninety-seven Division I schools representing nearly 12 conferences including the ACC, Big East, and Big Ten compete in the prestigious race otherwise known as the IC4As. Its second place is the highest finish for a Cornell team in over 60 years.

Perhaps men’s tennis head coach Barry Schoonmaker put it best: “Many of Cornell’s wins come from sports that are very small nationally. With over 300 teams participating at the division I level, cross country is a [big sport]. For our men to do so well is a great accomplishment.”

4. Women’s basketball season.

They are often overshadowed by the men’s team, but this year belonged to the women. They recorded their best season in team history with the most wins ever in a season (16), their best ever record in the Ivy League (8-6) and their highest ever finish in the league (third). Coming just a year after going 3–11 in the conference, this season was all the sweeter. The Red took eventual Ivy League champion Penn (14-0) to the wire in both games, 59-54 and 69-63.

Junior Do Stevens was eventually named to the All-Ivy second team while teammates Karen Force and Breean Walas were named to the All-Ivy honorable mention team.

3. Volleyball season.

Eighth to Second. That’s all you need to know.

Just one season ago, the team struggled to a 9–14 record, going 1–8 in the Ivies, good for a last place finish. But led by the inspired play of senior Robin Moore, as well as newcomers Debbie Quibell and Rachel Rice, the Red put together the most improbable of seasons. Seeded third in the Ivy Tournament, Cornell upset second-seeded Penn to come within one match of winning its first Ivy title since 1993. In the championship match, it led Princeton two games to one, before falling 3–2.

The team broke seven individual records, eight team records and recorded its first 20-win season since 1993. The Red placed five players on the All-Ivy team, and Moore won Ivy League Player of the Year honors.

“The whole year was a Cinderella season,” head coach Christie Jackson said.

2. Women’s Polo: national champions.

Only a handful of a schools can claim to have a national champion. Women’s polo gives Cornell that right.

Earning its second straight, and ninth overall, national championship, the Red never really was challenged, and showed that it was constantly a head above the rest. In only four of Cornell’s 19 wins did the opponent come within 10 points. And the women hit 30 points twice over the course of the season. It’s those kind of numbers and this kind of season that makes fans proud to be Cornellians.

1. Softball: Ivy League champions.

Softball competition in the Ivy League is fierce. The teams are so close in caliber that almost any team can topple another on any given day. To dominate the league week in and week out is simply remarkable. The Cornell softball team did just that, going on an 11-game winning streak during the middle of the season before taking three of its final four games to earn the Ivy title. When it rallied from an 8–0 deficit to pull off the victory midway through the campaign against Brown, the team knew it was destined for glory.

What’s more important than the actual title, however, is the softball euphoria that hit campus during the season. Who wasn’t talking about the brilliance of senior Nicole “Big Unit” Zitarelli or freshman Kate “Big Mac” Varde?

With its season-long heroics, the softball team certainly deserves the coaches’ nod as the top Cornell sports moment of 2000–2001.

Note: This list represents the views of 19 of 30 head coaches who rep
lied with their votes.

Archived article by Sumeet Sarin