The Montclair State Department of Athletics added four new members into its Hall of Fame as current baseball coach Norm Schoenig headlined the latest class into the Hall of Fame, which celebrated its 40 anniversary this year. Schoenig, Kevin Kelly (football), Stephanie Romanko (women’s soccer/softball) and Laura Popes (field hockey) comprised the 39th class to be inducted bringing the total number of members to 199.
The new inductees were formally inducted on Thursday, November 10 at The Conference Center at Montclair State’s University Hall. Also honored was men's lacrosse coach John Greco, who was inducted into the Century Club for coaches who have achieved 100 or more career victories. Greco, who passed away in 2010, won 101 contests, including 96 with the men's team from 2003-2010. He also won five games as the co-head coach of the women's squad in 2002.
Schoenig joined football coach Rick Giancola as the only coaches to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame while still active.
Norm Schoenig (1988-present)
Arriving at Montclair State in January of 1988, Norm Schoenig had some big shoes to fill. Taking over for Kevin Cooney, Schoenig inherited a team that had just won the NCAA Division III national championship. Fast forward nearly a quarter-century later and those shoes fit pretty nicely. In the history of athletics at Montclair State, no coach has won more games than Norm Schoenig. Entering his 25th season in 2012, Schoenig has won a staggering 681 games with a winning percentage at 65 percent that ranks him among the best in Division III history. A former player for Clary Anderson in the 1970s, Schoenig and Montclair State baseball have become synonymous as he took what was an already storied program and elevated it to one of the elite programs in all of Division III. Six years after taking over the reins, which included a conference championship and six NCAA Tournament appearances, Schoenig led Montclair State to its second national championship as the 1993 Red Hawks won their final nine games, including all five contests at the World Series in Battle Creek, Michigan capped off by a 3-1 win over Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the championship game. Schoenig would be named the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year. Over the next four years, the man they call “Moose” would lead MSU to two more NJAC titles and four NCAA Tournaments along the way surpassing Bill Dioguardi as the all-time winningest coach in program history with his 291st victory in 1997. Three years later, he would orchestrate the greatest season in Montclair State baseball history as the 2000 team went 42-7-1, setting the single-season mark for wins. That memorable season, which featured a comeback from a 10-0 deficit in the NCAA Regional Tournament, ended with the Red Hawks third national championship as MSU became the first team in 15 years to win the title after losing its first game of the World Series. Schoenig would again be named the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year. The remainder of Schoenig’s numbers are impressive – five NJAC championships; seven NCAA regional titles, 17 regional tournament appearances as well as seven appearances in the NCAA Division III World Series winning a total of 69 NCAA contests. A five-time NJAC Coach of the Year, he has been named Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year seven times. Schoenig has led Montclair State to seven of the Top 10 single-season win totals, including the aforementioned 42 victories in addition to capturing 30 or more wins in a season eight times. During his tenure, there have been 18 players named Division III All-America, including Hall of Famer John Deutsch in 1989. Under Schoenig’s watch, 13 players have been taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft with numerous others signing professional contracts. Schoenig, who became the first coach in NJAC history to win 300 conference games in 2011, was also active in the collegiate baseball world serving on committees for both the NCAA and American Baseball Coaches Association.
Laura Popes (1998-2001)
Popes spearheaded the resurgence of the field hockey program starting in the late 1990s. In her first season with the Red Hawks, she was an All-New Jersey Athletic Conference selection, scoring five goals and adding four assists as Montclair State won nine games, its highest win total in nearly a decade. Two years later, Popes helped MSU to a school-record 13 wins as the Red Hawks qualified for the postseason for the first time in 10 years reaching the Eastern College Athletic Conference Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship Game. In 2001, Popes put together one of the greatest seasons in program history. A First-Team All-NJAC selection for the second time in her career, Popes set the single-season record for goals and points, scoring 19 times and registering 41 points as Montclair State went 15-4, capping off its record-setting season with the ECAC Mid-Atlantic Championship as MSU topped Catholic University 2-0 for the title. She had four game-winning goals that season and provided the seminal moment in program history scoring the game-winning goal in overtime as Montclair upset No. 1 The College of New Jersey, 4-3. It was the first time the Red Hawks had beaten the Lions since October 1980. Popes would be named a First-Team All-Region pick by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) and became the first Montclair State player to be named All-American as she was chosen to the NFHCA Third Team. Popes finished her career with 33 goals and 14 assists for 80 points. At the time, she finished second all time in points, third in goals and fourth in assists. She also had nine-game-winning goals, a school record.
Stephanie Romanko (1999-2003)
While Popes played a role in the resurgence of the field hockey program, at the same time Romanko was an integral part in propelling the women’s soccer into one of the upper echelon programs on the conference, regional and national levels. Romanko took over the starting goalkeeping spot in the Red Hawks lineup in September 1999 and spent four years in that position – literally. From that first game until her final contest in 2002, Romanko spent EVERY minute in goal for MSU setting an NCAA Division III record for minutes played with 7,842 minutes or the equivalent of nearly six straight days. But it just wasn’t the quantity of time Romanko spent in goal that was so impressive, but it was the quality. Appearing in 86 career games, she set Montclair State records in every goalkeeping category, including saves (356), goals against average (0.78) and wins (55). In fact in the 86 games Romanko held the opposition scoreless 45 times. She was named First-Team All-NJAC in her freshman year and in 2000 helped the Red Hawks to the ECAC Metro Championship as she led the NJAC in shutouts (14) and goals against average allowing just 13 in 23 games (0.42). After collecting All-NJAC honors in 2001, Romanko capped off her career in fine fashion earning just about every award possible. She was named First-Team All-NJAC, her third All-Conference selection and was chosen as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year after leading Montclair State to the first of three straight NJAC title games. She would be named to the National Soccer Coaches Association (NSCAA) All-Region First Team and became the first (and currently the only) Montclair State player to earn a spot on the NSCAA Division III All-America squad. One of the most talented athletes in Montclair State history, Romanko also played three seasons of softball helping the Red Hawks to three straight ECAC Championships. A solid centerfielder, she batted .290 with 41 RBI and swiped 37 bases in her career while earning All-NJAC honors in 2002.
Kevin Kelly (1997-2000)
Of all the honors and accolades that Kevin Kelly had attained during his career, this is perhaps is the most eye-opening: he earned four All-NJAC selections, including three First-Team honors, while playing both sides of the ball. A four-year starter, Kelly came to MSU in 1997 and earned a spot on the offensive line helping Montclair State to a 6-4 record. The next season with Kelly anchoring the offensive line, he earned First-Team All-NJAC honors as the Red Hawks returned to the postseason for the first time in five years capturing the ECAC Southeast Championship finishing with an 8-3 mark. In 1999, after two outstanding years on offense, in what could be described as a “surprising” move, Kelly jumped to the defensive line. All he did that season was post the seventh-best single-season sack total in school history with 14 as Montclair State claimed the NJAC Championship for the first time in a decade while earning a berth into the NCAA Division III Playoffs. A First-Team All-NJAC selection, Kelly registered 14 sacks along with 49 tackles, including 17 for losses as the Red Hawks, with one of the best defenses in Division III that season, reached the quarterfinals. Kelly was selected to the D3Football.com All-America Team for his efforts. The following season was perhaps even better. Despite being doubled and sometimes triple-teamed, Kelly still managed to record 44 tackles with a whopping 20 for loss and six sacks in addition to two forced fumbles and three pass breakups. He was again named First-Team All-NJAC, his fourth All-Conference honor and was chosen as the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year as Montclair won the conference title and qualified for the NCAA Division III Playoffs for a second consecutive year. In his two seasons, Kelly amassed 20 sacks, which still ranks in the Top 10 all time at Montclair State.