by Brian Scios
It’s not uncommon these days to see the Dowling Volleyball and Men’s Soccer teams fight their way into the NCAA Division II postseason, but their achievements in 2010 set this season apart from previous years. With many accomplishments along the way, both teams would eventually go on to win the East Region Championship in their respective sports while also advancing to the Final Four in Louisville, K.Y. at the Division II National Championships Fall Festival.
The Dowling Volleyball team looked pretty familiar to the fans in 2010 as they returned twelve players from 2009 while bringing in no new faces to the squad for another voyage towards NCAA postseason glory.
After making the NCAA playoffs for the past eight seasons, including four trips to the national quarterfinals, the Golden Lions wasted no time in making their presence known as they started this season with a program record 42 consecutive set victories. Posting a 25–1 mark in the regular season, Dowling earned the No. 1 seed in the East Coast Conference Tournament where they went on to sweep their opponents and take home the ECC crown.
In the NCAA East Region Tournament, the Golden Lions once again took straight-set victories over their competitors at Dowling Gymnasium, earning them a trip to the national quarterfinals in Louisville, K.Y. as the East Region champions.
With just one loss on the season, Dowling saw themselves in familiar territory as this marked their fifth trip to the Elite 8 in six years. Facing off against Clarion University, Dowling defeated the Golden Eagles in three straight sets to advance to the national semifinals. In addition to this being the first time Dowling Volleyball advanced to the final four, it also marked the first time any team from the East Region advanced past the quarterfinals stage in the history of NCAA Division II volleyball, solidifying Dowling’s place in the record books.
The Golden Lions finished the season with a program record 31–2 mark, leading all of Division II in hitting percentage as well as win/loss percentage. Senior Patrycja Klekotka (Siedlce, Poland) also topped the Division II stats, ranked No. 1 in service aces per set in addition to ranking 7th in the country with a .413 hitting percentage. Four players went on to earn spots on All-Conference teams, with Klekotka and Maja Potpara (Pljevlja, Montenegro) also earning Daktronics and AVCA All-America honors.
“Our team had a goal at the beginning of the year to train and play our hardest each day.” said head coach Alex Koszalka. “I believe we went above and beyond in accomplishing this goal. I’m very proud of everyone on the team.”
Koszalka, who earned AVCA East Region Coach of the Year honors, also led a squad that finished with the department’s highest team grade point average for the fall semester.
Dowling Men’s Soccer
The Men’s Soccer team has a tradition of success at Dowling, reaching the National Semifinals six times in the last nine years and winning the National Championship in 2006. However, it was their journey this year that makes the success of the team all the more remarkable.
After losing six graduating seniors from the 2009 squad, including three All-Americans, 2010 looked to be a rebuilding year for the Golden Lions. Five incoming freshmen and nine transfers joined the returners in August to begin their training and quest for another National Championship.
Dowling finished the regular season with an impressive 10–1−4 record, advancing them to the East Coast Conference postseason where they would eventually win the conference championship. From there it was on to another NCAA playoff appearance, their twelfth since 1996. The Golden Lions advanced to the quarterfinals where they faced the No. 1 team in the country, Franklin Pierce University. The young Dowling team pulled off a 1–0 upset victory, stamping their ticket to Louisville, K.Y.
Despite a loss to the eventual national champions in the semifinals, Dowling had much to show for as the team produced five All-Conference team members and four All-Region team recipients. Vladimir Milosavljevic (Lucani, Serbia), a junior defender on the team, went on to earn a spot on the Daktronics All-America first team, NSCAA All-America third team, ESPN Academic All-District team, and earned the Elite 88 award, an honor bestowed upon the student-athlete with the highest GPA in his or her sport at the championship finals site. Head Coach John DiRico, who earned ECC Coach of the Year honors, also stresses the importance of work in the classroom as was evident in Dowling earning the NSCAA team academic award once again.
By Thomas Edwards
From an outsider’s perspective, the Dowling College Men’s Soccer team may appear to be an ordinary group of ordinary young men in a relatively ordinary college setting. But upon taking a deeper look into the inner workings of this team, one will realize that they are far from ordinary; this special group is definitely extraordinary.
Over the years, the team has worked to become a staple of consistency within NCAA’s Division II men’s soccer. A national championship in 2006 exemplifies the numerous awards and achievements earned by this unique program, but trophies and places in the history books are only a small portion of the everlasting impact left by the members of this team. After all, the team’s members are what make it such a special group.
Though the faces of the DCMS roster change from year to year, every player’s legacy lives on forever. A majority of the chatter during the squad’s down time together consists of experiences from past years and stories of former players. Through these conversations, though the individuals in these stories have long left the college, players feel as if they know and can relate with those who played several years before them.
Dowling College is a multi-cultural establishment, and its men’s soccer team is no different. With soccer (or football) being tagged as the ‘world’s sport,’ it’s not surprising to find people from so many different backgrounds joined together on a team. Dowling soccer has prided itself on the diversity of its players, and this year’s team is no different. Nine different countries are represented by the 28 players, who range in age from 17 to 25. With the cultural differences alone, not to mention differences in personalities or basic on-field tactics and execution, it would seem that the teammates might encounter difficulties trying to get along; but the beautiful part of this team is that the players co-exist as if they had known each other since they were young boys. In some games throughout the season, while other teams have screamed at each other with fire in their eyes, this Dowling team would be seen high-fiving one another or carrying a water bottle to a fellow team member in need. Part of the team’s success is the confidence they have in each other: the idea of knowing that one player will put in all the extra hard work so nobody will be let down, particularly considering the guy next to him is willing to do the same. This team believes in each other and relies on one another, not unlike the way each member of a family does.
On the field, it is strictly business for this team as they aim to win Dowling’s second national championship; but off the field, there is never a dull moment from comical and eye-opening events. The age gap leads to situations where one player may be having a conversation about his experiences in the Israeli Army while right next to him a heated debate is being had about the lyrics of the Andy Milonakis Show theme song (“I got cheese on my head, but don’t call me a cheesehead”). The cultural differences are also apparent. As two players speak Serbian with each other about on-goings back home, two local Long Islanders next to them may be discussing the outcome of the soccer match played between their former high schools.
As the season winds down, the squad finds itself in the familiar surroundings of yet another NCAA tournament. Each evening, the squad practices as the weather gets dark and brisk. Under the lights, they circulate the ball from player to player, each representing not only Dowling but their own family, friends, town, and country. This group, which was at some point literally oceans apart, has become inseparable and capable of moving mountains together.
There exists a beautiful craziness among this special group which plays the ‘beautiful game.’