Friday, January 28, 2011

Sippola Update #2

It is the time of the week for another Ben Sippola update. I have been lucky enough to get on the good side of the Columbus Crew and thanks to TJ Ansley, Digital Content Editor for the Columbus Crew, I was able to grab some pictures of Ben Sippola in training.

As you can see in the pictures, Sippola is sporting the #28 jersey and is still competing for a contract and a place in the first team roster. News out of Major League Soccer today, reported that roster size was expanded to 30 players per team. This has to be seen as a positive for Sippola's chances of getting a contract and would allow him more opportunity to impress the coaching staff.

Although pictures cannot tell the whole story, it sure looks as if Sippola is doing his best to show his work ethic and compete for a spot on the team. Sippola seems to be adjusting well and is surely learning a lot from the veterans on the field. In addition to the pictures, the Crew also created a short "get-to-know" interview with Sippola. Check it out!

More updates to come throughout preseason. Only 6.5 weeks until Major League Soccer begins.

All pictures and video
were provided by

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Big Game Tomorrow!

Continuing with the trend of Butler's Horizon League domination, we now focus our attention on our Women's Basketball team. For those of you who have not heard, the Bulldogs are currently undefeated in Horizon League play at 7-0 and are looking to add another win tomorrow night. Standing in the way of that W is another undefeated and nationally ranked opponent - long time rival Wisconsin Green Bay.

Green Bay has dominated the rivalry recently, winning 28 straight against the Bulldogs, but Butler's top four scorers (all Seniors) are determined to end that streak at home tomorrow night. The 7-0 start in conference this year is the second best start in Butler history since a 9-0 run in 1993, while still in the MCC.

The timing could not be better - in the last four weeks, Butler has won 7 straight games and has claimed two Horizon League Players of the Week: Bowen for the week of Jan. 10 and Hamilton for the week of Jan 17. If that wasn't even motivation, a win over ranked Green Bay on Thursday night would give Coach Couture her 400th career win. I cannot think of a more deserving way for such a hard working, strong willed individual to earn her 400th.

Although attendance at Women's games has not been known to sell-out Hinkle Fieldhouse, I am expecting and hoping that a good crowd will come support the Bulldogs in their quest to unthrone the Pheonix tomorrow night at 7:00pm. I have been told that those who attended the Men's game last Sunday can purchase tickets at the Box Office for $3 when presenting their ticket stubs.

I also know that Dawg Pound members in attendance can enter to win $100 cash at half-time and that REACH will be there to pass out free t-shirts to the first 100 students.

Below is an address from Coach Beth Couture:

Dawg Pound-

Let me start by saying that the women’s basketball team and staff appreciates all your efforts in supporting our team this season. We have had an increase in student attendance at our games and it has been GREAT.

With that said, I want to emphasize the importance of our upcoming game this Thursday night versus our longtime conference nemesis, Green Bay, who is ranked No. 16 nationally. Currently, we are tied with them for the lead – both teams at 7-0.

It will be a tough game, and we certainly could use your help on Thursday night!

Go Dawgs!
Coach Beth Couture

As far as I know, there is not a single undergraduate student currently enrolled at Butler University that has been able to storm the court at Hinkle Fieldhouse in celebration of an upset. Tomorrow night, if Butler can continue their winning streak, I will see each and every one of you at mid-court when the final buzzer sounds.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sippola Update

Add a Columbus Crew jersey to your next wish-list and start getting excited for the MLS season to begin. On January 18th, Butler Senior and soccer star, Ben Sippola, was selected as the 30th pick in the 2011 Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft by the Columbus Crew. There were rumors that New York would take Sippola and others that suggested Columbus was the team most excited about the talented midfielder, but one thing was for sure - Ben Sippola was going to be picked and would play professionally.

The afternoon of the draft, Sippola was monitoring his status via a draft tracker with a few friends when he received a call from his father yelling "Columbus!" Confused, Sippola watched as the draft tracker quickly updated and displayed his name next to Columbus and the 30th overall pick. When the initial shock of excitement began to subside, Sippola realized how great of an opportunity it would be to put on the Crew jersey and represent Butler at a higher level. Plus, the distance doesn't hurt either. "I am a Midwestern guy, so I was thrilled when I knew I would be only three hours from Butler." Ben shared.

Sippola became the sixth player from Butler to be drafted in the MLS and the first since John Mariscalco (Colorado Rapids, 2006). Talk about a successful program - Six players have been drafted to professional teams in just over a 10 year period. Despite the fact that only one of those Bulldogs drafted (Stephen Armstrong) is still playing professionally, Sippola has a chance to play for one of the better teams in the league and will begin training with them tomorrow. "I will be joining the Crew this Sunday. We spend a week in Columbus and then head to Phoenix, Arizona for preseason," Sippola explained.

American soccer fans may recognize the names Robbie Rogers, Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven, and Jeff Cunningham. For those of you who may not have heard of them, you could compare them to NBA veterans who have represented their country at the highest level. Sippola mentioned that "all of these players have proven themselves at the highest level of American soccer even making appearances for the Unites States National Team. My goal is to fill the shoes of these players some day. I cannot wait to learn from them and play with them." Contracts in the MLS, however, are not guaranteed, and Sippola will be fighting for his place on the team as soon as he takes the field on Sunday. "I will be on trial until they offer me a contract. It could be a matter of a week or a month or two before I am offered a contract. I will earn a contract if the coaches feel like I can bring something to the team, whether it be my work rate, tenacity, versatility, etc."

With everyone at camp competing for a first team spot, it may be more likely that Sippola will earn a reserve spot in his first year with the team. Major League Soccer has decided to bring back the Reserve League for the 2011 season and Sippola might find himself suiting up for these games. However, it is important to note that Ben Sippola is exactly the hard working, determined player that could surprise the coaching staff and earn a first team spot. Just ask Coach Findley, who recently left Butler to pursue the head coaching position at North Carolina State in the ACC. Regardless of when Sippola makes his 1st first team appearance, I am confident that he will continue to do what he has done in his three and a half tremendous years at Butler - win.

"I couldn’t be more excited to go to Columbus, I have wanted to be a professional soccer player since I can remember. In spite of this, I will miss the Butler atmosphere, going to basketball games, my professors, the athletic department, and of course my friends. All I can say is “thank you” to everyone at Butler for their support," Sippola concluded.

I will do my best to keep the Butler fanbase updated on Sippola's status, but in the meantime, add the Columbus Crew to the professional teams that Butler is contributing to.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Another Bulldog Going Pro

Update #2: It is official - Ben Sippola was taken as the 12th pick in the second round of the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft (30th overall) by the Columbus Crew. I will have more on this later, but for now congratulations to Ben on another great accomplishment.

Update: Ben Sippola was not drafted today, but still has a chance to make a team via the supplemental draft where another 54 players will be taken on January 18th. I will keep you updated on his status.

Everyone in Butler Nation, along with college basketball fans across the country followed Butler's Final Four run last March and watched as a blossoming sophomore, Gordon Hayward, took his last shot as a Bulldog. Just four months later, a different Bulldog team was making noise in the press and was led by another superstar. Much like Hayward and company ran through the Horizon League undefeated, the men's soccer team went undefeated through the entire regular season - posting a 16-0-3 record (3 ties) going into the second round of the NCAA tournament. Senior midfielder Ben Sippola played the role of do-it-all Hayward and the rest of the team continued to work hard to prove all the doubters wrong by winning and eventually climbing all the way up to #5 in the national rankings before losing to a fortunate Michigan State side on November 21.

Despite the early exit from the tournament, Butler and Sippola were awarded some well-earned recognition. Coach Kelly Findley won the 2010 Horizon League Coach of the Year. Butler seniors Conner Burt and Ben Sippola were named to the 2010 ESPN University Division Men’s Soccer Academic All-America Team. Ben Sippola and junior Matt Hedges were named to the Second Annual Team of the Year. The same two (Sippola and Hedges) were named to the 2010 National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-America Team. Sippola was chosen to the first team, while Hedges held a spot on the second team. Sippola also won the Horizon League Male Scholar-Athlete of the Month twice out of the four month season. Ben was also listed as a semi-finalist for the Hermann Trophy (the top award in college soccer). And finally Sippola won the Horizon League Player of the Year award. In case you missed it, Ben Sippola was listed in all of the awards Butler won this year except for Coach of the Year, and I am sure Coach Findley would tell you that Sippola did a fair share of coaching as a team leader this year as well.

The recognition for Sippola has not stopped there. He was invited to the Major League Soccer (MLS) combine this past week where he was given a chance to work out in front of scouts from every professional team in the MLS as well as scouts from across the world. The purpose of the combine is for teams to evaluate who they will take in the MLS Draft that is scheduled for tomorrow at 12:00p EST. With only the top 54 players selected, many are unsure of Sippola status in the draft, but it is still not out of the question for him to play professionally next year if he were not to be taken. At least one source has him going #28 overall though. Ben was nice enough to answer a few questions following the combine- check out the brief interview below and keep your eye out for updates on his draft status tomorrow!

1. 2010: Horizon League Player of the year, NSCAA First Team - All American, First Team Academic All-American, Semi-finalist for NCAA Herman Trophy. When you committed to Butler while still in High School, did you ever imagine that you would achieve such prestigious awards?

Ben: I never imagined that I would achieve this much individual success in my collegiate career. However, I have always believed in my self as a player and my abilities. I have always believed that working hard ultimately pays its dues and that is the case with me. I simply worked hard for four years and I am now gaining recognition for it.

2. How did your role at Butler progress over the years, from starting 10 games in 2007, to 16 in 2008, to then starting and becoming a key contributor on the 2009 and 2010 teams?

Ben: My freshman year I was injured midway through the season, which caused me to miss a lot of time. However, since then I have started virtually every game for the last three years excluding some time I missed my sophomore year because of a concussion. The last two years I have had more of a leadership role and this past year I became the catalyst behind our offense, where in the past I was very defensive minded.

3. What were the expectations of the team going into the year? Did you ever expect to be undefeated going into the NCAA tournament?

Ben: The expectations for this past year were to win the horizon league championship and receive an NCAA bid allowing us to ultimately compete for a national championship. I never expected that we would go undefeated, however it is not surprising when you look at the character, talent, and strong bonds of brotherhood within our team and coaching staff. 2010’s undefeated season is a testament to what a group of people can accomplish when united by strong leadership and common goals.

4. The first loss of the season was in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Ben Ten foe Michigan State. What did they do that others could not?

Ben: I’m not necessarily sure that Michigan State did something that others could not. It ultimately came down to our inability to capitalize on our scoring opportunities, which seemed to be our Achilles heal as the season progressed. We out shot state 15 to 6, had the majority of the play, but just failed to score the one goal that we needed to put the pressure on them.

5. As the season progressed, were you aware of the interest coming from Major League Soccer? If so, how did you handle the pressure of playing in front of professional scouts.

Ben: I knew that my name was being thrown around a little bit, but it really did not affect my game. I was not concerned with scouts or interest from Major League Soccer. I was just concerned about winning games for Butler University. However, it is always encouraging to know that MLS is taking notice.

6. Where were you when the call came to participate in the MLS combine? You were expecting a call?

Ben: I was at my house at Butler University with all of my roommates. I was not expecting the call, so when I got it, I’m pretty sure I jumped for joy. I felt like a little kid at Christmas.

7. For the non-soccer followers, can you give us a brief summary of what the combine consists of?

Ben: The combine consists of the nation’s top 70 or so collegiate prospects. The players are split up into four teams and play a three game round robin over four days. Every MLS team and many other professional clubs watch and scout the games. Other than that, the combine consists of a lot of down time and various meetings with teams, the player’s union, and agents.

8. Was there a player at the combine who you bonded with most and how has it been to play with the best young players in the country?

Ben: I got a chance to spend sometime with long time horizon league rival and Green Bay Phoenix, JC Banks. We were placed on the same team at the combine and developed some chemistry in our last game when he played right wing and I right back.

The combine was a great experience as it exposed me to a whole new level of soccer, I now have a better idea of what I need to improve in my game.

9. Major League Soccer is continuing to grow both in teams and in fan base and many are beginning to consider it as an elite league. Have your sights been set on the MLS for awhile or are dreams of Europe beginning to form.

Ben: Right now I am concerned with playing my soccer in the United States. However if that does not work out, Europe is always an option.

10. What can we expect from Butler Men's Soccer next year with the significant amount of seniors graduating and Coach Findley taking the NC State job?

Ben: You can expect a team with a blue collar mentality, a great work ethic, and a lot of skill. I am confident Butler will hire a great new head coach as our Assistant Athletic Director, Beth Goetz, has a great soccer background and knows exactly what to look for in a coaching candidate.

Bonus: When you become the next Landon Donovan of USA Soccer, will you continue to support the Butler Bulldogs?

Ben: Although this is highly unlikely (laugh), I will always support the Butler Bulldogs. I bleed blue.

The next rapid fire questions can be answered with one word and should be the first thing that pops into your head.

1. What is next for Ben Sippola?

Ben: A lot of hard work on the soccer field.

2. If you had to compare yourself with a professional soccer player who would it be?

Ben: Gary Neville

3. Funniest teammate?

Ben: Adam Glanzer

5. What do you do when you aren't studying or playing soccer?

Ben: Fly Fishing

6. Favorite food?

Ben: Chipotle Burritos

7. Band?

Ben: James Taylor

Thanks Ben! Good luck this week we will all be cheering for you!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Andrew Smith is "The Moose"

After last night's 22 point 10 rebound performance against always pesky Cleveland Sate, I feel like it is time to debut the newest nickname for Butler's 6' 10" starting center, Andrew Smith. A few lucky Bulldog fans may have been lucky enough to hear or witness the "Mooooooooooooose" chants from the North side of the Dawg Pound when Smith gets announced in the starting lineup, but after his breakout game I feel like everyone should know. Now, you may ask yourself: What does Andrew Smith and a moose have in common? Well, hopefully by the end of this blog post you will see the clear connections between Andy and the Alces alces, or in non-scientific terms - moose. By the end of reading this, I am sure the next time Smith scores a bucket, you will join us putting four fingers on each hand behind our heads and chanting "Mooooooooooooose."

The first obvious similarity between Smith and a moose is their sheer size. An average moose has been known to grow between 6-7 feet tall and Andrew Smith stands on the upper-side of that at 6' 10". Now, because Smith is just a Sophomore it might be hypothesized that he is still a growing moose, but let's instead throw out those extra two inches and call it even. And despite the average moose weighing between 850-1500 lbs, I think we can all agree to throw out the difference there as well. But wait that is not all.

If you are not convinced of the similarities yet, than hold on because I have some more. One of the most reliable resources on the web, Wikipedia, claims that "moose are not usually aggressive towards humans, but can be provoked or frightened to behave with aggression." This is seen at Butler through the polite and bashful young man who listens during class and talks at press conferences, but come to play when it is game times. Another interesting point is that the natural enemy of the moose - the wolf is seen throughout our conference. When a pack of wolves or humans provoke the moose, the moose will fight back.

That means trouble for the rest of the Horizon League. Of the nine opposing teams in the Horizon League, five have mascots that are humans or wolves, one is a flame (that burns down a moose's habitat) and another is a panther that could easily be confused with a wolf in the eyes of a moose. That leaves the Penguins, who a moose could step on, and the Pheonix who would frighten any animal - thus creating more aggression.

Still don't get the connection? Moose are known as big lanky creatures with long limbs, but are surprisingly fast and can run up to 35mph. Much like the moose, Andrew Smith is tall and lanky, but is deceivingly fast running the break and jumping up for the lob. Don't believe me? Watch Smith run the floor next game. Last night, he was consistently one of the first people back on defense and ran hard all the way to the other end on offense.

If you STILL don't believe me, check out a recent picture of Smith from practice this week.. there are some eerie similarities there, but I will let you be the judge. Rumor has it after this picture was taken, the photographer was dunked on.

Finally, the last point and possibly the real reason for the nickname might just be the fact that his number is 44. If you put four fingers on each hand behind your head (as shown in the picture at the top) it looks like antlers- thus forming a Moose. Truthfully, Andrew is beginning to blossom as a player and has been a real "moose" down on the low post. If he can continue to play consistent minutes in the post and put up numbers half as good as last night, Butler will be a scary looking inside-out threat. So whatever your reason is for calling Andrew Smith a moose, I hope that you will join us in recognizing our very own as "Mooooooooooose."