A Thrilling, Unforgettable Year

Photo of student Elizabeth White playing soccerImage: Tim Phillis
Elizabeth White

Several teams had outstanding seasons last year. Read on for the highlights:

Setting High Goals

CWRU women's soccer didn't win a single league game in 2018, Elizabeth White's first season on the team. Even worse, she broke her jaw and watched six weeks of the season from the sidelines.

But after persevering through two coaching changes and the pandemic, the team didn't lose a matchup of any kind in 2022—until a 2-1 defeat in the NCAA championship game against Johns Hopkins. National runner-up marked the best finish in university history by any women's team.

"The whole season our goal was to win a national championship," said White (CWR '23), a NCAA Elite 90 Award-winner for academic and athletic achievement who majored in civil engineering. "The loss didn't take away from how special and amazing that season was, especially given what we had to go through."

Headshot of Abby Richte
Abby Richter, women’s soccer head coach

The unprecedented year happened in part because Head Coach Abby Richter—who arrived three weeks before the first game last summer—trusted the culture already in place and the players she inherited.

"Why would I change something that was obviously working," said Richter, who inherited a team that broke program records in back-to-back seasons and went on to its first NCAA Division III championship in 2021.

White was one of those experienced players and helped institute "accountability groups" and "teammate dates" to facilitate chemistry with the new coach and 18 new players.

Last year's performance is tough to follow. But the team has outstanding returning players—including Helina VanBibber and Aniya Hartzler, who ranked second and third, respectively, in points—and the knowledge that big challenges are full of even bigger possibilities.

Backed by Popular Demand

Photo of a a student softball player about to throw a pitch.Image: Tim Phillis
Lexi Miskey

When sophomore softball pitcher Lexi Miskey set a school record with 23 wins in 2023, she did so while getting help from former record-holder Sidney Brannam (CWR '21), who volunteers as an assistant coach.

"Having these alums come back is so great," said Head Coach Josie Henry.

Headshot of Josie
Josie Henry, softball head coach

Spartans softball is a model of alumni outreach and engagement with five alumni volunteer assistants on staff—including Brannam—and others helping when needed.

It was that sense of community that attracted Miskey, who first met her future teammates and coaches over a Zoom call.

"They were so warm and funny; they drew me in," said the junior biomedical engineering major. "I couldn't say ‘no' after that."

Miskey won University Athletic Association (UAA) Pitcher of the Year honors in each of her first two seasons. At the same time, CWRU won two conference titles, and finished last season 38-5—matching a school win record. The Spartans ranked as high as No. 3 before losing in the NCAA tournament.

"The last two years have been amazing," Miskey said. "The way the season ended makes us want to win it all that much more."

Henry brings back a team that finished 17-2 in the UAA last year and doesn't lack for pitching, experienced players or help from former players.

Photo of Case Western Reserve Associate Professor Michael Goldberg and university President Eric W. Kaler sitting at a broadcast table.Photo: Tim Phillis
CWRU President Eric W. Kaler, right, joined the broadcast for a softball game in May with Associate Professor Michael Goldberg.

"How many presidents are taking time out of their day to spend two hours on a women's sport? I'm really proud that's happening here."

Softball Head Coach Josie Henry after CWRU President Eric W. Kaler provided color commentary during a game.

CWRU Hoops Graduates to Another Level

Picture of student athletes during a men's basketball gameImage: Tim Phillis
As a Case Western Reserve student, Mitch Prendergast, left, won the University Athletic Association basketball Player of the Year award.

The culture shock came at Mitch Prendergast in waves, first when the graduate student heard locker-room conversations among "some of the smartest people I've ever known," and then when he ran on the basketball court in 2021 for his first home game.

"There were about 20 parents there; it was humbling," said Prendergast (MGT '23). "But by the time we hosted the NCAAs, it was standing-room only. Seeing what our success meant to people is something I'll never forget."

In his two seasons, CWRU twice made the NCAA tournament, hosted a Sweet 16 and won the conference for the first time ever. The achievements led the cleveland.com news site to ask, "In between brain-popping classes, is Case Western Reserve University becoming a basketball school?"

Prendergast played a key role, winning the University Athletic Association's basketball Player of the Year (another CWRU first). So, too, did the Weatherhead School of Management's Master of Finance program, which attracted him as a graduate student with a COVID-19-related eligibility extension.

"The sell," Head Coach Todd McGuinness said, "is you go to one of the top business schools, play basketball in the conference we're in and then it [immediately] helps you in the job market."

This season, new graduate students join key returners Hunter Drenth, Luke Thorburn, Umar Rashid, Sam Trunley and Ian Elam. The entire group has the same goal as last year.

"Win the UAA, win a national championship," McGuinness said. "Can't believe that actually comes out of my mouth. But that's where our goals have changed."

Photo of a student athlete running outdoors with a baton. People watch in the background. Photo: ROBERT ST. CLAIR

Men's Indoor Track and Field

The CWRU men's indoor track and field team scored at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2023 for the first time since 2012 after an All-America finish from its distance medley relay team. Team member Josh Bates, right, also competed during the outdoor season.

Photo of a men's soccer game in action. Photo: TIM PHILLIS

Men's Soccer

In 2022, the CWRU men's soccer team qualified for the NCAA Championship field for the first time since 2018 and recorded the best conference record (5- 1-1) in program history. Matt Vatne, left, was named the University Athletic Association's Offensive Player of the Year in soccer after the season ended.

Photo of a student athlete playing tennis. Photo: CWRU SPORTS INFORMATION

Women's Tennis

The CWRU women's tennis team competed in the NCAA Division III Championships each of the last two years, reaching the round of 16 in 2022. Lily McCloskey, right, along with Hannah Kassaie, reached the round of 16 of the doubles tournament.

Photo of baseball players celebrating after a game. Photo: CWRU SPORTS INFORMATION


The CWRU baseball team received a bid to the NCAA Division III Championship in 2023 for the sixth time in program history. It was eliminated in the first round, but finished the year with a 28-15 record.

Photo of a student athlete diving backward into a pool. Photo: TIM PHILLIS

Women's Swimming and Diving

The CWRU women's swimming and diving team finished 26th at the 2023 NCAA Division III Championships behind a pair of All-America finishes from diver Abigail Wilkov, right, now a third-year student.

Picture of cross country team. Photo: TIM PHILLIS

Men's Cross Country

The CWRU men's cross country team has qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships in each of the last four seasons.

— Bud Shaw