Welcome to The Doghouse, a weekly column recapping Union University sports action from the weekend.
It was Family Weekend at Union, and the Bulldogs showed off their strengths with impressive wins, including a women’s soccer shutout, a volleyball upset, a big ultimate victory, and a women’s cross country title.
Friday, the Lady Bulldogs dominated Shorter University, winning 7-0.
The first goal came off a shot from senior Kayleigh Patterson in the 10th minute of play, and just a minute later she scored a second time on a free kick from outside the box.
In the 34th minute, sophomore Diana Barajas took a shot, but it was deflected. Then, senior Kelsey Wilkes headed in the deflection, setting a 3-0 halftime score and scoring an assist for Barajas.
Sarah Hershbain, senior, came alive in the second half, recording her first career hat trick. In the 49th minute, Hershbain scored off a deflected shot from Wilkes. She scored again in the 61st minute after a pass from freshman Brooke Watson. Her third goal came in the 87th minute of play, on a free kick.
The seventh goal for the Lady Bulldogs was a shot from sophomore Hannah Hewitt with less than 30 seconds remaining. This is the second most goals in a match in the team’s history.
On Sunday, Union lost to No. 6 Lee University, 1-0. The game was scoreless until the 86th minute, when Kinsey Cichowitz scored for the Flames off a deflected shot from Summer Latner.
The Flames outshot the Lady Bulldogs 21 to four. Union goal keeper Kristen Francis tallied eight saves on the day, pushing her season total to 50, ranking fourth in the conference for total saves this season.
Union is 3-4-2 overall and 3-2-1 in conference.
The men’s soccer team struggled this weekend, starting with a loss to Shorter 2-0 on Friday.
The first goal came from a header by Darwin Lom in the 38th minute of play. Jordan Etsio also scored for the Hawks come the 77th minute. Shorter outshot Union 22 to 6 in the game, with 9 shots on goal.
Sunday, the Bulldogs lost to Lee in a 3-0 shutout.
The first goal was from Lee’s Drew Jackson, on a left to right pass from David Perez that Jackson kicked into the lower right corner of the net.
In the 79th minute, Perez scored a goal off of an assist from Jose Orellana. Then, in the 82nd minute, Orellana sealed the victory for the Flames.
While Union could not put up a score, they were very physical. Three players were given a yellow card and one, Zac Fletcher, a red. The team committed 18 fouls to Lee’s 13 fouls and one yellow card.
Union is now 3-7 overall and 1-3 in conference play.
The Lady Bulldogs hosted Valdosta State Friday, and lost 3-1. The set scores were 26-24, 22-25, 25-16, and 25-23.
Valdosta State led early with a 4-0 run, and maintained a steady lead until Union came within one point at 15-14. Then Union led 20-17, but the Blazers tied it at 23. Hannah Huguley, senior, smashed a kill to give her team set point, but the Blazers won three straight points to win the set.
In the second set, Union led most of the way, until Valdosta State came within one at 23-22, but Union held them off. The third set was not a great one for Union, as they only had two 3-0 runs, and were otherwise shut down by Valdosta State.
The fourth set was a tight one, with the score tied at 9-9, Valdosta State then went up 12-9. Union answered, taking a 13-12 lead, which they extended to 16-13. Valdosta State then responded with a run of their own, to go up 17-16. This game of runs continued, as Union took back the lead 20-18. In the end, Valdosta State edged Union 25-23.
Union’s kill leaders were Ceciley Blanchard, junior, with 14, and Suheily Colon-Rodriguez, junior, with 11. Huguley had 40 assists, freshman Audrey Cagle had 24 digs, and senior McKenna Carter had five blocks.
The next day, Union upset No. 22 West Florida 3-1, with set scores of 17-25, 25-20, 25-22, and 25-21. It is Union volleyball’s first win over a ranked opponent since moving to NCAA Division II in 2012, and also their first win over West Florida in nine matches.
In the first set, neither team took leads of more than two points until West Florida outscored Union 11-5 to finish the set. The second set also started back and forth, but Union took a 14-9 lead and never lost it.
Union scored first in the third set and went up 15-9, but West Florida followed up with 8 consecutive points. Union trailed 21-20, but put together a four point run. The set ended with a kill from Carter.
The fourth and final set was another close one. Union led 5-2 and West Florida then responded to go up 11-8. After trading points and leads, Union secured the lead for good at 17-15, and went on to win 25-21.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Darrin McClure, head coach, said on the Union Athletics website. “I found myself, at the end of the match, emotional to an extent, because you’re just so proud of the team.”
Freshman Katie O’Malley led with 15 kills, while Carter had 12 and Blanchard had 10. Huguley had 46 assists. Cagle led with 18 digs and Moorer had 18. Carter had six blocks and Huguley added four. Kristen Goggin, freshman, and Deja Moorer, senior, each had three service aces.
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was good,” McClure said. “We’ve talked about how if we can learn to give our best, that’ll be enough, and I thought we collectively gave our best effort of the year emotionally, mentally, and physically tonight.”
Union is 5-10 overall and 2-5 in conference action.
Union Jaxx Club Ultimate
Saturday at the Smith Memorial Soccer Complex, 500 fans filled the stands as the Union Jaxx hosted the Armada of Vanderbilt University for two 50 minute halves of ultimate.
“[The crowd] makes the experience so amazing for all our guys and for the away team, and that’s the reason Vandy drove two hours just to play us,” said Union Jaxx head coach Harrison Hayes. “I’m thankful for Vandy and the way that they hold themselves on the field. [I have] mad respect for Vandy.”
The Jaxx started on defense, but quickly forced turnovers and went up 5-1.
“What worked best was our system that we put into place and that we have a lot more depth this season than we’ve ever had,” Hayes said.
Stephen Lewockzo dove for a disc and injured his left shoulder. He went down in the first half, and was out for the remainder of the game, but did not a have major injury to report.
By the end of the half, the Jaxx led the Armada 11-4.
In the second half, Vanderbilt came out strong, but Union’s adrenaline and the crowd’s high energy pushed the Jaxx to their 23-10 victory.
“I just liked the camaraderie between all of our guys. I think we worked really well together, and having the crowd out there really helped,” Lance Dell, a member of the Jaxx, said. “With all the fans here, and with all the energy, it makes us play so much better. That’s why the result is the way it is.”
Dell was the MVP, and Joseph Leech was the Rookie of the Game.
“I’m definitely the proudest I’ve ever been of this team,” Hayes said. “I can’t wait to see how high we can climb on the mountain.”
Men’s Cross Country
In cross country, the Bulldogs placed ninth with 228 points at the University of Alabama Huntsville Invitational, which consisted of 15 teams and 121 runners.
Jacob Whitney lead the way for Union just like he has all season, and is the reigning Gulf South Conference Runner of the Week. Whitney finished fifth in the event with a time of 26:06, just two minutes behind Shorter’s Alfred Chelanga who took first.
“I think [Whitney] is missing his buddy Will Donelson during practice, or he might be running even better,” said head coach Gary Johnson. “Will should be nearly 100 percent by our next race, and I hope they can both finish their senior year on a high note at conference and regionals.”
Whitney and Donelson have been 1st Team All-Conference every year Union runners have been eligible.
“It would be a special honor for them to get that recognition again,” said Johnson.
At the invitational, Donelson finished 23rd while still coming back from his injuries from earlier in the season, Aineah Kipkemboi 67th, Alex Russell 79th, Forrest White 92nd(also injured), and Ben Noland 97th.
Women’s Cross Country
The women’s cross country team also participated in the Invitational at UAH, and they won the event.
The Lady Bulldogs posted 44 points. Of the 14 other teams in the event, Blue Mountain was the next closest with 88 points.
“We have been racing 3 weekends in a row, which is unusual for us,” Johnson said. “To compensate for that, we did not train especially hard this week and had the girls go about 90 percent on the first mile of the race.”
The strategy paid off, as Janey Berends and Sarah Fickley finished third and fourth overall. Berends is the reigning Gulf South Runner of the Week and finished 19:12, with Fickley just four seconds behind her. The two ran most of the race together, pushing one another to keep grinding.
“There was a moment when I started falling back – maybe three quarters of a mile to go,” Fickley said. “I looked to my right and I saw that [Berends] was right beside me and I had extra energy to stay with her.”
“I was impressed with how all of the team maintained their poise in spite of getting behind early in the race,” Johnson said. “We are hoping that all of our top 7 runners can run their best over the final 3 races. If they do, we have a great chance to win the conference, advance to nationals, and celebrate another great season.”
Amy McKelvey finished tenth, Rebecca Tankersley 11th, Amanda Leatherwood (reigning GSC Freshman Runner of the Week) 19th, Lindsey Jakeman 25th, Rebecca Dalton 48th, Jordan Meadors 51st, and Gabbie Stevens 60th. With the way the girls ran on Saturday, Johnson thinks the team may have a ton of momentum going into the end of the season, saying:
“I hope this victory gives our girls a boost of confidence that we can challenge for the championship again.”
Coming up in Union sports, the golf team will play in the UT Martin Skyhawk Classic Monday and Tuesday. Also Tuesday, volleyball hosts Lee University at 6 p.m. On Friday, women’s and men’s soccer host Alabama Huntsville at 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. respectively, while volleyball travels to West Alabama. Saturday, volleyball travels to West Georgia at 1 p.m. Sunday, women’s and men’s soccer host West Alabama at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.