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22 posts from March 2013

March 28, 2013

New football signee; sand volleyball tournament

Ron Turner said he wanted to get more offensive linemen on the football roster. Turner's apparently picked up one, FIU announcing the signing of Byron Pinkston, a 6-3, 300-pound center from Dean College. Pinkston was a Honorable Mention Junior College All-America selection in 2012.

Reminder: tomorrow night, 7 p.m., the football team will scrimmage.


No. 1 Pepperdine, FAU, Tulane, Georgia State and South Florida come down for the Doctors Hospital FIU Surf & Turf Tournament that runs Friday and Sunday at FIU's mini beach across the street from The Branch on the main campus. Saturday, games will be played at Fort Lauderdale's South Beach Park (not to be confused with the real South Beach of story and thong).

BYOBS (Bring Your Own Beach Stuff). The first 100 students each day will receive a pair of FIU sunglasses.

FIU lost 5-0 to Pepperdine (6-0) a few weeks ago, but seemed confident they'd take Pepperdine in the rematch. FIU's ranked No. 6, moving up two spots last week.


New football signee; sand volleyball tournament

Ron Turner said he wanted to get more offensive linemen on the football roster. Turner's apparently picked up one, FIU announcing the signing of Byron Pinkston, a 6-3, 300-pound center from Dean College. Pinkston was a Honorable Mention Junior College All-America selection in 2012.


No. 1 Pepperdine, FAU, Tulane, Georgia State and South Florida come down for the Doctors Hospital FIU Surf & Turf Tournament that runs Friday and Sunday at FIU's mini beach across the street from The Branch on the main campus. Saturday, games will be played at Fort Lauderdale's South Beach Park (not to be confused with the real South Beach of story and thong).

BYOBS (Bring Your Own Beach Stuff). The first 100 students each day will receive a pair of FIU sunglasses.

FIU lost 5-0 to Pepperdine (6-0) a few weeks ago, but seemed confident they'd take Pepperdine in the rematch. FIU's ranked No. 6, moving up two spots last week.


March 23, 2013

Stuff like (this and) that...

On vaca, so my recently sporadic updates from weeks of Doral-nursing-a-dying laptop will seem like breathless Tweets from the front for the next week. Unless they fire or lose a high profile coach, which is what happened at the end of my daughter's 2012 Spring Break.

So, here's some stuff for you to masticate for the next few days...


Johanna Gustafsdottir finished 49th in the 100 backstroke and Sonia Perez came in 39th in the 400 individual medley Friday at the NCAA championships. Gustafsdottir swam 54.92, well off her seed time of 53.94, and Perez swam 4:16.25, also slower than her seed time of 4:10.54. Judging from times up and down the prelims, the IU Natatorium pool in Indianapolis is part sludge this year.

Both will be in the 200 back this morning. Last year, only Gustafsdottir qualified for the NCAAs among FIU's swimmers, which qualify by time and not conference position. (Sabrina Beaupre qualified as a diver, but opted for ankle surgery instead of the NCAAs).


Freshman Marcus Ghent won the long jump with a jump of 23 feet, 8 3/4 inches at the UCF Invitational Friday.


The new laptop doesn't have the formatting to fully use The Herald's CCI system yet. So, instead of attaching this minute-in-the-life-of video to today's sand volleyball story (http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/23/3301608/fiu-sand-volleyball-team-hopes.html), I put it here.


Also, here are some other vids from FIU's earlier matches this season.





Can upload video, but not photos. Crud.

Anyway, as for the new court. I like it. It's funky and unique. Reminds of this...


Now, go in peace...


March 21, 2013

New court at The Branch

Next week, work begins on the new floor for U.S. Century Bank Arena.

Now, normally, I would just put a picture of it here, but TypePad, which hosts this blog, seems to have gotten testy. Or maybe it's just having a problem uploading stuff from Windows 8, which is what my new laptop has. But perhaps this link below will help things out.




FIU women fall to Florida, 75-68

Despite Jerica Coley's 37 points and setting a school record in going 18 of 18 from the line, the women's basketball team lost 75-68 to Florida in the first round of the Women's NIT at The Branch. FIU ends the season 19-13.

Sidney Moss had 28 points for the Gators on 13 of 23 shooting. Marita Davydova had a game-high 12 rebounds for FIU.

March 19, 2013

First day of (football) spring; Gators at FIU, women's hoop, 7 p.m. Thursday

The headline tells you the time of Thursday's Women's NIT game at The Branch. Now on to Tuesday morning at La Cage.

Attendance: On the first spring football roster, but not present were quarterbacks Loranzo Hammonds Jr. and Favian Upshaw, wide receiver Nick England, wide receiver Johnnie Durante, linebacker Leroy Owens and offensive tackle Prince Matt. Hammonds and Matt were going into their redshirt sophomore seasons. The others were part of the 2012 recruiting class. Head coach Ron Turner said the status of some absentees is undecided. 

Defensive tackle Isame Faciane's still rehabilitating the shoulder on which he had offseason surgery, so he didn't participate.

Alignments: Quarterbacks lined up under center for the most part in two-back and one-back, double-tight-end sets. Occasionally, they lined up in three-wide receiver spread sets.

Defensively, they went with a 4-3.

Position changes: Without a true fullback on the roster, FIU coaches decided defensive tackle Jericco Lee seemed to have a fullback's body and gave him a shot. In the absence of Hammonds and Upshaw, Akil Dan-Fodio's back at quarterback for at least the spring.

First team offense: Quarterback redshirt junior Jake Medlock; running back senior Kedrick Rhodes; fullback sophomore Lemarq Caldwell (when a fullback is used); wide receivers Willis Wright and Glenn Coleman; left tackle redshirt sophomore Aaron Nielsen; left guard redshirt junior David Delsoin; center redshirt junior Donald Senat; redshirt freshman Trenson Saunders at right guard; redshirt sophomore Yousif Khoury at right tackle; and tight end redshirt sophomore Ya'keem Griner.

First team defense: defensive tackles sophomore Darrian Dyson and senior Greg Hickman; defensive ends junior Giovani Francois and senior Paul Crawford; linebackers redshirt sophomore Luis Rosado, sophomore Patrick Jean and sophomore Davison Colimon; cornerbacks junior Richard Leonard and senior Sam Miller; safeties redshirt junior Justin Halley and redshirt junior Mitch Wozniak.

Personnel: Turner said FIU has a lot of wide receivers and not enough offensive linemen and he'd like to correct that imbalance.

As for how they looked...it's the first day of practice, folks. Precision's a rare commodity. Redshirt senior Derrick Jones and redshirt freshman Deonte Wilson made interceptions in drills. Aside from Dan-Fodio's three-snap run of two fumbles and a bobble, the snaps went well from under center.


March 18, 2013

Florida at FIU, Women's NIT, Thursday

FIU's 19-12 women's team got an at-large bid to its second consecutive Women's National Invitational Tournament, the WNIT announced Monday night, and will host Florida Thursday.

Florida's 18-14, but went 6-10 in the SEC during the regular season and lost in the second round of the conference tournament to Tennessee 82-73. Interestingly, the Gators roster includes only three players born in Florida, three players who went to high school in Florida, and zero from the 305, 954 or 561 (or 786 or 754). Their rotation goes nine deep. Guard Jaterra Bonds leads the Gators in scoring at 12.7 points per game. Senior Jennifer George averages 11.5 and 8.0 rebounds per game. Sydney Moss, a 5-11 swingwoman, averages 3.84 assists per game and 10.6 points.

Of course, FIU counters with Jerica Coley, who leads the nation in scoring (25.9 points per game) and FIU in blocked shots, steals, free throw percentage, field goal percentage.

Last season, FIU pounded Stetson 75-47 at The Branch in the first round before losing 77-61 to South Florida at USF's Campus Recreation Center gym.

March 17, 2013

Premiere Week at FIU

This is What's New at FIU Week in the Balls, Jocks and Clocks part of the university.

Tuesday: Spring Football practice will give the public the first look at FIU under Ron Turner and his staff. That's right, "the public" as practices will be open for viewing. Granted, the 9 a.m. start puts it square in the Make The Money to Pay The Man part of the day, but better then than during 836 rush hour or The Big Bang Theory.

Thursday's practice will be the same time. Saturday's will be 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. That means there's probably time to hit...

Saturday morning: 9 a.m., FIU Sand Volleyball's first home match, vs. Webber International. 

The team spent the last two weeks in Hawaii and California, which is to beach volleyball what Philadelphia used to be for middleweights. No. 8 FIU got smoked by No. 1-ranked defending national champion Pepperdine 5-0, but played No. 2 Long Beach State and No. 5 Hawaii tough in a pair of 3-2 losses. The pair of Kate Stepanova and Ksenia Sukhareva won the Hawaii Tournament, a 16-pair tournament with teams from host Hawaii, Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific. They beat another FIU pair, Jessica Mensoza and Maryna Samoday, in the final.

(The American Volleyball Coaches Association sanctions the national championship and handles the national rankings. When more schools have been playing sand volleyball for a few years, the NCAA will take over that function).


March 11, 2013

Rocky lost

Western Kentucky doesn't exactly fit the Apollo Creed role. FIU was the higher seed and had split with Western this year. The Hillpeople slogged through four games in four days and "slog" fits the fourth game, Monday's Sun Belt Championship game with FIU. Nobody gave up much cheap. You had to work for your bargains.

But FIU's the coagulation that came together during the season, that was picked 10th in the Sun Belt, that knocked off a Middle Tennessee State team with a 17-game winning streak. And it was FIU that kept getting knocked down Monday night only to drag themselves off the canvas with plays as tough as Cameron Bell's driving scoop reverse layup among the trees or Malik Smith's catch-and-shoot from NBA three-point range. FIU's the team with the walk-on point guard operating the FIU offense like the option quarterback he'd been at South Miami High. Somebody needs to show Deric Hill some scholarship love next season.

It seemed like it was to be, too. When Jerome Frink hit a three or got the roll on the 16-footer to get FIU within striking range. When two questionable late calls, the invisible foul Bell drew and the offensive foul Hill drew on the next possession, went FIU's way instead of going toward the Sun Belt team that'll be a Sun Belt team next year. 

And when the clock zeroed out the ball hurled in the air and Western up 65-63, I was reminded of how I felt as a 9-year-old at Lafayette Square Cinema hearing the announcer say Rocky Balboa lost by split decision in the original Rocky.

Dang, man. Just...dang.

Panthers vs. Hilltoppers -- again

How many FIU sports seasons over the last two years have ended or pivoted on games against Western Kentucky? None of those games stand larger than Monday night’s win-and-you’re-in game for the Sun Belt men’s basketball title and automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Appropriately, FIU split with Western this season. 

The first game, a 76-63 FIU loss, turned on Western’s bench points, where the Hillpeople had a 37-10 advantage. Also, during the decisive second half run that took Western’s lead from one to 11, the Hilltoppers’ seven to four rebounding advantage led to eight free throws and two three-pointers while FIU managed only four free throws, two of which came off a technical foul.

In FIU’s 87-82 win, both teams burned up the nets in the first half – 62.5 percent for FIU, 60.0 for Western – but Western cooled off more than FIU did in the second half. FIU took a four-point lead out to 11 in the first 7:27 of the second half as Western went one for four from three-point range and missed two layups while the Panthers came up with a couple of steals. In that FIU run, the Panthers got three-pointers from Jerome Frink and Tola Akomolafe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – three-point shots by either of those guys, especially Akomolafe, are so low percentage that they’re bad shots even if they drop. FIU eventually led by 15 in the second half.

This also matches a team leaving the Sun Belt after this year against a Sun Belt overall athletic power that’s staying. I’m not saying that’s an automatic disadvantage for FIU. The conveniently questionable Sun Belt officiating I saw during FIU’s football season generally didn’t have a parallel in men’s basketball games I covered. And sometimes zebra bias isn’t conscious. But as a possible factor in what should be a close game, it can’t be discounted.

No matter the outcome, I'm feeling pretty vindicated in my vote for Richard Pitino as Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

March 10, 2013

FIU vs. Middle, today -- twice

The women get their shot at No. 1 seeded Middle Tennessee State right now. The men get it at 7:30 this evening. 

Middle's women worked hard to get past No. 9 seeded Louisiana-Monroe, 59-56, so they couldn't coast and rest regulars. Look at the rebounding in this game. If Marita Davydova, Diamond Ashmore and Finda Mansare have big days on the boards, I think FIU wins. That'll mean fewer second shot gimmes for Middle, fewer fouls on FIU and more putback attempts for FIU. Junior guard Jerica Coley's going to get hers. Others on FIU need to bring some and if it comes from inside that'll neutralize Middle's area of advantage.

For the men, they can't let Middle three-point shooter Raymond Cintron go completely off. Also, if both teams are on their games, it could be a game of runs. The simple edict FIU should remember: keep playing, don't get crazy looking for the knockout, just keep punching, no matter the score. Middle's got more raw talent, but when FIU plays it's pressure defensive system well, the Panthers keep you from getting in a rhythm. 

March 07, 2013

Pitino finalist for a national rookie Coach of the Year award

CollegeInsider.com's 10 finalists for its Joe B. Hall Award, presented to its top first-year Division I men's basketball head coach, includes FIU's Richard Pitino.

Pitino's up against Rider's Kevin Baggett; Mount S. Mary's Jamion Christian; Brown's Mike Martin; Wagner's Bashir mason; Illinois State's Dan Muller; UConn's Kevin Ollie; Long Island University-Brooklyn's Jack Perri; Southern Utah's Nick Robinson; and Tennessee State's Travis Williams.

The winner will be announced April 5 at the CollegeInsider.com awards banquet. I don't know how to handicap this award. I don't know who the favorite should be. I don't know if any of those other guys had to take the bottom of the roster of an eight-win team, mix that in with guys you were able to recruit at the last minute and coach up the whole thing into a 16-win gholaush.

Those who know of Joe B. Hall can probably appreciate the irony. Hall was a University of Kentucky graduate, played on Kentucky's 1949 national champions and coached Kentucky's 1978 national champions. While Pitino's father helped return Kentucky to prominence, Pitino senior and junior have much stronger ties to Louisville, Kentucky's hated in-state rival.


March 06, 2013

All-Sun Belt hoops, XXs & XYs: Coley, Player of the Year, Murphy makes First Team

As expected, junior guard Jerica Coley repeated as Sun Belt Player of the Year. Coley's 26.1 points per game leads the nation in scoring. She's also third in the conference in blocked shots (1.76 per game, 60th nationally) and free throw percentage (83.8, 44th nationally). She also leads FIU in assists (3.4 per game) and steals (2.2 per game).

The best statistic to demonstrate Coley's worth to FIU: she accounts for 42.6 percent of the Panthers' scoring.

Forward Marita Davydova was voted to Third Team All-Sun Belt after averaging 10.2 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game.

On the men's side, FIU junior forward Tymell Murphy made First Team All-Sun Belt as voted on by 11 media members (yes, I was one) and 11 conference coaches.

Murphy's team high 15.1 points per game was pedestrian compared to his No. 8 in the nation field goal percentage (58.8 percent from the field). There's no statistic for measuring the timing of Murphy's points. Malik Smith seemed to come up with the end-of-game baskets. Murphy came up with the ones that halted opponent's runs and calmed FIU down. Also, Murphy pulled down a team-high 6.9 rebounds and was 95th in the nation (second on FIU behind Deric Hill) with 1.79 steals for the nation's seventh best team of thieves. 

I'm not exactly sure how a team that's get a No. 4 seed and a bye in the conference tournament gets voted only one all-conference player among three teams. And I thought Richard Pitino was an easy Coach of the Year call. I might be on the island there as Middle Tennessee State's Kermit Davis received that honor.

March 05, 2013

Towers Trouble

Stuff like this is why the football team eventually will be moved out of The Towers. From the FIU Incident/Investigation Report:

At 9:58, Feb. 24, an FIU officer was distpatched to a disturbance call at the University Park Towers. Upon arrival, the RA advised the officer that he had witnessed freshman defensive lineman Marques Cheeks and freshman Raymond Jackson shooting each other with two Airsoft rifles (pellet guns) in the hallway. Cheeks and Jackson werne't in their room, but were located via senior defensive lineman Kasey Smith, who is also Cheeks' roommate. Cheeks and Jackson admitted they were shooting each other with pellets. Andre Patterson, the assistant coach in charge of the defensive line, was notified.

Cheeks and Jackson were released to Smith. Both of the Airsoft rifles were confiscated and impounded.

Editorial commentary: stupid, silly horseplay for a dorm hallway. A little bad luck for them and/or someone else, and...


The next night, last Monday, FIU PD and FIU football crossed paths again. From the FIU Incident Report:

An officer was sent to The Towers in reference to a parking lot argument. When he got there, the officer talked to (Victim 1, name restricted on the public copy of the report). Victim 1 said he and his girlfriend were talking in his car, parked in a parking space. Another car rolled and began taunting them to move. Victim 1 said he moved his car and parked it at the entrance to The Towers.

Victim 1 said there was an exchange of words between himself, girlfriend and the three black males who exited the vehicle from which they'd been taunting them. He said one of the three came around his vehicle, reached inside and attempted to strike him at which time he quickly drove off and called police. His girlfriend also told police she got out of the car and began to argue with the threesome. The three then left the scene. Shortly afterwards, during the officer's investigation on the scene, the three males returned to the scene. Freshman cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, running back Jakhari Gore and sophomore cornerback Richard Leonard were placed under investigative detention.

Gore then provided a voluntary written statement stating that he, McKinnon and Leonard did get into a verbal exchange about a parking space. Gore also stated that McKinnon did reach into the car and attempt to punch Victim 1. Gore also admitted to throwing a can in the direction of Victim 1's car,b ut missed. Victim 1 and his girlfirend visually identified McKinnon as the individual who attempted to hit him. McKinnon was then taken into custody and advised of charges.

McKinnon was charged with felony burglary of an occupied conveyance (because he allegedly reached into a car in his attempt to punch the driver) and misdemeanor assault (because he attempted to punch the driver). He's got a pretrial hearing on Mar. 27.

Editorial commentary: even at FIU, acting the fool over a parking space? 


March 04, 2013

Football staff refilled with Son of Shankweiler

Steve Shankweiler joined FIU's staff as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator after Luke Butkus two weeks in that job before heading for an NFL coaching staff. Now, Kort Shankweiler, son of Steve, becomes part of FIU's staff as the asssistant in charge tight ends and offensive tackles after Morgan Turner came from Stanford and went back to Stanford in a fortnight.

Kort Shankweiler has spent the last three years as running backs coach and recruitng coordinator at Central Michigan. Before that, he was a graduate assistant at Michgan State and an assistant at Coast Gaurd.

March 03, 2013

Conference competition on the court, in the pool

First, the setup for the Sun Belt basketball tournaments next week in Hot Springs, Arkansas ("Sal-loot!").

The men and women of Middle Tennessee State monopolize the No. 1 seeds. FIU's women have the No. 5 seed and will face No. 4 seed Arkansas State Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The winner faces the winner of Middle vs. FAU or Louisiana-Monroe. Which is to say, if FIU wins, it faces Middle Tennessee on March 10 in the Sun Belt semifinal.

That's not a lock for Middle. With Diamond Ashmore, Finda Mansare and Kamika Idom, FIU dealt Middle the first of its three conference losses and did so at Murfreesboro. Those three were missing in the rematch at The Branch, when FIU hung in until the lack of defense and rebounding down low sunk the Panthers. Idom should be back from her knee injury for the tournament, giving FIU another true outside shooting threat besides Jerica Coley.

The men go in as a No. 4 seed, playing Saturday at 6 p.m. against Arkansas-Little Rock. FIU split with UALR, losing by 12 there and winning by 13 at home. In the first game, FIU had nine steals and 14 points off turnovers while UALR used their size advantage for a 42-14 points in the paint differential. In the sequel, the Panthers came up with 14 seteals and 25 points off turnovers and UALR's advantage from the lane was only 35-30.

The winner plays Middle Tennessee, which smacked FIU by 17 near Nashville then needed a last second shot by local native Sean Jones to beat FIU at the buzzer after trailing by 20 at one point.

The second Arkansas-Little Rock game was the last game before a pre-practice locker room blistering -- audible all the way across the hall behind the locker room -- Pitino gave the team last Tuesday.

"I think they've been slipping a little bit from what got us here," Pitino said after Saturday night's 77-60 slashing by FAU. "I haven't loved the way they've been practicing. I think it's tough this time of year because I think they're just looking for the games. We've been doing this so long, the practices get a little monotonous. I think they're kind of worn down from that."

But, Pitino said, "We've got a whole week now to get better."

Speaking of getting better, Cameron Bell hopes that'll be what happens with his back soon. While driving to the hoop Saturday night, Bell got hammered to the floor and landed on his lower back or posterior (hard to tell which at that angle). He left with an ice pack on his lower back.


FIU took down a few more school records and tied a Sun Belt record in the last event of the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships, the 400 freestyle relay.

Johanna Gustafsdottir motored through the first leg in 50.10, thus regaining her school record in the 100 free that Klara Andersson had taken earlier in the Saturday night session. That gave FIU an almost full second lead on FAU, which eventually fell back to third behind North Texas. Andersson lost a teeny bit of the lead, which was quickly restored by Dani Albright. Marina Ribi brought home FIU in 3:21.67, which tied the Sun Belt record set by Denver in 2009 and beat the school record set at last year's Sun Belt meet when Andersson and Gustafsdottir sandwiching Kelly Grace and Kayla Derr.

That gave Gustafsdottir two individual wins and three relay wins, each of which she led off. In two, she led off with school record swims and the third she merely gave FIU a lead it maintained until the end. Yet Sun Belt coaches still voted FAU's Eszter Bucz, who also had two individual titles, Most Outstanding Swimmer. If they say so...I just note it was Bucz's third leg that took FAU out of contention in the 400 free relay. Her 52.0 swim took FAU from less than a second behind leader FIU to 2.1 seconds off the lead and in third place (North Texas steamed past).

Gustafsdottir in the 200 IM and Sonia Perez in the 400 IM qualified for the NCAAs. Last year, only Gustafsdottir among the swimmers made the NCAAs. Diver Sabrina Beaupre came into the Sun Belt meet long ago having already qualified, but will have ankle surgery Thursday to fix an almost year old problem.

Earning First Team All-Conference were Gustafsdottir, Andersson, Albright, Jessica Chadwick, Sonia Perez, Marinia Ribi, diver Sabrina Beaupre. Valeriia Popova and Courtney Vanderschaaf made the Third Team.

For more from tonight's sessions, see earlier blog linked to below.

March 02, 2013

Quick hits: men's hoop gets rolled, swimming results

FIU started a blowout and FAU finished it, slamming the Panthers 77-60 Saturday night. I'll have more from this later including a rant I heard earlier in the week that might've been a hint that this was coming.

Also, I'll have more detail from the last day of the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships. Sabrina Beaupre now has a hat trick of Diver of the Year awards from The Belt. Beaupre's coach, Rio Ramirez, got the Diving Coach of the Year award. FAU's Eszter Bucz, who upset last yea'r Swimmer of the Year Johanna Gustafsdottir in the 200 individual medley, got Swimmer of the Year over Gustafsdottir, who still had another fantastic conference meet.

Gustafsdottir, Beaupre, Klara Andersson, Dani Albright, Jessica Chadwick, Sonia Perez and Marina Ribi made First Team All-Conference for FIU.

Gustafsdottir wins 200 back, FIU leads FAU at half

Up on The Campus with The Klink, FIU leads FAU 31-30 after dominating the game early. FAU, 1 of 11 from three-point range, has blown a number of open looks, which is the worrisome part for FIU -- the Owls shouldn't continue shooting this badly. Of course, FIU shouldn't waste as many possessions as they did in the first half.

Meanwhile, in Texas, FIU got a win and a school record in the first two Saturday night events at the Sun Belt Swimming Championships.

The win came from last year's Swimmer of the Year, Johanna Gustafsdottir, in the 200 backstroke. Gustafsdottir won by 1.44 seconds, in 1:54.50, a tenth of a second off her school record time ste at last year's Sun Belt meet. Gustafsdottir now has two individual titles this year, part of two relay wins and a second place in the 200 individual medley.

Sonia Perez didn't win the 1650 freestyle, finishing third in 16:35.87, but did break the oldest FIU record, Claudia Barsi's 16:45.98 at the 2004 Sun Belt Championships.

Klara Andersson and Dani Albright finished fourth and fifth in the 100 free, but Andersson got Gustafsdottir's school record with a 50.90. 

Women getting it done on a Saturday

How's this for a shocker -- FIU's women beat FAU 68-65 Saturday afternoon and Jerica Coley did NOT make the pivotal plays. At least, not all of them.

FIU did go on a 7-0 run to end the game and Coley had six of those points. But in the midst of all that, Marita Davydova grabbed a defensive rebound, got fouled and hit one of two free throws to put FIU up 66-65 with 32.0 seconds left. Then, Carmen Miloglav picked Chenise Miller clean and handed the loot to Coley, forcing FAU to foul Coley with 17.3 seconds left. Coley's two free throws required FAU to go for a three to tie and Kimberly Smith's desperation try bounced away. 

Say this for FAU -- their arena looks like an outdated 1971 office building from the outside, not the equal of my middle school's gym on the inside. They played the women's game four hours before the men's game instead of the usual two because the joint doesn't have enough locker rooms. But they got a few folks in there for a 3 p.m. women's game. And FAU doesn't have the nation's leading scorer. Maybe FIU should consider Saturday afternoon starts.

Before the FIU and FAU women put on a show worthy of the main event, here's what happened at the day session before the last night of the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships:

Johanna Gustafsdottir put up the fastest prelim time in the 200 backstroke, 1:57.45. Freshman Becky Wilde also will be in the top eight after a 2:02.86 that was almost three seconds better than her previous best this year.

In the 100 freestyle, 50 free winner Klara Andersson and freshman Dani Albright qualified third and fourth, respectively, for tonight's final with times of 51.15 and 51.27. Freshman Jessica Chadwick (2:17.45) and senior Krissy Metka (2:18.56) each bettered her previous best time by almost five seconds in making the 200 breaststroke's top eight.

Marina Ribi, second in the 100 fly Friday, was third in the 200 fly, 2:00.65 She'll be in the final with Sarah D'Antoni (2:02.85). The final event of the night is the 400 free relay, in which FIU has the second best seed time behind North Texas.

March 01, 2013

FIU takes 4 out of 7 Friday events at Sun Belt swim championships

"This was one of those days you hope to have when you get into coaching," FIU coach Randy Horner said Friday night after the third day of the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships.

Horner didn't just mean the wins by Sonia Perez in the 400 IM (school and Sun Belt record), Johanna Gustafsdottir in the 100 backstroke (school record) or the 400 medley relay team (school record). Track and swim coaches dream of meets when everybody walks out feeling good after beating the clock as they never have before and you find unexpected gold.


Take freshman Jessica Chadwick, who finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke Friday night with a 1:02.84. After Chadwick was fifth in the 100 breaststroke prelims Friday morning with a 1:03.39, a time almost three seconds faster than her previous season best (that's a lot over any distance, an eternity over 100 meters), Horner decided to make her the breaststroker on the 400 medley relay Friday night. That let him move sophomore Klara Andersson, winner of the 50 freestyle on Thursday, to the freestyle leg ("She's the best freestyleer in the conference right now," Horner said). Horner already knew he'd have Gustafsdottir would handle back and Marina Ribi would take butterfly.

So FIU led off the 400 medley relay with the best 100 meter backstroker in the conference; then went to the fourth best 100 meter breastroker; the second best (by less than a blink) 100 meter fly woman; and finished with the fastest freestyle sprinter, whose advantage might be enhanced at 100 meters. Gustafsdottir gave a 71 hundreths of a second lead to Chadwick and FIU was off to a 3:40.87, smashing the school record set at last year's Sun Belt meet by 6.11 seconds.

Perez qualified for the NCAAs with her 400 IM switime of 4:10.54. She had the best prelim time by 7.5 seconds Friday morning. Friday night, the junior beat her hours-old school and Sun Belt record of 4:11.96 to win by 5.05 seconds over second place Hannah Runyon-Hass from Western Kentucky. The previous Sun Belt record of 4:12.64 was held by third-place finisher Eszter Bucz from FAU, who was up by 3.12 seconds on Arau and 2.19 on Runyon-Hass after the opening butterfly leg.

As she did in the morning, Perez was faster in the second half of both the backstroke and the freestyle legs than the first half and was only one hundredth of a second slower in the second half of the breaststroke leg. She passed Runyon-Hass on the second half of the backstroke leg, then caught Bucz in the second half of the breaststroke leg and pulled away in freestyle.

"In the 400 IM, you want negative splits, faster in the second half of each 100," Horner said. "She swam a textbook race."

FIU freshman Becky Wilde's 4:24.48 brought her home fifth and was a 13-second improvement over her best time before Friday. Sophomore Jean Madison's 4:30.75 put her 11th and freshman Sarah Smith got 14th place points for her 4:34.34.

Gustafsdottir threw it down in the prelims with a 54.74 to break her own school record, then threw a raise on that with a 53.94 in the final to win by 54 hundreths of a second. That sounds closer than it was -- Nos. 2, 3 and 4 were separated by 52 hundreths of a second. Valeriia Popova (58.31) and Chelsie Kidd (58.42) got points for FIU in 12th and 14th, respectively.

And Sabrina Beaupre won the 1-meter diving again. Her 294.60 wasn't close to her Sun Belt record 323.85 from last year, but was still 28 points better than second place. Beaupre now will have surgery on her left ankle to set herself up for a stronger senior year instead of diving in the NCAAs, as she did last year.

Grab a stopwatch and try to click off just three hundreths of a second. That's how close senior Ribi came to winning the 100 butterfly. Ribi knocked down the school record again, as she did in the prelims, but her 54.78 was three hundreths behind North Texas' Mona Groteguth. Junior Sarah D'Antoni came in seventh (56.58) for FIU.

"We thought she'd won," Horner said. "It was so close, you couldn't tell with the naked eye."

Freshman Dani Albright's 1:49.06 brought her home third in the 200 freestyle. FIU had three of the top 8 finalists in the 100 breast and wound up taking seven of the 15 scoring slots: fourth, Chadwick (1:02.84); sixth, Andersson (1:03.23); eighth, Madison (1:04.58); ninth, sophomore Dani Meara (1:04.15); 11th, senior Krissy Metka (1:06.02); 12th, junior Mary Boucher (1:06.10); and 14th, junior Melissa Moreno (1:08.90).

Despite FIU's wins, the team competition is still coming down to North Texas and Western on volume of swimmers and divers. The host school leads the Hilltoppers 600 to 586 going into Saturday with FIU in third at 489. 

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