Volleyball Gears Up For Postseason

By Andrew Smith | Advisor

When your team is as good as Jeff Huebner’s Mariners have been for the past two seasons, it’s hard to find challenges in the regular season. But on Oct. 10, the women’s volleyball team (23-3, 13-1 SSAC) found a challenge against University of Mobile and came out on the losing end.

Although the Mariners’ 36-match winning streak against Southern States Athletic Conference opponents was snapped, the team didn’t let the lone conference defeat sit idly in the loss column.

“That loss motivated us and challenged us a bit,” said Huebner, now in his fifth year at the helm of the volleyball program. “We look as good as we’ve looked all year, right now.”

According to senior outside hitter Kara Neisen, the loss forced the team to make some schematic changes and ratchet up the intensity in practice.  The Mariners have won their last five matches and are currently the 19th-ranked team in the nation according to the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches’ Poll.

“In Mobile, we faced some adversity and crumbled – we didn’t know how to handle the pressure,” Neisen said. “Since then we’ve worked on those types of situations in practice and we’re learning to work out of it ourselves. Without that loss we may have struggled later in the season, but now we can fix it and improve as we move toward the SSAC tournament.”

Before the Mariners can return to Mobile later this month to defend their 2014 SSAC title, they’re focused on Friday, Nov. 6 and Saturday, Nov. 7 for their final matches of the regular season. Friday’s match against Bethel University begins at 7 p.m. and Saturday’s match against Martin Methodist begins at 2 p.m. with Senior Day festivities just before first serve. Neisen, along with seniors Jessica Fujimoto and Emma Anderson will be honored.

“This group of seniors is the epitome of involvement,” Huebner said of the trio. “To be able to accomplish all that they have – on and off the court – these three student-athletes represent the best of Coastal Georgia. They’ve maximized their collegiate experience.”

While the three seniors are excited to be honored before Saturday’s match, she said the group isn’t losing focus on the task at hand. The Mariners must win at least one of the two weekend matches to secure the top spot heading into the SSAC tournament.

“It doesn’t seem real to me; it seems like yesterday I was a freshman,” Neisen said. “Obviously the activities honoring the seniors will be emotional, but you have to put that in back pocket and treat it like every other game.”

If the Mariners can secure the top spot in the SSAC tournament, they’ll have their work cut out for them during the intense three day event set for Nov. 12-14. According to Huebner, the team will have to rely on its depth to repeat as champions and automatically qualify for the NAIA national championship tournament.

“We’re back to being as deep as we thought we were going to be,” Huebner said, noting that several key players have recovered from mid-season injuries. “If our starters can play less than everyone else’s starters in a tournament that is five matches over three days, we’ll be more rested for the semi-finals and finals, which are on the same day.”

If the women’s team can win the SSAC title or end the season with a top 24 national ranking, it is likely Coastal Georgia will host an opening round game of NAIA national tournament in late November. Neisen said a good turnout on Nov. 6 and 7 will give the team the push it needs to finish strong. Saturday is being promoted as a “Blue Out” and will be the first-ever triple-header in Coffin Gymnasium. The women’s and men’s basketball teams have their respective home opener games at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively on Nov. 7.

“We’re trying hard to advertise this weekend and have a great turnout,” Neisen said. “We want to have a good impact at our last home weekend so people can get excited for when we possibly host an opening round match in the NAIA tournament.”

Tennis Season Underway

By Erin Broomell | Copy Editor

The Mariner tennis teams have a new set of goals, team members and challenges ahead of them this season. 

The 2015 season opened Oct. 2 with Mariners hosting the Coastal Georgia Fall Invitational on Jekyll Island. Oct. 9 Mariners traveled to Macon to play Mercer in the Fall Invitational. 

Tennis coach Camper Baker says it’s an honor. “We got invited to that which is really an honor because it’s a lot of NTAA division one teams and they felt as though we could contribute to that tournament.”

The weekend of Oct. 30, Mariners will play in the ABAC Tournament in Tifton. Men’s and Women’s teams were both nationally ranked at the end of last year (11th and 25th, respectively). The men’s team will be entering the preseason ranked 8th and the women’s team will enter in the 21st spot. 

 “It’s good because it validates all the hard work they have put in. But when you get ranked nationally, especially really high nationally, it puts a target on your back. Everybody is going to play their best against you. That’s challenging. You always have to be ready because we have a lot of good teams on our schedule everybody is going to want to beat us,” Baker said. 

Both teams have also brought on new additions this season. There are four new players for the men’s team and two for the women’s team. There will be one additional player added to the women’s team in January. 

Baker welcomes the new talent.  “I think we have a really talented group, which is exciting, but whenever you have new players, you have a lot of work on your hands because you’re trying to evaluate where they are, get them into shape and get them to buy into team concepts. We have to work and develop the new players we have and get them integrated to our system to build a cohesive unit for the spring,” Baker said.

Even without the challenges new players present, Baker and the players have a high goal to reach: the men’s and women’s teams have their sights set on a nationals and a conference championship this year.

“Now that they are going to enter the pre-season rankings at number eight in the country, I think what they need to do is finish the season in the top eight and get a buy through the first round at nationals. It’s a huge advantage,” Baker continued, “The girls this year want to be in the top fifteen and get back to nationals. I think the guys are in a position to be one of those top eight teams so they get out of that first round match and be ready for the team that had to come through it. Both teams would like to compete for a conference championship this year.”

Women's Basketball Preview

By Garrett Dutton | Sports Editor

The stage is set for the College of Coastal Georgia’s women’s basketball program to hit the court once again for the start of the 2015-16 season. But there is plenty of work left to do before the team travels to Brewton-Parker on Oct. 30 to compete in its season-opening tournament. 

The season tip-off will be the first opportunity for second-year head coach Jonathan Barbaree to see his first signing class at Coastal in game action.  Certainly Barbaree has been busy this off-season, bringing in eight newcomers to the line-up including four freshmen and four transfer students. 

Junior’s Jamila Mayfield and Ashanti Groover are both huge centers who have come to Coastal from the NCAA Division I program at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, where Barbaree previously served as an assistant coach. 

“With coach Barbaree coming from Georgia State he has been able to create great connections with good quality athletes.” Senior guard Gabby O’Sullivan said. “Each of my teammates have the ability to make a huge impact this year, and the transfers have brought more depth to our team and a lot of positive energy.”

With Mayfield at 6-foot-5 and Groover at 6-foot-3, the Mariners are looking forward to seeing improvement in their post play. At Georgia State, Mayfield played in 28 career games, tallying 34 points and 46 rebounds. Groover played in 32 games at Georgia State, scoring 71 points and securing 73 rebounds.

“Watch for our new post players to help right away because their size and strength,” said Barbaree. “They defend well and score inside which will truly help us in the paint.”

While post play is clearly important to Barbaree and the Mariners, shooting the ball from outside the post is something the Mariner’s must improve on to succeed in this league. 

“All of the five new guards are three point threats,” Barbaree said. “We should definitely shoot better this season as a team from behind the arc.”

In the 2014-15 campaign, the Mariners shot a decent 67.57 percent from the field and finished the season 13-17 overall with a 7-11 record in Southern States Athletic Conference play, good enough to earn a berth in the conference tournament, the first for Barbaree. 

The Mariners’ first home game is set for Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. against Thomas University. For a complete schedule and team updates, please visit www.coastalgeorgiasports.com. 

Men's Basketball Preview

By Josh Norman | Contributor

Even though the Coastal Georgia men’s basketball team has had a few unpleasant years recently, coaches and players don’t want fans to judge them by their previous records. With second-year head coach Jesse Watkins leading the Mariners and some the new additions to the roster, the team hope to turn things around this season.

Nearly all of the newcomers to Coastal Georgia stand 6-foot-4 or taller, giving the Mariners a big and lengthy lineup.

“I wanted to add some stability inside especially with the guys I have coming back. I believe with these transfers coming in they can become impact players,” Watkins said of the 2015-16 squad. “I really like guys that can play multiple possessions and that makes scouting really hard.”

Derrick Frye and Dominic Early are two key senior transfers that should add versatility to the Mariners’ lineup. Frye, a 6-foot-5 senior,  is a big body slashing guard with great athleticism and Early, a 6-foot-6 senior, is long with a smooth jump shot; both can play shooting guard or small forward.

Guard Dimychael Ross is also a big addition to the team; the 6-foot-4 junior has shown flashes of his potential in practice sessions. Watkins landed two more big men this season with the signing of Joshua Thompson and Anton Hurst.  The 6-foot-5 Thompson and the 6-foot-8 Hurst should keep opponents out of the lane this year.

While length is a competitive edge the Southern States Athletic Conference, the Mariners plan to lean on their guards this year. Returners such as Corey Harris and Jamaal Rhodes are looking give the Mariners a special impact. Andrej Tomic, a returning big man, also has great expectations for the team. The three returning seniors, along with the three senior transfers, want to end their college careers on a collective high note.

“With us having six seniors this year we want to finish out with a bang, but more importantly we are out to earn respect from not only teams in conference but outside of the conference,” Harris said. “And with this year, the guys we added I definitely feel like we will make a huge improvement from last year.”

The team appears to have more depth than in years past, which is a benefit. With the style of play Watkins hopes to implement, having quality players coming off the bench will be critical. Watkins will determine everything Oct. 29, after their first game, which they go head to head against South Georgia College.

The Mariners’ preseason sessions are giving Watkins chills from how good he thinks they are going to be this season. Stay tuned and make sure you are there for the Mariners’ home opener Nov. 7 against Thomas University at 7 p.m.

League of Legends: Should It Be Considered A Sport?

By Jay Landow | Sports Columnist

It is no secret that the world we live in is becoming more and more immersed in technology. It seems like every day there is something that is being replaced by a technological innovation. Computers and Microsoft Word have replaced typewriters. E-mail and text messaging have replaced snail mail. Amazon and E-bay have replaced malls. Apps like Lyft and Uber are replacing old school taxi and public transportation services.  It seems as if technology is encroaching on every aspect of life. Recently, it has begun to encroach upon the sports world.

On October 27, 2009, Riot Games released a new video game called League of Legends. It is a 3-D, third person multiplayer online battle arena game for Mac and PC computers. The game is simple enough: gain gold and experience by killing monsters and enemies and taking over their forts (called a Nexus in the game). It was nothing too innovative or edgy, but once League of Legends took hold it spread across the world like wildfire. By July 2012, it was the most played PC game in North America and Europe. By January 2014, League of Legends had 67 million active monthly players; 27 million of them were active daily players. 

Due to the popularity of the video game, a tournament was set up by Riot Games. It started as an 8-team tournament, and the winners would receive the 70-pound Summoner’s Cup as well as a monetary prize. The first League of Legends World Championship game was in 2011 at Dreamhack in Sweden, a large digital festival, and included a $50,000 prize for whoever won the tournament. It was a huge success. 1.6 million viewers watched via live stream. Since then the annual tournament has traveled around the globe, gaining legions of faithful followers and increasing the prize winnings to over $1 million. 

Obviously, the world loves League of Legends. Many League of Legends fans, including students here at our beloved College of Coastal Georgia, claim that League of Legends is the fastest growing sport in the world, and is poised to become the largest, most popular sport in the world. While League of Legends may be the fastest growing global pastime; that fact alone does does not make it a sport.

According to Google’s dictionary app, a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” It is true that League of Legends comes very close to meeting this definition; it is obviously an activity involving skill in which teams compete against each other for entertainment. But to say that League of Legends involves physical exertion is a stretch, especially when compared to the amount of physical exertion required in other sports. 

Sure, staring at a screen for prolonged periods of time can be tiring. It can drain your energy and wear you down. But to nowhere near the extent professional football or basketball can drain your energy and wear you down. 

This brings up another point: sports are played by athletes. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an athlete as “a person who is trained or skilled in exercise, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” To say that the League of Legend players are athletes is even more of a stretch than to say that League of Legends is a sport. To compare someone who spent hours and hours sitting in a computer chair mastering a video game to someone who probably spent a large chunk of their childhood risking their health to master a physical sport is practically an insult. 

In the end, League of Legends is just a video game, not a sport. Just because you can buy stuff on Amazon does not make Amazon a mall. Just because you can type a paper on a computer does not make it a typewriter. Just because Siri will reply when you talk to it does not make it a person. And just because League of Legends is played in an arena in front of 32 million viewers and broadcast worldwide in 19 different languages does not make it a sport.

Volleyball Season Heats Up: 2015 Preview

By C. Garrett Dutton | Sports Editor

For the past several years the College of Coastal Georgia has continued to grow, bringing in more and more students every new semester. Everyone has noticed the university sprouting up all around them; with construction of the new dorms and other facilities, but there has been something else going on here maybe not just anyone has recognized.

During the five years head coach Jeff Huebner has spent with the Mariners’ volleyball team, he has quietly begun to build a powerhouse program.  The 2015 Mariners continue to obliterate their opponents. 

The Mariners are coming off an impressive 2014 season.  They rolled through the regular season going on to win the Southern States Athletics Conference championship and reached the first NAIA national tournament for the College of Coastal Georgia volleyball program.  The Mariners finished a program best 35-4, claiming the 23rd spot in the final NAIA rankings. 

The now 5-1 Mariners started off the season with a three-team tournament in AugustThey swept Florida National University (3-0) and Ave Maria University (3-0), grabbing their first two wins of the season. 

But how have they done it?  

Senior and serving specialist Jessica Fujimoto says it is in the vision of coach Huebner. 

“Coach Huebner has been able to get us to this level because he has the same vision of being a National Championship every year,” says Fujimoto. 

After only losing three seniors from 2014, Huebner brought in eight true freshmen and one sophomore transfer, outside hitter Shelby Sullivan of Minden, Iowa.   

Sullivan is one more recruit from the Midwest on Huebner’s 17-player roster. Ten of the 17 players Huebner has ssigned, 10 are from Illinois. It would appear Huebner has found his gold mine, but he continues to recruit from other areas as well. 

“Volleyball is huge in the Midwest and being from Illinois I am sure I will always look to recruit in my home state.” Huebner says, “This year we really branched out and added athletes from Washington, Arizona, South Carolina and Georgia, giving us depth, experience and diversity.” 

Huebner’s offseason recruiting is paying off big. After six games, two freshmen have made huge impacts in these early season victories. Freshman and outside hitter Kyra White leads the team with 50 kills. She is followed closely by the freshman middleback Regan Couglin who has 44.  

Huebner expect this performance to continue. 

“I think newcomers Regan Coughlin and Kyra White will be competing with each other for the SSAC 2015 Freshman of the Year,” says Huebner. 

However, it is early in the season and the upperclassmen will rise to their veteran roles. Emma Anderson is one of these veterans. She comes off an impressive 2014 campaign in which she led the team with 386 kills. Anderson was named an NAIA Third Team All-American and won the SSAC tournament’s most valuable player award. 

Also, back for their final seasons are Fujimoto and Kara Neisen. Fijimoto led the entire SSAC serving up 57 aces in 2014. Neisen, a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete and SSAC first-team selection in 2014, will continue to play all over the court. She led the team in receptions last year with 527 and added 46 blocks. 

“The seniors must led by example and play like seniors,” says Fujimoto. “Playing like senior is helping the younger members of our program and stepping up to help the team in whatever fashion that may be.” 

For now, the Mariner’s focus on one game at a time in hopes of dominating the SSAC once again. 

The Mariners make their next appearance on home court in the Howard Coffin Gym Sept. 4 and 5 when they host their Mariner Invitational. Coastal Georgia games are set for 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sept. 4 and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sept. 5.