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 17, 2010
Charlie Paar deflected a point-blank shot, scooped it out of the air and then ran off, far from the shadow of his goal. His teammates gave chase. And for good reason. Paar’s save was the final masterstroke in a landmark victory for the Stony Brook University men’s lacrosse program.
The Seawolves, appearing in just their second-ever NCAA Tournament game, held the visiting Denver Pioneers to just two second-half goals to earn a 9-7 win before a record crowd of 4,262 Saturday at LaValle Stadium.
“The whole team is excited,’’ said Paar, a former Huntington High School standout who recorded five of his nine saves in the fourth quarter. “We don’t know what’s coming next. But we want to keep playing. Every game is something new. It’s uncharted territory.”
Stony Brook (13-3) ran its winning streak to nine in a row and advances to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves host No. 1 Virginia on Sunday, May 23 at 2:30 p.m.
Virginia comes in a big favorite. The Cavaliers were an 18-4 winner over Mount St. Mary’s in the first round and beat the Seawolves, 13-8, in February. Then again, Denver also beat Stony Brook earlier this season and look what happened?
“It’s huge for us as a program,” said former Hauppauge standout Tom Compitello, a senior midfielder. “You come here with high expectations of winning the America East championship, which we got to do this year. And you come here wanting to compete at the highest level. This is a dream come true. This is why you come to Stony Brook.”
Stony Brook has a surprising edge against Virginia. The school was selected before the season to host two NCAA quarterfinal games. Who knew the Seawolves would get a chance to play on the big stage too? Certainly not fourth-year coach Rick Sowell.
“At the beginning of the year, we knew the quarterfinals would be here,’’ Sowell said. “And there was some talk about maybe Stony Brook [might be in the NCAA Tournament], which I couldn’t relate to. For a program that just went to one Tournament, to think that we would get into the Tournament, win and be sitting here as one of the final eight teams – that was just too far off for me to really comprehend. When the whistle went off and we won, I couldn’t believe we did what we did.”
It was a shockingly superb performance, highlighted by the early play of Compitello (three goals) and a fourth-quarter flurry by junior midfielder Kevin Crowley, who was recently named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the national lacrosse player of the year.
With his back to the Denver goal and a flag down, Crowley flicked an over-the-shoulder ball from 10 yards out on the left side. It caught everyone flat-footed and put Stony Brook ahead for good, 7-6, with 11:29 left. He added his third goal of the game to make it 9-7 with 3:37 remaining.
“They’ve got a gorilla and he’s tough to stop,” Denver coach Bill Tierney said. “He had three and they were all big, powerful goals.”
Tierney, a lacrosse legend who got his start coaching at Great Neck South and Levittown Memorial high schools before winning six NCAA championships at Princeton, was complimentary of the Seawolves, from the defense to the coaching.
That’s because Stony Brook played with discipline and fire. As much as Crowley stole the show with his playground goal, the Seawolves held the ball and controlled the tempo. They won 12 of 19 faceoffs and scored twice off them.
“There were times when I first got here I was thinking, ‘How the heck am I going to get this done?’” Sowell said. “Albany was a machine when I first got here. And then UMBC took over the baton. Next thing you know they are winning the league and playing well in the Tournament. We had a lot of work to do.”
Sowell recruited well, set modest goals and everything came together this spring. The team’s lone objective was to reach the America East championship game. Stony Brook not only got there, it won. Now it’s on to the Elite Eight.
The lacrosse program’s first NCAA Division I victory adds to what has been a watershed school year for the entire athletic program. Football finished tied atop the Big South Conference standings, men’s soccer won the America East Tournament and men’s basketball took the regular season title and qualified for the NIT.
“You’re a jock school,” Newsday’s John Jeansonne told Sowell in the post-game press conference.
“It’s becoming that way,” Sowell said and flashed a smile. “I’m just glad to join the party. The basketball team. The soccer team. The football team. This is so much fun. It’s great.”
“We got a good thing going here at Stony Brook,’’ Sowell added. “Get used to it. Because we’re not going away any time soon.”
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
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 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.”
“We would love to go to the College World Series,” Galati gushed.
Hofstra is ranked 28th in the latest ESPN.com/USA 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 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 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 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
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
February 1, 2010
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.
January 26, 2010
The best Division I men’s basketball program in the Metropolitan area? St. John’s used to own that title – easily. In the era of Lou Carnesecca and even Mike Jarvis, everyone else – from Hofstra to Manhattan – played in the shadows.
And then there was Stony Brook. The Seawolves weren’t even an afterthought. They played in total darkness. An exaggeration, yes. But not far from the truth.
Now here’s another truth: Stony Brook may have the surest path to the NCAA Tournament of any team in the area. The Seawolves improved to 14-7 after a 67-61 win over America East rival Albany on Sunday, Jan. 24, their best start since the 1991 season.
Stony Brook’s growing pains are easy to understand. The Seawolves made the quantum leap from Division III to D-I status in 1999. Steve Pikiell earned America East coach of the year honors a year ago after guiding Stony Brook to a 16-14 season, its best yet.
It’s a far cry from where the Seawolves once languished.
“We were on probation my first two years,’’ Pikiell said. “That sums it up. We had scholarship limitations. We had the lowest GPA in the conference. We had the lowest [Academic Progress Rate] in the conference. We had seven scholarship players. Four ineligible guys. Do I need to go on any more? Not good.”
Now in his fifth season, Pikiell and the Seawolves are on pace for a breakthrough run. Not only are his players winning on the court, but the program has recorded its highest GPA ever. And 19 of 20 players have graduated during Pikiell’s tenure.
“It’s been quite a journey,’’ Pikiell said.
Aside from Iona (15-6), no D-I program in the area has more momentum heading into February. Certainly none is more underrated.
Forget for a moment that Stony Brook has actually played – and lost – to St. John’s and Fordham this season. The Seawolves are making it count where it matters most – conference play. Stony Brook already beat first-place Vermont on the road last week and is 8-1 at home.
Stony Brook leads the conference in scoring margin (4.9), is tied for the lead in steals (7.7) and second in turnover margin (2) and rebound margin (2.7). Collectively, the stats show a team that stresses the fundamentals and plays gritty man-to-man defense.
It’s time to stop overlooking the Seawolves. Stony Brook’s next game is Saturday, Jan. 30 at Pritchard Gymnasium. The women play Hartford at 4 p.m. followed by the men’s game against Boston University at 7 p.m. The school is billing the doubleheader as a “Celebration of Basketball.” The teams will welcome back basketball alumni and salute 1,000 point scorers from the past.
Sophomore point guard Bryan Dougher may join that group someday. He has certainly energized the Seawolves the last two seasons. Even during slumps. His three-pointer with 1:08 left against Albany on Sunday broke a tie at 58 and snapped an 0-for-9 start for the guard.
It’s an infusion of young talent driving the Seawolves. Dougher is one of three sophomores in the starting rotation. And two more are the first subs off the bench.
“It’s been a great class,’’ Pikiell said. “I have the leading rebounder in the conference in Tommy Brenton. He’s been the leading rebounder since day one. The first game of his freshman year he had 16 rebounds. Bryan Dougher is one of the top five scorers in the league and he’s the best three-point shooter in the conference. And I have a big guy in the post in Dallis Joyner who is moving up to the league lead in double-doubles.”
Muhammad El-Amin is the lone senior. And Pikiell has more talent stocked on the roster. Freshman Marcus Rouse scored 17 points off the bench against Albany.
After years of frustration, miscalculation and misfires, Stony Brook men’s basketball matters. We’ll see how much at the America East Tournament from March 4-13 in Hartford. A big finish earns the Seawolves the ultimate reward – a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com