Author: skyler

Van Dyke: An unsung hero from the outside, ‘just a hero’ within

Originally published in The Statesman

When Inside Lacrosse and US Lacrosse Magazine released their NCAA previews before the 2017 season, two Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse players — attacks senior Courtney Murphy and junior Kylie Ohlmiller — were blazoned on the cover, and unmistakably so.

Murphy set the NCAA single-season goals record, with 100, while Ohlmiller ranked fifth in the nation in points and was twice highlighted on ESPN’s “Top-10 Plays” for her flashy style.

But within the team, while the attention is an incredible feeling — “every little girl’s dream,” as Ohlmiller put it — it is perhaps a tinge sour that senior midfielder Dorrien Van Dyke does not share the spotlight.

“Murph might have some numbers, I might have some numbers,” Ohlmiller said. “But Dorr has some numbers too… and her work between the 30s, getting the ball back for us, she really doesn’t get the respect that she deserves. If it was up to me, our whole entire team would be on the cover of the lacrosse magazines.”

Van Dyke has been a three-time America East first-team all-conference player, and entered the year ranked sixth among all active NCAA players with 144 career goals. For her to be flying under the radar, as she has, borders on the absurd.

“I think Dorr, from the outside, is an unsung hero,” head coach Joe Spallina said. “To me, she’s just a hero. I think she just does so much for us.”

The senior from Northport is listed on the roster as 6-feet-tall, the tallest player on the Seawolves roster, but she moves on the field with the grace and agility of someone several inches shorter, creating matchup problems for opposing defenses.

“When you see Dorrien running down the field, with that kind of speed and size,” Spallina said. “That’s a lot for a defense to handle… She’s one of the best midfielders in the country, no doubt in my mind.”

Van Dyke’s versatility across the field sets her apart from her offensive peers. As a two-way midfielder, she plays in all three zones of the field and can have an impact on the game in a number of ways, particularly by gaining possession of ground balls and draw controls.

“For Murph and I, our job is just to put the ball in the back of the net,” Ohlmiller said. “We only have so many things we need to do. But Dorr has to do stuff all over the field. She’s a great leader, and if she’s off in one aspect of her game, she makes up for it in all the other aspects.”

Off the field, Spallina raved about the type of person Van Dyke is: a team captain, a great student, an ambassador for Stony Brook Athletics.

“She’s the type of girl that will stop by my office, just to hang out and talk,” he said.

But on the field, she’s a physical mismatch and adept in all trades of the craft, vital to the success of her team, even if her name is not distributed on thousands of laminated headlines.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Van Dyke said of the national feature stories about her teammates. “I’m just happy that it gets Stony Brook’s name out there. That’s so important. Little girls are looking at these magazines, they see Murph and Kylie, and think, ‘I want to go to Stony Brook.’”

Rutgers cancels trip to Mecca despite executive ban appeal

Originally published at The Long Islander

The Center of Islamic Life at Rutgers University has cancelled an upcoming hajj, citing airport discrimination anxieties despite a federal appeals court refusing to reinstate President Trump’s executive travel ban.

The cancellation of the hajj to Mecca on March 11, considered a mandatory religious duty for any Muslim to carry out at least once in his or her life, is indicative of a greater trend among universities throughout the Tri-State Area. The schools are promoting cautious travel policy and citizens from the seven potentially banned nations have expressed travel timidity due to ambiguous status, as expressed by a number of university chaplains and students in the Greater New York Area.

“I don’t want to put students through an interrogation myself,” Kaiser Aslam, Rutgers’ Muslim Chaplain said. “I’ve been in one for six hours in previous years. We don’t want to put students through that and we’re not sure how they would react to it, so it’s causing us to halt our travel plans and our programming.”

He estimates that 200 to 300 Rutgers students have expressed general fears of prejudice at jama’ah, an Islamic congregational prayer. These anxieties played a part in the trip’s indefinite postponing.

“Honestly it’s leading to a cultural phenomenon where students are just giving up their travel plans because they don’t know what is going to happen,” Aslam said.

At least one Rutgers student studying abroad was barred from reentering the United States, although no specific names were disclosed due to ongoing legal proceedings and in order to preserve the wishes of the impacted student(s), Aslam and Yasmin Ramadan, former president of Rutgers’ Muslim Public Relations Council, confirmed.

Some schools, including Yale University, are recommending that students from nations who would be debarred if the executive order stands preclude themselves from any travel outside the United States.

“We have received a lot of personal e-mails from the dean and the president of the university and everything,” Mohamed Osman, a sophomore chemistry major at Yale and a Sudanese citizen, said. “They have been in very close contact with us, letting us know what’s going on.”

Osman attended high school at an English-speaking international high school in Khartoum, and struggles with the possibility that students there now — including his younger brother Khalid, now a high school junior — would not have the same opportunity he had: to attend an American university.

“The director of the school recommended that you don’t plan on going to the U.S.,” Osman said. “It is true that a lot of the people this year are not going to have the opportunities that I got two years ago, which is really sad in my opinion.”

Osman is the only member of his family that lives in the United States, and acknowledged that the ban would prevent him from seeing his relatives, either during the upcoming spring break or in the case of an emergency.

For Stony Brook sophomore Niloofar Sima, this anxiety has become a reality. Sima, who grew up in Mashhad, Iran, moved to the U.S. at age 14 with her immediate family, but all of her extended family still lives in the Middle East, including her grandparents, who helped raise her and her sister.

“[My mom] called me yesterday to tell me that my grandma is in the hospital,” Sima said. “And she was crying. She was like, ‘I don’t even care. I’m gonna go regardless. It’s my mother.’ I told her you going there is not going to change a thing. Whatever happens to her still happens.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Feb. 9 in a 3-0 decision not to reinstate the order. The future of the case remains up in the air.

A group of 17 prominent higher education institutions, including all eight Ivy League colleges, co-authored an amicus briefing Feb. 13 in support of the plaintiffs of a district court case relevant to the ban, Columbia University Assistant Chaplain Mouhamadou Diagne confirmed.

“The uncertainty generated by the Order and its implementation is already having negative impacts well beyond persons from the seven affected countries. People from all over the world are understandably anxious about having their visas prematurely canceled through no fault of their own,” the 33-page briefing stated. “Comments by high-ranking Executive Branch officials have suggested that the Order could be extended to other countries, heightening institutional anxiety.”

The president tweeted on Thursday, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” insinuating that he would appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but White House officials later said that rewording and reissuing the initial executive order is also an option.

Vermont edges Stony Brook in America East title rematch

Originally published in The Statesman

Only one player seemed able to shoot the three-pointer at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Saturday night. Luckily for the Vermont Catamounts, that player was theirs.

Ernie Duncan, Vermont’s redshirt sophomore guard, made six three-pointers in the team’s 74-67 win over Stony Brook. The Catamounts redeemed themselves against the team that handed them a loss in the America East Championship last season and maintained a perfect 8-0 record in 2017 conference play.

The Seawolves trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, but crawled their way back to a 50-50 tie with 11:02 left to play in the game.

An erratic performance behind the three-point line plagued Stony Brook down the stretch; the team’s 2-for-19 shooting from beyond the arc was its worst showing in the discipline all season.

“We knew watching the tape that, the way they play defense, we could get open shots,” Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals said. “Out of those 19 shots, I’d probably take 14 of them again. They were wide open looks.”

Duncan totaled 22 points for the Catamounts in the game. His fifth three-pointer, with 2:24 remaining in the first half, gave his team a 39-22 lead. But the Seawolves showed resilience in a measuring-stick game against the conference favorites.

Senior guard Lucas Woodhouse rattled in a double-pump fadeaway jumper at the first-half buzzer to cap an 8-0 run and cut the score to 39-30. The point guard was stellar throughout the contest, recording 22 points and five assists, without committing a turnover.

“He’s got the ultimate green light,” Boals said. “I don’t know what’s greener than green. … I tell him, ‘Just throw them up there — they’ll go in.’ When he’s aggressive we’re a completely different team. I thought in the first half he was passing shots up, which I think hurt us, but he’s just not a selfish type of kid.”

It was during a second Stony Brook run — a 15-2 span early in the second half — that Boals himself waved to pump up the crowd, and it obliged. Fueled by offensive rebounds and seven points by Woodhouse, the Seawolves made the score 50-50.

The Seawolves had 12 offensive rebounds in the game, with junior center Jakub Petras and junior forward Junior Saintel grabbing four and two, respectively.

“Jake’s just a high energy guy,” Boals said. “He’s really figured out what his role is, accepted his role and is really playing out his role very well.”

But just as the Seawolves approached the precipice of a scoreboard advantage, the rim turned against them. Freshman forward Akwasi Yeboah missed six of his seven three-point attempts and junior guard Bryan Sekunda, who entered as the team’s No. 2 shooter (behind Woodhouse), missed all three of his tries.

“It was just an off night,” Woodhouse said. “They’re a good defensive team, but for us to shoot that bad. … I don’t think we’ll shoot that bad [against them] again.”

Stony Brook was still within two points with two minutes to play in the game, but Vermont freshman forward Anthony Lamb scored a layup to put Vermont up four. On the next Catamounts possession, Saintel committed an ill-advised foul while trying to jump a passing lane, allowing Duncan to shoot a pair of free-throws to put his team up six and seal the Seawolves’ fate.

Stony Brook will play a home game against New Hampshire on Wednesday in a crucial America East conference matchup. The Seawolves are the league’s second place team with a 6-2 record, while the Wildcats lag slightly behind in third, with a 5-3 record, meaning the game has significant seeding implications.

Stony Brook beat New Hampshire, 59-56, in the teams’ first meeting in the Granite State on Jan. 5.

“I told our guys, ‘You’re 6-and-2. You’ve won six games. Everyone’s going to come at you now,’” Boals said. “We’re no longer the preseason number seven pick. We’re the number two team in the conference. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”

Stanley discusses Stony Brook’s diversity plans at town hall

Originally published at The Statesman

President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. vowed to make Stony Brook University a center for diversity and inclusivity on Wednesday afternoon, when he and eight other panelists presented the university’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Initiative.

“I don’t need to tell you that these are troubling times right now,” Stanley said to a crowd of about 500 at a town hall meeting in the Charles B. Wang Center. “Many people have concerns. I think it’s more important than ever that Stony Brook University be a place where we value all members of our community.”

Throughout the hour-long session, the panel stressed that not all discrimination is conscious and that efforts are underway to make the university faculty and community aware of implicit bias.

Robbye Kinkade, an African-American professor of health science, serves as the director for the Responding to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, or REDI, Project. The initiative educates the staff about implicit bias and provides the opportunity to take part in periodic diversity seminars.

“We are trying to broaden our definition of diversity,” Kinkade said. “It’s not just about race and ethnicity. It includes gender identity, sexual orientation, military status and so on.”

Stony Brook is looking to broaden its diversity, particularly among African American students, Stanley said. The percentage of black students at the university has decreased from 8.8 percent of the student body in 2005 to 6.5 percent in 2015.

The school will increase its efforts to encourage black students to attend Stony Brook, with outreach programs at regional high schools, especially in the Bronx and Brooklyn, Stanley said.

The initiative also seeks an increase in underrepresented faculty, to establish a culture in which “Stony Brook is the place to be,” for prospective employees, said Stella Tsirka, Ph.D., the co-chair of the initiative’s Faculty Working Group.

“We need to establish Stony Brook as a welcoming hub for underrepresented professionals,” Tsirka said. “A good way to do that is to establish workshops nationally … annually or biannually.”

The university has allocated between $750,000 and $1 million in funding for the diversity initiative, Stanley said. The president added that Stony Brook has created the new administrative position of chief diversity officer. A search to fill the position is underway.

At the undergraduate level, five subcommittees have been created as part of the initiative, Timothy Ecklund, Ph.D., dean of students, said. The committees are Recruitment and Admissions; Student Engagement, Involvement and Retention; Curriculum; Training; and Campus Climate.

The proposed programs Ecklund spoke about include a one-hour orientation course on diversity and gender for incoming students and the implementation of programs for international, non-English speaking students to aid with the acclimation process.

The forum featured two student speakers — senior Dwayne Moore and junior Sydney Gaglio — who spoke on behalf of the undergraduate body.

“The thing that really hits me deep in my heart was that it’s not just about diversity, but about inclusiveness,” Moore, the president of the Black Student Union on campus, said.

“It’s making sure that if you’re a woman who’s black and identifies as LGBTQ, and your major is dominated by white men, that you don’t feel different,” he continued. “You have to feel like you have the support of your staff, your classmates and your university to push you forward in your endeavors.”

At the event’s conclusion, during a Q&A session, an audience member asked Stanley specifically about President-elect Donald Trump and the discriminatory rhetoric that has come from some of his supporters.

“What we’re doing now has never been more important,” Stanley replied. “In a world that seems to be retreating in ideals more than ever, it is important that Stony Brook University stands — stands for what is right.”

Temple outclasses Stony Brook, wins in blowout

Originally published in The Statesman

After being competitive with Football Bowl Subdivision opponents in recent seasons, Stony Brook failed to seriously challenge Temple on Saturday afternoon, falling 38-0 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Owls, who were runners-up in the American Athletic Conference in 2015, found the end zone early and often against the Seawolves.

The two teams traded punts to open the game, then Temple redshirt freshman wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson took the ball on a reverse play and ran 36 yards along the left sideline. Two plays later, sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead punched in a 3-yard carry to give the Owls a 7-0 lead.

Stony Brook failed to record a first down on the following drive — the first of six consecutive possessions without moving the chains — and Temple responded by marching down the field, where senior quarterback Phillip Walker found redshirt junior Keith Kirkwood on a 5-yard pass into the endzone. The touchdown, the first of Walker’s three and the first of Kirkwood’s two, put Temple in the lead, 14-0.

By the end of the first half, the lead had grown to 28-0, while the announced crowd of 22,296 had diminished substantially. The 93-degree heat was one factor, but the game’s lopsidedness seemed to be the main deterrent.

Stony Brook’s offense ended the day with seven first downs, nine punts and no points. Its 133 yards is the fewest for the program in recent memory.

“Their defense played a great game. We didn’t. That’s what happened,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Carbone said.

Carbone threw a pair of interceptions in the game, gaining just 29 yards through the first three quarters of the game, before Temple inserted its backup players into the game.

While the vaunted Stony Brook defense — the Football Championship Subdivision’s best last season — allowed 38 points, much of the damage was facilitated by the short fields it was forced to protect.

Stony Brook redshirt sophomore punter Marc Nolan was erratic at times, with kicks of 26 and 19 yards in the first half. Temple had long returns on other punts and also capitalized on turnovers to gain optimal field position. Through the first three quarters, the Owls did not start any of their 12 drives inside their own 30-yard line.

“It doesn’t help the defense when all their drives are 20, 30-yards,” coach Chuck Priore said. “We understand that 85 scholarships trumps 63 scholarships and that often shows on special teams and subsidiary types of situations.”

FBS schools are allowed to issue 85 scholarships to football players, while FCS schools are only permitted 63.

The Seawolves defense limited the Owls to 301 yards overall, an average of 4.7 per play. On an ordinary day, such numbers would put the team in a position to win, but in Saturday’s game, it could not make up for Stony Brook’s ineptitude.

“We can’t really afford to make mistakes when we’re that close to the touchdown [the whole game],” redshirt sophomore linebacker Noah McGinty said. “There’s no excuses for where the ball is [to start the drives], we just have to play.”

The game, which was held at the home stadium of the Philadelphia Eagles, was the second game in Stony Brook Football history to take place in an NFL stadium. Six seasons ago, the Seawolves lost to the South Florida Bulls, 59-14, in Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It’s pretty cool, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Carbone said. “We watch our idols play here. It’s like a wake-up call, like, ‘This is real.’”

The road will not get any easier for the Seawolves. On Saturday, Stony Brook hosts No. 2 Richmond, one of the best FCS teams in the nation.

While the Seawolves were outclassed in their FBS matchup this season, the Spiders defeated the Virginia Cavaliers of the Atlantic Coast Conference, 37-20, in Week 1.

The game will kick off at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at 12 p.m.

Concert review: Phish delivers on promise to phans

Originally published at Spotlight News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Page McConnell sat in his office, at stage-right of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center stage. His hands floated across his black-and-white ivory desk, delivering on his promise made to the phanatic Phish crowd just moments before: One more song.

It was only the first set of the first day of the band’s three-day SPAC stint from July 1-3, but the song — “The Squirming Coil” from the 1990 album “Lawn Boy” — did not go unappreciated. After Trey Anastasio’s vocals subsided, McConnell’s solo was underway.

For what seemed like an hour, and, being Phish, the length was likely not much shy of it, the patrons swayed in the lawn to the pianist’s oeuvre. With a skyward gaze and a substance-influenced daze, the audience watched the large video board, grinning in unison at the keys bouncing under McConnell’s fingers and the absurd talent of it.

An ovation followed. One set was completed and five more were to be played in the weekend. If any gripe had been directed at the band for its absence from SPAC in 2015, it was quickly forgiven. The group’s much-awaited return to the venue was an undisputed success.

The band’s shtick is much-established: unpredictability. With not a song repeated over the weekend and each set-list original and unique, the style gives Phish more variance in its shows than any other musical group.

Even the individual songs differ wildly each time they are played live. On the 1992 album “A Picture of Nectar,” the song “Chalk Dust Torture” has a track-length of 4:35. In the SPAC Day 1 performance, the jam lasted over 22 minutes.

Midway through the song, Anastasio set down his guitar and grabbed a pair of mallets, showing off his marimba skills. Soon after, bassist Mike Gordon abandoned his native instrument to join McConnell at the piano, creating a three-man key-striking huddle at one side of the stage, improvising on top of each other as the paying visitors lost their minds at the sight and sound.

The band’s headman is much-established too: Anastasio. With his greasy, wind-swept orange hair and his Steve Jobs glasses, he has more the look of a ski instructor than a rock star, but his guitar told a different story. With an upbeat rendition of “Juliet” off the band’s 1994 album “Hoist” near the end of Day 2’s second set, he demonstrated his six-string prowess. From country-influenced riffs to sounds that bordered on reggae, and all the progressive rock in-between, Anastasio led the way and the crowd followed. With a single strum, returning to the chorus from an ever-lasting jam session, Anastasio could light the wick of all the glowstick fireworks in the lawn.

But the star of the weekend was McConnell. Aside from his memorable “Squirming Coil” solo, the keyboardist channelled his inner Paul McCartney with a cover of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” — one of 10 covers in the weekend — to close the second set of Day 2, ending the tune on its iconic final chord, joined by his bandmates to continue the convoluted harmony for nearly half a minute.

Journey Review: When The Lights Go Down at SPAC, You Want to be The-e-er-ere

Originally published in NYSMusic

Leather-vested and sweat-covered, Neal Schon unearthed a solo that — even amid the political hatefest and madness of 2016 — could unite America.

The SPAC lighting backdrop transformed into a slideshow montage of soldiers, flags and the like. The Journey founding member serenaded the crowd with an improvisation-heavy guitar rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Though the concert was the Fifth of July — not the Fourth — Schon’s tight fretwork and re-defining of the term “rock anthem” could be appreciated at anytime. Nearly 50 years into his musical career, he had not lost much in strum speed, not any in his tonal quality.

The masses hooted and hollered, as you might expect an upstate New York crowd to do for an homage to the troops, but the three-minute solo, just half an hour into Journey’s set, was far from the show’s sole highlight.

Without an unfair comparison to the voice of Steve Perry, lead singer Arnel Pineda’s vocals were rich, rangeless and did justice to the classics. The Filipino, now in his ninth year heading the band, was running and hopping around the stage like a man half his age for many of the upbeat songs — “Any Way You Want It” and “Wheel in the Sky”. In the slower, ballad-like hits — “Faithfully”, “Lights”, “Don’t Stop Believing” — he focused more on the notes, avoiding any pitch wavers a jump or leg-kick might cause to a sentimental song.

Drummer Steve Smith was an unsung hero of the Journey set. Smith, who backed the band from 1978 until 1985, through much of its heyday, rejoined the band this year after Deen Castronovo left in the fallout of a domestic violence arrest.

Smith’s rolls were precise and military-like and his cymbal work seemed effortless during his solo, about two-thirds through the band’s performance. The drummer, using a traditional grip for increased roll speed, may have delivered the best drum solo at the venue since 2013, the last time Neil Peart and Rush were in town; Smith’s work on the kit was simply incredible.

Journey was the third band in the night’s lineup, immediately preceded by fellow Bay Area group — and also fellow notable Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame snub — The Doobie Brothers.

A fan’s first observation of The Doobie Brothers taking the stage is likely the band’s size. With four men on guitars and basses across the front, two kit drummers in the back, and a saxophone and keyboard player too, the group’s look is imposing, and the sound was too.

The Doobie Brothers were not as sing-along as Journey was (do not be mistaken, there were more than a couple patrons joining in on “Black Water”), but instead were jamming more. Whereas Journey’s song interludes isolated individuals soloing on their instruments, The Doobie Brothers had more collective instrumental sections.

The first performance of the concert came from singer Dave Mason, originally of Traffic. Mason performed three of his own songs, including “We Just Disagree”, as well as three from Traffic.

Mason’s guitar playing showed little wear from the years, as he demonstrated ample ability. The singer closed his set with “All Along the Watch Tower”, originally by Bob Dylan and made famous by Jimi Hendrix.