Category Archives: Sports

From Walk-On To NEC Champion

By Nick Rosa

Sam Alexander, a senior cross country runner, won the Northeast Conference Championship a little over a week ago, helping his Blue Devil team to their third straight championship.

Alexander has been training his whole high school and college career to achieve as many NEC rings and his individual title.  Going through some obstacles, he showed that passion, hard work, and dedication go a long way.

Alexander first started running cross country at Clark Lane Middle School in sixth grade, but didn’t run again in an organized meet until his freshman year in high school.  Attending Waterford High School, this is where his running career began.

Being one of the best on his team and becoming captain in his final years, according to Alexander, he had a “Pretty modest high school career and really didn’t do much.”

Never traveling to Nationals for cross country or track or going to New Englands, his most memorable moment at Waterford was setting the course record during a dual meet.

Having a quiet high school career isn’t the end all of a career, as he’s proven since being at CCSU.  You don’t need nationals or All-American status in high school to become a great runner in the future. Of course it would be nice to have, but Alexander’s years in high school paved the way for much better things to come.

A great coach was also a big part of Alexander’s future success.  Coach Jen Merrill trained him his first three years.  “I had the privilege of having a really terrific coach.  She was a former world record holder in a few events and she didn’t want to burn me out in high school before college,” he said.  “I talk to her now and she’ll take credit for not killing me in high school,” he added.  Merrill ended up taking a position at Rutgers.

Alexander didn’t have it the easiest time when it came to start getting ready to run at college.  Former head coach Kawecki and then-assistant coach Eric Blake didn’t recruit Alexander; instead, Alexander contacted them to come run for the Blue Devils.

“I knew I was going here and I loved track and cross country so much, so they allowed me to come to pre-season, which was really big to me, I was really grateful for that,” Alexander said.  He ran all summer before his freshman year to get ready for that because he knew he wasn’t one of the better guys going into the season.

The biggest influence for Alexander is his connection to his team and teammates.  He drew a lot from his team in high school. “I do the same now, I can’t say enough about the guys on the team now and how supportive everyone is of each other,” Alexander said.

This team has been through a lot together and their experiences while running together for four years has definitely helped.

Alexander has had quite the successful track and cross country career so far at CCSU.  That’s also thanks to the now-head coach Blake.

“The training he believes in clicks perfectly with my body.  What he has us doing is the right thing.  There are different philosophies on coaching, but the results kind of speak for themselves and we do more volume than most teams in the conference.  As long as you do it smart that’s really what helped us so much,” Alexander said of his coach.

He spoke very high of Blake as his coach, even adding in that he is a very personable guy and that his office door is always open for his athletes to come talk to him.  “There’s no one else I’d rather be coached by, he just really gets it,” he added.

When asked what his most memorable moment in college was so far, there were a few that stood out.

In indoor track last year,  Alexander won an exciting 5K race at the New England Championships, only winning by three hundredths of a second. He was runner up in last year’s outdoor IC4A’s in the 10K and missed qualifying for East Regionals by three seconds. He was even runner up at last year’s NECs behind former teammate Ry Sanderson, but the one that stands out the most is his new title as NEC Champion as of a couple weeks ago.

“IC4A’s was pretty significant for me since it was such a high powered meet and winning the NEC Championship is very special to me, since it was a conference meet and was something I have dreamt of doing,” Alexander said of his achievements.  This was also the second consecutive year CCSU had a NEC cross country champion.

Other things you can add to his resume include being part of last year’s indoor track and field championship and being a part of the amazing three-peat in cross country, which in 2009 was the first ever NEC championship in school history.

A total of three cross country and one indoor NEC ring makes for a considerably successful career and he still can add to that list going into indoor and outdoor season.

Trying to get a second consecutive ring going into indoor season in a couple months, Alexander is confident they can win once again.  “I think we’re definitely going to be one of the contenders,” he said.

Alexander has had a successful running career at CCSU, beginning with being invited to pre-season as a walk-on athlete.  It’s hard not having the recruitment and giving the coaches an idea of your running style, but Alexander never stopped pursuing a spot on the roster.

Barely getting an invite back, he made the team and didn’t look back, getting better and better every year by running hundreds of miles every summer and training hard in the winter.

His confidence in his team and himself made him a successful walk-on, setting a goal and achieving it.

He looks to run competitively after college  and train at an even harder level than he is now, but after finding a job, of course.

Alexander looks to improve on his IC4A time in last year’s 10K this upcoming weekend and continues his journey to his second consecutive indoor championship and first outdoor championship in the spring.  If  he and the team are successful, he would be adding on to an already impressive college track and cross country resume.

Club Hockey Splits Weekend Games

By Brittany Burke

Back-to-back game days saw the CCSU club hockey team splitting their weekend matchups, losing at home before turning around the next night to win on the road.

Saturday night’s 7-3 win at New York University (9-2-0-0) was a redemption game for the Blue Devils (4-4-2-1) who lost at home to the Bobcats on Oct. 15. The initial matchup loss was a close game, which ended in overtime. But as CCSU took the ice at Sky Rink in New York things seemed to be different.

Even with 74 penalty minutes, the Blue Devils quickly got the early lead, burying the Bobcats 4-0 five minutes into the second period. Eight different players had a hand in the NYU defeat, and getting multiple lines rolling and productive is something that the CCSU team has been trying to do since last season.

Jon Knobloch and Ryan Stanley both had four points in the game, two goals and two assists, while Adam Mazurkiewicz, Nick Centore and Matt Siracusa all had a goal each.

Aside from the five goal scorers, three others, Conor Stanley, Adam Goldstein and Sean Stoneman each had at least one assist.

After being rested from the night before, starting goalie Greg Coco took his spot between the pipes and had 37 saves on 40 shots on goal.

The win followed a late night game at the Newington Arena, in which the Blue Devils lost to longtime Super East rivals, the Siena Saints. With John Palmieri starting in net, the Saints outshot the Blue Devils 30 to 23, with Siena (9-1-2-0) notching 2 goals against CCSU’s 1.

“[Palmieri’s] been working real hard in practice, he’s been looking real good in practice and with the history of Siena I figured it’d be good to throw a little curveball in and start somebody who has no idea what Siena’s about and maybe psychologically doesn’t buy into everything that’s been said,” Head Coach Ben Adams said.

It was CCSU who struck first, with a goal coming from C. Stanley. The Blue Devil rookie has 14 points in 11 games, and was fed the puck from older brother, Ryan, and Knobloch. With R. Stanley bringing the puck up the left side, he sent it sailing to his brother who managed to ding it in off the goal post.

“I knew [Siena was] a good team and they were going to have four lines that could play and they had quality defensemen and good goalies, and I knew it was going to be a battle and I knew we could play with them, so it was great to come out like that,” said C. Stanley.

CCSU dominated the first period of play, keeping the puck in their own attacking zone, but Siena came back out to the ice after first intermission with an additional fire that they were lacking in the opening minutes.

“They’re a team that was expected to beat us, coming into the second it was 1-0 and we were winning, so I think the coach had a few choice words in the locker room and they came out hard and you got to give them credit, but we should’ve matched their intensity and that’s on us I guess,” said R. Stanley.

A stick-side corner goal tied the game in the early minutes of the second period, but the Saints wouldn’t secure the win until the third.

After the initial Siena goal the game went back and forth, with CCSU having trouble clearing its own zone. The Blue Devils had the chance to take the lead when Siena’s Casey Hladik was sent to the box for five minutes off a hit made to R. Stanley in the CCSU attack zone.

“I think if you don’t score on a five minute, it kind of gives the team momentum that killed off the penalty because it’s huge, especially with five minutes on the powerplay, I think that could have been a turning point [for us],” said R. Stanley.

CCSU began to fight back, but couldn’t capitalize against the Siena penalty killers, and eventually ran out of time for the come-from-behind win.

The Blue Devils will remain at home for the next two weeks beginning with the Nov. 12 game against Northeastern at 10 p.m. in Newington.

Column: November Gets Hairy For A Cause

By Brittany Burke

In October, women post secret and confusing Facebook statuses about the color of their bras or where they leave their purses. The color pink is prominently displayed, even on professional football fields, all in the name of breast cancer awareness.

Now that October has come and gone, it is time for the women to step aside and to let the men take center stage. The month of November isn’t about posting statuses, it’s about putting down the razors and letting the facial hair grow.

While October is dedicated to breast cancer, the next month is all about raising awareness for cancers that affect men, most notably prostate cancer.

In past years I’ve heard about the “No Shave November” movement, which challenged men to grow beards (something usually reserved for NHL playoff season), but this year it seems to be all about growing mustaches and renaming November to Movember.

Being able to grow facial hair is usually something men pride themselves in, or at least from what I’ve heard from my guy friends and 17-year old brother, who can have a full beard in less than a month, so it makes sense that to raise awareness from men they’d go scruffy for 30 days.

The men who participate are most notably called Mo Bros. The idea that began in Australia has spread quickly throughout the world, garnering more and more attention. It seems that having multiple men with moustaches is doing the same thing as the confusing Facebook statuses were, which is getting people to ask questions.

So far there have been over 1 million participants and $174 million rose in the effort to garner awareness for men’s health since 2003. The United States Movember foundation funds charities such as the Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

What makes this movement so strong is that it’s not just for men like breast cancer awareness month isn’t just for women. Larry Fitzgerald and multiple athletes and professional organization cast stereotypes aside and donned pink for awareness and in November there can also be Mo Sistas.

No, this doesn’t mean to stop shaving your legs or something crazy like that, that doesn’t help anything. Instead, being a Mo Sista means putting up with a month of beard burn, supporting the Mo Bros and speaking about the cause.

It’s vital with causes like the ones in the past couple of months, to be creative to draw even more attention. NHL goalie, Jonas Hiller has started to wear a new mask in honor of the cause. The mask was created with his Duck teammates’ portraits on it, but all the pictures have drawn-on moustaches. At the end of the month Hiller plans to auction the mask off and donate the proceeds to prostate cancer research.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to make a difference, every conversation and dollar helps in trying to rid the world of cancer.

CCSU Ends Losing Streak, Beats RMU 31-24

By Brittany Burke

Fourteen graduating seniors took to Arute field in front of family, friends and Blue Devils fans for the last time Saturday play Northeast Conference rivals, the Robert Morris Colonials. In the final home game of the season CCSU managed to snap a six-game losing streak, while handing RMU its fourth consecutive loss, 31-24.

While it was the last game for fourteen athletes, fifteen Blue Devils were honored in the pre-game ceremonies. The atmosphere around Arute grew solemn as the seniors lined up on the sidelines with family members flanking either side of them.

The first Blue Devil honored was number 94, Rich Royster. The 2011 season was dedicated to Royster, and it was his mother who met Head Coach Jeff McInerney and Athletics Director Paul Schlickmann at midfield.

Prior to the defeat of RMU, CCSU hadn’t won since Sept. 17 at Wagner, and the fans hadn’t seen a home win since the season opener against the Southern Connecticut State University Owls. The early lead provided by Brian Fowler’s 9-yard run was also the first lead since Oct. 8 in the loss against UMass.

Fowler, a graduating senior, had two touchdowns in the game and 91-yards. He finished second in rushing for the Blue Devils behind running back Chris Tolbert.

Tolbert had an explosive game, finishing with 162-yards rushing and 23-yards receiving. While it may have been senior day, it was the sophomore who had a career-high game, breaking the 100-yard mark for the first time.

David Sabilia and Raul Debenendittis also had a hand in securing points for the Blue Devils. Sabilia scored with under two minutes to play in the half following a 15-yard RMU personal foul. The seven points was the first for Sabilia, who plays both tight end and offensive linebacker.

Debenendittis on the other hand had the only touchdown in the third, which was dominated by the defense.

Over the past six weeks the Blue Devils had gotten away from the nitty-gritty fundamentals of football, but offensively things seemed to click for CCSU. Aside from Tolbert’s record game, the Blue Devils also racked up a season high 279-yards rushing.

Defensively there are things that still need to be worked on, but the team is continually building foundations for next year’s roster. While CCSU got up early, RMU managed to score 10 unanswered points, however following the half the team came out with an additional fire.

A Tyrell Holmes interception kept the Colonials out of the end zone and gave CCSU the chance to get more points on the board, resulting in a 31-yard field goal.

Prior to the half, RMU quarterback Jeff Sinclair had to be helped off the field and was later replaced for the remaining quarters by freshman back Matt Layman.

The Blue Devils now have momentum going into a bye week before traveling to Bryant to finish out the season.

Led By Horton, Men’s Basketball Is Ready For Tournament Run

By Kenny Barto

“It’s Time, March 7th, 2012.”

That’s the message that appears on the back of the CCSU men’s basketball team’s practice jerseys. The date marks the Northeast Conference championship game, which the Blue Devils fell just short of last year with a 69-67 semifinal loss to the eventual champions, Long Island University.

“Motivation, inspiration,” Kenny Horton said of the meaning of the message they wear on their backs. “It a reminder every day of what we’re working for, March 7th, we want to get to the championship game, we want to win and get ready for selection Sunday on March 11th.”

Horton is the leader of the CCSU squad that enters the 2012 season predicted to finish third in the NEC. At practice last Thursday, Horton went 9-12 from three-point range, and 18-28 overall. The 6-foot-6 senior from Ossining, NY is carrying a lot of baggage, however.

According to the Hartford Courant, Horton is accused of punching his ex-girlfriend, Ronnie Caruso, in the face outside of a New Britain bar. He has a January court date and the Department of Athletics would not comment any further on the situation.

Still, Head Coach Howie Dickenman spoke volumes about just how good Kenny Horton is. The rest of the NEC seems to think so as well, as he was named to the preseason all-conference first team.

“He’s ridiculously good,” Dickenman said. “He has the green light if he wants to shoot 20 three pointers per game and he has the ability to do that provided that he’s got an open shot…I want him to shoot the three pointer if he’s open, and if he doesn’t for one reason or another, I tell him that he’s hurting the team.”

Horton shot 37.6% from beyond the arc last season, which led the team. His overall field goal percentage was 49.2% and led the team with 35.4 minutes per game. Horton also led the Blue Devils in rebounding with 275. The next highest was Shemik Thompson with 159.

“We can’t count on Kenny for everything, even though he’s by far our best rebounder,” Dickenman said. “We’d like somebody to beat him out for rebounds, but that’s highly unlikely. He’s catching everything, it’s like he has glue on his hands, he just comes up with everything.”

The Blue Devils had a full squad practicing with all 14 roster players being subbed in and out during a simulated game. Dickenman said that CCSU could go “9 or 10 deep” in a single game, something important to a Blue Devils squad that has only had seven or eight regular contributers in prior seasons.

“Dave [Simmons] and I were talking about it a little bit,” Horton said. “It was the first time that he’s guarded me and I lit him up a little bit. It’s competitive and we push each other out there. I would rather him guard me more than anyone else because he’s an aggressive player that goes out and pushes me every day.”

Dave Simmons returns to the Blue Devils after a one-year hiatus. The long-armed, 6-foot-5 senior from Syracuse, NY wasn’t enrolled at CCSU during the fall semester last year, but returned for the spring semester. He spent most of the second half of the season out of uniform, but he did suit up for the last few games.

“Dave brings that toughness, he brings that spark,” said Horton. “You have to play tough against him because if you don’t, he’ll out-muscle you, out-rebound you.”

The three forwards will likely be made up of Horton, Simmons and Joe Efese. The guards could be De’Angelo Speech and Robby Ptacek. Coach Dickenman didn’t favor any one freshman, but said they are all working hard.

“They aren’t playing like freshman,” Dickenman said. “But, that doesn’t mean when the lights go on they won’t make mistakes. They need to make those mistakes, that’s how they get better.”

There is more height available on the bench for the Blue Devils. Sophomore Justin Alexander, who saw limited playing time, is 6-foot-9, and freshman Erick Raleigh from Philadelphia, PA, measures in at 6-foot-8.

The Blue Devils open up against a tough opponent in Yale. They will face off on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at the Connecticut Six Classic.

“I want them to be nervous,” Dickenman said. “I told them, they’re going to have trouble breathing. They’re going to have rubber legs when they run out there, but they need to be ready for that.”

CCSU will have an interesting out of conference schedule this year, with home matchups against Yale, Army, UMBC, Hartford and La Salle. Their road matchups are at Niagara, Michigan State, Brown, Northwestern and UMass.

“We have a pretty good schedule this year,” Dickenman said. “We almost added Maryland to that list, but it didn’t work out. We might try to go down in the same area next year as it seems we might add two more kids from the D.C. area, but we also added Michigan State and Northwestern on there, which will be tough games.”

As for the message on their practice jerseys, it’s something that has been in place for years. But, the last time a date was on them was when the ‘Selection Sunday’ date was on them in the 2006-2007 season. In that season, the Blue Devils went 16-2 and won the NEC in front of a national audience.