Author: Stephen Nolan

Is the Champions League losing its spark?

The semi­finals of the UEFA Union of European Football Associations Champions League are upon us once again, with Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich proving to be the cream of the crop as the four remaining teams in the competition once again. However, many have argued that football’s greatest club competition is becoming increasingly stale and predictable, with the same rich clubs always progressing to the final rounds. Others have criticized the way in which teams have been drawn, often playing the same teams year after year in the group stages. Has the Champions League lost some of its luster, or is the it still captivating fans around the world.

There is certainly a great deal of evidence to suggest that the tournament has been dominated by a small number of teams in recent years. For example, Real Madrid has reached the semifinals in each of the last four years and Bayern Munich has missed the semifinals only once since the 2009­-2010 season. It is clear that this tournament is becoming more and more predictable as the years go by and it looks to remain that way for the future.

Additionally, the predictability of the group stage draw has not helped to heighten the excitement surrounding the tournament. Bayern Munich and Manchester City have played each other in the group stages for three of the past four seasons, as have Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. Personally, I feel that a huge part of the excitement of the Champions League is watching teams that rarely play compete head to head. ­The repetition of certain fixtures is making the event increasingly dull.

The fact that a small selection of teams dominate the tournament each year is not surprising. It is representative of the way football is currently operating worldwide. The English Premier League is dominated by the “Big Four,” Real Madrid and Barcelona battle it out in La Liga each season and Bayern Munich runs away with the Bundesliga year after year. There are only a small number of elite sides in domestic competitions and this carries over to the Champions League. Most sides simply do not have the resources to compete for a league title around the world. A monopoly of money and talent has affected leagues in every country.

The Champions League is following the same trend. Last season, all eight group winners won their first knockout round. Many agree that this is extremely problematic to the tournament’s success because many teams find themselves unrepresented in late rounds.

“The aim for the Champions League has to be for every game to mean something but, at the moment, they do not,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher wrote in his D​aily Mail column two seasons ago. “Group stages have fizzled out and it has only been from the quarterfinals that the competition has come alive.”

The Champions League has a serious problem on its hands, and it needs to find a way to reinvent itself in the near future or risk becoming an obsolete tournament that will lose football fans around the globe.

nolans@stolaf.edu

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Ole womens tennis powers past Royals

The St. Olaf women’s tennis team took on Bethel University on April 25 at Bethel’s home courts in Arden Hills, Minn. It was the last regular season match of the 2015 season. The Oles, who were looking to secure the fourth seed for the MIAC playoffs, did not disappoint, recording a resounding 9-0 victory.

After losing all three doubles matches to University of St. Thomas three days earlier, St. Olaf needed to get off to a better start this time around. Lisa Hall ’16 and Maya MacGibbon ’16 provided the early boost for the Oles, winning 8-4 at number one doubles. Margaret Zimmerman ’18 and Kristi Kroker ’15 were dominant at two doubles, recording an 8-3 victory. Erin McDonald ’18 and Andrea Jumes ’15 completed the doubles sweep for the Oles with a tight 8-6 win at third doubles, giving St. Olaf a 3-0 over the Royals.

Singles play also proved to be straightforward for the Oles, with all six players winning in straight sets. Hall was ruthless at one singles, defeating her opponent 6-0, 6-0. Kroker was also strong at two singles, powering to a 6-1, 6-1 win. Zimmerman was pushed in her first set at three singles, managing to stay calm under pressure at 5-4 and served out the set to take it 6-4. The second set was more comfortable, as she rolled to a 6-0 victory, taking the set and the match. Erin Hynes ’15, who only played singles for the Oles, recorded a 6-2, 6-0 win at fourth singles. Bailey Kent ’16, like Zimmerman, fought to win the first set 6-4 at fifth singles, but did not drop another game en route to a 6-4, 6-0 scoreline. Finally, McDonald sealed the 9-0 sweep for St. Olaf with a 6-2, 6-3 win at sixth singles.

St. Olaf finishes its regular season with a 7-3 MIAC record, enough for fourth place in the conference. The Oles defeated College of St. Catherine 7-2 on April 29 in the MIAC quarterfinal, earning them the right to face Gustavus Adolphus College in the semifinal on May 1.

nolans@stolaf.edu

Photos courtesy fo St. Olaf College Athletics.

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Ole tennis clinches playoff position

The St. Olaf women’s tennis team took on the College of St. Benedict on April 18 in a MIAC clash that was important to both teams’ playoff aspirations. Nothing could stop the Oles, as they rolled to an 8-1 victory.

The match started off in a troublesome fashion for the Oles, as the number one double tandem of Margaret Zimmerman ’18 and Kristi Kroker ’15 fell to a heavy 0-8 defeat. However, St. Olaf rallied in the number two and three doubles positions, with Lisa Hall ’16 and Maya MacGibbon ’16 winning second doubles 8-4, and Erin McDonald ’18 and Bailey Kent ’16 giving the Oles a 2-1 lead with a tight 8-6 victory at the third doubles position.

With a slender advantage heading into singles play, the Oles were relentless, winning all six matches in straight sets on their way to a dominant victory. Hall led the way at number one singles, winning 6-3, 6-4. Hall has an outstanding 12-2 record in singles over the course of the season.

Kroker had a battle at number two singles, where she edged her opponent by a scoreline of 7-5, 6-4. Not to be outdone, MacGibbon controlled her third singles match from start to finish, recording a 6-1, 6-3 victory. Zimmerman also fought through a tough first set at fourth singles, which she won 6-4. However, she raced away with the second set 6-1 to score a comfortable win. The fifth and sixth singles matches proved to be no problem for the Oles, as Erin Hynes ’15 and Kent won their matches 6-1, 6-1 and 6-3, 6-0 respectively.

The Oles, with a conference record of 6-2, have secured their playoff spot, despite having two remaining regular season matches to complete. They will be joined in the playoffs by the University of St. Thomas, Gustavus Adolphus College, Carleton College, College of St. Catherine and one other team that has yet to be determined.

St. Olaf appears destined to begin its postseason campaign in the quarterfinal round on April 29. The Oles will be looking to improve on last season’s performance, where they fell in the quarterfinal to College of St. Catherine 4-5.

nolans@stolaf.edu

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St. Olaf Sentiments: April 24, 2015

Its common knowledge that St. Olaf College is superior in every meaningful and tangible way to our dear friends over at Carleton College.

Gone are the days of the 1930s, when students from each college would fight it out in downtown Northfield, in scenes of destructive violence the Oct. 18, 1961Carletonian edition indicated that one store owner claimed his glass window had been smashed eight times from 1923-1936 due to the colleges students clashing.

Fortunately, we no longer have to resort to these brutish displays, but there are several other ways that Oles still reign supreme over Carls.

1. Athletics: do we even need to bring this one up? Its often said that the St. Olaf-Carleton rivalry is mainly about sports, but its not really fair to call something a rivalry if one side wins basically every time.

Sure, Oles will occasionally be kind and let the Knights win the odd game of volleyball or tennis to keep their spirits up, but most of the time, its not even fair.

Our friends do like to celebrate these rare victories in fashion though. For example, last year, following a late goal in a soccer game between the two colleges, several Carls raised their middle fingers, and even pulled down their pants to reveal their bare buttocks in front of the Ole fans in celebration. Talk about seizing the day.

Luckily for us, their hair basically touched the ground and obscured most of their pale derrières from our view. It was the first time in my life Id ever appreciated awful hippie haircuts.

2. Food: Its all in the numbers. Go ahead and take a look at the Princeton Reviews 2015 edition of the “Best 379 Colleges,” and youll find St. Olaf comes in at #5 in the Best Campus Food category. I dont even know where Carleton ranks, because whats the point of looking past the top 10 to see who all the losers are? A Carl might argue back, and say something about how great their entrance SAT scores are over there. But you know what, I cant eat an SAT score, so I really couldnt care less.

3. Fictional Alumni: lets just compare two fictional alumni from each of the two colleges. Carleton has Ben Wyatt from the television seriesParks and Recreation. I hate that show, and I think its stupid. St. Olaf has Jay Gatsby fromThe Great Gatsby. I like that book. St. Olaf – 3. Carleton – 0.

4. Geography: its time to consider the most basic reason that were superior. Were on a hill, and theyre at the bottom of it. You know what else was built on a hill? Ancient Rome, and that was pretty cool, wasnt it?

Basically, what Im getting at is that if both schools decided to go to war, it would be easy for Oles to repel the invading Carls. I know, its a hypothetical, but you never know when theyre going to get sick of eating their inferior food and decide to attack.

There are a lot of other reasons St. Olaf reigns supreme over Carleton, but I cant list them all. I have things to do, like interact in a non-socially awkward way with my friends, make eye contact with people, do something athletic or eat good food. You get the point.

nolans@stolaf.edu

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Oles host annual Manitou Classic

On April 17, the St. Olaf women’s track and field team hosted the Manitou Track and Field Classic. It was a highly successful outing for the Oles, as several athletes topped their events and many others placed highly throughout the day.

The event began with the 3,000 meter steeplechase, and it was Piper Bain ’16 who started the day off in style for the Oles, as she raced to a victory in a time of 11:26.58. Following Bain’s lead, Dani Larson ’15 dominated the 100 meter hurdles, running the event in 15.32 to finish .09 seconds ahead of her nearest rival. Larson has continued her strong form from the indoor track and field season, where she finished seventh in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III National Championships. Finishing just a few places behind Larson in the hurdles was Masha Grizhebovskaya ’18, who ran a time of 16.39 seconds to finish in fifth position.

Larson, not content with just one victory, backed up her performance by winning the long jump event, covering a distance of 5.15 meters to claim victory. She was also a part of the 4 x 100 team, along with Lillie Meakim ’18, Abby Stets ’18 and Madison Van Wylen ’16, which won the relay by nearly two seconds over rival University of St. Thomas.

Stets also starred for the Oles. In addition to contributing to the victorious relay team, she also claimed two other events. She won the 400 meter race in a scintillating time of 57.95 seconds and was a member of the 4 x 400 team that dominated with a time of 3:56.65. Other members of this winning team were Suzie Hoops ’17, Van Wylen and Larson.

Annika Johnson ’18 performed strongly for the Oles in the discus throw, throwing a distance of 36.04 meters to finish in third place.

St. Olaf will compete in several more events over the coming weeks in order to prepare for the MIAC Championships, which will be held on May 8 and 9 at Macalester College.

nolans@stolaf.edu

Photo Credit:MADISON VANG/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote