UNA fall sports having successful season led by the seniors

Senior linebacker Steven Rich (left) celebrates with junior defensive lineman Jalan Jones (right) after making a tackle against University of West Georgia Oct. 25. UNA can win a share of the GSC title by winning its last two games

The fall sports teams have competed at a high level this year, and it has led to all five teams having tremendous years.

As the season comes to a close many of the teams are in the midst of competing for Gulf South Conference championships.

“The culture of our department has been vital to our success this year,” said Athletic Director Mark Linder. “I think we have a great coaching staff, I think we have a great administrative team and I think we have very good student-athletes that really get it as far as competing at a high level.”

Much of the success this year can be pointed toward the seniors on each respective team, Linder said.

“We started something last year and we did it again this year. It was the senior breakfast,” he said. “We brought in seniors from all the sports and we wanted to thank them for putting in all the hours that they do put in.

“We also wanted to talk about how fast the season is going to be and if they wanted their legacy to be a champion or just have a mediocre year.”

Linder said it is important for UNA athletics to graduate champions.

“When our seniors graduate, we need to make sure we did everything possible to make sure that they have a championship ring on their finger,” he said. “I think the seniors understand that too.”

UNA football has two games left in the regular season and by winning both games, they can claim a share of the GSC championship for back-to-back seasons.

UNA has not won back-to-back GSC championships since 1994-95.

The Lions lost their first game of the season Nov. 1 against Delta State University 33-28. UNA (7-1, 4-1) hosts Shorter University at 3 p.m. for senior night Nov. 8.

“We still have all our goals in tact. We just need to focus on taking each game one at a time,” said head coach Bobby Wallace. “Our seniors have done a great job as leaders, and it has really affected the whole team.”

Senior defensive lineman Jonhanin Jean-Jacques said the culture has changed for the better from when he was a freshman.

“I was here when coach (Terry) Bowden was coaching, and the team had many players only playing for themselves,” he said. “When Wallace got here it was a complete turnaround. We have better player-coach relationships, and guys are playing for each other.

“Being my last regular season home game Saturday, this game means a lot because I’ve seen it all.”

Jean-Jacques said he is beyond grateful for the opportunity to play four years at UNA.

UNA soccer also hopes to claim a conference championship.

The soccer team earned the No. 1 seed in the GSC tournament and plays Nov. 7 in the semifinals against the University of West Alabama in Pensacola, Florida at 11 a.m.

The Lions defeated the Tigers 3-0 in the regular season Oct. 26.

UNA’s (13-2-1) regular season is a turnaround from last year’s (8-8-2) season.

“We said in the beginning of the year that this season was going to be for the whole team and not just the seniors like in the past,” said senior midfielder Danielle Scanlon. “We’ve worked hard as a team this year and we all do it for each other.”

The Lions won seven straight games and shutout their last six opponents to close the regular season.

“Our conference has been really tight all year,” said senior midfielder Abbey Hellem. “We were preseason picked to finish fifth but we finished first, so it shows just how (the tournament) is anybody’s game.”

The volleyball team clinched a birth in the GSC tournament after a (18-11, 14-6) regular season campaign. The Lions will host the tournament opening round game Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

“I’m really excited about what the team has done, and I’m excited about what the team can do,” said coach Stephanie Radecki. “This journey with them has been a lot of fun.”

Senior hitter Megan Gorey led UNA with the most kills in the conference, 394. Gorey was named GSC Player of the Week three times this season.

The cross-country men’s and women’s teams will be competing in the GSC Championships Nov. 8 in Birmingham.

The women’s team is ranked No. 4 in the South Region.

The fall is the non-championship season for the golf team but they finished the season ranked No. 8 in the GCAA poll.