Lions capture multiple conference titles

Junior pitcher Raven Cole throws a pitch against Gulf South Conference foe Valdosta State Feb 12. UNA’s softball team broke a multitude of school records in the 2016 season.

With four Gulf South Conference championships in the 2015-16 school year, it is safe to say this past season for UNA athletics was one for the history book.

Football — After facing the nation’s fifth toughest schedule, the UNA football team finished the season with a 9-3 record and went on to win the Gulf South Conference championship for the third year in a row. UNA then advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs but lost 35-31 to Tuskegee University.

Soccer — The women’s soccer team won its second GSC championship in school history in 2015. The Lions ended the season in the second round of the NCAA Division II Super Region Tournament with a last-second loss to the University of Tampa. The Lions finished with a 15-3-2 record.

Volleyball — After taking the 2015 GSC championship, the UNA volleyball team went on to make their 15th appearance in the NCAA South Regional tournament before losing to Florida Southern. The Lions ended the season with a 26-8 overall record.

Cross Country — The Lions finished second at both the Earl Jacoby/UAH Charger Invitational in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Watson Ford Invitational in Clinton, Mississippi. The women’s cross country team placed fifth at the Gulf South Conference championship and finished seventh in the NCAA regional.

Men’s Basketball — The Lions finished a rollercoaster season with a fourth place GSC finish, netting a 13-9 conference record. UNA picked up their biggest win of the season over conference rival Alabama-Huntsville 119-103 Jan. 16 at Flowers Hall.

Women’s Basketball — The 2015-16 women’s team experienced some growing pains as one of the youngest teams in UNA history, finishing 5-22 overall. Sophomore KeKe Gunter led the Lions with 13.4 points per game.

Baseball — The UNA baseball team finished the season 25-22 overall and 15-17 in the GSC. The Lions started 14-7 overall before losing nine consecutive games. UNA took home wins against several conference opponents this year, including a three game sweep of Mississippi College on April 9-10.

Softball — The 2016 UNA softball team won their first national championship in program history. The Lions also broke the school record for most wins in a single season, making it the best statistical season in school history. UNA finished with the No. 1 ranking in the NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. Head Coach Ashley Cozart earned her 100th win, and the team reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time in UNA softball history.

Golf — Junior Austin Sparks won the annual UNA Spring Classic March 28. The Lions took home a third place finish in the 2016 GSC tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Ford City. In late November, head coach Jason Vaughn announced the addition of three high school standouts to the Lion’s program for 2016-17.

Tennis — The 2016 men’s tennis team finished with a record of 12-4, 7-2 in the GSC. The All-GSC men’s team added four Lions to the 2016 squad. Women’s tennis wrapped up their 2016 season with a record of 8-8 overall and a 6-4 record in the GSC.

Track — 2016 brought some new opportunities for the women’s track and field team. UNA, along with the 11 other GSC schools, are now able to compete for a GSC conference championship. The conference matches took place April 21-23 in Clinton, Mississippi. Sophomore Sarah Harper also set a school record in the 400-meter dash at 1:00.2.