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Today’s roundup features Ole Miss Sports.
Former College, NFL Running Back Joins Ole Miss FCA Staff
Sammie Smith has accepted an offer to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff at Ole Miss. Smith will be serving as the FCA Director of Character Development for Ole Miss Football.
“I am really excited to have Sammie join our FCA staff team at Ole Miss. He adds a wealth of life experiences from which our student-athletes and coaches will greatly benefit,” said Todd Johnson, Ole Miss FCA Campus Director.
Smith hails from Apopka, Florida, where he was a standout 230-pound running back with sprinter’s speed. His talents awarded him a scholarship to play for Coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State from 1985-88. In 1987, Smith set the FSU rushing record with 1,230 yards. This record stood until Warrick Dunn broke it in 1995. Smith was drafted as the ninth overall pick of the 1989 NFL Draft.
While at the summit of his athletic career, his life began to unravel. In 1990, Smith lost his 2-month-old son Jerrod to sudden infant death syndrome. Then in 1996, he was convicted on two accounts of possession and distribution of cocaine and served seven years in federal prison. When he was at his lowest point, Smith surrendered his life to Christ and things have never been the same.
“That first night, I sat in the county jail and had a chance to really look at the previous six or seven years,” Smith said. “It was at that point that I trusted Jesus to forgive and change me. I promised Him that when all was said and done, I will get out and do the things I know God would have me to do.”
Smith’s story is one of redemption. He knows what it is like to hit bottom; but he also knows what it like to get a second chance to live with purpose.
“When you talk to Sammie you would never know you were talking to someone who has as many athletic accolades as he does. Sammie is a very humble, winsome and godly man. I’m thrilled to have him join our staff team!” said Josh Gilreath, Mississippi FCA State Director.
Since being released from prison, Smith has shared the message of Jesus Christ with thousands at churches, civic organizations and through FCA. In 2012, Smith joined the FCA staff as the representative for Lake County, Florida. In this role he has shared the hope of Christ with the youth and coaches in the community where he grew up.
Now Smith will have the opportunity to share his story of redemption with student-athletes and coaches at Ole Miss.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Sammie to Ole Miss, and I’m grateful that our student-athletes will have his positive guidance available to them,” said head coach Hugh Freeze. “With his playing career and life experiences, Sammie will serve as an excellent resource for those players that want help navigating life’s tough decisions.”
Smith and his family (Shalonda, Chrison (16), Sania (9)) will move to Oxford, Mississippi, this summer.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports
Rebels Hold off Tide 4-3 in SEC Championship
Another classic SEC battle came down to the last match with Ole Miss men’s tennis senior Stefan Lindmark serving out a 4-3 win for the Rebels against Alabama in the SEC Championship second round Thursday at the Carolina Tennis Center.
With the match tied 3-3, all eyes turned to court two, where Lindmark had just broken Bama sophomore Korey Lovett and was set to serve it out at 5-4 in the third. Lindmark got off to a quick start in the game and only dropped one point to clinch the victory for the Rebels.
The wins sets up a rematch with No. 1 seed Georgia in the quarterfinals Friday at 1 p.m. CT.
In the first meeting on April 3, the Tide won a close doubles point and used it to their advantage in a 4-3 win. This time, Ole Miss won a tight doubles point. Freshman Fabian Fallert and sophomore Grey Hamilton dominated on court two, 6-2. Alabama got the break to win at court three, 6-4. Zvonimir Babic and Filip Kraljevic, ranked No. 28, broke the No. 4 ranked duo of Korey Lovett and Mazen Osama for a 7-5 win to clinch the point.
Bama took a 2-1 lead in the match with a pair of straight set wins on courts three and four, but the lead went away when Rebel sophomore Gustav Hansson, ranked No. 47 finished off 50th-ranked Osama 7-5, 6-3 at No. 1 singles.
The remaining three matches all went three sets and at one point the Rebels were in good position up a break in the third sets at all three. However, on court six, Landford Hills rallied to win the third set against Babic to give the Crimson Tide a 3-2 lead.
In the earlier meeting, Bama’s Matthew Rossouw clinched for his team at No. 5 singles. This time, he faced a different opponent in Fallert. After dropping a close first set 6-4, Fallert rebounded to take the second set 6-3. He led 4-2 in the final set before Rossouw battled back to make it 4-4. Fallert broke again and served out the 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win to send everyone to court two for the finale.
• Ole Miss is now 15-9 overall and will face top seeded Georgia for the second time in less than a week.
• Gustav Hansson improved to 24-9 overall, 16-5 in dual matches and 4-1 at No. 1 singles.
• Stefan Lindmark improved to 19-12 overall, 13-8 in dual matches.
• Fabian Fallert improved to 6-1 at No. 5 singles.
• Fallert and Grey Hamilton improved to 14-5 overall, 9-4 at No. 2 doubles.
• Zvonimir Babic and Filip Kraljevic, clinched the doubles point knocking off the No. 4 team in the nation. It marked their first top-five win as a duo and third ranked win of the year.
Quoting Head Coach Toby Hansson…
“We found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty out there, but both teams were scrapping trying to get the win. Sometimes you have to just do whatever it takes to win. That’s the most important thing.”
On depth of team impacting the victory…
“Stefan has been there before and he’s a senior. We have a lot of faith in him. He wasn’t playing his best, but he somehow found the energy at the end and was able to break the guy and then close it out.”
On getting ready to play Georgia…
“Physically we have to recover, get some good food and rest, to get ready for tomorrow. Everybody is excited to play Georgia and hopefully we’ll see some good tennis out there.”
Senior Stefan Lindmark…
“When I saw that Fabi won, I knew that I had to give that extra effort to get it done for the team. I am happy I was able to serve it out and that we got the job done today. We are looking forward to playing Georgia again. It’s always close when we play them. Hopefully we can play better tomorrow and with a little luck on our side come out on top.”
For more information on Ole Miss Men’s Tennis, follow the Rebels on Twitter @OleMissMTennis, on Facebook at OleMissMTennis and on Instagram at OleMissMTennis, follow Coach Hansson on Twitter at @TennisToby.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports
Track Season Heats Up as Rebels Head to Virginia Challenge
With 1,207 athletes, including 70 All-Americans who have combined to win 16 individual NCAA titles, this weekend’s Virginia Challenge will be quite literally the biggest and best outdoor track meet of the year so far at which the Ole Miss Rebels are competing.
The Friday–Saturday meet will take place at Lannigan Field in Charlottesville, Virginia. Events will begin at 9 a.m. CT Friday, including a Main Event from 6-9 p.m. Saturday’s competition starts at 8 a.m. with the Main Event scheduled for 6-9:30 p.m.
Men’s teams slated to compete include nationally ranked opponents in No. 2 Florida, No. 6 Virginia, No. 8 Georgia, No. 19 North Carolina and No. 22 Virginia Tech, as well as SEC foe Kentucky.
Among the women’s units are ranked teams No. 6 Georgia, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 9 Florida, No. 11 Mississippi State, No. 14 Harvard, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 22 Notre Dame and SEC foe Vanderbilt.
A total of 13 All-Americans will toe the line for the Rebels in Charlottesville, representing the first time this outdoor season that all of the top Ole Miss athletes will be competing.
Headlining head coach Connie Price-Smith’s crew is two-time NCAA shot put champion Raven Saunders, who currently ranks No. 1 in the NCAA and No. 3 in the world with her outdoor personal-best and school-record throw of 18.75m/61-6.25.
Sophomore Craig Engels will lead a massive group of Rebels in the men’s 1500 meters. He currently ranks No. 2 in the NCAA with a school-record time of 3:38.82, while also ranking 11th in the nation in the 800 meters (1:47.17). Those times place him among the top 25 runners in the world in both categories this season.
The rest of the Rebels’ 1500-meter contingent this weekend includes Robert Domanic (2016 SEC mile champion, 2016 All-American in DMR, 2015 All-American in 1500m), Sean Tobin (2016 All-American in DMR), Ryan Manahan (SEC champion in DMR), Trevor Gilley (SEC champion in DMR, current No. 5 in NCAA in 1500m), Derek Gutierrez (2016 All-American in DMR), Wesley Gallagher (2016 All-SEC in 3000m) and Ryan Walling (2016 SEC champion in 3000m and 5000m, 2016 All-American in 5000m). Volunteer assistant coach Isaac Presson will run alongside Engels, Domanic and Tobin in the highly anticipated first section on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. CT.
Head Coach Connie Price-Smith Says:
“I am excited for this weekend, and I’m looking for a lot of good marks to come out of it. This will be the last big meet before SECs and should be a good indicator of what’s to come.”
- The Virginia Challenge features student-athletes from 22 conference champion teams … More than 70 All-Americans, including ones that have captured 16 individual NCAA titles, are set to compete along with elite post-collegiate athletes … In all, there will be 1,207 athletes representing more than 60 schools.
- This is the inaugural season of the Connie Price-Smith era at Ole Miss.
- Sophomore Raven Saunders has already posted personal bests in the shot put, discus and hammer throw this year – setting school records in the shot (18.75m/61-6.25) and discus (56.85m/186-6) and ranking No. 2 in school history in the hammer (56.91m/186-8).
- Her shot put PR at the Alabama Relays moved her up to No. 7 on the all-time women’s collegiate outdoor list.
- Saunders now has the best indoor and outdoor shot put marks ever by an SEC woman.
- Saunders is currently No. 3 on this year’s world outdoor shot put rankings after finishing the indoor season at No. 5 in the world.
- Saunders has the top six shot put marks in the NCAA this outdoor season … Combining the 2016 indoor and outdoor seasons, she owns the NCAA’s best 17 puts of the year.
- Sophomore Craig Engels and junior Trevor Gilley had breakthrough performances in the 1500m at the Florida Relays … Engels broke his own school record by running 3:38.82, while Gilley ran 3:41.77, good for No. 2 in school history … They rank 2-5 in the NCAA so far this year, while Engels is 12th in the world rankings.
- Engels also ranks 11th in the NCAA in the 800m with a time of 1:47.17 last week at the Texas Invitational.
- For the fifth time in his two-year career, sophomore Dempsey McGuigan’s broke the Ole Miss hammer throw record, this time with a huge PR of 69.59m/228-4 at the Tiger Track Classic that ranks him seventh in the NCAA.
- Sophomore Emily Bean shattered the women’s 10,000m school record with her 33:39.36 at the Stanford Invite.
- The women’s 4x100m relay returns three of four legs from last year’s NCAA outdoor finals squad … The quartet of Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray, Breanna Tate and Khadijah Suleman ran a season-best 44.03 at the Florida Relays and rank No. 14 in the NCAA this year.
- Sophomore Lindsey Murray broke the school pole vault record with a clearance of 4.22m/13-10 (15th in NCAA) at the Texas Invitational.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports
Ole Miss Falls to South Carolina in SEC Championship
The Ole Miss women’s tennis team battled, but dropped a 4-0 match to fifth-seed and 11th-ranked South Carolina Thursday in the second round of the SEC Championship at the LSU Tennis Complex.
The Rebels conclude the regular season at 13-11, while South Carolina (18-6) advances to the quarterfinals to face Auburn.
South Carolina won 6-2 at No. 2 doubles and 6-3 at No. 3 to take the early 1-0 lead. The Rebels were in the singles early on, but South Carolina pulled away and earned straight sets wins on courts one, four and five to close out the Rebels.
Natalie Suk, who clinched the 4-3 win vs. Tennessee in the first round, led 80th-ranked Ingrid Martins 7-6, 3-2 at No. 2 singles when play was stopped. Senior Mai El Kamash had just split sets at No. 3, winning the second set 6-4.
• Freshman Brooke Stevens played her first SEC singles match, coming in at No. 6 singles. She played No. 2 doubles with Natalie Suk both days.
• Arianne Hartono finished the regular season at 20-13 overall, 13-7 at No. 1 singles.
Quoting Head coach Mark Beyers…
“We battled hard against a very good South Carolina team, but were unable to convert on a opportunities to win a few first sets. We’ll find out on May 3 whether our resume is good enough to earn an at-large spot in the NCAA Championships. It’s going to be close, we are definitely on the bubble.”
For more information on Ole Miss Women’s Tennis, follow the Rebels on Twitter @OleMissWTennis, on Facebook at OleMissWTennis and on Instagram at OleMissWTennis. Also follow Coach Beyers on Twitter, @MarkBeyers.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports
Lunderman Named National Freshman of the Year Finalist
Ole Miss Softball shortstop Hailey Lunderman has been named a Top 25 finalist for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year, the NFCA announced Thursday.
A Philadelphia, Mississippi native, Lunderman is the only Rebel to start in every contest thus far, and leads the club offensively with a .382 batting average. Her 58 total hits rank fourth in the SEC as she’s just nine away from breaking the single-season record for hits in a season.
Lunderman has been the ignition for the Rebel offense, tallying 19 multiple-hit games from primarily the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Earlier in 2016, she carried an 11-game hit streak, which tied for fourth-longest in program history.
She ranks ninth in the SEC in plate appearances (168) and third in at-bats (152). She’s also been a contributing factor in the Rebels’ record-breaking stolen base season with 16 to her credit, also a mark that ranks ninth in the conference.
In the field she’s been just as impressive ranking second in the league in assists (115) and 10th in double plays turned (9). In 182 chances the freshman has committed just seven errors helping Ole Miss to one of the top fielding percentages in the country at .977 with just 31 errors as a team.
Lunderman is one of nine freshmen from the SEC on the Top 25 finalist list. The NFCA will announce the Top 10 finalists on May 12, and release the Top Three on May 25. The National Freshman of the Year will be announced on May 31.
With the Association always searching for innovative ways to promote the sport of softball, the award was created in 2014 from an idea to honor outstanding athletic achievement among freshmen softball student-athletes throughout Division I. In the inaugural year, Auburn’s Kasey Cooper and Tennessee’s Annie Aldrete, were co-winners. Oklahoma’s Paige Parker took home the honor in 2015.
2016 Schutt Sport/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Top 25 Finalists
|Ebonee Echols||Michigan State||OF|
|Taty Forbes||Coastal Carolina||OF|
|Sydney Golden||Cal State Fullerton||P|
|Carsyn Gordon||Florida State||OF/INF|
|Kelsey Horton||New Mexico State||1B|
|Hailey Lunderman||Ole Miss||SS|
|Taylor Lynch||Oklahoma State||3B|
|Keeli Milligan||Texas A&M||INF/OF|
|Meehra Nelson||Oregon State||P|
|Hayley Norton||Saint Francis||OF|
|Samantha Show||Texas A&M||P|
|Ali Wester||Notre Dame||OF/INF|
For all Ole Miss Softball news and information, go to OleMissSports.com and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball, on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball and on Instagram at Instagram.com/olemisssoftball. Fans can also follow head coach Mike Smith on Twitter at @msmithsb16. Additionally fans can get a behind the scenes look at Ole Miss Athletics on Snapchat under the handle, @WeAreOleMiss.