Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Best Sports Time of the Year?

If you ever get a job in the Sports Information business, there are a few things you learn right away. I can't list them all here, but one of them is when your busiest time of the year will be.

There are two busy times in the sports media relations cycle each year, and they are in the crossover periods of the calendar. At the end of basketball season, you get the start of spring sports, which means that February is a very busy time. The other busy time of the year is upon us. As basketball begins, a lot of fall sports get into their championship season.

The one good thing that all of the sports do (for our sanity, and to bring the maximum amount of exposure to each championship), is to stagger them. The cross country teams will compete in conference championships this weekend (at Saint Louis), while women's soccer will have the tournament the following weekend (at Transamerica Field in Charlotte) .

Here's where it starts to get tricky...
The men's soccer tournament (at Rhode Island) will be the following weekend, while women's soccer starts their first weekend of NCAA Tournament play. The volleyball tournament will take place the following weekend (at Dayton) while men's soccer begins their NCAA Tournament opening rounds and the women's soccer tournament second round is underway. The following weekend, volleyball starts the NCAA tournament and you can just advance the other fall sports championships one weekend and a couple of rounds.

All of these fall sports championships of course are going on while the two basketball teams get the season underway. No matter what school you work for, everyone has high hopes and expectations in those first few games, and you tend to get bigger crowds at the start of the season as people are introduced to a new season and a new team. That keeps us busy.

At a school the size of Charlotte, you also get baseball and softball playing their fall scrimmages, and those coaching staffs want to be put in the forefront to remind people that they are making improvements and to get people's appetites excited for their sports (and the more attention they get in the fall, the better recruiting can go for them).

So, soak it in. This is one of the two most exciting times of the year, as sports are crossing over and you have a full plate. Watching teams vie for tournament seeding can make their matches become more intense. Others are getting their season started, so hopes and expectations are high. Each team wants and needs your support (and some of the events are free, so use it as an excuse to get back on campus if you haven't been in a while.) Come and sit in your basketball seats (or closer, to tease you in a better location) and watch a volleyball match. Come out before it gets too cold and enjoy a couple of nationally-ranked soccer programs and scope out your parking options for hoops. Get oriented with the traffic flow on campus and use it as an opportunity to revisit the lay of the land. We'll be here, making programs and preparing tournament notes for the upcoming weeks of a very busy time of the year.

--Ryan Rose
Media Relations Office

The Elusive Repeat Championship

Repeating as a champion is an extremely hard thing to do because once you have won a title everyone is gunning for you the following year and it is impossible not to be a blip on someone’s radar. Only several great teams or individuals are capable of accomplishing the feat. The Chicago Bulls repeated several times as did the Los Angeles Lakers not to mention the New York Yankees, who are kings of repeat titles.

Although professional sports are vastly different from that of the collegiate variety the principles are the same when it comes to trying to claim a title in consecutive years. It has only been accomplished by seven teams in NCAA Men’s Basketball, while football is even rarer now a day with no team winning back-to-back BCS Championships.
However, I digress because as fall championship season gets underway here at Charlotte and in the Atlantic 10 this weekend I look towards St. Louis, Mo. where not one but two Charlotte 49ers will have the chance to accomplish the elusive repeat in the Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championship.

Adu Dentamo and Amanda Goetschius both claimed the 2008 titles by running blistering times that both registered as the third fastest in A-10 Championship history for their respective race. Dentamo defeated the field by running the 8,000m course in 24:01, while Goetschius claimed her title in a mere 17:37 for the 5,000 meter run.
The duo has the chance this weekend to be Charlotte’s first two repeat champions in the 25 years since the women’s cross country program was started in 1985. (The men have been running since 1978.)

Dentamo, a senior, has claimed All-Atlantic 10 honors every year of his career including a 13th place finish as a freshman, 4th as a sophomore and of course last year’s title as a juionr, while this season he has already won one race, when he claimed the Charlotte Invitational winning by 15 seconds.

Goetschius also claimed all-conference honors as a freshman placing 7th before claiming last year’s title in her sophomore season. She has only competed in two races this year and took second in her best race, the Charlotte Invitational.

So if Goetschius is able to come away with a repeat title on Saturday we won’t be talking about a one-peat, or a two-peat as Atlantic 10 Champion we would be talking about a three-peat for her.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Charlotte 49ers Athletics Media Relations Department sat down with third-year Head Coach Karen Aston to get her thoughts on the upcoming season and several other topics. Aston guided the 49ers to the program’s first-ever conference tournament title after Charlotte captured the Atlantic 10 Tournament title last season. Charlotte won 23 games en route to a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

What did last year’s Atlantic 10 Tournament title, NCAA Tournament appearance and a 23-win season mean to you personally as well as the program? As far as the program is concerned I feel it was an enormous step. Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball had been in great hands when I arrived here, but that was a step that needed to be taken. The players really set some high goals last year. I think that everybody understood that you can only talk about going to the NCAA Tournament so much before it becomes just talk. Winning the A-10 Tournament and going to the NCAA Tournament was validation for the program in terms of moving forward. It was a great satisfaction for me personally, because the players really talked about specific and attainable goals. The team understood there were steps throughout the year that needed to be taken to achieve their final goals. It was fun to watch them take those steps little by little. You could see their confidence growing and the team’s chemistry was tremendous which made it fun. It was very memorable for all of us that were a part of the journey.

Last year’s seniors were three-time All-Atlantic 10 selection center Danielle Burgin and the program’s career leader in three-points, shooting guard Traci Ray. What did Burgin and Ray mean to you as well as to the 49ers women’s basketball program? Last year’s junior and senior classes will always be very special to me. This was my first head coaching job and those players had been through a lot by having two coaching changes in their careers and their commitment to me as their coach and our staff was tremendous. Danielle and Traci said that we are going to have a great senior year and leave a mark on the program and I think that’s what they did. They were leaders who brought different things to the table, but the combination of the two was really good. They were humble everyday which is the best thing I can say about them. The way they lived every day on and off the court was something to be respected and we miss them.

Any changes to your approach as you enter your third season at Charlotte? I think that is the one thing that you learn quickly as a coach is that every year is different. Our first year obviously I thought that we had to establish as a staff how things were going to be run here at Charlotte. I think with that first year under our belt we all became more comfortable. Last year, we had some older players that understood what the expectations were and knew what every day was going to be like. It was very different from the in terms of our approach every day with the group. As you graduate two players and you bring in new ones, all of a sudden this year seems dramatically different. The one thing that I understand about coaching is that it is all about chemistry and how the players approach every day. It will take some time to figure out what this team’s personality is going to be but I am excited about the potential.

Juniors Kendria Holmes and Epiphany Woodson and freshman Jaquaria Forney all are from the City of Charlotte. What does it mean to have three players on the roster from the Charlotte area? It shows that Charlotteans feel that our University is a great choice for them. Playing for the 49ers is a choice that allows them to play closer to home and have their families watch them play. I think the missing piece has been for Charlotte area high school players to feel secure in the fact that they will be able to play at a high level of basketball, on top of getting a great education. I think that it is a tribute to our players that are in the program now and were in the past. I’m thrilled that Kendria, Epiphany and Jaquaria saw the vision that all of us have, and they want to come back here and represent the city and this University.

What does the program need to do to take that next step forward which is advancing in the NCAA Tournament? At the beginning of every season you have goals of taking steps forward. Last year winning the A-10 Tournament and making the NCAA Tournament was obviously a huge step. I’m not so sure that you don’t have to spend a couple of years just getting to NCAA Tournament before you can advance. Obviously we would love to just jump to the Sweet Sixteen, but I feel it is definitely a process with the players and the coaches. I think the next step in the long-term vision is that going to NCAA Tournament has to become a regular occurrence. We have to get to the NCAA Tournament two or three years in a row and then all of a sudden you can stop being amazed by being there and start thinking about winning. So again, we are striving for consistency.

What are the team’s goals for the season? Each season is unique with different goals. Our first goal is to develop the chemistry that I saw in our team last year. That is a challenge and will always be, because each year the players are different and they bring along new challenges. I think we have been fortunate here that are whole coaching staff has remained intact. You have consistency in what you’re doing when your staff remains together and we have been extremely blessed to have all been here together for three years. Everybody’s goal is to win a conference championship and go to the NCAA Tournament, but we also have academic goals. I was really proud of our team last year. We had a 3.0 GPA as a team and that is a goal that we will always have as a team. Of course we want to finish in the top three in the A-10, make the NCAA’s, etc. But, I also think we need to take a step up in our non-conference schedule. If I had a specific goal it would be to continue to challenge ourselves against Top-25 programs and win some of those games. The conference has established itself nationally, and non-conference success makes a big difference.

What about strength of the Atlantic 10 conference which had eight postseason teams including three NCAA Tournament teams last season? I think we should have had four teams in the tournament last year, and the leagues’ performance in the NIT was a reflection of that. I am proud to be in the conference, and I believe that the best is yet to come for the A-10!

What are your overall thoughts on the 2009-10 schedule which features 13 teams that reached postseason play last season? I thought the first year I was here that our non-conference schedule was tough. However, I believe that we put together a schedule that could be the toughest so far. Part of that stems from the draw that we got in the Bahamas tournament which made our schedule very tough. Opening up on the road at East Carolina is never easy. Then, we play South Carolina at home and Duke on the road in the first ten days which will obviously be good for our team. We are going to have to take it one game at a time. Playing these teams will make us better and prepare us for A-10 play. Every step we take in the non-conference schedule helps our RPI and helps in gaining respect. Conference-wise I believe that every night has become a challenge. The biggest change since we entered the league is that the so-called "bottom half" has become tougher and no one can be taken lightly. It becomes a challenge, but one that I think we all welcome.

The 2010 Atlantic 10 Tournament will be played at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. What are your thoughts on a neutral site for the A-10 Tournament? Well, if we can’t have it in Charlotte, this is the next best thing…HA! It was huge plus for our team to play the A-10 Tournament at home last year. However, it is a step in the right direction for our conference and the league coaches wanted that challenge. I think the players will like it because it will be a new site for them, and its neutral, but more than anything we want it to be a great student-athlete experience, which is what this is all about.

What are your thoughts on the senior class (Erin Floyd, Jabrenta Hubbard, Aysha Jones and Ashley Spriggs)? The seniors are special people to me personally, first and foremost. I have a great deal of respect and love for this class. They were on that bubble here in my first year, where they could have chosen to go somewhere else and play because I wasn’t who they came to play for. They stuck it out with a great deal of pride and patience. They are a workhorse group and you won’t find four players with better work ethic, better morals and everything about them speaks of class. It’s hard to talk about each one of them individually because to me, they are a group. I admire the way they carry themselves and their commitment to being the best that they could be during their time spent at Charlotte.

What are your thoughts on the juniors (Kelsey McAdoo, Shannon McCallum and Kendria Holmes)? First of all, Kelsey came in with the senior class, but she redshirted so she is a veteran as far as understanding how things work in the program. I have a great deal of respect for her fortitude because she has had several complications due to her high school injuries and has pressed on through it all. We need her to contribute to the team this year. We obviously will have a size disadvantage on most nights and she can really help us in that area. Kendria and Shannon are very talented and I think everybody saw what Shannon was capable of toward the end of last year. I think she began to change her approach in practice and in games. I have had the privilege of coaching some talented players and Shannon is right up there at the top with any of them. I am anxious to see Kendria in a game because she had been on the floor last year but it was just in practice. It should be fun to see how she takes the reins at the point guard position this year. She is a terrific passer and sees the floor as good as unbelievably well. She will add a different dimension to our team because of her passing and creating ability.

What are your thoughts on the sophomore class (Rachelle Coward, Nicole Hargraves and Katie Meador)? This class obviously did not get a lot of playing time last year due to our veteran team. I have seen them mature from last year. They stayed here this summer and put in a lot of work in the gym. We need them to contribute this season. Nicole is expected to help us in the paint. I think that Katie really has matured a lot and hopefully will be able to contribute at the point guard position. Rachelle has the ability to stretch the defense because she can really shoot the basketball. She has gotten stronger and is in better shape. I expect this group to play a bigger role this year.

What are your thoughts on the newcomers (Epiphany Woodson, Amanda Dowe, Jaquaria Forney, Jennifer Hailey, Jessica Johnson)? First of all let me touch on Epiphany, who transferred here from the University of Miami. Epiphany is a Charlotte native and I couldn’t be more excited about her in a lot of ways. She came from a traditional high school power in Providence Day. She won a lot of basketball games there and is well known here in the community. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a basketball player. She is one of those players that saw a vision of what we are trying to do here and I am excited that she decided to come home and contribute to our program. As far as the freshmen are concerned I think the sky is the limit with this group. They are an extremely athletic group and all have different qualities they bring to the table. You will see that they have athleticism, length and quickness. Jaquaria Forney is another Charlotte native that chose to come here that committed early to us and never looked back. She had a lot of opportunities to go elsewhere, but she decided on Charlotte. She will be an early contributor at the guard position. She is an excellent defender and has the ability to create her own shot. Amanda and Jennifer are two players that will be thrown into the fire quickly. They both have a high-level of athletic ability in the paint but they will have some growing pains. I’m expecting tons from those two, but we all will have to be patient as they grow. As far as Jessica Johnson is concerned she is an unknown in regards to rankings because she is recovering from an injury during her junior year of high school. She has a tremendous upside because she is a great athlete. JJ actually jumped in the state track meet last year! All four of these players are long, athletic and fit great in our up-tempo system. Again, I repeat, the sky is the limit with this class!

What are fans going to expect to see when they watch us this year? We have a lot of new players on the team. If I had to guess, we are going to be a lot thinner across the board! When you see the freshmen you are going to want to feed them. Our up-tempo style of play will continue, however, my question is how frenetic the pace is going to have to be with this team and that depends upon the play of the guards. The difference may be in the way we play defensively. I believe we will press more, continue to run, and probably rebound by committee. Our success will be determined on the defensive end when it is all said and done.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looking Back at Courtney Cook

This past week, women's soccer's Hailey Beam tied Courtney Cook for the 49ers all-time lead in goals scored with 36. Sometime in the not too distant future, she will surpass Cook. Cook had stood alone atop the charts for a long time. A member of the 49ers first women's soccer class, Cook established the single-season and freshman records for goals scored with 18 tallies in that first season. She continued her high-scoring exploits over the next three years to set career records that have stood for the better part of 12 years.

It was 1994 and Charlotte debuted its women's soccer program. First year head coach Robbie Church (father of current men's hoopster, Kyle) brought in a wealth of local talent as well as some stars from across the country.

Two came from Apple Valley, Minn. They played together on the Bangu Express club team that had won three state titles and their Apple Valley High team had advanced to the state championship games in each of their last two years. Cook was a two-time all-state selection.

And she could score.

She started all 19 games as a freshman, scoring 18 goals with 12 assists. She ranked third among the nation's freshmen in goals. She had a pair of hat tricks. And the 8 points (3 goals, 2 assists) she had against East Carolina are still a school record. The 18 goals stood as a school record until 2002, when Courtney Crandell netted 21 as a freshman. The 12 assists stood until 1998, when Christina Papp passed out 13. Lindsey Ozimek since broke that record with 19 dishes in 2005. Cook's 12 assists still stand as the 49ers freshman record.

Heading into this season, 12 years since Cook had graduated, her name still stood atop the career goals and career points list. Beam has now passed the career points mark -- in fact, Beam and Cook are the only two in school history to accumulate over 100 career points. Cook still stands in the top 3 of career goals, career assists and career points and single-season goals and single-season points.

But now, as we watch those initial records fall, as they were meant to do, I thought it appropriate to look back at the roots of what has become one of the 49ers strongest programs. Dominant in the A-10 with back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2007 and 2008, a pair of C-USA titles and NCAA bids in 1998 and 2002, nationally-ranked at various times throughout its still young history -- the women's soccer program owes a great deal of gratitude to that first class.

That class went 13-4-2 in their first season, with games against the likes of Davidson, Furman, Clemson, Wake Forest, Louisville, Alabama, Virginia Tech. They were new on the scene -- but they never acted like it. From day one, they belonged.

In their second season they went 13-7-2 and defeated Evansville in the inaugural Conference USA Championship game after toppling Memphis, 4-1 and Louisville, 4-0 in the opening rounds. Two years. One conference title. They were not about to take a back seat. And they never did.

The stage was set for this hot program on the rise.

So as we watch Beam break records and look down the road at Weinraub taking it to the next level-- and we praise the great success the women are enjoying -- think back for a moment to the likes of Cook, Blair Angell, Dana Erato, Meredith Campbell, Maria Ciaravino, Kristen Reed, Kamilah Barker, Jennifer Rogers, Jessica Ryan, Catherine Anderson, Heather Bridgewater, Laurel Gooch, Lori Foreman, Mindy McBrayer, Amy Rucinski, Melissa Mullinax, Julie Berkau and Shayna Bruce. Members of the first class that helped set the tone for all that has come afterwards.

They always wanted to be the start of something great. And boy, were they ever.
Tom Whitestone
Assoc. A.D./Media Relations

Friday, October 23, 2009

Behind the Scenes: 49er Basketball Madness

Last night, Niner Nation converged upon Halton Arena for the celebration of another season of 49ers Basketball. The thousands in attendance watched Aysha Jones defeat Ian Anderson in the three-point contest and RaShad Coleman’s high-flying act in the dunk contest.

I had a slightly different experience than the attendees as I served as a cameraman for Lanaire Lindo, a member of the women’s track team and student worker in our office, while she interviewed fans, coaches and players. Our behind-the-scenes look at Madness took us all over Halton Arena on our conquest to interview as many people as possible.

Our night started with the student section as Lanaire interviewed hyped, amped and wired students that had arrived early to secure the best seats in Halton for Madness. After talking with several students we went directly to the source of the night’s entertainment; the men’s and women’s locker room to talk with the players.

Prior to entering the locker room, I could make out the sound of rap blaring in the men’s fancy digs (I believe it was Lil’ Wayne). Once we entered the locker room, we were treated to the men’s squad dancing and getting pumped up prior to Madness. The enthused team then explained to Lanaire why this year was going to be a special year for 49er Basketball.

Once we were done talking with the men’s team we trekked down the hall to the women’s locker room where the women doing the Elroy dance (check it out on YouTube) as they then explained to us what the fans can expect from the defending A-10 champs.

We then made it down the Halton Arena floor to interview the head coaches after they were introduced to the ecstatic crowd. I couldn’t hear what either coach had to say as the crowd was deafening as they cheered on Aysha Jones in the three-point contest.

I was able to take a break during the three-point and dunk contest to watch the festivities for myself and thought that sitting on the court near the men’s bench was a great idea. However a certain mascot who will remain nameless thought it would be a better idea to accidentally trip over yours truly due to his limited sight.

After that embarrassing interaction with the previously mentioned mascot we were able to get interviews with Coleman and Jones about their triumphs in their respective events.

We capped the night by talking with a former 49er great, Rodney White, who was in attendance to watch his former squad start their 09 season. Following the talk with Mr. White we ended with Athletic Director Judy Rose and her thoughts on the event.

All in all I called the night a ‘great success’ which could only have been made better by coach Lutz rocking the mustache but that will have to wait for hopefully the season opener in 21 days.

-- Patrick McCoy, 49ers Media Relations --

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Live Blogging at Baseball

I know that Niner Madness is going on tonight, but as always is the case around here... one season ends and another begins and there is always stuff going on with many teams in the department. I am dedicating the Thursday afternoon blog to the action out at baseball as the Niner World Series nears its conclusion. This signals the official end of fall practice for baseball before they go into hibernation (meaning the weight room and gyms for individual workouts).

As play resumed today at 3 p.m., Green was leading White 10-5, but the White team decided to fight back after a couple of days to think about their comeback plan of attack. White drew three walks and a hit batter in the bottom of the sixth of the scheduled seven innings and Ross Steedley hit another big home run for the grand slam to tie the game at 10.

Neither team could score in the seventh, even after a leadoff triple by J.J. Elseser in the top of the seventh, when Jim Lyerly pitched his way to two weak groundouts and a called strikeout to get out of trouble in the frame. Justin Roland scored from third on a wild pitch to give White the series lead 3-2 heading into game six, which started about 10 minutes ago (3:50 p.m.) And so the live blog begins...

6:02 - A flyout, single and double play ends the seventh and White wins the double dip to clinch the series. Steaks for White and hot dogs for the Green team. Enjoy Niner Madness Thursday night!

5:49 - Lysaught gives up three hits, but survives with no damage to the run total. Kelly McLain enters to finish this out and send the Green team to the hot dog lines.

5:53 - Green pushes across two more after back-to-back doubles by Dunn and Elseser. Shane Basen drives in the second run with a single to left. Green holds on to a 12-4 lead heading into the final frame. Senior Tim Lysaught comes in to pitch the top pf the seventh.

5:43 - Slight delay as a foul ball caught Zane Williams. He has to exit the game.

5:35 - Three hits, a walk and an error has plated three more White team runs as they can smell steaks on the grill. Heading to the last of the sixth, White pockets a 12-2 lead.

5:22 - Green scratches across another run after back-to-back doubles by Miguel Rodriguez and Zack Dunn. Tilton also doubled in the inning, but White allowed just the one run. White leads 9-2 going to the sixth.

5:15 - DeLong records two quick outs and White brings in John Hamilton to pitch the bottom of the fifth. White still leads 9-1.

5:07 - Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Steedley, who hit a sacrifice fly to right to score one run and Shaylor doubled down the third base line to plate two more to run Pope from the contest. White is up 9-1 as Green brings in Brandon DeLong, who is now warming up with a runner at second and one out.

4:55 - No scoring in the past two half-innings, so we are at the halfway post and still watching White lead 6-1 to the bottom of the fourth.

4:38 - A pair of leadoff walks chases Taylor from the game. Sean Pope enters for Green on the bump. RBI groundouts by Steedley and Corey Shaylor bring home the walked hitters in the top pf the third. White extends lead to 6-1 heading to the bottom of the third.

4:19 - Lyerly singles with one out and Mike Green walks. Brown reaches on an error that scores Lyerly, while Roland sacrifices home Green and Brown advances home on a throwing error. Sloppy inning that scores three runs to give White the 4-1 edge and put them closer to steaks.

4:12 - After an error and a groundout, Kevin Gillespie brings home Tilton on an RBI groundout. Roberts records a strikeout to end the inning... Game Tied at one after an inning.

4:04 - Corey Roberts starts for White... Tilton hits a dribbler over the mound to reach on the infield single.

4:02 - Steedley grounds out to end the inning - White is up 1-0 heading to the bottom half...

3:55 - After a one-out walk to Roland, Zane Williams reached on catcher interference before a Zach Semenza single to right center, giving White runners at the corners and two outs in the first off of starter Dylan Taylor. A White win would end the series and give the White team the steak dinners at the end-of-fall dinner. This 3-2 edge is White's first lead of the series.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random Thoughts
I used to like once a week when Larry King would write a column in USA Today with random interesting thoughts. So I will attempt to replicate that with some thoughts about 49ers athletics.
The 49ers men’s soccer team is ranked #9 in the latest NSCAA poll and the 49ers women’s soccer team is ranked #25 in the NSCAA Poll...Charlotte joins Stanford, North Carolina, UCLA, Wake Forest, Ohio State and Maryland as the only seven schools with men’s and women’s soccer teams ranked in the Top 25...The men’s soccer team is on an 11-game unbeaten streak while the women’s team is on a 10-game unbeaten streak...Women’s soccer senior Hailey Beam needs two goals to tie Courtney Cook’s (1994-97) school-record 36 career goals and she needs three points to tie Cook’s school-record 102 career points...Women’s soccer freshman Lacey McGowan has scored four goals this season and they have all come off of Hailey Beam corner kicks...Charlotte and Dayton are the only two athletic programs in the A-10 that their volleyball, men’s soccer and women’s soccer teams are among the top four teams in their respective sports standings...Last weekend, 49ers women’s soccer seniors Hailey Beam, Lauren Brown, Leah Zappone and Nicole Mercer participated in their final regular-season home games...Those four players have helped the 49ers win 60 games and capture three A-10 regular-season titles and two A-10 Tournament titles during their careers...This weekend, 49ers men’s soccer seniors Luke Exley, Adam Gross, David Martin, Nathan Mathers and David Martin will be playing in their final regular-season home games...These five seniors have led the resurgence in the 49ers program by leading the 49ers to an A-10 Tournament Championship game as well as national rankings in each of the last two seasons...Today, the Atlantic 10 released their preseason women’s basketball predictions and preseason All-Atlantic 10 teams...The 49ers captured the A-10 Women’s Basketball Tournament title last season and the 49ers were picked to finish second in a vote of the league’s 14 head coaches...The 49ers have finished among the top four teams in the A-10 in each of their four previous seasons in the league but this is the highest preseason ranking that the 49ers received in the A-10...Senior guard Aysha Jones, who enters her senior season needing to score 198 points to become the 17th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, was voted preseason first-team All-Atlantic 10...Junior guard Shannon McCallum, who was A-10 Sixth Player of the Year, was voted preseason second-team All-Atlantic 10.
Brent Stastny, Associate Media Relations Director

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1st Week of Practice

Practice is officially underway so I spent a couple hours on Monday watching the men's team in action.

At first glance, you are impressed with the sheer mass. There are 17 players on the roster, 13 scholarshipped players and four walk-ons. 17. At season's end last year we were down to 11 available players: nine on scholarship and two walk-ons.

That, in and of itself, is encouraging. Practice is competitive. One drill included three equal teams of five players. Last year, it would have been tough to come up with two. Looking forward, you hope the increased competitive level of practice will pay dividends in the game.

Second thing that jumps out at you is how fast DiJuan Harris is. Flat out speed up and down the court. On the break, he leaves players in his wake -- and this year, he will not need to save his energy -- so look for him to go all out all the time. It's also easy to see his football background. A talented high school player, DiJuan plays with a gridiron toughness and reckless abandon. He definitely will get knocked down. And he definitely will get back up.

Of course, at early season practices you want to see what the new guys are all about. Derrio Green has some great court sense. Driving and dishing in the lane. He'll have fans doing double takes throughout the season, wondering 'Did he really just do that?'. On defense, he has a nose for the ball and great anticipation. KJ Sherrill looks good in the paint. He has long arms that can block shots, deflect passes, create steals -- and produce powerful dunks. Chris Braswell is strong. He has the body of an upperclassman and he uses it well. Watching a frontcourt that has Spears, Jones, Braswell and Sherrill banging away gives you a sense of the strength the 49ers will have down low. Gokhan Sirin can shoot, but he is not one dimensional -- which will prove valuable this year.

Of course there was so much more. Dewey calmly hit a three-pointer with a second left to tie one 5-on-5 game situation drill. An'Juan battled as he always does on the boards. RaShad continues to look so comfortable getting to the rim.

As expected the action was high, the tempo pushed and defense stressed. It will be fun to get another peek at these guys at Madness (Thursday nite at 9:00) and Fan Day (Saturday at 11:00). And even more fun at the exhibition game, Nov. 5 vs. Johnson C. Smith (7:00 p.m.).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Man Grooming: The Art of the Lip Fur

Ok so by now its no secret, the campaign to bring back the stache is in full effect. I speak of the tremendous lip fur that occupied the upper lip of Charlotte basketball coach Bobby Lutz. Its in the blogs, message boards, Panning For Gold television shows and inspired a Facebook fan page/group.

So I've compiled a list. NOT a Top-10 or best of all-time. But rather some of my favorites throughout history. Also, to show folks that grooming the mustache is an artform. Make it your own. Here we go...

Tom Selleck...the older female readers are currently getting a little hot at their desk right now. Guys, just be happy I'm using a headshot and not full body. Let me put it this way, his facial hair matches his chest hair both in color and groomness (is that a word?). I have little doubt he man-scapes his entire body! But definately an awesome stache. If only mine would grow in that thick. He always had a little stubble to compliment the thick forest on the upper lip. Its as if the stache said, "I can grow this long on my entire face, but chose to rock just the mustache.

Hulk evolved over time, but always had the 'chops' look. Extended down past the upper lip to his chin. No would could stop it, not even The Undertaker. The mustache was 'Hulk-a-mania'. I don't know about you, but 'Lutz-a-mania' doesn't have the same jingle or ring to it. I'm open for suggestions. What I do know, is in the coming months the mustache is about to run wild on you and the rest of the Atlantic 10!

Lanny McDonald...I had no idea of who this guy was, but every mustche list I googled had him on it! And rightfully so. That bush is incredible. he won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames and was a great hockey palyer to boot. Ironic he played for the flames and his mustache looks to be 'en fuego'? I mean really? Goes to show you, no matter the shape, size or color mustaches can be great. I wonder what his wife thought about that thing. Yes, 'thing' is the best way to describe it. I dont think I could let mine get like that.

Rollie Fingers...this would take time and a lot of hardwork. But if a fan showed up to a game with a genuine mustache like that...I would give him a cookie and ask if I could run my fingers around it, pull it down straight, only to have it bounce back to the original curly shape.

Adam Morrison...short lived here in Charlotte, and thank goodness for that! The stache did win an NBA Championship though...

I digress...this mustache became more popular than the man did. I'm wasting no more blogspace on this one.

John Oates (of Hall & Oates)...He has since shaved and now clean shaven. Unfortunate for him. Just watch... That fur is a maneater.

Brad Pitt...garnered the lip fur for his latest blockbuster, "Inglorious Basterds." Proving even the at one time 'Sexiest Man Alive' can break away from the clean shaven image, grow a mustache and make it look legit. This style looks to be the easiest and quickest method of growth. I could probably get a stubble going like that in a matter of a week. So for those fans on the fence about possibly growing a stache. Go this route, if your girlfriend or significant other doesn't approve its an easy wash.
And you can at least say you supported the cause.

Bobby Lutz...even if it is a little more grey, I think we all agree this is the look.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Madness and Fan Day

So the collegiate basketball season officially starts today with the first practice for the 2009-10 season and I couldn’t more excited for the season to get underway. Of course prior to the start of the season there is the annual spectacle that is 49ers Basketball Madness.

Being a basketball crazed fan, I have Madness marked down on my calendar at the beginning of each year. I love Madness because it gives fans a first look at the new edition of the bball squads and a chance to breakdown the improvements of the returning players as well as see if the freshman live up to all of the offseason hype.

This year, Niner Nation will get two glimpses of their team with 49er Basketball Madness on Thursday and Fan Day, next Saturday.

Both events will give fans the best of both worlds. Madness will be a celebration of the season beginning with player skits and intros, slam dunk contest and three-point contest , while Fan Day will give everyone a chance to get their favorite 49ers autograph, pick up their season tickets and then cap the day off with a scrimmage from the men’s and women’s teams.

Besides the scrimmage, my personal favorite part of the basketball festivities is the player skits and introductions. This is the one chance a year that fans get to see the player’s personality since during the season most players are focused on the task at hand of winning the game. You may see the team’s star forward do a dance at midcourt after he runs onto the court or you see your All-Conference point guard staring in a skit.

It may seem that every part of the beginning of the season is my favorite but in all honesty my favorite part of this time of year is that I know the season is closing in on tip-off. Oh and by the way the regular season is only 27 days away, but who’s counting.

-- Patrick McCoy, Charlotte 49ers Media Relations --

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What I Did Last Summer...

I am good for two vacations each year. There is one place I go every year (and you have to know me to know where that is), and for the other trip, I like to go somewhere I have never been before. That decision came in April when it was decided I would go to Maine to get some lobster and seafood and get away for everything to do with work.

So, I booked flights, rented a cabin and went to the library to get enough books to keep me company for a week. As fate would have it, Adam Mills also was in Maine at the time, so as it turns out, I had a little bit of work waiting for me up in the Portland area. I was about an hour from there, so I called Adam to see if he had a little time for me to catch up with him. The team came home for a few days and we did have the chance to hook up. I should have billed the school on a pro-rated basis for working on my vacation, but I decided to go easy on the state in these hard economic times.

I took a few pictures and caught up with him and wrote about his time there, but with the summer he had, I decided to revisit his summer with him recently (he bought a home in the Charlotte area last summer, so he is around) as he is on pace to perhaps become the next former 49er to make it to the major leagues. Pardon the Q&A style of presentation, but I
wanted this blog entry to be in his words...

What was spring training like with the Sox?

I was juiced when they told me I was going over to the big league camp. I went up to the rookie development camp early to get in as best shape as I could. I felt good and about a week into it, I got to go to big league camp. They wanted to be sure that I showed up in good shape. Being around the big league guys for the club I am playing with was not what I expected. I expected them to be guys acting like they were better than everyone and that’s not what happened. It was a family atmosphere and I enjoyed it. I got to work with pitching coach John Farrell and got to get used to Tito (manager Terry Francona). I was able to use the experience to push myself. I didn’t take it like I was lucky. It was a good experience to get ready to do what I needed to do and be where I needed to be. I used it as my fuel for the season to get where I feel I belong. I had an amazing minor league camp.

What was your mindset like heading to AA to start the season?

Whether it was a roster spot or whatever the reason was, I didn’t think I would be starting in AAA. When I got there, I wanted to dominate and get out of there. I started doing things I should not have done, putting pressure on myself. After my rough start, I came to the field one day and decided to start a new season from that day. And that’s exactly what I did.

Talk about the amazing July you had, when I got there to see you pitch near the end of the month. (Mills won seven straight games, including a 6-0 July, setting a Portland record for wins in one month.)

I was in a groove at that point and I got to where I was in the Zone. I could give up a hit or get in a tough situation and know I was going to get out of it. It was a completely different mindset when I was rolling. I couldn’t do anything else to move up and I had to fight the feeling that I had to change what I was doing to get them to notice me to move up. I had to have the confidence that I could keep pitching well and know that it was going to happen.

I’ve learned that the tough thing about each level that you rise to is that to move up another time, conditions have to be right and someone has to fail for me to rise. Now that I have been through this, I don’t have to put so much pressure on myself and can just focus on what I am doing out there. You have to have more good outings than bad ones, but you won’t get crushed for having a bad day. My mindset has me more prepared than before

Talk about the move to AAA and your experience there (he did pitch in triple-A in the playoffs in 2008.)

When I saw it was Charlotte, I was excited that I could be around so many friends. I am glad it was there. I got to go to my house and get my head relaxed. I wasn’t nervous at all or mad at myself at how the game started (Mills gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk in just two innings pitched). I felt comfortable and thought I threw well, but it just didn’t happen. I didn’t feel like I had something to prove. I knew I was supposed to be there. I was able to get out there and pitch well in the next three outings. If I go out there and pitch the way I know how to, I can go out there and give up two hits and no runs, but I can have a bad day. The key is not to let the game beat you by getting away from what you do that is successful.

What did they tell you after the AAA season? What did you do to stay ready?

I did not think that I could do anything else. The very last day of the season, they told me that I was not going to get called up for the last month, but to stay in shape and be ready in the event that someone goes down. I was disappointed at first, but I saw the positives.

What are your expectations for next year? What do you do to get better?

I can’t control who is ahead of me but I can control how I play. My expectations are not to just to move up a level and just be happy. My expectations are to move to the big leagues and stay there. I intend to keep my workout routine. I want to have my whole body in shape. I don’t want to wear down and get weak during the season. If I don’t get to Boston, I want it to be because there is not a spot for me. I am going to put myself in the best possible situation to be ready for that.

Last year, it was different. I could take two or three weeks off to recoup and repair. This year, I had to keep up the work as hard as I was during the regular season. I had to be ready in case of a late call up, but I didn’t take a lot of time off. I had to let my body relax and recoup a little, but I still worked on it. I have shut my arm down until December, but I work out three days a week. It’s not really heavy in the gym right now, but I maintain so that when we go heavy, I won’t be sore. I am on the field three days a week with some light running. I am preparing for the full go.

The Red Sox have a workout schedule based on your body and what you need to do in order to get better and maintain your body. It’s a very detailed workout. I was surprised at how detailed and in depth that they get with your workouts. They are very good about getting you as an individual where you need to be. They call me every month or month and a half to check in with me and see how I am doing, but they don’t micro-manage.

What else is your off-season like? How about your mental health?

I was thinking about something that I could do to stay in the game and keep myself working on baseball to stay busy. It keeps me around the game. I work the first half of the week and I use the last half of the week to get away form it. I am giving pitching lessons to younger players who want to get better. I get to see a kid get better and it’s rewarding. I was joking around with a friend about doing that full-time when playing is over. I have never really had an “eight-to-five” job. I play because I love playing. To be able to stay around something that I love would be a dream. I could definitely see this to be a full-time thing if I had the means to do it.

I also got my North Carolina hunting license. I pretty much golf and hunt to keep myself sane.

What don’t you miss about baseball in the off-season?

You never unpack. That’s the worst part about it. Even when you play home games, you never really hang stuff up. It was great to hang stuff up and put shoes away when I got home after the season. It is finally feeling like home. To come back to the same place this off-season make it feels like my house. I lived in different places each year of college.

--Ryan Rose,

Charlotte 49ers Media Relations

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Waiting

I don't know -- maybe every preseason is like this and I just don't remember clearly. It just seems different. More energy. More optimism. More hope.

The questions revolve around the new guys of course --and that might be the reason for the increased attention. The roster of newcomers includes Shamari Spears and Shamarr Bowden -- and that in and of itself gives fans plenty to talk about. Both have been around the program for a year, so they don't seem like newcomers, but they have yet to play, for real, in a 49ers uniform in Halton Arena.

After so much talk, fans are ready for that show.

But there's more -- so much more. Raves continue to flow for combo guard Derrio Green and first impressions have likewise been strong for forward KJ Sherrill. That's not to mention the top signee in the class, Chris Braswell, a top 60 recruit who has the physical size and strength to make an immediate impact. A fourth player, Gokhan Sirin, has been getting less of the preseason attention, but his particular skill set will be a surprising sight for Niner Nation.

So let's go 5 on 5. DiJuan, Ian, An'Juan, RaShad and Phil (with Dewey and Barnett coming off the bench?) against, say, Derrio, Shamarr, KJ, Braswell and Shamari (with Gokhan as the sixth man?).

Any way you slice it, that's a lot of talent. Athleticism, depth, versatility -- all assets coach Lutz has been known to thrive with. He loves changing up lineups, throwing opponents curve balls and catching them off guard. This roster gives him that ability.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have the opportunity to play various styles. Up tempo, naturally. A power inside game? It's there. Threes? Back with a flourish.

I think that's what's spurring the excitement we've felt at the early season gatherings. So many options. So many possibilities.

Next up are Madness (Oct. 22) and Fan Day (Oct. 24). And soon enough the season will be upon us. And soon enough, we will get to see what we've been waiting for.

Soon enough? I wish it were tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

(0-0)...The worst score in all of sports

I like winning, hate losing and absolutely despise tying. Do I need to channel my inner Herm Edwards? "You play to win the game."

When it comes to sports, I’m convinced tying is un-American. Any athletic event that results in a draw defies the meaning of sport. Their needs to be a winner and a loser. Especially after 110 minutes!

Not once, but twice this weekend did Charlotte soccer teams battle to a (0-0) double-overtime, 110 minute scoreless tie, over two hours devoted to watching neither team put the ball in the back of the net. On Sunday, I walked away knowing Charlotte was the better team, but come at-large bid time at the end of the season, Mr. NCAA selection dude will look at the game at face value. A (0-0) tie. It’s not the players, coaches or officials fault. (The men’s game on Sunday was quite entertaining with scoring chances coming at a steady pace and traditionally both Coach Gunn and Cullen play an uptempo, fast, high scoring, fan friendly style of soccer) It’s the rules that bother me.

For example, Friday nights women’s soccer game was arguable the most anticipated matchup in recent memory. And let’s be honest, it was heightened by the fact both teams have a strong distaste for each other and plenty was on the line, including bragging rights and a conference reputation to uphold. But instead, Dayton battles to a (0-0) tie for the 4th time this season! No wonder only 300 people were at the game. Who wants to watch that style of soccer?

Soccer enthusiasts will call it a ‘tremendous defensive struggle,’ I call it ‘a tremendous disappointment.’ Again, I lay no fault at the players or coaches. They let it on the line for 110 minutes, but how can a (0-0) tie between the league’s two best teams be good for the game moving forward through conference? It’s the Yankees-Red Sox tying in a regular season game. It’s Federer tying Roddick in a Wimbledon match. It makes no sense.

In college soccer if the game is tied after regulation the teams play two sudden death overtime periods at 10 minutes a piece. In basketball the teams play however many overtime periods necessary. In baseball teams can play 100 innings if need be. They have tiebreaks in tennis and the Hot Dog eating contest has an eatoff. Now, if similar continuous overtime rules applied in soccer we still might be waiting for a winner from the two matches, so I'm not suggesting that...

That’s where the shootout comes in. Take a page out of the NHL’s book. Play the overtimes, if a tie is still the result, each team is credited with a point and then moves to a shootout. Giving the fans, at the very least, an exciting ending and ability to walk away from the event gleeful with a win or resentful with a loss. Do shootouts in soccer come down to luck? Yea, probably. Are they exciting as H-E-double-hockey sticks to watch? Yea. So just do it already.

Luckily we won’t have this issue come the postseason when the A-10 initiates their shootout policy in soccer.

I want to like soccer. For the most part I'm coming around, and just in time for the '10 World Cup. But when the score results in a (0-0) double overtime draw, it's hard to stay on board.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mastery of the Quick Turnaround

The quick turnaround is a difficult thing to master. It takes hours of preparation, discipline and training to get just right. No, I’m not talking about a basketball turnaround jumper; I’m talking about the quick turnaround that is involved in Atlantic 10 soccer play.

(Kobe Bryant has matered the basketball turnaround jumper,
but not the soccer quick turnaround.)

With the majority of conference matches being played on Fridays and Sundays, a team has only one day to prepare for their next opponent after coming down from the previous game. It can be very tricky as sometimes a team might overlook their Friday opponent in lieu of their Sunday adversary or assume that a Sunday victory is guaranteed after a Friday triumph. Teams are forced to take on the coach’s mantra of ‘taking the season one game at a time.’

In the last three years, Charlotte soccer has seemed to master the way of the quick turnaround.

The women’s squad has gone undefeated in the quick turnaround 14 times, while splitting the doubleheader six times and losing both games only once. The men’s team has had similar success by winning nine turnaround opportunities, while splitting four and losing only twice.

Both of Charlotte’s squad will need to continue their turnaround success as the men open Atlantic 10 Conference play at home with George Washington and Richmond, while the women have the dreaded road turnaround with matches at Dayton, the A-10 Preseason favorite, and Xavier.

Mastering the turnaround is essential in college soccer considering conference tournaments are usually held within the same weekend, which forces teams to play up to three games in four days. That amount of soccer can take a toll on the body and mind; coincidentally, Charlotte has seemed to find the winning combination as the men and women have combined to go to the conference tournament final three times in the last four years.

- Men’s Soccer Turnaround: George Washington, Today at Transamerica Field at 7 p.m. and Richmond, Sunday at Transamerica Field at 1 p.m.

- Women’s Soccer Turnaround: Dayton, Today in Dayton, Ohio at 6 p.m. and Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio at 11 a.m.
-- Patrick McCoy, Charlotte 49ers Media Relations --

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Playoff Picture's Muddy Waters

After an emotional Dig Pink match Friday night, the Charlotte volleyball team fins itself in the mix for a playoff spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, a goal that has eluded the squad in the previous two seasons.

Though the team is not outwardly talking about the tournament yet (taking it one match a time IS the best course and that's how they are choosing to progress through the season), it is worth taking a "big picture" look at the season that remains for the ladies in green and white.

The Midwest Three (No. 21 Saint Louis, Dayton and Xavier) have been very good and return a lot of talent and should contend for playoff berth. Many people believe that these three are locks for another appearance in the tournament.

Looking at the standings now, three teams are off to 0-4 starts... Fordham, La Salle and Rhode Island. Those happen to be Charlotte three wins to begin the season as the Niners head to a meaty part of the schedule.

George Washington, Duquesne and Temple all have two or three wins in the first four conference matches, making for an interesting stretch of matches this week and next.

The Niners head to Pittsburgh to battle Duquesne Friday night and then onto the Central Time Zone for a Sunday match at Saint Louis. These two matches are not "make or break" but could weigh heavily on potential tiebreakers for tournament berths.

The new schedule includes an extra pair of matches (going from 13 to 15), with a new rotation of teams on the schedule. The A-10 coaches voted to do away with divisions (East and West) and go to just one standings list for the ten teams that play volleyball in the league. This season, there are six teams that the Niners play twice (as opposed to four last season) and just three teams that Charlotte faces once (five last year, every team in the West Division). The plan is to rotate the schedule so that the three teams that Charlotte plays just once this year (Rhode Island, Duquesne and Dayton) would face the Niners twice next year and slide three other teams to a single matchup next year.

The match with Duquesne (2-1) pits two teams with just one loss against one another Friday night (Charlotte is 3-1). The only other match with two teams with a better conference winning percentage Friday night will be George Washington (3-1) versus Saint Louis (3-0). In the conference standings, these are teams two through five in the win column, meaning this pair of matches should allow the standings to separate the teams a little more than the three tiers that exist right now.

Dayton (3-0) and Xavier (2-1) each face winless Fordham and Rhode Island this weekend. Taking a look at the standings Monday should make the playoff picture a little more clear as we near the midway point of the conference season, which comes next weekend as Charlotte hosts travel partner George Washington on Saturday, October 17 at 2 p.m. in Halton Arena.

On a side note, the attendance figures for this season so far have been outstanding. The team is thrilled that Charlotte is averaging nearly 850 fans per contest this year. Thanks to those who have come out in support of the team to watch this exciting and faster pace of volleyball. It has been noted that they feed off of the incredible amount of energy that the fans provide in Halton Arena.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Big Game
Sports fans consider the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the Final Four as big games. Then, there are big regular-season games such as Yankees-Red Sox, Patriots-Colts and Celtics-Lakers. Over the years, the 49ers have had big games whether it was a men’s basketball game in Halton Arena against Cincinnati or Xavier or a women’s basketball game against George Washington in 2006 or the A-10 Championship game last season against Richmond. The 49ers soccer programs has had big games as well. Maybe the biggest game was the 49ers men’s soccer team’s win over #1 South Carolina in 1994. This Friday, the 49ers women’s soccer team has a big game when they battle A-10 rival Dayton on the road.

"The game should be really exciting," Charlotte 49ers coach John Cullen said. "Two quality teams who are both playing good soccer. We have our work cut out for us playing Dayton on the road. We are looking forward to the challenge that this game presents."

Both teams enter the game a perfect 4-0-0 in league play. Dayton was picked to finish first in the preseason A-10 coaches polls, while the 49ers were picked second. Charlotte post a 20-game winning streak against Atlantic 10 competition. Charlotte has captured the last three A-10 regular season titles and the last two A-10 Tournament titles. While, Dayton has captured a share of eight A-10 regular-season titles and five A-10 Tournament titles. Dayton’s last A-10 title came in 2004.

The game will be a battle of contrasting styles. The 49ers explosive offense which is tied for sixth in the nation at 3.25 goals per game. Whitney Weinraub leads the Atlantic 10 and ranks among the nation’s leaders in goals with nine. Hailey Beam is second on the team with seven goals. Kirby Stenard has added six goals to the 49ers attack. Oni Bernard, Jenna McKeon, Carrie Dail, Lena Suarez, India Winford and Lacey McGowan have all scored multiple goals for the 49ers.

Dayton relies on their defense that post a 0.23 goals against average which is second in the nation. Dayton’s has recorded nine shutouts this season.

The key to the game maybe the 49ers’ defense against Dayton’s offense. Charlotte’s defense is second in the A-10 with eight shutouts. While, Dayton is second in the league in goals scored with 24.

Each team will have six Atlantic 10 games left after Friday’s game so there is still plenty of season left after the big game. However, the winner of the game will have the inside track to the A-10 regular-season title and the top seed in the A-10 Tournament which will be played at Charlotte’s Transamerica Field, November 5-8.

Brent Stastny, Associate Media Relations Director

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kids Plus

I have long said that Dalton, Mass. was the best place for a kid to grow up. It seemed everything done in town was done with kids in mind. The Youth Center. The Penny Carnival. The summer carnival. The Follies. Halloween festivals. The Community House.

And the playing fields. So many playing fields.

Dalton is not a big town -- set in the beautiful Berkshires in the western part of the state -- Dalton is cozy. Small.

Yet playing fields abounded. It seemed every neighborhood had its own field. Craneville Park, Greenridge, Pine Grove, Ashuelot (Craneville Elementary), the Legion, not to mention the high school fields.

There was always plenty for kids to do -- plenty of games, playgrounds and endless expanses of green.

But moreso than the activities, it was the people that made Dalton so kid-friendly.

People who coached the teams, ran the activities, volunteered their time and gave of themselves so the kids in the community were safe, happy, active and involved.

It was the people that made up the fabric of our town. And the fabric of Dalton, Mass. was that of your favorite well-worn sweatshirt. Comfortable, familiar and reliable.

I've learned of course that Dalton does not have a monopoly on great childhoods. Communities across the country, including one just north of the university, thrive on the service of its people. You know the ones -- they coach the youth teams, season-in and season-out. They volunteer in the concession stand. They may even, just for the fun of it, take the pictures that will fill so many frames and family photo albums . They chaperone field trips and volunteer on special school days and not-so-special school days. They may run your Homeowners Association or at least get its work done. They organize fundraisers. They teach. They coach. They mentor. They serve. They make a difference.

The picture frame next to my desk reads: "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove ... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

Sometime this week, Dalton will stand still as an untold number of "children" -- over 25 years worth -- will turn out to celebrate the life of Robert "Boog" Powell. His life was dedicated to Dalton. He taught. He coached. He mentored. He served. He was as much a fixture in Dalton as the library, the fire station and Crane's mills.

He was what Dalton was all about.

He made a difference in the lives of many a child. And he will be missed.

Tom Whitestone
Assoc. A.D./Media Relations

Photo credit - Courtesy of Todd Madison

Monday, October 5, 2009

DVR'ing Live Sporting Events Gets Tricky!

I had quite a quandary (try saying that 5-times-fast) on Sunday afternoon.

My Baltimore Ravens were playing the much hated New England Patriots Sunday afternoon at 1pm on CBS’s National Television Game of the Week. I’m jacked. The Flacco jersey was hanging unblemished in the closet. All week it teased me. I’d walk into the closet every morning to get dressed and there it was. The black, purple and white in all its glory. I almost wore it to bed with me.

Then the realization set in that I had to work volleyball Sunday afternoon at 1pm. The exact kickoff time of the football game. (Actually, I think the early games kick at 1:05pm)

Anyhow, what is a man suppose to do? I thought of calling in sick, faking the flu or making up some catastrophic injury. But my conscious got the best of me.

Instead, I worked the volleyball match. Had a great time. Saw the Niners win their 3rd straight A-10 match. It was great! But what about the Ravens game? Oh I had it covered…

I’m currently watching a friend’s dog for the week. A friend who happens to have a 60-inch HD television, Directv, fridge full of food and beverages and DVR…Wait did I say DVR? Yes!

I have never DVR’d a live sporting event before. I was a rookie. It just seemed unethical for some reason. How am I suppose to not know that the Ravens just scored 3 touchdowns or Flacco just threw 3 interceptions? I wanted to be completely in the dark. To not find out what was happening in the game was going to be difficult.

So I set out with a plan. The night before I let all my friends know via facebook that I would be DVR’ing the game, “NO ONE TEXT ME UPDATES!” Surprisingly they listened. I got in my car and immediately turned off the radio, drove in silence just incase for some inexplicable reason, the music station would cut into sports highlights. I fielded no phone calls and didn’t surf the net once between the hours of 12:30pm-3:15pm. I was proud of myself.

Finally I got home after the volleyball match, let the dog out, crashed on the couch and started the game. It was 3:30pm local time. The game was probably in the 4th quarter, but my television screen was filled with Phil Sims and Jim Nantz doing the pregame. I had done it! The satisfactory level for me was at an all time high.

The experience was awesome, after getting the ‘fast-forwarding commercials’ down to a science. Sometimes I went too far and had to backtrack. But it was great. No commercials, no halftime, no extended challenge calls, no extended injury timeouts (I pray Jared Gaither is ok). It was just football. And in Tom Brady’s case, football with a skirt on.

But I’m not 100% sold yet on the DVR thing. Looking ahead, our mens/womens basketball teams have games on television. Why I would DVR the games just to have them archived, could I actually pull off what I did with the Ravens game? Probably not.
If we end up playing Duke in the preseason NIT and I need to work or have some commitment that keeps me away from the television and the game is on ESPN there is no chance in H-E-double hockey sticks I am not keeping tabs on that game live through my cell, internet or texts.

Besides, when we win I want to be at Picassos for the celebration!