Category: Sports

Helle delivers game-winner in overtime

Emily Helle ’18 picked an excellent time to secure her first goal of the 2017 season, netting the Oles a thrilling 2-1 victory in a suspenseful match against St. Mary’s. In her final season, she hopes to help push St. Olaf into a playoff spot following its dramatic turnaround a season ago.

Q: What part of your game do you feel you improved most during the offseason? What’s one aspect of your game that you wish to improve upon this season?

A: I’d say the one thing I put the most time into this offseason was fitness. Each summer we receive a weekly summer training and lifting packet and I followed that pretty religiously. I also trained with some other teammates, both current and former Oles, to stay in shape. There are a lot of aspects I can improve on this season, but I’d say right now my biggest challenge is staying tighter formation-wise with my other center mid-fielders. It’s something we’ve been working on in practice and I’m excited to show everyone our progress this weekend.

Q: Now that you’re a senior, how has your leadership mentality changed?

A: As a senior I don’t think my mentality has changed too much in regards to leadership. I’m more of a lead-by-example type of player and during preseason all of the seniors worked to make the team environment as inclusive as possible. We have a great group of talented freshmen who are already making a huge difference to this program. They fit in with our team personality so well.

Q: Decribe what was going through your mind when you took the winning shot against St. Mary’s.

A: There were only 20 seconds left [in over- time] on the clock, and the whole period we had been pushing toward a goal. We all got into the 18 and Mackenzie Schoustra ’20 sent in a beautiful corner kick, which St. Mary’s struggled to clear out of the box. The only thing on all of our minds was that we needed to find a way to get anything on this ball – ahead, a shoulder, a leg, a knee. I stepped up to press the ball and it ricocheted off my chest over the keeper’s hands and into the goal. There were two seconds left on the clock and we walked away with the win. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but I think it showcased the grit that this team has to fight to the end. 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Strong team play keeps St. Olaf perfect

Chalk another win up for the Oles, now in sole possession of first place within an intensely competitive MIAC.

Heading into minute 80 of scoreless regulation play against visiting St. Benedict, St. Olaf women’s soccer once again faced an extremely tight contest likely to be decided by a single score. Luckily, as in their past two conference matchups against St. Mary’s and Bethel, the Oles manufactured a clutch, decisive goal in the closing minutes. Claire Bash ’20 capitalized on a pinpoint corner kick from Sarah Fisco ’18, launching a header into the net and securing a 3-0 start in MIAC play for a red hot St. Olaf squad. The victory marks the first time women’s soccer has started the fall with three consecutive conference wins since 2011.

True to form, the Oles maintained a healthy balance across the field, emphasizing unselfish team play and depth in order to emerge victorious. Overpowering St. Benedict consistently throughout the afternoon, St. Olaf remained on the attack without providing an inch of leeway, producing six combined shots on goal during the contest. Contributions on offense from

established starters such as Bash, Fisco and Abby Stets ’18, each with one shot on goal, were effectively supplemented with healthy production from younger players such as Maggie Wilson ’21, who pressured the St. Ben’s defense with two shots off the bench.

Another major storyline demonstrated in the contest is St. Olaf’s increasing efficiency on defense. Marissa Carroll ’21 presented a formidable obstacle in her third start at goalkeeper, one that the visitors could not overcome. However, in addition to Carroll’s efforts in goal, alongside fellow first year platoon goalkeeper Brynne Davis ’21, it’s not as if the opposition has been gifted any chances to score in the first place.

A stifling defensive wall led by veteran Kaylyn Billmeyer ’19 and emerging star Briana Linnerooth ’20, who have started every match and played a team-leading 815 and 833 minutes, respectively, has shut down any momentum from conference rivals this season, holding MIAC foes to only one goal combined. Indicated by the 1-0 final score, defense was once again the most significant key to victory against St. Benedict, as the Oles only allowed one shot on goal during the entire contest. In addition, St. Olaf’s sturdy defense silenced breakout St. Benedict forward Megan Thompson ’21, who is tied for third in the MIAC with six goals, holding her in check for zero shots on goal for the match’s duration.

This well-rounded teamwork is moving mountains for the Oles in 2017, a successful approach that they hope continues to bear fruit as they attempt to tie the school record against Gustavus with their fourth straight conference win to open the season. 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Kilian brings new leadership, tactics to Oles

The St. Olaf football program is under new management this season, now led by former St. Thomas offensive coordinator James Kilian, who hopes to lead the Oles to their first winning season since 2012.

An Oklahoma native, Kilian played football for the University of Tulsa before he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2005. He later played for the Atlanta Falcons, Hamburg in NFL Europe, the Nashville Cats in the Arena League and Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League. In 2009, Kilian began his coaching career as the offensive coordinator at Del City High School in Oklahoma. 2010 marked the beginning of his college football coaching career, which includes Tulsa University, Louisiana State University, Carleton College, University of St. Thomas and now, St. Olaf.

His decision to come here boiled down to several factors, including having the opportunity to be a head coach. When the position at St. Olaf became available, Kilian jumped at the opportunity to come back and coach in Northfield. However, Kilian remains stationed at his home in Minneapolis with his family, commuting down to Northfield as necessary.

When asked about his plans for the St. Olaf football team, Kilian detailed a multi- layered system reliant on three main areas of focus. First is character building, which leads to ethical trust.

“We talk about a brotherhood of trust, and it’s really a 3-prong attack,” Kilian said. “It’s very systematic. Simply, doing the thing you say you’re going to do, and it has to be a re-occurring experience.”

Next in his system is competency, which earns technical trust from coaches and fellow players. Kilian trusts his players to follow instructions on the practice field, which leads to enhanced reliability when it comes time to apply those same drills and lessons.

The final step is connection.

“It takes the longest to get there,” Kilian said. “That’s just personal trust. So now we’ve really connected as individuals. The actions of an individual reflects all of us. We’re all in this together.”

Teamwork and connectivity are central goals, which Kilian hopes to accomplish while taking the reins of St. Olaf’s football program. His general philosophy is, traditionally, the teams who are the closest are also usually the most competitive, emphasizing chemistry and compatibility over raw talent alone. To foster such a community, not only does Kilian have the Oles practice and work out together six days every week, but he also encourages team building activities off the field, such as bowling nights and barbecues, so players can connect as close friends in addition to their professional relationship as teammates. The team learns to trust each other, evolving football from a game to an act of connectivity.

In addition, Kilian also emphasizes the importance of intentionality.

“We talk about being intentional, not being on autopilot,” Kilian said. “The only way to do that is to think about the outcomes you want to achieve, whether it be in life or on the football field. When [the players] are intentional about what they want to achieve, winning football games are just byproducts of doing the right thing.”

Kilian uses football as a canvas and jumping-off point to create great, mature people in addition to highly skilled athletes.

“We talk about creating better young men, better people,” Kilian said. “We talk as coaches and players to have a ‘why.’ What’s our ‘why’? My why is to develop young men, better people, populating the communities they go into after graduation.”

This philosophy relates to Kilian’s expectation that 100 percent of St. Olaf’s football players use the Piper Center to properly explore career opportunities before and after graduation, fully utilizing as many campus resources as possible to help develop his athletes into well-rounded individuals.

Recruiting is one of the most important tasks for a college football coach. However, Kilian firmly believes that it’s crucial to find recruits who not only fit within the football program, but also embrace and fulfill the responsibility of being an Ole.

“We shouldn’t waste our time convincing them to come to a place that isn’t the best for them,” Kilian said. “Pick St. Olaf because it is the right place for you, and take football out of the equation.”

“All winning is is a byproduct of doing the right thing. Coaches talk about process, like it’s some mystery, and it’s not. We’re not result oriented. I don’t think you learn by being results oriented. It’s about being intentional and working hard, that’s the process. If we do that, we’ll be a good football team. 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Parker eighth at MIAC Championships

After surging to second place at the Carleton-Macalaster-St. Olaf triangular tournament, Noah Parker ’20 carried his momentum into the MIAC Championships this weekend. Posting the best individual result among all members of the St. Olaf men’s golf team, Parker shot seven-over-par across three days to finish eighth overall.

Q: Describe some of your golf background. How did you get into it, and when did you know that you wanted to pursue it at a collegiate level?

A: My parents had a golf club in my hand by the age of two. I didn’t know until second semester of my freshman year at St. Olaf that I wanted to play at the collegiate level, but I am glad I joined the team last spring.

Q: What role models or teachers have played a significant role in your improvement as a golfer and person?

A: My grandfather was a huge role model, in the game of golf and as a person. Coach Petterson has improved my golf game significantly by helping me with my short game, but I don’t model my swing after any professionals or anything as I don’t actually know very much about the mechanics of the swing.

Q: What do you feel your greatest asset is as a golfer, and what’s an element of your game that you’re striving to improve?

A: I think my greatest asset is my mental game, I love to compete and battle back in tough situations. However, I’m trying to improve my ball striking so I don’t find myself in as many bad situations. The new golf room in Skoglund should help me with my swing this winter.

Q: Regarding your performance this past weekend, what was the biggest difference maker in determining your success? What was the highlight of the weekend for you?

A: This biggest difference this weekend was my short game, especially my putting, helping me avoid big numbers on the scorecard. Highlight of the weekend for me was having family walking with me each day, as well as knowing I had to play the last two holes even to finish in the top 10, and being able to come through with two pars. 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Davis, Westermeyer impress as new starters

St. Olaf men’s and women’s soccer both feature fresh faces at the crucial position of goalkeeper this fall. Brynne Davis ’21 and Ben Westermeyer ’19 are enthusiastically embracing their new leadership roles and perpetually improving to help remedy pre- season voids in their respective rosters left by injuries and graduated starters.

“I started playing soccer when I was four, and I think it was just the classic ‘parents put their kids in a sport’ situation,” Davis said. “I just loved it and kept playing. When we started having goalkeepers – I think it started when I was eight or nine – everyone kinda tries it out because they’re all like, ‘oh goalkeeper, it’s a new position, I’ll try it,’ and then they’re like ‘oh, I hate this.’ But for some reason I just fell in love with it, so ever since then I’ve played goalkeeper.”

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was probably six years old,” Westermeyer said. “I think pretty much that whole time I was always interested in playing goalie. I’d play goalie at recess, and when we started playing in in-house leagues, I would still be one of the people to volunteer to play. When I was eleven or twelve years old I started playing travelling soccer and I’d always play goalie, and I always stuck with it and enjoyed it. I think it’s what I’m best at, too. I was just sort of drawn to it, the thrill of making a big play, a big stop. It’s a very exhilirating position – the highs are very high and the lows are very low.”

In terms of precision, decision-making and confidence, both Davis and Westermeyer work tirelessly to constantly improve, gradually maturing at the position with the quintessential experience that comes from each opposing shot on goal. However, both already bring unique strengths to an exposed, oftentimes intimidating position; Davis features impressive agility and laser focus, and while Westermeyer touts an imposing frame that significantly limits windows of opportunity for more trigger-happy opponents.

“I definitely would like to improve on high balls and being more aggressive off my line on those,” Davis said. “I’m not the tallest person on the field, so it can be a challenge. But I do think my footwork is pretty good, agility wise. It’s a large mental position too, so being able to set aside 90 minutes for a game and focus and be on the whole time, even when the ball’s not in your end, that’s a big part of it.”

“A lot of it is still making sure your defense is in a good shape even if they do clear the ball so you can get ready for a counterattack. I usually move my feet a lot and walk around a few steps just so I’m not flat-footed and always ready.”

“I feel that the combination of my size and athleticism allow me to get to balls that most people can’t get to, both diving and grabbing balls out of the air,” Westermeyer said. “I think I have an advantage there. Something to work on, which I already have been working on this year, is distribution, improving on my power and my accuracy. As you move up to higher levels, goalkeepers are expected to be part of the offense by pinpointing players out on the field and just hitting them for a counterattack. Just being able to very efficiently get the ball to a new place when I have it at my feet or in my hands.”

After anticipated starter Julie Johnson ’19 was sidelined from play after sustaining too many head injuries, Davis was thrust into the limelight, suddenly replacing her expected mentor figure rather than gradually learning from her as a rookie backup. Although the situation opened an auspicious door for Davis to rapidly improve with hands-on competitive experience in a ferocious conference, the abrupt turn of events left her and the team with a deep sense of melancholy.

“I got the email and I was really sad,” Davis said. “I had met her [Johnson] on all the visits I went on, and I loved her so much. I was just so excited, and I was like, ‘OK, this is good, there’s someone that I can learn from and I won’t just get thrown in.’ It was an exciting opportunity to step up and all, but I was pretty bummed about it, too.”

That’s not to say Davis hasn’t adapted accordingly to this sudden role reversal. Though it took an adjustment period, she has only allowed one goal during her last two starts against Hamline and St. Benedict, formidable defensive performances which elevated St. Olaf’s conference record to an impressive 4-1.

While Westermeyer experienced a more methodical, less surprising transition into the starting role, inheriting the job from a graduate rather than an injured veteran, electing to join St. Olaf soccer as a junior came with its own set of excruciating decisions. Trapped in a dilemma between his two passions, music and sport, committing to soccer meant sacrificing his chair in the St. Olaf Band, an ensemble he grew to love throughout his first two years on campus. After all, though St. Olaf is a liberal arts college, there are only 24 hours in a day, and there simply isn’t enough time to feasibly participate in both.

“When I came into St. Olaf, it was a decision that I had to make [soccer vs. music],” Westermeyer said. “That was difficult. I went with band [initially], and I don’t regret it at all. It might seem like I regret it cause I switched, but I had an amazing two years, getting to go to New York and having two really enjoyable tours, two really enjoyable concert seasons with the band. It was really a fantastic experience, it’s just that with the starting goalkeeper from last year graduating, I realized that my interest in soccer hadn’t faded. It was still there, and here was this opportunity for me to come onto the team and perhaps make an impact getting to play the sport that I love.”

“10 years from now, I’m never going to regret it if I look back and say, ‘yeah, I had two amazing years playing in the St. Olaf Band and then two amazing years playing for St. Olaf varsity soccer.’ I feel that this will be a really special experience looking back on these four years, knowing that I got to do both.”

For Westermeyer, overcoming initial nerves and reacquiring both confidence and instinct is a gradual process with the occasional growing pain, exponentially accelerated by invaluable experience stopping opponent shots on goal. Davis, on the other hand, is learning what it means to compete in a breakneck, cutthroat MIAC that prides itself on physicality, continually adapting and improving on the fly while embracing soccer beyond the field.

“It [college soccer] is definitely a lot faster paced, and the MIAC is a really aggressive conference,” Davis said. “It’s very physical. I’m a very competitive person, so I love it. Compared to my high school soccer team … the [difference in the] level of play between that and collegiate now is pretty large. Everyone’s bigger and stronger, and there’s a lot more that goes into it than just, ‘oh, I play soccer and go to practice and play on the weekends.’ You watch film and analyze everything about it. It’s a large part of your life.”

“I played for a men’s league team this summer in the MASL [Minnesota Amateur Soccer League],” Westermeyer said. “That was a great primer for me when I was getting ready for the transition, because I was playing at a high level. Even so, during the first game [with St. Olaf] against Wheaton, I was nervous. One of the weird things about playing goalie is that you don’t want the other team to have shots on you for the team’s sake, but when there are shots it allows you to build up confidence because you’re getting touches on the ball rather than just standing around. In that first Wheaton game I had a lot of touches on the ball, and it gave me the confidence that I belonged and that I was ready to take on this challenge.”

Combining tenacious work ethic with the uncanny ability to learn and adapt to their competition, Davis and Westermeyer rep- resent pivotal roles in both the near and distant future of St. Olaf soccer. If their rapid improvement thus far in 2017 is indicative of their potential heading forward, then that future appears to be in reliable hands. 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye