Catching Up With Laura Pierce (Fitchburg State Women’s Basketball)

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Laura Pierce, who competed and coached at Wheaton College, was recently named the new women’s basketball coach at Fitchburg State University. (PHOTO COURTESY: Fitchburg State Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Laura Pierce was ready for that next step in her coaching journey.

She had gained valuable experience at both Wesleyan University and Wheaton College as an assistant for both women’s basketball programs but appeared eager – and ready – to become a head coach.

And that eagerness – and readiness, too – paid off as she was recently named the new women’s basketball coach at Fitchburg State University.

“I am excited to get to work with the young women to create a culture in which our program makes Fitchburg State proud on the court, in the classroom, and in the community,” said Pierce in the press release announcing her hiring.

Pierce inherits a Falcons squad that finished 9-17 a year ago, including 2-10 against Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) foes.

The Falcons did qualify for the MASCAC Tournament last winter but saw their bid for a conference crown conclude in the quarterfinals against Bridgewater State University.

Coaching in the MASCAC is something Pierce is very excited about – she described the conference as “really competitive,” while also noting that “you have to bring your best effort every (single) evening.”

Said Pierce, “My hope is that we enter the gym every day with the mindset of effort, focus, and attitude because it will help us be successful, both this upcoming season and in the future.”

Prior to becoming an assistant for both the Cardinals and Lyons, Pierce enjoyed an impressive career at Wheaton, tallying 622 points, 253 rebounds, 424 assists, and 68 steals in 100 games played. Pierce, who was a three-year captain, also attended “So You Want to be a Coach” Program at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida in April of 2015 before graduating from Wheaton one month later.

Noontime Sports recently spoke with Pierce about her excitement for leading her own program, but also what she learned as both a student-athlete and assistant from Coach Melissa Hodgdon.

What excites you about coaching your own program?

Being able to teach the game I love while shaping these young women’s lives.

Coaching is about so much more than the X’s & O’s (on a chalkboard). It’s about building relationships and mentoring (your players) to become the best they can be, both on and off the court. I have had many coaches and mentors along the way that I have played for and coached with, and they have all have shaped me into the coach and person I am today.

I think the exciting thing about coaching your own program is having a vision and being able to shape that vision throughout the season. It’s all about the process and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s such an exciting time for the Fitchburg State women’s basketball program.

Do you feel your previous stops as an assistant at Wesleyan and Wheaton have prepared you for a successful first season with Fitchburg State?

Absolutely. Kate Mullen, who is the is the head coach of the Wesleyan women’s basketball team, took a chance on me – she hired me right after I graduated college (in May of 2015) and I will be forever grateful to her for providing me with my first collegiate coaching role.

Coach Mullen gave me the opportunity to coach and prepare to play against teams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which is one of the most competitive Division III women’s basketball conferences in the country. 

I am really fortunate that both Coach Mullen and Melissa Hodgdon gave me an opportunity to learn and grow as a young coach (these past few years). I consider them not just mentors, but great friends, as well.

Tell me about your experience learning and playing for Melissa Hodgdon. How did she help mold you into the current coach you are today? 

I honestly had never heard of Wheaton until Coach Hodgdon began recruiting me. But attending Wheaton and playing for her was the best decision I ever made.

Coach Hodgdon challenged me every day to become the best basketball player I could be so I could reach my highest potential on the court with hopes of leading the Lyons to a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship.

Her biggest impact though is she genuinely cares about each and every one of her players.

I missed my entire sophomore year with a knee injury, but that didn’t stop Coach Hodgdon from including me in team activities. She made sure I was included and kept me engaged throughout the entire season while allowing me to see the game from her perspective. And once my sophomore year concluded at Wheaton, I knew I wanted to become a collegiate basketball coach when I graduated, so I began gaining experience as an intern at the Duke University women’s basketball camp, along with several local camps, too, before I returned to campus for my senior year.

A few years after my final season with the Lyons, I returned to campus after completing my graduate assistantship program at Wesleyan – I knew (deep down that) I wanted to return to Wheaton and assist Coach Hodgdon, who established a program that meant so much to me, both as a student-athlete and assistant coach.

Being able to work (and learn) from Coach Hodgdon as an assistant was an amazing experience. She challenged me to become the best coach while giving me responsibilities that prepared me for my next step in my coaching journey.

Finally, what goals and objectives do you have for the team heading into the upcoming season?

We have a great group of young women returning this year as well as a couple of incoming first-year student-athletes that are excited to get to work. We’re going to focus on getting better every day, whether that be in the classroom, weight room, film room or on the court.

We are also going to have this mindset of getting better (every single day). But our number one goal is always going to be to represent the Fitchburg State community with class and pride.


Stay connected with our New England basketball coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_Hoops

Catching Up With John Carroll (Nichols College Men’s Lacrosse)

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John Carroll was named the new men’s lacrosse coach at Nichols College earlier this summer. (PHOTO COURTESY: David B. Newman)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

John Carroll had always wanted to coach lacrosse, even as a student-athlete at the University at Albany. And that was exactly what he did after graduating in 2012. 

Carroll honed his coaching skills as an assistant with three collegiate lacrosse programs, including Trinity College where he helped the Bantams reach the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament this past spring. 

“I always wanted to pursue college coaching even while I was attending school and playing at Albany,” said Carrol, who concluded his time with the Great Danes by recording 378 saves between the pipes. 

“I  remember interviewing coach Bill Ralph, who was one of our assistant coaches for my first-year seminar class to (learn more about) the college coaching profession. I certainly got a lot of crazy looks and confused faces when I said, ‘I wanted to coach full time for a living,’ but I think it’s worked out pretty well.”

Indeed, Carroll has enjoyed a great deal of success on the sidelines and will look to continue applying what he has learned as the new men’s lacrosse coach at Nichols College.

Carroll, who becomes the 14th coach in program history, inherits a unit that has won 10 games or more since 2017 and has also competed twice in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Tournament, including this past spring. 

Carroll is excited about his first head coaching role and has visions of leading the Bison to their first-ever league title in program history.

“As a first-time head coach, (I am excited to have) the opportunity to take over a program that has had a lot of success recently,” said Carroll when discussing his excitement for coaching the Bison. 

“I believe Nichols men’s lacrosse can be a top team in the CCC and that is my ultimate goal for the long term vision of the program.” 

Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Carroll to discuss his outlook for the upcoming season, but also how his previous roles have shaped him into the coach he has become today.

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John Carroll helped the Trinity College men’s lacrosse team reach the NESCAC Tournament. (PHOTO COURTESY: David B. Newman)

You have gained a great deal of experience as a coach, both in Division I and III. How will that experience help you with the Bison this upcoming school year?

I have always tried to approach things the same way regardless of being in Division I or Division III. Working for so many different people at different institutions have really helped me absorb and learn new concepts and drills that I can use to run our practices at Nichols. I think all of those experiences will also help me to set a new bar for the guys on the team, and it will set a precedent of what we are expecting as Nichols men’s lacrosse players, both this year and moving forward on and off the field. Coach (Eric) Gobiel has done an outstanding job of (laying the foundation for success) with this program, so my job now is to come in and take the program to the next level, (so we can) compete for and ultimately win the Commonwealth Coast Conference championship. 

What excites you about coaching in the Commonwealth Coast Conference?

The league is very competitive with teams like Western New England, and Endicott College at the forefront. I had the chance to coach against Roger Williams and Curry 0- both are very talented teams – and they gave us some trouble while I was at Trinity. I think the CCC can become one of the more competitive leagues in Division III.

The opportunity to play for a conference championship and an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament is the ultimate factor, but I see a lot of really good teams in the league and I look forward to learning about all of them, while competing against them, as well. Coach John Klepacki (Western New England) and coach Eric Hagarty (Endicott)  have reached out to me and have been very welcoming. I also know Coach Charlie Burch at the University of New England from working with him in the past at Blue Chip 225 camp.

I think it’s a top-notch league and I’m excited to compete in it.

What are some goals and objectives you hope to accomplish before the team’s initial game next spring?

The number one goal this semester is to (be successful in the classroom). If we can do well in the classroom then that is one less stress for our team when we convene on the practice. 

I also would like to have our base offense, defense, rides, clears, extra-man opportunity, and man-down packages all installed before our first scrimmage in October.

An individual goal for myself is to learn one thing about each player on the team that doesn’t relate to lacrosse. It will be important for me to get to know the guys and build relationships and trust with them (before our first game next spring).

After speaking with most of the team over the phone they have all expressed to me that they are a close-knit group, and I want to gain their trust while getting to know them so we can continue to build upon the culture that has been established (already) by coach Gobeil.

Finally, you were a goalie, both in college and high school. Did you always play goalie growing up? 

I started by playing midfield in second grade and I thought I was pretty good at it. My Dad actually began playing goalie in a local men’s league during that time and bought all of the equipment, including a goalie stick. This led to my older brother (Jimmy) playing goalie first and borrowing my Dad’s gear. After seeing them both playing goalie I said to myself, ‘Hey, I can do that too!’

Once I jumped in net there was no looking back. I would split halves between goalie and midfield for most of my time with Smithtown Youth Lacrosse. I started playing goalie full-time in seventh grade for my middle school team and was told at some point during my high school career to switch to close defense or long-stick middie. I used that as motivation to improve my goalie game, even though a lot of people were trying to compliment me by saying I could play both long pole and goalie.

Playing goalie for a Division I lacrosse program was always my dream and I was lucky enough to live it out at the University of Albany.

Now, coaching is my dream and I couldn’t be happier to get started at Nichols. 


Stay connected with our New England lacrosse coverage by following @NoontimeLax on Twitter! 

The Early Preseason Outlook: Springfield College Pride

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By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Our ‘Early Preseason Outlook’ coverage continues with a closer look at the Springfield College Pride, who begin their season on Saturday, September 7th when they visit Western New England at 1 p.m. The winner of this week one clash will claim Pynchon SAW trophy.

The Pride’s 2018 Season: Springfield concluded ist 2018 campaign with an 8-3 record, along with its first-ever New England Bowl victory, too.

The Pride’s win over Maritime (N.Y.) in the New England Bowl was highlighted by a pair of rushing touchdowns by Hunter Belzo, three interceptions by Jonny Bianchi and a team-hight 12 total tackles from Nick Giorgio.

Prior to scoring an exciting end of season win, Springfield scored early-season victories against Western New England and Kean University, as well as a gritty conference victory at WPI.

Springfield bid farewell to 24 student-athletes from last year’s squad this spring, including Bianchi, Giorgio, and linebacker Tom Casey, but do return a slew of talent that will keep them in the mix for their second New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship this season.

The 2019 Outlook: While the Pride’s defense will look a bit different this season with some key graduation losses, the unit does return linebacker AJ Smith, who posted career-highs last fall in total tackles (68.0), tackles per game (6.2), sacks (four), and tackles for a loss (nine).

Smith, along Jack Pavelchak (linebacker) and Grayson Heyward (defensive line), will be the leaders of the defense, which yielded 16.3 points per game one year ago.

Quarterback Chad Shade and halfback Hunter Belzo will be the focal points of the Pride’s offense – the duo combined for 23 touchdowns last season and should receive some help fullback Tim Callahan, who finished 2018 with 642 rushing yards on 146 carries and three scores.

Nick Bainter returns to anchor an offensive line that helped the offense rush for 295.2 yards per game last fall. Bainter will receive some help upfront from Jeremy Lipsky, who appeared in 10 games last season, along with John Cox.

Springfield is certainly a team to watch this season – they will definitely contend for the NEWMAC crown – but one of the biggest questions facing this unit is their defense. The offense should have no problem continuing its success on the ground from one year ago.

Springfield’s Schedule: As usual, the Pride will challenge themselves immediately with a trio of non-conference games in the first three weeks before hosting WPI on Saturday, September 28th for a 3 p.m. kick-off. All four September contests are winnable, but they certainly aren’t easy.

A week three match-up with Union College is one to circle – the Pride lost to the Dutchmen last season before rebounding one week later with a hard-fought conference win over WPI.

Springfield will entertain Norwich University in the first week of October before hitting the road for two more important conference meetings with Coast Guard Academy and Merchant Marine.

Weeks after their visit to Merchant Marine, the Pride will cap their 2019 campaign with a visit from MIT, which defeated Springfield last fall to secure their initial NEWMAC crown.

Players to Watch: Chad Shade (Quarterback/Pittsfield, Mass.), Hunter Belzo (Halfback/Middletown, Conn.), Tim Callahan (Fullback/Enfield, Conn.), Ryan Deguire (Halfback/Schenectady, N.Y.), Nick Bainter (Offensive Line/East Bridgewater, Mass.), Jeremy Lipsky (Offensive Line/Glen Rock, N.J),  John Cox (Offensive Line/Stratford, Conn.), AJ Smith (Linebacker/Rahway, N.J.), Jack Pavelchak (Linebacker/Patchogue, N.Y.), and Grayson Heyward (Defensive End/Albany, N.Y.).


Stay connected with Noontime Sports’ football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB.

The Early Preseason Outlook: Salve Regina Seahawks

Salve Regina Seahawks

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

Our ‘Early Preseason Outlook’ coverage continues with the Salve Regina University football team, which begins its 2019 campaign on Saturday, September 7th against Norwich University.

The Seahawks’ 2018 Season: After ending the month of September with a disappointing 41-14 setback to Western New England, the Seahawks rebounded with five-straight wins, including an end of regular-season victory over Endicott College before falling to Bridgewater State in the New England Bowl.

Yet, despite ending the 2018 season with a loss to the Bears, the Seahawks proved they will certainly be a team to watch this fall after ending their previous campaign with a 5-1 record.

Salve Regina did say goodbye to 13 seniors this past spring, including Brandon O’Neill and John Salute, who were spotted on the defensive line, but do return some impressive talent on both sides of the ball, which should help them contend for the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) crown.

The 2019 Outlook: With some key graduation losses to the Seahawks’ defense, look for the squad’s rising seniors and juniors to step-up, including linebacker Matt Messner, who led the unit with 83.0 total tackles last season.

Charlie Connell returns for his final season as the team’s strong safety – he ended the 2018 season with 63.0 total tackles, including 40 solo stops and 4.5 tackles for a loss of 20 yards. Connell also recorded one interception last season, along with a trio of pass breakups, too.

John Goode will also be a player to watch in the secondary, as well, while Drew Balestrieri will be another linebacker to keep your eyes on this fall after tallying a career-high 51.0 total tackles last season.

Halfback Joey Mauriello will look to duplicate his performance from a year ago – he finished his initial season of college football with 1,075 rushing yards on 192 carries and seven touchdowns while catching 29 passes for 278 yards and two scores. Mauriello was named our Noontime Sports Rookie of the Year – he also received the same honor by the CCC.

Quarterback Tyler McGovern returns and will most likely target Brendan Nunes and Danny Hoffman this fall – the duo combined for 93 catches for 1,254 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Tight end Ryan Lawton returns for his final season and should also be a factor for the Seahawks after recording career-bests one year ago in receptions (19), receiving yards (312) and touchdowns (two).

Salve Regina’s offense should continue its success with some key members of the offensive line returning, including Kyle WisniewskiPete Noonan, and Michael Saunders.

Salve Regina’s Schedule: The month of September is a challenging one for the Seahawks, who will compete in back-to-back home games against Norwich and Montclair State before hitting the road for a pair of games against Dean College and Nichols College.

Most likely, the Seahawks will finish the first month with two or three wins – maybe four? – but the schedule gets tougher in October with two important conference games against Endicott and Western New England.

Weeks after their visit to Western New England, the Seahawks will visit Husson University in the second to last week of the 2019 season before hosting Curry College on Saturday, November 16th at 12 p.m.

Players to Watch: Tyler McGovern (Quarterback/Attleboro, Mass.), Joey Mauriello (Halfback/Colts Neck, N.J.), Matt Messner (Linebacker/Midland Park, N.J.), Charlie Connell (Strong Safety/Oradell, N.J.), John Goode (Defensive Back/Rockland, Mass.), Drew Balestrieri (Linebacker/Lynnfield, Mass.), Brendan Nunes (Wide Receiver/Attleboro, Mass.), Danny Hoffman (Trumbull, Conn.), Ryan Lawton (Tight End/Washington Township, N.J.), Kyle Wisniewski (Offensive Line/Harwich, Mass.), Pete Noonan (Offensive Line/Ardmore, Pa.), and Michael Saunders (Offensive Line/Westwood, N.J.).


Stay connected with Noontime Sports’ football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB.

The Early Preseason Outlook: Plymouth State Panthers

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By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Our ‘Early Preseason Outlook’ coverage rolls on with a closer look at Plymouth State, which begins its season on Saturday, September 7th when they visit Castleton University for a 12 p.m. kickoff.

The Panthers’ 2018 Season: One year after posting a 9-2 record, the Panthers finished with a 6-4 mark, which included a thrilling 29-28 win over Framingham State, along with a hard-fought 10-7 win against Westfield State.

The Panthers did not compete in the NCAA Tournament last fall but certainly proved their nine-win season from 2017 wasn’t a fluke – this team is certainly capable of competing for the top spot in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) every season.

Plymouth State had 15 seniors on last year’s squad that will certainly be missed this season – these student-athletes were a big reason why the Green and White won 9 of 11 contests in 2017, so look for the rising seniors and juniors to lead the Panthers this upcoming season.

The 2019 Outlook: Plymouth State will be without some key members of last year’s team, as well as the 2017 squad, especially on defense. Graduation losses to Grant McGregorMitch BanuskevichBrady LaFrance and Malcolm Huesman won’t be easy to replace however, the Panthers do return defensive back Matt Shea, who led the defense with 77.0 total tackles.

Defensive back David Salazar will also be a player to watch in the secondary, too. The rising sophomore averaged 5.3 total tackles per contest one year ago, while also recording 2.5 tackles for a loss of 10 yards.

Plymouth State graduated a slew of linebackers, but do return Elijah Bussell and Eric Smith. The duo combined for 53.0 total tackles last season.

On offense, the Panthers must find their replacement for quarterback Zack Edwards, a dual-threat signal-caller that concluded the 2018 season with 15 touchdowns (14 passing touchdowns).

David Hamilton returns for his final season at halfback after rushing for career-highs in yards (911) and touchdowns (eight) one year ago.

Wide receiver Jacob Szulc returns for his third season after leading the team with 26 receptions for 493 yards and seven touchdowns.

Plymouth State will also return a slew of offensive linemen, including Nick Cusano, who competed in all 10 contests one year ago, and Matt Palma, who appeared in nine games.

Plymouth State’s Schedule: We will learn more about this Plymouth State squad by the end of September – the opening month features a pair of non-conference foes, along with back-to-back conference clashes with Worcester State in week three and UMass Dartmouth in week four. Plymouth State beat the Lancers last fall but lost to the Corsairs. Can they win both conference games this season?

The Panthers will travel to Westfield State for an important conference meeting in week six before entertaining Framingham State in week seven for their Hall of Fame Game.

Weeks after their meeting with the Rams, the Panthers travel to Bridgewater State before capping their 2019 campaign with a trip to Western Connecticut on Saturday, November 16.

Players to Watch: David Hamilton (Halfback/ West Deptford, N.J.), Jacob Szulc (Wide Receiver/Concord, N.H.), Terrell Lewis (Wide Receiver/Nashua, N.H.), Jeremy Martin (Kicker/Charlton, Mass.), Nick Cusano (Offensive Line/Wethersfield, Conn.), Matt Palma (Offensive Line/Cheshire, Conn.), Matt Shea (Defensive Back/Windham, N.H.), and David Salazar (Defensive Back/West Newton, Mass.).


Stay connected with Noontime Sports’ football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB.