Pete Tolbert Night of Champions Honors Jaguar Student-Athletes

Photo of the Moulton Tower dedication Friday Oct. 8, 2010. | Photo credit Press-Register/Victor Calhoun

Photo credit Press-Register/Victor Calhoun

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.

Hassell Sets New Dig Record as Jags Fall To UT Arlington 3-1

November 10, 2014 · By · Filed Under News, Volleyball · Comment 
Senior Jenna Hassell earns her place in school history as she sets a new record for career digs. | Photo by John Adams,

Senior Jenna Hassell earns her place in school history as she sets a new record for career digs. | Photo by John Adams,

South Alabama senior libero Jenna Hassell earned her spot in Jaguar volleyball history Sunday as she passed for Jaguar Keturah Carter to become the school’s all-time career digs leader. Though the Jaguars lost the match 3-1 (25-21, 19-25, 18-25, 21-25).

Texas-Arlington improved to 22-7 overall and 12-5 in conference play.

Hassell’s story began as a walk on for the Jaguars but then a few years later she earned her 1,510th dig of her career to move into first place. She would end the match with 19 digs, her third time this season and 73rd time in her career that she recorded double-digit digs in a match.

Mechell Daniel led the Jags offensively with 12 kills while Nikki Gitten added 10 of her own. Freshman Setter Emma Anderson had her second-career double-double with 39 assists and a caree best 17 digs.

South Alabama (10-16, 5-11) will return home to face Appalachian State as the Jags look to snap their five-match losing streak. In the last nine matches the Jags have lost eight of them.

Jaguar Volleyball Ends Three-Match Skid

October 27, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe Jaguar volleyball team snapped their three-match losing streak on Friday in Monroe against the Warhawks 3-2 (25-20, 20-25, 25-17, 19-25, 15-13).

Mechell Daniel posted her team-leading eighth double-double of the season. But she wasn’t the only Jaguar in double-digits. Mallory Moore added 16 kills, Jessica Lewis had 15 kills, and Nikki Gittens had 11 kills.

Junior setter Emily Hundt posted her seventh double-double with 60 assists and 10 digs. While senior libero Jenna Hassell posted a season best 26 digs. Kelly Little added 14 digs off the bench for a season best for her as well.

The Jags had an 87-71 advantage over the Warhawks in digs as well as a 67-38 advantage in assists. The Jags had 73 kills to ULM’s 44.

Unfortunately on Sunday the Jags fell in straight sets to Arkansas State 3-0 (21-25, 22-25, 17-25) in the second of three-straight road matches for the Jaguars.

Sophomore Mechell Daniel led the team offensively and defensively with 14 kills and 15 digs, both team highs, for her ninth double-double of the season. Nikki Gittens had 10 kills while Symone Stephenson added six kills and hit .385 in the match. Jenna Hassell carded 14 digs.

South Alabama falls to 10-12 overall and 5-7 in conference play. Arkansas State improves to 13-8 overall and 8-4 in conference play.

The Jags will finish their three-match road trip on Friday, October 31 at Georgia Southern before returning home to host Texas State.

USA v Troy Tonight and Other Jaguar Action This Weekend

October 24, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, Softball, Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 
Shavarez Smith holds up the SISU War Hammer at midfield prior to their homecoming game against Georgia State.

Shavarez Smith holds up the SISU War Hammer at midfield prior to their homecoming game against Georgia State.


This evening the Jaguars will host Sun Belt and in-state rival Troy for a 6:30pm kickoff at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The Jags 4-2 (3-1 SBC) look to keep extend their three game winning streak with a win over the Trojans 1-6 (1-2 SBC).

Last week the Jaguars defeated Georgia State 30-27 on a late touchdown drive. Troy was completely dismantled at home by conference newcomer Appalachian State 53-14 which gave the Mountaineers their first FBS and Sun Belt Conference win.

South Alabama will be without senior running back Jay Jones as an MRI confirmed that he suffered a torn ACL against Georgia State. Being a senior, that will end his college career. Kendall Houston, Xavier Johnson, Terrance Timmons and T.J. Glover will move up to help fill his cleats in the backfield.

Another player that may miss the game on Saturday is cornerback Quadarius Ford. Ford, a 5’9″ 170-pound senior, suffered a concussion against Georgia State and at last word, has not been cleared by the medical staff for tonight’s game. Ford is tied for seventh in total tackles with Theo Rich and Jerome McClain.

If you go by the Sagarin rankings as published by Jeff Sagarin, the Jags are currently the fourth best team in the Sun Belt and the 107th best in his rankings of all 252 FBS and FCS teams. Arkansas State (57), Georgia Southern (102), and Louisiana-Lafayette (102) are ranked ahead of the Jaguars (107).

The rest of the conference is ranked: ULM (136), Texas State (145), Appalachian State (150), Idaho (176), Troy (189), Georgia State (191), New Mexico State (195).

Meanwhile USA’s non-conference opponents are ranked: AP and Coaches Poll #1 Mississippi State is 4th, South Carolina (33), Navy (93), and Kent State (173). It’s also worth noting some of the other teams in the state: Alabama (2), Auburn (3), Jacksonville State (78), UAB (106), Samford (151), Alabama State (206) and Alabama A&M (238).

South Alabama and Troy start at 6:30pm, Jaguar Prowl will be at 4:10pm. Pregame and live Play-by-Play can be heard on LiteMix 99.9FM locally and on iHeartRadio on your smart devices. It will also be televised on ESPNU nationally.


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Jag Volleyball Drop Match to SBC Leader UALR 3-1

October 20, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe Jaguar volleyball team dropped their third consecutive match on Sunday as they lost to conference leader Arkansas-Little Rock 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 13-25) in Jag Gym.

Mechell Daniel led the Jags with 14 kills and added nine digs. Deanna Canfield had 13 kills, one shy of tying her career high, off the bench. Jenna Hassell led the team with 16 digs.

UALR (17-4, 11-0 SBC) won its 12-consecutive match. During the streak they have only lost six sets.

All-conference duo Sonja Milanovic and Edina Begic led the Trojans offensively with 17 kills and hitting .417 with 15 digs and five blocks for the former and 14 kills for the later.

The Trojans entered the match leading the Sun Belt and ranking 13th in the nation in blocks, which was key in their victory over the Jaguars.

South Alabama (9-11 overall, 4-6 SBC) will open a three-match road trip on Friday when they travel to Louisiana-Monroe with first serve scheduled for 6pm.

Jag Volleyball Falls to Georgia Southern 3-1

October 13, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballSouth Alabama volleyball fell to Georgia Southern 3-1 (25-15, 19-25, 23-25, 23-25) Saturday night at Jag Gym as they enter an off week.

The Jags (9-10, 4-5 SBC) were led by Mechell Daniel’s 14 kills and eight digs. Jessica Lewis was also in double-digits with 11 kills herself. Mallory Moore and Nikki Gittens each had seven kills each. Kelly Little came off the bench to lead the team with 10 digs.

Jenna Hassell led the team with three aces, as a team they had seven aces in the match.

Georgia Southern recorded 23 blocks, one solo and 22 assists, in the match. They had three players to record five blocks or more with Leah Joseph leading the way with six block assists. Kym Coley and Jamie DeRatt each had five total blocks in the match. Eagle setter Kat Minnerly had a double-double with 40 assists and 11 digs.

The volleyball team will not return to the court until October 19 when they host Arkansas-Little Rock.

Volleyball: Jags Defeat Troy 3-0 on the Road

October 9, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe South Alabama volleyball team defeated Troy 3-0 (27-25, 25-19, 25-17) on the road Wednesday evening.

Mechell Daniel led the Jaguars with 15 kills and three blocks with Jessica Lewis adding 10 blocks herself. Emily Hundt chipped in with 23 assists and 11 digs as Emma Anderson added 15 assists. Abby Baker led with 29 digs and Jenna Hassell was in double digits with 10 digs as well.

Troy’s Tineille Waggoner led the Trojans with 29 assists while Ali Dowdall led with 18 digs.

The Jags outhit the Trojans .243 to .130 in the first set, .220 to .163 in the second and .429 to .097 in the last set in the win.

Troy falls to 9-11 overall and 1-7 in conference play.

South Alabama improves to 9-8 overall and 4-3 in conference play. They will face Texas-Arlington in Mobile to start a three-match homestand beginning Friday and continuing on Saturday against Georgia Southern and concluding with Arkansas-Little Rock on Sunday, October 19.

Jags Volleyball Break Three Match Losing Streak by Defeating Georgia State 3-1

October 6, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe Jaguar volleyball team rallied to snap their three match losing streak by defeating Georgia State 3-1 in Atlanta on Saturday.

The Jags lost the first set but rallied back and won the next three to defeat the Panthers 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-21).

Mechell Daniel and Jessica Lewis led the Jags offensively as Daniel recorded 16 kills and hit .385, a season best, and had only one attack error in her 39 attempts. Lewis was equally as good with 14 kills while hitting .324.

Nikki Gittens added eight kills while hitting .438 and led the team with four blocks, one solo and three assists. Symone Stephenson added seven kills and hit .308.

The team hitting percentage of .338 was the second highest this season, they hit .368 in their straight set win over the Panthers earlier this season in Mobile.

Emily Hundt led the Jags with four aces as they held a 10-7 advantage in service aces in the match. Jenna Hassell and Savannah Stewart both had two aces each.

Abby Baker led the team with 15 digs whiel Hassell added 11 digs of her own.

The Jags improve to 8-8 overall and 3-3 in Conference play. The Panthers fall to 3-12 overall and 1-5 in conference play.

THe Jags will round out their three-match road swing on Wednesday when they travel to Troy.

Jaguar Volleyball Falls To Redwolves 3-0

September 29, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe Jaguar volleyball team dropped their second consecutive match on Saturday evening to Arkansas State 0-3 (19-25, 17-25, 16-25) to fall to 7-7 overall and 2-2 in conference play.

Jessica Lewis recoded her ninth double-figure kill match on Saturday night with 11. Nikki Gittens added eight kills and a .462 hitting percentage. Abby Baker added 15 digs to lead the back court.

Sarah Richardson recorded five kills, a .308 hitting average, and two blocks in her first start as a Jaguar.

The Redwolves improved to 8-5 overall and 3-1 in conference play. They were led by Sarah Kemp’s 12 kills. Kelsey Reis added nine kills while hitting .389.

Arkansas State held a 17-4 advantage in total blocks.

The Jaguars will travel to face Appalachian State in Boone, NC on Friday, November 3 then face Georgia State in Atlanta on Saturday, November 4.

Volleyball Falls To Texas State On The Road

September 26, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe Jaguar volleyball team fell to Texas State who stays undefeated in Conference play 3-0 (12-25, 25-27, 15-25) in San Marcos, Texas. The Bobcats used nine service aces, a 52-27 kill advantage and a .333 to .120 hitting average to defeat the Jaguars.

Jessica Lewis was the only Jaguar in double digits for the night with 10 kills. Nikki Gittens added seven kills with a .353 hitting percentage. Mechell Daniel only had three kills, a season low for her as she ranks second on the team in that category.

The Jags will return to Mobile to host Arkansas State on Friday evening with the match set to start at 6pm.

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