Winter Sports Heat Up as Temperatures Drop

Rider's basketball, wrestling, track & field, and swimming & diving programs moving into high gear this month.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Just as the frost begins to settle and the temperature is in freefall, things are starting to heat up on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, with the men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, track & field, and swimming & diving programs moving into high gear this month. A number of teams, as well as individual competitors, have their eyes set on their various respective conference championships.

Men’s Basketball is in the midst of a challenging nonconference schedule, and will participate in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, beginning on Wednesday, November 17, when the Broncs square off in Los Angeles against the University of Southern California. The tournament then moves to Springfield, Mass., for the weekend, where Rider will meet Texas Christian and Loyola Marymount on consecutive days before kicking off their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) slate against rival and defending league champ Siena on Friday, November 26.

Head coach Tommy Dempsey’s Broncs were picked to finish fifth in the MAAC, a prognostication he said was fair for his talented squad.

“I think it (fifth) is a good spot, said Dempsey, who is beginning his sixth season at the helm. “It's a low-profile spot, but it is also among the better teams in the league. Anybody in the top half in the league has a chance to win the league.”

The men will be led by senior guard Justin Robinson, of London, England, and center Mike Ringgold of Philadelphia, who were both named to the preseason All-MAAC second team, as well as junior forward Novar Gadson, also of Philadelphia, who earned a spot on the third team.

On the women’s side, fourth-year head basketball coach Lynn Milligan are looking to claw their way back up the MAAC standings after a tough 2009-10 campaign, behind sophomore forward/center Caitlin Bopp of Baltimore, who nabbed a spot on the preseason All-MAAC third team. Bopp was a member of the MAAC All-Rookie team last year, when she was second in the MAAC and 41st in the nation in rebounding, and third among all freshmen.

“It is a terrific honor for Caitlin,” Milligan said. “There are a lot of guards on the preseason teams except for Caitlin so she must be considered one of the top post players in the league. I’m proud of her for that.”

Prior to kicking off their league schedule, Milligan’s Broncs will battle nonconference heavies such as Georgetown on Saturday, December 11, and compete in the 14th Lehigh Christmas City Classic on December 29 and 30 against host Lehigh and either Buffalo or Mississippi State.

Rider Wrestling opened its season during the first weekend in November with two Broncs ranked in the top 20 in the nation in their respective weight classes. Junior Jimmy Kirchner of Somerville, N.J., began his season ranked 18th in the 133-pound weight class and junior Tyler Smith of Phillipsburg, N.J., was ranked 20th at 197 pounds, according to the Amateur Wrestling News.

“Having two individuals ranked in the top 20 nationally in their weight classes is good for our young team,” said John Hangey, Rider’s associate head coach. “It shows them that if they pay the price and stay committed, they can do some very special things on a national level. That has been and will always be the expectation for the student-athletes in our program.”

Head coach Gary Taylor’s grapplers will participate in a series of tournaments, at Penn and Penn State, before making their home debut on Friday, December 10, against Army.

The Swimming & Diving team got off to an early start among Rider’s winter sports, opening its season on October 16. Already, a number of individual performers have earned acclaim from the MAAC, including senior Brianna Burns of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., who has already earned Women’s Swimmer of the Week honors twice this young season. Junior Brendan Cavallaro of Middleboro, Mass., and sophomore Brian Molloy of Toms River, N.J., also captured Men’s Diver and Swimmer of the Week plaudits, respectively, for head coach Steve Fletcher’s team.

“I’m happy for the athletes and our program,” said Fletcher, the 2008-09 MAAC and Eastern College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year now in his 10th season at Rider. “All three are major contributors to our team’s effort and they certainly deserve the recognition.”

Track & Field will be the last of Rider’s varsity winter sports to begin its season when the team heads up Route 206 for the Princeton New Year Invitational on Saturday, December 11. Senior Christian Gonzalez of Somerset, N.J., established a new indoor program record in the 1 mile last season for head coach Bob Hamer’s team, logging a time of 4:06.44. He returns this year, along with sophomore shot-putter Jorge Merino of Old Bridge, N.J., who set a new mark in the event last year with a toss of 52’1”, and senior co-captain Michael Soroko of Kinnelon, N.J., who recorded a new team best in the 3000m, running his event in 8:11.88.

For the women, senior Chelsea Callan of Hazlet, N.J., who set a new Rider indoor record in the 1 mile last year (5:01.98) returns for the Broncs.

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Senior guard Justin Robinson, of London, England, was named to the preseason All-MAAC second team.