Category Archives: Sports

Volleyball Preview

by Sean Begin

In April of this year, Central Connecticut volleyball announced the signing of four new players to National Letters of Intent, to replace departing seniors Amalia Ashley and Veronika Ban and freshman Katie Wirth.

Lindsey Massicotte and Emma Schissel, both from Connecticut, join as defensive specialists with Nicole Celarek (from Illinois) and Maddie Smith (from California) looking to fill an already strong front court.

“We wanted to integrate the freshmen into our system rather quickly,” said head coach Linda Sagnelli. “And with so many players returning it was really easy to do.”

This preseason saw Sagnelli and assistant coach Greg Shell implement a different playing system that takes advantage of their new additions as well as the growing skills of returning players.

Last season, the team ran a 5-1 system: five hitters on the court with one setter controlling the floor; then-sophomore and captain Makenna Lommori served as the team’s only setter.

This year they moved to a 6-2: six hitters on the court with rotating setters running the offense. The setter plays from the back court, coming forward to the net when setting, allowing for three hitters to play up front.

Junior Ashley Lenington will move into the second setter role and play opposite of Lommori, who will now have time to focus on hitting for three rotations, a strength of her’s Sagnelli had been unable to take advantage of previously.

“Makenna is a very strong hitter,” said Sagnelli, “but we’ve never had the luxury to have her hit.”

Central will return several strong defensive players to their front court, including senior and fellow captain Rachel Dunlap, sophomore Brooke Schwab and junior Heather Trueman, who had a breakout season last year as one of the team’s best outside hitters.

In addition, senior Brittany Schumacher and sophomore Rachel Fish return as defensive specialists and liberos, providing solid defense in the back court.

The new system, combined with the team’s depth, allows for Sagnelli and Shell to pick and choose when to insert a player into a match, and to try and take advantage of an opposing team’s weakness.

As with all new things, though, there does come a learning curve.

“With the new system it takes time. I don’t think we can expect the kids to run it at 100 percent,” said Sagnelli. “Sometimes in competition things happen and [you can go] ‘Oh yeah so this is what we do when that happens.’”

The team has had time to get together before the season began, however. The freshmen arrived in late June for summer classes alongside the returning players, offering the chance to build a relationship before hitting the court.

“I think they’ve settled in really nicely. We’re asking them to do a lot of different things,” said Sagnelli of the freshmen class.

“A lot of times they come in and we change things that they’re doing and sometimes they go through a learning curve and I think that’s been like that for them this year. But they respond very quickly, they implement changes very quickly. And they have just bought right in to what we do.”

Central opened the season at the UConn Invitational, facing off against teams at or near not just Central’s RPI but league rival LIU-Brooklyn. (RPI is a ranking that takes into account a team’s win-loss record as well as the strength of the schedule they play.)

The Blue Devils played Indiana, New Hampshire and UConn in that tournament, losing to all three but pushing both UNH and UConn to five sets, forcing the fifth set against UConn after being down 2-0.

“We were not upset with our play over the weekend at UConn,” said Sagnelli, saying these early games are to be used as a learning period before the Northeast Conference season gets under way, especially with the new system in place and with the freshmen still overcoming their own learning curve.

“Our goal is to win the conference and LIU has been our obstacle,” she added.

LUI-Brooklyn has defeated Central the past two years in the NEC championship game and looks poised to repeat for a third straight year, unanimously picked by the NEC coaches to win it all. Central was picked second.

“We wanted to play teams that were comparable to or better than Long Island early so we can start to gauge things on what we need to work on,” said Sagnelli. “And most certainly the UConn’s, the Indiana’s, the Santa Clara’s, Harvard, they’re all going to be very tough teams, so we’re happy with what we’ve seen so far.”

Central played Santa Clara and Harvard, as well as Delaware, at the Harvard Invitational this past weekend, dropping all three games. They will head to Brown this weekend for a tournament before returning home next weekend for their own Blue Devil Invitational.

In addition to the new system, Central is awaiting the return of two players. Sophomores Cassidy Stankowski (who started for the team last year) and Nicole Dean are making their way back from injury and look ready to return to the team fully by the end of September, according to Sagnelli.

“The comfort level will keep going up and up and up as we play in [the new system] a little longer. We can see very good things,” said Sagnelli. “We just have to get that comfort level up there and I think it starts to run on all cylinders after that.”

The team also earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for the eighth straight season, posting a team GPA of 3.3.

“I give all the credit to them because they’re the ones who are sitting in the classrooms, they’re getting the work done and being responsible. Everywhere we travel they’re bringing their work,” said Sagnelli. “They have downtime too but they’re very efficient in getting their work done. That’s why they’re so successful.”

Huskies Bite Blue Devils

by Brian O’Neill

Despite a crowd over capacity Friday night, UConn proved to be too much for the women’s soccer team of Central Connecticut State as they fell 3-1 to the Huskies. The loss, this season’s first at home for the Blue Devils, drops them to 1-3-1.

“Great crowd tonight, [with] over 2,000 people at the game,” said head coach Mick D’Arcy. “It’s just fantastic, it creates a good atmosphere. President [Jack] Miller put this together a couple years ago and Friday night games create a bit of a buzz.”

The Huskies (3-1-1) jumped out early when UConn’s Samantha McGuire gathered a loose ball at the top of the penalty box and put it past Central goalkeeper, Nikki Turley, in just the second minute of play.

The Blue Devils answered in minute 15, with the equalizer coming from Julie Lavoie of the assist from Charlie Branch. UConn scored the final goal of the first half when Julie Hubbard scored from close range at minute 25, with the assist coming from Riley Houle.

UConn lead the Blue Devils both in scoring and overall stats throughout the first 30 minutes. The Huskies racked up 11 shots in the first 45 minutes, with five of them being on goal. In the same time, Central had five shots, with three on net.

While the first half was controlled by UConn, the second half was a back and forth fight. UConn put backup goalie Emily Armstrong in for starter Allison Saucier at the beginning of the half. UConn and Central were about even in shots on the half — UConn edging Central 7-6.

In minute 74, UConn’s Rachel Hill — who over the summer played for the U.S. Women’s Under-20 National Team when they won the CONCACAF tournament — scored, giving the Huskies a 3-1 lead. This goal proved to be the dagger into any hope for a Blue Devil comeback.

Even with the loss, D’Arcy saw good things from the team.

“There were a lot of positives,” he said. “Defensively, we had one or two mistakes on the goals, but overall I think the defensive performance was great. This is a very, very good UConn team.”

He added: “They’re always going to cause you problems, but we dealt with it pretty well. We made chances. We scored a great goal; fantastic combination play to create the goal.”

Fan turnout was huge. The bleachers, built to seat 500, were overcrowded with Husky and Blue Devil supporters alike. Fans lined the stone wall that runs the length of the field; some even spilled onto the tops of the stands at the nearby baseball field and football field. The official tally marked attendance at 2,007.

The Blue Devils look to bounce back on Friday, Sept. 12th, when they play at home against New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Central Struck Down

by Sean Begin

Heavy lightning flashed Saturday night at Arute Field but it didn’t come from the offense of the Blue Devil football team.

“We did a poor job preparing our players this week,” said head coach Pete Rossomando, after his team was shut out by the University of Albany 19-0 in a game delayed nearly two hours due to lightning.

“We didn’t do a good job helping them overcome a big victory and get focused and grounded. I knew it would be a problem,” he added.

Central came into the game having upset #7 Towson on the road last week, thanks in large part to a highly efficient performance from junior quarterback Nick SanGiacomo and a huge offensive game from senior running back Rob Hollomon.

Neither they nor the rest of the Blue Devil offense found any rhythm on Saturday night.

“The way we went out there and started the game and how we finished in it, that’s not Blue Devil football right there,” said SanGiacomo after the game. “We just weren’t clicking as a unit. We just couldn’t get it going. Can’t tell you why right now.”

Central (1-1) managed to keep the Great Danes (2-0) close for most of the first half, allowing only a field goal half way through the first quarter. But with 3:29 remaining in the second quarter, Albany broke through with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Will Fiacchi to Cole King.

The two connected again just over three minutes later on a 27-yard score with seven seconds left to play in the half giving Albany a 17-0 lead going into halftime: a halftime that almost never saw a restart.

As both teams were heading onto the field to start the second half, Arute Field’s lightning detection system tripped, prompting school officials to clear the stadium and delay the game indefinitely until the storm had passed.

“[The system] detects the potential for lightning in the area,” said athletic director Paul Schlickmann. “So even though you can’t really see it, it won’t give the all clear until it’s a safe distance away.

“It’s frustrating because you don’t necessarily see anything,” he added. “But you have to trust the integrity of this system and that’s why you have it.”

Officials gave themselves two hours to see if things would clear before making a decision whether to resume play or not. Doctors from both teams had warned of the danger to the athletes to resume playing after such a lengthy delay.

But at 9:23 officials were given the all clear from the system to resume play, an hour and 50 minutes after the delay started and right at the edge of their self-imposed deadline.

“We were about five minute away from [calling it off],” said Rossomando. “It was good to go out and finish it because our players need that.”

Neither offense managed any second half points with the only score coming on a safety after a high snap on a punt forced Central punter Ed Groth to boot the ball out of bounds in the end zone, avoiding a Great Dane defensive touchdown.

“I think it’s good the rain didn’t let us off the hook because you have to learn from something like this,” said Rossomando.

“You’re either going to go one of two ways. You’re either going to learn from it and go in a positive direction or you’re going to say, ‘It wasn’t my fault, it was somebody else’s fault,’ and you’re going to go in the other direction. So we’ll find out very quickly what our team is all about.”

“This is adversity at its finest right now,” said SanGiacomo. “We gotta see how we’re going to come back tomorrow. Hopefully it’s positive. It’s a tough one after today, especially not performing the way we did.”

“You’re going to have these types of games but you’ve got to be able to overcome them,” added Rossomando. “Just like coming back from a great victory you’ve got to come back from a crushing defeat. Hopefully, we can right the ship.”

Central will have that opportunity next Saturday on the road when they face Holy Cross.

Fantasy Reigns on Sunday

by Sean Begin

What were you doing Sunday?

Maybe you were nursing that hangover from Saturday’s party or waking up for your crappy early morning weekend shift.

There’s a good chance, though, you were one of the millions Americans who plopped down on their couch (or in my case, a desk chair) to watch the first full Sunday of the NFL season.

Yet a month ago if you had asked me if I was looking forward to upcoming season I would have laughed, probably sworn and said NOPE.

In 2010, the NFL changed the draft from a single, all-day meeting of owners to a three-day television event hosted in New York City and broadcast on the NFL’s bed partner, ESPN.

Then, in 2014, the league moved the draft from April to May (reportedly because the venue — Radio City Music Hall — was booked for an Easter show) with plans to keep it there.

This gave the league an “event” every month: the Super Bowl in February, the combine in April, draft in May, OTA’s in June followed by preseason, with free agency weaving in between it all.

After fighting for years to add two games to the schedule, Commissioner Roger Goodell had succeeded in turning the league with the shortest playing schedule into a year round story.

So by August, I had football fatigue. I was tired of seeing football plaster every major sports news site all the time. Then I got a text from my fantasy football league manager: “Draft aug 30.”

Oh crap. I’m looking forward to football again.

Fantasy football is an interesting phenomenon in American culture. Fantasy sports have been around since the 1950s, when people would pick golfers and receive a score based on their rounds. Winner was the fantasy player with the lowest combined score.

The 1960s saw a couple early baseball leagues pop up that used the previous season’s stats to pick teams. The first fantasy football league – the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators – drafted in 1963.

Modern “rotisserie” leagues (roto for short, hence sites like rotoworld.com and rotowire.com), which most fantasy leagues are based off of, emerged in the early 1980s.

The internet, though, helped launch fantasy into the economic stratosphere. Before leagues had been maintained by snail mail and hand calculations. As technology grew, it became easier to host a league and keep track of scores.

Fantasy football exploded soon after. With games generally only once a week, casual fans could draft a team and be involved without having to check on it every day.

In August 2013, Forbes published an article entitled “The $70 Billion Fantasy Football Market.” It’s a lot of postulation on the value of the time people put into their fantasy teams. But the article does state that fantasy football has exceeded to NFL in annual revenue.

So on August 30 I drafted my fantasy team once again. And on Sunday I sat down to watch nearly twelve hours of football. And I’m reminded of something Lewis Black once said.

“I’ve watched every Super Bowl because I have no religion. And I think it’s important for a man to have a ritual. And the Super Bowl is on once a year, on Sunday… so at least I’m trying.”

Let the season begin.

Oh, Donald Sterling

by Sean Begin and Navindra Persaud

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cast a dark shadow upon his team with racially charged remarks that he allegedly made, as first reported by TMZ.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” said the man alleged to be Sterling in the audio clip.

The comments were recorded by Sterling’s then-girlfriend and mistress, V. Stiviano, who is currently being sued for almost $2 million by Sterling’s wife for embezzlement.

Sterling also referred to NBA legend and former Los Angeles guard Magic Johnson in his comments. It was a photo of Johnson and Stiviano on her Instagram that sparked Sterling’s comments.

“Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.”

In response to these remarks Johnson responded on Twitter saying “I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African-Americans.”

Johnson has said he and his wife will no longer be attending Clippers games in the future while Sterling remains owner.

These comments have naturally caused outrage amongst people involved with the NBA on every level, from owners and executives to players and the media who cover the sport.

The irony in this all is that Sterling is the owner of the Clippers whose entire success has been thanks to the players and coaches on the team, who are predominantly black. The NBA itself is an African-American dominant league, with over 70 percent of its players identifying as black.

If indeed the investigation proves that Sterling did make these comments (his side claims they are not him), he does not deserve to have a place in the league let alone own a team.

LeBron James, who is arguably the face of the NBA the same way Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan before him, spoke on the matter after his teams win over the Bobcats.

“I’ve wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out, if our owner came out and said the things that he said. I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family, because at the end of the day, our family and our teammates are way more important than that. But there’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s no room for him.”

It is easy to understand the frustration that Clippers players and others around the league have and the mental battle that they face having to decide whether they should play for an owner who would allegedly make such callous statements.

It was refreshing to hear that the Clippers continued to participate in Sunday’s game despite the remarks allegedly made by Sterling. Their silent protest came during the pregame shoot around, when they left their warm-ups at center court and wore regular red t-shirts. The Clippers fell to the Warriors 118-97, evening the series at two games each.

The entire scenario seemed to weigh heavy on the players during the game. There seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over the team. As the starters sat on the bench for the remainder of the day there was a look of utter despair.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a public statement calling the audio recordings disturbing and stating that the NBA will work to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.  Silver said that he would not discuss any moves towards punishment because all members of the NBA do in fact have a due process to state their side of the story.

Silver is just three months on the job, after taking over for David Stern, who served as commissioner for 30 years before retiring in January. This incident is an immediate test of his ability to exert control over the 30 owners who voted him in as commissioner.

What needs to be answered his why the league failed to acknowledge or sanction Sterling for his prior racist and actions and comments. The uproar now is justified but could have easily been avoided had owners made a stand previously. But since the Clippers for years were the laughing stock of the NBA, his actions were pushed aside and ignored.

Well, that cannot and will not be ignored any longer.

Even Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and notorious fence rider, condemned the comments Sterling made. The owners will have no choice but to try and force Sterling from his ownership. His comments are, after all, bad for business. And, for better or worse, money does talk. As of Monday evening, more than half a dozen companies had withdrawn their corporate sponsorship with the Clippers.

Its clear Sterling has no place in the league anymore. What’s clearer is Sterling shouldn’t have had a place in the league for years though. But when you consider the people who also own NBA teams – guys like Cavalier’s owner Dan Gilbert who made millions in mortgages while the economy collapsed or Magic owner Richard DeVos who has dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay marriage initiatives – you see a fraternity that has hidden on of their members.

While the words and attitudes expressed by Sterling are horrible and contemptible, it is not the first time his racism has surfaced nor is this nearly the most racist thing Sterling has done.

Sterling was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination back in 2003 with documents of his testimony surfacing in 2006. In those documents, Sterling said black people attract vermin and had no place living in his housing. He settled out of court, reportedly in the largest settlement in history over discrimination.

So while what Sterling said is reprehensible, this outrage should have surfaced over a decade ago. Housing discrimination can lead to incredible levels of violence: see Chicago in 2014, where people die every day over land and territory with little education or opportunity.

It’s time for Sterling to go, but its time for everyone to look at the larger problems, for once, and try and solve them, rather than lose their cool over some unsurprising comments made by an 81-year-old man.

Volleyball Adds Depth with 2018 Recruits

by Sean Begin

When Central Connecticut volleyball takes the court again in the fall, it’ll be without the presence of seniors Veronika Ban and Amalia Ashley. They will, however, feature four freshman recently signed by head Coach Linda Sagnelli, all of whom add depth to a team fresh off its second straight conference finals appearance.

“Our program has a high standard for athletic and academic success, and we are proud of the academic and athletic performance of  this incoming class,” said Sagnelli in a statement released through the athletic department.

Sagnelli adds two local athletes in Emma Schissel, of Colchester, and Lindsey Massicotte, of Meriden, as well as Maddie Smith, from Pleasanton, Calif., and Nicole Celarek, of Bensenville, Ill.

According to Sagnelli, of the three, Celarek is the most likely to see significant time in the starting lineup as an outside hitter, playing from the right side to complement current sophomore Heather Trueman.

“We were looking for a freshman to come in who would get playing time and start, be an impact freshman, kind of like all the freshman we just had,” said Sagnelli. “With that, it looks like Nicole is going to come in and really contribute right away.”

A four year member of her Fenton High School varsity volleyball squad, Celarek also plays for the Sports Performance Volleyball Club team, which Sagnelli calls one of the best club teams in the country. Celarek, at six-foot-two, will bring added height and size to the Blue Devil frontcourt.

“We really wanted to get a little more physical in the frontcourt, and she definitely brings that physicality to the game,” said Sagnelli. “Nicole comes in already possessing good strength. We know she’ll get stronger when she gets into college and matures a little bit.”

Schissel and Massicotte, both from Connecticut, will come in as defensive players, adding depth to the defensive specialist position, with Schissel also working with the setters and Massicotte with the liberos.

Schissel played for Bacon Academy during high school, and will slot in behind current sophomores Makenna Lommori and Ashley Lenington during her freshman season.

“She’s going to provide good depth,” said Sagnelli of Schissel. “I think she has some training to do. She’ll go with the setters and get the setter training. But she’ll also go with our backcourt crew when they’re going in for their reception reps and passing reps. So she’ll be doing both.”

Massicotte earned All-Conference honors while playing for her Maloney High School team each of the past three seasons. With Amalia Ashley graduating, Massicotte will add depth to the position currently filled by freshman Rachel Fish and junior Brittany Schumacher.

“We always like to have three [liberos] on the team because it really makes you strong in that backcourt position,” said Sagnelli. “Lindsey is going to come in and push for playing time right away.

Added Sagnelli: “I think she’s got a very solid base right now, fundamentally. She really needs to fine-tune some of the skills. But she’s going to jump in; her feet are going to hit the ground running.  She will most certainly provide great depth to the backcourt crew.”

Sagnelli has said previously that club volleyball competition in the northeast is comparably weaker than in other areas of the country, such as in Texas or on the West Coast. But Sagnelli calls the addition of two local athletes “incredibly important.”

“Having Connecticut athletes on the team really ties everything together,” said Sagnelli. “We would love to be able to take the top players in Connecticut every year. We’re very fortunate with Lindsey and Emma committing to us and deciding to come to Central.”

Sagnelli’s final recruit, Maddie Smith, adds another player to a pool of starters that hail from California and nearby West Coast states. Smith joins Lenington, Trueman and junior Rachel Dunlap, as well as departing senior Veronika Ban, as Blue Devil recruits from the Golden State.

Lommori, from Nevada, and freshman Brooke Schwab, from Oregon, round out the West Coast recruits Sagnelli has brought to New Britain the past few years.

Smith, like Schissel and Massicotte, will spend time behind established starters as she begins her freshman year. At five-foot-eleven, she will play the middle blocker position behind Dunlap and Schwab, honing her skills in her first collegiate season.

“She’s got a great vertical jump,” said Sagnelli. “She’s going to be playing behind Rachel and Brooke, but what two great role models to have. And she’s going to be working very hard. We’ll actually have four people working in the middle because Nicole Dean will be working in the middle a little bit. Maddie solidifies that position.”

In addition to Dunlap, Schwab and Smith, Celarek and current freshman Nicole Dean will see time at middle blocker, providing Sagnelli and assistant coach Greg Shell with strong depth at the position.

“We wanted to make sure with our outsides, with our middle, with our right sides, that we didn’t have any weaknesses,” said Sagnelli. “And we feel very strongly going into next season that we’re deep… and that only helps the team.”

Each of the recruits is seeing time at their positions on their club teams, providing valuable experience before arriving at Central in August. Both Massicotte and Smith were competing at a recent tournament in Philadelphia that Sagnelli and Shell were recruiting at.

All the recruits, with Celarek perhaps being the exception, will have time this coming season to continue their development as players. Sagnelli hopes they follow in the footsteps of Trueman, who emerged this past season as an All-Conference outside hitter after brief playing time her freshman year.

“She had that year to put strength on, technically fine-tune everything, get up to the speed of the college game. It helped her tremendously,” said Sagnelli of Trueman.

Sagnelli expects each recruit to have a shot at seeing playing time, with Celarek most certain of the four  to make it into the lineup.

“They come in with a good level of talent that if we need to, some of them  are going to be getting in there and fighting for a spot right away,” said Sagnelli.

That level of competition, though, should only serve to bring the best out of the players already on the team.