The Men’s Basketball team wrapped up the 2014 season last weekend with losses to SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Brockport, bringing the overall season record to 6-19 and a SUNYAC record of 3-15.
“I think after every practice, every game, the good coaches reflect,” Head Coach Mike Rejniak said. “I know I put a lot of time in front of the mirror. Of course you want to go through things different. I think you learn more from your failures than you do your success. And not to say that this season was a failure, but we had several shortcomings and I learned a lot more about my team and how to coach them.”
The No. 23 Golden Eagles started off the Feb. 21 game with an early 17-8 lead that the Hawks couldn’t combat, even with second-year guard Zach Cone-Douglas scoring presence aiding in closing the gap and leading to a 44-33 score at the half that the team couldn’t overcome.
The following day, Geneseo overcame a Hawk two-point halftime lead, anchored in three-pointers from Cone-Douglas and second-year forward Kevin Roach, and secured a 79-68 victory for the Blue Knights.
“For what it was and what I had, I thought it went ok,” Rejniak said of the loss against the Golden Eagles. “Not having [second-year guard] Keegan [Donovan] this weekend was a hit because of his shoulder. We needed another ball handler out there when we’re going up against a highly ranked team in the country.”
Against Geneseo, Rejniak said he had to exhaust key players like fourth-year guard Andrew Joseph and third-year Captain Taylor Sowah, who contributed to a seven deep line-up ran out of gas down three with three minutes to go – a problematic situation when facing a deep team like Geneseo who sub heavily with “hockey line substitutions where every five minutes with fresh legs,” Rejniak said.
“It’s been tough to sustain that intensity on defense because the minute you lax, they’re going to shoot a three,” Rejniak said. “The type of effort they gave me, I can’t fault them at all. They gave me everything that they had.”
Graduate-student Captain Nick Taldi, returning to play this year after a severe ACL injury during the 2012-13 season, joins the 17 other Men’s Basketball players of the Hawks program to score a 1,000 career points during the contest at Brockport, scoring a game-high 17 points and a career total of 1,013 points at the end of the Geneseo game.
“It felt really good to become a part of New Paltz history,” Taldi said. “Any time you reach a milestone, it’s something special. It’s definitely something I wanted my entire career.”
Taldi said that although his time as a Hawk was full of ups and downs, it has taught him how to battle adversity, and that he is thankful for the people he has met and the friendships made that will outlive his playing career.
Looking forward, Rejniak looks to heavily recruit as the absence of Joseph and Taldi becomes a reality. Rejniak, who entered the program prior to the 2011-12 season, said it has always been his goal to gradually grow roster numbers. After this year’s full team of 14, Rejniak said he looks to fill an 18-man roster next season in order to bring in more depth and “fulfill needs that need to be addressed.”
Rejniak hopes the new faces will also challenge the returners to step up in a big way.
“I’m really excited to have the band back together because when we were healthy, even without these impact recruits we hope to bring in, we were really good,” Rejniak said.