Vassar women’s rugby takes Beast of the East by storm

This past weekend, the Vassar College women’s rugby team competed in the Beast of the East rugby tournament in Portsmouth, RI.

The tournament is the largest collegiate rugby tournament in the country and is hosted by the Providence Rugby Football Club. 75 teams showed up at the tournament across all different divisions, and the Brewers, whose other sports teams usually compete in Division III, competed at the Division I level.

Vassar cleaned the field with wins against Northeastern, UMass Amherst, the University of Rhode Island, and the University of Connecticut.

After several blowout games, the women won the cup championship in a nail-biter against the University of Connecticut with a score of 15-7.

UConn had just come off an undefeated week in the Cherry Blossom Tournament, but their momentum was not enough to overcome the Brewers.

The Brewers had 22 tries and 137 points with only 17 points scored against them in the entire Beast of the East tournament.

This season, the Brewers are 16-3 overall and look to have immense potential after the win over Uconn, who won the Division I championship last season.

In the 2015 fall season, the Vassar women made it to the semifinals of the Division II championship, falling 45-26 to Winona State. The following fall, the Brewers fell in the final four once more against Davenport University 47-32.

Clearly, the VC squad will continue to make waves. They’ve climbed up from Division II and made it clear that they can beat even the best of Division I teams. #BrewUp!

 

Vassar Men’s Vball looks to have historic season, set precedent for Vassar athletics

Photo via Vassar Athletics
Written by Nicholai Babis and Ryan Lipton

The Vassar Brewers, not known for their athletic prowess among DIII schools, are on the rise. Vassar is a small liberal arts college located in the Hudson Valley of New York. With just 2400 students, the Brewers’ athletic program is starting to make noise.

The men’s soccer team made it to the NCAA Tournament but lost a heartbreaker to Elizabethtown College. The team has a promising future, though, with a good core of freshmen in place.

It is the men’s volleyball team, however, that is garnering national attention.

The men’s volleyball team is now ranked No. 2 in the country, and is on their way to the conference tournament in a league that boasts five top-15 teams in the country; the UVC is by far the best league in all of DIII volleyball. Vassar is in prime position to take home their first UVC title. They’re the top seed in the conference and host all the games at their home gym, Kenyon.

Last season, the Brewers fell in the semifinals at New Paltz. This year, they’re hoping for revenge on their home floor, with a possible rematch looming against the No. 5 New Paltz Hawks.

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Junior setter Zechariah Lee (Photo via Vassar Athletics)

Home court advantage has its obvious benefits, but junior setter Zechariah Lee doesn’t want the team to get too comfortable.

“Having the tournament at home is a luxury that can also be dangerous for us,” Lee told The JR Report. “We get to play in a familiar space with a great crowd and we get to sleep in our own beds. While all that is great, we can’t get comfortable. We need to stay on our toes and play the best volleyball we can possibly play.”

Lee has been an invaluable asset to the team during his three years at Vassar. In 2015, he was the UVC rookie of the year. The following season, he posted 998 assists (no. 4 in the conference) and 68 blocks. He’s improved on those numbers this year though, already totalling 1,041 assists in his third season.

The Brewers have never played in a UVC final match. This years team set a school record with 28 wins. Lee discussed what has made this team special:

“We go into the gym, we work hard, we get better, we play with a chip on our shoulder, and we fight. We’re not flashy, we don’t hit extremely hard, but we play as one unit and that has helped us in so many ways. Each person on this team pushes each other to get better every single day and when the people you play volleyball with feels more like a family than a team, it’ll show. We just work hard and have fun while doing it.”

After last year’s semi-final loss, Lee still hears murmurs that Vassar is “not on the same level as New Paltz or Springfield or Stevens.” Vassar has already beaten New Paltz and Stevens this season.

According to Lee, this year’s biggest surprise has been the freshmen, who’ve contributed immensely to the program’s success. One such player is Yoni Auerbach, who has 172 kills on the season.


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No. 13 Matthew Knigge (photo via Vassar Athletics)

Another key asset for the Brewers has been team MVP and junior hitter Matthew Knigge; he was just honored as the national player of the week.

After spending a semester abroad in Russia, he’s returned stronger than ever. He leads the entire NCAA Division III in blocks per set with 1.36, and is fifth in the nation (tops in the UVC) in hitting percentage at .432. He’s already posted 315 kills this season–13 more than last season–and shows no sign of slowing down.

Knigge discussed how the team’s new found energy has contributed to their play:

“Losing in the semi-finals last year and, just, then missing out on the national tournament last year definitely left us feeling pretty jaded,” Knigge told the JR Report, “so this year I think it will not only give us some energy and something to work towards, but also help us build off of our previous post-season experience.”

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Three VC seniors: Libero Trey Cimorelli, outside hitter Christian Lizana and outside hitter Quinn Rutledge (Photo via Vassar Athletics)

The Brewers earned a bye, and will be competing in the semifinals on Friday, April 14, at 2:30 PM at Kenyon Hall in Poughkeepsie, New York. The final will be held on Saturday at 2PM. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children 12 and under are free.

If you can’t make the game, it should be streaming online here.

Vassar is looking to win their first UVC league title, hopefully putting them in great position for the NCAA Tournament later this month.

#BrewUp!


 

JR Report Sale for Vassar Students and Faculty!

Vassar students and faculty! Make sure to check out the new JR Report merchandise, which is going on sale for the next 24 hours! Get your JR Report hat and/or t-shirt for just $10. There are other items for sale that you can check out on SquadLocker.

If you want to order, message The JR Report, Ryan Lipton, Nicholai Babis, or Cole Derksen on Facebook with the item you want to order and the size.

(We’re accepting Venmo and cash payments)

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The Benefit of Division III Athletics

Photo via Vassar Athletics

By Nicholai Babis

When you hear someone talk about ‘college football’ or ‘college basketball,’ your mind probably goes straight to Division I. This makes sense, because often it is the only televised division of college sports. It’s full of really talented student-athletes, many on significant scholarship, who are in essence an entertainment industry for sports fans across the country.

An oft-overlooked side to college sports is Division III athletics. Before going to college, I had only a hazy conceptualization of DIII sports—all I knew (or thought I knew) was that it was the division with ‘bad sports.’ I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy watching them.

My perception was wrong, however. Of course, by and large, DI sports teams could trample a DIII team in the same sport; DIII programs just don’t have the absurd endowments and booster programs that DI teams do.

Despite this, several sports at my school—Vassar College—perform at a very high level in Division III, and in truth, there are other factors that separate DI and DIII sports, most of them positive.

There is no outstanding benefit to being on a sports team at Vassar. The athletes come in knowing they will not have a scholarship for sports because in DIII athletics they’re not allowed.

Vassar scholarships are almost exclusively need-based, so the large portion of the endowment at a DI school that goes to athletic scholarships can be reapportioned to other aspects of the college.

An athlete at Vassar does not need to worry about not being able to attend the school because of not receiving a scholarship for sports, however. According to the Princeton Review, Vassar is the top school in the nation for financial aid. Many other small DIII schools have comparable need-based admissions programs.

Along the same vein, athletes do not receive absurd preferential treatment for admissions. Vassar is a great school with a lot to offer academically, even though it is slightly easier to be admitted as an athlete,  it still has strict admissions guidelines whether one is an athlete or not.

This makes sure that every student at the school meets Vassar’s criteria for academic excellence, which is sometimes a lacking quality in bigger DI schools. I’m sure everyone remembers a couple years ago when it was uncovered that UNC allowed over 3,000 students to take fraudulent classes in order to graduate.

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The UNC Football Program Was Accused of Taking These “Paper Classes”

Photo Credit: http://events.unc.edu/event/unc-football-vs-san-diego-state/

Half of these students turned out to be athletes, and these classes existed to make sure they met the baseline GPA requirement to keep playing their sport. Some coaches at UNC were fully aware of the scandal, and all evidence points to the fact that this went on for years.

Why is this happening? Because DI sports are a business. Many former athletes are critical of the NCAA for allowing athletes to basically be figureheads for colleges.

Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon stated in 2014 that “I was an athlete masquerading as a student … I was there strictly to play basketball. I did, basically, the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could play.”

Many athletes from different programs have come out and said that they didn’t really attend classes or do anything more than the bare minimum. This simply does not happen in DIII athletics. There aren’t ‘easy classes’ that the whole football team takes (not that we have a football program, but many DIII schools do) to stay eligible.

The last thing I’m saying is that all DI schools have ‘paper classes’ like those at UNC. I’m sure that this sort of thing has only happened a handful of times, but athletes are often boosted along their 4 years of college so they can play the whole time.

There’s a stereotype that DI athletes don’t care about their classes and exclusively attend a school to play the sport. I don’t subscribe to this thought, even though it is likely to happen.

Oftentimes athletes aren’t even given the chance to have an academic experience. From the second they step on campus they have press conferences, away games, training camps, and more to attend. Practice takes up a huge portion of their time. TV appearances and cross country travel take them away from school during exam times and classes

It simply isn’t realistic to expect a college football or basketball player to be high-performing under these circumstances.

There’s no giant cash machine dictating the actions of Vassar’s athletics program, and there’s no great demand for continued achievement as a program. Alumni and boosters don’t funnel money continuously into our sports programs, and our games don’t show up on ESPN every week.

Perhaps the most important difference between DI and DIII sports is that once an athlete is enrolled there is no continued preferential treatment.

Firstly, athletes don’t get preference for course placement. Everyone at the school has the same chances of getting into classes, and there is a fair system of course choice and major placement for all students.

There is also no separate housing for athletes. They definitely don’t receive preference for housing, and can’t choose before the rest of the student body (as happens at many DI schools).

Importantly, there is also no all-athletic housing. No athletic village, no separate dining hall for athletes with much better food. The athletes on a DIII campus aren’t separated into their own dorms or villages with better housing than the rest of campus—they live among the rest of the students and integrate with their neighbors.

They also don’t constantly receive free stuff. DI athletes don’t get paid, but they get iPads, hoverboards, and other gifts.

There is also the case of athletes not finishing their degrees. At a DI school with a good football or basketball program, athletes often don’t finish their degrees before going off to the draft.

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Jameis Winston Celebrating After Winning the National Championship (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Jameis Winston only spent 2 years at FSU before he went pro, and most students at a college will have barely even declared their major by the end of sophomore year. Clearly, his eyes weren’t on academics.

This raises the question of the value of an education. These DI athletes aren’t finishing their college degrees, and it’s clear that they are using it as simply a stepping stone on the way to professional athletics. However, for a DIII athlete, it is inconceivable for them to leave before their degree is complete.

One rebuttal to my statements here is that DIII is just different because the athletes aren’t close to being good enough for professional sports and that’s why their experiences are different.

In many cases this is true, but I would direct the reader to the good amount of DIII athletes who went pro. Next College Student Athlete has a good (but incomplete) list of DIII and NAIA athletes who ended up going pro.

Another more tangible case is Ali Marpet from Hobart College (in the same conference as Vassar—the Liberty League). Marpet starts on the O-line for the Tampa Bay Bucs and has been a great asset to the team. Clearly, some DIII athletes can still survive—and thrive—in the big leagues.

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Ali Marpet Playing DIII Football (Courtesy of Hobart College Athletics)

My last critique of DI sports is a more serious point. There are countless cases (so many that I can’t get into all of them) of universities and university police departments offering criminal levels of protections to athletes going through the conduct process for sexual assault and other crimes.

The most prominent case is the recent case of Baylor football. (Baylor’s Rape Scandal May Just Be Getting Started)

The rape scandal involves 125 women, yet the football players received almost no punishment for their actions. Baylor coaches and staff flagrantly ignored Title IX laws and obfuscated evidence to protect the football program.

Another high-profile case was the case of Jameis Winston, who was accused of raping a fellow student at FSU during his freshman year of college.

His case went up and down the conduct process at FSU, went through the FSU police department (who bungled it and dragged their feet so badly that it had to go even higher up), and ultimately got mired in the purgatory of conduct cases.

Some semblance of the case is still being handled, but the point is that he was protected by the University to try and clear him. He was never questioned by the Police in Tallahassee, and the case did not become public until a year after the alleged incident. As of now, the case has been settled (with FSU paying the accuser almost a million dollars).

Obviously, sexual assault and violence occur among both athletes and nonathletes on DIII campuses, but the protection is almost non-existent on a campus like Vassar, as it should be. Athletes should not be treated any differently when it comes to prosecuting them under the law.

At the end of the day, I still like to catch a game of college football. I’m a lifelong FSU fan, and there’s nothing like seeing my team win a national championship.

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Middle hitter Matt Knigge ’18, first-team All-American (Photos by Stockton Photo Inc.)

However, I think the often-overlooked passion of DIII athletes speaks for itself.

I’ve seen some amazing games here at Vassar. We have a #6 ranked men’s volleyball team, and some other impressive sports at the present moment. Our men’s soccer team went to the NCAA tournament this past season. DIII sports are still fun to watch and highly skilled.

Players play for the love of the game with all the prestige of the NCAA but none of the incentives from a big school, and that’s how all NCAA sports should be played. The second that we started seeing college athletics as an exploitable market, we did an injustice to all student athletes by jeopardizing their educations and the quality of their college experiences.