Travis Durkee

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Boogity, Boogity, I think I like NASCAR

The view form pit road during the national anthem. (Photo by Travis Durkee)

Saturday night I attended my first NASCAR event, the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. As a member of the media you would think that I wouldn’t get the full experience of a NASCAR event. The grandstands and the fields filled with shirtless tailgaters would be the obvious choice to get the real fan experience, but being in the infield, garages and pit road taught me why the sport has such an incredible following.

I’ll be honest; I went into the day with the usual preconceptions about racing. However, after I finally found my parking lot and way into the infield, the concentration of hairy, shirtless, denim-short wearing men chasing cheap whiskey with Budweiser was much less than expected. Don’t get me wrong though, there were a few.

It didn’t take long to get a taste of the racing culture. I’m pretty sure the gentleman driving the golf cart that transported me into the infield was looking for a personal best time from the parking lot to the media center with no regard to pedestrians or other, much larger vehicles. I pretty sure I bent the bar I was holding onto during his qualifying run. Needless to say, it put me in the racing mood.

By this time it was only 1:30 in the afternoon and the festivities were just beginning. I took a stroll around the infield to check out the campers, some I wouldn’t mind living in for several years and others that were merely old school buses with a lawn chair for a driver’s seat and a couch bolted to the top.

Later, after spending $10 on Bojangles, I ventured into the garage area where the cars are worked on up until race time. This was when the atmosphere really hit me. The sounds of turning wrenches, the smell of grease and rubber, the sight of bug-eyed kids getting the chance to see larger-than-life racing machines up close and the way I could feel the rumble of a revving engine inside of my chest was remarkable.

Then as I walked along the pits I couldn’t believe how close the fans could get to the action. Only a matter of feet separated those in t-shirts and flip-flops from crew members lugging around tires and gas tanks. It was a feel for a sport that I’ve never experienced before. Many fans were walking around wearing radio headsets that allowed them to listen in on conversations amongst crews and drivers. That’s the type of connectedness that even Mickey Loomis longs for. I was still hours away from seeing a single lap of racing and I was hooked.

Then the cars finally rolled out of the garage and onto the track for the Sprint Showdown, basically an appetizer for the big race later in the evening. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race to earn a spot in the All-Star Race but A.J. Allmendinger was the story of the 40-lap sprint.

Allmendinger, who held the pole position for the race, was forced into the pits with a flat left-front tire before the green flag was dropped to start the race. Luckily for me, I stationed myself behind his pit stall and witnessed his crew throw a new shoe on his #22 Pennzoil Dodge fast enough to avoid starting the race a lap down.

After the 40 laps, Allmendinger managed to make his way from dead last of 22 drivers all the way up to second place to earn a spot in the All-Star Race along with Earnhardt Jr. Along with every other media member and fan, I was amazed. This was the type of story I wasn’t used to seeing in the sport. I’m sure it’s happened before but I had a front-row seat for this one. Then the way Allmendinger carried himself in the post-race press conference and how badly he wanted to win made the story even better. For the first time I took a vested interest in a driver. Granted, journalists are supposed to remain objective, but anyone who says they weren’t rooting for him in the slightest is lying.

As the sun went down and the lights came on, everything became even more of a spectacle. Before the start of the All-Star Race I took another trip to the pit area to see just how far my credentials could get me. I ended up walking along pit road when I faintly heard a voice come over the loud speakers, which aren’t very loud since all the speakers are pointed towards the grandstands. Next thing I know, pit crews are lining up on pit road and it finally dawns on me that it was time for the pre-race prayer and national anthem. I frantically jumped alongside the crew for Kasey Kahne. I was standing in the middle of a building nearly two miles around and surrounded by well over 100,000 race fans, something I can’t properly describe. I’ll admit though, I did break out my phone and snap a picture of the scene during the anthem, sorry America.

I managed to catch the first few laps of the race from just behind the short-wall on pit road before I was told that I couldn’t be there. I refused to go back to the media center though, I couldn’t watch the race on television screens when I could find a place to actually hear and feel the action.

I eventually ended up on top of a trailer with a group of strangers, partly for the view but mostly because I was offered a plate of free barbecue. What was I supposed to say?

Atop the trailer all I could really see was turns three and four, but that was plenty for me. If there is a sport that television doesn’t do justice, it’s NASCAR. The sheer speed of the cars going through those turns is unreal to witness in person. And the excitement of the fans I was mingling with was on edge every time the pack of cars came into view. They may have only been able to see a portion of the track, but that portion was theirs and they loved it. They cheered for their driver just as I would Cam Newton or Derek Jeter.

That was when I fully realized how this sport was just like any other. There were fans of drivers and teams, but the difference with racing and what makes it such an event is that there are 43 teams  (23 in this case)competing at a time instead of two. You can’t find that type of competition anywhere else.

So essentially, my night at the track was amazing. I started my drive to Charlotte Motor Speedway as a skeptical media member and left as a new fan that can’t wait to go back next weekend. I may not be ready to cut off my sleeves or shave my favorite driver’s number into my chest hair, but you never know what loud engines and free barbecue can make a man do.

“Go Long” Falls Short

There have been countless updates on the construction of the new football stadium. Understandably so, football is the “grandaddy” of college athletics. However, I believe that a story line is being missed.

As a 49er student and soon-to-be alum, I can’t express my excitement for a Charlotte football program enough. The new facility will be brand new and state-of-art, but I’m not excited about the 12-foot statues that will stand by the entrances of McColl-Richardson Field.

All Charlotte varsity sports are represented by a life-size statue of an athlete in their respective sports including the two new statues outside of the recently completed Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex. These statues, as detailed and complex as they may be, are still generic figures.

Jon Hair stands next to his sculpture for the new McColl-Richardson football field. Photo courtesy of www.jonhair.com

Irwin Belk, who has donated the money for every statue on campus as well as well as the Irwin Belk Track and Field Complex, is continuing his generosity by donating the money for the football statues. UNC Charlotte has commissioned the job to sculptor Jon Hair who lives and works in nearby Cornelius, N.C. And to continue another theme, the statues will also be a generic figure. A 12-foot tall generic quarterback looking downfield for a receiver. The statue is named “Go Long.”

I’m all for continuing the theme of statues to represent varsity sports, but with all due respect to volleyball and cross country, I feel that football should be an exception. Football is a sport where mere players can become immortals. For example, earlier this week Auburn University unveiled three larger-than-life statues of their past Heisman Trophy winners, including Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. What will Charlotte do when we have a legendary football coach or Cam Newton-esqe player? Put a statue of them next to “Generic Joe”?

I understand that Charlotte 49ers football is nowhere close to comparable with Auburn Tigers football of 2012, but neither was Auburn Tigers football in their first season back in 1892. This program will grow and the stadium and its features should allow room for that growth. The stadium has the option to expand to nearly 60,000 seats to accomodate a growing fan base. Why does it not consider the players and coaches that will attract those fans?

What I’m trying to say is that a sculpture of an ultra-intimidating Norm or any variation of an actual miner would be a much better fit for the stadium. If Belk and the university want to continue with the nameless statues as well, that’s fine, but continue with the life-size theme and not a 12-foot generic giant. Larger-than-life statues should be designated for those that make a larger-than-life impact.

Even more frustrating is that Belk and Hair have teamed up for several other statues throughout the state that are far more interesting and intimidating. The 26-foot long lion outside of Queens University  was a gift from Belk that Hair sculpted. Hair also created a 20-foot tall boilermaker for Purdue University, a 14-foot tall “demon deacon” for Wake Forest, a 16-foot long panther for High Point University and several other sculptures for various universities. Belk also funded a pirate statue for East Carolina and a camel sculpture for Campbell University, so I’m not sure who decided on a generic quarterback statue.

It may be too late in the game to change anything up regarding the statue, but if it’s at all possible it should be considered. Maybe creating a statue of Bonnie Cone to take place of the miner at the entrance to campus and moving him to the football stadium. Or in all honesty, I would rather scratch the statue all together if a different design isn’t created to better symbolize the university and culture of Charlotte.

 

Men’s Tennis Upset in Semifinals

Charlotte men’s tennis entered the Atlantic 10 Men’s Tennis Championship as the top seed but fell to the fifth-seeded George Washington Colonials in the semifinals at the Queen City Racquet Club on Saturday

Charlotte won the doubles point with wins at one and three. Charlotte freshmen Jack Williams and Alex Calott took an 8-4 victory to start the semifinal. Williams and Calott  finised the season with nine wins as a pair. Freshman Kamil Khalil and junior Krzysztof Kwasniewicz recorded an 8-6 victory to earn Charlotte the doubles point of the match. Khalil and Kwasniewicz finished 10-4 on the season including a perfect 6-0 record in doubles play at number three.

The Niners managed to win just one singles match thans to senior Anthony Davison who won his final singles match 6-3, 6-0 to pull the match to a 2-2 tie. Davison ends the season with a 16-12 record in singles 53-52 career singles mark.

Davison is the only graduating player from a 2012 that was comprised of five freshmen. Charlotte has 96 of 112 singles wins and 30 of 39 doubles victories returning next season.

Charlotte Alums Take Part in Women’s Roller Derby League

BY: Tadd Haislop

Students at Charlotte encounter athletes walking around campus every day. These athletes are typically students at the university who play a sport within the athletic department. Prideful volleyball, basketball, soccer and soon football players roam the brick-crusted campus in green and white 49er athletic gear, distinguishing themselves from the rest of the students. However some athletes are not as easy to identify.

Believe it or not, there are some professional roller derby players on campus as well, yes roller derby. In order to find these players do not look for green jumpsuits or other school-provided athletic gear. Instead, look for bumps, cuts and bruises. They are all women. Do not mess with them.

UNC Charlotte graduate Julie Maynor grew up playing basketball and softball her entire life. After playing in high school, Julie was tempted to continue her playing career on the diamond at the college level for the 49ers. After attending a few practices and deciding to opt out, Maynor needed something else to fuel her competitive fire. She found her answer, Race City Roller Derby, on craigslist although she had hardly skated before.

“I had no idea what it was” Maynor said. “I showed up to my first practice without knowing anything. I still struggle with skating but I still fell in love with (the sport).”

Only eleven years old, roller derby is still a brand new sport even though it is played on every continent. Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five women roller skating counterclockwise around an oval-shaped track. Game play consists of a series of short matchups or “jams” in which both teams designate a scoring player or a “jammer.” The two jammers launch several yards behind the pack of eight. Once allowed, the jammers score points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to help their own jammer through, around or over everyone while preventing the opposing jammer from doing the same thing. Awareness is key and one of the first things players must master. Essentially, teams must play both offense and defense at the same time. The sport is primarily played by women of all ages. Men’s leagues are very rare but existent.

All of the rules are the most difficult aspects of roller derby to master. Because of the violent nature of the sport, players must go through a three month training seminar before participating in full contact practices. Violent is no understatement. Wearing oversized knee and elbow pads among other protective garments, these ladies are not afraid to use their athleticism and toughness to do whatever it takes to stop an opposing jammer from getting by.

“It’s like a combination of NASCAR and Hockey” claimed Jessica Alford, a current UNC Charlotte student who will be graduating next month. Alford is a jammer and a blocker for the Speed Demons. The ex figure skater was looking to play another sport and get in shape when she joined Race City Roller Derby last year. “I was looking for a skating sport and a team sport. I looked online and I found the Speed Demons and here I am. I like the contact, the speed and just having a group of girls to hang out with during and after practice.”

Some women play this sport simply for the exercise. Skating around a track for an hour while simultaneously giving and receiving body checks from opponents can be quite a workout. With these hockey-like collisions and the inevitable tangling of skates, falling to the concrete floor is common during jams. These spills usually involve numerous players, so it is important to know how to fall “correctly” in order to avoid serious injury.

The risk of injury is present in roller derby as it is in any other contact sport. Bumps and bruises are unavoidable but serious injuries are rare. Only in their second season of existence, the Charlotte Speed Demons seem to be a well-kept secret. All women over the age eighteen are allowed and encouraged to give the sport a try. This includes UNCC students and faculty.

Emily Rupar graduated from UNCC in December of 2008. After playing soccer her entire life, Emily joined the Speed Demons in 2010 and is now a team captain. She says that the rules regarding arm use while colliding with opponents are comparable to that of her former primary sport. This familiarity has helped Emily learn the new sport quickly and is one of the reasons that she strongly encourages her peers to do the same.

“Other than intramurals, there’s nothing really for soccer for women during and after college” Rupar stated. “We’re always looking for more players, especially college kids.”

Students are not the only women on campus that are encouraged to give this roller ruckus a try. Leslie Jenkins works in research and economic development at UNC Charlotte. Jenkins joined the Speed Demons last spring in order to fuel her craving for skating. Her long, rich history of speed skating gives her a significant speed advantage as a jammer.

“Women who work at UNCC should consider this too” Jenkins said. “It’s a great extracurricular activity for learning teambuilding skills and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Jenkins added that “all those skateboarders” around campus should maybe come play roller derby instead.

There are plenty of excuses for women to participate in roller derby. Reasons such as a hunger for competition, an excuse to work out for two hours three times a week, a social gathering with women of similar interests, fun entertainment or maybe even the need to let off some steam in the form of competitive, physical contact: the list goes on. Some women understandably may not want to participate in anything that may lead to bumps and bruises, but who would not want to at least watch this NASCAR/Hockey combination?

The Charlotte Speed Demons will be participating in roller derby events once a month all the way through October. All home events will be played at the Metrolina Expo on Statesville Rd. in Charlotte. The Speed Demons will face Mother State on Saturday, April 28th. Tickets are available at www.charlottespeeddemons.com.

49ers Baseball: Rhode Island Series Recap

Game 1: Charlotte (12-12 overall; 1-2 A-10) fell to the Rhode Island Rams (9-12 overall; 2-1 A-10) 5-2 in the opening game of a three-game series Friday, Mar. 23  at Bill Beck field in Rhode Island.

Andrew Smith took the mound for the Niners and kept the Rams bats at bay until the third inning. In the third the Rams managed four runs on five hits. Only one of those runs was earned however.

“I thought Smith Battled and did the best he could,” head coach Loren Hibbs said after the game. “We kind of let that one inning get out of hand.”

Neither team produced any offense until the seventh when Charlotte’s freshman second baseman Derek Gallello singled and

Freshman second baseman Derek Gallello scored one run and batted in a run in Charlotte's three-game series against Rhode Island Mar. 23-25. (Photo by Chris Crews)

moved to third on a groud rule double to right field by Justin Seager. An RBI groundout by Miguel Rodriquez plated Gallello and a sacrifice fly by Justin Roland scored Seager. The Charlotte run would stall as the Niners left eight runners on base throughout the remainder of the game.

Smith struck out seven and gave up seven hits in the contest on his way to his third loss of the year to drop to 3-3.

Tony Montalbano led the Niners with two hits.

“I’m dissapointed in how our older guys played,” Hibbs said. “We did not have good performances from our older guys today.”

Game 2:  The Niners leveled the weekend series with 6-3 win Saturday afternoon in Rhode Island. Joe Yermal threw six innings to earn his fourth win of the season and the Niners first conference win of 2012.

Despite have two outs in the first inning the Niners managed to put two runs on the board. Corbin Shive plated Tony Montalbano with a single for the Charlotte’s second run of the game.

“We jumped out early there offensively,” head coach Loren Hibbs said. “We had a good plan and were a lot more aggressive in the box.”

The Rams scored one run in the bottom of the frame to cut the lead in half but the Niners charged back with two more runs in the third. Montalbano and Shive both reached on walks and later came across the dish thanks to an RBI single by Derek Gallello and an RBI groundout by Justin Seager.

Shive scored his second run of the day after doubling to left and driven in on a single by Justin Roland to stretch the lead to 5-1.

John Hamilton came on with two outs in the eighth inning and finished the game to clinch the 6-3 victory and earn the save for the Niners.

“Overall this was a really good effort,” Hibbs said. “Wins are hard to come by on the road especially in conference play.”

Game 3: Charlotte baseball dropped their third straight three-game series on Sunday as they dropped a 5-1 contest to the Rhode Island Rams. The Niners fell to 12-12 on the year and 1-2 on Atlantic 10 play.

Corbin Shive scored Charlotte’s only run in the fifth inning when he singled to lead off the frame, stole second, moved to third on a Justin Seager single and crossed the plate on a wild pitch.

Rhode Island scored two runs in the second, one in the fourth and two more in the second. The Niners had only six hits in the game.

Chad Rothlin took the loss and fell to 1-2 on the season.

“We knew Rhode Island was going to come out and compete and they played better than we did,” a frustrated head coach Loren Hibbs said following the game. “They played faster. They were quicker with their action. They played better than we did.”

Deuce Briscoe to transfer: Why?

All is not well in Halton Arena. On Thursday, Mar. 22, it was announced by Charlotte Athletics that junior guard Jamar “Deuce” Briscoe plans to transfer from Charlotte.

According to the Charlotte Athletics website, head coach Alan Major said, “We appreciate his contribution to the program. We wish him the best in the future.”

Jamar "Deuce" Briscoe (left) is set to transfer from Charlotte after two seasons in a 49ers uniform. (Photo by Chris Crews)

If this was the only quote that a Charlotte fan read they would be led to believe that Briscoe decided to leave the program on his own terms. However, in an article by the Charlotte Observer’s David Scott, Briscoe’s mother, Trinita Ricks, was quoted as saying, “(Briscoe) was told by the coaches that they couldn’t make him happy.” That quote makes it seem as if Briscoe was involuntarily released from the 49ers program.

This story evokes a lot of concern for those that follow the 49ers basketball program. It’s no secret that the basketball program has had its fair share of adversity during Major’s two short years at Charlotte. The dismissal of Shamari Spears from last year’s team garnered the most attention because of Spears’s open disapproval of the new coaching staff.

Briscoe, like Spears, came to Charlotte to play for former head coach Bobby Lutz who is currently an assistant coach at North Carolina State. Major is known for being a coach that values discipline and has displayed his values through several different suspensions over the course of his two seasons. All but one of those suspensions has been a player recruited by Lutz. Briscoe however, was never one of those players.

Briscoe always seemed to be happy with his role for Charlotte. Despite losing his starting point guard to freshman Pierria Henry, Briscoe finished the season as the starting shooting guard for Major and the Niners.

During the 2010-11 campaign, Briscoe averaged 12.5 points per game for the Niners and started 28 of the 29 games he played. Those numbers dropped to 7.3 points per game and 11 starts in 30 games in Briscoe’s junior season in 2011-12.

This release serves as an indication that there may be some unrest among the veteran players for the 49ers and the coaching staff. Although Briscoe played out of place and saw his role diminish, it’s hard to believe that Major would release him from the team and sacrifice the veteran leadership that Briscoe could offer.

It could be that Briscoe was truly unhappy. Briscoe, who scored 535 points as a freshman at North Carolina Central, scored only 581 points in his two years in a Charlotte uniform. Briscoe may have expected to be a featured scorer for the Niners, but his lack of size (5-10, 165 lbs.) made it hard for him to find scoring opportunities as a shooting guard. From all reports and indications though, Briscoe was more than content as a 49er.

Charlotte fans need to know if this was a decision made by Briscoe or the coaching staff. If Briscoe asked for a release to pursue other opportunities than fans have to wonder if others on the team are unhappy with their role and will follow suit. If the staff simply cut Briscoe from the team then fans have to wonder if there was more to it than wanting Briscoe to be happy somewhere else. Regardless, the athletic department being so tight-lipped is only causing more confusion and questions. Briscoe’s mother should not be where questions go to be answered.

Dallas Baptist sweeps three-game series against Niners

The Dallas Baptist Patriots (13-6) came into their weekend series against Charlotte (10-10) with an 0-5 record on the road. After three games at Hayes Stadium they left with a 3-5 road record after sweeping the Niners by finals of 3-0, 6-4, and 8-3.

Game 1:

In game one Thursday night the Niners sent preseason All-American Andrew Smith to the mound. Smith allowed only one run

Charlotte center fielder leads the team with 16 stolen basses on the season. (Photo by Chris Crews)

on four hits in his seven innings of work. Patriots starter, Cy Sneed, threw six scoreless innings and allowed just four hits. Rain and lightning suspended the game in the bottom of the seventh inning forcing the end of the game to be played on Friday.

The extra night of rest didn’t help the Niners as they fell 3-0 after the Patriots adding runs in the seventh and ninth inning to claim the game one victory.

Game 2:

Friday’s regularly scheduled game two also went to the Patriots in a 6-4 final that snapped Charlotte’s streak of 20-straight home series victories which began in the 2009 season.

Dallas Baptist took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the third inning when the Niners attempted to mount a comeback. Shortstop Justin Roland walked, stole second, and then scored on a two-out single from center fielder Shane Brown to shrink the lead 4-1.

Charlotte scored two more in the fourth with back-to-back doubles from Shane Brown and Tony Montalbano. Montalbano scored later in the inning on an RBI single from freshman second baseman Derek Gallello.

The Niners tied the contest in the fifth when Brown took the game into his own hands, or feet to be more accurate. Brown led off the inning with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.

The Patriots wasted not time reclaiming the lead in the top of the sixth. Three singles and a hit batter led to two runs and the final score of 6-4.

Charlotte reliever Chad Rothlin took his first loss of the season. The Niners got two hits apiece from four different players.

Game 3:

Not even the Luck of the Irish could help the green-clad 49ers on St. Patrick’s day as the Patriots swept the series with an 8-3 victory .

Junior pitcher Corey Roberts lasted just 2.2 inning and allowed four runs in an 8-3 loss to Dallas Baptist Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Chris Crews)

Dallas Baptist put three runs on the board in the opening frame off of Charlotte start Corey Roberts. All things considered, it could have been much worse as the Patriots left three runners on base at the end of the first.

A home run from Charlotte first baseman Corbin Shive in the bottom of the second inning cut the lead to 3-1 but the Patriots posted two more runs in the top half of the third and another in the fourth to stretch the lead to 6-1.

Charlotte had their best chance to close the gap in the bottom of the fifth inning. Justin Roland and Miguel Rodriguez led off with back-to-back singles and a double steal put both runners in scoring position. J.J Elseser walked to load the basses for the Niners with just one out. Basen walked to score Roland but that was all the Niners managed in the inning as two consecutive fielder’s choices ended the Charlotte threat with the bases loaded.

The Patriots added two more runs in the sixth giving them an 8-2 advantage.

An RBI double by single by Brown in the eighth brought the game to the 8-3 final.

The Niners used six different pitchers in the contest. Charlotte has dropped seven of their last eight games to fall to 10-10 on the year.

Charlotte is back in action Wednesday, Mar. 21 at 6 p.m. as they take on the Winthrop Eagles at Hayes Stadium for their final game before Atlantic 10 play begins.

 

 

New State of the Art Complex Sparks Optimism in Women’s Tennis Program

The Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex is set to open April 27. Photos by Michael Stennett

By: Tadd Haislop

There are many establishments on the campus of UNC Charlotte that represent the growth and development of the university. The most recent, and one of the best examples, is nestled in the heart of campus. Home to the men’s and women’s tennis programs, the five million dollar Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex will stand among the best in the Southeast as it is on the verge of being completed.

The gem of a complex features 12 brand new medium-fast surfaced courts. Michaela Gorman, now in her ninth year coaching women’s tennis at Charlotte, weighed in on the value of the new playing surface.

“It’s the same kind of court they have at the Australian Open. It’s a great playing surface with state of the art draining, so that now if we have any delay due to weather the courts can dry within a couple hours,” said Gorman. “Before, it used to take six to nine hours and even then we could only hope they were dry.”

Gorman explained that the functionality of the surface is an improvement as well. “The courts play great. There’s no bad bounces, there’s no dips in the court or cracks or anything like that.”

To compliment the new courts complete with fresh benches and scoreboards, the complex also features a gorgeous brick structure that overlooks the playing surface. The building, located on Cameron Blvd. across from Woodward Hall, will serve multiple roles.

The coaches offices, a stringing room for players, men’s and women’s locker rooms complete with showers and restrooms, a team room for meetings and a training room will all be included inside.

“I think it will help a lot” Gorman said, speaking to the significance of the complex in regards to the program. “It’s a place that seniors in high school want to come play. They love the feel of it.”

In the past, the team has used an adjacent campground-like bath house as a locker room.

“I would always hope people on recruiting trips didn’t go in there” Gorman added with a smile.

Recruiting is not the only expected improvement within the women’s tennis program. The success of this year’s squad may represent things to come in the future. The women’s team, consisting of one senior, four juniors, two sophomores, three freshmen and a transfer student has successfully handled most of their competition at their new home.

“It’s all kind of starting to come together. I feel like our team this year has such a great bond and such a great chemistry with each other,” Gorman explained.

The team’s goal each year is to win the Atlantic 10 tournament. Gorman spends the entire season preparing her team and getting them where they need to be athletically by mid-April.

“We’re playing great tennis and if everything can come together the rest of the season and into that weekend, then I think this year’s as good a time as any,” Gorman said.

The coach is extremely appreciative of the new facility that her team calls home.

“It shows that the University and the athletic department are invested in men’s and women’s tennis. They’re putting a lot of time, effort and money into the facility, which makes us want to do well for them,” said Gorman

The players are anxious to feast their eyes on their new locker rooms as well as to wreak the other benefits of the multi-million dollar complex.

UNC Charlotte students and faculty members are permitted and encouraged to use the world-class courts. Although they will not be facing Nadal, Federer, Sharapova or a Williams sister, members of the university community can feel as if they are competing at the Australian Open while playing on an authentic surface.

For spectators, the facility includes a 250-person seating area that oversees all of the action. The dedication of Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex is scheduled for April 27.

 

By: Tadd Haislop

Lewis Morgan: The Brains Behind the Whiteboard

Lewis Morgan displaying his whiteboard on Senior Night. Photo by Chris Crews

The student section at Halton Arena may have been lacking in numbers at times this past season, but one thing was always constant, the whiteboard guy in the middle of row one of section 104 next to the really tall guy.

That whiteboard guy is Lewis Morgan, a senior Art major. Morgan has manned the whiteboard, dry-erase marker and eraser for the past two seasons of Niner basketball, he made fellow fans laugh and crawled into the heads of referees and opposing players.

Being the man with the whiteboard is more than just being witty, it’s about being the leader of student section.

When you’re the one holding the whiteboard you are the focal part of the section.

“It’s become the de facto face for section 104, for better or for worse,” Morgan said. “I was the one that other students looked to as a leader. The white board doesn’t make you a leader though, you still have to play the part and have to be accepted as a true fan.”

The whiteboard had humble beginnings. Two years before Morgan was given the reigns to the board the board was instated to become a running commentary of the game that was constantly changing.

“The whole idea came from that you can bring a sign to the game but a sign is static and the white board is dynamic,” Lewis said.

Not only can the whiteboard change its message at any given moment, but it allows one voice to be heard no matter how loud the arena gets.

You may not hear what others are yelling but you can see the large black words on the white background. The beauty of it all is that even if a visiting player makes a point not to look over at the board, a teammate is bound to suggest that he takes a look.

“It’s hard to heckle in an arena that’s full of people. So the white board does that for you. Somebody on the team is going to see it and call him out on it,” Morgan said.

The whiteboard gives Morgan the power to send a message to any one player or referee on the floor. Every heckler lives to have an impact on the game by what he says. For Morgan however, the pen is mightier than the sword.

“Last year this kid from Winston Salem State was listed as in a relationship with himself on facebook,” Lewis recalled.

“With the white board I pretty much told him the entire story of Narcissus. It took me about ten minutes during warm-ups, but after the game he told another fan he knew from high school that I was the most obnoxious and annoying fan that he had ever played in front of and that I really got in his head,” Lewis said while patting himself on the back.

Morgan understands that the job of the students is to make Halton Arena a miserable place for teams to visit and he does everything he can with one marker to make it that way.

“Part of the thing that keeps a student section going is that feeling that they have an effect on the outcome of the game,” Lewis said.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

“If there was a night that the student section was off I would get texts and tweets from alumni, students, and everyone except the people in section 104,” Lewis said.

“I was the outlet that everyone went to if something was amiss.”

Many of these messages directed to Morgan were from people he didn’t even know. Morgan was simply the most identifiable member of the student section.

“I had some that were downright mean. One dude said if I study like I lead the student section, no wonder I’ve been here seven years,” Lewis recalled.

Morgan attended his final 49ers basketball game as the man with the whiteboard and as a student on Feb. 29 in an 88-77 loss to Duquesne.

Needless to say, it was an emotional night for Morgan.

“When it makes up such a large part of your life for that long the last time you’re going to be in [section] 104 is hard,” Morgan said. “The game distracts you from it but with about five minutes left you start realizing you only have five minutes left in that seat. I’m watching the clock realizing that my time is running down. After the game I could have stayed there all night.”

Many of Morgan’s memories are not made with his marker, but with the time spent with other die-hard 49ers fans in section 104 during games, waiting in line and camp-outs in the now famous Halton Heights area outside of Halton Arena.

“It’s like a family, it really is. It’s a huge part of our lives. We all make sacrifices and set things aside to allow it to be that big in our lives,” Morgan said. “This family dynamic grows. We are literally spending the entire day before a game plus the night before a game together. There were weeks during the season that I spent more time with [section 104] then I did with my fiancé Shannon, and I live with Shannon,” Morgan said through a chuckle.

Despite the fact that Morgan is graduating it doesn’t mean the end of the whiteboard or section 104. Morgan hopes the number of loud and crazy fans continues to grow as he passes down the whiteboard to the always loud and obnoxious Ryan Benson.

“We want to capitalize on growing that family so it’s not just the 20 or 30 of us but the 200 of us,” Morgan said.

Morgan leaves the whiteboard behind but takes with him hundreds of memories of visiting players giving him dirty looks, drawing tattoos on himself to mock the other team and the referees taking the whiteboard away from him.

The impact Morgan had on so many basketball games won’t be forgotten any time soon.

“Doing what I do is as close to being an athlete as I’ll ever be. That’s as close to having any type of effect on the outcome on a game as I’ll ever have,” Morgan joked. “If I have a kid that eventually grows up and comes here and does the whiteboard I’ll definitely pass on some of the stuff I came up with.”

49ers baseball Week in Review

Charlotte 49ers baseball may have been on a break from classes this past week but not on the diamond.

49ers baseball has lost four straight games falling to 9-7 on the season.

Friday Mar. 2 was the series opener between Wagner and the 49ers. Charlotte claimed the 7-4 victory behind a strong pitching performance by senior Andrew Smith and four RBI’s by outfielder Tony Montalbano. Charlotte dropped the first game of the Saturday doubleheader 11-4 but rebounded with a 7-4 victory in the night cap.

Charlotte clinched their 20th straight home series win with an 11-0 drubbing of Wagner on Sunday, Mar. 4 thanks to a solid start from Joe Yermal and a huge game by outfielder Shane Brown who went 4-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs.

Holy Cross invaded Hayes stadium on Tuesday, Mar. 6 to hand the Niners a 5-1 loss. The Crusaders held Charlotte to a season-low two hits.

Charlotte traveled to Missouri to take on the Mizzou Tigers for a four-game series starting Mar. 9. Charlotte dropped the first contest 10-4. The Niners lost both legs of the Saturday double header to the tigers by finals of 5-3 and 3-2 respectively to fall to 9-7 on the year. The weather took mercy on the Niners as the Sunday series finale was rained out.

Charlotte returns to Hayes Stadium on Tuesday, Mar. 13 to take on USC Upstate at 6 p.m.

49ers rally late to down Toledo 3-2

Charlotte baseball (5-2) claimed the rubber game of their three-game series against the Toledo Rockets (3-3) 3-2 Sunday afternoon at Hayes Stadium.

Charlotte sent sophomore starter Tyler Barnette to the mound against Toledo’s Jared Locke in what would turn out to be a pitchers duel between Locke and Charlotte staff.

Charlotte outfielder Tony Mantalbano had two hits and scored two runs in a 3-2 victory over the Toledo Rockets Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Chris Crews)

The Niners had an early threat snuffed by Toledo shortstop Dan Zuchowski. Charlotte’s Toy Montalbano came to the plate in the bottom of the first inning with runners on second and third with only one out and rocketed a ground ball towards the second base bag when Zuchowski made a diving stop to begin a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Barnette would only pitch two out into the second inning before he was pulled in favor of Chad Rothlin due to an apparent injury to his pitching hand.

Rothlin ended up pitching 4.2 scoreless innings for the Niners without allowing a hit to a powerful Rockets line-up that blasted three home runs the night before.

Locke stifled another threat by the Niners in the bottom of the second with runners on second and third and one out. Locke struck out Charlotte’s Brad Elwood for the second out of the inning and forced Justin Roland into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.

Montalbano scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the sixth after hitting a single to left and advancing to third on a throwing error by Locke and sacrifice bunt by Derek Gallello. He finally scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Justin Seager.

Charlotte led 1-0 until the top of the eighth inning when the power of Toledo’s line-up reappeared with a tw0-run blast from the Rocket’s Joe Corfman. The homer was given up by Charlotte’s Wes Hatley who took over for Jordan Hudson in the top of the seventh. Corfman was the last batter Hatley faced.

Montalbano and Gallello reached base in the bottom of the eighth frame for the Niners when Seager grounded a high-bouncing ground ball to third base that Toledo’s Corfman couldn’t handle allowing both runners to score.

The crowd at Hayes Stadium erupted as the 49ers retook the lead 3-2.

Charlotte’s John Hamilton sat down the Rockets in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win for the Niners.

The 49er pitching staff allowed only three hits to a powerful Rockets team.

All of Charlotte’s runs were unearned as they took advantage of Toledo’s three defensive errors.

Montalbano went two for four and scored two runs to lead the Charlotte attack while Seager knocked in all three unearned runs.

Locke threw 7.2 innings for Toledo allowing six hits and striking out five, however he was not pegged with any earned runs.

Charlotte contiues play on Tuesday, Feb. 28 when the travel to Rock Hill, S.C. to take on the Winthrop Eagles and return to Hayes Stadium for a four-game series against Wagner Mar.2.

 

49ers Women’s Basketball Seniors

Senior guard Katie Meador is averaging four point per game this season for the 49ers. (Photo by Chris Crews)

24- Katie Meador

Meador, a 5-10 guard from Marble Falls, Texas, has been a solid performer off  the beach for the Lady Niners. In Meador’s first career start against Appalachian State she played a career-high 31 minutes and scored a career-high eight points.

Meador has seen action in 18 games this season for the Niners and averaged four points per contest.

 

Senior guard Epiphany Woodson is averaging nearly 13 points per game this season for the 49ers. (Photo by Chris Crews)

32- Epiphany Woodson

Woodson, a 5-8 transfer guard from Miami, stepped into the program during the 2010-11 season and quickly established herself as a scoring force. Woodson played in a team-high 37 games and scored 20+ in six of them.

Woodson is second on the team averaging 12.8 points a game during the 2011-12 season. Woodson eclipsed the 1,000 career-points milestone against St. Bonaventure. Woodson scored a career-high 32 points in a recent loss to Saint Louis.

49ers Men’s Basketball Seniors

Senior forward Javarris Barnett has 683 career points and 130 career three-pointers. (Photo by Chris Crews)

00 – Javarris Barnett

Barnett, a 6-7 forward from Charlotte’s Victory Christian High School, has emerged as a staple in the 49ers starting line-up. Barnett started the final 24 games of the 2010-11 season averaging eight points, five rebounds, and 28 minutes per game.

In 2011-12, Barnett is second on the team averaging 12 points, third in rebounds with six per game, and 31.7 minutes to lead the team.

Barnett enters the final two games of the season with 130 career three-pointers and 683 career points.

 

Senior gurad Derrio Green enters the final two games with 952 career points, 164 three-pointers, and 229 assits. (Photo by Chris Crews)

1-  Derrio Green

Green, a 6-2 guard who transferred to Charlotte from Gulf Coast Community College, stepped into the 49ers basketball program in 2009 and made an immediate impact. Green averaged over 13 points, two assists and two assists in the 2009-10 campaign under head coach Bobby Lutz.

In 2010-11, Green led the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game and assists with 3.8. Green had 24 games in which he scored in double figures.

Green enters the final two games of the season with 164 career three-pointers, 229 career assists, and 952 career points.

Charlotte falls to St. Bonaventure 72-56 on Senior Night

Halton Arena was packed with over 6,000 fans for Senior Night on Saturday but it wasn’t enough as Charlotte (13-14; 5-9 A-10) came up short against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (16-10; 9-5 A-10) by a  72-56 final.

As soon as the ball went up for the tip both teams played with intensity that Halton Arena hasn’t seen in several games.

Charlotte wasted no time putting the first points on the board with a Pierria Henry jumper 11 seconds into the contest.

Charlotte guard Pierria Henry had 11 points and four assists in Charlotte's 72-56 loss to St. Bonaventure Saturday night. (Photo by Chris Crews)

St. Bonaventure forward and A-10 Player of the Year candidate Andrew Nicholson answered on the other end of the floor for his first two points of what proved to be a big game for him.

The Bonnies and Nicholson began to pull away in the latter part of the second half and took a 42-32 lead into the break.

Nicholson scored 17 points in the first half to lead the Bonnies who shot 48 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the three-point line. The Niners 40 percent from the field but only connected on one three-point shot in 11 attempts.

Javarris Barnett was held in check by St. Bonaventure’s man-to-man defense that gave the entire team fits throughout the night.  Chris Braswell played big for Charlotte in the half with only five points but pulled down five boards in the first.

DeMario Mayfield continued his impressive play into this contest scoring eight points in the half and added five rebounds.

In the second half the Bonnies came out and started fast with a three to inflate their lead to 13.

The tide would turn when Charlotte caught fire in the next six minutes. A 14-4 run led by Henry and Barnett shrunk the Bonnies’ lead to 46-43 with just over 13 minutes remaining.

“None of us wanted to give up,” Henry said. “We were going to fight until the end.”

The run was enough to reignite the intensity of the team and the crowd. However, the Niners had no answer for Nicholson and the Bonnies.

St. Bonaventure would end the game on a 26-13 run to bury the Niners and the Charlotte faithful.

“It’s a game of runs, they came out and made their run and we just made our’s at the end,” said St. Bonaventure forward Demitrius Conger.

The final minutes of the game was highlighted by a chant battle between the respective student sections for St. Bonaventure and Charlotte. Charlotte may have the delicious drive-thru chain Cook-Out but the Bonnies left Halton with the win.

The 6-9 Nicholson led all scorers with 25 and added 10 boards.

“When he plays the way he played tonight we’re hard to beat,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt. “He’s tremendous, he’s everything for us. Without Andrew we don’t win tonight.”

Charlotte got solid games from Barnett with 13 points and Mayfield with 11. Mayfield pulled down eight boards to lead the Niners and flirt with yet another double-double.

Three-point shooting plagued the Niners against the man-to-man of St. Bonaventure. Charlotte connected on just four of their 22 attempts from behind the arc. St. Bonaventure showed why they were No.1 in the A-10 in defending against the three.

“We have to get to their three-point shooters, especially Barnett, and I thought we did that,” Schmidt said.

The most telling stat is the assist to turnover ratio. The Bonnies had 18 assists to 11 turnovers while the Niners had only eight assists to ten turnovers. (Official Box Score)

Charlotte finishes up their three-game home stand Wednesday night at 7:30 against Duquesne.