Men’s Socceron the Rise

Under the guidance of first-year head coach Joseph Cullen, the NJCU men’s soccer squad enjoyed a resurgence in 2016. They opened theseason with a 7-0-0 record, the best start in the 58-year history of the program. Four of those seven wins were shutouts.While the second half of the Knights’ season didn’t match the first, NJCU finished the year with a tie for the fourth most improved team in NCAA Division III. NJCU improved by 6.5 games over the 2016 season.

NJCU Hoops Scoop

The NJCU men’s basketball team was on fire this past winter, earning a national rank for seven weeks and a 22-7 ledger, marking the second consecutive year the team won more than 20 games during the regular season. The Knights also made their first NCAA appearance since 2011 and came within a hair’s breadth of edging out Skidmore College before ultimately losing to the Thoroughbreds in the first round of the tourney.

That heartbreaker does little to undercut a stellar season, however. NJCU received votes or was nationally ranked in all 15 polls cast throughout the 2017 season. The team was voted into the D3hoops’ NCAA Division III Top 25 poll on seven occasions—five consecutive weeks during the month of January and twice in the final weeks of February, leading up to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The website D3hoops.com, which ranked NJCU 23rd in the nation, was especially impressed by the Gothic Knights defense. NJCU ended the year ranked sixth nationally in three-point percentage defense and 12th in scoring defense, allowing just 64.9 points per game. The program also ranked fifth nationally in total steals and eighth in both turnover margin and turnovers forced. It averaged 11 steals per game, the ninth best in Division III.

The team was also marked by impressive, individual feats of athletic prowess. First-Team All-NJAC senior shooting guard, Jalen Harris, narrowly missed scoring 1,000 points in his two seasons on the Knights, concluding his NJCU run with 987 points. A two-time NJAC Player of the Week, Harris was voted First-Team D3hoops.com All-Atlantic Region, First-Team All-ECAC Metro, First-Team All-Met,and Second-Team All-District.

Graduate student Chinwe Wosu became the first player voted NJAC Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons since 2005. He also earned Second-Team All-Met distinction.

A deep bench of underclassmen talent bodes well for future seasons. Leading the way is freshman power forward, Sam Toney, the NJAC Rookie of the Year, who scored 355 points this season, 19 of which he earned in the matchup against Skidmore. Toney was twice named to the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association (MBWA) Division II/III Honor Roll. He also was named Rookie of the Week by NJAC for eight weeks during the season.

Though the women’s basketball team ended with a losing season, it also boasted one of the biggest routs in the team’s history. In a matchup against Vaughn College, the Knights dazzled the crowd with an exhilarating 123-44 victory, a game that broke four NJCU team records. This score was 18 points more than the previous record set during the 1985-86 season. It’s also the most points scored at home by an NJCU basketball team, men or women. The team also racked up a record number of assists (35), field goals (48), and field goal attempts (102).

ALUMNI KNIGHTS

From 2002-07, Alex Mirabel was one of the top point guards in the history of the NJCU men’s basketball program. More recently, he has found similar success as a coach. After only three years on the job, Mirabel, the head coach at Saint Peter’s Prep, was recently named the 2017 NJ.com Hudson County Coach of the Year.

After concluding his playing career for legendary NJCU Coach Charlie Brown, Mirabel returned to the University to serve as an assistant for three years (2007-10) on Coach Marc Brown’s staff. This was followed by a two-year stint at Dickinson (2010-12) before becoming the assistant varsity coach at Saint Peter’s Prep. Two years later, in July 2014, Mirabel was promoted to head coach. He inherited a program in rebuilding mode and, after two solid seasons, 2016-17 saw him guide the Marauders to a 19-8 record and the title game of the Hudson County Tournament. He also led Prep to the North Jersey, Non-Public A Semifinals.

Mirabel additionally served as an assistant coach for the Dominican Republic’s 19U National Team in the Nike Global Challenge in August 2015. Since February 2014, he has served as a scout, recruiter, and coach for the Dominican National Team.

“As a young player, I played for Coach Donald Copeland Sr. [former NJCU assistant coach] on the Jersey City Boys and Girls Club 12 and under AAU Team,” he remembers. “I saw how much passion he had for the game and his passion inspired me to become a coach. When I played at NJCU for Coach Charlie Brown, he allowed me to lead the team. I felt like I was a coach during my years at NJCU and this helped me gain some early experience. I knew in my heart, after playing at NJCU, that I wanted to become a head coach. Coach Copeland and Coach Brown took coaching very seriously and it was part of their life. I want to have that type of impact on student-athletes, as well.”

Mirabel, a two-year co-captain for the Gothic Knights (2005-07), was the quarterback of NJCU’s offense for four years as a starting point guard. The Knights reached the postseason every year of his career and twice won 20 or more games. A 2006-07 Second-Team All-New Jersey Athletic Conference selection, he helped lead NJCU to the 2004 NJAC regular season and tournament championships. His season, however, was cut short with an injury.

Without him, NJCU reached the 2004 NCAA Division III Sweet 16 appearance but couldn’t advance any further. After missing the next season in order to recover from his sophomore-year injury, he helped NJCU capture the ECAC Division III Metro championship as a junior in 2005-06. As a senior, NJCU won the NJAC North Division title before falling in a heartbreaker in the conference championship. That year he played a record 944 minutes in a single season. His 33.4 minutes per game that season was the most by any player in Charlie Brown’s 25-year career. He registered 734 points, 446 rebounds, 293 assists, and 167 steals in 106 career games at NJCU, starting 98 times.

Mirabel was always active in community service projects as an undergrad and served as the basketball representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) for several seasons.

Mirabel later received a master’s in Special Education/Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University
in 2014 and currently works with autistic children as a teacher at Regional Day School. NJCU

Women Athletes INSPIRE

In February, the NJCU Athletics Department hosted the 31st Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center. The theme of the event was Women in Law Enforcement and Civil Service.

Since 1987, schools across the country hold programming in celebration of NGWSD to recognize the extraordinary achievements of those who have helped to effect change and create opportunities for women and girls in sports. Nearly 200 young women aged 5-14 from Hudson County attended the event.

Tara Walker, who in 2014 was sworn in as the first black female firefighter in the then 143-year history of the Jersey City Fire Department, was the keynote speaker. Walker, a former all-time Hudson County basketball great, scored 2,376 points at Marist High School and played collegiately at St. John’s.

Alumna and New Jersey State Police Trooper Katie Feehan ‘07, ‘09 M.S. also took to the podium. Feehan, the first-ever women’s soccer player inducted into the NJCU Athletics Hall of Fame, has served as the program’s assistant coach for the last nine seasons. In her talk, she discussed internet safety and how sports helped her be successful in college and motivated her to become a state trooper.

Other speakers included NJCU President Sue Henderson; Athletic Director Alice De Fazio; Gail Marquis, a 1976 Olympianin women’s basketball who now serves a key role in the NJCUSchool of Business; and Virginia Melendez, the confidential assistant to President Henderson.

“The courage, strength and character gained through sports participation provides girls with tools that will help them become confident leaders in the future,” De Fazio noted after the event. “Showcasing established female role models empowers them and allows them to listen to firsthand stories of success that can greatly impact their self-image and perceptions.”