Roby: “We’re going to have to earn it”

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By Jill Saftel, News Staff 

In his semesterly sit-down with The News, Athletic Director Peter Roby looked back at Northeastern’s winter sports and offered thoughts on baseball, rowing and track & field. Last week, he broke down the success of the Husky basketball seasons, in addition to his hopes for next year’s men’s hockey season. In the second part of his review, Roby took a look at the women’s hockey team’s standout season and where spring sports are headed at the halfway points in their seasons.

Women’s hockey
The Huskies brought home Northeastern’s second consecutive Beanpot this year against Boston College and made it to the Hockey East final, where they fell to Boston University and missed out on a shot at the NCAA tournament. While the team has a standard of success now, 2014 brings an Olympic year and with it the opportunity for NU women’s hockey players to represent their countries at the Games.

“It was a successful season in a lot of ways,” Roby said. “They struggled there at one point early on. They had a choice at that point, after having a lot of success, they could have packed it in and started pointing fingers and blaming everybody but instead they went and won 11 out of 12 regular season games there at the end.

“They’ve done what we hoped they would do, finish in the top of Hockey East and have a chance to do some damage nationally. They beat ranked teams throughout the year and just came up a little short in terms of the championship, but This team of athletes is used to winning and they have an expectation now that anything less than winning is going to be a disappointment. That’s what you want to try to create.

“Next year is going to be interesting because it’s an Olympic year, so that means a certain No. 77 [sophomore forward Kendall Coyne] is probably going to be away, and there could be a couple of others as well. But that’s a good thing, that’s a good problem to have. We’ll compete with the folks that we have and we’ll root for our athletes that are fortunate enough and talented enough to represent their countries in the Olympic games. It’s a thrill of a lifetime and we’re going to be excited for it if it happens.”

The baseball team has experienced both highs and lows early on. They swept the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. then dropped three consecutive 1-0 contests to the College of William & Mary at home. The team has a 22-15 overall record but is struggling to hit the .500 mark in conference play with a 7-8 record.

“I’ve never seen 1-0 three games in a row, never heard of it or seen it,” Roby said of the series against William & Mary in late March. “You get one run games all the time, but 1-0? And for us, a team that’s pretty good offensively? Maybe some tough weather conditions, good pitching and some bad luck. That’s a formula for not scoring any runs.

“We’ve got really good pitching, in both the bullpen and the starting pitching. If they stay healthy, it gives us a chance to compete. If you’ve got pitching in college baseball, you’ve got a chance every time you take the field. We’ve got guys that can hit and play some defense, so I’m really excited about what they can do. It’s probably one of the best teams we’ve had in the last five years. We’re seeing the benefit of some scholarships that have kicked in and the depth that Neil has been able to build in the past few years, especially on a pitching front. I’m excited, six teams make the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championships and our goal is to make the tournament and then we’ll take our chances.”

The men’s rowing team continues to dominate this year; a perfect 4-0 just about halfway through its season. The women’s team is 2-6, and recently traveled out west for the PAC-12 Challenge against Oregon State University, Stanford University and the University of California. The women were swept on their visit to California, but Roby said it was a great learning experience for the team.

“It’s a chance for our athletes to see how they stack up and what we still have to do,” Roby said. “It’s deceiving when you’re rowing against crews on the east coast and you don’t see what’s going on in the midwest or the west coast. So we hope that the experience out there will translate into us being more competitive. If nothing else, it gets your athletes’ attention and it’s kind of a ‘woah’ moment, like we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

“On the men’s side, plenty to be excited about there. They got off to a great start down south both on the training trip and up in the D.C. area and Pennsylvania area. Really excited about John and his staff and what they’ve done in the offseason. Based on what we’ve accomplished in the past few years with our freshmen crews, now those guys are sophomores and juniors and we feel like there’s going to be a lot of competition for seats, and that’s what makes a boat fast, when guys know that they can’t take a day off from training, because someone next to them is really fast and they could take their seat.

“We want to build a national contender. We want to be a relevant rowing program nationally and I think John is in the midst of doing that right now. It’s not going to come without a lot of hard work, because everyone else has the same expectations we have.

“We’re excited, but we’re going to have to earn it. That’s the beauty of sport, that’s the lesson, you have to compete.”

Track & Field
The members of the men’s and women’s track and field teams have consistently picked up CAA weekly honors, and with a new coaching staff in place including program director Catherine Erickson, Roby said he is confident in the program’s direction.

“We’ve got a new coach and a new coaching staff and we’re very excited about the prospects there,” he said. “We’ve got some talented athletes. Max [Milder] was CAA Athlete of the Week and Nia [Howard] is really good on the women’s side. Eric [Jenkins] is as good as they come. We think with the coaching additions that we’ve made and with Catherine’s leadership that the program is headed in a really good direction. We’re really proud of what they’ve done in spite of some challenging circumstances with Catherine being hurt. She had a terrible leg injury she had to have surgery on and she’s in a wheelchair and just getting back.

“The assistant coaches have really stepped up and Catherine is continuing to lead from her wheelchair. The kids have distinguished themselves despite that. We have a history of being very good in track and field and we want to make sure that we get back to that. Our alumni expect that from us so we are prepared to do that.”