Beyond Box Scores: 2010-11 in review (part one)
By Rob Daniels
Changes and challenges in 2010-11 did not preclude general excellence for UNCG, which finished the year as the Southern Conference’s second-best overall athletics program according to the league’s standings across men’s and women’s competition.
The Spartan men were second in the race for the Commissioner’s Cup, which recognizes men’s athletics, fifth in the Germann Cup for women’s sports – a mere 1.5 points out of first – and second in aggregate achievement (UNCG’s combined men’s and women’s point total of 155.5 was second only to Appalachian State’s 170). The year included conference championships in men’s and women’s soccer, second-place finishes by women’s tennis, men’s golf, wrestling and men’s cross country and a resurgence from the baseball team, which took second in regular-season conference play. The volleyball team was second in its division.
Ashley Schnell distinguished herself as one of the conference’s premier student-athletes in any sport. The distance runner became the first Spartan to win the SoCon’s individual cross country title and the first woman in UNCG’s Division I history to qualify for an NCAA outdoor track regional. The redshirt junior from Omaha, Neb., went undefeated against conference competition in the league championships in all three seasons of action, and she did it while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average in music performance. She left the SoCon’s indoor championships before her teammates in order to participate in a mandatory orchestra performance back in the Triad.
Thirteen of the Spartans’ 18 total teams equaled or improved their rank within the conference from 2009-10. (The totals count indoor and outdoor track as separate entities.) The 10 teams with dual-match results (men’s and women’s soccer, basketball and tennis; softball, baseball, wrestling, and volleyball) improved their collective winning percentage dramatically – from 45.8 percent to 55.6 percent.
Thirty-five athletes were first-team All-Southern Conference choices and eight others made the second teams in their respective sports.
The year witnessed turnover with the departure of two respected coaches. Lynne Agee retired after three decades at the helm of the women’s basketball program, and Eddie Radwanski accepted the job at Clemson a few weeks after guiding the Spartan program to 19 victories in 2010.
In the classroom, all 18 UNCG teams received satisfactory or better evaluations from the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report, which measures real-time scholastic performance over a four-year period from 2006-07 through 2009-10. In all, 13 of the 18 teams produced APR scores that exceeded national averages for the respective sports.
Atop the list is women’s basketball, which has now been recognized for superior achievement — national standing within the top 10 percent of its sport — in all six years of the APR’s history. The team is one of only 260 out of more than 6,300 in all sports to earn the honor in each year; less than 5 percent of all teams can make that claim nationally.
All six teams coach Linh Nguyen directs — the men’s and women’s squads in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track — delivered perfect scores of 1,000 in 2009-10. The softball team also recorded a flawless grade.
Over the four-year period, women’s basketball, indoor track and outdoor track and men’s cross country and indoor track were cited for their national excellence with APR Public Recognition Awards. The total of five teams on the NCAA’s honor roll is a school record.
UNCG’s fall sport athletes led the Southern Conference by at least one measurement of achievement. More than 29 percent of them – the highest percentage of any league member – earned academic all-conference distinction that season.
The department’s commitment to the Triad was apparent throughout the 2010-11 academic year.
UNCG instituted an internal award to recognize the team that dedicated the most time to various service projects. Men’s golf, which averaged 25.75 hours per athlete, was the inaugural winner after working with the First Tee of the Triad, the Triad Youth Golf Foundation, the Greensboro Housing Authority, Fox 8 Gifts for Kids and students at Northern Guilford Elementary School. Coach Terrance Stewart’s team also helped fellow students move in to university housing in August and conducted campus tours for prospective students throughout the year.
Men’s basketball (14.63 hours per team member) placed second in the project.
In sweeping the Southern Conference, UNCG was the only school in the country to win championships of the same conference in men’s and women’s soccer in 2010. (Sacramento State’s clubs both prevailed in their league tournaments, but the Hornet men are in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and the women in the Big Sky Conference.)
In all, 22 schools were represented in both NCAA tournaments, but UNCG and Sacramento State were the only institutions to get there by winning conference tourneys in men’s and women’s play.
The Spartan women produced the best season in school history. Of the other 321 teams in Division I, none won more games entering the NCAA tournament than UNCG’s 19, and only Denver equaled that total. The Spartans cracked the top 10 in one national poll and finished 23rd after a hard-fought, 2-1 loss to South Carolina in the first round of the 64-team national tourney.
Midfielder Cat Barnekow, forward Tabitha Padgett and goalkeeper Kelsey Kearney were second-team all-region selections by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and midfielder Jenn Partenheimer earned a spot on the third team. Kearney allowed only 12 goals in 1,952 minutes – an 0.55 goals-against average – and is likely to break the SoCon’s career record for shutouts in her senior season in 2011.
Eight Spartans earned some form of all-conference honors.
UNCG swept through all 11 games against SoCon opposition and earned impressive nonconference results against eventual NCAA participants USC (0-0 tie) and ACC champion Wake Forest (2-1 win).
Occasionally, there is a price for success, and UNCG’s came when Clemson hired Radwanski just before Christmas.
The university initiated a nationwide search for Radwanski’s replacement and ultimately hired Georgia assistant Steve Nugent, a 21-year veteran of youth development and college coaching who will take on his first gig as the boss. Nugent has been a part of various programs in Florida and has been an active participant in internationally recognized charitable work in Haiti and elsewhere.
The Spartan men began the season with an interim coach and relatively low expectations, having been picked to finish sixth in the SoCon in a preseason survey. Justin Maullin’s group struggled early, but when adjustments took hold in midseason, the Spartans got rolling and entered the league tournament as the nominal front-runners.
Maullin’s Spartans won three dramatic one-goal games in earning the program’s fifth SoCon tournament title.
Sophomore Hakan Ilhan delivered one of the best individual performances in the event’s history, scoring all four Spartan goals in wins over Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Furman. Two of the tallies came in overtime and the third broke a scoreless tie with 9:32 left in the final over the Paladins.
Ilhan finished the season with 31 points, the highest total by a Spartan in five years.
The work earned distinctions and stability for Maullin, named the league’s Coach of the Year and promoted to full-time head coach at UNCG in the season’s aftermath.
Schnell’s excellence rubbed off on several of her teammates as the Spartans authored the program’s best Division I season in cross country by taking third in the league meet and 16th in the NCAA regionals. Shaina Sumney joined Schnell as an All-SoCon performer.
The men’s cross country team, led by first-team all-league honorees Joey Thompson and Mike Koech and second-team All-SoCon performer AJ Savoia, finished second in the conference championship.
UNCG’s volleyball team turned in a winning record in league play for the fourth straight year, tying for second place in the Southern Conference’s North Division and reaching the semifinals of the SoCon Championship. Kayren Finney was named to the all-tournament team, while Kellie Orewiler was named to the all-freshman team.
(To be concluded ...)
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