Friday, April 17, 2015

UAlbany men's lax set to honor JP Honsinger in Top-10 matchup

The University at Albany men's lacrosse team wants to win on Saturday night.

After all, it's the first time in over eight years that the No. 8 Great Danes have hosted a top-10 matchup on their home field, taking on No. 7 Yale at Bob Ford Field. But while a victory would be huge for the team, and for its RPI standings heading into the postseason, it would also be a chance to honor a local kid who has become as much as part of the team as anyone on the roster.
Honsinger received a sign UA lax jersey from the team
during practice last year - via UAlbany Athletics

JP Honsinger, who earned national attention this winter after being signed as part of the men's basketball recruiting class, is currently battling childhood Alzheimers and the Danes are even more focused on honoring him.

"I think the win isn’t the thing. I think the thing we are always more concerned about is how we play," said Danes coach Scott Marr. "The game itself, when you’re talking about the creator’s game and playing for someone who is ill, it’s not always about a win or loss, it’s about how you play and how you conduct yourself. We just want to play well and play hard and hope that just present a good game."

Honsinger has been a consistent presence on the sidelines for the Danes' lax squad over the past few years and this isn't the first time the group has honored him or his fight. Tonight, the team sold $15 chairback sits at midfield through Honsinger's fund Jammin' for JP and all of those seats will also receive a JP bobblehead.

"(Yale is) a great team but we’re a great too team. We’re excited to play in this stadium. We’re excited to honor JP too, that’s one thing we’re really excited about," said Danes goalie Blaze Riorden. "He’s been around our team the last two years and he’s a huge influence on us. Each and every day we come out and we play for each other, but we also play for him. So that makes it a little more special."

For the Danes, seeing Honsinger's constant positive outlook and his determination to be part of the team is as much a motivator as Yale's national ranking.

A win against the Bulldogs could have a huge impact on UA's post-season chances but it is also a chance to bring awareness to a cause and a fight that has come to shape this team off the field as well. Honsinger battles every day and so, for this one night, the Danes will battle; in his honor.

"He kind of just brings us all together," said midfielder Tim Cox. "Whenever he comes out on the field, if you’re having a bad day, you’re having a good day, he always makes you feel better. He’s out here running around and he gives you that good, warm feeling in your heart. For him to be out here, for that night, it’s going to be a lot more focused on him which is going to help bring us together on the field."

Siena men's and women's hoops officially sign incoming recruits

The Siena men's and women's teams got a little official on Friday afternoon; announcing the official signings of a trio of incoming recruits. 

Baltimore guard Nico Clareth and Ogdensburg Free Academy's Kinnon LaRose each returned their National Letters of Intent, confirming their commitment to play basketball for the Saints next season. 

Clareth (6-4, 185), wrapped up his senior season at Calvert Hall College with a Baltimore Catholic League champinoship and was ranked No. 4 in-state and No. 159 nationally. Clareth, who offers a strong shooting presence off the wing, was named to the BCL First Team. 

"We’re super excited to have Nico,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “I expect him to come in and start right away for us. He’s very athletic and has a great will to win. He comes from an outstanding program.”

LaRose meanwhile just wrapped up one of the best-ever performances in the history of North Country basketball. The OFA standout, who 518'ers may remember from NYS Tournament matchups against Watervliet, finished with 1,769 career points, averaging 39.2 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals as a senior. He also set the career (209) and single-season (83) 3-point record for the Blue Devils as well as the career (248) and single-season (94) leader in steals. 

He was named to the USA Today's All-USA New York Boys Baksetball second team earlier this week, just one of 10 student-athletes in the entire state. 

"Kinnon has a lot of potential,” Patsos said. “He will have to get accustomed to the speed of the game at this level, but he’s a high-character, high-quality kid. He’s more well-rounded than you think.” 

The pair join fellow recruits Evan Fisher and Kenny Wormley who signed their NLI's during the Early Signing period in November. It's a solid group of talent for the Saints who will also see the return of Brett Bisping and Imoh Silas in the frontcourt after both were sidelined with injuries this season. 

The Saints are also set to host a visit for Richmond transfer Kadeem Smithen this weekend. Smitheen played 23 games for the Spiders this past season, all off the bench, and averaged 3.6 minutes and 0.5 points per game. Per NCAA rules, he would be required to sit out a season after transferring. 

On the women's side of things, the Saints announced the signing of Karolina Severova, a guard/forward combo from Prague who becomes the fourth member of the incoming freshman class. 

Severova spent the past three season playing in the Czech Republic, mainly for the  Sparta Praha of the Czech Basketball Federation Second League, where she averaged 10.9 points and 4.2 rebounds. She is also a member of the Czech National Team.

"We are very excited to welcome Karolina to the Siena family,” said head coach Ali Jaques. “She is a talented wing that can really shoot and score the basketball. Her international experience and maturity as a player and person will add a lot to our program.”

Severova joins Jackie Benitez, Katcia Perryman and Deja Rawls, all of whom signed their NLI's in November. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

UAlbany TE Nic Ketter will miss season with knee injury

UAlbany tight end, and Queensbury native, Nic Ketter will miss the upcoming football season with a knee injury, Great Danes coach Greg Gattuso said on Wednesday.

Ketter injured his knee in a non-contact exercise during spring practices this month. He was expected to play a much larger role in the UAlbany offense this season after a solid performance under now-NFL prospect Brian Parker last year.

"Nic hurt his knee. He’s out. He’ll need knee surgery," said Gattuso. "We’re waiting to hear back from the doctors to know for sure but he’s going to be out and doing rehab for the next year. Hopefully that’ll go well. Knowing Nic, whenever the second is that he’s allowed back, he’ll be back."

Ketter finished with eight receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns last season, averaging just under 11 yards a catch. His injury is a difficult loss for a UAlbany offensive group that is very young, losing its starting quarterback, running back and three receivers from last year's squad.

"It is, though, it’s a big blow," said Gattuso. "But we’ve moved a couple of young guys and they’re doing well. It’s the nature of football. It is what it is, you’ve got to have the next man up mentality."

Those new players will be able to make some game-speed plays this Saturday as the Great Danes host their annual Spring Game at Bob Ford Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Although Ketter won't be on the field this fall, or even this Saturday afternoon, UAlbany and Gattuso still expect big things from the former Section II standout. The second-year head coach even said that he told Ketter he'll still be making trips with the team in-season and that the team will turn to him as a leader as UAlbany looks to make a bit of a run in CAA play.

Ketter won't be suiting up any time soon, but he's no less a part of the team than he was before the injury.

"I mean, I love him, he’s an incredibly good kid and his passion for the sport and everything is insane," said Gattuso. "But he’ll be fine. He’s going to mature and he’s going to still be a leader. I told him we’ll take him on trips and we’ll need him to be a leader."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

MORE OFFENSE: UAlbany women's lax is also setting scoring records

We know the University at Albany men's lacrosse team is good. They're nationally ranked. They're the top-scoring team in the entire country.

They're also not the only lax team that UAlbany has.

The No. 19/18 women's squad is just as offensively minded and just as offensively successful and (ahead of Wednesday afternoon's game against Brown) now seems like a fairly good time to discuss that.

Let's get, more, offensive.

UAlbany athletics

UAlbany can clinch its sixth consecutive season with 10 or more wins against Brown, looking to bounce back after a tough 7-5 loss to 9/8 Stony Brook last Saturday night. But while it was their second loss of the season, the Great Danes offensive numbers have continued to hold strong.

Maureen Keggins leads every player in the country in assists per game, averaging just over three on a UA squad that is averaging 14.9 goals a game. The senior is just four assists shy of passing former teammate Rachel Burek on the all-time UAlbany assist list to rank second. She needs 16 more assists to become the all-time single season assists leader.

Y'all know what that means, right? That means that UA leads the nation in assists per game on both the men's and women's side. Let that sink in for just a second.

But this is about more than just one player's offensive dominance.

The Great Danes rank sixth in the NCAA in scoring offense, third in scoring defense (allowing 5.36 goals per game) and, perhaps most importantly, first in scoring margin; 9.55.

As far as America East stats go, UAlbany is dominating the offensive side of things. The Danes' 14.9 goals per game average is just over three goals more than their closest competitor, Stony Brook. UA also leads the league in assists per game, points per game and draw controls per game.

In other words, when UA has the ball - and that seems to happen a lot - the Danes are generally scoring the ball. They're also last in the league in fouls per game and turnovers per game. Meaning? UAlbany isn't losing possession very often.

In other words, this year's team is good.

There's also a good amount of individual stat glory to go around. Dakotah Savitcheff is second in the AEast in goals per game (3.73) while Maureen Keggins and Allie Jimmerson are one and two in assists per game. Four UA players are in the top ten in points per game.

The Danes are a perfect 6-0 at home, ahead of today's matchup against the Bears, and have five games left on the schedule before the America East tournament begins next month.

Right now, the odds seem fairly good for another UA-Stony Brook matchup and while the first one ended in a Great Danes loss, this kind of offense simply can't stay down for long. If this team can get the ball rolling, and scoring, they're going to be a tough team to beat down the stretch.

There's some pretty offensive things happening with UAlbany lax this spring and this year's womens squad shouldn't be overlooked.

Former Tamarac standout Briana Matazinsky earns MAAC Weekly Honor

Former Tamarac standout (and past Record Player of the Year) Briana Matazinksy was named MAAC Rookie of the Week on Tuesday afternoon, marking her first league award.

Matazinsky, in her first season with Manhattan, hurled two victories in two starts this past week with a 1.11 ERA.

Overall, this season, she has pitched in 10 games, starting in seven while giving up just 30 hits and recording a 4.63 ERA. Meanwhile she has also made 26 appearances at the plate, driving in five runs and one home run.

Matazinsky wasn't the only local product picking up a MAAC weekly award.

Siena pitcher Amanda Gatt, a Voorheesville grad in her first season with Siena after transferring in from Temple, was named Pitcher of the Week as well. She tossed a complete-game shutout on April 4th. This season, she has started in 11 games and tossed five complete games with a team-high 57 innings in the circle.

Gatt (another former Record all-star) has racked up 47 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.54 while opponents are batting .292 against her.

The Saints are 9-3 so far this season, including 4-2 in the MAAC and are still waiting for their home opener; scheduled against Fairfield this weekend.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Wheeler Baker leaving UAlbany basketball program

Hot-handed shooting guard Wheeler Baker will leave the University at Albany men's basketball program the team announced on Friday.

The Minnesota freshman averaged 5.6 points in 13.9 minutes a game and finished the season 37.6% from behind the arc but opted to transfer in hopes of moving closer to home and earning more playing time elsewhere.

"He just wanted to get closer to home so his family would have the opportunity to see him play, which I get," said Great Danes coach Will Brown.

Of course, it didn't help Baker's situation that UA has its entire backcourt slated to return to next year's roster as well as local addition Joe Cremo. There wasn't much room on the court to begin with and it would have been difficult for Baker to carve out anymore time for himself next winter.

"I think, when you look at it we've got three all-conference perimeter guys returning," said Brown. "We have Dallas who started in Peter's absence and we went 8-0. So I think if you didn't play on the perimeter for us this year or you had a limited role, it's probably not going to change a year from now. These kids have four year windows and they all want to play. They're all used to playing and they're accustomed to playing."

Brown also added that Mike Wells and Max Twymann planned to transfer out of the program as well. The two averaged less than a minute a game.

UAlbany now has three scholarships to give for next season and as far as Brown is concerned, the priority is to bring in some big men, quite literally. The Danes will look to replace senior forward Sam Rowley and add a bit of size to a frontcourt that was on the smaller end of the spectrum this winter.

"That's been the priority right now," said Brown. "We're going to look to bring in two bigs for sure."

This latest round of transfers is nothing new to college basketball and both Siena and UAlbany's men's hoops teams have seen a total of seven players transfer out of the area this year. Brown doesn't fully expect that to change anytime soon either.

Welcome to modern basketball.

"Kids all want to play a ton and play right away and if they don't they leave or if they go away from home for the first time, they want to get closer to home. They want to be comfortable," said Brown. "There's a million reasons why it happens but it's not slowing down right now. My philosophy is I want kids to be happy and happiness is usually based on playing time as I've over the years."

Siena and Cornell to hold benefit series at Doubleday

The Siena baseball team is making a little change. 

The Saints are moving their annual baseball series against interstate rival Cornel to Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY as part of a two-year plan to honor Courtney Erickson, a 1993 Cornell graduate who passed away after a battle with pancreatic and liver cancer in 2013. 

This year's doubleheader is scheduled for April 14 at 2 p.m. and Erickson's nephew James is slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. 

"Court loved covering the Hall of Fame as much as any journalist I have ever known,” Jeff Idelson, President, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum said. “Always with a sunny disposition, and always in search of the truth, he had tremendous journalistic and personal integrity. His passion for the game was undeniable and the contest at Doubleday Field between his alma mater and Siena College is a fitting tribute."

Admission to the games will be free but donations are accepted and encourage to help benefit the Jack Falvo III Foundation or "Jack's Place." 

Erickson graduated from Linton High School in Schenectady in 1987 and majored in communications at Cornell, graduating with high honors. He worked everywhere from public relations work at Sawchuk-Brown Associates in Albany, and freelance sports coverage and feature writing for the Oneonta Daily Star, along with professional tutoring and teaching efforts in the Schenectady City School District. 

He was a major Capital District sports fan as well and through donations from the Siena-Cornell series, Erickson's family is anxious to continue his legacy of sports enthusiasm and charitable works. 

“Courtney remains a great inspiration to our athletic department,” Siena Baseball Coach Tony Rossi said. “His smile was contagious and he always uplifted everyone’s spirit. We’re so excited to be able to continue this series at Doubleday Field the next two seasons as a tribute to his dedication to both schools.”