Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brian Abernathy's big season with St. Lawrence continues

Saratoga Catholic graduate Brian Abernathy had three big saves in a close fought victory as the St. Lawrence University men beat Western New England University 3-2, advancing into the round of 16 in the 2011 NCAA Division III men's soccer championship.

“It was tough,” Abernathy said. “We were on a smaller field and (Western) New England has a very athletic team and they play very direct.”

The goal by WNE in the 16th minute broke a 1370:20 scoreless streak for the Saints.

Junior Midfielder Sam DeMello put the Saints in front 4:12 into the second half as Golden Bear goaltender Domenick Villani couldn't control the ball in a one on one leaping contest with Saint back Brain Laird. The ball bounced off Villani's hands and to DeMello, who one-timed a shot from 12 yards out to make it a 2-1 game. Western New England came back to tie it, scoring off a restart with 5:16 to go in regulation.

The Saints came up with the game winner following a throw in deep in the WNE end. Andrew Bednarsky took the ball after Brian Gilloran's throw and cut back across traffic. DeMello moved to the middle and took the ball on the fly, burying the ball inside the far post for the game winner.

"I can't say enough about what Sam DeMello has meant to this team," said Saint coach Bob Durocher. "With the guys who have been injured, he has taken the team on his back and they have rallied around him."

St. Lawrence, playing with the wind in the first half, had several good runs, but had trouble keeping the ball from going long. The Saints finally cashed in and tied the game with 3:55 left in the first half following a throw-in deep in the Golden Bear's end. Shaka Pilgrim controlled Yanick Brown's throw and sent the ball to the top of the penalty area. Freshman Mark Provost then hit a shot from about 22 yards out which cleared WNE goalie Domenick Villani's leap and curled under the crossbar for Provost's second goal of the year.

"We knew this was going to be tough on the road. We had to dig deep, and we got excellent support from the bench all weekend. We got three goals off the bench this weekend and that is the kind of thing you need at this time of the year," said Durocher. "This is the kind of game that brings you together as a team and that's what you need at this time of the isn't going to get any easier from here.

Western New England, which went into the game ranked 19th nationally outshot the Saints 14-11 and had seven corner kicks to one for the Saints. Abernethy made three saves while Villano had one for the Golden Bears.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Matties named to All-CCC team for field hockey, McDougall Defensive Performer of the Week

Saratoga grad makes All-CCC team
Taylor Matties, a 2009 Saratoga graduate, makes the CCC All Conference Field Hockey First Team. Matties attends Endicott and plays mid-field for the Gulls who won their first ever Commonwealth Coast Conference title.

Liberty League tabs four Thoroughbreds
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Liberty League announced that Saratoga Springs graduate and Skidmore freshman Haley McDougall was named Defensive Performer of the Week after she helped lead the Thoroughbreds to their fourth consecutive Liberty League Championship.
McDougall earned tournament MVP honors after allowing just two goals during the tournament and making 11 saves, including five in the second half of the championship game. Skidmore will host one of four NCAA Regionals this weekend and will play Amherst or Gwynedd-Mercy in the NCAA Second Round, Saturday at 10 a.m.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saratoga Springs' Matties gives Endicott Field Hockey an overtime win

BEVERLY, Mass. — Taylor Matties of Saratoga Springs blasted her third goal of the year just 56 seconds into the overtime period to deliver a 2-1 win for to Endicott field hockey over the University of New England. The ball was never in the UNE side of the field during the sudden-death overtime as Endicott freshman Emily Sawchuck took it into the circle off the whistle and won a penalty corner, which was delivered by junior Hannah Thornberg. Matties controlled the ball and dribbled into the box before uncorking her championship-winning shot.
Junior Melissa Enright was fed by Matties in front of the net and slammed the ball behind UNE goalie Kaitlyn Warren to tie the game. Matties has collected 13 assists on the year, putting her among the national leaders.
Warren stopped ten shots in net for the Nor'easters, who fall to 18-3. Junior goalie Taylor Teixeira made three saves for the Gulls.
Endicott has earned an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament. The Gulls will await the release of the brackets next week to see who and where they will be playing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Great Debate: Who impressed the most in the Tournament's opening weekend?

Bracket torn to pieces? Already sick of the Madness and tired of hearing the words "Cinderella," "upset," and "chalk" being thrown with regularity in conversation?

Well, too freaking bad! We only get one NCAA Tournament a year and we -- Matt Donato and Michael Kelly -- are going to live it up while we can. Here's our take on the most impressive team from each region in the men's NCAA Tournament. As always, feel free to chime in using the comments section.


KELLY: I don't think we'll have too much of a difference in opinion over this one -- Ohio State was the most impressive team in this region by quite a bit.

First, Ohio State easily dispatched of UT-San Antonio by 29 points. While being the latest No. 1 to knock off a 16-seed is not exactly something to write (email?) home about, the Buckeyes did maintain their focus and hold the Roadrunners to 46 points. As a big UNC fan who watched his team allow (freaking) Long Island score 87 points, I know how easy it is for an overwhelming favorite to allow itself to simply play along with the underdog. Ohio State deserves credit for not doing so.

Then, George Mason. Wow. The Patriots were being thought of as a club with a legitimate shot to upset the Buckeyes and, instead, Ohio State made George Mason look more like a wide-eyed mid-major than a program only a few years removed from a Final Four run.

While outscoring the Patriots 52-26 in the first half was obviously the eye-popping team statistic, I am more impressed by Ohio State's 46-40 second-half advantage. Even up 26, the Buckeyes maintained their focus. Right now, they're the epitome of a team on a mission.

DONATO: I agree. I was absolutely certain that George Mason was going to give the Sullinger Gang a fight to the buzzer. The team couldn't find a rebound this year outside of Sullinger, and had a very shallow bench. Somehow this week, we underrated the No. 1 overall seed, and they proved to us just how good they really are.

They are the No. 1 seed though, and should be expected to dominate the opening rounds. Marquette, however, has acted like most people expected every other Big East team to play in the tournament, yet did so as an 11-seed.

They handled Xavier easily (won by 11) in the opener, and dispatched my "hindsight is 20-20" East favorite Syracuse on Sunday night. They are the forgotten Big East team, dismissed as the 11th member who only just got in. Yet their conference makes their run seem less Cinderella-esque.

The Saratogian's Alex Ventre was in the office Sunday night rooting for Marquette because he'd prefer UNC play them over the Orange, but the Golden Eagles are playing with some dangerous nobody-believed-in-us swagger.

Your -- Kelly is a UNC fan -- Tar Heels will win the battle of the boards, but if Marquette can hit 82% of their FTs like they did Sunday and hold UNC to under 70 points like they did to Xavier and 'Cuse, the Eagles have played well enough to envision them being the fifth 11-seed ever to make it to the Elite Eight.


DONATO: I am really pleased with how my Huskies have performed out west, putting down Bucknell with ease and outplaying familiar foe Cincinnati, but the team that has really caught my attention in these first two rounds has been Arizona.

While they have not blown out either of their opponents, winning by a combined margin of three points, they have become the collegiate Anti-Heat with their close wins against tough opponents.

Memphis was 28th in RPI when the tournament started and was as high as No. 13 overall in the AP poll this season, and Texas spent three weeks as the No. 3 overall, finished No. 8, yet still drew a 4-seed. Both are a misleading draw, neither in favor of Arizona, yet the Wildcats played both games down to the last second and have survived into the Sweet 16.

They have shown great tenacity and grit. I only hope they still have something in the tank for Duke.

Despite shooting 4-of-14 from the field against Texas, Derrick Williams has been really impressive these last two games (Did you know he hit 61% 36-of-59 of his 3-pointers this season? How does he not shoot them more?) with his game-saving block against Memphis and amazing game-winning three-point play on Sunday.

When Williams was shooting poorly, Solomon Hill was filling in the gaps. Both had good peripheral numbers in the Texas game as well. I hope Duke will not take them as lightly as I did heading into the tournament.

KELLY: Before I explain my unconventional pick for this region's most impressive team, yes, Arizona was fantastic and Williams is a stud. To answer your questions about his lack of 3-point attempts -- that's my favorite thing about him. Williams is the rare player in this generation who seems to like to bang down low even though he has a nice perimeter game.

If I had the No. 1 pick in this upcoming draft and did not have a positional need to dictate my choice, I would take Williams in a heartbeat.

ANYWAY, my choice for the West's most impressive team is the now-eliminated Michigan Wolverines. A 30-point blowout of Tennessee and an almost upset of No. 1 Duke was enough for me; coach John Beilein has the once-vaunted Big Ten program back in the thick of things. Michigan has gotten to the tournament now in two of the last three years (after not being in the tournament since 1998) and has won a game in each visit.


KELLY: We certainly have a bevy of choices to pick from here. I'll take the VCU Rams, a program now headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the school's history. After spending the days leading up the tournament hearing how they did not even belong in the play-in game, the Rams went out and beat USC of the Pac-10, Georgetown of the Big East and Purdue of the Big Ten.

Correction: Not only won, but defeated each major-conference representative by at least 13 points. VCU's average winning margin so far in the tournament has been 16.3 points per game. Even better for Cinderella-watchers, VCU next has a winnable game against the ACC's Florida State, which likely would be followed by a date with Kansas out of the Big 12. Could you imagine if VCU ran through five of the six major conferences on its way to a Final Four berth?

DONATO: I am loving the Rams in the tournament this year. The whole Southwest has been a lot of fun, with 10 through 13 making it to the technical third round and 10 through 12 still playing in the Sweet 16, there are plenty of teams to choose from.

I'm going to have to throw my support behind Florida State, because Sunday night's win over Notre Dame was never in doubt. The Seminoles grabbed about a 10 point lead midway through the first half, and the game stayed at that level throughout.

Florida State has been great this year at limiting opponents' FG% and did just that to the Irish. Notre Dame shot 31 percent from the field, and their dangerous 3-point shooters hit only seven of their 30 shots (23%) from behind the arch.

Bernard James has been a great low post threat, hitting 11-of-16 shots in the tournament and collecting 16 rebounds. VCU and Florida State meet on March 25, and the way the Southwest is going, the winner may face Richmond. (Man, how did Richmond not get any love in this column?)


DONATO: I could make a case for each of these teams, and would do so if that did not mean that I would walk all over your end of the contributions for this region. The team that has stood out to me the most has been Wisconsin.

The Badgers did not allow Belmont to get going after Belmont became a chic upset pick, and stopped Kansas State when the majority of people felt that Jacob Pullen and the Wildcats were the favorite. Wisconsin was also coming off a train wreck loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament by a score of 36-33.

As much as I liked Wisconsin during the regular season (one of two teams to beat Ohio State), I gave them high probability to lose either of their first two games, and even though their seeding suggests that they belong in the Sweet 16, their play in getting there has been a pleasant surprise.

KELLY: I'm just going to do it. Jimmer and the Fredettes were this region's most impressive team and here's why: No team had more to prove -- "You can't win without Davies!" -- and a bigger spotlight -- both games on CBS, prime-time -- and the BYU Cougars delivered.

Sure, they were touch-and-go for a bit in the Wofford-game, but the Cougars responded with a 22-point drubbing of Gonzaga.

More importantly, the local kid did himself right. Averages of 33 points and 6.5 assists per game, showing once and for all he's just not a kid who can light it up against the whatstheirnames in the Mountain West.

So, what's your take? Agree, disagree? Let us know in the comments!

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunday's Round of 32 Preview

We wrap up the early rounds of the men's NCAA tournament on Sunday and punch the tickets of eight more teams to the Sweet 16. Here's a glance at each of the games on the second day of the Round of 32.*

East Region: No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Washington, 12:15 p.m., CBS

The Tar Heels were content to just play along with Long Island in North Carolina's 102-87 win on Friday night. While Long Island is not an offensive slouch -- the Blackbirds averaged 82.6 points per game this season, fourth best in the nation -- the Tar Heels will need to find some semblance of defense in order to get past a very talented Washington club.

The Huskies were ranked early on this season before trailing off in late January. Isaiah Thomas (16.9 points, six assists per game) is one of the nation's most explosive players and senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning (15.3 points, eight rebounds per game) provides the muscle down low for Washington.

The most interesting matchup in this one will be Bryan-Amaning against UNC's Jon Henson down low. Amaning (240 pounds) is a wide body and Henson's body has a stick-figure look to it. Still, the North Carolina sophomore is a top defensive player and is averaging 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game.

West Region: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 8 Michigan, 2:45 p.m., CBS

The West is the bracket of fate, isn't it? First we get Duke-Michigan on the immediate heels of last weekend's Fab Five documentary which featured these two teams' matchup in the 1991 national championship. Then, possibly down the road, we could get either one of these teams going against ex-Michigan coach Steve Fisher's San Diego State club in the Elite Eight.

Just pointing out that if you believe the selection committee does not consider storyline when making up the bracket, you are painfully naive.

(That, or the selection committee is the luckiest group of people in the world. Your pick.)

Anyway, this game features two of the teams with more impressive tournament debuts. Duke walked past Hampton State, but was able to get Kyrie Irving into the action for a bit, and Michigan trounced a seemingly distracted Tennessee team by 30 points.

Should be an interesting contrast of styles -- Michigan can break out its 1-3-1 zone against Duke, something that I do not think the Blue Devils have faced this season. Should make for an interesting subplot to see how Duke's 3-point shooters react to those wing-to-corner 3-pointers being covered.

East Region: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 George Mason, 5:15 p.m., CBS

I don't think anyone will be too surprised if George Mason pulls off this upset. Coach Jim Larranaga's club cannot sneak up on anyone like it did several years ago in mounting a Final Four run, but this year's Patriots are good enough that they do not need to take anyone by surprise.

Ohio State has more pure talent and will have the best player (Jared Sullinger, the potential No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft), but George Mason's biggest strength comes against Ohio State's greatest weakness: Guard play. Luke Hancock and Cam Long average a combined 25.9 points per game and take excellent care of the ball, only coughing it up 4.1 times per game between them.

West Region: No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Arizona, 6:10 p.m., TNT

This one might be our best game in the entire tournament in terms of potential pro prospects.

Arizona's Derrick Williams is a fantastic prospect and a likely top-5 pick in this upcoming draft. The 6-foot-8 power forward averaged 19.2 points per game this season ... on 61-percent shooting from the floor. He also has a nice touch, connecting on 36-of-59 3-pointers this season (61 percent). Williams went for 22 points and 10 rebounds in his team's opening victory over Memphis.

Texas has a couple pro prospects, its best being Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson. Hamilton, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, averaged 18.7 points per game this season, while Thompson is more of a stat-sheet stuffer. The freshman averaged 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, and compiled 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in his team's second-round victory against Oakland.

Southwest Region: No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 11 VCU, 7:10 p.m., TBS

VCU has already won two games in this tournament and might be able to pull off the upset here, too. Purdue's losing of Kelsey Barlow didn't hurt the Boilermakers in their blowout of St. Peters, but VCU may be the tournament's hottest team right now. The Rams have won four of their last five games, with wins over George Mason, USC and Georgetown -- that's a pretty impressive list.

East Region: No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Marquette, 7:45 p.m., truTV

Just another Big East battle.

Syracuse has a chance to avenge one of its regular-season losses in this one. The Orange lost to Marquette at the tail-end of Syracuse's four-game losing streak at the end of January that temporarily derailed the team after its fantastic start.

Back when they met in January, Syracuse's vaunted zone defense was no match for Jae Crowder, who sliced and diced his way to 25 points. The Golden Eagles also connected on 6-of-13 3-pointers and managed to get to the line for 33 free-throw attempts.

Jim Boeheim's club will need to tighten up its defense in order to reverse January's game-result. A better game from guard Brandon Triche

Southwest Region: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 9 Illinois, 8:40 p.m., TNT

This seems like a game we should just be able to (rock) chalk up a win for the Jayhawks, but Illinois was so impressive in its victory against UNLV. Up 22 points at the half, Illinois coasted a bit in the second half, but still managed an 11-point win.

In order to pull off the upset, Illinois needs to play a full game and get better ball protection from point guard Demetri McCamey (seven assists, six turnovers).

Southwest Region: No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Florida State, 9:40 p.m., TBS

Let's not waste our time -- Notre Dame is probably playing the best basketball in the NCAA, winning 13 of their last 15 games. Mike Brey and his club are moving on to the Sweet 16.  

*Consider my mailing in of that final game to be retribution for the NCAA allowing this batch of games to be dubbed the "Round of 32." Seriously, NCAA? Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four ... and Round of 32?

--Michael Kelly

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Saturday's Round of 32 Preview

Eight more games on the slate for Saturday's NCAA men's basketball tournament as the Madness moves into Day 3. Here's a quick look at each of Saturday's games. 

East Region: No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia, 12:15 p.m., CBS

This is a rematch of one of last year's Elite Eight contests, though neither squad has too many, if any, impact players back from last year. Much like last year, Kentucky would seem to have an advantage in pure talent and athleticism, so it will be interesting to see if Bob Huggins can outwork John Calipari once again.

Should be fun to see how Kentucky's much-ballyhooed freshman point guard, Brandon Knight, responds after his dud of a game on Thursday against Princeton. Last year's top-rated high school point guard finished with only two points on 1-of-8 shooting, only his second single-digit scoring output this season.

After that first single-digit game (six points against UConn on Nov. 24) Knight bounced back to post one of his most complete stat lines of the season (23 points, six rebounds, six assists) in a win over Boston University. 

Southeast Region: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 UCLA, 2:45 p.m., CBS

Much like the first game on Saturday, this one features two programs with recent history between them ... though no current players were around to experience it. On its way to back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007, Florida upended UCLA in both the Final Four and championship.

Florida is coming off a 28-point win in its first game, while Ben Howland's UCLA club almost blew a 20+-point lead in the second half against Michigan State.

Southwest Region: No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 13 Morehead State, 5:15 p.m., CBS

We've actually now gotten one of these 12-13 matchups in three of the past four tournaments, so you may want to store that morsel away for next year's bracket.

Anyway, this one should be a walk for Richmond. The Spiders pulled off the toughest upset there is in the tournament, converting the 12-over-a-5 upset that everyone expected to happen. Usually when everyone jumps on the bandwagon of an underdog, it doesn't work out, but Richmond showed why everyone thought they were the real deal.

West Region: No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 7 Temple, 6:10 p.m., TNT

We should be in store for a fun one, as the Aztecs could be prone to an upset here against the Owls, one of March's perennial upset-makers.

San Diego State has a clear talent advantage and is one of the nation's best rebounding teams in the country. Coach Steve Fisher tends to be a "roll the ball out" type of coach, but it has worked for him this year as the Aztecs have consistently taken good shots (47-percent shooting this season) and fantastic care of the ball (11 turnovers per game).

But Temple will be ready -- the Owls played several top teams this season and beat Georgetown, 68-65, as well as other major-conference schools (Georgia, Maryland, Seton Hall and, now, Penn State).

Southeast Region: No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler, 7:10 p.m., TBS

Expect this one to not make it out of the 50s, as both teams like to slug it out down low and make the most of each possession.

The most important thing in this game will be whether or not Butler's Matt Howard can stay out of foul trouble. In the past, the big man has struggled to stay on the floor when Butler takes on big-time opponents. If Howard can give Butler 25-to-30 minutes, that might be enough for Shelvin Mack and Co. to pull off the upset and send our first top seed home. 

Southeast Region: No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 7:45 p.m., CBS

Jimmer Time. Let's go.

Gonzaga is long and athletic, but they sure did BYU a favor by knocking off rugged St. Johns. However, Fredette will need some help -- and probably some rest -- to get through to the Sweet 16.

Fredette has played all 40 minutes in his team's last four games and it has shown a bit in his shooting. If we take out Fredette's 52-point performance within this stretch, the senior has shot 27-of-71 (38 percent) while logging such heavy minutes. Fredette needs someone else to step up and help him; Noah Hartsock (4-of-6, 10 points against Wofford) and Charles Abouo (five points in only 16 minutes, foul trouble) are likely candidates to (hopefully) step up. 

Southeast Region: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas State, 8:40 p.m., TNT

Well, Bo Ryan's Badgers managed to bounce back and score more than 33 points in their opening round victory.

But Kansas State is the team to watch in this contest. Of late, Frank Martin's club has become the team everyone though it could be when the season opened. Kansas State has won seven of its last eight games and Jacob Pullen (24.1 points per game during the stretch) has really hit his stride. 

West Region: No. 3 UConn vs. No. 6 Cincinnati, 9:40 p.m., CBS

Didn't take us long to get a Big East rematch in the tournament, did it?

These two clubs met only once in the regular season, a 67-59 victory for the Huskies. In that game, UConn shot a blistering rate from the field (50 percent from the floor, 53 percent from 3), but struggled to create separation. The Bearcats could pull off the upset if they take better care of the ball and shoot a better percentage from when these two teams first met; Cincy shot 24 percent from deep and committed 17 turnovers in the loss. 

-- Michael Kelly

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From the Paper: Jimmer Extra

Couple Jimmer Fredette-themed articles in Thursday's paper (here's one and here's the other) to help get the men's NCAA basketball tournament started.

When interviewing Glens Falls coach Tony Hammel, I asked the coach if he had any idea when he coached Fredette is he would become the collegiate (and, soon-to-be NBA) player that he had.

Hammel said he never thought Fredette would do what he has this season -- "I really don't think you could predict that" -- but he did have an anecdote to share of when he knew Fredette was extra special and not just your run-of-the-mill high-scoring high school ballplayer.

Glens Falls' basketball team plays in a tournament every year in Allentown, Penn. where Hammel grew up. The tournament is played in the summer before the school year and is highly competitive.

"Usually when we go down there, it's a double elimination tournament and we'll win one or two games and then we're done," Hammel said.

But not the summer before Fredette's senior year. Playing against teams from all over Pennsylvania -- including much bigger schools than Glens Falls -- Fredette scored 35 points per game and led Glens Falls to an 8-0 record in the tournament. Fredette was named the tournament's MVP.

"I knew how good he was when he was able to carry us through that tournament and not lose a game," Hammel said.

Glens Falls athletic director Chip Corlew -- who coached Fredette in modified basketball when he was in seventh grade -- said he too was surprised Fredette reached the heights of college basketball that he has, namely, being in the running for National Player of the Year.

"I knew he'd be a very good college player, but I didn't think he would do this," Corlew said.

Corlew didn't expect it, but he's not totally shocked it has happened, either.

"He works out in our gym every summer," Corlew said. "If you could watch him work out, you would know why he is the leading scorer in the country.

"He's earned everything he has gotten."

--Michael Kelly

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