South Alabama honored student-athletes Monday at the sixth annual Pete Tolbert Night of Champions at the Mitchell Center. The event recognizes the achievements, both in competition and academically, of the nearly 400 individuals who comprise the University of South Alabama athletics program.
Kaitlyn Griffith (Softball from Centre, AL) and Daniel Leitner (Men’s Tennis from Neiderfischbach, Germany) were named the Jaguar Female and Male Student-Athlete of the Year respectively, honoring the most outstanding Jaguars based on scholarship, athletic ability and citizenship.
Griffith, a senior shortstop for the softball team is hitting .296 with a team-high 11 home runs, with 38 RBI, 25 runs scored and helping the team to a 33-9 record thus far and a top-25 national ranking throughout the 2015 season. She is a three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar Athlete and is set to receiver her degree in May in exercise science. She has a 3.82 cumulative GPA.
Leitner, a senior, is the reigning two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in men’s tennis. He earned the award this spring after amassing a 28-5 overall record in singles play and a 22-6 record in doubles play. He was named to the first-team All-SBC in both singles and doubles, and as the highest-rated individual in the conference, will earn a berth to the NCAA Singles Championships in May. He will graduate with a 3.89 GPA in exercise science in May.
A pair of Griffith’s teammates on the Softball team also earned awards.
Farish Beard was chosen at the school’s NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee with Blair Johnson earning the Jimmy Taylor Scholarship.
Beard, who currently has a 3.39 GPA, was selected as the nominee for that goes to a varsity letterwinner completing her intercollegiate eligibility by the end of spring sports season, who has excelled in academics, athletics, service and leadership with a minimum of a cumulative 2.5 GPA. She is also a finalist for both the Senior CLASS and 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year awards. This season she is 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 71 innings.
Johnson earned the award going to a student-athlete who holds a minimum of a 2.5 GPA, has completed their NCAA eligibility and with the assistance of the fund will graduate from USA within two consecutive semesters. She has earned All-SBC honors twice during her career and this year she is batting .254 with 12 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, and 14 walks to only eight strikeouts.
Sophie Haywood from Hull, England, earned the Auralia Crowell Freshman Scholar Athlete Awards given to the most outstanding freshman based on excellence in academics and athletics. She was named First-Team All-Conference after posting 19 points on seven goals and five assists in helping the Jaguar soccer team tow in the conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament. She has a 4.0 GPA as an exercise science major.
Adam Ballew of the baseball team was awarded the Denny-Gottfried Scholarship Award that is presented to the student-athlete who has exhausted their eligibilty, maintained an outstanding GPA and achieved athletic accomplishment. In his final season at USA, he has helped the Jaguar baseball team to a 29-16 record thus far while batting .275 with five extra-base hits, 26 RBI and eight stolen bases. He is an exercise science major with a 3.38 GPA.
Derek Westbrook from Diamondhead, MS, received a pair of awards. He arned the Shirley Holt Scholarship Award as well as the Male Jaguar Athletic Fund Award. The former is given to a student-athlete who exemplifies outstanding “Team Spirit” and who has shown great character and concern for his or her fellow student-athletes. The latter recognizes overall support of Jaguar Athletics. Both awards exemplifies Derek’s contributions to South Alabama Athletics and also marks the second-consecutive year that he has garnered the JAG Award honors.
Caroline Beebe earned the Female Jaguar Athletic Fund Award. Which marks the second consecutive year that both she has earned the JAF Award as well.
Hunter Colemani was awarded the Tom and Barbara Corcoran Scholar-Athlete Endowed Scholarship Award which is given to a USA Junior who most excels in sports while maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA. The right handed pitcher has a 4.0 GPA in biomedical sciences in the classroom while on the diamond he has a 1-0 record with a 0.59 ERA with 14 strikeouts and 15.1 innings of work.
Jimmie Gipson III was awarded the Wilson Durgin Memorial Scholarship Award which goes to a minority student-athlete who has excelled in both the classroom and competition. Nikki Gittens was awarded the Female Perseverance Award after she suffered a stress fracture in her tibia that forced her to redshirt in 2013, she then returned and ranked third on the volleyball team with 243 kills and led the team with a .250 attack percentage and 83 total blocks while helping the Jags qualify for the SBC tournament despite tendinitis in her knee and hitting shoulder.
Ucambre Williams earned the Male Perseverance Award after undergoing three separate surgical procedures and requiring over six months of rehabilitation. After surgery on his right knee in September he returned in just 15 days and would go on to start 11 consecutive games while posting a team-best 90 percent overall grade and being named to the second-team All-SBC and helped the Jaguars play in its first-ever postseason bowl game.
Brandon Bridge was awarded the Mayer Mitchell Quarterback Endowment Fund Award as the Jaguars starter last fall. Matt Bolger earned the Clifton Inge Endowed Baseball Award. David Knapp earned the Forrest W. and Beverly B. Crowder Endwoed Scholarship for baseball. Mark Watts earned the McKinney Family Endowed Scholarship Fund for Track and Field. Emily Newton earned the George Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund for Track and Field as well.
Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations Greg Keel was selected for the Matt Smith Award which goes to a member of the athletics staff who consistenly goes the extra mile, has the spirit of commitment, a strong work ethic, and a deep sense of pride in their job. The award is named in memory of former USA Sports Information Director Matt Smith who passed away in December of 2004.
Each sport program also presented awards at the event. The winners of those honors were:
- Eddie Stanky Award (baseball), Bolger
- Goldie Ungar Heart of Gold Award (men’s basketball), Dionte Ferguson
- Jaguar Women’s Basketball NCAA Award (women’s basketball), Breanna Hall
- Female Distance Award (women’s cross country), Nicole Durham
- Male Distance Award (men’s cross country), Christoph Graf
- Jim Yance Heart of a Jaguar Award (football), Jesse Kelley
- Heath Slocum Award (men’s golf), Tyler Klava
- Beth Barry Award (women’s golf), Ingrid Hagen
- Lindsay Rogers Award (soccer), Alyssa Mayer
- Extra Mile Award (softball), Stephanie Pilkington
- Lubel Family Award (men’s tennis), Leitner
- Marilyn Lubel Award (women’s tennis), Laura Matuskova
- Most Outstanding Women’s Track & Field Student-Athlete Award (women’s track and field), Kaitlyn Beans
- Most Outstanding Men’s Track & Field Student-Athlete Award (men’s track and field), Jan-Louw Kotze
- Jaguar Volleyball Award (volleyball), Gittens
Prior to the naming of the Jaguar Student-Athletes of the Year, 46 current and former student-athletes who will graduate at the conclusion of the semester received gifts from the department.
Congratulations to all the award winners as well as all of the student-athletes who will earn their degrees. Thank you for representing the University in each of your respective sports with honor and character. Once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar.
South Alabama women’s tennis head coach Jaco Keyser was voted the league’s coach of the year on Monday after leading the Jaguars to their first Conference title since 2003.
Keyser led the team to a 21-2 record, currently the best winning percentage in school history, after starting the season with an 18-match win streak to begin the season, which is also a school-record tying number.
USA shut out 10 opponents this season including five in a row near the end of the regular season. They also went 6-0 against SBC competition. They also defeated #47 Tulane 4-0 for the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2009.
Keyser’s 189-100 record in 13 seasons makes him the all-time winningest coach in school history.
Here is the weekend roundup of South Alabama Sports, despite the weather wreaking havoc with several sports in the Gulf Coast Area.
Junior Michaela Meszarosova was able to pull out a marathon three-set match to give her team a 4-3 win over Texas-Arlington and its first Sun Belt Conference title since 2003. It is their 17th title overall, the most in conference history, and will receive the SBC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 21-2 overall record.
The Men’s team did not fare as well as the women. After making their way into the SBC Finals and facing top-seed Troy, the Jags fell 4-1 to the Trojans.
The Jags fall to 16-9 on the season as they are ranked 69th in the nation. Troy improves their record to 25-6 as they are ranked 60th in the nation.
USA started off strong as Daniel Leitner and Gerhard Gruindelingh took the first doubles match 8-5, but that would be the only match the team won as Troy would win the next four.
The #22 ranked Jaguar softball team was supposed to host Texas State for their final conference home series of the regular season, however the rescheduled doubleheader for Sunday was cancelled due to field conditions which were made unplayable by heavy rains in the area throughout the week.
No make up date will be scheduled.
The Jaguars will travel to Hattiesburg, MS on Wednesday to face Southern Miss. They defeated the Eagles 9-1 in six innings in Mobile on March 18.
The opening day of the Sun Belt Conference Championships were called off on Sunday due to course conditions at the Sandestin Golf Resort Raven Course.
Weather permitting, the tournament will begin monday morning at 7:30am and will consist of 36 holes. The final round would still be played on Tuesday.
The Jags traveled to Evansville, Indiana to face the Evansville University over the weekend.
In game one on Friday, it was Ben Gann’s grand slam in the third inning that led the Jaguars to a 7-3 win.
EU took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a two-out two-run home run.
The Jags answered with four runs in the top of the third on the Grand Slam. But Evansville would cut the lead to one run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-out RBI single to center field.
In the top of the fifth, USA answered with a run to regain their two run lead. They would add two more insurance runs before the end of the game.
Kevin Hill (6-0) allowed three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts against three walks for his sixth consecutive win.
Evansville then swept a Saturday doubleheader to take the series from the Jags. They won the first game 6-5 then took the series with a 9-5 win in the finale.
USA will host Jacksonville State to a two-game series this week with the first game on Tuesday night starting at 6pm and the second game on Wednesday slated to start at 3pm.
South Alabama teams will be competing in several sports this weekend, some trying to win Conference titles while others are trying to position themselves to make a run at their Conference tournaments. Below is a rundown of the weekend events.
The #22 Softball team will host their final Sun Belt Conference series at home this weekend when Texas State comes to town.
The Jags roll into the weekend after going to Starkville to defeat Mississippi State 3-2 on Tuesday night and having won their last 11 games.
The Jags (32-7, 14-3 SBC) currently sits in second place in the conference behind Louisiana-Lafayette (32-5, 15-3 SBC). Texas State is in third place in the conference behind the Jaguars with a 25-19 record overall and an 8-6 record in conference play and enter the weekend with a three-game win streak.
The Jags and Bobcats are scheduled to begin with a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1pm at Jaguar Field and the Sunday finale is scheduled for 1pm at Jaguar Field as well.
The Jaguar baseball team steps out of conference play this weekend to face Evansville in a three game series in Evansville, Indiana.
USA (24-13) will start right-hander Kevin Hill (5-0) for his seventh start of the year in the season opener. He has won his last five starts. Austin Bembnowski (2-3) will start his sixth game of the season on Saturday. Southpaw Jared Gates (3-1) will start the series finale set for Sunday.
Evansville (18-15) defeated Indiana 2-1 in 14 innings on Wednesday.
Men’s and Women’s Tennis
Both the men and women will be competing for Sun Belt Conference Titles this weekend. The Women’s squad is the #1 seed and will began action at 8am on Friday morning. The Men’s team is the #3 seed and will begin play on Friday afternoon against Appalachian State.
Men’s and Women’s Track and Field
The Track and Field team will return to action at the War Eagle Invitational. This will be their second trip to Auburn this spring. A total of 12 teams will be competing including Auburn, Mississippi State, Troy and Kent State.
Senior Daniel Leitner was named the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Year for the second-consecutive year and also named to the All-Conference team. Juniors Tim Srkala and Gerhard Gruindelingh and Sophomore Tuki Jacobs were all named to the All-Conference team as well.
Leitner and Srkala were voted to the first-team in singles, Jacobs was voted to the second-team in singles. Leitner and Gruindelingh were anmed to the first-team in doubles.
The Jags, ranked #69, enters the weekend with a three-match winning streak and a 14-8 mark in their spring contests. They finished out the regular season last week and will begin play in the Sun Belt Conference Championships this weekend.
The #3 seeded Jaguars will open against Appalachian State on Friday at 3PM for the first meeting between the two schools.
In Women’s Tennis, senior Emily Newton and sophomore Laura Valkova were named to the All-Sun Belt Conference Women’s Tennis teams in both singles and doubles play. Sophomore Monica Mitta was also named to the All-Conference team. The trio of Jaguars led South Alabama to an 18-2 regular-season record and the #1 seed in the Sun Belt Championships.
Newton was named to the doubles first team with Valkova and the singles second team and earning all-conference honors for the third consecutive season to become the first Jag to accomplish that since Michaela Babicova in 2009.
Valkova earns all-conference honors in singles and doubles for the second-consecutive season, earning a spot on the first-team in both singles and doubles.
The team of Newton and Valkova have yet to suffer a defeat in 11 matches at #1 doubles this season and have won their last 12 matches together dating back to the fall.
The USA Women’s team will face Texas State on Friday at 8AM in the first round of the SBC Championships.
After capturing the opening game, the Jags fell in the next two games as Western Kentucky won the series two games to one.
In game one the Jags overcame a three-run deficit over the final three innings to earn a 13-10 win over the Hilltoppers.
The Jags opened up with one run in the top of the first inning. WKU answered in the bottom of the first inning with two runs to take the lead. USA would regain the lead two two runs in the fourth inning.
WKU would retake the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to go ahead 5-3. WKU would add another run in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 6-3 lead.
Then the Jags would shave a run off of the Hilltopper lead with a run in the top of the seventh inning. Three more runs in the top of the eighth would put the Jags ahead 7-6 going into the final frame.
The top of the ninth saw the Jags explode for six runs to go up 13-6, but Western Kentucky would not give up as they plated four runs in the bottom of the ninth before the Jags finally ended the game.
In game two WKU would even the series after they scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 7-2 win over the Jaguars.
Righty Kevin Hill would throw 6 1/3 innings and only allowed four hits before WKU finally put their first run on the board.
The Jags fell in the final game on Sunday 6-3 as WKU clinched the series with a 6-3 win over USA. With the game tied at 2-2, WKU would break the tie in the bottom of the sixth with a pair of runs.
The Jags fell to 17-22 overall and 7-10 in Conference play. They will return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Auburn for a midweek game.
The 19th ranked Jaguars run-ruled Georgia State 8-0 in five innings in the first game on Friday. Freshman Amanda Minahan went 2-for-3 with three RBI, a walk and a run scored. That was her fourth game of the season where she recorded three-RBI in a game. Junior catcher Alex Breeden also went 2-for-3 with one RBI.
In game two, the opening game of a double-header on Saturday, the Jags fell to the Panthers 2-1. USA was outhit 5-4 in the game. But the bizarre thing about the game was starter Farish Beard being called for eight, yes eight, illegal pitches in the first inning by the first base umpire. That led to the Panthers only two runs of the game as each illegal pitch advanced the runners a base. Hannah Campbell came in for relief and shut down the Panthers but the damage was already done as the Jags could only muster one run the rest of the game.
In game three, the Jags and Panthers were scoreless through the first five innings before both teams scored a run in the sixth inning to keep the tie game going into extra innings. But in the bottom of the ninth inning Minahan walked and Emily Messer singled to set up Stephanie Pilkington to hit a two-out single to the left center gap to score Minahan to end the game with a 2-1 win.
They will travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU on Wednesday for their final non-conference game of the season.
The Jaguar Men’s Golf Team will play in the Sun Belt Conference Championships beginning on Monday in Saucier, Mississippi. They have a pair of top-5 finishes as they head into the championships and have shot par or better four times in the last three events.
The will get underway at Grand Bear Golf Course Monday as Michael Garretson has recorded five rounds of par or lower in his last three outings including a 6-under 66 to open the LInger Longer Invitational on March 22. He enters with a 72.45 stroke average to lead the Jaguar team. Fellow junior Tyler Klava enters with a stroke average of 72.83, which is fourth in the conference.
The 2nd seeded Jaguar men’s tennis team fell to top-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette in the finals of the Sun Belt Championships on Sunday. The Jags defeated 3rd seeded Georgia State 4-0 on Saturday to advance to the finals.
The lady Jags fell in the Sun Belt Conference finals to top-seeded Georgia State 4-1 as their run for the Conference crown ended. The Panthers will claim the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as the Jags season likely ends with a 16-3 mark.
At the SBC Awards Banquet held in New Orleans on Thursday, South Alabama Junior Daniel Leitner was named the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Year and was named to the All-Conference team.
Freshman Tuki Jacobs, senior Sayann Vaezzadeh, junior Manuel Belda and sophomore Gerhard Gruindelingh were also named to the All-Conference team.
Leitner and Jacobs were named to the first team in singles, Vaezzadeh was named to the second team in singles, Belda and Gruindelingh were named to the second team in doubles. This is the most All-Conference honorees by the program since five were named in 2001.
The USA Women’s Tennis team had four named to the All-Conference team. Freshman Laura Valkova was named to the First Team All-Sun Belt Conference team with freshman Monica Mitta was named to the second team for doubles and for singles. Junior Emily Newton and sophomore Michaela Meszorosova were named to the doubles second team.
Recruiting has been heating up but with a dead-period between now and January 3. During the dead period coaches can call recruits, but they cannot meet with players on university campus nor anywhere else.
Coach Jones will be looking at replacements for former wide receivers coach Jerry Mack, who accepted the head coaching position with North Carolina Central University last week.
The South Alabama men’s basketball team traveled to North Little Rock, Arkansas to face the University of Arkansas on Saturday night. The Jags were down by 12 and cut their deficit to three midway through the second half, but Arkansas went on a 6-0 run to reclaim control and win 72-60.
The loss drops the Jags back to .500 on the season at 6-6 while the Razorbacks improve to 12-2 on the season.
Senior Antoine Allen scored a game high 21 points for the Jaguars as he converted three 3-pointers and 13 of them coming in the second half.
Junior Mychal Ammons added 14 points and six rebounds while Senior Augustine Rubit was held to a season low eight points but his 10 rebounds allowed him to surpass the 1,000 career rebound mark and is only two shy of a new Sun Belt Conference career record.
The Razorbacks had four score in double-digits. Bobby Portis scored 15, with 12 of them coming in the first half. Rashad Madden added 12 with eight of them coming in the second half. Michael Aualls and Alandise Harris added 11 and 10 points respectively.
The Jags are 0-5 on the road or in neutral site games while they are 6-1 at home. A season high 20 turnovers complicated the game for the Jaguars.
After a break for Christmas the Jags will travel to Las Cruces, New Mexico to face New Mexico State on Saturday, December 28 at 8pm CST.
The Lady Jags traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to face the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest on Friday evening.
The Jags fell 92-66 as a pair of Demon Deacons combined to score 51 points. Derica Hamby led the way with 31 points and 11 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season and both were game-highs. She was 12-of-20 from the floor while added four assists and four steals.
Chelsea Douglas added 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting with five assists and four steals.
As a team, Wake Forest forced 25 Jaguar turnovers and had 15 steals. They dominated the paint with a 50-18 scoring advantage as well as points off turnovers with a 31-14 advantage. They also dominated the glass with a rebounding advantage of 51-28 with 24 of them being offensive rebounds.
Meghan Dunn led USA with 17 points, all in the second half, as she went 6-of-11 from the floor and went 5-of-8 from three-point range. Ronneka Robertson added 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Jennifer Johnson was just short of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds with a career high four blocked shots.
The Lady Jags, who are now 2-8 on the season, will break for Christmas and will return to action on January 1 when they begin their Sun Belt Schedule by hosting Western Kentucky at the Mitchell Center.
The South Alabama men’s tennis team released their 2014 spring schedule. It features a six-match home stand and two tournaments. They begin their season with Florida A&M and Florida State in Tallahassee. They could also face two ranked teams in the final three home matches of the season.
The conference tournament will be in New Orleans on April 18-20. Their full schedule can be found here.
South Alabama placed four student-athletes on All-Sun Belt teams on Wednesday.
Sophomore Daniel Leitner and senior Alex Bernard were named to the 2013 All-Sun Belt Conference Men’s Tennis Team. Leitner was voted to the first team in singles while Bernard was voted on the second team in singles, giving him his second consecutive All-Sun Belt honor in the last two seasons. He earned doubles honors in 2012.
The #2 seeded South Alabama Jaguars will open play in the Sun Belt Championships on Thursday against Western Kentucky.
Sophomore Emily Newton and freshman Michaela Meszarosova were named to the All-Sun Belt Conference team for women’s tennis.
Newton was named to the second team in singles while Meszarosova was to the doubles second team. These honors were the first for the program since 2009.
The Lady Jaguars earned a #4 seed in the Sun Belt Championships and will play the winner between #12 Western Kentucky and #5 Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday morning.
The Jaguar baseball team will travel to Arkansas State for a weekend series while the Lady Jaguar Softball team will host North Texas. But that is not all going on this weekend in South Alabama sports.
The Men’s Tennis team will wrap up their regular season this weekend in Memphis, Tennessee as they face UAB and #46 Memphis. They enter this weekends matches with a 10-11 record overall after facing seven ranked opponents this season with wins over #30 BYU, #56 St. John’s and #60 Georgia State.
The women’s Tennis team will also wrap up their regular season this weekend at home against UAB. The matches will begin at 11am at the South Alabama Tennis courts.
Also the South Alabama men’s and women’s track and field teams will hold their final home meet of the season on Friday and Saturday. They will welcome Alabama State, Loyola, North Alabama, Spring Hill, Tulane, West Alabama and West Florida to Jaguar Track for the South Alabama Invitational.
It will begin at 4:30pm on Friday and will start at 10am on Saturday morning with men’s javelin throw.