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Gene's Blog: One streak ends, another amazing one rolls on

Mark Brown photo
Mark Brown photo
Kudos to Tommie Women's Hoops. It took more than 200 weeks (1,428 days), but an MIAC team finally handed Coach Ruth Sinn and her latest basketball team a loss.

Gustavus' 62-57 victory here Saturday ended the Tommies' 77-game victory streak against league opponents in women's basketball.

The Gusties also ended St. Thomas' 29-game home win streak, and halted their program's 23-game losing streak against the Purple.

Sinn's teams went 20-0 against the conference each of the last three seasons to balloon the win streak. It was a remarkable feat.

Established in 1977

Here's another sweet achievement streak that any college athletics department would love to claim.

St. Thomas Women's Soccer recently tied for fifth place out of 430 teams in NCAA Division III -- the program's best national showing in 17 years.

That continues an amazing streak at St. Thomas -- this marks the 43rd consecutive school year that at least one Tommie sports team has posted a top-five national team finish.
That run covers the entire era since women's athletics began here in fall 1977.

Coach Sheila McGill's soccer team reached the national playoff quarterfinals last month. It played to a 0-0 tie in two overtimes against Carnegie Mellon but lost the shootout tie-breaker to end its season.

Fall Teams Focused
It was a logical question: Would news that St. Thomas would be involuntarily phasing out of the MIAC and searching for a new conference become a distraction for its athletics teams?

The Purple's fall results put those questions to rest. Tommies teams and coaches were as focused as ever.
All eight Tommie teams were nationally ranked at one time, and six are currently ranked in the top 30.

Five of the eight Purple teams will score points in the Division III Directors' Cup all-sports race. The Toms likely will collect 199 team points and again go into winter season ranked in the top 25 nationally.

St. Thomas will have at least one All-America honoree in four of the six sports that have announced those awards (Men's and Women's Golf awards to come in May).

Women's Soccer (17-2-5) closed its season on a 17-game unbeaten streak (12-0-5) and extended its home-field unbeaten streak to 26 (22-0-4). McGill and her assistants received the North Region Coaching Staff of the Year honor -- for the third time in the last four seasons.

Volleyball (30-5) had an 11-game win streak was one of just eight Division III teams nationally to reach 30 victories.

Football (8-2) won its last four games and extended its on-campus regular-season victory streak to 27.

Men's Soccer (12-4-3) had an 11-game win streak en route to sharing an MIAC championship and making the conference playoff finals.

The Tommie soccer, volleyball and football teams had a combined on-campus record of 29-2-4

Conference Watch

St. Thomas won or shared seven of the 11 MIAC team championships contested this fall; placed second in two sports and second in one playoff; and took fourth place in the other.

Both the St. Thomas men and women lead the conference all-sports races through the fall season.

Women's Soccer and Volleyball swept the league regular-season and playoff crowns.

McGill and Volleyball's Thanh Pham were each voted MIAC Coach of the Year.

Football's Josh Parks was voted MIAC Player of the Year and is among 12 national semifinalists for the Gagliardi Trophy (D-III top player/scholar/citizen).

Pham's Volleyball team went 13-0 against conference opponents, part of a 40-4-2 fall record against MIAC teams by Tommie Volleyball, Football and Soccer.

Men's Golf won its third consecutive league title and remains ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Football shared the league crown to make it seven championships in the last 10 seasons.

Did You Know?

St. Thomas played host to the first American football game at St. Paul's new Allianz Field, and attracted what's now the third largest crowd to watch a Division III game (19,508).

The Tommies played host to seven games in an NCAA Volleyball regional tournament; three games in an NCAA Women's Soccer first-round tournament; plus four conference playoff games in volleyball and men's and women's soccer.

The 29 players who started for Tommie Volleyball and Tommie Men's and Women's Soccer in the postseason included just six seniors.

Football punted only 22 times in 10 games to rank third among all 660 NCAA teams in fewest punts per game, just behind Davidson and Mount Union and just ahead of Alabama.

Coach Glenn Caruso's Tommies also ranked seventh among all NCAA teams with its 55 percent rate on third-down conversions, and ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense (47.8 ppg) and top 15 in total offense (524.8 ypg).


Difference Makers

St. Thomas Football's two most important victories of 2018 and 2019 were probably a 14-13 comeback road win at Gustavus in 2018; and this fall's 17-7 season-ending home win over No. 9-ranked Bethel.

Three senior offensive skill players in particular left their mark on those wins:
  • At Gustavus, RB Josh Parks had 98 rushing yards in the second half to help keep the Toms afloat, then carved out 168 rushing yards this season against Bethel. Parks had at least one 100-yard rushing game against all eight conference opponents over the last two seasons.
  • WR Gabe Green caught a key TD pass in each game, including the go-ahead score on fourth down late at Gustavus. Green caught at least one TD pass against all eight conference opponents on his career and surpassed 100 receptions and 1,000 yards in three seasons as a receiver.
  • Backup QB Ronnie Jones had the baseball equivalent of a win (Gustavus) and a save (Bethel) in relief in those games coming off the bench to direct team victories.


2020 Vision

If you're looking ahead to St. Thomas' 100th and final season of MIAC football in 2020, here's the order and location of contests against league opponents, with a new draw of the schedule:
  • Sept. 19: St. Olaf; Sept. 26: at Gustavus
  • Oct. 3: at Bethel; Oct. 10: Hamline (likely for Homecoming); Oct. 17 Bye; Oct. 24: at Concordia-Moorhead; Oct. 31: Augsburg
  • Nov. 7: at St. John's; Nov. 14: Carleton


They Get Along 364 Days a Year

In case the St. Thomas-St. John's athletics rivalry changes after next school year, fans of both schools can still invest in an annual major Purple vs. Red showdown

Sports Illustrated has this fun story on an NCAA Division II football rivalry featuring neighboring campuses from Arkansas with familiar school colors.


Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is working his 26th season at St. Thomas and 32nd overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at