ASA College Avengers Year In Review: 2012-13
June 10, 2013
As the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) celebrated its 75th year in 2012-13, ASA College Athletics celebrated its 5th Anniversary as one of the governing body’s newest Division I members.
And while the NJCAA was celebrating its storied history, the young athletic department from Brooklyn took this season to make history of its own.
The Avengers and Lady Avengers programs produced at an unprecedented rate this season as every program earned an NJCAA national ranking or some form of national recognition for the first time in school history. Simply put, ASA Athletics elevated its profile from regional power to rising force on the national landscape.
Here is a look back at the greatest year in the history of ASA Avengers Athletics…so far!
While the Avengers Football program had found some success in previous years, the stage was set to take a step forward in 2012.
This year’s squad met expectations and surpassed them as the team went 9-1 on the season, claiming the program’s first Northeast Football Conference (NEFC) championship with an undefeated regular season (9-0; 5-0 NEFC) and playing in the program’s first Bowl Game.
ASA began their unblemished season with a 14-quarter shutout streak, blanking Albright JV, Hudson Valley CC, and Wagner JV while holding Monroe College scoreless in the first half of the Avengers’ home opener on September 22 – a 72-21 rout of the first-year Mustangs. Overall, ASA outscored its first four opponents 244-21 during the opening stretch and earned a spot in the NJCAA Top 20 at #20 prior to the Monroe game – its first national ranking since 2010.
After shutting out Widener JV to wrap up September, the Avengers would finish the season with the heart of their conference schedule. ASA would rout Dean at homein the NJCAA’s “Game of the Week” and survive sluggish performances against Lackawanna & Erie CC to set up a conference championship game against rival Nassau CC – another NJCAA “Game of the Week.”
Facing the Lions for the first time in Brooklyn, #5 ASA and #3 Nassau played a game for the ages. Down nine points with under eight minutes to play, the Avengers would score ten unanswered points , including the game-winning field goal with six seconds to go in regulation to win the program’s first NEFC title.
With the conference championship in hand, ASA narrowly missed out on a shot at the National Championship after Butler CC (KS) defeated Hutchinson (KS) in their Region playoffs to claim the #2 national ranking. The Avengers would move to #3 in the polls – their highest ranking ever – and be showcased in the second-highest profile bowl game of the season, the Inaugural Carrier Dome Bowl in Syracuse, NY against #4 ranked Snow College.
Several Avengers were honored throughout the season for their contributions to the Avengers’ historic run. The leader of the pack was sophomore running back Hosey Williams, who was named a NJCAA First Team All-American, the NEFC Player & Offensive Player of the Year, a NEFC First Team selection and a three-time NEFC Player of the Week. In total, ASA received three NJCAA All-American nods, two NJCAA Player of the Week awards, 15 All-NEFC selections, and five NEFC Player of the Week picks.
Winning breeds interest, and after the Avengers’ stellar season, coaches from four-year colleges came calling, looking to sign some of the team’s best student-athletes.So far, over 15 players from the 2013 team have signed Division I scholarships, including players heading to Alabama (Leon Brown), Florida State (Desmond Hollin) and North Carolina State (Ali Kassem).
NCAA coaches weren’t the only ones interested in how the 2012 season played out for the Avengers. Independent production company Cozzi Pictures, creators of the NYC high school sports series “City Gridiron” and “City Hardwood,” created a two-part mini-doc on the Football program and their postseason run called “City Gridiron: ASA College.” The special aired on the NYC Life Channel in February to extremely positive reviews.
One of the final highlights from this past football season was the news that several of the program’s former players had found their way onto professional teams after transferring to four-year schools. Within a week of the 2013 NFL Draft in April, former Avengers Gilbert Pena (’10) and Andre Kates (’09) had both signed free agent contracts with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens, respectively while Ouslet Volcy, ASA’s First Team All-NEFC receiver from last season, signed a two-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
There was excitement in the air prior to the start of the 2012 season for ASA Men’s Soccer. Mike Grudge, who spent the 2011 season as an assistant coach for the Avengers, was named Interim Head Coach and given the task of leading the program in the right direction. What occurred was the dawn of a new era for the Avengers .
ASA posted a program-best record of 12-2-2, earned its first-ever national ranking and nearly qualified for their first District tournament. ASA’s 12 wins were a nine-game improvement from 2011 and set a new school mark for single-season wins.
The team started the season extremely strong, stringing together a 10-game unbeaten streak from August 25-September 30 (9-0-1). The impressive run featured six shutouts, five games of four or more goals, and seven road victories. The streak also broke the school record for victories in a season – 8-8-0 in 2009 – in six fewer games.
ASA would break into the NJCAA polls for the first time ever halfway through the streak, debuting at #19 before peaking at #15 towards the end of the season.
ASA would finish 3-1-1 down the stretch – including the program’s first ever victory over Region XV foe #20 Monroe College in a double overtime thriller – to pave the way for a season finale rematch with the Mustangs to settle the Region championship.
Embodying the spirit of the new-look Avengers was sophomore Dorado Phipps. With superior speed and a more prominent role in Coach Grudge’s offense, Phipps finished the season with 21 goals – tied for sixth in the NJCAA.
2012-13 was a breakthrough season for the ASA Men’s Basketball program. A perfect storm of talent, leadership and resilience propelled Head Coach/Athletic Director Kenney Wilcox and the Avengers to their most prolific campaign to date.
ASA wrapped up the year with a school-record 28 victories, completed a first-time sweep of the Region XV regular season and tournament titles, and finished one game shy of reaching the program’s first NJCAA National Championship. The team’s 28-4 record was the program’s second 20-win season and represented a 10-win increase from 2011-12.
The start to the season was delayed due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Northeast, but once the games tipped off, ASA was off to the races. The Avengers opened the year with a 20-point home win over Burlington County College and proceeded to win 10 of its first 11 games, most of them in comfortable fashion.
The highlight of the season-opening run was a record performance on December 6 at Kingsborough Community College where the Avengers set a new program best for points in a game in a 127-74 rout of KCC. Seven ASA players scored in double figures – including five from the bench – and the Avengers led wire-to-wire in the dominating victory.
ASA would continue to tear through its schedule by winning five of its next seven games and then finishing out the regular season on an 11-game winning streak, including its last six Region XV contests to claim the regular season crown for the second straight year.
The Avengers would take the #1 seed in the Region XV tournament but would face a stiff test in the semifinals against #4 seed Westchester CC. ASA and WCC played each other tough all season, and their playoff match was no exception. With 8:30 remaining and Westchester leading 58-47, ASA would outscore WCC 26-11 to pull out the 73-69 win and set up another Region XV final against #2 seed Monroe – their fourth championship tilt in five years.
After splitting their season series (with each team winning on the road), it was only fitting that a trip to Districts would be settled with ASA playing on the lower seeded Mustangs’ home floor. ASA would trail for much of the game and fell behind by as much as 15 points early in the second half. With the season on the brink, sophomore Daquan Brickhouse would score 11 of his 18 points, including the game winning jumper with 23 seconds left to give the Avengers the 59-57 win and their first Region XV tournament championship.
The Region XV title sweep paid immediate dividends for the program as ASA cracked the NJCAA Top 25 for the first time in school history, debuting at #23. Several Avengers were also recognized for their contributions to ASA’s banner year.
Sophomore Eian Davis, a homegrown talent who transferred to ASA and sparked the Avengers’ outstanding year, earned NJCAA 2nd Team All-American and Region XV Division I Player of the Year honors, as well as an invitation to compete in the NJCAA Men’s Basketball All-Star Game. The aforementioned Brickhouse was named to the Region XV First Team & earned Region XV Tournament MVP honors, while sophomore Victor Ljuljdjuraj made the Region XV Tournament team and was named Second Team All-Region XV. Brickhouse (MVP) and Ljuljdjuraj (All-Tournament) earned the same honors at the Herkimer CC “Philly” Tournament in mid-January as well.
ASA’s run to the District championship caught the eye of the “City Hardwood” team from Cozzi Pictures and a second two-part mini-doc, “City Hardwood: ASA College,”was created and aired in April.
NCAA FOUR-YEAR SIGNEES
Coppin State University
After recording the program’s first-ever 20-win season in 2011-12, ASA Women’s Basketball came back even stronger in 2012-13 and put the Lady Avengers in the national spotlight.
ASA reached the NJCAA Women’s National Championship for the first time in school history during a school-record 25-4 campaign that saw the team win their third straight Region XV title and their first District C championship.
Once the Lady Avengers began the season (their start was also delayed by Hurricane Sandy), they dominated their schedule in two sections – rattling off ten straight wins after a season-opening loss & another fifteen victories after a challenging road trip in Georgia.
The first segment saw ASA rebound with a pair of victories against Lackawanna & Union County College and eight straight wins across four different invitationals (Genesee, Brevard (FL), Palm Beach (FL) and the ASA College Lady Avengers Classic). ASA would travel to one final Invitational at Albany Tech (GA) around New Year’s – without their full complement of players – and dropped a pair to a ranked Darton College team and a Chattahoochie squad receiving votes in the NJCAA poll at the time.
The team responded from the adversity with a 12-game winning streak to close out the regular season, including three wins over Division I (Harford) and Division II (Monroe, CCRI) ranked programs and a buzzer-beating win over Burlington CC.
Eight games into the second streak, the 18-3 Lady Avengers received some national recognition, breaking into the regular season NJCAA Top 25 for the first time in school history, debuting at #24 (the team had been ranked #25 in the NJCAA’s Preseason Top 25).
By the time ASA headed to Maryland for the District C tournament in early March, the team had risen to #19 in the polls and had matched last season’s record for wins in a season (22). ASA broke the record with their semifinal victory over Monroe CC and punched their ticket to Nationals with a 66-54 victory over host Harford.
ASA arrived at Nationals in Salina, KS as the #19 seed in the expanded 24-team tournament. The Lady Avengers’ first game turned out to be one of the most exciting games of the entire tournament as ASA pulled out an exciting, come-from-behind 74-68 upset of #14 seed Western Nebraska in the first round. Sophomore guard Shaquita Smith set a new school record in the victory, notching the program’s first 30-point game.
Sophomore forwards Sashana Bucknor and Tiffany Jones became the second consecutive pair of Lady Avengers teammates to be names NJCAA All-Americans; Bucknor would earn Third Team honors while Jones was named Honorable Mention.
MEN'S & WOMEN'S TRACK & FIELD
In only its second season, Avengers Track and Field has quickly built itself into a force to be reckoned with in the junior college ranks. After a solid inaugural campaign that saw two Men’s team member reach Nationals, Head Coach Christopher Mills reloaded the program with several talented student-athletes and continued ASA’s upward progress.
The 2012-13 Indoor season was ASA’s first chance to display its upgraded team and the Avengers & Lady Avengers provided highlight moments at a number of events.
An early display of the program’s success came at the George Mason Father Diamond Invitational where both squads combined for two victories (Sophomore Ramoye Simon/60 Meter Hurdles; Freshman Ernest Levert/60 Meter Dash), two Top-5 finishes and five Top-10 runs against several quality NCAA colleges from the Mid-Atlantic and Southern United States.
ASA faired just as well when competing closer to home, as the teams would win three events and place within the Top 10 in ten others at the Molloy College Invitational in Long Island. Simon would take the 60 Meter Hurdles again, while freshman Tanasia Linton would lead a 4-for-5 ASA finish in the 60 Meter Dash. The team of freshmen Amaria McMiller, Britney Thomas, Ashley Haynes and Katiria Almenas also claimed victory for ASA with a dominating performance in the Women’s 4x200 Relay.
The last major event both teams participated in before NJCAA Indoor Nationals was the prestigious Millrose Games – which was covered by ESPN – and the four Relay teams that ASA sent to the 106th running of the Games did not disappoint. Each team finished in the Top 5 of their respective sections, with the Men’s and Women’s 4x200 Meter Relay quartets taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Simon and Linton would lead the way for a double-digit student-athlete contingent at Indoor Nationals at Texas Tech University by reaching the first two Nationals event finals in school history. Simon placed 5th in the 55 Meter Hurdles, while Linton took 8th place in 200 Meters.
After a strong Indoor season, Avengers Track and Field headed into Outdoor with the focus of being ready for Outdoor Nationals in May and performing well leading up to it.
ASA once again used an early season meet to set the stage for meets to come. The Avengers & Lady Avengers would win five events and notch ten Top 10 finishes in an outstanding showing at the Danny Curran Invitational at Widener University (PA) in late March. Simon (110 Meter Hurdles) and Linton (100 Meters), along with freshmen Jada Steward (200 Meters) & Britney Thomas (Long Jump) reached the top of the podium at Widener, along with the Men’s 4x400 Meter Relay “A” team.
The stellar showing would be topped two weeks later in April at the Delaware Outdoor Open on the campus of University of Delaware. The meet would be marked by six 1st place finishes by ASA, including five from the Men’s team alone. Both teams would combine for nearly 20 Top 10s, getting 18 athletes into the upper parts of their events.
By the end of the month, ASA would be fulfilling its second invitation to compete in the Penn Relays, one of the best events in Track, regardless of level. The Men’s 4x200 Meter team of Simon, Levert and freshmen Tyquan Dukes & Kwesi Williams placed 20th in the event’s 45-team field, taking 3rd place in their respective heat.
At NJCAA Outdoor Nationals in Hutchinson, KS, ASA would be pitted against the best in junior college Track & Field and performed admirably. Simon would conclude his ASA career – as a four-time National Qualifier – by reaching the finals of the 110 Meter Hurdles and 4x400 Meter Relay. Simon would finish 5th in the Hurdles and 8th with his teammates in the Relay.
Avengers Baseball has been the most consistent program within the ASA College Athletic Department, having captured the Region XV championship in three out of four years of existence (2010-12) while averaging nearly 27 wins and 15 losses a season. It would take an extraordinary effort in 2013 to exceed the standard of excellence that the program has grown accustomed to.
ASA’s 2013 regular season did just that as the team set a new school record for victories and fewest losses with a 35-10 mark while taking the Region XV title for the fourth consecutive year.
In early March, the team embarked on their annual season-opening road trip to Florida to compete in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. ASA would return from the Sunshine State with a 7-3 record, their best showings ever. The hot start helped the Avengers gain some national recognition, as the team received votes in the NJCAA poll for the first time after the ten-game trip.
Playing so many quality teams down south helped the Avengers roll into the second segment of their schedule, going 13-3 against tri-state area squads before opening Region XV play in April with impressive outings against Bronx, Queensborough, and BMCC as major highlights.
Before ASA would open Region XV play, the Avengers would take their turn breaking into the NJCAA polls at their peak position of #17. The good news would propel ASA against their main rivals as the Avengers split four games against Monroe College, followed by a four-game sweep of Globe Institute. ASA would play two more Region games (one against each team) & four non-Region contests and win them all, taking a 10-game winning streak and the #1 seed into the Region XV tournament.
As the team has done three times before, ASA would come out on top in the championship series, sweeping #2 seed Monroe in two games to win the Region XV Tournament to advance to the Eastern District tournament at Potomac State in West Virginia.
Eight student-athletes were honored as All-Region XV selections, with freshman pitcher Placido Torres earning the Region XV Player of the Year award, the fourth consecutive player from ASA to earn the honor.
MEN’S & WOMEN’S TENNIS
The ASA Men’s and Women’s Tennis programs ended their 2012 Nationals runs with the best finishes in the history of ASA College Athletics – 3rd Place for the Women and 11th Place for the Men. Heading into 2013 with a new Head Coach and group of talented newcomers, expectations were still fairly simple: compete for a National Championship.
Newly hired Head Coach Brian Slack led both ASA squads to even better finishes in 2013, taking 2nd Place at both Nationals, narrowly missing out on a pair of National titles. Both teams would also be ranked as high as #2 in the nation in the NJCAA/ITA rankings.
Women’s Tennis finished a highly competitive regular season with a 12-4 record and an unblemished mark against NJCAA competition (5-0). Two of those junior college wins came in ranked matchups as #3 ASA defeated #8 St. Petersburg College and #2 State College of Florida in consecutive days in March.
ASA’s seven other wins against NCAA and NAIA schools prepped them extremely well for the Women’s National Championships in Tucson, AZ in early May. The team swept Days 2 & Day 3 of competition, went 24-2 in Days 2 through 4 of the five-day tournament and found themselves 3.5 points behind first place on the final day. ASA would finish in 2nd place with 42.5 points, 3.5 points behind national champion Tyler Junior College.
The team would end the tournament with four NJCAA First Team All-Americans in three flights – Vlada Rabin (#5 Singles). Fatima Ouattara (#6 Singles), and Tamar Tskhakaia & Teona Tatishvili (#2 Doubles) – and another five Second Team All-American honors in three other flights – Rabin & Ouattara (#3 Doubles), Tatishvili (#4 Singles) and Dayana Agasieva & Diana Perez (#1 Doubles).
On the Men’s side, the Avengers played an even more ambitious schedule than the women and performed just as strong, ending the regular season with a 14-3 record. Twelve of those wins came during a winning streak that stretched from March 10 to April 21 and included three wins over NCAA Division opponents (Bethune Cookman,Stony Brook and Longwood), all three of ASA’s junior college victories and shutouts in over half the contests (7 shutouts).
The Avengers would face stiff individual opposition at Nationals in Plano, TX but performed well collectively to stay in the hunt. Overall, ASA would go 23-9 in main draw and back draw matches during the tournament, and finished in 2nd place with 35.5 points, 11.5 points behind 1st Place Tyler.
Awards-wise, sophomore Pavel Zhdanov earned NJCAA First Team All-American honors after winning the #5 Singles flight and Second Team All-American honors at #3 Doubles with fellow sophomore Nail Khabiyev. Freshman Christian Waldron was also named a Second Team All-American at #4 Singles.
Coming into the 2013 season, there was an excitement surrounding the ASA College Lacrosse program as it entered its second year of existence. The cornerstones of a solid inaugural campaign would be returning for their sophomore seasons, and with a revamped roster at Coach Vince Daniels’ disposal, the team would certainly be on the upswing.
Led by NJCAA All-Americans Casey Jackson and Brandon Goodwin, Avengers Lacrosse went 11-6 on the year, finished in second place in Region XV and won the program’s first home playoff game.
After a season opening road loss to Harford, the Avengers would take down their next five opponents, including a home win over Dean College, a neutral site victory over Union County College (at Rutgers University) and a road triumph over #4 Suffolk CC – its first-ever win within the Region and first against a ranked opponent.
After the UCC game, ASA would receive its first ever national ranking, debuting in the NJCAA Top 10 at #10.
The Avengers would surpass 2012’s win total with another victory over a ranked foe, downing #10 Brookdale on April 6 and clinch their first winning season with a 14-6 win over Columbia University JV three days later.
When the Region XV Playoffs came around, ASA would match up with Suffolk again – this time in Brooklyn. The semifinal contest between the Avengers and the Sharks was a back and forth affair, with ASA taking an early lead, Suffolk storming back to jump ahead, and the teams playing to a 10-10 tie heading into the final quarter. The growth of ASA’s team would propel them in that final frame, as the Avengers outscored the Sharks 7-1 in the fourth to win the game, 17-11, and advance to the Region XV championship game.
Once the season was completed, several players were honored by the Region and the NJCAA. Ten players were recognized by Region XV as All-Region performers and both Jackson & Goodwin were named NJCAA First Team All-Americans. The duo became the first Avengers student-athletes to earn NJCAA All-American honors in both their seasons at ASA.
Athletic Director Kenney Wilcox announced the newest addition to the Avengers family in late December – the creation of the ASA College Women’s Soccer program. Brett Polow, who served as Men’s Soccer assistant coach under Mike Grudge, was named as the Lady Avengers’ first-ever Head Coach. The team will begin NJCAA competition during the Fall of 2013. The team has already released a tentative schedule and signed at least 12 players to play for ASA.