Franklin’s Walsh Sisters Add Title to Family’s BC Legacy

Annie and Erin Walsh
Franklin grads Erin (left) and Annie Walsh hold the championship trophy after Boston College women’s lacrosse beat Syracuse to win the program’s first-ever national title. (Courtesy of Annie Walsh)

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When the final whistle blew at Towson University’s Unitas Stadium and Boston College had beaten ACC rival Syracuse 16-10 to secure the program’s first-ever national title, former Franklin stars Annie Walsh and Erin Walsh were among the Eagles storming the field to celebrate and lift the championship trophy.

Amid all of the postgame revelry, the sisters, who have played on the same teams for years, were able to share a moment together and reflect on the experience of being champions.

“We just turned and looked at each other and were like we did it,” said Annie, a sophomore midfielder. “We were just standing on the field hugging. It was crazy. Erin was bawling her eyes out.”

While the national title was the culmination of the women’s lacrosse program’s growth from becoming a varsity sport in 1992 to its first trip to the NCAA tournament two decades later to the pinnacle of the sport this spring, it also added a trophy to the Walsh family’s already impressive legacy in Chestnut Hill (going back to parents Jack and Lisa meeting as undergrads at BC).

Caitlin Walsh followed up her time at Rivers by reaching three Frozen Fours with the BC women’s hockey team and Christina, who played one year at Franklin before going on to St. Mark’s, was a defender for the Eagles as they went to three straight national title games.

“I remember after we won, we stormed the field, we gathered around the goalie and then we were just walking back to the coaches and I turned around and saw my mom and my dad and it just at that moment hit me…I was just speechless,” Annie explained. “It makes it so much more meaningful when you can play with your best friends and for your family.”

It was also a special moment for their former coach, Kristin Igoe Guarino. The Franklin coach was a star on the first NCAA tournament team at BC, was named to the All-ACC team four times, and was a Tewaaraton Award nominee in 2012. She got to not only watch her alma mater win an elusive title but cheer on two of her former players as well.

“Looking back, I now realize that my class and the teams I was a part of, were just the first small steps to building a national powerhouse,” she said. “With the 2021 team winning the national championship, it is like the icing on the cake, and it makes my journey as a BC player have meaning. I am so thankful to have played a small role in something great.

“I was also so happy for Annie and Erin to have that experience and represent Franklin. Seeing them smile and celebrate made me feel very proud as a coach!”

Annie added, “I remember watching her when I was younger and when I heard that she was going to be the Franklin coach I was so excited. Us winning this national championship wasn’t just for our team, it was for everyone that came before us.”

Although Erin saw limited playing time as a freshman, getting into three games this season, Annie saw her playing time increase as a sophomore, playing in 21 games and starting four times. She finished with 15 goals and two assists, including a hat trick against UMass, and recorded a ground ball in the final.

The season also took on a different perspective because of how 2020 was abruptly cancelled due to the pandemic. Annie said, “I think that totally changed everyone’s perspective on why we play and we really appreciate everyone so much more. It definitely made us want to be there for each other and our team really embodies a family.”

Three straight trips to the national title game without bringing home the hardware can be a difficult mental hurdle, but Annie felt those experiences built the foundation for this year’s triumph.

“It shows how resilient our team is and our coach is,” she said. “Yeah there’s a lot of pressure but our coaches knew how to handle it because they’d been there before. I think it worked out for us in the end because we were prepared for the weekend. Yeah, we lost three years in a row, but that also prepared us for winning it all.”

That resiliency was put to the test in the semifinal against North Carolina, the tournament’s top seed, the ACC champs, the undefeated defending national champs, which beat BC in their only meeting and was riding a 27-game win streak. The Eagles rallied from an early deficit to take an 8-5 lead at halftime and extended the lead to 11-6 with 15 minutes to play. UNC stormed back, holding BC scoreless for the remainder of the game but eventually falling one goal short.

“I know it’s scary playing a one-seed, undefeated, but we were all just confident,” Annie said of the challenge of playing UNC. Confidence was sky high after beating the Tar Heels, but BC managed to stay grounded because of its history in the final and because it was going against a team that had already beaten the Eagles twice, including in the ACC tournament semifinal.

“After that game[against North Carolina] our coach was like, ‘You’ve come too far. You have one more stop.’ I think in the back of our minds we were like, ‘We can actually do this.’ We just believed in ourselves a little bit more.”

It had been five days since the title game, but it was clear that the result was still just sinking in. Annie laughed, “I think as soon as we go home and it will finally just be like, ‘Oh my God, we won the whole thing.’ It’s crazy.”

She added, “I think all of us, it’s something we’ve been chasing our entire lives even since we were little girls and it’s just so surreal. Our team motto is ‘Dream Big’ and it’s just crazy that we chased our dreams and they came true.”

Sharon’s Rabb Twins Sharing Tourney Experience with Ithaca Lax

Alex and Sam Rabb
Former Sharon standouts Alex and Sam Rabb have started every game this season for the highly-ranked Ithaca College lacrosse team. (Ithaca College Athletics)

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On Monday morning, the Ithaca College women’s lacrosse team got the call to be one of three at-large bids to the Div. III NCAA Tournament. After being unsure if they would have a season at all, the Bombers will now have the opportunity to play for a national title. Former Sharon (soccer and lacrosse) standouts Samantha and Alex Rabb have played every game for Ithaca this season, leaning on each other during a tumultuous year, and enjoying the fact that they can share this experience of a senior season together.

“It’s a blessing every day that we get to go out there,” Alex explained. “We never know what’s going to happen, literally, tomorrow, so I know I make sure to have fun at every practice we have, leave it all on the field.”

Sam added, “It definitely makes you know how lucky you are to be on a lacrosse field, especially with everything going on in the world. Being able to step onto the field every day and put out your best effort, we’re always going 100 percent because you never know when it can be taken away.”

In the three previous seasons, the twins’ playing time had been inconsistent. Alex played 10 times as a freshman and seven as a sophomore. In her junior year, she scored three goals in the first four games before a knee injury cut short the season one game before the pandemic would shut the whole team down. Sam had played in seven games total over the first three seasons (all as a sophomore).

But at the final practice before the season opener against rival SUNY Cortland, Ithaca coach Karrie Moore read out the starting lineup. Both sisters were included.

“When I found out that I was starting, it was definitely very exciting because I have not gotten much playing time in the other seasons,” Sam said. “So, to know that my coach has a lot of trust in me to be on the field with all the other defenders, who are great, it feels really great.”

The excitement of getting a starting spot was amplified by being able to share the field with each other. Alex said, “[Coach] said Sam’s name last and I almost wanted to cry. I just felt so happy for her because I knew she’d been working so hard and she wanted it so badly. It’s pretty cool hearing both of our names get called before every game.”

Alex has started all 13 games for the Bombers, who entered the final week of the regular season as the seventh-ranked team in the country. Sam has started all but one game and appeared in all 13. Ithaca went undefeated in the regular season and advanced to the Liberty League final thanks to a five-goal outburst from Alex, including three goals in less than a minute.

There is the obvious connection that exists between sisters, even more so as twins, but also a connection forged by being on the field together for almost a decade, going back to their success in multiple sports at Sharon. Sam was a standout defender and Alex set the program scoring record (and was named HockomockSports.com Player of the Year), while leading the lacrosse program to its first two state tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017.

“We were kind of always playing together,” Sam explained. “Now, it’s higher stakes, it’s way more competitive, so when one of us does something really good, it just fires us up way more. On defense, I know that it makes everything so much better watching her play too, just being there. ”

Alex continued, “Being seniors this year, both starting, it’s just crazy because you know we actually earned our spot on the field. We both got here, we’re both good enough to play on a team that is highly-ranked. I am very confident in Sam, when she has the ball and I know she’s confident when I have the ball, so it’s just really fun to play with everyone on the field who’s just as good as you are.”

Sharing the college experience extends beyond the playing field and that support system has been critical in a year unlike any other.

“My major is athletic training and I have a lot of clinical hours that I have to make up from not being able to do them in the fall,” Alex said. “It was very questionable if I was even going to be allowed to play lacrosse this season. I’ve been pretty busy this semester, so yeah it’s been really helpful having Sam here to just bounce things off of if I need support.”

Sam added, “Especially with Covid, you know you can’t take anything for granted any more and being able to go to college with my sister and both being able to play on the lacrosse team and live with her here, we don’t take anything for granted.”

Whether it was injury or the pandemic, having a season taken away inevitably adds perspective to being able to get on the field every day. A senior-laden team, Ithaca has been strong from the outset, going 11-0 in the regular season and advancing to the conference tournament final for the third year running.

Despite a loss to William Smith, who the Bombers beat twice in the regular season, Ithaca is now 3-1 against teams that qualified for the tournament and has four wins against ranked teams. They open the tournament against Notre Dame of Maryland University on Sunday.

“We are expecting to go into the tournament and make it pretty far,” said Alex a few days before the Liberty League semifinal. “Everyone who’s starting right now is basically all seniors and that’s all we want. We just want to prove to everyone that we’ve been working hard.”

Sam added, “First we’re trying to win the Liberty League and then we’re trying to win a national championship. It’s scheduled for graduation weekend and all of us seniors are like, we don’t want to go to graduation. We want to win a championship.”

Foxboro’s Garcia Sets New Strikeout Record at RWU

Justin Garcia
Foxboro alum Justin Garcia throws during practice at Roger Williams where he recently broke the school’s strikeout record. (Bryce Johnson/Roger Williams Athletics)

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Following a senior season that was wiped away by the pandemic after just three appearances and two starts, Foxboro alum Justin Garcia returned for a fifth year at Roger Williams and turned that extra spring into a historic one.

In his most recent start, against Salve Regina, Garcia recorded the 186th strikeout of his career, breaking the old program record set by Josh Rosen in 2003. With 57 strikeouts this season (in just 33 innings), Garcia now has 189 and counting.

“I knew roughly around how many I needed but in the heat of the moment, during the game, I wasn’t really thinking all that much about it,” said Garcia about breaking the record. “I was just trying to do a job and get the win.”

He laughed when asked if his teammates were keeping track by hanging up Ks ior having a countdown in the dugout. “Some of my teammates were thinking about doing that,” he said, “but I just told them, don’t jinx it. I still have to pitch well in order to get there.”

Twice named to the Commonwealth Coast Conference Third Team (in 2018 and 2019), Garcia is having the best season of his career. Through six starts, he is 3-0 (increasing his career win total to 11) and has a career-best ERA of 2.73, which is almost half a point better than his previous low of 3.25 as a sophomore.

“It’s good to get recognition, but it’s also good to see I remained consistent throughout the four years at Roger Williams and it shows that hard work does eventually pay off if you stick with it,” Garcia explained.

Like most pitchers coming out of high school, Garcia said his coaches called him a “thrower, not necessarily a pitcher.” He relied on his fastball and admitted that there were a lot of growing pains that first season, as he finished with a 1-3 record in eight appearances (five starts). He made the adjustment quickly, as the next year he was 3-3 in eight starts and dropped his ERA almost five points from 8.20 to 3.25.

“Going from high school to college is such a big jump,” he said. “You’re just still trying to figure out how to get outs without getting shelled, especially when you’re facing a conference that’s been pretty strong the past four years. I’ve developed so much, grown so much over the course of four years.”

The learning continues, as Garcia said he has been working on a new pitch this season and continues to tinker to try and improve. “You’re always learning and you’re never at the top of your game and there’s always something new you can learn, more development that you can have,” he said. “There’s never a ceiling.”

Garcia is now trying to share that message with the younger pitchers on the team, showing them what it takes to be a success at the collegiate level. He said, “You’ve got to be confident. Confidence is 90 percent of pitching. If you’re not confident in yourself to perform well, then you’re not going to.”

With Roger Williams sitting at 11-5 in conference play, second place in Pod A behind Salve, which is 7-2-1 in the CCC, Garcia is looking ahead to this weekend and the conference tournament. After watching one season disappear, he is trying to make the most of this spring.

“We were down in South Carolina playing games and nothing was wrong and then the next week the whole season was cancelled,” Gracia reflected. “It goes to show that stuff can happen really fast and guys need to realize you only have four eligible seasons of playing college ball so they should really soak it all up and really enjoy the experience.”

In the fall and winter, concerns remained that this season might not happen. The rising number of cases in Rhode Island and on campus made it unclear whether or not spring sports could take place. So, there was obvious excitement when the team found out that this season would go ahead.

“I was relieved because all I wanted to do was play one last season,” he explained. “I was just so happy. I was really proud of the team that we were able to accomplish that, because it’s college and people want to hang out with friends and stuff and it’s really hard to isolate yourself.”

Now, as the spring is heading towards the end, the focus changes from happy to be playing to determined to bring home a trophy. Along with his fellow fifth-year players Joey Gulino and Danny Roth, Garcia wants to end the season on a high.

“The past couple years we’ve come up just short of a championship, so we wanted to make sure we had a good chance of getting a ring at the end of the year,” he said.

“It means so much for the older guys. We’ve all been here since freshman year, five years ago. It seems so long ago now, but we’re just happy that we’re able get the chance again and hopefully take [a championship] home this year and leave a good lasting impact on the program too.”

With a program record in hand, Justin Garcia is now hoping to add a CCC title to his Roger Williams legacy.

North’s Sinacola Dominating on the Mound for Maine

Nick Sinacola
Former North Attleboro star Nick Sinacola has struck out 10 or more batters in all five of his starts for the University of Maine this spring, picking up the win in all five games. (University of Maine)

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After having the 2020 college baseball season wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, players could be forgiven for taking a few games to get into their strides this spring. That hasn’t been a problem for former North Attleboro star Nick Sinacola, who has been dominant on the hill for the University of Maine.

Sinacola, who helped the Rocketeers win their first state championship as a senior in high school, has won each of his first five starts (including Friday night’s win at NJIT) and has recorded double digit strikeouts in all five games. He has already been named the America East Conference Pitcher of the Week twice and earned national press when College Baseball News added him to their Players of the Week as well.

Before this weekend’s trip to New Jersey, Sinacola spoke about what it means not only to to be off to a strong start but to be able to get on the field at all.

“I think we’re all grateful,” he explained. “We’re just making the most of it, have a good year, and have some fun while we’re out there. That’s the number one thing is just having some fun, trying to win some games.”

Sinacola added, “It was a sense of normalcy that I think everyone is kind of looking for, so whether you’re playing or not playing, even just seeing it on TV or seeing videos of it gives people that sense of normalcy.”

The Black Bears were confident in the fall that the spring season would happen, although the team decided over the winter to pass up its usual season-opening trip to Florida because of the logistical issues that come with traveling during the ongoing pandemic. Maine’s season began on March 6 against Merrimack College with Sinacola getting the call to start.

“It was something special,” he said. “That first pitch, it felt really good to be back in that Maine uniform.” Sinacola struck out 11 in 5-2/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run to open the year with his first collegiate victory.

As a freshman, two years ago, he made 19 appearances, including three starts. He struck out 35 batters in 35-2/3 innings and tossed five innings of no-hit relief against national power Florida State. He made four starts in the abbreviated 2020 season, losing all four despite striking out 23 batters in 21 innings.

This year, Sinacola has been on a different level. Over his first four starts, Sinacola struck out 11, 16, 15, and 12 batters (his total of 54 was tops in the America East) and had an ERA of just 1.01 (which was 13th in the country and would be the lowest in program history). He led the nation with a strikeout rate of 18.23 per nine innings, his 4.05 hits allowed per nine innings was 11th best in the nation, and he was 20th in WHIP (0.79). He was also halfway to the program’s single-season record for strikeouts (108).

“You spend really a whole year working on everything you can to be ready for when the season comes around,” Sinacola said about his great start, “and I felt like I was in a good spot at the beginning of the year. Having the confidence in myself to make a really good pitch, every single pitch, and confidence in my catcher Ryan Turenne, and trusting everyone behind me, really makes a big difference.”

Does he notice how many strikeouts he is racking up during a game? Can he tell that he is nearing double digits again?

“No, I can’t do that,” Sinacola laughed. “It’s so in the moment, you’re so focused on what you’re doing with this hitter in that specific situation. At the end of the day we’re just trying to get outs, regardless of how we do it.”

Part of Sinacola’s development was the two summers he has pitched with the Brockton Rox, where he had the chance to put into practice the instructions from his Maine coaches, while also being able to try different things to see what fit best.

“You’re off the leash with what you’re doing with the coaches here, so you get the chance to improve yourself and really learn through yourself,” he said. “You get the opportunity to grow on your own.”

Like most pitchers making the jump from a dominant high school career, Sinacola noted that his biggest development came from “learning to pitch, not just throw.” He talked about pitch sequences and planning how to approach to every hitter that he faces depending on circumstances of the game.

His approach at North worked pretty well too. During his senior season, Sinacola won all 10 of his starts, including three in the postseason, posted an ERA of 1.23 and struck out a league-high 71 batters. In the state title game, Beverly struck for three runs in the fifth, but Sinacola settled down to help Big Red lift the state championship trophy.

“Winning is so fun and that winning atmosphere is definitely something you want to be around,” Sinacola said. “It also pushed me to be better because winning the whole thing is something that we’re always chasing. We’re all just trying to win.”

He added, “More than anything, it was a humbling experience because going from being able to win as many games we did that year (18-2 overall) and then going immediately into fall ball here with crazy hitters and other great pitchers it was humbling to see that okay this is a whole other level. You have to adapt and grow your game.”

Sinacola is one of many former Hock baseball players from that season who are making their mark at the collegiate level and he noted that the strength of the league (the Hock sent two teams to the Super 8, had two D2 South finalists, and two state champions) forced him to improve his game.

“The Hock my senior year was one of the best leagues in the state that year,” he recalled. “Playing against good teams, definitely fuels the fire because every night you have to play well to get the win.”

With the America East changing its playoff structure, splitting into two divisions and with only the top two in each division reaching the conference tournament, Sinacola admits it will be a tough test for Maine but that the Black Bears have the talent to be in the mix. Currently, Maine (11-8, 6-5) leads its division by percentage points (UMass Lowell is second at 7-6 in the league) and has a weekend series with the University of Hartford coming up next.

Missing an entire season due to the pandemic adds unique perspective to the challenges and the opportunities the team faces this spring.

“The bus rides don’t get easier up here for us,” he joked, “but it definitely makes you more grateful for the game. The fact that there are other teams and other schools who aren’t able to have the opportunities we have to go out and play definitely adds a different level.

“We think we have the team to make the tournament and that’s the goal. I think it definitely pushes us to be better and we’re excited to play for that this year.”

Tellier’s Pro Dream Comes True, Signs with Red Sox

Nate Tellier
Former Attleboro standout Nate Tellier, shown here pitching for UMass Dartmouth, signed a free agent contract this week with the Boston Red Sox. (UMass Dartmouth Athletic Communications)

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Nate Tellier is living the dream of kids and baseball fans (of all ages) throughout New England. The former Attleboro High standout and All-Little East Conference pitcher and outfielder at UMass Dartmouth put pen to paper Tuesday on a three-year free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox. He has been invited to join his hometown team at spring training in March.

“There is no better feeling,” Tellier explained, still obviously coming to grips with a wild week that saw him invited to the Kelly Rodman Memorial Summer Rivalry Classic in Hartford on Friday, where he struck out the three batters he faced, to being offered a contract four days later by Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant.

“[Ray] texted me Monday at 11:30 at night and was like, want to meet tomorrow?” Tellier said. “I just thought we were going to talk…then he asked, ‘Do you want to be a Boston Red Sox? We’ve got a contract with your name on it right here.’ It was unbelievable.”

Telier continued, “It’s always been my dream to play for the Red Sox. It’s a dream come true. I’m just blessed because not many people get to live out their dream like I am right now.”

It has been a roller coaster year for the fireballer. At the beginning of his senior season in February, Tellier was recognized by Perfectgame.org as the No. 4 prospect nationally in Div. III. As a center fielder and closer for the Hawks, he was named Little East Player of the Week after the first three games and was batting .436 as UMass Dartmouth jumped out to a 9-1 record.

Then the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic ended the spring season and Major League Baseball announced that it was shortening its amateur draft to just five rounds. “I was pretty disappointed because being a DIII player I’m not going to get drafted in the top five rounds,” Tellier admitted.

With a potential pro career seemingly stalled, Tellier, who graduated this spring with a degree in biology, joined the Brockton Rox of the Futures League for summer baseball and started considering his options for one more college season. Three saves and 19 strikeouts in 11-1/3 innings with the Rox, while regularly hitting 94-95 mph on the gun, caught the eye of scouts again and earned Tellier his chance to impress in Hartford.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a year, but it all worked out in the end,” he said. “Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long career.”

Tellier had an impressive career at Attleboro. His senior season, he went 3-0 in the regular season and led the Hockomock League in strikeouts (65) and ERA (0.60). He struck out 16 in an eight-inning no-hitter against North Attleboro, outdueled Norwood’s Sean Mellen (Northeastern University) in the first round of the playoffs, shutting out the Mustangs over nine innings and having both of Attleboro’s hits in a 1-0 win, and battled a sore shoulder in a close South semifinal loss at Silver Lake against Gatorade Player of the Year Anthony Videtto (UMass).

The talent was evident, but, according to former Attleboro coach Matt Bosh, it was the work ethic that turned Tellier from a 4-foot-11 freshman into a pitcher capable of signing with a big league club.

“His commitment is off the charts,” said Bosh. “He’s going to outwork everybody at any level he competes at and that’s how he’s always been. He would make other players around him better because they would see the best player on the team working the hardest. That’s a luxury for any coach.

“He’s made himself into a professional athlete. All that hard work paid off for him and it’s what he deserves.”

Tellier added, “Ever since I was seven it’s just been baseball, baseball, baseball, just full throttle. I don’t think I’ve gone a day without baseball since I was seven and just all the hard work that I put in, all my friends who’ve been pushing me, and it’s paid off.”

In a Boston Globe article by Alex Speier on Wednesday, Fagnant said, “Good story, but most importantly, at the end of the day, you’ve got big league tools. That’s the most important part. It’s a big arm, he’s a strong kid, and he’s athletic. It will be fun to watch his progress.”

Minor league baseball has been closed down for the summer, due to the pandemic, so Tellier will have to wait until March 3 before he reports to Red Sox camp. In the meantime, he will continue to go through his throwing program and work out and try to get used to the fact that his dream of being able to say, “I have to report to spring training with the Red Sox,” has come true.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” Tellier said with a chuckle, as he tried to describe his feelings. “I still can’t believe that I’m with the Boston Red Sox.”

Tellier is one of two members of the Attleboro High class of 2016 to sign professional contracts this year. He joins classmate Kyle Murphy, who signed with the NFL’s New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in April and is taking part in the team’s training camp.

Sharon’s Cosgrove Named Coach of the Year at RIC

Jenna Cosgrove
Sharon alum Jenna Cosgrove instructs her Rhode Island College team in a game earlier this season against Roger Williams. (Courtesy Photo)

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When Jenna Cosgrove took over the Rhode Island College program, the Anchorwomen had won only 19 games in the three previous seasons combined and had finished bottom of the Little East Conference with five wins in 2016-17. Three years later, RIC won 22 games (second-most in program history) and reached the conference championship game.

Cosgrove, who played basketball for four years at Sharon and then at Endicott College, was named the Little East Coach of the Year for bringing the RIC program back to the top of the league standings.

“It’s bittersweet right now because we just lost in the championship,” Cosgrove said in a phone conversation a few days after RIC’s 49-44 loss to Eastern Connecticut State in the conference title game. “In year three to take the team to the championship and receive an honor like this speaks volumes of the growing respect for the program.”

Despite 22 wins this winter, RIC just missed out on an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Cosgrove still saw a lot of growth for the program this season. She said, “I tell the kids we now should be a top 25 team. It raises the standards really high and it’s exciting for the program. I think our girls will be fired up next year to try and come back and win a championship.”

Coaching is a family trait. Cosgrove’s grandfather Jack helped found the Pop Warner football program in Sharon, coached several sports, and the middle school field was recently named in his honor. Her uncle Jack is the winningest football coach in University of Maine history and is still active as the head coach at Colby College.

Her interest in the profession led to a sports management degree at Endicott and shortly after graduating from college led to her taking jobs coaching AAU basketball at Mass Premier and as an assistant for Sharon coach Kate Horsmann.

At the age of just 23, Cosgrove got the opportunity to be an administrative assistant and support staff for the women’s basketball program at Fordham. “I jumped at it,” she explained. “It was a big leap of faith for me because obviously I was transitioning from Sharon to the Bronx at 23 and I didn’t know anybody.”

She traveled with the team, helped out at games and at practices, and, after the head coach left at the end of the season, was part of the interview process for new coach Stephanie Gaitley. The Rams had gone nearly two decades without a winning record but Gaitley turned the Rams into perennial league title contenders and had 20-plus wins in six of her first eight seasons in charge.

Cosgrove became an assistant coach after three years and eventually was named recruiting coordinator. After seven years in the Bronx, she took another leap and became the head coach at RIC. She took her experience and a lot of what she learned from Gaitley to help turn things around for the Anchorwomen.

“That journey being in New York, that really defined me as a coach and I learned from one of the best in the business at that level, but I spent a lot of time there and it got me to this job because I wanted to be back home, I wanted to be closer to family,” said Cosgrove. “It got me back to my roots and to be a head coach.”

She added, “I learned how to change culture from [Stephanie]. When she took over that program, we were at the bottom of the Atlantic 10 and within three years we won an A-10 championship. When I got here, we were at the bottom and I knew we would need to bring in good players, which we’ve done, but a big part of it is building culture and building confidence.”

The first season in charge was tough, but RIC doubled its win total in year two, finishing 18-9 and making it to the LEC semifinal. This year was even better, RIC finished at 22-5. Cosgrove admitted that there was a lot to learn in her first head coaching position.

“Jumping from being an assistant to head coach taught me more in that first year about myself, but it’s the most rewarding experience and I love being a head coach and I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.

Her time as a member of the support staff at Fordham and especially her time in recruiting prepared her for the challenges that coaches at the DIII level face. With much smaller staffs, DIII coaches have their hands in have aspect of the program and Cosgrove said it was a “competitive edge,” although in the end coaching is still about being able to work with and get the most out of a group of student-athletes.

“It’s about being able to really relate to the kids and to motivate the kids and really have that close relationship off the court,” Cosgrove said. “I was a good athlete but I don’t know if I ever really reached my potential. Part of my desire to coach is to instill that in other kids and get them to reach their potential and maximize their opportunity.”

“t’s the player connection. It’s being able to impact a player’s life. I look at my season ending and my two seniors and those kids are going to be in my life forever, in terms of being able to help impact and change their life.”

Being in charge of a DI program is a typical ambition for anyone in the coaching profession, but Cosgrove isn’t looking ahead.

“Right now, I just live in the moment,” she said. “I’m not done here. I want to win a championship. I think going from DI to DIII gives a lot of perspective, you hit a stage where you do really value balance and I think I’m in a really good spot right now.”

RIC will be happy to have her coming back, hungrier than ever after getting to the program’s first LEC final since 2014.

Attleboro’s Tellier Making His Pitch as National Prospect

Nate Tellier
Former Attleboro standout Nate Tellier heads into his senior season at UMass Dartmouth as one of the top DIII baseball prospects in the country. (UMass Dartmouth Athletic Communications)

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It is only three games into the new baseball season and already former Attleboro High standout Nate Tellier is racking up the recognition at UMass Dartmouth. Prior to the start of the season, the senior center fielder and relief pitcher was named one of the top Div. III recruits in the country and this week was named the Little East Conference Player of the Week after sweeping a weekend doubleheader against Becker College.

Tellier has started on fire at the plate, going 6-for-10 with three doubles, a home run, a team-high seven RBI, a stolen base, and five runs scored. He went 4-for-6 with a three-run homer and drove in five RBI in an 11-1 win against Becker that opened the weekend series.

He has only made one appearance on the mound for the 3-0 Hawks, working around a pair of walks to throw a scoreless inning.

On the mound is where the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Tellier is making his biggest impression on scouts. Perfectgame.org named him the No. 4 prospect nationally in Div. III. He was the top-ranked prospect in New England and just one of two from the region to be named.

“It means the world to me that my hard is being recognized but it doesn’t mean that’s all there is,” said Tellier a couple days after the season-opening win against Emerson College. “It’s cool to be recognized but it doesn’t mean anything for the future or that I can stop working.

“It kind of just drives me a little bit more because it means that I’m that little bit closer. It gives me more reason to work towards that goal at the end of being drafted.”

A two-time all-conference selection, Tellier has impressed in his three seasons in Dartmouth. He is a career .338 hitter with nine career homers and 84 career RBI, with at least 50 hits in all three seasons. He moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation his sophomore season, but moved back last spring. He has a career record of 3-4 with 10 saves, an ERA of 2.72, and 63 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched (which works out to 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings).

When asked what he likes best about being the closer, Tellier said, “Just the compete level coming into a game either tied or up or down by one or two and knowing you have to compete at your best to be able to come out on top.”

He added, “You’re not throwing that long so you go out there and you don’t have to pace yourself, you just throw as hard as you can for about 15 pitches and you’re good.”

Tellier, who has also played the past three years with the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks in the NECBL, continues to improve each year. He allowed just 14 hits in 29 innings last season and struck out 41, an average of 12.72 per nine innings. He admits that he had a lot to learn about pitching when he got to college, despite a dominant senior season at Attleboro, and that he is much more comfortable on the mound than earlier in his career.

“In high school, I could just throw hard and that would work,” he explained. “I could get by with that only. I had to develop a couple of pitches because in college you’re not going to get by for long just throwing hard without location or off-speed stuff.”

He is working on his breaking ball, a change-up, and a two-seamer, developing a repertoire of pitches to fool college hitters. It has been a process, but Tellier feels like he has found a groove on the mound.

“When I got to college I had no idea what I was doing out there,” he said. “I just hoped the ball was going where I wanted it to, now I know the ball is going where I want. I’m a lot more comfortable.”

It was also a process in the field, as he moved from shortstop to the outfield and Tellier sees improvement in how he tracks balls off the bat and the angles that he takes to get to balls in center. His growth at the plate has been obvious and also been a benefit to his pitching.

“You get to see the ball from both sides and sometimes on the mound you think, if I was a hitter what would I be thinking in this situation?” Tellier remarked.

At Attleboro, Tellier was 3-0 his senior season, blowing teams away with his fastball. He struck out a league-high 65 batters that season, including 16 over eight innings in a no-hitter against North Attleboro, and had a league-low ERA of 0.60. He only allowed three earned runs all season and pushed the Bombardiers to the Div. 1 South semifinal.

Still, there is so much that Tellier wishes he had known about pitching then. He said, “I just wish I had been a better locator. I wish I knew how to take care of my arm. In high school I didn’t do any bands, I barely used any ice, I just went out and threw and that was it.”

After helping UMass Dartmouth reach the Little East title game last spring, Tellier is looking to bring home a title this season and believes that this is a team filled with the talent to accomplish that goal. In the process, he will also be working towards the dream of being selected in the MLB draft or possibly find a spot with an independent league team.

“Most of college, I’ve been working hard but haven’t been noticed,” he said. “Sometimes you think that it’s not going towards anything or not really paying off that well and so it weighs on you sometimes, but knowing that it’s paying off and that people are noticing keeps me driving.”

With one last collegiate season ahead, Tellier knows to not take anything for granted.

“I’m excited. I’m just taking all the experience that I’ve had the past three years and putting it all into this one season and leaving it all on the field. Hopefully, afterwards I’ll move on to bigger and better things.”

KP’s Allan Breaking Records for Brandeis Track

Jack Allan
KP grad Jack Allan broke another Brandeis track record last week, setting a new mark in the 60-meter hurdles. He is hoping to reach nationals in the heptathlon. (Sportspix.com/Brandeis Athletics)

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When he initially signed up for track in the spring of his freshman year at King Philip, Jack Allan was looking for something to fill time and to keep him in shape for the fall soccer season and swim in the winter. By his own admission, he wasn’t particularly great that first season on the track.

Eight years later and Allan is now a standout for Brandeis University, captain of the track team, and setting new program records in the heptathlon, decathlon, and most recently in the 60-meter hurdles. His heptathlon score is currently 10th best in the nation in Div. III and he is on pace to qualify for nationals.

“I was really bad at baseball so I naturally started doing track to keep me busy,” he joked. “My freshman year I was no good, but my sophomore year I started to find some success. I grew into my body and I really started to love it and the personal achievement you can find.

“There is a competitive aspect to it but when you can really work hard at something and compete against yourself and get that personal achievement it really drove me.”

His senior year at KP, Allan took third in both the 110-meter hurdles and the triple jump and fifth in the long jump at the Hockomock Outdoor Track Championships. He was drawn to those events because, as he put it, “running is pretty boring on a base level.” He added, “Throw some hurdles on a track and run over those is a lot more exciting than just running in circles for however long you do it.”

When he got to Brandeis, he expected those would be the events that he would be competing in. As it turned out, new assistant coach Jason Sliwoski saw the potential for more. He noticed Allan’s height and his athleticism and had Allan start training for the heptathlon and the decathlon. It turned out to be a record-breaking fit.

“I didn’t know it at the moment but he was so right,” Allan explained, “and I’m so glad that he knew right away that this was something that would work out for me and something that I’d find success in.”

Success in those events was nearly taken away from Allan during the indoor track season as a sophomore. He suffered a significant injury to his labrum while pole vaulting at the New England meet. While he finished that heptathlon in a top five place, he was limited to hurdles and jumps during the outdoor season.

He had surgery to fix his shoulder over that summer, but there was concern that he wouldn’t be able to take part in those events any more because of the strain that something like pole vaulting would cause. Allan took advantage of his recuperation period to study abroad in Amsterdam, clear his head, and regain his focus to come back even stronger for his junior season.

“It kind of allowed me to get away from track because it’s so much in college. It’s practice everyday, multiple hours, and lifts in the morning,” he said. “It made me really want to compete, to really get back into it, I hated being away from it, I hated being injured, and it drove me so much to get back at it.”

When asked about the new perspective that he gained while out injured and how that has impacted his performance, Allan replied, “It kind of felt like it could be taken away from so easily. This will be the end of my track career after college, so it made me focus everything I have on it and give everything I got.”

That attitude has certainly paid dividends for the Judges on the track.

Last spring, Allan set a new Brandeis mark with a 5,998 in the decathlon at the DIII New England Championship meet, eclipsing a record that had stood since 1980. A week later, he became the first athlete in program history to eclipse the 6,000-point mark, finishing with a 6,121 at the All-New England Championships. He set new PRs in the 1,500-meter run (the event that pushed him past 6,000), the javelin, and the pole vault.

“It was like a weight lifted off my shoulder that I finally got over 6,000 points and I felt like I could look beyond it now and set my goals higher,” he said.

At the Branwen Smith-King Invitational at Tufts University in early February, Allan broke his own school record in the heptathlon (for the second time this season). He finished with 4,782 points and demonstrated his range of talents by finishing first or second in five of the seven events, including PRs in long jump and hurdles.

With a few meets remaining, including the conference meet in New York City at the end of the month, Allan is in position to fulfill his goal of reaching nationals for the first time in his career. He was only 300 points shy of qualifying in the decathlon last spring.

“That’s the biggest goal that I’ve been thinking about for the past three years at Brandeis,” he said. “Seeing my older teammates go, it’s always been a goal of mine and I really hope that the score I have would make it.” He noted that for the past five seasons, his current score would have been good enough to make the trip.

Just last week, Allan added to his impressive resume by finishing the 60-meter hurdles in a time of 8.46 seconds, breaking a decade-old record by a tenth of a second.

“I think it really validates that what I’ve been working on and putting in these hours with my coach down on the track that it’s all paying off,” he said. “Once you break something, you get that confidence that things are possible and it’s not just an unachievable number in a record book somewhere, but something I can break and something I think I can keep getting better at.

“It’s really crazy. I didn’t expect to be in this position. It really just puts into perspective that I’m doing something Brandeis hasn’t seen before.”

Allan still has unfinished business with goals like reaching nationals and then finishing in the top eight to achieve All-American status, but he also recognizes that his track career is rapidly coming to a close and he is trying to enjoy the time that he gets to spend competing with his teammates.

“Just competing and practicing with my team everyday makes me so happy,” Allan reflected, “and I’m just living in the moment and appreciating it all before it comes to an end. I know it’s going to fly by so I’m just appreciating the little moments with my team.”

The UAA Championships will start on February 29 at NYU and the NCAA Championships start on March 13 at JDL Fast Track in North Carolina.

Sharon’s Roelke Walks On to Play DI Hoops at Lehigh

David Roelke
Sharon grad David Roelke walked on at Lehigh University and is looking forward to a strong finish to his senior season. (Hannahally Photography/Lehigh Athletics)

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There is a scene in the movie Rudy where Sean Astin’s title character is trying out for a walk-on spot on the Notre Dame football team. There are maybe two dozen players trying to fill just a couple of spots and they are being bruised, battered, and bloodied to get a chance to be on the practice squad. Luckily for Sharon grad David Roelke, it wasn’t quite the same experience for him to join the Lehigh University team and play Div. I college basketball.

“It wasn’t anything too crazy,” he explained, laughing when the scene from Rudy is referenced. “We just kind of had a little workout together and then I kind of got thrown right into the team to be honest. It wasn’t too bad.”

Roelke had continued to play basketball and work out when he got to Lehigh, playing in rec leagues and getting to know some of the players from his time in the gym. During one of his workouts at the end of his freshman year, one of the coaches from the women’s basketball team asked him to help out with their practice team.

“Once that hit it off, I kind of realized I still wanted to be involved in basketball and I was confident enough that I knew I was good enough to do it,” Roelke said. “I got great feedback from the program and the guys on the team would always invite me to their pickup and just got it rolling.”

Lehigh was admittedly not Roelke’s first choice coming out of Sharon. He had some opportunities to play basketball with local Div. II and Div. III programs, but he wasn’t sure if the schools were the right fit. He was accepted to Lehigh off the waitlist around the time of graduation. He had been planning on attending Fordham but took a visit to the Bethlehem, Pa. campus and decided to go to Lehigh a semester into his freshman year.

It didn’t take long for Roelke to realize that, as much as he like the school and college life, something was missing.

“I just missed basketball,” he said. “It’s like having a family and I missed that a lot over the first three semesters of college that I wasn’t playing.”

Roelke added, “I’ve always been part of a team, whether it’s AAU or Sharon or whatever, so it was kind of jarring to go to college and not have that in any capacity. Freshman year I’d go to a game and think, wow this is my school’s team and I’m not on it, which was really weird for me because I’ve done it my whole life.”

He said that he was instantly embraced as a member of the team, scholarship or no, and he has embraced living the DI athlete lifestyle, especially the structure that it gives to his day. As an example, Roelke recited his schedule for the following day, which included class, then treatment from the training staff, then a few hours of practice, then an hour of lifting, then 30 minutes of film.
“I think one of the big adjustments for kids when they get to college is the amount of free time that you have and that’s just gone,” he explained. “Learning to manage that has taught me a lot about commitment, priorities, and what I need to get done when.”

Obviously it is easier to commit to the level of work, time, travel, and structure of being an athlete when you are also getting frequent playing time. It is a different experience as a walk-on who only gets on the court every once in a while.

“I’m getting full reps in practice and everything, and I’ll have a week in practice where I feel like I’m one of the best players on the court, I’m killing it, and that doesn’t translate to playing time, which can be frustrating,” Roelke admitted.

He continued, “As long as I’m doing my job then it’s going to translate into the team doing better and, at the end of the day, I want a ring and I want to go to the NCAA Tournament. Whether that means playing in a game or not playing, at the end of the day I want a ring so whatever works for that.”

It didn’t take Roelke long to get his chance to experience DI basketball, as he played in the season opener against Monmouth and scored in his first appearance, prompting a flood of text messages from friends and family marveling at how he was playing at the top level. This season, the Mountain Hawks have made trips to the likes of nationally-ranked Auburn and to St. Mary’s. In the end, Roelke said, “It’s nothing too crazy, it’s just basketball.”

He added, “I came back to all these texts from people, ‘Hey, you scored in a DI basketball game, that’s crazy,’ and on the bus I was like, I guess. I was on the bus and just thinking, I’ve got practice in the morning…It was just basketball. Once you get on the court, it’s not all that different from a Sharon/Foxboro game.”

Over the summer, Roelke started working for a sports recruiting service and he has shared his unique perspective with families looking to find the right fit for their student-athletes. He knows that walking on isn’t always the right fit, as it has been for him at Lehigh, but he emphasizes that the right college experience, whether it is at the DI, DII, or DIII level, is different for everyone.

“I think that there’s kids out there who are thinking, okay I don’t have a scholarship opportunity right now and are thinking about what kind of college experience they want,” he said. “If you don’t want to spend that much time doing it and it’s not something that you love, then go do something else, but if it’s something that you’re going to think I wish I was playing basketball five hours a day then go do it. It’s definitely worth it.”

Lehigh is currently 6-18 on the season, following a win over Lafayette on Saturday, and 3-9 in the conference. While it hasn’t been the best of winters to this point, the Mountain Hawks still have the chance of making a Cinderella run to the tournament and Roelke is hoping to cap his senior season with a chance to play on the biggest stage.

“That’s the best thing about college basketball,” he said. “We have the talent to do it. It’s just a matter of getting hot at the right time. If anyone’s going to make a run, it’s going to be us. We’ve got the pieces to do it, it’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time.”

Franklin’s DiGiacomo Reps JWU at NCAA Convention

Olivia DiGiacomo
Franklin alum Olivia DiGiacomo represented Johnson & Wales University at the NCAA Convention as one of 40 student-athletes selected from a national pool to take part in the DIII Immersion Program. (JWU Athletics)

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Competing in collegiate athletics opens a number of unique opportunities, not all of them on the field. Franklin grad Olivia DiGiacomo got to experience one of those opportunities last week, when she attended the annual NCAA convention in Anaheim, Calif. as part of the Div. III Immersion Program.

DiGiacomo, a junior outfielder on the Johnson & Wales University softball team, was nominated for the program by her softball coach Kim Camara-Harvey and director of athletics Dana Garfield. She was one of 40 Div. III student-athletes selected from thousands of nominees nationwide to join the program and attend the convention.

“My coach and my athletic director looked at me as a leader and someone who can bring back a lot of information and knowledge back to campus,” said DiGiacomo after she got back from the convention. “It was absolutely a gratifying experience to be recognized.”

The DIII Immersion Program was created in 2015 to give ethnic minority student-athletes who have an interest in coaching or administration an inside look into how the convention works and to build their personal networks. Each year, 40 student-athletes are given a fully-paid trip to the convention, attend workshops, and interact with professionals in the field.

DiGiacomo, who is Hispanic/Latino, and the other student-athletes spent a week in meetings, networking sessions, and listening to influential speakers from around the world of college athletics, including the likes of ESPN college basketball commentator Dick Vitale.

It was also a chance to meet with other athletes from around the country who have similar interests. In addition to this year’s crop of attendees, DiGiacomo said that they were also introduced to the student-athletes from the last several years, giving them access to nearly 200 connections.

“It was really cool,” she explained. “All of us came from very different backgrounds and from all around the country. It was really cool to interact with all those different people and those are definitely long friends and connections that I will have the rest of my life.”

As one of the leaders of the JWU softball team, and someone who is already showing an interest in coaching, DiGiacomo was an obvious choice for Camara-Harvey.

“I knew this experience would give her the opportunity to learn more about what it takes to be successful,” she said. “I also knew that she would represent our University and softball program at an elite level in all of her interactions with other professionals and students at the conference.”

Camara-Harvey added, “I hope she takes away a passion for athletics and understands what an impact it can have on students, coaches and administrators.”

DiGiacomo coaches softball during the summer, working with youth players who are looking to get recruited by college programs. At the convention, she learned ways to turn that experience into a career. She said, “Definitely being confident in what you believe and having your own core values – being kind, don’t judge, and then be loyal to everyone.”

One of the core values that DiGiacomo and the program share is promoting diversity and inclusion in DIII athletics.

“At the Div. III level there are so many walks of life and different people that you run into and can encounter in your life,” she said. “We need to be able to accommodate that and be empathetic to that and understand people in their many walks of life and be considerate of that.

“Coming to Johnson & Wales, in a city that’s very diverse, freshman year was like, ‘Woah look at all these different people coming from all these different walks of life.’ My parents raised me to be kind and not judge and to value every person for who they are and coming here I was able to make friends with all kinds of different people.”

The program promotes leaders off the field, but DiGiacomo has also demonstrated leadership on the diamond as well. A second-team all-conference selection last spring, she is one of only a few upperclassmen for JWU this season and, once she returns from injury, is hoping to guide a young team back to the top of the conference standings.

“Definitely at Franklin I tried to be that leader that people could go to and talk to and be open with everybody,” DiGiacomo said. “In college, I was definitely recognized as a leader and chosen obviously to come to this convention but also to step up on and off the field and help underclassmen. Coach has definitely seen me as a leader and it’s something that I fully embraced and accepted.”

Not only has leadership been part of her playing career, but DiGiacomo and the other student-athletes that attended the NCAA convention in the DIII Immersion Program will hope that leadership also becomes a part of their professional careers as well.