Xavier Magazine

Sweet Victory

Men’s Soccer Scores Big with First-Ever NCAA Tournament Home Game

In the cold November evening, the fans are on their feet and, on this Thursday, Nov. 20, Matt Vasquenza is ready to make history.

After hundreds of hours of training and sweating and imagining what could be, he and his teammates know it often comes down to a matter of instant reactions to make longtime dreams come true.

The pivotal moment arrives in the second overtime of Xavier’s match against Monmouth. It’s already a history-maker—the first time the men’s soccer team has ever hosted an NCAA Tournament game at home. The Soccer Complex is dressed for the occasion, its hillside stands packed with blue-and-white clad fans and Xavier banners draped around the field.

The teams are tied at one goal each, but Xavier is dominating. Jalen Brown runs the left flank toward the goal, hunkering down to keep possession while his teammates catch up. He flicks a short pass to Vasquenza, just 15 yards from the left post. Vasquenza fires quickly, but the Monmouth goalie bats it back. Vasquenza extends his leg and pokes the ball with a toe toward a teammate, who shoots. The ball is blocked and returned again to Vasquenza.

The penalty box is now filled with seven defenders and the goalie, all dressed in white. It looks impossible, but Vasquenza taps it a couple of times before passing it with his left. The ball rolls slowly across the goal to an open Alex Ridsdale. He pounces, a blue streak in a mass of white. The ball sails over the Monmouth defenders’ heads into the net to score a golden goal.

“He just jumped on it,” says fifth-year Coach Andy Fleming, “and it went into the top of the netting.”

Ridsdale, normally right-footed, had shot with his left. “But I don’t think he could have hit it any better than he did. He smashed it into the goal, and that was it.”

Xavier fans go into a frenzy, jumping, screaming, flinging cups of ice in the air. Fleming falls to his knees and pumps his fists. Six Monmouth players and their goalie fall to the cold turf of their penalty box, and don’t move, their dreams of a tournament run ended. Xavier’s players rush, arms outstretched, to greet their celebrating fans. Some spill onto the field.

“It was unbelievable energy,” says former assistant coach Kris Bertsch.

It’s mostly as the team has imagined it would be. And they know even bigger things—including their first Sweet Sixteen game ever—are to follow. But for now, they want to savor the moment of their first win in their first NCAA Tournament home game.

“One vision I had was of people being up on that hill, and us coming out as the host of an NCAA Tournament game,” Fleming says. “It was definitely the best home-game moment we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The victory was made even sweeter with memories of the snow that had kept his team off the practice field, and two losses early in the season.

“Since I was a freshman, we’ve always been pushing for a home NCAA game,” says senior Will Walker, who scored the game’s first goal. “I can’t explain the feeling. It’s unbelievable.”

Hoping the feeling continues, they enter the second round of the NCAA Tournament against the eight-time national champion Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, where storms puddle the muddy field. Xavier scores first and last in a 2-1 win, prevailing on Walker’s penalty kick.

Then comes the program’s first Sweet Sixteen match in Omaha against Creighton with a spirited crowd and cutting winds that freeze the cups of water on the bench. They play hard, but it does not go well for the Xavier men. Creighton wins 2-1.

Still, not bad for a supposed rebuilding year. NCAA Tournament prospects had looked shaky after Xavier allowed seven goals in the season’s first two games, both losses. After that, players refocused on defending, the hallmark of recent seasons. The team went 15-6-2, ending with a No. 13 ranking, and set a program record for fewest goals allowed per game. The seniors became the winningest class in program history, and a highly touted freshman class didn’t disappoint. Next season’s freshmen remind Fleming of this year’s seniors.

“I thought it was our best team,” Fleming says. “We were consistently good and occasionally great.”

Xavier Magazine

Double Dip

Head coach Brent MacDonald led men’s swimming to back-to-back victories as Big East Conference champions this year after clinching the title last year during Xavier’s first season in the new conference. The wins mark not just Big East firsts for Xavier but are also the swim program’s first conference title wins ever.
The benefits are huge. “When you win two years in a row, it begins to show sustained success to potential recruits,” he says.
MacDonald was also honored as Big East Coach of the Year this year, tying with Jamie Holder of Georgetown. This is another repeat for Xavier as MacDonald won not only the 2014 Big East Coach of the Year, but was similarly honored in the last year of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
MacDonald joined Xavier as assistant coach in 2006. He was named interim head coach in 2008 and head coach in 2009. His swimmers have won awards such as Rookie of the Year and Most Outstanding Performance, fostering expectations of a three-peat in the Big East next year.

Xavier Magazine

In the Clubhouse

Sr. Rose Ann Fleming’s special—sometimes loud—bond with men’s basketball: An excerpt from her book, Out of Habit

Out of Habit, My Life as Xavier University’s Unlikely Point Guard, explores Fleming’s powerful role with the men’s basketball team and its extraordinary academic success, due to her work as an academic advisor and support for the Sr. Rose Ann Fleming Endowment for Student-Athlete Success. This excerpt details her relationship with 1990 graduate Tyrone Hill.

Tall and aggressive, Tyrone Hill could dominate a basketball court, even as a freshman at Xavier. He also had a chip on his shoulder the size of a Volkswagen and a glower that could blister paint. Of course, I liked him right away. He was about to flunk a class because he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—write a philosophy paper that was due. A disgusted assistant coach dumped Tyrone in my office, and I steered him to the library. The smoldering athlete cursed under his breath. A single hissing expletive, the same word, over and over, almost in time with our footsteps. Lacking a dignified response, I just kept walking briskly, hoping he would follow. He did.

The first really great player I would work with, Tyrone was recruited from Withrow High School in Cincinnati and came to Xavier in the summer of 1986. As is often the case, he thought basketball was the main event.

“I’m here to play basketball,” he huffed.

“You are here to play basketball and to get an education,” I huffed back.

We had resident tutors/counselors who were supposed to make sure Tyrone studied. The counselors were cowed by him, but not so fearful that they didn’t spill the beans to me when he didn’t show up at the study table. The next day, I would be in his face. Friendly, but firm, I would walk him through what was expected. It happened more than once. So when it came time for the confrontation over his philosophy paper, we knew each other. I already had a hunch that when I marched to the library he would follow.

He respected me. And I respected him right back.

Besides his curiosity and intelligence, I genuinely admired his athletic ability, and I made it clear that I valued sports. I had several photos on my walls of Xavier teams. “Look at you, Tyrone,” I said, “the tallest player on the team. I bet you make things happen at practice.” Naturally, I went to practice to see if I was right.

Sometimes important bonds are formed just by being there. I think living at Manor House on campus was a distinct advantage for me. My work included finding students who didn’t want to be found. And I could run like a deer.

When it was first announced that basketball players were going to move into some of the units in the Manor House, Tyrone called to warn me.

“You may want to move,” he said.

“Why would I want to move?” I answered. “I’ve been there a while.”

“Because it will be noisy.”

The team had regular drug and alcohol testing, and they were typically exhausted during the season. They were not going to be up all night partying. I assumed they thought I would complain about their music, which was sometimes earsplitting. I said if they promised not to crank up the volume on LL Cool J, I would try not to pray too loud.

In Tyrone’s junior year, he grappled with the choice presented to many top college players—should he play pro ball or should he stay in college another year and get his degree? The NBA offers big money, and the contract doesn’t come with a bookbag and a nag. He asked me what he should do. In my head, I was shrieking, “Don’t go. Don’t squander your hard work. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.” But we try to teach our students to make their own good choices.

So, I said calmly: “Tyrone, life is like strategy for a big game. If you maximize all the opportunities and minimize all the obstacles, you win.” He decided to stay and collect the degree he had earned.

Tyrone Hill was chosen by the Golden State Warriors in the 1990 NBA draft and went on to play for Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. He retired from basketball after coaching for the Atlanta Hawks, then he spent time in Cincinnati, rebuilding a playground in the Evanston area where he grew up. For a while, he owned a company called All Net Records, which released music by groups including OTR Clique, D’Meka and KompoZur. I am not familiar with these artists, but I assume they are loud.

(Donations are welcome to the Sr. Rose Ann Fleming Endowment for Student-Athlete Success fund which is part of Xavier’s All For One Fund. Out of Habit is available for purchase at

Xavier Magazine

Street Team

After raising over $30,000 and engaging more than 500 people during the March Gladness campaign last year, Kat Steiner, assistant director of the Annual Fund, wanted to double the numbers. Her plan? Take it to the street. By enlisting staff and students from Xavier’s most active communities, the March Gladness steering committee reached out to the people that matter most—the students—future  Xavier alumni. A Street Team of students, led by staff member Molly Dugan and senior Drew Dzeidzic, spread the word about March Gladness and the importance of participation. “It really has nothing to do with the dollars,” Steiner says. To help reach their goals, the Street Team coordinated a breakfast on March 9, the first day of the 48-hour campaign, and acted as ambassadors to promote it. The social media campaign encouraged people to use the Twitter hashtag #GladXavier to post what makes them glad about Xavier. And make a gift online. Word on the street is they increased their donor numbers sand raised $103,000—more than three times last year.

Xavier Magazine

Madame Chairwoman

Jesuit schools, by tradition, are run by men. But sometimes, traditions must make way for change. So it is with Xavier’s Board of Trustees, who elected Barbara J. Howard as the first woman in Xavier’s 184-year history to serve as chair.

A board member since 1995, Howard never imagined she’d ever be chair. But both she and President Michael Graham, SJ, agree it’s time for a woman to take the lead. “I’m hopeful that while I’m the first, I’m not the last, that this is the beginning of women becoming more visible in the University.”

Howard graduated in 1976 as a member of the fourth class of women at Xavier and was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumna Award. She’s the principle of her own law firm practicing family law. She credits her education for much of her success. “You cannot beat a Xavier education.”

Her eight years with the academic affairs committee and as a student underscore her commitment to take academics to a higher level, “to help our students be the best they can be.”

Howard says she is deeply honored to be part of Xavier’s board. Her main goal is to invigorate it. She believes the board, through its policies, visions and strategic plans, sets the tone for the University and holds the power to move it forward in a positive way. “My one vision is that by empowering the board to be innovative, be creative, be forward thinking, we will allow the rest of the University to follow suit.”

Xavier Magazine

Alumni Profile: Medical Missionary

Dr. Carol Egner
Bachelor of Science in biology,
1978 Staff physician, Women Partners in OB GYN

Trouble in Madagascar | The African island nation is a dangerous place to be pregnant. For every 100,000 births, 440 women die in childbirth, compared to 24 in the U.S. Babies are six times more likely to die than their American peers.

Mother-Baby Initiative | Every year Dr. Carol Egner spends two weeks in Madagascar trying to change that. Egner, a Cincinnati obstetrician/gynecologist, returns in September for her fifth visit helping the Caring Response Madagascar Foundation with its Mother-Baby Initiative.

Feeling a Calling | Though she describes herself as “not very adventurous,” she ended up 6,000 miles away, being greeted by strangers in African villages, after learning about the Caring Response Foundation, launched by a woman named Virginia Wiltse.

Caring Response | The idea of doing medical mission work appealed to Egner, and meeting Wiltse sealed the deal. Caring Response also runs literacy centers, a water-purification program, micro-lending and other initiatives,  concentrating on needs that others aren’t meeting.

Needs vs. Wants | “The poverty is overwhelming, and yet the people are so kind and receptive. We show up to a village to set up a clinic, and we’re always greeted with song and dance and food,” Egner says. “Their whole lives are about what they need and not what they want.”

Saving Mother’s Lives | In Madagascar, Egner teaches doctors and midwives the basics of delivering healthy babies while preserving the mothers’ safety. She starts with how to prevent and treat post-partum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal deaths there. Students also learn vacuum extraction, infant resuscitation and other skills.

Stocking Up | In addition to volunteering her time and paying her own way, Egner contacts medical-equipment manufacturers and companies to bring as many supplies with her as she can when she travels. The first year, the foundation shipped maternity beds, baby warmers and other supplies to better prepare clinics for births.

The Grapevine | The foundation also sent an ultrasound machine to a region that had no familiarity with the technology. Egner used it on a pregnant midwife who was one of her students. Early the next day, in an area void of social media, 20 pregnant women were standing in line at the clinic, all eager to see images of their babies.

House Calls | Egner also travels to surrounding villages to provide care for people who have walked for days. The initiative is also teaching caregivers how to keep pre-natal, delivery and post-partum records so they can track outcomes among their patients.

Xavier Magazine

Almni Profile: Youth Mentor

George Powell
Bachelor of Science in physical education, 1965
Master of Education, 1972
Retired educator, Washington, DC

Go West Young Man | Powell, a Washington, DC, native, had completed his freshman year at Virginia Union University in Richmond when he decided he had to see more of the country. “I just packed my gym bag and said, ‘I’m going to the Midwest. I want to see the world,’” says Powell, 72. “I thought Xavier was a good place to come in and sharpen my skills and then give back.”

Knock-Knock | Athletic recruiting was a little different in those days. A student-athlete today wouldn’t, for example, show up at a coach’s office unannounced, ask for a tryout, and begin classes and practice a few days later. But that’s exactly what Powell did on Xavier’s now-defunct football team in the early 1960s.

Guiding Pillars | Giving back became the guiding principle for Powell’s life, along with education. He graduated in 1965 after studying physical education and psychology, and returned for a master’s in education. He volunteered at the Boys Club and the De Porres Center in CIncinnati, and would bring young boys to campus to expose them to college.

Teacher-Coach | After stints at the Ohio State University and Virginia Union, he later coached and taught at high schools in Cincinnati and Columbus. Some of his players went on to play football professionally, including two from Lincoln Heights High School in Cincinnati. Along the way, he mentored many students, urging them to take their education seriously and use it as a stepping-stone to a better life.

Open Door | “The door was open and I told kids to come with me. I tried to do everything I could to show them education is the way to a better life,” he says.

Family Man | Powell and his wife raised their two children to value education as well; his daughter Angela is a physician in Akron and his son George is a high-school teacher in Virginia. Powell moved back to Washington, DC, and lives in the house where he grew up.

Football Reunion | He was back on Xavier’s campus last year, when former Xavier football players were honored at a men’s basketball game. The school ended its football program in 1973, but many players stay in touch 40 years later.

Student-Athletes | Powell marveled at the changes on campus since he was here, and he spoke with pride about the emphasis the school still places on academics for its student-athletes. Though his teaching days are over, Powell’s mentoring and encouragement live on.

Giving Back | “We have to learn how to give back, because there are so many people out there who, with just a little bit of help, can be great people. Everybody needs a hand sometimes,” he says.

Xavier Magazine

Alumni Profile: Justice for All

Megan Connolly

Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, 2009
Attorney, Lowe Eklund Wakefield
Cleveland, Ohio

Uncommon Lawyer | Meghan Connolly loves to fight for the underdog—even when it’s herself. Imagine entering law school in 2009, when only 65 percent of graduates were finding jobs as lawyers. Additionally, Connolly’s chosen career as a personal injury attorney at Lowe Eklund Wakefield Co., LPA , a law firm in Cleveland has meant pushing against the image of ambulance-chasing lawyers and anti-plaintiff legislation. But she’s always been up for a challenge.

Making Her Case | “There’s a stigma attached to personal injury law, but we’re fighting the good fight. We’re helping deserving victims who’ve been tragically injured by negligent and reckless conduct. We pour our lives into these cases.”

A Good Argument |
“I don’t have any lawyers in my family. My dad plays the viola in the Cleveland Orchestra. My parents both say they could see me as an attorney: ‘You were so good arguing with us, maybe you should try to get paid for it.’ Research and writing are central to the law, two things I’ve always been good at. The first impression the court has of an attorney is through their writing.”

The X Factor | “I was a transfer student. I did my first year at East Tennessee State University with a volleyball scholarship. When that didn’t work out, I transferred to Xavier. I signed up for a course in constitutional law and it was the most interesting class I took. And that’s when I started thinking, ‘Maybe I want to go to law school.’”

Ex Post Facto | “I think a lot of people would be surprised how much reading, writing and of research we do. Good writing goes a long way. Anymore, ‘legalese’ is considered old school. What most judges prefer now is to be concise, straight forward, and to tell the truth. Plus the writing-intensive liberal arts education at Xavier gave me an advantage.”

Law School of Hard Knocks | “I remember being accepted and being really excited. When I got to school, some professors  started telling us, ‘It’s bad out there, guys, there aren’t enough jobs for everyone.’ Fortunately, I started clerking at the firm I’m working for now while I was still in law school. And the partners I work for have such a great passion for representing their clients. I identified ethically  and morally with this side of the law.”

Jesuit Jurisprudence | “It’s a very moving experience to meet a client who has suffered a tragic injury or who has lost a loved one through the negligence of someone else and then begin to advocate for them and do everything you can for a just result. I think the Jesuit mission absolutely lines up with those efforts.”

Xavier Magazine

Alumni Profile: Active Organizer

Mike Moroski
Bachelor of Arts in English, 2001

Master of Arts in English, 2011
Director of Community Engagement, Community Matters

Flipping For Good | After graduating with an English degree, Mike Moroski began taking students from Moeller High School to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood to rehab, or flip, old buildings to create affordable housing. He became deeply enmeshed in reviving the impoverished neighborhood, even opening a non-profit coffee shop. He received Xavier’s Magis Award in 2011.

Moving On | While dean of student life at Purcell Marian High School, Moroski faced an ideological dispute over the issue of same-sex marriage and left the school. He ran for Cincinnati City Council and lost. All the while, he kept watch as Over-the-Rhine gentrified into a neighborhood of pricey restaurants and high-end housing.

Uphill Climb | Moroski turned his sights to the Lower Price Hill neighborhood two miles west of downtown, where he serves as director of community engagement and development at Community Matters. He also emerged as a leading figure in efforts to fight poverty in Cincinnati, serving on multiple boards and organizations.

Research Lab | Lower Price Hill provides an especially useful laboratory for community organizing. In this tiny community of less than 1,200 residents, about half live in poverty, and 40 percent of adults lack a high-school diploma. And the traditionally Appalachian neighborhood has seen an influx of Guatemalan residents.

Unlimited Potential | Moroski sees unlimited potential for Lower Price Hill. “The people in the neighborhood are so hardworking and so proud,” he says. “You can literally wrap your arms around Lower Price Hill, and you can empower the entire community to rebuild itself.”

Nerve Center | The nerve center of Lower Price Hill’s renewal efforts is the former St. Michael the Archangel Church and School, which closed in 1997 and now houses Community Matters and Education Matters, two non-profits dedicated to improving the neighborhood.

Renewal | A $10 million renovation by the two non-profits is creating a food pantry, thrift store, benefits resource center, co-op laundromat and a community space in the old sanctuary. It will also host students from Xavier and other schools for service-learning programs that immerse them in solutions to poverty. Such programs used to be held in Over-the-Rhine, before the pace of redevelopment there picked up.

Come Together | Morowski sees all his past and current work—education, community development, job creation and support for families—coming together in just a few city blocks. “There’s way more potential than obstacles,” he says.  JULIE IRWIN ZIMMERMAN