Interviews with Saint Mary’s international athletes, from Germany to New Zealand, share how they come together and celebrate the American holiday.
By Eden Llodrá
As the trees on campus turn a red-orange and students begin to bundle up, Thanksgiving break arrives. For most students, this is a time to reunite with family and friends, eat turkey and mashed potatoes, and possibly watch a football game. However, for international students, specifically athletes, going home for a week is oftentimes out of the question. Nevertheless, team members get together on their own and make sure they spend quality time being grateful for each other's company.
Caelen Potts, a junior on the men's tennis team said, “Nearly all of our team is international so we can't go home for Thanksgiving break. But we still get together with friends and try to celebrate the American tradition.”
When asked about the team’s plans for Thanksgiving break, Valentin Kurz, a junior on the soccer team said, “Most American players from the team go home for Thanksgiving, so the international students usually go with one of their American teammates to their home.” The soccer team, like all teams at Saint Marys, aims to be inclusive and make sure the teammates all have a place to stay, especially during a holiday break.
This year, Kurz said, “My roommate, from New Zealand, and I (from Germany) are taking a trip up to Seattle to celebrate.”
Since Thanksgiving is only celebrated in America, international athletes normally would not celebrate the holiday at home. Kurz said, “Thanksgiving in itself doesn't make me miss home more than usual since we don't have Thanksgiving back home.” This break does not instigate the feeling of homesickness for abroad students, yet is a family-oriented time for most American students.
During this break, it is clear that Saint Mary’s teams make an effort to celebrate together. From spending so much time training together, living and breathing their sport, they have become a family. Even though international athletes do not get to go home for the week, Potts said, “We all have similar friend groups, so no matter what we usually spend time together.”
As the air has crisped and the leaves fall, autumn is here at Saint Mary’s, and athletes both local and foreign unite to celebrate the meaning of family.
The yearly tradition of NFL football on Thanksgiving day continues as key matchups may prove to be crucial in playoff standings
By Ryan Ford
Every year on Thanksgiving, sports fans are treated to NFL football. This tradition has been around since the league’s inception in 1920, featuring three games that play throughout the day.
As part of this tradition, two franchises are always featured during the holiday celebration: the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams play at home, while the third game of the day can be assigned to any matchup the schedule makers deem worthy.
Here is a preview of the Thanksgiving games on deck this holiday season, as well as players and matchups to keep an eye on. (All stats and information as of Nov. 19)
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (9:30 AM)
The first game of the day pits the Chicago Bears (3-6) up against the winless Detroit Lions (0-8-1). This game is far from a marquee matchup, but young talent will be on display all over the field.
The Chicago Bears are technically still in the playoff hunt (only 2 games out of the 7th seed as of this writing), but their main priority for the rest of the season should be rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ development. Fields has had an up-and-down rookie season but has a favorable matchup here against Detroit, who have the 3rd worst scoring and rushing defense in football. Look for the Bears utilizing Fields’ dual-threat ability in this one.
Meanwhile, it’s been hard to find silver linings for the Detroit Lions’ abysmal 0-8-1 start. Jared Goff has struggled (his 27.3 QBR is worst among qualified starters), and the defense lacks playmakers (21st in takeaways). On a positive note, second-year running back D’Andre Swift has been making fantasy owners happy (ranks 5th among RB’s in PPR leagues), and first-round rookie tackle Penei Sewell has flashed the traits that made him a blue-chip prospect.
Still, if the Lions lose at home to a rookie QB that they could have drafted themselves while Goff stinks up the joint, the wound might sting a little more for a team that is still eyeing their first win of the season. The Chicago Bears are road favorites, favored by 3 points per DraftKings.
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (1:30 PM)
The Cowboys are having a great season thus far, sitting at 7-2 and in the mix for the number one seed in the NFC. Dak Prescott has been excellent (85.2 PFF grade), their offensive line is as good as any in football, and young playmakers Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons have rejuvenated the defense (4th in the league in takeaways).
The Las Vegas Raiders, however, haven’t had many things go right this year. After a 5-2 start, the Raiders have been outscored in their last two games 64-30, and appear to be feeling the effects of head coach Jon Gruden’s resignation and wide receiver Henry Ruggs’ arrest. And if things get any worse, general manager Mike Mayock will likely be the next to go following years of questionable draft picks and roster decisions.
The Raiders will certainly come into this game as a more desperate team, but this will be a tough matchup for the road team, as the Cowboys are 4-1 at home and 8-1 against the spread this season. Dallas is currently favored by 7 points per DraftKings.
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints (5:20 PM)
The Buffalo Bills (6-3) travel to New Orleans to face off against the Saints (5-4), concluding the Thursday night games. A month ago, this seemed like it may be the best matchup of the day. Unfortunately, Saints’ quarterback Jameis Winston tore his ACL a few weeks ago following a hot start to the season, and it’s hard to get excited about their offense with perennial back-up Trevor Siemian calling the shots.
But New Orleans’ head coach Sean Payton is as good an offensive mind as there is in football, while their defense has been a strong unit all season long (1st in rushing yards allowed, 6th in points allowed per game). You also have to throw in the fact that the Bills have had some very questionable performances this year, despite their talent.
The Bills field the best defense in football (1st in both total yards and points allowed per game), and quarterback Josh Allen even in a somewhat down-year finds himself top 7 in passing yards per game (289.1), passing touchdowns (19), and QBR (60.4). They have dominant wins where they seem like the best team in the AFC and lead the league in point differential (+145), but they’ve also lost to the 2-7 Jacksonville Jaguars and didn’t look great against the 3-7 Miami Dolphins the week before that.
Both teams are battling for playoff seeding, and given the dominance of their respective defenses, expect a low-scoring grind-it-out type showcase to end the Thanksgiving slate of games. Buffalo currently stands as 4.5 point favorite per DraftKings.
In a one-on-one interview Amanda Hofmann, President of Gael Force, gave insight on what they have planned, what goals they are striving to achieve, and how the crew has developed over the years.
By: Eden Llodrá
Gael Force carries the school’s spirit and Saint Mary’s pride. Students know the feeling of wearing the white shirts with blue and red letters, cheering from the stands, and showing up to rallies. But, rarely are students aware of the ins and outs of Gael Force’s event planning and advertisement.
Gael Force organizes tailgates before big games, throws handouts (towels and other little prizes) at rallies, and they help get in contact with the basketball teams to put together theme nights. The role of the president, Hofmann said, is to “lead meetings and help get in contact with the basketball teams.” The responsibilities in GaelForce are broken down into three crews: the tasked teams, who are the head of sports, seventeen blue crew members, who are in charge of organizing events, and seven executive team members.
Hofmann vocalizes that Gael Force’s intent is to “create an environment at games that is super welcoming and friendly.” The sports arena is meant to ignite school spirit and hold a memorable sentiment in the hearts of Saint Mary’s students. The long-term goal is to continue getting students involved and excited about upcoming events and games, especially after COVID-19 stopped the momentum.
Kyle Bowen, a forward on the basketball team said, “I’m incredibly thankful for the support we receive from SMC students. Gael Force makes home games so much more enjoyable and the team loves having them back in the stands this season.” The purpose of Gael Force is to make sure the student section is excited and “hyped up” for games. Not only does it become a memorable experience for the students, but one for the players as well.
With the first home game and theme night of the season on November 9th, the men's basketball team took home a win, 87 to 68. The sports stadium was filled with students cheering and wearing SMC’s red, white, and blue. Gael Force brings the feeling of unanimity and comradery to the basketball courts, making students feel proud to be a Gael.
The team is hoping to finish the season strong at the Head of the Lagoon after a difficult season. (Image Courtesy Jez Garcia)
By Maddie Sciba
The Women’s Rowing team is rarely talked about around campus, with many students not even knowing that Saint Mary’s has a NCAA Division I team. Every morning at 5:30 a.m., the team meets in front of the basketball gym and drives 30 minutes to Briones Reservoir for practice. They practice until 8:00 a.m., then rush back to school in time for team breakfast in Oliver. Although the spring is their major racing season, the Gaels raced in one regatta and two scrimmages this fall season.The fall season has longer courses, with races being 5,000 meters long, as opposed to the spring season’s courses being only 2,000 meters long.
The team has been pushed a lot this season, but it was nothing that they couldn’t handle. Sophomore Olivia Watson explained how the lack of a fall season last year has affected the Gaels for their last spring season and this fall season. “During the spring, they pushed us a lot harder so in the fall it would be easier. It is a challenging but healthy challenge. Not having a fall season last year let us, as a team, work on things that we would not have otherwise worked on.”
The Gaels started off this season with a scrimmage against UC Berkeley. Both the SMC crew and the Cal crew practice at Briones Reservoir in Orinda. The scrimmage, which was aptly named The Battle of Briones, proved a challenge for the Gaels, as they raced one of the best teams in the country.
On October 10th, Saint Mary’s crew headed to the Port of West Sacramento for their first regatta in two years, aptly called the Head of the Port. The Gaels raced two boats at the regatta, the Varsity 8 and the Second Varsity 8. Each boat consists of 8 rowers and one coxswain (the small person with a microphone who steers the boat). The Gaels finished second and third, coming in behind Sacramento State, but beating two UC Davis boats. This was a strong race for the team, as they were able to beat both UC Davis boats on their home turf.
Coming off that race, the Gaels scrimmaged CSU Humboldt at Briones on October 23rd. Humboldt’s crew is a strong competitor of Saint Mary’s and gave the Gaels a difficult race. They did several short races, only going 1,250 meters. Overall, both Saint Mary’s boats were close behind Humboldt’s A boat and beat both Humboldt’s B and C boats. This was a great experience for the Gaels since they will be seeing Humboldt shortly at the next regatta. The crew’s final regatta of the fall season approaches as this article is being written. Head of the Lagoon in Foster City is a difficult race, with one of the most challenging to navigate courses. The Gaels will be racing two crews against one CSU Humboldt crew, one Sonoma State crew, a Stanford crew, two UC Berkeley crews, and three University of Washington crews. It will be a challenging race, but the SMC crew has been working hard and is prepared to race their best on November 13th at 1:15 p.m. Team captain Emily Ferbet describes her attitude going into the next race, “We’re competing against some really top-tier teams— Washington, Stanford, and Cal—but our team knows what we’ve been practicing and if we execute that, we’ll be happy. This is the last fall race for us, so we’ll be giving it everything we have.”
Gaels Dominate in Season Opener Saint Mary’s men’s basketball team rode a hot-shooting second-half, blowing out Prairie View A&M
By Ryan Ford
Saint Mary’s first game of the season, and their first game at UCU Pavilion with fans in attendance since 2020, pitted them against a non-conference foe, Prairie View A&M. Saint Mary’s entered the game as favorites (-18.0), and after a back-and-forth first half, the Gaels caught fire from three-point range and ran Prairie View out of the building, with a final score of 87-68. For those who missed it, here are the main takeaways from a season-opening victory.
Alex Ducas Catches Fire
After over a minute of zero points for both teams, Gael Force and the rest of the 2,238 fans in attendance were waiting to unleash a roar of excitement over who would score the first points of the new campaign. A missed three-pointer bounced just the right way, allowing Alex Ducas to time his jump and slam it home, giving the crowd and his teammates the energy they needed to get UCU Pavilion shaking.
Ducas, a junior guard/forward from West Australia, averaged 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in an injury-shortened 2020-21 season, but led the Gaels in this one. He wound up with 22 points, a career-high 6 three-pointers, and 3 steals in the contest. Not only was Ducas the tone-setter for Saint Mary’s, but he made an early statement for being one of the top players on this year’s squad, leading both teams in scoring and hitting three-after-three in the second half. His ascension will be something to watch as the season goes on.
Gaels’ Well-Balanced Attack
While Ducas stole the show, he was part of a well-balanced team effort that saw four Gaels score in double-figures. Junior Kyle Bowen scored 12 points and finished one rebound shy of notching a double-double as a starter, while senior big man Dan Fotu and sophomore guard Jabe Mullins came off the bench to put up 14 and 10 points respectively. Head coach Randy Bennett has always been known for putting a well-coached and unselfish squad out on the hardwood, and he has to be happy with the numbers the team put up. Saint Mary’s finished with a +16 rebound differential, knocked down 41.9% of their shots from downtown, and totaled 23 assists on 29 made field goals.
Areas For Improvement
Saint Mary’s got the job done in their highly-anticipated home opener, due in large part to a scorching hot second-half in which they outscored Prairie View by 16 points, 46-30, leading by as much as 26 at one point. But Prairie View is a non-conference opponent that is unlikely to have enough success this season for this game to be counted as a quality-win. Meanwhile, the Gaels had their own struggles, despite the final score.
Saint Mary’s finished the game with 17 turnovers, 6 of which were unforced errors. They also allowed their opponent to shoot 49% from the field and 44.4% from three. That isn’t to say that the Gaels played poor defense all game, and as previously mentioned they did a great job moving the ball, but coach Bennett will certainly want to see these issues ironed out over the next few games.
While the Gaels ended the night with a 1-0 record, this game served as the first test of what will likely be a long and grueling season, as the team aims to rebound from last year’s poor finish. Conference-rival Gonzaga started the season ranked number 1 in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll, per ESPN. It goes without saying that Saint Mary’s will have to be at the top of their game when conference games start less than two months from now, but all-in-all the season opener was a great sign for what’s to come.
On October 28th, a rally was held for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, but as they came out onto the courts, the women got an unequal greeting compared to the men.
By: Eden Llodrá
The difference in greeting was immeasurably felt at the basketball rally on October 28th. The crowd sat down and clapped as the women came jogging out to stand in line with one another. Then, a short video was shown introducing the players. As the girls took their seats, the lights went off and the student section, naturally, got on their feet to greet the men’s team as the glow of the screen lit the sports stadium. The men’s video was played, looking newly edited, blasting bright red and blue. So, the women got applause, but the men got a standing ovation? In this lies under-representation and inequality right on Saint Mary’s home court.
When asked about the rally, junior Aine Colgan said “It was very noticeable who the favorite team was. The women’s team was barely cheered for, while the men’s team got a standing ovation.” Rather than an equal celebration of both hard-working teams, what mainly came across was the inequality shown through the way they were welcomed.
After the rally, sophomore Hannah Rapp on the women's basketball team said, “There is a lot more hype around and much more advertisement for the men’s team compared to the women’s.” This coming from a player on the team not only shows the need for change but also for education around the inequality between genders, especially within sports.
Rapp also mentioned that “The men's basketball schedule was advertised on the Saint Mary’s Instagram page and the women’s was not.” Without the proper and deserving advertising that the women deserve, the school and the students learn to continue promoting this inequality. Colgan said, “It's disappointing to see this happen at SMC, and I hope more people notice what is really happening.”
Moving forward, it is important that women’s basketball and all women’s sports teams get the representation and acknowledgment that they deserve. Rapp said, “I think the school could improve the coverage of women’s basketball. Even if it just means posting more on social media about our games and events that we are hosting so we can get as many students as possible out to support the team.” If students only see men’s games advertised, then that is all that they will be aware of, and continue normalizing the underrepresentation of women in sports.
The reaction of the students after the rally showed the women’s basketball team deserves just as much attention as the men’s team. They train the same, dedicate themselves the same, so why are they not treated and represented the same?
The underdog Atlanta Braves shocked the world and won their first World Series title in 26 years, a fitting end to an unforgettable season.
By Ryan Ford
The Atlanta Braves were crowned world champions after defeating the Houston Astros last Tuesday, concluding one of the more memorable MLB seasons in recent history. Records were broken, surprises were abundant, and stadiums were rocking, following a Covid-shortened season the year before. With the 2021 season now in the books, here are some of the more notable storylines from an electric year of baseball.
Braves Win It All
The Atlanta Braves ended the season on top of the baseball world, defeating the Houston Astros 8-0 in Game 6 of the World Series. This comes despite the loss of superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. to a torn right ACL back in July, ending his season just before the All-Star break. It was a rollercoaster regular season for the Braves, who were also without ace Mike Soroka (torn achilles) and star outfielder Marcell Ozuna (administrative leave) for most of the campaign. Needless to say, the 88-win Atlanta Braves entered the playoffs as longshots to make it through the loaded National League side of the bracket.
But that’s part of what makes baseball so special. The Braves caught fire at just the right time, defeating the 2nd seed Milwaukee Brewers, the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers, and the playoff experienced Houston Astros en route to their first World Series title since 1996.
Trade-deadline acquisition Jorge Soler won World Series MVP honors, slashing .300/.391/.800 with three home runs. His last home run put the Braves up 3-0 in the 1st inning of Game 6, a lead that the Braves never lost. Rookie starting-pitcher Ian Anderson deserves praise as well, as he sported a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings of playoff baseball, including 5 innings of no-hit baseball in Game 3 of the World Series, the second-longest no-hit bid by a rookie starter in World Series history (per ESPN).
Ohtani’s Historic Two-Way Season
The Los Angeles Angels acquired Shohei Ohtani following the conclusion of the 2017 season, and his tantalizing potential as the next two-way superstar put all eyes on the Japanese international signee. While we saw glimpses of his ace-level pitching ability paired with a powerful bat, injuries mostly kept Ohtani doing one or the other during his first few seasons in the league.
This season, however, Ohtani put together the best two-way baseball season since Babe Ruth. On the mound, Ohtani was dominant. He started 23 games as a pitcher in 2021, accumulating a 3.18 ERA and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Behind the plate, Ohtani was unstoppable, with 46 home runs, an OPS+ of 158 (with 100 considered average), and 26 stolen bases.
Ohtani wasn’t just the most valuable player in baseball this season (9.0 Wins Above Replacement), his performance was historic, and a bright spot for an Angels team that finished with another lackluster season.
Biggest Surprise Team
Far and away the most surprising team this year were the San Francisco Giants. According to Caesars Sportsbook, the Giants over/under win total opened at 74.5 back in March, and their odds to make the playoffs were slim. While the Giants had an encouraging season the year before, they played in the same division with the championship-favorite Los Angeles Dodgers and a loaded San Diego Padres team with championship aspirations of their own. Even the most optimistic Giants fan had no idea what was in store.
The Giants wound up with the best record in baseball, finishing the year with a record of 107-55, the most wins in franchise history. An excellent starting rotation, deep bullpen, and roster filled with old savvy veterans and exciting youngsters came together to dominate the regular season. Brandon Crawford turned back the clock and emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate at shortstop (.895 OPS, 6 DRS), while young starting-pitcher Logan Webb opened eyes with an All-Star caliber finish to the campaign (2.63 ERA since July) and dominant playoff debut (0.61 ERA in two games vs. Dodgers).
Unfortunately, their season came to a disappointing end in a Game 5 loss to the Dodgers in the NLDS. The Giants also took a big blow with franchise legend Buster Posey announcing his retirement shortly after the season. But with most of the team returning, and a farm system that ranks top 10 in baseball (per MLB pipeline), the Giants appear set to be a force in the National League for the foreseeable future.
In the world of sports, athletes have been making headlines for refusing to get vaccinated despite ramifications that can hurt their respective teams. Student-athletes at Saint Mary’s see both sides of this issue.
By Ryan Ford
For students at Saint Mary’s who live on campus or take in-person classes, proof of vaccination is required, a message that was reiterated by President Richard Plumb in a statement that was released this past April. According to Saint Mary’s Covid-19 Resources web page, 97% of undergraduate students provided such proof.
This also applies to Saint Mary’s athletes. Ryan Reggiani is the Deputy Athletics Director for External Operations at Saint Mary’s, and confirmed this to be the case, “This [vaccination mandate] was the same for all student-athletes as well.” Reggiani says that in addition to campus and county mandates, the NCAA recommended an additional step, “which includes more testing for non-vaccinated student-athletes.”
Many of Saint Mary’s athletes play sports that are practiced and played entirely outdoors, where the risk of spreading coronavirus is considerably lowered. But what about sports that practice and play indoors, such as volleyball and basketball? How are student-athletes feeling about vaccine mandates, as it pertains to themselves and their teammates?
Makena Mastora ‘25 is a first-year player for Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team. Playing basketball at the collegiate level has always been a dream for Mastora, “so when I got the opportunity to play at Saint Mary's, it made my college decision process a lot easier.” Mastora says that the athletic department has heavily suggested that athletes get vaccinated for the upcoming season, but that they “respect others’ decision not to get vaccinated, and have certain protocols for them to follow in order to keep our teams safe.”
In the NBA, star players have been making headlines for refusing to get vaccinated. Kyrie Irving plays for the Brooklyn Nets, and since New York County requires those attending or participating in indoor sporting events to be vaccinated, he will be unable to play in any home games due to his vaccination status (per NBA.com). Not only does this affect himself, but Irving’s team will be without one of their best players because of his decision.
Chandler Cowell ‘22 is a senior at Saint Mary’s, and a member of the women’s volleyball team. Cowell believes that the relationship between athletes and their teammates is a special bond. “When you're a part of a team, it's like having a family that helps you grow and pushes you to be the best version of yourself every single day.” The senior from Kula, Hawaii believes that being part of a team comes with many responsibilities, and among those is availability: “I do think that as a collegiate athlete and as a teammate, you need to be available for your team at all times in any situation.”
When asked if student-athletes at Saint Mary’s will have to be vaccinated in order to play games in San Francisco, Reggiani said that the city of San Francisco is allowing outside teams from other counties and states to participate in athletic events without all having to be vaccinated. If this were to change, however, it may put unvaccinated players and their teammates in a tough spot.
Mastora believes that getting vaccinated is the safest way for all athletes to participate in their sport, but also hopes for a level of understanding among teammates. “While they would not be fulfilling their role on the team [if a player chose to not get vaccinated], it’s a personal decision that has a lot of factors.”
Cowell, on the other hand, feels that as an athlete, you must consider how your actions affect the team and the season. “If athletes are missing large chunks of time due to this issue, it puts the team in a very difficult situation and can be really hard on all players involved.”
The issue of vaccination is complex, and many see it as a personal decision. But the ramifications of this decision, especially in the world of sports, stretch far beyond the scope of one person, as Cowell puts it. “With everything going on in the world right now, the bottom line in my eyes is this, think beyond yourself and your experience.”
Madison Sciba '24,