Category Archives: Women

Women’s sports coverage

MAAC Womens Final: Can Iona Upset Marist?

SPRINGFIELD, MA—Tony Bozzella and Brian Giorgis have shaken hands with each other 26 times after a basketball game. The two coaches arrived in the MAAC at the same time, in 2002; Bozzella at Iona and Giorgis at Marist. In the 26 post-game handshakes, four of which came after a MAAC Tournament game, Bozzella has always been the one doing the congratulating, Giorgis the consoling. Marist has won seven consecutive MAAC titles and 28 straight against Iona, with Giorgis owning a personal 26-game win streak against Bozzella. The two—who are, surprisingly, very good friends—will meet again in today’s women’s championship (noon, ESPNU).

You’d think Bozzella would want nothing to do with a guy who has dominated him over his 11-year Iona career, but that couldn’t be less true. Bozzella says Giorgis has been a great friend to him and his family. He considers him a mentor and says Giorgis, who owns an impressive collection of sports memorabilia, has been generous in giving some of his items to Bozzella’s kids.
Continue reading MAAC Womens Final: Can Iona Upset Marist?

My Aunt, the Nonagenarian Nun Who Likes Sports

When my 90-year-old great aunt told me she was going to become a Mets fan, I tried to discourage her. My aunt is a nun and although the Mets need all the prayers they can get, I didn’t think she wanted an underachieving, disappointing team like the Mets invading her stress-free life. But after reading some of my early-season articles, Sister Lamese had made up her mind.

“Rooting for the Mets is risky business. Don’t get too attached; they will likely let you down,” I emailed her. My aunt’s response: “Andrew, you of little faith! Just wait and see. We might be surprised with our Mets.” In other words, “Ya Gotta Believe.”
Continue reading My Aunt, the Nonagenarian Nun Who Likes Sports

Pat Summitt of Tennessee Wins Maggie Dixon Courage Award

When Pat Summitt was announced the winner of the Maggie Dixon Courage Award on Sunday, nearly everyone inside Madison Square Garden gave a standing ovation to the Tennessee basketball coaching icon. This included the coaches and players competing on the court, who broke from their in-game huddles to acknowledge Summitt. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and star player Brittney Griner each gave Summitt a hug before she walked off the court.

“If I see her, I’m going to hug her. I hugged her and told her I loved her,” said Mulkey, who called Summitt the “John Wooden of women’s basketball.”
Continue reading Pat Summitt of Tennessee Wins Maggie Dixon Courage Award

Mothers Day

It takes a special kind of mom to live in a house with four males and no females, as my mom does — especially when the men are obsessed with sports.

When the television is on, it’s usually showing a game. In the winter it’s college basketball. In the spring and summer it’s baseball. These sports are on virtually every night. Fall is the easiest for her, because college football is pretty much relegated to Saturdays.

I suppose a mom in this situation has two choices: rebel or accept. Now, don’t get me wrong — my mom is a big sports fan. But even for her I think it’s a bit much to have nearly every dinner conversation touch on a sports topic.

For the most part, though, she joins in. She really enjoys College GameDay, ESPN’s Saturday morning football pre-game show, and clearly she pays attention: This past bowl season, my family competed in a bowl pick ’em competition with 20 people. My mom won the whole thing.

Come March, my friend Lee and I always discuss the NCAA Tournament bracket. Lee loves college hoops as much as I do. He can tell you who’s the best foul shooter on Louisville and whether Arizona’s point guard prefers to drive to his left or his right. Yet when he calls me after Selection Sunday, the first thing he asks is, “Who does your mom like coming out of the West?”

My mom earned her reputation as a guru of the Dance by picking Cinderellas like Gonzaga, before people knew Gonzaga existed, and Kent State. She often beats the rest of our family in the bracket contest, though some have said she’s been slipping the past few years. Perhaps she is watching too much football in December.

My mom is the most knowledgeable sports fan of any mother I know. I’m pretty sure she could tell you what a 6-4-3 double play is. She knows how many fouls before a player fouls out. And although we laugh when she asks us to remind her, I’m confident she knows how overtime works in college football.

Sure, she sometimes gets frustrated when the Mets are on the television for the twelfth straight night, but watching the Mets and frustration go hand in hand. Putting up with four guys isn’t easy, and my mom does a great job.

So to my mom and mothers everywhere, whether they like sports or not, happy Mother’s Day!

LPGA Star Lorena Ochoa Retires at 28

Because of Lorena Ochoa, I broke a cardinal rule of sports journalism very early in my career: don’t ask an athlete for an autograph.

It was on May 21, 2006, the day Ochoa won the Sybase Classic at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y, and in my defense, it was for my mom; possibly a belated Mother’s Day present. She had already been keeping an eye on Ochoa and the fact that she had won in our hometown made my mom an even bigger fan.

I was only a teenager, and, at the time, it was the biggest event I had ever covered. I remember listening to Ochoa speak in the media room, though I was too nervous to ask a question in front of the professional writers. But Ochoa was nice enough to speak with me privately afterwards. When I was done with my questions, I asked her to sign a sheet of paper from my notepad.

On Friday, three years to the day after she replaced Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 golfer in the world rankings, Ochoa confirmed her retirement from golf. It marks the end of a relatively short, but remarkable career for the 28-year-old Mexican.

“This isn’t a surprise because I have planned this for many, many years,” Ochoa said during a media conference call after her session with the Mexican media. “I wanted to play for around 10 years. I wanted to be able to achieve my goals to stay at the top. Then after that I wanted to move on.”

And stay at the top she did. Ochoa retires as the No. 1 player, having spent 157 consecutive weeks there since she took over three years ago. She was named the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2003, won 27 Tour events, and collected four Player of the Year awards.

The 2006 Sybase victory was a critical one, as it was the first time Ochoa won an event in which Sorenstam participated. She took over the money lead that day, too — it was the sixth straight event she finished in the top two.

Her career took off from there. Her domination for certain stretches was just as impressive as what Tiger Woods was doing on the men’s Tour.

Ochoa excelled off the course as well. For a star athlete not to have any haters is almost unheard of, but good luck finding a golfer, media member, or golf fan who doesn’t adore Ochoa.

The big story after that win at Wykagyl — and something that was noted throughout her career — was how Ochoa represented her country with such pride and grace. She was known for interacting with fellow Mexicans, even in the middle of a round. “That’s very special for both of us,” she said on that rainy day in New Rochelle. “I represent them.”

Ochoa was a great ambassador for women’s golf, and it will be interesting to see how the LPGA copes with losing its biggest star for the second time in less than two years (Sorenstam retired in 2008). While Ochoa may have had this in mind since she turned pro, 28 is a young age for retirement from the sport. But last December, Ochoa married 40-year-old Andres Conesa, the CEO of Aeromexico who has three children from a previous marriage.

“I’m ready to start a new life,” she said. “I just want to be a normal person.” Ochoa was certainly confident in announcing her decision, adding, “There are so many other things that I’d like to do. I’m really happy today, and I’m pleased. I’m 100 percent complete.”

Only time will tell whether she’ll be at peace with her decision in a few months, or a year, or further down the road. For someone as competitive as Ochoa to step away from the game before the age of 30 is atypical, but she knows what she wants better than anyone else.

So next week’s Tres Marias Championship, in Mexico, will be Ochoa’s last Tournament, though she plans to compete annually in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, held in Guadalajara each November. The game will certainly miss her, and I’m glad I got to cover her, even if I was a bit unprofessional.

I’m happy to report that I haven’t broken that journalism rule again. Then again, I haven’t met an athlete as captivating as Lorena Ochoa.

Marist Womens Basketball: A MAAC Dynasty

ALBANY, N.Y. — The big story on the women’s side is that Marist is the MAAC Tournament Champion for the fifth straight year after defeating Fairfield 66-49 early Sunday afternoon. But before I get into that, it would be unfair not to mention Fairfield’s unbelievable run to the MAAC title game. To win nine games in a row and get itself to the final after all the injuries this season was truly incredible. Winning its third game in three days with a virtually non-existent bench was simply too tall of a task. However, if it weren’t for the overwhelming excellence of the opponent, the Stags may have been able to do it.

The fact that the opponent was top-seeded Marist was no surprise. There hasn’t been a MAAC Tournament final in the last seven years that hasn’t involved the Red Foxes. The most amazing part, though, is of course the consecutive championships. Consider that on the men’s side the most consecutive titles won is three (by LaSalle). It may seem like the Saints have been dominating for a long time, but the Siena men have only won two in a row and are appearing in only their fourth straight final.

In other words, the Marist women’s basketball dynasty is unlike any other in MAAC hoops history. Leading the way is 6′ forward Rachele Fitz. The senior has done nothing but win since arriving on campus. Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said, “If there’s a better player in the history of this league, I’d like to meet her.” Hard to argue with him considering Fitz’s resume which, after this weekend’s wins and awards, includes four MAAC regular season and conference titles, three MAAC Player of the Year awards, and two MAAC Tournament MVPs, to name a few.

She is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds this season. Despite some foul trouble that kept her on the bench for a period in the first half, Fitz still scored 15 in the title game, shooting seven-of-12 from the field. She is modest enough to deflect praise to her teammates and coaching staff, but anyone involved with women’s basketball in the MAAC knows about her great career. A couple of wins in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and even more people in the college basketball community will know too.

Fairfield eliminates the Gaels from one tournament, helps them get into another: Iona may have lost to the Stags on Saturday, but Fairfield’s loss to Marist in the title game guaranteed that the Gaels would receive an invite to the NIT. Per NCAA rules, if the regular season champ also wins the conference tournament, then the second-place team automatically gets an NIT bid. Therefore, Marist’s win clinched a spot for Iona.

Iona head coach Anthony Bozzella, good friends with Giorgis, was appreciative of the Red Foxes accomplishment. Said Giorgis: “I already got a text that said ‘congrats and thanks.'”

Fairfield Women Advance to MAAC Finals, Will Face Top Seed Marist

ALBANY, NY. — Remember when the Fairfield women were 10-12 overall and 4-7 in the MAAC? That was as recently as a month ago, after the Stags fell 55-41 to St. Peter’s, their seventh loss in nine games. To say Fairfield has since turned it around would be the understatement of the season. After defeating Iona 61-57 earlier this morning in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament, the Stags are riding a nine-game winning streak into the championship game against No. 1 seed Marist. How did this happen?

From Iona head coach Anthony Bozzella’s perspective, it’s all  about confidence. After the Stags eliminated the Gaels from the Tournament, Bozzella spoke about this being a different Fairfield squad, one that is playing with a ton of confidence. Fairfield, the three seed, eliminated the second-seeded Gaels with the help of 16 points from Stephanie Geehan. It’s hard to believe this team was tied eighth place in the conference with only seven games left.

If Fairfield is going to win its 10th straight, it’s going to have to beat the four-time defending champions in the Marist Red Foxes. Led by three-time MAAC Player of the Year Rachele Fitz, Marist defeated Niagara 69-47. Fitz had 17 of Marist’s 30 points in the first half and finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds despite being under the weather.

The last time these two teams met, Fairfield was coming off the aforementioned loss to St. Pete’s. The 61-60 upset of the Red Foxes energized the Stags, which haven’t lost since that matchup on Feb. 9. Marist won the first contest at home by seven.

“I think the biggest thing for them was getting Tara Flaherty back,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis. I think that really, really changed their team. And (Fairfield head coach) Joe Frager does a great job. He didn’t win a national championship in Division II for nothing. He’s a very smart coach. He’s not very deep, but what he has is very good. We know we’ll have our hands full.”

Having been in the title game the past six years, Marist certainly comes in with the target on its back. “You always would rather be the hunted than to be the hunter,” Giorgis said. “The important thing that we’ve been trying to do is get these guys to play like the hunter.” Given Fairfield’s winning streak, that might not be such a tough sell.