Tuesday, August 31, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
It’s a changing of the guard as the 2010 fall season starts for Gary Guyer’s women’s squad. With only nine players on the roster rather than the 12+ during the past two seasons, competition for the top five spots should be a little easier than in years past. Not that there’s a drop off in talent, but solely because there’s less competition on the team.
“Going into my fourth season, this is the best team we have had from top to bottom,” said Guyer. “Each incoming class is bringing better talent onto our team. The upperclassmen continue to work hard and improve so we finally have a dynamic that makes the entire team better,” he added.
Known for their fierce competitiveness, whatever five qualify for the tournaments will certainly bring their ‘A’ game. Led by the lone senior on the team, Kayli Wicker, Guyer’s younger squad returns several regulars in the top lineup. Junior Alicia Poole struggled last season with aspects of her game, but will look to rekindle the magic she found on the links during her freshman year with the Bears. Sophomores Kimmy Graff, Kaitlin Marrin, and Aurelie Wiriath compiled valuable tournament experience in the fall and spring seasons with all four returning from the A-Sun Women’s Golf Championship last April.
Shooting 305 four consecutive days, the squad peaked at the right time last spring, playing their best tournament golf of the 2009-10 season. Graduate Monica Kelsey finished her golf career in a tie for 8th place in the A-Sun while Graff, Poole, Wiriath, and Marrin found their respective grooves during the three day tournament.
“Last year we took a young team to the conference championship and we scored well,” Guyer added. “This team is going to be even younger. We just finished qualifying for our first tournament which is in Alabama at a Robert Trent Jones Resort. Three sophomores (Aurelie Wiriath, Kaitlin Marrin, Kimmy Graff) along with our two incoming freshmen (Lacey Fears and Mary Alice Murphy) will travel to the this event. They played very well in the three qualifying rounds.”
The Belle Bears also welcome back returning players Keri Lynn Carson and Jessica Arthur while freshmen Lacey Fears and Mary Alice Murphy join the roster. Fears and Murphy, two highly touted recruits, could push the returning letter winners for their traveling spots if they adjust quickly to the collegiate game.
Once again, Coach Guyer will take his team to familiar tournament during the fall and spring seasons along with a few new tournament destinations. The fall schedule includes trips to the Chris Bannister Golf Classic (Jacksonville, FL), the Eat a Peach Collegiate (hosted at Oakview Golf Course here in Macon), the Sea Trail Intercollegiate (Sunset Beach, NC), the LPGA Invitational (Daytona Beach, FL), and the Lady Paladin Invitational (Greenville, SC). The spring session will include a repeat trip to Jacksonville, Kiawah Island (SC), the Barefoot at the Beach tournament in Myrtle Beach (SC), and the Cincinnati Spring Invitational (Crystal River, FL) before the A-Sun Championship in mid April.
“We have a challenging schedule this year with eight 3-day events. I believe we have a chance to finish near the top in some of them,” the coach added in regards to the schedule. “The players need to believe in themselves because I have seen how well they can play. They can win. Several of them can compete with any collegiate player in the country.”
J. Andrew Lockwood
This fall, men’s golf coach Andrew Tredway will have a vastly different roster than in years past. Only four players from the 2009 season return, sophomores Thomas Holmes, John Gregory Joseph, Alex Street and Matt Kocolowski. On the eight player roster, the two oldest players on the roster, juniors Josh Cone and Stefan Labuschagne are transfers. Mookie DeMoss and Michael Hirthler join the team as the lone freshman.
While golf fans will get used to the new faces, Tredway will hope that his team of fresh faces can produce. Aided by ex-player Ryan Blackburn, the head coach will take his best five to another season of challenging tournaments spanning across seven states.
Speaking of expectations, Tredway commented, “I can’t really say what I expect from the team this year. I know we are really focused on the process of putting together good rounds and preparing as best we can for each event. I know on paper we are much better than last year, but we still have to tee it up."
Tredway went on to add, "Adding Stefan LaBuschagne and Josh Cone as juniors will be a big help. They are great competitors and are eager to get some experience at this level. Mookie DeMoss is looking really good as a true freshman and has really improved a lot in the past year."
With experience coming at a premium, Matt Kocolowski should be a mainstay in the lineup, playing in 10 tournaments last season and posting a personal best seventh place finish in the Rees Jones Intercollegiate tournanament. His 75.8 stroke average per 18 holes is the best returning average on the team and Tredway will look to the sophomore from Apopka, Florida to lead the Bears in the fall.
Thomas Holmes and Alex Street also have experience with a combined 11 tournaments worth of experience. Holmes, a Macon-native, made steady improvement last season and Alex Street played sparingly last season as he works to improve his game. Southern Mississippi transfer John Gregory Joseph played in four tournaments a year ago, but made strides in his game, finishing 2009 with a 76.1 stroke average.
Looking to build upon the team’s fifth place A-Sun tournament finish at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia, the team will make four appearances in the fall campaign at the Invitational at the Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, South Carolina), VCU Shootout at the Hermitage Country Club (Manakin-Sabot, Virginia), the hometown Brickyard Collegiate, and the Memphis Intercollegiate at the Colonial Country Club (Memphis, Tennessee). The spring includes farther road trips to Ponte Verda Beach (FL), Jacksonville (FL), Bandon (OR), Greensboro (GA), and Charlotte (NC), before ending at the Chateau Elan A-Sun Tournament in late April.
Coach Tredway hopes the challenging schedule correlates to results throughout the season, saying, "Our schedule this year is one of the best in the nation. We have a good mixture of events this year that should really test us. We need to make sure we get as many people out to the Brickyard Collegiate Oct 8-10 here in Macon. That's a key event for us and the more people that come support us, the better chance we will have at getting some big wins."
Sunday, August 29, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
Leadership? Check. Strong senior class? Check. High expectations? Check that box as well. 2010 could be a banner season for the Mercer volleyball team as they hope to cap the careers of three seniors who have helped turn around a once dismal team.
Libby Hansch, Krista Hurley, and Erica Vrvilo have been mainstays in the Mercer lineup for the past three years and now in their final season, will try to lead the Bears to unchartered waters, an Atlantic Sun Championship. Last season’s 11-18 record was a disappointment after the 18-11 campaign in 2008, but the trio of seniors have momentum, young talent, and a passionate coach on their side.
The momentum came late last season as it was all but certain that the Bears would miss the Atlantic Sun tournament after such a dominant year the season before. With a 6-17 record, the team played up to their potential during the final six matches of the season, winning five to come just within reach of making the postseason.
“The goals for this year are to build off of last season’s success. We had a really strong run at the end of the last season and I think we’re hungrier,” said seventh year head coach Noelle Rooke.
Joining the trio of seniors will be six other returning players including outside hitters Aimee Frutchey, Rachel Urbelis, rightside Anna Coursey and libero Charlotte Harris. The depth of the team dramatically increased during the offseason with six fresh faces joining the Bears this season. Among them, Carly Iannarino and Bridget Sheerin will vie for the setter position, the only hole left unfilled from last season’s lineup. Outside hitters Cassie Roy and Emily Rochefort should also see considerable playing time at the outside hitter position as will Lizzie Knapper at the rightside. Zoe Becton will also add depth at the middle blocker spot. Junior Charlayna Braxton should see more time in the middle blocker rotation and after sophomore Jamie Duffy’s breakout 2009 season, we’ll surely see her more on the floor this season.
“We have six new freshman and I think they really help out with our team’s depth,” commented Libby Hansch on her team’s roster.
The schedule is once again challenging, but not too imposing. Facing 9 teams out of the top 125 in last year’s RPI rankings, the Bears will have their work cut out for them early in the season with non-conference tilts that include opponents like Washington, Auburn, Georgia State, North Carolina State, and UNC-Asheville. Rooke’s squad will make appearances at three tournaments in the first two months of the season, taking trips to the The Invitational at Seattle, North Carolina State Tournament, and South Carolina State Tournament. Mercer will also host Presbyterian, Tennessee-Martin, and the Citadel in this year’s edition of the Bear Brawl.
“We’re going to have to work hard from the beginning and I’ll have to be smart with my decision making so that come October we’re rested and really playing well. Once conference rolls around, that’s what we’re aiming for and what it’s all about,” said Rooke.
Key conference matches in the University Center will feature Atlantic Sun opponents Jacksonville (Oct. 9th), ETSU (Nov. 6th), and Kennesaw State (Nov. 13th).
Saturday, August 28, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
You can get a feel for the expectations hovering over the Mercer men’s soccer program when you talk to anyone on the team. All three of my interviewees during the team’s media day echoed the same sentiment: “Our goal is to win the A-Sun and make it to the NCAA tournament.”
Brad Ruzzo’s squad returns nine starters on a team that made it to the conference title game a year ago. Notably, they did so with a losing record, 7-11-2, but were relegated to 5th place in the preseason Atlantic Sun Coaches’ Poll. Doubts around the league seem to still be abound, but none of that phases the third year head coach.
“We’re going to have to accomplish a lot on the road this year,” said Ruzzo. “With only 6 home games and 11 away games, we’re going to have to really play well in different environments to be competitive,” he added.
With 9 of the first 11 matches on the road, Mercer will certainly have to get results in matches were they’re favored as they play a plethora of squads this fall. Their toughest trip may come on October 6th when they take on a dominant UAB program in Birmingham.
“We’ve scheduled a lot of different teams this season. Some are really good teams, others comparable, and others we’ll expect a result from, but I think it’s a schedule that we can build some confidence upon,” remarked Ruzzo.
Mercer will certainly have the players to make another deep run in the Atlantic Sun tournament with senior midfielder Ian Cameron leading the way. Cameron’s 18 points and 7 goals last season earned him the respect of many around collegiate soccer as he was named the top player in the A-Sun according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Joining Cameron in the projected starting lineup will be Richie Edmondson (8 pt, 2 G), Will Betts (6 pt, 2 G), Ryan Young (6 pt, 2 G), Stefan Wingo (4 pt, 2 G), Bryson Jones, Philip Thoren, Joey Heavner, and goalie Brett Petricek. Petricek’s breakout freshman year, allowing only 1.29 goals per game earned him a place on the TopDrawerSoccer.com list as well as the #13 player in the A-Sun. Both Petricek and Cameron were Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team members.
Most likely joining the returning lettermen in the lineup will be Clemson transfer Josh Shutter. A tall and physical defender, Shutter will be expected to contribute quickly to the Bears lineup as he started 12 games last fall for Clemson. Visiting Mercer last spring, the high school teammate of Joey Heavner liked what he saw around the Quad and looks forward to playing this year with a new group of teammates.
“They’re a great group of guys. I liked what I saw when I came to visit and I think we have the potential to win the A-Sun and advance to the NCAAs,” said Shutter.
A strong freshman class that includes key signees Joshua Ball, Brady O’Brien, and Ryan King will join a nucleus of the team that gelled late last season.
“We really started having a lot of fun near the end of the season and it affected our play,” said Richie Edmondson. “Our schedule will be difficult this season, but I think we have extra motivation when we play teams within our conference,” he added.
For junior Phil Thoren, this season is the comeback year after an aggravating 2009 season filled with injury. After much rehab, the Swed looks to be in top shape and is easily identifiable as one of the team’s leaders along with Cameron.
“We’re hungry this year. Each practice we’ve been getting better and better and I think we feed off of Coach’s passion for the game,” Thoren said.
The Bears certainly have passion and talent. How the team plays on the road could indicate early the expectations of the squad, but like the lesson we learned last year, it’s not how you start out but it’s how you finish.