Category Archives: Placed

New Coach, New Season, Same Results?

by Sean Begin

Last season, the Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team reached the high point of program history, recording a record nine wins overall but, more importantly, tallying seven (also a record) NEC victories, good for second place in the league, and their first appearance in the NEC tournament.

Following the end of that highly successful 2013 season, head coach Kelly Nangle resigned in order to take the same position with Liberty University in Virginia. Enter Laura Campbell, hired in August to replace Nangle as the women’s lacrosse head coach.

Campbell coached prior Division I schools at American University and Marist College. She appeared in each school’s respective conference playoffs, winning a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship with Marist in 2010, earning that team its first ever NCAA tournament appearance.

Campbell will enter her first season at Central without three All-Conference players (seniors Betsy Vendel, Ali Roche and Mackenzy Ryan all graduated last year), but returns two other All-Conference players, as well as Central’s second ever All-Rookie player.

“We’re just looking to continue that upward trend, really, and continue to be competitive in conference,” said Campbell. “I think we have everything in place to do so. The girls are very, very excited of what we can achieve this year.”

The transition between coaching staffs can be a difficult process, but the silver lining in Nangle’s quick yet abrupt departure was the time it allowed for Campbell to not only be hired, but spend time building chemistry with the team.

“It certainly has been a transition,” said Campbell. “I think in the fall we worked out all of those kinks and it was an adjustment for everybody. Now we’re certainly on the same page and we’re in a great place.”

The team last season was one the better defensive teams in the country. They ranked 10th in the nation in caused turnovers per game with 9.5. The team’s 17.94 ground balls per game was good for 16th in the nation and they were 27th in scoring defense with 9.06 goals against per game.

For Campbell, the return of senior midfielder Amanda Toke provides some much needed leadership both on the field and in the locker room. Toke was second on the team last season in both caused turnovers and draw controls as well as a leading scorer on the team.

“Toke is just a hustler through and through,” said Campbell. ‘She makes plays that can just change the momentum of the game. Those players are very, very exciting and they’re crucial to have on the team. She’s certainly a leader; she’s a captain for us this year.”

The Blue Devils will need Toke’s leadership and jack-of-all-trade’s lacrosse skills if they expect to duplicate last season. Youth, however, will play an important role.

Elyse Malecki was named to the All-Rookie team last season, just the second Blue Devil freshman to receive that distinction. Malecki finished just behind Toke on the team last year in points (25) and goals (22) while starting all 17 games.

“Elyse is young but she’s one of those players who can make changes pretty quickly,’ said Campbell. “That’s exciting to see because those are the types of players that the sky is the limit, really, when they can make adjustments on the fly.”

Despite her raw talent, with only one season under her belt, Malecki still has some growing and learning to go through.

“She’s one of those players that we really want to work on her consistency,” added Campbell of her young player. “She sometimes has the tendency to shoot right to the goalie or not make good decisions with that. So we’re really just working on her composure inside, and she’s doing a good job.”

Such composure will come with added game time experience which the young attacker will certainly see this season.

Campbell’s last returning All-Conference selection is goalkeeper Morgan Tullar, who stopped 139 shots last season in her first as the Blue Devil’s full time keeper. She posted a goals against average of 8.89 per game while recording a program record nine wins.

“Morgan is a very smart goalie,” said Campbell. “She knows what adjustments she needs to make. It’s just one of those things sometimes where we need to be on her so she doesn’t get complacent and get into some bad habits. I think she’s doing a really good job of being a leader back there.”

Tullar is backed up this season by freshman Kristin Stolen, one of seven freshmen on the team this season but Campbell like what she sees in her young players, particularly in their adjustment to her system.

“I think they adapted a little quicker because they weren’t necessarily adjusting from any other coach,” said Campbell. “The freshmen are a skilled group. They challenge our upper classmen daily in practice. And that competitive environment is really just making us better.”

The change from Nangle to Campbell allowed for a different perspective of who can play what positions, resulting in some changes for some players.

Junior Jess Sudock had played midfielder for the Blue Devils the last two seasons, but has recently (within the last two weeks) made the transition to defender. Already, though, she’s taking to her new role well.

“We bumped her back to defense because her footwork is solid and she’s adapted to that phenomenally,” Campbell explained. “Her 1v1 defense is one of the best on the team now. She’s just a force. It’s unbelievable [how quickly she’s adjusted].”

Campbell added some unfamiliar teams to the Blue Devil’s non-conference schedule this season in order to give the team playing time against strong teams, in order to better prepare them for conference play.

Monmouth, the two-time reigning NEC champion, left the conference following the end of last season, leaving the Blue Devils the highest ranked team from last season, and a conference wide open for the taking,

“Like I told the girls, it [the championship’s] ours to lose this year. The only people who are going to lose it are ourselves and if we allow that then that’s on us. But we can beat anyone in the conference, so it’s exciting.”

The lacrosse team kicks off  the season on Feb. 22 at home against La Salle.

Rooting for Manning is Easy but Justifiable

By: Sean Begin

On Sunday, the Denver Broncos will face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s 48 for the Roman numeral challenged like me). The game is taking place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, a decision that hasn’t exactly been met with much enthusiasm.

If you’re interested even a little in the Super Bowl, you know a cold weather game is basically a dumb idea. Let’s be honest, no one wants to play football in the freezing cold and snow. Just ask the Packers and Niners after their NFC Division game from Lambeau Field that had temperatures in the double digit negatives.

But that’s not what this column is about. The Super Bowl-is-going-to-be-cold story has been beaten to death. This column is about why I want the Broncos to win.

Sports writers are taught not pick sides in a game. We need to remain impartial and objective in our analysis of sport. But really, that’s a load. Sports is all about picking sides and rooting for someone. So since I’m not covering the game and don’t need to be impartial, I’m rooting for Denver.

Or, more specifically, I’m rooting for Peyton Manning.

Now, on the surface, this seems like an obvious and cliché decision. But when you consider again how he ended up in Denver combined with the season he had, it’s tough to want to root against him.

Following Manning’s lost 2011 season due to multiple neck surgeries, the Colts unceremoniously dumped him to the waiver wire to avoid having to pay him a $28 million signing bonus for 2012 and elected instead to draft Andrew Luck number one overall in the 2012 draft.

Thus began Manning’s westward odyssey to Colorado and the welcoming embrace of John Elway, who won two Super Bowls with the Broncos in the twilight of his career: a twilight that Manning is now intimately familiar with.

So there’s a nice bit of symmetry in Manning winning another Super Bowl in Denver at the tail end of a Hall of Fame career, just like the last guy who won a Super Bowl for Denver, who now serves as an executive in that same front office.

It’s a storyteller’s dream, essentially writing itself but no less amazing and no less worth respecting.

Then there’s the fact that Manning has struggled so mightily in the post season throughout his illustrious career. A clear Hall of Famer once he retires, Manning finally moved back to a .500 record in the postseason with his two victories this year, sitting at 11-11 headed into the Super Bowl.

The disparity between his regular season success and his postseason success is striking. But it makes this Super Bowl so much more meaningful, especially considering the record breaking season he had with that highly prolific offense, breaking Tom Brady’s single season touchdown record with 55 TDs.

It only seems appropriate that Manning cap off his best season as a quarterback with his second Super Bowl victory.

Not to mention, there’s only a couple more years of Manning the quarterback left before he becomes Manning the coach or Manning the broadcaster or whatever future in football Manning sees for himself once he hangs up his pads for good.

Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and the Seahawks are a mightily good team, and will remain at the top of the NFL for some years to come. It’s not inconceivable that they see another Super Bowl run, maybe as soon as next season.

But this year, it’s hard to root against the legend of Peyton Manning.

Blue Devils Need Overtime to Muzzle Terriers

By: Sean Begin

Central Connecticut women’s basketball stole their way to a 71-66 overtime win against the Saint Francis-Brooklyn Terriers on Saturday for their third conference win of the season.

“It’s great for the kids, it’s great for our confidence to have a game like that,” said Coach Beryl Piper, “and to be able to find a way to score the baskets when we needed to score the baskets, and make some defensive stops at the end when he needed to.”

In the overtime period, the Blue Devils (8-8, 3-4 NEC) drained five of their six free throw attempts and four of their seven shots, including a big three pointer from senior Jessica Babe to put the game away after four straight Terrier (13-5, 4-3 NEC) free throws.

Babe finished the game with a team high 20 points, to go along with four rebounds, three assists and four steals and scored Central’s last seven points in overtime.

“She’s a senior now so she’s a really smart player,” said Beryl of Babe. “She really is our go-to when the shot clock is winding down. She’s our go-to kid to make things happen , to be able to come off the screen and find people or create something herself.”

Central has struggled all season from the charity stripe, a trend that didn’t look to go away when the team only made 4-10 in the first half while shooting just 41.7 percent from the field, including a lowly 1-8 from behind the three-point line. The one three-pointer came on the team’s last shot of the half.

“When the game was one the line we made them, so we’re not going to look at the first half,” said Beryl of the team’s free throw shooting. “Our kids had enough guts to hit them when it mattered, they didn’t choke on the line.”

The Blue Devils bad shooting in the first half was mitigated by their work on the offensive glass, bringing down eight offensive rebounds that helped offset the 12 first half turnovers, another problem for the team this season.

The team tightened up in the second half and overtime, however, turning the ball over just ten more times after halftime. Despite the high turnover rate, the Blue Devils forced 21 of their own turnovers, including 16 steals that resulted in 30 points off turnovers to 15 for the Terriers.

Senior Lauren Arbogast led the team with five steals and eight rebounds, providing a spark for the team despite being cold from the floor, missing all five of her three point shots.

The Blue Devils continued to get highly productive minutes from their bench, despite injuries seemingly plaguing the team.

Sophomore Nicole Ferguson scored 11 off the bench, including hitting a team high three shots from behind the arc.

“That’s what Nicole does,” said beryl of Ferguson’s three-point shooting. “And the kids know that she’s a shooter for us. She has a lot of confidence in her shot. And she knows when she goes into the game that’s what we’re looking for from her to do.”

Sophomore Raven  Makins didn’t score in the game but her four rebounds and three steals made her minutes valuable to the team. Brooke Bailey – who’s been limited due to injury as well – played a productive 20 minutes, scoring six points and pulling in seven rebounds.

Despite the team’s continued struggle from the free throw line, Beryl doesn’t see her team slowing down their aggressive approach to get there any time soon.

“We’re going to continue to go the foul line whether we make or miss them,” she said. “With Johnna [Fisher] and Amanda [Harrington] being out it makes us smaller and we don’t have a lot of people in the post. So it makes a difference when we can get their bigs in foul trouble.”

Both Fisher and Harrington remain day-to-day with a knee and ankle injury, respectively. Harrington had been seeing heavy minutes thanks to Fisher’s injury, but sprained her ankle last home game against Fairleigh Dickinson.

“It makes a big difference if someone’s hurting us inside so we want to get her [Harrington] back,” said Beryl.

The Blue Devils hit the road for their next game; a rematch against St. Francis-Brooklyn on Saturday.

 

Introducing… Rossomando Named Head Football Coach

By: Sean Begin

In life, lack of success more often than not leads to a change, whether that change is at the individual, personal level or, in the case of Central Connecticut’s head football coach, at the personnel level.

In November, then head football coach Jeff McInerney announced his resignation from the position he held for the last eight years, stepping down following three straight losing seasons that came after back-to-back NEC championships.

On Wednesday, Central announced that they had reached a decision on who would helm the program for the foreseeable future, and officially introduced Pete Rossomando as the new head football coach for the Blue Devils at a press conference on Friday.

“When I got on campus here for my interview and met the people at Central Connecticut, I just knew it was the right place for me,” said Rossomando in his remarks to the gathered crowd of fellow coaches, players, students, alumni and media.

“I just knew these were people I wanted to work with. They were passionate about the university, they were passionate about the athletics program, and for me, most importantly, the football program.”

Rossomando comes to New Britain by way of the University of New Haven, where he led the Division II UNH Chargers to a 42-13 record and two NCAA playoff appearances over the last five seasons.

Arriving in New Haven in 2007, Rossomando took a football program that had just been resurrected from a five year hiatus and turned into a nationally recognized team, ranking as high as No. 3 in the country in 2012.

Rossomando brings with him prior Northeast Conference experience, as well, having worked at the University of Albany for seven years as an assistant coach, winning three NEC championships with the Great Danes in 2002, 2003 and 2007.

“When we embarked on this journey nearly two months ago, I made a mental checklist of the defining characteristics that I thought were critical in determining who would be our next head coach,” said athletic director Paul Schlickmann in his introduction.

“I can honestly say that I believe we checked each and every one of those boxes. He [Rossomando]  is the right man to usher in a new era of Central Connecticut football and reestablish the commitment to excellence with which we aspire to.”

According to Schlickmann, Rossomando was chosen from a pool of over 100 candidates, all of which were reviewed by a six member search committee consisting of various members of the athletic and academic communities on campus.

“We’re going to embark on an incredible journey here over the next three months, three years, ten years, whatever it might be,” said Rossomando to the four rows of players who attended his press conference. “You have to be really comfortable with being uncomfortable because that’s how this process is going to be. In building a championship program, you have to be uncomfortable.”

Rossomando met with the team on Wednesday when the school made the decision official, addressing the players for the first time as their new head coach.

“There were a lot of eager eyes even at seven in the morning,” said Rossomando of that meeting. “They were sitting up straight, at attention; they wanted to hear what I had to say and what my vision of the program was and what I needed from them.”

“He’s going to make these guys better every day right out of the chute,” added Schlickmann. “He made a comment when he met with the team the other day that we have to win in everything that we do. He’s going to demand excellence from them.”

While Rossomando isn’t building a program from the ground up like he had at UNH, he does face a unique challenge as he attempts to redirect the culture of the football program to his vision and plan of success.

“There is a culture here that I have to change and some of these guys might be resistant to that,” said Rossomando. “But I think for the most part, they’re eager for change. When I looked around that room I didn’t see one guy with their head down. Everybody’s eyes were on me and they were interested in hearing what I had to say.”

Rossomando is clearly excited for the opportunity to coach at Central Connecticut, an attitude that is already being reflected by those eager student-athletes who are just beginning to form a relationship with the new coach.

“We’re definitely thrilled. It’s a new opportunity,” said junior wide receiver Tyrell Holmes. “He seems like a good guy, like he’ll lead us in the right direction. And hopefully if he does, we’ll be coming out on top of the NEC.”

“We’re definitely excited; it’s a new start. We finally got our coach,” said junior running back Rob Hollomon. “Seems like he pushes the guys and the team in the right way to be successful and that’s something we need.”

Hollomon, who led all of the FCS in all-purpose yards per game this past season, doesn’t seem worried that the jump to Division I will change Rossomando’s winning ways.

“It definitely helps a lot knowing that he has been successful before so he knows what it takes to win. It doesn’t really matter where or at what level he’s had it at, winning is winning,” said Hollomon.

Now that the job has been secured, Rossomando must begin building the coaching staff that he hopes will work with him to guide the team back to the top of the NEC and, as Rossomando hopes, the top of the FCS.

“My immediate goal for this program is going to be to surround this football team with the best football coaches in the FCS. That’s my immediate goal, that’s what we’re working on now. We’re building a staff to make sure that you are going to be prepared for every moment of this process and this journey,” said Rossomando.

Rossomando has already begun searching for the men who will coach with him, some of whom he’s looking to bring to Central from UNH, including his defensive and special teams coordinator for the Chargers.

“I think we’ll be a nice combination of guys I’ve worked with before that aren’t particularly on my staff now and guys that are on my staff now and understand the process,” said Rossomando of what his coaching staff may potentially look like.

Rossomando has also met with the coaches who served under McInerney, spending part of his first two days as head coach interviewing each member of the current staff. While Rossomando didn’t divulge if anyone would be staying, he did make it clear he wants the coaches who will best fit his system.

“There’s going to be a lot of turnover. It’s really just a matter of whether they’re going to fit into what we’re trying to build here, into my philosophy,” said Rossomando. “Some of them could and very well likely wind up on our staff but I can’t make any commitments right now.”

Once the coaching staff is solidified, Rossomando can begin to evaluate the players and determine the strengths and weaknesses of each and how best to fit each player to the schemes he wants to run.

“I’m going to watch all the film. Only because I want to see what kind of talent level we have and who was out of place and position and see if we can move some guys to optimize our talent.”

“We’ll adjust to our personnel,” added Rossomando. “The process, they have to understand, is going to be mine. The schemes and all that stuff we can adjust but to understand what the program is going to be all about, that’s going to come from me and our coaching staff.”

For Rossomando though, figuring out how to build the team for the field is secondary to how he and the coaching staff  will begin to build the team for each other.

“The most important thing we have to build is a feeling of family. The feeling of they can trust us and we can trust them,” Rossomando said. “We’re all going to make mistakes, that’s for sure. But we have to make sure that we’re dotting all our “i’s” and crossing all our “t’s” so those mistakes are minimal.”

A similar message was voiced by Hollomon: “We just have to work hard and believe in him and if he believes in us as a whole unit, I feel as though we can be successful.”

Rossomando is only a week on the job but it’s clear he’s jumped feet first into the job, even beginning to recruit for the school on the day he was hired. Such is the effort needed to achieve the lofty goals for both him and the team.

“We want to move this program to the top of the FCS. We’re not just talking about the top of the NEC, we want to move to the top of the FCS, and I think we can do that here. And we have all the things in place to be successful,” said Rossomando.

While competing with the likes of North Dakota State may seem like a shot at the moon for the upcoming season, it does provide a glimpse into what Rossomando sees in the potential of both the team and the school.

Central’s athletic director summed up best, perhaps, the upcoming football year: “I don’t have visions of grandeur about next year,” said Schlickmann, “other than I think you will see an exciting team, a prepared team, one that’s going to be fun to watch and one that the players are going to have fun playing on.”