Fall varsity sports: A season of CMU athletics revisited

The 2015 Carnegie Mellon football team huddles around a referee before the coin toss of a game in October.  (credit: File Photo Courtesy of Stefen Zhu) The 2015 Carnegie Mellon football team huddles around a referee before the coin toss of a game in October. (credit: File Photo Courtesy of Stefen Zhu)

Men’s Cross Country

Coming into the season with new head coach Timothy Connelly, the Carnegie Mellon men’s cross country team had a lot of questions about what direction the program would take, a year after winning NCAA Regionals and placing 24th at NCAA DIII Nationals.The team made a statement in Connelly’s first year, winning the UAA Championships in cross country for the first time in 10 years on the way to an 18th place finish at nationals, a six place improvement from the year before. Helped by one of the deepest rosters in recent history and great performances by junior runner Ryan Archer, the Tartans established themselves as the team to beat in the conference.


The Carnegie Mellon football team got off to a slow start, dropping an important conference game to Washington University in St. Louis on their way to a 1–3 record through the first four games. The season looked to be in trouble, even though sophomore running back Sam Benger managed over 200 yards rushing in two of three losses.

Benger’s statistical contributions didn’t stay out of the box score for long, with the Tartan men breaking out of their slump to win their next four games by 21, 44, 28, and 54 points before entering their next UAA contest. There, the Carnegie men turned heads with a 52–7 lights-out performance to take care of business with the visiting University of Chicago Maroons.

This paved the way to a conference showdown with rival No. 22 ranked Case Western Reserve University for the UAA Conference title. The Tartans carried their momentum into the contest, and held on for a tight 52–42 result. With a midseason turnaround, a strong defense, and an unstoppable offense the Carnegie men took their first conference championship in 10 years and went on to win the ECAC Legacy Bowl to put a stamp on the end of their season.

Four players were named to the All-American team, the first Carnegie football players to be recognized as such since 2006.

Men’s Soccer

Looking to make a mark with a competitive lineup entering the season, the Carnegie Mellon men’s soccer team came out scoring to open up the 2015 season. Going 7–1–1, including a 4–3 win over #3 ranked Messiah in September, the Tartan men positioned themselves as contenders entering UAA competition.

The Tartans entered their final conference matchup against Case Western Reserve University with a 3–1–2 record in conference play. Through an evenly matched and tightly contested game, the Spartans eventually came away with the win off of a late goal in double overtime. The Tartans took the loss, but still managed a third place finish in the UAA going into the NCAA tournament.

The Tartans’ tournament run ended up being a short one, as leading scorer and senior midfielder William Webb failed to find the net in a 2–1 defeat to Gordon College. In spite of the loss, the Carnegie men’s return to the NCAA tournament and their strong finish in the UAA conference standings both bode well for next season.

Women’s Cross Country

Debuting under head coach Timothy Connelly, the Carnegie Mellon women’s cross country team had a mix of successes that both showed the talent and tenacity of the team. Coming off of a positive 2014, highlighted by 7th place finish at NCAA Regionals, the Tartan women looked to continue to improve.

Early on, Carnegie made subtle improvements, equaling a 4th place finish at the Carnegie Mellon Invitational from a year ago despite an expanded field. But the Tartans didn’t stop there, generating excitement for their great potential with a 1st place finish out of 29 teams, including two UAA rivals, at the Inter–Regional Rumble at Oberlin College the following week. Led by senior runner Rekha Schnepf, the Tartans finished 7th at NCAA Regionals again this year, but showed they have room to improve. The team will be one to watch out for next season.

Women’s Soccer
The Carnegie Mellon women’s soccer team had one of the best years in program history, dominating through most of the season in a potential bid for a UAA Championship and more. The team followed through on their UAA bid, finishing off UAA play with a win over Case Western Reserve University to leave them 6–1–0 in conference play, good enough for the championship.

The team then entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 5 ranked team in the nation, and went on to win games in the first two rounds of tournament play. The Tartans fell in the sectional semifinal to 20th ranked Calvin College, losing in overtime in spite of a strong offensive and defensive combination through out the game.

With a lot of success and something left the strive for, the Carnegie women can look back on their accomplishments with pride while looking forward to a chance to do even more next year.

Women’s Volleyball

The Carnegie Mellon women’s volleyball team opened up their season with a winning clinic, taking care of business on 24 of their first 25 sets, while winning 11 straight games. Extending their success going into the UAA tournament, they went 4–3 in conference play, backed by strong play from senior libero Molly Higgins and junior setter Emily Newton.

Despite of their positive record all season, the Tartan women found themselves disappointed early in the UAA tournament, with a first round loss to University of Chicago ending their bid for a conference title. The team finished the tournament with a couple wins in order to secure a 5th place UAA finish, before continuing to ECAC South tournament play.

In the ECAC South Tournament, Carnegie built off two wins to advance to the final, and finished as the runner–up in the region to Swarthmore College. With a 29–8 finish to the season, and a runner–up finish in the ECAC south tournament, the Tartans managed a successful result through tough competition.