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Posts tagged ‘NEC’

From Student Athletes to Coaches

RMU Colonials_web_smRobert Morris University is known for developing competitive, academically focused student athletes who excel both on the field and in the classroom. What you might not know is that many of these same individuals go on to successful coaching careers after graduation.

(NOTE: This list shows only current coaches. Of course RMU is proud of all of our students who have gone on to coach or build successful careers in sports over the years, which includes hundreds of our graduates. However, if we have omitted you in error, we apologize. Please contact Val Brkich at and we’ll be sure to add your name and title.)

Hank Fraley ’12 – offensive Line coach, San Jose State Spartans
Sam Dorsett ’03, M’09 – running backs coach, Monmouth University Hawks
Colyn Haugh ’07, M’09 – assistant coach, St. Francis University Red Flash
Jake Nulph ’05, M’07 – co-defensive coordinator, linebackers’ coach and recruiting coordinator, St. Francis University Red Flash
Alex DiMichele ’11 – graduate assistant/assistant coach, Robert Morris University Colonials

Brett Vincent ’90 – head men’s basketball coach, Chowan University Hawks

Ice Hockey
Jason Evans ’02 – head ice hockey coach, Chatham University Cougars
Brett Hopfe ’08 – head ice hockey coach, Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League)
Chelsea Walkland ’10 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Oswego St. University Lakers
Samantha Ullrich ’09 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Lindenwood University Lady Lions
Logan Bittle ’08 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Robert Morris University Colonials

Jill Dorsch ’07 – assistant softball coach, Lynn University Fighting Knights
Keri Meyer ’06 – head softball coach, Monroe College Mustangs
Stephani Moore ’00 – assistant softball coach, California University of PA Vulcans
Michael “Jexx” Varner ’07 – head softball coach, Lafayette College Leopards
Lauren Dickinson-Stawartz ’02, M’05 – assistant softball coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Jaci Timko ’12 – assistant softball coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Kristin McDaniel ’09 – assistant softball coach, Edinboro University Fighting Scots
Cory Shay M’11 – head softball coach, CCAC-South St. Bernards
Annie Dubovec ’11 – assistant softball coach, Youngstown State Penguins

Brad Barber ’13 – head men’s lacrosse coach, Hood College Blaze
Mike Rowse ’11 – assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Queens University of Charlotte Royals
Jillian Howley ’09 – head women’s lacrosse coach, Lake Erie College Storm
Dane Smith ’11 – assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Dan Mulford ’09, M’11 – head men’s lacrosse coach, Winchester Thurston School Bears

Mike Bruno ’90, head volleyball coach, Point Park University Pioneers

Running / Track and Field / Olympic Sports / Other
Justin DiIanni  ’04 – coaches marathoners in Pittsburgh
Marques Dexter  ’07 – assistant track and field coach, Cortlandt State University Red Dragons
Kevin Argauer  ’09 – assistant strength and conditioning coach, University of Pittsburgh Panthers
Erica Schmidt  ’10 – assistant compliance officer, University of Akron Zips


Just Kickin’ It – Catching Up with Neil Shaffer ’11

Neil Shaffer

Photo by Jeff Halstead,

When he was roaming the midfield for the Robert Morris University Colonials Men’s Soccer team, Neil Shaffer ’11 had a nice view of campus from the North Athletic Complex. But it was nothing compared to the vista he woke up to every day last year in Bremerton, Washington.

“Bremerton is beautiful,” says Shaffer. “It’s right on the Pugent Sound, and about an hour ferry ride from downtown Seattle. From my apartment I could see the mountains and the ocean, and just a drive down the road I could see Mt. Rainier.”

A graduate of RMU’s bachelor of arts in media arts program, Shaffer played soccer in the Pacific Northwest last season as a member of the Kitsap Pumas of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League (PDL), the top developmental men’s league in North America. There he captained the Pumas to the Ruffneck Championship, a tournament between all the PDL teams in the state of Washington.

Shaffer started as an outside midfielder at RMU and then moved to central midfield during his senior season. That same year he led the team in goals with (6) and points (15) and was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Men’s Division I All-North Atlantic Regional Third Team and All-Northeast Conference Second Team. After graduating, he served as an assistant coach for the Colonials and played two seasons as center midfielder with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

After finishing his second season with the Riverhounds, Shaffer had interest from Pittsburgh and other teams across the country. During a tryout in Minnesota, one of his teammates told him about Kitsap.

“I ended up calling them up, and fortunately, they were looking for a central midfielder. So after a little talking, we were able to work out a deal, and the next thing I knew, I drove out to Washington.”

Although moving across country was a big step for him, Shaffer says it was a great experience overall. The community was very friendly, and the fan base was amazing. They really made you feel at home.”

Throughout his career, Shaffer says that every time he’s gone up a level, whether it’s from high school to college, or college to the pros, the game becomes sharper and faster.

“The pace of the game is quicker and players technically are more capable on the ball,” he says. “Playing in the NEC, though, helped me tremendously in the transition.”

Shaffer only signed a one-year deal with the Pumas, so as of now his options are open.

“The next season won’t start until around January or February of next year, so I have time,” he says. “In this sport, things change day to day. We had a pretty good season, and my play got me some interest from several USL and NASL teams. I just have to keep working in the off-season, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

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On the Road with RMU Basketball – Into the Carbonite Bobcat’s Den

The third day of our Connecticut invasion was a quiet one, thank goodness. Following the previous day’s victorious battle, the men needed some time to rest, recover, and prepare for their next challenge.

And I needed some time to browse Pinterest.

Day four, our final day in the Nutmeg State (whatever that means?), was to be our longest, most challenging day yet. My wake-up call came at 7:20 a.m. and nearly knocked me out of bed, it was so loud. A bull horn would have been more subtle. As I made my way down to breakfast, ears ringing, I looked outside and saw that the previous night’s torrential rains had given way to a clear, sunny day. However, a stiff, cold wind gave the day an ominous feel. After I woofed down some runny eggs, home fries, and around a half a pound of salty bacon, my stomach had an ominous feel, too.

Ski Lodge and Carbonite Bobcat

Once again it was silent on our charter as we traveled the six or so miles to Hamden to face the Bobcats of Quinnipiac. After climbing a long hill, we finally reached the summit and the TD Bank Sports Center, i.e., The Den. Out front, a large Bobcat, which had obviously been captured and frozen in carbonite, much like Han Solo, stood guard.

Across from the center, there was a strange complex resembling a ski lodge and a number of oddly shaped windmills. Obviously this was their source of power. If I could only dismantle it, I thought… But then, I thought, Geez it’s cold out here! And I ran inside.

Quinnipiac's sole source of power

As soon as I entered the building, a Quinnipiac supporter tried to push one of his little yellow “Go Bobcats!” towels on me. Being from Pittsburgh, I felt strangely compelled to take the golden towel and whip it above my head. But somehow I managed to fight off the urge and escape the Siren-esque trap.

Prior to the contest, the men were energetic and upbeat. They even participated in some kind of pre-game dancing ritual to get themselves fired up for the battle that lay ahead.

And what a battle it was. RMU dug itself a 10-point hole mid-way through the first half, and it looked like the Bobcats might run away with an easy victory. But the resilient Colonials managed to scrape and claw their way back into the game, and by halftime the score was tied, 38-38.

The second half continued to be a tight, hard-fought struggle. The men battled courageously despite the hostile environment inside the arena, but at the end the Colonials fell just short, 73-69. As they walked back to their locker room, the men were forced to watch the Bobcats celebrate on their own court in front of a delighted home crowd. It was a painful show that, no doubt, the Colonials will not soon forget.

The ride to the airport was a somber one, as we began our long journey back home to Pittsburgh. But although our Connecticut adventure ended in defeat, Head Coach Andy Toole and his men were able to come away with their heads held high, knowing that they had fought hard and courageously. Now they get to prove their worth in the 2012 Northeast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournamentwhich begins this Thursday as the Colonials host the Hawks of Monmouth at The Chuck, aka, the Sewall Center Arena.

As I look back to my time embedded with the Robert Morris University Men’s Basketball team, the memories are bittersweet. Bitter, because I wasn’t able to help the team more; sweet, because I had my own double bed, flat-screen TV, and no kids to wake me up before the break of dawn.

But such is life on the road.

Valentine J. Brkich

On the Road with RMU Basketball – Day 2: Into the Sacred Heart of Darkness

The second day of our Connecticut invasion dawned with promise. Mid-morning, we gathered for a hearty breakfast and learned that Coach Toole had decided to cancel the morning practice to give his men a much-needed day of rest. It was welcome news, following our long journey the previous day, and it gave the men a chance to focus on the challenge ahead.

After receiving their orders to reconvene that afternoon, the men adjourned to their separate quarters. Since I had some time to kill, I decided to reconnoiter the surrounding area on foot. One positive aspect of being on the road is that you get the opportunity to experience other cultures and see things you’re not accustomed to. Walking into a local market, for instance, I saw what appeared to be a mannequin sitting in a chair, when, in fact, it was a live human being! I also saw some distinctively local establishments you won’t find anywhere else–places like Target, Best Buy, and something called Dunkin’ Donuts.

That afternoon the team gathered for a top-secret strategy session, in which Coach Toole quizzed his men on the opposing players, reviewed their individual assignments, and had them do a pre-game walk-thru. In lieu of a real ball, they used a balled-up t-shirt. In lieu of a real hoop, Coach Toole stood on a chair.

The bus ride to Sacred Heart was quiet – eerily so – as the men got themselves into game mode. When we arrived at the William H. Pitt Center, the players marched into the arena, focused on their mission and prepped to do battle with their NEC foe. Meanwhile, I went off with my pen and notepad and began working on this post. Believe it or not, these things actually take some thought to write.

For the visiting team, Sacred Heart’s home court is a challenging venue. Besides the 70 or so faithful fans who gathered to support their Pioneers, the Colonials had to try to not be distracted by a squad of cheerleaders, a dance team, a marching band with full drum set, and, of course, “Big Red”, the Sacred Heart mascot, who apparently is a distant cousin of RMU’s mascot, RoMo.

The contest itself was a battle for the ages. The Colonials and Pioneers traded blows throughout the game. Tied at halftime, the teams stayed neck and neck until the very end. Then, in what seemed like a fatal blow, the Pioneers took a one-point lead with 4.6 seconds remaining. But just when it seemed all hope was lost, Velton Jones launched a three-pointer a fraction of a second before the final buzzer. The ball swished through the net, silencing the crowd and sending the RMU bench into a frenzy.

It was a hard-fought victory for the Colonials, and one they won’t soon forget. But tomorrow is another day, and with it another challenge: the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

Valentine J. Brkich

On the Road with RMU Basketball – Day 1: Enemy Territory

The following post is the first from RMU correspondent Valentine J. Brkich, who is embedded with the RMU Men’s Basketball team during their current road trip to Connecticut…

The players wait, focused on the objective

This is my first dispatch from the road. For the next few days I’ll be accompanying the RMU Colonials Men’s Basketball team as they invade the state of Connecticut. This may be my first trip with the team, but I’m certainly qualified for this assignment. After all, I was the third best guard on the second team of the Sts. Peter & Paul Pacers during the 1986-87 season. I also started in my high school Spanish club’s first annual picnic basketball tournament back in 1993.

So, yeah, I know my way around the hardwood.

Our journey began yesterday morning as we boarded the tiny commuter jet in Pittsburgh. The players fanned out inside the plane, their spirits high despite the vertical challenges inside the cabin. I sat in the window seat next to a man named Dirk, who, after I questioned him, claimed to be a “consultant.” Of what, he didn’t reveal. From then on, I avoided conversation, just in case Dirk – if that was his real name – was working for the other side.

After landing in Hartford, it didn’t take long to realize we were in unfamiliar territory. Riding in the charter bus, I noticed that the roads were smooth and conspicuously devoid of potholes or orange cones. A roadside sign read, “NO BREAKDOWN LANE AHEAD.” I was still trying to figure out what a “breakdown lane” was, when another sign warned that something called a “Train Station” lay just ahead. Obviously we weren’t in Kansas, i.e., Moon Township, anymore.

Coach Toole studying film

As we moved deeper and deeper into enemy territory, Colonials Head Coach Andy Toole remained composed and focused. During the bus ride from the airport, he studiously watched film of the team’s next opponent, the Pioneers of Sacred Heart. At one point, however, his focus was broken by music emitting from headphones further back in the bus. The culprit: “Ice Ice Baby”.

Discipline was swift and stern. “NO VANILLA ICE!” declared Coach Toole, setting the tone for the rest of the mission.

Before long we arrived at our destination–Sacred Heart’s William H. Pitt Center. (No relation the namesake of our beloved Pittsburgh, but a welcome omen nonetheless.) As the team prepped for practice, Coach Toole, always the recruiter, watched as a young man named Daniel showed his stuff on the court. After Daniel swished his only shot, Coach Toole swapped cell numbers with him and told the boy to give him a ring in 12 years.

Coach Toole evaluates future talent

Following an energetic practice, we checked in at the hotel and then gathered for some much-needed nurishment at a local Chili’s. It being Lent, I had the salmon.

All in all, it was a productive first day. But I know today will bring new challenges. I can only hope we’re up for it. (By we, I mean the team. I’ll just be joting notes in my little notebook like always.)

To be continued…

An Open Letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

President Dell’Omo will be sending the following letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. If you agree with what he says in the letter, please voice your opinion — respectfully, please — by emailing David Shribman (, Susan Smith ( and/or Jerry Micco (


David Shribman
Executive Editor
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
34 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA  15222

Dear David:

Some time ago RMU Athletics Director Craig Coleman spoke to you about the sparse coverage of Robert Morris University sports teams in the Post-Gazette. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved, which is why I am writing today.

RMU has 23 NCAA Division I sports, more than Pitt, West Virginia, and Duquesne, which receives disproportionately greater coverage for its athletic program than Robert Morris. Our men’s and women’s basketball team have each been to the NCAA tournament two times in the past five years, and our men’s team has made seven NCAA tournament appearances since 1982, a conference record. In contrast, Duquesne has not been to the tournament since 1977.

Our football team has won six conference championships, though the program only dates to 1994. Both men’s and women’s hockey teams have defeated several top 20 opponents over the last several years, and our women’s team, which currently has the nation’s sixth highest winning percentage, has produced an Olympian. I know you are aware we have the only Division I hockey program in the Pittsburgh region, where hockey is becoming increasingly popular.  As a result of the national reputation our hockey program has developed, we were selected to host, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four at the CONSOL Energy Center.

But you’d barely know any of this from reading the sports pages of the Post-Gazette. Frequently the beat writers assigned to cover RMU – four in the past three years – have been called away from RMU events to cover high school football instead. The Post-Gazette never hires local stringers to cover our road games, even though it appears to be a common practice when Duquesne goes on the road. Recently, the Post-Gazette failed to file its own story about our game against LaSalle in Philadelphia, even though a beat reporter was at our post-game press conference – covering Pitt at the same tournament.

The purpose of my letter is not to request less coverage for our fellow institutions, especially Duquesne, but to have RMU receive comparable coverage worthy of its status as a Division I university.  This would include having a Robert Morris link at the top of the Sports page on the Post-Gazette’s website, along with all the other local Division I universities; and not being one of many that fall within “More Colleges.”

A majority of RMU’s 5,000 students, and their families, are from the Pittsburgh region. We have approximately 30,000 alumni living in the region, and many more fans among the general public. I assure you there is a thirst among your readers for greater coverage of RMU.

I look forward to meeting with you and the appropriate members of your staff in person to discuss this issue further. Thank you,

Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.

President, Robert Morris University

cc: Jerry Micco
Susan Smith