Brooklyn’s queenpin: St. Francis’ Tonyes completes breakthrough season at nationals

May 3, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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St. Francis College junior Amelia Tonyes was admittedly anxious, but not intimidated, when she competed in last month’s United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Intercollegiate Singles Championships in Lincoln, Neb.

The Terriers’ top bowler and the Remsen Street school’s recently named Women’s Athlete of the Year tuned out any negativity entering the prestigious event.

“You have to have a good mental game,” Tonyes said. “When I go into a meet, I listen to music and think positive.  There’s never a negative thought in my mind. It’s important to have fun.”

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Displaying great poise under pressure, Tonyes thrived as one of only 16 bowlers in the nation to qualify for the tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals before falling just short of reaching the Final Four.

“It was amazing to compete at that level,” said the adolescent education and math major after being ousted by Nebraska’s Elise Bolton in the Elite Eight. “To see the talent of the other girls and compete with them, I tried to think of it as any other tournament. Butit was hard because it was one of my biggest moments in bowling. I knew I have what it takes, so I just went with it.”

Tonyes, who led St. Francis to the Northeast Conference championships this year, qualified for the nationals by posting an average score of 210 at the USBC Sectionals in Allentown, Pa., back in March.

The 5-foot-2 Medford, N.Y., native has dominated the lanes in Brooklyn after earning MVP and All-Region honors during her time at Suffolk County Community College, helping the Terriers emerge as a national contender.

“When you get along so well with your teammates, hopefully, you bring that with you onto the lanes,” she noted.  “It’s really magical what happens when you have that chemistry.”

Hoping to fulfill her career ambition to become a math teacher, Tonyes is far from finished with bowling as her senior season promises to be her best.  

“I have this undeniably strong love for bowling, but school always comes first for me,” Tonyes revealed in a recent interview on the school’s website. “I personally need to do well in the classroom and hold it together off the lanes, otherwise I’d be a mess in a game. I have high expectations and I work very hard for my grades because I feel they represent who I am as a person and what I have to offer.”

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Another nationally renowned program at St. Francis, the men’s water polo team, is eagerly anticipating the 2012 campaign after being knocked out in last year’s Eastern Championships.
Terriers coach Igor Samardzija is hoping his new recruits can lead St. Francis back to the NCAA’s Final Four in water polo.The Terriers, just two years removed from their second NCAA Final Four berth in six seasons, are hoping an infusion of new talent can help compensate for the loss of nine departing seniors from the 2011 squad.

St. Francis head coach Igor Samardzija began that rebuilding process this week, announcing the signing of three student-athletes to National Letters of Intent for the new season, which begins in September.

Matthew Varela of La Habra, Calif., Jacob Barashick of Orlando, Fla., and Liam Veazey of Dallas are all Brooklyn-bound and ready to wear the blue and red for the Terriers.

“At the end of the season we were left with the challenge of replacing nine seniors or half of or our team roster,” said Samardzija. “At the same time, and for the first time since I have been with the team, we were able to bring in more players from within the United States as opposed to turning to traditional resources in Europe like we have done in the past. This is due to the increased interest from student-athletes and their parents in our program.  I personally perceive this as a sure sign that we are doing something good here.  People are recognizing that by giving us their vote of confidence and choosing our school over other institutions. “

The 5-foot-8 Varela was a captain and his team’s overall Most Valuable Player on both offense and defense at Sonora High School. The 165-pound driver/utility player scored 102 goals last season, earning First Team All-Freeway League honors as the second-highest scorer in his division.

“Matt is a playmaker and the best scorer for both his high school and club team,” Samardija said.

Barashick, a 6-foot-3 center/defender, scored 70 goals and added 37 assists, 64 steals and 38 kick outs drawn last season at Bishop Moore Catholic. He scored over 150 goals during his high school career and was also voted the Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.

“Jacob comes to St. Francis after great recommendations from his high school and from coaches in Florida,” said Samardzija. “That includes St. Francis alumnus and his Olympic development coach, Nick Gaffey. He was one of the best players available in Florida and is a modern all-around center, capable of defending and swimming fast when needed.  He was a dominant player throughout his high school career and is truly devoted to the game of water polo.”


Veazey, a 6-foot-1 lefty driver, was an All-State performer in water polo as well as swimming. The 180-pound Dallas native was the MVP and captain at Bryan Adams High School. Academically, he was an All-American as well as the class valedictorian. Veazey received a Presidential Scholarship to attend St. Francis, the highest such award at the Franciscan school.  

“Liam is a lefty and there is no doubt that he’s the best player coming out from Texas this year,” said Samardzija. “He is a great talent and not only because of the immense speed he possesses. He is passionate about water polo and eager to learn more in order to get him to the next level and hopefully to the National Team one day.”

Despite the loss of such notable players as seniors Filip Sasic and Marko Gencic, both of whom earned All-American honorable mention this past season, Samardzija believes the Terriers are ready to compete for the nation’s top prize in water polo.

“Our goal is to create a team deep enough to go head-to-head with our Eastern rivals, like Princeton and Navy, in order to get us in the driver’s seat in the East, and thus an opportunity to challenge the best teams in the country and fight for the national championship,” he said.
Louwers LIU tennis  LIU-Brooklyn freshman Sanne Louwers was voted the best first-year tennis player in the Northeast Conference this year.  Photo courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn Athletics

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LIU-Brooklyn freshman Sanne Louwers was named the Northeast Conference Women’s Tennis Rookie of the Year, leading four Blackbirds who earned postseason honors from the conference on Tuesday.

Louwers and junior Taysha Blessington picked up First Team All-NEC accolades at No. 1 doubles, and both were named to the All-NEC Second Team at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively.

Sophomore Lisa Maas and freshman Nancy Zonneveld took home Second Team All-NEC honors at No. 2 doubles.

A mid-season enrollee at LIU, Louwers gave the Blackbirds a welcome boost for the spring season, eventually leading to a run to the NEC semifinals before a hard-fought loss to league champion Fairleigh Dickinson.

Louwers won the first seven matches of her career at the top singles flight. She finished the season 9-2 overall and 3-1 in NEC play.

A native of the Netherlands, Louwers fit right in Downtown, becoming a two-time NEC Player/Rookie of the Week to join former LIU stars Merve Koksal (2004) and Ashley Harvey (2006) as recipients of the league’s top honor for first-year players.

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