WNE Athletics Celebrates First Seasons and Season Firsts

Fighting for the pride of the blue and gold, Western New England University athletic programs were back in full competitive action for the 2021-2022 seasons. In golden fashion, the 21 Golden Bear athletic teams recorded numerous milestones in their highly anticipated return to the field of play, including first seasons, season firsts, and record accomplishments. 

First Season for Golden Bear Women’s Ice Hockey

Opening the inaugural season of play in 2021 led by Head Coach Katie Zimmerman, Golden Bear Women’s Ice Hockey transitioned from the playbook to the record book, celebrating a number of memorable first achievements in program history. 

First Win: The team shut out Anna Maria College 4-0 in their first win in program history on October 29, 2021. 

First Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Goalkeeper of the Week Award: Rieley Jessie-Gerelli earned the first-ever CCC Women’s Ice Hockey Goalkeeper of the Week award on November 1, 2021. 

First CCC Win: The Golden Bears achieved their first CCC win in program history with a 2-1 victory over Curry College on November 5, 2021. 

First CCC Player/Rookie of the Week Award: Alyssa Murphy earned the WNE Women’s Ice Hockey program its first CCC Player/Rookie of the Week award on December 6, 2021. 

First Appearance in the CCC Tournament: The Golden Bears earned a number five seed in the CCC Tournament, falling in the quarterfinal round to University of New England on February 23, 2022. 

Golden Bear Football Hit the Gridiron in the First New England Bowl Series in Program History

For the first time in program history, and under the direction of fourth-year Head Coach Jason Lebeau ’10/G’16, the WNE football team made an appearance in the coveted New England Bowl Series. 

Ending the regular season with an overall season record of 7-3 and 5-1 in the CCC, the Golden Bears hosted the 2021 New England Bowl Series game against the United States Merchant Marine Academy on November 20, 2021. WNE was ultimately defeated in the matchup but continued to achieve season acclaim with six Golden Bears named to the All-Region 1 Team, the New England Football Writers Division II/III All-New England Team, and the 2021 All-Noontime D3 New England Football Team. 

Golden Bear Wrestling Alumni Become First Two Hispanic Officials to Officiate NCAA Division I Championship

WNE wrestling alumni Angel Rivera ’94 and Rey Santiago were selected to officiate the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championships March 17-19 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI. As referees at the championship event, Rivera and Santiago made NCAA Division I history as the first two Hispanic officials to officiate the NCAA Championship. 

In addition to their successes on the mat as top-tier wrestling officials, both Rivera and Santiago have drawn on their experiences at WNE to achieve great success off the mat as well, crediting the influence and impact of Coach Bob Skelton, founder of the WNE Wrestling program and Head Coach from 1975 to 2011. 

“The program was headed by Coach Skelton, who is a tremendous human being who sacrificed a lot of his personal time during the season and on the off-season to help mold me into the man I am today,” Rivera said. “‘Time waits for no man’ was his saying, and however simple it may seem, it is true in whatever we choose to do in life.” 

Men’s Lacrosse Advances to Second and Third Round Play in NCAA Tournament

Men’s Lacrosse became the first team in the CCC to win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament since 2015. The Golden Bears defeated the No. 11 team in the country on May 14, defeating the University of Lynchburg in the second round. The Golden Bears season closed in the third round of the tournament, concluding 2022 with a 15-6 overall record. 

WNE First-Year Sensation Recognized with Eight Rookie of the Week Awards

The CCC announced the final weekly awards of spring 2022 on May 16, crowning first-year sensation CJ Willis with his eighth Rookie of the Week recognition of the season. Willis started and played in all 40 games in 2022, leading the Golden Bears with a .398 batting average, and earning team highs in runs (43), hits (68), doubles (11), home runs (14), RBIs (48), stolen bases (11), on base percentage (.441), and slugging percentage (.743). Achieving 14 home runs, Willis smashed the 35-year-old single season home run record (previously 10, by Alan Fabian ‘89 ). The Golden Bears concluded the 2022 season at 19-20-1 and were the first five seed to make the CCC Championship series since 2015. 

First Golden Bear Competes in SPIRAL Tropical Bowl

Bailey Devine-Scott, a senior Golden Bear and native of Wattle Grove, Australia, was named to the roster of the Football Bowl Subdivision All-Americans SPIRAL Tropical Bowl, hosted at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL, on January 15, 2022. The event culminated his senior season of play, during which he competed in 10 games and made a combined total of 63 tackles (40 individual tackles and 23 assisted). Devine-Scott has since been drafted to the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders. 

WNE Announces First University Women’s Wrestling Team

In October 2021, WNE Athletics announced the addition of a Golden Bear Women’s Wrestling program. The new program, now the 21st varsity sport at the University, is slated to begin competition in the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Golden Bears Achieve CCC First-Team Honors

Recognized by the CCC for their athletic accomplishments, 13 Golden Bears achieved CCC First-Team Honors during the 2021-2022 academic year. Voting for the CCC teams and major awards is conducted by the CCC head coaches following the conclusion of each regular season. 

Golden Bears on the 2021-22 CCC First Team included Field Hockey players Abby Burns and Sarah Johnston (also Rookie of the Year); Football players Zac Christian, Bailey Devine- Scott, Steven Fedorchak, David Pence Sr., Adam Razza, Joshua Salem, Cade Watkins, and Jerry Woodard; and Women’s Soccer players Allison Bruehwiler (also Co-player of the Year), Autumn Hathaway, and Summer Hathaway. 

Follow all the news and action for Golden Bear Athletics at