From the waters of the Androscoggin to the turf of Garcelon, the slopes of Sunday River and the baseball diamond at Leahey Field, it’s safe to say that it was a great year to be a Bobcat. Bates had one the most successful years for athletics in school history. The ‘Cats remained at the forefront of competition through all three seasons, claiming national championship titles, dethroning powerhouses, and raising standards for athletic achievement. All the while, the Bobcat faithful never lacked a team to cheer for or a big game to attend.
The fall proved an exciting season on Garcelon for the football team. Matt Cannone, the senior quarterback for Bates, reflected on a fall campaign that brought another CBB football title to Lewiston, as the team finished at a strong 4-4.
“We developed toughness on the field that was instrumental in preparing for each and every game,” Cannone said.
It certainly showed, and a dynamic Bates offense hung at least 30 points on opponents on three separate occasions. Their season was highlighted by their victories over both Colby and Bowdoin, defeating the Mules in overtime and clinching the CBB title in Brunswick in a defensive battle.
Both the soccer teams struggled this year, winning five games combined in the conference between the men’s and women’s programs. But there appears hope for the coming years, as the women won the most games in a season since 2006 (seven), and the men will be glad to have sophomore phenom and All-Conference selection Peabo Knoth back in the fall next year. Peabo was the first Bates sophomore to earn All-NESCAC honors since 2008.
The men’s cross country team enjoyed success this fall, as has been the tradition. The men placed eighth at the NCCAA regionals, making this their fifth year in a row finishing eighth or better. The women’s team also performed well at regionals, finishing tenth, which stands as the third year in a row they have recorded a top ten finish.
As the campus grew colder with the coming winter, the men’s basketball team was just starting to heat up. The Bobats made old Alumni Gym a dreaded place for opponents, as Bates remained undefeated at home for 12 straight games until hosting in the NESCAC playoffs against a tough Wesleyan team. Not only did Bates finish with an impressive 19-5 regular season record, but their play was also deemed worthy of a first ever NCAA tournament bid. But this team wouldn’t settle for a bid, they were after more. Bates won their first two games, making a run that was nothing short of epic to the Sweet Sixteen.
Senior captain Cam Kaubris relayed the basketball team’s mantra, calling this season, “the year of the bull.” Kaubris explained that the team’s focus this year was on “ownership, responsibility, focus, and loyalty. As seniors, we wanted to create a culture that highlighted these characteristics.”
It appears this mantra was exactly what the team needed. When you combine the ability of senior All-Conference point guard Graham Safford with sophomore twins Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche down in the post, junior Mike Boornazian’s clutch fourth quarter play, and senior Bill Selmon’s ability to wreak havoc on defense, you’re left with a team that has ample talent. They just had to show the horns.
While the basketball team was capturing the hearts of Batesies, junior squash player Ahmed Abdel Khalek was putting together perhaps the greatest season by a Bates athlete ever. He captured the College Squash Association National Championship, overcoming a two-set deficit in the final and entering the pantheon of Bates athletic legends. He was undefeated this year, with a staggering record of 25-0, extending his winning streak to 42 matches dating back to his freshman year. Khalek found himself in Sports Illustrated in a section called “Faces in the Crowd,” the first Bobcat featured since track and field star David Pless in 2013.
Reflecting on the season, Khalek remarked, “If you just remember how it feels after you lose, then you’ll do everything you can to get out as a winner.” Just because he always wins doesn’t mean Khalek forgets the constant possibility of defeat.
As if the winter season didn’t have enough fireworks, the spring teams brought more flare to an already great year. The only thing that could possibly rival men’s basketball’s Sweet Sixteen appearance would be another NCAA tournament run. After a tough start to the season, the men’s lacrosse team found themselves among a select group, receiving their first ever NCAA bid and getting the opportunity to host the opener on a hot night underneath the lights for nearly 1,400 fans. Bates rolled to victory over Keene State, the peak of a season in which the Bobcats won six straight NESCAC contests, dethroning number one nationally ranked, defending national champions Tufts in Medford and toppling Middlebury, who had never before lost to Bates.
“This season was almost everything we had hoped for,” senior Conor Henrie said. “Hopefully the bar has been raised for future teams.”
The baseball team made the NESCAC playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in program history. Needing a sweep over Trinity to grab the last spot, the Bobcats came through in the clutch. Bates fell to Wesleyan and Amherst in the double elimination tournament, but had an impressive win over Tufts.
Throughout the last couple of seasons, the rowing program at Bates has enjoyed consistent success. The spring of 2015 has been no different, as both the men’s and the women’s teams captured first place at the New England Championships. This podium is a familiar spot for the Bates women, as they stood in the same place a year ago, but the men enjoyed first place in this regatta for the first time in program history. The women now stand as the top team in Division III and are primed to make another run at the national championship.
Batesies will be sure to keep their eyes on these two teams as they move forward, for it appears that Bates athletics still has some more in store. From the new success stories to the old reliable teams and players, this school has been filled with an energy that has sent shock waves through the NESCAC and the nation. Be proud Bates, the ’Cats showed their claws this year.