Huskymania

By Ken Best

Tracking Huskymania on and off the field.

A Hellenic Honor for Coach Tsantiris

Head women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris ’77 (ED) was inducted earlier this year into the Athletic Hall of Fame of AHEPA, the largest Greek-American fraternal organization. (Photo by Stephen Slade ’89 (SFA) for UConn)

Although Gregory Stamos ’77 (CLAS) and Huskies women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris ’77 (ED), were students in Storrs at the same time, they did not know each other. Stamos watched Tsantiris play soccer as he helped the Huskies reach the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.

But Stamos later got to know Tsantiris through their shared Greek heritage, as they would exchange greetings and chat at Greek festivals throughout Connecticut. Tsantiris would be leading his Greek band in performances on the violin and Stamos would be meeting colleagues through his national involvement with the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest Greek-American fraternal organization.

AHEPA has for many years inducted athletes and special contributors, such as coaches and members of the media, into its Athletic Hall of Fame, a process that allows chapters from around the nation to nominate candidates to the 20-member national selection committee. Earlier this year, Tsantiris was selected as a member of the 2012 induction class to the AHEPA Athletic Hall of Fame.

Stamos serves as chair of the AHEPA Athletic Hall of Fame and nominated Tsantiris, who joins 125 previous inductees that include prominent names such as Detroit Lions star Alex Karras, Major League Baseball pitcher Milt Pappas, major tennis champion Pete Sampras, and Bob Costas.

Tsantiris is the second most active winning coach in women’s college soccer and is just four wins shy of reaching his 500th career win. His long involvement in soccer has been recognized with awards many times in the past, including as NCAA Division I Women’s National Coach of the Year in 1997. He has led the Huskies to 28 NCAA National Tournaments, including 26 straight from 1982 – 2007.

“You look at his resume and it’s outstanding. We’re not allowed to lobby anyone, but he was selected.” Stamos says. “You look at who is in our Hall of Fame. He’s in his rightful place. Lenny deserves to be there.”

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On the subject of the women’s soccer team, redshirt freshman Andrea Plucenik ’16 (CLAS) was named Rookie of the Week in the Big East for the hat trick she turned  in the Huskies’ 5-1 win over St. John’s. She had three goals on six attempts and now ranks second on the team with 9 points.

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Linebacker Yawin Smallwood ’15 (CLAS) was selected for the second time in three weeks as Big East Defensive Player of the Week in football, following the Huskies 24-21 win over Maryland. Smallwood led the defense with 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Nick Williams ’13 (ED) was named Special Teams Player of the Week in the conference for his 112-all-purpose yards, which included a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown against Maryland.

Most of the Big East teleconference on Monday for head coach Paul Pasqualoni centered on questions from the national media about Smallwood, who only started playing at linebacker last year after the Huskies lost some players to injuries in preseason.

“We had a discussion about each of the players [who the coaches thought could play the position],” Pasqualoni said. “We thought that Yawin, of the group, might have a chance to help us, so we just put him in there. It was like: this is our best guess. Put him in there and see how he does. He’s gotten better and better. It was a good guess.”

The Huskies (2-1) travel on Saturday to Kalamazoo, Mich., to face Western Michigan (1-2). The game will be broadcast online on ESPN3 and on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network on WTIC News Talk 1080 at 2 p.m.

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The hat trick turned by graduate student back Louisa Boddy ’14 (ED) as part of the No. 5  field hockey team’s successful weekend has earned her Defensive Player of the Week honors in the Big East. Second year forward Chloe Hunnable ’15 (CLAS) made the conference’s weekly Honor Roll.

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Head golf coach Dave Pezzino is looking to his most experienced golfers to get the Huskies off to a good start during the fall schedule, which includes five tournaments. Senior Brian Hughes ’13 (CLAS) and junior Mike Masso ’14 (CLAS) will serve as co-captains and lead five freshmen and three sophomores into the fall season.  All of the golfers are from Connecticut. The Huskies finished in sixth place earlier this week at the Adams Cup in Newport, R.I., and travel to Bulls Bridge Golf Club in South Kent, Conn., on Sept. 24-25 for the Hartford Hawks Invitational.