Taunton’s Vincent Moving Up BSU Scoring Charts

Alana Vincent
Taunton grad Alana Vincent has battled back from an injury that ended her sophomore season and is climbing the all-time scoring list at Bridgewater State. (Bridgewater State Athletics)

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With a brace against Wentworth on Thursday, taking her total to 10 goals for the season, former Taunton standout Alana Vincent took over sole possession of seventh place on the all-time scoring list at Bridgewater State. Despite missing almost all of her sophomore season to injury, the senior forward and two-time All-MASCAC performer continues to solidify her place among the program’s top goal scorers.

“It feels amazing,” Vincent said the day after her two goals against Wentworth. “Honestly, I didn’t even know I was close to being that until I started reading the bottom of the pages of the articles [on the BSU website]. I just want to keep going and get as many points as I can every game.”

Vincent has 64 points for her career and is just a point short of sixth place and 12 points behind fifth place, which is held by former King Philip star and Foxboro coach Kaitlin Lamothe-Vaughn.

She could already be at that level if not for the ankle injury that she suffered as a sophomore. Coming off an all-conference rookie year, in which she led the Bears with six goals and 13 points, Vincent tore the AFTL (anterior talofibular ligament) in her right ankle during a September practice.

“I went to stop a girl from shooting the ball and I didn’t lock my ankle,” she explained. “When I landed down on it, it just rolled every which way. I knew immediately when it happened that I was done. It swelled up immediately, all the way up to my leg, it was bad.”

It was the first serious injury that Vincent had suffered in her career and she struggled having to watch her team make a run at the postseason without her. She said, “I didn’t even cry when it happened but when I was told I was out for the rest of the season is when I broke down.” The rehab process was a long one, and Vincent found herself having to rebuild the strength in her leg after being forced to wear a boot and being on crutches.

Just before the start of preseason in her junior year, Vincent’s ankle wasn’t responding the way that the doctors hoped, so they gave her a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection to facilitate the healing process and avoid another surgery. It worked. Vincent made it back on the pitch at the start of preseason, although there were still some mental hurdles to get past as well.

 

“I was so excited,” she recalled. “I mean, I was nervous going in, just recapturing it in my head that I would do the same thing over and over again, but it felt great being back on the field with my team. My coach knew and kept saying, ‘You can’t be scared. You can’t be scared,’ because that can only make it worse.

“Going half into a tackle is worse than going into a full tackle but as soon as I got the confidence back in me I was good.”

The confidence returned quickly and Vincent got right back among the goals for the Bears. She finished her junior season with seven goals and an assist and was named to the all-conference team for the second time.

“Not playing sophomore year has given me so much motivation because I missed so many games and it really dawned on me that I only had two years left to give it my all,” Vincent said. “I knew I missed out on one season, so I needed to kill it on the next two.”

That mantra has continued into her senior year. She has scored 10 goals, including a pair of game winners, and recorded four assists. The Bears had a tough non-league schedule but have won six of the last nine games, including a 2-1 record in the MASCAC, heading into Saturday’s game with Salem State.

“It was tough to see those losses and overcome them but it was early in the season and our schedule was very hard,” she said. “We’ve definitely improved from there and learned from our mistakes in those games.”

While she was at Taunton, Vincent didn’t really consider that her career would continue beyond high school. After playing for the Tigers as an eighth grader, she transferred to Bristol-Plymouth for two years to study cosmetology. When she realized that she didn’t see a future in that career, she came back to Taunton and was part of the best season in the program’s history.

Vincent scored the game-winner against Mansfield to earn the Tigers a first-ever playoff appearance and then added a goal and an assist against Wellesley to secure the team’s first state tournament victory as well.

“I still think about the game that we beat Mansfield and it got us in the playoffs for the first time in a decade or something like that,” Vincent said. “I just think about the goal I got and the excitement that ran through your body knowing that you’d overcome such a hard thing to beat because Taunton was never known to get into the playoffs.”

Even as a senior at Taunton, Vincent wasn’t thinking about continuing her soccer career in college, but the opportunity arose to play at BSU and she jumped at it. That is a decision that has paid off for Vincent and for the Bears. Now, as she looks to the end of her collegiate career, Vincent is focused on adding another dramatic finish by leading the Bears to a MASCAC crown.

“It’s my last year, so I want to put my all into it,” she explained. “It would be an amazing accomplishment just because I know we’ve worked so hard as a group and individually I’ve worked so hard and I would love that my senior year.

“All together we have a lot of talent and, when we bring that all to the table, we’re an amazing team. We just need to do that every game.”

Editor’s Note – Bridgewater State moved above .500 on the season and to 3-1 in the MASCAC with a 2-0 victory over Salem State on Saturday. Vincent assisted on the game-winning goal with a left-footed cross in the seventh minute that was headed home for an early 1-0 lead. With that assist, Vincent moves into a tie for sixth place on the program’s all-time scoring list. Mansfield’s Kaitlyn Bongarzone was part of the Bears’ defense that held on for a clean sheet, while Milford grad Katie Brown, who was featured in an earlier story, played for Salem State.

Milford’s Brown Finds Her Groove at Salem State

Katie Brown
Fornmer Milford standout Katie Brown has scored 11 goals over the past two seasons and become one of Salem State’s all-time leaders in scoring. (SportsPix)

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Over her first two seasons at Salem State, Katie Brown scored six goals. It was a decent return for the Milford grad, who earned 25 starts and 33 appearances as a freshman and sophomore, but then something clicked heading into last season.

“It was all mentality,” Brown explained. “My spring semester at school I was struggling, my mental health was struggling, so I turned towards working out. I was lifting every day, which got me physically stronger and from that I was getting mentally stronger.

“From there, I was just ready to prove to myself that there was more in me. I only had two years left, so I just went for it. I was just ready. I knew I had more to prove than I did my freshman and sophomore year and I knew I had more in me.”

Brown committed herself to working out all summer, made every spring practice, and that extra effort paid off with a team-leading eight goals, helping the Vikings reach the MASCAC final. The momentum from 2018 has extended to her senior season, as Brown has already tallied three goals and two assists in seven games this fall, including one of each in the conference opener against Westfield State.

These last two seasons have propelled Brown up the career leaderboard at Salem State. She is now tied for third in career goals (eight behind the leader) and tied for fifth all-time in points (five behind second place). Brown, who was named a team captain this season, is also tied for sixth with three game-winning goals.

“I think that having those stats to back-up my passion for this game just shows all of the work that I’ve put in through basically my whole life,” Brown said. “It’s cool that even after I graduate those stats will still be there to remind me of the best times that I’ve had in my life playing soccer.”

Brown admitted that she has come a long way from the player that left Milford to come to Salem. For the Hawks, she was more of a playmaker, sitting in behind the forward or dropping back into the midfield to create opportunities for her teammates. Not that she wasn’t capable of scoring her fair share of goals, such as a five-goal game against Hudson that earned her HockomockSports.com Player of the Week honors her senior season, but it wasn’t her main focus.

 

Now, Brown is more than willing to take on defenders and has the confidence to go to goal herself, heeding the advice of her coaches and teammates.

“I feel like I’m a totally different player than I was in high school,” she said. “My confidence overall in taking players on one-on-one, taking those shots, just really finding that grit from down within to score for my team in those crucial moments.

“Coming in I think I was just very unsure of myself and now as a senior I’m definitely one of the quietest players but my coach always says, you are so important to this team because of leading by example and playing for your teammates.”

Brown talked a lot about her teammates. She credited the relationship and chemistry between her teammates for pushing the Vikings to last year’s conference final and for keeping the positivity high despite losing several key pieces from last year’s squad.

“Just having the team be my best friends, you just want to win for them,” she explained. “I train so hard in the summer so that, when I show up, I just want to play and I just want to win. If you show up for your teammates, then you’re going to start to win and develop that intensity.”

It wasn’t the best start to the season for the Vikings, with two wins in their opening seven games, but they did exact some revenge on Westfield State (the team that beat them in the final in 2018) with a 2-0 victory. Brown, who has dealt with an ankle injury and illness this season, assisted on the first goal and then added a second in the 78th minute with a half-volley to seal the points.

Although the Vikings would lose the following game, beating Westfield was a marker that Salem State would be able to challenge for a MASCAC title again this fall.

“I know coming in we had a lot of skeptics considering we lost all but one of our all-conference players, and definitely key players in our defense, but I think since we won against Westfield State that definitely made a statement in the league,” Brown said.

She has been playing soccer all her life. Her father and her older sisters both played and Brown talked about a photo of her holding a soccer ball at just two years old. It has been a long road to get to this point, a lot of training, a lot of club, high school, and college game, and Brown struggled to put into words what it would mean to close out her career with a conference title.

“I think it would just be a relief,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer for 18 years, from club to all through high school, gone through all the struggles. I don’t even know how I would react, to be honest. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain how hard you’ve worked to win a championship and this is a team that I think can do it.”

Salem State will be back on the pitch on Saturday against conference rival Worcester State.

Attleboro’s Murphy Garners National Attention at URI

Kyle Murphy
Attleboro High grad Kyle Murphy earned first-team all-conference honors last year and is in the running for All-American honors this season for URI. (URI Athletics)

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A couple of seasons ago, the University of Rhode Island football program was an afterthought not only in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), but nationally. When Attleboro High grad Kyle Murphy was a freshman, the Rams finished 2-9 and lost several games by lopsided margins. Murphy’s first collegiate start was against perennial power James Madison. The Rams lost 84-7.

But over the past three years, URI has become a program on the rise. The Rams went 6-5 last season and enter 2019 eyeing an elusive playoff spot and expecting to challenge for a CAA title. It has been quite a turnaround.

“Just looking back when my 2020 class came in, we really set the foundation and we’ve all matured, and we’ve all grown so much and it’s nice to see how much hard work can turn a program around,” said Murphy. “It even made us closer, telling each other how far we’ve come and how far we can go not only as players but as people.”

Murphy has also come a long way from his debut three years ago. He has developed into one of the top offensive linemen not only in the CAA but also in the country. He started 10 games at left tackle last season (and one at center to fill in for an injury) earning first team All-CAA honors. With Murphy leading the line, the Rams rushed for more than 120 yards per game, their highest total in six seasons, and scored 15 rushing touchdowns, which was the highest in 11 years.

Ahead of the new season, the 6-foot-4, 302-pound tackle was named to several preseason All-American teams. Pro scouts are now being spotted at the new Meade Stadium turf and at preseason camps and workouts looking at URI players.

“They’ve seen the strides we’ve made and they know we have the talent here,” Murphy said. “It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come and how much attention we’ve drawn.”

Murphy was a standout at Attleboro, earning 2013 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year honors and being named to this site’s awards as a defensive lineman in 2014 and an offensive lineman in 2015. When he made the decision to go to URI, Murphy decided to focus on the offensive side of the ball.

 

He explained, “I started to grow such a passion for playing offensive line. It’s a different kind of bond you have with the five guys you’re playing with. I love coming in everyday, playing with the guys, and just competing with each other.”

Of course, the leap from high school to college was a challenge. No longer was Murphy the biggest guy on the field and he had to match the speed of the game and of the players that he was trying to keep out of the backfield. To meet the demands of the collegiate level, Murphy focused on his technique.

He progressed from a raw talent into a regular starter at multiple positions across the line. He started all 11 games as a sophomore, six at left guard and five at right tackle. By his junior season, he was the team’s starting left tackle.

“Everybody’s going to be as strong as you or as fast as you and you really need to rely on your techniques when it’s crunch time in a game or when you’re going up against someone that’s bigger or stronger than you,” he said. “If you have better technique, that beats anything all day.”

These are lessons that were ingrained in Murphy during his time at Attleboro. Working under the Bombardiers line coach Chris Burns, who played four years at Northeastern University, Murphy knew what he was prepared for the challenges he would face at URI.

“He taught me how to be a physical player, how to guide the guys around me, and all the coaches in high school taught me how to have good character and how to have a mentality to never quit,” Murphy reflected.

The hard work continues to pay off. Although the Rams started the season with a pair of losses, at Ohio and in triple overtime to Delaware, there is a new confidence in the program and high expectations for the season. The ultimate goal is to get into the postseason picture, bringing even more recognition and attention to the program.

“We just need to build on finishing game and the little things like mental errors and getting stupid penalties, but we’re looking good,” Murphy said. “It’s only the little things that we need to critique. Our structure and everything is looking solid.”

Being named to the all-conference team, being on the New England Football Writer’s Association All-New England team, and having national publications put him on preseason All-American lists has not diminished Murphy’s desire to improve.

“It was just a wake up call for me that I had the potential to be one of the best in the conference and even one of the best in the nation,” he said. “It gave me a lot of confidence but also gave me more motivation to keep striving for more and more and set my goals even higher.

“I’m a humble guy and I’m hard on myself, but this year I set my goals even higher because I know I can reach them.”

As a team captain and as the senior leader of the offensive line group, Murphy is spreading that message to all his teammates this season. Never a very vocal leader, Murphy is trying to set the example with his effort and desire for improvement because he knows that can be contagious.

While his focus remains on this season and finishing his collegiate career on a high, the possibility of being able to extend his football career beyond college is impossible to ignore. It has been a long journey from the Pop Warner fields in Attleboro.

“I remember just wanting to play football for the fun of it and then realizing that I maybe had the chance to get a scholarship and play in college,” Murphy said. “It does hit me sometimes to see how far I’ve come and see how much more I can do.

“Honestly, it’s shocking sometimes to realize how I never even thought about playing at the next level but these last couple years have changed my mind about everything. It’s exciting to see what the future ahead of me holds.”

KP’s DeLuca Ends Record-Setting Career at Illinois Tech

Alyssa DeLuca
King Philip grad Alyssa DeLuca wrapped an impressive career at Illinois Tech as the program’s all-time leading scorer and as a four-time first team all-conference selection. (Stephen Bates, WCS Photography)

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The email from Illinois Institute of Technology coach Kirk Lamitie came as a surprise. Alyssa DeLuca was playing in a club lacrosse tournament in Virginia with the Mass Mavericks, but, the King Philip alum admitted in a phone call this week, the game that the coach saw was not her best.

“I literally fell and lost my stick and my goggles and everything went flying,” she said with a laugh. “I was so shocked that I got an email from any of the coaches for that game.”

It may not have been her finest moment on the field, but it couldn’t have turned out any better. DeLuca had never heard of Illinois Tech, which started the transition from an NAIA program to an NCAA Div. III program in 2015, but she went for a visit to the Chicago campus. It was an instant connection with the school, the team, and her future teammates.

“I could really see myself playing with those people for the next four years,” she explained. “That was pretty exciting. It just kind of felt right when I went out there. The cards just got dealt really well in Virginia. I was very lucky.”

Illinois Tech was very lucky as well. DeLuca made an instant impact with the Scarlet Hawks, scoring 50 goals her freshman year, and she went on to become the program’s most decorated player and its all-time leading scorer. She scored 221 goals in four years and was named to the Midwest Women’s Lacrosse Conference (MWLC) First Team all four years of her career.

She reflected, “It’s honestly kind of unreal to think I was able to make an impact in the conference and on my team for four years.”

Her season and playing career had come to an end just a couple of weeks before and she struggled to put into words how it felt. “It’s special because when you pick a program that you want to play for, sometimes you might not get a lot of minutes…being able to come out and play every minute of every game…thinking back on it….it was so rewarding that I put in so many hours in the sport over the years and I just feel honored to be recognized.”

 

Making the transition from high school to college is always difficult, especially when you have to balance athletics with academics and especially when you are traveling halfway across the country, but DeLuca believes that her being on the lacrosse team and having that instant cohort of friends made the move to Chicago considerably easier.

She said, “It definitely allows you to assimilate better into the school and my roommate that I lived with was also on the lacrosse team and on the same floor as all the other freshmen, so we got really close and it helped us. We were all very far from home.”

On the field, the freshman class was given plenty of opportunities during fall ball to learn the new system, become comfortable with each other, and to be ready to start the spring season. The preparation worked, as DeLuca stormed onto the scene, starting all 15 games and leading the team with 50 goals as a rookie.

“When we went out on the field we were playing like we’d been playing together for all four years of high school,” DeLuca said of her freshman campaign. “That whole fall ball and right up to our first game, we were set up with the right amount of fun and the right amount of discipline.”

Although she felt comfortable getting out on the field, she surprised evev herself with the level of success that she achieved that spring. “Halfway through the season, you look at the conference stats and you go. ‘Holy crap, I’m leading the conference in goals? I’m only a freshman, what is this?’”

If her freshman year was a warning to the conference of what she and Illinois Tech were capable of, then her sophomore season took it to another level. DeLuca scored 77 goals in 17 matches that spring and the Scarlet Hawks put together a record of 15-2, sharing the regular season conference title.

The only thing missing from that season was the opportunity to play in the conference tournament. Because Illinois Tech was in the midst of the five-year transition process to NCAA DIII standing, the Scarlet Hawks couldn’t play in the postseason. While this was obviously a disappointment, DeLuca also saw the positive side of things. The team always ended the season on senior night, always played at home, and also won each of those games. It was far different from the abrupt ending of a tournament loss on a random field.

“Everyone’s dream when they come to college is to get the chance to play in the NCAAs and it was definitely a little frustrating that we weren’t allowed to play,” she admitted. “It was humbling to say now we need to just start focusing on next year but it also offered a nice closure to a season.”

This past summer, Illinois Tech officially joined DIII, which meant that the Scarlet Hawks would compete for the first time in the MWLC Tournament. DeLuca said there was a noticeable increase in the team’s energy knowing that for the first time the Hawks had something to play for beyond the regular season.

“We had something to play for this season and every win or loss mattered so much more,” she said. “You fight a little bit harder for every ground ball and you maybe pick your feet up a little faster in the midfield to get back quicker on defense and it definitely added that little bit of a spark that drove us really hard.”

They went 10-5 in the regular season and entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed. DeLuca wasn’t the team’s top scorer this season, although she still finished with 47 goals and 11 assists but she showed off her all-around game, leading the team in caused turnovers with 44, and also grabbing 52 ground balls and 32 draw controls. Illinois Tech led at halftime against No. 3 Aurora but the Spartans dominated after the break to pull away and advance to the conference finals.

Even though her scoring numbers were down a little this spring, DeLuca was once again recognized as a first team all-conference performer. “I tried to step up as more of a go-getter, causing turnovers and getting those ground balls and still being recognized for all that hard work it made me realize you get what you give to the sport,” DeLuca remarked.

DeLuca, who has one more year left to get a Master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, played in 63 of a possible 65 games during her four years. It may have started with a chance encounter at a club tournament four years ago, but her collegiate career turned into a positive experience for her and for the Illinois Tech program.

“It was a lot more fun because you’re playing with people who love playing and not because it’s easy to play after school,” DeLuca explained. “It’s definitely more people who are really passionate about the sport and the traveling was a lot of fun. I got to see a lot of different places in the Midwest and across the country. I think it was a more challenging experience than playing in high school and more rewarding.”

North’s Caster Embracing New Role at UMass Lowell

Hana Caster
North Attleboro grad Hana Caster (24) has made the switch from attacker to defender at UMass Lowell and was recently recognized for her defensive play by the America East. (Bob Ellis/UMass Lowell Athletics)

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Until the middle of her sophomore year of college, Hana Caster had defined her lacrosse career by scoring and setting up goals. She scored more than 100 points her senior year of high school alone, but her coaches at UMass Lowell saw something more in her game and moved her into a new, defensive role. She is no longer counted on to score goals but to try and prevent them.

It was admittedly not an easy transition for the former North Attleboro star and 2016 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, but with time Caster has grown into her new position and earlier this season was named America East Defensive Player of the Week, a sign of her growing comfort level and confidence in defense.

“Yep, I’m a defender,” Caster said with a chuckle during a phone conversation following the team’s loss to the University of Albany in March. Right before practice at the midpoint of last season, the UMass Lowell coaches told Caster they had a surprise. She was no longer going to be in the River Hawks midfield but be the backer in their zone defense.

“I was not very confident on my defensive skills,” she admitted. “I wasn’t 100 percent confident that that’s where I was going to best help my team but, you know, got through it the last eight games. I wasn’t great at it, but I got through it.”

Although she suffered a ligament injury in her foot that kept her out of fall ball, Caster was able to watch the game from the sideline, studying her new position, and came into this spring determined to be better and more comfortable in front of her own goal.

“This season, I was just like, alright wherever they put me I’m going to do the best I can and I’m really enjoying the position,” she explained. “I’ve tried to use my offensive mindset on defense because at first I was like this is boring, I don’t want to just stop the ball, but now I’m thinking, okay I’m going to get the ball back so we can get back on offense. I never realized how fun low defense could be.”

As a former attacker, Caster uses her experience on offense to help anticipate what opponents are going to be doing. She can read the hips of a driving attacker, realize what she would have done with the ball, and jump the play to prevent the ball getting to goal. She can also use her new vantage point to give advice to the River Hawks attackers about what might work best.

 

Caster’s speed was one of her biggest assets, both in lacrosse and on the soccer pitch, and she got most of her 34 career goals in transition. Playing defense could lead to some chances to convert a turnover into a fast break, when she has the energy to burst forward. “Defense is tiring,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes I’m like, I don’t know if I can run this ball up. More often than not I run it over to the attackers and let them do their thing.”

UMass Lowell coach Carissa Medeiros noted that Caster wasn’t originally on the recruiting radar but drew the attention of the coaching staff at a summer clinic that Caster attended the summer before her senior season at North. After the three-day clinic, Medeiros said it was imperative that Caster come back in for an official visit. The coach had no idea at that point she would be moving Caster from midfield to defense.

“We had to convince her to trust us that her value is much more dynamic than that, and quite honestly, focusing on just that aspect of her game had been holding her back,” Medeiros said.

Medeiros added that there were several “teary-eyed meetings” as Caster learned her new position, but that there has been definite growth from her first game at defense to now. She said, “It’s a spot that allows all of her strengths to shine, while also allowing her to spend some time working on fine-tuning the rest of her skills.”

Caster’s progress was confirmed earlier this season when she was named the America East Defensive Player of the Week. “I didn’t know that I could be noticed for playing good defense because I don’t notice that,” Caster joked. “It is gratifying to just know that I am in a good place and my hard work is paying off.” The River Hawks went 1-1 that week, and Caster recorded seven draw controls, six ground balls, and eight caused turnovers.

While UMass Lowell is a relatively young lacrosse program, having only started in 2015, Caster entered this season in the top 10 all-time in career goals, assists, points, ground balls, draw controls, and caused turnovers. She has found success no matter where the River Hawks have lined her up, but Caster said that it took time to get her footing at the collegiate level.

“It’s definitely a humbling experience to play a college sport,” she explained. “The first half of my freshman season, every time I got the ball I would just pass it because I was almost scared to make mistakes. I did eventually get it but it was a tough transition.”

Caster continued, “I think I have learned more about the game of lacrosse in the past three years than I did my entire career…You learn so much so quickly and I think it’s stressful as a freshman but now as a junior I finally feel like a seasoned player.”

Medeiros appreciates the willingness of an upperclassman to take on a new role and the positive message that it sends to her teammates. “Hana is definitely amongst those rare players that can put their own thoughts aside for the betterment of the team,” Medeiros explained. “And in doing so, she has developed into one of the most valuable players on our roster.”

The River Hawks have struggled during their first few seasons, having only won 12 games all-time coming into 2019. Having top 20 teams like Stony Brook and Albany in the conference certainly doesn’t help the growing pains of a new program, but Caster appreciates the challenge of building a new legacy in Lowell.

She had a similar experience in North Attleboro. Her senior season, in which she scored 61 goals and led the Hockomock League with 46 assists, was the first time that North hosted a playoff game. The Rocketeers opened the playoffs with a win before losing to eventual state finalist Walpole. That season helped change the expectations around the program and Caster wants to do the same in college.

“That’s one of the biggest why I came here to play,” she said. “I like being the underdog and I loved my high school career and loved leaving the field for the last time and feel like we started something here.

“If that were to happen again, which I’m fully confident that it will, it would be like repeating history and I’d love to end my career knowing that I was part of building two programs.”

OA Grad Ferrara Keeps Swinging for MASCAC Crown

Mike Ferrara
Former Oliver Ames standout Mike Ferrara, now a senior at Worcester State, has continued his success at the plate at the collegiate level, batting over .400 over the first 16 games of the season. (Worcester State University Athletics)

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Worcester State baseball got off to a great start to the season, going 6-2 on its annual trip to Florida and winning seven games in a row to open the season with only two losses in the opening nine games. While the Lancers have come back down to Earth a little, with only two wins in their last eight games, senior outfielder Mike Ferrara continues to put up huge numbers.

The Oliver Ames grad and former HockomockSports.com First Teamer is batting .421 and has a hit in all but three games for the Lancers this season. This comes as no surprise to people who watched him set a single-season hit record for the Tigers during his senior year, when he recorded 37 hits in the 2015 season, finishing with a .521 average.

Hitting has always been Ferrara’s forte, but this season he has been on fire at the plate right from the start of spring.

“I usually pick up my pace in the warm weather and then bring it up here,” Ferrara said during a phone conversation before the Lancers kicked off MASCAC play. “Usually we don’t start in Florida, but this year we happened to, so it was good to get myself hot early and then try to carry it over up North.”

When he was asked about the Lancers getting off to a strong start this spring, Ferrara pointed to the preparation that the team put in during the off-season. Starting with fall ball and into the winter, the team has been getting ready to turn around a disappointing 2018, in which the Lancers were 12-26, and get back to the levels of 2017 where Worcester State got hot late in the season and won the MASCAC tournament title.

“In the off-season everyone’s in the weight room, everyone’s hitting every day, all of our pitchers were throwing because we had a really tough season last year and we all had the mindset to turn things around this year,” he explained. “So far, so good, and we’re just trying to keep things going.”

While things slipped a little for the team, Ferrara continues to rake. He leads the team in average (.421), slugging (.684), and RBI (15). He is also second in stolen bases (six) and runs scored (13) and third in on-base percentage (.485) and walks (eight) entering a two-game weekend set with Bridgewater State.

 

“I’m just getting into better counts, a lot of good hitter counts for myself,” he said. Getting up with runners on base has also helped him get set to go. “Pitchers are a little nervous when you’re up with runners on,” he remarked, “and I’m getting into good counts and basically putting good swings on the ball, putting it in play, and producing runs.”

Ferrara said that he has kept essentially the same approach since high school. He continues to train in the winter with Terence O’Malley of TJO Sports in Canton, just like he has since his sophomore year at OA, and goes into each at-bat focused on her timing.

“That’s my big thing – if I’m not on time, then I’m not going to be getting any hits,” he said. Of course some things have changed since making the leap to collegiate baseball. “You see guys with a lot of pitches, more arm slots. If you’re hitting well then you’re going to see more curveballs and changeups and if you’re not then they’ll try to put you out with the fastball.”

He added, “I kind of work with the same things that I’ve been doing and luckily, it’s still been successful. I’m blessed.”

Being comfortable at the plate is critical to succeed against college-level pitching and Ferrara seems to have found his groove. He went hitless in the season opener against Mount Union in Kissimmee, Fla. and then got at least one hit in nine straight games, highlighted by a 4-for-6 game against Keene State that earned him MASCAC Player of the Week honors.

After going hitless in back-to-back games against WPI and Westfield State, Ferrara is back on track. He has two hits in each of his last four games, although he only has one RBI in the last seven games after 14 in his first nine.

“It’s always good to get recognized,” he said, “but I’m at the point in my career where I’m just trying to focus on winning. It’s nice to get a little recognition but we’re always trying to win games and trying to get back to the conference championship.”

Two years ago, the Lancers went on a run through the conference tournament, beating Framingham State 10-3 and 1-0 in the final series to book a spot in the NCAA tournament. While that was fun as a sophomore, getting back to that stage as a senior would be particularly special.

“We know that everyone’s going to need to pitch in and it’s going to take a team effort to get back there but we know we have the pieces,” Ferrara explained. “It’s coming to an end soon, so you have to be putting it all together to win games. There’s no turning back after this.”

As the Lancers enter April, the games start to come thick and fast and the season turns into a grind to try and move up the conference standings. There may only be a few days off and it takes a lot of work to balance life, school, and baseball, Ferrara is never going to pass up the chance to play baseball every day.

Ferrara said, “Bodies are tired, arms are getting short, but you’ve got to put it together. Just knowing that you’re waking up playing a baseball game, there’s nothing better, especially once everyone’s fired up for conference it gets even better.

“I love playing,” he added. “This is the best time of the year, playing baseball, so we’re just looking forward to continuing this season and hopefully seeing some success.”

KP’s King Grabs the Goal Scoring Crown at Clark

Brandon King
KP alum Brandon King (19) is on the verge of becoming the all-time leading goal-scorer in the Clark University men’s lacrosse program. (Clark University Athletics)

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It was already a special game for the Clark University men’s lacrosse program, as the Cougars hosted Coast Guard Academy in the fourth annual Renny Classic to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s research, but it became a record-breaking night with three minutes left in the first half. Senior attacker Brandon King scored his fourth goal of the night, putting Clark up 7-0, breaking the program’s record for career goals.

The King Philip alum finished with six goals and two assists in the 14-13 loss to Coast Guard, moving his career total to 124 goals, three more than the previous record of 121. King is also sixth in career points.

“I didn’t walk into Clark thinking that this would ever be an opportunity in front of me but walking out I’m really happy that I might be able to leave my legacy,” said King in an interview two days before he broke the record.

He added, “I’m walking into this Coast Guard game looking to score as many goals as I can. Obviously, four would be huge and getting that goal in the Renny Classic would be pretty cool to walk in and break the record in that game, but I’m going to walk in and shoot as hard as I can no matter what.”

King entered the season 24 goals shy of the record and he was aware that he could be the program’s top goal-getter by the end of the season, but tried not to let it affect the way he approached the game. He got off to a strong start with nine goals in the opening two games, but had hit a mini-slump. That slump ended with a hat trick against Plymouth State on Wednesday and King carried that momentum into the Coast Guard game.

“I just wasn’t hitting the net enough or getting the power behind the shots that I needed,” King said. “I need to be shooting that shot from the outside and splashing in order for us to have success and you think about it a lot more when you’re out of your groove.

“It’s all about timing and when you peak. I picked a good time to go down and now that I’m coming back up it’s NEWMAC play.”

 

King wasn’t an instant success at Clark. During his freshman season, he saw time in 12 games but it he did not become a starter until an injury to, then junior, Nick Johnson opened a spot for King to step into and he never really looked back. He started three games at the end of that season and has started all 43 games that Clark has played since. After scoring 12 goals as a rookie, King jumped up to 42 goals and eight assists as a sophomore.

“I was that fourth attackman and I wasn’t getting a ton of playing time but I was getting man-up and stuff like that because my play is that big outside shot,” said King about his first season at Clark. “When [Nick] went down, there was a spot that needed to be filled and that was kind of the role that I took. The opportunity came about and I think I handled it pretty well.”

When Johnson returned from his knee injury midway through King’s sophomore season, he instantly added a high-quality playmaker to the lineup and added a significant boost to an already prolific attack. Despite missing almost half the season with injury, Johnson, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer (goals and assists), had 24 assists that year. King called Johnson a “role model” and someone who inspired him to continue getting better.

“I was lucky enough to play with him for two years,” King said. “He was more of an assist-guy and a smaller, quick guy, so we weren’t exactly the same player but he always had the work ethic that I wanted to embody.”

Getting the additional playing time was important, but King admitted that there was also a steep learning curve coming from high school lacrosse to the collegiate level. “The difference between high school and college lacrosse is insane and it definitely took me over a year to figure that out,” he said. His coaches continued to show confidence in him and his shooting ability and continued to encourage him to just do what he knows best.

“I’ve always known that I have a good shot but also just working on those mechanics and then having the confidence to unleash it in the game has been my biggest growth over my career,” King explained.

Once the starting role was his, King never let it go. His sophomore year, the Cougars reached the NEWMAC tournament final but were beaten by perennial power Springfield College (which has won 11 straight NEWMAC championships). Last season, King was again one of the top scorers in the conference with 43 goals and six assists. He now has two of the top four single-season goal scoring seasons in program history and earned an All-NEWMAC first team nod in 2018.

While the individual totals and honors are great, King said that he was most proud of the fact that his first two seasons were also the two winningest seasons in program history. His senior class has the chance to end its four years with the most wins of any class that has come through Clark lax.

“Breaking the record is really cool and I’m happy to be part of that but being the class with the most wins in Clark lacrosse history is something that I’ll remember forever,” he explained.

While the goal-scoring record was a possibility this season, King wants another chance to play for the NEWMAC crown. He wasn’t thrilled about the team’s showing in 2017 and he wants another shot at playing in a title game. With that in mind, he wasn’t overly concerned about the team’s play through the opening nine games. The Cougars started 4-5 but King felt that the team was turning a corner and doing so at just the right time of the year.

“We just weren’t at the spot we wanted to be at,” said King of the team’s struggles during a trip to Florida, “but the whole intent of the early season is just trying to work out all those kinks and I think we’ve done a good job doing that.” He noted that in the end it was NEWMAC play that the Cougars were focused on, adding, “We’re on a new path and a different path than we’ve been on, so I’m feeling pretty good right now.”

King, the team’s lone captain, and the rest of the senior class have one goal, and that is to close out their careers with a NEWMAC title. It would be the first in program history and solidify the legacy that the class of 2018 has built at Clark.

“Everything that we do, all the effort that we put in during the preseason or the fall, has been all for that,” King reflected. “If we put in the work and grind every single day, then the NEWMAC title will come to us and we just have to take it.”

North Attleboro’s Rinaldi Wins ECAC-SIDA Award

Anthony Rinaldi

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anthony Rinaldi (North Attleboro ’15) was a HockomockSports.com Student Reporter while in high school and continued to cover events for us while attending Endicott College. Below is a release from Endicott Athletics and Recreation.

BEVERLY, Mass. – Endicott sports information intern Anthony Rinaldi ’19 (Attleboro Falls, Mass.) has been named the 2019 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Sports Information Directors Association (ECAC-SIDA) Bill Esposito Memorial Award winner. It was announced by the organization earlier today.

The Bill Esposito Award is presented to a graduating college senior who wishes to pursue a career in athletic communications. The award is named to honor the memory of one of the true patriarchs of the sports information profession. Bill Esposito served as the Sports Information Director at St. John’s University in New York for 25 years. He served as a past-President of ECAC-SIDA in 1972-73 and was the organization’s Irving Marsh Award recipient in 1973. He was inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 1984. Bill Esposito passed away in 1995.

Rinaldi will be celebrated during the annual ECAC-SIDA Awards Dinner at the 2019 Workshop on the evening of June 6 at the Sheraton – Framingham.

“Winning this award means so much to me. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Bill Esposito is something I never could have imagined,” said Rinaldi. “I’d like to thank Shawn Medeiros (Endicott Sports Information Director) for nominating me for this award and being the best mentor a person could ask for in this profession. I’d also like to acknowledge Nicolle Holcomb (Sports Information Graduate Assistant), George Chapell (Men’s Volleyball Head Coach/Assistant Sports Information), and Rob Palardy (former Assistant Athletic Director for Strategic Communications/current Endicott Executive Director of Marketing Integration) for everything they’ve helped me with over the past two years.”

Rinaldi continued.

“Along with my Endicott mentors, I’d like to thank Jeff Weinstein (Harvard Assistant Director of Athletic Communications) and the entire Harvard Athletic Communications department for giving me the opportunity last semester to intern with them. Last but certainly not least, I’d like to acknowledge Ryan Lanigan of Hockomocksports.com for giving me my start in covering sports, and my friends and family, specifically my parents, for pushing me to achieve my goals and dreams.”

MORE ON ANTHONY RINALDI

Anthony Rinaldi is currently finishing his undergraduate degree in journalism at Endicott College, where he works under 2019 CoSIDA Rising Star Award winner Shawn Medeiros. Rinaldi has served as an intern in the sports information office at Endicott since 2017. He also previously served as an intern in the Harvard athletic communications office during the fall semester in 2018 and spent time as the Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of the Endicott College Observer.

Rinaldi has handled a number of the responsibilities in the office at Endicott while balancing his athletic career as the captain of the men’s tennis team. His leadership experience has not been limited to athletics, as he has also spent time as an Orientation Leader, an Orientation Assistant and a member of the Lighthouse Leadership Society at Endicott, which aims to inspire, guide, help and teach students. Rinaldi is also a member of the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society and plans to pursue a career in athletic communications. $website.include(“rich-footer”)

(Photo Credit – David Le ’10 / Emily Machado, ECAC-SIDA)

Franklin’s Vail Looking to Get Pride On Track This Spring

Jack Vail
Former Franklin standout and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jack Vail (14) is looking to follow up an all-NEWMAC season with a strong senior campaign at Springfield College. (Springfield College Athletics)

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Things haven’t started exactly as planned for the Springfield College men’s lacrosse team through the opening four games of the new season. The Pride are 1-3 after four games, but senior attacker Jack Vail is confident that the team, which received votes in national preseason polls, is capable of challenging for the NEWMAC title.

“Our main focus is just to work really hard on ourselves and competing against each every single day,” Vail explained in a conversation ahead of last weekend’s trip to Union College (N.Y.). “We’ve been definitely working hard to improve and just keep getting better every day.”

Through four games, Vail is fourth on the team with four goals and seven points, but his role as a senior and as a captain is bigger than just scoring. A former Hockomock League MVP and two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year at Franklin, Vail is also the leader of the attacking unit and he takes that responsibility seriously.

“I’m able to be a more vocal presence and mold the team into what we want it to be as a senior class,” he said. When asked how it felt to be selected as the captain by his teammates, Vail replied, “It was a great feeling. I’ve always aspired to be in those leadership roles, so being voted captain was a satisfying feeling.”

The leadership role is one that Vail has developed in his four years in Springfield. He only played three games as a freshman, which was a big adjustment for someone who was an automatic selection every game in high school.

He admitted, “ I definitely thought, at times, that I could be out there and making an impact but just being a part of a college-level team you get a much deeper bond than you would on your average high school team, so I was able to understand my role and be really working on the scout team and getting better every day.”

Looking back now, he recognizes that his freshman year was a positive learning experience to help him get acclimated to the speed and physicality of the college game. Vail jumped in as a sophomore and made a big impact, scoring 32 goals and recording 16 assists. Last spring, he scored 26 goals and had 30 assists to earn first team all-conference honors.

 

If Vail puts together similar numbers this spring, it will see him jump into the top 20 all-time in career goals, points, and assists. Not that he is too worried about that right now.

“I’ve never really been a big listener to all-conference awards and hype and stuff like that,” he said. “I’ve just been focused on my team and getting better and winning games. Just making sure I can be the best player for my team and helping everyone around me get better.”

That attitude was put into place early on, as Vail was part of the early stages of the Franklin youth lacrosse programs, which now regularly produces college-level talent and has helped the Panthers dominate the Hockomock in recent years. In high school, Vail was a dynamic scorer, with 55 goals and 38 assists his senior season, and his six goals against Xaverian (five in the second half) helped Franklin get past the Hawks and into the Div. 1 South semifinal for the first time in program history.

“There’s definitely a lot of great memories associated with those years,” he said. “Being able to have that bond with those guys all these years later and also being able to look at the program now and all those kids who were just coming up and are now big contributors and senior leaders.”

There has been a Franklin pipeline to Springfield College in recent years. Vail was introduced to head coach Keith Bugbee and learned more about the program thanks to family friend and Springfield alum Jake Versprille. Now, Vail is connecting other Panthers to the program, including current Springfield sophomore Packie Watson and freshman Kyle McEniry (North Attleboro grad Thomas Lindstrom is also a freshman at Springfield).

“It being a great fit for Jake, I knew it would be a great fit for me,” Vail said. “Going back to Franklin and seeing kids who I think would be a good fit here, like Packie and Kyle, just really kids who would buy into the program and be hard workers and then get the opportunity to meet with Coach Bugbee and eventually come here has been great, keeping that pipeline alive.”

The Pride have reached the NCAA tournament for 11 straight seasons and, despite a tough start, Vail believes that the team can get things in order to be playing its best lacrosse when NEWMAC play kicks off at the end of March.

“I just want our team to be as close as we can be and have the most fun we can,” he said. “By doing that, the wins will sort of take care of themselves. If you can continue to get better every day then play your best lacrosse in the late season then hopefully you can make a deep playoff run and that’s all we want.”

As a senior closing out his lacrosse career, it is no surprise that Vail emphasizes fun as well as results. He is trying to enjoy his last few months on the lacrosse field.

“You’ve definitely got to take a step back and think about how far you’ve come in these four years,” he explained. “They have sort of flown by and I have so many great memories associated with them. Being an in-season college athlete, it’s a really fast-paced schedule, so you need to find time to take it all in before it all ends.”

Springfield College will be back in action on Saturday with a trip to Endicott College.

Milford’s Piergustavo Comes Out Swinging This Season

Allie Piergustavo
Milford alum Allie Piergustavo has gotten off to a solid start at the plate, as her senior season at St. Bonaventure kicked off last weekend. (St. Bonaventure Athletics)

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For the first time in her long softball career, which goes back to when she first picked up a bat at six years old, Allie Piergustavo went through a prolonged slump. After a solid sophomore season where she established herself as a regular starter at St. Bonventure (N.Y.), Piergustavo batted under .200 during her junior season with just one homer and nine RBI.

“Hitters go through slumps all the time and I kind of felt like mine just lasted for 52 games and I’ve never really had to experience that before,” Piergustavo explained in a phone call before the Bonnies head out to Hawaii for their annual spring trip. “Last year I put all this weight on my shoulders that I realized I didn’t need to, but unfortunately I didn’t come to that realization until May.”

This year, she is focused on enjoying the moments with her teammates and her last season of collegiate softball. Piergustavo called her junior season a learning experience, one that she believes will stick with long after she is done playing collegiate softball. It required her to learn techniques for letting things go when they don’t go as planned.

Whatever she has done mentally to get ready for the new season seems to have worked well. It only took her one at-bat to match last spring’s home run total, blasting a two-run homer to center in the second inning of the season opener against Mount St. Mary’s in Norfolk, Va. During the four-game swing through Virginia, Piergustavo is batting .417 and has driven in four runs, starting all four games at first base.

“You’re obviously not going to be at your best every day,” she explained, “but you have to keep pushing no matter what. We have 52 games in a season, so if you’re stuck on one game or one at-bat, then you’re not going to get anywhere. Looking at all the lessons I learned last year from struggling so much, I’m more than prepared for my senior year.”

Piergustavo credited her coaches for keeping faith with her during a rough season, but also her father Rich, an assistant principal at Milford High, for keeping her grounded during regular calls home. She joked that her sister Emily, who was a senior at Milford last year and has had three at-bats this spring as a freshman at UConn, hopefully listened to those conversations and learned from her older sister’s experience.

“I was always told that you have to learn how to fail, how to have a short-term memory, and everything, and I was always, like yeah okay,” said Piergustavo. “But having to experience it last year and actually having to put those mental aspects into play was really eye-opening for me to see what works for me and what didn’t.”

 

It has been a strong start to the season for Piergustavo individually, but the Bonnies lost all four games on the trip, despite having leads heading into the sixth inning against Mount St. Mary’s and the seventh inning against Hampton. It is a long spring and Piergustavo isn’t worried about a rough weekend ruining a season that she believes has the potential to end in a trip to the Atlantic-10 Conference tournament.

“We were really excited to get outside,” she said, referring to the typical battle with the weather that colleges in this area have to deal with at the start of the season, “and the record doesn’t really reflect some of the things we were able to do this weekend. I expect a lot out of our team this year and this weekend was just a preview of what we can do.”

During the trip to Hawaii, the Bonnies will face perennial power California twice, as well as Utah and Hawaii. The team will then go to Kentucky to take on Bowling Green and Morehead State. It is the kind of competition that will get St. Bonaventure ready to face A-10 competition, which begins with three games against UMass over the weekend of March 23.

“I think it’s only going to make us better and I think it’s really going to push us,” Piergustavo said. “You only get better by playing teams that are better than you. I think having a really competitive spring schedule will only make us readier for the conference season.”

Taking an 0-4 start to the season in stride is easier for an experienced player, as was getting back to the campus after a long bus ride at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday and being ready to go to classes that afternoon. “I might miss it eventually,” she joked. “You definitely have to have good time management and good discipline.”

College softball was something that Piergustavo craved since her first year at Milford. Playing with the likes of Shannon Smith (Kentucky), Lauren Hanna (Brown University), Rachel Levine (Boston University), Caroline Fairbanks (Wheaton College), and other teammates who were in the midst of college recruiting made her realize that it would be fun to keep playing the sport beyond high school.

That was only amplified by the fun of winning back-to-back state titles in her first two years of high school.

“I think it definitely made my decision easier,” said Piergustavo about putting in the effort to play at the next level. “Seeing how much fun they were having playing softball and how excited they were to play in college, I was like, okay this is something I want to do. I’d like to keep playing for four more years.”

A communications major, with a minor in marketing, Piergustavo is already entered into a grad program for marketing and has spent each of the past two summers interning with ESPN at the Little League World Series. There is plenty for her to focus on off the field and plenty to prepare for after graduation, but in the meantime she wants to take a swing at getting the Bonnies back to the A-10 tournament (which this year will be held at UMass’ Sortino Field) for the first time since 2015.

“Having the opportunity to play the A-10 tournament my senior year in my home state would just mean the world to me,” she said. With her collegiate softball career soon coming to a close, Piergustavo also wants to savor the process and enjoy the long season ahead. She said, “I’ve told myself through everything that I would step back and enjoy it.

“Being on a team and travel with them and be able to compete with a bunch of my best friends is something that I will definitely miss.”