Coaches Novotny and Fatica reflect on successful seasons

Members of the Seton Hill men’s lacrosse team celebrate after scoring a goal. The Griffins won their first conference title with their victory at the inaugural Great Midwest Athletic Conference Championship in May. Photo by D.Clark/Setonian.

As the 2017 spring sports season at Seton Hill University finished at the end of May, various teams qualified for the playoffs, set new school records and won conference championships. Among the teams that found success this past season are men’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s track and field.

The men’s lacrosse team won the inaugural Great Midwest Athletic Conference Championship against Mercyhurst University on May 6 by a score of 15-10, marking their first conference title. Head coach Brian Novotny said the team was “confident” and he focused on keeping his players’ emotion in check throughout the game, eventually leading to their victory.

“Immediately I just felt so good for the players and the seniors in particular because you knew it was potentially their last opportunity to be on the field,” Novotny said. “Seeing the guys rush out onto the field and jump onto the dog pile with helmets and gloves and sticks flying everywhere was just such a euphoric kind of feeling.”

Novotny’s team finished their season with an overall record of 12-4 and went 4-2 in conference play. Junior midfielder Jack Moran led the team in points with 53 and assists with 30. Freshman attacker John Hofseth led the team in goals with 33, followed by sophomore midfielder Bennett Johnson with 32. Johnson and Hofseth also finished second and third in points, with Johnson collecting 46 and Hofseth with 42.

Sophomore midfielder Bennett Johnson protects the ball from his opponent. Johnson finished this season with the second most points on the team with 46 and recorded the second most goals with 32. Photo by D.Clark/Setonian.

“In terms of the play on the field, probably our biggest strength throughout the course of the year was our depth and our variety,” Novotny said. “We had guys stepping up game in and game out, but it wasn’t the same guy game in and game out. We were very difficult to prepare for I think as a team.”

“Those guys really bought into playing lacrosse as a team and having team success,” Novotny added. “There were a lot of selfless young men really putting their own egos and own agendas aside for the greater good of the team.”

Along with the men’s lacrosse team, the men’s and women’s track and field team also found success this season. They participated in competitions throughout the spring semester, with the most recent being the PSAC Outdoor Championships on May 4-6 and the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships on May 27.

At the PSAC Outdoor Championships, the women finished sixth overall and the men finished ninth overall, setting seven new school records. Sophomore Ameriah Walters finished first in the 200-meter dash and sophomore Dontay Jacobs finished first in the 400-meter dash, and both competitors set new school records. At the national championship, sophomore Patrick O’Connor finished fourth in the high jump.

“Many of those athletes that had top performances at those meets will be returning next year, so I am confident in the direction our program is heading and anxious to see how our freshman class fits in,” said Jenna Fatica, head coach of the track and field and cross country teams.

Sophomore Ameriah Walters took first place in the 200-meter dash at the PSAC Outdoor Championships, which took place at the beginning of May. Photo from athletics.setonhill.edu.

“It is also important to recognize the team’s academic achievements,” Fatica added. “With our men’s team cumulative GPA at 3.18 and women’s team cumulative GPA at 3.59, especially sophomore Derek Gengler earning the Indoor PSAC Male Scholar Athlete Award, it certainly adds to the overall success of our teams in both academics and athletics this past year.”

With her first year as head coach completed, Fatica said she is “pleased” with how the season went, especially with the addition of two new assistant coaches.

“I give much credit to my assistant coaches for the accomplishments of our programs this past year,” Fatica said. “Having this year under my belt will definitely help with making a smoother transition into the upcoming school year.”

Fatica said while the athletes are resting now, assistant coach Bobby Over has already set summer training in place so the cross country team is prepared for their first race on Sept. 1.

Sophomore Patrick O’Connor (center) poses for a photo alongside assistant track and field coaches Gene Brisbane (left) and Andrew Greenslade (right). O’Connor, originally from Middlesbrough, England, finished fourth in the high jump at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships on May 27. Photo from athletics.setonhill.edu.

Although the lacrosse team does not return to action until next spring, Novotny and his coaching staff work all year to evaluate their program while also recruiting players who fit into the lacrosse team’s program and SHU’s “culture and community.” Novotny said he and his staff are happy to be a piece of the “well-rounded experience” that their student-athletes receive, including the recent conference championship victory.

“When we’re recruiting young men, we talk about helping them achieve their dreams and helping them chase those dreams,” Novotny said. “Having an opportunity to see those guys fulfill one of their dreams in person is just an amazing experience for a coach. It’s an amazing experience for those young guys to go through and understand that if they really commit to something and they really work hard for it, that the payoff is worth it.”

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