June 10, 2010
The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) recently announced the selection of its inaugural Hall of Fame class. Longtime women's basketball head coach Andy Yosinoff and his 2000-2001 Saints team that reached the NCAA Division III Final Four were the top two honorees for induction. The Hall of Fame class will be recognized by the GNAC during a ceremony on August 12th. The Saints will also honor Yosinoff and the team during the 27th annual Emmanuel College Invitational Tournament in November.
"I cannot begin to describe how proud we are as an athletic department to not only have two of the first 10 inductees into the inaugural GNAC Hall of Fame, but to have the top two vote-getters," said Director of Athletics & Recreation Pam Roecker. "My sincere gratitude to the committee as they have truly recognized how tremendous an achievement getting to the Final Four was for our women's basketball team, and for the amazing record of success and demonstrated excellence Andy has shown over his 33-year career at Emmanuel."
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the GNAC, which today includes 13 Division III institutions from all over New England.
Induction into the GNAC Hall of Fame is yet another accomplishment to add to an impressive résumé for Yosinoff, who this past season guided the Saints to their 14th GNAC title and subsequent NCAA tournament appearance. With 640 career wins, he ranks fourth all time amongst Division III women's basketball coaches. In 2008, he was honored for his contribution to women's athletics with a "Heights Award," presented by the Massachusetts State Lottery and Boston College Athletics at Boston College's Conte Forum. He served as the USA Maccabiah Open head women's basketball coach in 2005, where he guided Team USA to its first-ever gold medal during the Maccabiah Games in Israel. In 2003, he was also inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
While the statistics and awards certainly speak volumes about Yosinoff's career, it is the connections he has made with generations of student-athletes and the relationships he maintains to this day that are remembered foremost by those who have known him best.
"Andy helped make my college career successful and worthwhile and I will be eternally grateful for everything he has done for me," said Katie Corey '03. "I've never met anyone like Andy. His intensity is extreme; he's always in fast-forward mode and barely takes a minute for himself. But, without his intensity, I don't think I would be where I am today. I feel more than lucky to not only know Andy, but to have played for him and contributed to his success. He truly is unique and his commitment to this game is extraordinary. He deserves this induction more than anyone I know."
The 2000-2001 season was an incredible ride for the Saints, who won a then school-record 28 games, including a 23-game mid-season win streak en route to the Final Four. Their appearance marked the first time any Boston college or university men's or women's basketball team (Division I, II or III) has ever qualified for the national semifinals. The team received numerous honors for its stellar season, including being named the 2001 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Team of the Year. The Saints went undefeated in the GNAC during the regular season, posting a 12-0 record. This undefeated stretch began Emmanuel's nationally recognized Division III conference win-streak record of 72 games, which lasted through 2006.
Recalling the road to the Final Four, coaches and players alike highlighted the special collection of student-athletes that made the team's success possible.
"It was the kind of team that everyone blended in together, we didn't have to run many plays because they just worked so well together," said Yosinoff. "Our depth was just unbelievable. We would normally play 11-12 players without missing a beat."
"Aside from the amazing new talent we had during the 2000-2001 season, we all held a close bond off the court, which transpired to a strong, consistent, rhythmic flow on the court," said Corey. "We were a team. We played hard together everyday... and that special bond helped us get through the final seconds of those close games."
Led by tri-captains Vickie Shalian '01, Brianne Bognanno '02 and Marcy Tillman '02, the Saints proved a potent mix of size and speed, ranking amongst some of the best teams in the country in several categories, including rebounding margin (2nd), scoring margin (5th) and scoring offense (8th). Shalian, a guard and three-sport star, is still considered to be the greatest athlete ever to play at Emmanuel in Yosinoff's opinion, while Tillman's three-point prowess and Bognanno's tremendous basketball IQ combined for a venerable group of team leaders.
Mixed with players such as Julia Demirer '03, who would go on to play in Europe and earn MVP honors in Iceland's professional league, and the powerful, upfront presence of Lon Tega Morris '02 and Melanie Sloan '04, in hindsight, the 2000-2001 Saints appear every bit the team bound for a Final Four appearance. At the time, however, even Yosinoff admits such an achievement was far from their minds.
"We never expected it would happen, it was sort of a thing that just did happen," he said. "The first time it occurred to me how special this group was, was during a game at Emerson. The coach of their men's team came up to me and told me that our team was going to the Final Four. At first I didn't believe him, but that was what started the thought that this team was capable of it.
"Our confidence just continued to grow as the season played out and we went into the NCAA tournament with the right attitude and the feeling that we had nothing to lose."
That attitude proved rewarding in the team's contest at No. 1 New York University in the Elite Eight, as the Saints jumped out to a 20-point lead at half to stun the home team and the packed stands. Although the Violets came back to tie the game with three seconds remaining to force overtime, Emmanuel held on to the victory, advancing to a Final Four match up against Washington University (Missouri). The Bears would win 78-62 en route to their fourth-straight national championship, but the amazing run proved unforgettable for the Saints.
"We played the team that is probably the greatest in the history of Division III women's basketball," said Yosinoff of the semifinal game against Washington University. "We were right in it, if we played our best game I think we could have won, but we were definitely the second-best team in the country that year. It was the experience of a lifetime for everyone."
An experience made only sweeter a decade later by induction into the GNAC Hall of Fame.
"They deserve it, they were by far the best team I have ever seen in this conference. And it is a great feeling knowing that I am going in with them," said Yosinoff of his 2000-2001 squad. "For this team and myself to be honored by the GNAC like this, it fills me with a great deal of pride to be recognized for all that we accomplished."
The 2010 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Hall of Fame Inductees:
1. Andy Yosinoff, Emmanuel College women's basketball head coach
2. 2000-2001 Emmanuel College women's basketball team
3. Dan Dix, Southern Vermont College men's cross country
4. Rob Hennigan, Emerson College men's basketball
5. Katie Norton, Suffolk University softball
6. Sara Pray, Pine Manor College women's soccer
7. Noel Kusek, St. Joseph College (CT) women's volleyball
8. Milton Johnson, Johnson & Wales University men's soccer
9. 2000 Suffolk University baseball team
10. Krista Dacek, Simmons College women's soccer