November 29, 2012

Small College Notebook: Monks off to a strong start, but focus on finish

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com
Columnist

Coach Rob Sanicola had seen enough. His basketball team's 13-point lead was gone. St. Joseph's lead over Bates was down to a point with more than 10 minutes left to play.

Julio Vazquez, the only senior for St. Joseph’s, has been on successful teams, but has not reached the NCAA playoffs.

David Bates/Fotografixstudio.com

No one wearing a St. Joseph's uniform Tuesday night had ever played Bates and walked off the court a winner. Before his players let another team's momentum roll over them, Sanicola called a timeout. He had just enough time to coach and to teach.

Early-season, nonconference basketball games are not unlike pop quizzes. Game or quiz, each can be used to expose or reinforce what you know and what you don't know. Games played within the conference are the tests. Tuesday night's game with Bates seemed to be both quiz and test.

Go for the easier shots, Sanicola told Julio Vazquez, his veteran point guard and the team's only senior. Get the ball inside to Nicholas Jobin.

So Vazquez did. Jobin's slam dunk was the shot in the arm that energized teammates and fans. St. Joseph's won 66-54 for its third win in three games.

"It was pretty fun," said Vazquez, a sports management major from Waterbury, Conn. "For us to control the game like we did shows how we've grown as a team. It's different. Everyone's contributing. We have a lot of unsung heroes. Then you get a Steve Simonds who comes in and scores 25 points."

Simonds didn't play much last season, his first after leading Bonny Eagle High to the Western Class A playoffs. Fifteen of his points came on 3-point shots.

Vazquez has been on teams that won 19, 20 and 18 games the past three seasons. The Monks have lost nine games or fewer in each of those seasons. But they've not made it to the NCAA Division III playoffs, the final exams.

"Playing and winning three games means we have 22 to go," said Jobin, a junior big man from Westbrook. "We want a conference championship."

Tuesday night, Jobin was matching moves frequently with Eddie Bogdanovich, a very familiar rival and friend from Portland High. On the court they know each other too well.

"It's kind of a competitive thing," said Jobin. "I know there's more interest when we play a Maine school but it doesn't really matter to us who the opponent is. These games are helping us get prepared."

St. Joseph's opened by beating Bowdoin, the University of Southern Maine and Bates. Listening to Vazquez and Jobin, no one should read significance into the victories.

Really?

"We can be happy with the energy we've taken away from each win," said Jobin, too conscious of his answers. "But only a little."

BOWDOIN COLLEGE

Ollie Koo's three goals and five assists in wins over the University of New England, Salve Regina and Suffolk University earned him New England Small College Athletic Conference player of the week in men's hockey. His three goals were scored on Suffolk in Sunday's game. Koo (Greenwich, Conn.) leads all NESCAC players with 10 points. Bowdoin plays rival Colby on Friday night at home.

UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND

Teammates Beth Suggs (Bath) and Meghan Gribbin (Windham) had big nights against Bowdoin College and were rewarded with Commonwealth Coast Conference Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week recognition in women's basketball. Suggs, a senior forward, scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds in the 40-point victory over Bowdoin. Suggs was 10 of 12 (83 percent) from the floor. Gribbin, the team's point guard, scored 13. The win over Bowdoin was the first in 18 games dating back to the 1994-95 season.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

Kristin Potito has the distinction of playing on two team sports that reached the NCAA playoffs in the same academic year 25 years ago. It's not a singular distinction but is probably the first. Potito is the all-time single-season and career scoring leader at USM in field hockey. Her 1987 field hockey team, coached by Paula Hodgdon, is the first USM team to qualify for the NCAA Division III playoffs. That team will be honored at Friday night's Husky Heroes banquet at the Portland Club along with administrators Doc Costello and Al Bean, Coach Gary Fifield and All-American Ashley Marble.

But Potito also played on the women's basketball team, coached by Fifield, that reached the NCAA playoffs. Julie Plant did it twice in 1997-98 and 1998-99 in basketball and softball. Danielle DeGraw and Amanda Kimball did the basketball-softball double in 1997-98 and Haley Jordan did the women's basketball-lacrosse double in 2010.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

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