Last Monday I hopped in my beat-up Grand Prix, and hit the America East back roads for the first time this season, bombing down I-84 to catch up with Hartford head coach John Gallagher and take in a Hawks practice.
To use a tired cliche and say that the Hawks enjoyed a roller-coaster season last year would be a huge understatement: The incredibly young and inexperienced Hawks began the season 0-13. Instead of packing it in and giving up – as most teams would have done – Hartford came together their fiery and energetic head coach, going 7-9 in conference while finishing in sixth place. The Hawks peaked at the right time, knocking off Boston University in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament before falling to eventual champion Vermont in the semis, capitulating only after a double-overtime thriller that will go down as one of the greatest America East Tournament games ever.
The Hawks can no longer catch AE foes by surprise, and are looking to make the leap from loveable upstart to conference contender. They have the talent, and more importantly the tenacity and work ethic: the America East is a good-enough-on-guts league, and in a year seemingly devoid of star talent and a head-and-shoulders-above-the-competition favorite, on most nights, the team that plays the hardest will likely walk away the winner.
Not to give away our preseason picks before they are unveiled, but we think the Hawks will take a step up this season.
I brought along a new camera, and in addition to jotting down my thoughts on the night, I snapped a lot of photographs – which will hopefully become a regular occurrence throughout the season. A link to the complete album can be found at the end of this post.
Thoughts, sights and sounds: (more…)