By Peter Briguglio
Classes have begun, and that means the onset of another NJCAA Region XV athletic season is upon us. Student-athletes excelling in soccer, football, cross country and volleyball will all vie for national recognition this fall, and many of the Region’s top teams appear poised to repeat as champions in 2017.
This year, the Region welcomes new student-athletes as Monroe College’s Bronx campus will be fielding a stand-alone Division III athletic program for the first time. The new team will be called the Monroe Express and will compete in women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball.
Looking back, in Division III Men’s Soccer last year, Nassau and Suffolk represented Region 15 in the Championship. The Lions repeated with a 2-1 victory over Suffolk, propelling them to Nationals where they were defeated in the quarterfinals.
It was a similar result on the women’s side, with Nassau eclipsing Suffolk after a scoreless tie during regulation. Nassau won the Region on penalty kicks and then knocked off Holyoke in the District finals in a double-overtime thriller to reach the NJCAA tournament yet again. The Lion women also saw their season end in the national quarterfinals at the hands of Montgomery.
As these two schools have met in the Region XV finals for three straight years on the women’s side and four straight on the men’s side, one would have to assume they’ll be the teams to beat once again in 2017. Nassau and Suffolk rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the DIII men’s preseason rankings while the Nassau women just cracked the top 10 in ninth place.
In Division I action, Monroe made a run through the Region and District Tournaments last year, earning the #2 seed at the 2016 NJCAA Tournament. Their magical run saw them lead Pool C and advance all the way to the title game against Tyler. The Championship saw two undefeated teams play a tightly contested game, but ultimately Monroe came up just shy. With two consecutive National appearances, the Mustangs are again poised to be the class of Region XV Soccer this season as they ranked #2 in the sport’s preseason ranking.
The Monroe women are ranked #8 in the nation’s preseason poll following a season that ended without an NJCAA appearance, while the ASA Avengers checked in at #15.
Women’s volleyball is the only fall Region sport where schools compete in all three divisions. In Division I last year, Monroe made a nationals appearance but bowed out of the tournament early. They enter as the favorites in 2017 following a top-25 preseason nod.
Ulster, the Region’s only Division II competitor, will look for improvement following a 12-9 record a season ago.
Division III had the most success in 2016 with Queensborough qualifying for their first national tournament ever. Despite a 7th place finish, head coach Jason Demas’ teams have improved every season since his takeover, and the Lady Tigers are no doubt the favorites heading into 2017. Usual Region XV power FIT has hired new coach Deborah Hong, who hopes to overthrow Queensborough from their one-year reign, while last year’s runner up Suffolk has vengeance on their mind this season.
It was a down year for Region XV Cross Country and Football. In both men’s and women’s cross country, perennial favorites Queensborough, Suffolk, and Monroe are looking to restore their programs toward national contention. No Region XV football program reached a bowl game last year, and heading into 2017 the field is wide open as Nassau, ASA, and Monroe do not appear on the preseason rankings.
The regular season action has already begun, and games will continue through September with Region XV tournaments kicking off in mid-to-late October.