Looking back at the rookie coaches of winter sports

by Jonathan Katzman , Nathan Albrinck and Samantha Hussey | 3/6/17 2:30am

Men's Nordic Skiing:

A new addition to the ski program, men’s Nordic head coach Brayton Osgood ’03 competed for the Big Green, served as team captain and was a two-time NCAA All-American. He had an impressive eight-year career from 2003 to 2011 as a professional cross-country ski racer, competing in an Under-23 World Championship, World Cup and multiple U.S. Ski Team European Continental Cups. Prior to being named head coach, Osgood served as Nordic assistant coach for the 2011-2012 season and worked in various positions around New England.

Coming in as a new head coach, Osgood wanted to bring energy and love for the sport, characteristics he picked up as a Dartmouth undergraduate.

“A lot of it feels similar [to when I was a student],” Osgood said. “It’s still very dedicated. People are still willing to go outside and work hard in all sorts of weather and tough conditions. There’s a great legacy of Dartmouth skiing and the tradition, and I really wanted to continue that. I don’t think it was so much bringing new as foster the ideas and attitudes that were prevalent when I was an undergrad.”

Nordic team captain Fabian Stocek ’17 appreciates the perspective Osgood brings as a former Dartmouth student and skier.

“[Osgood] understands the D-plan and the way classes and professors work at Dartmouth,” Stocek said. “Hence, he is very understanding of the time skiing already requires us to commit to and is sensitive to adding any extra on top. He also has great connections in the skiing world since he has waxed at the World Cup.”

The skiing team as a whole is dominating the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association competitions consistently finishing in first place in majority of the EISA competitions.

“They’ve been really good,” Osgood said. “I think one of the guys totaled it up and as a team we have won seven of the 12 EISA competitions for team score. We’ve had six or seven different guys score points for the team which means being in the top three on any given day. Our captain, Fabian Stocek has won eight of the 12 races this winter, which is just phenomenal. [Coming in,] I wanted to have high but realistic expectations coming in, and they’ve met and exceeded those. That’s just a testament to the hard work that they are willing to put in more than just me saying this is what you need to do. They are doing it and doing it well.”

According to team members, this season Osgood has been focusing on the technical aspect of skiing.

“He is very good about ski handling and waxing which makes a lot of a difference in races,” Stocek said. “He is also interested in the individual performances and does a good job remembering if someone wants to get better at something and helps them out with it a lot.”

As for the future outlook of the team, the Big Green will see the return of some of its best skiers for the 2017-18 season, including Luke Brown ’18, Callan DeLine ’18, and Gavin McEwen ’19. As for short-term improvements, Osgood hopes the team will continue to establish itself as one of the best teams in the east, and looks forward to more tough competitions between other universities, such as Williams, this season to continue to push the team to improve.

Men's Basketball:

David McLaughlin took over the men’s basketball program in April 2016 after three years as an associate coach at Northeastern University. With him, he brought an entire new coaching staff, a defensive mindset and a positive season outlook.

From the outset, McLaughlin demanded high-intensity practices and full effort. Based on their workouts in the offseason and preseason, the team had high expectations going into the regular season. Despite the team’s extensive preparation, the 2016-2017 Dartmouth men’s basketball season was very similar statistically to the disappointing 2015-2016 season. In both years, the team finished 4-10 in conference play and tied for sixth place overall among the Ancient Eight. The team averaged 1.7 less points per game this season, while giving up 3.1 more points per game. Dartmouth basketball lost their first nine out-of-conference games this season and headed into Ivy League conference play scrambling.

“My coaching staff and I have been preaching that it’s a process and a daily improvement,” said McLaughlin in a previous interview with The Dartmouth toward the beginning of the season. “That’s what we’re striving for and we’re looking to get better every day.”

With the first ever four-team Ivy League Tournament looming at the end of the regular season, Dartmouth basketball could have started afresh heading into conference play.

“Making the Ivy League tournament was one of our goals,” Guilien Smith ’19said. “We didn’t accomplish it, but that was always in the back of our mind, whether we just played or had another game the next day.”

Within Ivy League play, Dartmouth remained eligible for the postseason tournament until the last day of the regular season, when the team lost to Princeton University 85-48. Though the team posted a 4-10 record, eight of the matchups were decided by single digits, while all but one were decided by 16 points or less. McLaughlin maintained positivity through the frustrations this season.

“He was super positive no matter happened,” Smith said. “Even if it seemed like a negative, he looked at it as a positive or a growing point. That actually helped us a lot with our confidence and to develop as players and people.”

Heading into next season, the team looks to use this year as motivation and incorporate McLaughlin’s system more effectively.

“I think we’re going to win more games because we’re more comfortable with the coaching style, and the coaches are more comfortable with the players that we have, so I think the adjustment period is almost over,” Smith said.

Women's Ice Hockey:

Rebuilding and progress were the two overlying themes of women’s icy hockey head coach Laura Schuler’s initial season at the helm of a program that lost three of its top four scorers from the previous season. By analyzing her team’s performance at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, it was clear that the transition to the top of the ECAC standings would take time. Quality shot attempts were limited, the defense sometimes looked a step behind its opponent and impressive goal tending from Robyn Chemago ’17 was the typically the only reason most scores were not more lopsided. Chemago finished with a career-high .928 save percentage this season, which ranked top-25 nationally. Kennedy Ottenbreit ’17 eclipsed a career high in goals with 11 en route to earning second Team All-Ivy honors with Chemago.

Statistically, this season’s measurements would hardly infer progress during a 7-21 season. The Big Green recorded lower totals for shots on goal, power play conversion and goals per game than last year’s team, though it did pick up an additional victory. All hope lies in strategic changes to Dartmouth’s game plan.

Among the notable foundational changes that Schuler installed were offensive zone play contingent upon maintaining possession, taking quality shots and taking more pucks to the net, as well as adding a layer to the defensive zone. The philosophy behind the defensive change is that an additional defensive player off the puck, the “layer,” is quicker to provide support and take possession of the puck if the first player pins an opponent in the corner. Both showed toward the end of the season, particularly in tight losses to No. 3 Clarkson University and No. 5 St. Lawrence University, as well as in the team’s 4-1 win over Yale University in its final game.

“We are finally starting to click in her systems, and she provides such great coaching,” forward Alyssa Baker ’19 said after the team’s heartbreaking one-goal loss to St. Lawrence on Feb. 4. “Schuler has been fantastic, and we are definitely excited about the future.”

Assistant-captain Eleni Tebano ’17 also noted the positive changes attributed to Schuler’s coaching style. Schuler herself has been insistent that her returning players are on board with her emphasis on smart yet aggressive play. Despite the visible progress and returning players confident that Schuler’s systems and coaching style will bring more wins to Hanover, it is tough to argue with a 7-21 overall record. An arrival of Olympic-caliber talent from Canada, which Schuler should be in a position to attract given her position as head coach of the Canadian national team, will also make a big difference.

Swimming & Diving:

Entering his first season with Dartmouth swimming and diving, head coach James Holder inherited a last place Ivy League program for both the men’s and women’s teams. Though both squads continued this trend, finishing last in the Ivy League for the third and fourth year in a row respectively, Holder did not concentrate on standings in his inaugural season. Instead, he chose to focus his attention on what his teams can control, specifically work ethic and race strategy.

“We finished where I expected us to,” said Holder in a previous interview with The Dartmouth. “I didn’t anticipate that we would beat anybody this year, but I was really pleased by how we swam for both the men’s and women’s teams. We swam a lot of best times, which is what we’re measuring ourselves on.”

Holder came to Hanover after six years as the head coach of Georgetown University swimming and diving, adopting the team from Jim Wilson, who retired after 23 seasons with Dartmouth. Despite the expected learning curve between Holder and his swimmers, the transition process between coaches was relatively trouble-free.

“We tried to communicate well to establish what we wanted to get done and how we wanted to do it, and to align our goals and processes with [Holder],” Jack Cardwell ’18 said. “I think it really paid off and made for a smooth transition.”

Assistant coaches Athena Miller and Eliot Scymanski were also in their first seasons with the team. With almost a complete coaching changeover, the new staff sought to revitalize a program that had become despondent in recent years.

“My expectations [this season] were to start to change the culture and get us thinking a better mindset, in terms of being more competitive within our league, and I think we did a good job of that,” Holder said.

Though the team did enjoy a home win over University of Massachusetts at the Dartmouth Invitational in January, success for Dartmouth swimming this season is seen most readily through the team’s intangibles. As the season progressed, Holder’s positive attitude and mentality rubbed off on the rest of the swimming program, specifically the upperclassmen who were accustomed to Wilson’s coaching system and style.

“There is a definite rise in morale,” Hayley Winter ’18 said. “Holder brought a whole new excitement and energy to the team that I haven’t seen in a long time. People were a lot more optimistic and more engaged, which was exciting to see, whereas in previous years, it seemed kind of like a hopeless situation. Now, everyone’s getting back to why they enjoy swimming.”