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Nationally Ranked Men's Soccer Opens the 2016 Season on Friday
By Matthew Hammond, Athletics Communications Intern (August 24, 2016)
Following the program's third trip to the NCAA Men's College Cup in seven seasons, University of Akron men's soccer is gearing up for another run towards the program's second national championship.
The Zips are ranked No. 2 in the country in the 2016 preseason National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll and return some of the nation's top players. That list includes second team All-American midfielder Adam Najem as well as fellow senior midfielder Victor Souto, defenders Danilo Rajden and Brad Ruhaak, and redshirt junior forward Sam Gainford.
Head coach Jared Embick, who has been with the program since 2007, returns for his fourth season at the helm. The 2015 season was Akron's best season under Embick, and that has led to some high expectations for the 2016 campaign. Along with the NSCAA No. 2 ranking, College Soccer News also has the Zips as the second-best team in the country, and TopDrawerSoccer.com ranks the Zips at No. 3.
Following the preseason, Embick acknowledged some of the team's strengths and weaknesses.
"Our strength is in our depth. We have 18 guys we can roll out there at a good level. Our weaknesses right now are in our goal scoring; we've lacked someone who can put the ball in the net consistently. We've out-played the teams in both of our [preseason] games, but we've missed a lot of chances," he said.
Even with the high rankings and expectations, Embick isn't changing his approach toward the upcoming season.
"We have those [expectations] for ourselves every year. Hopefully this year it gets the fans excited, and we're going to use it to build our confidence, and we're going to use our experience to get better and get on top of teams early," he said.
Embick was at Akron when the Zips made two consecutive College Cup appearances in 2009 and 2010 and won a National Championship as an assistant coach, so he understands the importance of making it back to the Cup.
"Our goal is to win it all, so that's what we work toward every day. We've got to have that in the back of our minds to keep our heads level. We need to stay focused on that goal in order to get better, so we can get back there and finish the job," he said.
Over the three years since he's been here, Embick has seen some great Akron teams that have had a lot of success. He compared this year's squad to those of past years and thinks pretty highly of his team.
"This is probably the best team I've had in the preseason [since becoming head coach]. We've had some talented teams here, if we can find that goal scorer then this team can be right up there with the best. Right now, I think our overall depth is the best we've ever had since I've been here, now we've just got to start piecing it together in the games," he said.
Najem's expectations are right up there with those of his coach. He expects the Zips to be the top team in the country.
"We feel that we're a really good team; we got the number two ranking but our goal is to be the best," he said.
With a trip to the College Cup already under his belt, Najem is hungry for another one, only with different results this time. As a senior and a captain, he understands the importance of making it back.
"The College Cup is our motivation, having made it there last year. We place a ton of importance on that because to be the best team, you have to make it there. That's what it's really all about."
When asked if he has a College Cup-or-bust mentality, he replied "Absolutely, that's exactly what I'm saying. We want to get it done this time."
Given the rich history of Akron men's soccer, it comes as no surprise that the team's leaders hold everyone to such high standards. Following a two-game preseason, the Zips begin the 2016 regular season this Friday, August 26, at 7:30p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium- Cub Cadet Field against the Georgetown Hoyas.
A Brand New Offensive Line
By Matthew Hammond, Athletics Communications Intern (August 17, 2016)
Following one of the most historic seasons in the history of Akron football, expectations to exceed last year's achievements are high. Akron received four votes in the MAC preseason media poll to win the MAC East Division, as well as a vote to win the MAC championship game. The 2015 season brought the program its first-ever bowl victory in the second bowl appearance in school history as well as the most wins in a season since moving up to Football Subdivision (FBS) level play.
Moving into 2016, there are a lot of new faces on the team, particularly on the offensive line. All five starters from last year have graduated, and the line got a new coach. Former graduate assistant Brett Ekkens was promoted to offensive line coach, and his most experienced linemen are sophomore Kyle Ritz and junior Stephen Ericksen who have a combined nine starts, the second least experienced line in the country. The current starting center, LaVonne Gauthney, spent most of his time last season at tight end.
Even with all of the changes and being the fourth offensive line coach in as many seasons, Ekkens still understands the importance of having consistency in the leadership.
"We've had guys come into the program for a number of years, and they've had multiple coaches, but those guys have come in and worked hard every day. The guys in the program set the tone and the pace, so everything has to do with consistency," he said.
Losing all five starters from 2015 also means that the line needs new leaders, but Ekkens is comfortable in that area as well.
"I expect all five of my guys that are starting and are out there on the field to be leaders and set the tone for the offense. We always talk about being a unit; we don't list names."
Ritz made five starts in his freshman season, and he has the most starts of any lineman. Even so, he doesn't feel much pressure from the high expectations either.
"I don't feel any pressure; I'm around a bunch of great guys and great hard workers, and it's all about the team at the end of the day," he said.
Ritz also feels pretty good about the upcoming season. His expectations are high.
"I feel that we're pretty athletic and mean, so we'll get after it."
The most interesting piece of the line, though, comes right in the middle. From tight end to starting center, Gauthney will be making the snaps for the offense in week one. He doesn't have a ton of experience there, but he feels pretty good.
"I practiced a few snaps back in high school seven-on-sevens, so all-in-all I've got pretty much one year of experience there."
Like Ritz, he isn't too worried about having a new coach on the line.
"There are no concerns. It's just like coming out of high school and going to a prep school, dealing with new coaches here and there, so having a new coach is just having a new body, and you just listen to the coach, go out there and play."
Gauthney doesn't feel too much pressure either.
"We're all going to work hard together and push each other. If we play together as a team, we'll be fine."
Despite having so little experience across the board, there is a huge sense of confidence amongst the group, which is all you can ask for when the unit lacks reps. More importantly, the offensive line now has a completely blank slate, and they're all in together. With a proven starting quarterback in junior Thomas Woodson, a highly touted transfer running back in Warren Ball, and receivers like Jerome Lane and transfer JoJo Natson, there are enough pieces in place for the line to show that it can set the tone and be the anchor of an offense with the goal of a MAC Championship in place.
Akron opens the 2016 season with VMI on Sept. 3 at InfoCision Stadium - Summa Field. Kickoff on ESPN3 is set for 6:30 p.m.
Matthew Hammond is a freshman at The University of Akron, majoring in sport management. His blog will appear each Wednesday.
Timeout with Director of Athletics Development Anthony Henderson
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (April 30, 2015)
Anthony Henderson is the Director of Athletics Development and has been with the Zips for four years.
As a member of the Development department, Henderson cultivates relationships and builds the support systems that are vital to the success of student-athletes and Zips Athletics as a whole.
"We are in the relationship business. Our job is to cultivate new relationships as well as steward those existing relationships to bring them to the next level," Henderson said.
Akron's donors and Henderson's relationship with them help ensure that the student-athletes have the facilities and financial support that is needed to breed success. The same support assists the coaching staffs in bringing in exceptional student-athletes to lead Akron's programs to championships.
Henderson maintains relationships with contributors to Zips Athletics through meetings, visitations and daily phone calls.
"As years pass, priorities may change, may evolve and different projects may need to be addressed within the program, but this community has always risen to the challenge to make sure the Zips have what they need to be successful."
Henderson humanizes the business of collegiate athletics, bringing a passion for the unique world of sports while also being personally invested in the prosperity of Akron and its student-athletes and staff.
"I am passionate about the business of college athletics because I owe so much of who I am to it. I have not found anything else that I am that passionate about," Henderson added. "What we do impacts the lives of young people tremendously and that is important to me."
The importance of providing positive experiences for student-athletes is rooted in Henderson's own personal experiences.
"You have first-generation college students all over the country, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc., who get to go to school because of what we do in our office," Henderson said. "I was one of those young people who was the first in my family to ever go to college. That is a responsibility I do not take lightly and my job is one of the ways I pay it forward because I don't know where I would be if someone had not done the same for me."
Prior to joining the Zips Athletics staff, Henderson played football at Hampton University and entered the ranks of college athletics after obtaining a master's degree at Virginia Commonwealth University and working as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach at his alma mater, Powhatan High School in Powhatan, Va.
While a coach at Powhatan, Henderson discovered his enthusiasm for helping student-athletes achieve their dreams. Henderson coached numerous All-District, All-Region, and All-State student-athletes for the Indians, three of which went on to play at the collegiate level.
"Being a four-year member of the Hampton football team and having a hand in giving those young men a chance to experience the same, something they would not have been able to experience if it were not for their athletic ability, was one of the most gratifying experiences I have had."
Now at Akron, Henderson pursues that same goal.
"I guess you can say I am continuing to do the same for over 400 student-athletes at The University of Akron, just in a different manner."
Timeout with Men's Golf Head Coach David Trainor
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (April 9, 2015)
Head men's golf coach David Trainor is currently in his fourth season at Akron after seven seasons at the University of Kentucky and a collegiate playing career at the College of Charleston.
The Berwyn, Pa., native is passionate about recreating the collegiate athlete experience that made him fall in love with the sport and giving his student athletes that same opportunity.
"I have known Brian Craig at UK for a long time, and spoke to him at length about my desire to get into college coaching," Trainor said. "I loved my time playing collegiate golf, and wanted to give other young men the same opportunity to do the same thing I did. When his assistant position opened up, he called and asked if it is something I still wanted to do, and the rest is history."
Prior to his first coaching opportunity at Kentucky, Trainor had not anticipated that coaching would be in his future.
"When I was in school, it never crossed my mind to get into collegiate coaching. I did a lot after college and in between my time as a collegiate golf coach – I caddied on the PGA and European tours, I traveled the world as golf instructor, worked as an assistant pro as several high end private clubs, and even worked in the financial sector for a short while," Trainor said. "When coaching caught my eye, yes – it is all I wanted to be."
Though pursuing coaching as a career was not originally on Trainor's agenda, finding a way to incorporate the sport into his professional life has always been his aspiration.
"I haven't really given it much thought about what else I would do, but it would have to be something in golf – I love the sport too much, and it is in my blood."
For Trainor, serving as a head coach is about more than just being around the sport.
"I love helping my student-athletes reach their potential. I love competing. I love interacting with the kids and their families. I loved my time as a collegiate athlete, and I wanted to give my student-athletes a chance to do the same thing, and hopefully love it as much as I did," Trainor added.
Being able to provide that same experience for his team is a driving force behind Trainor's coaching philosophy.
"I stress several things with my team; do the right thing, attend class and earn good grades, play smart golf, take accountability for all actions, and accept all results. The last two for me are very important – if we call take accountability and accept the results – good or bad, we can learn how to do better, or continue to do the right stuff," Trainor said.
Timeout with Soccer Assistant Coach Kerri Butler
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (March 20, 2015)
One of Zips Athletics' newest members is assistant women's soccer coach Kerri Butler, who is settling in nicely at Akron, as she is no stranger to transitions.
Butler comes to Northeast Ohio after a successful career as a goalkeeper as well as experience under head coach Noreen Herlihy as a graduate assistant and goalkeeper coach at Slippery Rock.
Butler's coaching career began as she was forced to shut the door on a successful run as both a collegiate athlete at West Virginia and professional soccer player for the Atlanta Beat.
"After I finished playing at WVU, I went to Atlanta to play in the women's pro league, and I got injured," Butler said. "I have actually had five surgeries. It's a back and hip problem, so it was one of those things where the doctor said you may want to back off or step aside, because he was concerned that in the future something was going to happen."
Stepping away from the sport was never a thought that crossed Butler's mind as she quickly adapted and began transitioning into a coaching role.
"I decided that I wanted to still be really involved in the game, and I started off training goalkeepers, which was something that I loved to do. I didn't want to let it take me away from the game completely," Butler added.
In addition to pursuing the game on an instructional level, Butler is even more adamant about making sure athletics as a whole can always play an important role in her life.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology from West Virginia in 2012, Butler is now pursuing a master's degree from Slippery Rock, where she worked as a graduate assistant under Herlihy prior to coming to Akron.
"I am in the process of getting my master's in student affairs and higher education," Butler said. "They didn't have a program in the exercise component that I was that interested in, and I've always been a people person. I like working with people and thought that if I got into the student affairs realm of it, I could stay in athletics by being an athletic academic advisor or something along those lines."
Her passion for athletics started at a young age, as Butler came from a family of soccer players.
"I actually started playing when I was about four. My dad was an All-American goalkeeper, so he was big into soccer and so was my brother, so I just kind of followed suit," Butler said.
Even during her early days as a young athlete, Butler was faced with the challenge of transitioning into a new role on her team.
"I was about eight and then we moved to Virginia, and our goal keeper got a red card, so I started in goal. I was a field player until I was about 12 when I stepped in goal on a whim," she added.
Now that her career has brought her to Akron, Butler continues to make adjustments and acclimate to a new role.
"The transition here has been great. Noreen is a great boss and a great person to work under. When she asked me if I wanted to join her here, I was very excited, because I knew what type of person I was going to be with so it has been seamless and smooth," Butler said. "Everyone here has been very helpful and wonderful, so it has been a very easy to transition."
Timeout with Facilities' Kelci Yeager
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (March 6, 2015)
Stile Field House Operations Coordinator Kelci Yeager began her career in sports as a freshman in high school, as the field has given her opportunities to study abroad, work with different departments and even learn how to drive a Zamboni.
In addition to handling all the behind-the-scenes excitement at Stile Field House, Yeager has also been a foster parent since November 2012.
"I have taken care of nine children in that time either as a foster parent or a respite for another foster family, so that they could go away for the weekend," Yeager said. "I'm licensed for birth to five. I had a three-year-old girl, I had a little boy who was three months for a year, and I've had two sets of brothers twice for a short period of time."
She is currently taking a break to enjoy Akron's track season. Working long, busy hours is nothing new to Yeager as she has been a part of the Zips Athletics team for over six years after beginning her career in athletics as just a freshman in high school.
"Many moons ago, when I was in high school, there was an ad for an athletic training assistant for the football team, and I thought that was going to be the coolest thing ever; so I rushed right down at lunch to sign up and asked if anyone else had signed up, and the secretary looked at me like I was crazy," Yeager laughed.
Yeager moved up to work alongside the athletic director during her high school career and helped run state playoff tournaments, reassuring her passion for the field. She then went on to attend Central Michigan University to pursue sport studies.
"I didn't decide that I wanted to be in facilities and operations until my last year of undergrad when I had to figure out internships. I thought I definitely wanted to work in sports information, but I didn't want to deal with all those statistics," Yeager added. "So, when I was looking for internships I found an operations internship for the West Michigan White Caps, the single-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, and that's when I knew what I wanted to do."
That was just the beginning for Yeager, as she went back to CMU for her master's degree and had many interesting experiences along the way, despite completing grad school in just one calendar year.
"I studied abroad in South Korea for three weeks and studied sports facilities, so I got to visit the Olympic training center and different World Cup stadium, which was amazing," Yeager said. "Once my actual coursework on campus was done, I had to do an internship and a thesis, so I was able to get an internship at the University of Michigan in their ice area, so I do know how to drive a Zamboni."
Yeager eventually got her first full-time job at Seton Hall University, where she worked for two years before moving closer to home and joining the Akron staff.
"I missed the Midwest and wanted to be closer to home, so I started looking for jobs within six hours of my family, and I was lucky enough to come here and interview and get the job, and I've been here ever since."
Timeout with Rifle Head Coach Newt Engle
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (February 27, 2015)
Rifle head coach Newt Engle's road to becoming Akron's longest-running head coach has involved the likes of dairy farming, photography, helping out at a steel mill, teaching college classes, and working as an Assistant Chief of Police on UA's Police Department.
Engle is now completing his 38th season at the helm of the program and has led the team to its consistent rankings in the Top 20 as well as to numerous league championships.
"My life is full of accidents," Engle said with a smile as he described his years leading up to becoming a rifle coach.
If you rewind to Engle's early undergraduate years, he was a student at Kent State University pursuing photography in hopes of improving the photography business he started with a friend.
"I thought if I studied it, I could be even better at it, and we might be able to turn it into an actual business. So, I went to Kent State for a year, and that's when I found out photography is art ... well, my little art switch is turned off. I'm pretty good at taking pictures, but at the end of my first year of college, I wasn't doing so well," Engle laughed.
Following a summer spent working at a steel mill with his father, Engle went back to school; this time, at Akron. It was then that his friend, Dave, asked him if he wanted to try out for the rifle team.
"I wasn't sure, because I was just a trap shooter. It's shooting, but it's a completely different discipline. Then Dave said, 'They're going to give us bullets,' and I said, 'I'm in!' So long story short, we came down, and both of us made the team, and we both started traveling and shooting with the team," he said.
And so it began, after just two years spent on the team, Engle- the team captain at the time- stepped into the head coaching position after the then-head coach Nancy Worsencroft was in a bad accident.
"She had to leave the area following the accident and asked me to coach, and I said, 'I'm a junior in college, I'm not a coach!' But, she was afraid that if we didn't have someone to take over, we might not have had a team anymore. So I agreed and told her I'd coach just until she could come back, and that was 1977, so I'm still waiting," he laughed.
"But she actually did come back. We're good friends, and she lives in the area. It was her team, but she insisted that I keep coaching, so I did," Engle added.
Fast forward to his 38th year at the helm, though a series of unexpected events put Engle in the head coaching position, his success and success of the program are no surprise. He points to many different factors that all play a key role, including graduate assistant Abigail Stanec, as well as new coaching philosophy helping the team to its highest ranking in years.
"We spend a lot of time dealing with what are called the two great fears; the fear of failure and the fear of success," he explained. Every time we shoot, we are hoping to get a 10. If something happens when you're shooting sevens, sixes, the untrained mind would start thinking ahead of itself and run 100 miles per hour the wrong way, because that's the fear of failure. The fear of success when you're shooting tens, you think you're going clean and you get overwhelmed."
His new coaching philosophy comes out of his 33 years spent as a member of the UAPD, beginning in 1978, just one year after becoming rifle's head coach.
"I learned this first in police work, to where a fear of success is a lot like fight or flight. If you get a call and there's a burglary, and the thief just ran into a building, you go up to the building and wonder if he's really in there. Then you hear him and your body goes into fight or flight and you breath shallow, you get tunnel vision and loss of motor skills," Engle said. "So we learned to combat that with purposeful breathing that can slow the heart down. Now we do the same thing in rifle before we shoot."
Engle is impressed with the exponential improvements his team is making this year.
"It's a lot of different things that have changed the culture and the mindset of the program, and I think what we are seeing this year is just the beginning."
Timeout with Director of Ticket Operations Adam O’Connell
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (February 19, 2015)
For Zips Athletics' director of ticketing operations Adam O'Connell, a typical day at the office is about more than just selling tickets.
O'Connell came to the department after years of experience working in professional baseball.
"I wanted to work in Minor League Baseball, so when I graduated college I went to the winter meetings," O'Connell said. "From there, I got three job offers in the MiLB, including a job with the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple-A team for the Giants. I took the job out there and lived there for four-and –a-half years, but I'm from the Warren area originally. Family brought me back, and after working in professional sports for a while, I wanted to transition into something else."
Now a near decade-long member of the Akron Athletics staff, O'Connell can appreciate the fast-paced and ever-changing University environment.
"I like the environment here. It's something new every year, and that's the best part about it; especially here, where we are promoting so many different sports and doing five or six different things at once," O'Connell said.
Additionally, O'Connell sees his job as an opportunity to work with many different people.
"I love talking to people and being around them. What we do here in ticketing is deal with the family that has never been to a game, all the way to the million-dollar donor," O'Connell said. "People will ask me what I like about it, and it's probably dealing with all walks of life, which is an interesting way to think about it."
O'Connell's experiences in working with people from different backgrounds and interests has given him a pretty simple sales philosophy.
"I always tell my staff to just treat everybody great," he added.
In addition to working with customers and fans, O'Connell can appreciate the team approach that spills over from sports into the administration.
"I like the relationships I have with coaches and student-athletes. I think they're approachable, and they appreciate what the staff does to help their programs. I can walk into coach [Keith] Dambrot's office and just talk to him for 10 minutes, and I don't know if it's like that anywhere else," he said.
However, if there's one thing O'Connell can't escape when interacting with staff and coaches alike, it's his ties to Akron's rival.
"I got my undergraduate degree at Kent State...I've been hearing about that for years; but I always root for Akron when we play them," he assured.
Timeout with Assistant Softball Coach Megan Brown, PhD
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (February 13, 2015)
If you give assistant softball coach Megan Brown, PhD, the afternoon off on a recruiting trip or weekend series, you can bet she'll be using her time to explore nearby sites.
"Travel is my weakness. I save up my vacation time to travel. I save money to travel; I love to go places," Dr. Brown said. "I had the opportunity to go to Skagway, Alaska, and go through the White Pass, which is the pass they used during the Gold Rush. I was up in Whitehouse, Yukon, for the World Championships, and we had a day off so I took a train and a bus through that on an off day."
Dr. Brown has a PhD in kinesiology and is a former collegiate softball player at Florida Southern as well as a former professional athlete. Her playing and coaching career has taken her to the likes of Italy, Holland, and England, allowing her to fuse her passions for travel and softball.
"I wanted to continue to play and the level over there is very good. It's cool to see softball in different cultures because sport is a definite extension of culture, so softball is played differently all over the world and a lot of people don't know that. It's neat to see the different culture of sport," Dr. Brown said.
Now in her first year coaching for Akron after coaching at North Carolina Pembroke and Connecticut, Dr. Brown integrates vast intercultural knowledge and an educational background as she oversees the Zips' softball pitching staff.
"I think it's allowed me to have a better understanding of people and realize that everybody comes from a different place; even cultures within the U.S. are so drastically different. I was born and raised in the South, so living up here is a little different, culture wise," she added. "I think it helps me understand people and gave me multiple perspectives for the same skill sets."
In addition to humanizing the sport, her experiences playing and coaching around the world have helped Dr. Brown continue to develop her coaching philosophy.
"A lot of the ways they do things in other countries are actually better than some of the ways they do things here. I've learned a lot and coached for Great Britain's National Team as well, so I have been to some World Championships," Dr. Brown said. "I have seen Japan, Australia, Canada, and I've seen teams that perform at the top of our sport in the world. Sometimes you'll watch them and say 'we need to do more of that.'"
"It's a lot about taking what makes them good and asking how you can put that in your team, and mixing it together with what is going to get the best performance out of the people you currently have," she added.
For Dr. Brown, coaching isn't just about understanding her team on a cultural and talent-level, but also from a scientific point of view. After getting her bachelor's and master's degree from Florida Southern, Dr. Brown went on to get a PhD in kinesiology from Auburn, where she also worked as a student manager and volunteer assistant coach for the softball team.
"I knew the education background would help me with the pedagogy side of coaching as far as the actual methodology of teaching, so that was a lot of the driving force."
Dr. Brown has experience teaching, from her time at UNC Pembroke where she enjoyed the classroom setting as it provided a knowledge base for her coaching strategies.
"Teaching kinesiology and anatomy and physiology helps to keep my mind fresh with all the biomechanics I use with our pitchers," Dr. Brown said. "The more I can learn about how our body actually works, the more efficient our pitchers can be and the more we can get power production and execution and put those pieces together."
All of what Dr. Brown is able to bring to the softball diamond will help the Zips as the 2015 season gets under way.
Timeout with Compliance's Erica Schmidt
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (February 6, 2015)
Football Signing Day has kept assistant director for compliance Erica Schmidt busy as the team prepared to announce its new commitments for the 2015-16 season.
As the assistant director for compliance, Schmidt is responsible for clearing the commitments' paperwork, while also taking care of scholarship and eligibility questions.
At 26, she is one of the younger staff members of Akron Athletics as she is also a recent recipient of the Teammate of the Month award.
Like many in the field, Schmidt's career has been fueled by a background as an athlete throughout her life.
"I did softball and ice skating, then gymnastics took over my life; I did that for about 13 years. From gymnastics, I took up pole vaulting, which turned into track and field. I was a track and field athlete in college (at Robert Morris)," Schmidt said.
In her time at Robert Morris as a student-athlete, Schmidt discovered her interest in working in athletics administration.
"At first, I thought that I wanted to do athletic training and be a coach, versus administration. Then I changed my mind when I saw the time commitments of coaching. It's a constant, 24/7 job, so I went the administrative route. I figured out during my senior year of college that it was the route I wanted to take," Schmidt added. "I did an internship in compliance, then I was a GA in compliance at West Florida, and it evolved from there."
The Pittsburgh, Pa., native came to Akron after spending three years in Florida pursuing her master's degree in college student personnel administration (CSPA).
It was during her time as a graduate assistant in West Florida when Schmidt's desire to work in the field was reinforced.
"In grad school, I really looked up to my boss, the associate AD for Compliance and Senior Woman Administrator. Overall, she knows her stuff, travels, but still has a personal life, so she has a good balance. She's good at her job and moved up fast, so I admired her."
Schmidt is now going on two years as the assistant director of compliance at Akron and is happy to be near her hometown once again.
"My family lives in Pittsburgh, so I'm happy I'm close to them now. I'm also glad I left for a little bit to realize that I wanted to be closer to my family," she said.
Timeout with Men's Soccer Assistant Coach Oliver Slawson
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (January 29, 2015)
Assistant men's soccer coach Oliver Slawson, a native of Manchester, England, has been involved with Akron Soccer for the past nine years, as he is the longest running member of the program's coaching staff.
After nearly a decade spent in Northeast Ohio, Slawson has been able to call it home with his wife, Michelle, and stepson, Packer, who reside in Medina.
"Ever since I left my friends and family in England, the university and surrounding areas have been my second home. I like the area, and I can relate to the people. It's very similar to where I'm from back home," Slawson said. "Plus, I get to work with some of the best players in the country at the youth level. I'm doing as a job what I used to do as a kid for intrinsic fun."
Another benefit that comes with working in soccer is the opportunities to return home to England each year.
"I go back a lot through work. We have gone there several times either for recruiting or for professional development trips. I always get a chance to go once or twice a year either through work or family holidays," he added.
Slawson came to Akron after a brief stint at Kenyon College, where he started his coaching career after moving to the United States.
"I first came over to America in the summer to coach soccer camps, and one of the guys I worked with was a coach at Kenyon. It was the right place at the right time, and I was finishing my undergraduate work in England when he offered me a job at Kenyon. I was there for two and a half seasons before I came to Akron," Slawson said.
A lifetime fan of the sport and college athlete in England, Slawson never anticipated a career in coaching until he moved to Ohio.
"I played in England ever since I was little. If I wasn't watching it, I was playing it or learning about it, so it's always been a big part of my life, but the college system is so unique; it doesn't happen anywhere else in the world. In England, if you're not involved in professional football, it's hard to get into it. It's not really an option as a career path unless you were a professional player."
After two years at Kenyon, Slawson wanted to experience college soccer at the Division I level, and Akron provided the best soccer in the state.
"There wasn't a graduate assistant position open with the current staff at that time so I got myself on campus with the sport science department. Then, coach Caleb Porter came in Jan. 2006, and I bugged him, and he let me get involved in training, and I got started that way. I combined my graduate assistant responsibilities in the sport science department with helping out Coach Porter and his new staff."
After spending time as a graduate assistant, and moving up to become a volunteer assistant coach, Slawson was promoted to full-time assistant the summer before the team's national championship season in 2010.
"I had been around the program on some level and some capacity for four seasons going into the championship season. Because I had been around the program and under Caleb's command for four years, I had seen the players develop."
Now going on his 10th season with the program and working with a new coaching staff, Slawson plans to continue furthering his career in a sport he loves.
"It's nice that a game I used to play for fun as a child is now my job. It's nice to wake up every morning and do something you love."
Timeout with Director of Operations and Events John D. Tweedy
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (January 22, 2015)
John D. Tweedy moved over 1,000 miles to join the Zips Athletics staff roughly six months ago as the director of operations and events.
Tweedy relocated to Akron from Orlando, Fla., where he worked as an assistant director of event operations at the University of Central Florida after graduating from Georgia State in 2011 with a master's degree in sport administration.
In addition to getting used to a new workplace and a new staff, the proud owner of a Mustang convertible is also adjusting to the snow and the weather.
"I've quickly gotten used to it. I'm taking classes right now and working on an MBA. When I got out of class last Tuesday night, it was six degrees outside, and I thought my face was going to fall off," Tweedy laughed. "But, when you turn around to this week, and it's 32 outside, that's cold, but you run into that six degree often enough, 32 starts to feel a lot less intrusive."
Getting used to the Northeast Ohio weather is a simple adjustment Tweedy has to make in order to continue working in a field he has loved his whole life.
"My favorite thing about it is that you can't beat the environment of working on a college campus and working in athletics. You're going to work long hours, and you're going to work hard in any profession, but just the environment that you're doing those things in, it doesn't get any better."
Tweedy was a multi-sport athlete growing up and ultimately earned an athletic scholarship to run track at the University of Memphis. After spending two years there, the Augusta, Ga., native transferred to Georgia Southern where he got to experience the behind-the-scenes of college athletics.
"I tried a couple different things first, maybe finance, sport medicine – being an athletic trainer - things of that nature," Tweedy added. "When I really got involved was when the director of operations at Georgia Southern came in to talk to one of my classes, and she needed students to be a part of the event staff. So, I did that and got started with gameday operations."
Now an important part of the Zips' staff, Tweedy has settled in nicely at Akron.
"It's been good so far, and people are very nice. You work pretty closely with everybody at a department this size. There's not a lot of specialization, everybody works almost every event, and you work hand-in-hand, whether you're an entry-level, or a senior staff member; you're going to work with everyone and everybody is reachable."
Timeout with Assistant Swimming and Diving Coach Meg Finnerty
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (January 16, 2015)
For Meg Finnerty, the road to becoming the assistant swimming and diving coach was all about merging a passion for swimming with a desire to help others.
Finnerty, a 2012 Akron graduate, earned four varsity letters in the pool for the Zips during her time as a student-athlete, as her name is peppered throughout Akron's list of Top 10 times in program history.
The Mansfield, Ohio, native is now in her second season on the coaching staff and spent her first year helping the squad to its first Mid-American Conference championship title in program history.
"I definitely think that my background as a swimmer here at Akron has helped with building this program up. I know the ins and outs of the program as well as the commitment level and what it takes to be at the top," Finnerty said. "I also know a lot of people within the athletic department and I made those connections as a swimmer here, so it is a little bit of an easier transition."
Making connections outside the classroom has helped Finnerty as both a student-athlete and a coach, while her time spent in the classroom earning a bachelor's degree in child development taught her the value of using those relationships to help others.
"Originally, I wanted to be a child and family counselor, so when this position opened up, it opened my mind to new ideas. I knew that I always wanted to work with people; I just didn't know which age group I wanted to work with," Finnerty added. "I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed working with young adults versus children and families."
Though unexpected, Finnerty's transition into a coaching position has proven to be gratifying.
"Obviously, this is totally different as far as the age group that I am working with and what I'm working with them on, but ultimately, the similarities between the two are that I'm helping others and I think that's rewarding in any position that you have," Finnerty said.
The combination of the two passions is all the more satisfying given Finnerty's roots as a member of an athletic family.
"I am one of five girls, and we all did sports in college. My oldest sister swam at Akron, so that's kind of how I got that connection with swimming at Akron," Finnerty added. "I have two other sisters who played soccer at Xavier University, and I have another sister who played lacrosse at Notre Dame College, and my dad played football at Miami (Ohio)."
Finnerty is grateful that she was able to turn her talents as a athlete and passion for helping others into a career as she looks forward to her future at Akron.
Zips in the Pros [Oct. 17 update]
by Leo Chappel, Zips Men's Soccer Assistant Coach
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Anthony Ampaipitakwong – Bankok United, Thailand Premier League
HARRISBURG CITY ISLANDERS
Akron Football Continues Pre-Gameday Tradition
By Melissa Powell, Athletics Communications Intern (September 20, 2014, Football)
As part of a long-time tradition, five student-athletes from the Zips football team stopped by Akron Children's Hospital Friday afternoon to visit with school-age children.
Before each home game, select players from the team volunteer to spend time with the children, play games, and go room-by-room to pass out autographed posters and other goodies.
Scott Boyett, Joe McNamara, Kyle Pohl, Nick Rossi and James Turner made the trip this week and were led around by Akron Children's Hospital Child Life Specialist Gena Valloric and volunteer Michelle Laskey.
Valloric has accompanied the student-athletes on their visitations in the past and is grateful for their generosity, as she sees the happiness and motivation they are able to bring to the kids who are working hard to get better.
"Unlike other people that come in and visit, I think what the University of Akron football team has offered the kids is a dose of normalcy. They come in, throw footballs with kids, play games or carve pumpkins. They do a lot of things to make the kids feel more normal in this environment," Valloric said.
Valloric and the children are not the only ones who can appreciate the visitations.
"I get just as much out of it as they do, just going down and seeing the kids' faces light up. Nobody ever wants to be stuck in a hospital, especially as a kid. You should be out running around, playing with your friends. Any time I could get down there, even if it's just one kid that we see, it makes a world of difference," McNamara said.
In addition to playing board games and visiting rooms, the trip even included a quick visit to the hospital's recording booth where the team was able to give some radio shout-outs to the children.
"What I like most about it is that, from a student-athlete point of view, you don't see yourself as that big of a deal" said Rossi. "But when you go to the hospital, just to see how much joy you can bring to a younger child or a even a teenager who looks up to you is great."
As visitations continue throughout the rest of the season, Rossi especially looks forward to a Halloween visit soon to come.
"My favorite part is when we go around Halloween time and carve pumpkins with them. They all come in to one meeting room and we all do the activity together, so it's always fun," he added.
Zips In The Pros
MLS / Weeks 10-11
DeAndre Yedlin – Back with Seattle....played 90 minutes in 1-1 tie with San Jose...played 90 minutes in 4-2 win over Portland....played 90 minutes in 1-0 win over Colorado...played 90 minutes in 4-2 win over Chives
Evan Bush – Montreal Impact .....Played 90 minutes in 3-2 win over CD Fas in CCL ....played 90 minutes in 4-2 loss to NYRB....played 90 minutes in 2-0 win over Crew
Ben Zemanski – Portland Timbers... played 90 minutes vs Alpha United in the CCL and played 1 minute in 3-0 win vs Vancouver .....Steve Zakuani....played 74 minutes in CCL game vs Alpha United with 1goal and played 10 minutes in 4-2 loss to Seattle with 1 assist....Darlington Nagbe.....played 80 minutes in 4-2 loss to Seattle and played 90 minutes in 3-0 win over Vancouver with 1 assist....Michael Nanchoff....played 90 minutes in CCL game vs Alpha United
Teal Bunbury - NE Revolution – played 24 minutes in 2-1 win vs Chicago and 65 minutes scoring 1 goal in 3-0 win over TFC and played 90 minutes in 3-1 win over SKC with 1 goal and played 31 minutes in 1-0 win over Chivas....... Scott Caldwell...played 90 minutes vs Chicago, TFC and Chivas
Chris Korb – DC United ....DNP vs Vancouver, NYRB, LA, SKC and Waterhouse in the CCL.....Perry Kitchen.....played 90 minutes in all games with an assist vs NYRB but DNP vs Waterhouse in the CCL
Kofie Sarkodie – Houston Dynamo.....played 90 minutes in 3-1 win over SKC and 90 minutes in 0-3 loss to Columbus
Will Trapp - Columbus Crew – Played 90 minutes vs Houston in 3-0 win and 90 minutes vs Montreal in 0-2 loss.....Chad Barson – DNP
Darren Mattocks – Vancouver Whitecaps......Played 90 minutes vs LA and DC United and 30 minutes vs Portland in 0-3 loss
Eric Stevenson – New York Red Bulls...DNP in last three games but is on the bench.
Dillon Serna – Colorado Rapids.....played 41 minutes vs LA in 0-6 loss, played 79 minutes vs Seattle and played 73 minutes vs DCUnited with 1 goal.
Zarek Valentin – Norwegian Premier League, out for year with torn achilles
Anthony Ampaipitakwong – Bankok United, Thailand Premier League
Blair Gavin – Atlanta Silverbacks played 90 minutes in 1-2 loss to San Antonio Spurs and 90 minutes in 2-1 win over Carolina and DNP in 0-1 loss to Indy 11
Robbie Dershang – Harrisburg City Islanders
Aodhan Quinn – Orlando City
Bryan Gallego – Arizona United – DNP
Sinisa Ubiparipovic – Ottawa Fury...DNP
Athletics Communications Makes Additions for 2014-15
Welcome to a new academic year!
The Athletics Communications and New Media departments are excited about some new ideas we are implementing this year.
Each week throughout the academic year, we will be producing two video shows for our website. On Tuesdays, we will post Zips Weekly, a show recapping how all of our programs faired in competition during the previous week. This show will feature highlights and interviews from the coaches and student-athletes.
On Thursdays, our features show, called Z360, will provide behind-the-scenes stories on our student-athletes, coaches, and community service activities.
Each Wednesday we hope to post a blog ... from someone new each week. Our coaches, staff, student-athletes, etc., have been invited to provide us content. It can be on any subject matter (upcoming event, special awards, etc.). This should be fun and interesting for our fans.
On Sept. 1, our staff began selecting a Zips' Student-Athlete of the Week which will be publicized on our website and social media sites. We will also select a Student-Athlete of the Month. Congrats to Kyle Pohl on his selection as the first Zips' Student-Athlete of the Week!
We look forward to providing you special access to Akron Athletics throughout the year. If you have any ideas, we are open to your suggestions. Thanks for your support. Go Zips!
MLS / Weeks 9-10
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Norwegian Premier League
Thailand Premier League, Bangkok United
Harrisburg City Islanders
2014 MAC Football Media Day
Zips football heads to Ford Field in Detroit for Wednesday's annual Mid-American Conference Football Media Day. Follow this blog for a behind-the-scenes look at all the preseason festivities. Joining head coach Terry Bowden in the media sessions will be seniors LB Justin March and OL Travis Switzer.
July 23, 2014
2:00 p.m. – What a blur. Media Day is going full force. With all the interviews, sometimes it's hard to keep up. Stay tuned as we continue to update on Twitter (@ZipsFB) and will post videos later in the day.
12:00 p.m. – Media day is about to officially begin. MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher will open the event with a press conference. Make sure to follow us all day here on the Zips Insider blog and on Twitter (@ZipsFB).
10:15 a.m. – The MAC Football preseason poll came out at 10 a.m. this morning. The Zips earned 114 points and received three first-place votes, good for second in the MAC's East Division behind Bowling Green. Check out the complete release by clicking here.
8:05 a.m. – Media day this year has a little different format, with a noon ET start instead of the bright and early 8 a.m. opening statements. The morning schedule will see Coach Bowden and the players have a little breakfast, while Coach Bowden will tape an interview with Tim Brando of Sirius XM. Coach Bowden's interview will air at 12:03 p.m. ET on SiriusXM Channel 91.
Also, the MAC Preseason Poll will come out today. There is a lot of excitement from Zips Nation to see where the squad will be picked heading into the season.
Before we get to media day, here are two season previews to help fill the void until the start of media day.
Elton Alexander: Akron Zips have the look of a contender – MAC Football 2014
George M. Thomas: Zips football: Opening thoughts for the '14 season
July 22, 2014
9:15 p.m. – Justin and Travis got to mingle with the rest ofthe MAC Football student-athletes at prior to media day. They ran into Coach Bowden afterdinner and snapped this picture. Yes...that is Canada in the background.
12:04 p.m. – After finalizing the packing list, grabbing lunch from Jimmy John's and loading up, we depart for the Detroit Marriott for Media Day. Coach Bowden will spend the day in meetings and will take part in the annual Youth Clinic with all the MAC Coaches. Justin and Travis will meet the other student-athletes attending the event at a dinner later tonight. For Avi and I, it will be dinner at Redsmoke. If history continues to repeat itself, the Zips should be in for a good season as we have had a BBQ dinner at Redsmoke in each of the last two media days and the Zips have seen an improvement on the field that same year. Knock on wood that the good karma continues following a good meal.
Zips In The Pros
By Leo Chappel, Zips Men's Soccer Assistant Coach, July 22, 2014, Men's Soccer
Zips In The Pros
Since 2007, The University of Akron men's soccer program has had 19 players selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft – including nine first-round selections – and six more sign a Homegrown Contact with their respective teams since 2013.
Check back weekly as we keep you up to date with the growing list of Zips professional players – both in the U.S. and abroad. Here's how our boys did last week:
DeAndre Yedlin – USA World Cup Team played valuable and productive minutes against Portugal, Germany and Belgium changing the game with his pace and quality service!! Word is going to Roma after MLS season with Seattle on loan!!
MLS / US Open Cup 4th Round
Chivas USA 1, Montreal Impact 0
LA Galaxy 2, Portland Timbers 2
Real Salt Lake 2, New England Revolution 1
DC United 2, Toronto FC 1
Houston Dynamo 2, New York Red Bulls 2
Colorado Rapids 1, Columbus Crew 1
Vancover Whitecaps 1, Seattle Sounders 0
Zarek Valentin – Norwegian Premier League, out for year with torn achilles
Anthony Ampaipitakwong – Bankok United, Thailand Premier League
USL and NASL did not compete last week
My Day As An AK Rowdy And American Outlaw
I have been in Rio since the start of the World Cup on Thursday. So far, I have seen countless fans from various countries represented in the World Cup. I’ve heard everything from their songs and cheers of hope during the games to their songs of celebration after the games. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed many looks of sadness and heartbreak from the losing fans. However, with each passing day, my excitement for the USA game continued to grow!
My good friend from St. Louis, Justin McMillian, and I have been fortunate enough to not only attend the World Cup, but also catch a few games live. The first game we attended was Argentina vs. Bosnia on Monday night. There were so many fans from Argentina at the game that it seemed like it was a home game for Argentina and the fans. The passion and enthusiasm the fans shared was astonishing. After the game, I knew the next night when the USA played, it would be our turn to show the same passion and enthusiasm for our country.
Monday evening finally came around and we started to get ourselves ready for the big game. We dressed in USA colors and gear and listened to American classics like Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" and Guns and Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle". We then took the 10-minute walk to Fan Fest on Copacabana Beach. Along the way, we proudly high-fived anyone in USA attire while chanting "USA USA" loud enough to annoy the locals.
There was an overwhelmingly packed American crowd at Fan Fest. The pre-game music consisted of Michael Jackson, Nirvana and of course, Bruce Springsteen. Normally, I like to watch games closely, looking at them through the eyes of a coach. Today was different. Today I wanted to be an AK Rowdy. I wanted to support the team through the ups and downs of the 90 minutes and no matter what the result, I was going to sing, chant and dance. I wanted to celebrate the game of soccer and show my pride and support for our country.
We walked to the front of the crowd/stage and stood in the mosh pit with many American Outlaws (USA version of AK Rowdies). We sang "I Believe" (the great song our AK Rowdies sing better than anyone) and chanted "USA USA" before the game.
When it came time for the national anthem, all the fans sang in complete unison. I don't think anyone there could have dreamt of what happened next. Clint Dempsey scored in 30 seconds and complete pandemonium broke out in the crowd. Beverages flew into the sky. Screams of joy and ecstasy surpassed anything I’ve heard before. Singing and chanting became louder and louder. I found myself yelling at the big screen. Screaming at anyone – the USA players, Jurgen, Ghanaian players – anyone or anything to help me deal with my nerves. The fans kept trying to scream passion and energy into the players. We tried every chant we could, but deep down we felt like a Ghanaian goal was inevitable (which it was).
When Ghana scored to tie the game with eight minutes remaining, everything went silent. At that moment everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing - did we just let this slip away?
The next moment that broke through the silence truly defined the American spirit. I heard a group of fans chant "I believe". Soon enough, the whole crowd joined in the chant and “I Believe” was shouted louder than ever. Americans always fight to the last second and that is exactly what this team did. It made us all proud. Justin and I had a positive feeling about the late corner kick that USA had so we started to film it.
I will leave you with the video I took while watching the USA win the game. It truly speaks for itself. Enjoy!
Please wait while the player loads...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JDREWLKYso&feature?dec= mp4 16:9
Until next time,
The Return of Summer...
For the collegiate golfer, the start of summer is not the end of the season, but the continuation of the season.
For many golfers, June marks the quest for individual competition. With the summer comes U.S. Open qualifying, national amateur championships, chances to play on pro tours and semi-pro tours, and more.
For sophomore Frida Fougberg, June offers the chance to do what few Zips have done before...play in a professional tour event.
Last summer, Fougberg played in the Delsjö Ladies Open hosted by K. Sjödin & L. Wessberg in Göteborg, Sweden, the first pro event of her golfing career. She would go on to make the cut – just one of two amateurs to do so – and finished tied for 20th place.
This year, she enters the event looking to improve on her debut performance. She tees off at 8:33 a.m. local time (2:33 a.m. ET) and fans can follow her round live by clicking here.
Before following her round, check out her blog post from last summer after making her pro tour debut.
"I played in my first professional event over the weekend and it was a good and extremely fun experience. It was beneficial for me to be around one of the best players in Scandinavia and see what the differences there are between their games and mine.
This tournament was on my home course, which I had a lot of support and followers during my rounds. Lots of people were out there cheering for the home players and it was so much fun!
I had one of my best tournaments in a long time considering the course setup with length and pin placements. I played extremely consistent and I didn't make a lot of mistakes, which lead to making the cut. That was my goal with the tournament and I am happy that I could handle the pressure that was on, especially during the second day.
Overall, this was a great event and I am so happy that I got the chance to play all three days. I look forward to play more professional events and to be able to compete against the best players. Now I know that I can do it and that I can give the top players a good matchup."
Zips In The Pros
Since 2007, The University of Akron men's soccer program has had 19 players selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft – including nine first-round selections – and six more sign a Homegrown Contact with their respective teams since 2013.
Chezem Finishes Strong at World Championship Selection Match...
The NCAA rifle season may be over, but for committed members of the Zips rifle program, the search for gold continues. The summer may be a time for rest and relaxation for many college students, but not for junior Matt Chezem. Focused on Rio in 2016, Chezem continues to train and go for the gold. As a member of the US Olympic Development Team, Chezem spent a week in Fort Benning, Ga., competing in a selection match against both current and past Olympic champions. This match consisted of competitions in Air Rifle, 3 Position Rifle, and Prone Rifle. At the conclusion of the matches, Chezem proved he is capable of running with the best of the best. He finished 12th overall in 10 meter Air Rifle, ninth overall in 50 meter 3 Position Rifle and eighth overall in 50 meter Prone Rifle.
Keep in mind this was is not a simple weekend rifle match. This was a special match sponsored by USA Shooting who invited only the best of the best in the United States to come together and battle it out for a spot on the USA team to compete in the World Championships in Granada, Spain in September. Even though Chezem did not make the cut for the World Championship team, he did finish strong and represented himself and the Akron Zips in proud fashion.
As you can imagine, it does not stop here for Chezem. He will now go to the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs to train for a few weeks before he returns to Fort Benning in late June for the annual USA Shooting National Championships. Again, Chezem will square off with hundreds of competitors from all across the USA. Chezem will round up his summer at the NRA National Championships in July where he finished as the No. 2 smallbore athlete in the nation last year. Yes, that is No. 2 in the whole country! Take a guess what he wants this year?
Chezem isn’t the only Akron team member on the move this summer. Teammate, junior Tim Hopkins was appointed as one of the prestigious camp counselors for the numerous programs sponsored across the nation by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The CMP selects the top collegiate athletes from across the nation and has them present skill camps to upcoming junior rifle athletes at several locations across the country.
The competition to get selected as a CMP counselor is fierce and only the best in the nation get the offer. Tim has worked very hard the last two seasons and will make an excellent addition to the CMP staff.
With the addition of some exciting new members to the rifle squad (more on that later) as well as the new skills learned by Chezem and Hopkins, Team Akron is looking forward to an exciting season starting in the fall of 2014.
Started from the bottom...
Expectations, we had none. Egos, we had none. Courage, we had enough to last a lifetime. Going into the 2014 Mid-American Conference Championships, the Zips swimming and diving team had nothing to lose. Having very little support throughout our team during MACs 2013 made the meet that much more difficult. Our finish last was discouraging and reflected upon our attitudes, but it gave us the determination to show the MAC what we are made of the next year around.
We knew something had to change. The new era of Akron swimming and diving began with a new coach the last day of the 2013 Spring Semester. From that point on we started to create our new team and we started to ask ourselves, why not us? We have already seen our basketball and soccer teams win a MAC Championship for Akron, so why not us? That was the question that kept repeating in our heads from the beginning of the season.
We began to tell ourselves, “I want to be great,” every single day as we walked onto the pool deck or into the weight room. It wasn’t going to be easy, but we were ready for the challenge that stood before us, a MAC Championship.
Coming into MACs at the bottom of the pack gave us a rare attitude. Even though we began to prove ourselves throughout the season by doing well at several dual meets, we were still seen as the underdog of the MAC. This team was finally able to go back to the roots of our childhood and begin to understand once again why we love to swim, why we consider Akron swimming and diving home away from home, a second family.
During the meet, standing behind the block for a final heat and feeling the crowd’s energy surround the pool is an adrenaline rush I have never experienced before this meet. The excitement from the team at the side of the pool before each race brings back that voice before every practice reminding us to be great. This energy not only pushed us past our limits, it made other teams take note of the way we began to come together as one team, one Zips family.
The roar of cheering Akron swimmers grew each race by race, to the point where we girls lost our voices, but we didn’t care. We didn’t care because we knew that was what it was going to take to get the swimmer’s adrenaline behind the block ready to race. Even though we knew it was mathematically impossible for another team to catch us towards the end of the final session of day three, we supported each other down to the last race, because that was ultimately what made us rise above each and every team.
Becoming one team, rather than 21 individual swimmers and divers, is the foundation of Akron swimming and diving that lead us to a MAC Championship this season. One single season, six and a half months, 188 days, 20 hours of training a week brought us from last to first in the MAC.
Not one person on this team thought that 2014, the first year with a new coach, would be the year we would accomplish our dream and win a MAC Championship. We knew one day we wanted to fulfil this goal, but it wasn’t until day one of MACs completed that we started to believe we would be MAC champions. Swimming is sometimes perceived as a completely individual sport, but it would be impossible to achieve a MAC Championship on an individual basis. We went from thinking as individuals in the beginning of the season, to becoming one team with one goal and one vision at the end.
The End of a Historic Season...
The Zips had their NCAA Tournament run dashed by Purdue this afternoon, but it was a mere blip on the radar of what was the most successful and memorable season in the 40-year history of Akron women's basketball.
UA tied the record it set last year for most wins in a single season at 23, won its first ever Mid-American Conference title and made its first appearance in the "Big Dance". The five seniors - Kacie Cassell, Cari Guyton, Hanna Luburgh, Rachel Tecca and Carly Young - will hang up their shoes with the Blue and Gold as the winningest class to come through the program, collecting 74 victories in four years.
In the postgame press conference, Coach Kest did not hesitate in saying that one game does not define this season, nor discredit the quality of work this team has put in to make the program what it is today. Hear from Coach, Kacie Cassell and Rachel Tecca in the video below:
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwLF6ZHLZBQ&feature?dec= mp4 16:9
The loss stings, but only one team in the country finishes the season with a win. The Zips have a lot to be proud of, and the future of the program is bright. Rachel Tecca sums it up with the blog she wrote that was posted on SwishAppeal.com just yesterday.
"I want to be a role model and a good example for the Akron community. To show that Akron is a great place to be, whether it relates to school, sports, or a career."
Tomorrow, a bus filled with 15 role models will return to Akron with their heads held high.
What becoming a MAC champion means to Akron's Rachel Tecca
Just five short years ago, I was a student at Archbishop Hoban High School. The school features an infamous gold dome that sits on a hill, overlooking the entire city of Akron. From the top of the hill, you can literally see The University of Akron.
I never imagined I would attend Akron for college because it was only two miles from my high school.
I thought I wanted to go away for school and experience the "true" college experience. However, you and I both know that did not happen - after visiting schools, I realized that Akron had everything I ever wanted in a college: a spectacular campus, great curriculum, determined coaching staff, a welcoming team, new facilities, etc. So, at the end of my junior year of high school, I committed and signed on the dotted line to attend The University of Akron and play college basketball.
And I could not be happier with my decision!!
Which is easy to say now...I have accomplished so much individually and as a student-athlete. I have an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Sales. I will finish my Masters in Business Administration in May. I am the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. I am an Academic All-American. I have fantastic teammates and l have made lifelong friends...and the list goes on.
However, college basketball has not always been that easy. I have had to overcome a lot of injuries throughout my collegiate career. I have had bi-lateral compartment syndrome surgery, reconstructive ACL surgery, shin splints, a broken nose, and hamstring fatigue.
It felt like I lived in the doctor's offices and training rooms. However, I have been fortunate and blessed to have had such wonderful doctors, physical therapists, and trainers who have helped me endure. As the saying goes, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and all these hardships have definitely made me into a stronger player and person.
That is why becoming a MAC Champion means the world to me. It means more than all the individual accolades. It is a team honor -- an accomplishment that represents everyone's hard work. It is something you share with coaches, players, managers, teachers, family, friends, and the community. All the people that have supported me throughout my career now share in a memory that I will cherish forever. Choosing Akron was the best decision of my life.
I want to be a role model and a good example for the Akron community. To show that Akron is a great place to be, whether it relates to school, sports, or a career. That is why when I saw "Akron" on the ESPN Selection Show on Monday, it was surreal. An unbelievable moment I will never forget. A moment that I hope changes the perception of Akron women's basketball. I am proud of this city, I am proud of this university, and I will forever be proud to be a "ZIP".
We're Talkin' About Practice...
As the first full day at the NCAA Tournament comes to a close, the Zips can be proud of the way they represented their team and The University of Akron on the national stage. After a film session this afternoon, the travel party climbed back on the bus to make the short five-minute drive to Mackey Arena to kick things off.
Coach Kest, Kacie Cassell, Hanna Luburgh and Rachel Tecca addressed the media at a formal press conference prior to practice, answering questions about Akron's road to the NCAA Tournament, what they felt the turning point was in the season to get them here, and how they were handling their time in the spotlight.
Click here to view the complete video from the press conference. You can also access the written transcript here.
After the press conference, the team got ready for their 90-minute practice session on the floor they will take in less than 12 hours when they face Purdue. The TV talent was on-hand to observe the Zips and prepare for their live broadcast on ESPN2 tomorrow afternoon.
The team made the most of their time in preparation for a nationally-ranked Purdue team tomorrow. The Zips and the Boilermakers will tip-off at 1:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN2. Don't forget, for those fans who can't be with us in West Lafayette, there is a watch party at Johnny J's in the Valley.
Check out the complete video from Akron's afternoon at Mackey Arena:
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4FowRMJgto&feature?dec= mp4 16:9
The Calm Before The Storm...
The Zips rolled into West Lafayette about 12:30 a.m. last night, but were able to sleep in and have a nice breakfast this morning at the hotel. Each of the four teams playing in this site is staying at their own hotel, so Akron is the only school here at the Four Points by Sheraton. The staff has been very accomodating and the place is decked out in Blue and Gold!
Front desk staff sporting their #ZipsGameday shirts!
The team has had a relatively slow morning so far. Film session is scheduled for later this afternoon before we head to Purdue's Mackey Arena for official media day and practice. Follow the team on Twitter at @ZipsWBB, and don't forget to use the hashtag #KaciesCourt to chat with senior point guard Kacie Cassell!
Luburgh's Look at the MAC Championship...
In case you missed it, earlier this week senior guard Hanna Luburgh wrote a guest blog for SwishAppeal.com about her experience at the MAC Tournament last week. Even if you read it the first time, it's definitely worth a second look. Her writing is as good as her pull-up jumper!
Senior Hanna Luburgh discusses Akron's 2014 MAC Tournament Championship
The week of the MAC tournament had finally arrived and this time we were on a mission. Taking it one game at a time, we were focused and ready for our last chance as the senior class to make history and become CHAMPIONS.
The first game was Thursday and we played Toledo. I was nervous; then again I am always nervous. Toledo is experienced in the tournament; they come from a winning program, so we knew we had to be ready.
We came out pumped and we were on fire! Everyone was making shots and we went into halftime with a 20 point lead. We knew we had a 40 minute game and we had to finish strong, that's just what we did. One game down, two to go.
We got back to the hotel and we all got in the dreaded ice baths to get ready for an up-tempo game with Central Michigan on Friday. Finally, we get another shot at Central. We headed up to film to see what we were going to do to stop such a strong team.
We found out Wednesday that Crystal Bradford, MAC Player of the Year, was injured in practice Tuesday and cannot play. She is crucial to their team; however, they have so many great players we knew it was going to be a battle. We still had to play a full game to win and we were ready. Our coaches put together a new game plan and we said we were not losing to them again.
It was finally Friday, time for game #2. We slept in and didn't have a walk through, we know Central Michigan's personnel just like they know us. We know their offense; we just need to follow the game plan. We normally take a nap after pregame meal but we were so excited there was no way I could fall asleep.
Rachel Tecca is my roommate and we just sat there talking. We talked about how this is it, this is our last chance, and we can't get to the championship game if we don't beat Central. I kept thinking about what I needed to, running every scenario through my head. It was game time.
The game started out fast. They jumped on us quickly and were up by 10. Being a veteran team we didn't panic and knew we needed to make our run. We went into halftime tied and had 20 minutes left to get one step closer to our goal. The second half we came out strong and finally got a 10 point lead and didn't look back. We finally beat Central and we were one step closer to our goal. Two games down, one to go.
We got back to the hotel after the game and did what we needed to do for recovery. We went to Coach Kest's room and watched film to prepare for Ball State. We had to do what we do best, which is run the floor. They had played 5 games in 6 days and we knew that could be an advantage for us. I was ready, the team was ready.
Finally the sunlight came through my window on Saturday morning. I barely slept Friday night, I'm not sure if anyone on the team really slept. I kept picturing the championship. I kept picturing the confetti falling, holding the trophy, cutting down the nets, and of course wearing the hat. We are so close, and now we just had to go get it. We were leaving the hotel room and I told Rachel, "Next time we come back to this room we will be MAC champions."
We arrived at Quicken Loans Arena and the whole team was pumped up. We went on the court too early and had to wait a few minutes to touch the basketballs. We huddled up and kept saying one game. One game left to reach our goal. This is what we have waited a year for, and what the university has waited 40 years for. It was time to bring a championship to Akron for women's basketball and that's what we were going to do.
We went into the locker room and Coach Kest told us to play our game, use the experience we have to our advantage and that our time is now. Coach Jackson told us we can sleep tomorrow, to go out there and give it everything that we have. We ran out of the locker room and there were so many fans.
When I first came to Akron I think the only people in the stands were our parents. Four years later, we are playing for a league title and Quicken Loans Arena feels like a home game at the JAR. My heart was racing, it was game time.
We took control of the game and never lost the lead. Ball State is a tough team and battled till the very end. The whole game I felt comfortable. I knew that if we did what we do best we will win this game. The final minute was ticking down and I knew we were champions. I was full of so many emotions. The game clock hit 00:00 and the moment I had been waiting my entire life for was happening.
I hugged my teammates and coaches and couldn't wait to hug all of my family. I had a few happy tears and was almost speechless. They were handing out our medals and the trophy and I looked into the stands to take it all in. The confetti started falling and I can honestly say that it was the best moment of my life.
Four years ago when we came into the program we said we were going to be MAC Champions, and we did it. We were able to make history and I feel honored to be a part of this team.
Another journey begins when we find out who we play in the NCAA Tournament. We hope to add a little more history to the books. A new mission begins this week. It's time for the Zips to go dancing!
And We're Off! Purdue Bound...
It’s been a whirlwind week, but it’s finally time to get back to business. The team has been preparing for Purdue for the last three days, and this afternoon our travel party hit the road for West Lafayette. The bus left James A. Rhodes Arena around 4:30 p.m. and we are scheduled to stop for dinner around the Fort Wayne area.
Check back to the Zips Insider blog often for updates throughout the Zips’ NCAA Tournament run, including photos, videos and interviews. Don’t forget to follow @ZipsWBB and @ZipsDana on Twitter for all the latest updates on the trip via social media.
See you in West Lafayette! #GoZips
Hall of Fame Weekend...
By Gregg Bach (@ZipsGregg / @FollowTheRoo) Feb. 28, 2014
Proenza, a champion for the success of Zips Athletics, will complete his 15-year presidency in June, while Zippy, the 2007 Capital One Mascot of the Year, celebrated her 60th birthday in 2013.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqkyEM9aCd4?dec= mp4 16:9
Former Zip John Loyer Making His Mark in the NBA...
With the NBA All-Star Break in the rear-view mirror, former Zip John Loyer is looking to make his mark on the Detroit Pistons and the NBA's Eastern Conference.
After being named interim head coach on Feb. 9, Loyer's Pistons enter the home stretch just a game-and-a-half out of the No. 8 seed in April's Eastern Conference playoffs.
It didn't take long for Loyer to earn his first NBA win as the Pistons downed San Antonio, 109-100, one day after he took over the first chair. Two days later, he faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game that many in Northeast Ohio hold in fond regard. However, the Pistons have gained a few more followers in the Akron area in the last 10 days.
Loyer, a 1983 graduate of Northmor High School in Galion, Ohio, is a 1987 graduate of The University of Akron. During is time on campus, he earned four letters for the Zips on the hardwood.
Loyer helped Akron win the 1986 Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships under former head coach Bob Huggins. The 1985-86 squad was the first to appear in the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level after the Zips made the jump to basketball's top tier in 1980. Loyer also helped the Zips to the 1987 NIT.
Following his playing career, he spent two seasons as a graduate assistant under Coach Huggins (1987-89), helping Akron to its second NIT bid in three seasons. He would follow Huggins to Cincinnati for a 10-year stretch where he also roamed the sidelines with Akron's Director of Basketball Operations Dan Peters.
Twenty-five years after leaving Akron and 14 years after entering the NBA coaching ranks, this former Zip has made it to the top of his profession.
Zips' fans everywhere should cheer on the Pistons and support this former Zip...unless the Pistons are playing the Cavaliers. At that point...a tie may be preferable.
African-American History Month Spotlight: Jack Jones, Baseball
Jack Jones came to The University of Akron in the fall of 1974 for an education. Before coming to UA, he had only known of Akron by childhood idol and former Zips basketball player Harvey Glover. A native of East Orange, N.J., Jones said, “I started to get to know the university through a guidance counselor back in high school, and I figured I would give Akron a try.”
Jones believed in receiving an education above all else. He says he was never highly recruited for athletics out of high school and didn’t have major intentions of playing college baseball. Eventually, he joined the Akron baseball team as a walk-on freshman for former head coach David Fross’ squad in 1975. Jones excelled in his opportunity with the Zips, as he batted .338 and was the team’s first basemen throughout the season. “I just wanted to play ball,” Jones said.
However, a collision at first base at the end of his freshman campaign would force him to miss the entire 1976 season. Jones bounced back following his rehabilitation in 1977 by starting at first base and leading the team with a .311 batting average. He was able to repeat the feat in 1978, hitting at a .329 clip.
In 1979, Jones moved to right field, and did so at his own request to give the team the best chance for success. At the time Coach Fross said of the change, “It was an unselfish quest to strengthen our defense.” Jones not only aided the Akron outfield defense, he also hit three homeruns and increased production in runs, walks and runs batted in. The Zips finished the season with a 26-18 record and went to the NCAA Tournament, the first postseason berth in program history.
Jones, who was voted team captain from 1978-79, earned several accolades in his time at Akron. He was most notably named UA’s Athlete of the Year in 1979, the first Akron baseball player to earn the award. “As captain the last two years, “JJ” has been a true catalyst in our rise to success,” coach Fross said at the time. “He was a dynamic, take-charge player who unselfishly gave of himself for the good of the team.”
Now Jones remains in the Akron-Canton area, working as a retail manager at Levin Furniture. He has a son and daughter who have gone on to become a pilot and teacher, respectively. He still keeps up with the Akron baseball program when he can, and remains friends with former teammates to this day.
When asked about the advice he would give to young athletes, Jones said, “Number one thing is to focus on is school, and also to dedicate yourself to your academics, your sport and your health. The work ethic learned through athletics will help throughout all parts of life, and I’m glad I was given that opportunity at Akron.”
Baseball visits with Mason Community Learning Center students...
A few members of the Akron Zips baseball team visited the Mason Community Learning Center on Monday afternoon for an after-school Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Assistant coach Fred Worth opened the visit with a talk to the students about succeeding in life through academics. “School will help you become the best you can possibly be,” coach Worth said in his speech.
Following Worth’s discussion, Pat Dyer, James Sheltrown, Brady Stewart and Devan Ahart were able to share their experiences in school and their baseball careers. Some of the inspired students even acknowledged that they want to have a future in collegiate athletes.
Before the team left, each student received a University of Akron winter hat and a “Hitmen for the Mob” t-shirt.
The countdown to the season opener is down to just four days, as the team heads south to Rock Hill, S.C., this coming weekend (Feb. 14-16) for a three-game set vs. Winthrop University.
Just before the team left for practice, coach Worth and the players got the students to give their most boisterous "Go Zips!" chant.
Softball Preseason Notebook...
By Dana LeRoy (@ZipsDana / @ZipsSB) Jan. 25, 2014, Softball
Although the outdoor conditions in Akron have not been favorable for the last few months, it hasn’t stopped the softball team from working hard to prepare for the 2014 campaign that is quickly approaching. From hosting camps and clinics on campus at Stile Athletics Field House to kicking off spring practice, the Zips have been making the most of their time indoors.
Head coach Julie Jones recently spoke at a coaching clinic sponsored by the OHSAA in Columbus, addressing over 800 high school fastpitch coaches about different aspects of the game. The Zips’ coaching staff is also set to host a coaching clinic of its own on Sunday, Jan. 26, from 7-11 a.m. at the field house. The staff will cover philosophies on fielding mechanics, hitting, situational drills, baserunning, pitching and conditioning. The attendees will also be able to observe Akron’s staff during an actual practice in the afternoon.
Last weekend, the field house was home to 14 high school teams that participated in one of the Zips’ team camps. Jones, her staff and her team have seen an impressive response to their offseason camps during the 2013-14 academic year. During the winter months, Akron has hosted a total of 54 teams and 900 student-athletes at its team camps.
Coach Pratt talks to teams in the field house during Team Camp on Jan. 19.
UA’s preseasons skills clinics will conclude with the final day of instruction set for Sunday, Feb. 2 at the field house. Spaces are still available for all sessions, including: beginning and advanced pitching, power hitting, bunting, slapping and baserunning, and fielding skills. Click here to register.
The Zips officially begin the 2014 season on Friday, Feb. 7-9, when they travel to the Southeastern Louisiana Invitational. Akron will open with a doubleheader against Texas Tech and Alabama State. Check GoZips.com next week for the complete season preview!
Former Zip Chris Bassitt making waves with White Sox...
Former Zips baseball player Chris Bassitt has made quite a name for himself since being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 16th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. The White Sox announced on Tuesday that Bassitt will be a non-roster invitee during spring training for the club, a well-deserved recognition following an outstanding season.
In 2013, Bassitt committed to a starting role in the White Sox farm system. He went 11-4 with a 3.08 ERA over the season at Chicago’s High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham squads. The native of Toledo, Ohio collected 138 strikeouts over 26 starts, the most strikeouts in the organization. His accomplishments earned him a trip to the MLB Arizona Fall League All Star Game.
Bassitt’s climb through the organization was also crucial to the Birmingham Baron’s playoff run that ended with a Southern League Championship in 2013. He earned the series-opening start, and responded without allowing a run over 5.2 innings to go along with seven strikeouts. Bassitt is one of six former Zips baseball players to be drafted since 2003.
Celebrating the life of Coach Tank...
By Gregg Bach (@ZipsGregg / @ZipsFB) Jan. 23, 2014, Football
Tonight, Zips Athletics celebrated and memorialized the life of late football assistant head coach and offensive line coach Alan "Tank" Arrington, who passed away on Dec. 23 following an automobile accident in the state of Mississippi.
Several hundred people filled the fifth floor of InfoCision Stadium to hear eulogies from Zips senior o-lineman Jarrod Pughsley, Arrington's brother, Perry, and UA head coach Terry Bowden.
"He'd tell me all of the potential that I had," Pughsley said as part of his emotional remarks. "And he was the first person to say it like he really believed in me."
Arrington joined the Akron coaching staff prior to the 2012 season after six years at North Alabama. His last three seasons at UNA he worked under Bowden and in addition to being colleagues the two were the best of friends.
"He was always thinking about the things he could do for you," Bowden said during his remarks, to the players in attendence.
Much of Arrington's focus during the postseason was on improvements to the team's locker room and player lounge as well as a uniform redesign for the 2014 campaign.
"Breaking throo" to the West Coast...
By Dana LeRoy (@ZipsDana / @ZipsWBB) Nov. 28, 2013, Women's Basketball
Happy Thanksgiving from California!
The Zips women's basketball program has set up shop in San Luis Obispo for the next few days in preparation for the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic. While the team and coaching staff are looking ahead to two important games this weekend against tournament host Cal Poly and UC Davis, it's not every day that our travel party gets to experience life on the west coast, and we took full advantage of that as soon as we landed in Los Angeles yesterday.
A five hour flight from Cleveland to LAX successfully left the snow in our wake and we stepped out into bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 70's. We took a short bus ride over to Venice Beach where the team had a blast exploring for a few hours and enjoying the weather.
San Luis Obispo was another four hour bus trip north of Venice Beach, but we were able to travel up the Pacific coast and take in some beautiful views. We drove through Malibu and saw some incredible houses where some of the players are now intent on living someday.
As for today though, the team will practice at Cal Poly in preparation for its game against the Mustangs on Friday at 10 p.m. ET. Check out Coach Kest's latest video interview to hear her thoughts on the competition this tournament brings:
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAwfW29b9OE?dec= mp4 16:9
Tonight, we are having Thanksgiving dinner as a group at our hotel, and are lucky to be joined by family of our support staff and some parents as well. We definitely have a lot to be thankful for today, let's hope we can add two more wins to the list this weekend!
Happy Thanksgiving from Zippy...
By Zippy (@FollowTheRoo) Nov. 27, 2013, General
Season's Greetings, Zips Nation.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving , I wanted to share with you the many blessings within Zips Athletics for which I am thankful ...
... our 450-plus student-athletes who impact our 19 sports: Their hard work and dedication, both in the classroom and in competition, represent what it means to be a Zip ...
... our coaches, administrators and support staff for their impact on our student-athletes: Their dedication is second to none, and the help and guidance they provide is invaluable ...
... our fans for the impact they have: Zips Nation features one of the best cheering sections around, and home or away our student-athletes and coaches appreciate your support ...
... our University community for its impact on our ability to be continually successful: State-of-the-art facilities for training and studying have been built to help current student-athletes excel and to attract prospective ones ...
... the opportunity to be your mascot: It has been an incredible 60 years and I look forward to making an impact for many more ...
From everyone at Zips Athletics, Happy Thanksgiving!
Also, be on the lookout next month when we will share more about our impact on each of you and your impact on us.
Your Favorite Marsupial,
P.S. Hope to see you at noon Friday for our Senior Day football game at InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field!
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Women's History Project...
By Dallas Moyer (@ZipsDallas / @ZipsMBB) Nov. 26, 2013, Men's Basketball
Last week, men’s basketball head coach Keith Dambrot had the opportunity to speak at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Women's History Project of the Akron Area. The event held significant meaning for Coach Dambrot as his late mother, Faye Dambrot, was one of the co-founders of the project.
His mother played an important role in shaping women’s rights in the Akron community and was a trend-setting professor at The University of Akron. She was an instrumental part in the formation of the women’s studies program at The University.
Here is a link to an article that ran in the Akron Beacon Journal on Nov. 24 talking about the event and everyone that attended. Also, Coach Dambrot took a few minutes out of his preparation for tonight’s Malone game to talk about his mother’s impact on the Akron community, The University and on his own life.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO8ju9UrfBQ?dec= mp4 16:9
The Swedish 1-2 Punch...
By Jenny King, Women's Golf Head Coach (@ZipsCoachKing / @ZipsWGolf) Nov. 25, 2013, Women's Golf
I was lucky enough this summer to book my first international recruiting trip. For years, I had been recruiting players from other countries without stepping foot out of the United States. However, recruiting international players via the computer is getting harder and harder. The international players need more face time and the trend for coaches nationwide is to connect with those players1 to 2 times each summer at certain events. I felt it was time for me to make the leap and I chose to take my first international recruiting trip to Sweden.
During my assistant coaching days at the University of Kentucky, I was trained heavily by the head coach to learn the junior golf system in Sweden and ever since then, my main focus has typically been on those golfers. Upon starting the program here at The University of Akron in 2007, one of the first people to sign with our program was a player from Sweden, Hanna Ek. Hanna visited campus, saw everything Akron had to offer and the rest was history. She ended up being one of our program's best players and overall best people in our short existence.
Since then, we have added two other players from Sweden to the roster. They are currently serving as our very own Swedish 1-2 Punch! Sophomore Frida Fougberg came in as a freshman last year and would lead the team in almost every single event. She became our team MVP as a freshman and hasn't missed a beat since she returned for her sophomore season this past fall. Frida is getting some strong support, however, from her other Swedish teammate, freshman Lina Bengtsson. Lina's steady play as a freshman has been a big bonus for our team. She currently is leading the team with the lowest stroke average and after the fall slate she leads all MAC Freshmen with the lowest stroke average.
What makes both of these players special is not just their abilities with their ball striking or their short game, (of course they are very good in those categories or they wouldn't be top players on this team), but they also have something that many players do not: a level of mental toughness and mental maturity that you sometimes only see in your upper classmen. This is what makes them excel so early in their careers. It also can be contributed to the fact that they both are extremely consistent golfers. Consistency, throughout our entire roster, is something that our program is working towards achieving. It is the single most important thing that our program needs to become a factor in our conference championship and a top team in the country. The Swedish 1-2 punch is a great start!
Freshman Lina Bengtsson (left), head coach Jenny King (center) and sophomore Frida Fougberg (right) during Coach King's visit to Sweden last summer.
Sight seeing in Gothenburg, home of Frida and Lina. Picture of the sailing ship Viking.
Education Day Gets a Gold Star...
By Dana LeRoy (@ZipsDana / @ZipsWBB) Nov. 13, 2013, Women's Basketball
Women’s Basketball hosted its first ever Education Day yesterday (Nov. 12) in conjunction with its home game against Tennessee Tech, and the event was huge success both on and off the court.
UA set a new school record for most points in a single game, defeating TTU by a score of 118-71, and over 430 fifth-grade students from Akron area schools were on hand to witness history.
Curriculum containing practical lessons in geography, reading, and statistics were mailed to the students weeks in advance to prepare them for the game. In addition to the gameday packets they received when they arrived at Rhodes Arena, some lucky students were also chosen to represent their schools as ball kids and guest announcers, reading the names of Akron’s starting five during pregame introductions.
The Zips’ Athletics marketing staff, along with volunteers from the College of Education and other student-athletes, volunteered their time to ensure that the young fans enjoyed their interactive educational experience.
Check out the news clips and photos below recapping the first successful Education Day! The women’s basketball program and marketing staff hope to establish this event as an annual tradition and grow the event in the seasons to come.
Akron Beacon Journal…
Fifth-graders get schooled at University of Akron women’s basketball game
AkronNewsNow.com (WAKR Radio)...
Watch Out for the Zips...
As Akron is set to begin regular season play at James A. Rhodes Arena this evening, it's no secret that the 2013-14 season will be another big one for the Zips. With the return of national assists leader Kacie Cassell, reigning MAC Player of the Year Rachel Tecca, and All-MAC selection Hanna Luburgh, the Zips have received a multitude of preseason accolades.
ESPN’s Graham Hays gave the Zips a fifth place nod in his Preseason Mid-Major Poll. Hays highlights last year's Tecca as Akron's player to watch, after she set Akron’s single-season scoring record in 2012-13.
Topping the list at number one was nationally-ranked Dayton, the Zips' Nov. 15 opponent, and fellow MAC team Central Michigan came in at number seven.
As the Zips are coming off their most successful season in program history, the Mid-American Conference is also set to be at its most competitive.
Akron joins five other MAC teams earning votes in CollegeInsider's Top-25 Mid-Major Poll. Toledo, Central Michigan, and Bowling Green are featured in the Top 25, while Akron received 16 votes. League foes Ball State and Buffalo also received nine and three votes, respectively.
In addition, the MAC released a preseason coaches poll of its own, and after receiving nine first place votes, Akron was project to repeat as the East Division champions. The Zips were followed by Bowling Green with three votes first-place votes. Central Michigan was the unanimous choice among the head coaches to win the West Division. Tecca and Luburgh were also tabbed as Preseason All-Conference players.
Though conference play is a little less than two months away, the Zips are set to begin competing tonight and aim to continue earning the attention of media, coaches, and fans across the country as the 2013-14 season gets underway. Tip-off for UA’s season opener against Florida Atlantic is set for 5:30 p.m. at the JAR.
Check out what head coach Jodi Kest had to say earlier this week about tonight’s game:
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZsIRgXfrxc?dec= mp4 16:9
Coach Dambrot Returns to National Coaches Diary Series...
What's great about the blog is that it gives head and assistant coaches a chance to give fans across the country an inside look into their programs.
In his first entry of the season, Coach Dambrot talks about his Akron roots, the 2013-14 Zips and Akron's early schedule.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8wDVJr3d7k?dec= mp4 16:9
PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge Saturday...
Prior to this three-game slide, UA had won three-straight and five-of-six meetings (2004-09), and this is the longest KSU has retained possession of the wheel since winning nine in a row from 1946 through 1954.
Softball in Fall Swing...
By Dana LeRoy (@ZipsDana / @ZipsSB) Oct. 11, 2013, Softball
The Zips have been busy since school started, racking up wins in the offseason as they forge ahead in fall ball action.
Akron has gone 7-0 so far during its fall schedule, and although the games don’t count toward the spring season, head coach Julie Jones has been able to get a look at her team in a variety of different lineups.
Jones has guided UA to fall victories over Tiffin (7-1), California Pennsylvania (3-2), Cleveland State (3-1 and 5-4 in eight innings), Fairmont State (3-0), Hillsdale (6-1) and most notably, Ohio State (6-4 in nine innings).
Akron returns 13 letterwinners overall from last year’s squad and welcomed four newcomers – two freshmen and two transfers – for 2013-14. Right-handed pitcher Sara Pearson, a junior transfer from Memphis, has already made a big impact in the rotation, combining with MacKenzie Conrad to lead the Zips in the circle.
The Zips will wrap up their fall schedule on Saturday, Oct. 12 at noon when they host rival Kent State at Lee R. Jackson Field. The game also marks the kickoff of the Zips vs. Flashes Alumni Challenge, which both programs announced today.
Tomorrow wouldn’t be a bad day to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and take in some Zips softball!
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSnTpxhdMFc?dec= mp4 16:9
The Tropical days of fall...
By Sam Baldwin (@ZipsSam / @ZipsBB) Oct. 10, 2013, Baseball
Hawaiian shirts of all different colors dotted Lee R. Jackson Field this afternoon as Akron baseball took the field for fall practice. To shake things up, the players decided to don their tropical gear for a beautiful day in Akron.
Akron baseball is preparing for the fast approaching Fall World Series, a five-game intrasquad series set to begin on Friday, Oct. 18 at 3 p.m. on Lee R. Jackson Field. Prior to the beginning of the Series, the Zips will have an exhibition contest against the Toronto Mets, which is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14 at 3 p.m.
Tailgating food is something to cheer about
They should rename the sport foodball.
To prove this point, look no further than the tailgate parties at the University of Akron's InfoCision Stadium.
Dambrot relishes "old school approach”
By: Jonathan Cooper, ESPN.com, Oct. 4, 2013, Men's Basketball
The following Q&A with men's basketball head coach Keith Dambrot ran on October 2 on ESPN.com (link).
The University of Akron basketball team held its first practice of the 2013-'14 season last Friday. Led by 54-year-old coach Keith Dambrot, a 1982 graduate of the school, the two-time defending Mid-American Conference regular-season champions—only the third team in 30 years to earn that honor—personify that dangerous mid-major that flies under the radar, ready to pounce on an unassuming powerhouse foe. For the last eight seasons, Akron has won at least 20 games, one of 15 teams nationwide to do so. With Dambrot at the helm, it's the third-longest active streak of 20-win seasons among mid-major coaches (in 2004-'05 the team just missed the cut, winning 19). Last season, Dambrot earned MAC Coach of the Year after leading his alma mater to a school-record 26 wins, to MAC regular season and tournament championships, and to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and the third time in five (the school has a total of four NCAA Tournament appearances). Ironically, the Zips were eliminated by VCU, which is coached by Shaka Smart, Dambrot's assistant at Akron from 2003 through '06. Akron knows what it has in Dambrot, who signed a 10-year contract in 2012, andreceived a one-year extension last month, taking him through the 2022-'23 season. A day before that first practice, Dambrot took time to talk with ESPN Events, touching on the tradition of Akron basketball, and the opportunity to play in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
Q: As you head into the first day of practice for 2013-'14, what's your mindset?
Q: Do you see an advantage in the NCAA's the new rules allowing more days to practice, even if the number of hours remains the same?
Q: You need to replace Zeke Marshall, the MAC's Defensive Player of the Year and the school's all-time leading shot-blocker. Who are you looking at to pick up the slack?
Q: What's been the key to keeping Akron so successful during your tenure?
Q: You have the most 20-win seasons and the most consecutive 20-win seasons in school history. You're also the first Akron coach to have this many consecutive 20-win seasons since Bob Huggins coached the Zips. How do you see your place in school history?
Q: There are a lot of Akron alumni on the coaching staff. As an alumnus, how important is it to bring back former Zips who are familiar with the tradition?
Q: The Zips will play in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25). How important is it for the program to get exposure by participating in these early season tournaments?
Q: Among your most successful assistants to move on to major conference jobs is VCU head coach Shaka Smart. Did you know he was going to be as successful a head coach as he's been?
Women's Soccer Light the Night Walk with LLS
By: Sam Baldwin (@ZipsSam / @ZipsWSOC), Sept. 24, 2013, Women's Soccer
The Akron women's soccer team recently held an event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, following Sunday's home match, to bring awareness to the organization and help with the cause.
Senior Rachel Dennis, who was a major part of organizing the event, had this to say:
"The Akron Light The Night walk was a big success. All summer for my internship, the LLS employees worked hard on creating successful walks. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to get Akron women's soccer more involved with LLS than in previous years. We have a great group of girls here, and I knew in reaching out to my teammates that they would be interested. A lot of my teammates helped raise funds with the bake sale we hosted for the home opener. In the end, our walk team raised a little under $2,000 for LLS. I think for all the girls that walked it was an eye opening experience seeing the people who have survived cancer, and also seeing how passionate people are about the cause. I couldn't ask for a better group of girls to spend so much time with, and also a better organization like LLS to work with."
Head coach Vernon Croft was also able to meet Ava, a leukemia survivor, prior to the home opener on September 9 as a part of LLS Day at FirstEnergy Stadium - Cub Cadet Field.
Coach Croft said of the his team's involvement in the event, "I am extremely proud of our players, specifically Rachel, for their understanding that there is more to life than just the game. Each one of us either directly or within a person removed has been touched by cancer and possibly even as specific as a blood cancer, like Luekemia or Lymphoma. For our players to donate their time, money, and energies to help support such a wonderful group and help them increase awareness is just outstanding."
In other news, be sure to tune into tonight's men's soccer match against Ohio State, as Coach Croft will be a featured guest during the second half of the NSCAA.TV broadcast of the game. To view the broadcast tonight at 7 p.m., follow this link.
Sometimes it's about more than football at a football game ...
A Michigan Fan
Salutes the Zips
The following letter appeared in the Sept. 18 "Letters to the Editor" section of the Akron Beacon Journal.
I, like many Michigan fans, was complacent before the football game with the Akron Zips. We even seriously discussed leaving after the third quarter if the score was 50-0, and the third string team was playing.
I had the pleasure of attending the game with my two sons. What we were treated to was a game for the ages and great memories.
It was a testament to the Zips and their coaching, talent, execution and perseverance. A lesser team would have crumbled in the Big House. Instead, the offense owned the front line, having twice the rushing yardage of Michigan at halftime.
It seemed that the Michigan offense was often going the wrong way, as it was being pushed back by Akron. Except for a costly interception in the end zone and a pass interference call, the game could easily have gone the other way.
The composure the Akron offense showed executing the final two-minute drill was impressive. It was a great teachable moment with my sons, showing them the power of passion, dedication and teamwork.
I do not know when Michigan and Akron will meet again on the football field, but I hope to be there. I have the utmost respect for their kids and their football program.
The Big House has been home to many memorable and storied games. This ranks with the best of them.
The Turning Point is Upon Us
By: Dallas Moyer (@ZipsDallas), Sept. 16, 2013, Football
History tends to repeat itself...
How many times have you, as a college football fan, climbed out of bed on a Sunday morning and read about how a heavy favorite struggled and/or lost to a big underdog on Saturday the week following a big win? I've already lost count how many times it has already happened this season.
So the story came and went over the weekend as the Zips went into the "Big House" – the largest college football stadium in the nation and home to the program with the most all-time wins – and stood toe-to-toe with the No. 11/12 Wolverines.
The Zips out-played the Wolverines in many aspects, forcing four turnovers, holding UM to 30 percent in third-down conversion, etc. And when it came down to the end, a blitz on fourth-and-goal was the difference.
As Coach Bowden said today in his MAC Coaches Conference Call, "...rarely does a loss feel like a win, but this one does."
However, a loss is a loss. History may repeat itself, but history can also be changed. This team cannot be like the Wolverines and have a letdown following an emotional game.
So, what can we hope for this week?
We hope for a packed ZipsFest with fans on hand to welcome the football team when it arrives at 4 p.m. to face Louisiana.
We hope for InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field to be filled with an energetic, confident fan base, just like the team that took the field at practice today and that will take the field on Saturday.
We hope to see a team take the next step.
We hope to see the players carry the momentum and make a statement, a statement that can allow them to one day say: "I was there when this Akron Zips team took the program to the next level."
Coach Bowden talks about commitment when he talks about Zips football. Commitment to his players, to one another, to the program, to the university and to Northeast Ohio.
This team is committed to taking the next step...are you?
Fall Practice in Full Swing for Baseball
By: Sam Baldwin (@ZipsSam), Sept. 11, 2013, Baseball
Zips baseball is back on the diamond as the team started fall practices this week. On Monday, head coach Rick Rembielak spoke about the fall practices, his incoming players and the 2013 Fall World series coming up in October.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hktbaVI4EaE?dec= mp4 16:9
Rembielak has found two new coaches for the 2013-14 school year in pitching coach Kyle Smith and volunteer assistant coach Spencer Schmitz, who join assistant coach Fred Worth on the coaching staff. For continued information on the Zips during fall practice, follow the team on Twitter at @ZipsBB.
Where Did the Summer Go?
By: Men's Golf Head Coach David Trainor (@ZipsMGolf), Sept. 6, 2013, Men's Golf
It seems like just yesterday we finished up our 2012-13 season at the MAC Championship. The summer – which never felt like summer because it just never got that hot – flew by with the majority of my time being spent on the recruiting trail. With all of that being said, summer is over, the student-athletes are back and it is nice to have the campus buzzing again.
From a golf standpoint, we start the fall off the same every year. The guys come back, they have a plethora of meetings the first couple of days and then get to qualifying for the first tournament almost immediately. This year we played five rounds to determine the line up for the frst event. I laid out the stipulations for the qualifier before we started and let them get after it.
We finished the "qualifying tournament" earlier this week, and I must say it was great to watch. I let them play and all I did is watch. It gives me a chance to see who is sharp, who isn't, some strengths and weaknesses, as well as who likes the pressure of competition. I must say I saw a lot of great things this qualifier, and I am excited to get the year started. We leave today for Pawleys Island, S.C., and our first round of the year is Sunday, September 8th.
I will try to keep everyone updated on how we are doing through Twitter (@ZipsMGolf) after each round.
Thanks for everyone's support – GO ZIPS!
Zips In NYC...
By: Paul Warner, September 5, 2013, Men's Soccer
After playing in 90-degree weather last weekend in South Carolina, weather conditions will be quite different when the Zips take the pitch at No. 23 St. John's tomorrow night. With a true Fall night projected in the forecast and an 8 p.m. ET kick off, it will be a welcome break from last weekend's heat.
By: Dana LeRoy, September 5, 2013, Volleyball
The eve of the Akron Invitational is upon us!
For the 19th season in its 40-year history, Zips Volleyball is hosting its own non-conference invitational. Tennessee Tech, Niagara and Milwaukee are en route to Akron and the JAR for the tournament that starts tomorrow and continues through Saturday. The complete tournament schedule is below:
2013 AKRON INVITATIONAL
Saturday, Sept. 7
Akron is coming off a sweep of the SIUE Cougar Classic last weekend, where Alex Cocklin was named MVP and Mary Delich and Kelsey Wilson earned All-Tournament team accolades for the first time in their careers.
Jill Paluch also reached a career milestone, surpassng 1,000 digs. On a related note, there will be special presentation prior to the start of the Zips' 7 p.m. match against Niagara tomorrow night, you won't want to miss it!
The Zips getting in some last-minute practice for their home opener tomorrow
Coach Arenz will be a guest on Zips Live presented by Lee Hyder & Associates tonight to preview the tournament. The radio show airs live from Johnny J's in the Valley from 7 to 8 p.m. on 1350 AM (WARF). You can listen live here or come and join us for dinner at Johnny J's!
There is a lot of hype heading into this first #ZipsGameday on campus – we are hosting volleyball all day tomorrow, doubling down with volleyball and football's home opener on Saturday, capped off with women's soccer on Sunday.
Stay up-to-date with the action of all of our fall sports through our Twitter accounts and GoZips.com!
A Letter to My Team...
By: Women's Golf Head Coach Jenny King (@ZipsCoachKing), Sept. 5, 2013, Women's Golf
Each year I write my team a letter and include it in our team handbook. Usually this letter encompasses a common theme that we need to focus on to be successful and to reach our goals individually and as a team.
This year we will do our best to focus on ACCEPTANCE on the golf course. Choosing the positive outlook on each shot, each hole, each round, instead of focusing on results only, will get us closer to where we want to be as a team. Below is this year's letter.
Welcome Back Ladies!
It is good to have everyone back and, as usual, I'm very excited to get started this year!
One of the highlights of summer for me was watching the Solheim Cup. Nothing like great team competition on the golf course to get me ready for our season! Now, if you were keeping up with the competition at all, you know that Team Europe retained the Cup in dominating fashion.
One of the stars for Team Europe that week was Solheim Cup rookie, a 17-year-old Brit, Charley Hull. Hull handled the LPGA veteran Paula Creamer easily, winning her singles match 5 and 4. The young Hull played each of her matches with great ease and she said she rarely felt nervous...
"I'm not going to die if I hit a bad shot. Just hit it, find it and hit it again," Hull said in an interview after her singles match against Creamer.
At 17 years old, Hull overcame one of the biggest obstacles we all face in the game of golf: FEAR. She overcame fear with ACCEPTANCE. Even the professionals do not hit perfect shots.
Consider this scenario: You are on the first tee of a big tournament. There is a gallery and you are nervous. You step up to the tee, go through your routine and top the ball into the rough in front of the tee. How do you respond?
Now think about it this way: You are on the first tee of a big tournament. There is a gallery and you are nervous. You step up to the tee, go through your routine and top the ball into the rough in front of the tee. You go on to shoot a 68 and win the tournament. How do you respond to the bad shot now? (via Fred Shoemaker, Extraordinary Golf)
If you knew that one bad shot would not affect the outcome of your round in a negative way, would that shot bother you? Probably not! Can you choose the correct attitude on the golf course instead of being reactive to results? YES!
Let's hold our heads high and act like champions! LET'S GO ZIPS!
I hope you enjoy this inside look at our Women's Golf Program here at The University of Akron! We are looking forward to representing the Zips with positive attitudes and confidence this weekend at the Golfweek Program Challenge in Pawleys Island, S.C.
New Rifle Member Succeeds at NRA Championships...
By: Sam Baldwin, September 3, 2013, Rifle
The 2013-14 Zips rifle season is just about a month away from the opener at the Mid-Atlantic Conference Open in Annapolis, Md., on Oct. 6. The team brings back 11 members of the 2012-13 roster, while also adding six newcomers.
One of the newest members of Zips rifle, sophomore Matthew Chezem, has already made a name for himself outside of shooting in the collegiate ranks. This summer, Chezem finished second in the nation at the NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships.
Shooting Sports USA recently published an in-depth article about the Championships, which can be seen here on page 27. Matthew is a strong addition to an Akron rifle team that looks to defend it MAC Smallbore Championship for the third year in a row.
As Things Change, They Stay The Same...
By: Paul Warner, August 31, 2013, Men's Soccer
With a new head coach and a number of new faces on the team, its was the same dominating brand of Akron Soccer that we have been accustomed to in the Zips' 2-0, season-opening victory at the College of Charleston last night. UA out-shot the Cougars 23-5 overall and 11-3 on-goal to earn its first W of the year and secure the first victory of what will likely be many in the Akron head coaching career for longtime assistant Jared Embick.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HqImrQDE3A?dec= mp4 16:9
For official statistics, photos and a complete recap of all the action, click here.
It was also great to see all the support from our incredible network of current professional players following the match.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Zips this weekend however as the team will have just one day to recover and prepare for Furman Sunday. Then they take the field against the Palladins, they will see a familiar face in senior midfielder Martin Ontiveros, who appeared in 12 matches as a true freshman at Akron during the 2010 NCAA National Championship season.
After a late breakfast this morning, the team went back to the practice field for a stretch and light training. During the session, which lasted approximately an hour and 15 minute session, assistant coach Carl Capellas, who may have the most energy of anyone I've ever met, got in the goal box to take on some of the coaches in a 1v1. Check out Coach Capellas' keeper skills in the video below.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4xW7I5LRLo?dec= mp4 16:9
After a quick shower, the team was then off to the Tournament Luncheon at the Charleston Battery Stadium. There, they found an old 1994 U.S. National Team photo that featured Aodhan Quinn's father, Brian Quinn (#14), who earned 48 caps between 1991 and 1994.
Zips Eager To Begin Season...
By: Paul Warner, August 30, 2013, Men's Soccer
Just got back from today's light training session and stadium walk through. The team is looking sharp and itching to get the year started. Here are a couple snap shots from this morning.
Soccer Central At The Sleep Inn...
By: Paul Warner, August 30, 2013, Men's Soccer
College soccer season is here. If that wasn't already apparent, we were all reminded of it this morning as the team went down to the breakfast area only to find women's teams from Jacksonville State and Canisius, who will be competing at at tournament hosted by The Citadel this weekend, already enjoying their meals. With student-athletes spilling out into the lobby and food disppearing by the second, the coaches turned to Plan B. Bagel run!
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