Section: Baseball

New and familiar faces make up the Kenyon coaching staff

If you are watching a game this year — either on one of the athletic fields or inside the Lowry Center — you’re likely to see some new faces. While students were away for the summer, Director of Athletics, Fitness and Recreation Jill McCartney hired two new head coaches and converted one interim coach into a permanent role. The athletic staff also hired assistant coaches to help fill vacancies within some of the sports teams.

On July 26, Kenyon’s Athletic Department announced Julius Higginbotham as the Lords and Ladies track and field head coach. Previously, Higginbotham spent eight years as an assistant coach for fellow North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) school The College of Wooster. Higginbotham also coached football for five seasons at Wooster, and then spent the following two years as the intramural director.

Higginbotham is a storied athlete at Heidelberg University — he was a 20-time all-conference honoree, 12-time national qualifier and two-time All-America long jumper. Higginbotham spent two years working as an assistant coach for his alma mater after his playing days were over.

“I came to Kenyon to win,” Higginbotham said. “I believe that, at Kenyon, we can have a program that excels academically and athletically. We can compete for NCAC championships and ultimately gain national recognition.”

While Higginbotham will be searching for Kenyon’s first NCAC championship in either indoor or outdoor track and field, fellow Kenyon newcomer Morgan Brozena is stepping into an entirely different situation. Brozena is the new head coach for the Ladies field hockey team, which has been successful in recent years, sharing the NCAC championship with Denison University when they last played in 2019. Brozena is excited to lead the Ladies field hockey team. “Kenyon is dedicated to providing students the ability to excel both academically and athletically,” she said.

Brozena played at Washington and Jefferson College, where she was the starting goalie for three seasons. After graduating college, she was an assistant coach at NCAC foe Wittenberg University as well as the University of New Haven, a Division II school, where she earned a master’s degree in sports management. During her two years at the University of New Haven, Brozena helped develop the field hockey program, which began the year she arrived. In 2020, Brozena moved to Allentown, Penn. to become the head coach at Cedar Crest College. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Cedar Crest did not compete in an official game while she was there.

“[Brozena] is incredibly personable, has a passion for field hockey and has a great vision for this program,” said Kenyon’s Assistant Athletics Director Kelly Brian, who chaired the search committee. “[Brozena] will continue the proud tradition of excellence with our student-athletes on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”

While both Brozena and Higginbotham are new to Kenyon, Andrew Carlson, the third head coach announced this summer, is not. Carlson, after serving as interim head coach of the men’s tennis team last year, has been promoted to head coach in a full-time capacity.

“Through his time here, Andrew has proven his commitment to the student-athletes in the program, as well as to the department and the College,” said McCartney. Carlson has felt a sense of pride watching his players grow within the program. “I look forward to our program growing back into its place as one of the top teams in the country.”

Carlson won’t be the only Kenyon coach earning a promotion. Eamonn Kearney and Lauren Graf  ’20 both joined basketball and softball, respectively, as full-time assistant coaches. Kearney previously spent three years in a part-time role with the Lords. He also played for two years and was a student assistant for two years at Drew University, a Division III school.

“He has a great basketball mind, is a tireless worker and relates incredibly well to the student-athletes.” Dan Priest, the Lords basketball head coach, said of Kearney. “He will do a phenomenal job of providing our student-athletes with a great experience.”

Similarly, Graf looks to build on the work she did last year as a temporary coach. Ladies head softball coach Erin O’Neill is glad Graf is coming back. “She’s already made a positive impact on our program and I know she will continue to do so,” O’Neill said.

A 2020 graduate of Kenyon and team captain in her senior year, Graf played 124 career games with a batting average of .295. She drove in 59 runs and scored 52 times, while stealing 22 bases, before her senior season was cut short due to the pandemic.

Despite graduating in 2020, Graf will not be the most recent college graduate on Kenyon’s athletic staff. That title will belong to Lords lacrosse assistant coach C.J. Hughes, who was hired this summer. This will be Hughes’ first collegiate coaching job as he graduated from Capital University last spring. Hughes holds the all-time record in assists at Capital with 88, and is second all-time in both goals and points with 192 and 280, respectively.

Kenyon’s baseball team also added young coaches to their staff. Lords Head baseball coach Matt Burdette hired Jared Ferenchak to be the team’s pitching coach and Ron Krsolovic to be their hitting coach.

Ferenchak is coming from his alma mater of Wilmington College, where he coached for two years as an assistant on the baseball staff. While in school, Ferenchak appeared in 51 games, starting 34 of those. As a senior in 2019, Ferenchak was named the Most Valuable Pitcher after leading the team in earned run average, wins, saves, complete games and innings pitched.

Krsolovic, also a 2019 graduate, played college baseball at Oakland University, a Division I school. He played two years at third base, starting 76 of the 78 games. Krsolovic is currently a member of the Croatian National Baseball Team as well as the Tupper Lake RiverPigs, a professional baseball team in the Empire League. Krsolovic is excited to begin fall practice for baseball. “I am looking forward to working with an outstanding group of student-athletes and excellent coaches,” he said.

Kenyon graduate Ian Reardon ’17 will also be joining Kenyon’s athletic staff as an assistant swimming and diving coach — making the entire coaching staff alumni of the College.

While some coaches are helping the players fill shoes they once wore, others will be approaching the season as newcomers. Regardless, they all have the same goal in mind: help their team win a championship. For coaches in fall sports, that journey has already begun. 

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