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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eagle men's hoop schedule moves a little closer to home

Posted by on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 4:42 PM

Eleven home games plus trips to UNC and N.C. State highlight this season's N.C. Central men's basketball schedule

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under new coach LeVelle Moton (pictured).

The Tar Heels and Wolfpack , which NCCU will face for the third straight season, are two of four ACC opponents along with Miami and Virginia Tech Moton's team will be facing this time.

Other familiar opponents will include High Point, Savannah State and Longwood - with whom the Eagles will have home-and-home sets for the third straight season - as well as a visit to Colgate to face the Red Raiders for the third straight year.

The Eagles have six games on the schedule against in-state opponents, as they will host N.C. Wesleyan on Nov. 18 and travel to East Carolina on Jan. 3.

There is also one MEAC opponent on the slate, as Maryland-Eastern Shore will visit McLendon-McDougald Gym.

The Nov. 11 game with the Tar Heels, which will be both teams' opener in the 2K Sports Classic Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer, will be shown live at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. The rest of the event will have the Eagles visiting Florida International for games against the host Golden Panthers as well as Murray State and James Madison.

The UNC contest is one of the Eagles' three scheduled TV games, as they will be on the Big Ten Network at Iowa on Nov. 28 at 12:35 p.m. and at Indiana on Dec. 19 at 8:30.

NCCU will also host the B.C. Powder Classic on Jan. 15-16, taking on Tennessee Temple and Apprentice with CIAA member Chowan as the de facto co-host.

The Eagles' other home opponents will be Carver Bible, Florida Gulf Coast, Western Illinois and Coastal Carolina.

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Q&A with Carolina Hurricanes' Jussi Jokinen

Posted by on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Jokinen hovers near his favorite stomping grounds in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semis last season. Photo by Peggy Boone, IndyWeek Blogs
  • Jokinen hovers near his favorite stomping grounds in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semis last season. Photo by Peggy Boone, IndyWeek Blogs

'Canes winger and newly-minted clutch playoff goal scorer Jussi Jokinen talked to the Indy last week about lofty expectations, creative song interpretations and how those embarrassing pictures you took so many years ago never seem to truly go away.

Hopefully there will be more where this came from later on this year. The 'Canes open their regular season this Friday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers and naturally, we will be there. Here's the preview I wrote for the Indy print edition.

Independent: First off, how was your summer? What kinds of things did you do?

Jussi Jokinen: About a month after the season ended, I had a minor shoulder surgery, so early June was spent rehabbing that. It’s always a long season to be away from your friends and family, so I was hanging out with them a lot of the time, just trying to forget about hockey for one month and just relax. In late June or early July I started my normal summer workout process. I was trying to have fun a little bit and get ready for the season.

After your performance in the playoffs, do you feel like the pressure is on you to produce more this year during the regular season?

It’s myself who has the highest expectations. I’m always putting lots of pressure on myself to contribute and help the team win. Obviously, with the last couple of months I had last season, that helped my confidence a lot. I know I can change games for this team and in this league. I’m anxious to get started, to get a few games in.

What was it like, the first time the national anthem started and you heard the crowd yell, “Oh, say can ‘JUSSI’?”

It was pretty cool. Standing there and you’re so focused on the game, and then you hear that and then you get even more pumped up for the game. I hope they keep doing that.

The NHL has a really long, tough schedule. Does it take a different mentality to go out there every night for 82 games when Martin Brodeur is not in the net and it’s not an elimination game?

It’s a rough schedule. The Olympics are this year, so it’s going to be even tighter. You play more games in a shorter period of time. But I think that’s what the players love to do – it’s one more week and then the fun begins again.

Just out of curiosity…what’s going on in this picture?

That’s my hometown soccer team. We got that team together in 2001—we were all like 17 or 18 years old. Someone came up with the design for that shirt. We’d play soccer every June in this huge tournament in my hometown. I have fun with my childhood friends—it’s a good time.

It looks like there’s water in the background.

There’s a sea right next to my hometown, so it’s pretty cool in the summertime.

Were you pleased when those pictures hit the Internet?

When we took those pictures, I didn’t think I was going to be playing in the NHL. I think I saw those pictures my rookie year in Dallas. During one morning skate, I had those pictures all over the locker room and the guys were making fun of me. But it’s all right.

Did you come up with any more shootout moves over the summer?

We’ll have to see.

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RailHawks' Daniel Paladini makes USL-1 first team, hopes to train overseas in off-season

Posted by on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 2:43 PM

Daniel Paladini, RailHawks midfielder, team MVP and now first-team all-USL-1 (Photo by Rich Bostwick)
  • Daniel Paladini, RailHawks midfielder, team MVP and now first-team all-USL-1 (Photo by Rich Bostwick)

The RailHawks' stellar midfielder Daniel Paladini was named to the All-League USL First Division's first team, the USL announced today.

Yesterday, the RailHawks' defender Mark Schulte was named to the second team.

Here's the complete first team:

  • GK: Steve Cronin (Portland Timbers)
  • D: Nelson Akwari (Charleston Battery)
  • D: Cristian Arrieta (Puerto Rico Islanders)
  • D: Matt Bobo (Charleston Battery)
  • D: David Hayes (Portland Timbers)
  • M: Daniel Paladini (Carolina RailHawks)
  • M: Ryan Pore (Portland Timbers)
  • M: Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota Thunder)
  • F: Charles Gbeke (Vancouver Whitecaps)
  • F: Mandjou Keita (Portland Timbers)
  • F: Johnny Menyongar (Rochester Rhinos)

Last night, I posted a forecast of this first team. I got eight (or maybe 7.5) of 11 correct, including the 4-3-3 formation, but my three misses were all RailHawks-related: Cronin was named, not Caleb Patterson-Sewell; two Charleston Battery defenders were named instead of one-plus-Jeremy Tolleson; and finally, Paladini instead of Gregory Richardson. No complaints on the last one—Richardson put up juicier numbers and would have been a league POY candidate had he been in Cary for a full 30 games, but Paladini was the man in the middle all season long and was voted most valuable RailHawk by his teammates.

After Sunday's season-ending draw versus Vancouver, I spoke to both honorees about their off-seasons plans. Paladini said he hopes to do some training overseas while Schulte dropped a hint about considering retirement. Congratulations to both, and let's look forward to having them back in orange next spring.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RailHawks' Schulte named to USL 2nd team; handicapping the 1st team (how many RailHawks?)

Posted by on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 8:36 PM

The RailHawks' bruising captain Mark Schulte played 2,500 minutes in 28 league games, leading one of the the league's two best defenses. (photo by Rich Bostwick)
  • The RailHawks' bruising captain Mark Schulte played 2,500 minutes in 28 league games, leading one of the the league's two best defenses. (photo by Rich Bostwick)

Mark Schulte, the RailHawks' workhorse of a center back and team captain, was named to the all-USL-1 second team today.

Schulte, who was a two-time defender of the year in the USL-2 while playing under coach Martin Rennie at Cleveland—before both decamped for Cary—led a defense that conceded only 19 goals, good for best in the league along with first-place Portland.

Here's the USL-1 First Division Second Team:

  • GK: Bill Gaudette (Puerto Rico Islanders)
  • D: Stephen deRoux (Montreal Impact)
  • D: Cameron Knowles (Portland Timbers)
  • D: John Krause (Puerto Rico Islanders)
  • D: Mark Schulte (Carolina RailHawks)
  • M: Martin Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps)
  • M: Lawrence Olum (Minnesota Thunder)
  • M: Jonathan Steele (Puerto Rico Islanders)
  • M: David Testo (Montreal Impact)
  • F: Marlon James (Vancouver Whitecaps)
  • F: Eddie Johnson (Austin Aztex)

Tomorrow, the first-teamers will be named. Will any RailHawks make it? Let's look at the field:

  • Goalkeeper: We meekly pointed out a couple weeks ago that the RailHawks' tandem of Eric Reed and Caleb Patterson-Sewell combined for a league-leading 17 shutouts. Meanwhile, a USL tip sheet of sorts didn't even include them, favoring Gaudette, Charleston's Dusty Hudock and Portland's Steve Cronin.  However, we're going to predict an upset here: Caleb Patterson-Sewell is ranked third in the league with 10 clean sheets despite playing only 15 games, and he's second in the league with a .533 goals-against average. It's true that Hudock has 12 shutouts and a staggering .279 GAA in only 18 games of an injury-shortened season, but Patterson-Sewell might get a boost as a new, young face—he's 22, while Hudock is a 37-year-old veteran and the holder of many prior awards. 

  • Defender: The locks are Puerto Rico's Cristian Arrieta, but for his offense—10 goals—and Portland's David Hayes, for leading the league's other top defense. Who gets the third spot? It's got to be someone from Charleston, the third side that decisively out-defended the rest of the league along with Portland and Carolina. It should be Frankie Sanfilippo or Matt Bobo. What about the fourth spot? We think it should be Carolina's Jeremy Tolleson, voted defensive player of the year on the league's co-best defensive side.
  • Midfielder: The locks are Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota) and Ryan Pore (Portland). Given that there are three shoo-ins at forward, and assuming that this All-League team will be restricted to 11 players, we're going to guess that they'll settle on a 4-3-3 formation. So, one more midfielder in a league full of good ones. We think it's going to be Carolina's Gregory Richardson. Why? He's ranked 12th in the league in points, despite playing only 12 games; furthermore, the only two true midfielders ahead of him in points are Sanchez and Pore. Is Richardson really a midfielder? Well, in Martin Rennie's 4-5-1 he is.
  • Forward: There are three that have a strong claim, and none are RailHawks: Eleven-goal scorers Mandjou Keita (Portland) and Johnny Menyongar (Rochester), and 12-goal scorer Charles Gbeke (Vancouver).

Player of the Year: Keita. With 29 points from 11 goals and seven assists, he led the league, and the league's best team.

Coach of the Year: Portland's Gavin Wilkinson. After finishing in last place last year, he presided over an overhaul and led the Timbers to a dominating run to first place. Carolina's Rennie is the other obvious candidate, rebuilding the RailHawks and finishing second in his first season in the league, but this is Wilkinson's year.

Tune in tomorrow for the announcement of the real USL First Division First Team and other awards.

And congratulations to Mark Schulte, a real warrior.

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Eagle-Aggie "Classic" may be good way for NCCU to right the ship

Posted by on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 7:25 PM

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PEARSON CAFETERIA/DURHAM N.C. Central looks to be in a pretty deep hole right now.

The Eagles, in their third football season of the five-year transition from NCAA Division II to Division I (Championship Subdivision), are carrying an 0-4 record that with a couple of better bounces might be 2-2.

And they're coming off an emotional 49-14 loss in the "Bull City Gridiron Classic," NCCU's first game against Duke in which the Eagles fought hard and made the first half exciting but didn't have enough manpower to hang with the established Division I (Bowl Subdivision) Blue Devils.

But maybe there's nothing better than one of those "throw out the records" games with an historic multiple arch-rival to get the engines started again.

On Saturday at 6 p.m., Mose Rison (pictured) and his team will visit Aggie Stadium in Greensboro to take on North Carolina A&T (2-2), a former CIAA and MEAC rival since the leather-helmet days that will be an MEAC rival once again next season. And these people just plain don't like each other's logos. The rivalry has to at least be in the conversation as the nastiest in North Carolina.

A&T leads the series 45-30-5, but most of that dominance came in the 1990s. Other than that the series - which has been variously called the "Aggie-Eagle Classic," or the "Turkey Day Classic" back in the old days when hundreds of arch-rival college teams faced off on Thanksgiving Day - has been pretty even.

Continue reading…

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Duke may face season's biggest challenge Saturday against Va. Tech

Posted by on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 6:29 PM

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WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM It's pretty easy for Duke football folks to be feeling pretty good about themselves right now.

The Blue Devils are 2-2 at the end of their non-conference portion of the schedule, and are coming off a 49-14 victory in their spirited new cross-town rivalry with N.C. Central in which Coach David Cutcliffe said his team might have taken some things up a notch - at least at times.

"Coming off the game we're still looking for consistency," Cutcliffe (pictured) said at his regular weekly press luncheon at the Brooks Football Building. "It was kind of three games. It was a 21-0 game, and then it was a 0-14 game and then it was a 35-0 game. We kind of showed in that regard what we're capable of doing if we can put that consistently together."

Yes, the Blue Devils definitely delivered a knockout punch in the rain against a scrappy and inspired but still outmanned opponent.

But the next assignment is going to get a lot tougher.

On Saturday at noon ACC favorite Virginia Tech (3-1) will visit Wade, sporting a No. 6 national ranking and an eight-game winning streak against the Blue Devils. It's the first true road game for the Hokies, who ripped then-No. 8 Miami 31-7 on Saturday before eking out a 16-15 win over Nebraska the week before.

There is one thing on the positive side for Duke, and that was the success the Blue Devils had last season in Blacksburg as they shed their reputation as the conference doormat. The Hokies won that game 14-3, but needed a 23-yard interception return from Victor Harris to get a knockout punch.

Continue reading…

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UNC Tuesday Tour: The 'At least UNC doesn't face the option again' edition

Posted by on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:46 PM

It wasn't a good weekend for Chapel Hillians.

First, Georgia Tech exposed UNC in what could have been a coming out party for Butch Davis and the talented defense.  Second, rivals N.C. State and Duke won important games -- with State's boosting them back into the national spotlight.  And now, the entire state's main hope in national football prominence -- the Panthers -- fell to 0-3 in embarrassing fashion on Monday Night Football.

The good news is that Virginia and then Georgia Southern visit Kenan in what should be easy wins, right?

  • For some odd reason, Davis is impressed by Al Groh's Cavaliers, who started the season 0-3 before entering a bye week while the Heels were manhandled in Atlanta, the N&O's ACC Now reports.
  • In the aftermath of the loss to the Yellow Jackets, Davis said the depth chart will remain in tact, according to the Charlotte Observer.  I think it's too early to be talking about benching players considering the expectations for Georgia Tech.  Now if Virginia pulls something similar in Chapel Hill ... then Davis should think about implementing changes.
  • The Tar Heels actually gained two spots in the ACCSports.com power rankings and even stayed ahead of the Wolfpack -- obviously a conspiracy by UNC's journalism school.
  • Groh spent the weekend on the couch watching football -- mostly the UNC-Tech game, the Washington Post reports. Why do I get the feeling that Groh might get the ax if UNC embarrasses the Cavaliers?  It would be quite a turnaround considering John Bunting was fired after Virginia shut out the Heels 23-0 back in 2006.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

RailHawks' season ends; Rennie: "We have the nucleus of a good team... we can make it stronger."

Posted by on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 8:10 AM

RailHawks midfielder Joseph Kabwe plays the ball as Ansu Toure defends. (photo by Rich Bostwick)
  • RailHawks midfielder Joseph Kabwe plays the ball as Ansu Toure defends. (photo by Rich Bostwick)

WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Bummer. It was a lovely evening for soccer, sunny and mild in early fall. Just as it's a little early for the leaves to change color and drop from the trees, it was a little early for the RailHawks' remarkable season to end.

But end it did, as an exhausted and increasingly desperate squad failed to put the ball in the net against the seventh-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps, finishing with a nil-nil draw. The RailHawks needed a 1-0 victory just to get to penalty kicks, but the Cary XI closed their season by failing to score in 180 minutes and two home-and-home legs against a bigger and more experienced, playoff-hardened Vancouver side.

By the end, the RailHawks were in a 4-4-2 and throwing everyone forward. "We had chances in the first half and didn't take them," coach Martin Rennie said. "It made it a little more difficult. We started to go more direct.

"When you go more direct, you need the ball to bounce your way and it didn't—which usually isn't the way we play," Rennie said. "We're usually much more thought-through, much more precise. But once we weren't getting the goal, I think maybe we began to panic a little bit, which made it more difficult to break them down."

"You've got to credit Vancouver," center back and captain Mark Schulte said. "They knew what they had to do: They had to shut us down—they sat in [on us]."

In truth, the RailHawks showed little of the squad that scored 43 goals in USL-1 league play. They launched 12 shots, but  Whitecaps keeper Jay Nolly only needed to make four saves.

It was one save in particular that would prove to put the kibosh on the season.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bull City Gridiron Classic: Slideshow

Posted by on Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 7:48 PM

Here's a slideshow from the inaugural Bull City Gridiron Classic.

Score:

Duke University: 49

NCCU: 14

You can read the post-game story by clicking here.

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Bull City Gridiron "Classic?" Absolutely. Let's do that again soon!

Posted by on Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 4:31 PM

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The weather was a big challenge for everyone in the house, and the game turned into a blowout in the fourth quarter.

Still, the first "Bull City Gridiron Classic" on Saturday night at Wallace Wade Stadium was an unqualified success.

On the field, Duke whipped N.C. Central 49-14 in the schools' first-ever meeting on the football field. Yes, the score showed that David Cutcliffe's Blue Devils - who have been playing at the top level of college football ever since just after World War I while the Eagles are still in transition from Division II to Division I (Championship Subdivision) - were the superior team in the game, they were clearly supposed to be.

It's just part of the reality of college football that Division I (Bowl Subdivision) squads are going to host FCS teams and almost always be favored. But while Mose Rison's Eagles didn't come close to an upset victory, they were far from being humiliated.

When Jeffery Henderson returned an interception 83 yards for an NCCU touchdown to make it 21-14 after Duke had begun the contest with three easy scoring drives, the crowd of over 26,000 could see there was a real football game in progress.

Everyone will move on now, as both teams have huge games on Saturday.

Continue reading…

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