Kean’s winter sports recap

By Mak Ojutiki

Winter Break has come to a close here at Kean, and we’re all back to class. While you were enjoying your break, Kean’s sports teams were hard at work. The Winter sports season has been going on for three months now and all of the teams have experienced some up and downs, so there’s quite a lot to talk about. Here’s a recap of how all the teams have fared so far.

Men’s Basketball

Kean’s Mens Basketball team started off its season in a good way. Led by long time head coach Robert Kurzinsky, the Cougars home opener saw them win handedly against Swarthmore College. Two Cougars put up 20+ points in the win. Sophomore guard Tom Soulias had 24, while Senior guard Ali Mix scored 22.
Mix and fellow Senior guard Mike Burton have been the cornerstone of the team.

“Burton and Mix make up a very formidable back court combination in our league. I could not ask anymore from either one,” Kurzinsky said. “Their numbers speak
for themselves.”

Burton and Mix are the top two leaders in just about every offensive statistic for the team. Mix leads the team is point per game (17.5), assists (69), and steals (41). Burton is second best in all the same categories, (15.1), (52), and (26) respectively, and first in free throw percentage (.904).

Kean’s next game, against Stevens Institute of Technology, saw them pull of a dramatic come from behind 70-68 victory.  Down 21 points with just over 6 minutes in regulation, Kean went on a  28-5 run that was capped off with a go ahead three pointer by Burton with 7 seconds to go. Since then, the team has been periodically alternating wins and losses.

Despite its lack of a substantive winning streak, the team has had a good amount of success.

During a 71-50 rout over the Gothic Knights, sophomore Mike Diamond made an impressive first half buzzer beater from behind the half court line. The play went on to be featured in ESPN Sportscenter’s January 5th’s edition of Top Ten plays.

“I certainly think the guys enjoyed seeing Mike on Sports Center.” said Kuzinsky.  “We had a few recruits comment on it as well.”

Another player of note is forward Mike Summerer. He won the New Jersey Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week award two weeks in a row. The 6-foot-4 freshman shot 60 percent from beyond the arc on the week he won his first award. Summerer, who tore his ACL last year, had to work hard to even get onto the court.

“He’s a warrior with a strong desire to win.” says Kurzinsky. “We expect Mike to continue improving down the stretch and to transition into a strong leadership role moving into next year.”
When asked about his expectations for the team, Coach Kurzinsky said that he hopes the team remains committed to its current culture.

“We strive for daily improvement,” Kurzinsky said. “We focus on the task in hand and prepare to get to 1-0 each night out and when the clock strikes midnight we are 0-0 and focus on the next task.  Remain committed to that formula and see where it takes us.”

The team has an 11-9 overall record and 7-6 mark in NJAC which gives them the fourth place spot in the conference.

Men’s Volleyball

Coming off two impressive seasons, expectations are high for the Kean’s Mens Volleyball Team. The team was ranked 13th in a preseason poll by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. With two Skyline Conference championships and a Division III Championship appearance recently, it would be hard not to have high expectations. The team has gone through a major change though with
former assistant coach Charlie Ginex being promoted to the head coach position.

The season started with a home opener against Division 1 school Rutgers-Newark. The Cougars started off strong, leading for most of the first set, but Rutgers managed to come back and win it 25-22.The second stanza played out similarly; Kean held on to a one point  for most of the set until Rutgers went on a 7-0 run that lead to the Raiders winning the set 25-19. The third set was a closely contested battle but Rutgers pulled away at the very end to give them a 25-23 win that gave them the match victory. The Cougar’s fared better in their following game. Coach Ginex got his first head coach collegiate win in a 3 set to 1 win over Hunter College. Junior Bez Arslani lead the team in kills with 22 and had a .514 kill percentage.

The Cougar’s next outing was a double header against two ranked teams, No. 14 Elmira College and undefeated No.3 Juniata College. Kean lost the first match to Elmira in five sets and lost the second to Juniata, the hosting college, in three. The Cougars put up a valiant effort against Elmira though, as Arslani lead both teams in kills with 21.

Their latest effort saw them fall to No. 9 ranked NYU. The team lost in three close sets.  Junior Ed Jedziniak led the team with eight kills. The team currently has a 3-5 record and has not yet started conference play.

Women’s Basketball

Kean’s women’s basketball team is in a bit of a transitional period.  Head coach Mandy King is in her second year at the position. Her first year, which was last year, saw her take the helm of a team that was dealing with multiple sanctions dealt out by the NCAA, one of which was a postseason ban for the 2012-2013 season. The team was only able to go 5-18 that year. This year though, things seem to be looking better for the team.

The season started off a bit rocky; despite a nine point, 22 rebound performance from sophomore Jazmine Davis, the Cougars dropped its first game of the season 59-42 to Swarthmore College. However, the team fared better in its home opener. Davis once again came close to a double double performance in a game that saw the Cougars win 86-53 against Baptist Bible College. Davis had nine assists and 11 rebounds while Senior Simone Smith posted a game high 23 points. The win gave the team its first victory of the season and it started off a four-game
winning streak. The streak gave Kean two wins over NJAC teams. Junior AnnaRose Pierre scored 23 points in a 87-82 win over Stockton College and Smith tallied 17 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in a dominant 88-54 win against Ramapo.

After going on a 2-5 run that included losses to The College of New Jersey, Rowan University, and William Paterson University, the team bounced back with a four-game winning streak with all four wins coming against NJAC teams.

One of those wins was against Montclair State, who was ranked 10th nationally at the time and is the first place team in NJAC. It was a close and thrilling game that saw Freshman Jaquetta Owens tally 11 assists and 26 points. It was also Montclair’s first loss in regular season NJAC action since February 1, 2012.

The team’s most recent effort was against a 67-53 loss to fellow NJAC team Rowan. The Lady Cougars have an 11-9 overall record and are 8-5 in conference play.

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