Cards Looking for Three-Peat as NESCAC West Champions, Hope to Host NESCAC Tournament a 2nd Time

taliameaghantaylor

Winners of two straight NESCAC West titles, the Cardinals are hopeful of making it a three-peat in 2010, which would give Wesleyan a chance to host its second NESCAC tournament. Qualifying for the NESCAC playoffs for the first time in 2007 as the West runner-up, Wesleyan advanced to the divisional crown in both 2008 and 2009, and placed second behind three-time defending NESCAC winner Tufts.

A year ago, Wesleyan posted a 17-20 record with half of the squad's losses coming against teams that qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament. The Cardinals have the bulk of the starting lineup back on the diamond for 2010, led by team tri-captains Meaghan Dendy '10 (#7, left side photo), Talia Bernstein '11 (#9, main photo) and Taylor Zavadsky '10 (#3, middle photo). Dendy, a three-time first-team all-NESCAC pick and the 2008 NESCAC pitcher of the year, set a school record for wins in a season in 2009 with a 12-8 record. For her career, Dendy stands 30-19 on the mound with a 3.29 ERA and 211 strikeouts in 304 innings. Equally competent at the plate, Dendy sports a .377 career batting average and is tied for second in career hits with 137. She needs just 37 safeties to become the school's all-time leader for hits. She already holds the school standard for runs scored with 97. When not pitching, Dendy plays a variety of positions, most often second base or shortstop.

Dendy will likely only hold the Wesleyan hits record for a year should she get it. Bernstein has already gathered 105 hits, the first player to exceed 100 hits at Wesleyan before her junior year. She set the school record for hits in a season with 55 in 2009. A two-time, first-team all-NESCAC choice at first base, Bernstein holds a lofty .438 career batting mark with 21 extra-base hits and 60 RBI. She needs a mere five RBI to assume all-time leadership in that department at Wesleyan after tying the seasonal record with 32 in 2008, the year she set the school mark for doubles in a season with 10.

Zavadsky, who transferred to Wesleyan in 2008, immediately assumed starting catching duties. She has been a rock behind the plate while swinging a .343 bat as she looks to join the list of 10 Cardinals in history with at least 100 hits. She has 73 in her two seasons.

Other seasoned returnees include starting outfielder Chrissy Bello '12, who hit .365 in her rookie year, and infielders Sam Epstein '12 and Alexis Kral '12. Epstein helped the USA capture a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel this past summer after hitting .236 for Wesleyan. Kral produced a solid .321 batting average and had a .944 fielding average mainly at third base. Mel Kasulis '12 also returns after seeing a bit of action last year.

The biggest hole the Cards need to fill is at shortstop following the graduation of four-year starter Molly O'Connell '09. She was a second-team all-NESCAC selection in 2009.

Wesleyan will rely on seven freshmen and two sophomore newcomers to solidify the lineup. Three frosh and one of the sophomores have already proven their ability in other sports as Alissa Santucci '12 is a two-year starting outside hitter for the volleyball team who is eying the opening at shortstop while Ashley McLaren '13 was a starting midfielder for field hockey. Both fall starting goaltenders join the softball ranks as Kate Connolly-Smithwick '13 handed the net for a majority of the women's soccer games while Tori Redding '13 played every minute in goal for field hockey. Connolly-Smithwick is another good candidate for the shortstop position.

They will be joined by transfer Dana Levy '12, who hit .273 at Kenyon in 2009 and pitched in eight contests. Also on board are Caitlyn Grudzinski '13, Leah Temes '13, Mattison Peters '13 and Allee Beatty '13.

Wesleyan embarks on a 14-game southern excursion to Clermont, Fla. beginning March 10. During the trip the Cardinals will face five New England colleges (Pine Manor, Lesley, W.N.E.C., Babson and R.I.C.). Wesleyan begins its northern slate Sun., March 28 hosting NESCAC East Bates in a double-header.

(Photos courtesy of Ron Bernstein P'11)