'KEENE, N.H. 12/20/05 - Following a brief respite for the holidays, Keene State College basketball teams will be hitting the road to play in semester break tournaments. The KSC men will play in the Steve Adubato One-on-One Classic at Montclair State (N.J.) University (Dec. 29-30) while the Owl women head south to participate in the eight-team Hampton Inn Tournament (Dec. 29-31) at Warner Southern College in Lake Wales, Fla.
Going into the break with a 7-1 record, the Keene State men will go up against Plattsburgh (N.Y.) State in an opening round game. Bridgewater State will take on host Montclair State in the other first round game. Consolation and championship games are scheduled for the following day.
The Owls have never played Plattsburgh State (5-2), a member of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC). The only connection between the two schools is Bob Golden. Golden, was KSC's former vice-president for academic affairs who is now dean of academic affairs at Plattsburgh.
"I think it's important for us to play two games in a row like we do in our conference tournament," said KSC Coach Rob Colbert. "It's a chance for the players to see how they rebound mentally and physically and for the coaching staff to prepare for a game without the benefit of a practice. The level of competition will also be extremely high."
Although Colbert is pleased with the multiple contributions from several of his players, he has his concerns. "We're just not a very good defensive and rebounding team right now," Colbert said. "That could come back and haunt us. Fortunately, it's a long season and we have time to deal with it."
Led offensively by David Sontag (19.6 ppg.) and Sean Sullivan (16.6 ppg.), KSC will be without the services of starting center Ben Maynard. Maynard, the Owls' captain, broke his finger and is not expected to re-join the team until mid-January.
The Keene State women's team is returning to the Warner Southern Tournament for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. Playing in a tournament comprised of NAIA teams, the Owls (6-1) will have their hands full coping with first-round opponent the University of Mary from North Dakota. Joining NCAA Division II next season, the Marauders have been perennial contenders for the NAIA Championship, winning the national title in 2000. Currently 11-3, the University of Mary has dropped just four conference games the past four years.
"We're going to find out what we're made of down there," said KSC Coach Keith Boucher.
The Owls, who will play three straight days, will face either Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College or Illinois Wesleyan in the second round. "If anything, it will get us used to a tournament atmosphere," Boucher said. "We want to come out of the tournament feeling we've improved in certain areas."
Keene State will travel to the Sunshine State with a new player. Jessie Rushalko, a sophomore forward from Peterborough, N.H., joins the team after playing last season at St. Michael's (Vt.) College. Rushalko, who will provide the Owls with depth up front, was named Con-Val Regional's female athlete of the year as a senior.
Led by juniors Sarah Begnoche (14.3 ppg., 7.4 rpg.) and Bri Barnes (10.6 ppg.), the Owls are off to its best start since the 1989-90 NCAA bound Owls won their first eight games.
Keith Boucher gives his team passing grades for the first semester. "I feel good where we are right now, but I'm not satisfied," he said. "We need to pick it up a notch. Our toughest games are ahead of us."
Keene State also faces a tough travel schedule. Returning to Keene on Jan. 3, the Owls play the following night at Rensselaer Institute in Troy, N.Y.