Endicott’s overwhelming offensive attack proved to be too much for the women’s soccer team Saturday afternoon, as final score registered 4-0 in favor of the first-place Gulls.
Much of the first half was spent in the Colonels’ own side of the field and initially didn’t result in a lot of goals. But they were clearly playing with fire.
Endicott broke the tie in the 37th minute when forward Samantha Lello tapped in a rebound for a score, but it didn’t come without controversy. Gull defenseman Shannon Hickey took a corner kick that bounced off the hands of Curry’s goalkeeper, Haley Rice, and Lello was able to clean up.
Colonels head coach Jason Tassinari felt the call could have easily gone the other way and he let the referee know.
“With the way college officials protect the goalkeepers, I thought that the referee could have blown a quick whistle thinking that maybe the ball was close to her fingers where one finger is technically considered possession,” said Tassinari. “If we go into halftime 0-0, maybe it’s a different game in the second half.”
The second half was more of the same for Curry but this time, Endicott converted many more opportunities.
The Gulls erupted for three goals in an eight-minute span. The Colonels, who averaged over 18 shots per game heading into the contest, could only muster four on the afternoon, compared to Endicott’s 22.
Tassinari said that the defensive scheme they deployed combined with the skill of the Gulls; it was no surprise that the possession battle turned out in Endicott’s favor, but Curry wasn’t totally without chances.
“We had self-inflicted wounds,” Tassinari explained. “We had chances to attack, chances to play in the offensive third but our own technical skill let us down, we weren’t attacking with that intensity level.”
The loss puts the Colonels at 8-5-3 on the season, but 1-3-2 within the Commonwealth Coast Conference, placing them at 6th. Their last two losses came against the top two teams in the CCC in Endicott and Roger Williams.
Next up for the Colonels are three “very winnable” games according to Tassinari. They will need to win out in order to host a home playoff game.
Curry heads to Biddeford, ME on Wednesday to face the eighth-place University of New England Nor’easters, who are 1-4-1 in the conference.
Senior quarterback Alex Corvese capped a 55-yard scoring drive with a one-yard sneak to give Curry the lead over UMass Dartmouth with just over six minutes left to play.
The Corsairs failed to cross midfield on the ensuing possession and the Colonels moved to a 4-1 mark to start their season, the best record through the first five weeks of play since the 2008 squad started 7-0.
Co-captain Corvese finished the game 29-of-44 with 378 yards and two scores through the air, both of which came in the first half.
Curry headed into the game averaging 217.8 rushing yards per game but UMass’ game plan forced the Colonels to adjust from their option attack into more of a passing offense.
After the game, 12th-year Head Coach Skip Bandini explained what forced their alterations.
“They had six guys in the box and were playing man-to-man coverage so they are playing against the run,” Bandini noted. “We were trying to read one of those guys but when they bring in a seventh, you can’t block him so we had to throw.”
In place of the running game, Curry relied on a different name to move the chains. Sophomore Nick Villanueva caught 11 passes and racked up 152 yards, developing chemistry with #12 under center.
Entering the game, the Hanson, Mass. native hadn’t caught more than two passes for 27 yards in a single game and didn’t really expect to be thrown at that much. However, as the game plan changed, he was ready.
“We knew they were going to man-up so we ran a lot of switch routes and worked in practice to get off that man press,” Villanueva said.
Corvese found senior Spencer Tyler and sophomore Andrew Allen in both quarters of the first half before junior Mark Mrozek nailed a field goal to put the Colonels up 17-7 with just over eight minutes left in the second.
The Corsairs’ freshman quarterback, Stephen Gacioch, was forced to leave the game due to injury after being sacked on only the third play from scrimmage. Sophomore Jace Pena checked in and was promptly greeted by sophomore Aiden Cawley who intercepted his first passing attempt to give the ball back to Curry and Corvese.
Pena bounced back, however, and helped UMass rattle off 10 unanswered points to make the halftime score 17-17.
Another Corsair field goal grabbed them the lead in the third quarter, although it was short lived.
Corvese led the Colonels down a short field and found Tyler again for a 34-yard hookup that brought them down to the UMass three-yard line. That’s all the room Corvese needed and he took the lead back for the Purple and White after three quarters of play.
The Corsairs’ first drive of the fourth quarter started just before midfield but a holding penalty brought them back 10 yards. UMass called a slant route for junior Abbi Bamgbose and Pena led him to the open field and he took it all 61 yards to display a 27-24 score in favor of the Corsairs with 12:41 left on the clock.
Despite giving up that long touchdown, Bandini still had immense confidence in his team.
“Our kids always battle,” Bandini said. “That’s one thing we always know, they are going to battle no matter what.”
Both teams were forced to punt and junior Dylan Vieira-Owens called a fair catch for Curry on his own 45-yard line with 9 minutes remaining, still trailing by three.
Corvese started the drive with a pass to Villanueva (go figure) and went on to finish the drive 4-of-5 for 49 yards and sat with a 1st-and-goal at the one-yard line. Corvese’s 5’11” 190-pound frame snuck right through the trenches and fell into the end zone to put the Colonels up 30-27 with 6:06 remaining.
UMass started the drive on its own 15-yard line and again could not get over the 50 and were forced to return the ball to Curry.
Although the Colonels had trouble running the ball all game, the rushing attack came through with 31 yards and three first downs on the final drive to bleed out the clock and send the score final.
The close victory showcased the team’s mental toughness, something Bandini feels they pride themselves on.
“I’ve been here a long time, and there’s no tougher kids,” Bandini said simply. “I was telling these kids on Wednesday and Thursday night; ‘You guys are the toughest SOBs I’ve been around in a long time.’”
Curry enjoyed a bye-week last week and had an extra week to hash out the mistakes from their first loss of the season two weeks ago.
Now, they move on to the Commonwealth Coast Conference portion of their schedule, starting with a road trip to Becker College next Saturday, Oct. 14, for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
Giancarlo Orsini found Co-captain Eric Miller with just over 10 minutes to play to top conference-rival Eastern Nazarene for Head Coach Peter Mendel’s 100th career win.
Despite the Lions coming into Walter M. Katz Field 0-9 on the season, Mendel’s milestone did not come easy. Both teams finished the first half scoreless with quality opportunities coming few and far between.
Curry earned four corners but the Eastern Nazarene goalkeeper nabbed the ball out of the air on each attempt, not allowing the Colonels to take advantage of their opportunities.
After the first 45, Curry finished with zero shots on net while the Lions’ lone shot came on a free kick in the 43rd minute. Sophomore goalkeeper Paul DeMaio stepped up and protected his net from junior Nabil Chamoun’s shot.
Mendel felt that his team backed off a little bit in the first half but halftime adjustments called for the Colonels to turn up the pressure.
The Purple and White came out firing in the second half, racking up 20 shots in the period with 13 of them landing on net.
Those shots continued to pile up as the clock bore on, racing towards the 90-minute mark. However, Coach Mendel knew that some adjustments had to be made to get one behind freshman Tim Eddings.
“We knew we needed better service,” said Mendel. “[Their] goalie played tremendously and he did a great job of catching everything in the air so we knew we had to drive balls a little more and keep him on his line.”
Senior Dave Stapleton used those adjustments as the second half went on but entering the 79th minute, he finally found some success. Setting the ball up in the offensive zone, classmate Giancarlo Orsini eventually found the foot of another senior, Eric Miller, who ripped one past Eddings with 79:32 showing on the clock.
Curry retained the score advantage and stymied any attempts from the Eastern Nazarene offense to improve to 7-5-1 overall and 2-2-0 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference, putting them right in the thick of things with the CCC schedule ramping up.
“We knew we needed this one and I think the guys didn’t panic,” Mendel said of his team. “They stayed within the game plan and I think we are right where we needed to be.”
Coach Mendel now reflects a 100-99-18 overall record after 11 years at the helm, already establishing records for both wins and years coaching. Three years ago, he surpassed the first Curry Men’s Soccer Coach, Jim Kaufman, who registered a 71-80-6 record over 10 years.
“It’s a testament to every player that’s ever been here,” Mendel noted. “Every player that’s put on a Curry uniform is a part of this and it’s a great honor, it’s something that I don’t take for granted.”
After all the dust settled, the Colonels regrouped and headed out to Williams College for a 3 p.m. start this afternoon. Mendel will look to move Curry to 8-5-1 while the Ephs kickoff with a 4-3-1 record.
One former division-three standout turned accredited public speaker came to the Katz Gymnasium to address student-athletes pursuing the dreams he once had.
Aaron Cooksey grew up not far from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and soon grew fond of sports of all kinds.
By the time he got to high school he played football, basketball, and baseball; excelling at all three. His play caught the attention of colleges from all over the nation and from each level of competition.
A clipping from the Canton Newspaper
In his first three years at Hoover High School, Cooksey was never found at a party due to the strict guilty-by-association rules in the athletic department. He took it upon himself as a leader in both the athletic and academic arenas to set the example that you don’t need to party.
His senior year the rules were relaxed a bit but it still took until the wintertime for his teammates to coerce him to join in on the festivities that night. Go figure, the party got busted and police found him after the evacuation subsided.
Despite not even having a drink, he tried going right to his principal Monday morning to share his side of the story. He only expressed how disappointed he was in a role-model like Cooksey making such a decision.
From then on, his sights were straightened and he came to the decision that he wanted to be a two-sport athlete at the next level. One of the offers he had on the table was to nearby Mount Union College and he packed his bags for the 30-minute trek.
However, at the end of one of the last spring practices, Cooksey went out for a route and felt a pop in his knee. He said it was the worst pain he had ever experienced, for about 30 seconds. After he limped off, his knee didn’t swell the way a torn ACL would so he was under the assumption it was only cartilage damage.
That turned out not to be the case, and the torn ACL kept him out of the football season while putting the baseball season in doubt. In that initial defeat of the prognosis, Cooksey turned to his first alcoholic beverage.
While still being prescribed pain-killers from post-surgery, the addition of alcohol (and a lot of it) did not make for a positive concoction. He had his first taste, and he was hooked.
Cooksey pushed on, however, and beat the 6-month recovery target and made it to the diamond for the first practices.
Although that return would not be long-lived as he went to run out a bunt during a drill and re-tore the same ACL trying to take second base.
The second injury to the same knee within a year of each other devastated Cooksey and pushed him to the brink of his addiction. His grades slipped as they no longer determined his eligibility and he noted he spent more time in bars and at other colleges than he did on his own campus.
He rarely thought about the consequences of his driving under the influence and eventually built a tolerance and comfortability with it. However, it wasn’t after much longer that that all changed.
Cooksey met a friend early on in his time at Mount Union, sparking a conversation with Andrea Calderone while still stumbling around on crutches fresh off his first ACL tear. Over their time together, the pair became like family studying eating and hanging out together.
Fast forward to a 21-year old Cooksey and a 20-year old Calderone driving along after lunch. Cooksey had a couple beers but still got behind the wheel, initially making a few wrong turns leading to a small detour from their original destination.
Cooksey turned left onto a road and fell in behind another car going around the 35-MPH speed limit. Cooksey didn’t have much recollection of the conversation that eventually led him to take his eyes off the road to laugh at a joke.
While closing in on the lead car traveling closer to 65 miles per hour Cooksey was soon directly behind them, needing to make a decision. Fearing a child in the backseat, he swerved to the right, off the road, causing his car to flip three times before wrapping around a telephone pole.
Cooksey could remember the distinct noise of shattered glass falling and making contact with other glass or metal all around him. He thought he had been dreaming but soon came to and realized he had to find Andrea.
Cooksey’s car as a result of the crash // Photo from Dropyourpride.org
Cooksey owned up automatically, knowing the police were going to find alcohol and drugs in his system. He eventually blew a 0.16 BAC and soon had to face Calderone’s family in court.
Cooksey described the agony he could see in Mr. Calderone’s face that he still can envision in his head. After all was said and done, Cooksey was to serve four years in jail and lose his license for the rest of his life.
His dream of playing sports until he could become an elementary school teacher was gone as was his best friend from college.
Cooksey eventually left prison and went back to school to finish his degree, something no one can ever take away from him now. He also travels around the country to speak with different athletic programs, relaying his message to the same group he once made up.
The first coach to give him that platform was one who recruited him out of high school when he was at the helm of the Youngstown State football program. Then-Ohio State University Head Coach Jim Tressel reached back out and hooked Cooksey on something more positive.
Since then, he’s been to schools at each division within the NCAA spanning 11 years.
Curry College Athletic Director, Vinnie Eruzione, felt the need to have Cooksey come to Milton to speak to the Colonels. Coaches and players from every team were invited and Eruzione thinks they were quite responsive.
According to his count, approximately 400 student-athletes showed up to what they thought was going to be just another speech.
“What sets him apart, just like last year’s speaker Hudson Taylor, is that they are real-life experiences,” Eruzione noted. “It’s not someone telling you not to do something because they read it wasn’t good. He delivered a message that affects a lot of others, not just you.”
One senior captain of the basketball team, Barak Swarttz, mentioned that it was very important that student-athletes heard his message together.
“Being in the gym with the entire athletic body of the Curry Community was powerful,” Swarttz noted. “We are all leaders across campus and it was important for all of us to be in the room together to hear that story from someone who was once in all of our shoes.”
Junior Sophia Marchant of the softball team echoed Swarttz comments adding there was plenty of common ground.
“It was definitely easier to relate to; him just speaking to athletes since he was an athlete,” Marchant said. “He wasn’t standing behind the podium; he was up close to us and talked to us instead of at us.”
That response was exactly what Cooksey was looking for, and really what he was expecting coming in.
“I love coming up to the New England area, I love Boston, and I have friends up here,” Cooksey said after his speech. “When I’m in Massachusetts then you know what you’re going to get out of students wherever they’re at, there’s a certain level of respect so it’s always good to come into Massachusetts.”
The Colonels respected Cooksey and he gave it right back, sending the message that is still resonating with student-athletes not to get behind the wheel under the influence.
Swarttz, who is also a Resident Assistant on campus, has always been vigilant of friends and very against drunk driving.
“Being someone that is so against drinking and driving, hearing his story just made me want to always be on the lookout for others,” Swarttz explained. “I know there are people my age, younger and older that continue to do that. With that being said, I am going to continue to make as much of an effort to try and prevent and eliminate driving under the influence as much as I can.”
Cooksey ended his presentation dropping the same set of keys that took the life of his best friend. Now, he invites everyone to Drop Your Pride and not drive under the influence.
The Colonels faced off against the University of New England Nor’easters in what could be the last game for the senior class on the Walter M. Katz Field.
The rain compromised visibility and ran emotions high for both sides even before the opening whistle.
UNE began the game on a 3-0 run, converting on their first three shots. Sophomore Alex Zadworny then added two more goals to complete his hat trick with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter. That increased the Nor’easter lead to 5-1 after 15 minutes.
The Colonels clearly needed to make adjustments, and they failed to do so before they entered the second quarter of play. UNE began the quarter on fire and refused to let up as they piled up shots and pushed their advantage to 13-2 going into halftime.
The second half started out similar, but Curry showed some life. After letting up three straight goals to open the third quarter, the Colonels outscored the Nor’easters 4-3 over the last eight minutes of the third. Sophomore Devin Newell accounted for half of those to add to his 28 total goals this season, two shy of the team leader.
However, the fourth was much of the same with Curry struggling in the faceoff circle and defensive end. Newell registered his hat-trick goal with six and a half minutes to play in the final frame to cut the score to 20-8.
It would be the last goal the Colonels registered as the final whistle sent the 22-8 score, final.
That also sent their conference record to 3-5 which is still good enough for a tie for fifth place. With a 19-10 victory over Nichols College back on April 2, Curry owned the tie-breaker and walked away with the #5 seed in the CCC Tournament, scheduled to start Saturday.
However, that was still to be determined by the time the game ended and left many Colonels with a bad taste in their mouth.
Senior Nick D’Innocenzo may have played his last game on the Katz field, but knows their work is cut out for them.
“It’s been a thrill to play here for 4 years, I’m going to miss it, and miss this program,” the Medway native remarked. “But we need to work harder,” he continued.
Head Coach Tim Murphy echoed his senior’s thoughts noting, “They all played hard today, but we need to go find a way to win one on Saturday.”
Curry finishes its season with a 9-8 overall record and a 3-5 mark in the CCC, flip-flopping last years’ 10-7 (2-6 CCC) record.
The Colonels will prepare to travel to the #4 Roger Williams Hawks for a 4:30 p.m. opening faceoff in the CCC Quarterfinals Saturday afternoon.