UNA Athletics hosts fall media day

UNA head football coach Bobby Wallace speaks to the crowd during the fall media luncheon at Robert Trent Jones golf course Aug. 6. Behind Wallace stand outside linebacker Will Furlong and quarterback Chris Alexander. 

Malisa McClure

The UNA Athletics Department hosted a media day luncheon today following the Sportsman’s Club Golf Classic at the Robert Trent Jones clubhouse in Muscle Shoals.

At the luncheon, the coaches of UNA’s fall sports teams were available to interact with fans and members of the media before hosting a brief press conference following the results of the golf classic. Student athletes from the soccer and football teams were also in attendance. 

UNA soccer coach Graham Winkworth said he has great confidence in his team this year, on and off the field.

“I expect to win every game,” Winkworth said.

Winkworth isn’t the only person with high expectations for Lions soccer. In the Gulf South Conference pre-season coaches’ poll, UNA was predicted to win the GSC title this season for the second time. The team won its first GSC championship last season.

“We’ve got an extremely tough conference, tough schedule, but our veteran players earned that number one spot last season,” Winkworth said.

“I think we have some of the hardest working players,” said Heather Farmer, junior midfielder from Rockledge, Fla. “They picked us number one not because we’re the best but because, if we work together and do our best, we can be the best.”

The UNA soccer team will host a series of exhibition games Aug. 22-26, with a 7 p.m. game Aug. 22 and 24 and a game TBA Aug. 26.

UNA cross country coach Scott Trimble is looking forward to entering this season with a squad doubled in size from last season. A doubling in funding due to the addition of men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams enabled Trimble to have the best recruiting season in his nine years at UNA, he said.

UNA Athletics also hired assistant cross country coach Hannah Mook, who Trimble says will work primarily with the women this season.

Trimble recruited three of the top ten runners for the women’s team as well as Clay Oden from Brewer High School for the men’s team. The team returns four of last season’s top seven runners.

“This is the most talent we’ve had on our team since I’ve been here,” Trimble said.

The cross country team will begin training on Aug. 14 and compete in their first match of the season at UAHuntsville Sept. 8.

UNA volleyball is another team with high expectations this season. In the GSC pre-season coaches’ poll, UNA was picked to finish second in the conference this season.

“We have a great group of kids coming in and strong returning players, so we’re excited,” said volleyball coach Stephanie Radecki.

The team returns seven players from last season, four of which are starters. There will be six new players, two of which are junior college transfers. The team will begin practice Aug. 13 and will kick off their season at the West Texas A&M Lady Buff Classic Aug. 31 through Sept. 1 in Canyon, Texas.

UNA football players and coaches said they feel good about the upcoming season despite returning only five starters from last season and recruiting a large number of true freshmen.

“We’re looking forward to a great season,” said Cornelius Williams, receivers’ coach at UNA.

The team was ranked fourth out of five in the GSC pre-season coaches’ poll. The players and coaches, however, said the low ranking doesn’t matter to them.

“It doesn’t affect anything that we do as a team,” said returning junior quarterback Chris Alexander, from Lake Butler, Fla.

As far as working with the incoming freshmen, the players are ready to see how they will adapt to college ball.

“Quarterback and offensive line are some of the most difficult positions to transition from high school to college,” said Will Furlong, returning senior offensive lineman from DeLand, Fla.

Alexander had the experience of transitioning from high school to college as a quarterback, and said he wasn’t prepared for the faster pace mentally.

“I can definitely help the freshmen that are willing to learn from another player,” Alexander said.

“I’m just ready to get it going and put the rubber to the pavement and see what we’ve got,” Furlong said.

The football team will begin practice Aug. 9, and will host a scrimmage at Braly Stadium Aug. 18.