Football Friday: Revisiting Framingham State’s 2012 Campaign

Endicott Football

Framingham State’s Melikke Van Alstyne chases Endicott College’s PJ Bandini after an interception in the second half. (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Happy Friday, everyone!

And welcome to our second installment of ‘Football Friday,’ a post where we revisit stories, teams, coaches, and student-athletes that we have covered over the past decade.

Today, we’re jumping back to 2012 to highlight a Framingham State University football team that not only won the New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship against Salve Regina University but also advanced to its first-ever NCAA D-III Tournament.

The Rams’ run toward a national championship, unfortunately, concluded in the opening round against SUNY Cortland – the Red Dragons edged Framingham State, 20-19, despite a fourth-quarter rally by the Black and Gold.

Yet, despite a one-point setback in the national tournament, the 2012 season was quite a memorable one for the Rams, which captured the program’s first and only NEFC title, while four members of the squad, including coach Tom Kelley, garnered major postseason awards from the conference. Additionally, Framingham State won 10 games for the first time in program history and only lost once in the regular season to Endicott College, which defeated the 2011 NEFC Bogan Division and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) champions on the opening day of the 2012 season.

Endicott’s defense shined in its week one victory against the Rams as the unit finished the contest with five interceptions, five tackles for a loss, one fumble recovery, and a trio of pass break-ups.

“We stuffed them on first down (and) forced them (into) long second downs (and) that really got them out of their groove,” Endicott’s Andrew Holfinger said following his team’s initial win of its 2012 campaign.

Luckily, the loss to the Gulls was quickly forgotten six days later when Framingham State scored its first win of the 2012 season against Nichols College.

The Rams, who defeated the Bison by a score of 34-6, leaned on its ground game as both Matthew Mangano and Melikke Van Alstyne combined for four touchdowns and 393 rushing yards.

The victory over the Bison seemed to provide the Rams with a ton of momentum as they would go onto capture its next nine contests, including a 16-0 win over rival Bridgewater State University followed by an exciting overtime victory against Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Not only did the Framingham State offense shine throughout the 2012 season, but so did  the defense, which limited its numerous foes to 12.8 points per game, along with 63.0 rushing yards per contest.

After registering just seven points in the opening week, the Rams concluded seven contests with 30 points or more. But during the team’s final regular-season contest against Worcester State University, all three units – offense, defense, and special teams – collaborated to produce a season-high 65 points.

The 65-21 win over the Lancers allowed the Rams to clinch its second-straight NEFC Bogan Division crown, as well as secure a spot in the conference’s championship round one week later against Salve Regina.

“We’re certainly going to be tested,” Kelley said when previewing his team’s contest against the Seahawks at the New England Football Writers’ Gridiron Club of Greater Boston luncheon, which was held at Harvard University.

Salve Regina entered the contest with an identical 9-1 record. The Seahawks averaged nearly 400 yards of offense while the defense limited opponents to roughly two touchdowns per game.

But despite scoring the first points of the 2012 NEFC title game, Salve Regina struggled to contain both Melikke Van Alstyne and Matthew Silva, who combined for three rushing touchdowns. 

James Muirhead led the Rams defense with eight total tackles, including three stops for a loss of 17 yards and one forced fumble.

Salve Regina, which trailed Framingham State by four points (14-10) at the break, attempted to mount a late comeback during the final minutes of the fourth quarter but saw its rally dashed when the Rams recovered its onside kick.

Moments after the final kickoff of the game was recorded, the Rams celebrated a hard-fought championship, which Muirhead considered “so surreal.”

“All the hard work paid off,” said Muirhead, who was named the Bull Mottola Championship Game Most Valuable Player Award following the final whistle.

“I don’t really have any words to explain it,” he would add.

The 28-16 win over the Seahawks was a culmination of the Rams’ commitment of hard work and determination that was fueled by an overtime setback one year earlier in the same contest to Western New England. And while the victory over the Seahawks did not spark a deep postseason run, it was certainly the beginning of many more conference titles and postseason appearances for a squad that has maintained its success over the past few years.

Watching – and yes, covering – this team truly made me fall in love more with small college football. The 2012 season truly marked the beginning of my tenure of producing content on various New England D-III athletic teams and programs, and I am thankful for the time both Tom Kelley and the players provided me throughout this exciting and historic campaign.

Noonan: Revisiting My First Lacrosse Championship Game

Beau Wood/Tufts Lacrosse

Tufts University’s Beau Wood (No. 18) netted the game-winning goal for the Jumbos against Bowdoin College in the 2012 NESCAC Championship game. (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan)

By Matt Noonan 

The month of May, in my opinion, will always be associated with the sport of lacrosse.

It is a month that features a slew of college tournaments and championships to NCAA postseason runs that concludes on Memorial Day weekend.

But while the sport of lacrosse, as well as other games, remain sidelined for the moment, memories of games covered, including my first-ever New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament Final, is on my mind. And it is hard not to think back to that gorgeous day – May 6, 2012, to be exact – when Tufts University outlasted Bowdoin College, 9-8, in double-overtime

At the time, I didn’t know much about lacrosse. I thought it was hockey on grass – maybe basketball, too – but it was a sport I grew to love from watching a talented Tufts team (and program), which had won its first-ever national championship two years earlier against Salisbury University.

I got my first glimpse of these Jumbos in mid-April of 2012 when Tufts rolled past Amherst College, 15-5. It was an impressive win.

Mike Daly, who was the coach of the Jumbos, told me neither he or his coaching staff anticipated his team was going to beat Amherst by ten goals on this particular afternoon. Instead, Daly, who is currently the head coach of the Brown University men’s lacrosse team, told me that his team “just put together a pretty complete effort today.” And that effort would certainly be on display weeks later when I covered Tufts’ dramatic win over a Bowdoin, which would conclude its 2012 campaign in the second round of the NCAA D-III Tournament.

Bowdoin was a good team. They had scored some impressive conference wins in 2012, as well as some important non-league victories against Keene State and Springfield College. They beat Wesleyan University in the NESCAC quarterfinals before knocking off Trinity College in the semifinals shortly after Tufts topped Connecticut College.

Tufts had beaten Bowdoin prior to their championship meeting – the Jumbos topped the Polar Bears, 15-7, in Medford, Massachusetts, which made me think the young men who wore the powder blue, brown and white jerseys that day would duplicate that performance on the same field. But I was wrong.

Instead, I, along with fans and friends of each program, was treated to an amazing back and forth affair that saw Bowdoin erase a two-goal deficit during the final minutes of the fourth quarter to force not one, but two extra sessions.

Tufts had a chance to win the game in the first overtime but neither Nick Rhoads and Beau Wood were able to deposit their attempt past Bowdoin’s, Chris Williamson. Bowdoin would also have a chance to clinch the victory but watched Conor O’Toole‘s shot sail wide of the Tufts cage.

So, with the score still knotted at 8-8, we quickly advanced to a second overtime period. And like many, I wondered which team would score that game-winner? Would it be Bowdoin, since they seemed to have all the momentum, thanks to back-to-back fourth-quarter goals by Keegan Mehlhorn and Will Wise, or Tufts, which had not located the back of the net since the final seconds of the third quarter?

That question would be answered during the sixth and final period when Tufts scored on its third attempt of the session with 1:50 remaining. Beau Wood fired home the game-winner after receiving a pass from Geordie Shafer. And once the ball slipped past Bowdoin’s Chris Williamson, the Jumbos rushed the field to celebrate a hard-fought yet exhilarating win.

“We knew we had to just end (the game) it as soon (as we got the ball),” Wood remarked shortly after his team’s one-goal win.

Indeed, the Jumbos did end it, but not until they forced their second turnover of the second overtime.

Tufts would advance to the NCAA semifinals two weeks later but saw their run toward a national title conclude against SUNY Cortland. The Red Dragons, which beat the Jumbos by a score of 12-10, would end up losing in the finals to Salisbury, who had beaten Tufts in the national title game one year earlier.

Sure, it was disappointing to see a team you had covered fall short of winning the ultimate prize, but I knew eventually this team (and program) would celebrate a championship in the future. And that they did. Tufts would win a pair of titles in the coming years, including their second national championship against Salisbury in 2014. They would also make a third-straight appearance in the championship game in 2016 but lose by one goal to the Sea Gulls of Salisbury.

Tufts will return to the title game again soon. But for now, I consider myself lucky to have covered and chronicled their various campaigns these past few years through NoontimeSports.com. I will always be thankful for the time both Mike Daly and his players provided me after the three contests I covered in 2012 and will continue to look back on this time fondly. I was a young journalist (and blogger), but also someone that wanted to learn more about a sport that I had only played once in my life. And because of Tufts, I am now an avid lacrosse fan, as well as a high school and middle school official here in Massachusetts.

I miss watching and covering games, especially on gorgeous days like today, but I do know better days are ahead for all of us, and they will certainly include exciting and dramatic one-goal victories.

Manning On Facing Tufts: “Third Time’s a Charm, Right?”

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Maggie Meehan and the Williams College women’s basketball team will be competing Friday, March 13th in the NCAA “Sweet 16.” (PHOTO COURTESY: Williams College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com 

When the NCAA D-III Women’s Basketball Tournament pairings were released last Monday, the thought of Williams College facing Tufts University for the third time this season seemed like a possibility. But it wasn’t a given.

For the Ephs and Jumbos to meet in the “Sweet 16,” both teams needed to win their respective pods, which they did. Tufts beat SUNY Cortland and SUNY Poly while Williams topped Albright College and Ithaca College. And now, the two New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) squads are scheduled to tip-off this Friday, March 13th in Medford, Massachusetts.

When asked about competing against the Jumbos for a third time this season, Williams coach Pat Manning smiled and then said, “Here we go with our third time with Tufts. Hope the third time’s a charm, right?”

Perhaps the third time will be the charm for the Ephs, who have lost twice this winter to the Jumbos, including a six-point setback in the NESCAC semifinals last month, which provided Tufts an opportunity to contend for the conference title against Bowdoin College.

Prior to their meeting in the NESCAC Tournament, Tufts beat Williams on the final Saturday of the regular season by a score of 76-60. Cailin Harrington highlighted the win for the Jumbos with 17 points on five of ten shooting to go with nine rebounds, two assists, and one block while Williams’ Maggie Meehan tallied 17 points, as well, along with one rebound, one assist, and one steal.

Williams, which earned its first trip to the “big dance” in five seasons as an at-large bid, will be making its fifth appearance in the “Sweet 16” on Friday.

Briggs, DeCandido Leads Tufts Past SUNY Cortland

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Erica DeCandido registered a double-double in Tufts University’s second-round contest against SUNY Cortland. (PHOTO COURTESY: Alexander Thompson / The Tufts Daily)

By NoontimeSports.com 

For the ninth consecutive season, the Tufts University women’s basketball team secured a spot in the upcoming NCAA D-III Tournament’s “Sweet 16” with a 79-53 win over SUNY Cortland on Saturday afternoon at Western New England.

With the win, the Jumbos secured a date with Williams College, which beat Ithaca College, 69-61, in its second-round matchup this afternoon. Tufts and Williams have met twice this season with the Jumbos winning both contests, including last month’s New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) semifinals.

Erica DeCandido led the Jumbos and all scorers with 26 points to go with 11 rebounds, three assists, and three steals while Emily Briggs chipped in 21 points on 9 of 15 shooting. Briggs also contributed nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block.

Tufts led 21-14 after one quarter before pushing ahead for good at the break with a 38-22 advantage. Cortland did reduce the deficit in the second half with a 22 point output, but it wasn’t enough to provide the Red Dragons with enough momentum to slow down the Jumos in the final frame.

Three members of the Red Dragons netted double-digits, Casey Travers, who finished with a team-high 13 points on four of nine shooting.

Cortland secured a second-round date with the Jumbos after scoring an opening day win over host Western New England. Tufts defeated SUNY Poly on the first day by a score of 72-34.

Setting The Stage For The First Day of the NCAA D3 Women’s Basketball Tournament

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Mary Kate O’Day and the Framingham State women’s basketball team will make their NCAA Tournament debut on Friday against Amherst College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Frank Poulin/Framingham State Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

We’re just one day away from the start of the 2020 NCAA D-III Women’s Basketball Tournament, which means its time to highlight a few things you need to know about this year’s postseason while also sharing some predictions, too.

Which New England teams will be competing in this year’s NCAA D-III Men’s Basketball Tournament? 

  • This year, there are 12 teams from our region that will begin their respective quests toward Columbus, Ohio tomorrow, including two teams that will be host sites for both the first and second rounds.
  • Here are the teams that will be representing New England in the 2020 NCAA D-III Tournament: Amherst CollegeFramingham StateEndicott CollegeBowdoin CollegeEmmanuel CollegeEastern ConnecticutSmith CollegeHusson UniversityNew England CollegeWilliams CollegeWestern New England, and Tufts University.

What are the first-round matchups, times and locations? 

Here is the schedule for tomorrow’s (Friday, March 6th) first-round schedule:

  • Tufts University vs. SUNY Poly, 5 p.m. (at Western New England)
  • Williams College vs. Albright College, 5 p.m. (at Ithaca College)
  • Eastern Connecticut vs. St. John Fisher, 5 p.m. (at Messiah College)
  • New York University vs. Emmanuel College, 5 p.m. (at Bowdoin College)
  • Smith College vs. DeSales University, 5:30 p.m. (at SUNY New Paltz)
  • SUNY Cortland at Western New England, 7 p.m.
  • New England College at Ithaca College, 7 p.m.
  • Brooklyn at Bowdoin College, 7 p.m.
  • Endicott College at University of Scranton, 7 p.m.
  • Framingham State at Amherst College, 7 p.m.
  • Husson University at SUNY New Paltz, 7:30 p.m.

Which teams could advance to Saturday’s (March 7th) second round? 

  • Amherst College: The Mammoths are the favorites in their pod as they should be able to top Framingham State tomorrow and then beat either Merchant Marine or Rowan University on Saturday. The Rams should provide some challenges for the Mammoths, so don’t expect Amherst to run away from Framingham State following the opening tip.
  • Bowdoin College: The Polar Bears could be the favorite on their side of the bracket – they should be able to beat Brooklyn, but could face some challenges against either Emmanuel or New York University. But I think the Polar Bear has what it takes to not just win two games this weekend, but perhaps advance to Ohio and possibly play Tufts in the national semifinals.
  • Smith College: The Pioneers enter the postseason with a great deal of momentum. They won three straight New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament games last week, including back-to-back contests against MIT and Springfield College. For the Pioneers to advance to the second round, they will need to slow down a Bulldogs squad that has won 14 consecutive contests. DeSales has four players on their roster that are averaging 10 points or more per contest so for Smith to prevail, they will need big games from Amelia Clairmont and Katelyn Pickunka.
  • Tufts University: The Jumbos are primed for a deep postseason run – they should be able to get past SUNY Poly, a team they beat earlier this season, and then either SUNY Cortland or Western New England on Saturday. The loss to Bowdoin in the 2020 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) can certainly be used as motivation for games this weekend, as well as future contests later this month.
  • Williams College: The Ephs should certainly be in the mix for a second-round contest on Saturday, but face a talented Lions squad that fell short of winning their respective conference tournament championship. For Williams to be successful, they will need to find ways to stop Albright’s Dejah Terrell, who is averaging 22.4 points and 3.1 blocks per game. Additionally, they will need to keep their eyes Gabby Boggs, who is averaging 9.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. Williams will need a big game from Maggie Meehan, who enters the postseason clash averaging 13.7 points.

What first-round match-up will I be watching? 

  • SUNY Cortland vs. Western New England: The Golden Bears have not played a game since last month. But one can bet they have been preparing for Friday’ match-up with a Red Dragons squad that is 7-5 on the road this season. SUNY Cortland is making its first tournament appearance since 2010 and will be led by Beth Bonin, who is averaging 18.2 points per game. Western New England should be able to counter with their senior trio of Emily FarrellCourtney Carlson, and Meghan Orbann.

First-Round Predictions! 

  • Tufts over SUNY Poly
  • Western New England over SUNY Cortland
  • Albright College over Williams College
  • Ithaca College over New England College
  • SUNY New Paltz over Husson University
  • Smith College over DeSales University
  • St. John Fisher over Eastern Connecticut
  • Bowdoin College over Brooklyn
  • Emmanuel College over New York University
  • Scranton over Endicott College
  • Amherst College over Framingham State