The Doghouse: Cross Country Seasons End, Basketball Wins on Homecoming

Doghouse Recap, Nov 7, 2016

Jada Smith, sophomore, looks for an open pass during Union's 2016 Homecoming Game.

Welcome to The Doghouse, a weekly column recapping Union University sports action from the weekend.

The regional events marked the end of the women’s and men’s cross country seasons this weekend and Union volleyball dropped two road games. Also, men’s basketball defeated Rhodes in Homecoming exhibition while the women’s team went 1-1 on the weekend.

Union’s women’s cross country team took fourth in the 2016 NCAA DII South Region Championships with 132 points. The top three teams, which advance to the National Championships, were Puerto Rico-Rio, Saint Leo, and Lee.

For Union, Janey and Abby Berends finished in the top-25, with Janey 12th and Abby 25th. Amy McKelvey just missed the all-region honors, finishing 26th. Freshmen Amanda Leatherwood and Rebecca Tankersley took 35th and 38th respectively, while Lindsey Jakeman took 48th and Sarah Fickley took 76th.

“[The] girls had a great season,” Gary Johnson, head coach, said. “Winning a conference championship is not easy in the NCAA and this is our second in the past three years.”

This is the first time since joining the NCAA in 2014 that Union will not race in the National Championships.

“The season is over now, so we start recruiting for next year, and the girls will get some rest and focus more on academics over the next month,” Johnson said.

The men’s cross country team finished 13th out of 17 teams at the regional final.

Union recorded 354 points. Lee University won the event with 52 points.

Jacob Whitney finished 17th and Will Donelson finished 24th, earning all-region honors for the third time. Also for Union, Forrest White took 102nd, Alex Russell took 104th, and Ben Noland took 112th.

“The guys had a good season,” Johnson said. “We battled some injuries but they didn’t let that bring their attitudes down.”

In volleyball, Union lost in straight sets to West Florida Friday night. The Argos are first in the Gulf South.

The first set started out even, but at 7-7 West Florida put together an eight point run to go ahead 15-7. Union fought back and went ahead 22-21. After 13 intense points, the Argos closed out the set with a final score of 29-27.

In the second set, Union jumped out to a 5-3 lead, but after a 10-2 run, West Florida controlled the set and won 25-15. The Argos carried their momentum into the third set. They never trailed and won with another 25-15 final.

Deja Moorer led with nine kills, Hannah Huguley with 26 assists, Audrey Cagle with two aces and 15 digs, and Christa Karns with two blocks.

Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs fell to the Valdosta State Blazers 3-1.

The first set was back and forth, with Union leading at 9-8. Then a 5-0 Blazer run put the Lady Bulldogs behind 16-13. VSU held their lead until winning 25-21. In the second set, Union started out with a 3-0 lead. With the score tied 8-8, Union regained the lead with a five point run. Later, VSU took control, going ahead 19-15 and winning 25-21.

Union dominated the third set, and led 23-14. VSU made a comeback bid, including a six point run, but Union closed the set at 25-22. In the fourth set, VSU returned the favor, powering to a 22-9 lead and clinching the victory at 25-13.

In the match, Huguley tied her season best 46 assists. Katie O’Malley led the team with 12 kills. Moorer posted 11. Cagle led with 19 digs and Karns led with four blocks.

Union wraps up their season at home next weekend.

“I expect the team to play hard for their seniors,” Darrin McClure, head coach, said. “This is going to be the last two matches these girls ever play I want our girls to give everything they got for them.”

For Union’s men’s basketball squad, Saturday’s Homecoming exhibition matchup with Rhodes College was about as faced paced as it gets. The Bulldogs came out on top 139-108.

Rhodes set the tempo with a full court press and a “platoon” system (substituting five new players at a time). It worked at first, with Rhodes leading 8-4, but Union responded with 13 straight. The Bulldogs relied on fast break situations and slam dunks to stretch their lead, going up by as much as 21 points. At half, Union led 69-49.

In the second half, Union led by as much as 37 points in route to the 31-point victory.

In field goal percentage, Union outperformed Rhodes 65 percent to 41 percent. The Bulldogs converted 78 percent of their shots from the free throw line, in comparison to 69 percent for the Lynx. As for boards, Union out rebounded Rhodes 62-26, with a 44-point advantage on points in the paint.

With 35 points, Charlie Wilson led the way for Union. He had help from Bennett Fuzak’s 19 points as well as 16 points from Nick Velasquez, Ashanti Day, and Alex Keel respectively. Tray Boyd added 11 points of his own. Day made his outing a double double with 11 rebounds.

For the Lady Bulldogs basketball program, the weekend consisted of two exhibition games.

As part of Saturday’s Homecoming festivities, Union hosted Martin Methodist. The Lady Bulldogs won 102-60.

The pace of play was significantly slower than that of the men’s game, but thanks to a 3-pointer and made free throw from Jada Perkins, Union crafted an 18-2 run to go up 24-10. Jada Smith scored five points early in the second period to help push the Lady Bulldogs to a 37-17 advantage. Over the last four minutes of the first half, Union outscored Martin Methodist 16-4, and led 53-26 at half.

Chelsea Bodiford drained a three to start the second half, and Smith added four points as well, giving Union a 31-point lead. Martin Methodist answered with their own run of 12-2, but Union outscored the Redhawks 25-10 in the final ten minutes of play to secure the win.

Union shot 58 percent from the field in comparison to 34 percent for Martin Methodist. The Lady Bulldogs also won the rebounding match, with 41 boards to 28 for the Redhawks, and a plus five turnover margin.

Smith led with 25 points, Sara Lytle had 17, and Perkins had 14. Bodiford, Fredi Nielsen, and McKenna Montgomery each had 12 points in the game. Smith and Sara Lytle led with seven rebounds and four assists each.

Sunday, the Lady Bulldogs traveled to Nashville to play Vanderbilt.

The game was close early on, with a tied score at 7-7. In the second quarter, Vanderbilt led at 21-18 and at 23-20. That was all Union had left, as turnovers and a lack of rebounds exhausted the team. By halftime, Vanderbilt led 47-28.

In the third quarter, Vanderbilt scored 31 points to Union’s 6. After a more respectable fourth quarter, Union lost the game 93-43.

Vanderbilt outshot Union 42 percent to 25 percent. The Lady Bulldogs had 24 turnovers and committed 28 fouls.

Smith led Union with nine points, and Nielsen led with 12 rebounds.

Looking ahead, volleyball has two final home games this week. They host West Alabama Thursday and West Georgia Friday. Ranked No. 1 in the Gulf South preseason rankings, Union women’s basketball kicks off their regular season with the Sunshine State Gulf South Crossover on Friday and Saturday, while the men’s basketball team starts their regular season at home against Spring Hill and LeMoyne-Owen on Friday and Saturday. The Union Jaxx will host an ultimate tournament on Saturday and Sunday.