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Soaring

GEORGIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC FOUNDATION

Winter 2012

INSIDE

Campaign Update Sports’ Preview For All The Right Reasons


Soaring To Victory “You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren.” - William Henry Hudson


Capital Campaign Update

I

n 2011, we embarked on the Soaring to Victory Capital Campaign when we were faced with a generational opportunity to impact the entire athletics program, the university, the community and the region. This eight-year multi-level campaign will ensure the attainment of our vision of “Rings and Diplomas” for all student-athletes, and will guide the athletics program for the next twenty-five years. Thus far, $11.1 million has been raised for campaign priorities. The vast majority of these monies has been raised for the Football Operations Center. Construction is anticipated for late spring 2013.

Additional Soaring to Victory Projects The Soaring to Victory Capital Campaign has identified projects necessary to the attainment of our vision and are being funded by alternative means. This additional funding of $11.5 million puts the total current investment to the Athletics Department program at $22.6 million. • Paulson Stadium Expansion • Installed lights at the Soccer/Track complex • Competed renovation of the lower level Hanner Field House seating • Construction of a batting cage for softball


Sports’ Preview

Eric Ferguson

Tre Bussey

Marvin Baynham

Anna Claire Knight

Sam Mike

MEN’S BASKETBALL Going into the 2012 – 2013 season, Head Basketball Coach Charlton (CY) Young was still feeling the excitement from last year. “We ended last season on a very good note, finishing second place in the SoCon and then tying the school record in SoCon wins last season. That team with our seniors, Willie Powers and Ben Drayton, really rebuilt Georgia Southern basketball and put us in position for a championship,” recalls Young. Yet, even with the loss of Willie and Ben, a lot of experience from last season is still with the team, beginning with junior Eric Ferguson (above left) who was picked as player of the year in the SoCon by a couple of different publications. “Eric is a huge building block,” remarks Young. “That entire class of juniors, including Tre Bussey, Sam Mike and Marvin Baynham, they helped to rebuild the program, and they are still with us.” Also included in that group is returning senior Cameron Baskerville. “Because of what they accomplished last year, we feel like this year we can contend for the Southern Conference,” says Young. “We feel like all the guys in the program got better.”

MiMi DuBose

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL The sophomore group includes Kameron Dunnican and Jessie Pernell, both of whom have grown and “are primed to take another step for Georgia Southern basketball.”

First year Women’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Vozab began her career with Georgia Southern last March and immediately focused on her mission for the team. “The first day I met with the team, I talked about Rings and Diplomas and that is our mission. The SoCon is a challenging league, but we believe we have what we need to give every student-athlete the chance to leave with a great education and with a championship,

“All those pieces together make for a really good gumbo – this is foreign territory for our staff to have veterans and guys in the program who actually know the system, know what they are doing and have been there,” says Young. “I think that they as a group want to make the next step.” This year brings a philosophy and a slogan, as well. “The philosophy of our program is people win championships and we think we have good people in the program. That is the main reason why we are so excited about what we can accomplish as a unit,” remarks Young. Added to that is the slogan, ‘4 US.’ “They are going to go to class, ‘4 US,’ they are going to take care of their bodies, ‘4 US,’ they are going to get their rest, ‘4 US’ and they are going to stay away from distractions, ‘4 US’,” says Young. “Everything each person does in this program will be ‘4 US.’ We feel like we can walk into our games and give ourselves a win – that is what we are excited about,” beams Young.

A new senior addition, C.J. Reed, a transfer from Central Florida, also brings a lot of experience. “C.J. is a very talented player to add to the group we have,” remarks Young. Then there are two new freshmen, Cleon Roberts and Chris Daniels, coming in with C.J. Reed to add to the group they have.

Jessie Pernell

Kameron Dunnican

too,” says Vozab. Although there have been a few years without much success, the strong history of Women’s Basketball prevails at Georgia Southern. “We want to get back to that point,” remarks Vozab. We want a team in the SoCon that is known as upper echelon year-in and yearout and while we do that, we want to be sure we are consistent in the other important areas like good character as student-athletes, so we have a commitment to take care of things all the way around.” Introducing a new system with new coaches is always a process when a new staff brings new terminology and a new pace. “We have tried to instill a fast pace to our practice and we want to have a rhythm and a pace to how we play. We have set that up in practice,” says Vozab. “We are fortunate that the team has been just like a bunch of sponges absorbing a new system and new terminology. It has been fun to work with them.”


Chase Griffin Justin Hess

TD Davis

Al “Scooter” Willams

Ben Morgan

Meredyth Frye

for his senior year.

BASEBALL Ultimately, it is the goal to think of the SoCon championship as a goal, but that is not brought up on a day-to-day basis. “What we try to do daily is to compete to win every possession and try to break it down to the process of how we value each defensive possession and offensive possession to define Georgia Southern’s identity. When we get that down, it will lead to the kind of results we want. Among the returning players is senior Meredyth Frye, one of the team’s captains and a versatile player who can play both the inside and out. Junior MiMi DuBose, also a co-captain, is known for her shooting, but has spent a lot of time developing other parts of her game and is ready to accomplish a lot. Junior Aishya Wofford sets the tone with her energy level. Whenever there is a lull in practice, she takes it upon herself to get the energy back to where it needs to be for the team. Anna Claire Knight, a sophomore who made the all-rookie team last year, can shoot and some aggressiveness is expected out of her. She can do big things. Sierra Kirkland, a freshman who is from Statesboro, has a toughness and competitive spirit beyond her years. “We are fortunate, we have a group that is really supportive of each other,” says Vozab. “We are also fortunate that we inherited a group that does a good job in the classroom, and we will make sure that that continues to be a point of emphasis.”

Baseball Head Coach Rodney Hennon looks back at the finish of last season with pride. “We made a run in the conference tournament and unfortunately came up short in that last championship game against Samford, yet I am really proud of the way our team persevered last year, especially down the stretch,” says Hennon. The experience brought needed growth to the youth on the team, though. “A lot of our younger players gained some valuable experience last year when they were thrown to the fire, and really grew up and matured. Hopefully that is going to give us something to build upon as we head to 2013,” he says. With fall practice behind them, many roles were defined and new players were evaluated to see where they will fit in. “I think this is going to be a very athletic team,” says Hennon. “We will be able to put some speed on the field. Defensively we have a chance to improve both in the infield and the outfield.”

“Last year we lost some players – we did not lose a lot in terms of numbers, but the ones we lost were obviously outstanding players,” says Hennon, reflecting on the changes to the team. “At times, some of our young players may have leaned on some of the older guys a good bit, but as they got the experience and developed throughout the season, they took more responsibility upon themselves.” And that responsibility appears to be clear to everyone. “I really don’t see any guys looking for the next guy to lean on,” remarks Hennon. I think this group has a chance to play well together as a team—they complement each other very well. It is going to have to be a team that plays hard every day and takes a kind of blue-collar attitude.” The team is facing a challenging early schedule that should develop some toughness. They are opening with Georgia for a home series with many more top teams lined up. “We are fortunate with our facility,” says Hennon. “It helps us get some of those schools to come here and play, and play in front of some good crowds. Our fans are a big part of that.”

Behind the plate, sophomore Chase Griffin, had last year to mature. “He was one of those freshman kind of thrown in the fire last season,” says Hennon. Seniors TD Davis and Al “Scooter” Willams are position players who will give the team experience and leadership. Infield, junior Ben Morgan and sophomore Tyler Avera will be counted on.

Aishya Wofford

The pitching staff includes senior Justin Hess who is an outstanding leader and a tremendous competitor. In the second half of last season, he was the team’s most productive pitcher. Kyle Rowe pitched some big innings out of the bullpen last year and he returns

Kyle Rowe Tyler Avera


SOFTBALL

SWIMMING AND DIVING Softball had a tremendous season last year. The championship team won the Southern Conference, set new records and made it to NCAA Regionals. So what to look forward to? “Now it is where are we going to go?” says Softball Head Coach Annie Smith. “Are we going to be one-hit wonders or are we going to continue to build on that?”

Clearly the choice is to build on last season’s accomplishments. “Our team has come back and they are better than they were last year as a group,” claims Smith. They have continued to work hard and it shows. Even with the loss of a strong group of seniors, Smith believes that people will fall into place and continue to make the team better. Her optimism is rooted in a basic belief that when a coaching staff takes over a program, the key to the success of the team is learning to win. “This team has shown us that they know how to win,” says

Smith. Something verified by their winning record. Yet, no one is resting on that record. “We go out every day and try to get things done trying to win as a team,” says Smith. Even with some key people hurt in fall play, “everybody stepped up, as this team does, because it is a team game.” The seniors may have big shoes to fill, but they are embracing their challenge. And there are five pitchers which Smith calls “a solid pitching staff that is one of our strengths.” That includes both freshmen pitchers and those who are returning. Smith continues to look to the future and the season coming up. “This spring, we have a very tough schedule – a tough outof-conference schedule, including facing Alabama who won the national championship,” says Smith. “My strategy is if we do not play the best, how can we be the best? I know my team wants to play the best, and I think we can play anybody. I am not afraid of anybody and I have to get us ready for conference.” With a 3.42 team GPA last year, which was ranked 22nd in the country out of 300 teams, the team does well in the classroom, too. “I only have a few rules, be on time, go to class and then I have a bunch of standards,” says Smith. “They got their ring, and now they are working on their next one. And as far as school goes, they do a good job and I am happy with that.”

2012 SoCon Softball Champions

Even with the loss of three seniors and the addition of six new freshmen (five swimmers and one diver), the Swimming and Diving team this year is probably in a better position than 2011. Last year, there were 13 new freshmen and one transfer, making the team even younger than now. But the youth of the team is seen as a benefit by Head Coach Nate Kellogg. “Every year you lose kids and seniors graduate, so there is going to be somewhat of a transition, but nevertheless, we are really comfortable with our team,” remarks Kellogg. “A lot of the freshmen and a lot of the sophomores that we have this year, are very, very talented, inexperienced, but talented at the same time. I will take talent any day over experience if I had to choose.” Each year, the upper classmen, the juniors and seniors, are expected to take the leadership role to help the underclassmen, especially to help the new students transition and adjust to college life. “I feel they really set the tone in terms of how our team will gel and come together. I feel like the seniors are into all that and really make it a point of emphasis to bring everybody together early on to explain how we do things. That makes a huge difference and our team comes together so much sooner. It really effects the whole entire year,” says Kellogg.


Elaina Lanson

In terms of talent, “we are pretty solid, all the way around,” says Kellogg. Last year, the team had a lot of success with breast stroke and the same swimmers have returned to this stroke, so it is expected that they will continue their success. Juniors Courtney Harrison and Kristen Bates are reigning CCSA champions – Courtney is the CCSA champion in the 200 yard breaststroke and Kristen is the CCSA champion in the 100 yard breaststroke and runner-up in the 200 yard breaststroke.

Courtney Harrison

“Eagle divers did a really nice job all year long,” says Kellogg. Junior Sara Meisenhelder is the reigning conference diver of the year. She finished second on both one and three meter last year. In other events, Elaina Lanson, a sophomore this year, was third in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 50 yard free last season.

Soaring On the Cover: Eagle Diver Sara Meisenhelder, a junior this year, was named CCSA Diver of the Year for the 2011 - 2012 season, and became the first diver in GSU history to qualify for NCAA Zones in which a diver must qualify before competing in the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships.

“Our goal every year is to have a team GPA of 3.3 or higher each semester and it’s certainly an expectation that our kids are able to perform academically as well as in the pool.” Last fall the team GPA was 3.29 and in the spring 3.37.

Kristen Bates

Welcome to the tenth edition of the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation’s quarterly newsletter, Soaring. Support Georgia Southern University student-athletes. Call 1.912.478.5520 or visit www.ringsanddiplomas.com to find out how you can help.

Sara Meisenhelder


For All the Right Reasons Record GPA Highlights Academic Achievement for Eagles

G

eorgia Southern student-athletes achieved a record grade point average of 2.96 for the 2011-2012 academic year and several teams posted record single-season GPAs this past spring semester. The Eagles tallied a 3.0 GPA for the spring 2012 semester, topping their record effort of 2.92 set during fall 2011. The women’s athletics programs all registered team GPAs of 3.0 and above for both the spring semester and the academic year while the men’s teams combined for a 2.81 for the spring, their highest-ever single-semester GPA. Contributing to the spring semester GPA record, 224 student-athletes representing all 15 teams posted GPAs of 3.0 or better. Seventy-five Eagles were eligible for the Dean’s List with GPAs of 3.5-3.99 and 44 Eagles were listed on the most recent President’s List with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Football had the most 4.0 student-athletes on the President’s and Dean’s List with seven and 11, respectively. Women’s Soccer and Swimming & Diving each had six members of their teams on the President’s List. Ten Eagle Softball players were the most by any one women’s team represented on the Dean’s List.

“The record grade point averages for the academic year and this last semester are further evidence of our student-athletes’ commitment to excellence in the classroom,” said Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Sam Baker. “While GPA may be only one of the indicators of academic success, as a department we are proud of the efforts of our teams, coaches and academic support staff as these numbers continue to rise.” With a department-best 3.52 GPA for the 2011-2012 academic year, Women’s Tennis took top team honors. The Georgia Southern Men’s Soccer team finished 2011-2012 with the highest GPA among the men’s programs with a 3.22 for the year. Seven were named to the Dean’s List with five members of the team on the President’s List. Men’s Tennis had the highest single-semester team GPA with a 3.39 this spring semester.  Georgia Southern student-athletes must be enrolled full-time with a minimum of 12 credit hours during the course of a semester as a requirement of their participation in NCAA competition. The GPAs comparisons are based on semester grades since Georgia Southern converted from the quarter system following the 1997-98 academic year. - GSU Athletics

Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation John Mulherin President johnmul@ georgiasouthern.edu David Beaubien Eagle Fund Executive Director dbeaubien@ georgiasouthern.edu

Frank Hook Director of Donor Relations fhook@ georgiasouthern.edu Lindsey C. Randolph Atlanta Regional Athletics Development Director lrandolph@ georgiasouthern.edu

Kathryn Bryant Operations Coordinator kathrynbryant@ georgiasouthern.edu Dee Parker Donor Records Director dparker@ georgiasouthern.edu

Sally Scott Eagle Fund Program Coordinator swscott@ georgiasouthern.edu Justin Callaway Eagle Fund Special Projects Coordinator justincallaway50@gmail.com

John Ramfjord Athletics Ticket Manager jramfjord@ georgiasouthern.edu Writer/Editor: Bonnie Jaeger Graphic Design: Hilde Keldermans


GSUAF Soaring Winter 2012