Tag Archives: St. John’s University

St. John’s men’s basketball team all grown up

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

St. John’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin once said it would take about “three or four” years to build back the Johnnies’ program.

Now in his fourth year as head coach, Lavin was optimistic at the annual St. John’s basketball media day on Thursday, October 10, because the Red Storm has a full set of returning players, plus new talents like never before.

“The last three-plus years was to put our program in position,” Lavin said. “We now feel we can be competitive, because we have the artillery and the firepower to be on more equal footing to the competition.”

After a spring of practicing and a summer playing basketball in Europe, the Johnnies, which were once the youngest team in school history, are all grown up. The Red Storm’s leading scorer junior guard D’Angelo Harrison’s behavior behind the scenes last season eventually got him kicked off the squad at an essential time. This time around, he said he’s changed his ways.

“Knowing how I used to act and the way I am today, now I can see,” Harrison said. “I can honestly say I thank Lavin for what he did.”

A whole cast of Johnnies who were prominent in last year’s National Invitational Tournament appearance will be returning, including the country’s leading shot blocker, sophomore center Chris Obekpa, reigning Big East Conference Rookie of the Year Jakarr Sampson, junior Sir’Dominic Pointer and combo guard Phil Greene IV.

A fresh set of players will also join them for this season, including senior Orlando Sanchez, a 6’9” forward from the Dominican Republic, who hopes to provide stability to the front court.

Sophomore transfer Max Hooper, a three-point specialist, will help the Red Storm from behind the arch, which they desperately needed last season. Also, after redshirting last season, forward God’sgift Achiuwa will return to the Red Storm, and said taking a year off actually improved his game.

“I was able to watch the game from the sideline,” Achiuwa said. “So now I have good perspective of a basketball game. I have an overview of what basketball is all about from every angle.” 

The team’s only true freshman, point guard Rysheed Jordan who was missing in action at the media event, is one of the nation’s top recruits, rated 17 in the country by ESPNU. Jordan hopes to help the back court with scoring.

With this armament of talent for the Johnnies, it seems like the only problem might be how to distribute minutes on the court.


St. John’s women’s basketball team looks to continue dynasty

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The St. John’s University women’s basketball team has big shoes to fill.

With last year’s departure of seniors Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith to the WNBA — the first female Red Storm players ever drafted to the league — the team has some gaping holes.

Smith and McKenith were the key players of the greatest dynasty of St. John’s women’s basketball, which included four-straight NCAA tournament appearances for the Red Storm and the team’s first-ever Sweet Sixteen berth. But with the stellar pair and other key players gone that means new players have to step up.

“No matter that our face has changed our goals stay the same, our expectations stay the same,” said head coach Joe Tartamella.

Sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford, the reigning All-Met Rookie of the Year and a 2012-2013 Big East Conference All-Freshman team selection, will be a major factor to determine how the Red Storm fare in the new-look Big East. Handford scored 9.4 points per game last year and averaged 4.5 rebounds per game, and those numbers are expected to balloon this year.

“To be honest I think it’ll be great to be the top player on the team,” Handford said. “I think we can go further than we did last year.”

In the front court junior forward Amber Thompson, who averaged 6.5 rebounds per game last year, is returning to pound the boards and solidify the Johnnies’ interior defense.

The Red Storm also has a cast of returning guards that can push the ball, such as seniors Keylantra Langley and Briana Brown, and sophomore Ashley Perez.

Redshirt senior Eugeneia McPherson, who was inactive last year due to a season-ending knee injury, expects to be able to take the court when conference play begins.

But as one of the only seniors on the team and the only current player who has been through all four-straight NCAA tournaments, McPherson will be counted on for her experience to direct the team.

With this mix of experience, top players and team chemistry, the Red Storm is confident that they can continue the dynasty to a fifth year.

“We have a great group of young ladies that have been working hard,” Tartamella said. “We will put a product out there that will make our fans, alumni and university proud.”



St. John’s third annual Dribble For The Cure raises $55K for cancer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

About two years ago St. John’s University men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin announced he had prostate cancer and would need surgery.

Lavin missed most of the following season and had a successful surgery and recovery, but for members of the university and especially the men’s basketball team, talking about cancer still hits home.

“Coach always talks about the struggle of it and the importance of giving back to the community and you can tell its coming from a good place,” said sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson.

With the most anticipated season in the Lavin era before them the men’s basketball team joined the women’s team to co-host the  third annual St. John’s Dribble For The Cure on Saturday, in which more than 500 people participated and more than $55,000 was raised for pediatric cancer.

“It’s definitely special to beat an opponent like Villanova or a Notre Dame, but it’s even more rewarding to see our players participate in an event like Dribble For The Cure,” Lavin said. “We want to compete in every game, but helping find a cure for cancer is even a more worthy cause than winning a basketball game.”

At the event participants  dribbled basketballs in teams around St. John’s campus. Teams and individuals also raised money prior to the event and donated it to the cause. The participants that raised the most money received autographed shirts and basketballs from St. John’s players and coaches.

Before the dribble tour there was a festival of free food, giveaways, games and performances from the St. John’s cheerleaders and the pep band. Then in the opening ceremony New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson made a guest appearance.

“It’s an honor to be here,” stated Woodson. “I had a sister who died of cancer many years ago, so I’m a big supporter of fighting cancer and finding a cure.”

Participants came from Queens and much farther to support the annual event.

Larry Kovacs, a St. John’s alum, and his family traveled from Pennsylvania for the second straight time to dribble around the campus. Last year his daughter Jenna, 5, was so young she couldn’t dribble the basketball and he had to carry her across the finish line. But this year Jenna dribbled the entire way by herself.

“We’re blessed with three healthy children and its just a way for us to give back and help others that are less fortunate,” Kovacs said. “It’s a very positive experience for us, it teaches good qualities and characteristics for our children.”



Victory marks fourth consecutive win for St. John’s men’s soccer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John’s Athletic Communications

In the 19th minute St. John’s men’s soccer forward Sean Sepe clutched his head and looked to the sky as if the world was coming to an end.

Sepe just missed an easy goal directly in front the frame. With no defenders around, it was just him and the West Virginia University goalkeeper, Lee Johnston. All he had to do was kick the ball pass Johnston on the right side and the Johnnies would have taken the lead.

“I thought I had it, I was so close,” Sepe said. “It was very disappointing.”

Johnston defended Sepe well and deflected the ball just enough for it to carry wide. But a few plays later in the 24th minute Sepe found himself in the same position after teammate Jimmy Mulligan connected a pass inside the box. Sepe, who scored the winning goal in the Red Storm’s last game, slipped through three defenders and this time kicked the ball just pass Johnston for the score.

“The goalie didn’t rotate back to his position and I put it in there,” Sepe said. “I was mad at myself that I didn’t score the first one. I was like ‘I’m definitely getting one this game.’”
And one would be all the No. 12 ranked Red Storm needed as Sepe’s goal gave the Johnnies a 1-0 win over the Mountaineers on September 15. The victory is the Johnnies’ fourth consecutive win, moving the season record to 5-1-0.

Although the final score doesn’t show it, it wasn’t a quiet match between these former conference rivals. Both teams had ample chances to net goals.

West Virginia led St. John’s in shots on goal, 12-11, while the Red Storm led in corner kicks, 10-5. But defense was the deciding factor as the Johnnies’ goalkeeper Rafael Diaz came up with five saves to record St. John’s third straight shutout.

“We know that if we get a shutout that we are going to win, so it really motivates us,” Diaz said about the team’s defense.

The victory also ends the Johnnies’ four-game homestand and the team will start a three-game road trip, beginning with new conference rival Creighton University on September 21.
St. John’s is undefeated (5-0) this year at home, but the team’s only loss came on a road game against the University of Virginia. The Red Storm is looking forward to the road trip to prove they can compete everywhere.

“The last time we went to Virginia we didn’t play well at all,” Sepe said. “We got played off the field. So I guess it’s personal for everyone.”



Mulligan’s golden goal puts No. 23 Red Storm pass No. 5 Akron

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications

With a penalty kick lined up, the game rested on St. John’s forward Jimmy Mulligan’s foot.

Pressure poured in as the intense match, in which both teams just scored one goal apiece in 90 minutes of regulation and more than 15 minutes in overtime and had seven yellow cards handed out, came down to just one kick.

A little nervous, Mulligan was brimming with confidence, having much experience with this situation in practice. But what threw him off was the crowd’s anxiety. Approximately 1,533 Red Storm fans came to a silence the senior forward set-up for the kick.

“When they went quiet I got even more nervous,” he said.

Mulligan approached slowly, looked up quickly to see which way the goalie was leaning and then blasted the ball in the opposite direction for the golden goal and the 2-1 victory over No. 5 University of Akron on Friday night. Following the score the Johnny faithful started to roar again.

With the victory the No. 23 Red Storm is now 2-1 for the season and earned their first win against a ranked-team. “I was pretty confident, I was thinking I was going to bury it and get this win for the team,” Mulligan said about the kick.

For the first 70 minutes both sides struggled for control. In the first half Akron outshot the Johnnies 5-1, but the Red Storm took the lead in corner kicks, 2-0.

It didn’t look like either would score, until Eric Stevenson powered a goal from about 20 yards out in the 71st minute for the Zips, assisted by Ismail Seremba.

The goal came as a sudden shock, but the Johnnies responded quickly. About three minutes later, Red Storm sophomore Josh Godec beat a defender and scored from about five yards of the goal after a cross pass from teammate Jelani Williams.

“I knew I just had to get across that man, I saw the ball coming in and I was like I’m going to get there,” Godec said. “I’m just lucky it went in.”

It was a significant moment for Godec, who red shirted his first year and didn’t play a game last year, because it was his first college goal.

“It’s amazing to see the hard work finally paying off,” he said.

The Johnnies will host Pennsylvania State University in their next match on Sunday.




St. John’s edges out NJIT in 2013 men’s soccer season opener

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s Athletic Communications

Going into his 23rd season as St. John’s men’s soccer head coach, Dr. Dave Masur has seen it all.

As one of Division 1 most winningest active coaches at 367-123-76 (.716), Masur has raised the St. John’s program into a national contender, but he knows every year the slates are wiped clean.

“What’s that?” Masur said, when asked about his 23 season. “I redo every season like it’s my first.”

For this reason Masur coached the no. 19 ranked St. John’s to aggressively attack New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), a team that until last season hadn’t won more than five games since joining Division 1 in 2004, in the Johnnies’ season and home opener on August 30. The Red Storm dominated possession and stifled the Highlanders, until redshirt senior Jimmy Mulligan blasted the winner in the 77th minute for the Red Storm’s 2-1 victory. Now the Johnnies’ slate reads 1-0-0.

“This was a hard-fought victory against a very organized NJIT squad,” Masur said.

From the start of the first half the Johnnies were on attack mode and pressured the highlanders, beating them to a 20-7 shot on goal difference in the game. Despite being the aggressor, the Red Storm allowed the Highlanders to tie the game 1-1 going into the final 30 minutes.

But after a throw in from Adrian L’Esperance, redshirt junior Daniel Herrera dished a pass through a few defenders to find an open Mulligan, who rocketed a strike from just beyond the box that curled over goalkeeper Alexander Czempik and found the back of the net with exactly 13 minutes remaining.

“Once I saw the ball coming across, Danny did a nice flick through the defenders and I was like that’s the sweet spot for anybody looking at the goal,” Mulligan said.

Before Mulligan’s goal the Highlanders found a way to shake the Red Storm’s pressure.

In the 61st minute, trailing the Johnnies 1-0, NJIT’s Phillipp Hannemann connected a long pass to captain Franco Gamero, who outpaced two trailing defenders and slipped the ball passed Red Storm goalie Rafael Diaz, exactly has his coach said to do.

“In the second half I said ‘we just got to do a better job of trying to connect the passes and switch the ball and it’ll come’ and obviously it did and it opened up the game for us so that helped,” said NJIT head coach Didier Orellana, a resident of Forest Hills.

Sophomore Sean Sepe scored the first goal for the Johnnies’, which was his first career college goal, in the 33rd minute after receiving a pass from Jamie Thomas. Sepe said he thought only about shooting when he received the ball, which is understandable since it’s a new season and the Johnnies are hungry for wins.

“High pressure is the main point in our game and if we put them under pressure and they make a mistake we will capitalize,” Sepe said.

St. John’s will travel to play no. 20 Virginia next on September 2.






Star of Queens: Janet McCreesh, president, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McCreesh serves as the president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, which serves to unite and encourage all homeowners and residents to improve and maintain the community. In addition to her duties as president, McCreesh is also an executive assistant for a construction company in New York City. McCreesh is the mother of four children, and volunteers for the alumni association at their school, St. Andrew Avellino.

BACKGROUND: McCreesh has lived in Queens her whole life. Born and raised in Sunnyside, she attended school at St. Teresa’s in Woodside and later attended St. John’s University. For the last 16 years, McCreesh and her family have lived in North Flushing.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory was when City Planning wanted to upzone Northern Boulevard to allow buildings up to a height of six stories. I had been mostly uninvolved in the community and got together with some friends and we were able to get over 600 signatures on a petition to the city requesting they not change the zoning on Northern Boulevard,” explained McCreesh. “When the executive staff of the BFHA found out what we were doing they contacted me and they explained that we were going about it all wrong.  After that meeting the plan changed and we were able to negotiate with City Planning. Even though they changed the zoning, it was such a minor change that the community remained low density with low building heights.  It was a great success for our community and I realized people do make a difference,” said McCreesh. 

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McCreesh says that her biggest challenge has been educating homeowners about the Rickert Finlay covenant that is attached to their deeds. “One of the most important ones is no fences within 20 feet of the property line.  The original developers of our neighborhood intended it to have open streetscapes with a suburban feel,” explained McCreesh. “We send newsletters and have regular meetings but there is always a greedy developer/individual lurking in the background trying to make a profit by subdividing lots (which is not permitted) just to get two houses and double their profits.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been the members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association,” said McCreesh. “I have never met a more passionate and hardworking group of people who volunteer their time, money and energy for the sole purpose of protecting and maintaining our beautiful community.”




Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Tuesday: Clear. High of 84. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday Night: Clear in the evening, then mostly cloudy. Low of 68. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the WNW after midnight.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Queens Symphony Orchestra: Viva Verdi & Friends

The Queens Symphony Orchestra will perform Viva Verdi & Friends, celebrating the bicentennial of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth, on the St. John’s University Great Lawn at 7 p.m. The show will include selections from La Traviata, Falstaff, Aida, Rigoletto and more. Free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Two people struck and killed by LIRR train

Two people were hit and killed by an LIRR train in Queens. Read more: ABC New York

City to move forward with plans to install beachfront restrooms near Arverne by the Sea

It’s a tempest in a toilet. When the city announced Monday that it is moving forward with plans to install public bathrooms along the beach in Arverne, the news generated less opposition than it did in the past. Read more: New York Daily News

Gov. Cuomo signs LIPA reform bill, promises ‘competent’ new utility

The Long Island Power Authority is now under new management. Read more: CBS New York

Woman accused of leaving 4 kids in car while gambling in Queens

Brooklyn woman was arrested this past weekend and charged with leaving her children – the youngest just 9 months old — and her middle school-age brother in the car while she went off to gamble. Read more: CBS New York

U.S. soldier braces for judge’s verdict in WikiLeaks case

U.S. soldier Bradley Manning could learn on Tuesday whether he will face life in prison without parole when a judge renders her verdict on charges that he aided the enemy when he released 700,000 classified documents to the website WikiLeaks. Read more: Reuters 

St. John’s University names interim president

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John’s Communications

St. John’s University’s board of trustees has announced that Reverend Joseph Levesque will replace Father Donald Harrington as the school’s interim president, closing the chapter on the corruption that shook the institution.

Levesque will become the head of the university effective August 1 and guide the school before the upcoming school year as the board searches for a permanent replacement in the next few months.

“We are confident of a seamless transition as Father Harrington steps down as president at the end of this month, and know that, over the coming academic year, Father Levesque will continue to build on his outstanding record of accomplishment,” said Peter D’Angelo, chairman of the board.

Levesque, the former president of Niagara University, has a long relationship with St. John’s, where he was chair of the board in the 1990s. During the same period, Levesque was elected provincial superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, a group for Vincentian priests.

Levesque was born in North Tarrytown, NY, and ordained as a Vincentian priest in 1967 after studying at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Pennsylvania. He taught religious studies at St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn and St. Joseph’s Seminary in New Jersey before becoming a lecturer in the religious studies department in Niagara in 1970.

Levesque holds a doctoral degree in theology from the Catholic University of America and honorary degrees from Niagara and St. John’s Universities, two of the three Vincentian universities in the United States.

As president of Niagara since 2000, he oversaw a $100 million investment in new construction, renovation and improvement projects to the 160-acre campus.

Harrington announced he would step down as the head of St. John’s in May following immense media pressure over gifts he received from former dean Cecilia Chang, who was facing charges of embezzling $1 million from the school. Chang ultimately committed suicide before the end of her trial, increasing the attention on Harrington and his chief of staff, Robert Wile, who also resigned.



Star of Queens: Maria DeInnocentiis, Utopia State Civic Association, Order Sons of Italy in America, Community Board 8

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Maria DeInnocentiis

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Maria DeInnocentiis has dedicated her life to the service of others. She is the chair of the Utopia State Civic Association, the treasurer of the Order Sons of Italy in America and the chair and treasurer of Community Board 8, among other posts.

“I work hard to support my community,” she said. “I try to keep up the quality of life for my neighbors, and make sure they have a place to file complaints when they need to.”

BACKGROUND: DeInnocentiis was born in Brooklyn and moved to Queens when she was a teenager. She attended St. John’s University, where she acquired her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and counseling.

DeInnocentiis’s volunteering efforts began at her church. When she had children later on, she knew she wanted them to have a good life. She thought that getting involved in the community would help her better understand its problems and issues.

“I see a need to give back, and people always ask me to help out,” she said. “I guess I just don’t know how to say no. It’s what I really enjoy doing, and I learned in my 30s that this is what I want to do with my life.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “I remember when I was at a rally with my one-year-old daughter,” she said. “That’s when Mayor Ed Koch walked up to me and told me that it was people like me that made a difference. He was a great man, and those words still stick with me.”

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: DeInnocentiis says that her biggest today is getting people away from mass media to focus on becoming involved.

“Finding young people willing to persevere is harder than it was 30 years ago,” she said. “Twitter and Facebook are great for getting a message out, but they can’t solve problems. People have to get out and make sure your voice is heard.”

INSPIRATION: “I have many people I look to for inspiration,” DeInnocentiis said. “But my true lifelong inspiration is Tami Hirsch, my best friend. She’s the president of the Utopia State Civic Association and she’s been my best friend and supporter for many years.”




Spotlight on justice: Judge Joseph J. Esposito, Supervising Judge of the Civil Court in Queens County

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Judge Joseph Esposito

Judge Joseph J. Esposito combined his interest in political science together and his law school education into a lifelong career that has been filled with enjoyment.

“My life has been a lot of finding myself in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Circumstances being such, I went where God took me.”

The lifelong Queens resident studied political science at St. John’s University as an undergraduate looking to one day teach. He continued his education at The New School for Social Research, where he received a master’s degree in political science in 1974. But he put aside his intentions to get a Ph.D. because of poor job prospects at the time. Esposito changed his career’s direction and went to law school.

With no previous knowledge of law, he applied to many schools, but was not accepted to any. Not letting the rejection deter him, he applied once again and got into Fordham Law School. During that time, Esposito worked for Paul O’Dwyer, who was president of the City Council.

“It was really a big thrill for me to work in City Hall,” he said. “This was like a practical application of my studies. I was very happy and I became enthusiastic about government.”

In 1981, Esposito began working as a court attorney in the civil court of the City of New York. He then made his way to work as a law secretary for Supreme Court Justice Vincent F. Naro in the Criminal Term in Queens County.

During 18 years on the job, until Naro retired, Esposito worked on some of the most violent crimes committed in the borough.

“I was looking at the end of a career with someone that was like a father to me,” he said. “He encouraged me to become a judge, which I wasn’t really completely looking to do.”

Esposito’s career continued as he worked four more years in the Criminal Term of the Supreme Court. In 2005, he was elected as a judge in the Civil Court of the City of New York in Queens County. In January he was also appointed as a supervising Judge in the same court.

By next year, his term as a civil court judge will come to an end and he hopes to get re-elected.

“At the end of this year, who knows where God will take me?” he said. “It’s a rewarding experience being a judge. It really gives me an opportunity to serve my country and my city. When this job stops being fun, that’s when I’m going to stop. ”

Two of Esposito’s three sons have decided to follow in their father’s footsteps. One has graduated from St. John’s Law School and another is planning to attend the same school this fall.

When he is not in the courtroom, Esposito enjoys spending time with his wife and three sons.



Baseball all-stars battle it out at St. John’s University

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Competitive sports are often described as war.

The Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL) All-Stars played the USA Military All-Stars in a fun, meaningful game at Jack Kaiser Stadium at St. John’s University on June 29. It was a tense match-up between teams with solid offensive firepower that culminated in a narrow 5-4 victory by the ACBL.

“To us, what can be more meaningful than to say thank you to all the guys that are helping us to be free Americans?” said former St. John’s Athletic Director Jack Kaiser. “And at the same time, our league is a college league where the players are interested in improving and being seen by the scouts for a possible professional career.”

The military players presented Old Glory before the game and there was a moment of silence for Americans who have died in war. But the peaceful diamond turned into a battlefield following the ceremony.

The contest reached a climax in the top of the eighth inning, when the Military All-Stars were trailing 5-3. With two out, the soldiers started a rally. ACBL Pitcher Ryan Casey walked Dalton Martinez. The next batter, Eddie Waters, smacked a base hit into center field, moving Martinez to third. Then Karl Seiter, who the soldiers call “Primetime” because he “gets hits in big situations,” hit a single into left field, scoring Martinez. But the ACBL got the final out, ending the comeback.

“I thought we could pull something off, but they had good pitching and they didn’t give us many pitches to hit,” Seiter said.

It was not the first time the Military All-Stars showed their grit.

With the ACBL All-Stars leading 3-0 into the fifth inning, the soldiers began to turn the tide. ACBL pitcher Keenan Stare gave up back-to-back walks to start the inning and the following batter grounded out, moving the base runners to third and second base.

Military All-Stars second baseman Brandon Wheeler hit a smoking double past the third base line to score both base runners. The following batter, Christopher Schmitt, hit another double that scored Wheeler and tied the game.

“The attitude was when they tied us up that they are a good team, they’re not just going to quit on us,” ACBL vice president Brian Casey said. “It was just, ‘Let’s get back to work, let’s get another lead.’”

That they did. In the bottom of the inning, the ACBL All-Stars had a pair of doubles of their own. With one man on second base and one out, ACBL infielder Rich Ricciardi hit a double to score Chris Smith and swipe the lead back.

“It was a 1-0 count,” Ricciardi said. “I was ahead in the count, so I’m looking fastball. I decided I’m going to take a swing and luckily I just got a piece of it and it dropped into left field.”

Then outfielder Joe Bamford slammed a double to score Ricciardi, improving the lead to 5-3. It was just enough to last until the end of the game.

Despite the loss, the Military All-Stars earned respect from the college players.

“We were surprised at how well they represented themselves,” Ricciardi said. “We were saying how their pitchers really know how to pitch and their catcher had a good arm. It’s an awesome feeling to play against them and be competitive on the same field.”



St. John’s University alumna Dagmara Wozniak wins fencing gold and bronze

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications


Dagmara Wozniak, a St. John’s University fencing alumna, won bronze in the women’s individual saber and helped Team USA win gold in the team saber event at the Pan American Games.

The victories marked her third individual medal and seventh consecutive gold for the U.S. women’s saber team at the Pan American Games. This year, it was held in Cartagena, Colombia from June 16-21.

“It was a hard competition, but was a good preparation for the Senior World Championships in August,” Wozniak said. “Hopefully, I can bring home my first Senior Worlds medal.”

Wozniak, currently ranked second in the country and sixth in the world, now has two bronzes and one silver medal. In the 2012 Olympics, she placed eighth in the individual competition.

Daryl Homer, the top-ranked fencer in the U.S. and also St. John’s alum, won bronze in the men’s individual saber. However, Homer withdrew from the team event because of work commitments.

At the end of the Pan American Games, Team U.S.A. topped the medal count with 14 individual medals and six team medals.



Redesigned Big East Conference officially goes live

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

The revamped Big East Conference officially went live today, July 1, months after nearly breaking down, because of the lure of big-money college football.

“While we have much to do in the months ahead to bring the conference office to full operating capacity, I’m confident that we will create a first-class organization we can all be proud of and that will fully support the work of our member schools,” said newly appointed league Commissioner Val Ackerman in a release.

Earlier this year seven schools known as the “Catholic Seven” split from the former Big East,” because numerous schools interested in stronger football conferences were breaking away. The seven schools, St. John’s University, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova vowed to redesigned the Big East and refocus the league back to basketball and they recruited three new members–Butler, Creighton and Xavier.

Prominent members of the conference announced they were breaking away from the conference earlier this year including founding member Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburg, Rutgers and Notre Dame.

In 1978 Providence College Athletic Director Dave Gavitt met with St. John’s Athletic Director Jack Kaiser and Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Reinzo to discuss about making the conference focusing on strong basketball competition. A year later with Syracuse Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel the league was created.

“Now, nearly 35 years later, the Big East is poised to build on its heritage and bring a new wave of excitement to the student-athletes, coaches, students, faculty, administrators, alumni and loyal fans of its ten distinguished schools,” Ackerman said.

Fox Sports 1, which will launch as a new Fox sports network on August 17, announced a deal to broadcast the Big East in a joint press conference in March.

“We are very excited about our long-term television contract with FOX Sports and its new cable network, FOX Sports 1, which will allow us to nationally air a wide range of BIG EAST basketball games, as well as other conference events,” Ackerman said.

The Big East will establish its headquarters in New York City and continue to host its famed basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden.

St. John’s former athletic director’s career spans seven decades

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s Communications

For the past seven decades, John “Jack” Kaiser has been the backbone of St. John’s University’s athletic department.

But his relationship to the school extends much further.

Kaiser, 86, started out as a student athlete in the 1940s on the baseball team. A former athletic director, he now serves as the athletic director emeritus.

“I’m here every day, Monday through Friday, and I love it,” Kaiser said. “It’s the delight of my life, second only to Connie, my wife.”

Kaiser was a senior and the captain of the baseball team when St. John’s was known as the Redmen in 1949. That season he led the squad to its first College World Series appearance. His talent for baseball led him down a path he had not intended to follow.

He entered St. John’s in 1944 on an academic scholarship with the intention of majoring in history and becoming a teacher. Because he loved to play sports, he played both basketball and baseball in his freshman year.

After finishing just one semester, he was drafted by the U.S. Army as World War II was winding down.

During the year-and-a-half he was in the Army, he completed training in America and traveled to Okinawa, Japan.

There, while playing a baseball game with some fellow soldiers, he broke his ankle sliding into second base.

He was sent back to the U.S. for rehab and later discharged from the Army.

“Of course it hurt,” Kaiser joked, but “it was better than being hit by a cannonball.”

He reentered St. John’s and finished his degree in three years, graduating in 1949.

He wanted to play baseball in the major leagues, but was not immediately drafted. So he played for a local team for a year.

Then the Red Sox took notice of his talents and offered him a contract in 1951. He played in the team’s farm system from 1951 to 1954.

During that time, he married his first wife, Faye, and had his first daughter. When he realized he could not make it to the big leagues, he decided to look for a more stable job to provide for his family.

“There was Ted Williams in left field, Dom DiMaggio in center and Jackie Jensen in right,” Kaiser said, naming three franchise Red Sox players at the time. “So I said I better get another job. I would have been playing in the minor leagues forever.”

In 1953, he started coaching freshman basketball at St. John’s. Three years later, he became head coach of the baseball team, getting them to the College World Series three times — in 1960, 1966 and 1968.

“I had very, very good people on my team — not only baseball players, but people,” Kaiser said.

After compiling a 367-133 record as the head baseball coach, Kaiser became the school’s athletic director in 1973.

But one of his greatest accomplishments came about six years later.

In 1978, Kaiser met with three other athletic directors of top college basketball schools — Dave Gavitt of Providence College, Jake Crouthamel of Syracuse University and Frank Rienzo of Georgetown University — to talk about forming the Big East Conference. A year later, the conference was realized. Decades later, it would be known as the strongest college basketball league in the country by many sports enthusiasts.

Kaiser was upset when big-money college football contracts threatened to lure schools away from the league and break up the Big East earlier this year. St. John’s and six other Catholic schools came together and saved the conference by redesigning the league.

“I think the new outfit is going to be good,” Kaiser said of the new Big East Conference. “They are going to be competitive, both athletic and academically. And nothing will distract them. It’s basketball-oriented, as it started out to be.”

After seeing the school through as athletic director for 22 years, Kaiser was named athletic director emeritus.

Nowadays he reaches out to alumni and recruits them to events. He also does fundraising and assists current student athletes with internships and job opportunities through the connections he has made over the years.

Kaiser has watched as St. John’s expanded from a building in Brooklyn to an international institution with a sprawling main campus that has a church, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields and thousands of students.

He said he enjoys his current role because he feels he can make an impact in the lives of student athletes.

“I get to meet the student athletes, not just watch their games,” Kaiser said. “I feel I can be a positive image to help young people, not only to be better in their sport.”

Jack Kaiser, right, when he was named head coach of the St. John’s baseball team in 1956.