By Brian Bennett
We’d like to think that every one of Geneseo’s student-athletes has a unique story. So before each team’s season begins, we ask all of the participants on our intercollegiate teams to answer a number of questions. Most are very basic (height, hometown, high school, major, etc.) but some queries are meant to draw out individual details. Among this year’s Geneseo Knights are, indeed, some with interesting aspects and stories. And in some cases, their answers went beyond what we were expecting to hear.
Family connections are the subject of some of the questions and answers. Parents and relatives are frequently listed among the biggest influences on careers, which is understandable due to the notable number of parents who have also served as coaches for their children.
A good number of family members competed in sports at the collegiate and/or professional level. The father, mother and sister of senior Cassie Goodman (women’s cross country) all played or currently play the same sport in college. Something to do with running, you’d think, but it’s volleyball. The mother of senior Zach Cavallini (ice hockey) competed in track at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and “is kind of famous in Canada for being Ben Johnson’s buddy on the Canadian Olympic Team.” Zach’s father Paul (included in the photo above—Zach chose the jersey #14 that his dad wore) played professional hockey and two teammates also have family members who played in the NHL: junior Dennis Playfair (Larry Playfair for the Buffalo Sabres) and senior Zach Martin (Bob Armstrong for the Boston Bruins). Martin’s father played professional football for the Montreal Concordes of the CFL.
We also ask if there are any family members who have served or are currently in the military, and among those who responded in the affirmative, first-year Scott Guyton (men’s swimming & diving) listed four: his father (army diver); step-father (naval intelligence); uncle (intelligence); and grandfather (army). Sophomore Abby Dennett (softball) also reported her father (navy), grandfather (army) and grandmother (army nurse) as having served.
As previously seen, family connections are often behind the reason certain jersey numbers are chosen. First-year Kyle Powers (men’s soccer) wears #25, the number his mother wore when she competed. Junior Kelsey Annese (women’s basketball) chose the same number (32) her dad Ron ’85 (included in the photo above) wore when he played at Geneseo. First-year Leah Green (women’s soccer) gives a similar reason: “my jersey number is 11 and it's my dad's favorite number and when I wear that number, it's like a little piece of him is always with me when I am playing.” First-year Diana Ruggiero (field hockey) went with the random approach for her number but found an interesting connection afterwards: “I asked for any number that was left in the bin and Coach Seren suggested I take #8. Later I found out that it was her college number, so I decided to stick with it!”
How our student-athletes got started in their respective sports elicited some interesting responses. A fair number of women’s soccer players reported taking up the sport between ages 4-6. First-year Marissa Johnston (women’s swimming and diving) started a bit later at age 8, when she “was thrown into a pool and told to swim.” Cross-country and track runners have some interesting origin stories: first-year Dowon Hwang chose her sport in eighth grade because she “was too afraid of sports involving balls;” while Jacob Hill “wanted sports team apparel to wear around the school.” Junior Shannon Murphy was hooked at age nine: “I ran my first 5k road race, threw up, and decided that running was cool.”
Hobbies are another area in which trends are team-centric, as there are several “avid golfers” on the men’s lacrosse and ice hockey teams. Overall, “Net-flixing” and “napping” are two of the most common activities across all sports. Some of the others? How about “taking long walks on the beach, needle pointing, boondoggling, waterskiing, fishing, reading, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, boating, power washing, washing, drying, and folding clothes, golfing, snorkeling, ping pong and chess”: —all claimed by one male student-athlete, leaving, it would seem, little time for his actual sport.
On a more serious note, senior Chaz Abad (men’s cross country/track and field) reports “investing in the stock market,” while senior teammate Matt Byrnes works as an EMT. Volunteer activities are similar in their variety: Matt Hutchinson (ice hockey) is a member of the Geneseo Fire Department, while Anthony Burgois (men’s swimming and diving) has served as a surgical, neonatal intensive care unit and trauma room volunteer at Nassau University Medical Center.
“Best advice received” is a question that provided thoughtful replies. “Hardwork beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” and “play every game like it’s your last” were frequently quoted. The most atypical was contributed by first-year Sam Randall (men’s swimming and diving): “‘Shut the hell up, and just wing it,’ my coach told me when I faced one of my hardest dives in my freshman year of high school. This saying made me find the courage to try the dive, and I have kept it in the back of my mind ever since then.”
Nicknames? Perhaps not as many notable ones as you’d think, but there are some worthy of mentioning. Senior Tyler Chauncey (men’s soccer) is the “Chauncinator.” Junior Brian Yale (men’s swimming), who’s 6 feet, 7 inches tall, is “The Yalbatross,” while his junior teammate Ben Greenspan answers to either “Spaniel,” “Cockerspaniel,” “Spaneram,” “Spooderan” or “G-Strap.”
There’s some notable international connections among some of our student-athletes. First-year Jordi Menkhorst (men’s basketball) is an international student from Sassenheim, the Netherlands. He’s lived all over the world and his high school team had 10 nationalities represented. First-year Connor Treglia (men’s soccer) trained in England at Carrington, Manchester United’s training center, and played against English professional clubs Blackpool FC and Fleetwood Academy. Senior Tyler Brickler (ice hockey) played for Team USA in the IIHF Ivan Hlinka Five National World Turnament in Prague, Czech Republic. Off the playing fields, junior Emma Witherwax (equestrian) traveled to coastal Ecuador to volunteer with Global Student Embassy’s reforestation service project, and her sophomore teammate Monica Schneider volunteered at a soup kitchen in Siena, Italy
Some of our athletes that are hesitant to talk about themselves are more than willing to respond to our question of “describe some interesting fact(s) about current teammate(s) or coaches that they might be too modest to share.
Some interesting skills are reported. Junior Ian Ksanznak (men’s soccer) is revealed to be “by far the best cook on campus.” Sophomore Emma Lannon (volleyball) “can juggle like it’s no one’s business.” Junior Devon Rice (ice hockey) is “the best dancer on the team,” in the opinion of one teammate. A cross country competitor notes that Dan Moore (assistant cross country/track and field coach) is a “world class triathlete,” while another runner states that Moore “has some pretty awful jokes, but I still like them.” New track head coach/assistant cross country coach Chris Popovici quickly gained attention for “naturally having a beard like Wolverine.”
Some mentions are best left unidentified, such as the women’s team member who a teammate notes, “thought that there were wild cows in Upstate New York before she came to Geneseo.”
For “top athletic moment,” first-year Rachel Ollis (tennis) notes winning four consecutive high school sectional doubles championships with her sister. Geneseo does have a current athlete who can claim an NCAA championship and that was the top moment for junior Brad Campion (men’s soccer). He was a member of the 2013 Division-II National Championship team at Southern New Hampshire University before transferring to Geneseo. Likewise, sophomore transfer Courtney Budynas (softball) chose a moment from her previous college team at St. John’s University: “playing third base against the University of Alabama Crimson Tide on their field in Alabama.” All three of these athletes made their choices before competing as Knight, so hopefully a future memorable moment will be made in a Geneseo uniform.
A large number of players on the women’s lacrosse team listed making the NCAA tournament in 2013 and/or 2014 as their top athletic moment, but other athletes answered that question with memories from other sports. Sophomore Cassie Ingalls (equestrian) lists winning soccer sectionals in high school as a career highlight, while Seth Burton (men’s track and field) remembers hitting a game-winning buzzer-beater in the first game he started in varsity basketball.
They are just a few of the athletes who have competed in other sports: senior Lea Sobieraski (women’s basketball) was a high school all-star in basketball, volleyball and lacrosse. Senior Allie Dananberg (softball) was an all-star tennis player in high school, while junior teammate Jami Cohen played ice hockey on travel and school teams and is currently on the Geneseo club hockey team. First-year Rachel Davis (women’s cross country/track & field) was a competitive gymnast until high school. Junior Alex Beals (men’s cross country/track & field) played four years of ice hockey in high school and was captain his senior year.
As perhaps has been made evident, some of our student athletes may not take the questionnaire as seriously as we’d like. Still, their answers exhibit considerable creativity and in presenting them, we’ll take the position of changing or withholding the names to protect the innocent. A member of a men’s team claims he took up his current sport only after a life-changing moment in another activity: “After the tragic accident of my favorite hula hoop, the hip hugger 3000, in which it shattered, I swore I would never "hoop" again. I wandered aimlessly with no direction and no place to go, It wasn't until I found [my sport], at the age of 16, that I finally became at peace again.”
Another male athlete tells undoubtedly the most fictional tale, not about himself, but a teammate: “When he was 16, he traveled to Delphi to speak to the oracle about his fate. The oracle told him he had to go to Hades and steal Hades' favorite vase and bring it to Zeus, and in return Zeus was going to give him the body of Hercules. As we all can see now, he succeeded on his divine quest.”
Written at least with an appreciation for mythology, befitting a Geneseo student.
Brian Bennett is director of design and publications and has worked at the college since 1985. He joined the staff of the athletic department this past August.