BY MARC MATURO
Albertus Magnus High School alumna Felicia DaCruz of Chestnut Ridge, who is a standout senior guard on the mid-major women’s basketball team at Fairfield University, has always loved the game since becoming interested in the second grade.
When she reached the high school level, DaCruz had the pleasure of playing the first three years for veteran Coach Joe McGuiness and for Pat Buckley in her senior season.
DaCruz, who also played AAU ball under the leadership of Coach John Kayser and who also spent time with the WBA Lady Knicks for three years in high school, was recently honored by the Stags on senior day (she’s the only senior on Coach Joe Frager’s young, upcoming squad) during a time when Fairfield battles to earn a high seed in the postseason tournament.
Fairfield and Iona share fourth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) with identical 11-7 records, and they have a critical date at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 in New Rochelle. The regular season ends on Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. in Riverdale against Manhattan College, which is at the bottom of the 11-team conference with a 2-15 mark. The MAAC Championships are slated March 5-9 at Albany.
All the while, DaCruz stands on the cusp of breaking into the top-10 assists leaders in program history, needing just five more to move into the history books (Marybeth Chartier is listed as 10th with 391 assists).
“I try not to think about that, but it would be a major accomplishment for any point guard,” DaCruz told the Rockland County Times.
“I’ve been coaching a very long time, and she is one of the most hard-nosed players I’ve had,” offered Coach Frager, now finishing his eighth season at Fairfield following a nine-year run at Southern Connecticut State University where he built a Division II powerhouse and won the national championship.
“It’s hard to believe that these four years have flown by as fast as they have,” Frager continued. “Feesh (Felicia’s moniker) has done a tremendous job running our offense, and as talented as she is, she’s probably better as a person. She has been a pleasure to coach; it will be tough to replace her.”
DaCruz, who admits that her final year is “bittersweet,” is already looking ahead to coaching one day, but first hopes to extend her career overseas a year or two and perhaps join two former Stag players she knows – Kathie Cizynski and Brittany Obi-Tabot – in Germany.
DaCruz has a team-leading 97 assists this season and is second on the team with 22 steals. Last season, DaCruz ranked fourth in the NCAA in assists/turnover ratio, which is a further testimonial to her ability.
“That’s outstanding,” Coach Frager noted. “In the last two years, Feesh probably had the ball in her hands 80 percent of the time. She has a knack to see two plays ahead, and she’s so unselfish.”
For her part, DaCruz credits the good fortune of always having good players in the supporting cast.
“It definitely helps to have good scorers,” DaCruz said. “I’ve always had a nose for the ball; that comes with practice and knowing your teammates.”
Coach Frager, who knows that all good things must end, is hopeful that someone will step up and fill the role that DaCruz has performed so capably over the years. He mentioned two possibilities in freshman guard Macey Hollenshead of Needmore, Pa., and junior Lizzy Ball of Essex, Mass.
On senior day, DaCruz has a host of supporters on hand, chiefly: Maureen Alwan, her mother; Jake Alwan, her dad; Arlene Iarossi, her grandmother; and possibly her biggest fan favorite, her 23-year-old sister Gina DaCruz.
“She (Gina) comes to every game she can, she has watched a lot of my games and I appreciate it,” Felicia concluded, without saying whether such fan appreciation might extend into Germany.
MAVERICKS CLOSE SOUTHERN SWING: Clarkstown South HS alum Bryan Greig of New City, a senior right-handed pitcher, went 2-for-4 with a double in the role of a designated hitter as the Mercy College baseball team ended a five-game southern trip with an 8-2 loss to Franklin Pierce, 8-2 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Westchester CC transfer Justin Palladino of Yonkers scored a run for Mercy while Mamaroneck HS graduate Scott Hagan, the East Coast Conference (ECC) player of the week, also went 2-for4. If you are inclined to dream in the face of a winter that refuses to bend, head coach Jason Lamando and the Mavericks hope to return to action Feb. 27 against the visiting Chargers of the University of New Haven. The scheduled doubleheader in Dobbs Ferry is set to begin at noon.
QUICK HITTERS: Nyack HS alumna Cristina DeVito of Valley Cottage is a junior defender on the women’s lacrosse team at Fairfield University. DeVito’s dad, Frank, won a national championship in the sport at John Hopkins University. The Stags, who outlasted Rutgers University, 11-10, to lift their record to 2-1, meet Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., on Feb. 28, and then return home on March 6 to challenge New Hampshire at Rafferty Stadium at 3 p.m. … North Rockland HS alumna Tara Monaghan of Stony Point is a senior midfielder and captain on the women’s lacrosse team at Cortland. … Paul Fields of New City won his bout at 133 pounds by forfeit but the Cortland wrestling team fell to nationally ninth-ranked Ithaca, 18-15, at Corey Gymnasium. The Red Dragons fell to 9-4, while the Bombers improved to 11-2. … New Paltz junior Brandon Finn of Tomkins Cove placed 14th in the 100 butterfly at the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Swimming & Diving Championships at Erie Community College’s Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center in Buffalo. Finn, an alum of North Rockland HS, also helped the Hawks set a program-record in the 200 freestyle relay, joining Caleb Treadwell of Cortland, Rod Taskindoust of New City and Will Koenig of Highland, Calif., as they charted a third-place time of 1:24.51. New Paltz finished fourth in a nine-team field with 395 points. … Clarkstown South HS graduates Kevin Martinez of New City and Kyle Beckmann, also of New City, and Nanuet HS alum Mike Mulligan of Pearl River all broke into the lineup as freshmen to help the College of Mount Saint Vincent men’s basketball team post a 17-8 mark in the regular season and earn a berth in the Skyline Conference Championships. Martinez, a guard, averaged four minutes in 10 games while Mulligan, another guard, averaged 10 minutes in 13 games, pulling down 2.4 rebounds and scoring 3.5 points per outing. Beckmann, a forward, averaged 4.2 points and 1.7 rebounds in 21 games. … Suffern HS graduate Peter Sharp of Airmont, a sophomore attack, scored two goals as the Pace University men’s lacrosse team bowed to host Mercy College and senior midfielder Anthony Accardi of Valley Cottage, 13-12, in the season opener for both sides in Dobbs Ferry. Joining the Pleasantville-based Setters on the women’s team in its inaugural season is freshman goalkeeper Alissa Silvestri of Congers, a graduate of Clarkstown North HS. The women are scheduled to open the season at home on March 7 at noon against Nyack College. Competing for the Warriors are Nyack residents Karly Walborn, a junior midfielder, and Karis Walborn, a senior attack. … North Rockland HS graduate Seamus Finucane of Tomkins Cove was sixth in the 60-meter hurdles (9.37) as the Cortland track and field team competed at the Ithaca College Quad Meet. Mike Cruz of West Haverstraw, who is also an alum of North Rockland HS, was seventh in the long jump (21 feet 4 inches). … North Rockland HS alumna Stephanie Frank and Carmel HS graduate Natasha Morrison combined for a total pin-fall of 1,075 to place second as the Westchester Community College women’s bowling team overcame a 105-pin deficit and passed Nassau CC to finish second in the NJCAA Region XV Championship at Carmel Lanes. … Following their performances at the ECC Indoor Track and Field Championships, the following competitors from St. Thomas Aquinas College earned first-team status: Winslow Dorsainvil of Money, Lloyd Smalling of Syracuse, and Kristen Borriello of Montgomery. Dorsainvil, ranked 10th in the nation in the 60 meters, leads the Spartans into the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., on March 13-14. Other STAC representatives are headed to the Richard Stockton Invite on March 21.