Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No Turkeys Here...

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

Here's a SHOUT-out to you, dear readers, for a pleasant holiday weekend (and safe travels if you're out and about on family visits). We are thankful for the fun and the pride that comes from being involved with the Big South Conference--and hopeful that you feel the same way as you follow the Conference through its athletic adventures!

The Flames of Liberty have certainly been burning up the news this week:
  • LU repeated as Big South Volleyball Champions (pictured), knocking off Coastal Carolina at UNC Asheville on Sunday.
  • Liberty men's basketball pulled off an upset over ACC foe Virginia Tuesday night!
  • Unfortunately for both LU and the Big South, the Flames were snuffed out of an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs again...keep your countdown clocks running to the automatic bid in 2010 so we can take at least some of the mystery out of selection day.

SHAMELESS PLUG TIME: Looking for a good holiday gift idea? Try the Big South Conference Online Store for gear customized with Big South and school logos. Do it now, so you can get your made-to-order item finished and sent before Christmas!!!

Plug, Part II: if you don't want something to wear, how about something to display--like a great souvenir photo from action in the Big South Championships? Pictures for viewing and for sale are available right now--go to BigSouthSports.com and click the PHOTOS box on the left side under the menu!

Now it's time to talk about what's "On The EDGE" this week--and it's all hoops, all the time: 20 basketball games (11 men, 9 women) from tonight through next Thursday. It's all in this week's video update...

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Catch you later, my friends...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Living On The EDGE?

Here's the latest on what's coming up on The Big South EDGE...I'm making sure we don't miss out on the video like last week's SHOUT did!

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By the way, it's VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT TIME--don't miss the fun going on at UNC Asheville with the competition for the Big South title!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big South-a-palooza !?!

Where do I begin?
We last had a SHOUT 12 days ago, and just a few things have happened since then...so here are your HEADLINES:

LIBERTY CLINCHES 2ND STRAIGHT FOOTBALL TITLE,
without even needing to complete the Conference schedule to do it--but then they went ahead and finished undefeated in the Big South anyway (with hopes for more).


RADFORD CROWNED WOMEN'S SOCCER CHAMPION
after defeating Coastal Carolina in the final at High Point. The HPU folks did a sensational job staging the event and the competition did a good job living up to the setting.


WINTHROP WINS MEN'S SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP,
knocking off host Coastal Carolina on the Chanticleers' home field. Weather issues threatened, but the Coastal staff overcame all that nicely (more on that below--read on...).


BASKETBALL SEASON TIPS OFF WITH THE BIG SOUTH ON THE NATIONAL STAGE

  • first with PC taking on Duke in a Coaches vs. Cancer TV game at Durham (for the record, the Blue Devils indeed held off the Blue Hose, but Presbyterian gave a solid effort)
  • then with VMI hitting triple-digits in a high-profile win over Kentucky (just a year after then-pre-Big South Gardner-Webb scored a Big Blue surprise of its own on UK)
  • and finally with UNCA hosting Liberty as part of ESPN's 24 Hours of College Basketball programming--and the Bulldogs coming up big winners (more on that in a minute).

VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT NEXT ON THE SCENE,
as UNC Asheville and the Asheville community prepare to host the Big South Conference for showdowns across the net and we pursue another championship winner.

Okay, take a breath.

By the way, a quick recap of the championships to this point shows an interesting trend:
Men's Cross Country = Liberty
Women's Cross Country = Coastal Carolina
Women's Soccer = Radford
Men's Soccer = Winthrop
That's four Conference Championship events with four different champions! Sure, Liberty snagged football to be the first to double up, but football awards its title by regular season record, so no championship event there.

All of which would beg the question, "Who could make it five for five at volleyball?"
The regular season ended in a three-way tie for Liberty, Coastal, and High Point--so you could include the Panthers as a contender for a fifth-different title-winner...but host UNCA has plenty of support and is playing strong enough to put the Bulldogs in the mix too.

Forgive me, but I like seeing the championships spread out among the schools. Last year, six different programs (of the eight members at that time) won Big South titles. The number is already up to four after finishing five sports seasons this year.

I missed the chance to post a SHOUT last Friday, so anyone looking here for the On The EDGE Viewers Guide was sure to be disappointed (and really no point in putting it here now)--but it was still posted as normal on BigSouthSports.com, so if you like getting that update and you don't see one here in a given week, please look for it over there!

Speaking of last Friday, I was in Conway, SC, helping out with the video streaming of the men's soccer semifinal games. Although I had to drive through multiple downpours to get from Charlotte to the Grand Strand, weather along the coast was mainly cloudy and breezy without showers (after periods of rain during the previous day's quarterfinals). The first match pitted Liberty against Winthrop, and not even regulation play, two overtimes, and a standard number of penalty kicks would be enough to determine a winner. The Flames and Eagles had to go to extra PK's to establish which squad would make the final--and that honor went to the top-seeded Winthrop team. One thing we got in that game that you don't see very often: a goalkeeper KICKING a penalty kick shot--Patrick Mitrovich did the honors for WU and knocked one home to do his part on the offensive side. The later game had the host Chanticleers against UNC Asheville, upset winners over GWU in the quarterfinals. Coastal had most of the ball control, repelled the UNCA counterattacks, and won its way into a showdown with its traditional rival. I did not stay onsite through Sunday's final myself, but I can tell you it was a doozy, with the top seed Winthrop downing the host team Coastal Carolina 4-3 in overtime--great tournament action!

Some of you may have noticed a lot of posts happen here on Friday and Tuesday...no real rule to that, but those days are often better for making the time to send a SHOUT. As I said, I was away last Friday--and then the same thing happened on Tuesday. I was fortunate enough to be courtside for the UNC Asheville vs. Liberty men's basketball game, shown to the nation on ESPN. The student section was full--and I daresay there must've been a run on body paint in the area around campus. The UNCA volleyball team was sitting right behind me, supporting Bulldogs basketball in full voice. The room was buzzing, the Bulldogs were fired up, and the Flames could never really match that intensity.

UNCA jumped out 7-0, expanded that to 49-30 at the half, and finished up 84-56 when the final buzzer sounded. The whole team played well, but you can certainly point praise to freshman guard J.P. Primm and junior guard Sean Smith. Primm was a source of energy throughout, and made all eight of his free throws on the way to a game-high 21 points in a team-high 30 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Smith was on fire from long range, sinking five of six shots beyond the extended arc to finish with 17. When the game concluded, Primm raced to the students to celebrate and high-five, spending so much time and having so much fun that the rest of the team joined him in the party.

On the other side, Liberty got double-digit point production out of Preseason Player of the Year Anthony Smith and freshman Seth Curry, but with low shooting percentages, a problem which plagued the whole Flames squad.

Great sidebar to the game itself: of course the fans (mainly students) were acting goofy for the cameras going to a national audience, but here's a SHOUT-out to the one who took it to another level--an interactive level--by showing a sign (which was a nice "We Miss You Kenny" message for injured and ailing player Kenny George) and then flipped it over to reveal a gag marriage proposal for ESPN's Erin Andrews along with a phone number. When I saw the sign, I cringed with wonder as to what was at the other end of that number, but moments later he could be heard saying something like, "Dude, my phone's blowing up--I've got seven texts, five voicemails, it's still ringing, and I don't know any of these people." Yes, he put his own cell phone number on national television. Must've seemed like a good idea at the time...yeesh.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Champion-Ship-Shape...

Time flies--the last post was Halloween, so now a week later it's a whole new month, champions have been crowned, awards have been given, and lots of stuff has been going on, so let's play a little catch-up...


First to the race courses in Lynchburg for the Conference Cross Country Championships--congratulations to Big South Champions Liberty (men) and Coastal Carolina (women)! Salutes also go to individual top finishers Sam Chelanga (LU men, pictured at right) and Zsanett Kis (HPU women). Chelanga earned an additional distinction, making the Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd" feature in SI's 11/10/08 issue (Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth on the cover).


Last week's football featured an upset that may echo for a while--Presbyterian upended Liberty, giving the Blue Hose a big win while potentially damaging the Flames' chances for postseason play.


End-of-season awards went out for women's soccer, and the tournament got started in High Point with a sensational quarterfinal round on Thursday: VMI downed Winthrop, Radford got past UNC Asheville, Coastal shut out GWU, and host HPU defeated CSU (more on the tourney after the video). That sets up the Friday semifinals, with VMI-Radford and Coastal-HPU. The final game will be played Sunday afternoon. All the games are of course available on The EDGE...speaking of which, let's look at the week ahead:


video

Bonus note on the upcoming football weekend--the Coastal Carolina at Gardner-Webb game will get its share of attention Saturday: live coverage on MASN (and The EDGE), plus ESPN360 and availability on ESPN GamePlan, AND tape-delay coverage on SportSouth. Whew!

Okay, now let's talk about the Women's Soccer Championship at High Point. I was there Thursday for at least part of three different quarterfinal games (missed the nightcap, which is too bad, because it was a good one). Let me compliment the folks at HPU--great hosts and a wonderful venue for the event. The Vert Track & Soccer Stadium there sure makes for a fine championship setting...of course, it didn't hurt that the weather was perfect: mild temperatures and clear skies, plus a backdrop of fall colors just to complete the scene.

Most of my attention was directed to the Radford-UNC Asheville game, since I was announcing that one for The EDGE. Interesting contest--RU peppered UNCA with shots all game long, with no results until late in the second half, when Latrice Lee made a good cross to Ashley Johnson (All-Freshman Team, 2nd Team All-Conference) to break the scoreless tie...but then the Bulldogs mustered an attack in the game's final minute (Katy Beeler's goal) to send the game to overtime. Asheville had only a fraction of the offensive surge that Radford put on throughout the game, yet after 90 minutes they were deadlocked at one goal each--such is the way of soccer. The overtime period see-sawed with two tired teams trying to assert an advantage, but again it was Johnson for the Highlanders (#24 pictured at right) putting one home to take the 2-1 victory and advance to the semifinals. From my angle in the press box, I could see the opportunity she got with her shot--the ball came loose and traffic in the box opened up in front of her...the only question was could she get to the ball first--yes--game over.

By the way, if you make it to any of the Big South Championships (including women's soccer this week, men's soccer next week, and volleyball in two weeks), look for the Big South Conference Championship Photos tent. Our partners with Sideline Sports will be actively firing away with their cameras and making pictures from the tournament available for sale on-site, a perfect souvenir for family, friends, and fans! If you can't be there in person, you can still order pix by going to BigSouthSports.com and looking for the Championship Photos link on the left side.

Finally, a SHOUT-out to Coastal Carolina and Faculty Athletics Representative Sharon Thompson, winner of the South Carolina Governor's Award as 2008 Professor of the Year! Congratulations, Sharon--that's outstanding news!