New coaches, new drills, new season.With the 2006 season still officially 168 days away, the University of Wisconsin football team took its first snaps of the Bret Bielema era as spring practice opened Saturday.”It feels good,” said senior quarterback John Stocco, one of only three returning starters on offense. “We have been just working out for awhile now, and it feels good to get out here and practice. It’s exciting because you see so many younger guys, and we’ve got quite a few holes to fill, and you see them excited.”In the first of 14 practices that will lead up to the Spring Game April 22, UW worked out without pads, but in helmets on both Saturday and Sunday, and began to soak in the tutelage of a revamped coaching staff.As the players took the field for the first time since defeating Auburn 24-10 at the Capital One Bowl in what was Barry Alvarez’s swan song as Badger coach, it quickly was apparent that there was some new management in charge.Using a new timing system where practice is broken up into roughly 22 five-minute periods, the team began the first period with a special teams field goal kicking drill that had become commonplace during the Alvarez tenure.To commence Bielema’s career as head coach, the drill was a little more high octane. Rather than simply kicking two field goals from the left, middle and right side of the hash marks, the team set up for field goals in all three spots right away and ran the drill in a much more rapid-fire format.”We started off practice traditionally with the field goals. … The idea is that we have [one team on each side] so that its just boom, boom, boom, boom and then come together,” Bielema said. “That’s the first thing we do as a team, so it sort of sets the tone for [the] rest of practice.”The drill epitomized a movement of energy through the UW coaching squad and practices. “Energetic” was the word most often used by players when asked to describe the almost all new coaching staff and how they ran practice, very much befitting the style of Bielema.”The coaching staff that we have, they’re young and they bring the same intensity that coach [Bielema] does,” said junior receiver Marcus Randle El. “They bring so much intensity to the team, and it just goes through everything.”Bielema stalked from quarterbacks to receivers to linebackers and every other position group, monitoring practice in his trademark all-red running suit. Uncharacteristically quiet and tranquil, Bielema occasionally offered up advice for players while they stood aside waiting for their next repetition but otherwise was rather reserved.”He comes up and he gives pointers when he feels it’s necessary, but the individual coaches are great,” said senior linebacker Mark Zalewski.”I was trying to be a little conscientious of that, just letting coaches establish themselves and allow them to go about their business without me being there to influence the flow of the drill,” Bielema said. “I was just trying to stay at a distance and kind of look around and watch.”His coaches, on the other hand, were as feisty as Bielema has been in the past.”Big-time high energy,” Bielema said. “Today, I had to put a coach rule in there. I usually have players stay 15 yards back, but today I had to put up cones and say that players and coaches need to be behind that line. They like to get out there and mix it up, and I don’t mind it after the play, just not during.”The main theme of the first two days of spring practice was for players to become accustomed to the new drills, terminology and demands of their new coaches.”I think today was a big learning day for us,” Stocco said. “We want to get used to the drills and know everything that we are doing, but as we go along, we want guys to step up and make plays for us.”For example, one new drill to the UW program is the “chute” drill for defensive linemen, where linemen are forced to stay low when coming out of their stance because of a bar that is above them. The drill was brought in by new defensive line coach Randall McCray, who has already become one of the more recognizable coaches on staff. McCray has already begun to employ his extensive use of a football taped to a hockey stick, to simulate the snapping of the ball.”There’s a few things that are different, a few things that the new coaches are emphasizing, but for the most part, we have been able to keep a good sense of [normalcy],” Zalewski said.After the second day of practice, the players were all eager for the first day of full-contact practice, slated for Monday evening.”Once you get the pads on, it’s a much different, physical game,” Randle El said with a Cheshire cat grin. “And once you get physical, baby, it can get heated. … The linebackers want to hit the running backs, the safeties want to hit the receivers. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
If there were any questions whether or not the UW women’s hockey team improved their special teams units, they’ve been answered. Undefeated, and with only a single tie blemishing their record, the Badgers have played stellar hockey so far this season. UW head coach Mark Johnson, though, has been quick all year to comment on the need for strong special teams play, hoping the team could improve on both the power play and the penalty kill as the season progressed. Though they hadn’t topped three goals in any of their last five games heading into this weekend, the No. 1 Badgers put up 15 goals this weekend, six of them on the power play, and were able to kill off all nine of their penalties without allowing a goal during their sweep of visiting North Dakota. “It was pretty good, we created a lot of things; in games like this your power play has to be good,” Johnson said. “When you get power plays you want to capitalize on them.”Wisconsin certainly capitalized on their chances; the Badgers were a very impressive six of 12 on the power play. In comparison with the 31 percent rate they scored over their first eight games, the Badgers scored on half of their power play opportunities this weekend. Coming into the series, North Dakota had only allowed six goals in their 42 penalty kills, posting a formidable 86 percent penalty kill percentage. “The more time we spend on the power play the better we get at it,” UW forward Angie Keseley said. “I think we’re doing pretty well on it, and as we continue to go on this season we’ll keep getting better.”The Badgers’ first, and game-winning, goal Sunday came on the power play as the puck slid across the crease before deflecting off UW defender Meghan Mikkelson’s skate.”The puck just popped out, and it went off my skate, a lucky bounce,” Mikkelson said.While that goal may have been a fluke, Mikkelson too believes the team’s power play was very effective this weekend. “I think we did a good job this weekend, we communicated well.”Facing a North Dakota team that is just 1-33 on the power play this season, the Badgers played with complete control of the puck even when down a man. Though North Dakota had even power play opportunities this weekend, the Badger penalty kill was so effective that the Sioux only mustered a combined two shots on goal, and were held to no shots on six of the seven power plays. To put the Sioux’s power play struggles into perspective, Jinelle Zaugg scored more power play goals on Sunday (2) than North Dakota has all season (1).”The kill was good, we wanted to be aggressive all weekend and not let them set up,” Johnson said. The Badgers did just that as quick puck movement and constant pressure kept the Sioux off guard and allowed the Badgers to control the play. “I think [the special teams] did a really good job,” Mikkelson reiterated. “We’re working on being consistent with both our power play and our penalty kill.”Opponents surely can’t find the thought of the Badgers’ special teams becoming more consistent very encouraging. Whether Wisconsin’s success on the penalty kill and power play this weekend was more the product of playing a weak opponent or due to their own improvement will remain to be seen.But if the Badgers can continue their current level of play, it’s going to be tough to find the defending champions’ weakness, and even tougher to beat them.
As it often happens in sports reporting — and journalism in general — there is the tendency to write too much about some things while not devoting enough time to others. Just look at professional sports coverage: You hear about baseball, basketball and football all the time, but you hear very little about hockey.The same thing goes for players, those who get lots of attention and those who get next to none. The same principle can be found in the Wisconsin women’s hockey team.The big names on the team get plenty of attention, and it’s well deserved. They’re the one’s who make the headlines, rack up points and get their names tossed around for various awards.There’s senior forward Sara Bauer, who has amassed 62 points this season and is one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the best player in the nation. Yes, she won it last season, and if she receives it again she will become the only player to win the award in consecutive years. She gets all the attention she needs, despite her dislike for being in the spotlight.There are plenty of others who get plenty of attention: freshman Meghan Duggan, recently named to the All-WCHA second team and rookie team, has recorded 47 points this season; Jinelle Zaugg, a prolific goal scorer and Meaghan Mikkelson, one of the top ten contenders for the Kazmaier Award.Duggan gets plenty of attention, but the freshman class has more than just one player. Although some players don’t receive a ton of attention, they still make substantial contributions to the team.”The freshmen have stepped up and have really played their role well this year,” team captain Bobbi-Jo Slusar said. “I think that’s really crucial to our success. Everybody has got to play their role and be on the same page.”The freshman class has certainly pulled its weight this season. Duggan is tied for fourth in the conference in points, while Kyla Sanders has quietly recorded 19 points (12G, 7A), playing most of the season alongside Bauer and Zaugg.Sanders, who didn’t start playing hockey until age 11, is a natural goal-scorer despite coming from the non-hockey-hotspot of Florida. In the span of two years, she recorded 75 goals and 58 assists.Jasmine Giles has collected 15 points (7G, 8A) this season, playing with sophomores Angie Keseley and Erika Lawler. Giles, a native of Ottawa, Ontario, was named her high school MVP for all four years.Emily Kranz, a native of Waukesha, has scored 10 points (5G, 5A), the fewest points among freshmen, and believes the key to her class’ success has been their ability to form a cohesive unit.”As a freshman class, I think we’ve really earned our spots on the team and proven ourselves,” Kranz said. “We’ve meshed pretty well as a freshman class. … We just keep working hard.””They all bring really important things — I think they’re really strong freshmen,” Slusar said. “They just have great attitudes, they’re always positive and they know their role. … On and off the ice, they’re a huge part of this team, and they’ve really stepped in well.”Relatively anonymous players such as Sanders, Giles and Kranz can have a huge impact if they perform at the right time. It happened last season during the playoffs when sophomore goaltender Jessie Vetter, then the team’s third goalie, stole the show and became a brick wall taking the team to a national championship.The same phenomenon has already happened this season, with sophomore defender Rachel Bible coming up big in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Bible, who recorded just one goal and two assists her freshman year, had been relatively quiet this season until the first round against North Dakota. In that series she scored a crucial goal and added an assist for the first multi-point game of her career. She followed that up with Wisconsin’s final goal this past weekend against Minnesota in the conference championship game.The freshmen are perfectly capable of doing the same. Kranz was crucial in the game against Minnesota, tallying the game-winning goal.”It’s nice to see — Jessie [Vetter stepped up] last year and Kranz has stepped up and Meghan Duggan has stepped up; all of the freshmen have stepped up, and that’s exactly what we need,” Slusar said. “It’s going to be important for this next coming game.”
As a multi-event participant competing in the heptathlon, pentathlon and decathlon, Brennan Boettcher can do is hope to stay healthy has taken some bumps and bruises this season. While talent certainly played a part in the UW men’s track and field team’s indoor national title, Boettcher also believes staying healthy did, too.”Everyone basically did what they could do to win,” Boettcher said. “I’ve stayed relatively healthy this year, our team as whole has stayed really healthy this year; we’ve had a lot of issues in the past with injuries and haven’t had it this year, staying healthy has been big part to our success this year.”While Wisconsin now switches gears to the outdoor season, there isn’t much time for rest as the outdoor season starts up this upcoming weekend.However, Boettcher — the younger brother of former track and field letter-winner Brent Boettcher — believes the team doesn’t necessarily need any time off.”Usually we don’t try to take a lot of time off to let our bodies heal up, unless it’s a bigger meet like the Big Ten [tournament], or a meet where we’re trying to get a lot of qualifying marks for Nationals,” Boettcher said. “This week we’re not taking any time off, we’re training right through it.”Nevertheless, the transition from indoor to outdoor competition may be a little more difficult this season than in years past, as much of Wisconsin’s focus has been on taking the indoor titles and other events are added for the outdoor season.”The first couple weeks of training are definitely a little more [difficult]; we start doing a bit more speed and distance,” Boettcher said. “It’s a little bit difficult, but if you’ve done it once, it’s not so bad.”Staying healthy for a multi-event athlete is a little different than other track athletes in a single competition. Boettcher and other heptathlon, decathlon and pentathlon participants need to make sure they are able to keep up their intensity for not just a few minutes, but hours to maintain a high level of competitiveness over the course of several events.”You can’t compete in a multi-event if you’re not feeling healthy,” Boettcher said. “You need high intensity for three, four hours straight.”But while Boettcher has found his niche as a multi-event athlete for the Badgers, he says his heart is still with the high jump as that is where most of his skills lie. Still, he is committed to the multi-events, but there just isn’t enough time in a day to get all the training he would like to do.”The hardest part about training for multiple events is that there are only seven days in a week and there are 10 events to train for, so you’re constantly doing two or three events a day, as well as running, and then you have to add in strength training, so it can become pretty difficult,” Boettcher said. “You’re looking at a lot of time spent on multiple events, so it’s tough.”Unlike most track and field athletes, Boettcher says he doesn’t have many superstitions. Yet he does have one lucky charm.”We have a lot of different competition uniforms,” Boettcher said. “If I do well in one of them at a certain event, I’ll try and wear it the next time and do the same.”While it may not be the most sanitary thing, the Badgers are hoping Boettcher will be wearing the same jersey all year long as Wisconsin attempts to carry its success from the indoor season outdoors.
GREG DIXON/Herald file photoIn Sunday’s match against Northwestern, Wisconsin lost in the same fashion that has plagued it over the last month of the season.Despite a strong finish, the Badgers were unable to overcome a slow start to the game as they suffered a 2-1 loss to the Wildcats. The defeat was the fifth time in the last seven games in which the Badgers lost by one goal, and marked the fourth time in the same stretch in which Wisconsin was unable to score a goal in the first half.Northwestern showed early on why they are ranked No. 2 nationally in the NSCAA polls. Wildcats sophomore Matt Eliason, who trails Michigan State’s Doug DeMartin by one goal for the national lead in scoring, had another stellar performance against the Badgers. With 13 minutes left in the first half, Eliason was able to slip through Wisconsin’s defense, creating a 1-on-1 scoring chance against Wisconsin goalie Alex Horwath. With nobody to cover him, Eliason drilled a shot past Horwath from just inside the 18-yard box.“He’s just one of those guys that you always have to know where he is at,” Wisconsin head coach Jeff Rohrman said of Eliason. “You can’t give him that much room because he’s going to hurt you. I thought he did a great job of finishing the chances that he had today.”Although Wisconsin has been very successful this season in responding quickly to goals, the Badgers were unable to shut down Eliason in the game. Just over three minutes after scoring his first goal, Eliason tacked on his second score of the game.After receiving a pass from junior Carl Pett, Eliason was able to nail his second shot from only six yards out.“I thought the first half we made a couple of costly mistakes, and they capitalized on them,” Rohrman said. “I didn’t think we were as sharp and crisp and concentrated in the first half.”Characteristic of Wisconsin this season, the Badgers came out in the second half more aggressive and created more scoring chances. In the second half, UW took more overall shots, as well as shots on goal.Their grit was rewarded midway through the second half, when freshman Mark Roos saved a ball from going out of bounds 40 yards from the goal. Roos’ hustle paid big dividends for the Badgers, when moments later defenseman Andy Miller gave a cross pass towards a streaking Scott Lorenz. Lorenz’s header sailed past Northwestern goalie Mish Rosenthal.“Scott’s just one of those guys no matter what kind of game it is, he’s capable of putting in one or two at any moment,” Rohrman said. “It was a collective effort, and Scotty was in the right place at the right time and he took the chance well.”The score was just the third goal that Rosenthal, who came into Sunday ranked second nationally in goals against average, had given up the entire season.“We responded well once we got down two goals, and it’s a little frustrating to know to go down two,” Lorenz said. “It’s a common thing all year — we get down before we play our best with our backs against the wall, but the response was the right response.”Despite numerous attacks down the stretch, Rosenthal was able to respond with key saves. In the last great chance for the Badgers with under two minutes to play, the Wildcats’ keeper was able to stop a header from inside the 18-yard box, and Northwestern walked away with the 2-1 victory.“We threw everything we had at them, and they handled it,” Lorenz said. “We had more chances in the second half; we just couldn’t finish.”
Pitcher Letty Olivarez , who has let up only five earned runs over her past 19 innings, looks to lead the Badgers over Green Bay.[/media-credit]Barring another spring snowstorm, the Wisconsin softball team will take on in-state rival UW-Green Bay on Wednesday afternoon at Goodman Diamond. The Phoenix represent one of the last nonconference foes the Badgers will face before the heart of their Big Ten schedule.Green Bay comes to Madison with an 11-11 overall record and having just lost last weekend’s conference series between Horizon League rival Cleveland State, two games to one.The Badgers, on the other hand, have won two of their last three games, including their first conference victory after beating Indiana last week in Bloomington, 5-4. Leading the surging Badgers has been sophomore leadoff hitter Jen Krueger. Over the weekend series, Krueger notched five hits, scored four runs, swiped two bases and walked once. Although her numbers at the dish were impressive, it may have been the havoc she wreaked on the base paths that proved more influential to the team’s first conference victory. UW head coach Chandelle Schulte believes any time a player can manufacture runs in terms of stealing and advancing the runners can pay enormous dividends.“Her speed, it just kills [teams],” Schulte said. “When she gets on, things happen because she can steal.”With Krueger setting the table for the middle of the order as a productive leadoff hitter, the Badgers offense has blossomed. In their victory over the Hoosiers, cleanup and designated hitter Karla Powell came through with three hits as well.Although pitcher Letty Olivarez contends she has not played as well as she’s capable, her numbers indicate otherwise. Over her last 19-plus innings, which span over both the Indiana and North Dakota series, she has conceded only five earned runs, while striking out 15 batters. If it were not for a number of untimely errors, she would have won two of the games.“I’ve changed to being focused more on winning each pitch instead of trying to get a certain batter or trying to win the inning” Olivarez said.In the victory over Indiana, the Badgers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, which she said eased her nerves.“It’s important in the sense that it makes me feel more confident, but it’s still separate in terms of I still need to do my job no matter how many runs we get,” Olivarez said.Schulte was more than impressed with the manner in which her junior pitcher has been performing.“She’s been brilliant,” Schulte said. “She needs not to do anything more than she’s done and just pitch her game.”Although the caliber of the talent isn’t as profound as in the Big Ten’s, the Phoenix still present a formidable challenge for the Badgers, and despite the disparity there does appear to be a rivalry between the players.“Most of these kids know each other from in-state, and for bragging rights, yes absolutely [there is a rivalry],” Schulte said.The first time Schulte traveled to Green Bay indicated just how seriously the Phoenix consider the two upcoming non-conference games.“The first time I ever went to Green Bay on the back of their dugout, they had a thing of the year that they beat Wisconsin, and so for them it’s huge and for us it’s huge,” Schulte said.The Badgers will have to contend with Melani Niederer of the Phoenix, who has posted a .347 average with 21 runs scored in 75 at bats. They’ll also be facing standout pitcher Amanda Margelofsky, who has a record of 7-2 with a respectable 3.88 earned run average.The last time these two teams met in 2008, the Badgers swept the doubleheader, surrendering only two runs in the process.
Recovering from their first two losses of the season, practice seemed a little less upbeat this week for the Wisconsin volleyball team.However, players and coaches are remaining confident that there will be no hangover effect following a five-set loss to Ohio State and a 3-0 sweep provided by Penn State.“Well you don’t dwell on the loss, you really look at what you did well, what you need to work on and keep improving because we need to become a much more solid team,” head coach Pete Waite said. “We have to take care of the little things that make the difference in the end to win those close ones.”The Badgers fought tremendously hard against the Buckeyes on Friday and were leading for much of the match-deciding fifth set, but the Buckeyes ultimately prevailed.Against Penn State, Wisconsin was never quite in the match despite solid effort.Hoping to turn the page Wednesday, Wisconsin hosts a tenacious Illinois team who has been in the nation’s top ten all season long.One of only two Illini losses on the season came September 11 against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln after they lost one of their two All-Americans, Michelle Bartsch, to an ankle injury midway through the third set. The other loss came in five sets on the road against No. 25 Cincinnati.Illinois also has the benefit of transfer Colleen Ward, who came to Champaign after spending two seasons at Florida. Ward, a Naperville, Ill. native, leads the team with 190 kills and 17 aces.“[Being] from the Chicago area, a number of our players know her from their club ball days and we’ve seen her a lot before she came back to the state of Illinois,” Waite said. “She has been a nice addition to the team, she leads the team in kills and she also has a nice jump serve. So number one, we have to take care of her jump serve, and attacking-wise, we’re gonna have to dig well around our block.”At a crossroads, the Badgers face a brutally important week. After Illinois, a Northwestern team many regarded as a snub to the NCAA tournament last season comes to Madison Saturday.Currently sitting without a conference win, Wisconsin faces the prospect of starting their conference season 0-4.“That would really be a burden on us if we go down 0-4 after the first two weeks of Big Ten play,” sophomore middle blocker Alexis Mitchell said. “Illinois has obviously proved that they are one of the best teams, if not the best team in the Big Ten, [but] it could be anyone’s game any day so we just need to refocus, practice hard and get a good game plan so we can take care of those teams this week.”Mitchell, who was battling an ankle injury last week, admitted the injury bothered her timing and leaping ability this past weekend.“It’s just tender and sore, so it was really hard to get the explosiveness off the ground because I didn’t want to push it too much and make it worse or anything,” Mitchell said. “My game did change a bit [in the matches this last weekend], I wasn’t as fast and as effective as I have been so I’m just trying to rest up and get better so I can get back to where I was before the injury.”Despite a less than ideal start to conference play, the Badgers’ three contributing freshmen all made successful debuts.Elise Walch, the 26th-rated player in last year’s recruiting class according to prepvolleyball.com, had an impressive 8 kills and led the blocking effort.“It felt awesome, there is a lot of energy and it felt really good to play all the great teams,” Walch said.The opening serve for today’s match at the UW Fieldhouse is set for 6 p.m.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Year in Sports: Part 8 of 8Doug Marrone became used to the process. For Marrone, now Syracuse’s head coach, it became natural year after year in his six seasons in the National Football League. For all the uncertainty the NFL Draft brings, the only constant is the process.After seven rounds of teams’ picks, the rest of the draft pool fell to free agency. It was Marrone’s favorite part of the process. Every year he coached in the NFL, an undrafted free agent was added to either the practice squad or 53-man roster.‘That’s important,’ Marrone said last Friday, a sense of urgency rippling through his voice. ‘Some of those free agents have developed into stars, when you look around the NFL.’This year, though, that process is disrupted. On March 12, the NFL announced a lockout of its players by the league’s 32 owners. Nearly two months later, after some twists in its path, the lockout remains in effect. The lockout closes all free agency and trade dealings between teams. And right now, the 2011 NFL season remains in limbo.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe NFL still held its 2011 Draft last week, but teams cannot sign their draftees or other newly minted free agents that were not drafted. And it’s something that troubles Marrone.‘I worry from my opinion, as a former player, as a former coach,’ Marrone said. ‘If they don’t have this free agency and they don’t clear it up afterward, who is that potential player that could have been?’On April 25, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson temporarily lifted the lockout after it had stretched to a period of 45 days. Hours later, the owners reinstated the lockout. On Monday, the NFL filed a brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis that said the lockout should remain in permanent effect until the two sides — players and owners — work out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.With Syracuse, the lockout affects both new draftees and past stars. For the newly drafted, it’s a matter of when their contract will come. For the undrafted, it’s a waiting game. And it’s a matter of waiting to see what any potential new CBA would do for an improvement in the NFL’s lackluster pension plan for already established and former players.Most associated with SU do not expect the lockout to cast its shadow over an entire NFL season. Too much is at stake in a $9 billion industry.But until that shadow departs, doubt remains.‘The longer it lasts, the worse off we’ll be,’ said former SU center Ryan Bartholomew, who went undrafted last weekend. ‘But I think they’ll get something done.’‘Sooner or later’Doug Hogue believes one simple switch got him to this point. Buried in Greg Robinson’s depth chart at running back at Syracuse, what happened Saturday seemed unfathomable.Saturday, the Detroit Lions selected Hogue with the 157th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft — the 26th pick in the fifth round.Hogue said he owes all of it to Marrone for moving him from running back to linebacker. Otherwise, he might be in the same uncertain state as many of his fellow seniors from this past season’s Pinstripe Bowl-winning SU team.‘I give him all the credit,’ Hogue said. ‘When it comes down to it, Coach Marrone saw something that nobody else saw. He made the move. Coach Robinson had me at running back. … He moved me to defense, and it worked out the best for me.’Hogue was one of two members of last year’s Syracuse team to be selected in the draft. The other, running back Delone Carter, went 119th overall — the 22nd pick in the fourth round — to the Indianapolis Colts. Missing from the fray were Bartholomew, linebacker Derrell Smith, punter Rob Long and defensive back/punt returner Mike Holmes.Those players now have to wait until the labor situation is resolved before even talking to any of the 32 NFL teams.‘No matter what,’ Carter said of his teammates, ‘their time and opportunity is coming. Because they’ve worked too hard. And we worked too hard as a senior class to not get what we all worked for. It’s coming. Sooner or later.’Ending on holdFor Rob Long, the fairytale comes to life if he’s able to punt in the NFL next season.‘It’d be very gratifying,’ Long said of the potential of punting in an NFL game. ‘Obviously, just to show what is possible and what can be accomplished. To get to that point, it’d be gratifying if I hadn’t gone through everything. You throw that all in, and it would just make everything sweeter.’Long stood among SU’s undrafted last weekend. Through everything he did to overcome the brain cancer with which he was diagnosed in December, he hopes he gets a chance to finally get back on the field in a game situation.Bob Long, Rob’s father, remembers the toll it took on the Long family for more than three months — and how it made the family stronger in the end. There were the five-day-a-week treatments for nearly two months. There were the dietary changes Rob made at his nutritionist’s advice.Bob made the trip to Syracuse with his son for the university’s Pro Day, when Long kicked in front of NFL scouts. It was the first time Long punted in a formal setting since the Orange’s regular-season finale against Boston College, after weeks of kicking at Downington West High School’s field in his hometown.‘He knew he had a goal to meet,’ Bob Long said of his son. ‘He knew what he had to do to get there.’During the draft, Bartholomew found anything and everything to do rather than sit in front of a television all weekend. He cleaned his room. He cleaned other areas in his home in Maryland.When he finally ran out of places to clean, he would peek at his grandmother’s reactions to the draft, as she stared at it intently on the screen. Judging from her reactions and the absence of phone calls on his end, Bartholomew knew his name wasn’t flashing across the screen.‘She was the one watching it,’ Bartholomew said. ‘I was just trying to do other things.’Bartholomew said six teams contacted him during the scouting process to express interest, but none ended up selecting him. After the Pinstripe Bowl, Bartholomew ventured to Florida to train for the combine with SU cornerback Da’Mon Merkerson and the linebacker Smith.For two months in Florida, the three were trained in drills specific to the combine, rather than football-specific drills. They ate certain foods, lifted weights different ways from week to week and worked a lot with their technique. Their performances in the combine confirmed the training paid off. But it wasn’t enough.‘It’s very confusing,’ Smith said of the NFL labor situation. ‘Hopefully, they settle. … But, I mean, you can never be so sure, because we’re not in the courtroom.’Bartholomew and Smith believe the labor situation will eventually be resolved. So do Bob and Rob Long. Until he gets on the field, though, Rob won’t consider the fairytale ending a guarantee.‘It’s a big concern,’ Long said. ‘The next step on any given year would be to go through the free-agency process. I know I could get signed with that. … It’s something I’ve kept a close eye on.’Eye on the pastIn 2009, Mike Charles walked into the Doral Country Club in Doral, Fla. for the Dolphins’ 25-year anniversary celebration of their 1984-85 season, when they reached the Super Bowl.Immediately, Charles, a former Syracuse defensive tackle from 1979-83, noticed two players missing — defensive back Gerald Small and running back Andra Franklin.They were dead. There were others who had serious health issues.‘We need to give guys some help,’ Charles said. ‘We need to give guys some more light at the end of the tunnel.’Charles represents how the lockout affects Syracuse’s past players. As a former NFL player, Charles advocates the need for increased pension funds for retired players.Future pension plans have been a major issue in the fight over a new CBA. In March, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said the league contributes ‘zero’ to player pensions. The league responded by saying the owners have contributed more than $2.7 billion in the past 10 years to player pensions, according to an Associated Press article from March 30.Charles, now 48, said he doesn’t yet need to collect his pension fund because he has a steady income. He founded All Pro Locksmith, LLC, in Glendale, Ariz., in 2008.He says he has the same problems as every other retiree. Aches and pains. No cartilage in his knee.But he can’t say the same for many of his peers, as he rifles off a list of ailments — diabetes, cancer, prostate issues — that have afflicted former players he knows and have not been fully addressed.‘There are so many different things,’ Charles said. ‘They need to do something to address it.’In early March, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to every current NFL player stating that the owners’ latest proposal to players would have guaranteed more than 2,000 former players an immediate 60 percent pension increase, according to the AP article.Without an agreement now, though, a pension plan remains on hold. And those who have left the NFL remain on hold, much like those currently trying to get in.‘You have guys walking with canes,’ Charles said, ‘and they’re my age.’Uncertain futureThe one pick Bartholomew made sure to watch in the NFL Draft was its last. He saw Rice defensive end Cheta Ozougwu go off the board with pick No. 254.Ozougwu became ‘Mr. Irrelevant,’ the nickname given to the final pick in the draft each year. For as long as the lockout continues, Ozougwu will stand as the last player to be associated with a team.And even though his path comes with uncertainty, Bartholomew hoped and prayed he wouldn’t be picked last.‘I was happy it wasn’t me,’ Bartholomew said. ‘… I was just hoping I wouldn’t get picked at that point, so I could pick a situation that would be good for me.’But the uncertainty lends itself to questions. Marrone, a former offensive lineman, sympathizes with Bartholomew’s plight. As an offensive line coach, he could rank offensive linemen from No. 1 to 100. But since he didn’t have a sense of the entire scope of the draft, he couldn’t pin where those offensive linemen should go off the board.But if Marrone got it wrong and ranked too many linemen to get drafted, he could always find that one player in free agency to make the practice squad or team. Now, the SU head coach wonders if one of his former players is the piece that will never fall into place if the labor situation never gets resolved.‘How does that player still maintain that dream and development of becoming an NFL player, when after the last round is over Saturday, it ends?’ Marrone said. ‘I feel for that because we may be talking about one of our players that way.‘I think a lot of them, if not all of them, might be in a camp. And it might not work out that way.’firstname.lastname@example.org Published on May 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm Comments
Comments STONY BROOK, N.Y. – Kailah Kempney won’t find her name in the scoring column of Syracuse’s final four victory.The freshman attack didn’t record a goal or assist, but without her success in the draw circle, there’s no doubt the Orange would be headed home rather than to the NCAA championship game on Sunday.‘We all have our role on the field,’ Kempney said. ‘We have a lot of communication on the field so we’re all on the same page. What I would pull it over my shoulder, there were so many people there, the smart place was to put it was to the side of me. So my teammates boxed out and allowed me to control the draw.’Kempney recorded seven crucial draw controls, outworking Florida star midfielder Shannon Gilroy to give No. 4 seed SU (19-3) the chances it needed down the stretch to complete an incredible seven-goal comeback – the second greatest in NCAA tournament history – and beat the top-seeded Gators (19-3) 14-13 in sudden-death double overtime. Syracuse will play No. 2 Northwestern in the championship game on Sunday at 8 p.m., and Kempney’s efforts against Florida certainly helped the Orange get there. The freshman attack controlled the last three draws of regulation, another in the first overtime and the lone, pivotal draw in double overtime.And three of those five pickups resulted in SU goals, as did another with the Orange trailing 13-8 and just over seven minutes left in regulation.‘We made some adjustments on Gilroy in the second half and made sure she didn’t win the draws,’ SU head coach Gary Gait said. ‘We were concerned about them off the draw. Kayla did her job off the draw.’But early in the second half, Gilroy and the Gators seemed in control at the draw circle. Florida won the first five draws after the break, extending their halftime lead from four goals to seven before Kempney scooped up the next draw with 21:30 remaining.Junior attack Michelle Tumolo scored a wraparound goal on that possession. Devon Collins, Tumolo and Alyssa Murray continued the scoring rally to cut the SU deficit to 12-8.But when Gilroy beat SU goaltender Kelsey Richardson to put the Gators up by five with 7:19 left, the Orange’s chances of victory appeared slim.Then Kempney won a draw 50 seconds later and senior Sarah Holden beat UF goalie Mikey Meagher from the right doorstep.After Murray and Holden tacked on two more, Kempney outdueled Gilroy once more, winning a crucial draw with 2:49 left and her team down two.‘She’s a very good drawer,’ Kempney said of Gilroy, ‘and she has good size and very good stick work so we wanted to take away her and being able to self-draw. They have very good transition and we wanted to take that away.’And after a first half filled with unsettled opportunities for the Gators, Kempney did just that in the second half.Coming out of an SU timeout following Kempney’s draw control, Tumolo sprinted up the right side of the field.Cutting in, the Gators defense collapsed on her. But she found Murray flashing in front of the net and SU’s leading scorer cranked her 73rd goal of the year past Meagher.Kempney won the ensuing draw once again, this time setting up Holden for a game-tying free-position score. The senior midfielder kept her career alive by faking an overhead whip before bringing her stick back and sidewinding a bouncer into the bottom right of the cage.And Kempney gave the Orange a chance to win it in regulation by winning the next draw with only 30 seconds left. However, Meagher denied Tumolo from the right doorstep before the final seconds ticked off the clock.But Kempney maintained her intensity at the draw circle in overtime. She won the opening draw in overtime, and after a scoreless six minutes – which included an apparent game-winning score by Florida’s Gabi Wiegand that was later disallowed following a stick check-Kempney won the first draw of the second overtime period.And this time, the Orange capitalized.Holden drove down the right alley and bounced a shot past Meagher and into the net to send Syracuse to the national championship game.‘It was kind of all in slow motion,’ Holden said. ‘I just did a split dodge and buried it low, and it went in and it was just an amazing feeling.’email@example.com Published on May 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Stephen: firstname.lastname@example.org | @Stephen_Bailey1 Facebook Twitter Google+
Freshman forward Tyler Roberson has been academically cleared by the NCAA and is attending classes at Syracuse University, SU Athletics announced in a release.Roberson is now eligible to begin participating with the men’s basketball team.“I want to thank the NCAA staff for its help and work on reviewing and processing Tyler’s eligibility,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said in the release.Roberson, a highly touted 6-foot-7 forward attended summer classes at Roselle (N.J.) Catholic High School after the NCAA held his transcript for review last spring.He was ranked the No. 14 overall power forward by Scout.com in the Class of 2013, and a four-star recruit by Scout and Rivals.com.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textRoberson chose Syracuse over Kansas and Villanova. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm Contact Stephen: email@example.com | @Stephen_Bailey1