Saturday, October 31, 2009
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
It wasn’t even a close match in the University Center last Saturday as Noelle Rooke’s team smashed the visiting USC-Upstate Spartans 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-11). Posting its second straight win before two more home games this upcoming weekend to cap the season, Mercer (8-17, 6-11) held the Spartans to a -0.011 hitting percentage for the match off of a 10-4 team blocking margin.
“Everything we worked on all week came together for us,” said Rooke on MercerBears.com. She added, “Our defense was phenomenal and today everybody contributed. It was a team win.”
Speaking of defense, juniors Libby Hansch, Krista Hurley, and Erica Vrvilo would record 4 block assist each with Hansch and teammate Anna Coursey tallying solo blocks. Set by set, USC-Upstate was stalemated each time, hitting 0.077, 0.057, and -0.156 respectively.
On the other side of the net, the offensive attack by the Bears was relentless as Amiee Frutchey would led Mercer with 11 kills on 23 attempts (.304 hitting percentage). Hurley would add 8 kills while teammates Vrvilo (7 kills), Hansch (6 kills), Rachel Urbelis (6 kills) and Coursey (5 kills) would pile on the offensive attack. Guiding the 6-2 offense were setters Chelsea Gebben (1 kill, 20 assists) and Nickie Halbert (15 assists) who generously passed out plenty of kill opportunities over the course of the match. Mercer’s blazing hot hitting percentage (.429, .163, .417) kept USC-Upstate on their heels for a majority of the match while the Bears net players displayed textbook blocking at the net.
USC-Upstate would be lead by Kelsie Queen with 6 kills on 24 opportunities (-.042 hitting percentage) while Morgan Thomas and Katie Downey would chip in with 5 kills. Unfortunately, the only leads the Spartans would see were early 2-1 advantages in the first two sets. Otherwise, each game appeared to be rather lopsided near the end.
Mercer takes on Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast to close out their home schedule this season before the final two matches against North Florida and Jacksonville to end the 2009 campaign. With no chance at earning a post-season berth in the Atlantic Sun tournament, the Bears will face two of the league’s best teams in Jacksonville and FGCU in their final matches while aiming to post another double-digit mark in the win column.
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
While Twitter’s widespread use has created somewhat of a culture-media phenomenon during the past few months, several of Mercer’s men’s basketball players hope to use the micro-blogging technology to stay in touch with each other and with their fan base. A handful of players including James Florence, Daniel Emerson, Jake Gollon, Brendan Walker, E.J. Kusnyer and Brian Mills will be tweeting it up over the course of the season, giving viewers play-by-play action of their lives on and off the court.
Twitter, largely embraced by professional athletes, now moves into the realm of college athletics with the Bears. “We really like spending time together as teammates and when we’re not together we can communicate through Twitter,” said Gollon, the 6-6 redshirt-freshman from Wisconsin. He added, “It also gives me a way to stay in touch with friends since I’m so far away from home.”
Senior James Florence takes Twitter a little more light-heartedly, saying, “I’m new to Twitter but it’s just another way for the team to poke around with each other and it eliminates the mass text [message] so you can just post something funny without having to type in everyone you want to sent it to each time.”
Each of the players’ posts range from the insightful to the daily commentary to ‘poking around with each other.’ Take for example some of their recent tweets during the last week. “Sitting right next to Brian Mills in a room full of empty chairs…shake n’ bake yo,” said ElKoosh1 (E.J. Kusnyer). Brian Mills, comparing school to sports in a humorous tweet said, “If only school was like baseball, where 2 out of 5 is great and 61 out of 100 is unmatched greatness.” Brendan Walker offered an insight into the busy lives of college athletes saying, “Just got to class. I’m really tired. Good thing I only have 4 hours of practice the rest of the day.”
Hopefully, the micro blogs will give fans an insight in the world of college basketball while keeping them updated with Mercer’s progress this season. Florence’s post last Saturday summed up the general team attitude coming into the 2009-10 campaign before a recent scrimmage, tweeting, “Headed to the Hilton for pre-game breakfast, then to the gym for a shoot-a-round, and then we give Liberty a preview of what’s coming for everyone this year.”
To follow your favorite Mercer basketball players, catch them on Twitter at these account names: James Florence (J_Flo0), Brendan Walker (Bwalk387), Brian Mills (BMills2588), Daniel Emerson (bigemerson33), E.J. Kusnyer (ElKoosh1), and Jake Gollon at jgollon20.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
Getting through college with a few bucks in your pocket is tough. It’s the only time in your life when you’re expected to pay someone to work for them. Think about it. You’re out $40,000 every year because you choose to go to Mercer. If you worked harder or were lucky enough, you’re in Macon on a scholarship. But what if you’re a college athlete? Your jersey represents the school and each and every time you give it your all on the court/field, you’re merely paying for your stay.
While athletes at Mercer are a different breed than the ones at say, Georgia or Florida, they still bring in revenues to the school. The men’s basketball team is compensated tens of thousands of dollars when they play big time opponents on the road. You think Coach Hoffman wants his team to get shellacked by UCLA or Kansas every year? No way, but it sure does help pay the bills and keep the lights in the arena.
Specifically, I’m talking about the big schools in the larger conferences in the NCAA. It’s the Florida States, Oklahomas, and the Michigans, the schools that rake in the dough with championship after championship. Take for example the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Football game between Florida and Oklahoma. Both teams saw a projected payout of $17.5 million dollars to their respective conferences, the SEC and Big 12. That money, in turn, is funneled down and split between the schools in the conferences. Once the schools get the money, they can pay the hefty salaries of their big time coaches and reinvest the money in their teams via recruiting.
$17.5 million is big money for one game, but how about the new 15-year television deal the SEC conference has with ESPN. The historic deal is worth $2 billion, making it one of the biggest, if not the largest television contract in sports history. And while the huge contract means more accessibility for SEC fans through the ESPN networks, it also means that the conference and the schools make a pretty penny off of their sports programs.
With all of this money being thrown around college sports, where do the athletes come in? What kind of profits do the star quarterbacks and point guards see? None. After all, they’re student athletes…they’re supposed to just get through school and be happy.
In 2009, 69 NCAA head football coaches are making more than $1 million a year (with USC’s Pete Carroll at the top of the list at $4.4 million). Even if you coach an awful team, it seems you’re still well compensated (i.e. San Jose State’s Dick Tomey makes $460,000 a year…91st on the list). However, do coaches win ballgames? Of course they stand on the sideline and coach, encouraging their players to execute the right plays, but when it has always been up to the players, the student-athletes, to win games.
My point is not that players need to be necessarily compensated, but that the NCAA recognize who is funding the college athletics cash cow of the 21st century. The watchdog institution wants to hammer down any athlete or school that makes the slightest mistake or that infracts one of their imposed rules.
Take for example the Alabama football textbook debacle this summer. Football players were signing up for more classes than they actually took, dropping the class, and then selling the textbooks for money. The only issue was that the textbooks came from Alabama’s athletic department for free. These athletes were on scholarship and while they may have found a loophole in the system, who can really blame them for exploiting it? After all, what person wants to be poor while they’re at the pinnacle of their athletic career? Instead, the NCAA wanted to do a complete investigation to implicate all those found guilty of ‘textbook fraud.’
Was it the right thing for Alabama players to do? Probably not. While the morality of the situation is another discussion, it is easy to see that things are somewhat backwards in this age of college athletics.
Just this past week Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant was the subject of a NCAA investigation for improper contact with Deion Sanders. Improper contact? Even if Sanders was trying to set up Bryant with one of his agents for the wide receivers future days in the NFL, why should the NCAA really care? They’re the ones making money from college football ultimately.
For an analogy’s sake, take governments within the past several hundred years. The leaders with tight control of their countries usually saw their rule collapse when they hoarded the countries resources. I’m not saying the NCAA is the next Hugo Chavez, but it’s a question that should be addressed. Where should this money, these huge revenues, ultimately end up? Jerseys, license plates, TV deals and t-shirts will continue to be sold, but if you knew where the money was really going…would you still buy it?
J. Andrew’s Bold College Football Predictions
Thursday, Oct. 22
FSU 24, North Carolina 21
Friday, Oct. 23
Rutgers 21, Army 34
Saturday, Oct. 24
Texas 20, Missouri 6
Clemson 21, Miami 41
Oklahoma 32, Kansas 27
Georgia Tech 35, Virginia 9
Oregon 16, Washington 17
Tennessee 17, Alabama 38
Air Force 33, Utah 31
TCU 12, BYU 17
Penn State 23, Michigan 25
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Mercer tennis teams have been enjoying a successful fall semester in preparation for Conference play early next year.
On the men’s side, the team has competed in a trio of prestigious invitational tournaments.
Beginning at the Southern Intercollegiates, hosted by the University of Georgia, freshmen Peter Tauchner made his mark.
The Bad Voslau, Austria native posted three wins to reach the semifinals before the event was cancelled due to rain.
Sophomore David Barton was also in good form, taking out Richard Cowden from Middle Tennessee State and College of Charleston’s John Harden before falling to Vanderbilt’s Alex Zotov in the round of 32.
Both the men’s and the women’s team then took part in the Sam Baras Fall Classic at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.
Junior Mark Worsham led the way by winning the Men’s D1 Singles flight. Worsham won the final in straight sets.
Junior Amalia Bugge and sophomore Jennifer Lada brought home the title in the Women’s A Doubles flight. The Bears duo bounced the first-seeded Kennesaw State team in the semifinals and captured the championship against UTC’s Bossy and Van der Veek, 8-4.
Mercer had finalists in the Men’s B1 Doubles (Fernando Armendaris and Matthew Poleon) and Men’s C3 Singles (Victor Dias) divisions.
The final tournament of the semester for the men’s team was the University of North Florida’s Fall Invitational.
Sophomore Dias rampaged to the semifinals of the Men’s B Singles division. The San Paulo, Brazil product defeated ETSU’s Jason Ramski, GSU’s Thomas Bekkers, and Mercer teammate, Matt Poleon. His run ended as he fell to FAMU’s Takura Happy in three sets, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Before succumbing to Dias, Poleon had beated FGCU’s Gonzalo DeVilla and Jacksonville University’s Aaron Khatter.
The Bears’ Armendaris and Evandro Rosindo each won their first round matches in the Men’s A Singles division. Armendaris took a tough three setter over Jacksonville’s Victor Vaz. Rosindo took the first set off GSU’s Matthijs Verdarn 7-5 and was up 3-0 in the second frame when Verdarn retired due to an illness.
After losing his first round match in the Men’s A Singles division, Mercer’s Tauchner made some noise in the consolation bracket. He easily won his first round match, 6-2, 6-1, and earned a bye in the second round. Facing FGCU’s Thibaud Aime in his final match, Tauchner lost a 26 point marathon in the third set tie-break, 14-12.
The Mercer women’s golf team struggled to find top form at the LPGA Collegiate Invitational in Daytona Beach, Fla.
However, conditions were tough as the Bears had to deal with searing heat and the notoriously tricky Legends Course.
The event, hosted by Xavier, attracted some of the top teams in the nation as well as a handful of Mercer’s Atlantic Sun Conference rivals.
The Bears fought valiantly and finished on 320 over the three rounds, good for 15th place overall.
Scores were tight in the opening 18. Freshman Kaitlin Marrin fired a 79, whilst Leslie Choucard, Kimberly Graff and Monica Kelsey all shot 81.
The second round saw Choucard and Kelsey come to the fore, posting a pair of 80s. Marrin was 3 shots back at 83 and Graff scored an 85.
In the final round, the Bears posted their best collective score of the tournament. Individually, senior Kelsey led the way with a 77. Her total of 238 was a team best, clinching a 52nd place tie.
Freshman Graff followed with a 78, her lowest round of the weekend. Graff posted an overall 244 and tied for 62nd.
Daytona St. College, Campbell and Stetson took the top three spots in the concluding standings.
“The LPGA course was awesome this weekend, but it did give us some problems,” reflected Mercer’s head coach Gary Guyer. “I am not sure exactly why, but we will be working hard to fix them in practice.”
The Bears are back in action the week before Halloween at the Boscobel Intercollegiate in Spartanburg, S.C. on Oct. 24-25.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Unfortunately, inclement weather brought a premature end to the third annual Mercer-hosted Brickyard Collegiate Golf Championship.
But in the 36 holes that were completed, a somewhat unlikely duo made the headlines for the Bears.
Freshmen William Meason and Matt Kocolowski, who had both played just two previous college tournaments, finished on even par to tie for 15th place individually.
“Personally, I think The Brickyard’s layout suits my game and I felt good out there both days,” reflected Meason.
“I played consistent golf and putted well. Obviously we were up against some of the best players in the nation but there is no reason why we can’t compete with them if we get the fundamentals right.”
The Mercer men finished the tournament in 13th place (+18) after the final round was cancelled due to thunderstorms. The Bears outshot Penn State (+20) and No. 18 Michigan (+27).
Augusta State rampaged to the title, shooting a 563 (-13) as a team. Clemson and Chattanooga (E) tied for second place, while Georgia (+3) and VCU (+8) rounded out the top five.
Georgia’s Russell Henley was in scintillating form all weekend and captured the individual title after posting a round-one 69 and a round-two 65. His round-two 65 tied the course record.
Mercer freshman Thomas Holmes (+7) finished tied for 52nd. Senior Matt Tribby (+11) tied for 71st while senior Matt Smith (+14) took home 78th place.
The Mercer men return to action at the Aldila Inviational on Oct. 26-27 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
After a slow start to conference play, Grant Serafy’s women’s soccer program is starting to regain the confidence and swagger they showed last year en route to their first regular season conference championship. Following a 1-1 Florida road trip to Jacksonville and North Florida, the Bears returned to Bear Field in front of their home crowd looking awfully impressive in a 0-0 tie against Belmont Friday night and with a 6-1 shellacking of Lipscomb.
The rivalry game against Belmont was another epic chapter of the battles between the two teams over the past few seasons. The Bruins and Bears gave it their all for 110 minutes, spanning regulation and two overtimes, yet no goals were scored resulting in the tie. Mercer had its share of goal-scoring opportunities for the night with Belmont goalkeeper Sari Lin collecting six saves on the evening, but still couldn’t convert the prime opportunities they were given into points.
Although they tied the league leading Bruins, Serafy still was a bit disappointed about not getting the win, saying afterwards, “I’m a little disappointed from a competitive standpoint. We didn’t mix it up like I thought we should have in our individual battles. We are fighting for our season here. I’m in need of some players who will step up and play best when the pressure is on. We are deep in conference play and need some victories.”
In response to Serafy’s quote after the Belmont game, Mercer handed out the most lopsided victory of the season as they defeated a talented and dangerous Lipscomb team 6-1. Within the first four minutes, the game was over as a result of Olivia Tucker’s 4th and 5th goals of 2009, both courtesy of Lauren Johnson passes. The rough start only continued to get worse for the Bison as Patricia-Anne Upson knocked another first half goal in for the Bears during the 17th minute off of a penalty kick to give Mercer the 3-0 lead going into the half.
As the old adage goes, ‘When it rains it pours,’ and so it also explains Mercer’s scoring efforts for the rest of the game. Olivia Tucker would pull a hat trick in the 75th minute with her third goal of the game while teammate Meghan O’Rourke would score two goals with four minutes of each other soon after. Lipscomb would finally get a score on the board when Danielle Bethke would knock a Meghan McGuire throw-in past Mercer goalie Jean Worts during the 82nd minute.
The goals came in bunches and easily gave Mercer the win on Sunday afternoon to bolster their standing in the conference. As always, Serafy was glad to get the win but saw room for improvement. “It was good to see us score some goals out there today and I thought we started off well,” Serafy said. He later added, “We just need to work on maintaining that intensity throughout the game. It was good to pick up the conference win and the three points [in the conference standings], but we are still fighting for games at this point.”
Fighting for their lives is a good description for the remaining schedule for the Bears. A road trip to Tennessee and South Carolina will pit them against ETSU and USC-Upstate before their final home game against Campbell October 22nd.
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
The volleyball season continues to get longer and longer for the Mercer women as they fell in A-Sun play to Kennesaw State last Tuesday night 3-1. The four set match came after a weekend where the Bears split matches with opponents FGCU and Stetson on the road. The loss to the in-state rival Owls all but eliminates the Bears from postseason contention as they fell to 9th in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings.
Recapping the road trip to Florida, Mercer traveled to Fort Myers to take on the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the Friday night matchup where they would ultimately fall in four sets 3-1. The Bears played well in their first three sets, winning the second before the intermission, but the FGCU offense proved to be too much for coach Noelle Rooke’s squad to handle as four Eagles would finish with double-digit kills on the night. Led by Jelena Simic (15 kills) and teammates Emma Racila (14 kills), Jacqueline Cowden (14 kills), and Ashley Yance (11 kills), the Eagles finished the night hot on offense despite Mercer’s best efforts.
The Bears still played well, with Krista Hurley pounding out 14 kills and Rachel Urbelis and Amiee Frutchey contributing 12 kills each, but Mercer’s standout second set couldn’t be repeated the rest of the night leading to their demise.
Taking the hard loss in Fort Myers, the Bears traveled north to DeLand, Florida to face the cellar-dweller Stetson Hatters. With the favorable matchup against a team still searching for its first conference win, Mercer wasted little time putting away the Hatters (25-18, 25-15, 22-25, and 25-16). Afterwards, Mercer head coach Noelle Rooke commented on MercerBears.com, “We set goals for this matchup and achieved those goals. I’m proud of my team with this win.”
Playing on a bum ankle, junior Libby Hansch slammed down 16 kills over the course of the match (a .516 hitting percentage). Leading the offense charge the also saw Urbelis, Frutchey, Hurley and fellow junior Erica Vrvilo reach double figures with kills, Mercer would go on to end the match with a .304 hitting percentage. With their fifth win of the year and third conference win, Mercer left little doubt in the minds of the fans at the Edmunds Center of who the better team was.
With their confidence back, the Bears returned home to face their rivals Kennesaw State in a mid-week matchup. Needing the crucial victory to move up in the A-Sun standings, Mercer put forth a big effort early in the match but were out-played by the Owls’ outside hitters. Sabrita Gulley’s 21 kills propelled Kennesaw State to the 25-18, 23-25, 25-19, 25-15 victory in the University Center.
After winning the second set of the match, Mercer appeared to be roaring back and contending for the win after opening the third set with an 8-2 lead. However, defensive miscues would haunt the Bears as their offense also dried up, resulting in a 18-4 KSU run. The bright spot on the floor for Mercer was senior setter Chelsea Gebben who recorded her second double-double in the last three matches, tallying 25 assists, 16 digs, and 2 kills for the night.
The Bears must now regroup again as they face the likes of ETSU and Campbell on the road before their final home stand against USC-Upstate, Stetson, and Florida Gulf Coast.
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
The men’s soccer team is in a much different position this year after a tumultuous season a year ago. They’ve been at the top or near the top of the Atlantic Sun conference standings nearly all season and with a strong finish to the 2009 campaign, they could make a serious push for a conference title this season. A resurrection of the men’s offense along with a stout defense has helped the Bears win the close matches many times this year.
After winning two games in Nashville against Belmont and Lipscomb, the Bears returned home to the friendly confines of Bear Field to face ETSU and USC-Upstate before making a short trip to Orlando to face Central Florida. Playing in front of big home crowds, the men faced a feisty ETSU team Thursday night, prevailing 1-0 in double overtime. With the win, the men have come out with their best start to conference play since the 2004 season.
Despite being outshot in every category on the night, the Bears found a way to find the back of the net in the 106th minute off of a Richie Edmondson goal that gave them the victory. Coming from a series of passes from teammates Chrispine Ong’Ango and Arkenson Neckles, the goal broke the spirit of the Buccaneers, a team that out-shot the Bears 15-8 (7-4 on goal) and 9-1 in corner kicks.
The win was head coach Brad Ruzzo’s 6th at Mercer, commenting after the game on Mercer’s Athletic website, “We knew ETSU was going to be very organized defensively and limit our scoring chances. We had to take advantage of the few opportunities we could get and we definitely did that tonight.”
Following the nail-biting win against ETSU, the team resumed action Saturday against a tough USC-Upstate squad. Unfortunately, the table was turned on Mercer during the contest as they continually had major scoring opportunities during the game but squandered them or couldn’t convert them into goals. The final tally on the scoreboard saw Mercer take an edge with shots (20-13), shots on goal (13-9), and corner kicks (6-0), yet fall to the Spartans 2-1.
It didn’t take long for the Spartans to put in a goal in the 19th minute off of Erkan Yildirim. More surprisingly though, the goal was USC-Upstate’s first real scoring opportunity of the game after Mercer put the pressure on Upstate’s goalie Pat Regna during the opening minutes. The Bears would tie up the match with an Ian Cameron goal (6th of the season) with 6 seconds left in the first half, but again, a defensive mistake would come back to haunt the Bears in the 82 minute with a John Kadane goal late in the game. It was a heartbreaking loss indeed for the Bears as they out-hustled and out-played USC-Upstate for the entire game minus those two plays.
Just like the old Willie Nelson song, Ruzzo’s squad was on the road again last Tuesday to face their final non-conference opponent of the season in Central Florida. The Golden Knights gave the Bears all they wanted in a 4-2 contest. Resting a few of his starters, Mercer still played with UCF reasonably well in the 2nd half, but still struggled in many aspects during the course of the game. In fact, Central Florida scored four first half goals to take an embarrassing 4-0 lead into halftime. However, the resilient Bears put two goals in the net of their own from Ong’Ango and Charles Peterson to give the 4-2 final score.
Explaining his strategy after the game, Ruzzo commented, “We rested some starters tonight and gave some other guys some time to show what they could do on the field. We are going to need everyone on this team to be healthy and ready to step up as we enter our stretch run in A-Sun play.”
The stretch run that Ruzzo speaks of comes against FGCU and Stetson on the road before the final home stand against Jacksonville and North Florida October 29th and 31st.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
While the resurgent men’s soccer team has risen to the top of the Atlantic Sun during the past few weeks, the Bears are starting to believe in themselves again. It took a while, especially after last year’s 2-11-5 campaign, but head coach Brad Ruzzo is seeing quite a bit of production on the field from his players. They’re a step quicker than their opponents, more aware of their own teammates, and hungrier for wins. While Ruzzo prepares his team for their upcoming matches, it’s up to the players to execute and in the thick of it all, Ian Cameron always seems to be leading his troops into battle.
With two seasons here at Mercer under his belt, the junior from Glasgow, Scotland looks to leave his mark here at Mercer during his two final seasons. Cameron’s offensive game has blossomed this year, with 6 goals through 11 games, giving him 11 career goals. He’ll happily score a game-winner, but he’s quick to credit his teammates after the game. The Cluster caught up with Cameron to him our best corner-kick:
Cluster: How have you and your teammates been able to turn around a team that went 2-11-5 last season to a team contending for an A-Sun title this season? Who do you credit for this turnaround?
IC: Last year can be best described as a transitional period for the men's soccer team on and off the field. For the players that were here already, it was hard coming to terms with a new coach and new ideas, while it was also difficult for our new coach Brad Ruzzo to stamp his authority and identity onto the team. We tried new ideas and played positions that were alien to many of us which didn't pay dividends on the field with respect to results. However, behind the scenes, especially in the spring season, we had a self-confidence in ourselves that this fall we would be a different story; with both the players and the coach conforming to a set ideal with respect to formation and playing style we all bought in to what it is we are trying to do, hopefully winning a conference title.
Cluster: What major changes did head coach Brad Ruzzo bring to the Bears a year ago when he was hired as the new coach?
IC: Coach has come from a very successful institution (Bradley University) and therefore has experienced what it takes for a team to reach the elite stages of college soccer. With that in mind, he has a good understanding of what his capabilities are as a coach and doesn't try to go outside them. We play in a manner which suits our abilities as players and try to be the hardest working team in the nation. He has brought stability to our program and with that a new found respect for what we are trying to achieve and the manner in which we go about it. He has also importantly distilled a belief in us that we can achieve great things this year if we apply ourselves adequately.
Cluster: Personally, what do you hope to achieve this year and in your remaining career here at Mercer?
IC: I want a conference title and to make the NCAA championship. That has been my goal since I came here and this year we are, perhaps, in the best position to push for such success. It is still early in conference play and we had a set back last Saturday against USC Upstate, but winning conference is still a realistic goal and one which I have every intention of going for. I am playing well this year, probably the best I have played for Mercer, and am helping the team with some much needed goals from midfield. A personal goal of mine is to compete for Conference player of the year, but such accolades only come when the team is successful, and if I do indeed contend that title it will be because Mercer is at the top of the standings.
Cluster: How is competing in this sport in the U.S. different for you as a Scottish player?
IC: Of course playing in the sunshine brings different challenges than playing in the howling rain every week with big Scottish Highlanders kicking you about. One main difference is that it is now very athletic and extremely fit players that kick you. Since coming over I have been most impressed by the physical attributes of the players over here. The technical side is improving rapidly as well. Calling my beloved sport 'soccer' will haunt me until my grave however. I feel the American market is something that Europe will quickly start looking into as there are boys over here that are talented enough to play abroad.
Cluster: What are some of the toughest lessons you've learned so far in your collegiate soccer career?
IC: The hardest aspect of college soccer for has been how short the season is, and how much you get punished for a single poor result. With us only playing around 18 games a season and all within a short time period it is a harsh reality when conference play ends and your season is over because of a few bad results. I felt bad for Campbell last year when they went undefeated in conference play then failed to reach the National Championships because of one bad half against Jacksonville in the tournament.
Cluster: What do you feel that you are able to bring to the table for the team in terms of your abilities? How do you mesh with the team's playing style?
IC: Of course everybody in a team brings different qualities to a team. I am more of an offensive player who tries to create goal scoring opportunities for my team. For me to be given the freedom to express my abilities I need a defensive unit who cover me in situations during the course of a game. This relationship has been pivotal this season in allowing me to commit forward with the knowledge that my teammates will cover me. I have developed my game to be more dangerous in attack and spend less time receiving possession back deep in my own half where I am less of a dangerous threat to other teams. This has been a focus of my coach [Brad Ruzzo] in practice and the team as a whole which will hopefully prove decisive in big matches coming up.
Cluster: Why should the average sports fan come watch the soccer games at Bear Field? What makes Mercer's team special?
IC: Fans can expect our team to give 100% to every game. We are constantly in tight, intense matches which are great to watch as a sports fan. You can come sing songs and the general atmosphere is generally great down at Bear Field for both the guys and girls games. In the course of the next few weeks we will be playing games which could ultimately win Mercer a conference title. With the season closing on October 31st against UNF and with the Woman's Basketball team providing an opportunity for everyone to tailgate beforehand it should be a fun atmosphere out there.
Friday, October 9, 2009
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
After last year’s 6th place finish in the Eat-A-Peach Collegiate, the Mercer women’s golf program was looking forward to seeing the friendly confines of the Idle Hour Country Club in Macon once again. Gearing up for the tournament that saw national powers Georgia, Florida State, Furman, Coastal Carolina, and Miami (FL) roll through, the Bears fought to a 10th place finish in the 12 team field.
UGA’s Marta Silva Zamora would win the two day tournament, finishing at -4 (70, 70). Zamora’s performance in the Eat-A-Peach was unmatched by any other player as she birdied 9 of the 36 holes over the course of the tournament. Georgia would finish first in the team standings at +23, one stroke lower than rivals Florida State and Furman who tied at +24 to finish second. Coastal Carolina and Georgia State would round up the top five in the team standings at +30 and +31 respectively.
The hometown Mercer women posted consistent scores for both rounds, shooting 314 as a team for both the first and second rounds. Head Coach Gary Guyer commented after the tournament on his Twitter account, “Our EAT A PEACH Colleigate was an amazing tournament. Our team played well and close to our ability.”
Individually, Alex Quagliata would go low for the Bears, finishing in a tie for 21st after a +9 effort (77, 76). Teammates Kimberly Graff (+13), Monica Kelsey (+14), Kaitlin Marrin (+16), and Aurelie Wiriath (+22) would follow as Leslie Choucard (+22) and Alicia Poole (+23) rounded out the Mercer lineup playing as individuals.
After the long two day tournament that saw its fair share of sunshine and rain, Alex Quagliata had a solid performance for the weekend, elaborating, “My swing has come around the past week and my short game has really come around. It’s been encouraging to really hit the ball consistently and solid.” She added, “ I was really looking forward to this tournament because it was one of the first times I’ve been that confident going into a tournament. I was a little intimated by playing with top 25 schools like FSU and UGA, but it was exciting to play with the best players in the country and I felt like I handled the pressure pretty well. It’s good for us as a team to play those caliber teams to test yourselves every once in a while.”
Monica Kelsey, the other senior to play in the tournament for the Bears, posted a 78 and 80, but played the front nine holes of the tournament extremely well. “It was fun to play with such great players and compete on our home course,” Kelsey said. “Idle Hour Country Club was great to let us host the tournament and Coach [Guyer] did a wonderful job planning such a nice and fun event,” she added.
The Bears will travel to Daytona Beach, Florida this weekend to play in the 54 hole, competitive LPGA Invitational.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
It’s hard to write about Tim Tebow especially if you’re not a Florida Gator fan. Something is wrong with you if you don’t think he’s at least a good human being. Faults are hard to find with the quarterback that runs more like a fullback. He spends his summers in the Philippines doing mission work and plays with physically handicapped kids before games. How could you not like the guy?
But in the world of sports, we like to polarize people. We like to categorize the felons, the good guys, and everyone in between. We watch ESPN to see how long Michael Vick’s sentencing would be and we paid close attention to the Plaxico Burress case. Maybe O.J. Simpson started it all or could it be the acquitted charges on Raven’s linebacker Ray Lewis? Until we separate the good from the bad as sports fans, we can’t seem to sleep at night.
That’s where Tim Tebow comes in. Everybody is mortal and makes mistakes, but Tebow’s play on the field every Saturday is next to near perfect. It was only when Tebow was taken to the hospital with a concussion during the Kentucky game two weeks ago that we began to think he might be human again.
Don’t let Lee Corso or Brent Musberger mislead you with their ‘Tim Tebow Man Love.’ There’s good reason to like the guy more off the field after you go gaga over his moves on the field. I keep telling myself ‘Stop being jealous…this guy can’t do everything right,’ but the truth is that he does pretty much everything right on and off the field.
And so goes the un-resting case of Tim Tebow. Sportswriters across America can’t stop writing about the hardnosed kid who motivates his team by just taking a breath of fresh air. He reminds me of Florida’s Danny Wuerffel a decade ago with his size and presence. He runs the ball better than most running backs and should be considered one of the greatest leaders to ever play the college game. In fact, Tebow will undoubtedly become the BEST college football player for decades to come.
Even though he continues to drum opponents each weekend (or at least win by a few scores), I keep telling myself that I’ll really like Tebow next season if he can only do this one thing this season. With three years of a track record, he’s accumulated two national championships and a Heisman. His doubters keep saying his game won’t work in the NFL. Maybe it won’t, who’s to say after the concussion, but Tebow seems to have a slick way of always making his haters eat their words.
I have nothing left Tim Tebow. You’ve convinced me. I’m no Gator fan and I won’t root against you. Maybe I’ll even buy my kid your jersey when you get to the pros, but please Tim, please, quit pestering my sports writing mind with your half-immortalism and with intense pep talks on the sidelines each Saturday. It’s driving me, Lee Corso, and Brent Musberger nuts.
Week 6 College Football Predictions
Thursday, October 8th
Nebraska 45, Missouri 35
Saturday, October 10th
Alabama 10, Ole Miss 14
Georgia 24, Tennessee 21
Oregon 25, UCLA 28
TCU 17, Air Force 21
Georgia Tech 35, Florida State 41
Michigan 28, Iowa 21
Tebow Special of the Week: Florida 44, LSU 38
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
The team that won the Atlantic Sun regular season title seemed to be noticeably absent from Bear Field a week and a half ago as the women’s soccer team dropped their second and third Atlantic Sun matches this year to Florida Gulf Coast 2-1 and to Stetson 3-2.
In the Friday night matchup, FGCU outplayed the Bears when it mattered, controlling the tempo of the match for most of the 90 minutes. Striking less than 20 minutes into the match, FGCU’s Olivia Elias gave her team the edge until Mercer’s Lauren Johnson responded with a goal of her own. The fans thought overtime might be eminent with a 1-1 score until the Eagle’s Amber McCall received a cross from the foot of Jess Swartzentruber and deposited it in the goal just past Bears goalie Jean Worts. It was a tough loss for the Bears against a quality A-Sun opponent, but they hoped to rebound on a day’s rest against the Stetson Hatters.
Te rest seemed to pay off for Mercer for most of the game. Clinging to a 1-0 lead off of a Lauren Johnson goal in the 17th minute, Mercer controlled both halves but allowed the Hatters to take their shots at the end of the game. Stetson took full advantage, sinking three goals in the net in a matter of 2 minutes and 32 seconds, giving them an unheralded 3-2 lead. Mercer’s Kacie Hudson was able to score in the last minute off of a header from a corner kick, but the loss was a tough late-game meltdown that was altogether hard for Bears fans to swallow.
“Stetson wanted it more than we did,” head coach Grant Serafy reported on MercerBears.com. He added, “Three goals in a two or three minute span…that’s desire. Stetson had it all today.” Indeed, it was Stetson with all of the desire late in the game, but what makes the loss even harder was the statistical spread between Mercer and Stetson on offense. The Bears outshot the Hatter 19-7 throughout the game, but were only able to convert two of the opportunities.
A week of practice helped the team move past the bitter losses, taking them to play the Jacksonville Dolphins in a north Florida road trip. In a stalemate game, the Bears ended up taking a 1-0 victory from the Ashley Sports Complex off of a Kacie Hudson goal via teammate Patricia-Anne Upson in the 63rd minute. More importantly, the win was the team’s first conference victory of the 2009 season.
Afterwards, Serafy was quite pleased with the play of his team, commenting, “Tonight’s game was very important for us in that we were able to pick up our first conference win of the season. Hopefully we can build on our win tonight and use it as a turning point in moving forward in A-Sun play.”
Speaking about the late second half goal, the head man added, “Kacie’s goal was a very courageous play on her part because she stuck her nose in the box and connected on a header in traffic which was very brave.” In addition to Hudson’s great play on offense, goalkeeper Jean Worts was especially sharp, compiling three saves in the game for her third shutout of the season.
On Sunday, the team lost another closely contested match to North Florida to fall to 5-6-1 (A-Sun 1-4) on the season. Quality, not quantity of shots was the name of the game as North Florida narrowly defeated the Bears after shooting 1 for 2 on the goal for the contest. UNF’s Kristin Rhodes 49th minute goal was ultimately cost Mercer another conference game on the road.
Serafy’s squad will hope to rebound with a two game home stand against Belmont and Lipscomb next weekend in what should be another exciting round of Atlantic Sun soccer.
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
As bad as the Mercer volleyball team played Friday night against Jacksonville, they looked that much better Saturday afternoon as they defeated North Florida in A-Sun play. Friday’s ‘Dig for a Cure Night’ saw a large turnout in the University Center witness a disappointing match in which the Bears fell to the Dolphins 3-0.
While Mercer showed promise in the first set, their offense had trouble getting started as they would finish with 7 kills and 7 errors in the first frame for a .000 hitting percentage. The second set was even uglier with Jacksonville pulling out to a 10-0 lead before the Bears scored. Putting together somewhat of a run, they made it a respectable 25-16 set before being defeated 25-21 in the final set of the night.
Statistically, Dolphin’s outside hitter Brittany Lehman went on a tear, striking 17 kills in 40 attempts with 6 digs. Teammate Aidan Year added 10 kills to the offensive effort as setter Hannah Munneke would finish with 39 assists. For Mercer, the numbers weren’t too pretty. Krista Hurley led the team with 8 kills and was one of only four to finish with a positive hitting percentage for the match.
A funny thing happened though between the Friday night match and Saturday afternoon game against UNF. The Bears seemed to find their swagger and regain their confidence that they had lost during the six match losing streak. That came to an end with a sweep of the visiting Lady Ospreys 28-26, 25-21, and 25-23 in the UC.
After the big win, Mercer head coach Noelle Rooke elaborated on the victory, commenting, “If we can bring the same mentality to the court every match we are going to be successful. It was a team effort, a team victory, and I’m proud of my ladies today.”
With their second A-Sun conference victory of the season, middle blocker Krista Hurley played well throughout the match, accumulating 13 kills with a .364 hitting percentage. Teammates Libby Hansch and Anna Coursey chipped in with 6 and 7 kills respectively as setters Chelsea Gebben (20 assists) and Nickie Halbert (17 assists) would split the offensive workload. UNF’s formidable net player of Paige Pridgeon (16 kills, 8 digs), Kaley Read (12 kills, 7 digs) and Danielle Lerch (10 kills) racked up for the Ospreys on offense, but their efforts came up just short in each set.
In the middle of the Atlantic Sun regular season, the Bears now face Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson this weekend in Florida before returning to play Kennesaw State, Belmont, Lipscomb, and Georgia State in a four game homestand that spans October 13-17th.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Sports Reporter / Columnist
The Mercer Men’s Golf Team finished 14th at the Virginia Commonwealth Shootout.
The event was hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University and featured several top teams such as Wake Forest, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
The Bears struggled to find their form and slipped to a combined score of 909 across three rounds, three strokes behind Maryland (906).
Freshman William Meason led the team, shooting 77, 71, 74 to tie for 30th overall. Starting at the 14th tee for his final round, Meason played even-par golf through five holes before stumbling with a double-bogey. He then recovered strongly, recording even par scores before turning in a birdie at the 11th hole.
Lone senior Matt Tribby also recorded a 74 in his final round, lit up by four impressive birdies. This was enough to claim 45th place on the final leaderboard with a total score of 226.
Sophomore Andres Pumariega carded a final-round 75, while freshmen Alex Street and Matt Kocolowski recorded a 79 and 80, respectively.
Head coach Andrew Tredway will be looking for a big improvement in the coming weeks. He said “Our guys have to be more eager and play with more intensity. We have such a hard schedule that we need to be more eager to play well at home and then take that intensity on the road. College golf is all about getting the basics right and we just didn’t do that for long enough periods.”
The Bears will have to try to turn things around pretty sharply as they are back in action at the Rees Jones Collegiate tournament in Dafuskie Island, South Carolina on October 5-6.
Sports Reporter / Columnist
The Mercer men's cross country team finished an impressive second at the RunFit Sports Invitational.
The women’s team placed 11th overall, with freshman Kacie Newmann clinching an impressive third out of a group of over 200 runners.
This was the eighth edition of the Mercer-hosted event which has grown from humble beginnings into one of the premier cross country events in the state. It was originally held at Vinson Valley in Houston County featuring only three universities. It quickly outgrew that venue and was moved to the Georgia Industrial Children’s Home, where it has remained since 2005.
The Mercer men posted an average time of 27:39.65, the third-best mark in school history. Freshman Chris Svidesskis and Jacob Law each placed in the top 10 of the 8K race.
Bears head coach Ryan Bailey was thrilled with the results. Speaking on MercerBears.com he enthused: "With the youth of our men's team, to run one of the fastest times in school history, I'm very happy. Kacie ran great against a very difficult field for the women."
On the men's side, Kennesaw State took first place among Division I opponents with Mercer coming in second. Columbus State took top honors among Division II men's schools.
Kennesaw State also won the women's 5K run with Florida Southern and the University of West Georgia rounding out the top three.
Both teams are back in action at the Greater Louisville Sports Commission Invitational hosted by the University of Louisville on October 3.
Mercer Men - Top Five:
Chris Svidesskis 7th 27:03.03
Jacob Law 9th 27:20.09
Roland Adams 12th 27:37.84
Marc Kushinka 16th 27:45.78
Trey Ellis 28th 28:31.47
Mercer Women - Top Five:
Kacie Niemann 3rd 19:03
Clara Densmore 23rd 20:35
Kasie Knapper 70th 22:19
Christina Kivi 72nd 24:22