At the annual Joseph M. Linsey Hall of Fame on Saturday evening, October 7, the Brandeis Athletics community welcomed five individuals and one outstanding team as the 18th induction class.
Sara Albert '04, softball - On the Brandeis softball roster, Sara Albert was listed at five foot three and playing center field. This is not the typical image most would conjure up when reading about one of the best sluggers in school history, but no one ever told that to the teammate everyone called "Albe".
She was always one of her team's hardest workers, displaying a laser focus to get better every season, whether that meant tracking a hard-hit fly ball in center field or making every at-bat count.
After taking home All-UAA and All-New England honors as a sophomore, when she first cracked the NCAA's Top 25 statistical ranking, Albert's hard work really paid off as a junior. That year, she put together a remarkable offensive season. She hit 13 home runs, drove in 43 runs and slugged 1.101 in 26 games. On a per-game basis, all three figures were tops among ALL NCAA Division III players that year.
Albert was named National Fastpitch Coaches Association National Player of the Week after ending her season with a bang, going 11-for-13 with 14 RBI the season's final five games. As a senior, she earned All-Region and All-UAA honors and again finished among the NCAA statistical leaders. Albert is ranked second in career slugging (.804), triples (7), home runs (28) and RBIs (113).
"Softball made Brandeis a place where I belonged every day for four years," Albert said in her acceptance speech. "Being nominated into the Hall of Fame is such an incredible honor, and I feel such a connection to this University, especially since my picture will be hanging in the Gosman [Athletic Center] hallway for years to come."
John Fobia '73, soccer - A native of Cameroon, John Fobia grew up in a village where he was so interested in the sport, he earned the nickname John Football from an early age. As he continued to play and excel, John earned a scholarship to a Cameroonian post-secondary school and he landed a spot on both a second-division amateur team and on the nation's Under 23 team.
During an away match in the 1969-70 season, John went to a library to complete some homework for secondary school. While there, he found a pamphlet about the Wien Scholarship at Brandeis University. John applied to the program and was accepted, beginning his Brandeis career as a sophomore.
John began his first semester on campus a bit late, joining a soccer season already in progress. He had an immediate impact and was a force for the Judges over the next three seasons, serving as team captain twice.
John held his own against larger schools, highlighted by 13 goals and five assists during his junior season. During a memorable stretch in a match against Boston University, John's shot knocked the wind out of one BU defender, then another opponent on the follow up shot - only to knock his third attempt off the crossbar.
Before the NCAA was divided into Division One, Two and Three, John was selected for the All-New England team with players from Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and other top-tier institutions in the region. He was named to the All- New England team during each of his three seasons, despite battling injuries and playing multiple positions.
"My Brandeis soccer experience was exemplary," Fobia said as part of his induction speech. "At the first practice, the coach gave me the #1 jersey, but I played #9, the striker. Give me the ball, show me the goal…. I was so pleased to play at Brandeis, it didn't bother me, I played with the #1 jersey."
Marshall Goldman '03, swimming and diving - A Knoxville, Tennessee native, Marshall Goldman was a talented swimmer, who was a high school All-American. Though he was somewhat late to the sport, Marshall was a highly coveted recruit, and after an impulsive Thanksgiving trip to Brandeis that included a post-workout feast with the team, he was sold that this was the place for him.
Over the next four years, Marshall turned into one of the best male swimmers in team history, and his accolades speak for themselves. Despite missing his sophomore season to injury, Marshall walked away with five UAA Athlete of the Week honors, 12 New England Championships and 23 school-record performances.
Marshall's best skills in the pool may have been in the butterfly, where he met the NCAA 'B' qualifying standard five times in his career, but when he graduated, he owned career top-10 times in freestyle, backstroke and individual medleys. He had a team first mentality, and he was always willing to swim in whatever race the team needed to win the meet.
Out of the water, Marshall immediately bought into Coach Jim Zotz's philosophies about being accountable and helping foster the next generation of BUSDT. "It was rare for me to put trust in a freshman to host recruits," said coach Zotz, "But with Marshall, it was a no brainer."
"I'm a third-generation Brandeis student," Goldman recalled. "My father [Mitchell] graduated from Brandeis in 1966, and my grandfather went to Middlesex College and my grandmother worked in the lab there…. Thanks to swimming and athletics, Brandeis continues to be my home, and I love coming back here."
Mike Mayer '94, fencing - Mike Mayer is part of a great tradition of Brandeis saber fencers under coach Bill Shipman. Though he came to Brandeis from Los Angeles as a relatively unheralded fencer, Coach Shipman knew he was getting a smart fencer. "Saber was undergoing a lot of changes to the rules back then, and Mike became efficient in taking advantage of the change in style."
As a freshman, Mike used the altering landscape to take home a Junior Olympics medal, a preview of the success he would have during his career. In an era when the University Athletic Association sponsored a league championship, Mike won gold in both 1991 and 1994.
Mike qualified for the first of his three NCAA Championships in 1991. He finished in 17th and 19th place respectively his first two years, setting the stage for one of the most remarkable seasons in Brandeis fencing history.
As a junior, he compiled a 29-13 Record in dual matches, dropping only two decisions. When Brandeis hosted the prestigious Intercollegiate Fencing Association championships, Mike finished in second place overall. He followed up that performance with a fourth place finish at the Northeast Regional Championships, which qualified him for a third-straight NCAA Championship appearance.
At NCAA's, Mike claimed the sixth seed in the direct elimination pool and proceeded to defeat opponents from distinguished fencing schools like Penn, Columbia and Yale to become the first-ever First Team All-American in Brandeis Men's Fencing history.
"I want to recognize my teammates, the ones who were there with me, the ones who came before and after me. We are all teammates, whether or not we were there at the same time," Mayer said. "We were all part of the same team. When you are at college… your team becomes your family."
Greg Steelman '91, track and field - Greg Steelman came to Brandeis from tiny Allenstown, New Hampshire, where he was already a standout thrower, setting state discus records. Legendary Hall of Fame track and field Coach Norm Levine took notice, and Greg jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Brandeis program.
Greg proved to be a major contributor throughout the years, thanks to the tutelage of another thrower on the team, Steve Mason '84, who helped Greg adapt to the larger college-sized discus. Competing in three different events - the 35-pound weight throw, discus and shot put - Greg won five individual New England Championships. As a freshman, he was a key member of the team that swept the New England Division III Championships indoors and outdoors.
Greg was able to take his talents to the national level over the course of his career as well, reaching the NCAA Division III Championships both indoors and outdoors as a freshman and outdoors as a junior.
The highlight of those three trips to nationals came as a freshman. Greg established a meet record at the outdoor championships in discus, with a heave of 178 feet and 2 inches, making him the NCAA Champion and marking the first of his five career All-America honors. The University records in the shot put (54-1.5), discus (178-2) and 35-pound weight throw (55-10) that Greg set in the mid-80s still stand today, more than 30 years later.
"Looking back, 30 years have gone by so fast," Steelman said in his induction speech. "The greatest part of this honor has been the opportunity to reconnect with people who were like brothers with me at this place, who I haven't seen in so long."
The 1988-89 men's tennis team - Last year, Brandeis men's tennis finished with a top-35 national ranking and their best-ever finish in the UAA during head Coach Ben Lamanna's tenure. The team's ultimate goal is to live up to the accomplishments of the 1988-1989 Judges that won the UAA title and became the first-ever program from New England to earn an NCAA Division Three Tournament berth.
Head coach Tom Foley knew he had something special headed into the 1988-1989 season. He had a pair of seniors in Noel Occomy and Ian Murray who had already made multiple trips to the NCAA Division Three Championship. Occomy was coming off winning the NCAA title as a junior, and the pair had reached the semifinals of the doubles bracket.
Coach Foley and the Judges set a goal of reaching the NCAA tournament and they played an incredibly challenging slate of matches to help their cause. Of their 19 dual matches, nine were against Division One schools, including a split with Boston University and road victories over Vermont and Appalachian State. The team then rolled through their Division Three opponents, including wins over NESCAC foes Colby, Amherst and Tufts.
After the regular season, Coach Foley and the Judges headed to Emory for the UAA championship. The event was a series of flighted tournaments, meaning each rung on the ladder held equal importance to the team's finish.
Occomy was his reliable self in winning the first singles flight, and sophomore Mike Gratz took the Number Four flight. The championship came down to the doubles matches, where the number two doubles team of Gratz and junior Jon Cordish, were playing Washington University. In the first set, the Judges forced a tiebreaker, which they controlled, 7-2, but dropped the second set, 6-4. With the conference title on the line, Brandeis won the third set, 6-2 and they were crowned conference champions.
Winning the UAA title was a key factor in the team being selected for the NCAA tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In a tense first-round match, the Judges were knocked out by Pomona-Pitzer, but their Number Nine national ranking remains the highest in Brandeis men's tennis history.
All nine members of the team and both coaches were in attendance on Saturday: Larry Carter '90, Jon Cordish '90, Mike Gratz '91, Noel Occomy '89, Ian Murray '89, Paul Ranis '91, Peter Richman '89, Mark Weinberg '91, Eric Weinstock '90, Head Coach Tom Foley and Assistant Coach Bobby Bernstein '85.
Speaking for the team, coach Foley said, "New England teams were never able to crack into the [NCAA Division III] team championship. This team did that and… created a respect for New England tennis that changed the landscape. It opened the door for the adoption of regional qualifying tournaments, and since then, teams from New England have won several national titles. I've had two NESCAC coaches say Brandeis helped get that foot in the door and wedge it open."
|Left to right: Peter Richman '89 (kneeling), Mike Gratz '91, Larry Carter '90, Assistant Coach Bobby Bernstein '85, Coach Tom Foley, Noel Occomy '89, Mark Weinberg '89, Ian Murray '89 (front), Jon Cordish '90, Paul Ranis '91 (kneeling), Eric Weinstock '90|