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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Big Green win three Ivy titles in 1996-97 season

To everyone, Dartmouth is a place esteemed by its academic excellence. But to those who have ever sported a green and white jersey or been witness to the thrills and triumphs of the Big Green, Dartmouth is truly a place spirited by its love of sport and its pride in athletics.

For that reason, no closing chronicle to the 1997 class would be complete without a stroll down memory lane to stir up some images from the 1996-97 year in Dartmouth sports.

And what a year it was. From the fall through the spring, every Big Green season was overstuffed with excitement -- while some teams were shooting for that elusive perfect season record or another Ivy title, other teams in green were taking the nation's best athletes by storm at various national championships.

For some teams, the 1996-97 season was the chance to dazzle in glory; and for others, it was a year still in need of some polish. But when all was said and done and when all the dueling was decided, three Ivy League crowns found a new home in Hanover.

Football

In the fall, the football team used the talents of the league's most proficient offense and the league's stingiest defense to rekindle a 71-year old tradition, as they claimed Dartmouth's fifth perfect season ever -- en-route to clinching the Big Green's 17th Ivy League Championship.

And in the end, the road to victory was nothing short of stunning as the Big Green recorded the first 10-0 season in Dartmouth history.

The season started with a gridiron dogfight as Dartmouth pulled off a clutch 24-22 victory in the season opener against perennial powerhouse Penn, the winning score coming with just 19 seconds left on the clock.

With the Big Green down 22-18 with 2:34 left remaining in the fourth quarter, the excitement at Memorial Field was explosive enough to draw all 8,521 fans to their feet. And that's when senior quarterback Jon Aljancic came up huge, as he stirred up all the composure his body ever knew to guide the Big Green on a 12-play, 55-yard drive which led to the game-winning TD pass to senior Eric Morton.

More than just a tally in the win column, the Penn victory gave the Big Green the perfect seeds of confidence to propel them through the next nine games.

"Every year, we would play Penn close, but we would lose and suddenly we would be in a hole after the first game of the season trying to chase somebody down to get the title," Head Coach John Lyons said. "This year, we really set our minds to getting that victory and the players responded."

In the next three matchups, Dartmouth got the best of its three Patriot League opponents, edging Lehigh by seven, Fordham by 13, and topping Holy Cross by 28 points.

The next Ivy match, against Yale, provided the perfect backdrop to the College's 1996 Homecoming as the Big Green crushed the Bulldogs, 40-6, compliments of junior placekicker Dave Regula's 16 points. His four field goals on the afternoon were good enough to rewrite the school record books.

Then, with all other Ivy teams having scratch marks in their loss columns, Dartmouth headed to Providence, R.I. to butt heads with the Brown Bears for the conference title. The intensity mounted as both teams exchanged even scores in the championship shootout.

Despite being uplifted by the strength of senior Greg Smith's 139 yards on the afternoon and a 20-yard Regula field goal with 1:30 left, the Big Green defense was forced to put the brakes on Brown QB Jason McCullough as he brought the Bears 11-yards short of another TD in the closing seconds. When time expired, the dream of taking the Ivy title had come true as Dartmouth walked away with a 27-24 victory.

The only thing that was left was a payback on Princeton. Two seasons ago, the Tigers robbed the Big Green of a share of the league title when they darted to the goal-line and split the uprights with just seconds left in the game to earn a tie good enough for Princeton's sole possession of the title.

But in 1996, it was Dartmouth's turn. And the Big Green made it look all too easy as they capped off their record-setting 10-0 season with a 24-0 blowout in the final game ever played at Princeton's old Palmer Stadium.

Ultimately, it's perhaps fitting that Mr. Quarterback is the one who best understands his team's place in Dartmouth history. "People will remember this team," Aljancic said, smiling as he lifted the title trophy above his head.

Women's soccer

While the football team certainly had a lot to be proud of, the women's soccer team didn't have anything to be disappointed about in 1996 as it compiled an impressive 11-3-1 season record and finished second in the Ivy League.

While the season ended with a 1-0 loss to the UConn Huskies in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the fact that the Big Green were even in the running for the national title says a lot about this tough hard-hustling unit.

As their hard-earned 14th seed in the end-of-season national polls attests, the women's soccer team could give any of the nation's top teams a run for their money.

Five games into the season, the Big Green turned the tables on the Princeton Tigers as senior standout Jenna Kurowski tallied a school record-high of nine points (4 goals, 1 assist) to push her team to a 6-1 victory. Kurowski provided the second-half fireworks as she tallied a rapid-fire hat-trick -- within a span of five minutes, she found the net three times to put the Green up 4-1.

Two weeks later, the Big Green won a clash between titans as they handed the then 11th-ranked UMass Minutewomen their first loss of the season in a contest highlighted by Kurowski outplaying UMass's Jenna Kurowski, her younger sister.

The Big Green's season-ending loss to the UConn Huskies marked the end of a dynasty and the beginning of a legacy propped up by the 1997 recruiting class. As freshmen, the '97s set a new standard for Dartmouth soccer. And from there, they just kept getting better.

In four short years, the '97s established a "reign of terror" all their own. As rookies, they put Dartmouth on the map with a dazzling season which earned them the Ivy title and their first-ever NCAA Tourney bid. Then, in their subsequent seasons, they would return twice more to that tournament of champions.

Together, the '97s strung together four great seasons to remember forever.

Men's soccer

The men's soccer team faced an uphill battle in 1996 with the loss of a strong '96 class and a schedule that would put any reputable team between a rock and a hard place. But the Big Green did their best to chisel their way to a balanced 7-8-2 overall record, 2-3-2 Ivy for the season.

The squad stayed in the Ivy title hunt for the first half of the season, knocking off Penn, 2-0, playing Princeton to a 1-1 tie, and whipping Yale, 5-1.

But the latter half of the league schedule proved rocky as Cornell got the best of the Big Green with a 3-2 OT victory and Columbia took an OT 1-1 tie, while Harvard and Brown went on to earn 2-0 and 1-0 shutouts, respectively.

The 1997 season promises to be exciting as the Big Green must find new ways to win without the help of seniors Augie Lopez '97, David Moran '96, Methembe Ndlovu '97 and Noah Waterhouse '97.

Field Hockey

The women's field hockey team kept carrying a torch that wanted to blow out and run low on fuel throughout the 1997 season. In an up-down season which failed to show swing in any single direction, the Big Green finished with a 6-9 overall record, 2-4 Ivy.

The squad's two Ivy victories -- one against Penn and the other against Yale -- were two highlights to an otherwise frustrating season for the team which will graduate three seniors. The Big Green topped the Quakers, 6-1, to open their Ivy campaign before edging the Bulldogs, 1-0, late in the season.

The Big Green also had the luxury of settling the annual Twin-States rivalry as they beat UNH and Vermont, 2-1 and 3-1, respectively.

Volleyball

The women's volleyball team put together a strong string of victories in mid-season before slipping at the final stage of their Ivy title campaign. In all, they finished 18-10 overall, 4-3 Ivy.

The Big Green's nine-game win streak propelled them past four Ivy rivals -- Columbia, Cornell, Penn and Princeton -- before a squad from Brown overpowered Dartmouth and pushed the Big Green down a steep and slippery slope.

In their season-ending appearance at the Ivy League Championship Tournament, the team struggled against Harvard and Yale despite solid individual performances.

The season ended on a sour note, but with such a young team, and a young program, one can't help but be impressed with the milestones attained and the goals yet to be realized.

Men's basketball

The 1996-97 men's hoops season brought the Big Green just close enough to see the Ivy crown but not close enough to reach out and grab it. The last time Dartmouth won the league title was in 1959. And now, they'll have to wait one more year to see if Princeton is willing to give up the title before the turn of the century.

The Big Green, however, made the Princeton Tigers scratch and claw their way to this year's title, as Dartmouth closed 18-8 overall, 10-4 Ivy -- good enough for a tie for second place in the league with Harvard.

Dartmouth's starting five were especially brilliant on the lengthy roadtrip to Quaker and Tiger country -- a trip from which most Ancient Eight teams suffer their greatest losses. But the Big Green would have none of that.

Instead, Dartmouth used the phenomenal playmaking skills of seniors Sea Lonergan and Kenny Mitchell and the dynamite sharp-shooting of P.J. Halas '98 to scoop up a 74-70 OT victory at Penn's Palestra -- before dropping a narrow 57-55 decision in Princeton's Jadwin Gym, where senior forward Keith Stanton's last-second jumper trickled off the rim at the buzzer.

It's hard to imagine the Big Green without its All-Ivy seniors from the 1997 class. While Lonergan capped off his career with his third consecutive First-Team All-Ivy selection, Mitchell and Brian Gilpin '97 were honored on the Second-Team and Honorable Mention rosters, respectively.

Women's basketball

After leading the Big Green through three winning seasons -- where the squad racked up two Ivy titles and earned one NCAA Tourney bid -- the three seniors on the women's basketball team might have seemed disappointed with the 1996-97 season, where the team finished 13-13 overall, 8-5 Ivy. But what seems isn't always the same as what actually is.

All things considered, third place in the final Ivy standings wasn't half bad considering how strong and dominant the two league leaders were. Harvard topped the league with a perfect Ivy season while Brown trailed by a pair of games to put a lock on second place.

If seniors Sally Annis, Jen Pariseau and Jill Marple remember anything from their final season, they'll remember their stunning wins against Princeton and Brown.

Against the Tigers, First-Team All-Ivy forward Bess Tortolani '98 came up huge, as she took an inbound pass from Annis and drained a jumper that swished through the net at the buzzer to seal a 62-61 victory for the Big Green.

Then, the whole team strung together their best performance of the season when they notched a 90-78 upset over the Brown Bears at the seniors' final game at Leede Arena. "It was a great win," Annis said after the game. "That's exactly how I wanted to go out -- as a team."

Men's hockey

Despite an altogether dismal 10-17-2 uear which yielded only five conference victories (5-15-2 ECAC), and left Dartmouth out of the ECAC playoffs, there were some highlights to the 1996-97 men's hockey season.

The most brilliant three periods of the year came in the opening weeks of the season when Dartmouth played host to Vermont, one of the perennial placeholders in the national college hockey polls. The Big Green forced the Catamounts to forget about their history, their standings and their bloated pride as Dartmouth pounded Vermont, 4-1 on Nov. 22.

In the second round of this Twin-States battle, the sites were switched but the score wound up even as the Big Green played the then 9th-ranked Catamounts to a 4-4 tie at Vermont's Gutterson Field House.

While the 1996-97 season may have been a disappointment for the graduating seniors, next year promises to be different since Dartmouth will have a new coach behind the bench. Bob Gaudet '81 -- the Big Green's goalie the last time they made the NCAA Final Four -- returned home after nine years at Brown. He replaced head coach Roger Demment following the end of 1996-97 season.

Women's hockey

Considering nobody outside Hanover had any faith in Dartmouth's women's ice hockey team at the start of the 1996-97 season, the Big Green sure surprised some people, as they made it all the way to the ECAC quarterfinals before finishing the season at 16-13-1 overall, 5-5 Ivy.

In two of the biggest upsets in the ECAC this past season, Dartmouth shuffled the pucks past two hockey juggernauts, UNH and Providence, to earn the fifth seed going into the ECAC Championship Tournament.

Finally, in the ECAC tourney, the Northeastern Huskies got the best of the Big Green, taking a 6-2 victory to advance to the semi-final round.

Skiing

The Dartmouth ski team overcame harsh weather conditions to claim the men's title at the Eastern Intercollegiate Skiing Association championships at the Middlebury Snow Bowl in late February.

The men led the team as David Viele '98 took top honors in the slalom and from strong finishes by Andy Pennock '99 (3rd) and Ben Robinson '97 (4th) -- as the Big Green won the two-day alpine competition.

The women's squad finished fourth in their slalom, led by Laura Turner '98 in ninth and Kate Maher '99, who finished 12th.

Pennock capped off his sophomore season by picking up All-America honors, following his eighth place in the slalom at the NCAA Ski Championships in early March. It was his best finish ever at the NCAAs.

Swimming

The Big Green swim teams were boosted by strong individual performances at Easterns this year as both the men's and women's squads took eighth place at the year-end championship meet.

The highlight for the men was the 400-yard medley relay as Jon Kenyon '97, Dan Concannon '00, Geoff Walford '99 and Doug Doucet '98 lowered the school record to 3:23.86 in taking fourth place. In that race, Kenyon busted his 100-yard backstroke record, swimming a 50.37.

Senior Andrea Hill successfully defended her title in the 200-yard breastroke. In all, she was Dartmouth's biggest point-totaler, scoring a total of 40 points.

Courtney duBois '99 continued to impress on the diving boards as she broke Dartmouth's 3-meter championship record, scoring 446.90. With that performance, duBois claimed all of Dartmouth's diving records.

Squash

The men's squash team used the talents of all four recruiting classes to rewrite the school record books, as they compiled a first-ever 13-win season, finishing 13-5 overall, 4-2 Ivy.

The men's squad capped off their season with a solid 8th-place finish at the ISA Team Championships.

The women's squash team saw similar overall success, as they finished 9-4 overall -- but they struggled against their Ivy opponents, finishing 1-4 in league competition.

Baseball

Twenty years from now, when the seniors on the 1997 baseball team return to Hanover for their 20th reunion, you can be sure they won't be chatting it up about the tail end of their final season in the green and white.

But rest assured that tops on the list for reunion small-talk will be the streak the one that lasted 16 games and the same one that helped the 1997 baseball team rewrite the school record books.

"The 16-game streak was something special for this team," Andrew Spencer '97 said. "It's not something that happens every day."

Alas, with the Big Green's final 1997 season record settled at 22-16 (11-9 Ivy), the time has come for the seniors to pass the torch to the younger players on the team. And it's a torch the '97s are proud to pass on.

Softball

The women's softball team continued to struggle, as they inched their way through their second season as a full-fledged varsity squad, finishing 8-26 overall, 1-11 Ivy.

The good news is that the squad's eight wins on the season is a step in the right direction -- considering they only managed six victories last season.

But on top of that, the Big Green reached a milestone near the end of the season, edging the Penn Quakers, 4-3, to earn their first-ever Ivy League victory.

Men's lacrosse

Ask any of the '97 men's lacrosse players about their warmest memory from their final season in the green and white and the response will be the same all around.

They don't have any stunning Top-10 upsets to look back on from the 1997 campaign and they don't have any titles to show for their gutsiness. But they do have the visual image of their thrilling 14-13 upset over the 17th-ranked Harvard Crimson in the final game of their college careers.

Dartmouth's senior attackmen were the story for the team that day as Brian Merritt had six points, Scott Watts had five and Scott Hapgood finished with three.

But the most important point of the day came in the last five seconds of the game, when Merritt snagged a pass and spun off a Crimson defender before whipping it across the crease and into the top pocket of the Harvard net to clinch the one-goal upset for the Big Green.

"You couldn't ask for a better ending, especially to a season that's been so up and down," Merritt said. "You couldn't write a better script."

Women's lacrosse

The Big Green's second Ivy title came compliments of the women's lacrosse team, as they amassed an impressive 10-4 overall record and went 5-1 in Ivy play to share the league championship with Princeton.

The team's toughest break came at the end when their dominance in the Ivy League was overlooked and they were passed over in the NCAA tournament selection.

Sure, the Big Green's record against their non-league and nationally ranked opponents like Penn State, James Madison and Maryland could've been better. But aside from that, everything ran close to perfection.

The early season match-up against Ivy rival Princeton was especially impressive, with the Big Green topping the Tigers, 10-8, in the most critical game of the season for both teams.

And even the Big Green's games against top-10 opponents were thrillers. Against James Madison, Dartmouth played evenly with the Dukes, going shot-for-shot right up until the end, when JMU escaped with an 8-7 victory.

Thus, it was only fitting that the Big Green's hotshots be honored with league and national accolades. In all, six Dartmouth players were named to the 1997 All-Ivy lacrosse teams.

Tennis

The men's tennis team had an outstanding season, as they claimed the Big Green's third league title of the year, tying Harvard for the 1997 EITA Championship with a 17-5 overall record, 8-1 EITA.

Sophomore doubles tandem Gabe Sauerhoff and Erich Holzer were named to the 1997 All-EITA First Team in the doubles category while Sauerhoff also won First-Team honors in the singles category as a unanimous selection.

On the women's side, the Big Green struggled with youth and inexperience, finishing 8-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy.

Crew

Dartmouth's lightweight crews earned two sets of bronze medals this spring, as the they competed against the nation's top collegiate crews at the annual Eastern Sprints Regatta held on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.

The lightweights set the pace as the varsity eight, the JV eight and the first freshmen eight all raced well enough in the preliminary heats to qualify for the Grand Finals. The JV eight and the first freshmen eight both wound up taking the bronze medal in the finals.

Dartmouth's heavyweight crews faced stiffer competition at the regatta as the second freshman heavyweight eight took third place. And later, in the qualifying heats, the Big Green's varsity eight, JV eight and first freshmen eight all placed in the middle of the pack and ended up racing in the Petite Finals later that afternoon.

It was a season that ended in upsets and unsurpassed glory for the women's crews as they rode the momentum of a bronze-medal finish by their varsity eight to place fourth overall at Eastern Sprints.

The women's crews raced well enough during the tail end of the season to earn a team bid to the first-ever NCAA Women's Rowing Championships, while the men's crews capped off their season with an appearance at the IRA National Championships.

Track

The men's track and field team posted its best showing at the IC4A championship since 1989, as they capped off their spring season with a fourth-place finish at the meet. Earlier in the season, the squad took fourth at New Englands and placed third overall at the Heptagonal Championships.

The women's team, meanwhile, took 24th at the ECAC Championships, ninth at New Englands and fifth at Heptagonals.

In each case, the distance unit carried much of the Big Green's scoring momentum as Jenna Rogers '98, Deirdre Milligan '98 and Emily Hodgson '00 turned in consistently stellar performances.

The winter track season was highlighted by senior Adam Nelson's third-place finish in the shot put at the Millrose Games and Rogers' fifth-place finish in the 5,000 meter race at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Rogers was named an All-American for her performance at that meet.

Golf

Co-Captain Steve Sugarman '97 saved his best for last, taking top honors at the Black Knight Invitational this spring to lead the Big Green to their first major victory in three seasons.

Earlier in the season, the men's golf team scored a huge victory over Ivy rivals Harvard and Brown in a three-way Nassau. They followed that performance with a strong fifth place finish at New Englands.

At the Ivy League Championships, it was Dartmouth's least experienced player, Chris Welty '00, who stole the show -- shooting a 74-79 to earn All-Ivy honors.

The women's golf team, meanwhile, had an equally successful season, taking third place at the inaugural Ivy League Women's Golf Championship.

Freshman Lauren Epstein capped off an impressive rookie campaign as she led the Big Green with a score of 163 to finish fourth individually. For her efforts, she was voted the Northeast Women's Intercollegiate Rookie of the Year by the association's coaches.

Sailing

The Dartmouth women's sailing team put the icing on a solid spring season as they finished fourth out of 16 teams at the ICYRA/Sperry Top-Sider National Women's Dinghy Championship.

The Big Green amassed a total of 109 points. The U.S. Naval Academy won the championship with 84 points, while Brown and Connecticut College were second and third, respectively, both with 100 points.

In the 20 races that determined the championship, Dartmouth was first in two of them and runner-up in a third. And that kind of showing was typical for the Big Green, as they climbed into the highest echelons of the national sailing polls right from the start of the sailing season.

Farewell to the '97s

With the graduation of Dartmouth's senior athletes, the Big Green will lose some of its brightest stars.

But rest assured that the rising seniors and the ranks of the underclassmen will do a fine job of filling the spots vacated by the '97s.

But still, it's hard to imagine what type of Big Green history would've been scripted without the presence of this year's senior class on the field and in the stands.

In the end, one thing's for sure. The athletes in this year's senior class will be missed by every soul who witnessed their triumphs and experienced their glory. May the Big Green live in their hearts forever.