Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Siena women's hoops to open schedule in Preseason-WNIT

The Siena women's basketball team just keeps progressing. 

A year after the Saints used a seven-player roster to advance to the championship game of the WBI, the team will open its 2015-16 schedule in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament.

We are very excited to be invited to play in the Preseason WNIT,” said head coach Ali Jaques in a statement released by the team. “To be asked to participate in a prestigious tournament after last season’s success is encouraging for our program. I expect it to be a challenging field and our non-conference schedule just became a lot tougher!

In addition to Siena, the Preseason WNIT features DePaul, Drexel, Indiana and St. Bonaventure. The 16-team field is invite-only and no team is allowed to participate more than once in a four-year period. It's the second time the Saints will be making an appearance in the preseason tournament with the last appearance coming in the 2002-03 season. 

The full preseason WNIT bracket will be released next Tuesday. The tournament opens on November 13 with first round games and each team is guaranteed to play at least games in the event. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Siena Men's Hoops to Name Ben Asher Director of Basketball Operations

Ben Asher is heading to Loudonville.

The former North Carolina State graduate assistant announced his intent to become the new Siena Director of Basketball Operations on Saturday afternoon. Asher worked under head coach Mark Gottfriend at NC State, the father of Siena sophomore Cam Gottfriend, who red shirted as a walk-on last season.

As a grad assistant with the Wolfpack, Asher assisted with film exchange, editing game tape, accumulating stats and assisting with recruiting. He also worked with NC State's social media programs and was an assistant at Gottfried's summer basketball camps.

Asher replaces Garrett Kelly as DOBP.

The Saints are still expected to announce the addition of a new assistant coach to the staff. According to sources former Iona men's head coach Jeff Ruland is the front-runner for the position and has even been seen on campus recently. Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos couldn't confirm that hire last week though.

The complete staff, the incoming freshman class and returning players will all return to campus on June 15 to begin the summer session.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Columbia Grad Kevin Smith Set for Super-Regionals

It didn't take long for Kevin Smith to transition from high school standout to college standout.

The Columbia high school grad has been the starting shortstop and two-hole batter for the University of Maryland all season and he hasn't missed a beat in the transition to the next level of baseball. Now, Smith will look to transition again as he and the Terps prep to take on Virginia in the super regionals this weekend.

Smith's numbers this season would be impressive even if he wasn't a freshman. Coming into this weekend, the East Greenbush native is hitting .274 with 66 hits and a .427 slugging percentage. In 241 at bats this year, he's struck out just 35 times.

That's pretty good. Oh, he's also only missed one game.

It's been, to say the least, an interesting season for the Terps who earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after falling 4-3 to Michigan in the Big 10 championship last month. Overall, Maryland comes into super regional play 42-22 after going 14-10 in its first season of Big 10 play.

Still, Smith has been consistent in a high-pressure fielding position and a top-of-the-order batting spot. He's worked 19 double plays this year and boasts a fielding percentage of .948 with 13 total errors this spring.

Maryland is making its second straight super regional appearance this weekend and after last week's upset victory over No. 1 seed UCLA, the Terps are feeling good. Smith, and his stats this season, have every reason to feel good too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Andrew Franks Taking Kicking Center Stage in Dolphins OTA's

The Miami Dolphins announced that Caleb Sturgis will miss the rest of OTA's and, possibly, the June 16-18 mini-camp, after suffering a thigh on his non-kicking leg earlier this week. Enter Andrew Franks, stage right. Or directly off the sidelines.

RPI Athletics

The former RPI standout has been thrust, without much prep, into the Dolphins kicking spotlight will handle placekicking duties for the remainder of the team's workouts.

"He's one of those guys that could've played Division I but chose to go to RPI because of the engineering program. It enable him to be a four-year starter where he was," Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi told the Palm Beach Post. "We laugh about it The goal posts are the same size, the same height. Certainly the pressure's different. The atmosphere's different. But he's a talented player and he could've definitely kicked at a higher level."

Franks reportedly missed a few field goals in practice on Monday, including kicks from 44 and 44 yards out, but did nail a 54-yarder that Rizzi said "hit the building."

This, of course, is an enormous chance for Franks who was signed to a free agent contract as soon as the NFL draft wrapped up in early April.

There had even been talk, prior to Sturgis' injury, that the original starter was on the metaphorical hot seat with the Dolphins. Last year he made just 78.4 percent of his field goal attempts. That was 28th in the league. He completed just 9-of-16 attempts from more than 40 yards out, all while battling injuries, including a preseason groin injury.

Frank's reputation is quite the opposite. A four-year starter for the Engineers, the California native regularly connected on long-distance kicks for RPI and broke his own 50-plus yard record more than once as a senior this fall.

Now, he's anxious to prove himself on the professional level.

"I like having competition next to me on the field," Franks told the Palm Beach Post. "It pushes me in that regard. So I kind of miss (Sturgis) here. But I hope he gets better as fast as he can. I really want that push."

Monday, June 1, 2015

SOURCES: UAlbany-Siena basketball close to reaching deal

According to sources, the University at Albany and Siena men's basketball team is close to reaching an agreement to renew their annual basketball rivalry. The finalized contract is expected to be completed within the next week and a half.

The previous contract had expired after this year's game, a December 13 matchup that saw the Great Danes down Siena 77-68 in front of a jam packed crowd at the Times Union Center. Every game between the two teams, since both programs went Division I, have been played at the downtown Albany venue.

It's been a long road to a renewed rivalry for the two programs, which have squared off in a cross-town battle every year since 2001-02, with heated words and arguments from both sides since the start of this last college hoops season. But now, it seems at least, the two sides have worked through, at least some, of that animosity.

The projected agreement will bring the matchup back to the Times Union Center twice in the next three seasons, but will, finally, allow UAlbany to host the rivalry game at SEFCU Arena, something Great Danes coach Will Brown has been fighting for consistently over the past few seasons. Brown has previously made it well known that he would not be opposed to ending the rivalry if a game was not played at SEFCU Arena.

The problem however, still remains, that the third game in the projected contract puts the matchup back at the TU Center, as part of a proposed tournament-type event.

Both Brown and Siena coach Jimmy Patsos spoke at length about the future of the game in December and even discussed the option of a set date every season to make the usual-hectic job of scheduling the matchup that much easier. You can read that December article here.

It's important to remember that nothing is officially official yet. UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson is in New Hampshire for the America East basketball coaches meetings and nothing is expected to be announced until, at least, the end of the week. Still, it's a step in the right rivalry direction.

Siena Baseball Field to Undergo Big-Time Changes This summer

Siena's baseball field is set to receive $500,000 worth of big-time upgrades this summer after a handful of private donations to the Saints over the course of the year. Construction is already underway and is set to be completed mid-fall. 

“We’re obviously very thankful to those who made this possible,” Siena head baseball coach Tony Rossi said in a statement released by the school. “These improvements will help us continue to improve our recruiting efforts, provide our student athletes with the opportunity to compete in a first class facility, and enhance the experience for our fans on gameday. We couldn’t be more excited to see the project to take shape.”

Albany-based construction company CHA Companies designed the project and Turner Construction is slated to do the physical work. So, what exactly is the work? Let's break it down:

  • A new seating system with stadium chair back and bleacher seating that will hold 370 
  • A new press box with filming platform
  • A new backstop (with a net!)
  • A new entryway
  • An outfield irrigation system to work with the existing infield system (it snows a lot in upstate New York, after all
  • Dugout repairs and safety netting
  • Enhanced storage space
Siena Field has been the Saints home location for all of Rossi's 46-year tenure with the team and after a handful of several harsh winters, the diamond is well due for some upgrades. It's a particularly important move considering how well Siena has fared recently, particularly over the past two seasons. 

The Saints won their fifth MAAC Title in 2014 and advanced to the championship series again this spring. Siena has reached the championship game of the tournament in each of the last three seasons. As if that weren't enough, the Saints have boasted the MAAC Rookie of the Year in each of the past two seasons with Dan Swain winning the award in 2014 and Joe Drpich earning the honor this spring. An enhanced facility can turn those recent winning-ways into a long-term tradition for the Saints. 

"We couldn't be more excited to see the result of all these improvements next fall," junior pitcher Bryan Goossens said. "I think our facility has the potential to be one of the best in the Northeast, and a place where our fans can really enjoy the excitement of Division I baseball. This is a huge step toward making that happen. On behalf of my teammates, I want to extend our sincere gratitude to those who are making this possible."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

UAlbany's Lyle Thompson Wins Second Straight Tewaaraton Award

It was really only ever Lyle's award to lose.

Lyle Thompson, the recently graduated University at Albany lacrosse standout, was named the 2015 Tewaaraton Award winner, becoming the first-ever player to win the honor in back-to-back years. He and his brother, Miles, shared the award last season.

Thompson was the odd-ons favorite to win the Tewaaraton once he was named one of the five national finalists earlier this month. Of course, there's a good reason for that.

The Great Danes attacker, who made his Major League Lacrosse debut earlier this week, set all-time NCAA records in career points (400) as well as assists (225) as a senior this spring. His 121 points this season were good for second-best in UAlbany lax history. Number one? Lyle.

Thompson, who was a starter in all four of his years with UA, was the face of, not only his program this season, but of college lacrosse as a whole, garnering national attention for his on-field performance and off-field ability to create brand-new fans of the game. He regularly signed autographs for lines of fans after games, whether or not he played on the UAlbany campus.

Thompson, who joined his older brothers as a Nike signee earlier this month, will return to the Florida Launch later this week. We can all probably expect Thompson Brothers lacrosse sticks on shelves sooner rather than later.

Denver's Wesley Berg, Syracuse's Kevin Price, Notre Dame's Matt Kavanagh and Duke's Myles Jones were also finalists.

On the women's side of the award, Maryland's Taylor Cummings was honored. Niskayuna native and Syracuse standout Kayla Treanor was also a finalist.