Now progressing through the rigors of NCAA Division II Candidacy, part of Daemen’s transition is a prohibition on post-season play until gaining full membership (planned for 2015 –16), leaving the Wildcats’ athletic programs in a conundrum. With NAIA post-season no longer a possibility, and NCAA post-season still off on the horizon, what would the College do to ensure its teams the chance of competing for National Championships while navigating the NCAA membership process?
Enter the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) — a national organization boasting more than 80 members nationwide and built for small colleges and universities which sponsors National Championships in ten different sports. In their first semester affiliated with the USCAA, the Daemen Wildcats have already made their mark.
In a span of four weeks this past fall, Daemen’s men’s golf, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams captured USCAA National Championships, serving notice to the USCAA membership body that the Wildcats are for real.
It all got started in October when junior golfer Eli Cobti (Akron, N.Y./Akron) fired an opening round 74 to sit atop the leader board at the Penn State Blue Course in State College, PA. Classmate Kyle Kapturowski (East Aurora, N.Y./Iroquois Central) shot a first round 75 to sit one shot back and help Daemen establish a ninestroke lead in team standings.
Kapturowski owned the second round as he went low with a 69 to earn tournament medalist honors and coach Matt Pokigo’s team pulled away from the field, carding a team tournament low 13-over (301) to take the championship by 15 strokes.
The women’s soccer team closed the regular season by winning five of its last six games, and carried that momentum into the postseason and upset third-seeded Pennsylvania College of Technology (2– 0), and former American Mideast Conference foe Carlow University (2–1), to advance to the USCAA National Championship Game. In the final game of the tournament, the Wildcats were matched up with top-seeded University of Maine-Fort Kent — the twotime defending National Champions who entered the finale riding a 33- game winning streak and owners of three victories over Daemen during the 2012 regular season. The Wildcats took a scoreless tie into overtime before freshman midfielder Kim Obermeier (Depew, N.Y./Depew) delivered a “golden goal” in the 96th minute to give Daemen their second championship of the fall season.
Daemen’s volleyball squad was sweeping through the competition of its national tournament, held on the campus of SUNY Canton. Behind the trio of senior Joanna Fretthold (North Tonawanda, N.Y./North Tonawanda), junior Jenn Karan (Orchard Park, N.Y./Orchard Park) and sophomore Ye Wang (Beijing, China/Hachioji Jissen), the Wildcats dashed through four pool play matches without dropping a single set.
They walloped Johnson & Wales University in the quarterfinals (25 –5, 25 – 5, 25–20) and scored another straight-set victory over Rochester College (25 –22, 25 –17, 26 –24) in the semis. That set up a meeting against defending National Champion Florida College on Nov. 4, a matchup that Daemen took 3–1 (22–25, 25–22, 25 –23, 25 –19).
Going for the All-Sports Trophy
The three fall championships gave the USCAA newcomers a lead in the Director’s Cup standings — the USCAA’s version of an all-sports trophy, taking into account each school’s teams and awarding points based on their performance.
While everyone is looking forward to progressing through the NCAA Division II membership process and joining the East Coast Conference in 2013 –14, the USCAA has provided postseason opportunities for Daemen’s teams thus far — opportunities which the Wildcats have taken full advantage of.