SF Chronicle: Coach MacIntyre Positions Spartan Football as Contender for WAC Title

Lofty goals for San Jose State

Posted by the San Francisco Chronicle July 31, 2012.

By John Crumpacker

San Jose State’s football fortunes have improved to such an extent in the third year under coach Mike MacIntyre that the Spartans are seriously talking about making a run for the WAC title in their last season before moving on to the Mountain West Conference.

Imagine that.

Just two years ago, San Jose State slogged through a 1-12 season in MacIntyre’s debut season with the Spartans. An improvement to 5-7 in 2011 has coach and players thinking big.

“We definitely have an opportunity to be WAC champion,” MacIntyre said Monday at Bay Area football media day at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco. “That’s our goal, to be WAC champion. We’re excited about the possibility. Hopefully, we can be the first WAC champion in football” in San Jose State history.

MacIntyre’s optimism has filtered down to his players, based on San Jose State’s improvement last season.

“I can see significant improvement each year,” tight end Ryan Otten said. “We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re faster, more disciplined and more confident. My expectations are high. Our focus this year is we’re trying to win the last WAC championship. We’re more than capable of taking care of business.”

This is the year to take care of business in the devalued WAC, down to seven football-playing schools for 2012 after Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada departed. Remaining are Louisiana Tech, Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, along with San Jose State.

The Spartans were picked to finish third in the WAC in a recent media poll.

“We have huge expectations,” defensive end Travis Johnson said. “We want to win them all. There’s no reason we can’t win them all if we play our best. It’s a total possibility.”

Players like Otten and Johnson give the Spartans reason for optimism. The 6-foot-5 Otten had 52 receptions for 739 yards and five touchdowns a year ago, but that was with Matt Faulkner throwing to him.

Faulkner is gone, and MacIntyre is weighing his options at quarterback among David Fales, Dasmen Stewart, Blake Jurich and Joe Gray.

“We’ve got to find a quarterback. That’s our challenge in fall camp,” MacIntyre said.

One thing MacIntyre has accomplished in his first two seasons in San Jose is to build depth.

“There’s more of us,” he said. “There’s more good football players. We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re faster, and we have more depth. Now we have to prove it on the football field.”

Johnson, a smallish defensive end, was chosen as the WAC preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Other honors candidates include Otten, tackle David Quisenberry, linebacker Keith Smith, punter Harrison Waid and wide receiver Noel Grigsby.

John Crumpacker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jcrumpacker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @crumpackeroncal

SJ Mercury News: Spartan Coaches U.S. Olympic Fencing Team Including His Son

San Francisco teen Alexander Massialas makes mark on U.S. Olympic fencing team

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News June 21, 2012.

By David Pollack

SAN FRANCISCO — Alexander Massialas’s journey to the 2012 London Olympics as the youngest member of the U.S. men’s fencing team did not begin watching Hollywood swashbucklers.

“I was a little kid and people would say ‘Zorro’ or ‘Princess Bride?’ Massialas said. “And I would be, ‘What are you talking about?’ ”

Pop culture didn’t draw the 18-year-old to fencing. Credit for that goes to both genetics and his San Francisco surroundings as the son of a two-time Olympian in the sport.

“My dad never actually pushed me to start fencing,” he said, “but my earliest memories are from walking around the house and seeing the Olympic rings and my dad’s trophies and my dad’s old foils. You get immersed in it.”

And that is fine with Greg Massialas, who is in London both as Alexander’s father and coach of the U.S. men’s foil team.

The elder Massialas runs the Halberstadt Fencers Club out of a former auto repair shop in San Francisco’s Mission District. He has coached his son since second grade — starting him a year late as if to be certain the choice was Alexander’s.

The payoff goes beyond London. This fall, Alexander enrolls at Stanford on a four-year fencing scholarship — supporting evidence for his father’s contention that fencing success is often matched by academic success.

“Fencing requires a lot of athleticism,” he said, “but also in combination with high intelligence, being able to think quickly.”

Alexander refines the concept.

“You don’t over-think the game, you don’t under-think the game,” he said. “You just find that perfect spot where you’re thinking one step ahead of your opponent.”

To bolster his case, Greg Massialas notes that the top collegiate fencing programs are in the Ivy League as well as schools such as Stanford and Duke.

Fencing consists of three separate events — foil, epee (pronounced eh-PAY) and saber, all played out on a wooden strip similar to a shortened, slightly wider bowling alley. Each event has its own weapon, scoring system and designated target area.

Matches are divided into three periods — three-minute rounds separated by a minute of rest. The first person to record 15 touches wins and if neither reaches 15, the one ahead wins; ties are resolved in sudden-death.

Alexander competes in foil, and London is far from his first international stage. He participated in more than a dozen events over the past year alone in countries such as Japan, South Korea, Cuba, France and Italy. An arrangement with the private Drew School he attends near his lower Pacific Heights home enabled him to maintain grades strong enough to impress Stanford.

Qualifying for the Olympics has always been part of the dream, but Alexander said he did not expect to be going in 2012.

At 6-foot-3, Alexander has a height and reach advantage over many opponents that works in his favor. But his size can be a drawback, too.

“It also makes your target area bigger,” said Alexander, who is not considered a medal favorite.

There likely will be another Olympic fencer in the household as well. Alexander’s sister Sabrina is only 15, but came close to qualifying for the women’s foil team in London. That has her well-positioned for the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Massialas children grew up in a fencing household, but their 56-year-old father practically stumbled into the sport. Born in Greece, he was 10 when his family moved to the United States. An uncle was a professor at the University of Michigan, so the family ended up in Ann Arbor, where Greg became a competitive swimmer.

When his father suggested he find another sport during the off-season, Greg discovered a fencing class offered by the Ann Arbor recreation department. Things took off from there.

After graduating from Cornell, Massialas moved to the Bay Area to train with the late Mike D’Asaro, an instructor at San Jose State who was the U.S. men’s fencing coach at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

His work paid off as Massialas qualified for the next three Olympics. He never earned a medal, but felt he lost his best shot when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow games because the Soviets invaded of Afghanistan.

“I had won a couple tournaments and was in my prime,” said Massialas, who was 24 at the time. “But that’s life and we go on.”

Now the next generation in the Massialas family gets his chance to reach the podium.

SJ Mercury News: Spartan Judoka Receives Bronze Medal

Purdy: Oh what a comeback for San Jose judoka Marti Malloy

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News July 30, 2012.

By Mark Purdy

LONDON — Monday afternoon, Marti Malloy suffered the most crushing defeat of her judo life. But at least she had time to get over it and recover from her depression before facing her one last chance to win an Olympic medal.

Like, say, about 70 minutes or so. Just 70 minutes for the San Jose judoka to wipe out the notion that she’d blown a lifetime dream and try to reboot her confidence.

“That is a good question,” Malloy said when I asked how she did it.

I have seen remarkable comebacks in many sports. I am not sure if I’ve ever observed one better than Malloy’s comeback here in the 126-pound women’s judo tournament of the 2012 Games. It was a comeback that earned Malloy a bronze medal — just the second Olympic medal of any sort won by a USA female judo competitor, ever.

Not only that, but Malloy’s bronze victory unfolded before the 92-year-old eyes of legendary San Jose State judo coach Yosh Uchida, who made the trip to London to see his pupil perform.

“It was great to see,” said Uchida, dressed sharply in a dark gray suit and blue San Jose State tie. “We’re real proud of her. It was her real determination that did it.”

Determination? Or just outright guts? Maybe a little of both.

“It still gives me goose bumps right now thinking about it,” said Malloy, a 26-year-old native of Washington who won collegiate judo titles at San Jose State and lives in the South Bay.

Here’s how the drama unfolded:

The judo event at the Olympics is brutal. It’s like staging an entire NCAA basketball tournament in one day, except with shoulder throws and leverage. Competitors work their way through a bracket against opponent after opponent, with slight rest between. Malloy spent Monday morning defeating three opponents to reach the tournament semifinals.

And when she got there, things looked good. With a spot in the gold medal match on the line, Malloy was holding her own against Corina Caprioriu of Romania. But with just seven seconds left in regulation time, Malloy took an aggressive risk that backfired. Thud. She was caught off balance by Caprioriu, who put her down to seize the victory.

Flat on the mat, Malloy covered her eyes. She knew what the loss meant. The tournament format gave semifinal losers one last, desperate opportunity to claim one of two bronze medals awarded. In this case, that task would require Malloy to face and defeat the defending Olympic champion from Beijing 2008, Giulia Quintavalle of Italy, who is five inches taller than Malloy with four more years of experience.

And their crucial match would begin in about 70 minutes. She didn’t have long to wipe out negative thoughts and create positive ones.

“I had never fought her,” Malloy said of Quintavalle. “But I had been a big fan of hers. I sat down to recover and only 20 minutes later, I had to warm up again. It’s just the hardest thing, to try and put behind something like that and get ready for another one.”

There was consolation, of course, in the fact that Quintavalle had also suffered a stunning loss before facing Malloy. When they strode onto the mat with bronze on the line, both had to be exhausted. They were tentative for the first minute or so before Malloy went for broke. She saw an opening, faked one of her best moves and then unloaded another. In less than a second, Quintavalle was flat on her back. The referee pointed. Malloy had her medal.

“I was just elated,” Malloy said. “And when I looked up, I saw Yosh up in the seats, so happy. I think I started crying. He has been my No. 1 supporter.”

In more ways than one. Malloy had originally planned to just train in the South Bay and not attend college. Uchida insisted she enroll at SJSU and pursue a degree. She recently graduated with a B.S in advertising, with multiple stints on the dean’s list.

“She wouldn’t let any obstacles stand in her way,” Uchida said. “She didn’t have any money, had to get a job or two to get by. But she wasn’t going to be stopped. I felt bad for her today when she lost in that semifinal but thought she would have the determination to fight through it.”

I wondered if Uchida had taught Malloy her winning move.

“No, no,” he said. “She’s smarter than that.”

Malloy’s victory makes it a total of four Olympic medals for San Jose State judo competitors over the years, in a sport that has traditionally been dominated by Asian and European nations. The USA has never won a judo gold medal in either gender and has only won 11 medals, period. So you could say that SJSU accounts for more than a third of Olympic medals earned by America in the sport.

That’s not necessarily a shock. Uchida has guided San Jose State to 45 collegiate judo championships and still assists head coach Shintaro Nakano there. Uchida also once served as a USA Olympic coach and literally helped write the international judo rule book back in 1964, when he and several colleagues codified the standards and weight classes so that it could become an Olympic sport.

Yet as he watched Malloy receive her medal, Uchida was beaming as proudly as he has ever beamed. These could be the last Games he attends. Uchida sat alongside San Jose State team physician Dr. Robert Nishime. One of those part-time jobs held by Malloy to help subsidize her training has been a position as Nishime’s front desk receptionist.

“I think I lost an employee,” Nishime said after the medal ceremony.

Not necessarily. Just for fun, Malloy might want to report back for duty in Nishime’s office just so she can answer the phone this way: “Hello. This is an Olympic medal winner speaking. Want to hear about my kick-ass comeback?”

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5092.

Oakland Tribune: What do “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers,” “Brave,” and SJSU Have in Common?

It’s the summer of the bow

Posted by the Oakland Tribune July 5, 2012.

By Angela Hill, Oakland Tribune

Historians say the humble bow sprang up almost simultaneously in far-flung regions of our world during the Mesolithic era. The work of ancient outer-space aliens, no doubt?

And today history repeats itself. Archery, the practice of using the bow and arrow, is everywhere in an oddly coincidental, surely alien-produced fad, emerging nearly simultaneously in far-flung regions — of pop culture, this time, showing up even in such unlikely places as “The Bachelorette.”

What began earlier this year with can’t-miss Katniss in “The Hunger Games” quickly spread to Hawkeye felling creepy Chitauri dudes in “The Avengers,” then a spunky Scottish redhead rebelling in “Brave.”

The trend continues with archers in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and two new fall TV shows: “Arrow,” with a vigilante character who tries to right society’s wrongs with bow in hand, and J.J. Abrams’ “Revolution,” in which all the world’s power grids and electronic devices fail, rendering the bow and arrow triumphant once again as essential — and fashionable — weaponry.

And bows and arrows will be in the Summer Olympics as usual — archery has been contested in 14 Olympiads since 1900, though perhaps with all the current publicity, it won’t be relegated to midnight coverage on some obscure cable channel this time. (Fun fact: Khatuna Lorig, a four-time Olympian, team bronze medalist and 2012 hopeful, taught Jennifer Lawrence, aka Katniss, how to shoot.)

Even the world’s top-ranked recurve archer and Olympic favorite Brady Ellison hopes it will help.”With all the things that have come out this year (in the movies) — that’s putting a lot of spotlight on archery with the Olympics coming up,” he said in a recent interview. “For a sport that doesn’t have that, it will catch a break and hopefully be able to do something with it.”

The pull of the bow

When you think about it, archery’s draw is hardly surprising. Whether it’s used for recreational field sports or game hunting, for Cub Scout badges or Renaissance fairs, the bow is a graceful, artistic mechanism, one that’s curved and sleek and feels good in the hand. Maybe it’s the simple stick and string of a longbow, or the flex and tension of a recurve style, but it has a primal quality, a return to antiquity (unless of course you go high-tech with composite bows, scopes, stabilizers and cool little LED lights that help you find your arrows in the dark).

Archery — mainly the low-tech kind — has often inspired poetry. Kipling spoke of avoiding Cupid’s arrows, and Longfellow famously phrased, “I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth I know not where.”

Clearly, it landed in the hearts of toxophilites — aka archery devotees — who are tickled at the recent trajectory of the sport’s popularity.

“It’s so exciting that there’s so much interest,” said a practically giddy Ken Closser on a recent afternoon at the Redwood Bowmen club in the Oakland hills. The group just had more than 150 people up at its Western Roundup in June, and numerous new requests for membership have come in. A similar increase has been reported at clubs across the nation.

One reason archery’s so accessible, spanning ages and genders, is that it’s a sport of form, not strength. It’s about mental acuity and technique. And besides, mastering the bow and arrow just looks downright cool. If you do it right, drawing the bow makes you stand up straight and proud, head up, eyes focused, posture optimal. Of course it helps to have a seasoned instructor at your side, such as Greg Tobler at the Diablo Bowmen club in Clayton, offering gentle reminders of such techniques. “There are as many things to remember as in a golf swing,” he said.

No kidding, especially for the beginner. Feet lined up to the target? Elbow back? Keep it back. Right hand at your mouth.

“Place your forefinger at the corner of your mouth, like you’re hooking a bass,” Tobler explains. Draw the bowstring with your fingertips, then release — don’t pluck — just let it go. And it goes, all right. It’s a powerful feeling, shooting an arrow into the air — even when it misses the target and lands, oh who knows where.

The bow’s origins

Historians say it’s not clear if the bow was invented in one location and culture, then spread through trade or war — something they call “diffusion” — or if it perhaps developed independently around the globe in a process dubbed “convergent evolution,” says Jonathan Roth, a history professor at San Jose State University who is currently writing a chapter on the bow for a book about weapons in world history.

“The bow is a relatively simple tool by today’s standards, but in the context of the Mesolithic era (10,000 to 5,000 BCE in Europe), it was revolutionary,” he writes. Roth says the bow was, in essence, the first machine, because it “stored the elastic energy created by the archer.”

“It was the ultimate in technology,” Tobler adds. “It was the nuclear bomb of its day.”

Great archers populate many world mythologies, too. In Greek lore, there was Apollo and Cupid. Long before Katniss, Artemis (or Diana, her Roman counterpart) was the can’t-miss goddess of the hunt.

And of course, this past century has seen hundreds of Robin Hood iterations in books, movies and TV shows — some serious, some super silly and others just bad (sorry, Russell Crowe).

We haven’t begun to hear the last of archery yet. Don’t forget, the second installment of “Hunger Games” will be released in 2013, with another to follow.

And you know there will be archery in “The Hobbit” movie, out in December. What else do you think brings down Smaug, that nasty gold-hoarding dragon? A Taser?

Staff writer Elliott Almond contributed to this story.