NEC SAAC Alumni Series: Golfer’s Undergraduate Opportunity Sparks Career in Collegiate Athletics

Lauren Chapman (far right next to head coach Rob Warren) was a member of four NEC championship teams.

 

Lauren Chapman’s Northeast Conference career has come full circle with a little help from the NEC Student Academic Advisory Committee (SAAC).

It began as a student-athlete in Hackensack, where she helped Fairleigh Dickinson to four consecutive NEC women’s golf team titles.

During her playing days, Chapman was an instrumental leader off the course. She served as the Vice President of FDU’s SAAC for three years before taking over as the Chair of the NEC SAAC, a position that saw her represent the conference on a national level at NCAA Division I SAAC events.

There’s little doubt that those experiences are helping Chapman in her current role. In the Summer of 2016, she was hired as the Academic Coordinator for Student-Athletes at Bryant University, a position she still holds.

“Lauren was super involved in her time as a student athlete and that was certainly one of the pros of hiring her,” said Bryant Senior Associate Athletic Director and SWA Beth Wandyes.  “She has that real sense that people who hadn’t participated in high level college athletics would have, and that helps her have instant credibility with her athletes.”

Wandyes also acknowledged how the student-athletes appreciate Chapman’s work ethic outside of her office as well, where she constantly attends athletic events and serves as an advisor on several international trips.

“I think the biggest importance of SAAC is that it gives student athletes a voice,” Chapman said.  “You have [administrators] saying what they think will be better, but at the end of the day they aren’t the ones that are experiencing it.”

During her time as a FDU student-athlete, Chapman helped orchestrate important changes. One signature accomplishment was a successful campaign that granted priority registration to student-athletes when choosing classes.

“Being able to understand the people on campus and what their true experiences are is what’s most important because from there is where you can make changes that make sense and actually matter,” she explained.

Her passion for giving student athletes a voice all started with a program the FDU Athletic Department instituted that paired incoming freshman athletes with senior SAAC members.

“I went to that as a freshman and thought it was the coolest thing ever and I was like, ‘I want to be a mentor some day, this is really cool.’ I didn’t really correlate that with SAAC but obviously ended up finding that out eventually.”

However, it wasn’t until she first attended an NEC SAAC meeting that she fully realized what the committee is all about, and what ultimately led her to down a career path in college athletics.

“No one else really raised their hand so I was like, ‘I’ll go!’ And I think that’s where I was able to see the bigger picture. It’s more than just my sport on my campus. This is happening everywhere (around the league).”

From there, Chapman remained heavily involved with the FDU SAAC throughout her time in college before eventually ascending to the NEC SAAC Chair.

“There’s so much you can learn from being a SAAC rep,” Chapman argued. “Whether you want to stay in college athletics long term or not, you have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and be able to network and meet people from all over the country. [NEC Commissioner] Noreen [Morris] is someone I see and can say hi and reminisce about when I was in college. And those are some of the nice connections and relationships that you can build.”

Following graduation from FDU in 2011, she earned her Master’s Degree in Sport Administration at Belmont University where also taught in the Sport Science Department and served as a compliance intern in the athletic department.

After completing her course work at Belmont in 2013, she accepted a post-graduate intern position within NCAA Governance in Indianapolis.

“The position with the NCAA is really how I ended up to where I am now because that was really seen full circle how college athletics work, and realizing that it’s more than just practicing, going to class, and playing in a tournament,” she said.

FDU head golf coach Rob Warren didn’t seem surprised that Chapman’s leadership abilities have resulted in post-graduate success.

“She was a big part of the program’s success and her gregarious personality carried over off the course as well,” Warren said.  “She was always involved around campus and always approachable. I’m proud to call her a true Knight for life.”

Being a Knight for life is a bit complicated now that she works at conference rival Bryant, but, thankfully, the Bulldogs have a women’s golf team so she can still root for her Knights at the NEC Championship.

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Written by Tanner Swan (@tannerRswan)

Women-In-Sports Wednesday: When It Comes to NEC Bowling, Jones Has Seen It All

In the beginning, there was Kayla Jones.

The Keystone State product starred as a freshman for Kutztown during the 2008-09 season, the year that the NEC began sponsoring bowling as a championship sport.

Jones won the inaugural NEC Rookie of the Year award and went on to enjoy a decorated collegiate career that also included multiple All-America selections and a 2011 NCAA Championship berth.

Now, with the 2017-18 collegiate bowling season slated to start this month, Jones hasn’t left the NEC. The former student-athlete has spent the last five years as LIU Brooklyn’s head coach.

Under her leadership, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds have emerged as a conference title contender and have seen their national profile rise to new heights.

As a rookie head coach, Jones earned the 2013 NEC Coach of the Year award after guiding the Blackbirds to a 17-10 record in conference match play. In the four seasons prior to her arrival, LIU accounted for a combined .244 win percentage in NEC contests.

During the 2015-16 campaign, LIU Brooklyn attained its highest-ever ranking (10th) in the NTCA Top 25 Poll for the first time ever and went on to advance to the NEC Championship Match for the first time.

As the NEC and Jones begin their tenth season of collegiate bowling, LIU Brooklyn is again ranked amongst the top teams in America. The Blackbirds came in at No. 16 when the NTCA released the preseason edition of its monthly top-25 rankings.

The Blackbirds have also fared well in the classroom with Jones at the helm. The team owned the third-highest grade-point average amongst all NCAA bowling programs at the conclusion of the 2016-17 academic year.

Academic success is something that has followed Jones since her days as a student-athlete. At Kutztown, she earned multiple selections to the NTCA All-Academic Team, which requires of its members a minimum 3.40 GPA.

The Blackbirds will begin the 2017-18 season at the place where their head coach’s college career began.

LIU Brooklyn will contest the two-day Bud Whitman Memorial, which is hosted by Kutztown, Jones’ alma mater. The Blackbirds will be one of five NEC teams competing at Berks Lanes in Reading, PA on October 14-15.

 

Women-In-Sports Wednesday: Former CCSU Hurler Adds to Fordham’s Winning Tradition

When it comes to winning conference championships, Laura Messina and Fordham softball are a perfect fit.

Messina, a two-time NEC softball champion (2013, 2015) during her days as the ace of Central Connecticut’s pitching staff, has received an opportunity to continue her career in Division I softball as an assistant coach for the five-time defending Atlantic 10 champion Fordham Rams.

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Women-In-Sports Wednesday: Two-time #NECWBB Champion Chasing Another Title in Portugal

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Callan Taylor (above in the red jersey) handles the ball during a 2009 NCAA Tournament game at Ohio State. The former Sacred Heart star has continued her playing career overseas.

 

Callan Taylor earned her fair share of accolades during her days in the Northeast Conference.

Nearly four years removed from graduation, the former Sacred Heart star continues to collect honors while competing in the professional ranks.

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Women-In-Sports Wednesday: Former Blackbird Still Active In The Game

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Angelika (Stec) Szumilo was a key piece to LIU Brooklyn’s NEC championship puzzle in 2001.

It’s the story of a foreign-born junior college point guard who found her way to the Big Dance, twice.

Angelika Szumilo’s collegiate basketball career began at Mercer County College in New Jersey where she led the Vikings to back-to-back Region XIX titles.

After earning the NJCAA Region XIX Player of the Year award in 2000, Szumilo, who was then known as Angelika Stec, found her way to Downtown Brooklyn where first-year head coach Tony Bozzella was attempting to turn a scrappy, talented bunch into winners.

Bozzella inherited a LIU Brooklyn team that had building blocks in place with Tamika Dudley, an imposing post player, and Kim MacMillan, a dynamic scorer, set for their sophomore seasons. It is difficult to mold a championship team without a reliable point guard, though, and fortunately for Bozzella, he found one in Szumilo.

With the Polish-born junior college transfer running the point, the Blackbirds took off come NEC Tournament time and captured the program’s first-ever trip to the Big Dance.

Szumilo averaged 8.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists during the 2000-01 season and her 136 helpers ranked second-most in LIU single-season history at the time. Szumilo averaged 13.7 points per game over three contests during the 2001 NEC Tournament and was named to the all-tournament team. She almost single-handedly took over the final against Mount St. Mary’s, scoring a then career-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting with eight rebounds, playing all 40 minutes in Long Island’s 70-61 victory

Szumilo earned NEC All-Tournament honors again in 2002, but the Blackbirds finished one win shy of a championship repeat.

Although her playing eligibility was expended, Szumilo’s career at LIU was far from over.

When Stephanie Gaitley took over the head coaching position for the 2002-03 season, Szumilo was named to the staff as an assistant. She remained at LIU for five seasons, assisting Gaitley during back-to-back 20-win campaigns (2006-07; 2007-08) and a Postseason WNIT appearance (2006-07), the first in program history.

She moved onto Monmouth with Gaitley, helping the Hawks to their first-ever Postseason WNIT berth in 2011.

For the past four-plus seasons, Szumilo has served as the associate head coach alongside Gaitley at Atlantic 10 member Fordham.

Angelika Szumilo, a former two-time NEC All-Tournament selection, is in her fifth season as the associate head for Fordham.

Angelika Szumilo, a former two-time NEC All-Tournament selection, is in her fifth season as the associate head for Fordham.

The Rams have enjoyed unprecedented success, including three consecutive 20-win campaigns, under their current leadership.

In 2014, thirteen years after Szumilo and the Blackbirds captured the NEC crown, Fordham secured its first-ever A-10 Tournament title.

She did it in Brooklyn as a player and in the Bronx as a coach.

Angelika (Stec) Szumilo has carved out quite a career for herself in the New York City college  hoops scene.

Women-In-Sports Wednesday: Decorated Colonial Crosses Delaware for New Opportunity

Jaci Tinko (above), the 2012 NEC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, has landed a Division I head coaching gig.

Jaci Tinko (above), the 2012 NEC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, has landed a Division I head coaching gig.

Don Harnum became known in Northeast Conference circles more than two decades ago for his role as a men’s basketball assistant coach.

Now an athletic director at Rider University in New Jersey, it appears that Harnum has just hit a home run.

Earlier this month, Harnum announced the hiring of Jaclyn Timko as the University’s new softball head coach.

In Timko, Rider welcomes a leader who embodied the true meaning of student-athlete during her days as an outfielder for NEC member Robert Morris.

The three-time all-NEC outfielder set the RMU career records for batting average (.359) and runs scored (130). She is one of only two Colonials ever to accumulate at least 200 hits during her collegiate playing days.

Timko’s accomplishments go far beyond on-field performance. In 2012, her combination of athletic and academic prowess landed her the NEC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. Timko majored in Applied Psychology and graduated RMU with a 3.69 grade point average.