GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – After a decade filled with memorable moments and notable achievements, the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) is proud to celebrate its 10-year anniversary during the 2013-14 academic year.
To recognize the milestone, the NEAC has unveiled a new 10-year anniversary logo that will be used in a variety of ways throughout the year. The commemorative logo, which can be seen in the image to the right, will be featured on all conference championship tournament T-Shirts, NEAC press releases and mailings, and as a rotator image for various stories posted on the conference website. The logo will also will be displayed throughout the NEAC social media channels, such as the conference’s Facebook page (found here) and its Twitter account (@NEACSports, found here). The hashtag “#NEAC10” will also be used on Twitter throughout the year with any anniversary-related news.
“We are so proud of the foundation we have built over the past decade and the success we have achieved as a conference during that time,” said Candice Poiss Murray, the NEAC’s first and only commissioner. “We now look forward to continuing our growth while strengthening our competitive hold in the region.”
In addition to the special logo, the NEAC will also celebrate its 10th anniversary in a variety of ways in an effort to provide each of the 2,000-plus NEAC student-athletes with a lasting memory of the special occasion. That will include each student-athlete receiving a commemorative T-shirt that will feature both the abovementioned 10-year logo and the NEAC sportsmanship slogan, as well as a monthly trivia contest on Twitter and Facebook where various conference memorabilia will be awarded. The theme of each month’s trivia will be preceded by a release highlighting a specific topic regarding the conference, such as those listed below.
The conference was formed in 2004 when 12 formerly independent colleges that wanted to belong to a conference joined forces and started the North Eastern Athletic Conference. A decade later, conference membership remains at 12 institutions that are spread out across four states and also features four associate members. In 2014-15, the conference will add both Bryn Athyn College and Penn College of Technology as full-member institutions, as well as two new associate members for the sport of men’s volleyball. The NEAC currently sponsors 17 sports, 12 of which receive automatic qualifying bids to their respective NCAA Tournaments.
“In what began from 12 schools looking for a home, the NEAC has grown from its infancy into a nationally recognized NCAA Division III conference,” said Murray. “We are very proud to annually feature competitive teams and highly accomplished student-athletes that are dedicated to both athletics and academics.”
The conference has had a multitude of memorable moments during its first decade of existence. This past year may have been the NEAC’s best yet, as there were many accolades achieved by both the conference and its student-athletes. Throughout the conference, there were many student-athletes that finished their respective seasons as national NCAA Division III statistical leaders. Wells College junior Ashley Roser (Taberg, N.Y.), who was named the NEAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, ended the season as the national leader in rebounds per game at 16.7 and fell just shy of the top spot in double-doubles with 24. In men’s lacrosse, Keuka College junior and NEAC Offensive Player of the Year Connor Latimer (Whitby, Ontario, Canada) led the nation in points per game with 6.54, while the Storm as a team led the country in goals per game with 17.38. In women’s soccer, Gallaudet University senior Kara Gulvas (Crown Point, Ind.) led all Division III goalies in total saves with 224.
Those student-athletes joined many others from the NEAC that have been past NCAA Division III national statistical leaders. Latimer’s achievement in lacrosse came a year after Brock Levick (Newmarket, Ontario, Canada) from associate member Medaille College lead the nation in goals per game (3.81) in 2012. In 2011, NEAC Softball Player of the Year Kara Boyd (Alexandria, Pa.) from then-conference member Penn State Harrisburg finished as the national leader in triples per game (0.27) and also set the Division III record for consecutive hits with seventeen in a row. Wells College’s Juan Paulino (Bronx, N.Y.) finished the 2009-10 men’s basketball season ranked first nationally in both field goal percentage (.701) and rebounds per game (16.5). That academic year also saw SUNY Institute of Technology produce two national leaders, as Lyndsey Brognano (Rome, N.Y.) led all of Division III softball in runs per game (0.95) and Chris Fratini (Syracuse, N.Y.) was the national DIII baseball leader in both total triples (14) and triples per game (0.35), while falling just one triple shy of tying the all-time national record for the most in a season. Wells College’s Emily Lotkowictz (Newark, N.Y.), meanwhile, still holds the NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse record for career points per game at 6.88 (189 points in 26 games) after achieving the milestone upon graduating in 2010.
Student-athletes from across the conference garnered many national awards last season as well. The abovementioned Ashley Roser joined Penn State Abington sophomore and NEAC men’s Basketball Player of the Year Mike Marvin (Horsham, Pa.) as a DIII News All-America Selection, while Lancaster Bible College freshman and NEAC Women’s Basketball Rookie of the Year Aubrey Folger (South Berwick, Maine) earned a spot on the DIII News All-Freshmen Team as well. Penn State Berks freshman and NEAC Softball Player of the Year Jess Epler (Reading, Pa.) was selected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American First Team, becoming the first softball student-athlete in conference history to achieve the honor. She also finished the year leading the nation in multiple hitting categories, including batting average (.615), on-base percentage (.730), runs batted in per game (1.51), slugging percentage (1.144) and walks per game (1.05). In the pitcher’s circle, she ranked first nationally with a 0.47 ERA, while her 11 shutouts were the third-most in NCAA Division III.
Additionally, Penn State Abington senior and 2013 NEAC Baseball Player of the Year Bill Parave (Pennsauken, N.J.) became the third student-athlete in conference history to be selected as a D3Baseball.com All-America selection, garnering honorable mention recognition and joining the abovementioned Chris Fratini in 2010 (Second Team) and Cazenovia College shortstop Chad Stalls in 2008 (Honorable Mention). Another highlight that emerged from baseball last season was Lancaster Bible College junior outfielder Matt Taliercio (Norwalk, Conn.) and Penn State Harrisburg freshman pitcher Derek Slagle (York Haven, Pa.) both being selected as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) NCAA Division III National Players of the Week for the period of April 22, as Taliercio smashed six home runs in six games while Slagle tossed the first perfect game in school history. Additionally, Gallaudet University’s William Bissell (Brewer, Maine) was a D3Baseball.com Preseason All-American Honorable Mention selection in both 2013 and 2012, while also being chosen to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-American Third Team in 2011. The aforementioned Fratini was also an ABCA All-American Second Team selection in 2010. All of these national accolades were in addition to numerous All-Region selections across various conference-sponsored sports.
The conference also continued its success in the sport of basketball, as the NEAC Champion Morrisville State College Mustangs made a thrilling run to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament last season. It was the second time in the past four seasons that a NEAC squad made it to the Sweet 16, as the SUNY Institute of Technology Wildcats did so during the 2009-10 season after they also won a tournament game in 2008-09. Those Wildcat teams were led by David Golembiowski (Barneveld, N.Y.), a three-time NEAC Player of the Year selection who was also named to the 2010-11 D3Hoops.com All-America Second Team while also being one of just 20 players nationally to be chosen for the 2010-11 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) NABC Reese's Division III College All-Star Game. Former conference member Villa Julie College (now known as Stevenson University) also won a first round contest during the 2005-06 season, which was just the second year of existence for the conference. On the women’s side, Gallaudet University received an at-large bid to the big dance in the 2010-11 season after being nationally ranked through most of the year. That team featured NEAC Player of the Year Easter Faafiti (Pittsburg, Calif.), who was selected as a Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Division III All-American Honorable Mention for both that season and in 2009-10 as well.
The basketball training session, which was held on the campus of Morrisville State College, saw 20 Special Olympians from the Syracuse, N.Y., area accompanied by four of their coaches join 19 members of the NEAC North SAAC to go through a variety of basketball drills involving shooting, passing and dribbling, while also competing in multiple mixed scrimmages. The Eastern Bowling Sectional featured 325 Special Olympians spread out across three bowling alleys throughout Allentown, with 17 NEAC South SAAC student-athletes and six South SAAC advisors volunteering at the Playdrome Rose Bowl. The group served as lane monitors for the event, as each of the 17 student-athletes were assigned to a specific lane along with three Special Olympians and shadowed them to ensure that they bowled in the correct order and on the right lanes, while also recording the scores of the athletes for each of their three games. Most importantly, each of the volunteers congratulated, cheered on and encouraged all of the Olympians throughout the day, which was capped off by an awards ceremony at each lane upon completion of the third game.
“As great as it is to see our schools achieve athletic success, the real joy for me comes from seeing our student-athletes be so willingly and actively involved in the community,” explained NEAC assistant commissioner Eugenio Mercurio, who serves as the conference’s SAAC coordinator. “The tremendously enthusiastic approach that our student-athletes bring to each event we hold helps provide a truly rewarding experience for both themselves and to those that they serve.”
The recap article about both events, which featured highlights and quotes from many of the attendees (found here), was chosen for the August 2013 edition of the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll, which it won by receiving 48 percent of the 1,701 overall votes. It was the second such honor for the NEAC, as the recap from the 2012 event (found here) was also chosen for the September 2012 poll.
“The NCAA Division III partnership with Special Olympics is a wonderful thing, and the NEAC is ecstatic to be a part of it,” Mercurio said. “The NCAA’s recognition of the NEAC SAAC’s involvement with this partnership speaks volumes about the true impact that our student-athletes are having in the lives of those they help serve, and the group couldn’t be happier to do it thanks to the lasting memories and new friendships that are created between both parties.”
The Wells College SAAC was also recognized for its efforts by the NCAA back in 2009, as the group was awarded honorable mention by the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Leadership Conference Recognition Awards program during the organization’s national conference in Chicago, Ill. The group won for its strategic plan titled Athletics and Outside Community a Better Relationship, which looked at implementing action steps that would improve faculty and staff relationships within athletics. Additionally, the SUNYIT women’s soccer team was among only a handful of institutions across the nation recognized as part of the annual Jostens/NADIIIAA (National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators) Community Service Award in 2010-11. The Wildcats earned the honor for their volunteer work benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which houses families of ill children at no cost when the children are required to stay in area hospitals for an extended period of time.
The NEAC has also been nationally recognized for its sportsmanship as well, as an article published by the conference, which described a tremendous act of sportsmanship by Penn State Abington senior Kimberly Ochester, was selected as the top honoree in a quarterly recognition program jointly sponsored by the NCAA and the Division III College Sports Information Directors of America (D3SIDA) in the fall of 2012. The story (found here), which described Ochester’s background as a nontraditional student on the Abington women’s tennis team and also revisited the day Ochester offered tennis pointers to a younger, inexperienced and overmatched opponent playing for a first-year program last spring, was selected by a panel of sports information directors representing D3SIDA as the best work from the summer of 2012 portraying the Division III model of intercollegiate athletics.
Another strong highlight of the conference’s commitment to sportsmanship is represented by the SUNY Cobleskill women’s soccer team, which has won four straight National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Team Ethics Awards for the 2009 through 2012 seasons. SUNYIT was also a 2009-10 recipient of the award, which recognizes teams that exhibit fair play, sporting behavior and adherence to the Laws of the Game, as reflected by the number of yellow caution cards or red ejection cards they are shown by referees throughout the season.
“A major reason for the NEAC’s growth during this past decade has been due to its dedication to sportsmanship, ethical conduct and service to the community,” stated Murray. “Our national recognition in these areas is something we are very proud of and we will continue to strive for excellence in these core values.”
The conference is also very proud to honor its Sportsmanship and Inspirational Award winners on an annual basis. The NEAC Sportsmanship Award is presented annually to a student-athlete, team and/or institution that has consistently demonstrated good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in their daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. They have exemplified the values of respect, caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility, while also demonstrating good citizenship outside the sports setting. The NEAC Inspirational Award is presented annually if applicable to an individual who has endured personal hardships that have led to bravery and/or dedication within athletics through participation, volunteerism, coaching, and/or administrating. An archive of each year’s winners can be found here.
Gallaudet University sophomore Ivan Alfaro (Yakima, Wash.), who was selected as one of this past year’s NEAC Inspirational Award winners for his perseverance as a student-athlete despite his personal hardships, was also recently featured in the “Faces of the NCAA” series. Alfaro suffers from Ushers Syndrome, which is a rare and incurable genetic disorder that has left him legally blind and deaf. Despite this, as the NCAA article notes, Alfaro continues to excel as both a two-sport athlete for the Bison and as a student at Gallaudet. The entire feature on NCAA.org can be seen here.
The NEAC has also seen its student-athletes have tremendous success in the classroom, as proven by the 513 selections to the conference’s annual Scholar-Athlete list in 2012-13. The honorees, which all had at least a 3.4 two-semester grade point average (GPA), also represented the strong diversify across the conference, as they hailed from 26 different states and 16 different countries. The full list of this year’s selections, as well as those from years past, can be found here.
“Academic success is one of the tenants of both the NCAA and the NEAC and is something we highly emphasize as a conference,” Murray said. “The main focus of our member schools is that our student-athletes are successful in the classroom, and we are very proud of the thousands of scholar-athletes we have been able to honor during the past decade.”
Nationally, the Wells College cross country squad was designated as a United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division III All-Academic award winner last February after accumulating a team GPA of 3.38. The program also earned the same honor in 2011 with a 3.17 team GPA. Last year also saw the College of Saint Elizabeth women’s volleyball team receive the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award after the Screaming Eagles finished with a 3.46 overall GPA. Saint Elizabeth was the only Division III institution in the state of New Jersey to receive the honor. Additionally, six members from the Keuka College softball team earned 2012-13 All-America Scholar-Athlete honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) each accumulated a GPA of 3.5 or better. Back in 2010, SUNYIT’s Kevin Nelson (Oneida, N.Y.) was named to the ESPN the Magazine Men’s At-Large District One College Division All-Academic Second Team while being a two-sport athlete for the Wildcats.
In what epitomizes all that the NEAC stands for, the College of Saint Elizabeth’s Diane Da Silva (Rahway, N.J.) was a top-10 finalist for the 2011 NCAA Woman of the Year award, which honors female student-athletes from across the nation who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academic achievement, athletic excellence, community service and leadership. Cazenovia College’s Colleen Clarke (Johnson City, N.Y.) earned a similar honor in 2010, as she was named one of 12 finalists for the prestigious Rotary Club Jostens Trophy, a national award that honors the most outstanding men’s and women’s Division III basketball players of the year. The award takes into account three vital parts: basketball ability, academic prowess and community service. The trophy models the Rotary International motto of “Service above Self” by recognizing those who truly fit the ideal of the well-rounded Division III student-athlete.
"The NEAC is very proud of its first 10 years and will strive to demonstrate the best of NCAA Division III in all that we do as we advance in the future,” Murray said. “We look forward to celebrating this year to its fullest and encourage our fans to join us in our year-long celebration.”
The North Eastern Athletic Conference has twelve NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Institute of Technology, SUNY Morrisville State College, Wells College, and Wilson College. Bryn Athyn College and Pennsylvania College of the Technology will both join the conference as full members in 2014-15. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf & M Tennis). The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of men’s and women’s tennis.