When one door closes, another opens. Timing is everything. One man’s loss is another man’s gain.
Pick your idiom. All three apply to how SJC Long Island’s men’s lacrosse team this spring – in its inaugural season – landed eight former Dowling College standouts on its roster.
When Dowling closed last spring due to significant debt, SJC Long Island’s Coach Tom Rotanz immediately jumped in to recruit the skilled student-athletes, all with at least one year of NCAA eligibility.
Finding a New Home at St. Joe’s
“It was in the upmost priority to recruit these players,” said Rotanz who spent 19 years as the varsity head coach at Shoreham-Wading River High School and led the program to 10 Suffolk County championships, five Long Island championships and three New York State championships. He is a three-time Newsday Long Island High School Coach of the Year.
“I was actually in the middle of a youth travel practice when someone told me that Dowling was closing,” Rotanz said. “So, I ended up going on the Dowling website to seek out any underclassmen and start the process to see if they wanted find a home at St. Joe’s.”
Creating an Edge in a New Lacrosse Program
Recruiting players with college-level experience was a main concern for Rotanz. “I knew there was no way we could really compete with freshmen, because never having played a college-level game would be extremely difficult for them,” he said.
Among the Dowling transfers is Patchogue-Medford High School product Scott Reece ’17, who scored eight goals March 1 in the Golden Eagles first game, a 13-9 win over Western Connecticut State. The senior earned the program’s first-ever Men’s Lacrosse Skyline Player of the Week honor. Reece believes the team has an advantage over opposing competition, due to an already established chemistry carried over from the days at Dowling.
“Coming from a very high and well-known conference in DII (East Coast Conference), we definitely know what is expected of us and what we are capable of as a team,” Reece said. “The chemistry is slightly stronger than a brand new program who would have recruits from all over. Having the experience we have, and more so than that, the chemistry we have, we will definitely surprise some teams.”
Crafting a Smooth Transition
Once Dowling had announced its closing, SJC Long Island’s admissions team, department chairs and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Christopher Frost made it a top priority for SJC Long Island to meet the needs of potential students and make sure their transfer process was as easy as possible.
“The overall message was that St. Joseph’s College would be there and willing to accommodate those Dowling students that were left with no direction or guidance,” said Joe Benkert, assistant director of admissions and assistant baseball coach at SJC Long Island. “It was the little things that SJC was able to do that made each student feel at home and show that we cared about their future – that they weren’t just a number. Overall, we were able to make the students feel at ease in a time of chaos.”
In total, 79 Dowling students transferred to SJC Long Island. For those transfer students with less than a year remaining, SJC was able to waive the standard SJC core requirements, so students could finish their major requirements without having to stay an additional year. This was a major selling point for Reece.
“SJC was about the only school who would take all of my 90 credits from Dowling. The other schools I was looking at were only taking 60,” Reece said. “To prevent myself from basically repeating a year, I chose to come here.”
It was the potential to win, potential to still stay near by, great facilities, small class sizes and a nice diploma when they graduate that ultimately attracted these students.” — First-Year Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach Tom Rotanz
The 25-man lacrosse roster also includes former Dowling Golden Lions, James Conroy, Danny Cowan, John Ferrara, Kevin Fox, Jack Murray, Victor Olivero and Josh Shaw. Rotanz recruited five transfers from Suffolk County Community College, former LIU Post defender Tim Durkin, Union County College transfer Mark Trinkle and a large contingent of incoming freshmen.