April 20, 2015

Small Ball

Told you about the golfers. FIU's doing a Jordan Spieth on the Conference USA golf championship, hosted by FIU but played in Fort Myers. As of this second, they've got a five-stroke lead on Middle Tennessee State with junior Meghan MacLaren and Camila Serrano tied for the lead at 2-under through 12 and 15 holes, respectively.

April 19, 2015

Sunset of Spring

This blog's coming at you much later than anticipated. Sorry about that. Exhaustion, birthday parties and a Venetian Causeway bridge refusing to go down pushed back production here at the home office in South Beach.

Then, I did a "DOH!" by hitting Save Saturday night instead of Publish.

So, there wasn't a "Yay!" blog post for the tennis team's dramatic 4-3 win Friday against Middle Tennessee State at the Conference USA tournament before this "Yep, yep, yep...sigh" post for the 4-1 loss to No. 1 seed Rice, the host and two-time defending conference champion. 

Baseball heads into Sunday with a chance for a big series win against Western Kentucky. Middle's done FIU a Sun Belt Mafia favor by breaking Charlotte's heart twice by one run. Meanwhile, Marshall's won two from Old Dominion and move past Charlotte in pursuit of FIU.

As baseball continued backstroking in place Friday, football's Spring Game got going in front of a crowd that wasn't too far off FIU's regular season games that didn't include Bethune-Cookman. Grading on the Sofia Vergara curve, pretty good for a spring game, especially a Friday night, lightning-delayed spring game.

Raise your hand if you figured walk-on wide receiver Shawn Abrams would leave the night with seven catches and tight end Jonnu Smith would have zero. Hands? Hands? Now, everybody with hands up...

...you a lie. Put your hand down and go into local politics, where somebody will buy your weak stuff.

FIU head coach Ron Turner showed tremendous trust in Smith, quarterback Alex McGough, cornerback Richard Leonard, linebacker Treyvon Williams, linebacker Anthony Wint, running back Anthon Samuel and (to a lesser extent) running backs Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell. None played much.They're not penciled into the lineup, they're engraved. Turner's comfortable that he knows what he can get from them and that they'll deliver. He's trusting they won't get complacent.

I know he's hoping Abrams won't. Two years ago, quarterback Jake Medlock casually talked about a wide receiver out of his high school, Neptune Beach Fletcher, who would really help FIU. That was on the verge of the 2013 offensive disaster with Willis Wright and Glenn Coleman's ineligibility putting the Panthers deep ball game into deep doo-doo.

Then, we heard wisps of information -- the young man got in trouble, was at FIU, but not playing -- and Abrams became another maybe that seemed destined to be a not.

(Quick aside: Medlock, a Division II All-America punter, apparently has drawn interest from some NFL teams and should be in a training camp this summer.)

Turner made it sound as if Abrams pestered his way into a tryout this spring. Abrams clearly possesses height, body control and speed, although he was a middle distance guy, not a sprinter, on Fletcher's track team. I still wouldn't expect much from him early in the season. By the time the opener at Central Florida rolls around, it'll have been almost three years since the last time Abrams ran through an angry secondary. That's a long time in a young man's life, especially making the high school to college jump in speed and physicality.

Friday was the first long look we've had at Class of 2013 running backs Alfonso Randolph and Silas Spearman in almost two years. Injuries set both back after their freshman year. Then Samuel, Gardner and Maxwell came in with more health and polish, pushing Randolph and Spearman down the depth chart. Both brought some boost to the party Friday.

Turner said, "I think Alfonso (Randolph) and Silas (Spearman) made the running back position very competitive."

Putting on my Turner Translation headphones, I hear: I want at least two good healthy running backs and, in my top three, I've got one guy coming off a season-ending shoulder injury and another guy with a concussion history.

The third guy is Maxwell. On the funniest play of the night, a pack of defenders stopped Maxwell on a right side run. The pack pushed him back, then linebacker Treyvon Williams finished the job by treating Maxwell like a cross between a shot put and a hammer you throw. Maxwell went sailing backwards and took out offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler. Williams got flagged, Shankweiler got up, Maxwell briefly got to fly.

The offensive line surprised me. There didn't give up a recylables pile of sacks as you'd expect with a new guys facing a good defense used to playing in concert.

"It's still a work in progress," Turner said. "Obviously, the left side we feel good about with our veterans, (junior guard Jordan) Budwig and (junior tackle) Dieugot (Joseph). We have two guys there who have played a lot of football for us. Aaron (Nielsen) hopefully he can keep progressing at center. He was solid, did a nice job. We've just got to get the right side solidified. Edens Sineace is starting (at tackle) now and really made good progress. (Guard) Trenton Saunders got more consistent this spring."

Of the three early enrollees, quarterback Christian Alexander completed 11 of 18 for 45 yards with an interception. He made a couple of WHOA throws, particularly one on a short out to fellow early enrollee Anthony Jones. That throw fit the "threaded needle" description. With some encouragement from the defender, Jones lost the ball into an imcompletion, however.

Jones caught four passes for 12 yards, most of the quick bubble screen variety. The end around they ran him on early got strung out. He showed a lottery ball's evasiveness on one bubble that wound up being a thrilling minimal gain. In other words, he looked like a talented freshman in his first spring game in a new offense.

Jones' Central High classmate Fermin Silva lined up at defensive end and had a nondescript night. His play didn't command I look up his number -- he's wearing No. 90 worn last year by Imarjaye Albury, who is now wearing No. 93 -- one way or the other.

Among Team Home Depot, the injured guys in the orange jerseys, all spring was wide receiver Juwan Caesar. The Coral Park graduate-Michigan State transfer looks like a prototypical big, physical possession receiver at 6-4, 219. Certainly he'd be useful on a receiving corps that, as of now, starts smallish Clinton Taylor and Dennis Turner and has 6-1 sophomore Thomas Owens as the chain mover in a three-wide lineup. By the way, Owens made a nice fade pattern touchdown catch over listed 5-11 Xavier Hines. 

There was a nice coffin corner punt by Honors College member Jose Laphitzondo. Redshirt junior Chris Ayers led off the night punting with Luke Medlock getting a turn also. Turner said Sergio Sroka has looked improved this spring as he challenges Austin Taylor for the kicking job.

My own view on the spring is what it is with almost all spring football: check back in the fall.

April 17, 2015

Weekend of Hope

This weekend at Camp Mitch will be about hope.

Not "hope" as a verb. To me, that connotates too much of dealing with things as you wish they were or as they will be if some long odds uncertainty comes through instead of dealing with things as they are. "If everything goes right this season, we'll win X games" describes sports hoping at its best.

"Hope" as a noun, on the other hand, means "a chance." That's what baseball, football and softball will be trying to give themselves or demonstrate they have starting Friday at 4 at the baseball stadium and running all the way through the finish of Sunday's 1 p.m. baseball and softball games.

Between those, at 7 p.m., the football team will try to nurture hope among its fans at the annual Spring Game. The "Friday Night Lights" promotion that starts at 6 p.m. includes schedule posters for the first 1,000 fans, a DJ, a meet-and-greet with the swimming & diving team (is there any other school, excluding Cal with Missy Franklin, who could use the swim team to draw fans to football stuff?) and all sorts of other giveaways.

Despite the running-in-place nature of spring football, there are things to be learned. Watching the 2013 Spring Game gave you that Otter-in-the-Dexter-Lake-Club feeling about the season. During last year's Spring Game, you could tell freshman quarterback Alex McGough possessed the bearing, style and enough smart decision-making that eventually Ron Turner would elevate him over incumbent E.J. Hilliard. Also obvious: running back injuries would give freshmen Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell a shot at starting.

This year, the team wants to build a crowd, build hope in that crowd for 2015, build some kind of buzz, even muted buzz. Another year of dragging in the standings and in the stands by the athletic department's flagship sport puts a drag on the whole department. I'm interested to see how the inexperieneced safeties and wide receivers look as well as the offensive line. The defense, with advantages in experience and overall talent, should dominate.

Softball, Conference USA co-favorites in the preseason coaches' poll, can't get swept this weekend by C-USA best Western Kentucky or just making the conference tournament moves into sorcery-miracle category. The Panthers problem in that regard stands 5-6, Western pitcher Miranda Kramer. She's one of the best in the nation with a 0.91 earned run average, a 17-4 record and only 58 walks against 271 strikeouts. And one ace like her in softball can open up many options for a coach, especially over a doubleheader Saturday and a Sunday.

And then there's baseball, having one of those seasons when you feel like you're always spitting into the wind. The Panthers might get the eighth and final conference tournament spot by default. But if Charlotte or Old Dominion get hot for a weekend or two and FIU keeps taking one per weekend, as Richard Pryor used to say, "Cancel Christmas."

The baseball crew's also facing Hilltoppers, albeit slightly less scary. Western's Austin King, Josh Bartley and Ryan Thurston go 5.31, 5.44, 6.00 in earned run average. I expect some long games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

April 16, 2015

Conference Titles in Tennis (Maybe) & Golf (More Likely) In One Week?

To start, give junior golfer Meghan MacLaren a slap on the back for being named to Conference USA's golf All-Academic team again. MacLaren, an English major, owns a 3.68 grade point average and four Golfer of the Week awards (should've been five) from this year.

MacLaren's once again the No. 1 player on an FIU team ranked No. 56 nationally by Golfstat.com and favored to win its second conference title in three years. You'd say FIU also gets the home course advantage as host of next week's Conference USA event, but this will all go down over in Fort Myers.

The 2013 Sun Belt champions finished fourth of 13 at the C-USA event last year and MacLaren was 12th overall. This year, she's had three medalist performances and eight of FIU's 11 individual top 10s. 

A great No. 1 can get you to the podium, but it's Nos. 2 through 5 that'll put you on the top step. For FIU to get it done next week at The Verandah Club, sophomore Coralia Arias, Camila Serrano (who tied MacLaren for 12th), Katerina Krasnova and Carla Jane can't spend the week arguing with their clubs.

Despite an undefeated conference record, 5-0, FIU's seeded fifth in the conference tennis tournament that begins today and has already been moved inside to dodge rain. A win against No. 12 Southern Mississippi, which FIU spanked 5-2 last month, puts them into the quarterfinal against the Middle Tennessee State/Western Kentucky winner. A win there likely runs the Panthers into No. 1 seed, two-time defending champion and host Rice.

By the way, the Panthers took down No. 2 seed Marshall, 4-3, at Camp Mitch on Mar. 28 with wins at Nos. 1-4 singles by senior Yana Koroleva, freshman Nerma Caluk, sophomore Nina Nagode and junior Kaitlin Brozovich.

Funky note: two teams in sports identified with Florida and the number of players from Florida on the two rosters? Two -- Miami Country Day graduate Ashley Shimmel and Palm Harbor University School graduate Jasmine Wade, both golfers.

 

April 14, 2015

Western Kentucky Suspends Swim & Dive

Usually, I don't make note of other schools censuring one of their programs. But when it's A) a program that's one of the best in FIU's conference and B) the school does something that makes you go WHOA! it's worth mentioning here.

Also, it's a cautionary tale for all coaches and athletes across the board. Before anybody throws out their chest, turns up their nose with a hop to the high horse and says "That's not us!" remember this: if you look at a peer's situation and say, "That's not going to be me" but don't take necessary steps to make sure it's not going to be you, guess what? Likely, some day, it's going to be you.

Western Kentucky has suspended the men's and women's swimming and diving teams for five years over, basically, acting way too much like the Deltas and the Omegas. The best reporting on this so far comes from the WKU Herald. Check it out.

The men won the mini-meet that is the Conference USA men's swimming title. The women finished second to FIU at the conference meet and were nationally ranked among mid-majors most of the year.

 

April 13, 2015

Monday Droppings

I'll be all over the place here.

FIU Arena's being prepared for its new seats and beach floor.

IMG_1808

The athletic department caught a big break when that CrossFit-like (but not CrossFit, CrossFit wants to make sure you know) competition broke the beach floor. Players and past coaches complained about how unforgiving the old floor could be on knees and ankles. Now, FIU gets a new floor and somebody else pays for it.

Looking at head coach Marlin Chinn's contract, the first thing that struck me was the five-year deal gets extended a year each time FIU wins 20 games and makes the NCAA tournament. His base pay is $161,000. He gets a $10,000 bonus for a single season team Academic Progress Rate of at least 970 (the team's been a perfect 1000 each of the last three reported years) and another $10,000 for team GPA over 3.1. He gets an extra $7,500 for each of these achievements: getting into the NCAA tournament, Conference USA Coach of the Year, sole possession of a regular season C-USA title. 

I heard the whole women's basketball coaching staff got sacked Monday by new coach Marlin Chinn. That's high on the expectation list when a new coach comes in after the disaster of 3-26, 0-18. I'd be willing to bet longtime assistant coach Inge Nissen winds up somewhere else in the department or university.

I wasn't at Sunday's Athletic Academic Awards Banquet (also known as "Dress Up for Food & Instagram Shots"), which would've been a great time for a sayonara ceremony to Nissen and former head coach Cindy Russo. Considering how long and well they coached at FIU, that would've been nice. I'm not sure Russo was even invited. In her last three full seasons, FIU went to two Women's NITs and got farther than Jerica Coley's superpowers should have taken the Panthers in last year's Conference USA tournament (the program was rewarded with being told the run took the team over its travel budget for the season). 

Men's basketball guard Dennis Mavin and multi-titled swimmer Johanna Gustafsdottir won the Athlete of the Year awards of the appropriate genders. The entire golf team made the conference's academic honor roll, so no surprise it won the addidas Athletic Director's Award for best GPA of the year, 3.67. Women's soccer took the Paul Gallagher Community Service Award. The Michael Felsberg Spirit Award went to swimming & diving, which shared the Champs/Life Skills Challenge Cup Award with baseball.

Speaking of baseball, senior shortstop Julius Gaines gave the invocation for the entire event and received the team's Leadership Award. That capped a good Sunday individually for Gaines. Earlier in FIU's 5-4 11-inning loss to FAU, he cracked three singles to break out of an 0-for-18 plunge that also prompted a plunge down the batting order Sunday. Coach Turtle Thomas moved Gaines from leadoff to eighth.

"I definitely don't need to send a message to Julius Gaines. He's been with us for four years. He's a good baseball player," Thomas said. "He made some really good defensive plays today. (Moving down to eighth) gets you down there where you maybe see a few more fastballs, they're not killing you working you over in the top five of the batting order. It's just to give him a different look."

Gaines said at the plate, "I got out of my head. I just went up there and said I was going to put a swing on it and whatever happened, happened." As far as hitting eighth, he admitted, "There's not as much pressure. You worry about your at-bat at that time and whatever situation comes. Leading off, it's your job to get on base. It can weigh on you a little bit."

While Gaines shrugged off his defensive day as, "I did my job. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary," FAU coach John McCormack said, "Some plays that the shortstop made in this game? Wow. Julius played really well. Thank God he's leaving this year."

Gaines made a game-saving (for the moment) play in the eighth on pinch hitter Danny Murray's tough grounder with the bases loaded. McCormack marveled that Gaines operated efficiently enough to get control of the ball, see he'd be too late for the force out at second and still fired a Murray-beating throw to first.

McCormack said two other things I found interesting. He blamed himself for FIU's 6-5 win Friday. He said he should've gone to Seth McGarry immediately in the eighth with a 5-2 lead. Instead, he used lefty Devon Carr, who gave up two hits and a walk in four batters, sparking FIU's four-run eighth inning. 

He also said he didn't believe in any FIU-FAU rivalry.

"I don't believe in rivalries because the players continually change," McCormack said. "I'm not big on, 'Win this one for The Gipper, they're our biggest rivals.'"

Out on the football field, Ron Turner said FIU's lack of experience at wide receiver and abundance of tight ends and running backs wouldn't mean FIU would use double tight end sets more in 2015 because "we did a lot of it last year." But, Turner said, they'll use more sets with varying position numbers and groupings now that FIU's in the third year of running his offense. 

"I've told these guys from Day 1 I really believe in utilizing our personnel and moving them around. If you've got a guy and he's always in the same spot, they can take him away very easily. That's one of the biggest things I learned in the NFL -- get your playmakers involved, put in position to make plays. We've done a little bit of that the first couple of years, but not as much as we'll do this year. In that league, they pay those guys a lot of money. The owners say, 'I'm paying him a lot of money, why isn't he getting the ball? Why isn't he involved?'

"And we have some guys with versatility. Look at our tight ends. We've got three guys (Jonnu Smith, Ya'keem Griner, Akil Dan-Fodio) who can line up at tight end, line up in the slot, line up as a No. 1 receiver outside and, in some cases, line up in the backfield. Look at our running backs, same thing. We've got some guys who are strictly backfield guys or you've got some who can line up in the slot or outside. We've got a couple of wide receivers who can line up in the backfield and play some running back, quarterback or whatever."

After saying he was excited about all the different options for FIU, Turner joked once spring football ends, the coaches will have too much time to come up with too much other offensive stuff to teach. Or, maybe he was only halfway joking as staffs do make that mistake more often than is noticed.

 

 

April 11, 2015

Bounce Back Friday

Baseball began with high hopes and went into Friday just hoping to keep spot in the Conference USA tournament.

FIU sat at 6-6 in conference play, inside the top eight, and none of the basement quartet of Charlotte, Old Dominion, Marshall and Louisiana Tech looks like they'll be going Big Red Machine any time now. But who thought FIU would be in this position in the first place? Also, the Panthers schedule included three-game series against each of the two conference teams ranked in the Baseball America Top 25, FAU and Rice, plus a three-gamer against Western Kentucky. Lose a few series, get swept by one or both of the ranked teams, somebody else gets hot and it's "Cancel that bus to Hattiesburg."

And, Friday, FIU went into the eighth inning down 5-2 to Del Boca Vista University. A four-run eighth inning with the Panthers doing what they haven't -- hittin' 'em where they ain't (or at least where they can't make a play) with runners in scoring position -- often enough this season. Brian Portelli's double, JC Escarra's and Mitchell Robinson's ground outs drove in runs and Portelli scored on a wild pitch.

That gave FIU the buffer for Saturday's 8-3 loss. They can steal the series with a win Sunday afternoon.

SAND VOLLEYBALL

Only a 3-2 loss to Stetson kept the women of sand from being FIU's second undefeated team this academic year in games/dual meets. The Panthers got a second shot at the Hatters Friday on Siesta Key.

The Panthers won the Nos. 2 through 5 matches in straight sets and the No. 1 pair of Maryna Samoday and Anja Licka led 12-5 after winning the first set before an injury to Licka forced retirement.

4-1, FIU. Now, then.

Nationals come next for FIU, No. 3 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

April 10, 2015

FIU's Commissioner's Academic Medal Winners

If you're a full-time student-athlete and bring in a 3.75 grade point average, Conference USA honors you with the Commissioner's Academic Medal. FIU had 34 such athletes for the 2014-15 school year, 10th among full Conference USA member schools (Kentucky, South Carolina and New Mexico are in the league for men's soccer only.)

Baseball: Mitchell Robinson, Zack Soria.

Men's Basketball: Kris Gulley, Hassan Hussein.

Women's Basketball: Katrina Epnere, Zsofia Labady, Nikolina Todorovic.

Women's Golf: Katerina Krasnova.

Sand Vollyeball: Anna Budinska, Morgan Crawley, Darija Sataric.

Men's Soccer: Luca Giovine, Adam Sibiski.

Women's Soccer: Ellen Crist, Johanna Volz, Ashley Westberry.

Softball: Rachel Dwyer, Dominique Grossman, Jessica Hallett, Michaela Mills.

Swimming & Diving: Klara Andersson, Valerie Inghels, Anna Jonsson.

Tennis: Giulietta Boha, Nerma Caluk, Yana Koroleva.

Men's Track & Field: William Offor.

Men's Cross Country: Orlando Rodriguez.

Women's Track & Field: Tiffani Hernandez, Celine Murton.

Volleyball: Tia Clay, Kari Peterson, Jovanna Santamaria, Anabela Sataric.

 

 

 

172 FIU Athletes Make C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll

(Thought I posted this last night. Apparently, I only saved it. A face-down-on-the-keyboard mistake.)

A 3.0 GPA gets you on the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, which 172 FIU athletes have done this year. FIU ranks eighth most among Conference USA's full membership schools. That's an improvement after 154 and tied for 12th last year.

The names are submitted to the conference by the schools.

Baseball (16): Brandon Cody, Charles Cormier, Cody Crouse, Ian Exposito, Julius Gaines, Evan Holland, David Lee, Spencer Levine, Dominic LoBrutto, Carlos Lopez, Andres Nunez, Mitchell Robinson, Austin Rodriguez, Jack Schaaf, Eduardo Silva, Zack Soria.

Men's Basketball (3): Larry Dennis (Huh? He transferred to a junior college at midseason), Kris Gulley, Hassan Hussein.

Women's Basketball (13): Jade Cheek, Jerica Coley (Say what? Everybody's happy she's still around campus doing graduate work, but how is she counting for this year? Was somebody just throwing names in there to see if C-USA was paying attemtion?), Marita Davydova, Arielle Durant (Uh, director of basketball oerations this year, not a player), Katrina Epnere, Aajah Hawkins, Amari Hawkins, Zsofia Labady, Tynia McKinzie (dismissed from the team at midseason), Taylor Shade, Nikolina Todorovic, Ciera Wheatley, Brianna Wright. 

Football (17): Chris Ayers, Richard Burrows, Christopher Cummins, Akil Dan-Fodio, Ricky Fernandez, Chris Flaig, Adrian Francois, Cody Hodgens, Yousif Khoury, Jose Laphitzondo, Fred Porter, Anthon Samuel, Donald Senat, Yohan Soares, Delmar Taylor, Scott Wade, Cory White.

Golf (8 -- the entire team): Coralia Arias, Sophie Godley, Carla Jane, Katerina Krasnova, Meghan MacLaren, Camila Serrano, Ashley Shimmel, Jasmine Wade.

Sand Volleyball (9): Marina Boulanger, Anna Budinska, Morgan Crawley, Aren Cupp, Alexa Diaz, Alexandria Johnson, Giovanna Pasos, Darija Sataric, Tina Toghiyani.

Men's Soccer (10): Quentin Albrecht, Roberto Alterio, Luca Giovine, Marvin Hezel, Nicholas Midttun, Deshawon Nembhard, Nico Pasquariello, Adam Sibiski, Robin Spiegel, Jesse Wear.

Women's soccer (16): Shelby Bowden, Ellen Crist, Marie Egan, Cyan Jean-Baptiste, Talia McMurtrie, Ryann Ramirez, Nikki Rios, Alyssa Robinson, Ashleigh Shim, Marlena Stablein, Sara Stewart, Nevana Stojakovic, Pat Tomanon, Johanna Volz, Madlen Weinhardt, Ashley Westberry.

Softball 10): Isabelle Barnes, Rachel Dwyer, Krystal Garcia, Samantha Green, Dominique Grossman, Jessica Hallett, Corinne Jenkins, Marisa McGregor, Michaela Mills, Rebekah Sanchez.

Swimming & Diving (20): Klara Andersson, Sabrina Beaupre (she's been off the eligibility clock since the 2014 NCAA's), Jessica Chadwick, Jenny Deist, Nadia Farrugia, Valerie Inghels, Anna Jonsson, Lily Kaufmann, Maria Lopez, Jean Madison, Alex Mayhew, Melissa Moreno, Sonia Perez-Arau (oh, come on! the only C-USA swimmer to score at the 2014 NCAAs. Lazy times in ), Valeriia Popova, Rebecca Quensel, Silvia Scalia, Alaina Smith, Kayley Tepe, Courtney VanderSchaaf, Becky Wilde. 

Tennis (6): Giulietta Boha, Valentina Briceno, Nerma Caluk, Yana Koroleva, Nina Nagode, Carlotta Orlando.

Men's cross country (7): Brandon Ballard, Ronny Greenup, Andres Magliano, Eli Monzon, Leonel Pozo, Daniel Puentes, Orlando Rodriquez.

Women's cross country (4): Adrienne Gerzeny, Katarina Rodriguez, Brittany Wasserbeck, Desmika White.

Men's track (10): Dylan Cook, Pablo Espitia, Garry Louima, Tyshawn Lytle, Desmond McGill, Luka Mustafic, Daniel Neptune, Wisdom Offor, Julian Santiago, Traivon Smith.

Women's track 12): Brittany Corbett, Phillicia Fluellen, Chandra Fulwood, Adrienne Gerzeny, Chelsea Gobourne, Anesha Gordon, Anna Heinzman, Tiffani Hernandez, Sharniece King, Symone Lindsay, Celine Murton, Lexis Shields.

Volleyball: Lucia Castro, Tia Clay, Maria Coukolis, Briana Gogins, Gloria Levorin, Anja Licka, Natalie Martinez, Kristine Monforte, Kari Peterson, Jovanna Santamaria, Anabela Sataric, Tina Toghiyani (wait, she already got counted back at sand volleyball...)

 

 

 

April 09, 2015

Some Thoughts on Marlin Chinn

Some synapse fires on FIU's new women's basketball coach...

1. Chinn's first name is spelled "Marlin" like the fish, not as in "Marlon Jackson" from The Jackson Five. I guarantee I'll misspell that at least twice before Thanksgiving break next year.

2. When Chinn flew down to meet folks at FIU as part of the interview process, one of the folks he met with was Kiandre'a Pound, Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2014-15. Last summer, the voice of softball's Conference USA Freshman of the Year Stephanie Texeira carried some tonnage with FIU athletic director Pete Garcia in the hiring of Gator Rebhan.

I asked Garcia Wednesday if such student-athlete participation would become the norm in coaching searches. He said he'd do it again if it fit the situation. In both cases, the best player on the team involved showed potential for consistent greatness with three years left on the eligibility clock.

Former FIU guard Jerica Coley, doing graduate work on campus this year after three Honorable Mention All-America seasons, also met with Chinn 

3. Both FIU head basketball coaches came to FIU from ACC country, have height, brown-skin and shaved heads. Redd Foxx, your thoughts?

 

4. One regular refrain from FIU coaches across many sports (save football) is they often find it easier to recruit across the ocean than across the town. Name glitz and status mean more to American kids, parents and (very importantly) club team coaches than a kid in Italy or the Ukraine who hears, "I'll get to go to college in Miami for free and play my sport?"

You get off the high water pants side of the recruiting room via relationships. Chinn believes he's built those during his time recruiting down here for Maryland and Seton Hall. If he's right, glazed donuts and guava pastries for FIU.

5. According to Garcia, Chinn's five-year deal starts him at around $161,000 per year. Russo made $161,861 in the last of her 36 seasons at FIU. That ranks in the lower half of Conference USA, and is the lowest when adjusted for cost of living in the South Florida market, Conference USA's most expensive. Nobody's needing payday loans, however. 

According to a Maryland state employee salary database accessed via The Baltimore Sun site, Chinn earned $106.492.94 as base salary in 2014 and grossed $157.814.24 (you roll to the Final Four, even as an assistant, bonuses, baby).

6. FIU chased a male career assistant coach without head coaching experience at any level instead of going after one of the female coaches in the nation with head coaching experience who might be interested in making $160K while living in Miami. That left some folks saltier than sardines.

 

April 08, 2015

FIU to Hire Marlin Chinn as Women's Basketball Coach; Swimmer is FIU's Spirit of Service Honoree

Sources around Camp Mitch say University of Maryland assistant Marlin Chinn will soon be announced as FIU's first new women's basketball coach since Cindy Russo returned to FIU in 1980 after two years at Lamar University.

Chinn's been a college assistant at Seton Hall, Mount St. Mary's and, for the last six seasons, Maryland. The Terrapins, migrants from the ACC to the Big Ten, dominated the latter conference this season on the way to a Final Four loss to eventual national champion Connecticut. This will be his first college head coaching job.

So, now, for the first time, all FIU's coaches officially have been hired by athletic director Pete Garcia. Also, FIU joins the trend of more women's basketball programs being coached by men as salaries for coaching women's teams make these jobs a viable way to live comfortably in even expensive markets like South Florida.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Freshman Ally Mayhew was FIU's Conference USA Spirit of Service Honoree for the winter sports. The award brings notice to those who contribute significantly in the community while achieving academically and athletically. Mayhew has a 3.78 grade point average in biology. 

April 07, 2015

Sand Up to No. 3

Tuesday's American Volleyball Coaches Association sand volleyball poll moves FIU up to No. 3 behind No. 1 USC (the one in LA) and No. 2 Hawaii.

FIU's 17-1 with only a 3-2 loss to Stetson early in the season besmirching the Panthers' record. Last weekend, Stanford brought several of its stud indoor volleyball players to the Doctors Hospital Surf & Turf Invitational and FIU reminded The Cardinal that the outdoor game isn't the indoor game. Just like FAU, Webber International and Carson-Newman, Stanford got rolled 5-0 by the Panthers.

Friday, FIU gets another shot at Stetson, now ranked No. 9, on Siesta Key at the Fiesta on Siesta. It sounds like a fight promoted by Don King and it should be more interesting than a number of King cards.

 

Panther Gets C-USA Player of the Week

Playing in the No. 1 slot for FIU, senior Yana Koraleva won both her singles matches last week in Navratilova/Serena fashion, 6-1, 6-1 over Central Florida's Caroline Eberhart and 6-2, 6-0 over Alabama-Birmingham's Rachel Daniell. The transfer from Clemson (where she was a two-time ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year and an All-America selection) also rolled in doubles with sophomore Nina Nagode.

For this, Koraleva received Conference USA's Women's Tennis Player of the Week.

By the way, Koraleva's got her own blog, which you might want to give the once over.

FIU's 5-0 in conference play going into next week's conference championship. It would be ironic (and appropriate?) if FIU won conference titles this year in swimming, golf and tennis, sports often associated with Florida, with rosters flavored International.

 

April 06, 2015

Hold the Trey & other tidbits from practice

Last week, Pitt backup quarterback Trey Anderson announced via social media that he's headed for FIU for his final year of eligibility. Apparently, Anderson defined "premature" in his announcement.

FIU coach Ron Turner said Monday he couldn't comment on Anderson with the kind of look Dad gets when he finds out you told Mom he spent the afternoon before her birthday in Neiman-Marcus' dress section. I guess Anderson's not fully cleared.

"I know one thing, we're very pleased with Alex McGough," Turner said. "And IF we add at that position from the outside, it's really not going to be to challenge him. We feel really, really good. He's had a tremendous spring. Totally different from where he was mentally. He's so much more relaxed. A much better understanding of what we're trying to do and why we're trying to do it."

Speaking of people from Pitt, Turner said new defensive coordinator Matt House not only employs a similar system to Josh Conklin's, but House did the unusual coaching step of changing the terminology to what Conklin used so his new FIU charges had one less adjustment to make. Most coaches insist on using their chosen appellations even if it makes players essentially learn a second language.

Sophmore Linebacker Anthony Wint said he feels almost as good as he did before the knee injury that interrupted his stellar freshman year, but much better than he felt when he came back for the season's final games.

As far as the alleged sexual assault on campus involving a football player, as WSVN Channel 7 reported Saturday night...I've heard a name, but it would be irresponsible to throw it out there now without more confirmation. So, nothing new.

 

April 01, 2015

Friday Night (Not Marlboro) Lights; Sand Story Holding

For those of you who don't have to deal with the bitter herbs and quartet of questions at a First Seder, FIU's officially opening Friday's 7 p.m. football scrimmage at FIU Stadium to the public.

It's scheduled to run until 9 p.m. or so. Entry is free.

SAND VOLLEYBALL

The story originally scheduled for Thursday got bumped to Friday, the first day of FIU's Surf & Turf Invitational, down on South Beach at Lummus Park.

 

 

 

More Swimming Honors; Sand Story Coming

Tomorrow's spring football practice starts at 9 a.m. Don't be late.

Conference USA announced its postseason swimming awards, meaning more hardware for the conference champs. FIU senior Johanna Gustafsdottir won Swimmer of the Year, freshman Silvia Scalia won Freshman Swimmer of the Year and diver Rebecca Quensel was named Freshman Diver of the Year. Only Old Dominion's Rachel Eckert, who won Diver of the Meet at the conference meet in the concussed Quensel's absence, broke up FIU's exclusivity.

I'm working on a story for tomorrow's print Herald (and online tonight) on the sand volleyball team, 12-1 and ranked No. 3 (DIG Magazine) or No. 6 (American Volleyball Coaches Association) going into this Friday and Saturday's meet on South Beach.

Favorite tidbit: No. 2 pair Kristine Monforte and Summer Nash, 16-4 this season with an 11-match winning streak recently snapped, met only this school year but quickly bonded off the court as foodies. Food Network's the default channel in their hotel room on the road. Monforte thinks Bobby Flay's the best of the Iron Chefs and her best dish is chicken parmigiana. 

So they have something in common with former FIU defensive tackle Isame Faciane. 

March 28, 2015

Sand Spikes; Spring Practice Accessibility

Pepperdine won the American Volleyball Coaches Association sand volleyball national championship in 2012 and 2014, was the runner-up in 2013 and came into Saturday's match with FIU ranked three spots above the No. 6 Panthers in the AVCA Sand Volleyball poll. Pepperdine skunked the Panthers twice, 5-0, during FIU's inaugural sand season two years ago.

So, Saturday morning's 3-2 win against Pepperdine at the Palmetto Invitational sits as a landmark for the direction of FIU's 12-1 sand volleyballers, who have won all their three matches against other top 10 teams. 

There's 50 Division I sand volleyball teams in the nation now. The NCAA will take over running the championship next spring. 

SPRING FOOTBALL

There's a bit of confusion over whether spring football practices were open or closed to fans. Here's the 411:

Practices are officially closed to fans and media. That was in a release to the media that was mass e-mailed to the media as usual by FIU Athletics media relations, but wasn't also put on the FIU Sports website as such things usually are (such as the previous two spring practice releases saying practice would be open).

BUT if you've been invited into the seats of La Cage, you can check it out. This seems cut and dried.

In practice, however, it's a bit of a clusterkibibble.

For one thing, invitations aren't exactly Willy Wonka gold tickets shining with a blinding glare the moment you pull them from your pocket. Sometimes, it's a Tweet from a coach to select fans or a group of potential fans. It can be a phone call or a verbal "Come on, down!" Also, gates are open for several practices either out of convenience for folks working around the stadium or allowing access to students attending a class in one of the suites.

So, if you happen to walk in one of the open gates, take a seat in the stands and aren't disruptive to anybody, everybody might assume somebody else invited you to be there and you'll get to watch practice. Not that I'm recommending you do this.

I hope this clears everything up on this topic. Back to vacation and my bed or balconies.

March 27, 2015

FIU & UCF Move Football Season Opener

Guess the message to FIU hardcores is "start your Labor Day Weekend on Thursday night, college-style!"

The season opener for FIU and Central Florida, up at the Knights place, has been moved from Saturday Sept. 5 to Thursday, Sept. 3. Time not announced yet, but every electron of good sense says it'll be a night game.

 

March 22, 2015

MacLaren, Golf Rolling Well; Spring Practice, Day 2

After going almost two years between conference team titles in all sports, FIU could get two in three months.

The golf team, which brought home the 2013 Sun Belt Conference title, finished second in the Mountain View Collegiate with junior Meghan MacLaren (7-under 209) getting medalist by three shots. Freshman Katerina Krasnova (2-under 214) tied for 10th.

Finishing ahead of FIU: Ohio State. Among the 18 teams finishing behind FIU: Purdue, Kansas State, Iowa State, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and BYU. 

BASEBALL

Junior Edwin Rios went into Saturday's game against Charlotte barely hitting his weight. He came out a chunk closer to C.C. Sabathia's weight, up to .256, after going four for four with three home runs in a 23-1 Saturday mercy rule rout of Charlotte. It was the first homer hat trick in Conference USA since June 5, 2010.

Senior Brian Portelli went four for five with four RBI and a homer as FIU finally stopped making every lefthanded opposing pitcher look like Warren Spahn. The Panthers need to use this weekend against Charlotte and next weekend against Marshall to turn around this 10-13 season that's been the epitome of underachievement.

(I'm sure all the FIU players and coaches had the same thought you just did -- boy, wish they could store some of those runs...)

FOOTBALL

FIU football held its second spring practice Saturday morning. Ron Turner would address the outside media for the first time this spring. Practice was closed.

Not enough of a draw for me to wrestle South Florida/South Beach traffic on a scheduled day off with the NCAA tournament, naps and vacation staring me in the face. If something serious happens while I'm on vaca (i.e., coach firing, notable player transferring in or out, players showing full or just too much monty at the beach), I'll suit up and get back in the game. Otherwise...

IMG_1495

 

Silvia School Record, Gets 19th; Gustafsdottir 44th at NCAAs

Seems like I've read this before...

FIU freshman Silvia Scalia, the heir to Johanna Gustafsdottir as the top swimmer on FIU's roster, reset her own 200 backstroke record during the Saturday afternoon prelims at the NCAA Championships in Greenboro, North Carolina.

Scalia's 1:53.54 knocked 26 hundredths of a second off the record she set in taking the event at the Conference USA Championships. It placed her 20th in the field at the NCAAs.

Gustafsdottir swam the 200 breastroke, the last swim of her FIU career, Saturday in 2:13.57, the 44th fastest time. 


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