The values of spirit, service and strength have guided the Fighting Knights program as it pursues the recruitment of superior athletes. Meet one mighty Fighting Knight in particular to understand how Lynn does it.
Playing to strength
Team practice doesn’t begin until 2, but junior golfer Kristina Ortiz is there early every day. It’s a minimum of an hour with her putter on the practice green, followed by an hour working on her chip shot. Then she plays a round with her teammates.
“I don’t really bother with the driving range too often,” she said. “I spend most of my time chipping and putting to make sure my short game is precise.”
Short game is a bit of a running joke with Krissy, who is not quite 5 feet tall.
“I’m not the tallest person on the team,” she said, laughing. “But one of the stats they keep is most fairways hit. And that’s me. I’m not the longest, but I am always on the fairway. And then it’s up to my short game to take advantage of that drive.”
Like Krissy, the Fighting Knights play to their strengths.
“We’re a small school,” said Devin Crosby, athletics director, “but we recruit Division I athletes because we have attributes that allow us to compete with the big schools.”
Crosby points to exceptional coaching, from veteran tennis head coach Mike Perez, who has 1,000 career wins; to women’s cross country coach Chris Wood, who heads Lynn’s 15th sport, women’s track, competing for the first time this academic year.
Fantastic new facilities close the deal with many recruits. Added during the Lynn 2020 era are Bobby Campbell Stadium, Perper Tennis Complex and the Perper Intramural Field, which encourages a culture of sport on campus for all students. A renovation that modernized the gymnasium reinforces Lynn’s reputation as a small school with big presence.
Another of Lynn’s strengths is its focus on academics. Crosby knew this was key to the parents of many recruits, so he brought Jason Sangha on board as academic coordinator.
“Not many D II schools have an academic coordinator,” Crosby said. “It sets us apart.” Sangha ’13, ’14, a standout center back for the Fighting Knights in two of its championship seasons, knows what it takes to succeed during college and after. He played professional soccer in Sweden before Crosby hired him back to Lynn.
“I’m the go-to guy whose job is getting the best out of these student athletes,” Sangha said. “I work with professors and the registrar and Career Connections. I do study hall, and I have at least 45 one-on-one meetings with athletes every week. My goal is to get every student athlete at or above a 3.0 GPA.”
In 2016, 13 of 14 teams hit that benchmark. Last season, Krissy, an international business major, was named to the All-American Scholar team. The minimum GPA is 3.5. Four of her teammates also earned the honor.
“I’m at Lynn to be an athlete, but I’m there first to study,” she said. “Being successful inside the classroom gives me the focus to do well in my sport, too.”
Inspired by service
Her first year at Lynn, Krissy embraced the Fighting Knights principle of serving others. She signed up for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, comprising Lynn athletes who act as a voice for all athletes. Today, she is not only co-president of the campus chapter, but also an active and vocal member of the national committee.
“At the national level, we’re raising awareness of mental health issues and removing the stigma associated with it,” she said. “At Lynn, we’re organizing group conversations with student athletes with a sports psychologist to address the problems of stress and anxiety and depression, and we’re making flyers to raise awareness across campus.”
As a group, our athletes raise funds for critically ill children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and other causes. Individually, athletes like baseball player Rigo Beltran take service to heart, helping physically and mentally challenged children play baseball with the Miracle League. He also spent part of his summer on a clean-water project in Nicaragua.
That’s the spirit!
Student athletes today are natural social media ambassadors for their teams. They post photos of their workouts on Instagram, Snapchat about bloopers on the field and rally fans on Facebook ahead of big games.
“I like to share positive things on social media,” Krissy said. “But I also use it to get my friends to come out to games and support the school.”
Lynn has a goal of delivering the friendliest experience in college sports, greeting every fan individually and thanking them for coming. Outreach is fundamental, too, with Saturdays at Lynn events and Family Fun Day.
Spirit is more than action, though. It’s attitude.
“Fighting Knights are honorable, loyal and fun,” Crosby said. “Students have to see that in each other and in the coaches. Our mission is audacious. We want to create a better world with our students. We recruit athletes who feel compelled to be part of that.”
The stat book
The numbers show the impact of Lynn 2020.
|Number of teams||11||15|
|Number of athletes||160||270|
|Spring-term honor roll athletes||102||193|