Galati Has Hofstra Softball Back On Track

April 26, 2010

In the span of a week, Hofstra University freshman Olivia Galati experienced the extremes of college sports: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Cliché, yes. But the freshman from St. John the Baptist has enjoyed a season so far removed from stereotypical that bold adjectives don’t do it justice. The young pitcher has Hofstra softball off to a 34-8 start, including an impressive 13-1 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Galati was already a Long Island legend after a high school career that began at West Babylon as an eighth grader and culminated with three state CHSAA titles at St. John’s. The two-time NYSSWA player of the year dominated hitters, the way Division I prospects do.

But no one – not even Hofstra coach Bill Edwards – expected her to step into the pitchers circle for a Top 25 college program and continue to stifle opposing lineups so completely and consistently. Certainly not as a freshman.

“We knew she could throw at this level physically,” said Edwards, a pitching guru. “But for her to have the mental process she has and for her to be as disciplined as she is in the circle – she has shown she can rise to the occasion and make the big pitch against a big team in a big moment. That’s her greatest asset. She can compete mentally at this level.”

It’s been a season of memorable moments and learning experiences. Galati has beaten 18th-ranked Louisville and lost a 3-1 decision to No. 5 Michigan.

For a microcosm of her freshman campaign, just look back at the last week. Galati took a two hitter into the seventh inning of a scoreless game against Fordham on April 20. But Fordham, riding a 10-game winning streak, won after Jen Mineau took Galati deep for a solo home run. Pure agony.

On Saturday, April 24, Galati bounced back. She tossed a one-hitter and struck out 14 as Hofstra rolled past UNC Wilmington, 3-0. With the win, Galati became the seventh pitcher in program history to win 20 games in a season and just the third to reach 200 strikeouts. Simply thrilling.

“I’ve really had to elevate my game,” Galati said. “Everyone in college can hit. But I’m really enjoying college ball. It’s great that I can contribute to my team as a freshman.”

The 5-foot, 5-inch Galati is 20-4 with a 1.10 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings. She is among the NCAA leaders in nearly every category. She is also getting it done at the plate, hitting .261 with 23 RBI, good for fourth on the team.

“She’s very, very special,” Edwards said. “She’s come in here and exceeded every expectation.”

There was a consensus that Hofstra would take a step back this season after losing four-time All-CAA pitcher Kayleigh Lotti to graduation. The Pride finished 26-21 and saw its 11-year run of conference championships end in a 12-inning loss to Georgia State last May.

The naysayers are in hiding now. Great pitching will do that. The first-place Pride has eight games remaining in the regular season and can lock up the top seed in the CAA Tournament by winning its series against second-place Georgia State.

“I can’t believe the regular season is almost over,” Galati said. “It’s been quite a ride so far.”

And then?

“We would love to go to the College World Series,” Galati gushed.

Hofstra is ranked 28th in the latest Softball poll. Edwards hopes this young team can make a run in the postseason. With Galati pitching, there just aren’t enough adjectives to describe Hofstra’s potential.

Blog originally posted at LI

Long Island College Lacrosse Rundown

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

Hofstra Lacrosse: Corrine Gandolfi’s Last Dance

March 22, 2010

Sometimes the journey starts off so well, like cake and caviar at a catered affair, and you believe the good times will never end. Abby Morgan and Corrine Gandolfi know this feeling all too well.

They were instrumental ingredients as the Hofstra women’s lacrosse team earned just its second ever appearance to the NCAA Tournament. It was May 2007 and Morgan was wrapping up a memorable first season as head coach after three years as an assistant. Galdolfi was the prized freshman recruit from Northport and an instant sensation.

What a debut.

Yet three seasons later, Morgan is a veteran coach and Gandolfi her senior leader, and the two are still looking to recapture that elusive magic, still looking to crash the invitation-only affair known as the NCAAs.

“I definitely felt [we’d be back],’’ Gandolfi said. “Going into my sophomore year, we were young but still had the talent to make it where we should. Then last year we were right there. Then we had one bad weekend. That ruined our chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament. So this year there is no ‘next year’ for me. It’s do or die right now.”

After two postseason-less springs, Hofstra women’s lacrosse is nationally ranked and a factor once again. The Pride improved to 5-2 with a 17-7 thrashing of Stony Brook on Wednesday, March 17. Gandolfi, a speedy midfielder, poured in five goals and added an assist. Its two losses came by a combined two goals to nationally-ranked Notre Dame and Penn, and were offset by a double-overtime win over No. 20 Rutgers.

Hofstra, ranked 19th nationally, travels to face Stanford March 31 before hosting Colonial Athletic Association rival William & Mary on April 9. The Pride head into CAA play with confidence—and an intimate sense of how things can go from right to wrong, oh so fast.

“We really don’t talk about or think about rankings,” Morgan said. “It really doesn’t matter where we’re ranked. It’s nice to get the recognition. But our team is about where we are and how we feel about where we are. And right now the feeling is we’ll continue climbing the ladder and keep improving.”

Hofstra struggled through a 7-9 season in 2008 and rebounded last spring with a 9-4 start and national ranking heading into the final week of the regular season. Then came back-to-back losses to Old Dominion and William & Mary. It dropped the Pride from first to fifth place and out of the CAA Tournament.

Morgan and Gandolfi vow not to take anything for granted this time around. Their focus is on the next ball in the back of the net.

“Without a doubt it is disappointing,” Morgan said. “You want to go back and play the games over. Last year we were playing well and were tied for first in the conference. And then two games and we’re out of it. That’s how our conference is.’’

Gandolfi isn’t accustomed to losing. She teamed with one of the great school girl athletes to ever hail from Long Island. Jill Byers starred in soccer, basketball and lacrosse at Northport High School and was one year senior to Gandolfi. But while Byers moved on to Notre Dame and became a four-time All-American, Gandolfi proved she could carry a team too.

In 2006, Gandolfi led Northport to a Suffolk Class AA title in basketball and a Class A crown in lacrosse. She was named Suffolk player of the year in lacrosse and a Newsday All-Long Island pick.

“There was so much competition in Northport, you had to be the best to play,” said Gandolfi, a physical education major.

She chose Hofstra because she wanted to stay close to home. The move paid off immediately. Morgan, then the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach, was elevated to the top job.

The rookie coach wasted little time in showcasing her top recruit. Her talent was so immense that Morgan moved a senior from midfield to attack just to get Gandolfi on the field. Gandolfi started 11 games as a freshman in 2007 and scored 24 goals, including five in the CAA title game against James Madison.

The win gave Hofstra a berth in the NCAA Tournament, something Gandolfi and her teammates have been thinking about ever since.

“It makes us want it even more,” said Gandolfi, a third-team All-American as a junior and a member of the U.S. developmental squad. “We have nine seniors. We know what it takes to get there. We’ve done it.”

It’s cake and caviar time for Hofstra women’s lacrosse. Gandolfi and Morgan won’t be satisfied with anything less.

Blog originally posted at LI

Long Island Basketball’s Lost Weekend

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

Long Island Sports Week Ahead

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.

Men’s Basketball

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.

Men’s Basketball

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.

Men’s Basketball

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

Preview: Long Island’s March Madness

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 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 ) 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

Shante Evans: Hofstra’s Game Changer

February 15, 2010

Shante Evans may be the most heralded recruit in the history of Hofstra University. And midway through her freshman season, she’s playing like it.

The 6-foot forward from West Chester, Penn., has transformed the Pride women’s basketball team into a must-see attraction and lifted the program into the thick of the Colonial Athletic Association standings.

The high point came Thursday when Hofstra (14-11 overall, 7-6 CAA) downed then-first place Virginia Commonwealth, 74-66. The Pride has won six of its last nine, dating back to an overtime win over UNC-Wilmington on Jan. 17.

Evans is a rare game changer as a freshman, leading the team, averaging 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. She’s shooting 50 percent from the field and has collected more rebounds (223) and double-doubles (10) than anyone else in the CAA.

“I keep hearing from folks who have been around here a lot longer than I have –
folks who have been around 30 years – she could be the best player who ever put on a Hofstra uniform,’’ Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. “That’s really exciting.”

It’s no surprise. Evans, a 2,000-point scorer and shot put champion at Henderson High School, was the 54th rated prospect in the nation by ESPN, and on Kilburn-Steveskey’s radar since her sophomore year. That long courtship paid off when Evans chose the Pride over Seton Hall, West Virginia, Temple, Drexel, UMass and Penn State.

“Hofstra had everything I was looking for in a school. I was close to home, I loved the team and coaching staff and I would get a good education,’’ said Evans, who is majoring in physical therapy.

And she’s just what the fourth-year coach needed to help take the Pride to the next level. Hofstra, two seasons removed from a 20-loss campaign, went 16-14 a year ago and was upset in the first round of the CAA Tournament.

“Her actions speak more than anything I can say about her,’’ Kilburn-Steveskey said. “She’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever coached. Her eagerness to learn is one of her biggest attributes. She’ll review something on film and you’ll see her work on it that next day in practice or in a game. We haven’t even touched what her ability is going to be by the time she gets out of here.”

The Pride reached the WNIT in 2007, its first Division I postseason appearance. And with Evens already owning the low post and getting better by the day, Hofstra has the foundation laid for another postseason run.

“We are playing good basketball,’’ Evans said. “And on defense [we’re] causing problems for our opponents. I can say we are headed in right direction and we’re only going to get better.”

With five games remaining in the regular season, including a home date Thursday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. against George Mason, there’s still room for improvement. The Pride has already proven it can run with the pack. How long will it be before Hofstra leads from the front?

Blog originally posted at LI

LI Pulse: Hofstra basketball’s Charles Jenkins

February 1, 2010

February 2010 issue of LI Pulse magazine featuring Hofstra basketball star Charles Jenkins.

February 2010 issue of LI Pulse magazine featuring Hofstra basketball star Charles Jenkins.

Title: Pride And Passion: Charles Jenkins carries the Hofstra basketball program—and a weighty past—on his shoulders
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: February 2010
Start Page: 48
Word Count: 907

Charles Jenkins literally carries a burden on his back. And it has nothing to do with basketball.

The junior guard on the Hofstra University men’s basketball team wears No. 22 in honor of his brother, Kareem Albritton, who in 2001 was shot and killed in Brooklyn at the too-young age of 22.

The violent death of a family member is something you never really get past. Just ask his coach, who understands better than most because he endures the weight of his own loss.

“I’ve talked to him intimately about it,” Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. “I lost my first wife in a car accident. His brother was killed in a shooting. The point is, it’s how you live your life after that. It’s all about the dash. When somebody dies, the gravestone shows the day they were born and the day they died. It’s all about the dash. What did you do in between that? And I’ve asked Charles, ‘What kind of mark are you going to leave?’”

Jenkins can’t escape his past. He knows this. His coach knows it. All the Hofstra star can do is acknowledge and honor it.

So Jenkins, 20, embraces this fact, melding the tragic with the remarkable. When he became the first sophomore since Chris Mullin of St. John’s University in 1983 to win the Haggerty Award as the New York Metropolitan area’s best basketball player, he used the opportunity to speak about his fallen brother.

“I try to keep it in mind every day I step onto the floor,” Jenkins said. “That’s why I wear the number 22. He died when he was 22. He’s a major influence in my life. I play for him.”

The 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound Jenkins plays with a drive that’s transformed him into one of the nation’s top guards and turned Hofstra into a contender. The Pride will challenge for the Colonial Athletic Association title and berth in the NCAA Tournament after going 21-11 a year ago.

It began on the road in November against No. 1 Kansas, the first top-ranked team Hofstra had ever faced. Kansas routed the Pride, 101-65, but the experience proved invaluable.

“There are a lot of tough places to play in the CAA,” Hofstra center Greg Washington said. “But none of them will be like the crowd at Kansas. Drexel and UNC Wilmington—those are hostile environments. But Kansas is a different world. You step on the court and it’s like, ‘This is where Danny Manning played. This where Paul Pierce played.’

[Charles Jenkins] handled it like a man. He kept his head up and was always looking to make a play. 23 points is pretty hard to come by playing the No. 1 team in the country. He earned it.”

Then came a loss to perennial Big East power and 12th-ranked Connecticut, a game that the Pride actually led with 4:15 left.

“I thought that we had them,” said Jenkins, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “I thought we were going to win.”

No one has played a tougher early-season schedule. And facing the likes of Kansas guard Sherron Collins and UConn guard Jerome Dyson, each seasoned seniors with national reputations, Jenkins proved he belonged on the same stage. If Hofstra earns its fifth 20-win season over the last six years, it will be because of lessons learned facing these heavyweights in November.

“We will never play in a tougher environment,” Pecora said. “So for the rest of the year I can use that as a point of reference. ‘We’ve been to Allen Field House. The reason we went there is to be prepared for tonight.’”

Pecora has a disciple in Jenkins. The guard was born in Brooklyn, but grew up in Rosedale near Green Acres mall and starred at Springfield Gardens High School in Queens. St. John’s showed interest, but the Hofstra coaching staff found Jenkins early and developed a relationship that bloomed.

Mining for guards is a Pecora specialty. Coaches fell in love with Jenkins’ physical presence and work ethic. And at a mid-major program like Hofstra, outhustling and outmuscling the big boys is how you win. Jenkins is a hard-driving, physical guard who is a magnet to the basket.

“It makes it easy for you as a coach when your best player is your hardest worker,” Pecora said. “On the court. Off the court as a leader. In the weight room. With everything he does, he’s not only vocal, he leads by example. The guys have no choice but to fall in line.”

Jenkins, an All-CAA player as a sophomore, is the only returning player in the country who averaged at least 19 points, four rebounds and four assists per game last year. And he’s put up similar numbers for the Pride this season.

He became just the second player in program history to crack 1,000 career points as a sophomore and is on pace to finish his career as Hofstra’s all-time leading scorer. But the only statistics Jenkins cares about are wins and losses.

“We’re young and athletic and like to get after it,” Jenkins said. “We can have another 20-win season. It just depends on us.”

As the leader of the Pride, it’s a responsibility on Jenkins’ shoulders. When you consider his weighty past, you realize there’s nothing he can’t handle. Jenkins stares down bigger demons each time he slips on his No. 22 jersey, a reminder that every day is precious.