Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lipscomb's Championship Experience Pays Off in Comeback Victory

Having dropped only five sets all season in conference games, one can imagine the shock on the Lipscomb bench when ETSU opened up the Atlantic Sun Conference Volleyball Championship by claiming the first two sets.

“We had a great year with winning matches 3-0 so when lost the opening set we kind of looked around and wondered what was happening, but at the same time ETSU was playing great volleyball to start the game,” stated Tournament MVP Alex Kelly of falling behind 2-0.

Lipscomb, who hasn’t lost an A-Sun contest since falling to Belmont in the 2008 A-Sun Championship final in which they also fell behind 2-0 to start the match, understood what they were facing down two sets going into the break. Having played in four consecutive title games, Lipscomb had plenty of leadership and experience to pull of the comeback.

“We were just trying too much - we were trying to make every spectacular play and we need to play our brand of volleyball and that’s what disappointed me most about our play in the first two sets,” Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal said of the team’s opening play. “To have the experience of players that have been in the title game before was great because they understodd the situation we were in down two and they listened to what our coaching staff was saying to them and went out and executed in the final three sets.”

Set three went Lipscomb’s way with the Lady Bisons winning 25-16 and the momentum started to go the way of the defending champions as they started their trek back to winning the A-Sun title after taking the fourth set as well, 25-22.

“The seniors didn’t want to finish their careers by losing to ETSU, 3-0, in the finals so we came out much stronger in the third set and after claiming the fourth I think the whole team knew that we were going to win the final set,” Kelly added.

With a dominating performance in the final set, 15-8, the Lady Bisons completed a comeback only seen once before in an A-Sun title match by outscoring the Bucs 65-46 in the final three sets to claim back-to-back titles and send Lipscomb to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and third in the past four even if it wasn’t the way the team imagined it would happen.

Rosenthal added of the match, “We didn’t think it would play out like that, but that’s volleyball."

Bucs Sail into Title Game Riding Wave of Momentum

With three games remaining in the regular season, ETSU stood at 6-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a chance to claim the overall No. 1 seed in the A-Sun Championship, but the Buccaneers fell to Kennesaw State and Mercer, 3-1, in consecutive matches to drop to the third seed in the postseason tournament.

However, ETSU head coach Lindsey Devine and the Bucs recollected themselves in the season finale to sweep USC Upstate and now have claimed victories in their first two matches against No. 6 UNF and No. 2 Kennesaw State to advance to the program’s first A-Sun Championship Final with a showdown against No. 1 Lipscomb.

“This game of volleyball is all about momentum and I know that if our team plays emotional we will make errors, but if we stay calm and continue to talk to one another we will continue with our great play,” Devine said.

In the A-Sun Semifinal against Kennesaw State, ETSU busted out of the gate to a 2-0 lead against the Owls in search of revenge for their late-season loss to the Owls. After falling in the third set, 30-28, the Bucs regained their composure to rebound for a 25-22 triumph in the fourth set to take down the Owls giving ETSU their vindication with the four-set victory and now also a chance to claim the program’s first-ever title.

“Revenge is sweet,” Lauren Baufield stated of the win over the Owls. “We knew coming into the tournament we would probably face Kennesaw State in the semifinals and as a team we were all ready and the momentum took us past them.”

“I feel that our squad is in such a great spot in regards to the way they are playing it wouldn’t have mattered who was on the other side of the net tonight because the focus, the spirit and competitiveness we showed after falling in the third set really exemplifies our team,” said coach Devine of the exciting third set. “We could have folded after that and lost the match, but we kept competing and came away victorious.”

With only Lipscomb standing in their way for an A-Sun title, the Bucs will need to once again regain their composure and show that same competitive spirit in order to defeat the Lady Bisons, who dismissed Belmont 3-0 in the prior semifinal and enter with a 14-match winning streak.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pease and Kelly: The Foundation for Lipscomb's Success

In the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the Lipscomb volleyball team finished fourth in the A-Sun Conference with a combined 27-37 record and 11-7 in conference play. Then the freshman class of Alex Kelly and Stefine “Jake” Pease enrolled on the Lipscomb University campus in Nashville, Tenn. and the program began to see great success with a 91-33 mark with 54 conference victories since 2007.

In their freshman seasons, the Lady Bisons increased their win total by seven games and entered the A-Sun Championship as the four seed. Once there, the Lady Bisons defeated No. 5 Mercer in the opening round, top-seeded Belmont in the semifinals and then captured the conference tournament with a sweep of Jacksonville to give Lipscomb its first tournament title in program history.

Kelly and Pease were both named to the All-Tournament team during that run, which was just the beginning of the awards that were about to pile in for the duo as two years later Lipscomb picked up its second team title defeating FGCU in the final.

“Jake (Pease) and Alex (Kelly) have really raised the bar for our program,” head coach Brandon Rosenthal stated of the duo. “It’s really rewarding and great to see them pick up all of these awards over the span of their careers because they have earned them by being the hardest workers day in and day out.”

Now after adding Elly Kaiser for the 2008 season and one year later the tandem of Meghan Hinemeyer and Tory Ashcraft jumped on board to form the five-person senior class for the Bisons that have won 35-straight A-Sun regular-season matches, which currently ranks as the second longest in the nation.

“We expect to go out and win and I like that because that is where our program has transitioned to,” Rosenthal added of the program’s improvement over the past four years. “That is a level back in the day we weren’t at, but these girls have worked really hard to improve the program to where it is today.”

On Saturday, the Lipscomb senior class has the chance to win the program’s third A-Sun title in four years and become the conference’s first back-to-back tournament winners since UCF claimed three-straight from 2001-2003, but not only that they can cement their legacy as the best class in program history.

“The impact that our five seniors have had on the program is immeasurable, it really is. I think back to recruiting those two girls and to where the program is now and it’s just amazing how far they have taken us.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ETSU's Blocking Abilities Propel Bucs to Semifinals

The art of blocking has been an area of volleyball that the ETSU Buccaneers coaching staff has preached to their 14 student-athletes throughout the season and in the Atlantic Sun Championship it showed as the Bucs dominated the Ospreys with 15 blocks in the match to sweep away UNF in the first round of play.

With 11 players on the team that are 5-foot-9 or taller, it would seem as if height would be the key to being the 23rd best team in the nation good at blocking, but ETSU Head Coach Lindsey Devine knows it is more than that.

“We have broken down the skill a lot with our team with the fundamentals of how to approach footwork, hand placement and among other things and we have really reinforced that with our girls to try and excel at.”

Middle blockers Alysa Long and Jamie Stancliff each had a block solo and five block assists to lead the Bucs to their fourth appearance in the A-Sun Semifinals in the past five seasons. In order to advance to the program’s first A-Sun Championship Final they need to defeat the second seed, Kennesaw State, who defeated ETSU 3-1 in the regular season.

“We will definitely need those big blocks when we face Kennesaw State because their players with Sabrita Gulley, Alyssa Lang and Grace Hoyt we will really need to be on our game going against them,” Devine added. “Tonight was just one step closer to our goal - Kennesaw State is a great team and tomorrow is really going to be a battle between them and us.”

Long and Stancliff rank first and second in the conference in blocks per set and they know that in order for the Bucs to continue their run in the A-Sun Championship, the team’s blocking will need to continue to make a difference.

“Our blocking today was a really big difference in the outcome of the contest today and it really allowed us to pick up some momentum against UNF,” stated Long. “We focused on that area of the game in practice coming and we came out and executed in the game.”

With an Owls squad that features five six-foot-tall players, the Bucs need to continue to focus on what their coaches have been teaching them since the beginning of the season in order to move onto the championship final.

Nashville Programs Continue Success at A-Sun Championship

Nashville might be known as Music City, USA, but if Belmont and Lipscomb continue their dominance in the Atlantic Sun Volleyball Championship, the town might be due for a new nickname. The Bruins and Lady Bisons have combined to win the past four A-Sun titles with Lipscomb claiming last year’s crown and Belmont was the victor in 2008.

After Belmont took down the Mercer Bears in the opening match of the A-Sun Championship, 3-1, behind the performances of A-Sun All-Conference members Kayla Albritton and Maggie Johnson, the Bruins face their crosstown rival for the third time this season, after falling to the Lady Bisons in the first two matchups.

“The game with Lipscomb is exciting because each time we have faced them the winner of that match has gone on to win the tournament title,” Bruins head coach Deane Webb said of the rivalry. “That is exciting for our region, for Nashville and for Middle Tennessee to know that our area can sustain and support two quality programs.”

The Bruins and Lady Bisons now square off against one another for the fifth-straight A-Sun Championship on Friday at 5 p.m. in the semifinal. Each team has claimed two victories during that time span, but Lipscomb holds a 2-1 advantage in semifinal matches.

“What impresses me most about Lipscomb is their low errors because they really make you earn your points against them,” Webb stated. “We are going to need to put an entire match together in order to be successful against Lipscomb.”

The Lady Bisons enter the tournament as the clear favorite after sweeping through the conference regular season at 10-0, which included a 3-1 victory against the Bruins in the season finale. The two teams also met in the non-conference ending with the same result.

“I’m excited to face off with Lipscomb,” junior outside hitter Maggie Johnson added. “I think our whole team is (excited) because we feel as if we need that challenge of facing them in this tournament and we will need to play great defense in order to beat them.”

No matter what the outcome on Saturday, the Fort Myers crowd is likely to see a great match as Lipscomb enters the match with a 13-game winning streak and Belmont has recorded seven victories in the past nine matches.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Big-Game Bucs Survive and Advance

The past four games for the ETSU Buccaneers all required extra time for to be decided, but in each game the Bucs had the same mentality ‘Survive and Advance.’ In possibly the program’s biggest game in ETSU’s three-year history, a freshman, Itode Fubara, gave the Bucs the A-Sun Championship with a header in the 95th minute of play.

“Fubara is a very mature player for us even though he is a freshman and to be honest he isn’t the best at heading the ball since he is only 5-foot-7 but he timed the ball great and he was able to lift us to the victory,” Bucs’ Head Coach Scott Calabese said of the A-Sun Tournament MVP.

Despite coming out on top in the game, ETSU had its fair share of big-game nerves compared to the defending A-Sun Champion Hatters, who have appeared in the championship final in four of the past six seasons. The Hatters held the advantage on corners, 4-0, and shots on goal, 3-1 through the match’s first 45 minutes.

“We came out in the first half and were a little shaky and since Stetson had gone through this type of atmosphere before they really took it to us,” Calabrese added of being outshot 6-2 in the opening half. “Once we settled in at halftime, we came out and were able to create opportunities and chances to get us the goal.”

The Bucs will need the same survival mindset to continue their season as they advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history in which another big game will await ETSU.

“The more big games you play in the more you are prepared to compete in them,” Calabrese added. “With the past couple games we played in were all important so we are starting to become more accustomed to the big stage, but the NCAA Tournament is a completely different animal so we will have to come out of the gate with the right mentality.”

Whenever their NCAA Tournament run ends, the Bucs will be set for several years to come with only one senior leaving the program and 14 underclassmen returning for next season.

“We are a really young team with mostly freshman and juniors, but there is a lot of talent on this team and moving forward we are going to see a lot success in this program because of that,” said Fubara.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bucs' Meteoric Rise Leads to A-Sun Championship Final

In 2008, ETSU kicked off its inaugural season in the Atlantic Sun Conference and finished the season with only one conference victory. Fast forward to 2010 and the Bucs entered their A-Sun Championship semifinal as the host and top-seed against No. 4 Lipscomb with a 13-5 record and seven conference victories, more A-Sun wins than the first two years combined.

“The support that this team has received from the whole athletic staff at ETSU has really been the driving force behind the success of the program and they allowed us to achieve what we have so quickly,” said ETSU’s lone senior Guilherme Reis.

Now the Bucs have a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament after claiming a 1-0 double overtime victory on a last-second goal by Theo Yang, a sophomore midfielder. Yang’s goal with 7.2 seconds left in the second overtime sent the Buccaneer faithful at Summers-Taylor Stadium into a frenzy as the Bucs team stormed the field to celebrate the game-winner.

“The players have worked so hard over the three-year period and they have improved considerably and the staff has worked to bring in quality student-athletes to the program and try to build a tradition towards the right direction,” head coach Scott Calabrese said of his team.

ETSU’s quick rise to success might come as a surprise to most around the conference, but for ETSU Head Coach Scott Calabrese it was all a part of the Bucs’ master plan.

“Believe it or not, we planned to be in the final of the A-Sun Championship, which was a very ambitious goal for us considering how competitive Division I soccer is. However, the ambition of the staff and of the players is to compete hard each time we come out.”

With only one team between ETSU and a guaranteed berth in the NCAA Tournament, the Bucs now face Stetson, who is 4-0 all-time against ETSU, after the Hatters defeated Jacksonville 1-0 in the opening semifinal.

“Stetson is a team that we have not beaten since the inception of the program and we have beaten every other A-Sun team in the past three seasons and they knocked us out of the tournament last year,” Calabrese said of their pending opponent. “So in order for us to achieve our goal of beating every team in the conference this season we will have to be at our absolute finest on Saturday.”

Hatters Attempt to Build Championship Tradition

For the fourth time in the past six Atlantic Sun Conference Championship Finals, a familiar name will appear as the Stetson Hatters leaped past the Jacksonville Dolphins with a strike from the head of senior all-conference defender, Ryan Corning, in the 83rd minute to give the defending champions a 1-0 victory in the opening semifinal.

However, the Hatters will be looking for more than just their third A-Sun title and back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Corning and the rest of the Hatters’ squad will be searching to extend the program’s legacy and increase the men’s soccer tradition in DeLand, Fla.

“We expect to make it the final of the A-Sun Championship every year now and we have been building the program every season since my freshman season and even before that and over that time we have become a better team in hopes of becoming a top-25 program.”

In order to accomplish the feat of becoming a traditional top-25 program, Stetson will need to take down top-seeded ETSU or No. 4 seed Lipscomb, but for Hatters Head Coach Logan Fleck the tough game is over with, “Everyone says there is more pressure to win in the championship final, but I think getting to the championship is much harder.”

With the victory, Stetson has one day off to recuperate both mentally and physically for another championship game, which contrasts from their 11-day layoff from their season finale against Jacksonville on Oct. 31st.

“The idea for our team now is to revamp and to come out on Saturday and play our type of game,” Fleck stated. “This can be a special team because no Stetson team has been able to win back-to-back titles and advance to the NCAA Tournament. This team has accomplished a lot of special things together and they can add to that on Saturday.”

Corning’s goal was extra sweet for the Hatters after a 1-1 tie to the Dolphins in the finale cost Stetson the overall number one seed and host opportunity for the A-Sun Championship.

“It’s a great feeling to come back and get the win over a team we have a rivalry with and we have a lot of respect for Jacksonville’s program and they came out fighting, but we were able to get our revenge from the season finale and a chance for the A-Sun title.”

The VolleyBlog - November 11th Edition

After a late-season bye, the VolleyBlog is back for the final time of the regular season. While five teams know they are bound for Fort Myers, Fla. and next week's Atlantic Sun Volleyball Championship, only two know their seeding and one game will decide the final spot.

Bisons Secure Perfect Season
With a four-set win against Boulevard rival Belmont, Lipscomb completed the Atlantic Sun portion of its schedule an unblemished 10-0, becoming the first team in the country to complete perfect conference regular-season records spanning the past two years. Only Northern Iowa from the Missouri Valley and Hawaii from the WAC could join Lipscomb on this list. The 2010 Bisons join UCF teams from 1999 and 2003, ETSU's 2006 and last year's team as the only five in A-Sun single-division history to turn in undefeated conference records. Only last year's Bisons and the 2003 Knights would also win the A-Sun Conference Tournament Championship.

River City Rumble to Determine Final A-Sun Championship Spot

Jacksonville and UNF both beat Campbell at home last weekend to first, eliminate the Camels from contention for making the A-Sun Championship field, and second, to set up a winner-take-all contest between the crosstown rivals for the sixth seed. In a non-conference match last month, the Dolphins rallied for a five-set win. The Dolphins hit .433 and .500 respectively in the final two sets to pull out the win. In 17 all-time meetings, the Dolphins own a 9-8 lead.

20x2; 20x4
With 12 wins in its last 13 games, Lipscomb reached the 20-win mark, giving the conference multiple 20-win teams for the 10th time in the last 11 years joining ETSU. Lipscomb has now posted 20-win seasons in four consecutive years. Only one other current A-Sun school, Belmont, has recorded four straight 20-win campaigns while in the conference. The Bruins won at least 20 games every season from 2004 through 2008. Former members College of Charleston (1991-95) and Southeastern Louisiana (1992-96) and UCF (1993-1997 also put together five straight 20-win seasons while Georgia State strung together four such years in a row, 2000-03.

Owls Continue Ascent
Although its program-best eight-game win streak ended with a loss to Georgia, Kennesaw State has not lost to a conference foe in more than a month. With wins against ETSU and USC Upstate last weekend, the Owls locked up the second seed for the A-Sun Championship. Sabrita Gulley earned A-Sun Player of the Week honors and Collegiate Volleyball Update ( tabbed her as a "Top Performer" for the week.

Unique Monique
Sophomore libero Monique Russell became the first Stetson volleyball player since 1997 to record 400 digs in a single season. She reached that milestone in Hatters' Saturday contest against Lipscomb. Russell now has 405 digs in 2010, the first Hatter since Melissa Roy 13 years ago to surpass the 400 mark, and is tied for second on the Stetson single-season list. Cindy Benge set the record with 455 digs in 1991; after totaling 19 digs in the Hatters' 5-set win against Bethune-Cookman, Russell needs 31 digs Saturday at FGCU to tie the record.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mercer Seniors Lead the Way to Championship

The battle between youth and experience exuded at the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Women’s Soccer Championship final with the Mercer Bears putting six seniors on the pitch, while only one Jacksonville Dolphin senior saw the field. However, through all of that experience for Mercer a freshman created the last image of the championship, scoring the decisive game-winner.

Nadja Kolliesuah only played in 16 games coming into Saturday’s showdown between the two top seeds and had tallied one goal up to that point, but a corner kick from Lizzy Shaughnessy deflected by Patricia-Anne Upson landed at the feet of the Columbus, Ohio native.

With one strike from the left side of the box Kolliesuah’s shot drove into the corner of the net past the diving Alexa Rooney as the freshman put the senior-laden Bears in front 1-0 only one minute into the second half.

“As a freshman, it was really exciting to score the game-winner in the A-Sun Championship game,” Kolliesuah said of the match-deciding shot. “Even if someone else had scored the goal for us it would have been extremely exciting, but I’m just glad that I could help out our team with the goal.”

Despite the strike from the freshman, Mercer’s seniors set the tone for the championship final with Kacie Hudson and Raschelle Riley disturbing the Dolphins offensive attack holding their offense to a minimal three shots, one of which on frame, while midfielders Shaughnessy and Kaelyn Horton possessed the ball for the Bears throughout the game and played great passes down the sidelines to forwards Sara Elliot and Lauren Johnson.

“All of our seniors were major contributors particularly today and we relied on them quite a bit this season,” Mercer head coach Grant Serafy stated of his seven seniors. “We were hard on them this whole year and they really came through today and I think was the difference in the game.”

For the Dolphins, they wrap their season up with a 13-5-2 record, but the future is bright for Jacksonville as they return ten of the starters from the A-Sun Final including all-tournament team members Courtney Conrad, Liz Fink and Lisa Hensley.

Serafy added of today’s opposition, “Jacksonville has a really talented team and a great coaching staff so they will rebound from this game and it’s not going to detract from their season at all because they accomplished a lot this year.”

This class of Mercer seniors has twice had to rebound from losses in A-Sun finals in their careers, but this time around the Bears upperclassmen came out victorious with the program’s first A-Sun Championship.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dolphins Taking Advantage of Home Field Advantage

One of the popular axioms in sports is "Defend the home turf." Sports apparel companies have even built entire ad campaigns around "Defending this House." For the past 13 months and 14 home games, the Jacksonville women's soccer team has adhered to that saying and in Friday's Atlantic Sun Championship semifinal, they gave their fans of excuses to get riled up, shutting out the reigning champions, Kennesaw State, 3-0.

That win extended a home unbeaten streak that dates back 14 matches, to last season's regular-season meeting with Kennesaw State. The Dolphins won that meeting by a 3-1 margin beginning a run during which time, they boast a 10-0-4 mark and have outscored the opposition by a staggering 28-5 count (21-2 in nine matches this season). Ten of the contests have finished in shutouts.

By virtue of finishing as top seed, Jacksonville earned the right to host the semifinals and title game, something it has never done in the A-Sun. The players and their fans had to sit through more than a hour delay due to afternoon rain that befell the city before the first semifinal. For at least one game, playing in front of the home crowd proved to be a welcome change from the years of road trips and hostile venues.

"Being a senior and having everybody here, all your fans - even with the rain delay - you can't explain it, your heart is racing, everything is good" senior JU defender Devon Dowell said. "It's different to play at home; you bring out the fans and everyone wants to play for your home team. Your family is there; you have your friends, all your play for them, you play for your teammates."

As fate should have it, the team that last emerged from the visitors dressing room and returned home with a victory against Jacksonville will be the Dolphins opponent in Saturday's title tilt. Better than 13 months ago, Mercer pulled out a 1-0 victory on a header by All-Atlantic Sun defender Kacie Hudson. The Bears and Dolphins would meet again in an A-Sun Championship first-round match later that month and the Dolphins advanced following a shootout.

"It's great to play in front of the home crowd - I really think the campus and the community has rallied around this team and really has come up to support and make noise," Jacksonville head coach Brian Copham, the 2010 A-Sun Coach of the Year said.

Schools hosting the A-Sun Women's Championship have enjoyed great success in the 16 previous playings of the event. In 12 of those years, the school hosting the title match was in that game and in eight they emerged as the champion. The Dolphins have played for five A-Sun Women's Soccer Championships, never as the home team. In three they went up against the host, winning once, (2000, at FAU).

"When you've got a couple hundred people that are your fans at a conference tournament, or championship game, I think it's always in your favor to have the crowd behind you," Copham said. "It always lifts you up when you're tired, pushes you on, urges you for that goal. Anytime you've got a chance to play for a title, people want to come out and see it. I think they will respond, it will be the only thing...on campus this weekend and I think there will be a lot of fans to make some noise, and a lot of the other athletes that are rallying behind us and hopefully going to push us to a conference championship."

Redemption on Minds of Bears as They Return to Finals

Thirty-one days ago, Stetson and Mercer met in a regular-season contest and the Hatters came away with a 5-1 home victory against the Bears in which they led 4-0 at halftime. Fast forward to the 2010 A-Sun Championship Semifinal showdown between the two and a different story was to be told.

“That Stetson loss was a real big eye-opener for us and ever since then we knew we had to come out and play our hardest in every single game,” All-Atlantic Sun defender Kacie Hudson mentioned of the earlier loss to the Hatter.

This time, the Bears dominated the opening half behind three goals from All-Conference members Olivia Tucker and Sarah Elliot as well as junior Emerald Phillips to give Mercer the upper hand and ultimately enact revenge for the earlier loss.

“We were just ready to have another shot at them and we came in extremely prepared for them and the result is exactly what we were dreaming about,” Hudson added.

After adding two more goals in the second half from the feet of Tucker and Elliot, the Bears
claimed the largest margin of victory in an A-Sun Championship game since 2000.

“This win serves as a little bit of redemption for the team because we had a bit of a dip in the middle of the season and we knew that wasn’t an example of the type of team we are,” Serafy stated of the three losses from Sept. 24th to Oct. 3rd. “I give the players a lot of credit because they overcame a lot of adversity and they showed a lot of hard work and enthusiasm at the end of the season.”

The 5-0 victory now sets up head coach Grant Serafy and the Bears for their third A-Sun Championship Final appearance in the past four seasons, where they are winless in program history. For a team that boasts seven seniors on the roster, the two losses in the championship game are still fresh in their memory and this time they expect to be on the winning end.

“We set a goal for ourselves at the beginning of the year to capture the A-Sun Championship,” Hudson proclaimed. “To make it to the finals in previous seasons was great, but this season we are looking to take the championship home.”

The Bears now get their shot to claim the school’s first A-Sun Women’s Soccer Championship after falling in 2007 to Kennesaw State, 2-1, and Belmont the following year in penalty kicks.

The two-goal scorer, Tucker added, “We just have to win, there is no other thing that I want than to win the conference championship.”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hometown Fans Cheer on a Champion

In the previous 20 Atlantic Sun Men's Cross Country Championships, at only one, the 2004 race, had the hosting school also produced the individual champion. On Saturday, as USC Upstate hosted its first A-Sun Championship in any sport, fans of the Spartans witnessed sophomore Gilbert Kemboi leave the rest of the field in his wake in one of the most dominating performances in Championship history.

Kemboi turned in the third-fastest time in conference history and won by a whopping 41 seconds - a winning margin not seen in the A-Sun since Georgia State's Andrew Letherby won the second of his three A-Sun titles in 1996.

Campbell's Terence Attema hung with Kemboi through the first mile of the race, but as the competition drew on, Kemboi built up his lead to such margins that the home stretch was little more than a coronation for the man whose year concludes with four individual titles and an eye-popping 755-2 record in head-to-head competition.

"It was very fantastic having all these fans cheering," Kemboi said. "It kept me pushing and pushing. I was watching my watch and I knew I was very close [to the course record]. That's what I was after. I missed it by something like six seconds but I still have time to do something about that."

Only a third-place showing at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic (where he finished less than two second behind the winner) prevented Kemboi from putting together a perfect season.

"Gilbert's an amazing athlete...he's the leader of our team," USC Upstate head coach Jimmy Stephens. "This year he stepped up and won every race, except for Louisville where he was third and was leading that race with 200 meters to go. On his home course, I knew he would step up."

In winning A-Sun Runner of the Year, Kemboi became just the fourth Spartan in the program's four-year history in the conference to garner a conference superlative award. Emily Tangwar won Track Athlete of the Year at the 2008 Indoor Track & Field Championship, Anna Novo picked up the Player of the Year in women's tennis in 2008, Morgan Childers received the softball Pitcher of the Year award in 2008, and Perrish Goggins earned Field Athlete of the Year at the 2009 Indoor Track & Field Championships.

With two years in Spartanburg still in front of Kemboi and the Spartans gaining access to NCAA Championships in one year, opportunities exist for Kemboi to chisel his name into both A-Sun and USC Upstate lore.

"Next year when we are NCAA eligible, we're going to shoot for nationals," Stephens said. "We're looking for people to push him and make him better. He's just going to continue to get better because his work ethic is amazing."

Patient Building Process Works for Ospreys

A lot of prognosticators saw the Atlantic Sun Women’s Cross Country Championship trophy staying in Jacksonville for another year … but not many of them predicted the UNF Ospreys emerging the ones taking it with them.

The Ospreys swooped into Spartanburg as a confident bunch that knew a title was within their reach if everyone performed at their anticipated level, even if their coach wasn’t quite as relaxed.

“I was a basket-case the whole race but tried to project a confident image,” UNF head coach Mark VanAlstyne observed. “Honestly, we performed exactly the way we wanted to. Everyone just did what they needed to do and followed the plan.”

While UNF placed four runners in the top 12, one of the key performances came from Kayla Conrad who bested her fastest 5K of the season by over a minute to finish 24th and help the team out-last runner-up Lipscomb. With Conrad anchoring the scoring runners, sophomore Shelby Kittrell did exactly what everyone expected - race at the front of the pack. Kittrell chased winner Mackenzie Howe around nearly the whole course, giving herself a chance to overtake the favorite in the final 100 meters before settling for runner-up finish.

“I didn’t feel any more pressure than anyone else,” Kittrell said. We went into the race knowing what we needed to do for each other. We like being together and connect really well.”

The arduous transition from Division II to Division I had taken its toll on the program and returning to a position as conference front-runner has taken some time. However, UNF does not feature a senior on its roster and the results of focused recruiting paid off on the course.

“It has been a process; the transition from Division II to I is worse than anyone says,” VanAlstyne reflected. “A couple years ago we started this recruiting process with Kayla and Erin…before adding Meggie and Shelby last year. The pieces have just been falling into place.”

A record seven runners broke the 18-minute barrier in this race including a pair of Osprey sophomores. Does this set the Ospreys up as the next potential women’s cross country dynasty? VanAlstyne acknowledges that it will not be easy in this new-look A-Sun.

“It scares me because I look at Lipscomb’s young crew and all the other youth in the league,” he said. “A few of our coaches were talking about the transformation the A-Sun has seen the last few years. When we joined the league, the good teams had three runners breaking 19 minutes. Now if you want a chance to win, you better have that many breaking 18 minutes. The bar has definitely been raised.”

Well at least for a little while, UNF can enjoy its perch atop the A-Sun.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The VolleyBlog - October 26th Edition

After a week-long break from conference play, the push towards making the six-team Atlantic Sun Volleyball Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., begins again with nine league games slated for the weekend. The conference's top teams could lock in their spots by the end of play on Saturday. If you have ways we can improve the VolleyBlog, we'll take all suggestions in our comments section, through our Facebook page or via Twitter.

ETSU Returns to 20-Win Status
With sweeps against Wofford and Presbyterian, ETSU became the first A-Sun school reach 20 wins. The Bucs last won 20 games in 2006 when they finished 25-7. ETSU joins only 13 schools in country to have reached that mark already in 2010. The Atlantic Sun has featured multiple 20-win teams in nine of the previous 10 years and Lipscomb stands as the favorite to join ETSU. The Lady Bisons enter the week 16-6 with six regular-season games remaining.

Mercer's Hurley at Near-Record Clip
In Mercer's four-set victory against Florida A&M, senior Krista Hurley totaled 12 kills - a number alone that would not pop out - when upon seeing her chances total, 14, and the following hitting percentage, a staggering .857, suddenly its a note worth talking about. No player in the conference had posted as high a percentage (with at least 12 kills) since Belmont's Jaye Schuler hit an equal .857 (12-0-14) against Stetson on Sept 29, 2006. A former Bear, Andrea Shipley, holds the conference record of .923 (12-0-13) set against Alabama A&M on October 30, 2002.

A Grand Achievement
Two A-Sun volleyball players reached career milestones during the past week. In Jacksonville's contest with Seattle, the Dolphins' Aidan Yeager surpassed 1,000 kills for her career. In the same Mercer match in which Hurley posted her. 857 hitting percentage, her teammate, Aimee Frutchey, became the 6th in school history to total 1,000 digs.

20-20 Vision
Campbell's Allyson Goldbach won the league's Player of the Week award after posting the league's third 20-20 performance of the year. Against Coastal Carolina she totaled 21 kills and 23 digs. The conference's two other 20-20 games came in the first weekend of the season. Lipscomb's Alex Kelly collected 20 kills and 21 digs against Kansas and FGCU's Camil Dominguez tallied 21 digs and 41 assists against FAU.

First Clinchings
The first spots for next month's A-Sun Championship could be secured by the end of the weekend. At 5-0, Lipscomb has the easiest path. Wins against UNF and Jacksonville will allow the Lady Bisons a chance to defend their crown in Fort Myers, Fla. At 5-1 and in second place, Kennesaw State would be in with a win at Campbell and a loss by FGCU, UNF, and a second loss by Campbell. ETSU could return to the field after a one-year absense with two wins, and a loss by UNF and two losses by Campbell or Jacksonville. If your head hurts, just follow throughout the weekend and check for the magic clinching "*" to appear next to your favorite team.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Extra Time - Women's Edition

Tournament time is here. The most important match of the regular season will take place for some this weekend. Let’s take a look at how the championship field is setting up. Don’t forget to follow us on our social media sites ( & as well.

Regular Season Title
It’s down to two teams for the regular season title. FGCU leads Jacksonville by one point heading into the final match of the year, so they control their own destiny. An Eagles win over Stetson on Saturday will hand the four-year old program their first regular season trophy. Jacksonville has to have an FGCU loss and either a win (outright champ) or tie (co-champ) against UNF to claim a piece of the title.

No. 1 Seed - Jacksonville
Jacksonville locked up the top seed last week and will host the semifinals and championship match on Nov. 4-6. The No. 1 seed owns a 17-2-4 all-time mark in tournament play and has reached the title game 10 times in the last 11 years.

No. 2 Seed – UNF, Mercer or Kennesaw State
The race for the No. 2 seed and a bye into the semifinals is wide open as UNF, Mercer and Kennesaw State all have legitimate chances to claim that advantage. UNF and Mercer are tied at 18 points in the standings while Kennesaw State lurks with 16 points. A UNF win against JU is the easiest path for the Ospreys to be the No. 2, but UNF will also take that spot with a tie and a Mercer-Kennesaw State draw. The Bears need a win against the Owls and an Osprey tie or loss while KSU’s route to the bye needs a UNF tie or loss and a victory against Mercer.

No. 3 Seed – UNF, Mercer or Kennesaw State
A first round home match is the reward for earning the No. 3 seed. All three teams in the running for the two-seed are in the mix for third as well. UNF stands in this spot with a loss for sure while a tie coupled with a Mercer win also relegates the Ospreys to the No. 3 seed. Mercer would be the three seed with a UNF win and either a win or draw versus KSU. The Owls will be the three seed with a victory against the Bears joined with a draw for the Ospreys.

No. 4 Seed – Mercer, Kennesaw State or Stetson
The other first round home site is on tap for the fourth-seeded team. A Mercer loss leaves the Bears as the No. 4 seed. Kennesaw State will be the No. 4 seed with a tie or a loss coupled with a Stetson loss to FGCU. The Hatters claim the fourth seed with a win against the Eagles and a loss by the Owls.

No. 5 Seed – Kennesaw State, Stetson or ETSU
Kennesaw State lands in the fifth seed only if Stetson defeats FGCU and the Owls tie or lose to Mercer. Stetson would be the No. 5 seed with a win and a Kennesaw State win or draw or with a loss and an ETSU loss to USC Upstate. The Lady Bucs can claim the No. 5 seed with a win and a Stetson loss or tie.

No. 6 Seed – Stetson, ETSU or Campbell
The idle Camels will be the No. 6 seed with an ETSU loss to USC Upstate. Stetson lands sixth if the Hatters lose or tie against FGCU and the Lady Bucs win. ETSU claims this spot if they win and Stetson earns a point versus FGCU.

Eliminated – Belmont, UNF and Lipscomb
Belmont is eliminated despite the fact they can reach 12 points because the Bruins lose the tie-breaker with Campbell due to a 1-0 Camels win in September.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Men's Soccer Extra Time - Oct. 20th

Just 16 days away from kick-off of the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Soccer Championship and all nine eligible teams still have a chance to make the tournament. FGCU leads the way with an undefeated mark, but are ineligible for the conference tournament, while the other nine teams will battle it out over the next two weekends for the six spots.

Real Men Wear Pink
In association with National Cancer Awareness Month, the Atlantic Sun Conference men’s soccer programs have partnered with the Coaches vs. Cancer Foundation. In the five A-Sun men’s soccer contests played on Thursday and Friday, all players competing will be wearing pink armbands and tape, while the coaches will be showing support by wearing pink polo shirts on the sidelines.

Sunshine State Showdown
On Friday, October 22nd Stetson travels to Fort Myers, Fla. for a match against the top two teams in the conference when they square off against FGCU. The Hatters stand at 5-1 in the conference and the Eagles have an unblemished 6-0 mark. With an Eagles victory, FGCU will clinch the regular season title in only its fourth year of men’s soccer existence, while a Hatters victory puts Stetson in the lead to host the A-Sun Tournament as well as win the regular season crown.

Three A-Sun Teams Ranked Regionally
In the latest edition of the NSCAA South Region Poll, three squads from the A-Sun appeared in the top-10 with FGCU leading the way in sixth, ETSU rebounding back into the polls at eighth and Mercer jumping into the poll for the first time this season at tenth. The Hatters, who were ranked last week, were also one of three teams to receive votes in the coaches’ ranking.

Longest Win Streak Belongs to Nashville
After FGCU fell to Florida Atlantic on Tuesday, the claim for the longest winning streak moved from Florida to the campus of Lipscomb in Tennessee. The Bisons, who started the conference slate with two losses, have won their last three games by a combined score of 13-6 and were led by A-Sun Player of the Week Joey Chiappetta, who registered six points against rival Belmont in a 6-2 victory against the Bruins.

Points Chase Plot Thickens
Belmont’s Brandon Tarr held a two-point lead going into play last weekend in the Atlantic Sun Points lead, but after only tallying one point on an assist his lead was cut in half as Stetson’s Fredrik Brustad jumped up to 17 points, while teammates at Jacksonville Darko Karamatic and Nedim Hrustic are tied for third place with 16 points apiece.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The VolleyBlog - October 19th Edition

Atlantic Sun Volleyball hits its own fall break as the conference takes a week off from conference play here in the middle of the round-robin season. Three schools, Belmont, FGCU and Kennesaw State won't play at until league play resumes on Friday, October 29. With everybody having played five or six conference games, the league races at the top and in the jumble for championship seeding are starting to take shape. Which matchups or storylines are you most interested in following the final 30 days of the regular season? Tell us through Facebook, Twitter or in our comments section.

Georgia, Tennessee Assert Dominance
For 200 years, Georgia and Tennessee have undergone a border dispute revolving around the Tennessee River and drinking water. This fun fact was a way to connect US history to A-Sun volleyball as the conference's five Georgia and Tennessee schools (Kennesaw State, Mercr, ETSU, Lipscomb and Belmont) combined to go 8-0 on the weekend and currently own the top five spots in the conference standing. Lipscomb and Belmont both beat Campbell; Mercer and Kennesaw State took down FGCU and Stetson and ETSU picked up two wins in Jacksonville.

It Bears Repeating
For the first in almost two years, Mercer won both league matches on consecutive weekends. In improving to 4-2, the Bears are off to their best 6-game A-Sun start since a 5-1 run to open 2007. Libero Charlotte Harris won the Bears' first Player of the Week award of 2010 (and first since Rachel Urbelis won last October 26). She totaled 59 digs in the wins against FGCU and Stetson. In the four-set win against the Hatters, she recorded 39, one shy of the league's four-set record in conference games. She paces the conference in digs with 436 and rank in the top 30 in the nation in digs per set, 5.19.

Three A-Sun Schools Entertain Seattle
As part of this non-conference weekend, three of the A-Sun's Florida schools welcome in the Seattle University Redhawks. On Thursday, UNF serves as host followed by Jacksonville one night later. The three-day event concludes in DeLand when Stetson welcomes in the 10-12 Redhawks. Seattle U picked up a victory against Mercer in the season-opening invitational at Seattle.

River City Rumble Prequel
Before facing Seattle, Jacksonville and UNF will meet in an non-conference River City Rumble on Tuesday from Jacksonville's Swisher Gymnasium. If the Dolphins can match the intensity of their mascot, Dunk'n, they could make short work of their crosstown rival.

Bisons in Rarefied Company
In addition to boasting the conference's lone unbeaten record, Lipscomb leads the A-Sun in hitting percentage, assists per set, kills per set and digs per set. Only two other school in the country and lay claim to the same distinction. In the America East Conference, Albany leads in all four categories as does Yale out of the Ivy League.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Extra Time - Women's Edition

Two weeks from the tournament starting and things are beginning to take shape. Today’s Extra Time will focus on the postseason implications of the weekend plus a look at a couple outstanding individual performances. Don’t forget to follow us on our social media sites ( & as well.

River City Rules
With three matches left for most teams, the River City rivals Jacksonville and UNF sit in the cat-bird’s seat. Without diving too deeply into tie-breaking scenarios, a JU win over Campbell tonight would mean that only the Dolphins and Ospreys would still be alive to host the A-Sun Championship Final Four. If UNF manages at least a draw with Campbell on Saturday, the two rivals would play a winner-take all match at Hodges Stadium on Oct. 22 for the No. 1 seed at the championship and possibly a conference title.

Dolphins Aim for Regular Season Title
In 2000, JU put together one of the most dominating seasons in A-Sun history, posting a 9-0-0 conference record and a 19-3-0 regular season mark. In the nine seasons since, the Dolphins have not finished higher than third. Every match will take on increased importance as the Dolphins (19 points) try to claim the league title as UNF (18 points) and FGCU (17 points) are breathing down JU’s neck. Coach Brian Copham’s squad faces Campbell tonight at 7:00pm. The match will be carried live on ASun.TV.

Ospreys Lurking
UNF’s only match this week will be a Saturday night game with Campbell also carried live on ASun.TV.

The Ospreys are lurking behind league leader JU and just ahead of challenger FGCU. Standing at 6-2-0 in conference play, UNF needs just one win to set a new school record for A-Sun victories in a single season. After missing the postseason in their first year of eligibility, UNF controls its own destiny in search of the top seed in this year’s tourney.

FGCU Still Has Title Hopes
FGCU seemed to be on track for the team’s first A-Sun title when they were stone-walled by USC Upstate keeper Rachel Collins in a 0-0 tie in Spartanburg. The Eagles out-shot the Spartans 25-4 in the match, but could not get one past Collins. The tie left FGCU two points behind league-leader Jacksonville. The advantage the Eagles own is as still the league’s only unbeaten team (5-0-2) and have three matches (all at home) remaining on the schedule as opposed to two for both JU and UNF. FGCU is 7-1-2 in their last 10 matches and are receiving votes in the NSCAA Regional Rankings.

Collins Makes Case for Freshman of the Year
Rachel Collins, who cemented her name in the USC Upstate record books a few times over the weekend, helped the Spartans earn double-overtime draws against Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast. Collins is currently riding a shutout streak of 247:10 which is the longest such streak since the 2004 season when Diana Wabnitz posted a streak of 407:23 (Sept. 9, 2004 – Oct. 6, 2004). Her 103 saves through 15 matches leads the A-Sun, while placing her second in saves in a single-season D-I era, fourth for saves in a single season in program history and fifth for saves in a career. With the two shutouts, Collins increased her season total to three, which is the most in D-I history, third-best in a career and fifth-most in school history during a single-season. Collins' two ties puts her first in D-I history, while placing her in a tie for first in program history (single-season), she also ranks third for ties in a career.

Worth Quoting
"I am proud of our girls today as the battled throughout the entire match. Our team has believed in itself and that really showed today as we earned a double-overtime draw against the first-place team in the Atlantic Sun, FGCU. No one expected us to compete today or Friday night, but our girls played their hearts out and we look to continue to build on our success as we travel to Kennesaw State and Mercer next weekend. “

Renee Lopez – USC Upstate Head Coach

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Men's Soccer Extra Time - Oct. 13th

Two weekends into the A-Sun men’s soccer season and two teams remain undefeated at 4-0, Stetson and FGCU, who both posted wins over USC Upstate and ETSU over the weekend. This weekend marks the halfway point of the conference season so make sure to tune into ASun.TV to follow your favorite team.

A-Sun Well Represented in the Polls
The NCAA released the first edition of the men’s soccer RPI and six A-Sun teams saw their names appear in the top-100, while five were in the top-80. FGCU led the way with their 21st place ranking standing at 8-2-2 on the season. Following the Eagles are ETSU at 51st, Stetson at 68th, Campbell at 77th, Mercer at 78th and Lipscomb in 93rd. To go along with the RPI ranking, FGCU improved its ranking in the Soccer America poll this week from 25th to 24th, while Stetson jumped into the NSCAA South Region poll at No. 10, which makes the Hatters the fourth conference team to appear in the poll this season.

Jones and Asare-Bediako Make National Teams of the Week
FGCU’s Deion Jones and Stetson’s Ryan Asare-Bediako were rewarded for their play over the weekend as they were named to the and National Teams of the Week, respectively. Jones scored two goals for the 24th-ranked Eagles as well as adding an assist, while Asare-Bediako, who also won the A-Sun Player of the Week award, posted game-winning goals in both of Stetson’s games including an overtime golden goal against USC Upstate.

Former Belmont Star Plays for D.C. United
J.P. Rodrigues participated in his first Major League Soccer match on Saturday. Rodrigues was called in on loan for D.C. United's contest against the San Jose Earthquakes. Rodrigues is in Washington as a guest player with the Black-and-Red. One of the all-time great Bruin players, Rodrigues was a two-time NSCAA/adidas All-South Region Team honoree (2004, 2005) and the 2005 Atlantic Sun Conference Defender of the Year.

Points Chase Sees Another Change
Belmont’s Brandon Tarr went into last weekend trailing Stetson’s Jonathan Mendoza by three points for the Atlantic Sun points lead, but left the weekend with a two-point lead after scoring three goals for the Bruins. Tarr now stands at 17 points (6G, 5A) ahead of Mendoza’s 15 (3G, 9A) and Jacksonville’s Nedim Hrustic and Stetson’s Fredrik Brustad, who both have 14 points.

Big Games This Weekend
There are several key games this weekend as Stetson and FGCU try to keep their undefeated marks alive as they travel to face Mercer and Campbell, while crosstown rivals Belmont and Lipscomb jockey for position as both teams stand at 2-2 in the league. ETSU tries to get back on the winning track with Jacksonville and UNF after dropping two matches the past weekend.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The VolleyBlog - October 12th Edition

This weekend serves as the halfway point of the A-Sun Volleyball schedule, which means we are a little over a month away from the A-Sun Volleyball Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., hosted by FGCU at Alico Arena. Five conference matches are slated to be broadcasted on ASun.TV so make sure to tune in.

With the recent losses of Penn State and North Dakota State in conference play, Lipscomb currently owns the longest conference regular season winning streak in the nation at 29 games. The Lady Bisons undefeated streak dates back to November 1, 2008 when they defeated Campbell, 3-0. In the four league games so far Lipscomb has only dropped one set – to USC Upstate in their last match – faces Campbell, who is currently tied for second in the conference at 3-1, on Saturday.

Along with Lipscomb, four total teams went 2-0 last weekend in the second week of conference play. Mercer and Kennesaw State both staked sweeps over Jacksonville and UNF, while Campbell won two games against Stetson and FGCU. The Owls’ victory against the Dolphins was the first in the program’s history, while Mercer battles back in both matches after dropping the opening sets. Campbell’s victory against FGCU was the first in program history, while the triumph against Stetson gave the Camels six wins in the last eight games.

Kennesaw State’s Alyssa Lang led the Owls to a undefeated weekend with her outstanding play, which led to the junior claiming the A-Sun Volleyball Player of the Week honor. Lang powered home 21 kills against UNF to tie the KSU school record for kills in a three-set match and set the record for the most in an A-Sun conference match in the 25-point era. The Richmond, Va. native also posted double-doubles in both of the conference matches for kills and digs.

With a 16-6 record and 10 games remaining in their schedule, ETSU has already surpassed the 2009 win total of 11. The Bucs have seven conference games left on the schedule and also face Wofford, Presbyterian and Western Carolina to wrap up their non-conference schedule. Megan Devine, Erin Ryan and Alysa Long lead ETSU in kills with 215, 188 and 179 respectively, while Long also possesses 100 total blocks, which leads the conference.

Here is the ASUN.TV slate for the weekend:
Friday, October 15th
Campbell at Belmont - 6:30 p.m.
ETSU at Jacksonville - 7 p.m.
USC Upstate at UNF - 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 16th
USC Upstate at Jacksonville - 3 p.m.
ETSU at UNF - 3 p.m.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Extra Time - Women's Soccer: Oct. 7th

A new week, a new name for our soccer blog … welcome to Extra Time! If we aren’t covering an angle that needs more light, let us know. Don’t forget to follow us on our social media sites ( & as well.

Sunshine State Surge
The A-Sun’s four Florida teams posted a combined 8-0-0 record and now occupy the top-four spots in the conference standings. The team’s outscored their opposition (Kennesaw State, Mercer, ETSU & USC Upstate) 24-3 in the eight wins. Let’s take a closer look at each team …

FGCU Soars to Top of Standings
The Eagles swept Mercer and Kennesaw State in a pair of thrilling 1-0 decisions to climb into a tie with Jacksonville for the league lead with 13 points. With the sweep, the fourth-year program nearly broke into the NSCAA/ regional rankings, joining NC State as others receiving votes. Senior Lindsay Haw scored the game-winner in both matches while the defense led by KC Correlus allowed just eight shots this weekend. The Eagles have surrendered just one goal in conference play and none in the last 281 minutes of action.

JU Makes Their Case
Jacksonville claimed its share of the league lead by dispatching ETSU and USC Upstate this weekend. The Dolphins are 5-1-1 in their last seven matches with the only set-back being a 1-0 loss to Mercer. The offense erupted on Senior Weekend with eight goals, but it was junior Liz Fink who was the big gun, netting three herself.

UNF Aiming for First Postseason Appearance
UNF took a big step towards securing the program’s first A-Sun Championship appearance after shutting out ETSU and USC Upstate. The team’s rigorous non-conference schedule seems to have prepared them well for A-Sun play. Lauren Hopfensberger is making a strong case for Freshman of the Year honors in the conference, scoring four more goals this weekend to push her league-leading total to seven. The Ospreys 4-2-0 start in conference play is the team’s best since joining the A-Sun.

Stetson Offense Firing on All Cylinders
After scoring just 13 goals in the team’s first 10 matches, Stetson exploded for 13 goals over its last three to help the team vault into a tie for fourth place in the standings. For the first time since Kennesaw State joined the league in 2005, the Hatters swept the conference weekend against the Owls and Mercer. Player of the Year candidate Tessa Gavilsky scored three goals and added an assist, running her league leading point total to 19.

Don’t Forget the Camels
While the Sunshine Four were making big moves this weekend, Campbell made a statement of their own, blanking Belmont and Lipscomb to work their way back into the postseason hunt.

Worth Quoting
“We played well. I thought we played a better second half, but I thought we did okay in the first as well. We’re really starting to find our rhythm. Any weekend you can come away with two wins is a good weekend so I’m very, very happy for the girls and excited for, hopefully, the position this puts us in to make the conference tournament. That’s our goal and the win puts us one step closer. I just think our dangerous players are starting to get more and more confidence. These are players that I’ve watched for a couple of years and always thought they’ve been amazing players. Lauren’s playing absolutely fantastic right now and things are starting to come together for us. It’s a good weekend; we’re going to enjoy it.”

Linda Hamilton – UNF Head Coach

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Men's Soccer Extra Time - October 6th

Last week was the beginning of the A-Sun Conference Season for men's soccer and four teams came away with unblemished records. As we go into week two of conference play it shall be interesting to see who rebounds from early season losses and who can keep their winning streaks alive.

Undefeated Starts
Four teams started the Atlantic Sun Conference season with unblemished records as Stetson, FGCU and ETSU won both of their matchups, while Jacksonville won its lone contest. The Hatters and Eagles went on the road to defeat Belmont and Lipscomb, while ETSU defeated Campbell and Mercer. Jacksonville opened conference play with the River City Rumble and came away with a 1-0 victory against UNF.

ETSU and FGCU Gain More Ranking Recognition
FGCU earned a national ranking in the Soccer America poll coming in at No. 25, while also earning six votes in the NSCAA National Coaches Poll. To go along with its national ranking, the Eagles continued to be ranked in the South Region Poll along with ETSU. Both teams dropped one spot in the rankings to seventh and ninth despite winning both of their games in the week. The Eagles are the first ranked team for the A-Sun since Campbell in 2008.

Campbell – Mr. Team October?
The Fighting Camels have been spectacular in the month of October traditionally as Campbell has posted a 21-2-3 record in its last 26 games. During that time, Campbell’s offense has nearly doubled its opponent’s goals, 50-26. So far in October, the Camels defeated USC Upstate 1-0 on Saturday and tied Furman 0-0 on Tuesday and have seven games remaining in the month.

Mendoza Leads the Points Race

Stetson’s Jonathan Mendoza, the A-Sun Player of the Week, registered two goals and two assists on the weekend to take the lead of the conference points, but the sophomore isn’t leading the A-Sun in the traditional way. Instead of scoring a lot of goals, Mendoza has been setting up his teammates to build his points total with eight assists on the year and three goals. He leads the conference by three points over Jacksonville’s Darko Karamatic (5G, 1A) and Belmont’s Brandon Tarr (3G, 5A).

Shutouts For All
In the last 11 games played by Atlantic Sun teams, which includes two non-conference games, there have been nine shutouts. Campbell and Stetson claim two shutouts a piece with Lipscomb, Mercer, ETSU, Jacksonville and FGCU posting one each. Three teams in the A-Sun have goals against average that are below 0.75 (Stetson, ETSU and FGCU).

Conference Games This Week
Friday, October 8th

Belmont at UNF – 7 p.m. -
ETSU at Stetson – 7 p.m. -
USC Upstate at FGCU – 7 p.m.
Lipscomb at Jacksonville – 7 p.m. -

Saturday, October 9th
Mercer at Campbell – 4 p.m. -

Sunday, October 10th
Belmont at Jacksonville – 1 p.m. -
USC Upstate at Stetson – 1 p.m. -
Lipscomb at UNF – 2 p.m. -
ETSU at FGCU –6 p.m.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

VolleyBlog - October 5th Edition

As the calendar flipped to October, the Atlantic Sun swung into conference play with Lipscomb and Jacksonville sweeping weekend play to share the top spot in the standings. The conference's top two RPI squads, Lipscomb and ETSU meet in Johnson City, headlining a 10-game weekend slate of games.

Owls Win Opening A-Sun Match in Historic Fashion
Since creating its volleyball program in 2006, Kennesaw State had dropped the first two sets 68 times. In all 68 instances, the Owls went on to lose the match. On Friday, they pulled off their first-ever rally from a two-set hole to beat Belmont in their A-Sun opener. Camile Pedraza and Alyssa Lang each topped 20 digs for Kennesaw State. Watch a replay of the Owls' comeback on ASun.TV.

Dolphins Complete Successful Florida Swing
Jacksonville won the final two games of its stretch of nine games in 10 against other Florida schools with victories against FGCU and Stetson. For the third time in their last four meetings with the Eagles, the match extended to five sets. In all three instances, the Dolphins pulled out the win. The following night, the Dolphins swept Stetson to improve to 2-0 in league play for the first time since winning their first six conference contests in 2005. Read the thoughts Brittany Lehman and Hannah Munneke on the weekend HERE as part of her weekly blog.

Week Two Features Volunteer State Showdown
The NCAA released its first RPI rankings on Monday with Lipscomb and ETSU pacing the A-Sun, placing just outside the top 100. The two meet in Johnson City for the only time in regular-season play on Friday at 7 p.m. The match airs on ASun.TV. Last season, despite not qualifying for the A-Sun Championship, ETSU proved to be Lipscomb's toughest challenge within the league, taking three sets off the eventual champions. In their meeting Johnson City, the Lady Bisons needed five sets to thwart off the upset-minded Buccaneers. No other A-Sun foe took two sets from Lipscomb in a match last year. Lipscomb has won 30 of its last 31 A-Sun contests - 24 have ended in a Lady Bisons sweep.

Catch Six A-Sun Contests on ASun.TV
In addition to Friday's Lipscomb-ETSU meeting, five league matchups air on ASun.TV. Also on Friday, fans can watch Jacksonville at Kennesaw State or UNF at Mercer. On Saturday, ASun.TV offers three games: Belmont at ETSU at 2 p.m., UNF at Kennesaw State at 3p.m. and Jacksonville at Mercer, also at 3 p.m. The remainder of the A-Sun slate include Belmont at USC Upstate and FGCU at Campbell on Friday, both at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Campbell hosts Stetson at 2 p.m. and Lipscomb duels with USC Upstate at 3 p.m.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Extra Time - Women's Edition

A new week, a new name for our soccer blog … welcome to Extra Time! Our comments have been sparse so far. If you have enjoyed reading the blog, please let us know. If we aren’t covering an angle that needs more light, let us know. Don’t forget to follow us on our social media sites ( & as well.

In a Pinch Turn to Hensley
Some players just seem to have that innate ability to be in the right place at the right time. This season, Lisa Hensley has been that player for Jacksonville. In consecutive one-goal conference matches, JU defeated Stetson (1-0) and Kennesaw State (1-0) with Hensley providing the winning goal. For the year, the sophomore forward owns four game-winning goals in the Dolphins’ six victories. View Hensley discussing the Stetson game-winner here.

Peach State Leaders
Kennesaw State and Mercer each navigated its first four matches with a 3-1-0 record to top the A-Sun standings. Defense has been the calling card for both squads. The Bears surrendered just one goal over the four-match stretch while the Owls let two balls hit the back of the net. Another big challenge waits this weekend with a two-game swing through Florida for both teams to face Stetson and FGCU.

Belmont Breakout
Belmont put a disappointing start to the conference season in the rear-view mirror last weekend, beating USC Upstate 5-0 and ETSU 3-2 in double overtime. Sunday’s match with the Lady Bucs was a thriller that saw the teams combine for four second-half goals with Marcela Sanchez netting the equalizer with less than four minutes to play. Jessica Rix’s free kick from outside the box sealed the come-from-behind win in the 107th minute. Belmont’s eight goals more than doubled the team’s season total.

Pugh Etches Name in Record Books
With her three saves in the Owls’ 1-0 win at UNF on Sunday, Staci Pugh became the all-time Kennesaw State saves leader with 267 for her career. She passed Jessica Marek who now moves into second place with 264 saves for her career, which spanned from the Owls’ inaugural 2002 season to 2005. Not only has Pugh made her mark in the Kennesaw State record books, but she is also in the top five in a pair of categories in the Atlantic Sun Conference record book. She is currently tied for fourth all-time in career shutouts with 23, and she is fifth in career goals against average at 0.98.

Worth Quoting
“She's worked extremely hard since arriving as a freshman, and has been a key component to the program's constant success over the years. Staci had to overcome a serious injury that kept her out for a year, but she kept working hard and has improved in all areas of her game. Now in her final season, she's enjoying the fruits of her labor. Staci is not only a terrific goalkeeper, but a real character as well, and we couldn't be happier for her."

Rob King – Kennesaw State Head Coach on Staci Pugh

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Extra Time - September 29th Edition

Right before conference play kicks off, we felt it was a perfect time to change the name of the soccer blog from Free Kicks to Extra Time. Let us know what you think about the name on our Facebook or Twitter pages and until then let’s talk a little bit about the past week of games and ones ahead.

Twice As Good
For the first time this season, two teams from the A-Sun Conference appeared in the NSCAA South Region Poll as FGCU jumped up one spot to number six, while ETSU received its first-ever recognition in the rankings coming in eighth place after defeating two opponents last week, both in overtime. Jacksonville has also seen its name in the south region polls this season coming in the week two poll.

Schoenfeld Nets Two
ETSU junior forward, Aaron Schoenfeld, racked up two overtime game-winners for the Bucs against Marshall and UNC Asheville. His efforts not only earned ETSU regional recognition, but also earned the Knoxville, Tenn. native two awards as he was named the A-Sun Player of the Week and was put on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. The 6-foot-4 forward also added an assist on the week to bring his season point total to eight, tied for sixth in the conference.

Let’s Go Streaking
Five teams in the A-Sun have unbeaten streaks of two games or more, which is led by Mercer’s five-game streak (4-0-1). Behind the Bears is FGCU’s four-game stretch (2-0-2), ETSU (3-0) and Campbell (2-0-1) carry three-game runs and USC Upstate owns a modest two-game streak (1-0-1). It is highly likely that some of those runs will come to an end this weekend as the Camels open the A-Sun season against the Bucs and Mercer squares off with the Spartans on Thursday.

Conference Games This Week
Thursday, September 30th
Campbell at ETSU – 7 p.m. -
Mercer at USC Upstate – 7 p.m. -

Friday, October 1st
Stetson at Belmont – 3 p.m.
FGCU at Lipscomb – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 2nd
Campbell at USC Upstate – 2 p.m. -
Mercer at ETSU – 7 p.m. -

Sunday, October 3rd
FGCU at Belmont – 12:05 p.m.
Stetson at Lipscomb – 2 p.m.
Jacksonville at UNF – 7 p.m. -

The Scoring Trio
Stetson, Jacksonville and Mercer are at the top of the league in scoring with all three teams averaging two goals or more per game. The Hatters lead the conference with three goals per game average having scored 18 goals in six games, while the Dolphins have tallied the most goals, 21, coming in nine games for a 2.33 goals/game. The Bears are hanging right behind the duo with a two goal average.

Defense Wins Championships
On the flip side of the pitch, four A-Sun squads are allowing less than a goal per game as we begin conference play. Stetson, ETSU, FGCU and Campbell all adorn that list as the Hatters led the league with a 0.76 Goal Against Average (GAA). Nine of the ten teams in the conference have posted a shutout this season, while seven teams are tied for the led league with two blank sheets this season.

The Points Chase
Belmont’s Brandon Tarr, Stetson’s Kai Eckenrode and Jacksonville’s Nedim Hrustic are battling one another for the points lead as all three are in double-digits for points. Tarr, a sophomore, has 11 points on the season with three goals and five assists is first in the A-Sun, while Eckenrode (3 G, 5 A) and Hurstic (5 G, 0 A) are tied for second with ten points. The trio is in the lead for now as only four points separates first place from ninth.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

VolleyBlog - Sept 28 Edition

The Atlantic Sun volleyball teams concluded weekend non-conference action in strong fashion, winning 14 of 20 matches. ETSU posted a 5-0 record and Jacksonville won its three matches. The first full week of league play begins Wednesday with Campbell traveling to Spartanburg, S.C. to take on USC Upstate. If you attend any of the 10 A-Sun contests over the weekend, be sure to take some pictures and we'll recognize you here on the blog and on our Facebook and Twitter page.

Bucs Soaring Entering A-Sun Play
For the second time in the 2010 non-conference season, the ETSU Buccaneers collected a tournament title, winning the North Carolina Central Tournament. On Friday, the Buccaneers beat NC Central, Maryland-Eastern Shore and wrapped up the event by beating Hampton and South Carolina State on Saturday. Alysa Long earned MVP honors after collected 24 kills and 20 blocks. She hit .477 and enters conference play pacing the conference in hitting percentage (.338) and blocks (91).

Dolphins Staking Claim for Sunshine State Crown
Jacksonville closed its pre-conference portion of the schedule by again dominating in-state competition. The Dolphins swept Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and a non-conference match Stetson in improving their record against fellow Florida schools to 6-1 (2-7 against the other 49 states). Coincidentally, Jacksonville opens A-Sun play with FGCU on Friday and Setson one day later.

ETSU's Start One of A-Sun's Best Last Six Years
With victories on nine of its last 10 games, ETSU has improved its record to 14-5, its best 19-game start since also going 14-5 in 2005 and 2006. Since ETSU joined the A-Sun in 2005, only four teams have posted better 19-game starts than ETSU...FGCU started 17-2 in 2007 as did FAU in 2005. Belmont opened 2006 16-3 as did Lipscomb last season.

Gulley Garners National Praise
Kennesaw State's Sabrita Gulley's performance against Alabama A&M garnered the senior acclaim from Collegiate Volleyball Update (, as the organization named the outside hitter one of the Top Performers of the week. Gulley set a Kennesaw State record with 21 kills in a three-set victory. The 21 kills also marked the highest total by an A-Sun performer in a three-set match since the scoring format changed from the 30-point era to the 25-point era. Gulley is only the second A-Sun performer honored by the organization this season.

Lipscomb Enters A-Sun Play Looking to Extend Win Streak
The reigning champion Lipscomb Lady Bisons open league play with home contests against Kennesaw State and Mercer. After posting a perfect 20-0 regular-season mark in 2009 and finishing the 2008 regular season with five straight wins the Lady Bisons have won 25 straight regular-season conference games. Across Division I, only North Dakota State, which has won 42 regular-season Summit League games, owns a longer active streak. Lipscomb last lost an A-Sun regular-season game on October 28, 2008, a five-set loss at Belmont. The Lady Bisons have not lost a home A-Sun match since October 4, 2008, falling to FGCU in five sets.

Catch Seven Matches on ASun.TV
Among the 10 conference contests slated for the weekend, seven can be viewed on ASun.TV. Belmont, Lipscomb and UNF will air both its games while Jacksonville will broadcast its Friday game with FGCU.

Upcoming A-Sun Volleyball Matches on ASun.TV
Friday, October 1: Stetson at UNF, 7:00 p.m. ET
Friday, October 1: FGCU at Jacksonville 7:00 p.m. ET
Friday, October 1: Kennesaw State at Belmont, 6:30 p.m. CT
Friday, October 1: Mercer at Lipscomb, 6:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, October 2: Mercer at Belmont, 2:00 p.m. CT
Saturday, October 2: Kennesaw State at Lipscomb, 2:00 p.m. CT
Saturday, October 2: FGCU at UNF, 3:00 p.m. ET

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Women's Soccer Free Kicks - Week 5

Free Kicks returns for another week of notes, recaps and previews. We have two competitive submissions for new names of the blog, Extra Time or Offside. If you have a favorite between the two or still want to offer up another option for us to consider, submit your title in our comment section, on our Facebook page or through our Twitter account.

Shutouts Rule Week One
Conference play opened in the Atlantic Sun this past weekend with eight of the 10 league games resulting in a shutout and one, the FGCU-Jacksonville contest finishing in 0-0 fashion. Mercer (1-0 win vs Belmont; 4-0 win against Lipscomb) and Jacksonville (0-0 tie with FGCU; 1-0 win vs Stetson) posted back-to-back clean sheets and ETSU blanked Campbell, 2-0, in its lone A-Sun contest.

Georgia > Nashville
The only two schools to earn two victories in the first weekend shared two traits -both reside inside "The Peach State" and both headed north and beat Belmont and Lipscomb. Kennesaw State opened league play by pulling out a dramatic victory against Lipscomb, 2-1, thanks to a goal by Brittany Vining with three seconds left in regulation. Also on Friday, Mercer got an overtime goal from Sara Elliot to top Belmont, 1-0. In a rematch of the 2009 Atlantic Sun Championship title game, the Owls shut out the Bruins, 2-0 on Sunday afternoon. Down Belmont Boulevard, Mercer blanked Lipscomb, 4-0, and held the Lady Bisons shotless, 19-0.

Kerns Moves to the Top of Goal Scoring List
Although only playing one game during the week, ETSU's Ramey Kerns scored both goals in the Buccaneers' 2-0 home win against Campbell. She moved ahead of Stetson's Tessa Gavilsky to take the lead in conference in both goals (5) and points (11). Check out highlights from Buccaneers victory HERE.

Hear from the Weekly Winners
Each week, the Atlantic Sun conducts interviews with the Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week. To hear from UNF's Carolina Lencina and Mercer's Raschelle Riley, click HERE.

Full Slate on ASun.TV
In addition to being the week of season premieres on network television, ASun.TV offers plenty of fresh action this weekend as eight of the 10 league showdowns air on the channel. Friday and Sunday feature four games each. On Friday, The A-Sun's reigning weekly award winners, Mercer's senior defender Raschelle Riley and UNF's Carolina Lencina meet in Macon. For the full schedule of games and how to purchase events, visit ASun.TV.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Men's Soccer Free Kicks - Week 3

We are one week away from the beginning of the conference season as the 10 teams across the league wrap up the non-conference season. This will also be the final week before we pick a new name for the men’s and women’s soccer blog so continue to send in your suggestions to our Facebook and Twitter account for a chance to win an A-Sun Apparel package.

FGCU Takes Down Another Ranked Team
On Saturday, FGCU welcomed the No. 5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes into Ft. Myers for the FGCU Kick-Off Classic and the Buckeyes left with a 1-0 loss as the Eagles’ freshman Ryan Price headed in the lone goal of the game in the 64th minute to stun the visiting Buckeyes. For their win and 1-1 tie with Drexel, who is ranked fifth in the South Atlantic region, on Thursday, FGCU earned a seventh place ranking in the latest edition of the NSCAA South Region Poll. Video Interview

Campbell Breaks through with Victory Over Niners
Not to be outdone by its A-Sun brethren, Campbell defeated the Charlotte 49ers, 2-1, on Saturday for the first time since Oct. 2, 1990. Khalil Johnson, a senior forward, registered two second-half goals before Charlotte, who defeated then-No. 14 Wake Forest earlier in the week, scored a late goal to cut the deficit to one. For his efforts, Johnson earned the A-Sun Player of the Week honors.

Mercer’s Shutter Earns National Team of the Week Honor
The Bears sophomore Josh Shutter was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week after scoring two goals in a 2-1 victory against Georgia State. Shutter scored the game’s opening goal in the first half and then added the game-winner in the 85th minute to seal the victory against the Panthers. The victory moved Mercer to 3-1-1 on the season and its best start after five games since going 4-1 to start the 2007 season.

Brustad Tallies Four-Minute Hat Trick
Stetson's Fredrik Brustad registered three goals in the Hatters 4-1 win against the Manhattan Jaspers. Brustad scored his first two goals in the 50th minute before recording his final goal in the 54th minute to put the game out of reach. Brustad, the A-Sun Preseasoon Player of the Year, leads Stetson in scoring with four goals and nine points. Brustad Interview

A-Sun Teams on the Winning End
At this point of the non-conference season, six of the 11 teams in the A-Sun have records of .500 or better, four of which are winning records. In comparison at the end of last season only two teams finished with a .500 record or better (FGCU and Stetson).

Tough Opponents Ahead For A-Sun Teams
In the final week of non-conference play, the A-Sun squares off against three regionally-ranked teams and one top-10 team. Campbell faces UNC-Greensboro, No. 8 in South Region, on Wednesday, while FGCU hosts Florida International, No. 5 in the South Region, on Friday. In a Sunday showdown, Jacksonville faces the No. 9 team in the nation, SMU, who has already faced one A-Sun team earlier in the season in Lipscomb.

Quote of the Week
"I'm proud of the way that our team was able to come together and pull out a victory against a quality opponent," said Campbell head coach Steve Armas. From opening day until now, we've had a lot of growth in the way we play and it clicked today for us. I credit our kids for pushing each other to be successful and I'm extremely proud of their efforts."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

VolleyBlog - Fourth Edition

USC Upstate stands on top of the Atlantic Sun standings after winning the first conference game of the season, beating Stetson in four sets on Thursday. The Spartans will hold onto that spot throughout the week as schools conclude non-conference weekend play this week. Once again several individuals and teams shined over the weekend adding intrigue to the upcoming conference season. Continue to message us here, on Facebook ( or on Twitter (

Camels Emerge Champs of Hilton Garden Inn Beach Bash
In leading Campbell to the UNC Wilmington Hilton Garden Inn Beach Bash, Allyson Goldbach earned MVP honors of the tournament. She hit a career high .480 in the Camels' fourth-ever victory against NC State. For the tournament, she totaled 38 kills, 36 digs and nine aces.

A Grand Performance for Gulley
Kennesaw State's Sabrita Gulley became the first Owl to record 1,000 kills for her career in the Owls' match with Coastal Carolina. Kennesaw State posted a pair of victories at its Owl Invitational. Gulley earned All-Tournament honors. She established the program's career record for kills during the 2009 season.

Bucs Bolster Non-Conference Record
ETSU picked up three wins at the Battle in the Boro tournament over the weekend. ETSU downed Charleston Southern, South Alabama and Winthrop, losing only to host Georgia Southern. ETSU's Alysa Long hit .350 at the tournament and picked up 38 kills and 16 blocks to earn her first Player of the Week honor. After a 1-3 start, the Buccaneers have won 8 of their last 10 games, their best 10-game stretch since an 8-2 span from September 15 through October 12 in 2007.

A-Sun Foes Continue to Meet In Non-Conference Action
One week after Belmont-Lipscomb and USC Upstate-Stetson squared off in non-conference play, three pairs of league members will hold non-conference competitions this week. FGCU will travel to Nashville to face Belmont on Saturday and Lipscomb on Sunday. Also on Saturday, Stetson hosts Jacksonville.

Spartan Teammates Sink Stetson
USC Upstate's Katie Downey and Morgan Thomas became the first set of A-Sun teammates to record at least 12 kills and a hitting percentage of .500 or better in a match. Thomas led the Spartans with 18 kills and hit .500 while Downey hit a team-leading .524 (12 kills, one error in 21 attempts) in the four-set victory.

Follow Pease's Senior Season
Lipscomb senior setter, and Atlantic Sun Preseason Player of the Year, Stefine "Jake" Pease submitted her first entry in her journal on adding the Lady Bisons entry into social media. The volleyball team features a dedicated Facebook page where fans can view game highlights like the Lady Bisons contest with Belmont and behind the scenes videos on their trip to St. Louis.

Did we miss a performance, a milestone or victory of note? Share with us here, on Facebook or on Twitter.