It’s an unbelievably exciting time to be a Falcon sports fan. The baseball and lacrosse teams are at pivotal points in their season. While baseball still has a ways to go to determine their post-season fate, the lacrosse team looks to head into conference playoffs on a high note. If you’ve been following women’s gymnastics and the tennis team, it’s clear that this has been an impressive year, and although the gymnasts have concluded, the tennis team still has more matches to play.
With the warm weather arriving, there’s no better time to head to the hill and watch some Falcon sports, but for those of you who can’t make it, here’s what our cadet athletes have been up to.
It’s hard to believe, but there are still 19 games left in the Falcons baseball season. As it stands, Coach Kazlausky’s ball club holds a 16-19 record, so there’s plenty of time to get above .500 and set the tone for the Mountain West tournament. I’ve been adamant this season that the talent is some of the deepest its been in years for Air Force, but it’s been a tall order getting the mostly underclass pitching staff to be ready to play at a high level. The regular season goes through to May 18th, and although the majority of the schedule is filled with familiar Mountain West opponents and Northern Colorado, they still have a three game series against Butler and a two game series against Kansas to work through.
Statistically, there are clear aspects of the game that Air Force needs to clean up. Air Force has tallied 41 errors on the season to their opponent’s total of 30. Air Force has had 324 hits and scored 186 runs while their opponents have had 343 hits and 224 runs. With a 2-1 loss against Navy, a 3-2 loss against San Jose State, a 7-6 loss to Nebraska, and four more losses by a single run, if the Birds were able to have their bats heat up in the clutch, there could potentially be a totally different story to the season so far. The statistics I’ve presented give a big picture look to the season, so I concede that having players who produce hits in the clutch may not apply to every loss this season, but leaving runners stranded is one of the greatest statistical differences between Air Force and their opponents this season.
It’s tough to say what it will take to end this season on a high note. I would assert that we need players like Nic Ready and Jake Gilbert to maintain strong leadership roles on the team, but the younger players need to continue to learn and mature quickly. Limiting mistakes is of the utmost importance in close games, and building confidence is critical. Beating Kansas could propel Air Force into a strong late season finish. The 19-16 Jayhawks are very beatable despite playing in an arguably tougher conference than the Mountain West, and beating a Big XII school could do wonders for team-building and the assurance that Air Force can hang with successful teams.
While the majority of America’s eyes were turned to the Masters at Augusta last Saturday, the Falcons lacrosse team handed the Richmond Spiders a 14-7 loss at Falcon Stadium. While Air Force has has had losses against each ranked opponent this season, they have also easily taken down every other team on the schedule aside from the University of Utah. The disparity between these ranked opponents and unranked ones has been vast, so it’s been really difficult to understand where the Falcons are in terms of talent until they played Richmond, a team which knocked off number 6 Notre Dame. Against Richmond, Junior midfielder Jake Thornally tallied 3 goals and 1 assist, while the usual scoring suspect, Trey Lervick, was held to 1 goal. This is indicative of the fact that Air Force is not a one trick pony. They have the ability to work the ball around the offense and allow midfielders to score if the attachment are being pressed. The Falcons also had a season high 31 shots on goal, a tie for season high 43 ground balls, and a second to lowest season number of 15 turnovers. These are fairly simple fundamental statistics to improve which led to a win. It shows that limiting mistakes, possessing and clearing the ball efficiently, and getting shots on cage are the keys to winning against high powered teams.
Air Force still has VMI and Bellarmine before the SOCON playoffs begin. The only team I see being a challenge would be High Point, who the Falcons already lost to. As far as their remaining games go, High Point still has Bellarmine and Richmond left. If Richmond can find a way to win, it could certainly shake High Point’s confidence going into the tournament, leaving them vulnerable to being beaten by Air Force if the matchup comes to fruition. It’s an exciting time to be an Air Force fan, and although they’re not as high-powered at the days in 2014 to last year, when players like Mike Crampton (AF ’14), Keith Dreyer (AF ’15), and Nick Hruby (AF ’18) seemingly scored at will, the current squad can definitely work as a team and have a chance to earn a bid into the NCAA tournament.
The women’s gymnastics season wrapped up for the Air Force team this weekend at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals. Heidi Sand, Emily Luers, Daija Stevenson, Tyler Davis, and Anna Salamone all took home All-American honors, while Tyler Davis and Anna Salamone won national titles in their respective events. Tyler Davis scored a 9.95 in her floor routine, but she earned first team All-American in vault, floor exercise, and all-around. Anna Salamone scored a 9.85 to tie for first place on the uneven bars. The Air Force women are becoming a powerhouse in the USAG national competition and all of the ladies who earned honors will be returning next year aside from senior Emily Luers. 15 of the 22 members of the team are currently freshmen or sophomores, so the future is certainly bright for Air Force women’s gymnastics.
The women’s tennis team at USAFA has a chance to close out their regular season with a single loss and 22 wins with only one match left against the University of New Mexico this Friday. A 4-0 sweep against Utah State last weekend leaves them in great shape to have a chance to pull off a historical season. It would be their best season in over twenty years, and at this point, we have to wonder just how far the team can actually go. They’re currently ranked number 68 in the country, but it’s difficult to make such a judgement without seeing them take on more out of conference teams. We cannot overlook the Mountain West tournaments, but we have to think that the ladies are setting their sights to an NCAA tournament seeding to end this season. The picture will become clearer as the national tournament approaches, but for now, we can enjoy the success of the team.
The spring is such a special time at the Air Force Academy. Everyone looks forward to moving into new roles, whether it be graduating and heading out to the active duty Air Force, moving up a class to take on new responsibilities and opportunities, or as an entering freshman beginning their journey as a USAFA cadet. Academy athletes get a chance to look forward to the same things, but they’re also leaving their mark on their alma mater on the athletic fields and courts. It will be exciting to see how the rest of the seasons end up and we here at Against All Enemies wish them the best.