Lions enjoy success in 2016-17

by Sports Editor Jacob Cole

Football: The Lions had plenty to smile about in 2016 with an impressive season. The Lions finished the 2016 season 11-2 while finishing runner-up in the DII National Championship game in head coach Bobby Wallace’s last year. After only losing one regular season game (Division I Jacksonville State) the Lions rattled off 11 wins in a row to advance to the DII National Championship game. Lions’ senior quarterback Jacob Tucker finished third in the Harlon Hill Trophy voting, and UNA had two players, senior offensive tackle Stephen Evans and senior cornerback Philbert Martial, on the All-American list voted on by the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association.

Volleyball: The UNA volleyball team repeated as Gulf South Conference Champions for the second year in a row in 2016. The Lions beat West Florida in five sets to win the GSC Championship. The Lions finished the season with an impressive 29-6 record including NCAA tournament bid. Senior Natasha Fomina led the Lions in the 2016 campaign. Fomina earned D2CCA Regional Player of the Year honors, All-GSC selection and also the rare Double All-American (athletic and academic).

Women’s Soccer: Lions fell short of GSC tournament in 2016. The Lions stayed in the hunt for a GSC tournament berth all the way to the regular season finale finishing the season 8-8 overall and 7-5 in the GSC. Senior Eleanor Costello, junior Beatriz Fernandes and sophomore Margarida Sousa earned All-GSC honors with Costello earning honors as a part of the All-South region team.

Women’s Basketball: After struggling in the 2015-16 season, the women’s basketball team bounced back with a solid 2016-17 season. The Lions finished 19-10 and earned a spot in the GSC tournament as five-seed. The Lions’ turnaround started by freshman sisters Ivy and Emma Wallen. Ivy Wallen won GSC Freshman of the Year and was named an honorable mention All-American. Junior KeKe Gunter achieved GSC All-Academic team honors as well.

Men’s Basketball: The Lions slid into the GSC tournament after an up and down year. The Lions fell just below a .500 record finishing the year 14-15. The Lions lost to Valdosta State in the opening round of the GSC tournament to end their season. The Lions graduate three senior leaders in Dimario Jackson, DeAndre McKinnie and Austin Timms, but the Lions reurn multiple role players looking for a larger role on the team. The Lions made the GSC tournament for the 15th consecutive time.

Cross County/Track: The cross country and track team completed many goals in the 2016-17 season. The men’s cross country team placed seventh in the GSC and ninth at NCAA Regionals. The Lions’ women’s cross country team finished seventh in the GSC and sixth in the cross country Regionals. The women’s track team finished in the top ten at multiple track meets during the 2017 campaign.

Golf: The Lions golf team secured multiple top ten performances throughout the 2016-17 season. The Lions finished second at the Division II Preview tournament and the Pirate Invitational. The Lions climbed to an eighth ranked spot nationally in all of Division II to finish out the fall. The Lions shot up from 13th nationally Aug. 26 to eighth by Oct. 21 to the end of the fall golf schedule Nov. 21.

Baseball: The Lions baseball team bounced back in 2017 with a solid season in the GSC. The Lions were led by junior Kyle Hubbuch offensively, and junior Tyler Joiner led the Lions on the mound completing a 10 win season. Heading into the last series of the season, UNA won 15 of 17 games to finish out the season. The Lions earned a berth in the 2017 Gulf South Conference tournament finishing in second place.

Softball: After winning its first DII National Championship in 2016, the Lions fell behind early in 2017. The Lions held spots at No. 21 and 23 nationally throughout the 2017 season. Young players stepped up for the Lions including freshman Hannah Shollenberger. Heading into the last series of the season, The Lions held a seven game win streak. UNA will play in the GSC tournament after clinching a spot earlier in the year.