Varsity student-athletes set goals for upcoming fall, highlight team culture

Student-athletes from men and women’s cross country, football, women’s rugby, volleyball and men and women’s soccer shared how they are gearing up for the fall season.

by Lanie Everett | 8/31/22 2:05am

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Source: Courtesy of Natalie Shapiro

This article is featured in the 2022 Freshman special issue.

Student-athletes of Dartmouth’s cross country, football, women’s rugby, volleyball and soccer teams are gearing up for their respective fall seasons. Many have their eyes on a league title — whether it’s hopes for a three-peat or their first ever championship — and shared that their teams’ close-knit cultures will allow them to excel. Here are some of Dartmouth’s most promising teams for the upcoming season, with a look at how they’re preparing and how you can see them in action.

Men’s and Women’s Cross Country 

This year, the men’s cross country team hopes to place well at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship and make a run at the NCAA championships, according to Albert Velikonja ’25, a member of the cross country team.

“We’re all really excited, incredibly committed and we all really care how each other is doing,” Velikonja said. “It will be tough, but I think we have a great chance at making it happen.” 

Velikonja said that most of the men’s cross country will be returning from last year, apart from their incoming freshmen – an advantage that could allow the team to reach both goals. 

Velikonja came in 28th place at Heps and as well as 45th in the NCAA Northeast Regionals last season. 

Last season, men’s cross country finished eighth at the NCAA Northeast Regional meet, where the five student-athletes running for Dartmouth finished within 41 seconds of one another. Additionally, at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship, Dartmouth moved up three places from their eighth place finish in 2019, taking home fifth. Meanwhile, women’s cross country finished sixth place at Heps and 11th at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship in Boston, with Corrine Robitaille ’23 leading the way for the Big Green by placing 16th and 28th, respectively. 

The women’s cross country team shared the men’s cross country team’s goals of placing their best in Heps and competing well in the NCAA regional meets, women’s cross country captain Julia Fenerty ’23 said.

“As a team I think we can do a lot better at Heps than we have been doing in the past,” Fenerty said.

Both men’s and women’s cross country will run their season opener at the Vermont Invite on Sept. 3 at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. 

Football 

This season, captains quarterback Nick Howard ’23, safety Quinten Arello ’23 and defensive end Shane Cokes ’23 will lead the 2022 football team, which welcomes 23 new recruits, in defending its back-to-back Ivy League championship titles. 

Wide receiver Paxton Scott ’24 said that in season, the team practices at least 20 hours a week. Scott said the team’s main goal is to win the Ivy League championship, though he also noted that, like every year, the upperclassmen hope to act as mentors for incoming players. 

Scott added that watching older players take underclassmen under their wings has inspired his desire to take on a bigger leadership role this year and to try to make First Team All-Ivy. 

“The next step is helping other members of the team get ready for the season and games,” Scott said. “We have a ton of talent at every position, and [we have a goal] of executing to the best of our ability every week.” 

Football will kick off the 2022 season against Valparaiso University at Memorial Field on Saturday, Sept. 17. 

Women’s Rugby 

Dartmouth women’s rugby will start the season with high hopes as the most recent winners of the NIRA National Championship, defeating Army West Point 28-18 last fall. The Big Green is looking to defend its national title. 

“We definitely have a huge target on our back right now, and we’re losing a few players, but we’re gaining a lot, too,” team member Anjali Pant ’24 said. “We are just trying to keep the ball rolling, stay on top of things and continue crushing it.”

While under pressure, Pant said she likes to remember the team’s slogan: “with you.” 

“[‘With you’] means ‘I’m on your side,’ or ‘I’m in this tackle with you, I’m there by you,’” Pant said.  

Women’s rugby will play its first game on Sept. 1 against Long Island University at home on Brophy Field. 

Volleyball 

The volleyball team ended the 2021 season with a fourth-place finish in the Ivy League – an improvement from the team’s record in recent years of finishing in the lower half of league rankings. According to co-captain Ellie Blain ’24, the team is seeking more. 

“Definitely our long term goal is to win our first ever Ivy League championship, and on that note, also make it to the Division I NCAA tournament,” she said.

Blain said she believes one of her team’s greatest strengths is its sense of trust and closeness to one another – something she says they plan to rely on this upcoming season. 

“I think that because we are so close, it really helps us on the court knowing we can trust each other,” Blain said. “If each teammate does an individual part of the puzzle piece, we know we will be fine.” 

Dartmouth volleyball will begin its season at the University of California Irvine on Sept. 2. The Big Green will take on Sacred Heart University, College of the Holy Cross and UC Irvine in the tournament. 

Men’s and Women’s Soccer 

Big Green women’s soccer will gain six new incoming freshmen this year, recruited by head Coach Ron Rainey. Center forward Daisy Granholm ’24 said the team aims to focus on playing as a united front as the season approaches. 

“In soccer it’s either playing direct transitions, super fast games or more of a technical possession style, where you keep the ball, and your best defense is offense,” Granholm said. “I think we are just trying to define ourselves as a team, and where we fall on that spectrum.” 

Women’s soccer will open Ivy League play against Brown University on Sept. 24 in Hanover. Granholm, who will play for the first time since her ACL injury last season, said she hopes  students show up to support the team in their season opener. 

Cade Keesling ’24 of the men’s soccer team said he looks forward to their first Ivy League match against Princeton University on Oct. 1 at Burnham Field in Hanover. Last season, the team lost to Princeton in overtime after tying the game up in the second half. Keesling said that in particular, the team hopes to improve on converting scoring opportunities. 

“I know last year a lot of our games came down to one or two goals, and if we had finished our chances, then the season could have been the other way entirely,” Keesling said. “We could have almost been undefeated.”

While only time will tell what these teams will accomplish, many student-athletes are approaching the fall season with high hopes and a commitment to supporting one another on and off the field.

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