December 1, 2020

A tale of two foes: Webster and Washington universities

Six miles and 19 national championships separate the two St. Louis-area schools. The Gorloks and Bears have squared off numerous times on the pitch, hardwood and diamond. Some Webster teams still search for their first-ever victory over the crosstown school, while others have recently been able to solve the puzzle. Below is a brief overview of the history of the Gorloks’ and Bears’ contests.

Location, potential challenge among reasons why Webster faces WashU

Eight teams at Webster University have a career combined record of 22-140-3 against fellow Division-III opponent Washington University. Sixteen of those wins came between 2003 and now.

Many of WashU’s sports teams are frequently ranked nationally. Overall, WashU’s athletic programs have compiled 19 national championships. The Bears are currently the No. 11 women’s soccer team and the No. 1 volleyball team in the nation. They also are located just six miles away from Webster.

“If you look at the athletic department as a whole at WashU, there is a tremendous amount of consistency across all its programs,” WashU baseball coach Steve Duncan said. “Every single sport at WashU is looking to compete at a national level year in and year out.”

ILLUSTRATION BY VICTORIA COURTNEY.

With a younger and smaller program, Webster often finds itself on the losing end of contests versus the experienced WashU programs. Recently, though, the gap is shrinking.

“Through the past, we’ve improved in competing against (WashU), as well as an athletic department over the past 20 years,” said Tom Hart, Webster director of athletics.

Some of Webster’s teams have yet to win a single contest against the Bears. Women’s soccer and volleyball are a combined 0-32-2 against them. Even with a poor record, Hart said WashU’s proximity and success comes into play when Webster schedules contests against the Bears.

“It makes tremendous sense to play them,” Hart said. “They are often a nationally-ranked opponent, so it benefits us to play them, and they are right near us.”

Rich Luenemann, WashU volleyball coach, also believes that even though he has never lost to Webster, the Gorloks are always a tough opponent.

“Everything they (Webster) may lack in height or skill I think is made up for in coaching,” Luenemann said. “We usually have to make adjustments to their better players, and that is a common stat.”

At all levels of the NCAA, a team must beat ranked opponents to become ranked. Webster teams have continued to schedule games against WashU to try to improve their regional attention. WashU is just as eager to play Webster.

“Our guys get up for it,” Duncan said. “We know every year against Webster those games are going to be tough, if not the toughest games we play all year.”

Luigi Scire, Webster women’s soccer coach, is 0-12-2 against WashU. That 12th loss came this season on Thursday, Sept. 27, with a final score of 2-0. Despite the record, Scire doesn’t see WashU versus Webster as a “David-versus-Goliath” situation.

“We always view it as a very competitive game against two teams that love to compete at a high level,” Scire said.

In 2009, the Webster women’s soccer team took WashU into overtime in the first round of the NCAA Division-III national tournament. In the 2010 season, the Gorloks rallied from two goals down but lost with just two minutes left in the game.

This season, Webster  women’s soccer was included as the No. 8 team in the Central Region rankings by the NCAA. WashU is ranked No. 2 in the Central Region.

“It was two quality-ranked teams going after each other, and I think it bodes well for a young Webster team,” Scire said. “We can compete against teams in the region and will have success in the long run.”

Earlier this season, women’s soccer defeated Elmhurst College (Ill.), which was ranked No. 6 in the region at the time.

Webster softball, in terms of record, is the most successful Webster team against WashU. Webster is 10-13 all-time, and current softball coach Chris Eaton is 2-5 against the Bears.

“I think they (WashU) set a standard in how successful they have been in almost every sport,” Eaton said. “We don’t try to measure ourselves against them because they aren’t in our conference.”

Webster’s baseball team is setting its own standard after a record-breaking season and a trip to the NCAA Division III World Series.

Baseball coach Bill Kurich has a 6-8 record against WashU.

“From national rankings and championships standpoint, they (WashU) have had an impressive go at it,” Kurich said. “In the time we’ve had here, we have made some strides and gotten to that point to make that next step. For us, it is being a prominent national contender year in and year out.”

Webster baseball has three games scheduled against WashU this season. Kurich said the Gorloks are changing their approach for their nonconference schedule. They are looking for not just the top regionally-ranked opponents, but also the ones on a national level.

“Because of the way our league sets up and some scheduling things, we have a hard time getting ourselves pushed up the regional rankings,” Kurich said. “We’re going to step outside of our comfort zone a little bit this year and play some of those tougher teams.”

Webster volleyball is next to play WashU on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at Grant Gymnasium.

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