MLAX: After first win, Bonnies strive for more success in third season

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONVAENTURE, NY — Pride. 

That’s the feeling St. Bonaventure men’s lacrosse head coach Randy Mearns feels when he sees the work and grit his team is putting in to get better.

The Bonnies, in their third season since the return of SBU’s men’s lacrosse program, have been faced with many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I am really proud of our guys,” Mearns said. “They have been following all of the protocols and trying to stay in their groups. It is really tough on young people to do this, but our guys are doing a great job.” 

Despite the pandemic, Mearns and his staff have continued to build their program looking one game at a time. 

“It is a learning process,” Mearns said. “We had to adjust to the Division I level and build our program. We have been able to do that with our juniors, who have been here since year one. We continue to build our program with freshmen and sophomores.” 

Every game, including Saturday’s contest with Quinnipiac, provides a learning experience for Mearns’ crew. 

“There are a ton of pieces to a game, and every time we play, we learn something new about the game, and the way we need to play,” Mearns said.  We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to play well, in every game, if we want to get the win.” 

The third-year coach recognizes his team clinched a 13-6 victory against Quinnipiac on March 6, the program’s first victory since its return, but doesn’t want to let its hint of success be a distraction. 

“Quinnipiac is going to be a much different team, this time around,” Mearns said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to play well if we want to get the win.”

 Mearns was right, as Saturday’s rematch against Quinnipiac resulted in a defensive battle that SBU came out on the short side of, 5-4.

The loss dropped Bona’s record to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (first game against Quinnipiac ruled a non-conference game) ahead of an April 3 home matchup against Manhattan. 

Mearns said the scene at SBU’s Marra Athletics Complex will look a little different soon, however.

According to Mearns, each student-athlete can soon have two family members attend the team’s home games. Members of the campus community are also encouraged to attend games at the Marra Athletic Complex. 

“It’s really exciting to see people in the stands, or on the hill,” Mearns said. “It gives the guys something to play for. I hope our guys play well for their parents. They can show mom and dad how much they have improved, and what Bonaventure lacrosse is about.” 

Mearns doesn’t often look at the future of his program, but when he does, he sees both “an interesting opportunity” and challenges.

Last year, the NCAA granted all student-athletes an additional year of eligibility. However, the Bonnies will not have to worry about that for one more season. Burns said some concerns include having the right graduate programs and the monetary aspect for his players.

“Those conversations have happened behind the scenes but will be decided later,” he said. 

Right now, though, the Bonnies have one goal in mind.

“We want to win our conference championship and make a run in the NCAA tournament.” 

Bona men’s soccer navigates through spring season; awaits its “peak”

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a long delay, the St. Bonaventure men’s soccer team returns to the pitch.  

Though the team’s season usually starts in the fall, COVID-19 concerns delayed its season until the spring. Nonetheless, the team welcomes the return of its sport.  

“When you’re away from the game for a while, I think it really makes you think,” goalkeeper Trevor Wilson said. “It made me realize how important it is to me.” 

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the Bonnies have a shortened schedule this season, consisting of only eight games in the regular season.  

“I think college soccer, in general, is pretty unorthodox,” Wilson said. “I wouldn’t say its concerning, you just have to adjust.” 

Though the team plans to adjust to the strange season upcoming, head coach Kwame Oduro has kept the same mentality throughout the extended offseason. He wants his club to treat this season just as any other. 

“Nothing has changed in what we are trying to accomplish,” Oduro said. “We take this season as serious as any season.” 

Luckily for Bona, they have several returning pieces with a foundation in place. The additional time before playing games granted the team the opportunity to develop their chemistry on the pitch.  

“Last year, most of the guys, including myself, were new and hadn’t played together a lot,” Wilson said. “We’ve come together in terms of knowing our system better, knowing how to play together.” 

One of the notable players early, Shea Currey, a senior, scored two goals in SBU’s first two matches. His leadership and playmaking have combined to give Bona a boost to begin the season.  

“He’s been one of our best players, not just a good leader,” Oduro said. “He’s always under control, calm on the ball, and it allows us to play through him and keep possession.” 

Along with Currey, Coach Oduro noted the development of senior Jaaziel Thompson and junior Cuneyt Vardar.  

“[They are] two guys who have stood out so far in our season,” Oduro said. 

The Bonnies won all three of their non-conference matches, doing so in dramatic fashion. All three were decided by one goal, and two matches had at least one overtime period.  

“I would rather just win, not in the dramatic fashion, I just want to win,” Oduro said. “But to do it the way we are doing it shows that we are mentally tough.” 

With much of their season still to go, the Bonnies believe they still have room to grow. Coaches and players have stressed hitting their “peak.” 

“I’m very excited to see what we’re capable of, because I think we have a lot of talent,” Wilson said. “I don’t think we have hit our peak yet.” 

Oduro also expressed excitement in his team’s search for its peak. 

“I don’t think we’ve played a complete game with everyone playing well,” Oduro said. “If that’s the case, and we’re winning, when we hit our peak, we can be better.” 

The Bonnies have amassed a 3-2-1 overall record. They lost back-to-back games to Duquesne and Saint Louis to begin Atlantic 10 play before working to a 1-1 draw at Dayton.

Bona will continue to search for its peak, but COVID-19 will continue to be the threat lurking outside the lines. Oduro has acknowledged the significance of the pandemic, but realizes his role in keeping his team focused on the season in front of them.  

“Whatever obstacle we encounter, it’s my job to find a way to get through it,” Oduro said. “We can’t use the pandemic as an excuse to be mediocre; we have to rise above it.” 

Bona fans travel to Dayton for A-10 final

photo courtesy of University of Dayton

By Nic Gelyon

DAYTON, OH — It’s been a long couple of weeks for Bona fans.  

First, sadness. The Bonnies entered the Atlantic 10 tournament with heavy hearts, punctuated by the death of former St. Bonaventure University president Dr. Dennis DePerro. 

But then, elation. Blowout wins against Duquesne and St. Louis put the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team in position to do something they’ve never done before—win the Atlantic 10 championship as the one-seed in the tournament. 

Now the weekend of the A-10 championship game has finally arrived. Bona’s versus VCU.

It’s an atmosphere a true Bona fan wouldn’t want to miss. Good news for many, however, as fans will be in Dayton for Sunday’s game at UD Arena. 

But, whether you leave Saturday or Sunday for the game depends on if you want to endure a three-day quarantine. 

If you’re traveling for the game, know that the state of Ohio currently doesn’t have any COVID-19 protocols for people visiting from other states. In other words—take comfort in knowing you won’t have to quarantine upon arrival. You definitely won’t have to plan as far ahead. 

Coming back to New York could spell a different story. 

If you stay in Dayton, or anywhere in Ohio, for more than 24 hours, you may be subject to that pesky three-day quarantine upon returning home. Travelers are also advised by the state to fill out the New York state traveler health form, which can be found and filled out online at the New York State Department of Health website. 

This is all part of the New York State COVID-19 travel advisory, still in effect for any state that doesn’t border New York. 

The university also discouraged student travel to Dayton — but acknowledged it can’t prohibit it. 

“For those who do go [to the game],” the university said in an email to students, “They need to be mindful that they will need to follow COVID-19 protocols.” 

In other words—the university can’t prevent kids from going, so all they ask is that travelers stay safe. 

And since the university won’t be providing transportation to the championship this year—also  due to COVID-19 protocols—students must find their own way down to Dayton. 

For many students, that will mean driving to the game. Gas seems to be expensive in Erie, the highest prices being around $2.97 in the Flagship City. But the deeper you get into Ohio, the gas prices seem to drop. For example—gas in Columbus is as low as $2.47 in some places, as of Friday.  

You might be asking yourself—what will the experience be like when you get into UD Arena on Sunday? It’ll be an interesting experience, especially as Bonas fans haven’t been able to see a game in-person at the Reilly Center this season. 

The first thing you should know: UD Arena will be at about ten-percent capacity for the game Sunday. That means upwards of 1,300 fans could be in the stands—a far cry from the 300 that could attend regular season Flyers games. 

The executive director of UD Arena, Scott DeBolt, says, “There will be a lot of energy in the building.” 

Some other things ticket holders should know — the experience will be completely cashless. 

You won’t have to pay for parking, as the parking fee is included in your ticket price. And you won’t be able to pay cash at the concession stands, either. They only take cards.  

Obviously, the usual COVID-19 protocols will be enforced at the game. You’ll only be allowed to remove your mask when you’re actively eating or drinking at your seat; at all other times, you must be masked. 

“Wear your mask when you’re supposed to and don’t gather out in the concourse,” was the advice given by DeBolt. “Sit in your assigned seats… have a hot dog and a soda and enjoy the game.” 

As for a couple students who are going: 

Hannah Miller is a women’s basketball manager. She went to Richmond with the women’s basketball team, and so she got to experience their championship atmosphere. Still, she’s excited.

“I’m a senior, and this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do,” Miller said. 

And, of course, who could forget ‘Captain Beer’, Dom Grecco. And don’t forget his eight friends who are tagging along.  

“We looked at each other and said, ‘we’re doing it’”, Grecco said. “We’re just going to build up all that energy we’ve missed all year and hope to put it into one game.” 

Grecco is sticking four people in one car and five in another. His cohort in buying the tickets, Noah Minton, noticed the wildly fluctuating prices of the tickets. 

“We thought about getting tickets, so I looked on Ticketmaster, Seat Geek, Vivid Seats; they were a couple dollars more on Ticketmaster, so I went back to Seat Geek,” Minton said. “But in that two minute span, I saw the prices go up another $12, and I said, ‘Dom, we got make a decision’”. 

Miller noticed the same thing when buying her tickets. “The prices kept going up minute by minute,” she said. “But we got them cheaper than they are now.” 

NEW: Schmidt, Kenney react to DePerro’s passing

photo: Jeremy Castro

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As the St. Bonaventure University community watches its basketball teams conclude their seasons, and the university’s spring sports teams begin their seasons, they will do so with heavy hearts.

On Monday morning, Dr. Dennis DePerro, the university’s 21st president, died after spending months battling COVID-19. The news was a significant blow to the university, but also to the athletic department.  

DePerro’s commitment to the athletics at St. Bonaventure was steadfast, and to athletic director Tim Kenney, this commitment was profound and demonstrated in his character. 

“He exuded what it was, what this place is about. His kindness, his personality, he knew the student athletes,” Kenney said. “You don’t see that with a lot of presidents at times, and he knew them.” 

DePerro had a special connection with student-athletes at St Bonaventure. Having two sons who played soccer at Providence College, DePerro understood what it means to be a student athlete.

“He understood athletics, and that couldn’t be understated enough,” Kenney said. “A lot of the student-athletes I saw today…. they couldn’t believe it,” Kenney said. 

Faculty in the athletic department took the news with the same sorrow as the athletes. With his passing, the department knew they lost someone who was more than their boss. 

“He was our boss, but he was more of a friend. It’s very rare in this day and age that you have that,” Kenney said. “The person you knew was the way he led; there was no ego involved with that.” 

Mark Schmidt, head coach of SBU’s men’s basketball team, emphasized his own relationship he had developed with DePerro.  

“He was a friend. He was a guy that I could walk into his office at any time and sit down and talk to,” Schmidt said. “He really supported athletics, in particular men’s basketball.” 

Schmidt was appreciative of his leadership, and acknowledged its power within the basketball program.  

“It starts from the top, and when the top guy believes in athletics and its mission and believes in basketball and the importance of it, you’re in a good spot.” 

Dr. DePerro’s understanding of athletics translated to his leadership. DePerro was even-keeled and never overreacted, according to Schmidt. He made it a point to be approachable, and this tightened his bonds with the players and the coaches.  

“As a boss, that’s the kind of guy you want. Someone that’s always gonna be there with you, you know, in good times and bad times,” Schmidt said. “He had a doctorate degree, but he didn’t act like he had a doctorate degree; he was just one of us.” 

The men’s basketball team had DePerro’s cardboard cutout specially placed at the Reilly Center for Monday night’s game against Dayton, and the team wore commemorative stickers bearing his initials. Schmidt and the Bonnies will head to Richmond this week for the A-10 tournament, but will dedicate the rest of their season to DePerro. 

“He knew how important athletics is to this university,” Schmidt said. “He understood how important basketball is to this university, and he was as supportive as any person on this campus.” 

SBU community mourns death of late president

photo: St. Bonaventure University

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Dr. Dennis DePerro, the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19. His passing was announced in an email sent to the SBU campus community Monday morning.

“Our hearts are broken, and we send all of our love, support, sympathies and condolences to the DePerro family on their loss, especially Dennis’ wife, Sherry, and his two sons, Andrew and Matthew,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, acting president of the university. “Please keep them in your prayers.”

Zimmer, SBU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, has served as acting president since mid-January. 

“What I’ll miss more than anything was his uncanny ability to make you feel better even on your worst days,” said Tom Missel, SBU’s chief communications officer. “He had a unique gift. I loved that man with all my heart. I know there are thousands of people who would say the same thing. His humanity, his insight, his ability to listen to all sides, his sense of humor – all of that made him a great leader.” 

John Sheehan, president of the university’s board of trustees, also expressed condolences to the DePerro family. Sheehan noted DePerro’s strong connection with SBU alumni.

“Our alumni adored (DePerro), and the relationships he forged at every college he’s worked run deep, especially at Le Moyne, where I know his loss will be deeply felt,” Sheehan said. “Please keep Sherry, Andrew, Matthew and the entire DePerro family in your prayers. The university will do everything it can to support them.”

The university’s flag will fly at half staff through March, according to Zimmer. 

DePerro tested positive for COVID-19 on Christmas Eve before being admitted to a Syracuse hospital Dec. 29. DePerro assumed the presidency on June 1, 2017, and led the university through the admission of its three largest freshman classes in 11 years. 

Funeral arrangements will be announced when they are available. Cards and letters can be sent to the president’s office. 

COLUMN: Howard’s animated ejection embodies college basketball’s newfound intimate, relaxed setting

photo: La Salle University athletics

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When referees ejected Ashley Howard from a nearly empty Reilly Center on Tuesday, the words he directed toward them could be heard throughout the arena.

The officiating crew issued Howard, head coach of the La Salle men’s basketball team, a double technical foul in the first half of the Explorers’ loss to St. Bonaventure at the Reilly Center. Visibly unhappy after a possession on his team’s offensive end, Howard proceeded to let referees know how he felt about their performance thus far.

With few watching from the stands, Howard stormed off the court in a profanity-filled tirade, much of which could be heard from press row in the arena’s upper seating sections. We heard it. The teams heard it. The ESPN+ television crew producing the game heard it.

Everyone in attendance heard what Howard had to say, even when he came back into the arena after previously exiting and shouted an expletive toward the officials.

However, in a non-COVID year, would Howard have behaved the same way in front of a near-capacity crowd? His words would not have been heard throughout the arena had there been 5,000-plus Bona fans reacting to his ejection.

My ability to hear Howard’s words exemplifies the unique setting in which college basketball is being played this year.

The atmosphere of college hoops games has been undoubtedly less formal than in years past, especially at the Reilly Center, where fan attendance has not been allowed this season.

Coaches and team personnel wear sweatpants and quarter-zip hoodies instead of suits. Players start chants in support of their teammates on the floor. The only non-artificial noise in the arena comes from the benches and the public address announcer.

It’s a much more intimate production than in years past, and more relaxed.

Howard didn’t face a raucous, drunken Bona student section on his way off the floor Tuesday. Instead, he was greeted by bleachers of cardboard cutouts that had no rebuttal for what he had to say.

After the game, Howard returned to the floor for a lengthy conversation with Bona head coach Mark Schmidt. The two shared smiles and a couple laughs, seemingly brushing off the events that unfolded just hours before.

In previous years, this exchange may not have taken place, either. At least not on the court less than 30 minutes after the game ended.

College basketball is being played under unprecedented circumstances at SBU and beyond. Howard’s ejection, and the subsequent reaction that it prompted, demonstrates this.

SBU president still hospitalized with COVID-19; Zimmer to serve as acting president

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University announced on Monday that Dr. Joseph Zimmer, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, was named SBU’s acting president in place of Dr. Dennis DePerro. 

DePerro has been battling COVID-19 since being admitted to a Syracuse hospital on Dec. 29, where he was recently placed on a ventilator. In a release, the university said that DePerro is in serious but stable condition.

“It’s important that we have, during Dr. DePerro’s absence, a leader overseeing the business of the university,” said John Sheehan, chairman of the university’s board of trustees. “The (board) has complete confidence in Dr. Zimmer.” 

Zimmer told the campus community that his priority is to continue DePerro’s work until the president is healthy enough to return.

“My role now – in collaboration with our senior management team and faculty leaders – is simply to keep us moving forward in the positive direction we have been headed since [Dr. DePerro] came on board as president in 2017,” Zimmer said. 

Dr. Anne Foerst, chair of the university’s faculty senate, said that the senate will continue to work with Zimmer achieve this goal. 

“Dr. DePerro is in the thoughts and prayers of the entire university community, including the faculty, and we look forward to him making a full recovery,” Foerst said. “The faculty senate has and will continue to work constructively and productively with Dr. Zimmer, for the benefit of the university and its students.”  

Zimmer also conveyed a message to the campus community as it continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With COVID-19 still consuming our thoughts and plans this semester, and the president working hard to recover, I’m asking every member of the Bonaventure community to support each other during this challenging time and to continue to keep our students’ needs at the forefront of everything we do – and, of course, to keep Dr. DePerro in your prayers,” Zimmer said. 

As of Tuesday, no further updates have been given on the president’s condition. Cards and well wishes for DePerro can be sent to the president’s office.  

UPDATE: Holmes named A-10 player of the week; Bonnies to play at Fordham on Wednesday after GW cancelation

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Whoever said the core of St. Bonaventure’s men’s basketball team was a “Big 3” must’ve forgotten about Jaren Holmes, who on Monday, was named the Atlantic 10’s ‘Player of the Week’.

The junior guard had a dominant performance in the Bonnies’ 83-57 win against Saint Joseph’s last Wednesday. 

Holmes shot 14-for-22 from the field for 38 points, along with 10 rebounds and three assists, against the Hawks. Eight of his 22 makes were from beyond the arc. Holmes attempted 12 three-pointers on his own in the game, a statistic made significant when considering that SBU, as a team, has only attempted an average of 18 three-pointers per game this season.  

Beyond the incredible shooting performance from Holmes on Wednesday, it was his ability to shift momentum that likely won him this honor. While the Bonnies started out slowly against the then 0-8 Hawks, only leading by four at halftime, Holmes took it upon himself to take over early in the second half. 

Holmes, on his own, went on a 9-2 run in just over three minutes, single-handedly stretching St. Bonaventure’s eight-point lead to 15.  Holmes was, in a word, unstoppable.

He’s second in the Atlantic 10 and tied for 34th in the country in three-point shooting percentage, hitting over 52% of his shots beyond the arc, and is ninth in the conference in overall shooting percentage.  

“We’re not playing great, but we have some veteran guys,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said on Tuesday. “Guys that really care. It’s a blessing that we have guys that know the system, because we haven’t practiced a ton.”

The Bonnies’ momentum for the week would stop on Wednesday, however, as Friday night brought the postponement of their scheduled game against George Washington, which was supposed to be played Saturday at noon in the Reilly Center. 

Per a statement from George Washington athletics, the Colonials had a positive test within their “Tier One” personnel, forcing the game to be rescheduled. 

Tier One personnel includes all team members who have “frequent close contact” with players, including coaches, medical staff, managers, and student-athletes themselves. No further information has been made available as to when the game will be played, or if it will be played at all. It is also unknown, as of Tuesday, who at GW tested positive. 

“We haven’t had a lot of practice time, especially going five on five, so we just try to get better in all our areas,” Schmidt said. “More chemistry; getting guys more reps. We had an extra day of practice and tried to improve because we aren’t near where we need to be.”

College basketball has had nationwide issues containing the COVID-19 pandemic this season, despite strict protocols put in place prior to the season. The A-10, however, has taken a beating at the hands of the virus. Ten of the league’s 14 schools have had to postpone and/or cancel men’s and/or women’s basketball games so far this season.  

“I don’t want to look at it as we’re the only team that’s going through this,” Schmidt said of the cancelations. “The team that we’re playing tomorrow (Fordham), I think they were quarantined for 46 days. Some people have had it worse, but you’ve got to take it one day at a time and can’t feel sorry for yourself.”

The Week Ahead 

While the virus prevents us from telling exactly what is ahead for this week, the Bonnies are scheduled to play at 1-3 Fordham on Wednesday at 2 p.m., before returning to the Reilly Center to play 3-3 Duquesne on Friday night at 7 p.m. The Bonnies’ game against the Dukes was moved from Saturday to Friday, to be the A-10’s national game that will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

Fordham’s schedule has looked similar to Bona’s this season, as a COVID-19 shutdown in late November derailed the Rams’ non-conference schedule to the point where they were left unable to play any games before A-10 play began. SBU played two conference games this season.

But for how little they’ve played this season, the Rams have been outscored by a collective 53 in the first half of their four games. In stark contrast, the Bonnies have outscored opponents by 30 points in the first half alone.  

“They’re struggling offensively, but that hasn’t affected their defense and hasn’t affected how hard they play,” Schmidt said. “These kids really play. They’re very good defensively. They take a zillion charges. They’re just hard-nosed kids. Blue collar kids that love to compete. They understand who they are and they play awfully hard.”

Chris Austin has averaged over 11 points per game for the Rams this season, while Joel Soriano has averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The Rams’ lone win of the season came on Jan. 5 at home against Dayton.

As for Duquesne, which is 2-2 in the conference right now, the Bonnies will have to contend against Marcus Weathers. The senior forward is shooting nearly 50% from the floor and averaging 13.2 points per game for the Dukes this season. He’ll face a St. Bonaventure defense that has held opponents to just 41% shooting. 

Those numbers are in no small part due to being ninth in the nation defending against the three, allowing opponents just under 26% shooting from beyond the arc. The good news for the Bonnies is that the Dukes are only shooting just under 29% from there this season.

“In this league or in any league, on any given day, anybody can win games,” Schmidt said. “We’re going down to Fordham understanding that that’s going to be a very difficult game, and hopefully we can play well enough to win by one. This is not an overlooked game.”