August 27-September 2, 2009 • The Journal
Page 9 • www.webujournal.com
Youth is served for Gorlok golfers Team enters fall season without a senior; Belsky names junior Robby Meeh captain
BY JONATHAN WEBB Sports Editor
If experience were a direct ref lection of a team’s success, Andrew Belsky would be in a bind this fall. After graduating two of the more decorated golfers in the program, Webster University’s golf coach now has a bevy of youngsters to craft his team with. “The early impression of my team is that we’re young,” Belsky said. “But I can also tell you our guys are working very hard, and it’s going to pay dividends for us. They’re very excited to be here and they’re going to lay the groundwork.” With captains Allen Heeger and Jason Sullivan leading the way last year, the Gorloks completed their season with a fifthplace finish in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. This year, junior Robby Meeh has been named the team’s captain, leading a team devoid of seniors. WU has brought in six freshmen, as well as a Meramec Community College transfer. “Robby Meeh has already stepped up,” Belsky said. “And we have another guy, (freshman Kyler Scott) who was playing Division-I football. So he has the maturity, and he’s the best player we have right now. So while it’s not having Allen and Sully, it’s nice to have those guys this year.” Due to the team’s youth, Belsky’s expectations for this season are tempered. “Anybody hopes to get off to a real fast start,” Belsky said. “But there’s the potential out there that we might not. I want us to continue to get better throughout the year. As a team, I’m not sure getting off to a fast start would be the best thing for us.” While he may not expect his team to be among the upperechelon squads in the early tournaments, Belsky hopes the competition will help to condition his golfers for the latter
FROM PAGE 10
LAILA WESSEL / Journal Archive
Jason Sullivan, a captain of last year’s golf team, is a noticeable omission from the younger, new-look Gorloks of 2009. With Sullivan and fellow captain Allen Heeger graduated, WU enters a rebuilding phase, with six freshman. This year’s non-freshmen are juniors Robby Meeh and Scott Restoff, and sophomores Alex King and Dan Greiner. Greiner previously attended Meramec Community College.
part of this season, as well as in the future. “It makes me very optimistic that they’re going to get better,” Belsky said. “With these guys working on their games right now, this is where it starts. This is going to be a good core of players for four years.” In addition to Meeh, sophomore Alex King returns from last year’s team.
King remains optimistic about the team’s leadership, despite being without a senior this year. “(Meeh) has been a great role model for the younger players on the team,” King said. “Also, (junior) Scott Restoff is golfing this year, and he should also add some leadership.” While the team does remain short on experience,
the inf lux of young golfers could allow the team to make quick early strides. While Belsky prefers to retain only moderate expectations for this season, King also added that he believes the youthful, yet talented team can be relevant early on. “I think that being so deep and talented is going to be a very important factor in
how far the team makes it this year,” King said. “I really think this team has what it takes to make some noise in the SLIAC immediately.” WU will open the season Sept. 1 against Blackburn College at Timberlakes Golf Course in Staunton, Ill. Contact the writer:
New era begins for cross country Head coach Lopez is encouraged by program’s ability to recruit runners outside Metro area
BY JONATHAN WEBB
In just three years at Webster University Athletics, Dusty Lopez has seen a marked transformation in his cross country program. Lopez, who saw the program at its most primitive stages, is encouraged by not only the team’s numbers, but also the overall ability of his runners. “It’s a very young group,” Lopez said. “But they’re very enthusiastic, very coachable. We’re off to a good start.” However, Lopez refused to use the team’s youth as a crutch. Instead, he emphasized the gains a young team can make through heightened responsibilities at a younger stage of the athletes’ career. “They’re doing more than I usually ask of freshmen, and they’re doing more than freshmen anywhere else,” Lopez said. “You don’t have that older leadership around, so they’re forced to step up earlier on.” Freshman Jane McKibben agreed, emphasizing the need for the younger runners to take a lead role in the team’s success. “Being freshmen, since we don’t have too many upperclassmen, we’re going to have to take leadership roles sooner or later,” McKibben said. When he first became head coach of the program in 2007, Lopez did his best to gather enough area runners for a team. Now, he can boast a signifi-
Todt: Men’s soccer coach nears milestone
Caroline Philippone / Journal Archive
Head coach Dusty Lopez (right) addresses his team before a practice last season. Lopez, who is entering his third season with WU’s athletic staff, is optimistic about the program’s rapid growth.
cant recruiting class, one that not only brings in athletes from around the St. Louis area, but also from out of state. “I think the biggest gain we’ve made is installing a culture,” Lopez said. “In other years, you might have had similar numbers, as far as people on the roster. But if you look at the roster, there are more … dedicated runners who are here to run, rather than just crossing the street and deciding to be a cross-country runner. So we’ve
grown in that way.” McKibben, who ran for Lindbergh High School last year, is optimistic about the program, despite its youth and small numbers. I didn’t realize it was going to be this small,” McKibben said. But Lopez is a good, personal coach. “He understands what kind of runner you are, so I joined the team for that reason.” The men’s team, while having a few more numbers than the women, is still very young.
But that means the future is bright, according to freshman Rob Hohensee, who came to WU from Buffalo, Mo. “We’re all really inexperienced,” Hohensee said. “Further down, we’ll be really good, because we’ll all start to work everything out — think right, eat right … have everything down.” Lopez added that he is pleased with the strength of the high school programs associated with his recruits, adding to the improved
“culture” of his program. “To be honest, I’m kind of surprised at the level of response we’ve had in places that aren’t just Metro-area,” Lopez said. Lopez mentioned an outreach to Indiana, where he had expected merely tepid interest, as one of the program’s more successful recruiting trips. The Gorloks open their season in a dual meet against Westminster College on Sept. 1. The team’s first large meet will be the Washington University Early Bird scheduled for Sept. 5. Despite his optimism regarding his recruits, Lopez prefers to keep his expectations conservative. “I would really hesitate to single out even a few kids,” Lopez said. “It’s almost impossible to predict, because some kids thrive in competition, and other kids might take a few races before they get their feet under themselves.” In preparing his young team for what will represent the first collegiate competition for many of his runners, Lopez stressed a need to keep a longterm perspective. “I’m going in with an open mind, and I’ve tried to instill that in the team,” Lopez said. “They’re here for four years, and their success and failure will not be measured by that first race.” Contact the writer:
Tuesday, Sept. 1 vs. Millikin University
Tuesday, Sept. 1 vs. Millikin University
Tuesday, Sept. 1 vs.
Tuesday, Sept. 1 vs.
Tuesday, Sept. 1 vs.
During that run, the team won its first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship in 1997. That season still ranks as Todt’s most successful at WU, as the Gorloks went 16-2-2, including an unbeaten 13-0-1 record in conference play. Todt garnered his second of five SLIAC Coach of the Year awards that season. It’s that type of consistency that has Todt on the brink of his 200th victory. The Gorloks have been even more predictable in conference play. In SLIAC action, Todt’s teams have had the reliability of a Toyota Corolla. Under Todt, WU has had just two losing seasons in the past 16 years. That degree of dependability is the leading cause for Todt’s standing as the longest-tenured coach in the history of WU athletics. In fact, Todt was instrumental in breaking the mold of WU athletics, which had difficulty recruiting players, let alone win games. In his first years of leading the program, Todt’s colleagues in the athletics department continued to have a difficult time locating the “W” column. In that first season, the men’s soccer team was the lone WU team to have achieved a winning record for the entire 1988-89 campaign. By comparison, the baseball team was 5-18, the men’s basketball team was 7-20, and the women’s basketball team did not win a game. The WU athletic program was in its formative stages, and the men’s soccer team became one of the first sports at the school to become a legitimate competitor. Todt’s teams, for the most part, have followed his lead by remaining solid, yet out of the spotlight. In his approach to his impending milestone, Todt has moved at a steady pace, averaging about nine wins per season. If not for an injury to Kevin Fann, WU’s alltime leading scorer, Todt likely would have achieved his No. 200 last season. As it stands, Todt will get his first attempt at cracking the 200-win plateau as the Gorloks open the season Sept. 1 against Millikin University. Whenever Todt does finally tally his next victory, he will become the second WU coach — in any of the university’s sports — to reach 200 victories. Craig Walston posted a 263-90-1 record in his nine seasons coaching the softball team. After Todt, the closest coach to the 200-win mark is volleyball coach Merry Graf. At 159 wins, Graf is likely at least three seasons from cracking the 200 plateau. Women’s soccer coach Luigi Scire follows close behind, with 158 wins in his 10 seasons at WU. Despite an impressive milestone on the horizon, Todt apparently doesn’t plan to ride off into the sunset anytime soon. In a story posted to the WU athletics Web site, Todt said he plans to remain at WU for the foreseeable future. “I can’t imagine not coaching at Webster,” Todt said. With such a solid track record in his WU tenure, Todt can be sure he isn’t alone in finding that time to be many games — and wins — in the future. Contact the writer: