Saturday, October 27, 2012

Support Pushes Pierre to Atlantic Sun Title

Joane Pierre had been there before. Two years ago, the Jacksonville standout led the pack with less than 1000 meters remaining at the A-Sun Cross Country Championship before watching some of her top competitors pass her at the end.

There would be no repeat in 2012 thanks to a bevy of support and the maturity that comes with being a senior. This time, Pierre posted the third fastest time in A-Sun history to claim the individual title.

The backbone of that support that carried her to the finish was a family that has seen her race only twice collegiately.

“They don’t get to come to many races so every time I want to make them proud. It was very, very special,” said Pierre.

Her dad Joannem, mother Chantal and brothers Chanvron and Nehemiah made the 45-minute trip to the Buckingham Cross Country Course. Their visit started great as Pierre took an early lead and finished even better when she crossed the finish line nearly six seconds ahead of the next runner.

“We knew when FGCU was going to be the host we were already talking about all the people that could be out here to support Joane.,” said head coach Ron Grigg. “I hoped it wasn’t going to create any additional pressure and it certainly did not. She was really looking forward to having her family see her today and she did not disappoint.”

While she made it look easy, there were plenty of challenges on the course, most notably in North Florida’s Shelby Kittrell who followed closely behind Pierre the whole race and the team champion Lipscomb who is known for its ability to run as a pack and overtake competitors.

“I heard them coming behind me as a pack. I knew they were there and that I needed to run intelligently no matter who came to compete with me today. It was all about running and competing,” reflected Pierre.

Despite the challenges, Pierre had a clear plan coming in and executed it flawlessly.

“As a runner, you don’t control how others run. You control how you run. I didn’t want to run based on how everyone else was running but on how I felt,” stated Pierre. “The amount of people that came to support me was ridiculous. I knew my family was coming but I had old high school coaches and administrators here and a lot of people that saw me compete from the beginning to now. I knew I had to give it my all. It was a finish for me. I started with these people and finished with my last A-Sun meet.”

She must have felt great because it resulted in a perfect ending.

Pressure Produces Back-to-Back Titles for Spartans

Defending conference champions always enter a championship with a target on their back. It was no different for the USC Upstate. The big question was whether the Spartans, led by their decorated senior class, could take the next step in their evolution as an A-Sun power with everyone aiming for them.

The answer was a definitive yes. USC Upstate held off a charge from ETSU to claim a four-point win in the team competition while Gilbert Kemboi cruised to a 27-second victory.

“We had pressure as the defending champion and I had pressure having won twice,” said Kemboi “When you are going into a competition like this, you have to lay down a strategy on how we are going to accomplish our goals. That strategy helped make us confident and at the end of the day we won.”

Kemboi became just the second runner in A-Sun history to win three straight individual titles and the third to win three over the course of their career. His time of 24:16.70 was the third fastest winning time in conference history.

“Gilbert has done a great job controlling races and being a leader from the front for us. This is his third time in a row to win and we are excited he is in an elite group of A-Sun champions,” said USC Upstate Associate Head Coach Carson Blackwelder.

Add this to his accolades on the track and in the classroom and A-Sun fans got their final cross country glimpse of one of the greatest runners in conference history.

However, you don’t win titles on the strength of just one runner.

Three Spartans claimed second team All-Atlantic Sun accolades with seniors Davey Dennison and Cameron Thomas posting top-10 showings and junior Ross Oden placing 12th. A fourth senior, Christian Ritacco, claimed 19th place to secure the team championship.

“This senior class has changed our program tremendously over the last four years. They came in as freshman and moving from eighth in the team standings to back-to-back titles has changed us.” said Blackwelder.

The men’s race seemed to be a wide-open affair heading into the meet. Afterwards, it looked like a two-team showdown with the Spartans saving their best race of the season for this one.
“This year, we did not run the fastest times we thought we could. Most of the guys ran nearly a minute faster today than they had all season. They love the pressure and love to compete. When it matters, they get it done and proved it again today,” remarked Blackwelder.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kerns Strikes Goal with Position Change

“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.”

That saying is a favorite of ETSU women’s soccer head coach Adam Sayers and one that he has passed on to his team and top-goal scorer Ramey Kerns, who leads the nation with 15 goals.

Kerns has a mantle full of awards and records from her lone striker position thus far in the season. The Kings Mountain, N.C. native owns the program single-season record for goals (15) and points (33) to go along with three Atlantic Sun Player of the Week awards in 2012.

But if you talked with Kerns you won’t find a flashy forward, but rather a humble team player who has switched positions three times in her career and is quick to point out her recent accomplishments are the products of not only her efforts but also her teammates.

“I never thought I could accomplish those feats. I’m just here to help the team out wherever possible and I’ve been lucky enough to get those records and it’s just a mark for this team and shows the hard work we put in and effort we give on the field.”

In 2011, Kerns switched positions from forward, where she played as a freshman, to an outside midfielder as Sayers took over the women’s soccer program and brought a new system with him. The changes saw immediate results as the Buccaneers earned a share of the A-Sun Regular-Season title with FGCU and Jacksonville for the first time in program history.

That team set program records for goals and points, while tying the ETSU marks for wins (13) and conference wins (7) as Genna Petersen, the 2011 A-Sun Player of the Year, and Jenna Caudle, the 2011 A-Sun Freshman of the Year, served as the offensive workhorses by combining for 21 goals and six assists.

However, Kerns made her contributions to the team known as two of her three goals were game-winners in conference play.

“With the role we asked her to play last year she didn’t score as many goals, but the ones that she did score were some of the most important ones for us,” Sayers stated of Kern’s contributions in 2011.

Tied at 1-1 with Belmont on the road, Kerns found the back of the net in the 87th minute to give the Bucs the win after trailing 1-0 in the match. In the final match of the regular season vs. Mercer and ETSU needing a win for a share of the A-Sun title, Kerns once again struck late with a goal in the 81st minute to give ETSU the 2-1 win.

With four conference matches remaining in the 2012 season, ETSU sits in sixth place in the A-Sun with nine points and can still capture the program’s second-ever A-Sun title. Kerns, a sophomore on last year’s A-Sun Regular-Season title team, knows winning a conference crown takes more than one player to accomplish.

“I’ve always kind of thought that I’ve been lucky to lead the team in scoring, but I just go out there and play my hardest and work my hardest and so does everyone else on the team. I want to be there for the team and help us win and I think everyone on the team has that same mentality about them.”

With Kerns flourishing in her new role as a striker, Coach Sayers sides with Kerns that her teammates deserve a lot of credit for her goal total, but also concedes that one piece doesn’t work without the other.

“The team is creating these chances for her very well, but the system still needs someone with very sharp quick movement inside the 18-yard box and has the instinctive ability to finish accurately with a first-time shot and she is pretty good at that.”

As long as Ramey continues scoring and ETSU continues to accomplish more on the pitch, Kerns and Sayers don’t care who gets the credit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Which of the following is the A-Sun's most notable achievement from September?

Crons sponsors the monthly "Achiever Award," which is presented to the school recognized by a fan vote for the most notable achievement from the month prior. Below are the descriptions of each submission, along with the poll in the right-hand sidebar.
Greg Ranjitsingh, Mercer Men's Soccer
Ranjitsingh had a memorable month in goal for the Bears, leading a Mercer defensive unit that allowed just five goals in the entire month of September. Ranjitsingh recorded four shutouts in September and was named the A-Sun Conference Defensive Player of the Week on two separate occasions. With those four shutouts, the Pickering, Ontario, native is now up to 13 clean sheets in his career, moving him into seventh place for the most shutouts in Atlantic Sun Conference history. As of October 9, Ranjitsingh leads all A-Sun Conference goalkeepers in every major statistic, including wins (8), goals against average (0.81), save percentage (.846) and shutouts (6).

Monique Russell, Stetson Volleyball
Russell had an incredible month of September, culminating with her breaking the Stetson career digs record on Sept. 29 vs. ETSU. She picked up 19 digs in that match and surpassed Melissa Roy's previous school record of 1287 career digs, which had stood since 1997. Russell earned all-tournament team honors for both the Stetson Clarion Classic and the Charleston Southern East Bay Deli Invitational. Her 32 digs against The Citadel on Sept. 14 set a new school single-match record in the rally scoring era. She led the Atlantic Sun and ranked among the top 15 nationally in total digs during the month of September.  She has played in every match during her career without missing any, and she has played in over 300 consecutive sets dating back to her rookie season. Her teammates voted her as one of three team captains this season.

Kaycee Green, Lipscomb Volleyball
Lipscomb outside hitter Kaycee Green led the three-time defending A-Sun volleyball champions to a perfect 5-0 start in league play and a 7-4 mark overall during the month of September. For her efforts, Green garnered a pair of A-Sun Player of the Week honors earning back-to-back honors to close out the month. The veteran had 154 kills in the month of September and had double-digit kills in 10-of- 11 matches of the month including a season-high 22 kills at Mercer. She posted a solid .262 hitting percentage during the month, including topping the .400 hitting percentage twice (.400 vs. Jacksonville and .429 at Kennesaw State). The Cookeville, Tenn., native also had five assists, 20 digs, 23 total blocks (8 solo and 15 assist). Green also averaged 3.95 kills per set during the month

Paige Pridgeon, North Florida Volleyball
On Sept. 11 at Bethune-Cookman, Paige Pridgeon recorded her 1,000th career dig and became the third Osprey to reach the 1,000-kill, 1,000-dig mark. She entered the match needing just four digs to surpass the 1000-dig plateau. Pridgeon joins Becky DeJong and Maegan Weisart as the only Ospreys in program history to have 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs for their career. As of Oct. 8, Pridgeon had 1,390 kills and 1,114 digs.

Edward Figueroa, FGCU Men’s Golf
Playing in just the third collegiate tournament of his career, FGCU freshman Edward Figueroa put together the best three-round performance in program history at the Cobra-PUMA Invitational. Led by his eight-under 64 in the final round, which was a Miromar Lakes Golf Club course record and FGCU single-round record, Figueroa led the Eagles to the tournament title and took home medalist honors in the 81-player field. Figueroa’s three straight under-par rounds resulted in the best 54-hole performance in FGCU history, a 16-under 200 scorecard for the weekend. Figueroa’s first two rounds of two-under 70 and six-under 66 combined with the eight-under 64 helped him break the 54-hole FGCU record by four strokes. He was named the A-Sun Men's Golfer of the Week following the event.

Gilbert Kemboi, USC Upstate Men's Cross Country
Kemboi turned in another dominant month to lead the USC Upstate men’s cross country team, and also added to his already strong career resume. He began the month by winning the prestigious Eye Opener meet at Milliken Research Park by 25 seconds and helping the team finish second. He then claimed back-to-back second-place finishes at the Winthrop Invitational and the Paul Short Invitational. He ran second to Louisville’s Ernest Kibet, the Cardinal’s top runner on a team ranked seventh in the region. He claimed second place by a mere two seconds to Georgetown’s Mark Dennin in the prestigious Paul Short Invitational. Georgetown is the 15th-ranked team in the nation. Along the way, Kemboi earned his ninth and 10th A-Sun runner of the week honor, breaking the all-time A-Sun cross country record and tying the overall all-time A-Sun record for any sport in weekly award selections.

As the Official Motivation and Apparel Brand of the Atlantic Sun Conference, Crons sponsors the monthly "Achiever Award" to recognize what A-Sun fans deem the most notable performance from each month.

The Crons Brand provides what it calls “high quality motivational apparel, merchandise, and accessories to inspire people to get better and constantly strive for their goals.” It also strives to reinforce positive messages to athletes about what it takes to be a winner and the importance of working harder than anyone else in order to reach their full potential.

Crons communicates this message through four separate product categories: Team Gear, Lifestyle Apparel, Nutritional Products, and School Programs. Crons is a national brand with its message-themed and motivational merchandise and apparel already in use by more than 500 schools and organizations in 25 states. 

Crons perpetuates its message through its Achievers Program, designed to teach students the importance of setting and achieving goals. The program focuses on fostering skills that will help young people set smart, measurable goals now and in the future – leading to academic, personal and professional success.

Long Journey Leads Luis Ocejo to Senior CLASS Award

Stetson’s senior defender and the 2011 A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, Luis Ocejo holds a 3.8 GPA studying finance and earned numerous accolades including CoSIDA Academic All-District and NSCAA Third Team All-America Scholar.

To go along with the previous honors, Luis has also been nominated as one of 30 Senior CLASS Award candidates in the country.

The Senior CLASS Award is meant to highlight Division I seniors that have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition and focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Ocejo is from Mexico City but through his playing experience at the Pendleton School for IMG Athletes in Bradenton, Florida he was able to find Stetson. “I liked that Stetson was a small school and the classes had about 20-30 people in them,” Luis said. ”I also liked their soccer program and that is one of the main reasons I came here, because of soccer and the rich tradition here at Stetson.”

From the beginning, Ocejo had high aspirations of pursuing a soccer career. At the age of 17 he moved to Florida to start playing for the IMG Academy and now balancing his student and athletic responsibilities he is only able to return home to Mexico City two to three times a year. Although he admits it has been difficult being away from home he is thrilled that his parents will be able to attend his senior game.

Luis takes being a leader on the field and in the community to heart and explained, “Since I was a freshman I always wanted to be a leader and help the team and help as many people as I can.” He helps his community when he travels back to Mexico City by volunteering at a nursing home at least two or three times a week and while in DeLand he often volunteers at the local Humane Society.

Ocejo attributes his success on the field to his team and even when asked about how he felt about being named a Senior CLASS candidate he remained humble.

“It is a very big honor but I couldn’t have accomplished this without my team. If my team does well I do well and that benefits me as well.”

The Senior Class candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one male candidate and one female candidate who best exemplify excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Creating a Legacy: Jones Sets Sights on Senior CLASS Award

MACON, Ga - Deion Jones takes to being a leader on and off the soccer field. As a senior at Florida Gulf Coast he is a two-time All-Atlantic Sun selection a co-captain for the two-time defending A-Sun regular-season champion Eagles, he has served three years on the Eagles Council, and is now its president. He’s on the school’s Ethnic Diversity Committee, is the Student Government Director of Sustainability, and the president of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society.

Now he can also add to his resume that he is one of 30 candidates nominated in the country to the Senior CLASS award.

The Senior Class Award is meant to highlight NCAA Division I seniors that have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition and focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Jones joined FGCU in 2009 in hopes to start something new with the soccer program as they were reclassifying to Division I. When Jones talked about his most memorable moment with the Eagles, he did not pin-point a specific game or award, more so a feeling that the team had in 2010 after they won their first conference regular season title.

“The feeling we had in the season before we were able to go into post season was most memorable.” Jones said, “Going into the spring we were really ready to go for the next season and hit the ground running.”

Now in his senior season Jones strives to be well rounded not just athletically but academically. He carries a solid 3.42 GPA as an environmental studies major. He took an interest in environmental studies after taking a general ecology class where his professor inspired him to think outside of words in text books. Jones said, “He proved that it is a learning experience for everyone even him, and that you can’t be tied down to just getting the right answer. That professor helped me change my view point academically."

When asked how he felt to be a candidate for the Senior Class Award he humbly said “It means a ton. Adam Glick was nominated last year and just to be mentioned in the same breath as Adam Glick is awesome, because he is a really great person so just to be put in the same category as him is a major accomplishment.”
Jones embodies what it means to be a team player and gives credit to teammates, coaches, professors and his family for all of his accomplishments. “I think personally, I’d like to look back at it when I’m done here and think that I was a well-rounded person not just athletically but in the university scheme of things as well, but also that I was a good role model for the underclassmen that are here now. I want them to be able to take over when I’m gone and continue their success.”

The Senior Class candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one male candidate and one female candidate who best exemplify excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.