GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) recently wrapped up its 10th season of competition and celebrated the monumental year with a variety of events through 2013-14.
“Our 10-year anniversary this year was a lot of fun,” exclaimed Candice Poiss Murray, the conference’s first and only commissioner. “We celebrated both monthly and with a few special events throughout the year. During our celebration, we noted the many successes we have had in our short existence and also the growth the conference has seen.”
To recognize the milestone, the NEAC opened the year by highlighting its past memorable moments and notable achievements that coincided with the unveiling of a special 10-year anniversary logo this past September. The commemorative logo was used in a variety of ways throughout the year, including being featured on all conference championship tournament T-shirts and medallions, NEAC press releases and mailings, and as a rotator image for various stories posted on the conference website. It was also prominently displayed on the specially designed championship team photos that were distributed to each member of a team that won a conference title during the year.
The celebratory logo was also displayed throughout the NEAC social media channels, such as the conference’s Facebook page and its Twitter account, @NEACSports. The hashtag “#NEAC10” was also used on Twitter throughout the year alongside any anniversary-related news posted there.
The NEAC is fully aware that the reason for its existence is due to its tremendous student-athletes, so the conference also made an effort to provide each of its 2,000-plus student-athletes with a lasting memory of the special occasion. To kick that off, each of those student-athletes received a commemorative T-shirt that featured the abovementioned 10-year logo in addition to the NEAC sportsmanship slogan. The NEAC also held a monthly trivia contest from October through May that was open to all students from NEAC-member schools. The theme of each month’s trivia was preceded by a release highlighting a specific topic regarding the conference (which can each be found at the bottom of this page), with a question related to that topic then being posted on both Twitter and Facebook the next day. The trivia questions ranged from multiple choice to open-ended, with prizes such as NEAC 10-year hooded sweatshirts, laptop bags, water bottles and travel mugs being given out to the winners. During the month of April, in lieu of a themed release, a trivia question relating to the NCAA was posted during each day of the organization’s National Division III Week to honor the occasion.
For the first time ever, the NEAC was also able to send five student-athletes to the NCAA Convention this past January, as discussed in detail here.
"The student-athletes have been especially important to our success over the last 10 years, having shown that we can compete at the national level athletically while sustaining excellence in sportsmanship, academics and community service,” Murray said. “Thus, providing ways for our student-athletes to have a lasting memory of this special occasion was a vital part of our planning for the year.”
The conference also wanted to recognize its hardworking staff members from each campus as well, making an effort to do so by holding its annual retreat along the beautiful New Jersey Shore in the city of Spring Lake for a gathering of its 14 full-member institutions. In addition to its usual business meetings, the NEAC held a clam bake luncheon, a formal dinner and a social hour while also raffling off an assortment of conference memorabilia during the two-day event.
“Though the membership in the NEAC has shifted over the last 10 years, the leadership of our member institutions has always prided themselves on working well together in a collegial way through both the tough times as well as the celebratory events,” explained Murray. “We have a great group of athletic administrators, coaches and presidents who look to the continued growth of the conference. “
The NEAC would have still had much to celebrate this season regardless of it being an anniversary year, thanks again to another wave of success from its student-athletes and staff members. Athletically, the year was littered with multiple regional and national honors awarded to student-athletes, including a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Continental Tire NCAA Division III Men's All-America First Team selection for SUNY Institute of Technology senior Malick Faye (Bronx, N.Y). The honor came on the heels of Faye earning his fourth straight NEAC Goalkeeper of the Year honor and his second career NEAC Player of the Year award after guiding the Wildcats to the NEAC Men’s Soccer Championship and also helping them finish the season as the NCAA Division III statistical champion for save percentage. This past fall also saw SUNY Cobleskill freshman and NEAC Rookie of the Year Evan Quinones (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) qualify for the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country National Championships, making him the conference’s first-ever runner to earn an NCAA individual bid.
The winter saw another successful year for men’s and women’s basketball. After making it to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament during the 2012-13 season, the Morrisville State College Mustangs bettered that accomplishment by becoming the first team in conference history to advance to the Elite Eight round this past season, which helped head coach Joseph Smith earn the 2014 Basketball Coaches Association of New York, Inc. (BCANY) Division III Coach of the Year honor. On the women’s side, Wells College senior Ashley Roser (Taberg, N.Y.) capped off an incredible season and career by being selected to the Women’s DIII News All-American Fourth Team and as a D3Hoops.com All-American Honorable Mention. Roser, who also claimed her second straight NEAC Player of the Year award while leading the Express to their first NEAC title, became the NEAC’s all-time leading scorer and only conference player to reach 2,000 points, which also helped her become only the third player in NCAA Division III history to reach career marks of 2,000 points and 1,350 rebounds. That was achieved in part by her 81 career double-doubles, leaving her just one short of tying the all-time DIII record. Wells College also saw its men’s volleyball team finish the season as the NCAA statistical champions in service aces per set at 2.20 in only its third season as a varsity program.
The spring also provided multiple individual achievements. In baseball, Gallaudet University senior Casey Hicks (Henderson, Nev.) was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Upstate Player of the Year after also earning the conference’s same top honor, while Lancaster Bible College senior Matt Taliercio (Norwalk, Conn.) finished the year as the national Division III leader in batting average at .496. Penn State Abington junior and NEAC Softball Player of the Year Sheila O’Hagan (Willow Grove, Pa.) was the NCAA Division III leader in home runs per game at 0.55 while finishing in the top six in three other statistical categories. In women’s lacrosse, the two-time defending NEAC champion Keuka College Storm led all of Division III in scoring defense after posting a 5.47 goals-against average for the year, while Morrisville State College freshman Hunter Waldau (Central Square, N.Y.) took home the ECAC Mid-Atlantic Co-Rookie of the Year honor after also being named the conference’s Rookie of the Year. Men’s lacrosse saw Morrisville State sophomore Chris Fiore (Staten Island, N.Y.) close the season as the NCAA Division III statistical leader in goals-against average with a 6.20 mark and Wells College freshman Alex Milliken (Hilton, N.Y.) finish the year as the DIII leader in goals per game at 3.92.
The spring was also highlighted by academic success, as Gallaudet University senior women’s swimmer Katie Giles (Gaithersburg, Md.) and SUNY Institute of Technology senior baseball player Jim Sass (Kingston, N.Y.) were each selected to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) 2014 Capital One Academic All-America Teams for their respective sports. The two also joined the Keuka College softball duo of senior Jill Hart (Cowlesville, N.Y.) and sophomore Liz Warren (Elmira Heights, N.Y.) and SUNYIT senior lacrosse player Brett Gifford (Cazenovia, N.Y.) on CoSIDA’s Academic All-District Team for the spring, with Wells College junior soccer player Shannon Blanford (Fayetteville, N.Y.) earning the same honor in the fall. Additionally, Penn State Abington senior Marco Paparo (Abington, Pa.) earned inclusion to the Philadelphia-Area Sports Information Directors Association (Philly-SIDA)/Philadelphia Inquirer 2013 Academic All-Area Men's Soccer Team.
The NEAC was also very proud to recently announce its scholar-athlete selections for 2013-14, which consisted of a conference-record 534 student-athletes from across the 16 member schools (four associate) who represented 32 different states and 13 different countries. In order to be selected, a student-athlete must achieve a combined grade point average of 3.4 or higher for the fall and spring semesters and must have been in good standing on his or her team.
Multiple acts of sportsmanship were displayed throughout the year as well, starting with the Wells College soccer team’s fundraising efforts to benefit the family of Cazenovia College freshman volleyball player Lauren Smith (Homer, N.Y.) after her father and long-time NEAC soccer official Mike Smith passed away last August. The Cazenovia women’s soccer program graciously matched the fundraising efforts of the Wells student-athletes and the monies raised were deposited into a trust fund for Lauren. Not so coincidently, the Wells squad went on to be one of only five college programs nationwide to earn Silver placement on the 2013 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Team Ethics and Sportsmanship Award list, 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. Both of those acts helped the Wells men’s soccer team also earn this year’s NEAC Sportsmanship Award, which is presented to a conference student-athlete or team that consistently demonstrated good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in their daily participation in intercollegiate athletics and has exemplified the values of respect, caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility, while also demonstrating good citizenship outside the sports setting.
In January, the Keuka College men’s lacrosse team was honored with the 2013 James “Ace” Adams Award for outstanding sportsmanship in District 2 by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s (USILA) Collegiate Officials Committee (COC). The award is presented annually to institutions across the country that best represent sportsmanship and fair play, from the institution’s administration, coaching staff, student-athletes and fans.
Within the NEAC, the conference’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have consistently displayed sportsmanship, as shown by their collective kind-hearted act to provide an unforgettable birthday for Gallaudet University’s Lisa van der Mark (Mijnsheerenland, Netherlands), who suffers from a rare genetic disorder known as Ushers Syndrome that has left her deaf and legally blind. This year’s NEAC Inspirational Award winners displayed the rollercoaster of emotions that emerged from this past season as well, as SUNY Institute of Technology graduate student and two-sport athlete Taviot Jackowski (Lafayette, N.Y.) was recognized after returning better than ever from a season-ending ACL tear a year ago, while Penn State Abington senior soccer player Phil Curry (Lawncrest, Pa.) was honored after maintaining a level of excellence both on and off the field despite going through a heartbreaking personal tragedy.
The conference also continued its heavy commitment to service. In what has become an annual tradition, nearly every NEAC member school held a fundraiser in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, collectively raising thousands of dollars towards breast cancer research. Many of the conference’s women’s basketball teams also participated in the “Play 4Kay” initiative throughout the season to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
One conference member took its service overseas, as the Keuka College women's and men's volleyball teams donated over $400 of school supplies to the Casey Community School in Gallon Jug, Belize, while also providing a personalized message and autographed photo to each of the school's 51 students. After serving two separate field periods in Belize, senior women’s volleyball player Meg Houlihan (Elysian, Minn.) was the brainchild behind the project, which gained national exposure after being featured in the Spring 2014 edition of NCAA Champion Magazine.
Staff members from within the conference also gained national recognition for their dedication to service. Gallaudet University assistant athletic director for communications Sam Atkinson recently received the 2014 Bob Kenworthy Community Service Award from CoSIDA at the organization’s annual convention this past June. This award is presented annually to a COSIDA member for civic involvement and accomplishments outside of the sports information office. Additionally, College of Saint Elizabeth athletics director Juliene Simpson was recognized by the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (WBHOF) as a “Trailblazer of the Game” this past June for her contributions to the sport. Simpson, who was inducted into the WBHOF in 2000 after a stellar playing career, was recognized along with the rest of her teammates from the silver medal-winning 1976 USA Women’s Basketball Olympic team for being the first group of women to represent the United States at the Olympics.
With those achievements helping put a successful first decade in the books, the NEAC is now looking forward to reaching even greater heights in its next 10 years and beyond. To do so, one of the conference’s first initiatives will be to embark on an innovative Presidents’ Cup model, using a new system that will include academics, sportsmanship and community service in addition to its current athletic success calculations. More details for that plan will be announced in the coming months.
“From its infancy until today, the conference continues to set high standards in every endeavor so as to reach for the stars and not settle for mediocrity,” Murray said. “The NEAC has grown to be a conference which is recognized regionally and nationally and we are proud of that success. We look forward to many more years of success and pushing the limits in our goals."
*Click on the links below to read the full NEAC trivia contest releases (theme in parentheses):
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.