Bates Bobcast Episode 148: Week one of fall sports

This week we are celebrating the beginning of the fall sports season at Bates with a trio of previews. We have in-depth looks at the Bates men's soccer, volleyball and field hockey programs on the latest episode of the Bates Bobcast!

Interviews this episode:

  • 0:58 -- Tyler Sheikh (Head Coach), Peder Bakken '20 and Blaise Marceau '21 (Captains), Men's Soccer.
  • 12:02 -- Melissa DeRan, Head Coach, Volleyball.
  • 19:40 -- Dani Ryder Kogut, Head Coach, Field Hockey.

Bobcast Transcript

Aaron: This is the Bates Bobcast! Our weekly podcast where we take a look at the week that was, in Bates athletics. My name is Aaron Morse and this week we are celebrating the beginning of the fall sports season at Bates with a trio of previews. Get ready for in-depth looks at the Bates men’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey programs, coming up, on the Bates Bobcast! 

Aaron: The Bates men’s soccer team opens its 2019 campaign this week with road matches against the University of Maine-Farmington and Hamilton. The Bobcats take on the Beavers Tuesday at 3pm and they square off with the Continentals in the NESCAC opener Saturday at 1:30pm. Bates is coming off its second straight winning season after posting an overall record of 8-7 a year ago. 

Aaron: Well time to preview the men's soccer season here on the Bobcast, we've got head coach Tyler Sheikh, senior captain Peder Bakken and junior captain Blaise Marceau with us. Coach Sheikh let's start with you, your second year here at Bates, what'd you learn from that first year that you're going to apply to this season about, you know, leading the Bobcats and obviously it was a hot start to last year kinda cooled off down the stretch but what were some of the major takeaways from last year?

Tyler: Yeah I think, you know, everyone knows how athletic of a conference the NESCAC is. Certainly, athletically, I think at a mid-major Division I clip, but until you're out there with these guys that are pulled at a million one different directions, mental energies, physical energies can decrease throughout the season. You know, I think the boys worked really hard in the off-season and they got themselves primed and ready to go to, I think, have staying power through the entire October and hopefully into November.

Aaron: Great and Peder you've obviously spent time in different positions in your career right now at center midfielder though I mean, last year seemed like a big season for you. What did you take away personally that you're gonna try to apply to take the next step this year as a soccer player?

Peder: Anything individually always just comes from a team like I have to thank my teammates a lot last year for putting me in positions, any goals I scored was created by other people. So I think my biggest takeaway has also been just on the field is that we need to bring it every minute and, that may seem obvious but at the same time, there were a couple times in some of those games where we switched off for 15 minutes and that killed us.

Aaron: Blaise, it's pretty cool your older brother was a captain last year as a senior and now you're captain this year. What does that mean to you to be one of the captains?

Blaise: Well I'm really honored to be in this position, and especially 'cause one of our senior head captains Tony had to step down 'cause of a serious knee injury. I was actually given a little bit more responsibility than anticipated. And with Aleks as the head captain last year, it's really cool to talk to him every day on the phone about how to do this, how to do that. I have so many questions for him every day, and it's really cool to get that guidance from him. So, a lot of new faces, a lot of new bodies with the new incoming class and so I think I just take things one step at a time like Aleks did, making sure the guys get gelled in and staying regimented, and just good guidance from Peder and the whole senior class really. It's awesome to have Aleks and the alumni to talk to as well.

Aaron: Sure, you touched on the fact that there's a lot of new faces, I know coach there's a lot of first-years competing for a spot this year, aren't there?

Tyler: About half the roster.

Aaron: Yeah.

Tyler: So I thought last year when I came in and it's a whole new team that, you know, I needed to get up to speed quickly, and we thought we'd be in a different place this year but it's kind of the same thing all over again. But obviously the returners and I are in great spirits and feeling great about welcoming these newcomers including two transfers who I think can have an immediate impact, Alec and Owen. And then, yeah, ultimately it takes time, this isn't going to happen overnight, but championships are the goal with what we're doing and we're trying to strive for that championship standard daily.

Aaron: Certainly, and, you know, Peder, as a senior what are some goals in your mind for the team, what do you want to see from your fellow Bobcats this year along with yourself?

Peder: I think our biggest challenge is gonna be forming like a team identity or team unity especially with so many newcomers. But then also as a team goal, let's just beat Hamilton. Let's beat UMF. Our first two games of the season let's start with wins, let's focus there and then we'll take it from there.

Aaron: Blaise I've seen you play the last few years, you've got a lot of passion back there. Where'd you get that energy from, 'cause like you're always all over the field seemingly?

Blaise: I mean, I think that comes from my family. My whole family's very active and everyone's an athlete. And yeah, I mean just throughout my career I've always been after that spitfire attitude.

Tyler: Blaise is a fan favorite, let's be honest. My wife says, "I love Blaise", after every game.

Aaron: Well yeah it's noticeable and it seems like you're passionate when you're playing out there, but coach I gotta ask you, you know, obviously Robbie Montanaro graduating so the goalkeeper spot is open essentially, who are some guys competing for that?

Tyler: Yeah so we have senior Owen Lindenfeldar. We've got junior and fellow junior captain with Blaise, David Goodstein. And then newcomer Ryan Manning. And I think all three of them have been tussling the first two, three sessions we've had. It's gonna be close. When you lose a player like Robbie, who's off in Scotland right now pursuing dreams, it's something that create sort of a vacuum, and I think we got three good players getting sucked up there and whoever's positioned there we know they gotta perform at an all conference type standard and I think out of the three of them, they can do it.

Aaron: Blaise we're back to you real quick 'cause you do play on defense. What's it like working with these new, not new necessarily, but guys trying to compete for that job that Robbie had the last three years?

Blaise: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we're doing work with back four today, so just starting with back four is definitely interesting to see some new guys in back four and see how they kind of gel in like I was saying before, and just kind of learning each other's styles and that's going to trickle down seeing how we can work with one of the goalies the best.

Aaron: And then Peder the senior class includes guys like Eric Opoku, Beaufils Kimpolo, I can't believe they're seniors already but they've been contributing for quite some time, in different roles kinda it seemed like, right?

Peder: Yeah we have a lot of guys on our team that have switched positions over their career. It was funny because when we came in as freshman out of our class of twelve we had I think nine kids that said they were center back, which was a little intimidating the first couple of days you're trying to make friends and it's like, "Oh, I'm competing with eight other kids that play my position." But I think everyone in our class has done a great job with taking those position changes in stride and really just working hard at it.

Aaron: Do you have a vision for the two guys I just mentioned, Beaufils and Eric, for this year?

Tyler: Yeah. We're gonna try and squeeze some more out of Beau, I know we had a monster sophomore season. My predecessor last year Stew did a fantastic job again leading such a fantastic foundation. And Beau and Eric have those qualities that can change a game on its head. We know about 'em. Problem is everyone else knows about 'em too. So how can we incorporate them into the team set up where everyone's buzzing, we don't wanna be a one trick pony or a two trick pony. When we play against a team, I want our opponents to be taking stock of every position as a potential scorer.

Aaron: And then Blaise based on how last year started versus how it ended, what's some thoughts in your mind about maintaining the quality of playing throughout the whole year.

Blaise: I mean in this new captain role, I'm gonna, like I was saying before, stick to this one thing at a time approach-

Aaron: Right.

Blaise: There's a scope to that approach. So I mean, talking with the bigger side of that, we're looking at getting these guys situated, all the newcomers, and then making sure they're regimented, organized, and falling in line, do what they're told, do their job, make sure everyone does their job and hopefully that makes Tyler and Chris' job easier. And so as long as you stick to the game plan, stay organized, regimented, like I said, should be smooth sailing.

Aaron: Certainly. Tyler tell us about your two new assistants this year.

Tyler: Yeah so it was a bummer to lose Joshy, he was kind of the one foot with Stu one foot with me, the guys loved him, and he's doing big things down at College of William and Mary. But we were able to bring in Chris before the summer and he's learned the ropes really well, he's been all over the country summer recruiting and then hitting the ground running, there's not many assistants that can run a session the way Chris can. So it's an absolute luxury for me to have 'cause I can play with this sized roster with a lot of new faces play man manager as opposed to just a coach. And then Tommy Clark who's working with our goal keepers, fresh out of Western Michigan, can put the ball wherever they want it so I think they're gonna be excited with a lot of the reps they're getting and yeah, we're excited with the new staff. Young staff just like a young team but I think we're more than up and coming, I think we're the here and now Bobcats.

Aaron: Great. Peder I know you've played in Portland over the off-season in the past. What was your process like in this off season to get ready for your senior year?

Peder: So I was studying abroad at the University of Oslo, so I was there for a little over six months, and I when I was there I started to play for an amateur side the fourth division side which was really fun. It was actually the club my dad played for growing up so that was really cool. During the winter, there was a lot of snow which made it challenging to train-

Aaron: Right.

Peder: So I did a lot of cross country skiing and got really into that which I had never really done much before. So that was a lot of fun and then once the snow melted obviously joining the team and getting out there and playing a lot.

Aaron: Wow so playing in Oslo, what's the level of competition like compared to the NESCAC?

Peder: It's a lot different of a style of soccer. It's very European, a goalkeeper gets the ball building out of the back, just goal kicks everything it goes short and then just trying to pass from the back. Whereas the NESCAC and college soccer in general is a lot more of an athletic, it's more direct. And so I kinda had to adapt my playing style the first couple of days. I remember the first game I played in, my coach was getting mad at me 'cause I kept going for long balls to wingers over the top, which is something we do a lot at Bates, or try to do at Bates. But that's not necessarily what he wanted.

Aaron: Interesting. And in terms of the culture and stuff, what's it like playing overseas?

Peder: It's a lot of fun. I think one of the things that was really cool about Oslo was that all of the clubs have their own field and their own locker room, so when you're traveling to a different side, you know specifically what field it's gonna be on, it's always on the same field and you have locker rooms. And so within a city they have thirty big clubs like that that all produce these senior sides and all compete at a high level and that's something that goes with the promotion and relegation side of soccer that happens in Europe unlike American soccer where there's just static leagues.

Aaron: Excellent. How's that new grass on Russell Street Field treating you guys?

Tyler: We have the best alums, the best donors in the NESCAC so, super thrilled with the parents that we're able to step up and provide that for us and one year I thought we went maybe, possibly, towards the bottom end of NESCAC facilities in my opinion to some of the best soccer facilities in NESCAC with the indoor turf, which is a game changer, a brand new sodded, recently resurfaced grass field, and we love Leahey where we get after it for our practice field. So no complaints out of us.

Aaron: Tyler Sheikh, Peder Bakken, Blaise Marceau, looking forward to the men's soccer season and thanks so much.

Aaron: The Bates volleyball team heads to the Husson Invitational this weekend for four matches over the course of two days. Bates posted an overall record of 14-9 last season, the program’s best record since 2009. The Bobcats also put together a solid NESCAC season, qualifying for the conference tournament. But fifth-year head coach Melissa DeRan has higher expectations entering 2019.

Melissa: I think that was a good season, we obviously did better, but I think it also left a little bit of an empty taste in our mouth and they want to do even better than that, we could have done better than that. So I think it's just the right mix of seeing some improvement but also feeling like we left some stuff on the table. So it's been a good way to kind of push into 2019.

Aaron: And then Gabi, the libero, she's been playing since day one-

Melissa: She has.

Aaron: Right, I mean she's been outstanding.

Melissa: She has, she's been great. It's hard to wrap my mind around that Gabi and Taylor and Jules and Jordan and Sam are seniors. So it's funny to sit here and hear you call her a senior and yeah, she is. But yeah, Gabi, she's seen a lot of court time since day one, Taylor's seen a lot of court time since day one, and even my other three where maybe the court time hasn't been extensive as those two but, the leadership and the character that that entire class has brought to our entire program has been outstanding.

Aaron: And Julia Panepinto got her chance last year and really made the most of it.

Melissa: She did and she earned it. She bid her time and worked so hard for two years and was just the most solid teammate and really, and I've said this before, in some ways our MVP as our second setter who was running, you know, our practice courts. So she certainly deserved her chance last year and she made the most of it.

Aaron: Certainly. So you don't open with NESCAC play right away like some other teams we have in the fall sports. You get a tournament up there in Bangor, you get some non-conference road matches, so what are you looking for, what are you looking to see out of your squad first few matches as you prepare for NESCAC play?

Melissa: I think this year our focus is gonna be much more on offense and seeing can we get our offense, getting it a little quicker, getting it a little more advanced, being able to move some people around the court and doing that sooner is gonna be a big focus for us. And it's nice that, you're right, to have a couple games to break that new system in before we see Amherst and Middlebury.

Aaron: Gabi was NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year two years ago and the defense looks like it's been rock solid so what offensively are you looking to try to improve?

Melissa: Just being able to put more balls down quicker. We defend very well, we rally very well, we do those things but we exhaust ourselves doing those things so really our focus now is offense and getting our kills per set, our kills per game percentage higher, hitting percentages higher, and so that's been and it's gonna be a very strong focus for us in our first few weeks of the season.

Aaron: Excellent so how 'bout the first-year kids you have coming in, what stood out about them when you were recruiting?

Melissa: Well, always better people make better Bobcats, they're just amazing young women. I think the big thing was they were gonna fit the culture that we've created, that my seniors again have had a big part in creating and they fit in that very well, and then going with the offensive theme, I have two pin hitters that are very versatile and then I have two setters. So looking for just more offensive firepower with this class.

Aaron: I saw you got some six footers, right?

Melissa: Yeah, yeah, always nice. They're at least on the roster, they are.

Aaron: Certainly and then, Taylor being an outside hitter, Angel being a middle hitter, we've seen them have a lot of impact on their careers. For those who don't follow volleyball maybe as closely, middle hitter versus outside hitter, what are some of their responsibilities? How are they similar, how are they different?

Melissa: Sure. An outside hitter kind of carries the majority of the offensive workload so they get a majority of the sets. And in the women's game, you live or you die offensively by your outside hitters. However, having strong middles makes the other team's defense really miserable so, why they may not get set as often, their kill percentage tends to be higher so they tend to be a little bit more efficient. So the goal for us is to get our middles established as early as humanly possible both in the set and in the year and that's really gonna free up our outsides, their job is gonna be a little easier if we can do that.

Aaron: So it's these early days of practice obviously so important you have them in two times a day, maybe get some meetings in as well. What are some points of emphasis, you mention offensively but other stuff maybe integrating the newcomers into the system?

Melissa: It's tough in the NESCAC and every team will tell you, our preseason's just so short so it's really looking at all these things that you wanna do and try and pick what are the biggest dominoes to fall 'cause there's just so much. For volleyball specifically, we're just trying to get them to see a ball coming over the net, just their ability to read and react to things that it takes a little while for that to catch up so we've been doing a lot of small group games trying to get their eye work sequences down, just get them back in the flow of things to start. But after that, volleyball, it's a serving and a passing game so that's gonna become our emphasis for the next quite a few practices is getting back into that system.

Aaron: When you look at the top 25 you don't often see NESCAC volleyball teams there, maybe a couple are getting votes or not, so do you sense an opportunity for, basically, move up within the conference?

Melissa: Absolutely. And I will say, you're correct, I will say this year, we've got Wesleyan up there, we've got Bowdoin up there, Tufts is going to be getting votes, and I think there's one more. But you're right and I think some of that is a result of our late start compared to the rest of the country who plays this weekend where we just came into preseason today. So I think that's a little different because I think if you look at the end standings versus the beginning standings, then you'll start to see some of the NESCACs move their way in there. But one of the things we've really preached with our team is, yeah we wanna move up NESCAC rankings but the end of the day we want to be going to the NCAA tournament, we wanna be doing things there, and I don't wanna get us so wrapped up in the conference that we're not looking at the bigger picture of, well no, we wanna be a national team, we don't wanna just be a top NESCAC team.

Aaron: How often are you talking to alums because I know, I mean, volleyball at Bates, 1989 undefeated, there's a proud tradition here right?

Melissa: There is and I think that is probably the summer and moving into this fall, has been one of our biggest focuses. We're gonna have an alumni game for the first time. This year we're gonna have a lot more activity with them, we're creating, updating databases because there has been a very proud tradition here for a long time and there's just kinda been a slip in that correspondence so for the summer that was actually a huge project I took on and also one of our graduating seniors Lauren Brough took on as well and has made some videos and some newsletters that we're gonna start kind of flashing out as we go here so that's super important to us is getting in touch with them.

Aaron: How would you define a successful year this season?

Melissa: I think we've made the NESCAC tournament now and I think that, you don't want to take that for granted, by any means, but at the same time that's not good enough for us anymore. So I think success for us is gonna be defined by making the NESCAC tournament, doing damage when we get there, and being in the mix for an at large bid for the NCAA tournament, if not outright winning the championship 'cause that's how you do it, you either win the NESCAC championship or you win those at large bids. And putting ourselves in those conversations, that's what we're chasing and that's where we should be. It's just the process of getting us there.

Aaron: The Bates field hockey team will not get any non-conference tune-ups before NESCAC action. The Bobcats visit Hamilton this Saturday for an 11am match against the Continentals. Remarkably, each of the last seven games between Bates and Hamilton have been decided by one goal. We sat down with seventh-year head coach Dani Ryder Kogut to take a look at the upcoming season.

Aaron: Some big losses in graduation like Taylor Lough obviously had a huge role, a number of other seniors as well, so who are some of the players who you're looking to kinda fill those voids a little bit?

Dani: Well we have a really good core group of returners who are excited for, I think that they put a lot of work in this summer, that's been very apparent in our pre-season sessions, ready to step up and fill some of those roles. And then we have some great newcomers as well. So a little too early to tell specifically who's gonna fill roles but we're really happy with the first couple practices.

Aaron: So what are you looking for from the team in those first two practices, what are some points of emphasis for you?

Dani: Yeah so big points of emphasis again is just seeing that they've prepared over the summer, which was really clear to us, our first stick and ball session did not look like a first session to us. It was really obvious that they've spent a lot of time training this summer which is such a great place to start. And because of that we can see that their confidence and all of that is looking really high because they have prepared for season. So really these first couple of days before we prepare we actually scrimmage Tufts on Sunday before we head to Hamilton the following weekend. So our plan for the next sessions of pre-season is to get through all of our structural components before we hit Tufts so a lot to cover in a very short amount of time.

Aaron: Right so by the time people hear this you would have already scrimmaged Tufts but in terms of Tufts, that scrimmage each year with them I think, last few years at least, really important to see where the team's at right?

Dani: Yeah it's a great opportunity for us to scrimmage somebody top in our conference, just see where we are for that season. It's a good opportunity too to rotate people into different positions for kind of going back and forth between maybe where we see somebody playing. So really nice that we have that opportunity each year to scrimmage them before we head off our first game.

Aaron: And then, in terms of in goal, Ellie Bauer got a lot of playing time last year as a first-year, probably a lot more this year as a sophomore. What do you see from her in terms of her development?

Dani: I mean, her fitness looks really great. I think where Ellie developed really nicely last year was in her communication and that's come back strong again this season. She definitely knows the game of field hockey very well and she knows what she wants her defense to do in front of her. So we expect her to continue to play that role in our defense and really kind of constructing that communication and getting it going.

Aaron: Tell us about your captains this year starting with Grace Fitzgerald, someone who has been just a huge contributor her whole career here.

Dani: Yeah she really has, she's been such a staple for us as a center mid, and she looks great, she came back ready to go. We expect her to play a really important role as that center mid again this year, again she knows the game very well, she's a super smart player so having her in that center spot is key for us, kind of to build our attack and our defense. So really excited to watch her her senior year and the other two captains who are seniors as well.

Aaron: That being Alexa Jurgeleit and Abby Ford right, and Alexa she's been playing since day one?

Dani: Yeah she has. She hit the ground running as a first-year as a defender and she's done a great job back there so she'll be the anchor of our defense again playing center back with Abby out to her right as our right back. The two of them work very well together, they're very calm patient players. Lex has this great ability to see opportunities just go with speed and attack up the midfield which is a really nice element of her play. Abby is just very composed under pressure and I think she's a person that our defense needs in those tougher moments to just get them in the right mindset.

Aaron: I've talked before with some of the soccer players how they work with their goalkeeper, how do field hockey players work with their goalkeepers on defense, the defenders specifically?

Dani: Yeah so it's definitely a very close relationship between defenders and our goalkeeper. Our goalkeeper at times will do the majority of the communication but there are times where defense takes that over and it's really a constant communication between the two groups of what do we need, where are we forcing the ball, what's our plan, 'cause they have to all be on the same page for it to go well.

Aaron: We talked about the scrimmage with Tufts being important and then the NESCAC opener at Hamilton. It seems like the Hamilton game has really been a tough matchup, you've gotten them a couple times, they've gotten you a couple times, really even.

Dani: Yeah it seems like a tradition at this point that we always get them first. But it definitely has been a challenging matchup right at the beginning and definitely a game that has a lot of impact on the overall season so one that we set our sights on even as soon as the following season ends we know that we'll probably open up with them. So I think it will be a great matchup and I think that we're approaching pre-season a little bit differently this year which will allow us to prepare more for that game than we have in the past. We've always, kind of, our pre-season's so short here in comparison to some of our peers and so we always feel like we're scrambling to get prepared for that first game in a one week span and so now we're just approaching it a little bit differently so that we can kind of, in a way, make that one week feel a little bit longer.

Aaron: And the players, as you mentioned, came ready it sounds like, so it shouldn't be anything slowing you down, right?

Dani: Right and that was key and we talked a lot to the team about that last year before they left to prepare that this only works if they come back prepared and we can only make this our plan if they're ready to go and they were so that's great, we were able to start our first stick and ball session digging right into structure and how we play versus, in past years, we've had to spend at least two to three days kind of getting everyone in the same place so it's nice not to have to spend those days and giving up that time.

Aaron: Terrific. Your assistant coaches the same as before or any newcomers?

Dani: Nope it's just Katherine and I this year. Katherine Bowie is back for her third season of the program, really excited to have her back for a third year. She has a great field hockey mind, I think she connects really well with our team and her energy's great so it will be a good year just the two of us holding down the fort.

Aaron: Any other thoughts on the upcoming season, what you're most intrigued about maybe, what you're looking forward to to see how the team responds?

Dani: I think I'm most looking forward to just seeing what the team does building off of kind of how they expanded as a group over this past spring and some goals and just a culture setting that they started to develop, I'm really excited to see that in action because they've spent a lot of time on it. And I think overall we have a really strong team so we have a really nice balance of five seniors who are terrific, amazing players who have spent a lot of time on the field in their four years. And so to have that many seniors coming back who have had significant roles is really key and then we have some great newcomers and our sophomore and junior class kind of anchor the middle with some really strong players who again already had a good number of game time experiences.

Aaron: All right, Dani Ryder Kogut, thanks so much.

Dani: Thank you Aaron.

Aaron: The women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country and golf programs also get their seasons underway this week, with the women’s soccer team traveling to Maine Maritime on Tuesday and to Hamilton on Saturday. Meanwhile the cross country teams square off with Colby at Pineland Farms in their annual class meet and the golf teams compete in the Bowdoin Invitational this weekend  Check out last week’s Bobcast for interviews with those program’s head coaches. And next week, we’ll recap week one of fall sports and preview the football season, on the Bates Bobcast!