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It was supposed to be an exciting weekend for the St. Bonaventure men's soccer team. Operating on a small budget, the Bonnies spent last year raising enough money to make their first team flight, to Nashville, Tenn., for last weekend's Vanderbilt Tournament.

It was supposed to be a milestone event for a program trying to muscle its way into Atlantic 10 contention.

But after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, nothing that was supposed to happen occurred as planned.

Even if they wanted to -- which they didn't -- the Bonnies couldn't have flown to Nashville.

Head coach Bill Brady made phone calls to Vanderbilt officials, who assured him through late last Wednesday afternoon that the tournament would go on as scheduled. After all, the Southeastern Conference had issued an edict that all games, in all sports, would be played.

"A lot of guys were upset and there was a lot of confusion," Brady said. "A couple of guys even asked me, 'Coach, do you think we'll have an all-out nuclear war now?'

"It was a broad range of emotions to deal with. But there were no family members lost, no immediate friends lost, and with that in mind guys kind of had said that one of President Bush's messages was to be strong and show that our way of life has not changed. So they decided to go down and play to get the tragedy off our minds and move on with life."

Bona boarded a bus at 7 a.m. Thursday for what proved to be a futile trip.

It was 5 p.m. and the team was an hour and a half from Nashville when Brady got the call on his cell phone that the SEC reversed its decision and canceled all games, including the Vanderbilt tourney.

"We spent the night in Nashville and actually had offers to pick up some other games," Brady said. "But at that point President Bush had made Friday a National Day of Mourning, and we thought it best to cut our losses and let our guys be in contact with their family and friends. We didn't want to be a school that played on the National Day of Mourning."

The team returned, by bus, Friday, spending 25 hours traveling for nothing.

"There was frustration and anger, of course," Brady said. "But I said to the guys that obviously we're disappointed, but we need to put our anger aside. There are bigger issues going on in our country right now. The last thing we need is to get upset with each other or other schools. At times like this, you need to look at the big picture. The frustrating part is that the guys could have spent more time with their family and friends if they had canceled the tournament right away."

Niagara using its brain

Bill Agronin called it a bit of good news among the craziness.

His Niagara women's basketball team was ranked fourth in the nation in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25.

It's the highest ranking for the Purple Eagles, who made the list for the fifth straight year.

"We take great pride in it," Agronin said. "Being a former teacher and principal it's something I've always emphasized, but the players now have bought into it. They come up to me and ask, 'Coach, how did we do this year?' They're very cognizant of it.

"It's funny how it rubs off year to year. We don't need to talk to the freshmen about it. They understand from the upperclassmen what's expected. It's neat to see, really. It's something that we're not daily on their backs about. It just falls into place."

It fell into place at the University at Buffalo, too, where the Bulls entered the list for the first time -- at No. 23.

"Obviously, as a coach, you're ecstatic," UB's Cheryl Dozier said. "It's a reflection of the commitment our kids have in the classroom, as well as on the court. As a coach, my name is on there, but is has nothing to do with me. It's our kids. . . . When we recruit kids, we know this is a tough university academically, so we're not going to recruit kids who are unable to be successful in the classroom. Really, you have to take that into consideration when you're recruiting."

Niagara's team grade-point average for last academic year was 3.390, while UB's was 3.222.

Wisconsin-Green Bay was No. 1 in Division I with a 3.481 average.

Around the campuses

Senior forward Andy Stinson has left the Bona men's basketball team. Stinson, a walk-on for the past three seasons, played in 12 games for the Bonnies. Last year, he appeared in six games and scored three points. . . . UB looked west for its softball needs and signed five players for the spring season -- shortstop Erica Pace and infielder Melissa Pace from Long Beach, Calif.; catcher Julie Hibner from Salem, Ore.; outfielder Lisa Wheat from Olympia, Wash.; and outfielder/pitcher Ann Marie Magur from Collinsville, Ill. "The depth and the national experience these student-athletes bring to our program will contribute to our anticipated success this spring season," said UB coach Marie Curran. . . . Mickey Crowley will step down as the Atlantic 10 supervisor of men's basketball officials, a position he's held since 1991. A 25-year veteran of officiating, his last game as an active official was the 1991 NCAA title game. Crowley's resignation will be effective July 1. . . . Davidson sophomore Jon Kropski (Williamsville North) placed eighth at the Sea Trail Intercollegiate golf tournament in Sunset Beach, N.C., last weekend, shooting a 76 in the first round and a 75 in the second.

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