Remembering a magical season

Remembering a magical season

This spring marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most successful seasons in Lions athletics history. During the winter and spring of 1987, the Lions won national championships in wrestling, softball, and women’s lacrosse, while also boasting an individual champion in women’s outdoor track and field. In all, 11 teams participated in NCAA postseason action that year, and as a whole, the College compiled an impressive win-loss record of 257–68–5.

1987 wrestling co-captain Ralph Venuto ’88. Photo (c) TCNJ Sports Information

The first team to capture a title was the wrestling team, which was led by former head coach David Icenhower MA ’78. Following a 13–2 regular season, which included a perfect 5–0 New Jersey Athletic Conference campaign, the squad dominated the field at nationals, racking up 107.5 team points (SUNY Brockport was a distant second with 70.75 points). The College crowned three individual champions at the 1987 national tournament, while three others garnered All-American honors. Claiming individual championships were Tim Jacoutot ’87 at 118 pounds, Greg MacDonald ’88 at 177, and Vic Pozsonyi ’88 at 190. Those three champions are most in program history during one season. All-American citations were earned by Ralph Venuto ’88 at 134 and Dwayne Standridge ’88 at 158 (both runners-up at nationals) and Rich Widmer ’89 (who finished eighth at 126 pounds).

The softball team was hot all spring enjoying a 20-game winning streak during the season and then capping off the campaign with 17 straight victories, including a perfect 6–0 mark in the NCAA Tournament. The team finished with a record of 46–3 and topped the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater 1–0 to secure the program’s second championship under former head coach June Walker.

Pitcher Donna O’Connell ’88 went 18–1 on the mound with a .53 earned run average, while first baseman Diane Klueg ’89 led the team in batting at .446. Shortstop Pam McCreesh ’89 hit .415 on the year and third baseman Tracy Warren ’87 led the team with 52 runs as she batted .383. All four players earned All-American honors.

1987 softball co-captains Jeannine Gilsdorf '87 (standing) and Tracy warren '87.

The lacrosse program also captured its second NCAA championship in 1987, as the Lions overcame a modest 2–2 start before reeling off wins in the final 14 games of the season. The team finished with a record of 16–2 and used an exciting 8–7 overtime win over Ursinus College in the Division III Championship game to lock up the crown. Attacker Peggy Englebert ’87 forced the extra session, scoring with 3:01 left in regulation and then set up the title-clinching score by Margie Flynn ’88 in the first of the two mandatory overtime periods.

Englebert was one of four Lions named All-American for the season as she was joined by attacker Laura Groppo ’87, defender Penny Kempf ’88, and goalie Sandy Stockl ’88. The title also marked the first for head coach Sharon Pfluger ’82, who currently has 10 to her credit in lacrosse.

In track and field, Virginia Zaleski ’87 earned a spot atop the podium at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships when she won the 3,000-meter on the final lap with a top time of 9:37.87. She added a second All-American honor in the 1,500 as well.

The Lions had two other runners-up in individual events as diver Erica Huber ’90 was second in the 1-meter competition and Joli Harvanik ’89 advanced to the NCAA Division III singles final in women’s tennis. Huber also added another high finish on the 3-meter board finishing third.

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