May 24, 2010
C.W. Post and Le Moyne will face off to decide the national championship in Division II men’s lacrosse, but how these schools got there has generated as much buzz as the games themselves. That’s because lacrosse coaches from the Division II ranks are pushing for an expanded NCAA Tournament field after a one-loss team was shut out of the postseason.
It began on selection Sunday, May 9. Teams across the East Coast gathered to see the bracket announced live by CBS Sports. For Division II, it meant a late night and disappointment for most of the schools watching. The NCAA Division II Tournament in men’s lacrosse extends bids to just four schools. Six get in to the D-II women’s bracket.
This season saw more parity than any previous. There were 13 teams at the D-II level with a .643 winning percentage or better, including five one-loss programs. So someone deserving was going to be shut out.
The bracket flashed across the screen some time after 10:30 p.m. To the elation of the players, coaches and fans at C.W. Post (14-1) and Dowling (12-1), their respective seasons were still very much alive. Limestone (12-1) and Le Moyne (14-1) also earned bids.
That left the players huddled together at Mercyhurst College – a small, Catholic liberal arts school in Erie, Pa. – stunned. After all, Mercyhurst went 13-1, a .929 winning percentage, and led D-II with 374 points. The Lakers beat Dowling and suffered their lone loss, 11-9, to defending national champion C.W. Post. Mercyhurst also is the No. 1 D-II team in the latest LaxPower.com poll, a computer rating which includes RPI, strength of schedule and quality wins.
Yet their resume was deemed not good enough by the NCAA selection committee.
“I definitely feel like the bride that’s been left at the altar,” Mercyhurst coach Chris Ryan said. “It’s unfortunately the nature of the beast at this time in Division II lacrosse. The question isn’t why are we left out? It’s more why aren’t we all in?”
Mercyhurst wasn’t alone in asking that question. Long Island schools NYIT (9-4) and Adelphi (10-5) played competitive schedules and won the bulk of their games. They too were denied a chance to compete in the postseason, although they realized weeks earlier an NCAA bid wouldn’t be coming.
“We definitely need expansion,’’ said NYIT coach Bill Dunn, whose program won the national title in 2008 and failed to qualify last season despite a 10-2 record. “The last few years it’s come down to the criteria of a committee. I just think the parity right now in Division II is such that it’s better off playing the games on the field instead of letting a committee decide who is going to get into the NCAA playoffs. It’s absurd to me.”
“We were a couple of goals away from a Final Four bid,” said Adelphi coach Gordon Purdie, whose team lost three games by four goals. “That’s tough to swallow.”
Coaches universally would like to see the NCAA Tournament expand to six (in line with women’s lacrosse) or eight teams. Jeff Jarnecke, assistant director for championships at the NCAA, said the Division II bracket would be reexamined at meetings in July.
One of the proposals for expansion is to realign into two regions – north and south. Three schools from each region would qualify. That wouldn’t really alleviate the problem, according to Dunn. The bulk of the quality lacrosse programs populate the Northeast. So the pool would still be limited. Dunn said a fairer outcome would be two bids from each region followed by two at-large bids.
“There really isn’t a magic number of schools needed at the Division II level for them to look at expansion,” said East Coast Conference commissioner Bob Dranoff, who also is a member of the NCAA Division II Championship Committee. “There are a lot of factors at play when deciding when to expand brackets. I have a feeling it’s going to happen. I just don’t have a timeline on it.”
The snub has forced Ryan to study the case for expansion by comparing it to other sports at the D-II level. He said of 242 baseball teams, 48 get NCAA bids. That’s a 5-1 ratio. The curve in basketball is even less with 64 bids split between 289 teams (a 4.5 ratio). Men’s lacrosse, which has 37 schools and five more on the way in 2011, currently has a ratio of 9.5. And women’s lacrosse suffers from a similar problem.
“Why the inequities?” Ryan said. “It’s unfair. So this isn’t a Mercyhurst problem. This is a Division II men’s and women’s lacrosse problem.”
Jarnecke said one problem unique to men’s and women’s lacrosse is that the sport at the grass roots level is growing at a faster rate than any other. With more colleges starting lacrosse programs, there will be an opportunity to expand the bracket in time. But the time is now, according to people involved with the sport.
“It is time to look at expansion,” Dowling coach Tim Boyle said. “We’re hoping this scenario sparks some conversation with the NCAA. And Division II has come a long ways. I remember the days when there were just two teams. I know they are interested in doing what’s best.”
The controversy this season arose from the competitive nature of the East Coast Conference. Mercyhurst beat Dowling early on. Dowling bounced back to edge C.W. Post. And then C.W. Post beat Mercyhurst. Each loss to a conference rival turned out to be the lone misstep in a great run for C.W. Post, Dowling and Mercyhurst.
But because the East Coast Conference has no postseason tournament, there was no clear way to separate the three teams.
“As much as you can look at Mercyhurst and say, ‘What a shame,’ that conference had an opportunity to create a postseason tournament,’’ Adelphi’s Purdie said. “It gives purpose and meaning for the student athletes to play out the season instead of losing a game or two and wondering what are you playing for at that point.”
Adelphi plays in the Northeast-10 Conference, which has a conference tournament. Interestingly, Merrimack upset Le Moyne, 12-11, in overtime of the Northeast-10 title game but failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. There are no automatic qualifiers. Merrimack finished the season 13-3 and as conference champs. But it’s Le Moyne who is still alive and capable of winning a national championship.
In the case of the ECC, the tournament would have at least provided some level of separation among the three one-loss schools. Budget and travel issues have been the main stumbling blocks for a conference tournament in the past, according Dranoff. Yet after this latest controversy, he admits the ECC will look once again at establishing a postseason tournament.
“There are schools which see it as valuable,” said Dranoff, who is headquartered in Central Islip and is all for an ECC Tournament for men’s and women’s lacrosse. “And from a promotional aspect alone I believe it would be an amazing event here on Long Island. The positives outweigh the negatives, but that’s something the athletic directors have to look at.”
Limited postseason opportunities could have a chilling effect on Division II lacrosse in more profound ways, from scheduling and recruiting to the very viability of programs.
It begins with scheduling. Why fill your non conference schedule with teams capable of beating you if you have to be near perfect to be considered for the postseason?
Adelphi’s Purdie said it’s already happening. The decades-old rivalry between Adelphi and C.W. Post was not renewed. These are two teams who have met in the NCAA title game four times. But when Adelphi moved to the Northeast -10 after last season, the two programs were no longer conference rivals. And the two opted not to schedule one another.
“If you schedule a loss, that’s a season-ender,” Purdie said. “So what you find is that various schools won’t play other schools. For instance, Le Moyne can’t find a game down here on the Island. No team will play them because if they lose to Le Moyne, they are out of the Final Four.”
Recruiting only becomes tougher for a program that’s not already on top. What student athlete wants to go to a school with a limited postseason history and only the slimmest of chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament? And when programs can’t compete, they get cut. School budgets are tighter than ever in this shaky economic climate. Administrators are looking for line item expenses to delete. Look no further than Hofstra football, which was axed in December 2009.
“I got a call from a coach this week,” said Ryan, who has become the unlikely standard bearer for expansion after his team was shut out of the NCAA Tournament. “He said an administrator wanted to know if they had just started a sport that they couldn’t compete in. Now they support the sport fully and they are going forward with it. But that’s not the outlook you want a school to have on a program.”
That’s a troubling sentiment.
While the fight is just beginning to save – and grow – Division II lacrosse, a new national champion will be crowned on the field this week. The NCAA Division II Tournament kicked off Saturday as C.W. Post beat rival Dowling, 9-8, while Le Moyne downed Limestone, 11-7. The title game is May 30 at 3 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“For these four teams to get into the tournament really speaks highly of these four teams,’’ Ryan said. “This is a tough road. We just proved that we had to be perfect this year to get into the tournament.”
May 10, 2010
Charlie Paar’s path was clear until it wasn’t. The second-generation goalie led Huntington High School to a state boys lacrosse championship as a senior in 2005. And then? He embarked on an odyssey which led him to the brink and back.
Paar is a senior at Stony Brook University, and he fulfilled the promise of a lifetime over the weekend. He was named MVP of the America East men’s lacrosse championship game on Saturday after tying a career-best with 18 saves in goal as the Seawolves beat Albany, 11-7.
The victory also earned Stony Brook its second ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. The 16-team bracket, released Sunday night, awarded the Seawolves the No. 8 seed and a home game. Stony Brook (12-3) will host Denver (12-4) in a first round game Saturday, May 15 at 5 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 631-632-WOLF.
“This is really like a dream,” Paar said.
Dad Mark Paar was a Newsday All-Long Island football player at Huntington and a standout goalie on the lacrosse field. But in 1972, Long Island sports was akin to life on Mars. His father won a county title as a junior, but never had the opportunity to play on the big stage. There was no state tournament.
Little wonder father began coaching up his son as a third grader, passing down his legacy and knowledge to the next generation.
“It all started down at PAL with great coaching,” said Charlie Paar, a history major who wants to teach and coach someday. “The group of people I was with was always strong. And when we got to high school, we won.”
Paar was named a high school All-American after Huntington captured the state Class B crown with a 14-3 thrashing of Jamesville-DeWitt. That’s right. Paar allowed just three goals.
A Division I scholarship awaited him at Towson. But Paar wasn’t ready. He stumbled in the classroom and left college after his freshman year, a missed opportunity that could have marked the end of his lacrosse career.
“My grades weren’t the best,” Paar admitted. “You go from living at home your whole life to living by yourself. It was tough. So I had to come home and do a couple of years at Nassau and straighten out. The grades had to come first. Then lacrosse. It worked out for the best.”
Paar enrolled at Nassau Community College. He stayed two seasons and led Nassau to an NJCAA championship in 2008, where he was named defensive MVP of the tournament. With his classroom obligations finally on track, Paar earned a second chance at big-time lacrosse when Stony Brook offered him another shot at Division I.
The reward? Five years later, Paar is playing for an NCAA title while Towson is not.
Three other Long Island programs reached the postseason this week. Hofstra (9-4) also qualified for the NCAA Tournament and travels to face No. 3 Maryland (11-3) May 15 at noon. In the Division II bracket, defending national champ C.W. Post (14-1) hosts rival Dowling (12-1) in a semifinal on May 22.
If the Seawolves can get past Denver, a possible showdown with No. 1 Virginia awaits in the NCAA quarterfinals. That includes a matchup against two of Paar’s former high school teammates: Rhamel and Shamel Bratton.
“This team reminds me a lot of my senior year at Huntington,” Paar said. “We had never won a Suffolk County championship [since 1975]. We had never won states.”
Stony Brook hadn’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2002, its last America East championship season. After his junior season was cut short by injury, Paar played non-stop over the summer. Now he’s seeing the ball better than ever, has a .538 save percentage and is a leader on defense.
“This season has been a blast,” Paar said. “It’s been everything we wanted it to be.”
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
April 19, 2010
The spring sports season exits with all the fury of a lion. And as we head down the stretch of the men’s lacrosse season, it’s worth noting that five Long Island colleges are nationally ranked. Which teams will roar and which will whimper? Here’s a breakdown:
Hofstra (7-4, 1-3)
Comment: After being upset by Penn State in overtime, 11-10, on Saturday, expect Hofstra to drop in the next United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Division I poll. The Pride is currently ranked 11th. That setback comes after getting some deserved attention by beating Delaware in the first game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Regular season games against Colonial Athletic Association rivals Jacksonville and Towson remain. Hofstra has outscored teams 67-48 in the second half and features a balanced attack of Jamie Lincoln (50 points), Jay Card (42) and Massapequa native Stephen Bentz (34). Hopefully the second-half meltdown against Penn State is an aberration and not a new trend.
Outlook: The Pride went 11-4 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time last season. But the road back will be difficult. Nationally-ranked Drexel and UMass are each threats to knocking off the Pride in the CAA Tournament, keeping it from the postseason.
Stony Brook (8-3, 3-0)
Comment: The Seawolves, No. 14 in the USILA D-I poll, are coming off a nail-biting 17-16 win over America East Conference rival Binghamton on Saturday. Junior attack Jordan McBride scored seven goals in the come-from-behind win. Stony Brook has won four in a row with regular season games against Albany and Vermont remaining. The team is averaging 14 goals a game and winning 59 percent of all faceoffs. Junior midfield Kevin Crowley is tied with fellow Canadian McBride for the team lead with 72 points.
Outlook: Each of the last seven seasons has ended with a loss in the America East Tournament. Albany has been the usual stumbling block. But the Great Danes are in rebuilding mode, so Stony Brook actually has a legitimate shot at its first NCAA Tournament since 2002.
Dowling (9-1, 6-1)
Comment: The Golden Lions, winners of eight in a row, are ranked third in the USILA Division II poll. John McClure scored seven times as Dowling blasted Lake Erie, 20-6, on Saturday. As grand as that sounds, the big win came on April 10 when Dowling knocked off defending national champion and then-No. 1 C.W. Post, 8-7. Regular season games against Dominican, Chestnut Hill and Seton Hill remain. Dowling wins an impressive 63 percent of all faceoffs and has allowed just 7 goals a game. McClure leads the East Coast Conference with 37 goals and 75 points.
Outlook: One year after going 7-6, Dowling has the ingredients to make a championship run. The program reached the NCAA title game 2006, but hasn’t been back since. There is no East Coast Conference Tournament, so Dowling is dependent on receiving one of four NCAA bids. ECC rivals Mercyhurst, C.W. Post and NYIT are each ranked and pose a challenge.
C.W. Post (11-1, 5-1)
Comment: The Pioneers, tied for fourth in the USILA D-II poll, were tripped up by Long Island rival Dowling earlier this month. But C.W. Post rebounded with a 22-5 win over Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday. Sophomore attack Eddie Plompen, a former West Islip standout, scored seven goals and added two assists. Regular season matchups against Molloy, Mercyhurst and Lake Erie remain. The team’s .278 shooting percentage is unusually low. But it has won 74 percent of all faceoffs. Sayville senior Joe Meo (27 goals, 30 points) and Nick Corik (19 goals, 33 points) lead the team.
Outlook: It’s a waiting game. C.W. Post beat LeMoyne, 8-7, to claim the 2009 NCAA championship. But the Pioneers need one of four NCAA berths to have a shot at a repeat. A Dowling invite may hurt C.W. Post’s chances.
NYIT (6-4, 5-3)
Comment: NYIT, No. 7 in the USILA D-II poll, was dealt a possibly fatal blow to its NCAA hopes with a 12-8 loss to second-ranked Mercyhurst on Saturday. The Bears led 5-2 early, but couldn’t extend their lead. Regular season games against Mercy, Merrimack and Wheeling Jesuit remain. The team is averaging 15 goals per game and wins 69 percent of all faceoffs. Huntington senior Austin Carino (30 goals, 33 points) and West Islip senior Matt Sullivan (16 goals, 52 points) lead the way.
Outlook: Doubtful. Too many good teams stand between NYIT and an NCAA berth.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
March 8, 2010
That thud you heard over the weekend? No, not the body blows landed in the war between ABC and Cablevision. I’m talking about the sound of the Long Island men’s college basketball season coming to an abrupt end.
Stony Brook, Hofstra, C.W. Post, Old Westbury and USMMA each lost in postseason play over the span of 24 hours. And yet to dwell on the losses would miss the point. Each school laid the foundation for strong runs in 2011.
USMMA (24-5) lost in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday night, falling to Franklin & Marshall, 73-64. It was the best season by the Mariners since the 2003 team also reached the NCAA Tournament. And when you consider three of the top four scorers return, led by former Holy Trinity guard Jon Snead, the Mariners look good.
Stony Brook suffered a deflating loss on Sunday in the semifinals of the America East Tournament. The Seawolves could not overcome an early hole and fell to Boston University, 70-63, in Hartford. The Seawolves (22-9) are not done yet. By virtue of winning the regular season conference title, Stony Brook will get an invite to the NIT. And considering where the program was just a few years ago, reaching the postseason is quite a feat for coach Steve Pikiell and Co. He’s got the program headed in the right direction.
Hofstra played heroically against second-seeded Northeastern Saturday night in Richmond. Yet the Pride lost, 74-71, in double overtime in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. Junior guard Charles Jenkins, the CAA player of the year, led the way with 24 points. Hofstra (19-14) had won 10 of its last 11 until Saturday. An exciting cast returns in 2011, led by the explosive Jenkins. So expect the Pride and coach Tom Pecora to build on its strong finish.
Perhaps no team faced a more agonizing end than C.W. Post (23-6). The Pioneers fell in the title game of the East Coast Conference Tournament on Sunday, losing to Bridgeport, 70-61. Not only were the Pioneers denied a repeat, but were shut out of the NCAA Division II Tournament and saw their 43-game home winning streak snapped. Ouch! Like the aforementioned programs, coach Tim Cluess has a great core returning. So look out.
Top-seeded Old Westbury (21-8) lost in the semifinals of the ECAC Metro Tournament on Saturday, dropping an 88-81 decision to Baruch. That came on the heels of a tough loss to Purchase in the title game of the Skyline Conference Tournament one week earlier. Despite the rough landing, the Panthers are sure to bounce back under the direction of veteran coach Bernard Tomlin.
Five programs. Five losses. Yet there are plenty of positives to salvage from the wreckage. This was as thrilling a college basketball season Long Island has seen. But believe me, even greater things await in 2011.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
March 1, 2010
They call it March Madness for good reason. The Long Island winter sports season has reached critical mass. There is no shortage of events this week (March 1-7) with championships on the line. Here is Long Island Pulse magazine’s day-by-day rundown of the most significant:
High School Boys Basketball
Half Hollow Hills West vs. Longwood (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. @ Farmingdale State): No. 1 Half Hollow Hills West (21-0) routed Bay Shore, 96-48, in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals on Sunday. The highly-touted Harris brothers put on a show. Tennessee-bound Tobias Harris had 21 points in three quarters while junior Tyler Harris scored 23. Hills West, ranked 24th in the nation by USA Today, goes for its second county title in three years. In the other semi, Longwood (19-2) scored 51 second-half points to race past Lindenhurst, 79-62. The second-seeded Lions are the undefeated League I champs, a rarity for the black-and-blue league. Longwood, in the county final for the second straight year, last won the Suffolk crown in 2000, when it lost in OT of the state title game to Ben Gordon and Mount Vernon. Longwood’s Dennis Terry is a great coach, but it’s asking a lot to draw up a game plan to take down such a complete team in Hills West. It’s a small gym, so get there early. Admission $6.
Hofstra vs. Georgia State (Friday, 6 p.m. @ Richmond Coliseum): No team is hotter than Hofstra (18-13, 10-8), which enters the Colonial Athletic Association first round game as the No. 7 seed and winners of nine of its last 10 games. The Pride beat Georgia State, 87-74, to close out the regular season and draws a rematch here. Then it becomes a battle of endurance. Second-seeded Northeastern awaits the winner in a quarterfinal on Saturday at 6 p.m. If the Pride can keep winning, its semifinal is 5:30 p.m. Sunday with the CAA title game on Monday night.
High School Track and Field
State Track and Field Indoor Championships (Saturday, 9 a.m. @ Cornell University in Ithaca): It’s two meets in one and an adrenaline rush of a day. Public School and Federation titles will be awarded at historic Barton Hall. Garden City senior Emily Menges is the defending state champ in the 1,000 meters. With Menges running a leg, the Trojans should also be a factor in the 4 x 800 relay. The Northport girls will give chase. Roslyn senior Emily Lipari won the 1,500 a year ago and goes back as the Nassau champ in the 3,000 and 1,500. North Babylon’s Vanessa Stewart has a chance in the shot put. Connetquot senior Amy Cheung, who took third in the 1,500-meter racewalk last season, will challenge. On the boys side, Riverhead senior Mike Smith is the defending champ in the shot put and North Babylon senior Berfrantz Charles returns one year after finishing second in the 55 meters. If you’re driving, leave early to avoid bad conditions. The road to Ithaca can be treacherous.
America East Tournament quarterfinal (Saturday, noon @ Chase Arena in Hartford): Despite tripping up in a loss Sunday to lowly New Hampshire, Stony Brook University (21-8, 13-3) earned the top seed and a bye in the America East Tournament. The Seawolves face Thursday’s Albany-UMBC winner on Saturday. The semifinal is 5 p.m. Sunday. And if Stony Brook can advance to the title game, it will play March 13 at home. But the bigger question: After getting drilled, 77-55, on Sunday to snap its 10-game winning streak, can Stony Brook refocus?
High School Boys Basketball
Uniondale vs. Baldwin (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. @ SUNY-Old Westbury): This has emerged as the premier rivalry in Nassau hoops. Top-seeded Uniondale (15-3) got past Hempstead, 52-45, in a Nassau Class AA semifinal while No. 2 Baldwin (17-2) outlasted Farmingdale, 47-31. Uniondale, the defending Long Island champ, won Nassau titles from 2002-06. Senior guard Bolade Akingboye is the lone returning starter from last season. Uniondale and longtime coach Tom Diana have been getting it done with a young cast of freshmen and sophomores. Baldwin, under coach Darius Burton, plays stifling defense. The Bruins’ last loss came in December to Uniondale, 67-64. And its last county title, in 2008, came at the expense of Uniondale. That’s right, these teams have a complicated history. Admission $6.
East Coast Conference Tournament semifinal (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. @ C.W. Post): C.W. Post (22-5, 18-3) finished the regular season tied with Bridgeport atop the East Coast Conference and is ranked 10th in the East Region. It needs to win the ECC Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament. Luckily, the second-seeded Pioneers get a first-round bye and host the conference tournament. The title game is Sunday.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
February 22, 2010
We’re headed down the stretch of the most exciting and relevant college basketball season Long Island has ever seen. Jason Molinet and LI Pulse.com take a look at each Long Island men’s basketball team and its March outlook:
Stony Brook (20-7, 12-2; RRI: 142): The Seawolves, winners of nine straight, are enjoying their best season – by far – as a Division I program and have all but locked up their first trip to the postseason. The only question? NCAA Tournament bid or NIT. The game of the decade for the Seawolves is Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Stony Brook hosts second-place Vermont (21-8, 11-3). The game will be televised on MSG Plus. Stony Brook, which beat Vermont, 65-60, last month, can lock up the regular season conference title with a victory. The title also ensures an NIT bid and gives the Seawolves serious confidence heading into the America East Tournament March 4-7 in Hartford (with the title game on ESPN2 March 13 at noon at the higher seed). Give coach Steve Pikiell his due for bringing in young talent and leading them down the winning path. The lone senior in the lineup, Muhammad El-Amin, has been playing lights out basketball for a month now.
Best Case: Winning the America East Tournament gives Stony Brook an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Seawolves go 25-8 and lose in the first round of the NCAAs.
Hofstra (16-13, 8-8; RPI: 157): After struggling through the first half of its Colonial Athletic Association schedule, Hofstra has rebounded in a big way, winning four in a row and seven of its last eight. The latest was a 92-89 overtime win over Rider on Sunday. Guard Charles Jenkins (profiled in LI Pulse magazine’s February issue http://www.lipulse.com/sports-wellness/article/pride-and-passion ) led the way with 31 points and leads the conference in scoring at 20.1 ppg. And Hofstra coach Tom Pecora earned his 152nd career win, tying Paul Lynner (1962-72) for the second most in school history. The Pride closes out the regular season at home on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. against Georgia State. The CAA Tournament begins March 5 in Richmond. There is no shot at an NIT bid. The only way to extend the season is to win the CAA Tournament – and that’s not impossible with a prolific scorer in Jenkins.
Best Case: Hofstra is locked into the No. 7 seed and will play the No. 10 team in the first round of the CAA Tournament. The winner gets the No. 2 seed. Prediction: The Pride finishes 18-15 with second-round loss in CAA.
C.W. Post (20-5, 16-3): One year removed from a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament, C.W. Post has the look of a contender once again. Coach Tim Cluess has done it with an entirely retooled roster. The Pioneers’ 79-50 win over Molloy on Saturday locked up the program’s third-straight 20-win season and extended their home winning streak to a remarkable 41 games. C.W. Post is one game behind Bridgeport (20-7, 17-2) in the East Coast Conference. Aaron Hall (16.7 ppg) is third in the conference in scoring and 6-7 Serb Nemenja Jokic (7.7 rpg) is second in rebounding. The Pioneers close out the regular season at Queens College on Saturday, Feb. 27. Good news: The Pioneers host the ECC Tournament March 4-7. They’ve already locked up a first round bye. The only way to guarantee an NCAA Tournament bid is to win the ECC Tournament.
Best Case: Cluess-coached teams win the games they are supposed to. Prediction: C.W. Post wins the ECC Tournament and advances a round or two in the NCAA Division II Tournament to close out the season at 26-6.
Adelphi (18-10, 11-10): The Panthers are currently tied for eighth place in the 16-team Northeast-10 Conference. Adelphi opened the season 14-1 and ranked 25th in the Division II poll. And then? Eight losses in 10 games. Adelphi closes out the regular season Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. against New Haven. The Panthers do play great defense for longtime coach James Cosgrove. And Copiague’s do-it-all Richard Byrd has been impressive, leading the team at 19 ppg.
Best Case: Adelphi claims the No. 7 or 8 seed and a home game in the conference tournament, which begins Feb. 27 at the higher seed. The good news is the Panthers have proven they can play with top seeds Bentley and Stonehill, their likely quarterfinal draw. Prediction: 20-11.
USMMA (21-4, 12-2): Kings Point claimed the regular-season title in the Landmark Conference. The Mariners play a conference tournament semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. against No. 4 Susquehanna. Coach John Krikorian’s team has the highest scoring margin in the conference (14.5 points) and is second in rebound margin at 5.7. Former Holy Trinity star Jon Snead is the leading scorer.
Best Case: The Mariners have dominated the Landmark Conference. Two more wins and they earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament (a first for the three-year-old Landmark Conference). Prediction: 23-5.
Old Westbury (19-6, 17-3): Ranked 36th in the latest NCAA Division III poll, the Panthers clinched the Skyline Conference regular season title and are 11-0 at home. Not bad for a 12-15 team a year ago. Veteran coach Bernard Tomlin has a lineup featuring four players in double figures, led by Hakiem George and Mepham’s Lester Prosper (second in the Skyline with 8.7 rpg). Shane DeNully leads the conference in assists (6.09). The Panthers earned a first round bye in the Skyline Conference Tournament, which begins Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Best Case: Old Westbury will host a Skyline semifinal on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., facing the winner of No. 5 Farmingdale State at No. 4 Maritime. Two wins and the Panthers are in the NCAA D-III Tourney. After that, who knows? Prediction: 21-7
St. Joseph’s (17-8, 16-4): St. Joe’s of Patchogue clinched second place in the Skyline Conference and has won six in a row, including a 49-48 win over Old Westbury. Coach John Mateyko won 24 games a year ago and 21 in 2008, so the Eagles know how to get it done. In fact, the team actually won 20 games this season. But St. Joe’s was forced to forfeit three early-season wins due to an ineligible player. Former St. Anthony’s teammates Chris Jimenez and Shahab Syed lead the way.
Best Case: The Eagles await the winner of Purchase-Yeshiva in the semifinals of the Skyline Conference Tournament on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. And then, a likely title-game showdown with Old Westbury. The teams are 1-1 this season. Prediction: 18-9.
Farmingdale State (13-12, 13-7): The Rams are treading water in fifth place in the Skyline Conference. Farmingdale State went 110-35 (.759 win percentage) from 2005-09, including a magical 27-4 run a year ago. That pretty much sums up coach Erik Smiles’ wildly successful tenure. But the program’s streak of three trips in four seasons to the NCAA D-III Tournament is in doubt. West Hempstead’s Shehee Martin leads the team.
Best Case: This season is a disappointment for the Rams. No. 5 Farmingdale State travels to No. 4 Maritime for a Skyline Conference Tournament quarterfinal on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. Prediction: 14-13.
Molloy (11-15, 9-9): The Lions, in a tight race for fourth place in the East Coast Conference, close the regular season with three straight games at home, culminating Saturday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. against Dowling. Coach Charles Marquardt has a weapon in Elmont’s Brian Hutchinson. He’s an inside force, fifth in the ECC in scoring and tops in rebounding.
Best Case: A first round win in the ECC Tournament is realistic. Not much else. Prediction: 15-16.
NYIT (12-14. 9-10): The Bears are currently fifth in the ECC, with a shot at fourth place. They play their final home game Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7:15 p.m. against Dowling. California JUCO transfer Jerrell Walker leads the team in scoring.
Best Case: It’s been an up and down season for coach Sal Lagano. Better luck next year. Prediction: 14-15.
Dowling (8-19, 6-13): Losers of six of its last eight in the ECC, Dowling is fighting just to qualify for the conference tournament. Games against NYIT and Molloy remain. Senior David Seagers has carried the load.
Best Case: Coach Steve Hayn’s team has lost eight games by four points or less. Dowling needs to learn how to close out games, but that’s a lesson for next season. Prediction: 8-22.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
January 12, 2010
This was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
After sprinting to the elite eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament last March before bowing out in OT to the eventual champ, the C.W. Post men’s basketball team wasn’t expected to recover from the loss of six heralded seniors.
Nick Carter, the son of former Knick Reggie Carter, is gone. So too are a pair of point guards – Kevin Spann and Jonathan Schmidt – who first made names for themselves starring in the Catholic league.
This is a much different cast than the one that rolled to a 30-0 start.
And yet C.W. Post is very much alive and kicking after Monday night’s hard-fought 98-85 road win over rival Queens College. After an uneven 3-4 start to the season, the Pioneers (9-4 overall, 5-2 conference) have won six straight and look like contenders again in the East Coast Conference.
Nemanja Jokic, a 6-7 Serbian senior, led C.W. Post with 24 points. Senior guard Roberto Macklin scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half and freshman Jonathan Kohler added 17.
Much to the chagrin of conference and Long Island rivals Molloy, NYIT and Dowling, C.W. Post coach Tim Cluess has this team headed on the right path once again. Post leads the ECC in offense (80.7 points a game), defense (69.5), field goal percentage (.488) and rebound margin (9.4). And Jokic is the conference’s third leading scorer and rebounder.
The Pioneers are 7-0 at home and that edge couldn’t come at a better time. C.W. Post will host first-place Bridgeport (8-5, 7-0) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Pratt Recreation Center.
No, don’t dance on the grave of last season’s historic run. The Pioneers may not win 30 games again, but they are good enough to repeat at ECC champs. Believe it.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
January 4, 2010
With the first decade of the 21st century in the books, Long Island Pulse magazine decided to look back at the most significant figures on the Long Island sports scene. There were high profile athletes such as Kings Park and Houston Astros baseball star Craig Biggio and Hofstra and New York Jets wideout Wayne Chrebet. Prime-time events such as golf’s US Open at Bethpage (2002 and ‘09) and Shinnecock Hills (2004) put the region in the spotlight. Great teams abounded, from Speedy Claxton-led Hofstra in men’s basketball (2000) to the Bratton brothers-fuelled Huntington boys lacrosse run (2005-07).
But the people who made the greatest contributions to Long Island sports in the last decade were often coaches and administrators, people on the bench or away from the public view. Others championed causes, opened the way for new sports to flourish or built the foundation for great teams. Here is our Top 10:
10. Louis Acompora: The Northport High School freshman died on March 25, 2000 after being struck in the chest by a ball during a freshman lacrosse game. Acompora, 14, suffered commotio cordis, a rare form of cardiac arrest. He could have been revived had there been an automated external defibrillator. His parents made it their mission to raise awareness and their son lived on through the Louis Acompora Foundation. The Long Island sports community reacted almost immediately, putting defibrillators at high school sports events. On June 27, 2002, with father and driving force John Acompora on hand, Gov. George Pataki signed into law a bill requiring one portable defibrillator in each high school. Louis’ Law was the nation’s first.
9. Sarah Hughes: The figure skating prodigy from Great Neck burst onto the world consciousness with a remarkable gold-medal performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Then 17, Hughes jumped from fourth to first with a flawless long program and joined the ranks of local Olympic immortals Derrick Adkins and Al Oerter. Hughes has served as a spokesperson for breast cancer awareness and supported the outreach program Figure Skating Harlem. Younger sister Emily Hughes also developed into a figure skating star in her own right. Emily Hughes competed at the 2006 Olympics. Sarah Hughes graduated from Yale in 2009.
8. Russ Cellan: The Freeport High School football coach turned a downtrodden program into one of Long Island’s best, developing talent and innovating along the way. The result was a feared program that played in six Nassau Conference I championship games this decade and won four. He popularized the spread offense on Long Island, coached NFL standouts D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Morlon Greenwood and led one of the great teams in state history, the 2003 Red Devils. Cellan closed the decade in November the way he began it in 2000, winning a Long Island Class I championship.
7. Tim Cluess: The C.W. Post men’s basketball coach is a fierce competitor, a master tactician and a great teacher. He was a legendary high school coach, dominating the Catholic league at St. Mary’s. He went 262-87 in 14 seasons with the Gaels, winning a pair of state Class B Federation championships before tensions between he and the administration led him to leave in 2005. He coached current NBA player Danny Green. Cluess jumped to Suffolk CC-Brentwood and led it to the NJCAA Division III quarterfinals in 2006. Division II C.W. Post hired him weeks later. Last year, Cluess guided a Long Island-heavy roster to a 30-1 season and the elite eight of the NCAA Division II tournament. He is very likely Long Island’s next big D-I prospect, a la Billy Donovan at Florida.
6. Jim McGowan: The longtime Bay Shore High School softball coach has dominated the game like no coach in any other sport. He is the winningest softball coach in state history and a pitching guru who has developed dominant windmillers throughout Long Island. This decade alone, Bay Shore won state Class A titles in 2000 and 2005 and five Suffolk titles from 2000-07. And the Marauders are in the hunt each season. They lost in the county championship series last spring. Beyond his work as a coach and an instructor, he’s been instrumental in building up the coaches association and championing the game. With former players now becoming coaches themselves, his influence will live on.
5. Boomer Esiason: You know him today as a TV commentator and radio host. But the former East Islip standout and NFL quarterback is an iconic Long Island sports figure. Sure, he played in a Super Bowl and starred for the New York Jets. But he’s emerged as an even more influential force off the field. The Manhasset resident started the Boomer Esiason Foundation after his son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993. BEF generated $6.4 million in 2008. Meanwhile, Esiason turned his twin passions – football and fundraising to fight CF – to promote Long Island football. There’s no event quite like the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge, an all-star football game played each June at Hofstra before big crowds and regional TV. The Empire Challenge only strengthened the sport, giving Long Island coaches an opportunity to grow while helping the development of youth and high school programs in need. For example, austerity-plagued Roosevelt High School received game helmets and uniforms. By the way, graduating seniors got a first-class showcase event.
4. Don Buckley: The longtime athletic director at St. Anthony’s High School helped build the Catholic power into one of the nation’s premier sports programs. Sports Illustrated recognized the school as the best in the state from 2005-09. The football program won eight CHSFL titles in the decade and boys basketball captured a state Federation crown. Girls soccer has been a powerhouse and boys soccer finished ranked second in the nation in 2008. But the former track coach’s true love is running and the Friars have a boys and girls program with several hundred participants. Yet Buckley’s influence goes well beyond Huntington Station. Buckley has served as president of the CHSAA and the state Federation, forging a reputation as a key figure in New York high school sports.
3. Cathy Gallagher: The long-time executive director of Section XI was a pioneer in women’s sports and a strong voice in New York state high school athletics. She retired from Section XI, Suffolk County’s governing body for high school sports, in 2003 after 21 years at the helm. Gallagher first taught at Smithtown and Cold Spring Harbor. She officiated girls basketball, volleyball, softball and field hockey. Her career path became clear in 1972, thanks to the landmark legislation known as Title IX, which leveled the playing field for women and promoted a nationwide explosion in sports participation. At Section XI, she implemented scheduling of games, brought content online, oversaw the addition of numerous sports from girls lacrosse to girls golf, helped streamline procedure and educated schools on safety issues. Gallagher helped usher in the Long Island football championships and transform high school sports in the process. Ed Cinelli succeeded Gallagher and deserves mention. So does Todd Heimer in Nassau. But Gallagher was a ground-breaking administrator for three decades.
2. Jim Fiore: He’s presided over the rapid rise of Stony Brook University athletics. The Long Beach native took over as Stony Brook’s athletic director in August 2003. In the years since, Fiore has overhauled staff, upgraded facilities and set the Seawolves on a path toward Division I competitiveness. Football was non-scholarship when he arrived. Now it’s the only Division I program on Long Island. Under his watch, men’s and women’s lacrosse, baseball, softball and men’s soccer each qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Fiore also inked the first TV contact in school history, with MSG, in 2005. He helped secure $30 million in state funds for school facilities and opened the Goldstein Student-Athlete Development Center in 2006. With lacrosse primed for another NCAA run this spring, the Seawolves roar into the new decade as a force on the Long Island sports scene.
1. Charles Wang: From merely big-named Long Island businessman as co-founder of Computer Associates to iconic figure in the community, Charles Wang is Long Island Pulse magazine’s sports figure of the decade. As owner of the New York Islanders, Wang is unquestionably the biggest backer of Long Island sports. He became part-owner of the struggling NHL franchise in 2000 and added immediate stability, ending speculation of a move and opening his check book to bring in fresh talent. Wang assumed full ownership 2004. The Islanders reached the playoffs four times in the decade, beginning in 2002 after a seven-year drought. In 2001, Wang relocated an Arena Football League franchise to the Nassau Coliseum. The New York Dragons won three division titles and made the playoffs six times before the league folded in 2009. He’s been in contentious negotiations with Nassau County to build a new arena and redevelop the area around the Coliseum. If the Lighthouse project ever does move forward, Wang might go down as Long Island’s most influential power broker since Robert Moses.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com