Champions Across New York State

The suspense of the competition and the roar of the crowd are elements that any competitive athlete loves to be a part of. A test of abilities and energy pushes athletes to find an extra level of effort in order to see who can come out the victor in any event. During the 2014-15 winter season, our SUNY athletic teams found ways to emerge victors by earning conference and national championships in many sports. And with championships comes recognition on a large scale.

Two Teams Skate to National Championships

Plattsburgh

The Plattsburgh women's hockey team made history by winning their second consecutive Division III national championship by defeating the Elmira Soaring Eagles 3-2. The game, played at Plattsburgh's Stafford Ice Arena, saw the number 1 seeded Cardinals get goals from three different scorers in the game, including one from tournament MVP Giovanna Senese. With the win, the lady Cardinals became the all-time leader in National Championships by claiming their fourth overall title.

Erie Community College

Along with the Plattsburgh women, the Erie Community College men's hockey team captured a national championship as they claimed their second NJCAA title in school history when they defeated defending champions Williston State of North Dakota, 2-1. Kats goalie Will Korczynski had 36 saves in the winning effort, including a number in the final minutes when Erie needed to kill off a major penalty over the final 3:30 of the game. Tournament Most Valuable Player Trevor Evans scored the game-winner with 15:40 left in the contest. The Kats finished the year 16-0 against NJCAA competition, the first undefeated season against two year colleges in the 39-year history of the program.

Three Teams Go Dancing to March Madness

The most widely recognized event in college sports is the yearly NCAA Basketball Tournament, or March Madness, for both men and women. Schools of all sizes from across the county compete in the intense bracket-style single elimination tournament. And for the first time ever, SUNY sent three basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament this year, as the University at Albany Men's and Women's teams advanced by winning their America East conference championships, and the University at Buffalo Men's team advanced for the first time in school history by winning the MAC championship.

University at Albany

The University at Albany men’s basketball team, headed by Coach Will Brown, punched their third consecutive ticket to March Madness with a 51-50 victory over Stony Brook University at SEFCU Arena in the America East championship game. Senior forward Sam Rowley led the Danes with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

The Seawolves took the lead with 2:24 left in the first half and held on tight, dominating most of the second half. With seconds ticking down in the game, Albany dribbled down the court down two when Ray Sanders drove hard to the basket but was unable to connect. Players from both the Great Danes and the Seawolves fought for the rebound that was eventually tipped back into the hands of Junior guard Peter Hooley. With less than 2 seconds on the clock, Hooley released the ball and drained the game winning three-pointer. The shot landed Hooley and the Great Danes into the NCAA Tournament, and into the media spotlight, including ESPN's top 10 plays.

Hooley, a junior guard from Australia, missed a chunk of the season to be with his family as his mother was dying of colon cancer. Hooley’s mother, Sue, died Jan. 30 and Hooley missed eight games during the season, spending as much precious time with her as her illness would allow. There was never any doubt that he’d come back to play, though.

“I made a promise to mum that I was going to come back [to America] and play,” Hooley told Yahoo’s Pat Forde. “She got so much joy out of watching me play.”

"I know Mom was with me every step of the way,” Hooley said. “She probably put that ball in the basket better than I did. So … I’m speechless. Speechless.”

The Women’s Basketball Team, headed by Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, celebrated its fourth straight America East title and trip to the NCAA Tournament. This year the team defeated Hartford by a score of 84-75. Led by Shereesha Richards, who became Albany's all time leading scorer during the tournament, the Great Danes became the first team to earn four-consecutive America East titles since Maine did in the mid-90s.

University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo earned their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament receiving the Mid-American Conference Champions automatic bid following an 89-84 win over top-seeded Central Michigan on Saturday.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Xavier Ford scored 18 points in the game, and MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. A close game throughout, the Bulls gained a lead which they ultimately held on to with ten minutes to play in the second half. 

Head coach Bobby Hurley, a former point guard at Duke on one of the best college basketball teams of all time, went on to say "I'm really proud of my team. I'm proud of the accomplishment that this group achieved, the first time in school history that we are MAC Champions."

Athletics at SUNY

SUNY has more than 85 NCAA Division I, 290 NCAA Division III, and 385 NJCAA athletics teams, as well as hundreds of non-competitive athletics clubs with many championships and success stories among them. Whether as collegiate stars or transitioning to professional success, athletes at SUNY continue to thrive and play valuable roles in student life on campus and in helping promote the Power of SUNY.