By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE February 5, 2008 It’s not easy being an athletic director or a coach.
Especially when you have to pull the plug on a sports team in the middle of the season.
That harsh reality faced Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) Director of Athletics Chris DePew and SCCC Women’s Basketball Coach Paul Clune when the second semester began on Jan. 23.
Faced with dwindling numbers and a few academic issues, there were only five Lady Generals eligible to suit up and play when classes recently resumed: Elisa Cavaliere, Bionca Colton, Chantay Harrison, LaShaun Malcolm and Bari Smith.
“We had a great recruiting class, with 14 or 15 ladies, but some of them ended up not playing,” Clune said. “We had enough [players at the start of the second semester], but with schedules and classes, we didn’t have enough to field a team for every game.”
So, the college decided to cancel the remainder of the Lady Generals’ 2007-2008 season. During the months of November and December, the Lady Generals played 11 games and posted a 3-8 record.
In recent years, the Lady Generals earned a reputation as a star-crossed team that was always in the shadow of SCCC’s prominent men’s basketball program.
But in the last couple of seasons, under the leadership of Clune and Assistant Coaches Steve Nash and Carl Graham, the SCCC women’s hoops program was turning into a force to be reckoned with in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) Region XV.
“We started off pretty hot,” Clune said of last season.
The Lady Generals began their 2006-2007 campaign by winning the SUNY Delhi Tournament and had a perfect 7-0 record before being defeated by Monroe Community College. In that game, Monroe CC rallied from a nine-point first half deficit to earn the win.
The Lady Generals went on to be ranked as high as seventh in the country in the NJCAA Division III poll in 2006-2007.
The season ended with a six-point loss to Nassau Community College last February in the opening round of the Region XV Tournament.
So what’s ahead for SCCC’s women’s basketball program?
“We’re looking at some local kids that’s our bread and butter and bringing in some downstate kids,” Clune said.
DePew and the Lady Generals’ coaching staff made the final decision to fold the women’s program at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, a day before the Lady Generals were to host Ulster Community College at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse. They had 15 regular season games on the schedule for the second semester.
“Unfortunately, we had to make the decision,” DePew said. “We had five young ladies that were eligible and willing to play for the team, and we felt that playing to the end of the season with just five players wasn’t a good idea.”
The reaction of those five players?
“They were extremely disappointed,” DePew said. “They worked hard to keep themselves in a position to continue playing and finish the season.”
How did the coaches take the news?
“They are extremely frustrated and disappointed,” DePew replied. “They thought they did a really good job bringing in a good group of girls… it’s a sad thing.”
Nobody said it would be easy playing in the shadow of the Generals, who finished last season with a perfect 32-0 record and won the NJCAA Division III national championship.
“I think they felt they lived in that shadow, but we supported them as much as possible, and scheduled doubleheaders as often as we could so they could be seen,” said DePew, who is the Generals’ Head Coach.
DePew and the Lady Generals’ coaching staff are looking ahead to the 2008-2009 season.
“Coach Clune is already working on getting a team back together for next year,” DePew said. “We want a stable and competitive program, and I know it can be done. It’s a matter of getting a core group of kids committed to being part of it.”