Gene's Blog: Good start for UST in Fall Directors Cup

Gene's Blog: Good start for UST in Fall Directors Cup

When the final fall season scoring is announced next week in the Learfield Directors Cup for Division III institutions, St. Thomas will find itself in the top five nationally.

The Tommies scored in five of the six fall sports it competes in -- football, volleyball, women's cross country and M-W soccer.

UST and UW-La Crosse will be tied for fourth place out of 440 D-III institutions when football points are added in after the Dec. 15 Stagg Bowl. 

The top nine team scorers are expected to include leader Johns Hopkins (358), followed next by MIT (319.5); Middlebury (301); St. Thomas and La Crosse (270 each); Messiah (263); Chicago (259.5); Calvin (254.5); and Wartburg (253).

St. Thomas was the lone school to reach the national quarterfinals in football plus one other fall team sport (men's soccer). UST recorded fifth-place finishes in both. In football, UST lost 24-10 on the road to Stagg Bowl qualifier Mary Hardin-Baylor. In men's soccer, the Toms lost 1-0 on the road to NCAA runner-up North Park.

The Toms also tied for 17th place in women's soccer; took 22nd in women's cross country; and tied for 33rd in volleyball.

The Tommies are ranked in the top five nationally in men's golf, and that championship will be contested next May.

Last year, St. Thomas sat in sixth place through the fall season and finished 17th on the school year.

 

Trust 

Tommie Men's Basketball coach John Tauer was among a select group of Division III women's and men's coaches interviewed for a D3Hoops.com story on what makes successful coaches and teams.

One of Tauer's themes was to have gain trust in teammates and their coaches.

Click here to see the D3Hoops.com story

Tauer's Tommies (3-4 overall) play Wednesday at home (7 p.m.) against conference leader Gustavus (4-0 MIAC). UST is 1-4 on the road and 2-0 on neutral and home courts. 

Five injuries have affected the St. Thomas lineup to date, speeding up the roles for several younger players. Approximately 44 of the team's 70-point scoring average has come from freshmen and sophomores. It has been typical to see more than a dozen Tommies get meaningful minutes in one game, including several new faces or players with new roles. The newcomers' learning curve has contributed to 43 percent shooting (37 percent from behind the arc).

It's not exactly like in 2010-11 or 2015-16 -- UST's two men's national championships squads -- where the same five players started all 33 games. Or like the 30-1 team of 2008-09 when the same five started all 31. Eight different players have at least one start through the first seven games this winter.

There's also this fact: The last 10 Tommie teams -- which posted two NCAA crowns and 10 MIAC championships -- had just three players start at point guard, except for an occasional injury. That short list consists of four-year starter Tyler Nicolai (2007-11); three-year starter Erik Tengwall (2011-14); and three-year starter Grant Shaeffer (2014-17). Developing a point guard is part of the ongoing process in 2017-18. 

 

Newcomer

Tommie freshman swimmer Kasey Ericson of Rochester Mayo clocked 17:36.62 Dec. 2 at home in the 1,650 freestyle race. That's just two seconds off a five-year-old school record, and ranks 28th in Division III.

Ericson (shown below) ranks first in the MIAC in both the 1000 and 1,650 free. Her 1000 free time ranks 30th best in D-III.

Tommie Women's Swim-Dive tops the MIAC season-best list in all five relays. UST also ranks first in 12 events and is seeded second in six races.

Tommie Men's Swim-Dive also tops the MIAC season-best list in all five relays. St. Thomas also ranks first in nine events and is seeded second in six events.

Believe it or not, most St. Thomas Swim-Dive athletes are near the halfway point of their seasons. Except for those who will compete in nationals in late March, most Toms will finish their seasons in 10 weeks at the Feb. 15-17 MIAC Championships.

 

 

Long Road

Mary Hardin-Baylor senior DE Ajay Fanene had 3.5 sacks on Dec. 2 when the No. 1-ranked Crusaders pulled out a 24-10 win over the No. 4-ranked Tommies in the national quarterfinals. He also had two sacks in a Nov. 25 playoff shutout of Linfield, and 3.5 again on Saturday in the playoff shutout of Brockport State. The 6-2, 280-pound Fanene has 16 sacks and four forced fumbles in 13 games this season.

The lone MHB offensive or defensive starter not from the state of Texas, Fanene has had an interesting journey in his football career.

Now age 24, Fanene was born in the Samoan Islands and moved to Riverside, Calif., at age six. He was raised by an aunt and uncle. He didn't start playing football until high school due to his religion (Seventh Day Adventist). He had at least two Division I football scholarship offers out of Riverside Community College, his first stop after high school. Fanene transferred to a Division II college in Georgia, but didn't get onto the field. After taking a year off, he found a home at Mary Hardin-Baylor and has helped the Crusaders go unbeaten over the last two seasons.

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Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is working his 24th season at St. Thomas and 30th overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at [email protected]