Kean’s winter sports recap
By Mak Ojutiku
March is beginning so Kean’s Winter sports are just about coming to its end and the Spring sports are just starting. Let’s take a look and see how teams from both seasons are doing right now.
Coming off three straight NCAA World Series appearances and three straight Mid-Atlantic Region Championships Kean’s baseball team could easily be considered one of the best programs in Division III baseball. Despite losing NJAC player of the year and All-American Nick Ramagli last year to graduation, expectations are very high for the team, as they usually are. The team was ranked third nationally in a preseason poll by Collegiate Baseball and D3baseball.com, and number one in NJAC by a preseason coaches’ poll.
The team opened up its season with a home game against Baruch College on Feb. 22. Junior pitcher Charles Thielmann lead the team to a 10-4 victory, striking out nine batters in eight innings. On the offensive side, Sophomore Sal Taormina went 1-4 hitting and recorded four RBIs. Thielmann’s performance earned him NJAC Pitcher of the Week honors.
The following Sunday the team went up against Gwynedd Mercy University in a doubleheader. The teams split the series, with the Griffins winning the afternoon game and the Cougars winning the night game. In the first game, Kean lead 2-0 going into the 6th inning, but the Griffins managed to score five runs in the 7th and 8th. With only one out and two runners on base on their last at bat, it looked the Cougars had a chance at squeaking out a win but Gwynedd Mercy’s reliever, managed to close the game with a strikeout and a ground out. Sophomore Chris Amato suffered a loss, giving up two runs in a little over 3 innings. In the night game, Kean was again the first team to score, but this time they stayed consistent in the later innings, winning the game 5-4. Senior Shane Alvarez hit a triple in Kean’s first at bat and was brought home after a sacrifice fly by sophomore Ryan Kelley. Sophomore RyanReitmeyer got a triple of his own in the second inning and later scored off an Alvarez single. Reitmeyer also got an RBI in the fourth and Senior Nick Zucchero picked up the win allowing four runs in eight innings.
The team is currently 3-1.
Last year, Kean’s softball team had 28 wins, and appearances in the NJAC Championship game and the NCAA Division III Championship tournament. It was their third Division III Championship tournament appearance in the last four years. This year the team, and head coach Margie Acker, will be hoping to build on that success. ”Getting to the conference tournament isn’t good enough anymore,” Acker said in an earlier article by Tower writer Carl Stoffers “The regional tournament is what we want to get to.”
Quite a few of the pieces responsible for their past success will be returning to the field this season. Seniors Megan Cegielski, Sandra Binkiewicz, Kelly Moorehead, and Jill Martin make up the core of the team. The group has three all-conference awards between them and they lead the team in hitting percentage, bases stolen and runs batted in. Returning on the mound this year is junior Courtney Yard. Yard had a very accomplished year last season, twice breaking the school’s’ single game strikeout record and also the all-time strikeout record. Yard also hit an impressive .301 and had two home runs.
Kean’s Mens Lacrosse team is coming off a 15-3 outing last year (and a 10-0 home record) which statically was the best season in the programs’ 44 year history. The team had six all-conference players in their lineup last year and three of them, seniors Richard Cheifitz, John Marcelli and Zach Williams, are returning to the pitch this year. Last season, Cheifitz was the Co-Player of the Year in the Skyline Conference and scored 79 points last year which put him at 13th in the nation. The team is expected to have a similar season this year as they were picked to go second in the Skyline Conference in a coaches preseason poll and also received a first place vote.
The team started off this season on Feb 22. against Castleton State College. The Cougars won the game in impressive fashion scoring 11 goals to Castleton’s five. Sophomore Matt Speciale picked up a rare double hat trick while Cheifitz had two goals and three assists. Senior goalkeeper Dino Vitale recorded 12 saves in the game.
In 2013, the women’s lacrosse team had it’s first winning season since 2008 under the guidance of new head coach Jordan Trautman. 14 players from last year’s team are returning to the pitch this season. Seniors Ciara Mastodomencio and Julie Knodt are two of the players. Mastodomencio started in every game last seasons and had 36 goals. Knodt had 28 goals of her own. On the defensive side, junior Marisa DeAngelis will be returning. DeAngelis forced 11 turnovers last year. The team starts it season March 1 against Centenary College.
The men’s Basketball team’s NJAC Championship run came to a close on Feb 22 in a NJAC semifinal loss to Stockton College. Despite the shortcoming, the Cougars can still take a sense of achievement in how they got to that match. It took a lot of perseverance just to get to that semi-final. In the last regular game of the season, the Cougars found themselves going up against Rutgers-Newark in a game that had playoff implications. The Cougars prevailed, winning 77-72, but it wasn’t easy. Kean entered the second half down by seven points and it wasn’t until senior Ali Mix hit a three with 1:00 left that the game seemed to be in Kean’s hands.
That win sent the team to the NJAC tournament opening round, a game against New Jersey City University. This game was even closer than the last one. With five seconds left in regulation and down 68-70, Mix once again came through when the game was on the line and hit a layup, forcing the game to overtime. “We work extremely hard on “situational” basketball in practice” said head coach Robert Kurzinsky. “Confidence (in late game situations) comes from demonstrated ability and the more our guy’s are able to respond positively in tough situations, whether it is during the season, or in
practice the more confident
The overtime period was just as close as regulation. With less than a minute left, the Cougars were down by one, Senior Kyle Latorre managed to snag an offensive rebound and put it back in for a score. Kean’s defense then fended off NJCU for a 78-79 win.
The Cougar’s had another razor close game in the NJAC semifinal against 22-4 Stockton College, but this time they ended up losing by one point, 63-64.
Despite the loss, Kurzinsky remained proud of his team. “The past stretch of three games have been as good as it gets in college basketball.” he said “We competed against three outstanding programs and each game was decided, fittingly, by the players involved.I am extremely proud to lead these young men and could not ask any more of them.” The team’s record is currently 14-14 and they are currently awaiting consideration for the ECAC tournament.
Mandy King recently secured her first winning season as head coach of Kean’s women’s basketball. The teams regular season ended with a 73-64 Senior Night win against Rutgers- Newark. The team’s only Senior, Simone Smith was a major factor in the game; she scored the first 3 buckets of the game and ended up with a team leading 22 points.
The Cougars’ next game was a NJAC Championship quarterfinal match against Stockton College. Kean went 2-0 against Stockton in the regular season. Stockton managed to keep the regular season games close but they couldn’t keep with the Cougars in this one. Kean trailed 38-37 going into 2nd half but they soon blew past their opponent.s The Cougars went on an 8-0 run in the middle of the period and never let Stockton back into the game. Stockton only scored 15 points in the last 20 minutes of the game while Kean scored 42. The Cougars won 79-53.
That win sent them to the NJAC Semifinals, against Montclair State. Montclair, who was given a top 10 rank by a USA Today Division III Poll, went 1-1 with Kean in the regular season with the most recent game being a 87-54 victory loss for the Cougars. Kean once again fell to the Red Hawks, this time losing 76-62. As of now the Cougars are 15-12 on the season and 11-7 in conference action. Their season may not be over as they’re currently being considered for the ECAC tournament.
The men’s volleyball started off their season a bit rockily but they’ve definitely stabilized now. They alternated between wins and losses in January and the early part of February but they’re currently in the midst of a seven game winning streak. Since Feb. 4 they’ve conceded three sets.
The last team that didn’t get shutout by the Cougars was third ranked Rivier University. The match was a closely contested 3-2 affair and the main factor for Kean was unquestionably Junior Bez Arslani. Arslani set a new school record for hitting percentage with .676. No other hitter for either petter had a percentage over .300. Arslani recorded 27 kills, which is the most any Cougar has had in a match this year. If he had just one more kill he would have claimed the record for most kills in a single match in Kean history. Arslani has earned Player of the Week honors from, ECAC, the Skyline Conference, and the national AVCA Division. He was also invited to the Baruch Invitational All-Tournament Team which featured some of the best players in Division III. He had 39 kills in the tournament.
The men’s volleyball team has a 10-6 overall record and is a perfect 3-0 in NJAC play.