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STU Winning the Weekend!

By November 20, 2023Athletics, Featured Posts

By Walter Villa, Special to STU

All we do is win, win, win – no matter what.

Every time we step up in the building, everybody’s hands go up!

With apologies to Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Ludacris, and T-Pain, it was “Winning Time” at St. Thomas University on Saturday.

Yes, Saturday at 10 a.m. was also the start of STU’s Fall Open House, a special event on its own, as hundreds of high school students and their family members toured campus and met with a variety of helpful Bobcats employees, including professors, academic advisors, and financial-aid experts.

The Open House was a win for the students, their families, and for STU, too.

But once the clock struck high noon, the Bobcat athletes took over:

Indeed, STU’s football team kicked off at noon, and they won.

STU’s women’s volleyball team smacked its first serve at 4 p.m., and they won, too.

And STU’s men’s soccer team got going at 6 p.m., and – yep – they won, too.

All three Bobcats playoff teams that competed at home on Saturday emerged victorious.

“This is a very big day in St. Thomas University history,” said STU president David A. Armstrong, J.D., whose voice was already hoarse by halftime of the football game.

“To start the morning, it was probably one of the biggest ‘visit days’ we’ve had for incoming students. Then you had the playoff games – it was a special day for us.”

The STU football team – ranked 15th in the nation — competed in its first playoff game in the five-year history of the program, defeating Reinhardt (Georgia), 55-7. There was little mystery to who would win as the Bobcats led 28-0 at halftime.

STU (9-3) is now among the 16 NAIA teams still left standing in the chase for what would be the first team national title in school history.

“That was probably the most complete game we’ve played all year,” Bobcats football coach Bill Rychel said. “We had just three penalties – the fewest we’ve had all season. We were disciplined, and we had great execution.”

Next up, the Bobcats will travel to West Palm Beach to visit third-ranked Keiser (8-2), which had a first-round bye. Keiser beat STU, 21-14, earlier this season in a game marred by a long lightning/weather delay in the third quarter.

“We’re grateful to have an opportunity to play Thanksgiving weekend,” Rychel said. “Usually if you’re still playing football on Thanksgiving week, you’re a pretty good team.”

Rychel, who doubles as STU’s Athletic Director, was thrilled that the football win was followed by the victories in women’s volleyball and men’s soccer.

“That overall athletic success is what we’re building here,” Rychel said. “We had a huge win, volleyball swept, and soccer did their thing. It was an awesome day.”

You will get no argument on that from Whitney Battoe, coach of STU’s 22nd-ranked women’s volleyball team.

Battoe led her squad to a 25-22, 25-23, 25-17 win over Marian (Indiana). It took the Bobcats just 95 minutes to dispose of Marian.

“We were composed,” Battoe said of the volleyball team, which earned its first national playoff win since 2001. “We were prepared.”

Battoe said that she and some of her players watched the first half of STU’s football game before they had to leave to get ready for their match.

“Our football team gave such a dominating performance,” Battoe said, “how could we not feed off of that?”

Next up, the volleyball team travels to Sioux City, Iowa, where all 24 remaining teams will gather. The pool-play matches start on Nov. 29.

The volleyball team, which is on an impressive 21-match win streak, improved its record to 26-2. That is the most wins for an STU volleyball team since 1997. The Bobcats are also 26-0 this season when winning the first set.

And, much like the volleyball team supported the football squad, STU men’s soccer coach Feliks Mats said his guys were at the volleyball match in full force for the first 30 minutes.

Then, at 6 p.m., Coach Mats’ squad put a bow on a special day with a 1-0 win over Menlo (California) College.

The Bobcats, ranked third in the nation with a stellar 17-1-2 record, scored Saturday’s only goal on a rebound shot by Guido Cacciabue. Goalie Franco Acerbi posted the shutout.

Next up, the Bobcats will play 12th-ranked Missouri Valley on November 27 at Wichita, Kansas, where the entire field of 16 teams still left standing will compete for a national title.

“Saturday at St. Thomas was a great environment,” Coach Mats said. “It was great for our entire athletic program.”

Asked about that elusive national title, Mats said: “I think we’re a good enough team to go all the way.”

Saturday’s soccer win – which concluded a full 10 hours after Open House began – brought the events of November 18 full circle.

“The idea of us at St. Thomas University as a ‘hidden gem’ sounds good at first,” said Dr. Debbie Goodman, who was one of the professors talking to prospective students at Saturday’s Open House.

“But, in reality, we want to be the gem that everybody knows. I think that’s what’s happening under the leadership of President Armstrong — connecting all the dots from the classroom to the community connections to athletics, dance, drama, music …

“We’re a one-stop shop of greatness. Everything a college student would want is right here.”

Even fans who rooted against STU on Saturday offered some grudging respect in a comical way.

An example of that occurred in the fourth quarter of STU’s football win as a Reinhardt fan was asked if he knew the score.

“I don’t know,” the fan said in a slow, Georgia drawl, “but their mascot probably has a sore throat from so much celebrating.”

That is Winning Time, STU style.

All we do is win, win, win – no matter what.

Every time we step up in the building, everybody’s hands go up!

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