Dwayne Stewart seemed ready for his next challenge.
After assisting Ryan Kuhn with starting a men’s lacrosse program at Lincoln Memorial University as both an assistant coach and offensive coordinator from 2015 to 2018, Stewart was ready for his next challenge, coaching a first-year varsity squad at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
“I was excited because I was going to be the leader of a team,” said Stewart, who is currently in his second season with the Hawks.
Being involved with a new program seemed “normal” to Stewart, who has aspirations of one day winning a championship – “I want to do that fast,” he said when introduced as the school’s first-ever men’s lacrosse coach on August 9, 2018. Stewart has won a championship before when he played midfield at the University of Albany in 2013 but as of Thursday morning, the Copiague, New York native seems determined to provide his squad with as much playing and practicing experience as possible this season.
Stewart and the team used the lockdown, as well as the past few months to begin planning for this season – so far, the squad has competed twice, and despite dropping their initial State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) clash to the State University of New York at Plattsburgh(SUNY Plattsburgh) on Monday, Stewart and the Hawks were able to gain a better understanding of what they must work on, so they can be better prepared for future league matchups.
“It was great to see the level of play (in the SUNYAC),” Stewart said of his team’s recent outing with Plattsburgh. “I am sure my guys learned a lot.”
The Hawks will gain more experience as the season progresses – in fact, they will learn a lot more over the next few weeks when they compete against other league foes, including the State University of New York at Potsdam (SUNY Potsdam), a team they will see next Monday, as well as later this month. But beyond the offensive and defensive reps, Stewart also plans to use these next few weeks to “instill” a team culture, as well as improve the system he is currently teaching the Hawks.
Like any coach, Stewart knows his system – and yes, his team’s goals – will be tweaked over time. But as for his vision – well, more his dream for where the Hawks can go from here is something his young team already believes in.
“You know, I pretty much sold them a dream (for this new program when I was hired in August of 2018) and they believed that dream and vision,” said Stewart when reflecting on his time the past few years with the program.
“We had a really strong showing (last February) against Elmira, and after we got that first win, along with an overtime win against SUNY Purchase, the team really started to buy into that message. And they’re feeding (into it more and more) as a second-year program.”
The final day of March has arrived – can you believe it?
I can’t, but what I can say is it has been a busy few weeks in the NCAA D-III lacrosse world – hopefully, you have stopped by to read our various player perspective interviews, along with our weekly notebooks this month! – but before we usher in a brand new month, along with the second half of the season, I thought we could revisit some of the storylines (and yes, headlines, too) from the past few weeks.
Salisbury University Women’s Lacrosse is off to a fast start
Let’s begin with Salisbury University, specifically the women’s team, which recently scored its eighth-straight win, as well as its third conference victory. The Sea Gulls are averaging 15 goals per game – so far, they have deposited 124 shots – and appeared to be in mid-season form earlier this month when they beat The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), 14-8.
Seniors Alexis Strobel (12 goals and 37 assists), Lydia McNulty (21 goals and three assists), and Julie Talbert (11 goals and two assists) have highlighted the Sea Gulls’ impressive attack, which has also received a boost from sophomore Erin Scannell, who has recorded career-highs in goals (26) and points (27).
With five games remaining, the Sea Gulls appear to be the team to beat in the Coast-To-Coast Athletic Conference (C2C) – one game to watch next month is Salisbury’s regular-season finale against St. Mary’s College, which has won three of four contests thus far. The Seahawks’ lone setback occurred earlier this month against Salisbury (14-10 setback).
John Carroll University boasts two NCAA D-III Goal Scorers
Skyler Blake and Colleen Grombala of John Carroll University are currently leading all NCAA D-III lacrosse players in goals – yes, I know this can change with games set to commence later today and this evening.
The Gents recently restarted their lacrosse program and defeated the University of Dallas earlier this month – the win is certainly a step in the right direction for the Maroon and White, which is currently the only NCAA squad in Louisiana.
As of this afternoon, Centenary boasts a 1-8 record but I’ll be rooting for them in their next two contests against Southwestern University and Dallas.
Averett University men’s lacrosse has shown improvements in its fourth season
The four wins are the most for the Cougars, who are scheduled to compete this Saturday, April 3 against William Peace University. This will be the first of two meetings between the two schools this season.
As of this afternoon, first-year Liam Taylor leads the Navy Blue and Yellow with 24 points on 18 goals and six assists.
Keep your eyes on Christopher Newport men’s lacrosse next month
The one-goal win over the Hornets was the first for Christopher Newport in four attempts (Lynchburg would even the season series six days later with a 12-5 win).
Despite a recent loss to Lynchburg, Christopher Newport has looked quite impressive this month – they are scheduled to face some challenging foes in Colorado College, Salisbury University, and Washington and Lee University over the next few weeks.
The Captains and Sea Gulls will square-off this Saturday, April 3 in Maryland with a face-off set for 4 p.m. I would highly recommend streaming the game.
The Washington and Lee women’s lacrosse team has won six-straight contests and will commence the second half of their schedule tomorrow when they visit Shenandoah University. After visiting the Hornets, the Generals will play four more contests before competing in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Tournament.
The George Fox University women’s lacrosse team will enter the second half of their schedule with a 7-0 record – the Bruins recently scored back-to-back wins last weekend against Willamette University. Andrea Garcia-Milla highlighted her team’s seventh win with six assists to go with five ground balls and one caused turnover.
The first weekend of New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) action is set to commence this Saturday, April 3 with three contests. Trinity College men’s lacrosse will visit Connecticut College at 11 a.m. followed by Bates College women’s lacrosse visiting Colby College. Connecticut College women’s lacrosse will entertain Tufts University at 3 p.m.
SUNY Cortland men’s lacrosse will enter the month of April with a 2-1 record – they recently defeated Clarkson University, 11-9, thanks to four goals and one assist from Zak Jones.
Today would have been the sectional finals for eight NCAA D-III women’s basketball teams. It would have also been a day of third-round men’s basketball action with eight teams vying for spots in next weekend’s quarterfinals.
Sure, we don’t know who would have extended their respective season an additional day or week, but the opening weekend of the 2020 NCAA D-III Basketball Tournaments did produce some exciting outcomes and finishes, as well as some dramatic moments, which I have highlighted below.
Here are a few moments that I will remember from the opening weekend of both NCAA Tournaments, enjoy!
Tufts’ epic comeback against Western Connecticut. Trailing the Colonials by 21 points at the break, Tufts leaned on Luke Rogers and Carson Cohen to lead the Jumbos past Western Connecticut in an exciting opening round contest last Friday, March 6th in Medford, Massachusetts.
Rogers led the Jumbos with a double-double of 16 rebounds and 15 points while Cohen chipped in 14 points, including two three-pointers.
The win prompted an enormous celebration, which would continue the following day when Tufts beat RPI, 75-66, to secure a date with the College of Brockport in the third round.
Smith College advances to its first-ever “Sweet 16.” The Pioneers entered the postseason with some serious momentum – they scored three-straight wins in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament and had not lost a game since early February. That momentum carried the Pioneers to not just one, but two postseason wins last weekend over No. 20 DeSales (81-72) and SUNY New Paltz (62-60).
Their win over SUNY New Paltz was highlighted by a late 10-0 run during the final minutes of the fourth quarter, which was capped by a go-ahead and eventual game-winning basket by Amelia Clairmont.
Jim Calhoun makes his initial NCAA D-III Tournament debut. After leading the University of Saint Joseph’s (Conn.) to its initial Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) title in just its second season as a varsity program, coach Jim Calhoun earned his first trip to the NCAA D-III Tournament. But unfortunately, the Blue Jays’ appearance in the tournament didn’t last long as Hobart defeated the Blue and Gold, 78-74, in the opening round.
The setback to the Statesmen concluded an impressive second season by the Blue Jays, which was highlighted by a 25-game winning streak that stretched from late November to early March. Additionally, the 2019-20 season included an impressive milestone for Calhoun, his 900th win in January.
Eastern Connecticut’s defense highlighted its opening-round win. It was the Warriors’ defense that helped Eastern Connecticut top St. JohnFisher, 60-43, in the opening round and score its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2015.
St. John Fisher was limited to 13 points or less in each frame, including seven points in the second quarter.
Williams College returns to its first NCAA D-III “Sweet 16” in seven years. The Ephs were a team to watch this season – they won 20 of 28 contests and came within a few baskets of advancing to the 2020 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship last month. But despite losing in the NESCAC semifinals to Tufts University, the Ephs were able to bounce back as an at-large bid to this year’s “big dance” and win back-to-back contests against Albright College and Ithaca College.
Williams trailed Ithaca, 16-14, after opening quarter before outscoring the hosts in the final three sessions to secure a 69-61 win, along with a spot in the NCAA D-III “Sweet 16” for the first time in seven seasons. Maggie Meehan led the Ephs with 18 points on 7 of 17 shooting while Mikaela Topper added 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Amelia Clairmont‘s go-ahead jumper with two seconds remaining capped an impressive 10-0 run for Smith College, which hung onto beat SUNY New Paltz, 62-60, in the second round of the NCAA D-III Women’s Basketball Tournament.
With the win, the Pioneers earned their first trip to the NCAA “Sweet 16” next Friday, March 13th against Messiah College, which beat Eastern Connecticut, 60-50, in its second-round contest earlier this evening.
Smith and New Paltz entered the final frame tied at 47-47 before the Hawks pushed ahead with a 13-5 run that was capped by a Maddie Gillis three-pointer with 3:02 remaining.
The Pioneers halted the spurt with a three-pointer by Jessie Ruffner which ignited a 10-0 run by the visitors that included baskets by Clairmont and Morgan Morrison. Morrison’s jumper with 1:05 remaining tied the game at 60-60 – New Paltz tried to counter on the ensuing possession with Gillis, who missed a jumper in the paint. Smith grabbed the rebound, called timeout and drew up a play for Clairmont to score the game-winning basket in the paint.
Clairmont concluded Saturday’s contest with a team-high 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting to go with three rebounds and one assist while Katelyn Pickunka added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Prior to tonight’s win over the Hawks, Smith beat DeSales University yesterday in the opening day of the NCAA D-III Tournament.