Lions prepare for fall 2012 season

The UNA fall sports teams begin their seasons starting Aug. 31, facing preseason expectations ranging from number one to next to last.

UNA soccer has the highest expectations with the preseason Gulf South Conference coaches’ poll placing them at the top of the pack. The team won its first GSC championship last year, and the players and coach said they feel confident they can win it again this year.

Volleyball is also predicted to do well this season. In the GSC preseason coaches’ poll, the Lions were picked second out of all seven teams.

“We expect to be strong in the GSC again and want to compete nationally,” said Head Volleyball Coach Stephanie Radecki.

Radecki said one of the team’s strengths is ball control.

Another strength, said volleyball player Jessica Ronyak, is that the players take all games seriously.

“We try and not take a single game lightly, even if it is against an easier opponent,” Ronyak said.

The UNA cross country team is seeing big changes this year with a new assistant coach, former team member Hannah Simmons, as well as a women’s squad doubled in size from last year.

Senior runner Zeke Nichols said he thinks the men’s team has the potential to be one of the best yet at UNA. His teammate Roger Good, a junior, has high expectations for the women’s team.

“From what I know from the past and what I know from my years here, the girls’ team is definitely going to be the best it’s ever been,” Good said.

The coach and players said that one challenge the team faces is being able to compete against each other while they’re running as a team.

“They get to be such good buddies that they don’t want to beat each other — and that’s a good thing to have that camaraderie  on a team — but when that gun fires they’ve got to put the team first,” said Cross Country Head Coach Scott Trimble.

The football team faces lower expectations, having been selected fourth out of five teams in the GSC preseason coaches’ poll.

The Lions come into this year with a new head coach, new quarterback and only five returning starters. Two of this year’s starters, Nick Williams and Chris Simpson, were injured in the Aug. 18 scrimmage. Williams has a torn ACL and will not return this season; the status of Simpson’s injury is currently unknown.

In the scrimmage game, the offense fumbled multiple snaps while the defense missed multiple tackles and forced no turnovers.

“I just think we’re not in great shape – we’re in good shape but not in great shape,” said Defensive Coordinator Chris Willis.

Despite the low ranking and the struggles in Saturday’s scrimmage, the players expect to prove themselves this season.

“I think every one on the team is ready to prove them wrong,” Williams said.