Making the Grade
Points on the scoreboard aren’t the only ones that UMBC’s women’s basketball team is scoring. Team members are also racking up the grade points.
The team was recognized by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) for posting the third-highest grade-point average in the country among NCAA Division I teams.
Only Utah Valley (3.630) and South Dakota State (3.622) earned higher GPAs than UMBC’s women’s hoops team (3.578) in Division I. And the Retrievers ranked 13th in the country among schools from all divisions. The high marks were also the best-ever ranking for an America East conference school.
“It’s a testament to how hard our kids work,” said UMBC coach Phil Stern. “The players that we recruit understand what it takes to succeed at an honors university.” Team members have consistently posted GPAs of 3.0 or higher through Stern’s eight years as coach.
Jessica Hammond, assistant athletic director for academic services for student-athletes, said UMBC coaches work diligently to recruit athletes who can succeed academically. She points to UMBC’s overall graduation rate of 86 percent among athletes last year. Fourteen UMBC student-athletes graduated with honors, including two who earned summa cum laude degrees.
Forward Meghan Colabella ’10, history, for instance, graduated in only three years this past spring (magna cum laude) and will start graduate school as she plays in her final year of eligibility with UMBC.
“Academics is number one and basketball is number two,” says Stern, “and fortunately we have kids that understand that right away.”
Cycling for a Cause
Road trip. Those two words together conjure up thoughts of freedom, wide open space, and self discovery.
This summer, three UMBC alumni and one rising junior at the university put their own spin on this classic journey of fun and self-discovery as they cycled across the country to raise money for Active:Water – a charity dedicated to bringing clean water to communities around the globe.
The trip’s itinerary unfurled from San Francisco, CA, to Baltimore, MD. The crew of three cyclists – Mike German ’09, Mike Pacella ’10, and Jesse Crow ’12 – and one support car driver, Shelly Kessler ’10 – is connected by their relationship with UMBC and their strong belief in the importance of helping others.
“Living on the East Coast, we take water for granted,” says German. “Clean water access is not a commodity, but a human right.”
The four participants hope to raise $8,000 for Active:Water, and they’re well on their way to that goal thanks to family, friends, and people they’ve met along the way.
The kindness hasn’t only come in the form of donations. From home-cooked meals in Utah to peach cobbler and fireworks in Texas, almost everyone they’ve encountered has helped out.
“Everyone has something to offer others,” German observes. “It might not be much money, but it might be a nice piece of advice, a kind word, a glass of water, or a sandwich.”
Kessler adds that while the trip runs cross-country, the goals that she has set for herself are ones that will last more than a summer. “This is not just about a trip,” she says. “It’s about deciding to live a life of service.”
Retriever (Blog) Believer
Curtis Tarver ’03, psychology and music, has made music for UMBC as a former member of the “Down and Dirty Dawgs” pep band. And he keeps up with his alma mater and other matters musical and sporting via his blog: “80 Minutes of Regulation."
A native of Wilmington, DE, Tarver banged the drums for UMBC’s pep band for four years. These days, he works as an associate director of student programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, but part of his heart will always remain in Catonsville.
“I talk the most about the things that mean the most to me, and the things I follow most closely,” Tarver said. “Since I love UMBC and follow their programs, I tend to talk about them quite a bit.”
Tarver updates the blog once or twice a week. In the late spring, he posted an entry about his bout of sad nostalgia over the new look of UMBC’s athletics logo.
“I will not obsess over UMBC’s new logo,” Tarver wrote four times, tongue firmly in cheek. He also added a picture of the old logo, wishing it “Farewell and Godspeed, old friend.”
Tarver says that one of his post-graduation highlights was a chance to cheer on his alma mater in person when the Retrievers met Georgetown University in Raleigh, NC, in the 2008 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. He also made a trip to Chapel Hill to catch UMBC’s lacrosse team play the University of North Carolina in a 2009 NCAA tournament game.
“UMBC is where I met my wife, and, obviously, where I started my college career. It means the world to me,” Tarver says.
World Title Teammates
Brendan Mundorf ’06, sociology, and Drew Westervelt ’09, economics, have taken on – and conquered – the lacrosse world with a friendship that began at UMBC.
Both Mundorf and Westervelt were members of the United States team that won the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships in England in late July. Mundorf scored 17 goals in the six-game tournament and made the All-World team. Westervelt tallied 12 goals.
The national teammates have also played lacrosse together for seven seasons now: three years at UMBC and four more with the Denver Outlaws in Major League Lacrosse. “It was an honor to be selected to that team,” Mundorf said. “Having Drew there makes it even more special. We’ve gone down the same road together.”
Mundorf played at UMBC from 2003 to 2006 and finished as the school’s sixth all-time leading scorer with 195 points. Westervelt finished his UMBC career – which ran from 2004 through 2007 – with 206 points, making him the university’s third all-time scorer.
“It just seems like we keep meeting up,” Westervelt says with a laugh. “I’m just happy that I got to experience this with him. It’s always fun playing with him.”
UMBC lacrosse coach Don Zimmerman points to the duo’s success as further proof of the university’s burgeoning lacrosse reputation. The Johns Hopkins University had three players on America’s championship team. Like UMBC, Princeton, Syracuse, College Park and 2010 national champion Duke all placed two members on the winning team.
“It just shows that UMBC is a top-notch lacrosse school,” Mundorf said. “The opportunity is there through UMBC.”