Friday, April 30, 2010

Case Study for Success: A-Sun Golf

If you need a case study on how to develop a sport from an overall Atlantic Sun Conference perspective, you could look at baseball or the resurgent group of softball teams. However, the most telling may be one of the least recognized intercollegiate sports out there: Golf.

This week, three A-Sun women’s golf teams earned berths into the NCAA Championship for the first time in conference history. Next week, the league expects to have at least two men’s golf teams receive bids into the postseason field. While the men’s side has had multiple teams in regional play often over the last decade, rarely have two teams had as high expectations at UNF and ETSU will this year. The women break a string of four straight seasons of one-bid status.

How did A-Sun golf grow its prestige and vault onto the regional stage?

1. Competition from within.

Campbell University set the standard for women’s golf in the A-Sun. The Lady Camels own eight of the last 15 A-Sun titles. Stetson head coach Floyd Kerr thinks this forced other programs to improve.

“John Crooks at Campbell has set high standards for his teams while setting the standards that other teams in our conference should seek,” commented Kerr.

On the men’s side, we don’t see a dominant program, but the strength ranges from top-30 programs like UNF and ETSU to fast risers Kennesaw State, FGCU and Mercer. However, the pressure is still on for the men’s teams to improve as the Ospreys and Bucs are clearly aiming to advance out of regional play and be alive for the eight-team match play closing round at the NCAA Finals.

2. Strategic expansion

The addition of ETSU impacted the golf landscape in the A-Sun. The Bucs came in at the perfect time, filling the void left by long-time power Georgia State’s departure for the Colonial Athletic Association. Both the men’s and women’s teams have claimed conference titles and will each be in the regional field this season. With these two powerhouses at the top of the conference others had to improve to compete.

The conference’s reclassifying institutions are making a quick impact. UNF men’s team stands 21st currently in both the Golfstat and GolfWeek/Sagarin rankings. FGCU saw its women’s team lead the championship after day one and the men’s team use a furious rally to nearly grab the title at the men’s event. Kennesaw State women’s program finished second overall and the men’s team is one of five A-Sun teams in the top 100 of the Golfstat rankings. USC Upstate’s Josh Gallman moved into the top 100 nationally after a third-place finish at the championship.

All these programs are impacting the sport of golf in significant ways, a trend that most expect to continue in the league’s other 15 sports.

3. Geographic location

The A-Sun consistently takes advantage of its geographic location in recruiting, particularly in the spring sports. A-Sun Coach of the Year candidate Scott Schroeder of UNF believes this factor plays a big role.

“I think the conference is only going to continue to improve,” reflected Schroeder. “We are located in the south and have coaches that work hard at what they do. You combine our geography with the fact that there are so many more good players now in Junior golf that it allows us to get better recruits.”

The conference footprint incorporates temperate climates and large media markets.

4. Institutional commitment

This factor could be the most important of them all. A-Sun institutions are supporting golf at a level that helps make it a player regionally. The Stetson women’s program is a perfect example.

“When I took the job at Stetson five years ago, I knew I would have to raise our standards to be competitive,” Kerr said. “Other [teams] in our league seem to have also made commitments to improve their programs. This is the key to our conference. Every year I see more teams getting competitive and I think this is a great thing.”

With improving programs, favorable weather for the sport and a broader institutional commitment, A-Sun golf is in the midst of a strong upswing.

“I believe that over time our conference is only going to continue to improve,” closed Schroeder. “You could see us getting six bids a year in the future.”

Heading into NCAA Regional play, which of the A-Sun five teams has the best chance at advancing to the nationals?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FGCU Concludes Successful Two-week Run at Golf Championships

Paired in the final group with two of the nation’s top 31 programs could have unnerved the young FGCU Eagles. After all, they were only competing in their second Atlantic Sun Men’s Golf Championship and sophomores comprised 3/5 of their starting lineup. However, by the end of the round, the Eagles had usurped UNF for second place and were left wondering if with only a few more holes, they could have toppled ETSU.

Led by Brandon Pena’s sparkling 7-under 65, the Eagles turned in the second-lowest score of the week, a 6-under total of 282 that cut the ETSU winning margin to four strokes. Three of the five Eagles beat the Buccaneer in their respective pairing.

“We are really proud of what we did,” Pena said. “For the last two years that I’ve been here, we’ve talked about how we’re kind of unknown since we are so new, but that we have all the talent that any of these ranked teams do. I think our showing this week really proved that to everybody around. I think that we can compete on a regular basis with the teams like ETSU and UNF.”

Dr. Jim Suttie has spearheaded this confident group of Eagles. His résumé in golf instruction needs little introduction, but here comes one. He owns the Jim Suttie Golf Academy located at Cog Hill G. & C.C. in Lemont, Ill. and at Twin Eagles C.C. in Naples, Fla. Dr. Suttie has landed on the Golf Digest Top 50 Greatest Teacher Rankings every year since its inception in 2000. In the 2009 rankings, he stood at No. 15 on the list.

According to his Web site, his list of students including PGA TOUR stars Paul Azinger, Chip Beck, Loren Roberts, Brad Elder, David Ogrin and Mark Wilson. In March, a former Eagle, Derek Lamely, won the Puerto Rico Open becoming the first ever FGCU graduate to win a PGA Tour event.

“The program could not be where it is without ‘Doc’ [Suttie],” Pena said. “He’s brought more to the table for a program that’s so young than just about any other person you can think of. With what he’s brought and how much he works with us – he’s allowed all of us as players…to grow and get better, and that’s why we can compete with these teams.”

The run made by the men’s team caps off 10 strong days of A-Sun Championship play by the Eagles’ two programs. Last week at the Women’s Championship, FGCU led after the first day and Briana Carlson turned in a third-place showing. The men won three team titles during the fall and underclassmen Daniel Mazziotta (junior) and Patrick Williams (sophomore) each captured individual crowns.

“For us, it’s a confidence builder – it’s a building block for next year and the years after that,” Pena said. “The only person we are losing from this year’s team is senior Michael Hart and he’s going to be deeply missed, but we’ve got a strong team back home. I think just like we have the past couple of years, we can keep surprising people.”

With more results like Wednesday, the Eagles will soon lose the ability to surprise anyone again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Hint of Augusta National at A-Sun Championships

Augusta National stands as one of the iconic golf courses in the world as hosts to one of the great traditions of the spring season, The Masters.

One of the most majestic holes at Augusta remains No. 12, known as Golden Bell. The hole, a short par three with Rae's Creek guarding the green in front and trees in behind surrounded in bunkers, stands as one of the pillars of professional golf.

At the 2010 Atlantic Sun Men’s Golf Championships the student-athletes of the conference are getting a taste of what it is like to play Golden Bell. The 15th hole at the Legends Course at Chateau Elan stands as almost an exact replica of No. 12 at Augusta.

“Our hole No. 15 is fashioned after No. 12 at Augusta,” head professional at the Legends at Chateau Elan, Sean Cain said. “When Gene Sarazen designed the course he didn’t want to copy it (No. 12 at Augusta). One thing Sarazen said about No. 12 at Augusta was that he also thought the hole would play better if the green was flipped around so that is exactly what we have here.”

No. 15 on The Legends Course has drawn the eye of many players even first-round co-leader ETSU’s Seamus Power.

“I was quite impressed with how well they were able to copy it.” Power said. “It is very similar to the way it looks on TV. You learn how to play it by watching the pros on TV so it is kind of cool.”

Power has not been the only player with an eye on No. 15 on The Legends Course.

“I really like it. I think it is a fairly accurate replica of the 12th at Augusta.” Belmont’s Gaylon Cude, one of 12 golfers who birdied the hole on Tuesday, said. “It is fairly simple hole you just have to make sure you don’t hit it right and hit it in the middle of the green every time.”

Each golfer has taken on a different way to attack hole No.15.

“I just hit a seven iron.” UNF’s Joe Byun, who also recorded a "2" at No. 15 said. “It landed within two feet. When I hit it I wasn’t sure I got it all so I watched it all the way and when it landed I was happy."

The advantage just about every golfer has with No. 15 is they have seen how the professional handle it and they have learned.

“It is the same hole I’ve seen on TV.” FGCU’s Patrick Williams said. “It is a narrow green. You have to good on your distance control and know where to miss it."

On Monday, with the pin placed on the left side of the front bunker, the hole played as the third-hardest on the course, yielding only two birdies in playing to a stroke average of 3.42.

“Basically you just want to hit the green,” Kennesaw State's Jeff Karlsson said. “If you hit the green you have a good chance of birdie. Yesterday I hit a pitching wedge just a little bit long but then I was able to chip in for birdie.”

For the second round, the pin moved to the middle of the green and scores improved. The average score dropped to 3.22 as 12 players made birdie. Belmont, ETSU and Stetson all played the hole in even par. All five of the Hatters made pars on the hole.

On Wednesday, the hole location will move to the right side of the bunker, bringing the slope into the lake more in play. As teams and individuals fighting for titles, will any dare to shoot at the pin like Phil Mickelson did two weeks ago to set up a birdie (1:54 mark)? Might a player catch a break as lucky as Fred Couples did in 1992?

From First Off to First Place

ETSU’s Rhys Enoch stood in a familiar position after the first round of the 2010 Atlantic Sun Men’s Golf Championships, tied for the lead, but his round started in a foreign spot, playing from the No. 5 position, and thus leading off.

He struck the first tee shot of the day off the first hole of The Legends Course at Chateau Elan and eventually birdied the hole, one of four he carded on the front side. He made three additional birdies on the second nine, but matching bogeys left the junior standing on 3-under and in sole possession of the lead. His teammate, Seamus Power, playing out of the No. 2 position matched Enoch as the Buccaneers jumped out to a nine-stroke lead after day one.

“It’s always important to lead by example,” Enoch said. “I actually quite enjoyed going out first. It was nice to be first on the course and set the pace. I was lucky to get off to some early birdies – six in the first 11.”

Head coach Fred Warren altered his lineup Sunday afternoon to put Enoch in the lead-off position. Warren recalled putting future PGA Tour winner Garrett Willis out first at the NCAA Championships because Willis played the fastest and even came to Warren requesting the position.

“Rhys is our highest ranked player; He was just named to Palmer Cup and we don’t always go in the order of who our best player is,” Warren said. “Sometimes it’s a feel, sometimes it’s how he finished in the last tournament, but in this case…all of our guys are playing pretty well. Rhys is a great player – one of the top players in college golf – so there wasn’t any grand scheme. They are just going out there and trying to play as well as they can.”

For Enoch, the strong start comes off the heels of finishes outside the top 20 in each of his last two events. Last week would have marked the birthday of his brother Ben, who had committed to join his brother at ETSU, but before having that chance, he died in a car crash in England.

“I’ve really struggled the last week because it was his birthday last week, so the last couple of tournaments I really haven’t been able to focus,” Enoch said. “I wrote my thoughts down [Sunday] night about how I missed him. It helped me focus on the golf course. I thought if perhaps if I could write them (his thoughts) down, then I can kind of say ‘that’s where I put them’ so I can clear my mind.”

Warren noticed Enoch’s struggles, citing the close bond the brothers shared.

“It’s been tough on Rhys and his parents,” Warren said. “The two brothers were very close and both very good players – Ben was going to come and play for us – and they were looking forward to that. It’s a tough time of the year for Rhys. None of us get through life without some pain, some are worse than others. Rhys is a young man, so it’s tough, but Ben will always be in our hearts and I’m sure glad Rhys is playing well.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Practice Round Lends Insight to The Legends Course at Chateau Elan

tlantic Sun Insider got a hole-by-hole breakdown of The Legends Course at Chateau Elan from some of the participants. The 11 team field readies for the 2010 Atlantic Sun Men’s Golf Championship which begins Monday.

Hole 1 - 423 yards - Par 4
Sam Curtis, So., Kennesaw State
“Off the tee you want to favor the right side and keep the ball in the middle and get a two put and get out of there.”

Hole 2 - 447 yards - Par 4
Dan Smith, Jr., Belmont
“It is a tight tee shot. After the tee shot it becomes a pretty easy hole with a down hill shot and try and hit the middle of the green. Then you look to two put and take a four.”

Hole 3 - 185 yards - Par 3
Bobby Fredeking, So., Jacksonville
“Pin placement is key. When the pin is back you might want to go a club less because you don’t want to go over the green. It is a two tier green and you need to place it on the tier with the pin.”

Hole 4 - 427 yards - Par 4
Andrew Brock, Jr., Lipscomb
“Off the tee you want to go driver down the middle and everything funnels left. You really don’t want to miss right and then aim to hit the middle of green a then it is a simple two put.”

Hole 5 - 521 yards - Par 5
Jeff Karlsson, So., Kennesaw State
“It is a three-wood off the tee but you could go driver but it is a risk and it could set up a tough second shot. The second shot is a layup to about 100 yard and then wedge it close and look to try and birdie.”

Hole 6 - 394 yards - Par 4
Sam Ryder, So., Stetson
“You could be conservative with a short drive but with a long drive it turns into a birdie hole pretty quick. If you got drive and then an iron you can put yourself in good position for birdie.”

Hole 7 - 124 yards - Par 3
Patrick Williams, So., FGCU
“It is a solid down hill hole and a good drive to the center of the green should leave you a great shot at birdie.”

Hole 8 - 451 yards - Par 4
Andrew Schiano, So., Stetson
“Today I went with a drive with the wind but on a clam day I would go with a three-wood and try and take the bunkers out of play.”

Hole 9 - 526 yards - Par 5
Brandon Pena, So., FGCU
“You want to drive it down the middle of the fair and hit a solid approach to give yourself a chance at birdie or even eagle. It is a hole you really want to attack.”

Hole 10 - 556 yards - Par 5
Garth McGee, Fr., ETSU
“I would go driver here and keep it to the right and keep the bunkers out off play. The hole is pretty safe if you play it straight.”

Hole 11 - 409 yards - Par 4
Thomas Holmes, Fr. Mercer
“From the tee it looks like a very tight but you really have more room then you think. You got uphill to the green and with a good chip you have a chance at birdie.”

Hole 12 - 213 yards - Par 3
Kevin Phelan, Fr., UNF
“It is a pretty tough par three. At about 210-215 yards you want aim for the middle of the green take your two puts and get out with a par.”

Hole 13 - 392 yards - Par 4
Michael Lawrence, Sr., USC Upstate
“It is a driver hole and it leaves you with about 120 yards. The green it flat but it is very large. It is a good hole to attack and could be a birdie hole.”

Hole 14 - 515 yards - Par 5
Matt Tribby, Jr., Mercer
“Good hole but it is not to long. The wall on this hole give the hole it gives it a lot of character. The team that is able to play this hole the best stands a good chance to win the tournament.”

Hole 15 - 150 yards - Par 3
Josh Gallman, Sr., USC Upstate
“You don’t want to leave it short. If you leave in the front part of the green the grass is short and it could roll into the water. A long shot is long but the key is to be precise.”

Hole 16 - 344 yards - Par 4
Vita Guillaume, So., Campbell
“I am fairly long off the tee so with the shorter pin placements I would go with a three-wood but if the pin is in the back I’d go driver. The greens appear to be a bit hard so I would aim a few feet in front of the hole because shots will roll toward the pin.”

Hole 17 - 452 yards - Par 4
Kevin Aylwin, So., UNF
“It plays pretty short going down hill and then back up hill to the green. It is important to play a good drive and with the down hill it will roll pretty far.”

Hole 18 - 432 yards - Par 4
Matt Moot, Jr., Campbell
“Eighteen is a great finishing hole. It forces you to be long off the tee with the fairway bunkers in play and with bunkers in the back of the hole I think par for the week will be a pretty good score here.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

UNF Enters NCAA’s in First Season of Div. I Eligibility

DeLAND, Fla. – With No. 64 UNF’s 4-1 victory against No. 70 ETSU Saturday afternoon at the Atlantic Sun Women’s Tennis Championship at Stetson’s Mandy Stoll Tennis Center, the Ospreys will make their first appearance at the NCAA Division I tournament.

The victory for UNF marks the first time a women’s program has participated in a postseason Division I tournament after completing a mandatory four-year transition to Division I play, in addition to this season standing as the first time a women’s squad won the league tournament during a first chance for tournament eligibility.

The A-Sun Head Coach of the Year in UNF’s Rodrigo Puebla led his team to a record-setting season at 19-2 overall, including a 9-1 tally in conference play. During regular season play, the Ospreys fell to the Lady Buccaneers by a 5-2 mark.

“Coming in here we did not know what to expect because this is my first time as well,” Puebla said. “Today we came out using the momentum from yesterday.”

Even though postseason hopes stood out of reach for the Lady Ospreys for several seasons due to NCAA reclassification rules, UNF knew one day it would vie for a league title.

“This is our first time here and we were asking for respect,” Puebla said. “Going to the NCAA’s will help us earn it in the conference and in the nation. This was our main goal when we started the year, and from the beginning as a coach that’s one of your main goals. We knew the Bucs were going to come out and play their best but I think we wanted it a little bit more.”

UNF can contribute its success to the entirety of the team as each player had to step up to earn each and every point.

“Over the season, I think everybody contributed to our success. We do not really have a team leader because everybody helps in a big way. Without the help of our SWA Kathy Klein, our Director of Compliance Michelle Bonner, our Director of Athletics Lee Moon and our assistant coach Ronnie Sang, who really stepped up this year, we would not have made it.”

“I had met with all of the teams at the beginning of the year because this was our first,” Moon said. “Don’t be satisfied with just competing. We play for championships now. I am excited that the women’s tennis team is able to win the first one. We have come close this year and it is a great experience for them. Hopefully, it will carry over now where everyone else can share the same feeling.”

Hattervision a Hit at A-Sun Tennis Championships

DeLAND, Fla. - With the addition of live scoring and video at the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Men's and Women's Tennis Championships from Stetson's Mandy Stoll Tennis Center, viewers have had the ability to tune in internationally to the athletic events happening on the courts during the three-day period.

Richard Skeel, Stetson's Senior Associate Athletic Director, stands as the man behind the curtain for “Hattervision”, the Hatters' live video webstreaming service. Hattervision is covering the majority of matches being played at the championships during the weekend at no cost to viewers.

“We do about 200 live events a year,” Skeel said. “It starts in August with men's and women's soccer and then goes to men's and women's basketball. We also do volleyball, as well as every home game for softball and baseball. We can move our equipment pretty much any place I can find a fiber optic cable.”

With all of the live games and events Stetson features, do you ever wonder how Hattervision got started at Stetson?

“My second year here, I called the television stations and told them we had a baseball invitational,” Skeel said. “We had Ohio State, Michigan and Navy coming in. I asked if we could get a game on the air. They said no because they had an SEC volleyball game they had to put on. So we started Hattervision out of a necessity to get ourselves seen around the world. I was not about to let the television stations do that to us.”

With Hattervision reigning as one of the original live athletic videostreaming services, Skeel must ensure that athletics stays current with the times.

“We were on the cutting edge when we started,” Skeel said. “Now everybody is doing the same thing we are doing. I am trying to find ways to stay ahead of the game. One of the ways is to try and run things like a regular TV production. It makes us look good because it is better than having just one camera and having someone follow where the action is.”

This weekend in Stetson marks the first time the championships have returned to DeLand, Fla. since 2005. However, this spring season also marks the inaugural year for Stetson to make any tennis match a live event on Hattervision.

“I told them in the fall I had an idea we could do this,” Skeel said. “We started putting bids in for video streaming for basketball, baseball and softball championships. No one has been putting video streaming in for soccer because they do not know how to do the outside sports. For the soccer fields, we run a 250 foot cable. We had the idea that we could take three cameras, push them into one line and back out to the world. Essentially, we cut the studio out and we have a primitive channel of every one of those setups. We tried it and tested it last week. We had no idea it was going to work.”

At any outdoor event, regardless of the game, the biggest hindrance to a video production is the weather. However, Friday's small breezes proved to help production more than hurt.

“Our biggest concern out here is the weather,” Skeel said. “But, the little breezes we are having now is actually saving the equipment from getting hot because we are running it 12-14 hours a day, nonstop. Something that is disappointing is that we cannot feature all six courts. But, because we know that the type of fiber optic cable we are using is only going to let us do three cameras at a time, we decided to do the doubles and the top-three singles. Between live-stats and being able to see this, at least almost every parent can see their child play.”

“I think the students love this. I created it out of frustration from television. Television is only seen regionally, this is seen worldwide. So far, I have already heard that parents from Sweden, Uruguay, Brazil and France have been tuning in to watch these matches this weekend.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Zaatini Finds Home, Family at ETSU

ETSU head men’s tennis coach Yaser Zaatini first came to ETSU in 1990 for the opportunity to play collegiate tennis in the United States. 20 years later, the Venezuela native presides over one of the nation’s most dominant tennis programs, as his Buccaneers play for their fourth consecutive A-Sun Championship on Saturday morning.

Dave Mullins, longtime ETSU tennis coach, brought Zaatini to the U.S. to help build a winning tradition on the courts in Johnson City. Zaatini obliged, helping bring the Bucs their first two conference championships, earning two consecutive All- America honors and becoming a fixture at all the ITA’s national championships.

Mullins brought Zaatini back to ETSU in the fall of 2002 to serve as his assistant coach but in January of 2003, the school promoted the veteran tennis coach to Athletics Director, and Zaatini took hold of the reins to what was, by now, a perennial power.

“Yaser did a great job from the very beginning,” Mullins said. “The tennis aspect was always easy for him, but he had to learn so much about the administrative aspect of the job after he was on the job, and he has really developed in that respect.

“He has such an intense love for and loyalty to ETSU, and he’s such a fierce competitor. Even as a player, I saw how he controlled every match he played in, and in practice, he never lost a match; he just wasn’t going to lose to a teammate.”

Zaatini’s ETSU career, whether as a player or as a coach, has always been successful. He reached as high as number four in the national rankings his senior year, and as a coach has won either a conference regular season championship, tournament title or both in each of his seven seasons.

Such a high level of achievement typically attracts interest from larger schools, but nowhere else interests Zaatini at the moment.

“The love I have for this place that gave me so much is too much to describe,” he says. “Too many good things have happened at ETSU, and it’s where my roots are, and those roots don’t stop growing. They extend to the community, to my kids’ school, to where I built my house and even to the restaurants where my family and I go to eat. This place made me believe in myself as a person and as a player, because of my time her I was able to blossom into who I am today.”

Other schools trying to lure Zaatini away remains a constant threat Mullins has dealt with on and off for the past 20 years, but he remains assured in his head coach’s unwavering loyalty and affection for the institution.

“After his freshman year, teams would call Yaser and try to recruit him behind my back,” Mullins said. “But Yaser always took pride in representing a ‘small school.’ I think he knew we were building something special here, and he wanted to be a part of it.”

As much as he is loyal to the school, much of Zaatini’s devotion is directed toward the man who brought him to ETSU in the first place. Even through the relationship’s evolution from coach-to-player to athletic director-to-head coach, he insists the nature of the bond remains consistent.

“Just because our titles change, it doesn’t transform the essence of the relationship,” he says. “For him, I think it’s about respect, love and wanting the best for me. He’s the reason I’m here, and I get a great sense of showing appreciation for a man who has given me everything and done all in his power to help me succeed.”

Campbell’s Johnson Directs Teams Into Tourney Semis

DeLAND, Fla. - At the end of day one in the A-Sun Men’s and Women's Tennis Championship, four teams advanced to the second round of tournament play from the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center on the campus of Stetson University. Two of those teams hail from Buies Creek, NC and are coached by Campbell’s head coach David Johnson.

Johnson stands as the only head tennis coach in the league to have both him men’s and women’s tennis squads continue into the second round of play.

“It is very satisfying because in the league now there is just myself and two other coaches that coach both teams,” Johnson said. “Truth be known, it is increasingly harder to be equally competitive with both programs. You are consistently going up against teams that have just one coach and therefore they can devote all of their time and attention whereas I have to flip mine or at least try and do so. It’s a real testimony to the players. They have been very cooperative and we have managed to get through it so it has proved to be very rewarding.”

The challenges can be troublesome when coaching several top league teams at one time.

“You can only be at one place at one time and then to try to devote as much time and energy and effort into one program,” Johnson said. “If you overdo it on one side then the other team tends to suffer. You have to try to find a balance somewhere in there and sometimes that is a challenge.”

However, the head coach has found more often than not, that the rewards greatly outweigh the difficulties. After four matches played in the first round Thursday, Campbell stands twice among four programs who return to play Friday.

“The rewards are obvious in the sense that like today we won two matches,” Johnson said. “I could be the only one going home having said that. I enjoy being able to go back and forth.”

Two programs who share the same coach can also benefit in sharing camaraderie as Johnson can go back and forth between teams, which has proved to be a great advantage on the courts.

“I think in general they are pretty close,” Johnson said. “More often than not, we do travel and practice and frequently compete alongside each other so I think in addition to the team and their teammates, beyond that I think each of them has big brothers or big sisters, in the form of the other team. I think that is a good ingredient and they benefit from that greatly. When you have more people in your corner offer support, encouragement and are cheering it certainly helps. It adds to that atmosphere of college tennis, which we like to see. We will try to get as much mileage out of it as we can.”

Stetson Hatters Hold Onto Home Court Advantage

DeLAND, Fla. - The first round of tournament play Thursday in the A-Sun Women's Tennis Championship saw No. 3 Stetson defeat No. 6 Mercer from the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center on the campus of Stetson University.

Stetson has home-court advantage due to the Hatters hosting the league championships for the fifth time; the first since 2005. The Hatters' victory against the Bears Thursday provided a test to see how the top-performing squad would react with the home-court advantage. Stetson entered postseason play with a 17-6 overall record and an 8-2 mark in A-Sun Conference play, good for the third seed.

“I think it was important in the fact that it got us used to the conference tournament,” Stetson head coach Sasha Schmid said. “I think that you can always be nervous when you step out on the court. It is important to just be comfortable with your surroundings and it will help us have a little bit more of a cleaner start tomorrow.”

Only one seed separates the teams, but a lot rides on every point earned within the match. Earlier in the season, UNF won the deciding doubles point in an extremely close 4-3 match between the Hatters and the Ospreys.

“I think doubles is very important in every match we play,” Schmid said. “UNF won the doubles point last time and they played so well. “You would love to get the doubles point and only have to get three singles. We also know that if we do not win the doubles point we have to stay out there and battle for four singles. It is just a little bit more of an uphill battle.”

UNF enters postseason play after completing a four-year transition to Division I where the Ospreys have the opportunity to experience the championship for the first time. UNF entered the tournament field with an automatic bye into a semifinal position with the No. 2 seed.

“We have played UNF for the past four of five years and it has always been a very difficult match,” Schmid said. “They have gotten us the past couple of times and they are a very, very good team. We just know that it is going to be a challenge.”

“I think a lot goes on the momentum and the energy of the girls feeding off of each other. I think that can definitely make a lot of those matches, which are almost bound to be close, kind of swing one way or the other.”

Matches continue Friday with No. 2 UNF and No. 3 at 2 p.m. No. 1 ETSU and No. 4 Campbell will face each other in a match scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

UNF Continues Its First A-Sun Men’s Tennis Tourney

DeLAND, Fla. – The final matchup of the Atlantic Sun Men’s Tennis Championship Thursday saw No. 3 UNF defeat No. 6 Belmont, 4-1. UNF enter Friday’s match versus No. 2 Stetson one victory closer to its first postseason league title after the Ospreys’ defeat of the Bruins at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center on the campus of Stetson University.

Head coach Igal Buberman’s team enters postseason play after completing a four-year transition to Division I where the Ospreys have the opportunity to experience the championship for the first time. UNF made the field of six and now sit two wins away from their first NCAA Tournament after the Ospreys defeated the Belmont Bruins in a tough 4-1 victory.

The culmination of the win for UNF Thursday comes from the sacrifice of five years of hard work and dedication. Even though postseason hopes stood out of reach due to NCAA reclassification rules, UNF knew one day it would vie for a league title.

“We were actually looking forward to this moment for five years,” Buberman said. “We had to make sure that we were going to make the transition and be strong enough to be a contender with the other schools in the conference.”

Freshmen Moritz Buerchner and Daniel Sotomarino both stand as strong forces for the Ospreys. Buerchner won his flight at the Georgia Southern Invitational during the fall season and tallied a 15-11 mark overall during regular-season play, including a 9-4 record at No. 1 singles. The Haimhausen, Germany native earned First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honors with a 14-11 doubles record, including a 10-8 tally in duals. Playing with partner Leonardo Nahar, primarily at No. 3, the duo has a 7-3 conference record. Fellow rookie Sotomarino won his flight at the Florida State Invitational and owns a 17-5 record in doubles and 11-4 mark in duals, enough to earn A-Sun Freshman of the Year honors.

“We have a young team, including four freshmen, in addition to one senior in the lineup,” Buberman said. “We have had a successful season, which we owe a lot to experience, but our freshmen have really helped us out.”

Friday, the Ospreys face the pressure of the No. 2 Hatters. Stetson has home-court advantage due to the Hatters hosting the league championships for the fifth time; the first since 2005. Stetson concluded the regular season with a 19-4 overall record and an 8-2 mark in A-Sun Conference play to enter as the second seed.

Equally as impressive, the young Osprey squad finished the regular season with a 17-7 overall mark and a 7-3 tally in conference play. Against conference foes, UNF only fell to Stetson (6-1), USC Upstate (6-1) and ETSU (5-2).

“We took all of those matches as a learning experience even though we lost some,” Buberman said. “When you compete you want to measure yourself against the best so you can attract a better caliber of players. It helps to build a better team. At Division I, any team can beat anybody, so you can never tell going into a match what will happen.

“We have to go over there, play the match and see how it goes, but I think we all have the same teams. One position may be a little bit stronger than the other one, but if we hang in there we might have a chance. If we’re strong enough, we can take it.”

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

Jacksonville’s Journey to A-Sun Tournament Play

MACON, Ga. – A matchup between No. 4 Campbell and No. 5 Jacksonville at 9 a.m. Thursday began the first round of tournament play in the A-Sun Men’s Tennis Championship from the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center on the campus of Stetson University.

Head coach Shane Wood’s squad finished the regular season with a 9-11 overall mark and a 4-6 tally in conference play. Victor Vaz paced the Dolphins during regular season play in the No. 1 position for all but two matches. At the start of conference play, the Campinas, Brazil native won eight matches in a row, including victories versus such league foes in FGCU, Belmont, Lipscomb, Mercer and Kennesaw State. Nine of Vaz’s 15 wins this season have come in straight sets.

“We had a nice year,” Wood said. “We played with a lot of young players and a lot of freshman, especially with Victor getting to move up and play at No. 1 from his normal spot at No. 3 and 4. He has had a fantastic year and been a great leader for us. It’s always nice to represent your university and your city. We’ve enjoyed it so far.”

Hector Garcia Aguilar and Jose Fantova earned Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen Team honors as both have had spectacular rookie seasons with the Dolphins.

Fantova provided strong support to Vaz in the No. 2 spot. The Ferroe, Spain native had a ten match winning streak in singles play in the middle of the season, including eight straight-set wins. Fantova’s conference wins have come against FGCU, Belmont, Lipscomb, Kennesaw State, Campbell and Stetson. Garcia Aguilar took seven of his 11 wins in straight sets while closing the season out on a 5-2 run. In conference play, the Mexico City, Mexico native defeated Mercer, FGCU, Belmont, Lipscomb, Kennesaw State and Campbell.

“Jose and Hector stepped in as true freshman and played No., 2 and No. 3 singles and have had positive results and won some really good matches,” Wood said. “We were a little nervous about playing freshman in such key positions, but they have done a great job.”

Providing a win against the Camels, the Dolphins will be faced with the pressure of the No. 1 ETSU Buccaneers. The three-time defending conference tournament champions finished regular season play with an overall record of 13-7 and A-Sun tally of 9-1. Sander Gille leads ETSU with a 14-6 dual match record as the Keerbergen, Belgium native has posted wins against players from eight nationally ranked teams. Gille also leads ETSU in doubles wins and stands unbeaten in A-Sun action (10-0). The sophomore business major defeated No. 1 players from USC Upstate, Stetson, UNF, Belmont and Lipscomb and competed in the prestigious ITA All-American last fall. Gille lost only one set in A-Sun play the entire season.

You know in a tournament like this you are going to have to beat the best,” Wood said. “ETSU has set a high standard and certainly the standard runs through their place. You know you are going to certainly going to have to see them at one point. We would love to play them.

“We need to play well throughout the lineup, especially if you do not get the doubles point then the pressure is on every court,” Wood said. “Our Nos. 1, 2 and 3 do need to carry a lot of the load and a lot of the burden, but we will see.”

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Steady Stetson Senior Stokes Hot Play

Senior Lauren Darnell was running out of chances to post her first career round in the 60’s. That achievement probably was not even on her mind however.

The defending champion Stetson Hatters stood 12 shots out of the lead heading into the final round of the Atlantic Sun Women’s Golf Championship. Worse than that, they were in fifth place meaning the team would have to leap-frog four other teams to reclaim the trophy.

Some would find the pressure a too daunting to overcome, but not the Hatters.

“We had nothing to lose so it actually took a little bit of the pressure off,” stated Darnell.

The coach felt the same way.

“Everyone went out with the mindset that we had to play a good round, but there was really no pressure on us,” head coach Floyd Kerr said. “When you are in fifth place going into the last round and 10 or 11 shots back, there is no pressure.”

Her free-wheeling round sparked Stetson to a remarkable rally and second straight tournament title. Darnell carded four birdies on her way to the low round of the day, a 3-under par 69. She made the turn at 2-under par and by then, the Hatters believed.

“Playing early and getting time in without the wind was an advantage,” reflected Kerr. “We turned at two or three under and at No. 12 someone told me we were three back and I thought we had a chance to win the thing.”

Darnell birdied No. 11 to fall to 3-under par, but a bogey on the next hole cooled her hot streak. At this point, the train could have de-railed, but she responded immediately with a birdie on No. 13. She worked her way through the final five holes at even par to put Stetson into a position to win.

“We knew we had to play a good round. We tried not to put too much pressure on ourselves but still go shoot a number that we knew we could shoot,” Darnell said.

So with her teammates finishing the job, the Hatters become just the fourth team in A-Sun history to win consecutive titles. The Stetson women’s golf restoration process is complete thanks in large part to the senior class of Darnell and 2009 A-Sun Medalist Danielle Jackson.

“Our seniors have given Stetson women’s golf some identity in the four years they have been here,” spewed Kerr. “When they came here as freshmen, we were terrible and now we are arguably a top-50 team. They have been the cornerstones.”

With three underclassmen combining to shoot 1-over par in today’s crucial round including likely A-Sun Freshman of the Year Alexandria Buelow, the up-tick may continue in DeLand.

What is the most clutch senior performance that you have seen?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ashley Prange 'Breaks' into Coaching

For an aspiring women’s golf coach, a résumé that includes earning First Team All America at a major program and capturing multiple victories on the Duramed FUTURES Tour would separate most from the pack, but when one can add “Champion – 'The Big Break'" and are willing to serve in a volunteer role, a spot on the staff can easily be created.

Such a résumé presented itself to Stetson head coach Floyd Kerr in the form of UNC standout Ashley Prange. In the spring of 2006, following her career as a Tar Heel, she won “The Big Break – Hawaii” – a golf skills reality show that aired on The Golf Channel. In the time since the show, in addition to her wins in the Duramed FUTURES Tour, she became engaged to the former Stetson standout turned professional baseball player Brian Snyder, bringing the native of California by way of Indiana to the central Florida market.

“When I moved in with Brian, he bought a house in DeLand, so I was looking for something to do on my off days, so I actually approached Coach [Kerr] while I was living in DeLand to see if they wanted my help,” Prange said. “I had to twist his arm a little bit, but I think so far he’s pretty enthused.”

“We talked twice towards the end of the fall season, and kind of decided what her role would be,” Kerr said. “She’s still travelling, but she’s been available as much as she can. She’s been available at the course and she’s played a lot with the kids which gives them something to look at as far as someone that’s playing at a level beyond where they are so I think that’s been a real plus.”

Even before taking the coaching role, Prange could be seen at the Hatters’ home course, Victoria Hills, working on her game. However, not all members of the Hatters immediately knew of Prange’s exploits upon introduction to the team.

“It took some research because I did not watch the show,” senior Danielle Jackson said. “But as soon as I heard she was on ‘The Big Break’ I knew exactly who she was.”

Prange’s father Bob, served as her coach, in addition to teaching at courses in Indiana and Florida. In her first year as a coach, she has already picked up on some of his tendencies and traits.

"I have learned that I’m actually a tough-love coach,” she said. “I’m a little bit more strict and firm. I have learned that about myself. I think that’s my ‘type A’ personality coming out.”

Off the course, Prange’s influence has been seen in terms of the workout program used by the Hatters.

“She’s helped us with out workouts; she’s really into the fitness [aspect],” Jackson said. “She’s emphasized using the core, working on the abs and lower body, not a whole lot of weights, but more like swiss ball type of things.”

An added benefit of Prange’s presence on the staff comes in recruiting. Kerr has taken notice how potential future Hatters react when he brings up the other coaches those players might be working with, should they sign to play for Stetson.

“It’s been pretty interesting, where I’ve recruited this year and I talk about Ashley and Jeff Schmid, who’s our other assistant, then her name and ‘The Big Break’ is still very much on the forefront with the girls who are playing junior golf."

Having just competed at the Daytona Beach Invitational at the LPGA International-Champions Course last week, Prange remains active on the professional scene. However, might she have found a career path when it comes time to call the playing career quits?

“I’ve had a bunch of people ask me that question ‘would you want to get into coaching’ and I think it could be in my future, but we’ll see,” Prange said.

Though perhaps biased, she has a couple of strong supporters in both Jackson and Kerr

“I think she would make an excellent coach, I really do and I think she will after she decides to [put away] the clubs,” Jackson said. “I think she would definitely be a great coach somewhere at the college level.”

“She’s done this to see if she wants to get involved in college coaching and I think she will make somebody a real nice coach,” Kerr said. “She’s really positive, she’s a go-getter and she’s young, so I think if she wants to [coach], whatever she’s going to do, she’s going to be successful.”

As Wind Picks Up, So To Does Eagles' Play

The Florida Gulf Coast women’s golf team entered the 2010 Atlantic Sun Championships, squarely in the middle of the pack of the field of 10. The Eagles ranked fifth entering the week, according to both Golfstat and Golfweek. However, after posting the lowest opening round score in the history of the A-Sun Championships, the Eagles sit atop a bunched field, thanks in no small part to how the team handled the elements, in particular, the ever-freshening wind.

Venetian Bay sits roughly 10 miles off the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Across the state, the Eagles’ campus, in Fort Myers, Fla., faces breezes off the Gulf of Mexico. They often practices in conditions similar to those the competitors faced Monday.

“Our team, we’ve been qualifying in the wind, every week now, so we’re probably the most used to it out of the teams out here,” junior Katerina Toomalatai, whose even-par 72 tied for second after the first round, said. “Everybody was very confident because [the course] is a lot like a course back at home that we played twice in the last week or so, but we all like the wind and we saw on the news that it was going to keep up the rest of week”

With four players bettering the average score of the first round 78.86, the Eagles put themselves in a position where two more strong efforts could result in a title another A-Sun Championship for the Eagles. FGCU’s volleyball, women’s basketball, softball and baseball have all earned regular-season crowns in the past three years, but as the Eagles continue the four-year process of Division I reclassification, those particular programs could not compete in the A-Sun Championships. The women’s golf team gained access to the A-Sun Championships in 2009.

“We had four players really have great days on the course,” said second-year head coach Brittany Bertilson. “We have been playing in these conditions all season long. I think the wind really was not a factor for our team. To shoot a team score of 294 and be in first place – it’s a complete team effort.”

Toomalatai deciphered from her coach how the team was faring, not from the words Bertilson spoke, but in fact from her lack of communication.

“I knew [we were playing well] when Coach Bertilson didn’t say anything. She knows when we’re doing well, she just lets us stay in our own moment. I asked her on No. 17 how everyone else was doing and she said ‘we’re all doing really well, but just stay in your moment and finish the hole.’”

Despite the Eagles impressive first-round they still need “stay in the moment” or just like the wind at Venetian Bay, their fortunes could shift.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Practice Round Reveals Venetian Bay Strategy

All 10 teams converged on Venetian Bay Golf Club on Sunday afternoon and between watching the Masters leaderboard on their IPhone’s and hanging on to their hats in blustery conditions, the 18-hole practice round was completed.

Atlantic Sun Insider got a hole-by-hole breakdown of Venetian Bay Golf Club from some of the participants.

Hole 1 - 504 yards - Par 5
The most important part of the opening hole is hitting a good 3-wood with your second shot. If you leave yourself a good distance for your third shot, there is a great chance for birdie.
Sinead O’Sullivan

Hole 2 - 373 yards - Par 4
Par is a good score on this hole. Even with a good drive, you’ll hit a mid-iron into the green. Aim for the heart of the green and take your two putts.
Abby Fitzgerald
Kennesaw State

Hole 3 - 170 yards - Par 3
Be sure to take enough club to clear the big front bunker. It’s also important to take the right side out of play to avoid the water.
Katie Pursell

Hole 4 - 358 yards - Par 4
I would hit a fairway wood to eliminate the fairway bunker which would leave you about 140 yards. Avoid hitting it over the green as well.
Lina Elmsater

Hole 5 - 492 yards - Par 5
You need to be aggressive off the tee because there is not a lot of trouble at the bottom of the hole. Put yourself in a position to hit the correct level of the green. There is a big ridge in the middle of the green that could cause you problems if you don’t.
Shay Sullivan

Hole 6 - 150 yards - Par 3
I will try to hit a mid-iron into the middle of the green to be safe. My focus will be to avoid the green side bunker on the right side.
Mary Leigh Baker

Hole 7 - 353 yards - Par 4
If you stay on the left side of the hole, you will have a wedge into the green. However, I will probably hit a fairway wood to avoid the water on the right side and keep from making a mistake that would turn a birdie hole into a bogey hole.
Jennifer Judge
USC Upstate

Hole 8 - 324 yards - Par 4
A good drive leaves a wedge in your hand which you will need. You have to hit the ball to the right portion of the green on your approach.
Monica Kelsey

Hole 9 - 323 yards - Par 4
This hole revolves around the tee shot. If you make a smart choice and execute, you’ll have a short shot left into the green with a chance for birdie.
Kelly Maguigan

Hole 10 - 387 yards - Par 4
The key to this hole is placing the ball on the correct tier of the green. It is a forgiving tee shot, so the approach will be important.
Lina Elmsater

Hole 11 - 528 yards - Par 5
This hole is a little intimidating from the tee, but two good shots gives you a chance to score. I’ll need a long drive on this one.
Meghan Hughes

Hole 12 - 152 yards - Par 3
This hole sets up good with a big green that holds the ball well. I think people will be throwing darts at this one all week.
Jordan Lazenby
Kennesaw State

Hole 13 - 380 yards - Par 4
This is one of the few holes on the course that requires a long approach shot. Par will be a good score on this one.
Mary Mattson

Hole 14 - 365 yards - Par 4
Defintely take a driver off the tee and be sure to stay on the left side. It may still leave me with a hybrid but you have to continue to stay left.
Johanna Ebenhag
USC Upstate

Hole 15 - 348 yards - Par 4
You need to step up and blast your drive. That will leave an easy wedge into the green. This is a birdie hole.
Laura Jansone

Hole 16 - 149 yards - Par 3
This hole is only about 150 yards, but the main objective is just to get on the green. Depending on the hole location, it could be tough. Par will be good.
Sarah Bejgrowicz

Hole 17 - 485 yards - Par 5
Today there was a lot of wind and you have to take that into consideration if it continues. I don’t think it is very reachable but if you put yourself in a good position on the second shot, you can really take advantage of it.
Kaitlin Marrin

Hole 18 - 359 yards - Par 4
I think this is a great finishing hole. You need a solid drive to hit it close. I love the risk-reward ratio on this hole with the pond.
Danielle Jackson

Follow all the action of the 2010 Women’s Golf Championship online via and for live results.

Who do you think will win the 2010 A-Sun Women's Golf Championship?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Atlantic Sun Softball Shines Inside the Circle

MACON, Ga. – As the NCAA released its latest weekly Division 1 softball statistical report, the Atlantic Sun Conference headlines several categories, led by USC Upstate’s defense and the individual efforts of several A-Sun pitchers.

The NCAA releases its weekly statistical report every Tuesday and USC Upstate tops the nation with a .985 fielding percentage for the second week in a row, with Lipscomb, UNF and Mercer all ranking in the top 35. Only two current A-Sun institutions have ever finished a season leading the nation in a category. Campbell led in double plays turned in both 2007 and 2008 while Stetson paced Division I in triples and triples per game in 1990. Thanks to dominant starting pitchers, Lipscomb owns the third best ERA at 1.29. USC Upstate places 11th (1.53) and Stetson ranks 16th (1.68).

A-Sun pitchers in Lipscomb’s Whitney Kiihnl, USC Upstate’s Morgan Childers and Stetson’s Amanda Lindsey continue to shine among the nation's top hurlers. Childers tops all pitchers with a 0.62 ERA, while ranking third with 12.5 strikeouts per seven innings and fourth in total strikeouts, 261. The sophomore from Kings Mountain, N.C. ranks second in victories with 20, third with 2.4 hits allowed per seven innings and sixth in shutouts. Childers added to her totals on Tuesday with her seventh shutout, a 12-strikeout, two-hit gem against South Carolina, the Spartans’ first ever against an SEC opponent.

Kiihnl, the A-Sun Softball Pitcher of the Week, tops the nation in the fewest hits allowed per seven innings (2.04), claims second to Childers with a 0.64 ERA, ranks fifth in shutouts (9), eighth in victories (19), 12th in strikeouts per seven innings (10.8) and 13th in strikeouts (201). With Kiihnl and Childers owning the top two ERAs in the nation, the pair of A-Sun aces have a chance to become the first pair of pitchers from the same conference to own the two best ERAs in the nation since 2001 when UCLA’s Amanda Freed paced the country with 0.46 ERA followed closely by Arizona’s Jennie Finch and her 0.54 ERA.

Lindsey claims the No. 17 position with a 1.04 ERA, ranks 10th with 3.45 hits allowed per seven innings, 28th in shutouts with five and 30th in strikeouts with 168.0, 46th in victories (13). One of the better two-way players in the conference, she also ranks in the top 30 in a pair of offensive categories as she places 23rd in walks per game (0.83) and 24th with a .551 on base percentage.

UNF’s Devyn Findley and Mercer’s Jenni Holtz also boast multiple top-20 rankings. Holtz joins Childers in the top 10 in strikeouts with 201 and her strikeouts per seven innings ratio of 10.4 ranks 15th. Findley’s 190 strikeouts enter the week ranking 16th while her six shutouts place 17th. With three saves, ETSU’s Shelby Morris ranks in a tie for 10th. A season ago, Campbell’s Katie Woodcock tied for the national lead with six.

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.