Bates Bobcast Episode 139: The battle for first place in the NESCAC
On this week's Bobcast, we're previewing the battle for first place in the NESCAC between Bates, Tufts and Amherst men's lacrosse. Plus, the tennis teams enter the heart of NESCAC play and the baseball team prepares for a showdown with Bowdoin. All that and more...
Interviews this episode:
- 1:05 -- Peter Lasagna, Head Coach, Men's Lacrosse.
- 12:25 -- Nolan Collins '20, Baseball (Male Bobcat of the Week).
- 19:59 -- Anna Rozin '22, Women's Tennis (Female Bobcat of the Week).
- 25:03 -- Ashley Pratt '20, Women's Track and Field.
- 34:32 -- Al Fereshetian, Head Coach, Men's Track and Field.
Aaron: This is the Bates Bobcast. Our weekly podcast where we take a look at the week that was, in Bates athletics. My name is Aaron Morse and this week we’re previewing the battle for first place in men’s lacrosse between Bates, Tufts and Amherst. Plus, the tennis teams enter the heart of NESCAC play and the baseball team prepares for a showdown with Bowdoin. All that and more, coming up, on the Bates Bobcast!
Aaron: The number 12 nationally ranked Bates men’s lacrosse team visits number 4 Tufts Tuesday night at 7pm. The Bobcats and the Jumbos are tied for first place in the NESCAC, both sporting conference records of 6-1. Number 6 Amherst is in the mix as well, with a NESCAC record of 6-2. The Bobcats play the Mammoths on Garcelon Field Saturday at 1pm. Head Coach Peter Lasagna previews a massive week for Bates.
Aaron: Well, this podcast coming out on Tuesday, if you're listening to it on Tuesday Bates-Tufts tonight, men's lacrosse at Tufts seven o'clock. Peter Lasagna with us here on the Bobcast and Peter what a week this is going to be, right? You've got Tufts on Tuesday then Amherst on Saturday, these are the top three teams record wise in the NESCAC this season: Bates, Tufts, and Amherst, what are your thoughts on these two upcoming games? I mean, we've had some epic contests between these two teams over the past few years, haven't we?
Peter: My mind goes there, when I figure how I will first answer you Aaron. The Bates-Tufts game with the exception of last year where they got the better of it pretty much from start to finish, these games between these two teams in both venues at Tufts and here at Bates have been epic games, so I expect we're getting ready for another one.
Aaron: You got a chance to watch Tufts versus Amherst the other day. What are your thoughts, what you saw from both teams?
Peter: Yeah, Tufts got off to an incredibly explosive start actually very reminiscent of the start that they got off to when we scrimmaged them on February 20th, or whenever that was, at the very, very start of the season so we know what that looks like and know what that feels like. And then Amherst got themselves back into the game, started to win some more face-offs, got some saves, rolled the ball back well, and then it became what you would have expected, which is a great one-goal game between two of the best teams not just in the league, but two of the best teams in the country.
Aaron: You mentioned you scrimmaged Tufts before the season. What if anything, can you apply from that scrimmage to now? I mean, it's a long year there's a lot of stuff that's has happened since then, I'm sure.
Peter: Thank God I can tell you, I'm confident that we're a bit better than we were on that day. We know a lot more about ourselves, we've just been through many more of these battles and playing really, really high level opponents and playing well so that's the most important thing. I think that both coaching staffs are smart enough to be able to tell their students, you know, don't put too much stock in what happened in the first week of practice. But that said, they also have all the same players that they had on that Wednesday night or whatever it was. And they're really impressive group from start to finish there, they're very big, very strong, very athletic. One thing that really impressed us that night was they got after the ball when it was on the ground, in all phases in a really admirable way. So that's, that's one area.
Peter: Again, that doesn't change. If anything, they're as good or better at that aspect. Hopefully, we are better. But that's one thing that we have to be really pay attention to, right. In the scouting report, I say ball on the ground offense is when they're actually at their best, when there's a broken situation and the ball is on the ground, they make really good things happen.
Aaron: Bates have been pretty good with those broken situations too, right?
Peter: Well, you're right. That's part of why this is interesting is because both teams want to take more than 50 shots. They're averaging a couple more goals a game than we are, but we both play similar styles. I don't think there's a real danger of the shot clock being expired for either team on Tuesday though, if we get a lead late I ... We might just take 79 seconds at a time if we could, but yeah, that's why they're such fun games, man. It's fun for our guys to get ready for, I would imagine it's fun for the Tufts guys as well, because again, you know that, nobody is going to try to shrink the game, nobody is going to try to slow it down. We're going to try to be smart, and we're going to try to take care of the ball, obviously, but we both play the same style, and it's basically going to be who can get some stops, and who can take care of the ball, and turn it over the least, and who can capitalize on great opportunities.
Aaron: It seems like you know the face-off battle you know, Eli, senior, he's been through the wars, if you will, through the years. What are your thoughts on the face-off matchups and how you guys are going to approach that because that can obviously they can swing a game anytime, right?
Peter: Yeah, absolutely. It's a great point. And I actually think Eli, where his percentage may not be exactly where he wants it to be for the year. I also feel like almost every one of these games, he's been good enough in chunks of the game to give us an opportunity. I mean you know, our record is what it is. And so he gets some credit for that as does Chris Costello and the other ... the face-off wings, that's what we saw, and what we saw in the Amherst-Tufts film was that actually, you know, the face-off guys were pretty even. And it was whoever got the better of the wing play on those 50/50 ground balls, is who won the day, and so that's been a huge point of emphasis for us since we got back to practice on Friday night.
Aaron: For sure. And then you know, obviously everyone knows about what Matt Chlastawa what he's done throughout his career, only a junior, all-time assist leader in Bates history. Who are some other guys on the attack who have really stood out to you this year, who have helped support him because everyone's always collapsing down on him so he can pass the ball even more than usual, perhaps?
Peter: Yeah, I think that's a great perceptive question, and Matt has had a phenomenal year thus far as we expect but I think the other guys really do jump out. Brendan Mullally is having the best year of his career and just as you know, he's one of those people that it's really hard to game plan for because you know he might dodge for one or maybe two, especially if you try to put a short stick on him, which Tufts may do but all of his goals, almost all of his goals come in broken situations as you mentioned before and in the unsettled and on extra man and just because he's got an uncanny knowledge and an uncanny knack of when and where to cut, and he's a huge beneficiary of Matt's vision and Matt's ability to feed the ball. So, Brendan, I think he's had a great year. Otis has been an incredibly wonderful surprise coming back for us especially I think in the first half, he just exceeded all expectations, and he's healthy again. He's needed to put some more time in and he's looked really, really great the last couple days.
Peter: So that gives us a big boost and then Matt Kelleher pretty much wherever we've put him, he has responded and especially with Otis banged up, we put Matt down on the attack more in these last couple games and did a really nice job, and then we put him in the midfield he almost always delivers a timely and important goals. So I would mention those guys, Dillon McManus has come on recently played his strongest game against Conn. College, made a couple of really, really big plays for us, which was neat. He had a huge smile on his face after that game so he's now another element that we have going for us and that other people have to figure out how to defend. Jackson Sell another freshman got his most significant minutes against Conn., he's out right now but hopefully we'll be getting him back at some point soon. And yeah, we're pretty deep there. I think that the midfields have sorted themselves out.
Peter: Curtis Knapton I think is having an All-American year, I think Duke Brown-Jones is as well for all the different things that he does for us. We get Jack Scribner back, and I think we have noticed what an important role he plays playing without him in these last three NESCAC games. And so, you know, yeah, a lot of ... Matt is certainly the focus of everybody's defensive game plan, he should be but we have other people that can make you pay as well.
Aaron: For sure. And then you mentioned the midfield, defensive midfield is kind of interesting because I personally don't know how to evaluate play there but when folks are watching the game, defensive midfielders obviously have a huge impact on it. What do they need to watch for?
Peter: That's a great ... That's an informed and smart and high level lacrosse fan question. With our style, where everybody is an offensive player and everybody is a defensive player, those short stick defensive midfielders might be the most important players in our game, because not only are they going to get picked on the most, and dodged and isolated the most as one-on-one defenders, but they're also really critical team defenders and team communicators. And then when we do get stops, they are the first person we're looking to when we're trying to get the ball from defense to offense, so they are critical in our clearing game, they are critical in our transition game. And RJ, I don't know where he is now, RJ Sarka but for a while there are RJ was our fourth or fifth you know leading midfield scorer with probably less than 10 goals.
Peter: But when you get a play like that, when you get it to you know an RJ Sarka, an Andrew Lowman, or Sean Paul Clark, or Jack Golden, you know going the length of the field and scoring us a goal or ... Jack Golden had one of the best lines I think you can have as a freshman defensive midfielder against Conn., I think he had five or six ground balls, which probably were all on the wing in the face-off, so that's five or six possessions for us. A bunch of successful clears, three assists, and zero turnovers. I mean he does not look like a freshman, so we're really deep at that position. Walker Cooney got hurt early in the week, we're going to miss him but we just feel like yeah, those guys are critical pieces of what we do. And in this game, trying to defend the Tufts midfielders those guys are going to get left out on islands and called upon to defend a bunch of the best midfielders in the country, so this is going to be a great test for us and for them.
Aaron: This is kind of intangible thing but you know Tufts and Amherst they're in Massachusetts, they're kind of more maybe in the heart where sort of more media coverage is. Do you feel like Bates has been overlooked a little bit this year because of maybe last season or what are your thoughts on that in terms of compared to the rest of the conference?
Peter: I'm probably not in a great position to give any sort of objective answer to that question. So I'll just go to what our record is. Our record is nine and two, and we're one of two teams in the country that has a win over Wesleyan who continues to be in the top five. So it's hard this year, because there are so many good NESCAC teams and Wesleyan deserves to be where they are because they have really, really impressive wins. And Amherst deserves to be where they are because they really impressive wins, and Tufts and Williams. And Williams beat us head to head so I can't have a beef with anybody because those teams have really, really significant wins. I think we have a significant win as well and our losses are to RIT and Williams who are really, really good teams. So the fun about this Aaron is that we get to play people that are ranked ahead of us and that we are competing with for the top of the NESCAC.
Peter: So to sound like an old crusty Italian man that I am, the only poll that matters is the last one, though I would say that the one that contributes to the seeding of the NCAA tournament is somewhat important as well. So these rankings do matter a little bit but we're in a wonderful place. It's a beautiful day, we're home we get to practice, we're full time lacrosse players right now. And we get to prepare to play one of the very best teams in the country, and so we're in control of our fate and that's all we can ever ask for.
Aaron: There you have it. At Tufts Tuesday night and then Saturday afternoon right here on Garcelon field Amherst coming to town. Peter Lasagna, thanks so much.
Peter: Thank you so much, Aaron.
Aaron: Last week was finals week for Bates students, so there weren’t a lot of events for the Bobcats. The baseball team was in action Saturday though, splitting a doubleheader at Leahey Field against Wesleyan. Bates won game one by a score of 4-2, scoring four runs in the bottom of the third. Senior Justin White tallied a big two-RBI single in the win and junior Nolan Collins shined again on the mound. Collins tossed six and a third innings of two-run ball, striking out six to earn his fourth win of the season. Collins leads NESCAC pitchers in strikeouts and he is our Male Bobcat of the Week!
Aaron: Nolan, your last two starts, coach Martin giving you the chance to go out there for the final inning, he's obviously showing confidence in you, to try to close the game out, what are your thoughts on him showing you that confidence and Alex Simon backing you up, getting some saves as well?
Nolan: Yeah, it's awesome. It's great to see he has the confidence in me to go out for that last inning. Obviously I'd hope to finish the last innings one of these times but you know, it's great that Alex Simon has my back. He's a really great closer and he's really reliable and it's awesome.
Aaron: So Wesleyan on Saturday, what was kind of your focus out there on the mound? It's not a divisional matchup but obviously you want to go out there and win.
Nolan: Yeah, it was a big game. You know, it was still a NESCAC opponent, so it's good to compete. It was fun but my approach on the mound really was just getting ahead with fastballs and they had trouble catching up to it and then just mixing up speeds with that and my curveball was nice.
Aaron: We haven't talked necessarily since the Salem State game so you also had the match up against Trinity. Those are two good offenses Trinity followed by Wesleyan, right? I mean, did you approach different at all between those two teams, was it pretty similar?
Nolan: Well, I kind of had different stuff working both times, the Trinity game, my change up was really nice and my curveball was good. Against Wesleyan, I didn't have my change up release, but it was kind of the same approach just work ahead with fastballs like get ahead in counts and then from there, it's a lot easier to miss barrels and get strikeouts so it's just getting ahead with the fastball and working from there.
Aaron: And you know, the Trinity game I'm looking back on it early on you walked a few guys but after the second inning, it was kind of lights out. Did anything change for you?
Nolan: I think I just found my timing really. We had been working on some stuff midweek, and I was focusing on that in the early innings and I think it was just taking my focus away from actually pitching. And once I kind of just forgot about the adjustment and started doing what I've been doing all year and it worked and I just kind of fell into a groove.
Aaron: Bowdoin this weekend, this is the team that I believe actually took two or three from Bates last year a little surprisingly perhaps you know, obviously it's a big rivalry. What are your thoughts on Bowdoin coming up?
Nolan: I'm excited you know it's really important for our playoff hopes that we go out and we hopefully sweep we need to kind of win some games here. But they're a good team, they've had a little down year, but they played Tufts pretty close, so they could be dangerous so we got to take them seriously.
Aaron: Yeah, Bowdoin lost all their non-conference games but they go out and sweep Colby right away to start NESCAC play, it's a brand new season right?
Nolan: Yeah, that's right. You know, once the NESCAC season comes, it really turns into a new season and it's a real short season too, only 12 games so you got to make every one count.
Aaron: And then on Saturday, Bryan Gotti did have a solo home run, first of his career. What are your thoughts on some of the younger guys really starting to get into the mix like Jareno and Gotti and so on and so forth?
Nolan: Yeah, that home run was awesome, you know we've seen Gotti do it in batting practice but it's good to see it happening in a game. Yeah, him and Antonio really are starting to come out of their shells and perform and it's real nice to see you know like that a young core kind of come up and look good for the future and they're contributing now really well so it's good.
Aaron: And one of the more experienced guys Jon Lindgren made that insane catch, what was your view on it?
Nolan: Well, I was in the dugout, and I thought ... I didn't think he was going to have to go over the fence and then all of a sudden, he like jumps, turn the other way, and made an incredible acrobatic catch, it was real ... It was crazy, it was awesome.
Aaron: A bunch of midweek games for the team this week, you're obviously pitching against Bowdoin so you're going to kind of sit back and watch the guys play. Obviously, a chance for some of the guys to continue to make an impact because I know Jareno wasn't playing much until that Husson midweek game, right?
Nolan: Yeah, he didn't play until that Husson game really and then he kind of broke out so it's real good those midweek games give guys opportunities that don't usually get opportunities and it also gives guys that are in the daily routine just to fall into a rhythm and kind of get some momentum going into the weekend.
Aaron: I'm curious for you as a starter you know preparing to face Bowdoin this weekend. How much ... Do you get any type of scouting report, any kind of idea of what they bring to the table? Is it looking at stats, or you're just not even worried about that?
Nolan: We look at the stats. I actually have one of my friends from high school plays for Tufts he texted me a rundown of everything they do, so I have that and then coach will give us some tips and stuff about their lineup and we have some like spray charts to look at, but just looking at that stuff. I don't spend too much time looking at it just because ... Besides like who strikes out a lot that kind of thing, but you know, it's good to have just in case.
Aaron: Yeah, well, speaking of strikeouts at this moment in time you lead the NESCAC in strikeouts among the pitchers this year. You take pride in striking guys out?
Nolan: Yeah, you know, it's always better when you strike a guy out you know, I kind of like it, but it was one of my goals this year to improve my strikeouts so. And so far I think I'm on a little better pace than last year but you know it's good. Obviously you're just trying to get guys out, but it's nice when you can strike them out yourself.
Aaron: And the defense behind you it just seems like just terrific. I mean Torres at third, Carter at short, that must give you a lot of confidence.
Nolan: Yeah, we have a great infield it's really good, even Beal in center making incredible plays like it feels like every time a ball is put in play we have a chance to get the guy out. So it just adds to confidence when you're on the mound.
Aaron: Now in terms of the seven inning game and you've obviously thrown a nine inning game, you've thrown seven inning games any different type of mentality in the seven inning game or is it about the same for you?
Nolan: Well, in the seven inning game, obviously it's shorter, it means like every inning counts like you can fall behind to nothing and if you don't respond all of a sudden it's the fifth inning you're down 2-0. You only have two innings to get some runs going so it's a lot quicker. I find it easier to pitch like if you can get ahead obviously, you don't have to get 27 outs, you only need 21 so. but you know, it's the same kind of mentality just attacking hitters like approach wise but yeah, it's a little different.
Aaron: For sure. And then you know, other guys on the pitching staff who's been really kind of standing out to you so far you know, watching them go about their business?
Nolan: You know, Cam Carlson has kind of come out and started to pitch well, obviously Alex Simon, Jared Pantalony has been pitching well, he had two innings or three innings over the weekend and ... But yeah, we just got a lot of guys, everyone's contributing, it's just real nice to see.
Aaron: Well, Pantalony a first year guy, you pitched a bit as a first year so like he's pitching a bit as a first year, any lessons that you've talked to him about anything that he should know about developing his game because looks like he has a lot potential?
Nolan: Yeah, he has a ton of potential and I just sort of in practice or when he's warming up in games, give him tips on how to approach guys and just kind of shoot ideas off each other. It's real good to have that kind of relationship within the team. And just like forms an environment where everyone is getting better, which is nice so.
Aaron: Terrific. What are your thoughts on the six NESCAC divisional games you have left here?
Nolan: Well, we got to win them all I think Bowdoin and Colby they're not the most talented in the NESCAC, but they're still dangerous and in order to get in the playoffs it looks like we got to win five or six of these games so we got to come out and attack and just play with a lot of confidence.
Aaron: All right, Nolan Collins Male Bobcat of the Week. Thanks so much.
Nolan: Thanks a lot.
Aaron: The women’s tennis team had its final non-conference match of the year Sunday, defeating Wheaton College 8-1. Now, BOTH tennis teams enter the heart of NESCAC play. The Bobcats take on on Trinity, Amherst and Middlebury this week, with the women taking on Colby on Monday for a fourth conference match in six days. First-year Anna Rozin has been a key contributor this season for the women’s team. She won her match at number one doubles with Bella Stone on Sunday by a score of 8-2. Then she won 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. And Anna Rozin is our Female Bobcat of the Week!
Aaron: Female Bobcat of the Week Anna Rozin with us here on the Bobcast and Anna I know we talked back in the fall during the fall season and whatnot, as you were just getting adjusted to Bates. How has that adjustment gone now heading into the spring and about halfway through tennis season here?
Anna: So far it's been really great. The adjustment has been really good because I've been able to figure out more with school and how to manage my time better. I think that right now we're doing really great, I'm really excited to see where it goes.
Aaron: This past weekend you played number one doubles with Bella Stone, senior captain for the team, it's only the second time you've played with her. So what's that adjustment like? How's that going?
Anna: It's been really great. I have a really fun time with her on the court. I think we play really, really well together and we really feed off of each other's energy. And I think our game styles are really suitable for each other. So I'm really excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.
Aaron: How do your game styles kind of blend together?
Anna: She's really, really great at the net, and I'm able to set up the point for her to put the ball with net and vice versa as well. She has an amazing serve and it really sets me up at the net so that I can put the ball away.
Aaron: I've noticed you know, just walking around Merrill Gym I've seen you training with guys on the men's team like Josh Quijano and whatnot, how does your practice regimen kind of go in terms of, you know, working with your teammates and also working with folks on the men's team as well?
Anna: I think it's actually an advantage because we're able to play with different game styles not only against girls, but as well against guys. It allows us to have more challenges so that we're more prepared for when it comes to matches and we're ready really for anything.
Aaron: We talked a little bit before about this, but you're from Toronto. How did you decide that Bates was the place for you to come down for college?
Anna: When I came on my visit, I knew that this is the place where I wanted to be, right away the team made me feel as if I was already part of the family and coaches are amazing. And the school, the academics, everything I just knew that this is where I had to be the next four years.
Aaron: You've had a lot of matches so far in the spring, but you only had two NESCAC matches and now all of a sudden, it's going to really intensify, I believe there's three NESCAC matches this week, another one on Monday of next week. And so what are your thoughts heading into this week here?
Anna: My thoughts heading into this week are that as a team, we just really have to stay motivated and always have energy on court. We have to go in there super confident and just remember to play our games and to have fun most importantly, just have joy out there and to be thankful that were able to play every day on court.
Aaron: You mentioned you know, adjusting to the academic schedule and whatnot, is it nice to have this fall during break?
Anna: This week has been really, really nice. And I'm excited for the rest of these matches because sometimes it's hard to like put away your academics and not think about anything but for this week, I think it's going to be really great for our team because we don't have any other stress is just were able to focus completely on tennis and just doing our best on court.
Aaron: You're home Saturday against Middlebury, right? There's two road matches in your home Saturday. So folks come out to that match could be outside could be inside but who are some other players on the team folks should look out for, who you're excited to see continue their progress as well?
Anna: Honestly, I'm excited for everyone. Everyone has been having a really great season. Hannah Sweeney and Lauren have been playing together and they've been doing really well. Suzie has been doing amazing as well. Honestly, just everyone has been doing so great, I'm so happy that they're part of the team.
Aaron: Biggest differences you've noticed between college tennis and playing in high school?
Anna: I think it would be the team aspect, in high school it was very much an individual sport but now I really feel the support from everyone, and we really motivate each other. They are what motivate me to keep going if I'm not playing well or if I'm down in a match that my teammates and like cheering out for each other is what allows me to play my best tennis.
Aaron: I know you haven't gotten too much of a chance to play outdoors yet but biggest differences outdoor versus indoor playing, you think?
Anna: For me, it's a little bit difficult to adjust sometimes going between indoor and outdoor. But really it's just like coach always says we love the adversity and having a different environment, I think it's just important to focus on your game style and then no matter if there's wind or sun, it's just focus on the point and try not to let anything else distract you really.
Aaron: We talked about your doubles match with Bella there this past Sunday against Wheaton College. How about singles playing at number two. You're playing pretty high on the ladder as a first-year, what's that experience been like?
Anna: It's been really amazing, I'm super thankful for it. I love being on court, and being able to play, and I just want to win for the team and then I want the team to do as best as we can. So it's been a really great experience.
Aaron: Sounds good. Anna Rozin, female Bobcat of the Week, thanks so much.
Anna: Thank you.
Aaron: The track and field teams competed at the UNH Wildcat Invitational on Saturday. Senior Katie Barker won the 3,000-meter run and senior captain Ayden Eickhoff won the 800 meters. Meanwhile, a trio of pole vaulters impressed for the Bobcats, taking the top three spots and clearing the bar at 10 feet, 2.75 inches. Junior Ashley Pratt took first, first-year Lauren Berube finished second and first-year Lily Simmons came in third. Pratt joined us on the phone from Washington D.C. to talk about the meet.
Aaron: Tell us a little about your background, you're from the area, you went to Leavitt High school, you I grew up in Greene, you're a pole vaulter. How did that get started growing up? When did you start getting into pole vaulting?
Ashley: So growing up I actually did competition cheering for a really long time. And so when I started doing track in middle school, trying to explore what events I wanted to try pole vaulting seemed the most natural because through cheering I was used to being upside down and flipping and that kind of stuff. And so that's kind of natural way a lot of people get into pole vaulting, especially if you have like any sort of gymnastics background. Yeah, and it's just being used to that type of movement too makes it very fun. And so that's how I kind of got used to it, and introduced to it as well, and just have stuck with it since then.
Aaron: Do you remember your first time doing a pole vault because I just feel like I would be very scared, I don't know about you?
Ashley: Yes, I mean, when you first start pole vaulting it's very like ... It's very gradual progression, and so it's a lot of like hanging on to the pole, walking around on the ground, very, very low level jumping into the pit. And it takes a really, really long time to progress from jumping over two feet to actually getting inverted and actually getting yourself up in the air. So, I mean, the other thing too, is like, you're not bending the pole when you first start jumping either, it's very, very straightforward. It's almost like high jumping into the pit, but you're hanging on to a pole. And then ... Again, as you progress, it takes a really long time to get to these points in your career but things like bending the pole and doing things that are actually characteristic of competitive pole vaulting are really exciting milestones in the event.
Aaron: Excellent. So when you were looking for colleges what made Bates the place for you, what made you want to stay here local and go to college at Bates?
Ashley: So it's funny because I'm from the area I kind of ... In spite of the fact that I'm from the area, I guess I didn't really know a lot about Bates, which I still find very surprising. And so once I got accepted to Bates, I started to look into the college a little bit more, and it was kind of crazy to me that Bates is as good of a school as it is, because I felt like it was just this little preppy school in the area that I didn't really know anything about, which is so, so funny to me. But once I really started to look into the school and learn about it, I was really impressed with the academic side of it and the structure of how you pick classes and how there's a lot of freedom in who you as a student can be on campus. And then the other thing was the track team was really kind of pull for me because it's a very competitive program and everyone seems to work very, very hard. And it's also very welcoming and very friendly community of people, which was really exciting for me, I guess.
Aaron: Yeah, and this past weekend, you know, Bates took one, two, and three in the pole vault UNH Wildcat Invitational. Couple of first-years, also, you know clear on the bar with you there at over 10 feet. What are they like another local there Lauren and also Lily Simmons as well?
Ashley: Yeah, Lauren Berube, she and I actually competed with each other a little bit in high school and so I knew who she was coming into Bates, she came to visit last year to check out the program. And she's a very good athlete, very ... She has a little bit more range than Lily and I are and she's kind of the athlete you can throw into anything and she'll compete well, very calm and collected. But yeah, so I competed against her in high school and so it's kind of fun seeing her at Bates, and seeing how she progressed in high school being a couple of years behind me since I actually competed against her. But they're both very good athletes, both the same level as I am and we're pretty competitive with each other. And the other thing is that I last year at Bates was the only female vaulter, and so having them on the team this year has been really, really fun and exciting. It's fun to go to meets like this where all of us are pretty much at the same level, so we can each attempt the same height, and when we have days like we did at UNH, where we clear it together, it's really exciting.
Ashley: So yeah, going one, two, three at UNH was a lot of fun because it got to a point where it's just us three competing against each other and the rest of the field was out. And so it's really ... It's like supportive to have them there right with me, and we're all kind of working towards the same goals, but we have each other to kind of talk through these things as well as support each other.
Aaron: So you mentioned, you know, last year you were the only female vaulter on the team. What was that experience like? I mean, that's got to be a little, you know, interesting kind of dynamic there, you know, ... I mean, there were male vaulters but you were the lone one on the women's team.
Ashley: I mean, I definitely love the men on the team, and it was still very much a team atmosphere, and I love coach Fresh, it was a very still supportive group of people and fun most of the time. The only time I really noticed that I was the only vaulter was when we were at meets, and the men couldn't be there at certain points or obviously I'm the only one competing in the field when it's just women and warming up by myself and little things like that. I definitely feel like between last year and this year, I can control my nerves better, and it's a lot more relaxed because I have two other girls there that I'm equally as excited for them to compete as I am for myself. But it's also just fun to have people to warm up with and people to get excited for a while the meet is going on, and it doesn't just feel like you're worried about you the entire time, so that's definitely something I've really appreciated this year having those two around.
Ashley: And even that practice you know, we are very similar athletes and so we kind of feed off of each other when Lauren or Lily has a really good day at practice, we see that and encourage each other to make our own improvements, and we each have our own strengths as vaulters. And so it's nice to have Lauren and Lily to learn some things about vaulting that I need improvements from by proxy and so on.
Aaron: Well, this weekend, the women's team is hosting the Aloha Relays. Tell us about this meet because I know it's a little bit different than others perhaps, right?
Ashley: Yeah. So this is the same time of year where men are having the state meet, and the Aloha Relays kind of replaces what would be the state meet for the women, so it'll be all teams from the state of Maine. But it's a lot more of a fun meet and a lot more relaxed than states would be. So they do things like give out leis for people who placed in the top three, or top five maybe, and people try events that they don't normally do for fun and we throw in some relays with people who don't normally sprint for the fun of it. And there are definitely people who are going to be at the meet, trying to get their marks and really competing but it's also a lot more of a fun atmosphere and people are just there to have a good time as well. So it's going to be a lot of fun, I'm very excited.
Aaron: Any idea what events you'll be doing? I mean, pole vault...
Ashley: Pole vault is my main event, that's all I'll be doing on Saturday.
Aaron: Oh, gotcha, you're focused on the pole vault exclusively at this point.
Ashley: Yes. Yeah.
Aaron: Gotcha. And was that the kind of the plan coming in, you know, how did you talk with you know, Coach Jay and Coach Fresh about, you know, when you're first starting at Bates if the pole vault was going to be, you know, your only event or if there can be other events as well?
Ashley: Well, so I was recruited for the team when I was looking at Bates, and my most successful event in high school was pole vault, so I knew going into Bates that was what I was primarily going to be the most excited about competing in college. But I also ... So, I used to do hurdles and some other events in high school. And so when I got to Bates, I kind of played around with doing hurdles, triple jump, while also working on vault and I just had some shin issues my freshman year, just a lot of that impact. And so toward the end of my freshman year, Coach Jay and I made the decision that because vault is the event that I care about the most, to preserve my shins in that way, and focus on only vault and being successful in that event.
Aaron: For the remainder of the season, what are some goals that you have in mind or the team has kind of set, you know, kind of going forward in the championship season coming up because after Aloha Relays I know there's NESCAC and New England's, and so on and so forth?
Ashley: Yeah. I mean, I know there are a lot of people on the team who have national level aspirations, and we have some really strong competitors who are going to be exciting to watch toward the end of the season. Definitely All-American potential, and I personally, would like to PR improve I know, 11 feet has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I think Lilly and Lauren feel the same way. So just seeing those personal improvements across the season would be really, really exciting.
Aaron: Excellent. Ashley Pratt, thank you so much for joining us on the Bobcast. Really appreciate it.
Ashley: Thank you very much.
Aaron: In men’s track and field, junior captain Brendan Donahue won the Decathlon with a career-best 5,913 points at the Silfen Invitational, the eighth-best mark in program history. Meanwhile, sophomore John Rex moved into 10th place all-time at Bates in the hammer throw at the UNH Wildcat invitational, with a top effort of 190 feet. He also set a PR and placed second in the discus. This Saturday, the men travel to Brunswick for the Maine State Men's Outdoor Championships. Head Coach Al Fereshetian previews the meet.
Aaron: Coach, Bates-Bowdoin, it's been a showdown at states it seems like every year since I've been here before then as well, what's this rivalry like in track and field?
Al: It's pretty intense I mean, for both teams. I mean, we both really want to compete with the best of our ... The best of our teams are capable against each other and certainly for this meet, I know they're going to sell out, and they're going to put their best effort forward, and we certainly have to match that effort, that intensity, that focus.
Aaron: Well, this year indoors Bates took the title back from Bowdoin looking to do the same thing in outdoors. What was the indoor meet like and does anything carry over to outdoors, brand new season kind of?
Al: It really is kind of new season a lot of the same players, and so there's a base there that we can work on and build from, but it's going to be an entirely different meet. And I think we actually probably surprised them a little bit indoors maybe even shocked them, and maybe we woke them up a little bit, you know, because that probably should have been their meet to win, and we won it fairly convincingly. And I know they've got an outstanding group of seniors right now, and they're a proud group, and I think they probably took affront to that. So I'm expecting to see a great team out of them this weekend.
Aaron: Obviously, a bunch of events. What are some key events that might swing the meet one way or another you think?
Al: Well, I think you know, they have strengths in certain areas, we have strengths in certain areas and I think we're both going to have to make sure we maximize the benefit we get out of those events. So I think some of those events that are going to be swinging events are going to be events on the track and the ... You know, I think the hurdles could be a very important event. They've got a great hurdler who's been out all year, and he's back so I expect that he'll be a big factor in things. But we've got a bunch of hurdlers that I think can counter that a little bit. I think that you know, certainly a lot of the middle distance like 400, 800, the mile those are all worth 1500 outdoors. Those are all going to be I think significant events that I think are really going to be a dual meet battle in the 5,000 and 10,000 between Bates and Bowdoin.
Al: You know, so it'll be interesting, we have strength in the throws, but they've got a couple of really good throwers that can certainly grab a lot of good quality points in those events. They've got strength in the jumps, so we got to find a way to kind of balance that out a little bit and try to you know, maybe attack in there a little bit more too.
Aaron: Who are some athletes you're really excited to see maybe have a breakthrough meet for the Bobcats?
Al: I think you know, I always start first with the seniors and start looking at them, and a guy like Tyler Harrington, who has been such a huge part of our program for the last four years, and he's just a tremendous young man, he'll be competing in all four of the throwing events. And fortunately they're actually contesting the javelin on Friday afternoon, so that will make his Saturday schedule a little bit easier, and the javelin is one of his primary events, but he's definitely stepped up significantly in the hammer, in the discus, and even the shot. So we're looking for some great things there, he's really been a great part of what we're trying to get done. Zack Campbell has been tremendous all year as one of our captains and one of our leaders and he'll be a big presence with Johnny in the hammer, but he's also getting a lot better in the disc, and could be really dangerous there and even the shot has a potential to really get in there and do some things.
Al: I think of Bart Rust certainly in the steeplechase as a freshman, he's been outstanding all year long. But it might be guys like indoors, you know, guys like Jackson Elkins, a freshman and in the middle distance runners and Jeremy Bennett who had a great double in the mile and 1,000. It's going to be the strength of the team that's really going to step up and make a difference, and kind of go there.
Aaron: The steeplechase, that's such a crazy event. How much can you really practice that?
Al: Well, a lot.
Aaron: Yeah, you can with all the water?
Al: Yeah, I mean, we don't do a lot of that in practice. We will as the season progresses, it's just we're in Maine, and in April and March, and it's not really easy to get in the water.
Aaron: The water is ice.
Al: But the bottom line is, we do a lot of work, and I think what attracts a lot of people to the steeplechase is it's kind of like cross country on the track. So if you love cross country, then it's kind of a natural fit. But the other piece, and I was a steeplechaser in college so it's one of my favorite events, but it adds along with the training component that a distance runner has to go through to be successful, it also adds a technical component. So you can take that point and if you got that kind of mindset it's really a good match. And Bart's done a great job, Nico Johnson one of our cross country captains will also be a big factor in those events that should be a good event for us. It'll be interesting to see how the other positions kind of play out because there's probably some spots there.
Aaron: I know the indoor state meet ends, of course with the famed blackout relay. How does the outdoor meet wrap up, is it a relay or how does that go?
Al: Yeah, last event is a four by four and you know, it's always an exciting event, probably doesn't have quite the folklore that the four by eight does indoors. And honestly, in a meet like this where it's going to be Bates and Bowdoin, the relays quite honestly probably aren't as important as some of the individual events. I think probably you know, I don't think Coach Slovenski will be resting his guys to be fresh for the four by four, we're going to be using our athletes all the way through so it's going to be probably a battle of ... And I think this is the way that meets going to come down to, it's who wants it more because everybody's going to be tired, everybody is going to be fatigued at that point in time. And the relay points are important, but potentially the individual points that some of those members can score throughout the course of meet are even more important.
Aaron: I know recruiting for track and field you don't necessarily have to go see people participate in high school, you can look at numbers and whatnot. But what is it like recruiting like ... Do you recruit against Bowdoin a lot? I imagine that some athletes you're both trying to get them, right?
Al: Sure we see, you know, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, any kid that's coming up from out of state is probably going to be visiting all three. And so I think it's really the difference is, you know, I mean, really the feel that they get on a campus, the feel that they get from a team, what they're looking for in a program. And I think, you know, guys that are looking for a highly team centered focus, a lot of times you don't see that in track and field. And I think a lot of times, high school kids that are coming into visit, they don't maybe even comprehend what that means, but when you compete in a meet like this, you figure it out very quickly that it's not just about you, it's about what you're doing to help the rest of your team be successful.
Aaron: Terrific. Any other thoughts we haven't discussed about the Maine State Meet you wanted to mention here?
Al: It's one of the oldest longest running meets in the history of track and field in the United States of America. So there's a lot of ... I'm not sure what the number is, it's something like 125 or something along that lines, but it's been around since before the 20th century. So it's got a lot of history, a lot of tradition. It is certainly one of the highlights on our schedule every year and I'm expecting that our team is going to hopefully step up to the plate, and hopefully duplicate what we did indoors, but I know that it's going to be a tremendous battle with Bowdoin.
Aaron: All right. Al Fereshetian, thanks so much.
Al: Yep, thank you.
Aaron: The following Bates teams are at home this week: Number 22 nationally ranked Bates women’s lacrosse hosts number 5 Tufts on Tuesday, Baseball and softball host Husson and UMaine-Farmington respectively on Thursday. Baseball hosts Bowdoin, softball hosts Trinity and men’s tennis hosts Middlebury on Friday. Women’s track and field hosts the Aloha Relays on Friday and Saturday. Softball hosts Trinity in a doubleheader, men’s lacrosse hosts Amherst and women’s tennis hosts Middlebury on Saturday. For a complete schedule, go to gobatesbobcats.com. And we’ll recap it all, next time, on the Bates Bobcast!