1995-96 Winter Wrap-up and Spring Preview
By Geoff Hassard
Women's Basketball (23-6)The women's basketball team capped its best season in school history by making it to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament before being eliminated by Southern Maine.
The Engineers accomplished a great deal as a team and individually this year, winning just about everything short of a national championship. The women won the Worcester City Tip-Off Tournament to start the season, won the Williams College Invitational in the middle, then pulled off the double win in the NEW 8 Conference by winning the regular season and tournament crowns.
Some players reached career bests, while others surpassed 1,000 points or earned NEW 8 or ECAC Player of the Week honors. Junior Danielle Batey was the first player to have a career-best season. Batey scored 490 points to tie the women's record for most p oints in a season and also had a career-best 203 rebounds and 109 assists. Classmate Kim Landry had career bests in points (456) and rebounds (248), and became the eighth woman (and the fourth junior) to reach 1,000 points.
Senior co-captain Jenn Lovin had career bests in points (386) and rebounds (308) and was the fourth woman to record 1,000 points and 900 rebounds. Other players who contributed throughout the season were senior co-captain Jen Plante (5.9 ppg., 90 assists) , senior Becca Rubenstein (5.3 ppg.), juniors Laura Bielitz (4.7 ppg., 68 assists) and Cathy Jzyk (1.8 ppg.), and sophomore Kerri O'Connor (1.6 ppg.).
Women's Swimming (1-9)The women's swim team is in a rebuilding process - graduation has reduced the numbers of talented swimmers over the last couple of years faster than coach Whit Griffith has been able to replenish the supply. Co-captains Becky Kupcinskas and Katie Snell di d an admirable job of leading the Engineers this year.
Kupcinskas had another strong season in the water, coming in first or second in her events and qualifying in the 50-yard backstroke for the Division III New England Championships. Snell was a versatile swimmer for WPI this year, competing in various event s to try to help the team win points.
Senior Kim Scofield, competing in her last season, was WPI's greatest diver. Scofield will graduate from WPI holding school records in the 1- and 3-meter diving events. She, too, qualified for the New Englands in both events.
Freshmen Jen Wright and Becky Thibeault show promise for the future. Wright, who scored 108.75 points this season, had a tremendous impact on the team, as did Thibeault, who scored 29.5. Both women earned varsity letters for their efforts. The swimmers wh o participated in the New England Championships all swam their best times of the season.
Men's Swimming (1-8)The men's final record does not tell the team's true story. Griffith has a very talented nucleus of sophomores who continue to improve every day. The optimistic view is that in the next two years this group, with the help of incoming freshmen, will becom e formidible opponents for others to try to defeat.
Several upperclassmen contributed experience and leadership this year. Co-captains were senior Ian Buckley, who had a steady season, and junior Jason Wening, who has been an inspiration since he arrived at WPI. Although Wening joined the team at the begin ning of C-Term after spending B-Term in England, he continued to swim as strong as ever.
Junior Teak Ackman scored 107.75 points and earned his third varsity letter. Sophomore Jamie Murdock led the team with 179.75 points, set a new school record in the 1,000-yard freestyle (an event he had never entered before this season), and qualified for the New England Division III Championships, where he placed 15th in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Along the way he broke the 1,000-yard freestyle record he set earlier in the season.
Classmates Jon Prusak, Adam Terio, Tim Connolly and Brandon Alexopoulos are the others who form the solid nucleus of the team. Prusak and Terio also qualified for the New England's: Prusak in the 50-yard backstroke and Terio in the 50-yard butterfly event .
A solid group of freshmen also came along well this year. R.K. Marsland, Bill Sullivan, Steve Tyler and Matt Woodcock are a foursome that will be relied on to do more scoring next season as they develop and improve their strokes. As a team, the Engineers compiled 53 points at the New Englands to finish 22nd overall among Division III competitors.
Men's Basketball (12-12)The 1995-96 season could be summed up as "streaky." The team won a few in a row and lost a few in a row. They weren't able to put together a long enough win streak to have an impact on their overall win-lose record, but several records fell as well and t here is optimism about next year when three starters will return.
The Engineers opened the season with a third-place finish in the Blue Jay Classic at Johns Hopkins University. Jim Naughton and Jeff Cayer were named to the All-Tournament Team for their performances in the two games. The team defeated Salve Regina and MI T on the road before dropping their first game to Babson to end November at 3-2. They began December by losing a pair to Anna Maria and Nichols before rebounding to beat Wentworth and go into winter break with a 4-4 record.
The new year brought three straight wins as the team tried to break out early in the Constitution Athletic Conference. They then lost three-games, won three, lost two and won two, bringing them to 12-9 as they entered the last weekend of the season, when they were in a tight battle with Clark, Norwich and Coast Guard for seeding in the conference tournament. WPI lost to Coast Guard and Norwich to finish sixth, which meant they had to play Coast Guard in the opening round of the CAC tournament. In a game t hat went down to the last shot, WPI was beaten 76-74 to end the season.
There were many highlights during the season - most of them centered around Naughton, who made a lasting impression on the basketball record book. He finished his career with 1,543 points (WPI's second-highest menÓs scorer) and 891 rebounds (first for men 's basketball), holds the school record for free throws attempted and made for a career, had 36 career double-doubles, and scored in double digits during his last 55 games. He was also selected CAC Player of the Year and named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic A ll-America District I and National Basketball First Team.
Three juniors also had solid seasons, giving the team something to look forward to next year. Cayer had his best season at WPI, averaging more than 16 points per game while shooting close to 59 percent from the floor. Greg Simpson, who returned after an a nkle injury kept him out for all of 1994-95, started 16 games and averaged more than seven points and five rebounds per game. Co-captain Mike Shannon was the Engineers' outside threat, averaging more than 12 points per game while hitting 45 three-point fi eld goals.
Wrestling (10-4)The Engineers completed their 20th consecutive winning season under coach Phil Grebinar. Despite losing four All-New England wrestlers, Grebinar was able to infuse some newcomers into the lineup to maintain the competitiveness of his squad. Unfortunately, by season's end, key injuries to several top wrestlers hurt WPI's chances at repeating as New England College Conference Wrestling Association champions.
Many wrestlers completed strong dual-match seasons. Sophomore Rob Polin (118 lbs.) finished 14-7. Junior Dave Gardner (126 lbs.) was 12-9, but fractured a rib prior to the NECCWA tournament and was unable to compete. Aaron Becker (126 lbs.) was at 8-2 bef ore a knee injury ended his season prematurely. Senior co-captain Paul Hammerstrom (134 lbs.) came back from a dislocated elbow to finish at 4-6. Junior Nate Fiore (142 lbs.) was 11-3 before he, too, was injured and unable to return. Freshman Joe Tucker h ad a strong first season - compiling a 12-8 record while filling in at 134 and 142 lbs. Senior Dan Hugaboom (150 lbs.) finished 13-6. Senior co-captain Jeff Stearns (158 lbs.) followed his 15-6 season with an All-New England honor after finishing fifth at NECCWA. Transfer Lance Baden (167 lbs.) made a big impact in his first season at WPI by finishing with a 12-7 record and earning All-New England honors after placing fourth at NECCWA. Graduate student Stan Farrell (177 lbs.) had a steady season with a re cord of 15-7 while sophomore Craig Howitt, the team's heavyweight, finished 11-7, including a couple of pins, to win matches for the Engineers.
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