Northwestern did not have a lot going on the sports fields last week during Reading Week. Dave Sobolewski had two fantastic efforts against Butler and Baylor this week, but NU went 1-1 and we are asking more questions than we would like about Northwestern with the conference schedule coming up (not to mention another resume matchup with Stanford).
So with Finals Week coming up, it is time to review another quarter of Northwestern athletics by handing out our Wildcat of the Quarter. LTP already handed out his football awards but there were plenty of other fantastic performances from the fall athletes that deserve some recognition. First, an impressive figure. This quarter I recognized the feats of 44 different Wildcats for their achievement on and off the field/court. The purpose of Wildcat of the Week is to try and spread the love around and shine a light on the non-revenue sports, so I hope that helps effectuate that purpose.
So here are the candidates for Wildcat of the Fall Quarter 2012. We will put the vote to you in a poll at the end of the post and in the poll on the right side of the screen:
Venric Mark, Football
No one surprised more and embodied what Pat Fitzgerald wants his football team to be more this year than Venric Mark.
The coaches initially had no idea where to put him and in his first three years in Evanston he struggled to make his way at wide receiver. Finally NU saw the light and put him at running back, where he played in high school, and it worked brilliantly. Perhaps the reason Mark was put at wide receiver became his biggest strength.
Mark is listed at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds. That likely made some scouts believe he was too small to be a running back. Mark began proving those critics wrong with each run he made into the pile and each time he got up and started the much bigger defensive linemen trying to tackle him right in the face. It worked and worked and worked. Northwestern was significantly better with Mark on the field. He was the home-run playmaker, particularly from the running back position, Northwestern needed to have a successful season.
For the year, Mark rushed for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 109.2 rushing yards per game. It was (and I swear this will be the last time we mentions this) the first 1,000 yard rushing season for a Northwestern back since 2007. Mark very well could have been the difference between another 7-5 season and the 9-3 season Northwestern had. I don’t think that is hyperbole, is it?
Chelsea Armstrong & Tara Puffenberger, Field Hockey
It is hard to mention one of this high-scoring duo without mentioning the other. These two players were more or less the offense for a very successful field hockey season. The Wildcats went 16-4 this season and just missed out on the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament.
Armstrong scored 29 goals and had seven assists, setting the Northwestern career goal-scoring mark and single season scoring mark. Puffenberger was the perfect complement with 17 goals and 10 assists. The 46 goals scored between the two were 61.0 percent of the team’s scoring. Armstrong will be graduating and so next year will be all Puffenberger for the Wildcats.
Joey Calistri, Men’s Soccer
Calistri led Northwestern with nine goals this season, helping push the team to another deep trip into the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament and an upset win over Marquette in the second round. Calistri is a freshman and hit the college soccer scene by storm. Freshman strikers succeeding in Tim Lenahan’s offense is not rare. Matt Eliason and Oliver Kupe had strong freshman seasons. It would seem though that this season was just the beginning for another solid run of Northwestern soccer.
Kain Colter, Football
If Venric Mark is lightning, Kain Colter is more lightning. Colter and Mark were perfect fits next to each other and that is one of the reasons the two were able to tear up defenses in the Big Ten. Colter had a 300-yard game where he was throwing, running and passing with ease against Indiana in an offensive explosion. Colter’s season stats are impressive — 820 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns; 68.7 percent passing, 796 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 16 receptions, 169 yards. To say the least, Colter had another fantastic season and became a leader for Northwestern.
Stephanie Holthus, Volleyball
A late addition to the candidates, but we cannot ignore what Holthus did for the Wildcats this year. Earlier this week, Holthus was named a Third-Team AVCA All-American, the fourth Wildcat to achieve that honor. She had 487 kills and had 4.87 kills per set, a rate that put her third in Northwestern history for a single season. The team struggled as it has the last few years in Big Ten season, but Holthus remained a very strong leader and NU fought hard against some of the best teams in the conference. The junior still has another year of eligibility and another chance to make some waves for Northwestern.