The Alabama Gulf Coast is a magnet for great volleyball players. Several local colleges are fielding teams with hopes for postseason honors.
** Spring Hill College (SHC) was finally eligible to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II last season. The Badgers responded by going 32-4 overall and got a perfect 17-0 mark in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) regular season. SHC then proceeded to win the conference tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA regionals.
“We are very blessed to have eight returning seniors to lead our team this year with six returning starters from last year’s conference champion,” Peggy Martin, the Hall of Fame coach who is entering her 11th season with the Badgers, told Lagniappe.
Kassandra Fairly was named Freshman of the Year and Most Valuable Player of the SIAC last season as well as earning an all-region selection. Senior Cassidi Sterrett was the league’s Libero of the Year and senior Emmarose Neibert was named Setter of the Year. Bentley Odom, a junior who played at Murphy High, led the team in blocks.
“We should have a very balanced attack and our biggest strength will be a ton of experience with eight seniors and two juniors returning,” Martin said. “We also have 10 newcomers to The Hill, including junior college transfer middle blocker Meagin Farmer (Coastal-Brewton and Saraland High), as well as nine incoming freshmen including defensive specialist Taylor Fontenelle (Spanish Fort) and Mary Coye Ward (McGill-Toolen Catholic).”
** The University of South Alabama (USA) volleyball team returns nine varsity letter-winners from last year’s squad, which finished third in the Sun Belt Conference’s (SBC) East Division. The Jaguars welcome four newcomers to the roster in addition to a new coaching staff that features head coach Alexis Meeks-Rydell.
“I am definitely pleased at what I saw from an energy and focus standpoint,” Meeks-Rydell said of their first practice. “We had a little hiccup just due to lack of detail, but not because of lack of effort and attitude, and that’s what we talk about all the time. It’s OK to fail as long as you are doing what we ask you to do. If the energy, effort and attitude are there, I’m OK with everything else.”
Back for their senior season are Ashlyn Roberts, Iva Durdanovic, Kelley Hartman and Lauren Hartman. Kelley Hartman earned second-team all-SBC honors in 2018, and was a 2019 preseason all-conference pick.
Last year, Kelley Hartman tied for fifth in the league in service aces per set (0.31), and 10th in hitting percentage (0.296). Roberts tied for fourth in the SBC in service aces per set (0.33) in league games last season, and finished eighth in the conference in service aces per set (0.29).
The Sun Belt coaches’ preseason poll has USA picked to finish fourth in the East Division behind Coastal Carolina, which received seven first-place votes. Texas State was picked to win the West Division with all 12 first-place votes.
** The University of Mobile has been picked to finish fifth in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) coaches’ preseason poll. Defending league champion Faulkner was first with 97 points and eight first-place votes. Mobile had 65 points.
In 2018, the Rams finished 23-13 overall and 10-6 in the SSAC (tied for fourth). According to the school’s website, senior middle blocker Samantha Nichols is back after earning first-team all-conference honors. On the second-team unit was senior libero Avery Wasdin. Middle blocker Rachel Hart was on the all-freshman squad.
Other local products on the roster include freshman outside hitter Maura Miles of Daphne High, junior middle blocker Carley Hamric of Spanish Fort High, freshman outside hitter Danielle Pote of Baldwin County High and sophomore right side hitter/setter Ashley Conrad of Spanish Fort.
Jon Campbell is back for his 15th season after having started the program. He has been the conference coach of the year six times. His career record is 503-223.
1st & 10 Club speakers set
The 1st & 10 Club is ready to host a lineup of speakers for its 21st season with C Spire as the title sponsor. ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie will kick off the series of meetings at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19, at the Mobile Marriott.
The rest of the schedule is as follows: Monday, Sept. 9, Steve Campbell, University of South Alabama head coach; Monday, Oct. 28, a University of Alabama coordinator (TBD); Monday, Nov. 4, Chris “The Bear” Fallica, ESPN’s College Gameday; and Thursday, Dec. 12, Mobile Alabama Bowl (the former Dollar General Bowl) coaches, athletic directors and key players.
“Fans around here are passionate about football and we’re excited to be involved and support an organization that is delivering quality sports and entertainment programming in this region,” said Jim Richmond, vice president of marketing for the Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company.
The C Spire 1st & 10 Club will also honor high school scholar students and student-athletes at each meeting. Students are selected from high schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties for their outstanding performances on the field, in the classroom and in the community. They are eligible for one of several scholarships offered by the Mobile Alabama Bowl.
For more information, visit MobileAlabamaBowl.com or call 251-635-0011.
Lions Club hosts charity run
The University of South Alabama Lions Club will host the Miles for Medicine 5K and Fun Run on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Langan Municipal Park. The certified 5K-course (AL10001JD) will take runners/walkers around and through the park. It starts at 7:30 a.m. while the fun run will follow one hour later.
Proceeds from the Miles for Medicine event will benefit the sight and vision programs of the USA Lions Club. Participants can also donate outdated prescription glasses, reading glasses and sunglasses to the race and the Lions will recycle them. Loose or individual lenses are also recyclable.
Walk-in registration (at McCoy Outdoor, Run-N-Tri and Fleet Feet in Mobile, or Running Wild in Fairhope) will be available until noon on Aug. 22 or online until 4 a.m. on Aug. 23. Race day registration and packet pickup will take place at the Performing Arts Pavilion from 6:30 to 7:15 a.m.
For more information, visit bit.ly/Miles4Meds2019.
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