Thursday, October 30, 2008

ESPN/USA Poll: Siena gets Honorable Mention

ESPN/USA Today Poll
1. North Carolina (31)
2. Connecticut
3. Louisville
5. Duke
6. Pittsburgh
7. Michigan State
8. Texas
9. Notre Dame
10. Purdue
11. Gonzaga
12. Memphis
13. Tennessee
14. Oklahoma
15. Arizona State
16. Miami (FL)
17. Marquette
18. Georgetown
19. Florida
20. Davidson
21. USC
21. Wisconsin
23. Kansas
24. Wake Forest
25. Villanova

Others Receiving Votes: UNLV 60, Saint Mary's 59, Ohio State 54, Baylor 47, Xavier 27, Syracuse 23, Texas A&M 19, LSU 19, Arizona 18, Virginia Tech 15, Brigham Young 13, West Virginia 10, Washington 8, Siena 8, Kentucky 7, Vanderbilt 7, Oklahoma State 4, Clemson 2, Washington State 1.

Some interesting notes...

Obviously Siena is not just getting respect in conference. Being listed as receiving votes, means the Saints are getting national love also. It is the first time Siena has been listed in the poll since December of 1999 under coach Paul Hewitt.

Siena's third opponent Tennessee is ranked No. 13 and other Old Spice Classic participants Georgetown (No. 18) Michigan State (No. 7) and Gonzaga (No. 11).

The University at Albany doesn't have it easy either. The team that ended Siena's season, Villanova is ranked No. 25 and that's who the Great Danes open up with on Friday, Nov. 14 in Philadelphia.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Gotta Be The Shoes

RPI coach Joe King and Union coach John Audino stand with The Dutchman Shoes Trophy on Wednesday on the RPI campus.
(Amie Canfield - RPI Athletics)

It's that time of the year and even though the RPI/Union football game isn't the final game of the year, it still means everything to these programs and their schools alike.

The media luncheon was today and here were some of the highlights....

Union's had two weeks to prepare for this game so I asked senior linebacker Joe Catalano if these last couple of days should be a breeze preparing.

"A breeze, but a very intense breeze," Catalano said. "You can't have enough preparation for this type of offense. It's tricky."

Here's how RPI senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson described the atmosphere.

"Fun is the only word I can use to explain it," Robertson said. "We're out in practice every day, having fun, excited."

I then tried to get Robertson to say that since this Union teamed seemed down coming in to the season, this game would be a little easier than normal - no luck.

"They started out a little slow, but in the past weeks they've beaten Hobart and had some good wins. They are still in the hunt for the Liberty League title, just like us. It's win or go home for them in terms of the (league) title. We're expecting their 'A' game, we have to bring ours, so it should be a fun game on Saturday."

I asked both RPI coach Joe King and Union coach John Audino about their most distinct memory of the rivalry for them.

"Anytime we win and there haven't been that many of them, they certainly stand out," King said. "Probably the one that stands out the most was in 1987. We were not a very good football team. We were 1-4 and I think they were 4-1 or 5-0 and we played at our place and we just got on a roll that day. Did we have any business beating them? Probably not, but we did a lot of things right, ended up winning that game and that turned our season around."

"There's two," Audino said. "In 1993, when we were undefeated at 9-0. We had a very good defensive team and a good offensive team, but we were able to win the game. Two years ago, when we beat them 49-42 to clinch an undefeated season again, in a track meet, which was a very exciting game. I think those two games were the most exciting games, probably for me, and stand out in my mind at this point."

To finish, Coach King gave me his best Bill Belichick impersonation when I asked about sophomore running back Nick Costa, who left the Susquehanna game early with a knee injury and didn't play last week against St. Lawrence.

"We're not sure," King said. "Even if I knew, which I don't, I probably wouldn't tell you."

Costa rushed for 160 yards last year in a 20-14 RPI win.

Then I asked what was wrong with him and King answered.

"He's got an injury."


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Moore Love

There are definitely three big-time players for Siena that many people recognize...all three of them are on the All-MAAC First Team, but how do none of the other coaches realize junior point guard Ronald Moore's importance.

Siena coach Fran McCaffery constantly refers to the "big four."

If you picked the top 16 players (there are six on the Second Team) regardless of team, Moore would find his way on the list, probably on the Second Team.

With that said here are the three teams.
First Team
Kenny Hasbrouck,* Siena
Alex Franklin, Siena
Edwin Ubiles, Siena
Jonathan Han, Fairfield
Ryan Thompson, Rider

Second Team
Anthony Johnson, Fairfield
Gary Springer, Iona
Brian Rudolph, Loyola
Antonie Pearson, Manhattan
Tyrone Lewis, Niagara
Harris Mansell, Rider

Third Team
Frank Turner, Canisus
Marquis Sullivan, Loyola
Devon Austin, Manhattan
David Devezin, Marist
Wesley Jenkins, St. Peter's
*Preseason Player of the Year

Here are Moore's stats from last season....
8.6 points, 5.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds per game and a 2.4 assist to turnover ratio

Here are some of the guards who made it over him....
Frank Turner 12.9 pts, 4.6 ast, 4.3 reb - 1.2 ast/to ratio
David Devezin 9.7 pts, 4.3 ast, 2.4 reb - 2.1 ast/to
Brian Rudolph 7.1 pts, 4.3 ast, 3.0 reb - 1.8 ast/to

You see from theses stats that if Moore doesn't belong with that group, something is wrong. He's got the second most points, top in assists and second in rebounds, while having the best assist to turnover ratio. 

Here are the polls for the teams. Not surprisingly Siena is the unanimous favorite. 

2008-09 MAAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1) Siena (10) 100

2)Fairfield 85
3) Rider 74
4) Niagara 73
5) Loyola 54
6) Manhattan 49
7) Iona 48
8) Canisius 29
9) Saint Peter's 22
10) Marist 16

The Siena women's team was picked to finish seventh and that's when Shondaya Burrell was thought to be on the team. 

Burrell was selected to the First Team. 

A person who was in NYC for the Media Day told me it was very strange when the video came up with Burrell in it. 

This is not good news for the women's team. 

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Mayben making an early impact

(photo courtesy of SUNY Binghamton)

I had a chance to speak with Emmanuel 'Tiki' Mayben's coach Kevin Broadus today at America East Media Day in Albany.

He seems happy with how Tiki has come in to the program.

“I really, really appreciate that approach that he is taking because he didn’t have to take that approach” Broadus said. “His name alone goes across the country. He could have come in and been a selfish guy, but he’s not.”

Broadus said he first saw Mayben at an AAU tournament, back when Mayben was still at Troy High School.

Broadus says Mayben is doing well so far in the classroom and he has his priorities in line.

“He has to walk away from Binghamton with a degree,” Broadus said.

Tiki made a huge impact last season at Hudson Valley Community College, averaging 15.1 points, 9.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game, while the Vikings went 30-1.

The key for him will be staying focused.

You can read more about Mayben in Tuesday's paper, but I'll leave you with one more quote from Broadus.

“I love the Emmanuel that comes to practice smiling,” Broadus said. “That’s when I know he’s going to have a good day. That smile that he has is engaging.”

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America East Media Day/Raffa injured

The America East Media Day took place today at the Fort Orange Club in Albany.

It was a good way to get all of the coaches together and pretty useful (at least for me).

For the fans, here is the preseason poll...
Team (1st votes) Total
1. Boston U. (5) 59
2. Vermont (4) 55
3. Hartford 51
4. UMBC 45
5. Binghamton 37
6. UAlbany 30
7. New Hampshire 24
8. Maine 13
9. Stony Brook 10

Here is the preseason all-conference team....
*Corey Lowe, Jr., G, Boston U.
Joe Zeglinski, Jr. G, Hartford
Jay Greene, Sr. G, UMBC
*Marqus Blakely, Jr., F, Vermont
Mike Trimboli, Sr., G, Vermont
*unanimous selection

The votes were taken a month ago and therefor the recent decision that Virginia transfer Will Harris can play for the Great Danes this season did not weight on the coaches' decisions.

"I firmly believe that people base the preseason stuff on comfort," UAlbany coach Will Brown said. "I think coaches look at who is returning in the league, what All-Conference players are coming back and they are a little more comfortable talking about guys and kids that have proven themselves already in the America East. I would like to think we would have been higher, maybe we were picked too high to begin with now. I just think there's uncertanity and question marks becuase I don't think anyone can say they know what we have."

Also, of the first team All-Conference players from last year, four return (UAlbany's Brian Lillis graduated). Still, Corey Lowe and Mike Trimboli, who were second team All-Conference players replaced UMBC's Darryl Proctor on the First Team.

Brown said jokingly that he doesn't know why any league coach would want to upset Proctor, who averaged 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Also of note, freshman guard Anthony Raffa sprained his ankle in Sunday's practice during a rebounding drill.

Here's what Coach Brown had to say about that.

"Four guys tackled him and landed on him and he was screaming and we carried him off and he was on crutches yesterday," Brown said. "It's a high ankle sprain, not of the severity that Jason Siggers had a couple of years ago, that was probably as bad an ankle sprain as you can get, but enough that we're not sure if he'll be able to scrimmage on Saturday."

There's no timetable for Raffa's return, but Brown said they're hoping he can do some light drill work Thursday or Friday.

"We're not going to rush him back," Brown added. "He's a competitor and played well in the Purple-Gold scrimmage after struggling a couple days in practice. I know he doesn't want to lose any time because he wants to be a integral part, right away, of what we're doing."

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Purple-Gold Scrimmage recap

The final score was Gold (Black) 46, Purple (White) 37.

Here's the scorers...
Jimmie Covington 2
Brian Connelly 9
Will Harris 14
Anthony Raffa 14
Jerel Hastings 4
Scotty McRae 3

Brett Gifford 2
Michael Johnson 10
Tim Ambrose 8
Billy Allen 12
Louis Barraza 3
Jake Lindfors 2

Logan Aaronholt - DNP (Coach Brown thinks he should be back practicing by Nov. 13 after breaking a bone in his foot)

Here was Coach Will Brown's first reactions..

"Usually these things become glorified pick-up games and teams just try to outscore each other and make it like a NBA All-Star game, where there's no defense played, keep the fans happy," Brown said. "I thought for a Purple-Gold scrimmage, in front of these people for the first time, I thought they did a pretty good job of sharing the basketball, playing some defense and playing pretty hard."

Here's what I was thought.....

I was really impressed with Raffa's ability to run the point. His explosiveness is certainly something that will help this team and he had a ton of energy. He seemed fine after coming out of the game in the second half after he smacked his mouth on the floor when he got bumped on the way up for a lay-in.

I was doubly impressed with Harris' ability to score the ball from the perimeter. He made three 3-pointers and shot the ball very well. He didn't get inside like I thought he would, but this quote from Brown might explain why.

"He's a solid three-point shooter," Brown said. "Right now, he's probably at 50 percent, conditioning wise, so for him to get through the scrimmage was a good thing."

I think the way Allen stepped up will also be of great benefit to the team. He hit two 3-pointers and shot the ball well. After not playing at all last year, his presence could really be a boost.

"I think it helped Billy having a year under his belt, where he got to sit and watch," Brown said.

Coach Brown was also impressed with Covington, who only scored two, but was "active."

"I think a lot of that has to do with the mindset that (Al) Turley's not here and he's going to have an opportunity," Brown said.

"Last year, everybody rebounded," Covington said. "I want to be more active and get my hands on the ball."

Covington said he's excited for the team's second game, his return to the Chicago area, to take on DePaul (Nov.17). He mentioned that he will have plenty of friends and family there and has played AAU against some of the DePaul players.

Brown said they plan on using Harris like they used Brian Lillis last season, to give other teams matchup problems.

Here was how he summed things up.

"We have so many more guys that can put the ball in the basket from a year ago," Brown said. "Last year, we had to defend and rebound at a high level every night or we had no shot to win. This year, I think because we have a variety of guys who can put the ball in the basket, hopefully it makes life a little bit easier for us."

One other note, the Alumni game took place beforehand and it was good to see familar faces like Jon Iati and Brent Wilson return.

Iati is currently working with the Quinnipiac basketball team and from what I heard in the stands Wilson, who is a father now, is working in Westchester with Green Mountain Coffee.

The quote of the Alumni game came midway through the first half, when Wilson said...

"Got a media timeout coming?"

All of the Alumni played well and I had a chance to talk to Andre Duncan '98 for our news side and he was great to talk to and will be featured in our "5 Questions" segment on Page 2 sometime in the coming week.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Siena suspends Burrell

It was just 11 days ago that Siena senior guard Shondaya Burrell was called the "face of the program" for Siena women's basketball by head coach Gina Castelli.

Today, the "face of the program" was suspended immediately and indefinitely for conduct "violating College policy."

“This is unfortunate, but it is the right thing to do,” said Director of Athletics John D’Argenio in a email on Friday. “Suspending someone from something that they deeply enjoy doing is not a decision that is made lightly, but actions have consequences. Part of our mission is to teach our students responsibility and accountability.”

Burrell averaged 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds last season and seemed ready to take over this season as the Saints top player until this.

“We have always talked to our team about the importance of making good choices and winning the right way,” Castelli said. “Although we are greatly disappointed, I’m confident we will move forward, learn a valuable lesson and enjoy a successful season.”

With the season opener, Friday, Nov. 14 against Syracuse three weeks from tonight, that leaves fifth-year senior Heather Stec the team's leading returning scorer at 7.5 points per game and then a major drop off to junior Sarah Fullmer and her 3.4 points per game in 2007-08.

This also leads a gaping hole at the guard position.

This isn't good for a team that went 11-18 last season and was already trying to fill in a couple of key spots.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Purple-Gold scrimmage set for Saturday

The University at Albany will have a lot going on this weekend, it's Homecoming.

The school announced today that the men's basketball team will be holding the Purple-Gold scrimmage on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Alumni basketball game will be at 1 p.m. Also at 1 p.m., the men's soccer team will be playing Bryant.

Then at 4 p.m., the football team takes on Saint Francis (Pa.)

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RPI football gets some national love

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football team received some national love when they entered's Top 25 this week after advancing to 5-0 with a 35-14 victory over Susquehanna.

Now, the Engineers and notably senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson and fellow senior and roommate wide receiver Eren Savasli, lead Adam Samrov's Around the East column on

Here's the link.

One other note. Samrov used to work for our sister paper, The Saratogian, and now works for the Bennington Banner.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Duell out, but MRI negative

Could Siena have just avoided the first chink in their armor?

The Saints have the talent to repeat as MAAC champions and return to the NCAA Tournament, but something like injuries are the things that will slow them down.

They may have avoided the first scare this week as senior forward Josh Duell had a MRI on his left Achilles' tendon this morning that came back negative.

While that makes it seem less severe, the school also announced that there is no timetable for his return and he will be "out a while." He is also on crutches.

Duell hurt the foot during Sunday's practice when he landed on the foot of teammate Ryan Rossiter.

Duell also won't practice until he has time to rehabilitate, but there is still time before the season opener, Monday, Nov. 17 vs. Boise State.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

RPI football moves up to No. 25

The RPI football team is finally ranked in the top 25 according to

I used the word finally, but that doesn't mean I think they should have been there before this point - it's more of the fact that they're still undefeated (5-0) and it's getting colder out (meaning the end of the season is getting near).

I've seen RPI play only once, but they looked good against WPI. They looked good this week against Susquehanna. They didn't play great against Utica and overall, I'm not sure how good they are, but we'll find out coming up.

10/25 @ St. Lawrence (I was at the Union/St. Lawrence game this week and the Saints, who are 0-6, looked like world beaters in the first quarter when they jumped out to a 14-0 lead; and this game is on the road)

11/1 vs. Union (The Dutchmen are down, but throw the records out the window during when the Dutchmen Shoes are up for grabs)

11/8 vs. Hobart (This team is dangerous and four points from being 5-0 themselves. This also will be the last game ever at '86 Field barring playoff home games)

Senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson earned Liberty League honors for the second time this season. After throwing for 354 yards and two touchdown, Robertson earned co-Offensive Player of the Week honors with Union's sophomore running back Chris Coney.

Robertson is on course to replace Dan Cole '04 in a number of spots in the RPI record books.

If my math is correct, Robertson needs 13 completions, 120 attempts, 598 yards, 19 touchdowns and 840 total yards after this weekend's results.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

UAlbany's Harris declared immediately eligible by NCAA

I'll have plenty on this later, but the University at Albany announced today that they won an appeal to the NCAA and Virginia transfer Will Harris is immediately eligible to participate in the 2008-09 season men's basketball season.

UAlbany applied for a waiver and submitted the appropriate information asking for relief for Harris due to family hardship.

Harris is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward, who played all 32 games for the Cavaliers as a freshman, including the NCAA Tournament First Round game against the Great Danes.

Harris appeared 15 times last year an averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds before an injury ended his season.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Siena Men's Media Day to say the Siena men's basketball team needed a couple of hours so the media could meet with them is probably far-fetched.

After a terrific season last year, the public knows a lot about this team and so do we.

Still though, there we were, one day before practice was to begin and we did actually learn some things (believe it or not).

First things first, a little baseball.

Junior point guard Ronald Moore (a native of Conshohocken, Pa.) was very happy with the Philadelphia Phillies taking down the Dodgers on Wednesday night and advancing to their first World Series since 1993.

“Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to make a game,” Moore said. “I’m definitely watching and tuned in and having a lot of fun with these New York Yankees and New York Mets fans.”

Head coach Fran McCaffery, himself a native of the Philadelphia area, said he couldn't be happier with the Phils.

“I am fired up about the Phillies,” said McCaffery, who added that he went to games when they played at Connie Mack Stadium when he was little. “This team I really enjoy, in particular.”

McCaffery said with the timing of the college basketball season, he can't really follow a NFL or NBA team, so baseball is what keeps his rooting interests. He takes his kids to games and they are big Phillies fans.

“How could you not love this team the way they play?” McCaffery said.

McCaffery said he is going to try to lock up World Series tickets, but he wasn't sure if he could get any.

I was told that Moore and junior Alex Franklin (a native of Reading, Pa.) are the lone Phillies fans on the team.

Back to basketball....

While practice begins in 21 hours as I write this, some of the Siena players are dinged up. Franklin spent time at home with an illness (keep reading), senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck is having some back problems, co-captain Josh Duell is still recovering from a groin pull that occurred before the Italy trip and junior Edwin Ubiles has been out for a week and a half with a pulled muscule in his back, but they will all be ready to go tomorrow night.

“It’s bothering me a little bit still, but I’m pretty healthy,” Duell said. “Ever since we’ve got back (from Italy), I’ve been going fine.”

“I should be ready for tomorrow,” Ubiles added.

The story with Franklin is a little more complicated.

Franklin went home for two weeks, earlier this year, after catching a bad case of strep throat. It was the first time he's had it and he lost almost 15 pounds.

"The main thing I was worried about was my endurance and I'm getting it back by conditioning," Franklin said. "I think it's all coming back to me. I'm getting my strength back. I'm in good shape right now."

Still, his teammates were ready to give it to Franklin when he returned to campus.

"They call me Mr. Slim," Franklin said with a smile. "As soon as I walked in, they asked what size shirts I wear, extra small or medium. The jokes have been coming, but they see I'm working hard in the weight room and getting it back."

It continued on Thursday when McCaffery said Franklin might be playing shooting guard this season because of the lost weight.

Franklin said he'll be ready for the first practice.

"I'm always ready," said Franklin, who's already gained back six pounds. "I'm going to be ready to go."

I also asked Alex about his back, which sidelined him for a couple games, including the Memphis game last year.

"The back was the least of my worries," Franklin said.

The biggest negative in the Saints game last season was rebounding. McCaffery thought that was solved when he signed 6-foot-9 Wolfgang Geiler from Germany, but he left Siena, deciding to try his hand at a professional career instead.

So, who steps up for the Saints this season after they were -4.3 rebounds per game, a year ago.

“If he does what he did in Italy, he would be the guy,” said McCaffery of sophomore Ryan Rossiter. “He was a rebounding machine over there. I think he really focused on that taking care of that part of what was problematic for us last year.”

McCaffery will also be looking for others to step up in that role.

Josh Duell's career will come full-circle in a way on Jan. 6 when Siena takes on defending national champion Kansas.

Duell's first game of his college career was at Allen Fieldhouse, when he suited up for the University of Vermont.

Looking up the box score, Duell played 22 minutes, scored six points and grabbed five rebounds.

Oh, and the Catamounts had a 58-56 lead over the No. 1 Jayhawks with three minutes to go, but fell 68-61.

“It was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been too,” Duell said. “It’ll be nice to get back there again, being one of the senior guys, who say don’t worry about this arena.”

I'll end this enormously long blog entry about a newcomer, freshman Kyle Downey.

I've heard now on two accounts that Downey is a very hard worker, first from Kenny Hasbrouck at the Sneak Preview and Thursday, McCaffery said it again when introducing the team.

In fact, McCaffery went as far as saying he's the hardest working kid that he has ever met.

Big words indeed.

“He works out three times a day,” McCaffery said. “You can’t get him out of the gym.”

That's a good sign.

I'll be making stops at both UAlbany and Siena practice tomorrow as college hoops heat up as the temperature goes down in the Capital District.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Burrell conditioning for a big year

Siena hosted their women's basketball media day today.

Head coach Gina Castelli called senior guard Shondaya Burrell, the "face of the program."

I thought it was a little strange that she wasn't named a co-captain then with fellow senior Heather Stec.

Still, I digress.

Burrell was very optimistic about the upcoming season, seeing as the Saints are coming off of a 11-18 year and they lost 50 percent of their scoring when Laura Menty (19.1 points per game) and Melissa Manzer (13.3) graduated.

Burrell said she is in great shape coming into the year, after running hills in Lincoln Park with her father and boxing in her uncle's gym during the summer.

Burrell had knee surgery in Sept. 2007 and had to miss three and a half weeks of conditioning, but she feels like the increased running and boxing will help her.

“It worked a lot of different muscles that I didn’t know I had,” said Burrell of the boxing. “Boxing is totally different than basketball.”

Burrell said her games has changed drastically since she was a freshman, thanks to Castelli.

“When I was in high school, I was drive, drive, drive,” said Burrell, who played locally at Colonie High School. “When I came here, Coach Castelli sat me down and talked to me about being an all-around good player…I think from high school to now, my jump shot has gotten better, I drive with a lot more urgency, my rebounding is a lot stronger — so I think everything has become so much better because Coach Castelli has really led me in the right direction.”

Castelli said she is confident that Burrell can give the team a leadership type player, but she needs to do it on more of a consistent basis.

“I think she wants that type of notoriety in a sense,” Castelli said. “She’s shown, last year, that she was able to put us on her shoulders.”

Burrell said the team also did a lot of training in the pool, which was difficult for her because she's not the greatest swimmer.

“She’s fast on the court, that’s all that matters,” said Stec, who added that she tried to help Shondaya with her swimming technique.

Stec is back, after missing the first 10 games of last year because of a broken metatarsal bone in her foot.

Stec said that she wears orthotics in her shoes, even when she's not on the court.

The Saints open Friday, Nov. 14, against Syracuse and Castelli's former assistant coach Quentin Hillsman, who led the Orange to a 22-9 record last season and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

UAlbany report card: Week 6 vs. CCSU

The Great Danes snuck out with a victory over Central Connecticut State University on Saturday, but they played pretty well. 

The win brings the Great Danes to 3-3 and keeps them undefeated in Northeast Conference play along with St. Francis (Pa.), their opponent next week and Monmouth.

Quickly, since the game is already two days in the past, here is how I thought UAlbany played. 

Offense: The offense was pretty good, especially in the second half when they put up a couple touchdowns to really open up the game. Junior running back David McCarty ran well in the first half and made the huge touchdown catch and run, which ended up being the winning score. Vinny Esposito played well too, throwing for 254 yards, throwing two touchdowns and running for the other on fourth down. The only thing that was a little confusing was when Esposito threw his second interception because it came with a lot of time left and it seemed like UAlbany should have been looking to run the clock down. Esposito also badly telegraphed his first pick, but the defense, namely Tom Pandolf bailed him out.    

Overall Grade: B+

Defense: The defensive effort started with junior Justin Brancaccio, who today was named Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week, after batting down the potential two-point conversion and also making a team-high 11 tackles. Pandolf also made a game-changing play when he sacked Hunter Wanket, stripped the ball and recovered. Five plays later, UAlbany scored to make it 17-9. UAlbany coach Bob Ford said he believed his team would win by a margin similar to when they were up 24-9. In that respect, I guess the defense letting Central back into the game had to be a bit of a disappointment. They did hold up though when the game was on the line and they held the Blue Devils to three field goals in the first half.    

Overall Grade: B 

Special Teams: Chris Lynch had a lot on his plate, between punting, which he actually didn't have to do until midway through the fourth quarter, and kicking field goals. Lynch had a kick blocked and that was a game-changer, but he also pinned Central back inside the five with a pooch punt at the end of the game. The muffed kicks by Colin Simmons were not good and the one at the beginning of the second half almost negated all the momentum UAlbany had built.    

Overall Grade: C

All in all though, like Coach Ford says, there are several plays where the game can be won or lost and on most of them, the two-point conversion, the 72-yard McCarty touchdown reception, the Pandolf fumble recovery and the onside kick by Jason Poore (who had a great day) went the Great Danes' way. Another big game against undefeated St. Francis (Pa.) awaits.  

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Metcalf vebals to UAlbany

According to WXXA FOX-23, University at Albany men's basketball coach Will Brown has received a verbal commitment from Indiana center Blake Metcalf.

Metcalf is a 6-foot-9, 250-pounder from Plainfield High School, which is near Indianapolis. Last season as a junior, Metcalf averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds a game.

According to FOX, Metcalf like what Will Brown and the Danes have accomplished over the past few years.

Metcalf joins Ralph Watts, Gavin Glanton and Virginia transfer Will Harris as players for the 2009-10 season.

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CCSU defensive back: Albany wasn't better than us

Memo to UAlbany football coach Bob Ford: Get out that bulletin board

The Central Connecticut State Blue Devils are bringing the talk and we'll see tomorrow if they can walk the walk when the two teams meet at University Field.

Video from Tuesday's practice shot by the Hartford Courant shows Blue Devils sophomore defensive back Dominique Rose talking about how UAlbany wasn't the better team, when the Great Danes won last year's NEC season finale, 49-14.

"It ain't that they beat us because the were better than us - they just out worked us that day," Rose said. "I'm ready to payback, get my revenge back."

The loud mouths didn't stop there. Junior wide receiver Nick Colagiovanni, who surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for his career last week against Wagner, also had something to say.

"Ever since we lost that game, in the weight room, before we start lifting our sit-up count is at 49, for how many points they scored against, so we know exactly what we're going up against and we've been waiting for this day," Colagiovanni said.

Those two and the rest of their Blue Devils teammates will have their day in less than 24 hours.

Here's the link to the video...

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Esposito calling on fans for home opener

Stopped by UAlbany football practice today and the Great Danes seem ready for their home opener (yes, finally they will play a home game).

Again the game is a 1 p.m., not 4 p.m. like originally listed and will also air on Time Warner 3.

Like many of the players, junior quarterback Vinny Esposito is ready for a home game and he's calling on more fans to get to University Field for the game.

“Going down to Delaware and playing in front of 23,000 people, that was a great experience,” Esposito said. “I don’t think any time soon we’re going to get 25,000 people here, but it would be nice to have a real college football atmosphere, which we’ve had in the past and we’d like to continue with.”

Esposito added that it's nice to finally be able to have friends and family catch a home game.

“The most exciting part about it is to be able to get our friends and family up there to watch the game," Esposito said.

While Esposito says the losses, even to more talented teams, have kept this team hungry, he's confident in this bunch.

“I think that we can beat any team if we play the way we can,” Esposito said. “Delaware’s the only team that really kicked out butts. We could be 4-1 heading into this week.”

I asked Vinny about his maturation as the quarterback, this being his second season at the helm of the offense.

“Last year, things were moving real fast,” Esposito said. “We opened up with Colgate, Montana and Hofstra and I was thinking this is quick, but this year, things have slowed down. Not that my stats are eye-popping, but I think that I’m doing a good job of managing the game and I feel comfortable.”

Esposito added that he knows his role, which is to make throws when necessary and the goal is to try and balance out the offense a little more with the running game.

Speaking of the run, talented junior running back David McCarty seems ready to get after Central Connecticut State as well, especially after what he called a subpar performance by their standards last week at Duquesne and a "sloppy" one, according to Coach Bob Ford.

“It almost seems as if we play up to the big games,” McCarty said. “At Duquesne, we didn’t play up to what we're capable of, like we did at UMass and UNH. We had 14 penalties, but I think playing at UNH, UMass, Delaware, Hofstra and Montana really does help in the end.”

McCarty had 230 yards last week, has 710 on the season and last season and rushed for 247 last season against the Blue Devils.

McCarty told me he thinks the key to Saturday's game will be dependant on each team's defense and which one comes to play.

With that being said, it should be a good game. CCSU is 4-1 and their only loss came at the hands of then No. 1 ranked North Dakota State.

Look for more on the game in Saturday's paper and I'll be at University Field Saturday afternoon.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Two Months until Siena/UAlbany

There's still a lot of time....practice hasn't even begun yet (Yeah, Allen Iverson, I said practice), but it is now less than two months until Siena vs. UAlbany in Albany on Dec. 6, 2008. 

Before that Siena's Kenny Hasbrouck will likely earn preseason Player of the MAAC honors. 

UAlbany will find out what it's got with their huge amount of new, young talent. 

The Saints could have three wins over BCS schools under their belts. 

The Great Danes could have a victory over a Big East team (I'm thinking about DePaul). 

What will happen? I want to hear what you think. 

I'll do the easy work and say Siena will be the favorite, but boy, I think this UAlbany team will be fun to watch. 

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UAlbany football reminder

Remember if you're planning on going to the University at Albany's opening football game this Saturday (10/11) vs. Central Connecticut State the game is at 1 p.m., not 4 p.m. like originally scheduled. 

The game will also air on Time Warner channel 3 in the Capital District. 

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Barone staring at Siena

Saratogian Sports Editor Brien Bouyea wrote in today's (Fri. 10/3) edition of the Saratogian, our sister paper, about Siena soccer players Ashleigh Barone and Maria DeMatteo.
Barone, a Shenendehowa graduate and The Record's 2007 Player of the Year, is on an absolute tear.

She has nine goals and four assists for 22 points (goals are two points, assists are one) and the Saints are undefeated at 7-0-2.

She entered the week, seventh in the nation in scoring at 2.44 points per game - in the nation for Division I players.

I thought Ashleigh was a great player, but she is making an instant impact and Siena is more than lucky to have her.

Below is the story......

The Saratogian

LOUDONVILLE — Ashleigh Barone and Maria DeMatteo didn’t waste any time establishing their ‘stop us if you can’ mentality for the Siena College women’s soccer team this season.

In the first game of the season against Rhode Island — one of the most talented opponents on the Saints’ schedule — Barone and DeMatteo each netted a goal to get Siena off on the right foot in a 2-1 victory over the Rams.

It was an authoritative opening statement — and a sign of things to come.
Spearheaded by the superlative play of Barone and DeMatteo, the Saints are off to the best start in program history with a 7-0-2 record entering tonight’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener at Niagara.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” Barone said. “I thought we’d be pretty good, but this start is somewhat of a surprise. We are a pretty young team and you never really know what to expect. It’s given us great confidence and we think it’s only the beginning of what we can do.”

Siena head coach Steve Karbowski agrees.

“They’ve given us energy and great production,” Karbowski said of Barone and DeMatteo.
“Both are very skilled players and they’ve stepped up and flourished in prominent roles for us. I’m really excited about the potential they have.”

Barone, a Shenendehowa High School graduate, leads the team in goals (9) and points (22) and is tied for the team lead in assists (4), while DeMatteo, a Saratoga Springs grad, is the team’s second-leading scorer (4-2-10). The onetime Suburban Council rivals are now a prolific 1-2 scoring punch for a young and hungry group of Saints.

“We don’t talk much about the past rivalry we had in high school,” DeMatteo said. “It’s all about being together now and working to help our team win. There really isn’t any rivalry with us at all.”

Barone and DeMatteo are both newcomers to the Siena program. Barone is a freshman forward who was a five-year letter winner with the Plainsmen and the 2007 Section II Player of the Year.

DeMatteo, meanwhile, played significant minutes as a freshman at St. John’s University in the Big East Conference as a freshman last year before transferring to be closer to home. Before St. John’s, DeMatteo, also a forward, played five years on the varsity level with the Blue Streaks and was a first-team All-State selection as a senior.

“I had pretty much had enough of the city; it wasn’t much fun living in Queens,” DeMatteo said of her decision to transfer. “I just wanted to find an atmosphere that was a bit more suited for me and Siena has been great so far.”

Karbowski considers himself fortunate to have landed two players as accomplished as Barone and DeMatteo to lead his young team, which features only two senior starters.

“They’re both very polished, finished products,” he said. “Ashleigh is always in the right place and she doesn’t waste opportunities,” Karbowski said. “Against UAlbany she took only three shots and scored on each once … very efficient.

“Maria is a very similar player overall, but a bit more aggressive in one-on-one situations, which we encourage her to be because of her skills. Both of them also contribute on defense. They’re complete players who really play off of each other quite well. The feel they both have for the game can’t be taught.”

Barone and DeMatteo have already garnered plenty of recognition for their stellar play. Each has been honored with MAAC Offensive Player of the Week honors and Barone has a MAAC Rookie of the Week award to her credit.

“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but it’s really fun to watch them and think about what the next couple years could be like,” Karbowski said. “They’re part of a young core — we have a combined nine freshmen and sophomores starting — that we have very high hopes for.”

Barone and DeMatteo lead a large contingent of players from Saratoga County who are making an impact for the Saints. Senior midfielder Chelsea Maguire (Shenendehowa), sophomore defender Jenna Placke (Shenendehowa) and junior midfielder Marissa Shibley (Shenendehowa) are also starring for Siena, while senior Patti Carroll (Galway) started in goal the past three years but is currently injured.

While the Saints are trying to focus on the here and now instead of peering into the future, Barone admits she is looking forward to a chance to play in the MAAC Tournament, which the Saints will be hosting in November.

“Getting to the NCAA Tournament is a big goal of ours and it gives us a huge advantage to have our fans and a lot of our families able to be here and support us in the league tournament,” Barone said. “We know we have a lot of work before we get there, but it’s definitely a motivation for us to stay focused from now until then. We’ve had a great start to the season and I think even better things are ahead.”

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Eren Savasli feature

Below is a story on RPI senior wide receiver Eren Savasli that ran on Tuesday (9/30).

Andrew Santillo
The Record

TROY — For Eren Savasli staying focused is key.

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior wide receiver had the biggest day of his career last Saturday, when he posted career-highs in receptions (10), receiving yards (174) and touchdowns (3) as the Engineers defeated rival WPI 35-21.

A Dean’s List management student in addition to being an athlete, Savasli, has to keep himself in top shape both mentally and physically.

It’s a task that becomes tougher for the Brooklyn native because as a Muslim, Savasli fasts from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan, as instructed by one of the five commandments of the Islamic Religion.

“The toughest thing is it just wears you down,” Savasli said. “Physically, your body is worn down throughout the day, especially having a full load of classes and school work.”

Ramadan, which ends today, is a month-long religious observance in which Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

“It teaches me not to take things for granted,” Savasli said. “My whole life I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that I’ve had water and food at will. Through this I’m able to see what it’s like for those less fortunate, who have to go through the day not being able to eat or drink.”

Growing up, Savasli’s dream was to play professional basketball and he idolized long-time Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, also a Muslim, for his dedication to his faith.

“When I was playing (sports) in high school, people would ask me about (my beliefs) and I just thought to myself, if Hakeem Olajuwon can do it in the NBA, why can’t I,” Savasli said.

Ramadan, which moves up approximately 11 days a year in the Gregorian calendar, has fallen during the football season since Eren was in high school at Brooklyn Tech.

“When I first started, it was obviously a little tougher,” said Savasli about fasting. “My body has adjusted throughout the years and I’ve gotten a little more used to it. It’s just part of my belief and what I’ve been doing for the last eight years.”

Recruited for basketball, a sport he may aspire to play professionally overseas after college, and football, Savasli chose RPI as soon as he got to campus and decided to concentrate on the gridiron.

Head coach Joe King knew about Savasli’s fasting and while he was initially concerned for Savasli’s health during practices, he says it hasn’t been a big deal.

“I don’t think he’s ever missed anything in four years,” King said.

Savasli used to fast during game days in high school, but since his freshman season and after thinking it over, he has elected to eat and drink only on game days to make sure he can compete.
“I think it was the right choice to make,” said Savasli, who talked it over with his parents. “If I did fast during game days at the college level, I wouldn’t be able to compete to my peak performance.”

Those aren’t lost days though.

This season, three games fell during Ramadan, so Savasli will fast three extra days this week to make them up.

“It’s a rewarding process,” said Savasli of the patience he has learned from observing the holiday. “I’m not doing it because I have to. I’m doing it because I truly believe in it.”

Throughout his four years at RPI, many of his teammates have learned about Eren and his beliefs, including fellow senior and quarterback Jimmy Robertson.

“Jimmy’s been there for four years,” said Savasli of his roommate. “He’s seen me wake up at 6 a.m., freshman year in the door room, to get some food before the sun rises.”

Savasli’s beliefs are something that he holds close to him and just as important as academics and athletics.

“I try to do as much as I can and not compromise one for the other,” Savasli said.

Savasli looks at practice, which typically occurs from 4-6:30 p.m. as his last hurdle of a long day.

“That’s the culmination of the day,” Savasli said. “When I get to practice, from there I just give it my all for two and a half hours and then I can eat and drink. That’s how I look at it every day.”

Savasli’s dedication to his faith has drawn praise from teammates and coaches alike.

“It just shows you that he’s someone who has really strong beliefs,” King said. “That’s part of what makes him a special human being.”

This season, the 6-foot-3 Savasli, who has 107 career receptions, has emerged into one of the Engineers top offensive threats.

“We just need to find ways to get him the ball,” King said. “He’s made plays for us for four years now.”

Savasli is hoping that his team will continue to succeed and he will continue to perform like he did against WPI.

“I had a pretty good day,” Savasli said with a smile. “I was pretty happy with it.”

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

UAlbany hoops full schedule (updated)

Update: Thurs. 10/2 2:20 p.m.: Times are now included for all of the home games as released by UAlbany today. Most times are there for road games as well.

Also, Time Warner Cable is slated to broadcast six home games, including the Big Purple Growl against Vermont (2/7).

The school also says the Great Danes will appear "several times" on the America East package, including a possible March 1 date at defending league champion UMBC.

UAlbany's game against Kansas (12/30) will appear nationally on ESPNU.

The America East released the conference schedule, so I will slide in the University at Albany's non-conference schedule and here is the entire thing.....

The times for league games are set later by the host school.

Fri. Nov. 14 @ Villanova, 8 p.m.
Mon. Nov. 17 @ DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 19 @ Bryant, 7 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 22 vs. Central Connecticut State, 7 p.m.
Tues. Nov. 25 @ Columbia, 7 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 29 vs. Penn, 7 p.m.
Mon. Dec. 1 vs. Bryant, 7 p.m.

Sat. Dec. 6 @ Siena, 7 p.m.
Mon. Dec. 8 @ Lehigh, 7 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 13 vs. Canisius, 7 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 19 @ Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
Mon. Dec. 22 @ St. Francis (NY), 7 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 30 @ Kansas, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sat. Jan 3, @ Hartford,* 7 p.m.
Thurs. Jan. 8, vs. Boston U.,* 7 p.m.
Sun. Jan. 11, @ Vermont,* 1 p.m.
Wed. Jan. 14 vs. Binghamton,* 7 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 17 @ Maine* TBA
Fri. Jan. 23 vs. Stony Brook,* 7 p.m.
Sun. Jan. 25 vs. UMBC* TBA
Wed. Jan. 28 vs. Hartford,* 7 p.m.

Thurs. Feb. 5 @ Boston U.,* 7 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 7 vs. Vermont,* 7 p.m. (Big Purple Growl)
Mon. Feb. 9 @ Binghamton,* 7 p.m.
Thurs. Feb. 12 @ Stony Brook, * 7 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 15 vs. New Hampshire,* 2 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 22 vs. Maine,* 2 p.m.

Thurs. Feb. 26 @ New Hampshire,* 7 p.m.
Sun. March 1 @ UMBC* TBA
*America East Game
Home Games in bold

Obviously, one of those games against UMBC (1/25 or 1/28) is wrong because they aren't playing the Retrievers twice at home in the span of four days. One of them should be Hartford I believe.

Update 7:25 p.m. Wed.: America East Director of Communications Sean Tanish (who I might add is a fellow Ithaca alum) wrote back to me saying it is indeed Hartford on the 28th of January

I'll have more thoughts after I actually take a look at the schedule further....

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