Tag Archives: Dons


New Sports Club Brings Lacrosse To USF

If you’ve passed by Negoesco Stadium recently, you may have noticed something you had probably never seen before at USF; lacrosse players practicing on the field. That’s because the university did not have any type of lacrosse organization on campus before October, when a group of students got together to form the USF Lacrosse Club.

Though they are officially a University of San Francisco organization, USF Lacrosse holds the “club sport” status, which means they do not get most of the benefits that athletes in sports such as basketball and soccer get.

Suraj “Zed” Talluri is a first year lacrosse player and the goalie for the USF lacrosse club. Courtesy of Suraj Talluri.

Suraj “Zed” Talluri is a first year lacrosse player and the goalie for the USF lacrosse club. Courtesy of Suraj Talluri.

“Club teams often operate separately from the athletic department, the big difference there is that they don’t receive any funding from the school.” said Dan Vilar, head coach of the Lacrosse Club. “With varsity sports you have recruits, you follow NCAA bylaws, you have scholarships, and a big budget. Club sports are organized, funded and administrated all by the students – they do the work, they hire all the coaches, they pay the coaches.”

Not only do students hire the coaches, they also pay for everything else needed to run a team.

“It’s an additional burden on top of tuition and everything else – it comes out of the players’ pockets,” Vilar said before mentioning that it gets easier the longer you have the program. “More established programs will have better fundraising efforts, more alumni who give back to the program.” Vilar gives the example of UC Berkeley’s lacrosse squad, who have been a club team for 50 years now and were able to raise around $50,000 to help with paying for a coach.

Vilar played lacrosse from fourth grade through college, but only got into coaching once his eligibility ended. After that, he coached at various different levels at a number of schools around the Bay Area. Vilar jokingly said that “bossing people around” was his favorite part of being a coach, before continuing in a more sincere tone.

“My favorite part of being a coach is bringing out the best in somebody, seeing that moment where it clicks for them and they go from being a beginner to intermediate, or a brand new player on the team to a starter on the team,” Vilar said. “I love to see people who have that enthusiasm, that gusto, and are receptive to coaching.”

For sophomore Suraj “Zed” Talluri, who plays goalie for the USF Lacrosse Club, the best part of lacrosse is the feeling that he gets in the heat of the moment.

“The adrenaline rush, I’d have to say, is my favorite part about it,” Talluri said. “Like when I see someone bolting towards the cage about to take a shot, the insane amount of adrenaline I get before that shot is just addicting.”

Like a number of others on the team, this is the first experience that Talluri has had playing lacrosse, but skills from other sports have eased his training a little bit.

“I played a lot of tennis beforehand so that really helped with my hand-eye coordination,” Talluri said.

Hand-eye coordination is especially important for Talluri in his role as the team’s goalie. He said that while the position is pretty much what it sounds like, there are leadership aspects involved as well.

“It’s been described to me as the defensive quarterback in a way, because you need to command the defense, let them know what position they need to be in, and tell them who to approach and how to block,” Talluri said.

The team finished up its season on Sunday with a 15-3 win over Cabrillo College, but the players will be back in the fall to strengthen their skills and return to play. Moving forward, Vilar would like to see the team accepted into the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL), but said that it will be hard if students with prior experience don’t show up to play.

“I know there are guys here who aren’t on the team but have played lacrosse before, and I hope that I can get them to come out and join,” Villar said.


Women’s Tennis: Dons Coast to Consecutive Wins over Bulldogs, Pilots

In the last home match of the 2014 season, the Dons took on the Gonzaga Bulldogs at the Olympic Club on Saturday with a chance to capitalize on their growing momentum. Surging after their 6-1 victory on Friday, the Dons (14-7, 3-5 WCC) eviscerated the Bulldogs 7-0 to improve to 14-7 on the season and climb the West Coast Conference ladder. It was an outstanding team performance that saw every Dons singles player notch a win and put points on the board.

One of the most notable victories that took place on Saturday was junior Marina Nikolic’s 6-0, 6-0 over Melanie Gates of Gonzaga. Sophomore Andrea Ka didn’t blink en route to 6-0, 6-1 victory over Gonzaga’s Kylie Peek, and the lopsided affair continued her excellent play this season.

It was a true team effort for USF, with every active Dons player laying claim to at least one victory. Sophomore Sophia Holmberg was another Don who collected a win without much resistance from her opponent. Holmberg took down the Bulldogs’ Samantha Polayes 6-2, 6-1.

On Friday afternoon, in a WCC matchup that looked to help catapult either team into conference respectability, USF was able to come away with a 6-1 home win over the Portland Pilots.

Starting off the decisive victory for the Dons was a dominating performance from the team of Holmberg and freshman Thyra Taune, who defeated the duo of Maja Mladenovic and Tori Troesch 8-0. This game set the tone for the rest of the matches, as USF did not ease up on the Pilots from there. The Dons went on to put the first points on the board after the USF duo of junior Milica Hadzi-Tanovic and sophomore Brooke Irish clinched the doubles point by defeating Saroop Dhett and Marina Reimers 8-3.

The beginning of singles play featured Thaune, Irish and Nikolic nabbing crucial straight set victories over their opponents, widening the margin and giving the other players breathing room in their matches. In the match that pitted USF’s Ka against Portland’s Maja Mladenovic, spectators were treated to three one-sided sets, with the Dons’ Ka being able to pull out the victory, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.  When the smoke cleared, the Dons were able to give a fitting birthday present to Holmberg, who turned 21, and leave the Olympic Club in better shape heading into the season’s final matches.

USF’s drubbing of Gonzaga and Portland marked the end of the home matches this year, and the Dons will finish the 2014 campaign with a formidable 7-1 record at home. San Francisco now closes out the regular season with a trip to Stockton, Calif. to play the University of Pacific on Friday, April 18, and will then prepare for the West Coast Conference Championships, which take place from April 23-26.



Dons to Switch Name to Pink Fairy Armadillos

Goodbye Dons. Hello Pink Fairy Armadillos.

In response to a new system set in place by the West Coast Conference that requires all teams to be named after animals, USF has made the bold decision to represent itself in the form a small, burrowing Argentine mammal. The school’s name, logo, and mascot was approved by the Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J. on Sunday, March 23, and the change will be put into effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.

“I could not think of a better way to end my tenure as president of the University of San Francisco,” Privett said. “This is a day that will be etched in the books of history for years to come.”

Last month, as part of its Animal Awareness Among Athletes campaign, the WCC released an initiative stating that all schools in the conference must have names that are “free of human influence.” All teams with human-centric names were given 30 days to select a new name and design a new logo. On March 20, Portland became the first team to declare a brand new school title, changing from the Pilots to the White-faced Saki Monkeys. This move opened the floodgates for other schools, and by the next day San Diego and Pepperdine had become the Blobfish and the Dumbo Octopi, respectively. The St. Mary’s Gaels were slow to catch on, however, and failed to meet the March 23 deadline, resulting in the termination of their athletic program.

Although the USF soon-to-be Pink Fairy Armadillos will not complete the transition until August of 2014, the campus is already supporting the choice to discard “Dons,” and is brimming with excitement at the prospect of a new school signifier.

“I’ve never really lived the life of a Don,” said a USF student who requested to remain anonymous. “I think my life is much more similar to that of a miniscule, worm-eating creature. I must say I’m proud to be a Pink Fairy Armadillo.”

While students are showing enthusiasm, USF’s Name Selection Committee is taking a much-needed week off after enduring the painstaking process of deciding upon a new title. The committee, headed by Athletic Director Scott Sidwell, spent many sleepless nights in a dark-lit room in War Memorial Gym attempting to settle on the right animal, an experience Sidwell compared to “discovering the meaning of life.”

In the end though, the committee, along with the rest of the school, seems to be happy with the final result.

“The Pink Fairy Armadillo truly embodies everything that our athletics program stands for,” Sidwell said. “It is a very small animal, which characterizes USF’s position as an underdog-type school. Also, the Pink Fairy Armadillo’s strong protective armor is representative of the attitude that these student athletes have. They’re tough as nails, they never give up, and they compete every day.”

Another factor that contributed to the selection of the Pink Fairy Armadillo is the animal’s Argentina location, which will undoubtedly help USF in its quest for cultural diversity.

“I fully expect that this will increase our presence in South America,” Privett said. “There is lots of untapped academic potential in Argentina, and it would be great if we could bring some of that to the Best City Ever.”

According to an unnamed source, a USF advertisement reading “Our Pink Fairy Armadillos Are Better Than Yours” was spotted on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina just three hours after the name change was approved.

On top of the cultural incentive, USF also capitalized on a new trend in modern sports. Just last year, the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA became the New Orleans Pelicans, going from a fairly normal insect to an awkward-looking, large-beaked water bird. However, as evidenced by decisions at USF and other WCC schools, this sort of transformation has become quite popular.

“Changing your name to an obscure animal that should never be associated with sports is definitely a cool thing to do right now, so I’m glad we could be a part of that,” USF men’s basketball head coach Rex Walters said on Sunday. “It’s important to move forward as a program, and we definitely did that today.”

Along with the name change, the all-new USF Pink Fairy Armadillo logo has been designed, and the school’s pink and brown uniforms will be unveiled in just 20 days. As the school prepares for this momentous occasion, mascot tryouts were held at Negoesco Stadium on Monday, March 24. However, the tryout session ended unresolved, and was called off when a student fainted from exhaustion after walking on all fours in a pink fairy armadillo costume for two hours. Other students also reported experiences of severe nausea, prompting the athletic program to turn to four-legged creatures as the primary mascot candidates. A tryout consisting of cats, dogs, and several meandering deer found wandering in Golden Gate Park is scheduled for this Saturday.

DISCLAIMER: This piece was printed as part of The Foghorn’s April Fool’s Day issue on April 1st, 2014. This article is intended to be satirical.

Cole Dickerson posted his ninth triple double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds in USF’s loss to BYU in the WCC semifinals. Photo Courtesy of Dons Athletics

Men’s Basketball: Dons Halted by Cougars, Still Earn NIT Berth

 The Dons’ quest for an NCAA Tournament bid came to a heartbreaking end on Monday, Mar. 10 as they dropped a 79-77 overtime decision to BYU in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev. The loss was as disappointing as they come for the Dons, but the pain was eased considerably on Sunday when USF was named a No. 4 seed in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

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USF’s 1954-55 National Championship Team. Photos courtesy of Dons Athletics

Life-Long Dons

USF basketball players from the 1950’s “Golden Era” share their memories and discuss how teammates turned into friends

Last week, Bernie Schneider made a trip from San Francisco to Lake County to visit his friend, Ed Slevin. Since they met each other nearly 60 years ago, their focus has moved from basketball courts to golf courses, but the importance of their friendship has not diminished at all.

During Schneider and Slevin’s time as basketball players for USF from 1955 to 1959, they witnessed what was undoubtedly the most decorated era in the university’s sports history. From experiencing the 1955 NCAA Championship victory to practicing against all-time greats like Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, to playing as seniors in the first year of War Memorial Gym’s existence, the two players were present for countless legendary moments, all the while developing special, long-lasting relationships with other teammates.

“The friends that I met at USF are still my friends,” Slevin said. “My teammates are still my closest friends.”

The Dons were on top of the college basketball world in the mid 1950’s, winning USF’s first NCAA Championship in 1955, and then repeating as champions in 1956. These San Francisco teams were led by future NBA Hall-of-Famers Russell and Jones, as well as standouts such as Hal Perry, Gene Brown, and Warren Baxter. With coach Phil Woolpert at the helm, the Dons won 55 consecutive games between 1955 and 1956, coming in third place in the country in 1957, after Russell and Jones had headed to the NBA.

“It was kind of a golden era at USF,” Slevin said. “They really had a powerful bunch of guys there.”

Slevin came to USF on a scholarship in 1955 and played on the school’s freshman team during his first year as a Don. In the 1950’s, USF had freshman, junior varsity, and varsity basketball teams, and even though Slevin didn’t play for varsity until the 1958-59 season, he lived with all of the other basketball players on campus in Phelan Hall. Here, Slevin quickly got to know his teammates.

“If you were on scholarship, you had to live in the dorms, so we all lived together, and we all lived on basically two floors,” Slevin said. “It was just like a bunch of good friends living together.”

Eating countless meals together and holding ping-pong tournaments bonded the team together. Some of the players, such as Perry, were also gifted musicians, and the team would often hold their own “jam sessions”.

Slevin lived one floor below Russell and Jones, who were roommates, and he remembers them as intense competitors during games, but genuinely nice people off of the court. Once, Slevin recalls, he walked up to their room and asked them if they could provide tickets for his friends who wanted to attend their next game. The game, which was against St. Mary’s at the infamous Cow Palace was sold out, and neither Russell nor Jones had any extra tickets. However, they thought of a gesture that would be nearly as meaningful. They each wrote notes on a copy of a Look Magazine issue that they had been featured in, apologizing to Slevin’s friends that they were not able to give them tickets. They then gave the magazine to Slevin and told him to send it to his friends.

“That’s the kind of guys they were,” Slevin said.

While Slevin had plenty of time to socialize with his fellow Dons in the dormitories, Schneider lived off campus during his time at USF. However, both got to play with the best team in the country during practice. At the beginning of their first years, the freshman team scrimmaged against the varsity squad in a game for the media before the season got started. Right off the bat, Slevin and Schneider were forced to get used to competing against the nation’s top talent.

“It was fun being on the same court as them,” Schneider said. “I can say I had my shot blocked by Bill Russell, so that’s a claim to fame. I also scored one basket over his fingertips that I’m pretty proud of.”

Slevin remembers marveling at Russell’s “fantastic athletic ability,” as well as the mean streak that the team had when they stepped onto the court.

“You didn’t want to screw around with Russell on the court, or any of them,” Slevin said.

By 1959, USF’s top players from  the “golden era” had graduated, and the team was no longer a NCAA Championship contender. However, the 1958-59 season was still a memorable one for Slevin and Schneider. Along with their good friends John Cunningham and Dave Lillevand, they made varsity and were key contributors to the first USF team to ever play in War Memorial Gym, which remains the Dons’ home to this day.

Even though Slevin and Schneider were never star players in their careers as Dons, their time spent as USF athletes profoundly affected the way they would lead their lives after college. After graduating, Schneider went on to coach basketball at Marin Catholic High School, and later Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, Calif. He then became a teacher until retiring in the 1990’s.

“My experiences at USF prepared me for a coaching and teaching career,” Schneider said. “I feel that my life would have been a lot different were it not for what I experienced at USF. I was very lucky, and my kids have enjoyed playing basketball also.”

Schneider’s children have certainly taken after their father in terms of their athletic interests. He has a son that coaches at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose Calif., and another that works as a referee for high school games. Schneider also has two grandchildren that play high school basketball.

“Our family has been very much involved in the basketball scene,” Schneider said. “We’re very fortunate that way, to have great joy from the game of basketball.”

Basketball is not just something that has been instilled in the family lineage of USF players from the 1950’s – it is also a sport that has brought a group of men together and created bonds that remained strong long after they left college. Each Fourth of July, four players from the 1950’s teams, including Schneider and Cunningham, travel to Slevin’s Lake County residence to celebrate and spend time together. When they were younger, this special occasion would consist of shooting hoops and playing golf, but now, according to Slevin, the former Dons “just sit around and drink beer.” No matter what activities they engage in, though, they ensure that at least once a year, they will unite just as they once did on the basketball floor.

Slevin, Schneider, and the other Dons from the class of 1959 recently attended their 50th college reunion. This was another event that brought former USF basketball players together, and Slevin found the reunion valuable in that it rekindled his appreciation for the team and the school itself.

“It brought back a lot of fond memories, and renewed the love for the University of San Francisco, which you never lose once you’re there,” Slevin said.