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Spring 2017 Sports Highlights

Fall 2017 | Winter 2016-17 | Fall 2016

Tennis Team Fifth in the Nation; Golfer Reaches Nationals; Alum Honored

The Rockland Community College men’s tennis team wrapped up another successful season by placing fifth at the NJCAA Division III national tournament. In their second straight trip to the finals in Plano, Texas, the Hawks finished one place higher than last year’s team.

Felipe Robles led the way for RCC, reaching the finals in the second singles competition. Robles, an international student from Colombia, dropped a tough three-set match in the final, falling 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to top seed Safie Moamen of Brookdale (NJ). His runner-up finish made Robles a second-team All-American.

One other Rockland player and a pair of doubles teams reached the semifinals of their respective draws. Fifth singles player Daniel Rivera, the first doubles pairing of Juan Huertas and Robles, and the second doubles team of MacGregor Graham (a Nyack High School graduate) and Akinari Hotta all lost to the eventual champions in their brackets.

Huertas won the consolation bracket at first singles after falling in the opening round of the tournament. Daniel and Jovan Rivera, both Nyack High School alumni, did the same in the third doubles competition.

RCC won its second consecutive Region XV title and improved upon its finish at nationals despite playing this season with an entirely new team.

Hawk golfer qualifies for nationals

Playing his best golf of the season, Albert Johansmeyer of RCC earned himself a trip to the national tournament. Johansmeyer shot a 165 over two rounds in the Region XV tournament May 18-19 at Villa Roma Golf Course in Callicoon, NY.

After an 86 in the first round of the event, Johansmeyer, a second-year player at Rockland, came back with a terrific 79 on the second day. The winning team at the regional tournament qualifies for nationals, as do the top five individual players from other teams. Johansmeyer, a Tappan Zee High School graduate, tied for fourth among players outside of the winning Nassau CC squad.

He will head to the NJCAA Division III national golf championship, to be played in Chautauqua, NY, June 6-9.

RCC alum, former coach earns conference award

A former RCC baseball player and head coach, now coaching on the Division I level, earned a prestigious award for his performance this season. Pat Carey, the head coach at Iona College, was named Coach of the Year by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Carey’s team finished 14-10 in MAAC play this year, and qualified for the conference’s post-season tournament for the first time in 17 years. As the fourth seed in the double-elimination tournament, Iona won four games to make it all the way to the championship round before falling to Marist.

After starring at North Rockland High School, Carey played at RCC in 1995-96 and earned a scholarship to Providence. He returned to RCC in 2000 to be an assistant baseball coach, and became the head coach in 2003. After two successful years leading the Hawks, Carey pursued an opportunity to coach at the top level of college baseball, and just over a year later was hired as the head coach at Iona. His wife, Diana Carey, is an RCC Associate Professor and serves as the College’s athletic trainer.

May 25, 2017

Late-Season Surge Lifts RCC Baseball Team into Playoffs

Facing the prospect of missing out on the Region XV playoffs, the Rockland Community College baseball team ended its regular season with a bang. The Hawks won their final six conference games to claim the final spot in the postseason tournament.

Rockland finished off a four-game sweep of Orange on Monday with a 9-5 win, clinching the fourth seed in the region with a 10-10 record in conference play. “Every kid on this team works very hard,” said head coach John Greeley. “They’ve really come together down the stretch.”

The Hawks will face top seed Westchester in the first round of the double-elimination tournament. That game was shifted from Friday to Thursday due to the expected heavy rain this weekend.

Weather affecting the schedule is hardly anything new for RCC this spring. Snow and rain forced the cancellation of 19 scheduled games, and several others were postponed or moved.

When they have been able to take the field, the Hawks have been hitting the ball well, compiling an impressive .323 team batting average. Rockland’s hottest hitter has been second baseman Patrick Bateman, a Pearl River HS graduate, who has a .416 average and also leads the team in RBI with 30 and stolen bases with 13. For his performance, Bateman was one of four Hawks named this week to the all-Region second team.

Also receiving all-Region recognition: Brandon Respress, a grad of North Rockland HS, who is hitting .333 while playing tremendous defense in center field; outfielder Jared Campione, from Moore Catholic HS in Staten Island, who has a team-leading .513 on-base percentage; and pitcher Vincent Lea, a Spring Valley HS alumnus, who has a 4-2 record, with three complete game victories in conference play.

Greeley cited defense as a team strength, and four Rockland players also received Gold Gloves from Region XV: Respress; catcher Austin Preisel, from Clarkstown North HS; first baseman Bryan Borruso, a Tappan Zee HS graduate; and shortstop Brian Rotella, from North Rockland HS.

Even the RCC players singled out for their fielding prowess have performed well at the plate. Rotella is hitting .366 with 27 RBI and leads the team in doubles, triples and home runs. Borruso has posted a .374 average with 21 RBI, while Priesel is hitting .333 with 19 RBI. Greeley also praised the contributions of third baseman/pitcher Ivan Rodriguez, from North Rockland HS, who has a .359 average and 19 RBI while posting a 2-1 record on the mound.

“We’re getting good pitches to hit, we’re more patient at the plate,” Greeley said. “After all the weather problems, guys are really getting their rhythm.”

Greeley knows his Rockland squad is an underdog entering the Region XV tournament, but said his team comes in playing its best ball. “Our pitching’s rested and our kids are ready to play,” he stated. The second set of games in the tournament will be played Friday at Sullivan County College, with the champion likely to be crowned either Sunday or Monday once the weather clears.

May 11, 2017

RCC Volleyball Star Named a SUNY Scholar-Athlete

Shannon Thomas truly made her mark in her first year at Rockland Community College. The North Rockland High School graduate found success both on the volleyball court and in the classroom, and as a result Thomas is now part of a very prestigious club.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today announced Thomas as one of only 77 recipients statewide of the 2016-17 SUNY Scholar-Athlete Award, recognizing outstanding academic excellence and athletic success.

Thomas posted a 3.8 GPA while leading RCC’s volleyball team to a solid season last fall. The team reached the finals of the Mid-Hudson Conference and qualified for the Region XV tournament. Thomas was named the conference’s Most Valuable Player and an All-Region first team selection, and ranked high in the nation in several statistical categories. She also earned Academic All-Region honors.

“I was successful because I used all the free time I had towards my academics,” Thomas said. “I learned from a young age to put school first and I did not let sports distract me from my education.”

Thomas will return to RCC in the fall, with plans to later transfer to a four-year college and ultimately to attend medical school. “I hope to be a doctor one day, which has been a dream from a very young age,” she said.

“In addition to being one of the most talented volleyball players to come through RCC, Shannon is an extremely bright and coachable athlete,” said RCC head volleyball coach Erik Ellingsen. “She has a genuine interest in being the best she can be in the classroom and on the court, and she makes all those around her better as well.”

In order to be considered for this award, student athletes were nominated by their campus athletic director. Nominees’ academic credentials and athletic accomplishments were then reviewed by a panel of athletic directors from across the SUNY system and members of the SUNY provost’s office.

"It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work to achieve such a high level of academic and athletic success,” Chancellor Zimpher said.

May 4, 2017

Doubles Domination Leads RCC Men’s Tennis Team to Region Title

The power of teamwork led the Rockland Community College men’s tennis squad to the Region XV championship. The Hawks swept all three doubles flights as they captured the Region title for the second straight year.

Rockland came into the tournament as the third seed, but the strength of the Hawks’ regular-season schedule made them a battle-tested squad. In the event held at Suffolk Community College, Rockland finished three points ahead of second-place Nassau to pull off the surprise win.

“My kids played awesome,” said RCC fifth-year head coach Joseph Gravagna. “I knew my team was peaking. We played our best tennis of the year this weekend.”

Leading the way for the Hawks was Felipe Robles, an international student from Colombia. Robles captured the title at second singles, and combined with Juan Huertas, also from Colombia, to earn the crown at first doubles.

“I wanted to do well, but the biggest thing is helping my team win,” Robles said. “That was my greatest accomplishment.”

Rockland’s second doubles team of MacGregor Graham, a graduate of Nyack High School, and Akinari Hotta, an international student from Japan, also earned top honors. And the Hawks completed the sweep of the doubles thanks to twins Daniel and Jovan Rivera, both Nyack High School alumni, who captured the title at third doubles.

Gravagna noted that nothing came easy for his doubles pairings. All of the finals went the full three sets, with each final match lasting over three-and-a-half hours.

“It took a lot of endurance,” said Graham, the team captain. “You’ve got to be in the right mental state.”

With the three doubles finals going on at the same time, RCC players found themselves somewhat distracted. “We cheered and gave support to our teammates between points,” Robles said. “Coach kept telling us to focus on our own match.”

Another contributor to the championship was Ulyana Kitcmanuk, a female student who plays at sixth singles. Unable to compete in the fall when RCC could not field a women’s tennis team, the Spring Valley High School grad has held her own against the men. Set to graduate this spring with a 3.8 GPA, Kitcmanuk has earned a scholarship to St. Thomas Aquinas College.

Michael Escobar, from California, and Akaki Utalishvili, an international student from the Republic of Georgia, round out the team’s lineup.

This is the first time that RCC has captured back-to-back Region XV men’s tennis championships since 1975-76. The feat is even more impressive since the Hawks did not return a single player from last year’s title-winning team.

“If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would go this far, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Graham said.

“Their hard work has really paid off,” Gravagna added.

The Hawks now head to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament, based at Collin College in Plano, Texas, from May 15-19. Last year, Rockland placed sixth in the nation; Gravagna and his players express confidence that they can do even better this year.

May 2, 2017