Twelve of Franklin & Marshall College's athletic teams entered the 2020 spring season in customary fashion – with optimism. Some held national championship aspirations. First-years were eager to prove themselves on the field of competition. Sophomores and juniors looked to improve on their previous seasons, and seniors had hopes of closing the books on their Diplomat careers with one final, definitive chapter.
Heading into this year, winning was the best descriptor for a normal spring at F&M. What came next was anything but ordinary. The cancellation of spring sports due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic meant that those promising Diplomat seasons were left unfinished and student-athletes, parents, alums, and fans were left with thoughts of what could have been.
Most programs were offered a glimpse of their auspicious 2020 campaigns by opening their spring seasons with a series of contests. Others were only afforded the opportunity to participate in the fall portion of their schedules. In either circumstance, it is important that the early accomplishments of those seasons are not forgotten. Below we aim to recognize those achievements, no matter how abbreviated their time of competition may have been.
The Diplomats were well on the way to their fourth straight winning season. Following a tough 1-4 start to the year, F&M rebounded with three consecutive wins that included a doubleheader sweep of Elmira on March 7th and a 4-1 victory over Elizabethtown on March 10th that evened its overall record to 4-4.
First-year Tommy Denlinger '22 ranked fourth among Centennial Conference (CC) leaders with a .500 batting average, while reigning All-American and CC Pitcher of the Year Jonathan Cole '20 was fourth in strikeouts with 21.
Spring was set to open for women's golf at the Millersville Invitational on March 22nd. Although that event never came to fruition, the Diplomats can reminisce on a successful fall campaign. F&M produced a 1-0-1 record in match play that included a dominant 5-0 shutout of Elizabethtown on Sept. 15th.
Maddy Markmann-Porch '20 paced the Diplomats at the No. 1 matchup, edging her Blue Jay opponent on the final hole.
High aspirations and the journey toward reclaiming a Centennial crown were set to begin at the McDaniel Spring Invitational of March 28th. However, unbeknownst at the time, F&M capped off the 2019-20 year in style with a first-place finish at the Gino Biondi Tournament in what proved to be the Diplomats' final competition in late October.
Troy Kelleher '22 took the top individual finish for F&M, shooting an even-par 142 (71-71) across the two-day event to lead a contingent of four Diplomats that placed in the top-five. Seiichiro Nakai '20 paced the Diplomats with a 73.3 stroke average through three rounds in the fall.
A perfect 4-0 record - all of which occurred against nationally-ranked teams - propelled F&M's women's lacrosse team to the No. 3 spot in the country and placed the Diplomats in the driver's seat toward contention for a Division III Championship.
The short slate of contents included several that will be remembered for years, including Marissa McGarrey's '22 late second-half score over No. 8 Washington & Lee in a 9-8 win in the season opener on Feb. 22nd and Megan Jackson's '21 2OT dagger in a 10-9 thriller over No. 6 York on Feb. 26th.
F&M displayed its resiliency early into 2020, rebounding from a season-opening setback against Lynchburg on Feb. 15th to capture the final three games of the year. The Diplomats climbed to No. 15 in the nation's final poll, thanks in large part to a commanding 15-5 victory over No. 18 Washington & Lee on Feb. 29th in Lancaster.
Just four games in his senior season, Kevin Mollihan '20 broke the Centennial's career goal's record with his 207th marker in a 13-8 win over Messiah on March 7th. The senior forward was leading the Conference with an average of four goals a game in 2020. Teammate Luke Keating '21 was fourth with 10 assists, while the Diplomats sat atop the CC with only 35 goals against.
Women's rowing was unable to open their spring campaign at the Washington College Invitational on March 28th. However, the Diplomats impressed in a pair of fall regattas.
F&M's Varsity 4+ boat got off to an incredible start in 2019-20, securing first place at the Occoquan Chase in Virginia on Oct. 13th. The Diplomats carried over that momentum to the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in Philadelphia on Oct. 26th by placing in the top half of an esteemed group of competitors.
Men's rowing was also set to begin the spring at the Washington College Invitational on March 28th. Although that opportunity was unable to take place, the Diplomats were able to showcase their grit and determination at a pair of regattas in the fall.
At the Occoquan Chase in Virginia on Oct. 13th, a pair of 4+ boats secured fifth and sixth in an Open event. Three boats took the water to conclude the fall at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in Philadelphia on Oct. 26th where F&M notched a respectable 36th-place showing in a tough Championship 4+ event.
F&M was only afforded the opportunity to compete in four games during the 2020 spring season. The Diplomats made the most out of their limited chance by tallying a perfect 4-0 record and tying the program's best start since 2016.
Action opened with a doubleheader against Southern Virginia on March 7th as F&M cruised to the sweep with a five-run, first-inning output in a 9-1 game-one victory, followed by a 3-1 win in the nightcap. The next day, Mary Baldwin was dealt the same fate as F&M's offense erupted in triumphs of 15-5 and 9-7.
F&M was able to compete in three spring dual matches, concluding the year against TCNJ on March 7th. The Diplomats' noteworthy accomplishment occurred in the fall with a remarkable showing at the ITA Southeast Regional Championship.
The doubles duo of Kayley Burke '22 and Caroline Ulrich '22 led the way by winning the D bracket with a perfect 2-0 mark over the late-September weekend. Clara March Okuyama '23 represented F&M in the Championship Singles bracket and won a tight 8-7 match against Wilkes in the Consolation round.
F&M went 1-1 during its abbreviated spring campaign and ended the year with a memorable 6-3 upset of No. 40 TCNJ on the road March 7th. Senior Andrew Pace's '20 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory at No. 5 singles clinched the match.
In the classroom, the Diplomats excelled as four of their members earned a place on the CC Spring Academic Honor Roll, while Sam Bellersen '21 was named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men's tennis.
Women's Track & Field
The Diplomats were unable to open the spring by hosting the annual Little Three Meet on March 28th. However, F&M displayed promise throughout its winter season and finished the 2019-20 year on a high note by securing two medals at the CC Indoor Championships in the beginning of March.
When the Centennial Spring Academic Honor Roll was released in May, the Diplomats were well-represented with seven student-athletes meeting the criteria for inclusion on the list.
Men's Track & Field
Men's track & field was also expecting to start the spring campaign at the Little Three Meet in Lancaster on March 28th. The Diplomats were looking to carry over strong relay seasons from the winter that saw the 4X200 and 4X800 both place fourth at the CC Championships in early March.
Stephen Fink '22, Ben Kotran '21, and Drew O'Hern '21 all represented F&M with a place on the CC Spring Academic Honor Roll.