Category Archives: Sports

Blue Devils Turn Back Pioneers

In what may have been the final home game ever for the CCSU Ice Hockey Club, the Blue Devils were victorious on Senior Night, downing the Sacred Heart Pioneers 9-4 at Newington Arena on Friday.

Junior co-captain Joe Dabkowski’s hat trick powered the Blue Devil offense as they head into ACHA Regional competition on a five-game win streak. Fifteen different Blue Devils registered points in the victory, which once again showcased a potent Central offense.

“I was very impressed with how the guys looked,” said Head Coach Jim Mallia. “All four lines were coming together at the right time, kind of just like what we did last year,” a reference to finishing the 2007-08 regular season on an eight-game win streak.

The Blue Devils held an emotional edge with the uncertainty of the program’s future combined with saying goodbye to six senior student athletes. The offensive explosion began just 26 seconds into the game as Dabkowski opened the scoring, appropriately with goal number 26 on the season.

Less than two minutes later, sophomore Eric Blewett banged home his fourth of the season to give CCSU a 2-0 lead. Central’s third goal was the play of the game. The Blue Devils took advantage of a three-on-one as Matt Williams scored his fifth of the year thanks to some nifty passing from linemates Jeff Pease and Dane Anderson.

The tic-tac-toe marker certainly impressed coach Mallia.

“To see that from those three guys that were put together a couple of weeks ago,” Mallia said. “When they’re doing things like that, there’s no way I’m going to change that.”

Coach Mallia continued to praise the highlight-reel goal calling it, “one of the prettier goals I’ve seen in ten years.” A concern heading into the game was the quality of Sacred Heart as an opponent.

With the Pioneers sporting a record of 1-2 against Super East teams and their only win against a sub-par New York University team, it was another meaningless game for CCSU.

“In April, you schedule the teams and you don’t know how the teams are going to be,” said Mallia. “That’s just how the season ended.”

Dabkowski, a three-year veteran of the team, knows how important the past couple weeks have been for Central despite the lack of quality opponents.

“You’ve got to make sure you do all the little things that you always do. You go back to the basics against lesser opponents,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you don’t get into any bad habits. It’s really just to build confidence, put the puck away, play well defensively and make sure you have everything in gear heading into the postseason.”

Seven different Blue Devils scored in the victory, as six players had multi-point games. Craig Prema and Mike DiClemente each had three assists.

“That’s what we need,” said Dabkowski. “We need everyone putting the puck away and everyone playing defensive hockey.”

Senior Craig Height got the start in net, splitting time with Carmine Vetrano. Height allowed one goal in thirty minutes and earned the victory, his seventh of the season.

Central’s regular season record comes to a close at 17-8-1. Corey Emilia led the Pioneers offensively, grabbing a goal and two helpers. CCSU now looks ahead toward Regional competition, held in Albany, N.Y. this weekend.

The teams ranked third through 10th in the Northeast will take part in a single elimination tournament, and two semifinalists will qualify for the Division II National Championship. Central reached Nationals last year, and looks to return for the second consecutive season.

Standing in the Blue Devils’ way in round one are the Nittany Lions of Penn State University. While they are no longer members of the Super East, Penn State is a familiar foe for CCSU. “They’re primarily the same team as last year that we beat 5-0 and tied 5-5,” Mallia said. “It is ironic. You had to figure one of the Super East teams would face them in the Regional, and it happened to be us.”

 

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

Crockett Thrives in Comeback Year for Women’s Basketball

Versatility is a valuable weapon in women’s college basketball.

Weapons as a whole are often far more dangerous when they go undetected.

That’s what makes Leanne Crockett so vital to the Central Connecticut women’s basketball program in the midst of this year’s incredible turnaround. Crockett, a sophomore from Manchester, Conn., has the ability to play anywhere on the court.

With all her talent, she has a soft-spoken andfocused demeanor. That allows her to go relatively unnoticed during game play, until you look at the stat line and see the numbers she produces.

“She just makes a difference,” said head coach Beryl Piper.

Inside the paint, she has proven that she can hang with the best in the Northeast Conference, ranking in the top five in rebounds per game as a sophomore.

“She’s a big, strong kid,” explained Piper. “I’m not sure there’s a player in the conference that is as physically strong as Leanne is.”

That strength allows her to pull down over eight rebounds a game despite being just a shade under six feet tall. Away from the basket, Crockett makes just as much of a difference to the team. She averages ten points per game, and has shot better than 38 percent from beyond the arc this season. She has made more three-pointers this season than anyone else in the Northeast Conference and is in the top ten for rebounding.

“I think the kids want her to take the game-winning shot,” Piper said. “It’s funny, when she shoots, [the team] is always saying ‘knock, knock’ because they just assume it’s going to go in the basket all the time.”

With Central’s rebirth from 4-25 overall just a year ago to being seeded second in the NEC Tournament next week, such success may be unfamiliar to some of her teammates. However, Crockett is no stranger to big games or success in them. In 2003 and 2005, she helped lead the Manchester High School Indians to Class LL State Titles.

Playing alongside Crockett at MHS was teammate-turned-conference rival Khalia Cain, now of Sacred Heart.

“It was weird playing against her,” said Crockett. “I played with her for three years at the high school and she’s a good player. It was funny being on different teams.”

The two played against one another for the first time on January 31 at the William H. Pitt Center. While Cain’s Pioneers got the 76-64 victory, Crockett had the better stats on the day, scoring nine points and grabbing ten rebounds.

High school basketball also allowed Crockett to become more familiar with Piper.

“It worked out because I knew Piper from Manchester,” referring to Piper’s time as head coach of New Britain High’s basketball program.

With Manchester in the same conference as the Golden Hurricanes, the two were acquainted with one another and would soon cross paths in the future.Crockett attended the University of Maryland-Baltimore County her first year out of high school, but returned home after one year to enroll at CCSU.

“I liked the kids on the team, the coaching staff was nice, [but] it just wasn’t a good fit for me,” Crockett explains. “I just didn’t really like it there. I never felt comfortable.”

A return closer to home is apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Connecticut native. She sat out the 2007-08 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but was still able to practice and be around the team. That allowed her to have perspective on what the differences are between last year’s struggles and the accomplishments this season.

“We know how to finish and win games now,” she said. Winning certainly is made easier when Central’s team added a player who went on to win the NEC Rookie of the Week award twice, named among the top rebounders in the NEC, and nearly averages a doubledouble on the season.

Not only is she beneficial to the basketball team, but one school’s loss is the gain of two athletic programs. Crockett will also be competing as a member of the women’s track team in the throwing events. Last season she threw the javelin and discus, and placed third in the Yale Springtime Invitational with a javelin toss in excess of 31 meters.

For now, her sole focus is leading the women’s basketball program to a NEC Championship. When asked about the young team’s potential, her outlook is bright.

“We’re only going to continue to get better,” she said. The same goes for Central’s most versatile weapon.

 

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

CCSU Defeats Terriers, Clinches Second Seed in NEC Tournament

CCSU’s women’s basketball team defeated St. Francis (N.Y.) 64- 52 with double-doubles from Justina Udenze and Kerrianne Dugan on Alumni Day at Detrick Gymnasium.

Udenze put up her third straight double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Dugan added 15 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Coach Beryl Piper was pleased with the win.

“It is always good to win, especially with Alumni here,” she said.

Dugan spoke positively on the defensive effort of the team, which held St. Francis to 31.8 percent from the field.

“The past couple of games we have been struggling on defense, but today we picked it up,” she said. The Blue Devils were without one of their players as Leanne Crockett is stricken with bronchitis.

Freshman Shontice Simmons only played 16 minutes as she is dealing with a bad cold. “[Simmons] was struggling, but other kids stepped up,” Piper said, “We gotta pick it up without [Crockett].” CCSU had their biggest lead of the game with 11:41 remaining, when Udenze hit a layup to make it a 24 point gap at 49-25. For the Terriers (4-22, 3-13) Kendra Williams led the way with a double-double of her own, scoring 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Karla Babica added 10 points and eight rebounds while Vianca Tejada added 10 points in a losing effort. Freshman Gabrielle Oglesby who added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils, said in regards to the overall success of the season, “coming off of last year, [the success] is not the icing on the cake, but [it shows] that we are for real.”

The Blue Devils were unable to carry Saturday’s momentum into Monday night’s game against the Sacred Heart Pioneers as the fell 81- 62 to drop their record to 17-10 overall and 12-4 in the conference. The Blue Devils started out strong against the Pioneers and made several runs during the first half, but the Pioneers held onto the Blue Devils and kept it close.

Central led 23-17 with less than nine minutes left in the first half when the Pioneers began a 22-10 run that put them on top by six points heading into the locker room.

Freshman Shontice Simmons led the early Central charge, scoring 12 of her 18 points in the first half. But the Blue Devils could not slow down the best shooting team in the conference.

The Pioneers entered the game shooting a conference high 45 percent from the field and leading the NEC with 69.4 points per game. The Pioneers outscored the Blue Devils in the paint 18-14 but it was that high field goal percentage that hurt Central the most.

Led by sophomores Alisa Apo and Maggie Cosgrove the Pioneers extended their lead to eight points to start the second half. The Blue Devils managed to pull within four points of the Pioneers with just over 14 minutes left to play but then SHU took over. It would be another 5:14 seconds before the Blue Devils scored again. The Pioneers went on a 15-0 that saw Apo and Cosgrove score a combined 13 points in just over three minutes, including three three-point baskets. Apo led all scorers with 19 points for the game.

“They just keep nailing shots. Every time we made a mistake defensively they took advantage of it. They’re a smart team like that,” said Piper. “I don’t know you just can’t make mistakes against them. We have to do everything right to beat that team.”

Oglesby and junior P.J. Wade added 10 points to the Central effort while Udenze led the team with 11 rebounds and fell one point shy of her fourth straight double-double. CCSU has two games left in the regular season. On Saturday they will travel to Hamden to take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats as 1 p.m. and the will end the regular season at home against the Monmouth Hawks on Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m.

 

-Peter Collin, Managing Editor: ccsurecorder@gmail.com

Christopher Boulay contributed.

Blue Devils Far from the End

“What do you do when teams shoot the ball like that?”

It was an impressive performance for CCSU women’s basketball coach Beryl Piper to watch when the Sacred Heart Pioneers rolled through New Britain on Monday. The CCSU women’s basketball team has come a long way from last season but they haven’t travelled past the Sacred Heart Pioneers yet.

The Northeast Conference regular season champions came into New Britain and served notice to the Blue Devils, defeating them 81- 62. It’s hard to complain about what the Blue Devils have done this year under second year head coach Beryl Piper. Going from four wins to 17 is a remarkable feat no matter what the outcome of their season. But the Blue Devils recent performance begs the question of whether or not they will ever be able to step up beyond the elite SHU squad.

So far they have been able to overcome all of the other opponents that have stood in their way like Robert Morris and Monmouth. Much like the Blue Devils, the Pioneers are a very young team and will retain most of their major pieces for the next two seasons. This has all the makings of a classic rivalry that will last. The teams are geographically linked and both have a young core of players who have exceeded expectations for this season, albeit CCSU has exceeded theirs by leaps and bounds. Plus SHU has been the one opponent that the Blue Devils, or any other team in the NEC for that matter, haven’t been able to figure outthis season.

Like Peyton Manning, the Blue Devils are up against their Tom Brady and the Patriots and right now things aren’t looking good. It may be awhile before Central gets to write its chapter of the rivalry. The Blue Devils may go further than anyone expected except they probably won’t win the one game no one will expect them to. Central players were upset about their second defeat at the hands of the Pioneers and it is a certainty that this one stung all the more considering it happened in their own gymnasium.

But it just might not be their time yet; at least not yet their time against the Pioneers

“Our kids were upset,” said Piper. “And that’s a good thing. You don’t want them to be like, ‘we’re not supposed to win this game’ they wanted to win this game and they were upset with themselves.”

It is good to hear that the Blue Devils learned that losing is something they should never settle for after it had become such a tradition at Central. The hope would have to be that the Blue Devils take that anger and use it to make sure they never get complacent with the gains they have made this season.

The Blue Devils may get a third try at SHU in the NEC Tournament but the match up will be at the Pioneer’s house and Central will need to do a better job at defending the perimeter, something they have done well, except against the Pioneers.

For all of the tactical lessons the coach Piper will take from their most recent encounter with the top seed, the main lesson for her to take away, is that for once, losing is something that is hard to swallow for women’s basketball at CCSU.

 

-Peter Collin, Managing Editor: ccsurecorder@gmail.com

Column: Dorau the [Sports] Explorer

Press conferences are a delightful combination of eccentric behavior, frustrating clichés and fluctuating emotions that make sports journalism so appealing to guys like me.

Some days it may not seem like it, but there really is something special to speaking with a coach or player right after they’ve engaged in an on-field battle. That’s why I’m frustrated by the actions of a writer who badgered University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun this past weekend.

The reporter, apparently trying to make a name for himself, repeatedly questioned Calhoun on his annual salary of 1.6 million dollars. That sum makes him the highest paid employee in the state. Calhoun, instead of having to explain why his team only put up 64 points against a sub-par University of South Florida, found himself having to justify his paycheck in front of the assembled press corps.

I’m not suggesting that 1.6 million isn’t an absurd salary for someone to coach college basketball players, but this overzealous do-gooder needs to learn that there are appropriate times and channels for that line of questioning. There’s a reason I’m the Sports Editor here at The Recorder. I don’t have the mental strength to follow political, economical, and social intricacies. I’m far too aloof to recognize perceived injustices. I wrote just last week about the negativity in the sports world, a place that is supposed to be an escape for our society.

Coach Calhoun doesn’t have to justify his salary, neither do the second and third highest paid state employees UConn football coach Randy Edsall and women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. They generate tremendous amounts of revenue, and have more or less built programs. The vast majority of the athletes they coach will not be turning pro in their respective sports. These coaches, just like the coaches here at CCSU, are motivating the athletes to do their best in every aspect of their lives. The impact of such mentors cannot be measured in a paycheck.

When I sit in on a press conference after a tough loss and see Coach Howie Dickenman wring his hands from start to finish, I know there’s no greater motivator for those kids in the locker room than this coach sitting in front of us. When Coach Jeff McInerney asks the reporters after the game if we mind that he sits down, it’s tough not to laugh. He’s only been executing a meticulously detailed game plan, meeting potential recruits, and managing over 50 kids between the ages of 18 and 22 for the last six hours.

Not once during the past year have I wondered what any CCSU coach makes in a season, and frankly, I don’t care to know. I know we’re in a recession, depression or whatever nickname they’ve come up with for it this week. Making a high-profile coach take a pay cut is not going to fix America’s economic troubles any time soon. That’s fixing a gaping wound with a single band-aid.

Calhoun may be a state employee, but he built a program from the ground up that not only makes millions for UConn, but think of the economic stimulus each Huskies game at the XL Center brings to the surrounding businesses in an otherwise dreary Hartford.

The writer, whose illustrious accomplishments include writing for High Times Magazine, has a “manifesto” on his Web site, which more or less endorses vandalism. Mentioning his name or home page would just garner him publicity I don’t feel like handing out. In the ensuing article, the writer floats the notion that a pay cut from Calhoun could help sustain programs at the University, providing scholarships and equipment for other sports.

Here at CCSU, the Ice Hockey Club is in dire straits, being financially abandoned by the SGA. Never in my wildest dreams would I ask a Central coach or faculty member to take a pay cut in order to fund that program or any other on campus. I hope aspiring journalists would have the common sense to do the same instead of playing hero to hippies.

Cheer for the Game

Column: Avoid Idolizing the Player

We have not completely crumbled as a society – yet. Sports, however, is standing on wobbly knees.

The sporting world is its own little society. So many ideas and modes of thinking can be applied from one sport to another. The sports world is not limited to just competition, but also the front office, fan bases, revenue streams, and sadly, the courtroom.

In the past two weeks, we’ve seen some of the lowest of the low in the world of sports: an Olympic hero showing incredible stupidity and one of the all-time greatest legends being exposed for his use of illegal performance enhancers. It’s a disappointing time to be a sports fan, right?

Wrong. It’s only disappointing because we as a society allow it to be. We fans are nothing but naïve sycophants.

We put athletes on pedestals and worship the ground they walk on. We memorize their hometowns, career batting average, where they played college ball and their mother’s maiden name. We beg them for their used equipment as they walk down the tunnel before and after games, and buy jerseys with their names on the back. We name pets and even children after them.

The hypocrisy takes a more pronounced turn when we demand the most of our athletes. We want them faster, stronger, more agile. We demand perfection. Athletes with flaws are to be hidden, unseen, relegated to suburban gyms and fields where their once promising talent goes to die.

So when Alex Rodriguez, the best player in all of baseball is revealed to have used steroids, it’s almost comical how fast the morality police get up in arms.

Baseball is just one small example of where we’ve gone wrong. People act so outraged at those who use steroids, but can you blame them?

What do you see on Sportscenter? Home runs. Bombs. Dingers. They don’t show walks, opposite field base hits, or well-placed bunt singles.

We fell in love with the long ball, a small part of the game, and placed it above all other aspects of the sport. Very similar to how we’ve fallen in love with players for all the wrong reasons.

We forget that athletes are people like you or me. They share the same fears and struggles that we all do at our core. A-Rod, for all his talent, has (some pretty hefty) flaws.

Put your thoughts aside on whether or not smoking marijuana is a big deal. Michael Phelps, for all of his superhuman talent, is flawed with the decision-making ability of your average 23-year-old American.

When parents expressed such disappointment in him for letting their children down, it did nothing but showcase their own ignorance. We cheered on an athlete all summer who long before Beijing had earned himself a DUI.

And now, with so little to gain from smoking pot and everything to lose, he cost himself sponsorship money as well as his reputation with a large number of Americans. While it may just be strike two against him in the eyes of society, it’s a continued trend that shows once again he’s just an idiot who can swim better than anyone on the planet.

The swimming is the only difference. There are plenty of other idiots out there that show a lack of judgment. You don’t have to go far to see it in action.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Tim Tebow, who is everything the previous three guys are not. Yet, we’re still guilty of doing the exact same thing in relation to him. We place him on this pedestal and paint him as a Messiah figure. We are collectively waiting as a nation for pictures of him fondling two naked co-eds at a frat party to surface, so we can have the sick enjoyment of tearing him down.

Here on our campus, our athletes are accessible. I see basketball players walking to class. I see a baseball player in my communications class first thing in the morning. Soccer players can be seen working on projects in a computer lab around midday. Athletes can be seen practicing on Arute Field on nice afternoons.

While I lamented a lack of fanaticism in this very paper earlier this year, perhaps a lack of student enthusiasm is a good thing. Maybe it keeps these athletes grounded, and that’s why we don’t have steroid controversies and multi-million dollar endorsements being lost here at CCSU.

In the rest of the world, we live in a hero worship complex at its worst. We build all these athletes up just to tear them down. Whether it be for their lack of talent, their age, off-field habits, or personality, we find ways to pick them off.

There are ways to change the tide of this epidemic. Pass on asking a player for their autograph next time. Ignore the supposed “sanctity” of records, which are nothing more than numbers. Instead of attaching our egos to a team, let’s respect the hard work, celebrate the talent, root for a win and leave it at that.

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

Mallia Reaches 100-Win Milestone, Blue Devils Continue to Roll

CCSU trailed less than three and a half minutes into the game as Piero Iberti put Holy Cross on the board. The lead would be short-lived, as Rob Diclemente scored the first of five unanswered goals to finish out the first period, and the Blue Devils never looked back.

Dabkowski, Mike Diclemente, Billy Edwards and Dane Anderson also added goals for the Blue Devils in the period.

Coach Mallia was happy about his milestone victory, but refused to take all the credit.

“I am not into personal accomplishments. I started coaching here five years ago and the team was pretty rock bottom,” he said. “We have had great coaches and players, and it was great to get the win. I get the satisfaction that we have gotten [so much] out of the program.”

Matt Tyksinski scored the second goal for Holy Cross to open the second period, but it would be the final offensive effort for the visitors as the Blue Devils would score another four goals to close out the game.

Dabkowski added a goal in the second period. Forward Kevin Butler, who scored a power play goal with 3:47 left in the second period, was pleased with his team’s smooth play throughout the game and stated that it was the main reason for their strong victory on the night.

“The most important thing about the way that we played tonightwas that we were fluid,” Butler said. “We had good energy. The first five minutes, we had a bit of a lapse. But the best way to deal is to be fluid.”

CCSU would add two more goals in the third from Dabkowski and Mike Diclemente, both on the powerplay.

“Tonight we didn’t play the deepest team, but they are improved from the last time we played them when we won 16-4,” Mallia said. “I give them a lot of credit.”

Netminder Craig Height saved 27 of 29 shots for the Blue Devils. Height praised his teammates’ defensive effort throughout the game.

“We got some guys in that haven’t been playing and overall we played pretty well,” Height said. “We talked in between [the first and second] periods about how we needed to tighten the defense. [The effort] was definitely big.”

Height already is looking forward to the postseason, which CCSU will be playing in regionals, as well as the national tournament in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“We now need to win two games in Albany and then we can go to Michigan for nationals,” Height said.

CCSU also defeated New York University on Saturday, by a score of 10-4. Dabkowski, as well as the Diclemente brothers, scored twice and had three assists each.

Anderson, Jeff Pease, Ryan Beaulieu and Erich Stoneman also added a goal each. Hugo Goodwin added two goals for NYU and Matthew Anderson and Patrick O’Keefe added a goal each in a losing effort.

Carmine Vetrano stopped 34 of 38 shots for the Blue Devils, helping the team sweep the weekend’s games.

Blue Devil hockey returns next weekend with an alumni game at the Newington Arena on Friday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a match against Sacred Heart University at 8:30 p.m.

-Christopher Boulay, Asst. Sports Editor

Blue Devils Defeat FDU Knights

Women’s Basketball Pulls Off Fourth Straight Conference Win

The Blue Devils continued their resurgence on Monday night by defeating the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (9-16, 8-7) 71-69 at Rotman Center in Hackensack, N.J.

Central (16-9, 11-3) overcame a nine-point second half deficit to secure their first winning season since the 2000- 01.

Freshman Shontice Simmons led Central with 15 points while sophomore Justina Udenze put up her second consecutive double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds and scoring 12 points.

The Blue Devils lead by as many as eight points in the first half, but FDU chipped away at the CCSU lead before heading into the locker room with a two-point advantage.

Central trailed the Knights for most of the second half before they went on an 11-0 run that was capped off by a Udenze layup, giving them a two-point lead with 3:21 left in the game.

FDU managed to pull back in front but Central rallied again and gained the lead for good when sophomore Kerrianne Dugan nailed a three-point shot with 1:21 left in the game.

CCSU dominated the inside game against the Knights. The Blue Devils controlled the glass against, out-rebounding FDU 44-30 and they outscored the Knights in the paint 34-24.

Two other Blue Devils managed to tally double-digit points for the game. Sophomore Leanne Crockett put up 14 points and Gabrielle Ogelsby finished with 12.

The 16 wins are the most for the Blue Devils since the 1997-98 season when they tallied 17 victories and made their way to the semi-finals of the NEC tournament. The win is the Blue Devils fourth straight conference win.

The Blue Devils will take the court again this Saturday, Feb. 21 for Dr. Brenda Reilly Day at Detrick Gymnasium when they take on the St. Francis (N.Y.) Terriers at 4 p.m. Central with then host the conference leading Sacred Heart Pioneers on Monday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in Detrick Gymnasium.

-Peter Collin, Managing Editor: ccsurecorder@gmail.com

Blue Devils Fall at Home, Reach 1,000th Win

A game that was expected to be a historic victory for the CCSU Men’s Basketball program turned into a sobering loss at the hands of Fairleigh Dickinson.

The Blue Devils did not have an answer for FDU center and Connecticut native John Galvin as Central fell 80-73 at Detrick Gymnasium on Thursday night.

Galvin, a native of Weston, Conn., went off for a career-high 22 points on 10 of 12 shooting. He also added 13 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive glass.

Central Connecticut had just seven offensive rebounds as a team. Galvin was aided by the performances of teammates Sean Baptiste and Cameron Tyler.

Baptiste scored 17 points for the Knights and eclipsed 1,000 points for his career. Tyler nearly put up a triple double by posting 23 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists.

“Discouraging, depressing, disappointing,” lamented head coach Howie Dickenman. “The effort was minimal at best.”

Dickenman quickly focused on missed opportunities in his postgame comments.

“We had a pretty high number of missed layups. Might have been seven makeable layups in just the first half.”

Those missed layups combined with FDU making the most of their opportunities up close was the difference in the ballgame.

Central trailed for the vast majority of the game, by as many as 10 points late in the first half.

The Blue Devils were able to fight back and take a one-point lead with 3:28 remaining in the game. The cushion was short-lived, as FDU’s triumvirate of Galvin, Tyler, and Baptiste all made baskets as part of an 8-0 run in the following 1:46.

The lone bright spots for CCSU included Robby Ptacek, who had the hot hand offensively all night. The freshman guard shot seven for nine from the field en route to a careerhigh 20 points.

Thompson also played well, scoring 11 points and dishing out nine assists. He played all 40 minutes for the Blue Devils.

“I thought Shemik did a solid job as far as distributing the basketball,” said Dickenman. “Robby Ptacek was solid on offense, but as far as everyone else is concerned, I don’t think we got much of an effort.”

FDU attempted to establish the inside game early, involving 6’8” Czech forward Kamil Svrdlik in the first couple offensive possessions. He scored eight points in just 15 minutes, but left the game with an apparent lower leg injury.

From that point on, it was John Galvin’s show. The Knights scored 46 points in the first half, with 34 of them coming from in the paint.

“It’s tough playing from behind,” said Thompson. “We shouldn’t have been down in the first place. We gave up way too many points. They did whatever they wanted to do on offense.”

The crowd of 1,786 on hand was looking for anything to cheer about, but had nothing to celebrate except fleeting one-point leads.

“We probably should give the fans their money back,” said Dickenman.

“This is the first time I can remember in Detrick Gym that I heard a lot of disgusted fans, some catcalls, some clapping that was sarcastic,” Dickenman said. “But you know what? We deserved it.”

Marcus Palmer and Aaron Hall each scored in double digits in the loss. Hall left the game with an injury in the second half, and did not return. He did not play on Saturday, either.

“It’s disappointing,” Thompson said. “It’s embarrassing. We should have beat them. This is a game that we needed.”

Coming off such a staggering loss, Central’s next challenge was the Division II Bryant Bulldogs, who are making the transition to Division I and will join the Northeast Conference in 2012.

“They have six wins against [Northeast] Conference opponents,” explained Dickenman. “Every game against a league opponent is their big game.”

Central’s head coach made it clear that he would rather be facing another NEC opponent instead of going out-of-conference after such a sub-standard effort.

The Blue Devils were able to bounce back on Saturday against their future conference rivals, beating Bryant 65-61 on the road in Smithfield, R.I.

Ken Horton made up for a lackluster performance on Thursday, scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds as he led CCSU to victory, number 1,000 in the program’s history.

Central shot over 54 percent from the field in the game, as they were able to keep the strong outside shooting of Bryant at bay.

It was a close contest, as the game was tied eight different times and the lead changed four times.

With the game even at 33 entering the second half, Marcus Palmer immediately responded to whatever was said to him at halftime.

The senior forward alone outscored the Bulldogs 7-0 to start the second half, with all three baskets being assisted by Shemik Thompson.

The Blue Devils now find themselves 7-7 in the NEC, and 12- 13 overall.

They head back into conference action this Thursday as they host the Sacred Heart Pioneers, who defeated the visiting Blue Devils 77- 69 on January 31. Gametime is 7 p.m. as Central attempts to put themselves back in position to host a home game in the NEC tournament.

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

The New Hope for Basketball at Central

Women’s basketball at CCSU hasn’t had many moments in the sun.

They have spent the majority of their Division I existence in the bowels of the Northeast Conference.

Much like the basketball program, head coach Beryl Piper finds herself sitting in the bowels of Kaiser Hall, out of sight and out of mind for much of the CCSU campus.

Until now.

In a remarkable turn of events the CCSU women’s basketball program has burst from the NEC basement to contention in just one season. The Blue Devils have already tallied 16 victories with four games remaining in the season and only one year after they managed just four wins.

With the team only losing one senior after the season and a strong group of underclassmen returning next year, women’s basketball at Central looks to be a strong contender for years to come.

The biggest reason for this sudden turn of events can be found just underneath Detrick Gymnasium in the form of the team’s second-year head coach.

Winning seems to follow Piper wherever she goes. During her senior year at Central, 1985-86, she led the Blue Devil basketball team to its best season ever. She won a national championship in Ireland and when she landed her first head coaching job at New Britain High School, she supervised the turnaround from an 0-20 team, to perennial contenders for the state championship.

She then proceeded to capture three during her final five seasons with the Hurricanes and became a CCSU Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee in 1999.

Then she got the call to return to her alma mater, Central Connecticut, and was charged with the task of rebuilding a program that hadn’t won more than 10 games in six seasons.

But the task of rebuilding is not something that she gravitates to.

“I don’t know why I do that,” said Piper. “I guess it’s about opportunity. At New Britain it was an opportunity to coach and I really wanted to coach and I think here, when I was approached about the job it was just an opportunity – something I wanted to do out of college.”

Her office is simple and unassuming; it doesn’t have to be anything luxurious, as Piper tends to spend most of her time on the court. Her new job no longer allows her the luxury of seeing friends and family on holidays or spending as much time as she’d like hiking with her two dogs Oliver and Reilly.

There are two basketballs that sit above her desk. Both are game balls commemorating her first collegiate victory and her first NEC victory.

Those victories were not easy to come by for Piper. She had to wait until game 10 on Dec. 12, 2006 for that first win and game 14 on Jan. 7, 2007 for that first conference win, a hard fought affair at Wagner College that the Blue Devils pulled out in overtime.

There were only two more victories for the Blue Devils that season and many wrote them off for the 2008-09 season.

The NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll had them finishing dead last in the conference.

“I was kind of happy that the conference picked us 11th,” said C.J. Jones the Athletic Director at CCSU and the man responsible for bringing Coach Piper into the fold at Central. “Because I would have bet the house, the ranch and everything else that we were not going to finish 11th in the conference.”

Jones has been a fan of Coach Piper for years all the way back to Piper’s days as a playerand Jones’ days as an assistant for the men’s basketball team.

He looked to bring her in on more than one occasion, but encountered resistance from some at CCSU who felt it would be a mistake to hire someone with no college experience.

“Probably about five or six years ago I had some interest in her coming in to coach Central,” said Jones. “There was some hesitation on the administration’s part that someone from high school would be successful on the college level. Obviously I didn’t have any doubts, but at that time it wasn’t the right time to fight city hall and bring Beryl in.”

Piper has always been a part of Connecticut and that is something Jones has always wanted in his coaches.

After playing three sports for Trumbull High School, Piper jumped at the chance to play basketball for the Blue Devils and CCSU Alumni Hall of Fame coach Dr. Brenda Reilly as a freshman in 1982.

It wasn’t long before Piper helped lead a turnaround in the Blue Devil program. Central went from 9-18 her sophomore year to 24-4 in her senior season. The season was the perfect stepping stone for the Blue Devils to make the jump from Division II to Division I women’s basketball.

“Knowing the success that she had at New Britain, it makes you want to be around people that are successful… The record speaks for itself,” said assistant coach Glenn Senecal. “I saw New Britain play and I knew the style that they play and the style she likes to play – and to me that’s a lot of fun.”

Senecal watched Piper as he was recruiting some of her players at New Britain High School. Like Piper, he feels at home at Central, which is a far closer commute than his last job at the University of Albany.

“She makes it fun to come to work,” said Senecal. “The success that we’ve had so far, it shows just what kind of style and what kind of coach she is.”

That aspect of fun in Piper’s game is what keeps her players going, too. Piper reaches her team through hands-on coaching, as is evidencedby her heavy involvement in practices and her desire to show players rather than just telling them about how they need to improve.

“She’s been there. She was a player when she played here in college, so she knows what it’s like. The monotony sometimes of a four- or five-month season – she knows how to break that up,” said junior P.J. Wade, who is one of three players left from the pre-Piper era. “We have extremely hard preseason workouts and a lot of times people used to give up in past seasons.”

Like Wade, most of the players on the team respect Piper’s former experience as a college player and for her time playing professionally in Ireland. Piper’s open-door policy and that of her coaches allows them to easily relate to players.

Even though Piper has been part of numerous turnarounds in her career, she isn’t necessarily looking for the tough assignments; they tend to find her. She was simply looking for the next opportunity and it just so happened that every time she had the challenge of rebuilding the team in front of her.

For now, the only things in front of her are the NEC playoffs and pushing her players to go farther than any other team before them in the tournament.

Wade says that the “never say die” attitude of this year’s team is something that has rubbed off from Coach Piper.

“This season people really wanted to get it done,” Wade said, “to be the best that we could be in the preseason.”

Losing has been a pattern for women’s basketball at CCSU, but it’s something that Piper and the team haven’t let it become acceptable.

“It hasn’t been because the kids haven’t allowed that to happen,” Piper said, “… they stepped up in a positive way.”

-Peter Collin, Managing Editor: ccsurecorder@gmail.com