The Stuff of Champions
Quality facilities, expert coaching, and a culture that values and supports the whole individual are lighting the way for our student-athletes.
By Claire Kowalchik P’22
When it comes to education and preparation for life beyond Moravian, some consider sports participation irrelevant, a distraction from academic life. Ben Walek ’22, on the other hand, credits lacrosse for helping enhance his communication skills—an invaluable asset in his position as a technical product manager at Samsung Electronics.
Emily Wells ’23, a field hockey midfielder, has learned what it means to be a team player: “If the person next to you is giving 100 percent, that energy and passion are contagious and ultimately lead to more success for the team. Being able to count on each other for that motivation is what builds team morale. Almost every career involves some sort of team setting, so being an athlete helps us develop these important teamwork skills.”
Emily Lambright Pakhtigian ’15 ran cross country and track year-round, played oboe in the community orchestra, and dug into a rigorous academic pursuit of economics and political science. She quickly learned how to manage time precisely and benefited from the stress relief that running and music provided.
Communication, teamwork, and time management are invaluable to education, career, and life.
At Moravian, you’re not just an athlete; you’re a student-athlete. The entirety of your experience matters. Our coaches support the whole person. “Playing athletics at Moravian is a privilege. You are first and foremost a student, then an athlete,” says Mary Beth Spirk, athletic director and head women’s basketball coach. “We are proud that our Division III student-athletes here at Moravian University value their education as well as experience on the court, field, pool, course, and track. While our coaches and staff strive for success when we compete, we also understand that success is not measured in wins or losses. We recognize that in athletics, student-athletes learn to celebrate wins and to deal with losses. Both serve to contribute to their growth as young adults. Our hope is to develop and groom our student-athletes in all areas of their lives. We want student-athletes to achieve success and growth, in and out of the classroom and on and off the field of play.”
Moravian counts an average of 450 student-athletes a year (roughly 25 percent of full-time undergraduates). For student-athletes, fans, and prospective Greyhounds, providing current high-quality athletic programs and facilities is important, and recent years have seen big improvements all around thanks to the generous gifts of our supporters. “Providing our athletes with top-notch practice and playing areas, not to mention a better fan experience, increases the individual and team success dramatically,” says Spirk. “Enhanced facilities increase recruiting interest and ultimately can make a difference in student-athletes selecting our school. We are grateful for donors who help to make this success happen.”
Here’s a refresher on some of the upgrades to Moravian’s athletics facilities in the past four years.
Women’s Golf Coming to Moravian
A gift provided the funding to establish Moravian’s 23rd varsity sport—women’s golf, which will be up and on the green in 2023. This past summer, under the leadership of Brynn McNamara, assistant director of athletics, the university hired a head coach for women’s golf who is recruiting students and preparing for the program start. Our inaugural coach, Meredith Mutcher, most recently served as the head girls’ golf coach at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas, and previously served as the head boys’ and girls’ golf coach at Fort Worth Christian School. For four years, she owned Little Swingers Golf School, where she taught, and she served as the assistant golf pro at the Northwood Club.
A portion of the gift for golf goes to converting Room 138 in the Timothy Breidegam Fieldhouse into a golf suite with a TrackMan golf simulator, a Putt Pro putting surface, 20 lockers, and office space. The simulator uses a computer to analyze your golf swing as you hit balls into a net.
Swimming Program Debuts with a Splash
The 21st and 22nd varsity sports to join the Moravian roster were men’s and women’s swimming, which completed their first season in the Landmark Conference in 2022. Inaugural Head Coach Mary Ellen Wydan led the program to its first win, with the men’s team taking a 52–44 victory over Juniata College on November 20, 2021. Coach Tina Grigsby (mother of President Bryon L. Grigsby ’90, P’22, P’26) assists Wydan. Swim practices and home meets are held at Liberty High School.
You can learn more about the swimming Greyhounds’ first season by listening to the Hounds’ Huddle podcast featuring Wydan at mrvn.co/wydan.
Steel Athletic Complex Receives Wi-Fi Upgrade
Filming and streaming all the sporting events that take place at the Steel Athletic Complex requires a good internet connection. Up until fall 2021, however, the person responsible for that hefty task, Director of Athletic Communications Mark Fleming, would roll out 700 yards of military-grade fiber optics on a spool across the fields of the complex so he could plug in all of his equipment. “He had to basically set up his own private network every time he needed to stream a game, which was all the time,” says David Brandes ’20, Moravian University’s chief information officer.
Thanks to support from the Blue & Grey Club, a major wireless upgrade ensures the entire Moravian campus is connected. Coaches and their staff can use the technology on the field to aid their efforts in assessment and training, and student-athletes can use personal wearable devices to monitor athletic vitals, all while staying connected to the campus environment before, during, and after their activities. Additionally, guests can watch university sporting events in real time from any location.
“Especially now, the ability to live-stream events and connect virtually is essential for student-athlete and fan engagement,” says the president of the Blue & Grey Club, Ericka Blair ’14. “The Blue & Grey Club is proud to support this initiative, which will enhance the experience for the students and bring the Moravian community closer together, even while apart.”
“The Wi-Fi has benefited everyone,” adds Fleming, “although for me, the hardwire connections that were put in along with the Wi-Fi have had the most benefit in making sure our video streams don’t drop.”
Johnston Hall Gets More Comfortable
Over the summer of 2020, Moravian University replaced the bleachers in Johnston Hall with seats, including a new VIP section with space for 45. “It is great to see our arena transform from bleachers to individual seats,” says President Grigsby, an avid fan of Greyhound sports. “Now we can celebrate Greyhound wins in comfort. It is also uplifting to see all the alumni who have donated to continue their legacy at Moravian.”
Sponsorships at several levels are honored with a personalized plaque affixed to the back of a seat; for details, go to moravian.edu/johnstonbleachers.
Timothy Breidegam Fieldhouse Gets Upgrades and New Rooms
In the summer of 2019, Moravian undertook two significant enhancements to the Timothy Breidegam Fieldhouse. Beneath the fitness center, built in 2011, lay 10,000 square-feet of open, unfinished space. That space was converted to offices for the men’s and women’s lacrosse coaching staff, storage, a student-athlete lounge, and locker rooms to serve the soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, softball, and men’s and women’s track & field squads as well as visiting teams. Consider supporting this space and our athletes by naming a locker at moravian.edu/locker-room.
The floor in the lower level of the fieldhouse, which dated to 1991, was replaced with a Mondo surface, premier rubber flooring for athletics. All Greyhound teams use this space for indoor practice, and intramurals are held here. Also included are a four-lane track, jumping and vaulting areas, and basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts.
Locker Room Renovated
Five years ago, the Moravian football and baseball teams’ locker room at the Steel Athletic Complex needed an overhaul. The space served as storage for equipment and a place for players to change and shower. Thanks to a generous gift from the Blue & Grey Club and other contributions, a complete renovation took place during the summer of 2018. Whiteboards, televisions, a speaker system, couches, a players’ lounge, and 100 varsity-length lockers were installed.
“Ultimately what this did for the team was provide players and coaches with our own space to socialize, build chemistry, and develop a culture,” says Sal Pagano ’20. “We used this space for meetings and film sessions. I’m truly grateful for the upgrades I experienced during my time as an athlete—it emphasizes the importance of giving back to improve the experience of the Hounds that come after you.”
“There was a special feeling once the lockers arrived and we were able to use them,” says Mike Mittl ’19, an outfielder on the baseball team. “We felt that Moravian was investing in us. It energized the team and made us feel special each time we walked into the facility.”
A bonus that came with the renovation was the opportunity it gave Moravian to reconnect with alumni of the football and baseball teams. To honor those former players who helped make the project possible, plaques engraved with their names and jersey numbers are affixed on the lockers.
Rocco Calvo Field Resurfaced with New Turf
It was a very good year. Also in 2018, Rocco Calvo Field received a makeover in the form of Shaw Sports Turf—the best synthetic turf on the market for football, according to Jeff Pukszyn ’97, head football coach. The field saw its first action at the Greyhounds’ opener on September 1, 2018, when the team shut out King’s College, 24–0.
John Makuvek Field Dedicated
To modernize the playing field for men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and a wide variety of intramural sports, Moravian replaced the Haupert Union Quadrangle grass field with state-of-the-art synthetic turf. The revamped field was dedicated on September 24, 2016. Named for the university’s longtime coaching gem, John Makuvek, the field is equipped with a press box and lights for night games.
“I played my sophomore year on the grass field, then with the switch I played on the turf for my junior and senior year,” says Connor Phillips ’18, former midfielder on the men’s soccer team. “One of the benefits was that we could continue practicing outside in all weather conditions. With grass, you need to be careful not to destroy the field when it rains. Turf is a faster and more even surface than grass, making ball movement a lot more predictable than it is on grass, where there might be divots.”
And for Greyhound sports fans, there’s a new scoreboard, and the announcer’s box makes it possible to stream games from the field. Everybody wins.