New England Basketball Notebook: Harvard Shines In Season-Opener

Men's Basketball between the Harvard Crimson and the Columbia Lions

Bryce Aiken and the Harvard University men’s basketball team are motivated to return to the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season. (PHOTO COURTESY: David Dermer/Harvard Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

For Harvard University, Tuesday’s 84-27 victory over MIT was an ideal way to begin a new season, but also an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum heading into an important non-conference clash on Friday with Northeastern University.

Multiple Crimson players contributed on both ends of the floor against the Engineers, including first-year forward Chris Ledlum, who recorded his first collegiate double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Christian Juzang netted 12 points, while classmate Chris Lewis stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Harvard’s 57-point victory margin matched the 1945-46 team, which established the mark with their win over Northeastern.

While it certainly was an impressive start to their 2019-20 campaign, Harvard, as well as their coach Tommy Amaker, know they have more work to do in order to accomplish their preseason goals. And one of those goals, according to senior guard Bryce Aiken, is to return to the NCAA Tournament, something the Crimson have not done since 2015.

Harvard has come close to returning to the ‘big dance,’ but has fallen short the past three seasons in the Ivy League tournament. Additionally, they saw their run toward a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title conclude twice within the past two years, including this past March when they lost a heartbreaker in the second round to North Carolina State University.

But despite falling short of accomplishing past preseason goals or winning tournaments and championships, Aiken remains optimistic. He believes this year’s crew can “make history,” and from what fans witnessed the other evening against MIT, perhaps the senior guard believes this year’s squad is truly capable of not just winning an Ivy League conference tournament but challenging other teams from across the country for the ultimate prize, a national championship. 

“The biggest motivation for us as seniors (this year) is leaving with a bang, man,” said senior Bryce Aiken, who elected to return to campus for one more season after initially entering his name for the 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft last April.

“We haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament, so that is the biggest motivating factor for us.”

Added Juzang, “It’s been three years of all of us (for) things you can look at and you can call motivation (from) the Ivy League championship games, the NC State game, and we could point to a bunch of different things, but I think the biggest thing is (we’re) internally driven, not getting pushed around by the expectations and whatnot.”

The expectations, as both the coaches and student-athletes know, is rather high for a team that is scheduled to face some stiff competition this month against Northeastern, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M. Harvard could also face the University of Maryland this month, too – they would need to beat the Aggies of Texas A&M in the opening round of the Orlando Invitational, which is scheduled to commence on Thanksgiving Day.

Weeks after competing in the Orlando Tournament, Harvard will commence conference play in mid-to-late January against Dartmouth College before ending the month with a visit to the University of Pennsylvania, which opened its 2019-20 season with an 81-80 win over the University of AlabamaPenn lost to Harvard last March in the Ivy League semifinals but was picked second in the conference preseason poll.

Yet, before Harvard worries about Dartmouth, Penn, and other future foes, they will keep their focus on Northeastern, a team that beat the Crimson last November, thanks to a game-high 35 points by Jordan Rolland. Rolland will certainly be a player the Crimson will need to slow down in order to pick-up their second win of the season, but from a quick glance at this year’s roster, Harvard is loaded with talent to slow down their opponents’ top players, and will certainly receive a boost from an impressive and hard-working first-year class.

Amaker praised his freshman class, which was ranked 38th nationally, according to 247Sports.com. All five newcomers logged time on Tuesday against MIT and have seemed to adapt to the college game quite well it seems.

“I have been impressed with our first-years,” said Amaker during the team’s media day last Friday. “This is a tough-minded group. They are physical – you look at who they are (with their) bodies and (what) they are capable of taking in … they have been durable, but they have been very (impressive) with their durability, dependability, and then fitting in.

“Our future is good hands with this first-year class.”

No matter who is on the floor Friday and later this season – Aiken, Ludlum, Juzang, sophomore Noah Kirkwood or seniors Seth Towns and Henry Welsh – Harvard is expected to compete and play some impressive basketball that should translate into more wins and an exciting 2019-20 season.

News and Notes from New England: 

  • Andrew Fleming became the 31st player in the University of Maine men’s basketball program to net 1,000 points as the senior helped the Black Bears defeat Merrimack College, 84-64, on Wednesday evening. Fleming, who was named a preseason America East All-Conference honoree, recorded 37 points and 10 rebounds against the Warriors to go along with five assists and two blocks.
  • Keep your eyes on the Saint Anselm College women’s basketball team this weekend – the Hawks, who were picked to finish atop the Northeast-10 Conference will tip-off Saturday, November 9th against Bloomfield College at 6:30 p.m. After facing the Bears, the Hawks will cap their weekend with a late Sunday afternoon contest against the University of Bridgeport.

    Senior Shannon Ryan will be one of many student-athletes to watch on the Hawks this winter. Ryan recorded a double-double of 29 points and 18 rebounds last weekend against Bishop’s University.

  • WPI, which secured the fourth spot in our New England D-III Men’s Basketball Top 10 Preseason Poll, tips-off its season against ninth-ranked Brandeis University on Friday. Both teams are two squads to watch this winter – the Engineers were picked to capture the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), while Brandeis is expected to continue its success from last year under second-year coach Jean Bain.
  • Finally, make sure to read Bob Whitney‘s first column, Around The Rim – I am very excited to have Bob join our team this winter to produce some additional basketball content. Bob has covered the college and high school game for years and will be a great addition to our Noontime Sports staff.

D3 Football: Endicott Enters The 2019 Season With Some Additional Motivation

Endicott FB ONE

Endicott College senior Andrew Tudino prepares to snap the ball in practice. (PHOTO COURTESY: Nicholas Grace/Endicott College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

In the words of coach Paul McGonagle, last season was “good, but not great” for the Endicott College football team.

The Gulls posted their first winning season since 2013 but struggled to maintain their mid-to-late season momentum down the stretch when they lost back-to-back contests to Merchant Marine and Salve Regina.

Both setbacks, according to McGonagle, provided the unit with some additional motivation heading into the offseason.

“It’s given us some good drive in the offseason, spring ball, winter, and for the guys in the summertime,” said McGonagle, who is entering his second season with the Endicott football program.

That extra motivation will be put to the test this Friday, September 6th when the Gulls entertain Framingham State in their season-opener at 7 p.m.

Endicott has high hopes for this season and hopes last year’s ending will provide the squad with the motivation it needs to capture its first conference crown en route to a national postseason appearance.


What you should know about the 2019 Endicott Gulls 

The Gulls’ schedule2019 will present some unique challenges for the Gulls, who are scheduled to compete against a trio of NCAA Tournament teams from last season, including Husson University and Western New England, two teams that compete against Endicott in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC).

McGonagle considers the 2019 schedule “a challenge,” but also a “very competitive schedule” that will certainly test his returners and newcomers.

“We play three NCAA playoff teams (from a year ago),” said McGonagle when discussing the team’s schedule.

“We have Husson joining our conference this year, which will make it more competitive, and then we have Framingham and Wesley (College) coming up from Delaware, so it is a great challenge for our guys and hopefully they will be ready for it.”

Endicott FB 2

Senior quarterback Joe Kalosky will once again be a focal point of the Endicott College offense. (PHOTO COURTESY: Nichols Grace/Endicott College Athletics)

The second year of Endicott’s new offenseLast season, the Gulls implemented a new offense that seemed identical to what the Philadelphia Eagles ran during their 2017 march toward their first-ever Super Bowl championship in franchise history. And that was a run-pass option (RPO) offense, a scheme the Gulls used frequently with moving the ball up and down the field.

Operating an RPO offense was something quarterback Joe Kalosky seemed to like – he is excited to apply what he learned in the offseason from studying his team’s game film – but as McGonagle said, “we are a whatever it takes” offense.

“Football is a copycat (game), so we do RPO’s, but we also do other stuff, too,” said McGonagle.

“(Last season), there were three games where we rushed for over 300 yards and there were games where we threw for over 300 yards, so we are not one dimensional. There are RPO’s, there are regular old school dropbacks, play action, three-step drops (and much more), so I think it helps us out when it is a sunny game or a rainy game.”

McGonagle praised Kalosky’s effort to improve his game this past spring and summer and believes “the sky is the limit” for the Plymouth, Connecticut native, who did run some RPO plays in high school.

Kalosky enjoyed his best season with the Gulls last fall, recording career-bests in competition percentage (56.5%) and touchdown passes (24). He also rushed for a career-high 365 yards on 40 carries for two touchdowns.

Last season’s ending has motivated Endicott’s defenseFor junior linebacker Kevin O’Brien, last year’s final two contests against Merchant Marine and Salve Regina has become the motivation for this year’s defense.

“The defense would like to have those last two games back,” said O’Brien, who played high school football at Braintree High School.

“The two games were high-scoring and we were one or two stops away from a different outcome, so we’re going to focus on putting all four quarters together, putting the whole season together and having to not rely on Joe and this offense to put up big numbers for us to win.”

O’Brien will be one of many returners to lead a unit that limited opposing offenses to 27.5 points per game last season. Endicott graduated some key pieces from last year’s defense, including linebacker William Rivera, who recorded 114.0 total tackles in 11 contests.

Replicating Rivera’s production won’t be easy, but as O’Brien said of this year’s linebacking core, “it will be more of a group effort.”

In addition to O’Brien, Endicott will certainly rely on defensive back Steven Abbott, who recorded a career-high 61.0 total tackles last fall, as well as Tim Russell, who transferred from Hamilton College after posting 74.0 tackles in two seasons with the Continentals.

Sam Opont will also be a player to watch on defense, too – the Bridgeport, Connecticut native tallied a career-high 53.0 total tackles last fall as a defensive lineman, including 6.5 tackles for a loss.

Nick DiCairano is focused on “consistency” this fall: Heading into his second and final season with the Gulls, Nick DiCairano, who began his collegiate career kicking for Pace University in the Northeast-10 Conference, seems focused on being more consistent this fall after tallying 80 points on 44 extra points and 12 field goals.

“I think this year (I am) mostly focusing on cosistency, ” said DiCairano, who was tabbed our Noontime Sports Special Teamer of 2018.

“Whatever happened last year, happened last year. I am not even thinking about it. The coaches and even everyone on the team have really helped me get into the mindset of one kick at a time (and) focus on what I can control.

“I am fortunate enough to have an amazing snapper and holder, which takes the weight off my shoulders, and helps me be more consistent, too. But I think just going into the year I have been really focusing on being consistent and taking every kick one at a time.”

While DiCairano has certainly been a player to watch on extra points and field goals, he is also someone McGonagle can rely on for opening kickoffs, too.

“Nick is a very valuable player to this program,” said McGonagle.


Stay connected with our New England football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB

Noontime Sports Set To Return To New England Div. II Lacrosse Coverage

noontime-sports-2016By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports

Starting this month, Noontime Sports is excited to announce we’ll be expanding our local New England college coverage to NCAA Division II men’s and women’s lacrosse, specifically teams in the Northeast-10 Conference.

Our coverage will include a weekly Top 5 poll on social media every Monday – fans can follow our New England D2 Top 5 every week by visiting us on Facebook (Facebook.com/NoonSports) and Twitter (@NoontimeSports).

Additionally, we’ll be returning to some game coverage through video highlights and photo galleries, along with stories or features, too. We also plan to feature a student-athlete from the various D2 schools in our weekly ‘Catching Up’ posts, too.

The 2017 lacrosse season gets rolling this weekend – we’ll be starting our coverage with preseason teams, beginning next week!

Noontime Top 5 D2 Poll: Assumption Secures Top Spot (WK 3)

Assumption College secured the top spot in our Noontime D2 Top 5 after an impressive first two contests. (Photo Credit: Assumption College Athletics)

Assumption College secured the top spot in our Noontime D2 Top 5 after an impressive first two contests. (Photo Credit: Assumption College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Noontime Sports is happy to unveil our first regular season (Week Three) D2 Top 5 Poll.

Our D2 Poll is a part of our blog’s new coverage plan, which we are slowly unveiling over the next few days and weeks.

So, without further ado, here is this week’s (Week 3) Noontime D2 Top 5 Poll.

  1. Assumption (2-0) – Bob Chesney’s squad is off to an impressive start. Through two games this season, the Greyhounds are averaging 52 points per game. Can they keep this momentum going against Southern Connecticut State on Friday evening? We’ll find out.
  1. Bentley (1-1) – The Falcons enjoyed a bounce-back game against Saint A’s, thanks to a pair of touchdown strikes by quarterback CJ Scarpa, who concluded the contest 14 of 20 for 185 yards. Joey Piatnik did his job on defense, tallying five total tackles, including four solo stops and one sack. Bentley will look to keep things going at home Friday against Merrimack.
  1. Merrimack (1-1) – Following a tough opening day loss to Bryant, the Warriors rebounded with a come-from-behind win over American International. Give the game ball to quarterback Nick Davis, who helped the Warriors erase a 13-0 deficit en route to claiming a 16-13 victory.
  1. So. Connecticut (1-1) –Quarterback Robert Nittolo enjoyed his best game under center, tossing a trio of touchdowns, while completing 17 of 25 passes for 287 yards. Additionally, he rushed for a season-high 41 yards, along with one score.
  1. American International College (0-2) – Give credit to the Yellow Jackets’ defense, which was led by Azeem Cooper, who finished this past week’s contest against Merrimack with 11 total tackles, two sacks and one quarterback hurry. The Yellow Jackets are showing signs that they’ll crack the win column sooner than later.

New England D2 Lacrosse: Tim Robbins Named AIC Men’s Lacrosse Coach

Tim Robbins was named the ninth head coach of the AIC men's lacrosse program on Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: AIC Athletics)

Tim Robbins was named the ninth head coach of the AIC men’s lacrosse program on Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: AIC Athletics)

By Matt Noonan 

It was announced on Friday that Tim Robbins would become the ninth men’s lacrosse head coach at American International College after spending the past season as the squad’s interim head coach.

The Yellow Jackets, who compete in an extremely competitive Northeast-10 Conference, capped their 2016 campaign with a ‘Senior Day’ victory over Georgian Court. Jack McIntyre paced the Black and Gold, tallying six points on four goals and two assists, while Lucas Bombardier netted a hat trick.

Bombardier concluded his initial season of collegiate lacrosse by earning a spot on the conference’s All-Rookie team.

“I am extremely elated to be given the honor of leading the Men’s Lacrosse program of American International College,” Robbins said in the athletic department’s release. “I am excited to continue to work with this tremendous group of young men, to recruit, teach, mentor and coach the young men and establish a winning culture as we strive to reach new heights in the Northeast-10 Conference.”

“Tim Robbins has done a tremendous job for us in an interim role over the past year,” Director of Athletics Matt Johnson said in the release. “He has outstanding lacrosse playing and coaching experience and his current players have been very vocal in advocating for his permanent assignment.”

Robbins joined the AIC staff as an assistant coach prior to the 2015 campaign before Johnson announced last November that he would become the program’s interim head coach.

Prior to arriving at AIC, Robbins spent time as either an assistant or head coach for numerous collegiate programs, including College of Saint Rose where he guided the Golden Eagles to a 7-6 overall record during the program’s initial season in 2012. Additionally, Robbins was instrumental in helping Siena College capture their conference crown (MAAC), while advancing to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2009.

Said Johnson, “We are excited about the future of our men’s lacrosse program.”