Category Archives: Sports

Women’s Soccer Extends Unbeaten Streak

by Brian O’Neill

Rounding out their five game home stand, Central’s women’s soccer played the University of Maine and the University of Fairfield over the weekend. The Blue Devils split the games between a win and a tie, increasing their win/tie streak to four games. putting their overall record at 4-3-2.

The Blue Devils faced off first on Friday against the Maine Black Bears. Central struck first, when Danica Foglio rose above the Black Bears’ defense on a header off a corner kick from Kelly Halligan in the 14th minute. Maine evened the score in the 38th minute, when Jordan Pellerin scored from inside the box, beating the keeper to the bottom left, with the assist going to Ashley Robinson.

The second half was full of scoring. Halligan started it off, beating the Maine keeper on a free kick from the top of the box in the 63rd minute.

While Halligan’s goal put Central ahead, the lead was short-lived.

In the 64th minute, Charlene Achille scored on a Pellerin cross to tie the game for the Black Bears. Just four minutes after, Achille scored again to give Maine a 3-2 lead with just over 20 minutes left in the game.

With just eight minutes left in regulation, though, Central’s Tori Sousa scored off a pass from Cailynn Harding to tie the game. In the 20 minutes of overtime played, both Central and Maine didn’t allow a goal. At the final whistle the score was 3-3.

“Positives we scored 3 goals, negatives we conceded 3 goals,” head coach Mick D’Arcy said. “With the amount of chances that we had in the first 20 minutes of the game we should’ve done better with those, we didn’t. Once they got the equalizing goal, it gave them a lot of encouragement from there.”

The Blue Devils and Black Bears ended even in just about every statistical category, except offsides. Central was called offside 13 times, while Maine didn’t a single time.

“They played with a bit offside trap, kept stepping out, not something that we’ve really seen a whole lot of this year, and it caught us a little bit off guard,” said D’Arcy of the difference after the game.

Central squared off against the Fairfield Stags on Sunday for their second game of the weekend. The Blue Devils came out early, when Julie Lavoie scored in the 15th minute on a pass from Harding. At the end of the first half Central had nine shots with five on net, almost doubling Fairfield who tallied five shots with two on goal.

The second half opened with a bang. Central scored a goal in just the third minute from Claire Walsh, who put a shot over Fairfield’s keeper on a pass from Sousa. Sousa would add to her stat line when she scored on a free kick from the top of the box in the 79th minute.

At the end of the second half, Central had racked up 13 shots, with nine on goal while Fairfield totaled eight shots, with just three on net. Credit for the shutout goes to Central’s keeper, Nikki Turley, who clocked just under 80 minutes in net while making three saves, with backup goalie Corey Medrano between the pipes for the last 10 minutes of the game.

“Don’t be fooled by the score line, Fairfield is a very good team,” said D’Arcy. “The 15 minutes I thought they did real well, they had us under a lot of pressure. After [the goal] you could see the shift [it] made in the game. It gave us a boost of confidence. I thought that really hurt [Fairfield] psychologically. After that I just think we were the better team.”

The Blue Devils have a 12 day break before traveling to Pennsylvania to play Robert Morris University on the October 3 and St. Francis University on the fifth. The two games are the first Northeast Conference games of the year for the women’s team.

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Volleyball Opens Home Play with Pair of Wins

by Sean Begin

By no means was it a perfect weekend of play for the Central Connecticut women’s volleyball team. But it wasn’t one to throw away either.

“This weekend really showed us the character of the team that even when we’re not quite on top of our game we’re not willing to give up,” said head coach Linda Sagnelli. “I was really happy with the fight the team showed and I think we did a lot of things really well.”

The team hosted its annual Blue Devil Invitational on Friday and Saturday – featuring the University of Hartford, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Providence College – its first home games of the season, winning two of three.

The Blue Devils opened the weekend with an afternoon tilt against Hartford on Friday. Central (4-8) spent the game exchanging sets with the Hawks (9-6). Central took the first, third and fifth sets dropping the second and fourth to Hartford.

Central was led that game by sophomore Heather Trueman who had 14 kills and 16 digs. Senior Rachel Dunlap reached double digit blocks with 10 while junior Makenna Lommori put up 47 assists. Four Blue Devils posted double digit digs in the match.

Central opened play on Saturday with a late morning game against Providence College. Central found itself in the hole down two sets to nothing after falling 25-23 in the first set and 27-25 in a highly contested second set. But the Blue Devils managed to come back, winning the third set 25-19 and the fourth 25-18, forcing a decisive fifth set.

Providence (4-9) got out early, though, and finished Central off 15-8.

“It wasn’t easy for Providence to beat us,” said Sagnelli of the team’s only loss over the weekend. “I thought Providence played hard. But we certainly didn’t give up.”

Central was led in the loss by freshman Nicole Celarek, who had 18 kills, a single game career high. Trueman and Dunlap also broke double digit kills with 16 and 13, respectively. Lommori posted assists on 49 of Central’s 56 successful attacks. Central had several players post high dig totals, led by sophomores Cassidy Stankowski (12) and Rachel Fish (11) as well as senior Brittany Schumacher (9) and Lommori (8).

Central won its third match of the tournament against NJIT (4-11) in convincing fashion, sweeping the Highlanders by scores of 25-10, 25-12 and 25-9. Trueman led the way again with 14 kills.

Central, Hartford and Providence all finished the weekend 2-1 while NJIT went winless.

“All in all, I think the last weekend of our tournament play went well and now we’re looking forward to opening it up against Bryant,” said Sagnelli.

For their play during the tournament, Dunlap and Celarek both received NEC honors. Dunlap was named Defensive Player of the Week as well as MVP of the invitational. She posted 23 blocks over three matches, a 1.77 block per set mark. She also tallied 28 kills with a .426 hitting percentage. Celarek was named Rookie of the Week for her 28 kills, 11 digs, six blocks and five aces over the weekend.

Despite the fairly solid play, Sagnelli knows her team still has room for improvement with the first game of Northeast Conference action coming this weekend.

“I think our handling of the ball needs to improve,” she said. “When the first pass is not good we really have to be able to take care of the ball and not lose a point.”

She added: “One of the focuses that we’ll have this week in practice is our out of system play and how we handle the ball and then it’s going to be our offense and how we’re running [it]. Really we need to swing for a point to end a play. So I just want to work on it this week in practice and I’m sure the outcome will be great.”

After installing a new 6-2 offense with rotating setters in the preseason, Sagnelli has returned to the 5-1 style of offense she ran previously.

“That’s our strongest offense is when we’re in the 5-1,” said Sagnelli. “And Ashley Lenington did great in the 6-2 but the 5-1 just restores a little balance to the court.”

Lenington, a junior, had been working as the second setter in the 6-2 behind Lommori. She won’t see as much work as in the 6-2 but has other skills that Sagnelli can take advantage of.

“We can use Ashley in other ways; she has one of the toughest serves on the team. She is valuable coming in and putting some pressure on the other team,” said Sagnelli.

Sagnelli used the 6-2 in the Blue Devils first six games of the season against some of the tougher opponents on the schedule, losing all six games. After returning to the older style, the team has gone 4-2 since.

“It’s easier for our hitters to work off of one setter,” said Sagnelli. “Now that we’ve settled into the 5-1 I think everybody will relax and be able to play their best offensively.”

The team returns to the court when it opens Northeast Conference action against Bryant this Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. on Family Day.

From Junior College to Central: Dunlap Earns Captain in Senior Year

by Sean Begin

When women’s volleyball head coach Linda Sagnelli went to San Antonio, Texas for the NCAA Division I Final Four in 2011 she left having met the player who would become a centerpiece to a highly successful Northeast Conference team.

Walking through the Alamodome on Sunday during a talent showcase the day after the final match, Sagnelli and her assistant coach Greg Shell were looking for a middle blocker to add to the team.

“Greg and I went and I was looking for a middle and sure enough their was Rachel in a back court in the convention center,” said Sagnelli. “And I was just very impressed with her athleticism and her discipline and her focus. She was very supportive of the other players on the court, none of whom she knew.”

Rachel is Rachel Dunlap, a senior in her third season with the team who over the summer was named captain alongside junior Makenna Lommori. The title was an acknowledgment from both the coaches and the players on the team of the work and effort Dunlap has put in during her time in New Britain.

A native of Sonora, Calif., Dunlap played high school volleyball for Summerville High School in Tuolomne, Calif. From there she made her way to Texas where she played for Lee College her freshman year.

“I had a few opportunities to go to Division I straight out of high school but they just didn’t feel right,” said Dunlap. “So I went the junior college route. I took that opportunity and obviously I’m thankful because it led me here. I don’t think I would be here if wasn’t for that first step.”

After leaving Lee for Central, Dunlap became an immediate piece in the Blue Devil front court, starting 28 of the 29 matches she played, ranking second in hitting percentage and fourth in kills while leading the team in blocks with 113.

Last season, Dunlap made another jump, increasing her block total by 50 to set a CCSU single season record with 163 total blocks, including 14 in one game, also a program record.

Despite the year at Lee, Dunlap attributes her growth and success as a player to the coaches at Central.

“Who I am today and how I became a better player my sophomore year is 100 percent credit to Central Connecticut,” said Dunlap.

“She’s improved every single year she’s been with us,” said Sagnelli. “I thought, like I think with all players, that she had a lot to work on. But she absolutely met the challenge of learning new hits, working on her footwork, working on her strength.”

Over her two years at Central, Dunlap has added several different hits and attacks to her offense, working closely with Lommori, the team’s setter, to get the timing on their attack down. Defensively, Sagnelli has worked with her to improve her eye sequencing, her ability to see everything happening on the other side of the net and react.

“She has to see the pass and then read the setter and guess what the setter is going to do, and look at the hitter. And then when the ball is released she has to travel the net to get there and try and be involved in a block,” said Sagnelli. “There’s a lot going on. [Middle blocker is] the position I played in college and I know what it takes. She certainly can do it at a high level.”

Even though Dunlap has made improvements defensively, she was already a solid defensive player coming in, and so was able to focus more time on honing her offensive attack.

“We took her where she came in with her blocking and just helped her progress with it and then we really had her focusing on offense so that she could become more of a threat,” said Sagnelli.

Dunlap’s work ethic and effort is part of what earned her the title of captain coming into her final season as a Blue Devil. The other is her leadership ability on and off the court.

“She leads by example,” said Sagnelli. “Whether she’s on the court or doing a pool work out or down with strength and conditioning, she’s just getting after it. I think she’s a very good role model for the younger players on the team.”

“I really feel like that’s a good attribute of mine is my leadership on the court,” Dunlap said. “I’m very thankful [to be named captain]. I was honored and I love having Makenna by my side.”

“It’s easy to be captain with your best friend,” she added. “We get each other. We always have got each other. We have great chemistry together. She’s probably the only person on the court who can look me in the eye and tell me ‘Get out of your head or else.’”

Dunlap had to do just that heading into the season. Focused heavily on the fact that she had only one season of college athletics left, Dunlap “was too much in my own head.” But a change of mindset has made her ready for her final season.

“I’m just focused on having fun this year. I found out if I just let myself play, I’ve been way better. And I’m trying to have the best season that I can without putting too much pressure on myself. I have a limited time and I’m very conscious of that.”

“She’s such a dynamic athlete that we were so happy when she chose to come to Central because we could see in her so much potential and now she’s starting to realize that,” said Sagnelli. “It’s really been fun watching her mature as an athlete and as a person. She has a really bright future.”

Despite a Lost Season, an Ace Makes a Return

by Sean Begin

Masahiro Tanaka signed with the New York Yankees in January for seven years and $155 million. His contract includes an opt out clause after the 2017 season meaning at a minimum the Yankees could start him for four years.

At 25 years old this would give the Yankees control of some his best years of pitching, with a chance to again sign him long term before the 2018 season. Then came the worst start of his young career, when he gave up 10 hits and five runs over 6.2 innings to the Cleveland Indians on July 8.

The next day, Tanaka was in New York for an MRI, eventually being placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. The injury was essentially a slight tear to his ulnar collateral ligament, the ligament most often associated with Tommy John surgery.

Rather than undergo the now widely-used procedure, Tanaka and Yankee’s doctors decided to rest and rehabilitate his elbow, hopefully avoiding surgery. Tanaka left the team having posted a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA, among the league leaders in both categories. He also struck out 135 batters while walking just 19.

As the summer wore on, Tanaka rested. Eventually he began light tossing before moving on to simulated games and full bullpen sessions. And on Sunday, he returned to the mound for the first time since July.

And he actually looked good.

He threw just 70 pitches but went 5.1 innings, with four strikeouts and zero walks, spreading around five hits and surrendering a single run. His pitches looked as sharp as they did before the injury.

This doesn’t mean Tanaka is out of hot water though. St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went down a similar route. In an article by the NY Times’ Tyler Kepner, Wainwright explains how he first felt elbow discomfort in middle school.

Then, in middle school, he was diagnosed with a partial-UCL tear, which he rehabbed over surgery. It happened again while he was in AAA. But after another successful rehab, Wainwright pitched six years in the major, culminating in his All-Star 2010 season.

Wainwright had to have Tommy John surgery after that season, sidelining him for all of 2011 but he returned strong and has been an All-Star the last two years.

“You don’t want to have surgery unless you have to,” Wainwright said in the Kepner article. “We’ve been given ligaments and tendons that are much better than repaired ligaments and tendons. Any time they’re drilling holes in bones and putting things in, there’s risk involved. So don’t get it unless you need it.”

So, what does this mean for Tanaka and the Yankees?

Well, if the rehab proves as successful as Wainwright’s, it means the Yankees only lost Tanaka for two months of his rookie season. Had he had surgery, he’d be gone until 2016, essentially losing his first two years.

If Tanaka can follow Wainwright and pitch six more years, it’d be through those first four years of his contract until his opt out clause kicks in. And if something goes wrong further down the road, there’s still the option of surgery, which has an almost universal success rate.

So while the Yankees season may lie dead in the water at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, Tanaka provided one last important spark, one last look at the potential of the 2015 Yankees rotation.

Women’s Soccer Dominates Weekend Games

by Brian O’Neill

The Central Connecticut women’s soccer team continued their five game home stand this past weekend with a pair of wins over both New Jersey Institute of Technology and Lehigh Univeristy, improving their record to 3-3-1.

The first game of the weekend was on Friday night; the Blue Devils edged out the NJIT Highlanders (2-7) by a score of 2-0.

The Blue Devils struck first with a goal in the 28th minute with Cailynn Harding scoring on a header in the box off a corner kick by Kelly Halligan.

The first half was won by Central, offensively and defensively. In the first 45 minutes, Central took 15 shots with six on net, and didn’t allow New Jersey a single shot. The second half yielded the same result, with the Blue Devils controlling possession. They tallied 14 shots in the second half; six on goal and one into the back of the net.

That goal came in the 57th minute when a cross from Julie Lavoie through the box found Morgan Santoro in front of an open net for an easy score.

The second half also brought goalie changes for both teams as Central’s Nikki Turley substituted for Rebecca Lewis, and New Jersey’sSamantha Bersett replaced Karen David.

“Rebecca’s been training very well,” said head coach Mick D’Arcy when asked about the change. “We’ve got four goalkeepers and the competition at practice is very good every day. So we thought it was time for Becca to be in net. She hasn’t played yet this year, she’s a new transfer from Ithaca, and we thought today was her day to get some minutes on the field.”

When asked on what could be improved upon after the game, D’Arcy summed it up simply: “Finishing.”

He added: “We had a lot of chances during the course of the game. And to win the game two-nil, it’s nice to get a shutout, it’s nice to score some goals, but I think we could’ve been more ruthless in front of the goal. It’s something that we’re working on, and we know we have to get better at it.”

The Blue Devils returned to the pitch Sunday against the Lehigh Mountain Cats (2-2-1) for the win.

Lehigh scored for the first time in the 19th minute when Grace Correll took a shot that deflected off the back of Central’s Danica Foglio.

It didn’t take Central long to answer.

Not even a minute later, Tori Sousa chipped the ball over Lehigh’s keeper to tie the game — 1-1, with the assist going to Halligan. The go-ahead goal came off Halligan’s strike in the 42nd minute from long range, beating the keeper to the top left.

At the end of the first half, both Central and Lehigh’s shots were even at four with possession for both teams relatively even.

In the second half however, Central played a more defensive game, which gave Lehigh the time to attack. The Mountain Cats racked up 10 shots in the half, putting eight on goal. Even with the attack, the Blue Devils held their 2-1 lead thanks to good defense and goalie play throughout.

“[We] scored a couple of good goals for one,” D’Arcy said after the game. “I thought our defending was good in the second half… I thought we were pretty dangerous countering them a couple times; we just weren’t able to get the final execution on it.”

He added: “I thought we sat back in a little bit more in the second half and tried to hit them on the counter attack; and, defensively, I thought we absorbed their pressure really well.”

Central’s extended home stand concludes next weekend with two games in three days. They’ll face the Maine Black Bears on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Fairfield Stags on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Women’s Golf: Small Roster Doesn’t Mean Small Potential

by Sean Begin

Coming into the 2014-15 season, Central Connecticut women’s golf head coach Carly Ludwig will be fielding her smallest roster in her four years in New Britain.

“I actually really like it right now,” Ludwig said of the smaller roster before acknowledging that “it’s a very risky kind of move, just because I take five girls to every tournament.”

Ludwig loses three seniors and a junior from last year’s team that finished seventh in the Northeast Conference tournament.

Three players from that squad return from the same squad in addition to two incoming freshmen, giving Ludwig the minimum number of players she usually brings to each tournament.

“If anyone’s sick or injured, or if anything happens, obviously that puts me in a very interesting position,” Ludwig said.

“Between myself and Coach Mara, who does our strength and conditioning, and the athletic training room and everybody involved, we’re all making sure that we’re watching out for everybody.”

As long as the players remain healthy and able to hit the course, Ludwig sees her small roster as advantageous. It means no surprises for her team, as each player knows she’ll be playing every tournament they enter.

“I think, for the freshmen, it’s probably taken a lot of pressure off them, as well,” said Ludwig. “And so far, from the girls feedback, they really like having just the five.”

New to the team this year are freshmen Cecy Gutierrez from Torreon, Mexico and Tara Whelan from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland. Ludwig is already seeing good things from both players through early season workouts and their first tournament of the season.

“I was a little bit timid [about Cecy] going into the first tournament at Towson,” said Ludwig. “What I had seen while she was here playing… it was very interesting. I don’t even know how to put it. And then she got into a tournament and was a completely different player. It was someone who just had a lot of grit, had a lot of heart.”

According to Ludwig, at one point during the tournament, Gutierrez hit a shot that fell short of the green.

“She turned back to me and ‘Coach, don’t worry, I got this,’ and just walked off. And you know, all right, I believe her. If she believes it, I believe it and good things are going to happen. And it showed. Round two she shot a 79 and could have actually done a lot better, too, which is a good thing for her.”

Ludwig’s other recruit, Tara Whelan, has also settled in nicely to the team.

“Tara’s been fantastic,” said Ludwig. “I’m really impressed with her and where she’s at. She’s going to be a really, really good, solid player to watch week in and week out.”

Added Ludwig: “This past tournament I just had a blast watching her play. I kind of stood in the background a little bit more than I normally do and watched her figure some things out. But she’s very eager to get in there and contribute and make her own path.”

Whelan has had an easier time transitioning from life in Northern Ireland to life in New England, thanks to fellow countrywoman and team captain, Sarah Boden.

“I knew they knew of each other, I knew they played against each other a little bit,” said Ludwig. “I’m sure there was a little bit of a connection there. Or just more of a reassurance. Because it’s tough coming to another country and trusting that everything is going to go well.”

Boden was named again named team captain as she enters her junior year, having learned a lot as a sophomore captain on a team filled with upperclassmen.

“[It] probably was a little too much for her but I think that’ll help in her junior and senior years. And I knew that,” said Ludwig. “I’d rather get that done and over with early in her career and have her really come into her own in her last two years, which I think she’s going to do.”

As the oldest and most experienced player on the team, Boden now shows the kind of leadership Ludwig saw in her when she named her captain last year; the kind of leadership that has the other girls on the team listening and following along.

“Sarah has always been that leader,” said Ludwig. “It doesn’t matter what she shoots on a golf course, people are going to listen to her and people are going to make sure that they’re following what her lead is.”

Ludwig also has sophomore’s Ella Williams and Kaitlyn Stoddart returning for her, both of whom have shown improvement over their freshmen season.

“She [Stoddart] just hits the ball so far. She’s probably in the top ten percent in college golf for driving distance,” said Ludwig. “For her, as soon as she can get a couple things sorted out in her short game, she’s going to be unstoppable.”

Stoddart led the team in their first tournament at Towson this season shooting a 78 in the first round and improving to a 76 on day two. Williams, who placed 15th out of 140-plus players at the Canadian Junior Championships over the summer, is coming into her own as well.

“Ella is just a really fun player to watch. She’s a learner,” said Ludwig. “I think she’s going to win a tournament this year.”

Central improved over their performance at Towson last year, shooting a better score and finish one place higher in a field featuring one more team than in 2013. And while several players broke into the 70s at Towson, Ludwig knows they can get better.

“This entire team from start to finish can shoot 70s. And that’s what I’m really excited about. Because if you take five players in the 70s, you’re a top 100 team.”

And while Ludwig’s team may be young, they are being noticed by the competition, including three-time defending NEC champion LIU-Brooklyn.

“I kept having the LIU coach looking at me saying ‘Good job, Coach,’” said Ludwig. “And for me as a coach, there’s no better complement than having other coaches come up to you and take notice.”

“The team that I have right now is a solid five and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone,” she said. “I can’t say enough about this team and their future and where they’re going. These five girls will sustain this program for years to come.”