Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The Owls’ Jeff Karlsson carded a 6-under 207 to give Kennesaw State its first A-Sun individual medalist, while teammate Matt Nagy added a 3-under performance to join Karlsson on the All-Tournament team and lead the Owls to their first A-Sun Men’s Golf team title.
For a program whose previous best team performance came in 2008 with a tie for third and in the same year posted their best individual finish with Oliver West taking third these wins represent big steps0 for the Owls program.
“Words can’t really describe how awesome this is for our players, program and school to take away two trophies and for Jeff Karlsson being the medalist,” Owls head coach Jay Moseley stated. “It really shows the work that we have put into this program and how much we have improved over the last couple years.”
For a team that loses only one senior, Chad Wilson, the future looks bright for the Owls to claim back-to-back team titles next year when the tournament is once again held at Chateau Elan.
“Our program is in great shape right now, the guys are working hard and they just want to keep getting better,” Moseley added. “That has been our motto all year long, but we still have work to do but we feel like this team can go a long way and we are excited about the future of the program and encouraged by our performance this week.”
Karlsson entered the day with a one-shot lead over Belmont’s Daniel Smith and learned that he earned earned a spot on the European Team for the Palmer Cup, the amateur version of the Ryder Cup, which is set to be played from June 9th – 11th at the Stanwich Club outside Greenwich, Conn.
The pressure of being the leader going into the final day as well as earning such a high honor with Palmer Cup didn’t shake Karlsson and the Owls as he claimed two individual honors and helped the Owls to four tournament titles prior to the conference championship.
“We started out the season by winning a lot of tournaments so coming into the conference championship we knew that we could do this and we could win so having those wins prior to the tournament was really huge,” Karlsson added of the team’s win.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
To go along with his academic accolade, Smith fired a 69 in the opener on Monday and followed that with a 68 in day two to put the Bournemouth, England native in second place – one stroke behind Kennesaw State’s Jeff Karlsson – going into the Wednesday finale.
“Daniel tried to prepare like any other golf tournament by staying in his routine and not do anything different once he got out on the golf course,” Belmont head coach Scott Flynn stated. “I know how excited he was to come back and play in the conference championship again.”
Smith’s hot putter sank eight birdies in the first two days and has given him a chance to etch his name into the Belmont record books by posting the best individual performance by a Bruin, besting Jeff Lanier’s seventh-place finish in 2005 as well as lead the Bruins to a new program-best finish. On three occasions the Bruins have finished in sixth - most recently in 2005.
“When you are out there and you’re in a good rhythm things start going well and eventually a couple of the putts fall and before you know it you are a few under part and are just riding the wave,” Smith said of his first two rounds.
However the 2011 A-Sun Men’s Golf Championship Final Round plays out, Smith can take solace in his improved putting and first two rounds once his college career has wrapped up.
“It would be great to put in a good performance tomorrow," he said. "If I play as well as I can and take it one shot at a time and try to hole some putts and see where we stand at the end of the day.”
Monday, April 18, 2011
As a sophomore Nagy struggled at the 2009 A-Sun Championship finishing the three-day tournament in 40th place after a final day 81. However, that summer Nagy qualified for the 2009 US Open at Bethpage Black after running the gauntlet of local qualifying and sectional play. The experience of playing in one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world changed Nagy’s golf game forever.
“It was a life-changing experience for me - I get asked all the time about playing in it and the experience has helped out my golf game a ton,” he said.
Jeff Karlsson joined the Owls’ golf team in the fall of 2008 fresh out of Gothenburg, Sweden, where he first started playing golf as a freshman in high school. His top finish as a freshman with the Owls came at the Columbia Invitational where he claimed third place. His golf game only improved in his sophomore season as he earned an event win at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate and finished runner-up in the Samford Intercollegiate.
Like Nagy, Karlsson had the opportunity to play in a highly-prestigious event, the International European Amateur, where he competed against 144 of the best amateur players that Europe has to offer. Karlsson finished under-par in every single round en route to a 12-under par 276, good for fourth place.
Nagy and Karlsson’s experience in those tournaments helped them individually as well as the Owls’ team as Kennesaw State sits in first place after day one of the 2011 A-Sun Men’s Golf Championship at Chateau Elan. Karlsson’s four-under 67 put him in second place, while Nagy trails right behind his junior teammate with an opening-round 68. Nagy knows how much it would mean to win the conference tournament as the host school.
“I’ve been looking forward to [the conference tournament] all year,". Nagy said. "No matter the big tournaments we’ve played in against other schools it’s nothing like winning your conference and I definitely want a conference ring before I graduate and this year would make it special.”
With the continued play of Karlsson, Nagy and the rest of the Owls their dreams of a conference title could come true.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Unfortunately for Armaly, he entered the event with a foot injury that prevented him from competing since February 19th when he captured the indoor title. The layoff in time for Armaly effected his performance and Lawrence entered the finals of the triple jump with the top qualifying distance.
However, words of encouragement and the spirit of competition from his toughest competitors – mainly Lawrence – propelled him to a first-place finish in the horizontal jump with his distance of 14.9m just ahead of Lawrence at 14.79m.
“Diego Lawrence is not a competitor that is easily beaten and he went out and set a great mark and with my injury I wasn’t sure I could match him, but his performance motivated me to continue in the event and pushed me to reach him,” Armaly said of Lawrence’s performance.
With Kennesaw State fighting for the lead in the overall points with ETSU, Armaly rose to the occasion and helped the Owls to their second-straight title in spite of the risk of further injury. With Armaly being only a junior, track & field fans will be privileged to more gutsy performances next season as well.
Following both victories, multiple members of the victorious ETSU squads participated in "round table chats" to discuss topics ranging from the Saturday victories, the program at large and preparation strategies.
For the women's round table, MVP Karina Kedzo, Kelly Holtzhausen and Paula Jaime made up the panel.
On the men's side, the participants included MVP Grega Teraz, Sander Gille, Juan Ramirez and Roger Ordeig
Saturday, April 16, 2011
“Four years ago we had a group that we called the ‘SuperBabies’. In the fall we knew they were going to be special and they grew up to be very special,” stated Grigg.
All this group did was go undefeated in A-Sun championship competition, pile up nearly 100 all-conference honors and another boatload of individual titles. They added to their legacy on Saturday night. From starting out the evening with a team win in the 4x100 relay and closing it with a conference record in the 4x400 relay, the seniors led the way.
“It is hard for me to find words to describe them. I think it was fitting for us to have seniors go 1-2-3 in the 200 at the end of the meet and then have three seniors run the final legs of the 4x400 relay that set a conference record,” reflected Grigg.
The team erased a 14-point day one deficit to realize their goal of an unbeaten career for the seniors.
“It was definitely a goal for us to finish the unbeaten run,” said Track Performer of the Meet Unique Singleton. “We have battled injury and our competition has been rising so it was really tough.”
While Singleton brought home the top track award, Ronnisha Hall was voted Field Performer of the Meet and Stacey Young racked up 38 points to claim Most Valuable Performer honors. Throw in event victories by fellow seniors Danielle Davenport(4x400 & 4x100), Louise Kiernan (100m & 4x100) and J’Zotta Rolle (4x400), it will be a day to remember in a career to remember for the Dolphins.
“They are so special to me personally. We are going to have our senior speeches at the end of the meet and I know it will be tough for all of us to talk. They have never lost a championship and no one will ever be able to break that record. I hope they have created an awareness of the strength of our program to help us attract quality people like them and help the team grow,” commented Grigg.
A hungry group of competitors in the conference will be awaiting the next wave of Dolphin standouts next year.
In July, his title changed to Director of Tennis at ETSU – a title that meant direct oversight of the ETSU women. Under other head coaches, the Lady Bucs put together a run in the A-Sun that closely mirrors the men, winning two titles, appearing in all five previous finals and claiming at least a share of four regular-season crowns.
Like the men, the Lady Buccaneers advanced to the Saturday’s title-game tilt. They took out the host Stetson and will take on UNF in a rematch of last year’s final, one won by the Ospreys. In just his first year at the helm for both teams, Zaatini became just the second coach in league history to be the head coach of both a school’s men’s and women’s program that made the respective title games. Pat Breen guided Samford to the finals in both tournaments in 1992.
“I didn’t get them both in the finals, they got themselves there,” Zaatini said. “I’m extremely proud of the way the players have performed throughout the year, and all the work that goes into it.”
Holding responsibilities for both teams means Zaatini has to put behind the tough defeats and refocus his coaching on his other team.
“The hardest thing is on the heart and the mind to come back after an emotional victory or a sad defeat and do it all over again,” Zaatini said. “But it’s my job, I love it, I love my school and I just hope we keep doing the best we can.”
When Breen got Samford to the finals in both sports in 1992, the team enjoyed mixed success. The men finished atop the tournament standings but the women took second to FIU. Zaatini isn’t ready to speculate how it might feel to leave DeLand, Fla., as the coach of two champions.
“I don’t want to think that far ahead,” Zaatini said. “Obviously, it would be a great accomplishment for the university, but tomorrow we’re facing huge challenges and great obstacles, and it’s just going to be tough. I can’t tell you right now where we’re going to get the four points. We’re just going to show up tomorrow, let the balls roll and hope it falls our way.”
Friday, April 15, 2011
USC Upstate’s Justin Crawford got his opportunity on day one of the Atlantic Sun Conference Track & Field Championship. And he made the most of it, matching the meet record and breaking his own school record with a vault of 4.75 meters.
“It was a real emotional day because this was my last collegiate meet,” reflected Crawford.
The senior faced some stiff competition on his way to the title.
Wind was gusting behind and across the runway at Hodges Stadium to such a degree that many potential-record breaking performances in the vertical jumps and sprints will likely be nullified.
“The wind was a real factor, but I was just in the zone. I was mentally prepared to compete today,” Crawford said.
UNF David Shepherd was the overwhelming favorite to win on paper. His vault of 4.95m is the top performance in the conference this year, but Crawford cleared 4.75m meters on his first attempt to put the pressure on the freshman. Shepherd would fault on all three attempts at the height to help seal Crawford’s gold medal.
Finally, a rough start to the season had cast some doubt on his season.
“The season started out rough for him and we were concerned,” stated Spartans head coach Jimmy Stephens. “The UNF guys have been jumping great and it was a battle with the wind, but Justin was tough and ready to go.”
That doubt all seemed to disappear today.
“I thought I could do it. Everyone will tell you they can but to actually coming out here and do it is something else. I was really proud of myself,” said Crawford. “I haven’t been jumping very well this year, but it all came together the last two weeks. I am really glad it did.”
Coach Stephens wrapped it up well as he reflected on Justin’s Friday afternoon effort.
“It’s awesome. Justin has always been one of the most consistent vaulters I have ever coached. Every time it comes down to crunch time he is there and ready to go. Obviously, it was very emotional for him and I was really happy for him,” Stephens said.
“It motivates me to come into the meet as the defending champion, but on the other hand I never really worry about my opponents and their performances I just try to focus on performing my best in each event.”
At last year’s meet, Mack entered her first A-Sun heptathlon with her only previous championship experience being a seventh-place finish in the 400-meter dash and a runner-up spot in the 4x400m as a freshman. However, Mack performed as a season veteran in the seven events with top-three finishes in every event except one and added a first-place finish in the 800m.
Her well-rounded performance gave Mack the gold medal in the heptathlon to go along with the A-Sun Championship Meet record by 300 points. Mack narrowly defeated Jacksonville’s Tiffany Bromfield by seven points, but had to storm back as the hunter from a 221-point deficit after day one to earn the gold medal.
In this championship, Mack begins day two on the other end of the spectrum as the hunted, leading her closest competitor by 164 points only three events remaining. Her event wins in the 100m hurdles and shot put have already trumped her win total from last season, but more importantly to Mack she has performed better three of the four events thus far.
“It’s a different mindset for me because if I can go into a meet and set a personal record in each of my events, but still not win then I feel better than if I win the heptathlon but don’t set any personal records.”
Tomorrow, Mack can get the best of both worlds by wrapping up the A-Sun Championship with a heptathlon gold medal as well as new personal records.
The Hatters opened the 2011 dual match season with nine straight wins, and appeared well on their way to their fourth 20-win season in the last five years, but then junior captain Maksim Levanovic suffered a shoulder injury in the team's third conference match.
The injury sent Stetson into a tailspin, losing four of the next five matches, but with Levanovic back in time for the postseason, Pilote speaks of the invaluable experience his team gained competing without their captain.
"We started the season 9-0 and everybody was on full throttle," he said."We were looking forward to the nationally ranked teams we were about to start playing - we lost three very close matches. Then when Maksim Levanovic was about to beat the Player of the Year in the conference, [Campbell's] Davy Sum - serving at 5-3 he suffered an injury, an injury that kept him out for a month-and-a-half."
His squad's mental toughness has been forged in the furnace of heartbreak as well as injury. A year ago, the Hatters pushed the standard bearer of Atlantic Sun tennis, the (then) three-time defending champion ETSU Buccaneers, to the brink in the championship round. After finishing runner-up in the four previous A-Sun Championships, the previous three to ETSU, the Hatters finally had ETSU on the ropes, but a third-set injury to Didrik Berg severely limited the sophomore's mobility, and the Bucs' dynasty survived.
"After maybe three or four days of staying in my house, contemplating what just happened, I think everybody started looking forward to the season - a chance to show again what kind of team we have," Pilote said. "From the first practice on we didn't look back. We didn't want Didrik to feel that it was his fault in any way that we lost that conference championship. It was nothing he could have changed. It we keep bringing it up, it doesn't serve much purpose."
Through his career Pilote has coached numerous athletes, and holds a great deal of affection for all of them, but his fondness for this his 18th edition may exceed them all.
"It's a group - Maksim Levanovic, Njal Stene and Cesare Gallo - all came together as freshmen," Pilote said. "They were a group of men that look a long time to recruit...so that recruiting year was very important to us. They are just great young men; they're thoughtful, they work hard, they are amazing students without much motivation from me. They think about me - tonight we were supposed to go out to dinner, but they said 'no coach, you need your rest for tomorrow' you know I don't think many teams would pass a free dinner. I would just say they care."
If the Hatters can deliver a first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, the painful memories of all the previous near-misses will wash away, and Pilote will finally celebrate an A-Sun championship with his players, his team, his friends.
However, the team had to find a replacement for head coach Rodrigo Puebla after he left for Iowa State less than two weeks prior to the beginning of the spring season. After a 2-2 start, Bradley directed the Ospreys to nine wins in their next 10 matches – including a 4-3 victory against eventual regular-season champion ETSU.
“At the very beginning, I was hired and very next day I was holding practice,” Bradley said. “The girls were very welcoming. Every single day they showed up ready to practice at 110 percent. They did have a lot of expectations with winning the championship last year. I’ve told the girls from the very beginning ‘let’s go win one match at a time’ – which was our goal as this tournament. We didn’t worry about the seedings, but let’s just go out and win one match at a time.”
Narrow 4-3 losses to Campbell and Stetson resulted in UNF earning only the fourth seed for this week’s A-Sun Championship. After dispensing crosstown rival Jacksonville for the second time in less than a week, the Ospreys set up a rematch with ETSU. The Ospreys own the last two victories by A-Sun members against the Buccaneers. In addition to this year’s win in March, the Ospreys claimed that A-Sun Championship by toppling the top-seeded Buccaneers in the title match.
The UNF title defense opened in strong fashion starting with the teams of Victoria Krook/Melinda Doak and Danielle Day/Melanie Aguirre earning wins in doubles to snag the opening point. The lead grew to 3-0 when Aguirre and Day scored straight-set wins. However, Jacksonville scored a win from Virginia Iwinski and threatened to seize even more momentum until Krook quelled the comeback effort by defeating Flavia Nagayama in the third set after losing the second-set tie break.
“I had complete confidence in my girls,” Bradley said. “I was getting a little nervous at the end, but my senior [Krook] clinched it for me.”
Coach Bradley “one match at a time” mantra held up on Thursday, will it help carry the Ospreys back in to the final against ETSU? She and her team will find out beginning at 9 a.m.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Fortunes for those in back of the leader started changing in 2009. Stetson and Campbell swapped positions between the first and second records and the Camels entered the final round in front by three. However, thanks to a team score of even par, the Hatters became the first school to come back from a final-round deficit since Campbell rallied against UCF in 2002.
The Hatters made a more improbable comeback last year at Venetian Bay. They stood in fifth place and 12 strokes back of ETSU. Using a record-setting team score of 2-under 286, they successfully held off the competition by a single stroke, completing the largest comeback at the A-Sun Championship in 10 years.
These two comebacks all lead into today. Through the first two rounds, the Hatters fended off slow starts to stay within shouting distance of the leaders. On Monday, they played the opening nine holes in 8-over par to fall off the pace, but a closing nine score of 2-over brought them within four of first-round leader Kennesaw State. A slow front side again on Tuesday nearly cost the Hatters. The deficit within the second round approached double digits, but steadying play on the back nine, combined with other teams falling back to the pack meant the Hatters needed only to make up a deficit of three.
“I think that we always believe we have a chance to win,” junior Lauren Cate, who has been a part of all three comebacks, said. “We never stop trying and we know that we have a chance to win. We go out and leave everything on the table.”
After a four-over-par front side, the Hatters reached the top of the leaderboard, holding a one-stroke lead as they and the Camels hit the back nine. From there, the four scoring Hatters collected seven birdies, including three on No. 18, en route to shooting a 1-under par back nine and leaving the field behind, ending with a 12-stroke advantage.
“This morning [head coach Floyd Kerr] said not to play against Campbell and Kennesaw State, but more to just play the golf course and see what happens,” tournament medalist Alexandria Buelow said.
The A-Sun tournament started the day after the Masters, the tournament long associated with the phrase “it doesn’t start until the back nine on the final round.” Stetson’s back-nine charge locked up a third straight conference crown and put Hatter golf in exclusive company. They became just the third A-Sun school in the 22-year of the championship to win three straight conference titles.
The Hatters will make a third appearance at NCAA Regionals next month looking to build on consecutive 19th-place showings in 2009 and 2010.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Campbell moved up the board into top position thanks to consistent play from its four scoring golfers. The Camels overtook Kennesaw State to lead the Owls by two strokes. Due in part to ever-changing weather throughout the back nine on Tuesday, the Camels’ leading score of 24-over-par 600 represents the highest score to lead through 36 holes in five years.
As the leaderboard tightened late Tuesday, one team already in the clubhouse saw its deficit shrink to the three strokes it must now overcome. When two-time champion Stetson finished play on Tuesday, the Hatters stood in fourth place, eight back of then-leading Kennesaw State. However, once the final putts fell and the tallies came in for Kennesaw State, Campbell and ETSU, the Hatters had forged a tie with the Buccaneers for third and only three back. As head coach Floyd Kerr informed his team of its standing and of the knowledge that sophomore Alexandria Buelow had moved to the top of the individual leaderboard, the team collectively expressed surprise.
The Hatters have claimed each of their two A-Sun crowns by staging final-round comebacks. At this same course in 2009, they found themselves also trailing Campbell by three shots. They rallied by shooting the lowest team score in event history, an even-par 288 to nip the Camels by two strokes. Last year, they faced a more daunting task, entering the final day needing to overcome a 12-shot hole and surpass four teams. The “Comeback Hats” needed every bit of a second straight record-setting final round, a 2-under 286, to edge the Owls by a single stroke.
Not to be discounted in this four-way clash is ETSU. Like Campbell and Stetson, the Buccaneers have a championship pedigree, winning in 2008 and added an at-large selection to NCAA Regional play last year. Like the Hatters, the Buccaneers have shot rounds of 10-over 298 and 17-over 305 to sit three shots in back of the pace-setting Camels. The Buccaneers could gain an advantage by owning one of Wednesday’s early tee times. ETSU’s five will go out in front of Campbell, Kennesaw State and Stetson and like the Hatters last year, could post a number for everyone to try and match.
Despite their hiccups, the closest challenger remains Kennesaw State. The Owls can point to one hole, the par-5 ninth and with proper correction could reclaim the top spot. In Tuesday’s round, the five Owls played the hole in a collective 8-over par, with everyone taking at least a bogey. Contrast those performances with Monday’s, where the five made two pars and three bogeys on the hole. That five stroke difference contributed to the Owls going from three strokes up entering the day to the two behind they find themselves following the round.
Will the never-used team playoff come into effect in the early afternoon hours on Wednesday? Follow the progress at GolfStat.com.
Monday, April 11, 2011
The Owls returned to the site of their first A-Sun Championships, Victoria Hills Golf Club in Stetson's home city of DeLand, Fla. off a successful season that featured the first team victory under the direction of head coach Rhyll Brinesmead; the program's first A-Sun Golfer of the Month - awarded to Ket Preamchuen for November - and a ranking of No. 74 in the latest GolfWeek.com ratings - the best within the A-Sun.
“This [year] is our third competing at the A-Sun,” Brinesmead said. “We were fourth in 2009 and second last year. We’ve progressively moved up, so our goal this year is obviously to come away with the championship,” Brinesmead said.
Monday's first round saw FGCU, Mercer, Campbell and ETSU all hold the lead at various times during the day before the Owls rode a steady back nine performance to emerge from the pack atop the standings for day one. Their team total of 6-over-par 294 tied the lowest first-round score in A-Sun Championship history. History rests in the Owls’s favor as seven of the last eight first-round leaders have gone on to win the A-Sun title. Dating back to the start of the event, 1990, 14 of 21 first-round leaders went on to win the championship.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start – we turned at [6-over par] and maintained that, so a really solid back nine,” Brinesmead said. “Our goal was to come in and get off to a solid start – have a little cushion going in round two.”
A sign of the level where Brinsmead has lifted the program to comes from the fast that although it was only two years ago that the Owls debuted at the A-Sun Championship, the lineup has undergone a complete revamping as none of the players that played in 2009 made up this year’s championship lineup. Brinesmead brought pairs of sophomores and freshmen plus senior Abby Fitzgerald to DeLand this year.
The mostly young team handled early-round stumbles and with two rounds equal or better, the Owls could be flying back north with their first A-Sun crown.
When the second round wraps up, where will Kennesaw State find itself in the standings? We welcome your thoughts in a comments section, at http://twitter.com/atlanticsun or facebook.com/AtlanticSunConference