SVC men's basketball looks to continue run of success

BENNINGTON — Since Southern Vermont College men's basketball coach Dan Engelstad took over the Mountaineers, there has been a clear expectation: make the conference tournament year in and year out.

That's been exactly what SVC has done because in the four previous seasons Engelstad has been at the helm, the Mountaineers have made it to the NECC conference tournament every year and they haven't finished below the .500 mark in any of those seasons.

As Engelstad readies for his fifth year in Bennignton, SVC looks to continue that run of success, with the Mountaineers opening up their season Wednesday night against Keene State College.

With any new season, there is an inherent learning curve to come back up to speed and learn the system, but Engelstad feels like this group has improved immensely in the weeks leading up to the season.

"This group has improved day one to now, faster than any team I've had here, so that gives me room for optimism," Engelstad said. "This is a very talented bunch. It's just about getting all the pieces to mesh. So far its seems like it's gone pretty well, but we'll find out more on Wednesday."

Expectations are once again high for SVC coming into the season as the Mountaineers were picked to finish second in the conference, just behind the Becker squad that won the NECC Championship last season.

"The goal is to win a national championship. We want to set the bar that high," Engelstad said of his expectations coming into any season. "To do that you have to stay day-to-day and take care of the task at hand. We've been really focused on that this season, trying to have every day be a good day."

SVC returns eight players from last season's 17-10 team that lost in the conference title game against the Hawks. The Mountaineers have lost the services of strong scoring threats Rayshawn Taylor and Nate Goldsmith to graduation, but they return the team's second-leading scorer from last season, senior guard Mike Pierre and junior guard Josh Borders, who averaged over 10 points per game. They also return other consistent threats like Claude Payne and Daemond Carter, who both averaged over nine points last season.

Engelstad knows it's very beneficial to have a strong group coming back in terms of leadership.

"Any time you have a group of returners that know what you want and how you want it done, it helps a lot," Engelstad said. "You don't have to be the only voice and this group has done a good job of the guys returning bringing along the guys who it's new for and how we run our culture. The bar has been raised for everybody."

"I've been here for three years and this team is the most talented team I've been on since I've been here," Borders added. "Will we be the best team? That's up to us to prove that."

SVC will have a tough task on its hands opening night against the Owls, who are coming off of a NCAA Division III tournament run last season. They made it all the way to the Elite Eight, before bowing out to eventual national champion Babson. KSC has made the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons. The Owls return one of the better scorers in the nation, Ty Nichols, who averaged 18.3 points per game last season.

"They're a good team. We respect them, but we don't fear them," Borders said. "We're ready and we're up for the task."

"I wouldn't take any other team in the country except the guys I've got in my locker room," Engelstad added. "We know we have a very, very worthy opponent. This is going to be a really good test for us to find how we stack up on a national level."

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Mountaineer Athletic Center in Bennington.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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