Bridgeport, Conn.–University of Bridgeport Director of Athletics Anthony Vitti has announced the 2018 University of Bridgeport Athletics Hall of Fame Class, as well as the recipients for the Fran Bacon Award for Lifetime Achievement in Coaching and the Purple Knight Shield of Merit. Honorees will be recognized at a ceremony during the UB Awards Dinner Saturday, October 6th at 6:00 p.m. as part of the University's Homecoming Weekend festivities. The ceremony will take place in the Harbor Ballroom at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn (1070 Main Street).
The members of the University of Bridgeport Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2018 are: Alex Popovich (Men's Soccer, Class of 1969), Linda Velaj (Women's Soccer, Class of 2010). Wolfgang Woischke (Men's Soccer, Class of 1972) and the 2013 Women's Gymnastics Team.
Jeff Bieder (Class of 1968) will receive the sixth Fran Bacon Award for Lifetime Achievement in Coaching and Paul Antinozzi will be honored with the Purple Knight Shield of Merit Award
Alex Popovich helped propel the University of Bridgeport men's soccer team to NCAA appearances in 1966 and 1967, as he earned All-America and All-New England League plus All-New England Coaches Team honors. During his stellar UB career, Popovich netted 31 goals and chipped in eight assists for a total of 70 points which puts him seventh on the all-time goals scored list and number 10 in all-time points. Along with his All-America selection in 1966, Alex was awarded a Collegiate Soccer Star Award by Pro Soccer Magazine. In 1966 and 1967, he was selected to the USA & Canada Ukrainian All-Star Teams that played against Scottish side Dundee United, the Lithuanian Selects, the Canadian National League All-Stars, plus the Azores All-Stars of Portugal. Against the Azores All-Stars, Alex netted three goals. Prior to arriving in the Park City, Popovich was a three-time New York City High School All-Star plus a three-year member of the International Soccer League Junior All-Stars. In 1964, he was named to the first USA Junior National team that played in the North America, Central America and Caribbean Championships in Guatemala. Along with his soccer prowess, Alex was a standout volleyball player, as he was a member of United States Volleyball Association teams that won over 25 USVBA and AAU titles, and he was selected five times as the Most Valuable or Most Outstanding Player in the Ukrainian Volleyball Championships of the US and Canada. Popovich also served as the head men's volleyball coach at Rutgers Newark University helping guide the team to the 1978 and 1979 ECVL Championships and berths in the NCAA Division I Final Fours those same seasons. He is also a member of the Rutgers Newark Athletics Hall of Fame and the inaugural class of the Ukrainian Sports Museum Hall of Fame.
A First Team All-Conference and All-Region selection in all four seasons she wore UB colors, Stamford's Linda Velaj is without question one of the most dominant women's soccer players on offense in the history of the East Coast Conference. Velaj burst onto the scene by announcing her presence with authority during her freshman season of 2007 with a campaign that featured 15 goals and four assists for 34 points in 20 games. Linda followed that fine freshman season by scoring 16 goals as a sophomore, nine as a junior and a whopping 20 as a senior, finishing fifth in the nation in total goals that year. She stands number two on the all-time UB women's soccer goals scored list with a total of 60, and Velaj added 18 assists to finish her Bridgeport career with 136 total points, as she helped guide the Purple Knights to NCAA appearances all four seasons on campus plus ECC regular season titles in 2007 and 2009 and a conference championship tournament crown in 2009. Velaj closed out her UB career in 2010 with a season that most student-athletes can only dream of earning All-America accolades following a year in which she tallied 20 goals and seven assists to total 47 points, and she lifted her team to the Second Round of the NCAA National Tournament by scoring all three goals in a 3-1 First Round NCAA win over Franklin Pierce University. Along with her on-field talents, Linda also starred in the classroom earning a spot on the First Team College Division NSCAA Women's Collegiate Scholar All-American Team in 2010 as a Fashion Merchandising major.
Born in Germany and raised on Long Island, soccer has always come naturally to Wolfgang Woischke, as he has starred at levels of the sport. Following a standout high school career, Wolfgang earned Junior College All-American honors at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut for two seasons before coming to the University of Bridgeport in 1969. At UB, Woischke helped the program to NCAA National Tournament appearances in both seasons he wore the Purple and White. A team captain, he was selected to the 1970 New England Intercollegiate Soccer League All-Star squad, plus he was also named to the NCAA's All-England team, as he was the team's Most Valuable Player his senior season. In 1970, the program's first under legendary head coach Fran Bacon, he helped UB post an excellent 10-2-1 overall record. Following his time at Bridgeport, Wolfgang played professionally for the Connecticut Yankees and also coached Bullard-Havens Technical High School from 1973-1977, winning five indoor soccer titles and reaching the 1997 State Finals. He then returned to Germany to play and coach for TVA 1860 Aschaffenburg from 1997-2004, coaching the team to amateur titles in 1991, 1994, 1997 and 1998. Woischke has been involved at levels of the beautiful game throughout his life coaching at all levels, helping players from preschool through the professional ranks; plus, he was part of the 2006 World Cup in Germany serving as a Senior Executive. He is also a member of the Mitchell College, Port Washington High School, Connecticut Soccer and New England Soccer Halls of Fame.
The 2013 University of Bridgeport Women's Gymnastics Team set a standard of excellence against which every UB squad to follow will be measured. In 2013, the Purple Knights made history becoming only the second non-Division I program in history to earn a spot in the NCAA Regionals, plus the team won the program's fifth consecutive USA Gymnastics Collegiate Team National Championship posting a school record score of 196.500 in Shreveport, La. and captured the program's fifth straight ECAC Division II team crown. The team won an impressive 10 meets during the magical 2013 campaign with their only regular season losses coming in road dual meets against Division1 powers, Ohio State and Arizona State, plus a second place finish at the University of Maryland Invitational. For the NCAA Regional, Bridgeport traveled to the University of Florida, the eventual 2013 NCAA National Champions, and held its own on the national stage. The 2013 National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches Women's Awards were announced following the NCAA Regional in Gainesville, and UB's Monica Mesalles Sallares Nassi was named the Division II Gymnast of the Year, plus head coach Byron Knox was named Division II National Coach of the Year and assistant coach Becky Ferraro was selected Division II National Assistant Coach of the Year. After winning the USAG National Team title, several Purple Knights went on to take All-America honors in the USAG Individual Event Finals, plus graduate student Lorraine Galow, who battled back from injury to help UB reach new heights as a team in 2013, finished her stellar career at the University of Bridgeport by earning All-America accolades on the balance beam, plus she received the USAG's Mari-Rae Soper Spirit Award for her passion, dedication, and devotion to the sport of gymnastics.
This year's recipient of the Fran Bacon Award for Lifetime Achievement in Coaching is Jeff Bieder, who has devoted over 50 years of service in high school and college athletics. After playing basketball and graduating from UB's Arnold College in 1968, Bieder went onto a standout coaching career that saw him win 77 percent of his games posting 543 victories from 1968 to 2002. Famous for using the full court press, Jeff won three New York City Public League (PSAL) championships during his time on the sidelines. In 1980 and 1984, he led the boys' team at Manhattan's Murry Bergtraum High School to city titles, and he followed that up by directing the girls' squad from Brooklyn's South Shore High School to the city crown in 2001. Bieder is the only coach in PSAL history to win city championships with both a boys' and a girls' team. A three-time Daily News High School Coach of the Year and Gatorade Coaches' Care Award winner in 1980, he was named the New York State Coach of the Year in 2001 and was chosen the Man of the Year in 2002 by the NYC Coaches' Association. Jeff also served as a college head coach at Hunter College for four seasons in the late 1980's leading the Hawks to four consecutive CUNY Championship Tournament appearances including a berth in the CUNY finals in 1988. In 2013, he was inducted in the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame in Glens Falls. Since retiring from public school service in 2002 after 34 year, Bieder has served as Athletic Director at Brooklyn's Magen David High School. Never one to forget his alma mater, Jeff also helped send three top-notch student-athletes to the Park City to play for head coaches Bruce Webster and Mike Ruane in Kevin O'Neill in the 1970's, Clarence Gordon in the 1980's and Abdul Smith in the 2000's.
The Purple Knight Shield of Merit is given at the discretion of the University of Bridgeport Hall of Fame Selection committee to a person or persons who have shown exceptional passion and commitment to the Purple Knights' athletics family. The recipient of this award may or may not be a graduate of the University of Bridgeport. The 2018 Purple Knight Shield of Merit is being awarded to Paul Antinozzi. President of Antinozzi Associates, Paul has been practicing architect for over 40 years. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture from the University of Notre Dame, and is a licensed architect in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Paul is also a registered interior designer in the State of Connecticut. A member of the University of Bridgeport's Board of Trustees, Paul is active in the community serving on the Board of the Housatonic Community College Foundation, Co-Chairperson of the Bridgeport Downtown Task Force and is a Board Member for the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. He has been extremely supportive in terms of his commitment in assisting the University of Bridgeport's Department of Athletics. Antinozzi Associates has been a proud Title Sponsor of UB's Annual Athletics Golf Classic for the last five years, and the firm has committed to continue their title sponsorship for at least the next two years. Since Antinozzi' s partnership with Bridgeport Athletics began five years ago, the UB Golf Classic has grown significantly both in terms of participation and in sponsorships.
The UB Athletic Hall of Fame was formed in 1981, and this year marks the twelfth year of a revitalization that began in 2006 after 15 years without a class being inducted. This year's inductees bring the total number of members to 92 individuals and six teams. For ticket information for the October 6th University of Bridgeport Awards Dinner, please contact 203-576-4151, or go online at https://homecoming.bridgeport.edu/ub-awards-dinner/