From the Desk of Athletic Director Glenn Hofmann
This is the seventh edition of "From the AD's Desk" for 2010-11
As I get set to go watch our first-place Merrimack softball team in action two realizations came to mind. One -- that it is late April and the weather here in the northeast still isn’t warm and two -- that I hadn’t written a “From the A.D.’s desk” in at least a month. While I can’t do anything about the former I can certainly take care of the second realization.
Once the hockey season ended people have been coming up to me and asking if things have slowed down. One need only to read our web site to realize that “slow” just isn’t a part of the Merrimack Athletics vocabulary anymore (nor that of the College for that matter!).
As you probably know we just announced a major partnership with a local youth hockey organization and donor (Richard Gallant) for a major expansion to the Volpe Complex. This expansion is truly why I enjoy working at Merrimack because it combines academic and athletic aspects all for the goal of improving the overall student experience. Construction, which is scheduled to begin in late summer/early fall, will include a 10,000 square-foot sports medicine/health science area, a 5,000 square foot weight room, a second practice ice rink, new locker rooms and new entrance near the current Volpe parking lot. This project will have a positive impact on all of our student-athletes, all students who study in the health sciences area, the surrounding youth hockey community and the fans of our intercollegiate teams. Having the opportunity to work with a donor such as Richard Gallant whose vision is similar to ours makes this project very exciting.
And while this project will impact so many people it is in large part because of the hockey team’s success that we will be able to do this project. Ironically informal discussions for this actually began at the Lawler Rink donor reception back in October. The momentum of the hockey team and the renovation of Lawler helped to give credibility to the department and our mission. But credibility is earned and the hockey team certainly did that. Ten sellout crowds, an unforgettable Hockey East Quarterfinal Series against Maine at Lawler, an incredible turnout at TD Garden for the Hockey East Semifinals and Finals that had the Garden folks so excited about the spirit of Merrimack fans and then the impact of battling fellow Catholic institution Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament have unquestionably raised the pride of everyone associated with Merrimack and helped us to reach out to and connect with so many of our alumni and fans. I have said that Merrimack is to the hockey world what Butler is to the basketball world and the facts bear that out. Five of the top eight highest ranked college hockey broadcasts in New England this year involved Merrimack including the top ranked NCAA First Round telecast. Based on media surveys almost one million individuals read about Merrimack in the papers and our web numbers increased by almost 66% compared to two years ago.
I said at the recent hockey banquet in echoing what Head Coach Mark Dennehy said to the team after the last game in the locker room that the College will be indebted forever to what this year’s hockey team accomplished. If that is indeed true we all must continue to work hard, keeping our vision in mind and the work ethic that was involved to keep the success going and expand it to all of our programs. Many people around the country and I suspect many coaches even within our own league think the Merrimack success was a one year occurrence. Of course many of those same people didn’t think Coach Dennehy was Coach of the Year (luckily coaches throughout New England did!) nor did they think highly enough to pick Merrimack higher than seventh. I have no doubt that by working together the success will continue to come!
Speaking of success, again, kudos to the men’s tennis team for another tremendous year. As I continually say they are one of the toughest teams mentally in our department and they again proved that this year. Due to injury and family issues two of the top four players on the team were unable to play the last two months of the season and yet the team set a school record for wins and finished in a tie for first place in the regular season. Hopefully a fourth straight NCAA Tournament is in the cards for this group, which as you probably know practices and plays all of their matches at North Andover High School because our tennis courts are essentially unplayable. In addition to the previously mentioned Volpe Expansion Project, this is my number one fundraising priority over the next couple of months. Both our men’s and women’s tennis teams deserve new courts! And by the way our women’s team may have been the most improved team we had this year along with softball.
In other news I encourage you to closely follow our women’s lacrosse team. They are playing a very exciting brand of lacrosse and could make some noise in the NE-10 Tournament. I spoke with our baseball team the other day. While their league record isn’t what they would like I told them how proud I was of the work ethic they have displayed and how they have conducted themselves. First year head coach Jim Martin has really improved the overall culture of that program and I won’t at all be surprised to see them show great improvement in the future. Our track and field teams continue to qualify numerous individuals for the NE-10 Championships. When we decided to add track & field, the goal was to increase enrollment. Head Coach Matt Pimentel and his staff had not only done that, but they have also done a great job of putting a competitive squad together in year one.
We have hired a new women’s basketball coach. Monique LaBlanc comes to Merrimack after playing and serving as an assistant coach at Bucknell and then coaching at Northern Arizona. Monique’s positive attitude, knowledge of basketball and belief in the vision of the department are already very clear after only one week on the job.
And finally, what I will take out of the last month of athletics at Merrimack is the continued and growing support we are receiving across campus. At the hockey banquet we had professors and several members of the College administration in attendance and at the Northeast-10 Semifinal tennis match our Director of Financial Aid, Chris Mordach, attended.
Merrimack is truly one school and everyone is truly coming together. Best wishes for a Happy Easter to you and your families.