These Seniors are What's Right with Division III Athletics

This weekend, we have the opportunity to honor six outstanding student-athletes on the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I have had the pleasure to coach these two men and to watch these four women over the past four years. They exemplify all that is right with Division III athletics and the balance of excellence we strive for at the University of St. Thomas, both on and off the court.

Peter Leslie came to St. Thomas as the all-time leading scorer at Henry Sibley High School, which he led to the state championship game. Peter is the type of selfless player and person who always puts his team before his individual statistics. He is known for his hustle, energy and deadeye shooting. He has battled through injuries all season long and been a great leader in our program for four years. Our record during his four seasons is 101-14, one of the top records in all of men’s college basketball. Pete is a political science major and an honors student, and he will attend the St. Thomas School of Law next year.

Tommy Hannon arrived at St. Thomas after being cut from his team at Cretin-Derham Hall. Through persistence and passion, Tommy went from being a senior on his high school junior varsity to a freshman on our junior varsity to our third-string center as a sophomore to starting center on our 2011 national championship team. He was named to the All-Final Four team in Salem, Va. This season, Tommy was leading us in scoring, rebounds and field goal percentage before a knee injury sidelined him. He is a stellar student-athlete, has worked an internship at UBS, majors in finance and is co-captain with Peter this season.

On the women’s team, Carolyn Dienhart, Haley Loesch, Ali Johnson and Sarah Smith have combined for an 83-24 record and two conference titles, and are in the midst of an outstanding 23-1 season (21-0 in the MIAC).

Carolyn has been a steadying influence as a point guard for four years and has started the past two seasons. Her selflessness and three-point shooting are two trademarks. I had the good fortune to work with Carolyn, a Cretin-Derham Hall alumna, on psychology research where she examined how to motivate and encourage young athletes to play in informal settings, as opposed to only structured sports. She is an honors student and a psychology major who will attend graduate school.

Haley is an accounting major from Northfield. She is a great example of persistence, playing on our junior varsity for three years and this year stepping into a more prominent role on the varsity. She is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and is a solid rebounder and defender.

Ali, a marketing major from St. Louis Park, has been a varsity regular for three years and is known for her deadly outside shooting (more than 40 percent on three-point shots). She also is smart with the ball and a solid rebounder and defender who provides energy and enthusiasm for the Tommies.

Sarah is an accounting major from Grand Forks and has been a starter during most of her four years at St. Thomas. A tireless defender who leads the Tommies in rebounds, she provides the leadership and toughness that are essential to success. Shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, her contributions are both tangible and intangible.

Beyond their stellar team records, what I will remember about these six student-athletes goes beyond the box scores and has far more to do with their teamwork and character than their individual athletic abilities. They came to St. Thomas to challenge themselves on and off the court. They have done that, and along the way they have inspired those who have worked with them and watched them compete.

Please come out on Saturday – Senior Day – to cheer on the Tommies and to honor our seniors for four years of dedication to St. Thomas basketball! The women play St. Mary’s at 1 p.m. and the men play St. Mary’s at 3 p.m. There will be brief ceremonies before each game to honor the seniors. Thank you and congrats to Peter, Tommy, Carolyn, Haley, Ali and Sarah! Go Tommies!

Dr. John Tauer teaches psychology and is head coach of the men’s basketball team.