New Haven, Conn. – With another successful fall athletic slate in the books at Albertus Magnus College, the winter season is set to begin this Tuesday, November 15. With the leaves starting to fall from trees around campus and the temperatures dropping daily, the men's and women's basketball teams anxiously await their coming campaigns. Early in 2017, the men's volleyball squad gets its season underway as well.
"As we shift our attention from the fall, we look forward to men's and women's basketball and a bit later in the winter men's volleyball," Albertus Magnus College Director of Athletic Jim Abromaitis said. "All three teams have been working hard in the off-season and we invite our fans to come support our returning upperclassmen along with a bevy of new arrivals to Albertus Magnus."
The Albertus Magnus College men's basketball team finished the 2015-16 season with a 20-6 overall record and earned the No. 3 seed in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament thanks to a 14-4 mark in league contests.
For the fifth consecutive winter, the Falcon played for the GNAC Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Top-seeded Johnson & Wales upended Albertus Magnus, 86-75, in the conference title game to end the Falcons season and their four-year reign as league champions.
Albertus Magnus has its sight set on a return to the Big Dance and a conference crown with a strong core of returning players, talented first-year players and athletic transfers hitting the hardwood this year.
Junior forward Jaqhawn Walter (Hartford, Conn.), senior guard Grant Ellis (East Orange, N.J.) and sophomore guard Ryan Pittman (Stratford, Conn.) led the way amongst the returners for the Falcons in 2016-17. Walters, an All-GNAC honoree last season, ranked sixth in the league in scoring (15.9 points per game) and was second in the conference in rebounding (10.4 boards per contest) as a sophomore. He was also one of three GNAC players to average a double-double in 2015-16. After joining the team midway through the season as a junior, Ellis made an immediate impact. He averaged just under 13 points per game and shot an impressive 84.8% from the free-throw line. Pittman was an impact player as a freshman for AMC, shooting over 41 percent from beyond-the-arc and averaging 7.5 points and over three assists per contest.
For the seventh time in the last eight years, the Falcons are the GNAC preseason favorite. Albertus Magnus received six of 10 first-place votes in the league's preseason poll to earn 96 total points. The Falcons were five points ahead of defending conference champion and second-place Johnson & Wales, who received three-first place votes.
"We are very excited and looking forward to the upcoming season," Head Coach Mitch Oliver said. "Returning some key veteran players will help us tremendously in our preparation to compete this year. The addition of some talented newcomers will also assist us in our quest to contend for a league championship."
Much like the men, the women's team will look to replace the production of graduated seniors.
Albertus Magnus finished the 2015-16 season with a 14-12 overall record and earned the No. 6 seed in the Great Northeast Athletic (GNAC) Tournament thanks to a 6-5 mark in league play. In his fourth year at the helm of the program, Head Coach JR Fredette led the Falcons to postseason play for the fourth season in a row. During the winter, AMC went 9-5 at home and scored road conference wins versus Lasell and Simmons. From January into early February, the team ran off a season-best seven-game winning streak.
With plenty of returning experience and firepower, including a pair of All-GNAC performers, as well as the addition of skilled freshmen the Falcons will look to advance deeper into postseason play this year.
Senior guard Liz Falcigno (Wallingford, Conn.) and junior forward Olivia Bolden (South Windsor, Conn.) led the way among the returners, while sophomore guards Deja Ward (Middletown, Conn.) and Jill Johnson (North Haven, Conn.) will look to contribute on both ends of the floor as well. In her first year on campus, Falicgno ranked fifth in the league in scoring, netting over 16 points per contest. She ended 2015-16 tied for second in the GNAC in free-throw shooting (81.6%) and sixth in three-point shooting percentage (35.8 %). As a junior, she scored 377 points and connected on 53 shots from beyond the arc. Bolden earned end of the year league-wide recognition for the second straight season as a sophomore after being tabbed as the GNAC Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-GNAC in 2014-15. She finished the year third in the league in scoring (17.5 points per game) and sixth in rebounding (9.4 boards per tilt). Bolden registered a team-high 12 double-doubles, highlighted by recording six in conference games last season.
The Falcons were picked to finish fourth in the South Division in the GNAC preseason poll released earlier this week. Albertus Magnus earned 42 points to finish just one point behind third-place Suffolk.
Beginning this season, GNAC women's basketball will shift to divisional play for all conference contests. Divisional opponents will play each team within their division twice – one home contest and one away tilt – while playing each team in the opposite division once for a total of 16 league games. The South Division will be made up by Albertus Magnus, Emmanuel, Johnson & Wales, Mount Ida, the University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) and Suffolk University. Based on overall conference record, the top four seeds from each division will advance to the GNAC Tournament, as the size of the field (8) will not change despite the new playoff format.
"I am excited for the start of the 2016-2017 season," Head Coach JR Fredette said. "We are going to play at a more up tempo pace then in the past and I am looking forward to seeing how this team grows up together. I think we can be pretty good if we mature into the team I think we can become."
It will be an exciting season for the Albertus Magnus College men's volleyball team as Abromaitis recently named Nelson Kwok the program's new Head Coach.
The Falcons finished the 2016 season with a 5-16 overall record and landed in eighth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) with a 0-14 mark in league matches. Albertus Magnus netted non-conference victories against Brooklyn College, CCNY, York College and two versus Medgar Evers. All five of the AMC triumphs this year came against opponents from the Empire State.
With a talent group of newcomers and offensive leaders returning in the middle, the team is poised for success in 2017.
Leading the way amongst the returners for the Falcons are senior middle blocker Joshua Turner (Trumbull, Conn.) and sophomore setter Jeremy Oritz (Bridgeport, Conn.). Turner ranked second on the squad with 123 kills and a team-high .195 attack percentage during his junior campaign and Ortiz had a breakout campaign for Albertus Magnus, dishing out 464 assists and adding 32 kills. He produced the second-highest assist total in program history and averaged just under seven per set. Defensively, Turner set a school record with his 55 total blocks in 2016 and his 42 solo blocks were also a new program best, while Ortiz was one of three Falcons to top the 100-dig plateau.