CASTLETON, Vt. – After a three-month period highlighted by two teams and one individual qualifying for NCAA national postseason competition, the student-athletes and coaches for the Castleton University fall sports gathered at Casella Theater Monday night to recognize the exemplary accomplishments of the season.
For the final time as president of Castleton University, Dave Wolk presented the President's Cup for Academic Excellence, given out each season to the team with the highest cumulative grade point average. For the fourth straight year, the women's cross country team received the award thanks to a cumulative GPA of 3.53.
Men's Cross Country
As a team, Castleton's best performances came at the start and close to the end of the season, as the Spartans finished second at both the Southern Vermont Invitational on Sept. 2 and the NAC Championships on Oct. 28. Grandon Smith received the team MVP award for the third consecutive year after winning five of eight races, including the NAC individual championship, and finishing 11th at the NCAA New England Regionals to earn All-Region honors and become the first Spartan men's cross country runner to qualify for the NCAA Division III National Championships, where he posted a personal-best eight-kilometer time of 25:22.98 to finish in 77th place overall.
Women's Cross Country
Castleton started the season strong with back-to-back second place finishes at the Southern Vermont Invitational on Sept. 2 and the Castleton Invitational on Sept. 9 before finishing third at the NAC Championships on Oct. 28. Senior Ali Nelson, a two-year captain, received the team MVP award after competing in all seven races for the Spartans, posting her best five-kilometer time of 23:51.3 at the Vermont State Meet on Sept. 30.
The Spartans posted their best record in four years, winning six of their last eight regular season matches for an 11-9 overall record, including a 3-2 mark within the North Atlantic Conference. Head coach Jessica Kischko was named NAC Coach of the Year after the five-win improvement, thanks in part to Gabriella Hunt earning NAC Rookie of the Year honors. Emily Lowell, the NAC Player of the Year, was named the team MVP after leading the Spartans with 17 goals and 38 total points.
After a slow start, Castleton won six of its final eight games, starting with a 28-14 victory over Norwich to regain the Maple Sap Bucket Trophy. The Spartans ended up 6-4 overall, including a 5-2 record within the ECFC to finish third in the regular season standings. Senior linebacker Jakob Trautwein received team MVP honors after leading the team in tackles for the second consecutive season. The First Team All-ECFC honoree finished with 113 total tackles, including a school-record 13.5 tackles for a loss.
Castleton won the season-opening Johnson State Invitational Sept. 1, with Jordan Ayer earning medalist honors after a five-stroke improvement from the previous year. The Spartans would go on to finish in seventh place at the NAC Championships Oct. 15-16. Senior Jon Benson received team MVP honors after leading the team with an 82.4 stroke average for the season, highlighted by a 76 at the Southern Maine Fall Classic on Oct. 8.
In its second season as a varsity sport, Castleton continued to show improvement on the field of play, tying LIU Post 10-10 on Oct. 15 and setting a single-game scoring record with 22 points against Sacred Heart on Oct. 28. Savanah Graves earned team MVP honors for the second consecutive year, picking up one of Castleton's two scores during the tie with LIU Post and also earning the Spartans' lone try against nationally-ranked Norwich in the season finale.
Guided by NAC Coach of the Year John O'Connor, Castleton won the conference's regular season title with an 8-0-1 league mark, and then shutout both New England College (2-0) and Colby-Sawyer (1-0) to win the conference tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. The Spartans, 12-7-2 overall, battled for 90 minutes before losing to national semifinalist Messiah, 1-0. Senior goalie Aaron Parker earned team MVP honors after posting a 1.10 goals against average and a .814 save percentage while notching six shutouts himself and sharing in three other clean sheets.
Despite having just three seniors on the roster, Castleton overcame its inexperience, finishing second in the NAC regular season standings at 8-1 before victories over New England College (2-1) and Husson in overtime (1-0) advanced the Spartans to their first NCAA Tournament in five years. Volunteering to switch from her normal forward position after injuries to the top two goalies on the depth chart, senior Kiley Baran posted an 11-4-1 record in net with a 1.27 GAA and a .798 save percentage, earning NAC Tournament MVP and team MVP honors.
Castleton returned to its winning ways in 2017, finishing with a 9-5 overall record, its third winning season over the past four years. Led by NAC Coach of the Year Rob Purdy, the Spartans finished in second place in the league standings at 6-1 and qualified for the NAC Women's Tennis Tournament. Sophomore Megan Nadler earned team MVP recognition after going 13-1 in singles, including 6-1 in NAC play, and 10-4 in doubles, receiving First Team All-NAC honors in singles thanks in part to an eight-match winning streak to close out the season.
With newcomers making up over half of the active roster, Castleton battled to qualify for the NAC Tournament for the third straight season, finishing fifth in the league standings with a 3-4 conference record. Maria Jackson was named the team MVP after leading the Spartans with 269 assists and 224 digs, the fourth-most assists and the eighth-most digs in a single season in program history. Jackson, a member of the NAC Volleyball Sportsmanship Team, notched eight double-doubles during the season.