• Following USC Upstate’s debut on Tuesday, nine more Atlantic Sun cross country teams begin their 2009 season this weekend. The preseason favorite and defending women’s champion, Belmont Bruins host 10 other programs, including Lipscomb, while the men take on seven other teams in the Belmont Opener at the Vaughn’s Creek Course. The men enter as reigning meet champions while the women look to improve on last year’s seventh-place showing.
• ETSU, whose men ended Belmont’s six-year reign as league champion, travel to Boone, N.C. for the Covered Bridge Open. Kenneth Rotich, the 2008 A-Sun Runner of the Year, leads a strong nucleus that includes his cousin, Ben Ronoh plus senior J Penny. In addition to meet host Appalachian State, winner of the last four Southern Conference titles, Big 10 power Ohio State and ACC perennial favorites Florida State and North Carolina await the Buccaneers.
• Three A-Sun schools, Stetson, UNF and host Jacksonville make up three of the five schools participating in the JU Short Course Duals. Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State round out the five-school field competing in the event which consists of a two-mile race for the women and a 5K contest for the men. Jacksonville’s women finished second at the 2008 A-Sun Championships and UNF placed fourth in both the men’s and women’s preseason polls.
• Like Belmont and Jacksonville, Campbell hosts a meet, the Campbell Invitational, on the opening weekend. The men compete in a 4K race while the women will race in teams of two, each running a 1200 meter loop four times for a total of 4800 meters each. The women’s scores will come from the each team’s top three with the total fastest time. Tropical Storm Hanna cancelled the 2008 edition of the Campbell Invitational, but in 2007 current Junior Baillie Locke won her first collegiate race.
• Kennesaw State’s women return to the JSU Struts Season Opener as the meet’s three-time defending champions. Junior Mackenzie Howe finished the two-mile course last season in a time of 11:44 on her way to finishing first, leading four Owls finishing in the top seven. The men also took victory at the 2008 JSU Struts Season Opener led by Scott Burley’s second-place showing.
• When Jacksonville University finished its opening weekend at the Radisson-UCF Invitational Saturday evening, senior libero Shelley Walroth collected a total of 55 digs. The Dolphins are on the road as they open the Southern Miss Tournament where Walroth hopes to accumulate the remaining 44 digs to surpass Lipscombs’ Ann Mullins (1,969) for the A-Sun career record. Walroth also needs just 74 digs to become the 26th player in Division 1 history to tally 2,000 career digs.
• Freshman middle blocker Alison Loeppky joined JU volleyball this week after leading her native Manitoba to a gold medal in the 2009 Jeux Du Canada Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward. Loeppky helped lead Manitoba to a perfect 7-0 record through the national tournament after tallying 27 kills, 11 service aces and 24 blocks in six contests.
• Named as the tournament of the week, the Belmont Invitational features teams from the A-Sun, Ohio Valley, Southland, and Big South conferences, Southeast Missouri State, Central Arkansas and Samford, live on ASunTV from the Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tenn. All four teams went a combined 90-34 in 2008. The field includes one NCAA Tournament participant and three teams that finished in the top-three of their conference.
• Another four A-Sun schools host home-turf tournaments this weekend, USC Upstate, Mercer, Stetson and Kennesaw State. USC Upstate will take to the field against the Southern Conference’s The Citadel, the Big South’s UNC Asheville and the ACC’s N.C. State in the third annual USC Upstate Volleyball Classic. Mercer is set to host its home opener in the University Center on Friday as part of the fifth annual Bear Brawl, against Furman, Troy, and Bethune-Cookman. Stetson faces Southern Illinois, Florida A&M and SIU as they host the Holiday Inn Stetson Invitational at the Edmunds Center. KSU hosts the Great 8 Volleyball Challenge Presented by Residence Inn, challenging Nicholls State, Rider and Alabama A&M.
• ETSU welcomes VMI to Summers-Taylor Stadium at 5:00 p.m. and the game can be seen live on ASunTV at 5:00 p.m. The Bucs will be looking for their first win in Johnson City as they picked up a dramatic 2-2 tie against Wofford on Tuesday. ETSU’s Matt Reed and Tyler Hoek will have to be careful against VMI as they both enter the VMI game under caution as they picked up second-half yellow cards against Wofford.
• Jacksonville opens its 2009 season against Winthrop in Boiling Spring, N.C. in the A-Sun Game of the Week on Friday at 4:00 p.m. The Dolphins were scheduled to open the season against FAU on Tuesday but the game was cancelled after one half of action due to rain. Jacksonville led at the half 3-0 on a pair of goals from junior forward Nedim Hrustic and a score from freshman midfielder David Santa Maria.
• Defending regular season champion, Campbell looks to claim their first victory of 2009 on Saturday against William and Mary. The Camels fell in their season opener against UNC Wilmington, 3-1. Campbell entered the second-half tied against the Seahawks, but the Camels fell victim to two second-half goals from UNC Wilmington.
• FGCU looks to knock off No. 11 USF on Friday in the Eagles home opener. FGCU and USF kickoff at 7:00pm and the first 150 fans in attendance will receive free white t-shirts as FGCU will look to “White Out” the Bulls.
• The Coaches for a Cure Classic opens tonight in Jacksonville, Fla. at the Ashley Sports Complex with UNF battling Georgia Southern at the Ashley Sports Complex.
• Mercer looks ride the wave of moment it gained with its 1-1 tie against No. 16 Georgia. Mercer opens the weekend Friday in a match with Presbyterian and then welcomes Indiana to Bears Field on Sunday.
• Stetson travels to the Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. to battle with Army and UT Martin. The Hatters have been led in offensively this season by Tessa Gavilsky, the 2008 A-Sun Player of the Year. Gavilsky has found the net four times in four games in 2009.
• Jacksonville battles Georgia Southern in the A-Sun Game of the Week on Sunday at the Ashley Sports Complex at 2:00 p.m. live on ASunTV.