By Rob Daniels
For part one of this story, click here.
UNCG said farewell to a founding mother of its athletics structure and heritage when Lynne Agee retired after 30 years of remarkable service as women’s basketball coach. Agee finished her college career, which began with three seasons at Roanoke (Va.) College, at 602 wins. That’s good for 21st place in NCAA Division I history, but it doesn’t tell the full story.
In 1982, she coached the first championship game in NCAA women’s basketball at any level when her Spartans took on Elizabethtown (Pa.). Sixteen years later, she became the first person in NCAA history to coach teams to the tournament at all three classifications.
Agee was one of the core individuals in the university’s ambitious plan to move from Division III to Division I in a five-year span. At the time, the progression was the fastest of its kind in NCAA history.
The university will recognize Agee’s achievements by naming the court at Fleming Gym in her honor.
The Spartans posted their best SoCon record (10-10) in four years, at least temporarily breaking a trend of debilitating injuries that had plagued recent seasons.
If not a replacement, the university has found a notable successor in former Virginia assistant Wendy Palmer, whose biography highlights the growth of women’s basketball in general. In 2011-12, Palmer will be one of 17 Division I head coaches who have played in the WNBA. None of them can match her numerical achievements, however. She leads that sorority in career points (3,140), rebounds (1,825), rebounds per game (5.87) and games played (311).
And that’s just her domestic resume. She also played for teams based in Italy, Brazil, Hungary, Spain, Russia and Turkey.
The Spartan men’s basketball team, the youngest club in the SoCon, played one of the most arduous schedules in the country, and its record took the associated hit early on. UNCG lost its first 15 games but ended the streak in mid-January and went a respectable 6-12 in regular-season SoCon play.
The team was known for remarkable balance. Six Spartans scored 24 or more points in a game. No other SoCon team had more than four such scorers. Trevis Simpson’s 33-point outburst against Davidson on Jan. 17 represented one of the top five individual performances by any Division I freshman all season.
The Spartan wrestling team had four all-conference performers, three of whom were freshmen, with Caylor Williams being named the SoCon Freshman of the Year. Williams, Ivan Lopouchanski, Peter Sturgeon and Manny Ramirez all represented UNCG at the NCAA Championships, with Lopouchanski falling just seconds shy of All-America honors.
For the second straight season, the wrestling team won the athletic department’s UNITY Award, given annually to the team with the best attendance at other Spartan teams’ home events.
Schnell continued to dominate during the indoor track season, winning the SoCon title in the 3,000 meters. Schnell, Sumney, Shannon Hall and Kerry Hartman teamed to win the distance medley relay.
Kenny Hinman earned all-freshman honors in the 3,000 on the men’s side.
Its season came to a sudden and surprising end with two losses in the conference tournament, but no Spartan team displayed a bigger turnaround than Mike Gaski’s baseball group. A year after losing 23 of 30 regular-season SoCon games, UNCG went 22-8 in league play and took second place to Elon by one game.
Benefiting from the NCAA’s newly adopted bats, which have less “trampoline effect” than their predecessors, the Spartans became an efficient offensive team that excelled at sacrificing, taking extra bases on outfield hits and producing in clutch situations.
The Spartan softball team continued its tradition of turning it up at the SoCon Championship, winning two games there for the school-record fifth straight season and falling one win shy of its second straight title game appearance. UNCG had three all-conference selections, one shy of the school record. Alex Emeterio, Kaitlin Merkt and Eileen Horsmon all took All-SoCon honors for the second time in their careers.
Men’s golf began 2011 with an impressive individual distinction and ended the spring with the team’s best SoCon finish in seven years.
In February, sophomore Robert Hoadley was named one of 12 national semifinalists for the prestigious Sullivan Award, given by the AAU annually to the nation’s amateur athlete who displays the best combination of on- and off-field achievement. Hoadley was nominated for his selection as an All-Southern Conference player in 2009-10; for considerable academic success; and for his community-service efforts. Although he did not advance to finalist stage, he placed sixth in online balloting via USA Today among the 12 semifinalists.
In the spring, Hoadley and teammate Kyle Sonday earned first-team All-Southern Conference honors. Sonday, who had redshirted the previous academic year, made an impressive personal comeback and helped the Spartans take second in the conference tournament. Their score would have been good enough to win the event in several years, but a remarkable last-round surge by Georgia Southern proved to be too much.
On the women’s golf side, senior Erica Creed finished 11th at the Southern Conference Championship, making her the third player in school history to finish in the top 11 three times in her career. Lizzie Bundy earned a spot on the SoCon All-Freshman Team, as well.
In March, the team hosted the elite Bryan National Collegiate tournament and placed 14th, a standing that ranks among its best in the event’s 14-year history. Seven of the competing teams went on to place in the top 21 at the NCAA championships in May.
The women’s tennis team went 9-1 in regular-season league play as four individuals – Niltooli Wilkins, Alex Whitehead, Stephanie Macfarlane and Lucy Dougherty – earned all-league distinction. The men’s tennis team went 8-2 in regular-season SoCon action and had three all-conference selections, with Orcun Seyrek, Timion Meijs and Ahmet Sarioglu earning the honors. Both teams sat atop the league standings for much of the season.
In outdoor track, Schnell switched her concentration from the 1,500 meters to the 5,000 and discovered the same sort of success she had always enjoyed. She shattered the school record in the event and earned her way to the NCAA East Regional in the process.
She was joined by another athlete with an interesting journey, freshman Paul Katam, who competed in the 10,000. The native of Kenya had planned on arriving at UNCG in the fall like most other freshmen, but for reasons that remain unclear, his bid for a student visa was initially rejected by the U.S. Embassy. On his third try, in December 2010, he got the go-ahead, and he arrived in Greensboro just in time for spring classes.
He was way behind and understandably out of shape, and his coaches considered redshirting him until Katam started displaying amazing improvement in training sessions. Strong performances in April qualified him for the NCAA East Regional as UNCG placed multiple competitors in a regional for the first time.
- UNCG -