By John Torenli
Taking over a program that has failed to win more than four games in any of the past four seasons can be a daunting task.
That's why new St. Francis College women's head basketball coach John Thurston will need plenty of help in turning the Terriers into a legitimate competitor in the Northeast Conference next season.
Thurston, who took over for former head coach Brenda Milano after she stepped down in March following a nine-year tenure at the Remsen Street school, took the first big step in re-organizing his staff Tuesday, promoting coach Dionne Dodson to first assistant.
“Coach Dodson has done an outstanding job of recruiting, academic support and NCAA compliance here at St. Francis and will continue to do so,” said Thurston of his top aid in ressurecting the struggling program. "She has been extremely loyal to the college and Terrier Women's Basketball and is very deserving of this promotion. Dionne has done it all in her twelve-plus years as an assistant and I believe she is ready to be a head coach.”
The Terriers managed only four victories in 29 games last season, compared to the impressive 21-10 campaign neighborhood rival LIU-Brooklyn put together in 2011-12. St. Francis appeared to be turning the corner when it won 13 games during the 2006-07 season and 10 more in '07-08. However, the Terriers have won only a dozen contests over the past four years, despite an infusion of young talent such as junior guard Jasmin Robinson of Brooklyn's Medgar Evers High School and sophomore forwards Jaymee Veney, an NEC All-Rookie selection, and Jessica Kaufman.
Dodson, who is entering her fifth season on the Terriers' staff after two years on the bench at Fordham University, has been instrumental in recruiting and developing St. Francis' up-and-coming players.
Thurston's new right-hand assistant also believes the program is ready for a breakthrough.
"St. Francis women's basketball is in a good place," she said. "Coach Thurston will be a great mentor to not only the players but also the staff. I've already learned so much from him the last two years. I am looking forward to the additional knowledge I will obtain from him. I am really excited about the future of St. Francis College women's basketball. St. Francis College is a great place with some outstanding people. I am glad I can continue to grow professionally here.”
Dodson is no stranger to winning at the NEC level. She was a recruiter and assistant at St. Francis of Pennsylvania from 1999-2002, helping the Red Flash win the 2000 and 2002 NEC regular-season and tournament titles — neither of which the Terriers have achieved yet. She also has worked in various roles at Manhattan College and Coastal Carolina University.
Between now and November, she and Thurston will do their best to help the Terriers get back in the mix in the NEC after finishing 11th with a 3-15 mark in league play a season ago.
“I am very grateful to Coach Thurston for the trust he has in me," she noted.
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The reigning NEC women's soccer champions of LIU-Brooklyn, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year before a tough 2-0 loss to Virginia, released their schedule for the upcoming 2012 campaign last week.
Coach Tracey Bartholomew's championship crew will begin its quest for a repeat on Aug. 17 with a road match at Seton Hall. Following the tilt against the Pirates, LIU will travel to Boulder, Colo., to take part in the Boulder Omni Tournament from Aug. 24-26. The Blackbirds will take on the host Buffaloes on Aug. 24, then face the University of Denver on the final day of the event. The Pioneers went 16-5-0 last year before falling Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinals.
The home opener for the Blackbirds will take place on Sunday, Sept. 2 against UMBC at 1p.m. The following weekend, LIU will take part in the Black Knight Classic, hosted by Army. The Blackbirds will battle Big East foe Syracuse (Sept. 7) and Big Ten competitor Iowa (Sept. 9) during the three-day event.
NEC play kicks off with a Sept. 21 visit to Robert Morris followed by a match at Saint Francis (Pa.) two days later. LIU Women's Soccer Alumni Weekend will feature contests against Quinnipiac on Sept. 28 and Wagner on Sept. 30.
Senior Day will be Oct. 21, with the NEC Tournament slated for Nov. 2-4, featuring the top four finishers in conference play. If the Blackbirds can finish first in the league, they'll host the championships at LIU Field.
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LIU-Brooklyn senior Corryl Boyd capped a brilliant five-year run at the Brooklyn school in Des Moines, Iowa last weekend, taking 14th place in the long jump at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held on the campus of Drake University.
Boyd's best leap of 7.42 meters was better than seven other student-athletes, including jumpers from Pac-12 power Arizona State and last season's national runner-up Florida State.
The appearance in the NCAAs was the final honor for the Waldorf, Md., native, who captured eight individual NEC titles as a sprinter and long jumper in both indoor and outdoor competitions. Boyd was also a member of four gold-medal winning relay teams. As a freshman in 2007, he captured NEC Rookie of the Meet honors at the NEC Indoor Championships after earning the Blackbirds 14 points individually and taking part in LIU's championship 4x400-meter relay team.
This past year, Boyd took part only in the outdoor season and flourished, setting a new NEC Outdoor Championship meet record with a jump of 7.65 meters. The health administration major also won the 400-meter dash with a time of 47.88, and was the second leg of the silver-medal winning 4x400 relay team.
The leap at the NEC championship broke the LIU long-jump record and qualified the redshirt senior for the NCAA East Preliminary Meet in Jacksonville, Fla. At prelims, Boyd outdid his previous mark and jumped 7.73m to finish second and advance him to the NCAAs.
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Leon M. Goldstein High School's Becky Shtilkind did Brooklyn proud Sunday at the Mayor's Cup Tennis Championships in Flushing.
The Stony Brook-bound senior helped Goldstein capture the team title, was named to the Tournament Committee's all-scholastic team and defended her No. 1 singles title with a straight-set (6-1, 6-0) victory over Queens native Rebecca Fakas of Cardozo High School at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Jeremy Kochman of Bay Ridge's Poly Prep Country Day School received the Kae Jones Varsity School Sportsmanship Award and Brooklyn's Nicholas Pustilnik of I.S. 239 got the Carrington/Lahens Award for Sportsmanship at the middle-school level.
The Mayor's Cup showcases some of the city's best student-athletes competing for the prestigious all-scholastic title.