The Best of the Barons #1: Barons Tennis Wins AMCC Champs

It's the middle of the inactive summer months for college athletics making it the perfect time to bring back the Best of the Barons countdown.

Starting on July 1 and then continuing down every Wednesday until the beginning of the 2014-15 season, we'll reveal our Top 10 list of the best moments from the previous season of Baron Athletics.

The moments are chosen by the Franciscan Athletics Media & Statistics Teams and are judged based on emotional impact, program importance, and historic significance.

# 1 – Baron Tennis Wins AMCC Championship

The moment Zach Quiza won the final point of his number 2 singles match in AMCC Championships, a wide range of emotions swept the court.

For Head Coach Jeremy Ellis, a sigh of relief that his team's undefeated conference season wouldn't end in a heartbreaking upset.

For Pitt-Greensburg, the drooping heads of disappointment in coming close but not winning.

For the Franciscan players, the unbridled yelling, jumping, running, smiling, and dog piling of a thrilling game and a championship victory.

That moment, and those emotions had been building for hours. The full context of the game's significance had been building for days, months, and years.

The Barons entered the match as the overwhelming favorite. Not only had they swept conference play but they had defeated Pitt-Greensburg in a 9-0 shutout just a few weeks earlier.

The expectation was the Franciscan would win the game, and make the NCAA Tournament with even more ease than when they made the national tournament the year before.

Halfway through singles play, however, nothing could be assumed. The score eventually sat at 4-4 with Quiza's singles match the de facto tiebreaker.

With his teammates turned spectators lining the court, Quiza took over and with a 5-2 lead in the third set created the top Baron moment of the 2013-14 season.

# 2 – Women's Soccer Wins First Playoff Game

The goal of the 2013 season for Lady Baron soccer was for the team to make their first AMCC playoffs. With a conference record of 5-4, good enough for fifth best in the conference, the team met their goal and would play their first playoff game at Pitt-Greensburg.

Not only would the game give FUS a shot at the program's first playoff win but also a chance to redeem one of their worst performances of the year; a 1-0 home loss to Greensburg.

It didn't take long for the Lady Barons to get on the scoreboard with a goal in 22nd minute from team captain Julia Cocozza. Cocozza's goal headlined a dominant first half for the Lady Barons but despite outshooting the Bobcats 9-5, the game remained a one-point contest as the second half started.

After a scare from Greensburg, forward Jordan Byrley received a thru ball from midfielder Ashley Ruttencutter in the 55th minute and gave Franciscan a more comfortable lead. Cocozza then finished off the Bobcats twenty minutes later with her second goal of the game.

The win gave FUS its first playoff appearance and win in program history. In combination with a hotly contested semi-final game against eventual AMCC champs Penn St.-Behrend the win over Greensburg established the Lady Barons as a program on the rise in the conference.

# 3 – Allen Kicks Ruggers to 3RRC Tittle

After running almost unchecked through the regular season of the 3 Rivers Rugby Conference, Baron rugby found itself in a surprisingly even battle against Robert Morris University for the conference championship.

The Barons scored early but RMU answered back by giving Franciscan their first deficit of the season with a try and conversion. From there it was a sloppy, rain-soaked affair that found its way to a 17-17 tie with one minute left to play.

A penalty on RMU just outside their try zone, gave Franciscan the option to take a potentially game winning penalty kick. Senior Tom Allen, a former soccer player, was the obvious choice to take the kick and with the Colonials helplessly watching, Allen's kick was strong and accurate, giving FUS a 20-17 lead.

The Baron's defense kept RMU at bay for the game' final 60 seconds, ending the season's most exciting game. The final whistle sounded, crowning Franciscan as the 3RRC Champions and placing the team in the NSCRO Regional Tournament for the second time in the past three years.

The win also capped off Franciscan's perfect conference record of 8-0 during the 2013 season and helped FUS finish the year as the 9th ranked team in country.

# 4 – Swimming & Diving's Best Finish Ever

The goal for the 2013-14 swimming & diving season was clear all year long for the Lady Barons: beat 7-time defending conference champions Penn St. – Behrend at the AMCC Finals.

Heading into the three-day long championships, the stage was set for an unpredictable three-way battle between Cabrini College, Penn St. – Behrend, and Franciscan for first place.

The first day of "champs" saw freshman Nicole Marshall and senior Molly Coogan have their best races of the year but by the end of the day FUS found itself in third place.

Marshall's ECAC qualifying performance in the 100-yard backstroke was just one of the pieces in a momentum swinging day two that saw the Lady Barons take second place from their season-long target, Penn St. Behrend.

A first-place finish from Kelly Rankin in the 3-meter dive and a series of inspiring swims from Coogan on the third and final day of competition cemented Franciscan's spot ahead of the Lady Lions.

While the Lady Barons weren't able to overtake Cabrini, they finished with their highest point total ever at "champs" and placed eighth in the overall meet against teams from the AMCC and the President's Athletic Conference; their highest placement in the program's three-year history.

# 5 – 2 Goals in 15 Seconds for Baron Soccer

Down 3-1 to St. Vincent College in the third game of their 2013 season, the Barons looked ready to fall to an 0-3 record a year removed from a one win 2012 season.

In this moment of desperation, freshman forward Joe Duran, younger brother of Baron soccer legend Steve Duran, had his breakout performance.

First, Duran scored in the 57th minute to bring Franciscan within one but 30 more minutes of scoreless play left the Barons with just three minutes to avoid the loss.

Then the magical 15 seconds began.

It started with a one-touch pass through the center of the field to Duran. The freshman settled the ball near the top of the penalty box and fired a shot across the face of the goal from right to left and tied the score at 3-3.

Duran's youthful energy then exploded off the ensuing restart as he almost instantaneously intercepted the opponent's backward pass and dribbled almost uncontested to the goal.

His shot popped off the charging keeper and floated towards the goal line where a falling defender headed the ball out towards the field and right to FUS forward John Imbimbo who easily finished to give Franciscan their first win of the season.

 

# 6 – Sullivan Drives, Dishes for Win: Video

Baron Basketball makes a second appearance on our list with one of the most exciting single plays of the 2013-14 season during a 71-70 win over Medaille College.

With 12 seconds left, Franciscan found themselves down by one with an inbound from the opposite baseline following a Medaille free throw. Franciscan's Christian Duke quickly grabbed the ball and found Moses Sullivan a few feet away along the sideling.

Sullivan, the team's leading scorer for the season and the game, then took over the moment. He received the inbound and headed down the far sideline, crossing over his defender into the center of the court and headed for the basket.

At a full-speed dribble near the top of the three-point arch, Sullivan again changed direction, this time with a behind-the-back move that left his defender lying on the floor. As he drove into the lane the Maverick's 6'8" center slid between Sullivan and the hoop.

Standing under the basket in the void left by the sliding Medaille defender stood a now undefended Joe Rine. Sullivan saw the opening, dishing to Rine who finished the play, laying the ball off the glass and winning the game for the Barons.

# 7 – Lady Barons Honor Senior With Win

The season ending dramatics continue with Lady Baron Basketball. Heading into their final game of the year, the Lady Barons were one win shy of the program's best season and also had the chance to send senior captain, Helen Raines, out with a win.

It may have been senior day but it was freshman Katie Rhodes who lit up the scoreboard early on. Rhodes scored 10 of Franciscan's first 13 points and didn't miss a shot in the first half.

From there, freshman Illiana Gonzalez and sophomore Dani Link took over combining for 33 points and 5 for 9 shooting from behind the arc. Then a late rally from Pitt-Bradford set up the FUS senior for one last memorable moment.

With 20 seconds and a three point Franciscan lead, Raines went to the free throw line with a chance to put the game out of reach. The previous 39 minutes and 40 seconds had been rough for Raines, who went 0-6 from the field, but the team captain rose to the occasion, sinking both shots to give Franciscan their highest single-season win total.

# 8 – Season's Final Seconds the Best for WLAX

It was a rough season at times for Lady Baron Lacrosse, but the final seconds of the team's final game proved enough to bring strong momentum into next year.

A clutch win at the draw from Shannon Root and an FUS timeout gave Franciscan the ball with 18 seconds to go in a 15-15 tie game. Root's draw control followed her equalizing goal that completed a six-goal FUS comeback with less than two minutes left.

Now the Lady Barons had a chance to take their first lead of the game and walk away with this second victory of the season. The obvious option was captain Tracy McClelland who already had eight of Franciscan's goals but second lead scorer Lauren Noce found a crack in the Waynesburg defense and scored the game winner with eight seconds left.

 

# 9 – Softball Wins With a Walk-Off

Spending a spring break in Florida can leave any college student with great memories but for Lady Baron Softball, their spring training trip to the sunshine state spurred one of the young program's best moments.

Following a winless 2012-13 season, Franciscan found their sweet spot against Anna Maria College. After falling into a 3-0 deficit in the first three innings, a double from Kim Muscat and a two-run homerun from Katrina Fabian in the fourth evened the score.

Then in the bottom of the final inning, senior Rosemary Cassidy stole third and waited for a moment to complete the comeback. A passed pitch gave Cassidy just that chance and the skilled baserunner moved decisively, crossing home and giving FUS a walk-off win.

 

# 10 – Baron Basketball Gets First NCAA Win

It may have been a long time coming but that made the moment more significant. On November 17, 2013 Baron Basketball finally broke a two-year losing streak with a dominant 88-64 win over Penn St. – Greater Allegheny.

A team-high20 points from sophomore guard Timmy Schenk, 13 assists and 8 points from sophomore point guard Derrick David and a 14 point, 13 rebound double-double from junior forward Joe Rine brought the Baron's the breakthrough win.

Not only did the game break the losing streak and give the program its first win as full NCAA members, it also took the pressure off the Baron's back and helped set up more milestone wins.

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