Courtside

Your Guide to GW sports

Senior Colin Milon delivers a pitch in a game against Saint Joseph's earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Senior Colin Milon delivers a pitch in a game against Saint Joseph’s earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon

After stringing together five-straight must-win games to keep its hopes of a second consecutive playoff berth alive, the baseball team’s run fell short Friday in a 4-3 loss to St. Bonaventure.

The loss, combined with two wins by Richmond over Rhode Island and two wins by Fordham over VCU on Thursday, ended the Colonials’ chances at a berth in next week’s Atlantic 10 Championships.

The loss came on the heels of an impressive run in which GW, one of the youngest teams in the country, almost made a major statement in the conference by winning what would have been its seventh-straight game.

“[They’re] a bunch of young guys and they came within an eyelash of making the playoffs,” head coach Gregg Ritchie said.

GW could not get one more solid start from sophomore Jacob Williams, who Ritchie said is usually one of his most consistent players. The young right-hander failed to command his pitches, particularly his curveball. He battled through five innings, finishing with five hits and three runs, two earned.

On the offensive end, the Colonials played catch-up for the majority of the ball game. In the sixth inning, three key freshmen launched a two-run rally that tied the game. Joey Bartoisc led off the inning with a single and advanced by stealing second base. Andrew Selby followed by hitting a triple to right field, scoring Bartosic. Bobby Campbell then drove Selby home with a groundout RBI.

Down by one in the top of the eighth inning, GW pushed across one run to tie the game courtesy of a double by senior Owen Beightol and sloppy defense by the Bonnies.

After the two previous ties in the game, senior closer Colin Milon was on the mound for the Colonials in the bottom of the eighth inning with the game tied at 3-3.

The first pitch of the eighth got away from Milon and the Bonnies hitter capitalized, clearing the fence with a few inches to spare. Milon, who had a career year after moving into the fireman role when Craig LeJeune went down with a season-ending injury, was able to regain control and retire the next three St. Bonaventure batters. Ritchie said he expected nothing less from his closer, telling him after the game to keep his head high after “a hell of a year.”

Milon managed to retire the side after trouble early in the inning, which gave the Colonials a shot to make a run in the top of the ninth.

After freshman catcher John Steele reached on an error to lead off the inning, GW tried to execute one of its fairly successful hit and runs – a play that the team had started to use regularly down the stretch. A swing and a miss by freshman Eli Kashi dismantled the play, and Steele was thrown out at second.

Kashi ended the inning at bat with a strikeout and was followed by a ground out by Bartosic to end the game as well as playoff hopes for the Colonials.

It wasn’t their best game, Ritchie said, but it certainly was not their worst. Since the series with La Salle in mid April, Ritchie has credited his team with playing solid ball during every game within the last week.

“If you can’t say you were not disappointed by not moving on, you’re lying,” Ritchie said.

Without mustering another run GW, ended their bid for the seventh and final spot in the A-10 Championships. It was a run that few predicted for a team that started as many as seven freshmen in the lineup.

“It was about rebuilding the program and getting competitive and developing a line of leaders of consistency,” Ritchie said. “Every year, you play to make the playoffs and move on, and that’s the part we didn’t achieve. However, the rebuilding and the growth was simply enormous.”

After Saturday’s final regular season game against St. Bonaventure, the Colonials will lose several crucial members, including pitchers Aaron Weisberg, Luke Staub, Milon and LeJeune.

On the offensive side, Saturday’s game will mark the last for outfielder Owen Beightol, the team’s best hitter. With one game to play, Beightol leads the Colonials this season with a .364 batting average, 63 total hits and 29 runs scored. Beightol will be ranked third all-time in career at bats and second all-time in games played. He also ranks 22nd all time in RBI and 11th all time with 212 hits.

GW will conclude its season Saturday against St. Bonaventure at noon.

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The Colonials discuss strategy in a game against UMass earlier this season | Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet staff photographer

The Colonials talk strategy in a game against UMass earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Ellee Watson.

The baseball team kept playoff hopes alive Thursday, winning a crucial road match against St. Bonaventure 7-5 in the first of a three-game series.

The win marks the fifth-straight victory for a GW team that is steadily chasing Fordham for the seventh and final spot in the Atlantic 10 Championships, which start next week.

To make the A-10 Championships in St. Louis, the Colonials have in front of them a handful of scenarios that also rely on the play of Fordham and Richmond. After winning twice Thursday against VCU, Fordham currently sits at 13-13 in the A-10 standings with one game left to play. Richmond, which lost to Rhode Island 6-5 Thursday, are 11-12 and have two games remaining against the Rams.

If Fordham sweeps VCU, the Rams are securely in the playoffs. However, if Fordham loses to VCU Friday and the Colonials sweep the Bonnies, GW will earn a spot in the tournament.

The situation is similar with the Spiders. If Richmond wins the final two games against Rhode Island, it will be enough to secure a playoff berth. But if the Spiders drop one or both remaining games to the Rams, coupled with a Colonials sweep of St. Bonaventure, GW will be headed to the playoffs.

Knowing the stakes, the players started strong out of the gate, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. After freshman Joey Bartosic’s single to the pitcher, the Colonials stole two bases and strung together two hits, leading to two runs batted in and a two-run lead at the end of the first.

Starting pitcher Aaron Weisberg struggled to slow down the bats of the Bonnies offense, allowing 11 hits and four runs – two earned – through seven innings. The senior’s go-to pitch of the afternoon was his fastball as Weisberg tossed 94 fastballs out of the 113 total pitches he threw in the outing.

After only scoring one run in seven innings, the Bonnies made a late surge in the bottom of the eighth inning and scored three runs on four hits off of Weisberg. Luke Staub, a senior, relieved Weisberg with one out in the inning and quickly retired the side. Staub also pitched the ninth inning for GW, allowing one run while earning the save and cementing the win for Weisberg.

Although the Bonnies outhit the colonials 14-9, GW capitalized on a number of at-bats with runners in scoring position to secure the win. The Colonials showed a balanced offense Thursday as each of their seven runs were scored by different players.

Head coach Gregg Ritchie dismissed the hit count, saying he thought his team had the better offense.

“We had quality at-bats up and down the lines and had six walks,” Ritchie said. “We executed hit-and-runs, bunts, squeezes, and those were big at-bats.”

Five of the seven starting freshmen – Andrew Selby, Cody Bryant, Kevin Mahala, Eli Kashi and Bartosic – all scored runs for the Colonials. Junior Ryan Xepoleas and senior Owen Beightol boasted the other two runs.

“The top five guys in particular really executed well, and then freshman Jon Steele followed with an RBI ground-out,” Ritchie said.

The Colonials face St. Bonaventure in the second game Friday at 2 p.m.

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Senior Colin Milon, a pitcher for GW's baseball team, spoke to members of the baseball team, men's rowing team and their family and friends during a special commencement ceremony. Kendall Payne | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Colin Milon, a pitcher for GW’s baseball team, spoke to members of the baseball team, men’s rowing team and their family and friends during a special commencement ceremony. Kendall Payne | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The first graduates of the Class of 2014 flipped their tassels from right to left Tuesday as University President Steven Knapp, alongside Provost Steven Lerman, presented diplomas to seniors on the men’s rowing and baseball teams at the athletics commencement ceremony.

The athletes will be unable to attend Commencement on Sunday, with baseball closing out the regular season at St. Bonaventure and men’s rowing competing in the Eastern Sprints in Worcester, Mass. In lieu of a walk on the National Mall, friends, family, coaches and teammates gathered in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre for speeches and the presentation of diplomas. Here are five takeaway moments from the ceremony.

1. Lerman: “It’s not easy to be an athlete.”

Though student speaker and baseball pitcher Colin Milon joked about pulling on sweatpants and skipping the line at the GW Deli to make it to class on time, administrators lauded the graduates for juggling course work, practices, games and, as baseball head coach Gregg Ritchie said, “all that college life offers.” Both Ritchie and men’s rowing head coach Mark Davis urged the group, which wore gold scarves embroidered with the label “student athlete,” to think of their time spent on the river or at the ballpark as another facet of their education.

“Don’t think these aren’t life lessons,” Ritchie said. “There’s a reason being an athlete opens doors.”

2. Milon: “The bond we form as teammates is stronger than blood.”

Though mothers with cameras, fathers holding cigar boxes, siblings, professors and friends filled the audience, younger teammates from men’s rowing and baseball made up the largest portion of the audience. Milon emphasized the relationships formed among players, providing a glimpse into a close-knit pocket of a larger University.

“I look over and see a group of brothers,” Milon said.

3. How far they’ve come

The senior classes from both teams showcased an athletics department that has transformed during their four years. Davis thanked rowers Trofym Anderson, Kasey Colander, Matthew Grieshaber and James Stafford “for taking a chance” on a poorly funded team as the first class in program history to receive athletic scholarships. Four years later, the team has had its best-ever season, climbing in the national rankings and at one point winning 21 races straight.

Milon joked about the pre-renovation Barcroft Park, calling it the “worst D-1 field in America,” and proudly recounted his team’s unlikely run last year to the playoffs, where it won nine of its last 10 games to make the postseason for the first time since 2006. Milon and fellow baseball seniors Owen Beightol, Taylor Lambke, Craig LeJeune, Lucas Staub and Aaron Weisberg will see one more series if yet another strong finish can squeak them in.

4. Ritchie: “You make your own luck.”

Ritchie spoke about “character muscles” that players build through competition and training. Speakers congratulated athletes for creating their own success at GW and compelled them to keep pushing themselves.

“It is imperative for you to know that, although you are leaving campus, you are walking towards opportunity with the strength and savvy and the dedication and determination of a GW Colonial,” Ritchie said.

5. Setting a serious tone

The ceremony that kicked off Commencement week was celebratory but also had more serious moments. Knapp’s first graduation speech tasked seniors with remedying global challenges, asking them to “repair what earlier generations have broken, to build what we have left un-built and to heal what we have so far left unhealed.”

Davis was similarly weighty in his remarks, telling the athletes to expect hardships after graduation.

“As rowers, as oarsmen, you always strive for still water,” Davis said. “You don’t get that very often.”

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Head coach Greg Munoz talks with senior Viktor Svensson during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Head coach Greg Munoz talks with senior Viktor Svensson during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

Riding a five-game win streak in arguably its best season in program history, the men’s tennis team fell 4-1 to No. 28 University of South Carolina on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

GW fell behind early in doubles play, an area that had carried the team all season. South Carolina decisively overpowered the Colonials in the early stages.

Senior Nikita Fomin and sophomore Danil Zelenkov were quickly defeated by a score of 4-8. The other two teams in play – seniors Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen and junior Francisco Dias and freshman Julian Tverijonas – were forced to play from behind.

Dias and Tverijonas lost to South Carolina’s No. 30 ranked doubles duo Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov. Fighting back from a steep deficit, Dias and Tverijonas were able to send their match to a tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, the Colonials jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but succumbed to an 8-4 run by the Gamecocks who would eventually take the match and the point. Thomsen and Svensson had their match suspended because South Carolina took the point.

With the first point awarded to the Gamecocks, the Colonials entered singles play with pressure to get back into the match and on the board.

“All the first sets were very close on every court,” senior Nikita Fomin said. “I don’t think [South Carolina] was expecting us to come out with energy in singles.”

The Colonials would win just one of their six opening sets, which came from Fomin at the No. 2 position (6-3).

Fomin would continue his strong play into the second set with a 6-2 win, earning the Colonials a point. Fomin’s singles win was the first NCAA point for the team in program history.

But the momentum was short lived as South Carolina took its second and third points at the No. 1 and No. 4 slots.

With their backs against the wall, the Colonials made a late surge by way of a tiebreaker win from Svensson in the No. 5 slot in the second set. But South Carolina would clinch the victory with a win against Thomsen at the No. 6 slot (6-4, 6-4).

“We definitely had our chances, but things didn’t quite fall into place,” Fomin said.

Though the team was disappointed with the day’s results, the season proved to be an overall success.

The Colonials ended the year with a record of 17-7, won their third Atlantic 10 Championship in four years and finished the season ranked as the No. 53 team in the nation.

“This has been our best season ever. We can’t be disappointed. It would have been nice to break into the second round of the NCAAs, but we’re getting there,” Munoz said. “There’s still more ahead for us.”

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Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate in GW's win in the A-10 quarterfinals. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate GW’s win in the A-10 quarterfinals. Hatchet File Photo

The men’s basketball team will host last season’s Atlantic 10 conference heavyweights Virginia Commonwealth, Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Dayton next season as a part of its nine-game conference home schedule, the league announced Thursday.

Neither Saint Louis nor Dayton made appearances at the Smith Center last season.

GW will play nine home and nine away games in an expanded 18-conference game schedule for the 2014-15 season.

“To be the best, you have to play the best, and the Atlantic 10 is one of the premier leagues with some of the best teams in college basketball,” head coach Mike Lonergan said in a release

Lonergan, who came to GW three years go, coached the Colonials to a 14-1 home record last season. In addition to the predicted conference favorites, the Colonials will host A-10 newcomer Davidson along with George Mason, Richmond and Saint Bonaventure.

“Next year’s A-10 home schedule features high-profile opponents and rivalry games which will be attractive to our students, alumni and fans, and the entire league schedule will challenge and prepare our team for the A-10 Championship and a goal of another trip to the NCAA Tournament,” Lonergan said.

 GW, which finished last season with an away record of 6-5, will play road matchups at Rhode Island, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Davidson, Duquesne, George Mason, Richmond and VCU.

The official schedule, including dates and times, has not yet been released.

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Director of Athletics Patrick Nero

Since arriving at GW, athletic director Patrick Nero has made academics a priority for GW athletes. Hatchet File Photo

Along with notable improvements on the field, GW athletes made strides in the classroom this year.

Fifteen of GW’s 19 Division I NCAA-competing programs achieved perfect Academic Progress Rates for the 2012-13 season, the association announced Wednesday. Of those 15 programs, nine teams were in the top-10 percent multiyear rate, three more teams than last year and tied for second-most in the conference with Dayton University.

The APR weighs a combination of factors including eligibility, retention and graduation rates, providing a measure of each team’s academic performance. The current multiyear period reflects the 2009-10 through 2012-13 academic years.

GW teams that received perfect scores included baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s cross country, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, women’s rowing, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s water polo.

“Athletics has been a campus leader in striving for academic excellence, and this announcement is a testament to those efforts,” Provost Steven Lerman said in a release.

Athletic director Patrick Nero has made academics a priority for the department. Since he came to GW three years ago, team GPAs and six-year graduation rates have risen across the board.

Nero receives regular progress reports from professors about athletes’ grades and participation in classes. He also enforces a mandatory class attendance policy and requires eight hours of study halls each week.

“At GW our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and staff strive for excellence in everything that we do, and today’s report is proof of the tireless efforts put into academics” Nero said in the release.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014 1:32 a.m.

Softball earns three postseason awards

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Mark Eisenhauer.

Coming off a disappointing season, the softball team can boast three players with Atlantic 10 conference honors, the league announced Tuesday.

Junior shortstop Victoria Valos was named to the All-Conference Second Team with freshman Megan Linn. Linn also earned a place on the All-Conference Rookie Team. Senior pitcher Courtney Martin rounded out the trio, landing a spot on the All-Conference Academic Team.

Valos hit .355 this season while driving in a staggering 42 runs. Valos recorded 19 doubles and six home runs, picking up right where she left off after averaging .340 in both her freshman and sophomore seasons. Valos also broke GW’s record with her 27th career home run in a loss to Georgetown on April 22.

Linn, a 19 year-old in her first collegiate season, came through time after time under pressure, getting on base and contributing to almost every GW win this season. She was named to the All-Rookie Team after leading the Colonials in almost every offensive statistical category.

The Corona, Calif. native racked up an impressive .370 batting average, the highest of any player on both the All-Conference Second Team and All-Conference Rookie Team. Linn scored 42 runs, hit 10 doubles, tallied four home runs and drove in 35 base runners in her freshman campaign.

The second baseman asserted herself as a force to be reckoned with in the conference, but lost the overall Rookie of the Year award to Jena Cozza of Massachusetts.

In her last season as a Colonial, Martin didn’t perform as she had hoped. The right-hander posted a 5.78 ERA with a 4-12 record. She was named to the A-10 First Team last year with a sparkling 2.00 ERA and a 13-11 record. Still, her academic achievements earned her a postseason accolade.

The Colonials missed the postseason with an 18-31-1 record, a disappointing finish after the winningest season in program history in 2012-13, when the Colonials went 27-23. Last year’s squad saw six players named to All-Conference teams, a program record.

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Head coach Jonathan Tsipis speaks at his introductory press conference in 2012.  Hatchet File Photo.

Head coach Jonathan Tsipis speaks at his introductory press conference in 2012. Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by assistant sports editor Nora Princiotti.

Women’s basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis has seen his contract extended through the 2020-21 season, director of athletics and recreation Patrick Nero announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes after a turnaround year for the Colonials, in which they reached the Atlantic 10 semifinals for the first time since 2008, knocking off two ranked teams in the process.

After winning just 25 games in the last four seasons under previous head coach Mike Bozeman, Tsipis was tasked with restoring the reputation of a once nationally known program that had made 15 appearances at the NCAA tournament.

Since he joined GW for the 2012-13 season, Tsipis has not disappointed: He coached the Colonials to a nine-game improvement this season as they finished with a 23-11 overall record.

“We brought Jonathan here to restore the tradition of excellence of GW women’s basketball, and in just two seasons at the helm of our program he has done exactly that,” Nero said in a release. “We’re excited to continue on that path under his leadership in our women’s basketball program.”

Tsipis’ ability to recruit top athletes to the program has marked his success as coach. Freshman Caira Washington earned the A-10 Rookie of the Year award this season after leading the conference in offensive rebounding and field goal percentage.

Sophomore transfer Jonquel Jones, another Tsipis recruit, led the Colonials in scoring with nearly 15 points per game and rebounding with more than 11 rebounds per game. Jones also received postseason honors, earning a spot on the All-Conference Second Team.

Tsipis’ leaps in recruiting are extending into next season: His incoming players are touted as the highest-ranked recruiting class in the A-10 conference.

At season’s end, Tsipis was one of three finalists for the 2013-14 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Region I Coach of the Year, alongside Geno Auriemma, the head coach of National Champion team Connecticut and Louisville head coach Jeff Walz, whose team made an appearance in the Elite Eight.

Tsipis came to GW as a rookie head coach, toting an impressive start to a coaching career with a gold NCAA championship ring on his finger after nine seasons as Muffet McGraw’s associate and recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame.

Tsipis brought the experience of five NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances, with four coming in his last five years in South Bend. He pushed the Colonials to a playoff appearance this season, which was new territory for every player on his roster.

The North Carolina alumnus was one of CollegeInsider.com’s top-10 assistant coaches in the nation after back-to-back NCAA National Championship game appearances in 2011 and 2012. He helped pull together one of the nation’s top-20 recruiting classes in each of his nine years and a top-10 class in three of his last four seasons.

“I want to thank Patrick Nero and President Knapp for bringing me to Washington and for their support and belief in me, my team and my family,” Tsipis said in the release. “George Washington has become a home for us and I’m honored to be the head coach of this proud program.”

The details of Tsipis’ contract have not been publicly released, though Nero has said in the past that Tsipis is the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in the conference.

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Men's rowing competed for the Stevenson Cup on Sunday, placing third behind Navy and Columbia. Hatchet File Photo

Men’s rowing competed for the Stevenson Cup on Sunday, placing third behind Navy and Columbia. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Darius Kamshad.

The men’s rowing team’s 21-race win streak came to an end Sunday after the Colonials finished third out of four teams behind Navy and Columbia in their regular season finale.

GW had beaten Navy earlier this season at the GW Invitational last month, though they won based on points and without racing head-to-head.

“The guys did really well going into today,” head coach Mark Davis said, adding that he noticed his rowers felt extra stress because of upcoming finals for their classes.

The races, originally scheduled to take place in Princeton, N.J., were forced to move to West Windsor, N.J. after heavy rainfall flooded the Lake Carnegie course. The Mercer Lake course presented its own challenges, with 18-to-20-mph tailwind.

The team had to move south to Woodbridge, Va. earlier in the week to train because of flooding after heavy rain hit D.C.

In the first race of the day, GW’s Varsity 8 boat finished with a time of 5:46.10, which was good enough for third behind Navy and Columbia. The Colonials got off to a good start and held the lead for the first 1,000 meters before the Navy and Columbia teams passed them at about the halfway point. Columbia edged GW by less than a second.

The Junior Varsity 8 boat struggled to keep up with the Midshipman and Lions, placing third after clocking a time of 6:00.20.

The Freshman 8 was able to break through Sunday as it won its race with a posted time of 5:56.20. GW topped the Midshipmen in a one-on-one race, and carried an open water lead of more than eight seconds.

“The freshmen, once again, they’ve just been having a very strong year,” Davis said. “They’re a cool and collected group, and there’s no big up and downs with them, which is kind of nice and solid from a freshmen crew sometimes.”

GW will have the next two weeks to prepare for the Eastern Sprints on May 18 in Worcester, Mass.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rob Bartnichak.

Women’s rowing finished fourth out of nine teams Sunday in the Atlantic 10 Championship, earning two medals from races on the Occoquan River.

The Varsity 8 finished fourth in the finals with a time of 7:34.89, while the Junior Varsity 8 came in fifth. The Varsity 4 boat brought home a bronze medal with a time of 8:48.12.

“It was some tough racing but some good racing,” head coach Eric Carcich said at the tournament in Woodbridge, Va.

The Varsity 8 beat Saint Joseph’s in the morning’s qualifying race, but the Hawks pushed them off the podium in the grand final with a third-place finish by just over a second. Rhode Island, the only team who bested its own qualifying time in the finals, likely benefitted from a slow heat and came in second to UMass, which won with a time of 7:26.00 and received a bid to compete in the NCAA championship races.

GW’s performance stood in stark contrast to last year’s A-10 Championship, where weaknesses in the lower boats pushed the Colonials into third overall even with a dominant gold-medal win in the Varsity 8 race.

Though it didn’t factor into the final standings, the third Varsity 8 had the day’s best finish, coming in second to Rhode Island.

At the event’s awards ceremony, senior Bethany Grim was named First Team All-Conference and seniors Megan Culberson and Sarah Pickus earned Second Team All-Conference honors.

Carcich said he plans to tap into the team’s talent as a unit and continue to improve the rowers until they win their first conference title. The Colonials peaked in 2012 with a second-place finish in the tournament, but have trended downward ever since.

“I’m really excited about the depth we’re showing,” Carcich said. “We’re going to work hard all summer to get faster.”

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