Two seasons ago, the men’s basketball team was riding high off a dominant season, yet a disappointing campaign last year set them back. The Brewers are looking to turn the tides once more for the 2015-2016 season. The team is led by Head Coach BJ Dunne, who is starting his third year with the Brewers. Dunne will be aided by a three-chair-deep coaching staff. Recently-hired Michael McSloy in his first year as the Vassar Assistant Coach is coming out of a two-season career at Connecticut College. McSloy attended SUNY where he earned an All-Skyline designation and posted a 25th national slot performance in scoring his senior year. He also spent a year as their Assistant Coach.
In addition, Michael Callahan has joined the VC Coaching Staff. Callahan is also the Director of Sports and Recreation at the College. He was a four-year letter-winner at Massachusetts College where he was named captain in his senior year and graduated in 2009. The final addition to the staff will be senior Jonny Mrlik. Mrlik, a three-year starter for the Brewers, was part of one of Vassar’s best basketball teams in program history. The team posted a record 19 wins and earned a spot in the Liberty League Championship.
Last season’s disappointing finish at the ninth slot in the Liberty League saw the team fall to a losing record of 7-18. Now, the men hope to use their momentum built up clocking hours early this fall in the Athletic and Fitness Center to build on that significantly this year. Sophomore guard Anthony Caletti elaborated on the men’s off-season work, saying, “To prepare for the season we put in a lot of work this fall in the basketball gym and weight room. We broke our team into three groups and had a competition where you earned points for various activities such as lifting, getting shots up and playing pickup.”
Junior forward and guard Mickey Adams was also impressed by the team’s commitment to working hard this semester, saying, “We had a great off-season as a team. We have committed to getting up shots, doing skill work and playing pickup, and I have been very impressed with our team’s dedication to weight training this fall.” The squad is 13 total this season, split right down the middle between rookies and returners.
Sophomore guard, Jesse Brown, commented on last season: “We had very high expectations going into last season, but we suffered injuries at almost every position and had trouble finding a groove once we had our full team back. We had a lot of talent and played well but had trouble closing out [the] game.” Caletti said, “Last season was a big learning experience for us as a team as we were talented but didn’t perform very well as indicated by our record.” Adams also was disappointed with the 2014-2015 campaign, saying, “Last season was tough for us. We came in with high expectations, but a long string of injuries decimated our ranks and we struggled to find much continuity or success in what amounted to be a disappointing season.”
Seven experienced Brewers will be taking the court this season, all saying goodbye to five seniors that graduated at the end of the 2014-2015 season. Caletti said, “We lost a lot of seniors from that team but our chemistry this year is much better and it has shown on the court already this season.” With all the young talent coming in, the returners are going to have to step up their leadership. Brown said, “I am trying to step into more of a leadership role on the team this season. We are a really young team and need everyone to be locked in if we are going to be successful this year.”
The Brewers are coming out strong this season. Caletti commented on this year’s squad’s greatest strengths, “Our biggest strengths as a team are our shooting ability and ball movement on offense. We have so many good shooters that we can space the floor allowing other players to drive our big men to post up and the defenses cannot pack it.” For Brown, the Brewers have three main advantages, “Our greatest strengths as a team are three-point shooting, having high basketball IQs and ball movement.” Adams believes the team has something to prove. “I am most excited to see how far we can go with this group. I think other teams in the Liberty League do not expect much from us this year, so we are looking to surprise some people and bounce back from a tough season last year,” he said.
Their first game of the year was against SUNY-New Paltz on the Hawks’ home court on Nov. 13. Vassar took a 43-37 lead into the half, yet scored just 25 in the second half and fell 70- 68 in a close contest. The Brewers had several late chances in the back-and-forth affair, yet ultimately fell a bit short. Next up is the Chuck Resler Tournament to be played in Rochester, N.Y. at Rochester University where they will play Ohio Northern University and the winners of a match-up between Rochester and Keystone College. The team will take a big trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rico Classic Tournament at the end of December. They’ll see Gustavus Adolpus College and Central College during their stay. Then it’s back home for 16 Liberty League competitions in January and February combined where they will enjoy a four-game home stretch. If all goes well, the team will advance to the first round of Liberty League playoffs at the end of February.
The Brewers are hopeful for their chances. As Brown said, “Our team goal is to win the Liberty League Championship and advance to the NCAA tournament.”