May 4, 2007

Top 25 Senior Athletes

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Some of them have been four-year stars. Some of them have broken out this season. No matter what the case, these athletes are the cream of the Cornell crop. They have earned honors, earned the admiration of fans and helped the Red with their leadership. These 25 athletes will surely be missed.

Laura Acker, Equestrian
Acker has led the equestrian team with solid performances throughout the entire season. She opened the spring season with a second-place finish in Open Fences at the Cornell Invitational. After solid performances all season, the tri-captain took the Reserve Champion at the Zone II championships, competing in Intermediate Flat. For her performance, Acker will compete at the Nationals this week.
Mitch Belisle, Men’s Lacrosse
While his performance does not always show up on the stat sheet, Belisle has been an integral part of the success of the men’s lacrosse team as its top close defender. The co-captain was named first-team All-Ivy last season and he regularly defends the opposing team’s top attackman. This season, he held Duke’s Matt Danowski, who had been averaging 4.67 points per game, to only a single goal. He also only allowed Syracuse’s Mike Levielle and Princeton’s Peter Trombino, two of the best attackmen in the nation, to one assist apiece. Belisle also scored the first goal of his career against Yale.
Liz Bishop, Volleyball
2007 Sun Senior Athlete of the Year. See accompanying story for more about Bishop.
Byron Bitz, Men’s Hockey
A popular player with Cornell fans, Bitz has been a force throughout his entire career. He finished his four years with the Red with 28 total goals and 60 total assists. The captain put on a show in his final regular season game at Lynah Rink, notching two goals and two assists in a win against Princeton on Senior Night. He was named third-team All-ECACHL and first-team All-Ivy after his senior campaign.
Nick Brunner and Josh Raff, Men’s Tennis
As the No. 1 doubles team, Brunner and Raff are a deadly combination for opposing players. Last year, the duo went 23-5, 6-1 in Ivy play, and were named first-team All-Ivy. This fall, at the Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis championships, they beat Wake Forest’s duo of Andrew Hamar and Todd Paul. They also had match points against a pair from Virginia, but lost 9-7. This season, the pair went 4-3 in the Ancient Eight.
Michelle Furbacher, Women’s Crew
Furbacher provided senior leadership for the women’s crew team this season. She helped her varsity four A boat finish ninth in this year’s Foot of the Charles, the last regatta of the fall. The varsity four also beat Dartmouth in this spring’s Parents Cup.
Jim Hyland, Baseball
Even though he began his career playing both pitcher and third base, Hyland ends it as Cornell’s top hurler as he really came into his own this season. He started nine games for Cornell, posting a 4-5 record a team-best 3.81 ERA. He also struck out 31 batters, second on the squad. Hyland was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week on April 3 after throwing a complete-game, two-hitter against Yale.
Kari Kucera, Gymnastics
Kucera has played a crucial role in the gymnastics team’s success over the past few years. As a sophomore, she set the Cornell record at the balance beam with a score of 9.850. The next season, she recorded a 9.850 on floor, earning her All-America honors at the 2006 USAG Collegiate National championships. This year, Kucera became the first gymnast from the Red to ever win a USAG national title, winning the floor title title with a 9,875.
Ariel Katz, Women’s Polo
Despite the fact that the women’s polo team ultimately fell 16-15 to UConn in the National semifinals, Katz was an important part of the team’s success. She scored five goals in a victory earlier this season against UMass, and also added two in a tight loss to Virginia.
Jonathan Lucas, Football
Opposing backs had to sweat when seeing Lucas across the line of scrimmage. The defensive end was a force, earning second-team All-Ivy honors in 2005 after recording 39 tackles and four sacks. His sack totals led the team. This season, Lucas notched 42 tackles, once again receiving second-team All-Ivy honors. He started his last 30 games in a Cornell uniform and recorded 24.5 tackles for a loss during his career.
Dave McKechnie, Men’s Swimming
Sharing team MVP honors with classmate Mike Smit and sophomore Wes Newman, McKechnie helped the men’s swimming team to its first unbeaten dual meet season since 1946. As a junior, he came back from an ankle injury to have a solid season for Cornell, finishing first in the 100 breaststroke at the EISL championship. This season, his 2:00.18 in the 200 breast helped the Red to a fifth-place finish at the EISL championship. At the NCAA championship in March, McKechnie placed 30th in the 100 breast and 26th in the 200-breaststroke prelims to close out his college career.
Matt McMonagle, Men’s Lacrosse
As the last line of defense for the men’s lacrosse team, McMonagle has had a storied career. He started to see significant time between the pipes as a freshman, and made the All-Ivy first team as a sophomore and junior. He was also named second-team All-American last season. This year, the co-captain has helped lead Cornell to an unblemished Ivy record, and has posted a 6.65 goals against average and a .613 save percentage. He has earned Ivy League Player of the Week twice this season and was one of 17 players nominated for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top college player in the nation.
David Mitchell, Men’s Lacrosse
After seeing limited playing time his first two seasons, Mitchell exploded onto the scene last season. He started all 14 games for Cornell that year, and ended up leading the Red with 43 goals, the first 40-goal performance by a Cornell player since 2000. He was named honorable mention All-American and first-team All-Ivy for his play. This season, the attackman has continued his goal-scoring prowess. Mitchell leads the squad with 32 tallies and is third on the team with 39 points. Along with McMonagle and sophomore Max Seibald, Mitchell was one of 17 players nominated for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top college player in the country.
Andrew Naeve, Men’s Basketball
If you attended a men’s basketball game this season, chances are you saw Naeve making an impact in the middle. The forward/center started all 28 games for Cornell this season, posting 10.5 points per game and averaging 7.6 rebounds. He also swatted 53 shots, the most blocks in the Ivy League and the only player on the Red with more than seven. The tri-captain was named second-team All-Ivy for his performance and was also selected as the team’s MVP. His 139 career blocked shots are the third-most in school history and his 109 games played tie him for first.
Eric Pittard, Men’s Lacrosse
Virginia’s loss was Cornell’s gain when Eric Pittard decided to play for the men’s lacrosse team. After seeing limited playing time with the Cavaliers, Pittard transferred to the Red and made an immediate impact. As a junior, the attackman was named honorable mention All-Ivy after leading the team with 24 assists. This year, Pittard has become an integral part of Cornell’s attack unit, as he leads the squad with 20 assists and 47 total points.
Jerry Rinaldi, Wrestling
Cornell has many outstanding athletes, but few are as decorated as Rinaldi. Over his wrestling career, he was a two-time All-American and a four-time first-team All-Ivy selection. His 118 wins rank him fifth in school history. This year, Rinaldi went 22-3, qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season. He was one of four Cornell wrestlers to make the quarterfinals at the NCAA tournament. The captain started his career by becoming the first Red freshman since 1990 to make the All-Ivy first team. As a sophomore, he won titles at the Empire Open and Body Bar Invitational. Last year, Rinaldi won the title at the Body Bar Invitational and the Southern Scuffle.
Toni Salucci, Women’s Cross Country and Track
No matter what the season, Salucci has come up big for Cornell. As a junior, she was voted the cross country team’s most improved competitor, and helped the squad win the ECAC cross country championship. During the track season, Salucci set a school record in the steeplechase while winning the Penn Relays, a record that has since been broken by Robyn Ellerbrock. She also finished third at the outdoor ECACs in the 3,000. This season, Salucci has continued her stellar running. During the cross country season, she finished fifth in the Northeast Regional and then placed 45th out of 253 runners in the NCAA champinships. Salucci has also had a quality track season, notching the third-best 5K time in school history.
Mike Smit, Men’s Swimming
Smit has done it all for the men’s swimming team, helping it complete its first undefeated dual meet season since 1946. Last season, Smit was the first Cornell swimmer to make an All-America squad since 1986. He also competed in the NCAAs in four events — the 100, 200 and 500 free and the 200 butterfly. Smit was solid again this year, earning the Career Swimmer of the Meet award at the EISLs after winning the 200 butterfly. He also placed 21st in the 200 free at the NCAAS, just missing the consolation finals, and 21st in the 200 butterfly, not making the finals by .6 seconds. Smit, along with McKechnie and Newman, was named MVP of the team.
Rayon Taylor, Men’s Track
Taylor started his Cornell track career with a bang, setting the outdoor triple jump record at 52-0. The next season, he won the Heps title, narrowly beating out teammate Muhammad Halim. He also became Cornell’s first NCAA Regional champion, winning with 53-1, and made the NCAAs. He has continued his strong play this season, finishing fifth at Indoor Heps and sixth at the Penn Relays. He will compete tomorrow and Sunday at the Heps.

Morgan Uceny, Women’s Cross Country and Track
Uceny has had a storied career for the women’s track squad. Last year, she set meet records at the 800 at the indoor and Outdoor Heps. She broke a 20-year-old school record at the Indoor Heps. She also finished fourth and 12th at the indoor and outdoor NCAAs respectively. Uceny has continued her stellar play this season, placing first in the 800 for the third time at the Heps. She also finished fifth in the 800 at the indoor NCAAs, receiving her third All-America honors.
Margaux Voila, Women’s Lacrosse
Not only has Voila has been a consistent performer for the women’s lacrosse team throughout her entire career, but she is also a leader, having captained the squad for two seasons. Over her four seasons, she has recorded 68 goals and 92 total points. The midfielder also was a first-team All-Ivy selection last season after scoring 27 goals. Despite a knee injury this season, Voila is tied for seventh on the team with 14 points.
Joanna Weiss, Volleyball
Opposing teams quiver when they have to face Weiss, who is a dominating presence in front of the net. Teaming up with Bishop, Weiss played a crucial role in helping the volleyball team win its third straight Ivy League title this season. She finished third on the team with 288 kills and also blocked 16 shots. Over her four years at Cornell, she has amassed 599 kills, 35 blocked shots and a .384 hitting percentage.
Sarah Wilfred, Women’s Track
Wilfred leaves Cornell as an incredibly successful jumper. Just last weekend, she won the Championship of America high jump with a height of 5-10 1/2 at the Penn Relays. The victory was the first time since 1992 that a Cornell woman has won a Championship of Event title. In the coming weeks, Wilfred will look to improve on last year’s strong performance in the NCAAs, in which she finished fifth in the high jump.
Jason Zittel, Sprint Football
Perhaps no one player embodies an all-around player like Zittel. This season, he finished third on the squad with 25 tackles, giving him 89.5 for his career. He also recorded two sacks this season. Beyond that, Zittel also attempted 155 punts during his four years, amassing a 34.0 yard average. He has also attempted 10 field goals in his career, making six. Zittel’s performance was crucial in helping the sprint football team finish undefeated for the first time since 1982.