The fall semester featured a number of highlights for the Lees-McRae College athletic department, with perhaps the most notable of those being the women's soccer team repeating as Conference Carolinas regular season championships.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Nick Whiting, the Bobcats posted a 12-5-2 overall record and a 10-1 mark in conference play, repeating as the league's regular season champion while advancing to the semifinal round of the conference tournament. The Bobcats finished strong in conference play, winning their last eight matches to clinch the program's second-straight league title.
Lees-McRae was well represented on the all-conference teams, earning a program-record eight selections, as senior Mary Dorn (Shallotte, N.C.) garnered first-team honors as well as the league's inaugural Defensive Player of the Year award.
Joining Dorn on the first team were freshman forward Sarah Mahar (Jacksonville, Fla.) and junior midfielder Kaitlyn Kerrigan (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.), as senior midfielder Emily Jones (Leonardtown, Md.), junior defender LeeAnn Sullivan (Greensboro, N.C.) and sophomore defender Ariana Smith (Jackson, N.J.) each earned their first career all-conference honors.
The men's soccer team fought hard all season, putting together a far better campaign than its record would indicate with several outstanding performances against some of the top teams in the country. The Bobcats opened the season with a heartbreaking 1-0 extra time loss to No. 2 Lynn University, which has advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and currently ranks 11th in the nation.
Perhaps the highlight of the season camp on September 29, when the Bobcats out-worked defending conference champion Coker College en route to a thrilling 1-0 victory on James Galvani's (High Wycombe, England) sensational extra time winner. The Bobcats dominated possession in midfield against some of the top teams in the region down the stretch, frustrating eventual co-conference champion Limestone with their fluidity en route to a hard-fought 1-1 draw on October 10.
The women's volleyball team battled through adversity throughout the 2012 season, registering several hard-fought wins while reaching personal milestones and bidding farewell to a treasured teammate and friend.
After opening the campaign with a pair of victories over UNC Pembroke and Winston-Salem State at the Wingate Classic, senior Taylor Clendenin (Statesville, N.C.) became just the fourth player in program history to reach the 1,000-kill plateau against USC Aiken on September 15 with a match-high 20 smashes. Fellow senior Megan Mitchell (Minden, Nev.) made history of her own the same afternoon, claiming the top spot on the program's all-time service aces list with an ace against North Greenville.
The Bobcats followed with a four-match winning streak, surrendering just one set against Limestone, Converse, Erskine, and Barton. Clendenin made history against Erskine on September 22, registering 16 kills to move into third on the program's all-time list.
Tragedy struck the Lees-McRae community and the volleyball program on October 15, when dear friend and teammate Meme Brown lost a long and courageous battle with ovarian cancer. Brown was a member of the women's volleyball program in 2009 and 2010, appearing in 18 matches during her freshman before being diagnosed in December of 2009. The Bobcats chose to honor Meme on October 24 with Teal Night, dedicating the match to Meme's memory and incredible spirit.
Lees-McRae put on perhaps their best performance of the season that night, sweeping King College behind a dominating display by Clendenin, as the senior outside hitter smashed a match-high 14 kills in honor of her friend and teammate. Clendenin followed with another outstanding performance on senior day against Pfeiffer, keying the Bobcats to a straight-set sweep with a match-high 11 smashes.
With the win over Pfeiffer, the Bobcats clinched a berth in the Conference Carolinas Tournament for the 15th consecutive year, earning a trip to Queens in the quarterfinals. Queens would defend its home court well in the match, however, as three Royals recorded double-digit kills en route to a straight set sweep.
Lees-McRae's cross country programs enjoyed a strong season this fall as well, turning in several strong individual and team performances. Perhaps the highlight of the season came in the first meet of the season, when sophomore Emily Shields (Salisbury, N.C.) raced to the top of the podium at the Lenoir-Rhyne Invitational.
Shields followed with a pair of strong performances at the Conference Preview Meet and the Blue Ridge Open, as the Bobcats placed third at the preview meet and second among all non-NCAA I teams at the Blue Ridge Open. A trio of Bobcats was rewarded for their work in the classroom with a spot on the Conference Carolinas all-Academic team, as Lindsey Bush (Catawba, N.C.), Cinthia Lehner (Greer, S.C.), and Heather Peterman (Buford, Ga.) each earned academic recognition from the league.
The men's team performed well this season on the whole, finishing fourth at the Conference Preview Meet and placing two harriers on the Conference Carolinas all-Academic team. Lees-McRae's freshman steadily improved over the course of the fall, as rookie Matthew MacPhail (Spartanburg, S.C.) turned in one of the performances of the season with a 47th-place finish at the conference championships to pace the Bobcats.
With the basketball season underway and spring fast approaching, the Lees-McRae athletic department is sure to become a buzz of activity and excitement as our winter and spring teams begin their championship season with high hopes of success. Bobcat Nation is encouraged to come out and show their support for all of their fellow Bobcats as they prepare to take the court or the field in their first competition of the year.
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