Although the attention of most fans has been focused on the start of football, there are other area college sports that deserve to receive some notice.
Among the candidates is the women’s soccer team at the University of South Alabama. The Lady Jags are the defending Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion, and enter this campaign as the preseason favorite to win the title again.
Two players were named to the preseason all-star team. Junior defender Nini Rabsatt-Smith of Montgomery and sophomore midfielder Monique Autmon of Ocean Springs are leading the way for USA.
The Lady Jags lost their opener 2-1 when UAB scored a goal with 2.9 seconds left in the second overtime. They bounced back with a 3-0 win over Nicholls State and a 5-0 victory over Tennessee Tech. Their next home match is Friday, Sept. 5, against Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m.
“I see that we’ve got talent, but we’ve got to learn to play as a team and not individuals,” said head coach Graham Winkworth. “But that’s going to take time and work.”
The University of Mobile soccer teams have also started play. The women have gotten off to a 2-1-1 start, including a scoreless tie with fourth-ranked Northwood. The Lady Rams will host Georgia Gwinnett on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Cumberland on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The UM men opened by beating Columbia 1-0 and finishing in a scoreless tie with Houston-Victoria. The Rams return home Saturday, Sept. 13, to face Louisiana College at 4 p.m.
Spring Hill College has yet to take the field. The first action is Friday against Saint Leo University, with the men playing at 3:30 p.m. and the women to conclude the double-header at 6 p.m.
Spikes and digs
Several women’s volleyball teams are projected to have success.
UM’s squad was the co-favorite to win the Southern State Athletic Conference title. The Lady Rams tied with Coastal Georgia in the preseason poll.
Top returnees include first-team All-SSAC members Bailey Nations and Sara Van Wert, along with second-teamer Katy McCollister.
“I think it’s great we’re getting recognized for last year’s accomplishments,” said head coach Jon Campbell, “but we have to put in the work this year to meet our goals for this season.”
The Lady Rams have exploded out of the gates by winning their initial six matches. Their next home games are Friday night at 7:30 against Martin Methodist and Saturday afternoon at 3 versus Bethel.
South Alabama is coming off its best record in nearly 20 years. They return six starters, led by sophomores Mechell Daniel and Jessica Lewis. Daniel has been named to the Sun Belt Conference’s preseason all-star team.
The Lady Jags, though, have gotten off to a rough start. They lost their first three matches at the Asics Classic in California. Their first home match will be Sept. 21 at noon against Georgia State.
Spring Hill College has been selected to finish second behind Kentucky State in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s West Division. Because the Lady Badgers are in the process of moving to NCAA Division II, they cannot compete in the SIAC post-season tourney but can win the regular season title.
The Lady Badgers open their season Thursday, Sept. 4, in Montgomery against Faulkner University. Their first home game will be Sept. 30 against the same Faulkner squad.
Are you ready for some football?
Like most red-blooded Southern men, I was glued to the television last weekend to watch college football. I was there from the shocking Texas A&M pounding of South Carolina, to the tighter-than-expected wins by Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
South Alabama takes the field for the first time next Saturday at Kent State, which played in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl. The Golden Flashes dropped their Aug. 30 opener to archrival Ohio University 17-14, on a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
Two Jaguars have been named to the Senior Bowl Watch List. Quarterback Brandon Bridge and tight end Wes Saxton are among the more than 350 players who are considered prospects for the game, which is set for Saturday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. The final roster will include 110 players.
For the latest on USA, the Joey Jones Show will be broadcast on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. on WJTC-TV (Channel 44). A radio show with the coach will follow on Mondays at 6 p.m. on WNTM (710 AM). All Jaguar football games can be heard on WMXC (99.9 FM) and WBMH (106.1 FM).
Going for another pennant
The Mobile BayBears are in the hunt for a third Southern League championship in the last four years. The playoffs begin Thursday, Sept. 4, but the exact schedule was not set by deadline. Visit www.mobilebaybears.com for more information.
Andy Green has been recognized for his efforts, and has been named the Southern League Manager of the Year. This is the second straight season that he has received this honor.
Former BayBear third baseman Jake Lamb has been named the Southern League’s Most Valuable Player. A three-time Player of the Week selection, Lamb was leading the league in batting average (.318) before being promoted to AAA Reno on Aug. 1. After just five games, he was called up to join the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Outfielder Tom Belza and Lamb were named to the Southern League Postseason All-Star team. Belza is currently hitting .311 with 31 RBIs. Other BayBears who gained midseason honors were pitchers Jake Barrett and Blake Cooper, first baseman Jon Griffin and infielder Sean Jamieson.