Thursday, August 21, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;67.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/bkn.png;2014-08-21 16:00:22
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Locals are big boost for Riv, DWC

Tom King

Rivier University athletic director Joanne Merrill said it best a couple of weeks ago.

“We don’t want to just say ‘We’re competitive,’” she said when assessing the Raiders athletic program. “We want to win some of those games. That’s the next step for some of these teams.” ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

Rivier University athletic director Joanne Merrill said it best a couple of weeks ago.

“We don’t want to just say ‘We’re competitive,’” she said when assessing the Raiders athletic program. “We want to win some of those games. That’s the next step for some of these teams.”

Well put. It’s been noted over and over the last two decades how the Rivier and Daniel Webster College athletic programs have developed into solid, competitive entities.

In some ways, they have taken the next steps. DWC has put three teams in NCAA tournaments in the last seven years – men’s soccer, women’s hoop, and baseball.

Rivier has had numerous men’s and women’s volleyball appearances, softball a couple of times and men’s basketball.

But it’s clear as both Merrill and her DWC counterpart Chris Gilmore have evaluated their programs at the end of the year, there are challenges ahead at both schools as Division III becomes more and more competitive.

Daniel Webster’s issue is clear, and it’s an age-old one: Women’s athletics.

The Eagles need numbers. The fact they weren’t able to field a women’s lacrosse team and barely a softball team this year means something is lacking.

It would make sense to hold off on fielding a women’s ice hockey team this winter. It’s not like they have a ready-made team ready to go varsity like men’s ice hockey, which played in a highly competitive club level for several years and already have the numbers.

Do what Rivier had done when it expanded: Hire the coach (which Gilmore has), and let him spend a year putting things together recruiting. Then go.

Meanwhile, it says something that the two sports both schools have had the most success with in the past year is men’s and women’s volleyball. Good coaches, good recruiters and a sport that is fun to play. And what more do you need than a No. 1 national ranking as the Riv men’s team briefly enjoyed this year.

Yes, it’s volleyball. It draws decent, lively crowds but were the Raiders No. 1 in men’s or women’s basketball, well, watch out.

Those are the sports that could bring both campuses the most notoriety, and they know it. But Division III is so highly competitive in basketball in terms of the recruiting wars, it isn’t easy. Even for a former longtime Division I head coach in the Eagles’ Dave Faucher, or for Dave Morissette after his 2007 GNAC title. You need depth and talent.

One thing both schools have done is often build on local talent. Deanna Purcell, of Hudson, is the cornerstone of a Raiders women’s basketball program that is ever so close to winning a GNAC title and would like to while she’s there.

Merrimack’s David Downie was the leading scorer for not only Daniel Webster’s ice hockey team, but it’s men’s lacrosse team as well. Former Alvirne infielder Kyle Brigham, the NECC Player of the Year not just this year but last year as well, is also another great example.

It’s funny, just about every local success story at both schools has always said they really had never considered Riv or DWC as a serious option until it was all laid out for them. Both schools still need to overcome that last trace of anonimity.

Riv has the facilities to do it. The Muldoon has hosted some local events. Bishop Guertin has played a big lacrosse game here or there at Riv’s great hilltop facility, and Nashua North-South softball has been held the last couple of years under the lights just above the lacrosse field.

Daniel Webster’s great Harvey Woods Field has, when available, been used locally as well. The Eagles Vagge Gym has always been a community spot, cite of some camps, etc.

So both schools have become viable in the local athletic community. They are viable in the regional collegiate community as well.

A few more wins would help even more. Let’s see what the 2014-15 year brings.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).