ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quinnipiac's Johnson, Azotam plead not guilty

A pair of Quinnipiac men’s basketball players plead not guilty to assault and breach of peace charges in Monday’s arraignment at Meriden Superior Court.
Ike Azotam, a 20-year-old sophomore forward and James Johnson, 21, a senior point guard and the team’s leading scorer last year, are scheduled to return to court Oct. 24 for a judicial pretrial.
Quinnipiac officials did not comment on any measures the school has taken in the situation. Men’s basketball can begin practice on Oct. 15 and it is unknown whether Johnson or Azotam will be allowed to participate but the school said initially that both students were still members of the team pending a university investigation. School officials also declined to say whether the pair have been suspended from school or placed on academic probation.
The pair’s lawyer, Thomas Lynch, told the Quinnipiac Chronicle that he thinks Azotam, 20, was “misidentified” in the police’s report and that Johnson, 21, was assaulted the night before the incident. The police report stated that Azotam and Johnson struck students who were attempting to break up a fight.
Police said that Azotam and Johnson were responsible for striking two fellow students in the face. The first student, who police said was assaulted by Azotam, was treated for his injuries at the university’s medical center. The second, who police siad was assaulted by Johnson, suffered minor facial injuries.
The school released a statement saying both players have been cooperating with authorities. Under the school’s judicial policy, any sanctions would follow an investigation by a review board.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

SCSU hammers Pace

SCSU pounded Pace 61-0 on Friday night at Jess Dow Field.
It was the Owls' home opener.

Here are some game clips.

Steven Teague picked off another pass on Friday night. Teague talks about the win


Thursday, September 22, 2011

SCSU opens home slate with Pace

By Bill Cloutier
Assistant Sports Editor
NEW HAVEN — Setting the school record for touchdowns was only half the job for Southern Connecticut State’s Rashaad Slowley last weekend. Convincing his mother that he had indeed broken the mark was the other.
“I scored two touchdowns in the first quarter (and another in the second quarter) but my mom and three of my aunts didn’t get there (midway) through the second quarter,” Slowley said. “After the game my mom came over to me and asked, ‘How’s that a record? I’ve seen you score three touchdowns before.’”
Slowley told her about his big start to the game and watched her wide smile match his equally-large performance. Slowley, a senior, broke the SCSU’s all-time record with six touchdowns in a single game in Southern’s 59-34 win over Saint Anselm’s on Saturday.
The Owls look for their third win in a row when they make their home debut tonight at Jess Dow Field against Pace University .
Slowley deferred most of the credit for his performance to the play of his offensive line and Southern’s balanced offensive attack. But Slowley did have huge aspirations for this season.
“Playing this game you have to have a short-term memory,” Slowley said. “Whether you run for 59 yards in a game or six touchdowns you have to take it one game at a time. Our offense is stating to get into the flow.
“Certain teams like to pack the box to stop the run but coming into this season I think more people were worried about stopping our passing game.”
Slowley said that he was a bit fortunate to score his sixth touchdown because the game was still relatively close. He finished the contest with 205 yards on the ground on 35 carries. Slowley scored on runs of 11 and 7 yards in the first quarter and 4 yards midway through the second quarter. He then scored on runs of 12, 5, and 3 yards in the second half.
“I’m sure if it still wasn’t close I would have come out after scoring four touchdowns it’s just the circumstances of the game,” he said. “But if I was still out there I would try to seven or eight touchdowns. I’m never going to stop trying to score.”
The Owls have certainly rebounded well from its season-opening loss to Central Connecticut State. In that game Southern took the opening possession down the field but the drive stalled at the 1-yard line.
“It’s tough to be an offensive player and get down to the 1-yard line and not get it in,” Slowley said. “It kind of brought back a flashback from last year’s New Haven game. One thing we spoke about this year was to not make the save the same mistakes.”
But Southern has apparently corrected those ails in a hurry. Slowley scored two touchdowns on short runs against Central in a 35-21 loss. He then added another one in a win against West Liberty before hitting pay dirt six times last week.
Said Slowley: “I talked to the team (in the Central game) and said that can’t happen anymore and after that we’ve been doing a good job of getting it in (the end zone). We haven’t been stopped again so far.
“It’s a collective effort.”
Slowley has nine touchdowns on the season rushing for 369 yards on 87 carries.
The Owls (2-1, 1-0 Northeast-10) certainly know the importance of the next few weeks. With a huge conference game against New Haven looming on Oct. 7 Southern has to stay focused on each opponent.
That’s never been a problem for Slowley who relishes the times that his mother, Patricia Williams of Mount Vernon, N.Y., can watch him play.
“It’s always only been just us two,” Slowley said. “I’m an only child and she’s a single mom. We only have each other.
“She’s a registered nurse who is getting her masters so she’s away a lot. There’s been whole seasons when she couldn’t come but when I’m always so happy.”
Saturday’s performance was certainly special for the pair even if his mom didn’t get to see it all.
Contact Bill Cloutier at 203-789-5653. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillCloutier. To receive breaking sports news first — simply text the word “nhsports” to 22700. Standard msg+data rates may apply.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Slowley among weekly honorees

SCSU: Senior wide reciever Andre Privott from Middletown, caught a career high 10 passes, while accumulating 155 recieving yard in the win vs the Hawks. In addition, senior running back Rashaad Slowley scored a school record six touchdowns while collecting 205 yards rushing on 35 carries.
Brian Nill of the men’s cross country team was selected to the Northeast-10 Weekly Honor Roll. Nill claimed his second top five finish in as many events with a second place overall spot at the Division II Cross Country Challenge in Kutztown, P.A. on Saturday.
Quinnipiac: Kimberly Cunniff has been named the Northeast Conference Field Hockey Player of the week as announced by the league office. Cunniff totaled nine points on four goals and an assist in wins against Lehigh and Harvard, factoring into five of Quinnipiac’s seven goals for the week. She currently leads the NEC in goals scored (6) and goals per game (1.80) while also ranking second in total points (13) and fifth in points per game (2.1700)
New Haven: The Chargers who nearly upset Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent the College of William & Mary, dropped two spots in the week three American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coaches’ Top 25 Poll. The Chargers, with a 2-1 record, slipped to a tie for No. 25 with 68 points.
Yale: Senior Brad Rose got the Yale men’s soccer team off to a fast start Sunday against Marist, scoring twice in a six-minute stretch midway through the first half. He later added two assists as the Bulldogs cruised to a 7-0 victory over the Red Foxes. Rose was rewarded for that performance by being named the Ivy League Player of the Week on Monday. He shared the honor with Brown’s T.J. Popolizio.
Senior Enma Mullo, who has at least one point in three straight games, has been named the Ivy League Player of the Week. Mullo, a midfielder, assisted on the game-winning goal against Quinnipiac, scored the game-winning goal against Vermont and had the only Yale goal against Boston University.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yale tips Quinnipiac in women's soccer

om staff reports
Freshmen Melissa Gavin scored in the first half and Frannie Coxe scored in the second half to lead the Yale women’s soccer team to a 2-0 win over local rival Quinnipiac in New Haven on Tuesday.
Yale earns its third shutout of the season and improves to 2-2-2.
Dowling 4, Southern Conn. 2: At Oakdale, N.Y., a late second half rally came up short for Southern as No. 25 Dowling defeated the Owls.
Southern senior Jeremy Tavares notched his first goal of the season, as he scored off a cross from Doural Scott of New Havenin the 12th minute. Southern goalkeeper Andrew Esposito of East Haven recorded five saves.
Stonehill 2, New Haven 1: At Easton, Mass., the Chargers dropped their 2011 Northeast-10 Conference opener to the Skyhawks.
With just under 10 minutes gone in the second half, Stonehill took a 2-0 lead when Anthony Campagnano kicked a shot into the net when diving to find the end of a crossing pass. The Skyhawks held on for the win as the Chargers fell to 0-2-2, 0-1. The Skyhawks improved to 3-1, 1-0.
New York Tech 3, Southern Conn. 0: At New Haven, Sarah Beres had a team-high nine kills, but the Owls went on to lose to New York Tech at Pelz Gym. NYIT won the match by scores of 25-17, 25-11 and 25-14. The Owls moved to 5-2. Lauren McVey had a team-high six digs for the Owls. Kimberly Lachowicz posted a team-high 15 assists.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

SCSU football team earns first victory

WEST LIBERTY, W, Va. – Keyed by a defensive effort that forced eight turnovers, including six interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Steven Teague (Hamden, Conn.), the Southern Connecticut State University football team captured its first win of the year on Saturday at West Liberty State, 27-19. The Owls actually trailed 10-0 in the first quarter, but scored 27 of the final 36 points to claim the victory.

Southern Connecticut improved to 1-1 on the year with the win, while West Liberty dropped to 0-2.

Teague tallied two interceptions for the Owls, becoming the first SCSU player in two years to pick off two passes in a game. Kamal Mgaresh (Medfield, Mass.), Michael Escobar (Danbury, Conn.), Zachary Williams (Wolcott, Conn.) and Chevar Rankins (Middletown, Conn.) all added one interception apiece. The six interceptions, however, were just the second highest single-game total in school history – the Owls have twice intercepted eight passes in a game.

Rashaad Slowley (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) finished with 114 yards on 25 carries, including a touchdown. Kevin Lynch completed 18-of-40 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Andre Privott (Middletown, Conn.) led the Owls with six catches and 63 receiving yards, while Willie Epps (Norwalk, Conn.) had 59 yards and two touchdowns.

The comeback began early in the second quarter for the Owls. Trailing 10-0, the team put together a 13-play, 46-yard drive that was culminated on a three-yard pass from Lynch to Epps. Christopher Hazelton (Bristol, Conn.) added the PAT to get the Owls within three points.

The game stayed at 10-7 as halftime approached. However, with West Liberty attempting to tack on to its lead, Teague jumped in front of a pass by L.D. Crow and went 40 yards untouched the other way for a touchdown. Hazelton’s PAT made it 14-10, and the Owls carried that lead into halftime.

Mgaresh’s forced fumble on a WLU punt return gave the Owls the ball at the Hilltoppers 28 just under two minutes into the third quarter. SCSU immediately went to the air, with Lynch finding Epps for a second time on a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone to make it 20-10.

West Liberty closed the gap back to one possession after forcing a safety on an Owls’ punt return.

With the Owls leading 20-12 early in the fourth quarter, Rankins deflected a pass that went right to Williams. He advanced the ball to the WLU 6 and, three plays later, Slowley went in from a yard out.

The Hilltoppers would add a late score to close within eight at 27-19, but Southern Connecticut recovered the onside kick and went on for the win.

Jack Petion (Union, N.J.) finished with a team-high 10 tackles. Ikponmwosa Igbinosun (Rahway, N.J.) added seven tackles and a sack on his 21st birthday.

The Owls return to action on Sept. 17 for a road game at Saint Anselm.


Notes from the week at Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac field hockey

Sophomore forward Jess Rusin (Garwood, N.J.) had a hand in four goals as the Bobcats bounced Colgate, 6-0. The sophomore forward’s hat trick was the first at Quinnipiac since Kaitlyn Notarianni scored three times in last season’s season opener, while she also assisted on a goal by Notarianni in the first half. Rusin’s previous career-high of two goals came against Sacred Heart last season. Rusin now has four goals and an assist through Quinnipiac’s first five games – matching her total in 18 games played last season. Rusin’s seven-points in a game are the most since 2001 when Chelsea Osbrey had three goals and an assist and Heather Cady had two goals and three assists in the Bobcats 9-0 win against Saint Francis (Pa.) on Sept. 23, 2001.

Senior Kim Cunniff (Walpole, Mass.), a 2010 All-Northeast Conference First Team pick, scored her second and third goals of the season against Colgate and Penn State this weekend. Cunniff added a goal late in the Bobcats’ 6-0 win against Colgate before logging Quinnipiac’s only goal of the game against the No. 6 Nittany Lions. Cunniff now has three goals and an assist for the year.

Men’s Soccer

Junior Philip Suprise (Milwaukee, Wisc.) contributed to both Quinnipiac goals on Friday, Sept. 9 against Yale. The junior assistant captain provided an assist on the game’s first goal, helping Quinnipiac to a 1-0 lead at the time. Suprise laced a rocket of a goal (his first of the season) in the 85th minute of play to tie the score, 2-2. He now leads the team with four points on the season.

Women’s Soccer
Quinnipiac senior Furtuna Velaj (Stamford, Conn./Westhill) was recognized in an article written by’s Graham Hays. The article, “Santa Clara's Henninger has no equal,” highlights Santa Clara goalkeeper Bianca Henninger and features 10 NCAA Division I women’s soccer players, whom Hays feels will have great potential to make an impact this season. Last year, Hays also wrote a feature, “From refugee to soccer star,” on Velaj’s journey from her native Kosovo to the United States, as well as her future aspirations in political science following her collegiate career.


Senior setter Kayla Lawler (Louisville, Ky.) was named to the Quinnipiac/University of Hartford Invitational All-Tournament team after the she totaled 124 assists in 16 sets for a 7.75 per set average. Lawler also had 31 digs for a 1.94 per set average. Against La Salle in a five-set thriller in which Quinnipiac won their home opener, Lawler had 42 assists and eight digs, as well as two service aces. Against Navy, Lawler crept towards an unconventional triple-double with seven aces, while settling for a double-double of 38 assists and 13 digs. She had 23 assists against Delaware State and 21 against Hartford, while also collecting five digs in each match. For the year, Lawler has 229 assists for a 6.74 per game average while also logging 20 service aces in 34 sets for a 0.59 per set average. For her career, she has 2,926 assists, leaving her 74 from 3,000.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Haven is soccer town

Albertus Magnus was picked first in the 2011 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) men’s soccer Preseason Poll as announced Tuesday evening.

Suffolk University, the reigning GNAC Champion, and Lasell College round out the top-three programs in the preseason rankings, while Norwich University and Emerson College were picked fourth and fifth, respectively.

“We are honored to be selected first in the GNAC preseason poll,” said head coach Jim Bernardo. “But we realize we still have a lot of work to do. We need to improve as the season progresses in order to reach our ultimate goal of winning the GNAC Tournament title and receiving the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.”

Albertus Magnus earned numerous accolades in 2010, led by Bernardo being named GNAC Coach of the Year as he guided his program to a second-place finish in the GNAC regular-season standings as well as a 15-6-1 overall record. The 2010 Falcons also earned an ECAC Tournament bid as a fifth seed.

The 15-win season in 2010 marked the best in program history, while six student-athletes earned GNAC postseason honors. The Falcons’ 2011 roster returns five of those six athletes, including NSCAA/Performance Subaru Men’s NCAA DIII All-New England Region Second Team member Jamal Howard (West Haven, Conn.).

The Falcons are currently 1-1 on the year after a 4-1 dominating win at Mount Saint Mary College on Sept. 3 and a season-opening 2-1 heartbreaker at Western Connecticut State on Sept. 1.

Bernardo and his 2011 squad return to action on Wednesday, Sept. 7 as they travel to Westfield State to take on the Owls in a 4:00 p.m. non-conference match-up. Conference play for the Falcons begins Saturday, Sept. 10 at Suffolk in Boston, Mass.

On the pitch on Wednesday, freshman Dallas Aminzadeh (Silver Springs, Md.) tallied the game-winning goal with just 1:48 remaining in regulation to send the Southern Connecticut State University men's soccer team to a 1-0 victory at Saint Rose on Wednesday evening. Aminzadeh's first collegiate goal came on a header off an assist from Francisco Lara (Laredo, Texas) and sent the Owls to their first win of the year.

Southern Connecticut is now 1-1, 1-0 in Northeast-10 Conference play. Saint Rose is 0-3, 0-1 in league action.

The Owls outshot the Golden Knights by a 14-4 margin for the game, including a 7-0 tally in the first half. However, the game seemed destined for extra time until some late heroics by the Owls.

SCSU was awarded a corner kick with just under two minutes left in regulation, and Aminzadeh cashed in on the play with the game-winner.

Keeper Andrew Esposito (East Haven, Conn.) stopped one shot to earn the shutout for the Owls.

Southern Connecticut is back in action on Saturday for a home game against Bloomfield.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Haven wins football opener

This is from New Haven football beat writer, Chris Hunn

WEST HAVEN — Shawn Leo had just booted his fourth field goal to put West Chester (Pa.) University ahead in overtime.
So New Haven coach Pete Rossomando knew it was time to call for the play action that he said he was “holding in his pocket” for the right moment. This was it. He expected man coverage. The Chargers were inside the Golden Rams 20-yard line.
Running back Mike DeCaro came around for the handoff. West Chester’s defense bit on the fake. That left quarterback Ryan Osiecki with just enough time to hit a wide-open Josh Smart in the flat for a 13-yard touchdown.
The game-winning strike lifted the Chargers to a 35-32 season-opening victory Saturday in front 3,112 at DellaCamera Stadium.
“That’s a great win for our program,” Rossomando said. “That’s a good team. They’re going to win eight games. I guarantee you that. I told our guys, they won’t know how good this win is until eight, nine weeks down the road.”
The win over the Golden Rams, a strong program out of the powerful Pennsylvania Athletic State Conference, could prove to be critical when it comes time to select teams for the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Aside from a 7-3 lead they held for about 4 minutes in the second quarter Saturday, the Chargers were down — but never out.
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Continued from C1
West Chester quarterback Matt Carroll connected with LaRonn Lee for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Golden Rams up 26-14 early in the fourth quarter. Then DeCaro returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards. That helped setup a 3-yard touchdown run for Anthony Tillman, which cut the deficit to 26-21.
Later in the quarter, following an Osiecki interception, Leo made a 28-yard field goal to put West Chester up 29-21 with just over 4 minutes to play. West Chester kept its drive alive during that possession, coming through facing fourth-and-12.
New Haven came right back and Osiecki scored on a 1-yard run with 1:12 to go. The Chargers had to go for a two-point conversion at that point. Osiecki’s pass attempt to Chris Ruffin was incomplete, but the Golden Rams were called for pass interference. Osiecki got another chance and took advantage, hitting Ruffin in the back of the end zone to knot the game at 29 and force overtime.
“We made mistakes,” Osiecki said. “But to be able to come back, that’s the biggest part.”
Said Rossomando: “We practice that stuff. We talk about overcoming adversity. They’ve been through it all. You name it, 60-10 drubbings, 60-10 wins, nail-biters. That’s the best thing about these guys. They fight. They don’t give up.”
Osiecki completed 16-of-27 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked three times and had three interceptions. He also rushed for 54 yards on a team-high 14 carries. Demetrius Washington-Ellison caught two touchdowns. In his first game since tearing his MCL last season, running back Victor Jones rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries.
Desmond Anderson and J.D. Chalifoux each had nine tackles for the Chargers.
The Golden Rams used two different quarterbacks. Carroll threw for 110 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 90 yards. McCartney threw for another 173 yards.
“They have a ton of talent,” said West Chester coach Bill Zwaan of New Haven. “Their defensive line gave us fits all day. Offensively, their quarterback did a lot of nice things. They have good receivers. They established that run game later.”


SCSU falls in opener

Assistant Sports Editor
NEW BRITAIN — The comeback was as stunning and unlikely as the play that later sealed the game.
After trailing 28-0 at the half, Southern Connecticut State completely dominated the second half against Football Championship Subdivision foe Central Connecticut.
With all the momentum on its side, Division II Southern cut the deficit to 28-21 with over two minutes left to play. The Owls elected to attempt on onsides-kick after their third touchdown of the half when disaster struck.
Southern’s Mike Escobar tipped the kick, which was headed out of bounds, back into play but the ball caromed directly into the hands of Central’s Matthew Tyrell who returned it untouched for 35-yard touchdown to secure a 35-21 decision in the season opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Arute Field.
“I’m proud of my kids,” SCSU coach Rich Cavanaugh said. “They didn’t give up. They played hard. We had a lot of opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on all of them. If we had maybe the outcome would have been different.”
Cavanaugh said it was two entirely different games.
Southern did everything wrong in the first half and paid dearly. Quarterback Kevin Lynch threw an interception that set up one Blue Devil touchdown and later fumbled a ball that was returned 23 yards by Gene Johnson for another score.
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Continued from C1
Central also got a 4-yard scoring pass from Gunnar Jesperson to Deven Baker for one score and a 31-yarder from Jake White to Tyrell for another.
The numbers at the half were daunting and depressing. Southern vowed that things will be different this year after a disappointing 6-4 campaign in 2010.
It sure didn’t start that way.
Southern took the opening possession down the length of the field in impressive fashion but, like last year when the Owls lost a couple of games because of their inability to convert from deep in the red zone, did it again.
Southern had four cracks from inside the 10 yard line, three of them from the 1 yard line and couldn’t score.
“It was like déjà vu from last year,” Cavanaugh said. “It was disappointing.”
Said Lynch: “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t demoralizing. To take the ball down the field against a good team like this and not score … but that wasn’t the reason that I fumbled later, or threw an interception. That wasn’t the reason that we didn’t score in the first half.”
Southern played the rest of the first half in a state of malaise. Central ran 42 plays for 253 yards in the half, got two touchdown passes to Baker and racked up 113 yards on the ground. Starting quarterback Jespersen suffered a hand injury in the second quarter and White, a sophomore from Milford, came in threw his first two career touchdown passes.
But Southern didn’t quit, and its defense, which played well despite the lopsided score suffocated the Blue Devils in the second half. Central managed just one first down after the intermission and Lynch and the Owls went to work.
Rashaad Slowley (27 carries, 62 yards) punched in a pair of 1-yard scores and Lynch connected with tight end Jerome Cunningham for an 11-yard touchdown. Willie Epps caught the two-point conversion pass after the Cunningham score to cut the lead to 28-21.
But, with the packed Arute Field crowd and the Southern bench in a frenzy, Tyrell put the game away with the kickoff return.
“Escobar did what he was supposed to do, tip it back in,” Cavanaugh said. “There was enough time left for us to score, it just went right to their kid.”
Lynch, who rebounded from a tough first half to finish 23-of-39 for 223 yards, said his Owls just ran out of time.
“They couldn’t stop us in the second half so, of course I think we would have scored,” Lynch said.
“But it’s still a loss and that’s disappointing. We could have lied down but that’s not who we are. The defense was incredible. At the end of the game we can’t keep saying that the opportunities were there, we just to win.”
Follow Bill on Twitter @BillCloutier. To receive breaking sports news first — simply text the word “nhsports” to 22700. Standard msg+data rates may apply.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Quinnipiac volleyball takes on all comers

It may have been for just a weekend and thousands of miles away from its home, but for three days the Quinnipiac women’s volleyball team had hit the big time.
The Bobcats took to the court staring across the net at one of the best volleyball programs in the country.
And they didn’t blink.
“It was great,” Quinnipiac coach Robin Sparks said. “We battled with them. We had great rallies and some great plays.”
While UCLA, ranked 12th in the nation and holders of three national titles, won the match in straight sets, Sparks saw her team perform like it was just another match.
“My girls got to see what it takes to play at that type of level and that’s invaluable,” Sparks said.
A day later Sparks said she had to force her team to leave a match between UCLA and another California powerhouse, Loyola Marymount.
“I told them we have to leave and go eat,” Sparks said. “But none of them wanted to leave it was such great volleyball.”
Afterward Sparks spent a bit more time convincing her team that the girls they were watching were the same girls that they had just played against the day before. That’s when she knew that things were changing for the Bobcats.
“We played three top 100 teams out there,” Sparks said. “We played UCLA, one of the best teams in the country. I know that UCLA didn’t play their starters the entire match, but they played, and I told them that they had just played against a girl who starts on the junior national team, that’s the type of players they competed against.
“These are entirely different types of programs. They have 12 scholarships. They start their seasons so much earlier. We didn’t even start until Aug. 16 and we’re playing against them a couple of weeks later.”
Sparks and the Bobcats left the tournament with an 0-3 mark with another trio of national powerhouses on tap again this weekend at Quinnipiac begins. They lost to UCLA 25-11, 25-16 and 25-19. They also lost to Cal-State Fullerton and Marymount. Quinnipiac will play in the Maryland Invitational this weekend against three more top teams. When Northeast Conference play finally begins Sparks feels the Bobcats will be ready for anything.
“I’m pretty excited. We’re way ahead of where we were in the past,” Sparks said. “We’ll be much more ready for the conference schedule and that’s what playing these games are all about.
“Now that we’ve played against teams that are in the NCAA tournament we’ll know what it takes to get in the tournament.”
The Bobcats feature setter Kayla Lawler, a fine passer and top-notch server who had five aces in the tourney. Taylor Payne, Kelby Carey and Brittany Robinson lead the offense and the versatile Logan Riker is a defensive star.
“Almost every other kid is contributing,” Sparks said. “We have three kids that are defensive standouts and that takes the pressure off.”
Then there’s Tierra Allen, the daughter of Boston Celtics star Ray Allen, who saw action in two matches in California. While Allen, a freshman, is still a bit raw, Sparks said she has unlimited potential.
“She hits the ball harder than anyone on the team,” Sparks said. “She has to learn all the little things about the game, but she is a tremendous athlete with great power. She just hasn’t played at this level before.”
Sparks said that now that the Bobcats have experienced the atmosphere of national-caliber volleyball she expects them to improve work habits.
“What I learned is that we a lot of room for improvement. We have to work out the offensive kinks, but I was really pleased with how we played and how steady we were.”
Contact Bill Cloutier at 203-789-5653. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillCloutier. To receive breaking sports news first — simply text the word “nhsports” to 22700. Standard msg+data rates may apply.


SCSU - CCSU football capsule

When: Today, noon
Where: Arute Field, New Britain
2010 Records: SCSU 6-4; CCSU 8-3
Series history: SCSU leads 36-16
Last meeting: The Blue Devils beat Southern 56-34 in 2007.
What to look for: Central is a prolific rushing team averaging 212 yards on the ground last season. QB Gunnar Jespersen is back after throwing for 1,918 yards and 11 TDs and rushing for 495 yards on 141 carries. Speedy Denzell Jones will also line up at QB and is a threat both passing and rushing the ball. SCSU counters with QB Kevin Lynch and explosive receivers Andre Privott and Willie Epps.
Prediction: CCSU 28, SCSU 24


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Albertus Magnus unveils new turf field

Here is a story from Jim Fuller on the new playing surface at Albertus Magnus:

A year ago, the thoughts of having one of the varsity soccer teams practice on Celentano Field after a weekend of wet and wild weather would have been an absolute impossibility.
But here was the Albertus Magnus College women’s soccer team going through drills on Wednesday afternoon with not even a passing
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concern about the conditions of the field. There were no puddles of water to avoid, no risk of accidentally finding ankle-busting holes on the field. Yes, Wednesday was a day for the ages in the world of Albertus Magnus athletics.
A couple hundred students, officials and dignitaries were on hand to celebrate the unveiling of the artificial turf field which replaces years of dealing with wear and tear on the natural grass surface at Albertus’ main outdoor athletic facility. A process that started shortly after Michael Spinner was hired last September as the new athletic director culminated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.
“We had a great athletic program before today but my vision is that this is a start of something special,” Spinner said. “I am just thrilled for our student-athletes, thrilled for our community.
“We had a situation with the prior field (surface) that, for a lack of a better term, held us back. I think this field is going to really help us take off. Students are naturally interested in this college because of its location, because of the size. Now we have a world-class facility to go with the world-class campus and college.”
In order to sell the idea of redoing the field, Albertus Magnus added men’s and women’s lacrosse to its list of sports the Division III college competes in. The lacrosse teams will compete at the club level in 2012 before playing varsity schedules beginning in 2013.
“We realized one of the needs was for a resurfaced turf,” Spinner said. “A big challenge is that our soccer teams practice and play games on this field on this field so by the second week of the season, the field was all torn up. The conversation turned to this doesn’t have to be for just one sport, we can add men’s and women’s lacrosse as well.”
Krystal Quinones, a senior on the Falcons’ women’s soccer team, won’t be attending Albertus when the lacrosse teams make their varsity debuts. However, she knows the turf field will benefit Albertus Magnus athletes beginning this fall.
“It was a work in progress,” Quinones said of the challenges of playing on the grass field. “We had ditches everywhere. If it rained, we couldn’t practice because it was so horrible. Having this is so much better. It is beautiful.”
Quinones and her teammates will play its first five games on the road beginning with today’s season opener at Coast Guard before playing its first official game on the turf on Sep. 14 against St. Joseph College. The men’s soccer team will christen the field with a Sept. 12 home game against Regis College.
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SCSU ready for football season

Kevin Lynch flashes a smile as wide as the end zone when he assesses his receiving weapons. The veteran Southern Connecticut State quarterback has a wealth of options, all of them possessing both savvy and skill.
“My only job is not to overthrow them,” Lynch said. “And with their speed that isn’t easy.”
Lynch intends to focus quite a bit on his downfield threats this season while the Owls refocus on landing another Northeast-10 Conference crown. That title eluded Southern last year and the mere thought of it still stings.
“Anytime we go 6-4, we’re obviously not satisfied with that,” Lynch said. “We felt we could have been better but we weren’t.”
There are many reasons why the Owls underachieved last season. To a man they were not satisfied with what turned out to be the program’s 10th straight winning season for veteran coach Rich Cavanaugh.
“We have to eliminate the mistakes that led to the losses,” said
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Cavanaugh, who is in his 27th season with the club. “We had untimely penalties. We had some breakdowns. We didn’t get off the field enough defensively on third down.”
Said Lynch: “We struggled in the red zone. It was us failing, It was man-on-man and we didn’t get it done and we ended up losing some times and that was the difference.”
Mostly, said Cavanaugh: “We have to finish games.”
Cavanaugh said there were times last season that his team probably didn’t prepare well enough for the next opponent.
Said Cavanaugh: “It’s like that saying, ‘Respect all, but fear no one.’ I don’t know if we truly prepared well enough for each game last year.”
Even Lynch admitted the Owls thought they were better than they were.
“We lost focus at times,” he said.
They both agree that won’t happen this season.
“There are no easy games out there anymore,” Cavanaugh said, “and they know that now.”
The Owls don’t have to dig too deep for proof. For the first time in five years Southern Connecticut won’t begin the campaign as the NE-10 preseason favorite. That honor goes to cross-town rival New Haven.
“(New Haven) earned that honor,” Lynch said. “They won the title last year and they beat us so they should be the favorite. But everyone’s goal is to be first at the end of the season not at the beginning.”
Southern was picked to finish second in the conference by the slightest of margins, just one vote. And it certainly has the star power to not only reclaim the crown but return to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in three years.
Lynch is a preseason D2 All-American and set four school single-game passing marks (receptions, attempts, yards and touchdowns) last year. Andre Privott and Willie Epps have emerged as playmakers. They combined for 19 touchdowns last season. Add in tight ends Jerome Cunningham and Nick Mandich and Lynch can pick his poison when he airs it out.
That firepower on the edges will make running back Rashaad Slowley a threat to be one of the top backs in the nation. Now a senior, Slowley has flashed moments of brilliance for years in complimentary roles to All-American backs Jarom Freeman and John Wiechman.
Slowley could be even better.
“He could have a really big season,” Lynch said. “He’s a special player.”
Slowley said during the spring that he would like to top the 1,500-yard mark this season. If his line, which is young and unproven but has had a solid camp, succeeds, Slowley could do it. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons while splitting carries.
But while the offense is vintage SCSU, a unit that typically averages near 40 points a game for years, Cavanaugh is beaming about his defense.
“The strength of our team is up front defensively,” he said, “and the linebackers are probably the best we’ve ever had here.”
Gavin Nelson, Sam-uel Johnson, Chevar Rankins and Jack Petion are the quintessential quartet of linebackers. They all have speed and experience. They can stuff the run and rush the passer and could be, week in and week out, the best of any unit on the field.
The first test begins on Saturday as the Owls open the season at Central Connecticut State at noon.

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