KSU’s women’s soccer team is prepared to improve on its 10-8-1 finish from a season ago.
The Owls are currently gearing up for their first exhibition game against Wofford University at the newly named Fifth Third Bank Stadium, which is scheduled to take place on Aug. 9. Head coach Rob King noted they had some success the previous year, despite finishing with a first round loss to North Florida in the Atlantic-Sun Championship Tournament. King feels that his team has a much better chance this year.
“I think we laid out the ground work for this year, with our returning players, and we brought in a lot of good players this year as well,” King said. “I think we laid the foundation and we’re ready to get started this year with a very challenging schedule.”
KSU is slated to play in two tournaments before A-Sun Conference play officially begins. The Owls will first travel to the University of Tennessee on Aug. 23, where they will match-up against Tennessee Tech and powerhouse schools like Oklahoma in the UT Vols Tournament. The Owls biggest test will then take place at the Carolina Nike Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Aug. 30, where they will face Duke, Georgia State, Mississippi, Samford, Troy, and the defending national champion North Carolina.
King noted that beginning the season with really tough opponents like North Carolina will certainly give his players a real test, and the results
will help with any needed adjustments going forward.
“Regardless how that game goes, we take a lot of positives from that game, and it’s one that after you play the National Champions, you really have got nothing to fear with anybody else you play,” King said.
King expressed a lot of confidence in both the returning veterans and incoming freshman in a previous interview. As for the freshman newcomers, there will be eight new pairs of legs to add to KSU’s rotation. Newcomers include forwards Shannon Driscoll and Maggie Gaughan, midfielders Suzanne Arafa and Monica Herrera, flank midfielder/forward Cassidy Kemp and goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant.
Midfielder Katrina Frost will enter her junior season as the leader of the Owls offensive attack. Frost was an Atlantic Sun Conference first-teamer as a redshirt sophomore. She scored 10 goals and recorded three assists for the Owls’ offense. Midfielder Kelsey Barr returns for her senior season after making the All-A-Sun second team last year. Barr led the Owls last year in minutes played (1,175) and played in every single minute of conference play.
Danielle Grey burst onto the scene as a freshman and ended her first season with the Owls as an All-A-Sun freshman team member.
“We’ve got an outstanding group of 2013’s coming in, and what better way to start than by showing them the gold standard for women’s college soccer,” King said when referring to their matchup with North Carolina. According to King, the hard work and commitment have already been present in the offseason, and with an upcoming match against National Champion North Carolina in several weeks, that is all the motivation they need to have a successful season.
The KSU club tennis team accomplished a big feat to conclude its season, placing 49th in the nation at the United States Tennis Association’s Tennis on Campus National Championship in Surprise, Ariz. on April 13.
In its first ever appearance, KSU was one of 62 teams from around the country competing for the National Championship crown at the Surprise Tennis and Racquett Complex. KSU club tennis participated in the copper bracket, one of four brackets, and eventually finished second. Using the World Team Tennis format, KSU defeated Western Washington in the first round 29-19, cruised past Villanova 30-12 in the second round, snuck by DePaul 27-22 in the third round and then fell short to Boston College 19-25 in the final.
“The competition was exceptional and every team there was really good,” Senior Club Tennis President Josh Bramblett said. “It was just a lot of fun going out there and having a chance to compete with that high talent level of players.”
On the final day of play, KSU was able to witness the University of Georgia defeat the University of Florida in the gold bracket final to win the National Championship. For Bramblett, witnessing UGA’s club team win the title felt like an accomplishment for his team as well, because KSU faced UGA numerous times in tournaments throughout the season, coming close to defeating UGA once.
“It was just an awesome feeling to know that you hung in there with the team that took the national title home with them, and that you played with the national champs all year long, so it’s a pretty good feeling,” Bramblett said.
Despite not coming home with a trophy, club tennis saw the experience as the real victory. At the beginning of the season, KSU set a few goals. One was to continue to build on its reputation as a major competitor, but the number one priority was to qualify for Nationals. According to Bramblett, the journey was tough due to KSU being in such a strong region of competitors, which includes Georgia Tech, Georgia State and UGA.
Leading up to Nationals, Both the A and B teams for KSU were able to make deep runs in their brackets at the Tennis on Campus Southern Championship at Auburn University on Feb. 23-24. KSU went up against powerhouse schools from all over the region, defeating LSU, Clemson and Auburn in the process. On the final day of play, KSU lost to a familiar foe UGA, and their seventh place finish out of 52 teams was enough to earn a bid for Nationals.
“I’m very, very satisfied,” Bramblett said. “I am very proud of what we accomplished this year, and I had so much fun doing it too. Making it to Nationals was our goal, and we didn’t come in last at Nationals either, so 49th in the nation is actually pretty good.”
Club tennis has come a long way since beginning their program two years ago. Bramblett mentioned the team has really grown in numbers, but more importantly, he feels the enthusiasm each player brings to the club has created more of a team environment.
To junior Kimberly Williams the easy-going attitudes of her teammates made her first season more enjoyable.
“I felt like our team got really close, so we had a lot of fun,” Williams said. “I like that it was really relaxed and it took a lot of pressure off.”
“I think having more of a centralized goal led us all to bond in that way and to really succeed at something as a team,” sophomore teammate Alex O’Neill said. “I think it was a great year compared to our first and second year.”
Now that club tennis can say it has competed for the National Championship, it looks like the next step for this team would be to keep moving forward and continue to raise the bar. O’Neill, who will be returning next season, can speak for Williams, Bramblett and her remaining teammates, as she expects them to achieve the same objective for the next year, and for more years to come.
Kennesaw State baseball continued its home stand at Stillwell Stadium against Northern Kentucky in a conference matchup on March 22-24, as they swept the Norse 3-0.
In the three-game span, the Owls outscored the Norse 41-9, and junior outfielder Bo Way extended his hit streak to 19 games. The Owls are now 14-10 overall and 4-2 in Atlantic Sun Conference Play.
“It’s great to finish off the weekend with a sweep,” KSU head coach Mike Sansing said. “It was big to win three, but our offense did do well this entire weekend. It’s been a point of emphasis in our practices,” Sansing added.
The Owls dominated offensively on Sunday, defeating the Norse 14-4. The Norse were able to tie up the ballgame in the top of the
fifth at three runs a piece, but the Owls turned on their bats in the bottom of the fifth to score seven runs and claim the lead. Sophomore catcher Max Pentecost was 2-for-3 with three RBI and scored twice, while freshman infielder Kal Simmons had three RBI on a pair of doubles.
On Saturday, The Owls capitalized offensively and dictated from the mound with a 15-4 victory. In six innings of work, junior pitcher Travis Dean allowed just two runs and struck out six. Senior third baseman Peyton Hart contributed to the team-high 15 hits, as he went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI.
On Friday, Northern Kentucky was the first to strike with a second inning home run by third baseman Zac Ashman, but it was all the Norse could produce. The Owls were quick to respond soon after, and the bats of KSU sizzled for the remainder of the game, with 12 runs scored on a team high 14 hits.
KSU freshman outfielder Alex Liquori performed for the owls in the fourth inning, driving in 3 of the 6 runs scored on an outfield splitting double and eventually finished the day with 4 runs batted in. Senior third Baseman Peyton Hart was 3-for-4 on the day with two runs scored and two RBI. Other players for the Owls with two hits included senior second baseman Andy Almonte, Simmons, and Pentecost.
The Owls next game will be at home against Alabama State on Tuesday, March 26.
It was an exciting day for Kennesaw State University on Feb. 14, as KSU President Dr. Daniel Papp finally introduced KSU football to 1,000 cheering students and faculty members in the Convocation Center.
Just one day after the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved KSU’s request to add the program, Papp could finally stand behind the podium and ask the crowd this burning question: “Are you ready for some football?”
To Papp, adding a program, like football, will be the one way to finally put KSU on the map as a major university.
“We are going to be on the way towards becoming a major national university as well. Importantly, football can add to our reputation, and importantly, will also add to the reputations of our entire Alumni’s degrees, and all of our student’s degrees,” Papp said about KSU becoming a major southern university.
Vince Dooley, legendary former head football coach for the University of Georgia, was also present. Dooley was diligent in bringing football to KSU as chairman of the football exploratory committee.
“It is a wonderful feeling of pride for everybody, the students, the faculty, the alumni, community leaders, Fifth Third Bank and everybody that is connected with it, but a very special pride for Dr. Papp,” Dooley said. “I thought he showed excellent leadership making this happen,” Dooley added.
For KSU Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams, this too was a dream come true. Since taking over as the athletic director in 2012, his enthusiasm for the university has reflected on the many students on campus, including those present at the press conference.
“We did it! What a great day this is, and I can’t tell you how happy I am for this institution,” Williams said.
Just days ago, Fifth-Third Bank agreed to a $5 million sponsorship deal with KSU to help start-up the football program, and assist in the possible future renovations of Fifth Third Bank Stadium, formally known as the KSU Soccer Stadium.
“I got the chills when I saw these shirts down here that said ‘tradition begins here,’” Fifth Third Bank President Randolph Koporc said. “We are ready to take the field with you,” added Koporc.
As for the future of KSU football, Williams and the rest of the Athletic Department staff will waste no time. To give a glimpse into the future, Williams said they plan on hiring a head coach immediately. Other plans for football include adding a marching band and adding additional Title IX women’s sports as well.
“I do believe that we can hire a coach in the next four to five weeks,” Williams said. “I think Owl Nation should be extremely proud and understand that the word on the outside is that Kennesaw State is the place to be,” he went on to say.
As for Fifth Third Bank Stadium and additional funding for football, there will be a series of open forums for the students to participate in to determine the possible renovations to increase the seating, as well as a $100 increase in student tuition starting Fall 2013 to help fund the program.
For someone involved in football as long as Dooley, he understands the obstacles that may have to be overcome, but there will also come the time when this program will come out on top as winners. As for coaching, Dooley jokingly declined, stating he is “here to help, not to handicap.”
Williams got the crowd excited with his motto for the journey to Fall 2015 saying, “It’s our time folks!”
Another chapter has begun for KSU athletics, and women’s lacrosse is ready to write history with pen in hand.
In the off-season, the Owls were successful in developing team chemistry and goals, creating their 2013 team motto: P.U.S.H.
Perseverance, unity, strength, and heart are the four words that make up P.U.S.H. The inspiration for this slogan came from an ESPN short film titled, Man in The Red Bandana.
“We identified with that early on and it just kind of evolved into what we wanted our team motto to be and what P.U.S.H. meant,” KSU head coach Kristina Llanes said. “The team took it to a whole new level with perseverance, unity, strength, and heart. Obviously those are four things we need to have on a consistent basis to be successful.”
Llanes’ players have truly embraced this P.U.S.H. motto so far. Freshman newcomers Brittany Jackson and Kylar Ferguson even wrote a blog post on ksuowls.com entirely about push, and at one-point states, “Every day the stadium door shuts behind us and there’s the grass at our feet and sticks in our hands. We’re laced up, goggles down, mouth guards in and it’s time to PUSH.”
“Our team saying is ‘start unknown and finish unforgettable,’” Ferguson said. “We are a new program, but really our goal is to just go out and play our hardest and leave an impression and represent Kennesaw State in a respectable way.”
As the newest team to KSU, Llanes understands there are steps involved in achieving success, and the first step will be gaining exposure in the lacrosse community.
“We definitely want to gain exposure for Kennesaw State,” Llanes said. “With us being
the new program, we want to represent them well and we want to make sure we represent the Athletic Department well, and we want to represent ourselves well.”
Thanks to Llanes’ strong recruiting contacts maintained over the course of her coaching career, the current roster for the Owls is full of talent. To Llanes, every player will shine.
“They are really going to share the spotlight as a group,” Llanes said. “I don’t think we are going to be in a situation where we only have one or two of our athletes making all of the defensive plays or offensive plays. And that is just due in fact that they really work hard as a team.”
Out of the 17 players on the Owls’ current roster, 11 are freshmen. To Ferguson, age should not be a factor for the underclassmen players.
Kennesaw State women’s tennis traveled to Chattanooga, Tenn. for their first match of 2013, but came out empty handed as they fell short to Chattanooga (1-6) at the Hixson Racquet Club on Jan. 25.
Just how KSU head coach Jeff Kutac described Chattanooga to be in the previous week, they were indeed a tough matchup. The Owls fell behind almost immediately in doubles play with only one win to show for it. Junior Alexandra Apostu and Sophomore Virginie Stein were able to defeat UTC’s Kelsey Coots and Kayla Jones 8-6 at no. 1.
The Lady Mocs were flawless in singles play, only dropping 11 games in their first four matches on the day. Apostu was the only victorious one for the Owls at no.2, defeating UTC’s Kaylene Chadwell in straight sets 7-5, 6-4. Sophomore Jana Hueckinghaus was able to force a third set, but still fell short to UTC’s Alexa Flynn 1-6, 6-3, 4-6.
The Owls will continue their tough season on the road, as they travel to Birmingham, Al and look to capture their first win of 2013 against Samford University on Feb. 02. Samford is 1-0 to start the season.
KSU’s rivalry weekend began with a lot of excitement, but ended ugly for women’s basketball. The lady Owls fell short to Atlantic-Sun rival Mercer 71-46 in the Convocation Center Jan. 6.
KSU senior forward, Semetria Gideon, put forth another solid performance as she produced her second consecutive double- double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. However, it was a long night for the Lady Owls.
The Owls struggled throughout the course of the night and could not find the basket, with a field goal percentage of 25% for the game and only sank two of their 15 shots from behind the arc.
To Kennesaw State head coach Nitra Perry, the heart was non-existent.
“I am embarrassed and disgusted by our effort,” Perry said.
“Every shot is not going to fall every night, but the heart of the game was lost today.”
Mercer entered the Convocation Center with the energy of any rival school and set the tempo that proved very difficult for KSU to beat. The Bears shot 44 percent for the game and outscored the Owls 21-3 from the bench. Guards Precious Bridges and Kendra Grant led mercer’s offensive attack with 16 points.
“I think they treated it like a rival game,” Perry said. “When you let someone come in your house and bring that energy, like we talked about before the game, just that spirit of the team and the spirit of winning, creating the climate and that atmosphere. They did that and we didn’t.”
The Owls did manage to create a bit of a spark before halftime, cutting the lead to five with a score of 24-29. However, Mercer answered back shortly with two straight lay-ups. Freshman guard, Chelsea Mason, led the offensive attack for the Owls with 14 points, but her effort was overshadowed by their inconsistency.
“I want to be there for my team, but sometimes I feel like they are not there with me sometimes,” Mason said. “It was a really bad loss.”
“I think again it goes to the maturity of the team and not knowing who’s going to show up, and right now, we have counted on Semetria and Ashley to bring leadership, not necessarily points,” Perry said. “But when they are absent, then the team isn’t there.”
KSU now has an overall record of 4-11 and is 0-3 in the Atlantic-Sun Conference. The Owls will go on the road once again to Jacksonville, Fla. to play the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University Jan. 12-14. As for the preparation, Coach Perry believes it will be more mental than physical.
“I don’t think it was necessarily about the conditioning, I think we are in great shape,” Perry said. “But when you talk about the mental conditioning, it isn’t there.”
It was a walk in the park for KSU’s men’s basketball team on Thursday night, as it defeated Piedmont College 82-43 in an exhibition game at the Convocation Center.
KSU took control of the game from the start and never looked back, scoring 46 of its 82 points in the paint. Senior all-conference guard Markeith Cummings led the Owls with 23 total points and even had three fast-break dunks. To Cummings, it was a solid team effort.
“I think we came out and played well as a team,” Cummings said. “Everyone just came in and played hard.”
KSU head coach Lewis Preston felt it was a nice start to a new season. Coach Preston was pleased with the intensity in the second half and pleased with his player’s ability to rebound the ball.
“I think it was a great way for us to show as I would like to call a new team and new beginning and a new journey for us,” Preston said.
Among the Owl’s veterans were some new faces as well, including freshman Yonel Brown. This was Brown’s first collegiate game as an Owl. He was not far behind Cummings with 16 points. Brown mentioned the pace was very different from high school, but seemed to get a lot out of the experience after getting over the pre-game nerves.
“I just wanted to contribute in a few different ways, try to take a couple of charges, get a couple of steals, and try to do the little things to give us some energy and give us an extra push,” Brown said.
As far as meeting expectations, coach Preston does not want to base Brown’s performance off of just one game. Preston’s goal was to make sure Brown was incorporated with the offense. “He is going to have an opportunity in a variety of different ways to help us, in regards to giving us another threat on the perimeter,” Preston said. “He made four out of our five three’s tonight.”
The big factor for the Owls in this game was their performance on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the second half. The Owls had 14 steals, forced 24 turnovers, and had 22 defensive rebounds for the game. The Black and Gold were able to generate 28 points off of turnovers as well.
Coach Preston was pleased with the defensive effort of his players, but is also looking to improve in other areas in the near future.
“I think our defensive intensity has got to pick up from the beginning of the game, and we can’t start slow and think we can ease our way in,” Preston said. “I do like the fact that we had 14 steals and we caused them to have 24 turnovers, but I do not like the fact we shot 5-for-22 from the three-point range.”
Piedmont College’s status as a Division III school was clearly displayed. Piedmont only shot a field goal percentage of 31.4 and only scored 12 points in the paint. Despite a blow-out victory, Brown believes this win should not determine their entire season.
“We can’t base our season on tonight,” Brown said. “We know we are going to face better opponents, so we just have to continually get better at practice and push each other every day.”
The Owls open up their season against the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on November 9th.
KSU’s women’s soccer team ended Homecoming weekend with a bang, as it defeated Jacksonville 2-1 at KSU Stadium on Sunday.
This victory for the Owls on Senior Day was their fifth consecutive win, which has earned them a tie for second place with Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Conference. KSU has also qualified for a spot in the A-Sun Tournament.
KSU and Jacksonville came into this match with their series tied 5-5, with KSU losing in their last meeting 0-1. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Katrina Frost put forth a solid performance, scoring two goals for the Owls in the first half, one of them from 18-yards out in the 29th minute. Senior midfielder Lexi Hastings also had a memorable day on Senior Day with two assists for the match.
“I was trying to be aggressive getting forward and it worked,” Hastings said. “Frosty and I kept hooking up and we got a result out of it.”
KSU head coach Rob King knew it was a tough matchup coming into Sunday, and was very pleased with his players’ performances. King also mentioned this was going to be a pivotal game for both programs.
“We expected a lot of fight, and we expected them to be a good program, and they are,” King said. “It was a great game and I am very proud of the girls.”
The Dolphins came out with more fire in the second half, and caught the Owls off guard with a quick goal by Emily Culbreth in the 45th minute.
“They caught us sleeping right after the half,” King said. “We didn’t step to the ball the way we needed to and they scored. That’s a difficult way to start the second half, but a great show of character for us to give up a goal like that and then be able to defend.”
Jacksonville’s fight also came with a little more bite. 12 fouls combined were committed in the second half, 10 of them from Jacksonville. Coach King could definitely feel the tension from the sidelines.
“I don’t have these gray hairs for nothing,” King said. “They come about because of games like this I think, but they are a lot of fun too.”
Seniors Hastings, Liz Blackburn, Melissa Hutto, and Lauren Roberts were honored before the game. All players posed for a picture with Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams as they all stood behind their framed jerseys. There was even a quick stream of fireworks.
“It’s always sad for this to be the last game,” Blackburn said. “It’s been a long road for the four of us and we’ve come so far together. Me, Lexi and Mel have been here from the beginning and we’ve had so many memories and so many good times along the way and Lauren jumping in. It’s been great, and I couldn’t have asked for three better seniors to share this with.”
The Owls will end their regular season on the road by traveling to Florida for weekend matchups with Florida Gulf Coast on Oct. 19 and Stetson Oct. 21.
KSU soccer’s current roster is equipped with many talented young athletes, but no athlete stands out quite like Julia Nelson.
Nelson, a sophomore midfielder from Marietta, Ga., competed in the second World Deaf Football Championships in Ankara, Turkey, July 16- 28 this summer. Nelson not only had the privilege of representing her country as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Deaf Team, but was also able to bring home a gold medal. Nelson described the experience as “unreal.”
“I never imagined that I would travel to Turkey,” Nelson said. “The best part was meeting people from other countries and knowing that I was there to represent the United States. I really felt honored to be chosen.”
To add to Nelson’s accomplishments, she won the Golden Boot Award, an honor given to the tournament’s leading scorer. Nelson was even able to score the winning goal against Russia. The U.S. and Russia had a big rivalry coming into this tournament, with the U.S. winning in its previous meeting in Taiwan.
“The night before the Russia game, I was pretty nervous, I’ll admit,” Nelson said. “The way they talked about them I was expecting giant Amazonians who would try to crush me and break my legs! Scoring that goal was a great rush.”
As far as getting to know other people, Nelson said she enjoyed that she had so much in common with her teammates, immediately feeling part of the group.
“I was surprised to see that I had so much in common with them,” Nelson said. “Growing up, I never knew anyone other than my sister who had hearing loss, so it didn’t occur to me that there were others in the world that faced the same challenges as me.”
Experiencing the different cultures of Turkey and socializing with other athletes at the opening ceremonies were some perks that Nelson enjoyed as well. She said she even had the chance to get a picture with one of the players from the men’s National Team for Greece, whom she called her “counterpart.”
KSU women’s soccer head coach Rob King said he is pleased with Nelson’s recent accomplishments. King has been able to watch Nelson’s development as a soccer player since she was playing for the North Atlanta Soccer Association in high school. King immediately recognized the boost in Nelson’s confidence upon her return.
“Obviously that is tremendous for her, a great life experience and a great soccer experience,” King said. “She is developing all the time as a player and those sorts of things just add to that development.”
As far back as she can remember, Nelson has suffered from hearing loss. But to Nelson, that sort of limitation never got the best of her when it came to athletics. To Nelson, soccer has always been “in her blood,” regardless of her circumstances.
“I’ve had a hearing loss ever since I can remember, really,” Nelson said. “So I guess it’s hard to recognize a challenge when you think everyone else is just like you; you know what I mean?”
Coach King, like Nelson’s teammates, sees Nelson as a talented player and a valued member of the team. They look past the fact that she is hearing impaired and recognize her for the athlete she is.
I don’t see Julia as any different from anybody else, you know, other than the fact she is hearing impaired, King said. “We expect the same things from her as we do from anybody else, and she delivers all the way around. She is great in the classroom, she is a great teammate and she works very hard and does well on the field.”
Nelson has enjoyed playing soccer for KSU and appreciates her teammates. To Nelson, the team dinners, long bus rides and daily practices with 18 of her closest friends make her feel like she is part of a family.
“My past year and a half with this team has been an absolute blast,” Nelson said. “I love every single one of the girls on the team and the coaches make it that much more enjoyable. I feel so lucky to be with such a great group of girls.”
KSU will be returning from a weekend road trip after facing Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb. The team’s next match will be at home against the University of North Florida on Oct. 12.