Some of the top women’s soccer teams in the United States have descended on the Alabama Gulf Coast. For the fifth year, the city of Orange Beach and the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission are welcoming the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championship.
Sixteen teams are competing at the Orange Beach Sportsplex hosted by the University of Mobile, whose fifth-ranked Lady Rams (15-3-2) claimed the Southern States Athletic Conference regular-season title and finished second in the league’s post-season tourney.
“For five years, the sports commission, along with the city of Orange Beach and the University of Mobile, have welcomed athletes, families and fans from all over the country to our beach destination for elite soccer action,” said Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the commission. “The NAIA embodies character and has made a tremendous economic and civic impact on our area. We encourage locals and vacationers to check out the action as more than 500 athletes compete for the national crown in this single-elimination tournament.”
Top-seeded Spring Arbor won the 2015 national title and the undefeated Michigan team is back to defend after defeating Rochester 5-0 in the opening round on Nov. 19. Fourth-seeded William Carey of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which beat UM in the SSAC tourney final, also advances after knocking off Robert Morris 2-0. For a complete lineup of participants in the single-elimination tourney, visit NAIA.org.
The semifinals are set for Friday, Dec. 2, at noon and 2:30 p.m. The championship game will start at 5 p.m. the following day. The sportsplex is located at 4385 William Silvers Parkway in Orange Beach, just off Canal Road.
Tickets will be available at the gate. All-tournament passes are $30 for adults; day passes are $10 for adults and free for children 10 and under accompanied by a paying adult.
Jaguars close out regular season at home
The University of South Alabama football program will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday, Dec. 3, with a game against New Mexico State. The contest will kick off at noon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The first-ever match between the two teams will be shown live on ESPN3. Because of the time change, the USA men’s basketball game with Middle Tennessee will be moved to 7:05 p.m. at the Mitchell Center.
For information about USA tickets, visit usajaguars.com or call 251-461-1USA (1872).
• Following the Jaguars’ victory over Presbyterian College, Brandon McKee became the first member of the football program to earn multiple Sun Belt Conference weekly awards. McKee was named the Special Teams Player of the Week, the same honor he earned on Oct. 31.
Against Presbyterian, the senior averaged 45.6 yards per punt with four of those efforts being downed inside the 20-yard line including two at the 1-yard line. McKee continues to lead the Sun Belt and ranks among the top 10 nationally with a 45.11 average this year. He is the only player in the league with more than half of his kicks (21 of 37) ending up inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.
● Before the University of Alabama at Birmingham shut down its football program, the Blazers were set to play two games against USA. Now that UAB is reviving its team, a home-and-home series is planned. The games are set for Birmingham on Sept. 21, 2019, and Mobile on Sept. 26, 2020. The Jaguars filled the original void with contests against San Diego State. USA picked up two wins, including this year’s match when the Aztecs were ranked 19th in the nation.
Auburn player invited to Senior Bowl
Two of the top pass catchers in the nation and a defensive back from Auburn highlight the latest group of players who have accepted invitations for the 68th annual Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Ole Miss’ Evan Engram, the nation’s primary receiver among tight ends, and Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook, who leads all Power 5 wide receivers in receiving and has scored 16 total touchdowns, are coming to Mobile in January. Rudy Ford led the Tigers in tackles the previous two years and is the squad’s second leading tackler in 2016.
The top 110 seniors and fourth-year junior graduates will form the rosters for the North and South squads. Practices start Jan. 23, with the game set for 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. ESPN2 and NFL Network will broadcast live from the practices and NFL Network will carry the game.
Other players accepting invitations are: Vince Biegel, Wisconsin linebacker; Dion Dawkins, Temple offensive tackle; Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State offensive guard; Dan Feeney, Indiana offensive guard; Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State kicker; Zay Jones, East Carolina wide receiver; Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova defensive end; Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte defensive tackle; Duke Riley, LSU linebacker; Ezra Robinson, Tennessee State cornerback; Tanzel Smart, Tulane defensive tackle; Freddie Stevenson, Florida State fullback; Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech wide receiver; and Jamaal Williams, Brigham Young running back.
• Newton Henry of UM received several honors at the Southern States Athletic Conference’s soccer awards banquet. The junior forward earned Offensive Player of the Year honors for a second straight time, after scoring 10 goals and adding four assists, and was awarded the Golden Boot. He was joined on the first-team unit by junior midfielder Casey Culver and sophomore defender Jordan Sinclair. On the second-team were midfielders Paul Ledsham and Matt McArthur plus defender Calum Kearney. Midfielders Lamine Conte and Mo Cande were on the All-Freshman squad.
• The men’s soccer team at Spring Hill College was named a recipient of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Team Academic Award. Under head coach Steve Wieczorek, the Badgers built a 3.22 overall GPA.
• Nicole Kotval of Spring Hill was named the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s Female Runner of the week. The freshman recorded a time of 18:43.7 in a 5K race hosted by Jacksonville State. She helped SHC finish in fifth place.