Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

Wild Speculation: Tribe Style

In William & Mary on February 29, 2012 at 9:17 am

For William and Mary fans, it seems like just yesterday that the Tribe received its first-ever No. 1 national ranking in football. Women’s soccer winning the Colonial Athletic Association title remains fresh in their minds. The euphoria of season-defining wins over rivals Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth still seems to…actually, that was five years ago. But the first two were recent highlights — even if football just stumbled through a sub-.500 season, women’s soccer tanked in the NCAA tournament, and men’s basketball plummeted to the status of the Washington Generals (at least the Generals bring people to the arena).

2011-2012 has been a disappointing time for Tribe fans, but it’s never too early to take stock and look ahead to the next season. With a fresh start, new recruits, seasoned veterans and just a little bit of luck, anything is possible — especially for these five William and Mary squads. So, break out the Kool-Aid as we look at the top five Tribe teams to watch in 2012-2013.

  1. Football — If nothing else, 2011 was a year of unfulfilled expectations for Tribe football. Senior running back Jonathan Grimes was poised to break William and Mary’s all-time rushing record, senior quarterback and former NFL prospect Michael Paulus appeared to recover from a shoulder injury, and the Tribe earned its first-ever No. 1 preseason ranking. William and Mary was poised to be the next CAA team to claim the FCS national championship. Apparently, preseason polls aren’t always accurate. The Tribe stumbled early, beginning the season with a 40-3 shellacking at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers. After that, the College struggled during its wins and looked completely outmatched in its losses, finishing the season at a disappointing 5-6 (3-5 CAA). Going into 2012, the Tribe faces many questions: Which young player will take over under center for the graduating Paulus? Will the Tribe defense, a source of strength in recent seasons, remain an asset? And how do you replace Grimes’s 1,431 rushing yards? Despite these challenges, the 2012 version of Tribe football is a prime candidate for a bounce back season. The team’s quarterback situation, which last season became a merry-go-round of underclassmen and hurt the team, looks to be resolved early with more experienced veterans. After Paulus’s midseason benching, juniors Brent Caprio and Michael Graham received significant playing time at quarterback, hastening their development as passers and playcallers. One will emerge as the Tribe’s starter for 2012. Senior Ryan Moody is back for one more season and projects to be a key target for the Caprio/Graham duo, and senior linebacker Dante Cook returns as a cornerstone of the Tribe defense. Look for major improvement from the Tribe in 2012.
  2. Women’s Soccer — Tribe women’s soccer ostensibly had the standout season of any William and Mary squad fielded in 2011-2012. The numbers speak for themselves: 17-3-2 regular season record, a 10-1 CAA record, one conference championship and one NCAA tournament berth. The Tribe capped its outstanding regular season with a memorable CAA tournament run. A hard-fought 2-1 win over Delaware set the stage for an instant classic — an overtime 1-0 victory over VCU to clinch the team’s first CAA title since 2003. Unfortunately, the Tribe’s magical season ended prematurely with a disappointing first round NCAA tournament loss to No. 18 North Carolina. Despite the tournament letdown, the William and Mary team that reached as high as No. 14 in national rankings last season is likely to repeat the success of 2011. Head Coach John Daly’s roster returns for 2012 mostly intact. The one notable departure is first team all-region senior midfielder/back Diana Weigel. While the Tribe defense will miss Weigel’s presence, redshirt junior goalkeeper Katherine Yount will be back in goal for 2012. Yount started each of the Tribe’s 22 games last season and did not disappoint, turning in an .823 save percentage and 10 shutouts. Also back is the team’s leading scorer and CAA player of the year, junior midfielder Mallory Schaffer. Schaffer looks to build off of her outstanding 2011 campaign, during which she totaled 17 goals and 40 points. If the Tribe offense can boost its shooting accuracy to back up Schaffer — notably junior forward Cortlyn Bristol, who ranked second on the team in shots taken (54) but turned in just a .130 shooting percentage — this team could make a deep run in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
  3. Men’s Basketball — Many William and Mary fans might be surprised to see a team that has gone 6-25 in 2011-2012 to rank this highly on a “to watch” list, but after this season, the Tribe men’s team has nowhere to go but up. The Tribe began the 2011-2012 season in unspectacular fashion, dropping its first five contests. A streak of nine straight losses capped off a winter swoon that dropped the Tribe to No. 10 in the CAA (4-14). Despite plodding through the worst season of Head Coach Tony Shaver’s tenure at the College, the team has seen some improvement in recent weeks. The Tribe dropped a heartbreaker to last year’s Final Four upstart VCU, dominated Northeastern 79-54, and nearly upset current CAA leaders Drexel. The CAA tournament looks to be an uphill battle for William and Mary, but a trip to the quarterfinals is not out of the question. Current projections place the College in a first round matchup with Northeastern, against whom the Tribe matches up well. But real success in the CAA — be it in tournament or regular season play — likely won’t arrive until next season. The team will have big holes to fill. Both senior guard/forward Quinn McDowell, the Tribe’s leading scorer, and senior forward JohnMark Ludwick, the team’s best big man, are likely to conclude their collegiate careers in Richmond. But the flames of 2011-2012 may have forged a more experienced core for next year’s team. Junior forward Kyle Gaillard will be back after missing all of this season due to an injury. If sophomore guards Brandon Britt and Julian Boatner can recapture their freshman forms after this season’s regressions, the Tribe will have a quick scoring threat in the paint and a solid perimeter shooter. Throw in the breakout season from freshman guard Marcus Thornton and the signings of nationally ranked high school power forward Sean Sheldon and guard Terry Tarpey, and Tribe fans have reason to believe in the 2012 Tribe.
  4. Quidditch — The College is not a traditional quidditch powerhouse, like rivals Hogwarts and ODU, but what the Griffins lack in magical ability, they make up with heart. After two years of cellar dwelling, the Griffins are set for a breakout season in 2012. Freshman keeper/chaser Garrett Hendrickson, the most highly touted high school prospect since Oliver Wood, will play both ways for the Griffins. Junior chaser Molly Hilberg looks to repeat her strong performance in the Venezuelan Winter Quidditch League in conference play, and freshman phenom beaters Arya Espahbodi and Jordan Cheresnowsky will anchor a stout defense for William and Mary. The Griffins will also have state of the art equipment for 2012. After Death Eaters destroyed the team’s brooms during the Battle of the Caf, the Student Assembly purchased a fleet of Nimbus 2000s for the Griffins. While their new equipment places them near the top of the Colonial Alchemy Association in speed, the Griffins will also benefit from the minimal Slytherin presence on the team. In the past, Slytherins (often called the Oakland Raiders of collegiate quidditch) have gotten this team in trouble by recklessly turning over the quaffle and focusing more on killing Harry Potter than finding the Golden Snitch. If it can work out its seeker situation, this young team could be a pleasant surprise in CAA play. The season kicks off Feb. 26 when the Griffins participate in the Sirius Blacksburg Brawl tournament.
  5. Men’s Soccer — One word describes the 2011 Tribe men’s soccer season: unbalanced. One week, the No. 13 Tribe knocked off a top-five team, beating Southern Methodist in Dallas. The next, the top-10 Tribe lost handily to an unranked St. John’s squad in Williamsburg. The College fell out of the top25, rose again to No. 22, and finally fell to Georgia State in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament. The team’s 10-9 (7-4 CAA) finish was a let down from the previous year’s squad, which dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to SMU in the Regional 2 semifinals. Going into 2012, the Tribe has two main holes to fill. Senior goal keeper Colin Smolinsky’s departure leaves big shoes for freshman Bennett Jones to fill. Smolinsky tallied 72 saves, good for a .774 save percentage, and seven shutouts. Also gone is the team’s leading scorer, senior midfielder Nicolas Abrigo. While Abrigo’s nine goals weren’t as integral to the men’s team’s success as Schaffer’s were for the women’s team, no other Tribe player totaled more than two for the season. After being shut out eight times (and in all but one of the team’s losses), offense will be the key to success for the 2012 Tribe.

There you have it—your top five Tribe teams to watch for 2012-2013. Some squads will compete for national championships, and some will simply look for a rebound to respectability. But right now, these teams are undefeated for the 2012-2013 season, and that’s not a bad place to start.

  1. Great read! Keep the W&M-stuff coming.

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