Spring Sports Teams Say Good Knight, Texas

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The long, proud history of intercollegiate athletics at Northwood’s Texas campus came to a close in May.

“We had a darn good run,” said Northwood Texas Athletics Director Jack Allday who was especially proud of this spring’s student-athletes.

“They got word in late February that this would be the last time Northwood would be fielding teams in Texas,” Allday said.  “It hit them hard at first, but they rebounded quickly, and represented their university extremely well.  We’re so proud of them; I will never forget them.”

NOTHING SOFT

The softball team, under third year coach Kayla Maddox, finished 17-37 overall, and 14-21 in conference play.

Catcher Kaylan Pruitt was First Team All-Conference while utility player Amanda Salvato made Second Team All-Conference.

Softball Team

BASES LOADED

The baseball team, following an NAIA World Series season, was hit by a spate of injuries.

“We wound up with a short stick,” said Head Coach Jeremy Kennedy who now heads the baseball program at Northwood’s Florida campus. “Several guys stepped up, and we finished the year at 34-19.”

Standouts include catcher Carlos Contreras (First Team All-American), pitchers Cody Gray and Cody Faulkner, and outfielders Jason Gareri and gold glover Casey Mullinex.

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LINKS LEADERS

The women’s golf team finished second in the Sooner Athletic Conference.  The ladies were #16 in the national NAIA rankings taking 10t at the 2014 Women’s National Championships.

Daniela Martinez and Fariza Zain were NAIA First Team All-Americans.

Women's Golf Team

ON TRACK

[symple_column size="one-third" position="first"]B'ria Wagner - Women's Track _ Field

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The men’s and women’s track & field teams made their swansong year one to remember.

The women took fourth in the conference tournament. B’ria Wagner won both the triple jump and the long jump while also earning All-American honors in the long jump.

Markie Abbott won the women’s high jump while Trayshanae Wright finished in the top six in both the 200 meter and 400 meter dashes.

Five men earned All-American honors: Jonathan Cook, Marcus Johnson, Jeremy Wilchcombe and Jeremy Willis in the 4x100 meter relay.  Wilchcombe was also an All-American in the triple jump.

ONWARD UPWARD

All of our Texas student-athletes found colleges or universities where they can continue their education and competitive play.  “I will always cherish my time at Northwood,” said pitcher Cody Faulkner. “I can’t imagine having a better college experience.” And experience, as the saying goes, really is the best teacher.

- Jack Allday

Athletics In Action Texas - Spring '14

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  [symple_column size="one-third" position="first"]wagner[/symple_column]B’ria Wagner

When the All-Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) released its list of recipients in March, the Knights were proud to be represented by B’ria Wagner, a San Antonio native. She received the Honorable Mention Honors due to her efforts and success both on and off the court.

As a freshman, she had to work diligently in order to stick out of the crowd and not be viewed as just another player. She always showed intensity on the court and led the Knights in assists (108 total) and steals. She also averaged 11 points per game, 4 rebounds per game, and almost 4 assists per game as well. B’ria shined on the defense end all season for the Knights. She displayed incredible energy and enthusiasm, ending the season with a total of 42 steals throughout the year.

[symple_column size="one-third" position="first"]dale[/symple_column]BJ Dale

BJ Dale represented the Knights in the All-Sooner Athletic Conference by receiving Honorable Mention Honors for his strength offensively, and for his great emphasis on teamwork.

Dale’s work ethic on the court never failed to inspire his fellow teammates. He was constantly tallying double digit point total, especially in the first 16 games of the season. He averaged 15.5 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, and 2 assists per game throughout the season.

A Lavon, Texas native, Dale led the knights as the lone senior on this year’s squad, constantly displaying his maturity and direction. He provided great leadership on and off the court for his entire team. Dale also produced many of the highlight reel plays and never hesitated when a big shot was needed.

[symple_column size="one-third" position="first"]pleasant[/symple_column]Everrett Pleasant

The Knights were very proud to hear when the All-Sooner Athletic Conference Awards were announced that Everrett Pleasant headlined the awards. Pleasant received the 2nd team All-SAC Honors for his relentless efforts on both ends of the court, as well as his scoring abilities despite being double-teamed throughout most of the season.

The sophomore, a Houston, Texas native, tallied a total of 14 double-doubles and scored double digits in every conference game this season. Pleasant averaged 20.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, and added 2 blocks per game.

Everrett Pleasant was an example to be admired by his fellow teammates, and made several amazing plays that excited his team, and brought the entire audience to their feet. He still has a couple of years playing for the Knights, and the team will continue to grow with Pleasant’s experience.

- Jack Allday

 

 

 

Northwood University Welcomed Into Sooner Athletic Conference

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John Hudson, who has served as commissioner of the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) since its founding 35 years ago, was a guest at Northwood Texas campus’ opening convocation. Hudson welcomed Northwood to the SAC and pointed out that academics are as important as athletics in the SAC.

“Our conference is highly respected athletically—we have won a national championship in just about every sport the NAIA plays,” Hudson said, “But we’re just as proud of the academic accomplishments of our SAC athletes. Each of our schools go to great lengths to recruit and support youngsters who can also excel in the classroom.”

In a brief interview after the convocation, Hudson, who is the longest serving commissioner of any U.S. league, said that the two major changes he has witnessed in the last few decades are the impact of money and the expansion of the number of sports played.

“When some NCAA schools generate athletic revenues reaching $100 million annually, and others operate on a fraction of that, something has to give,” Hudson continued, “It seems like there will have to be some kind of separation.”

The number and variety of sports being played at the college level has come as something of a surprise to Hudson. “Title IX has had something to do with it,” he says, “but I think it’s also just a sign of the times. Athletics has become an important part of American life, with youngsters starting to play organized sports at an early age. And I think all these kids playing all these sports is a good thing.”

“Administering so many sports is a challenge for athletics directors as well as conference commissioners,” Hudson said.

“And of course smaller schools, like most of those in the NAIA, use sports as an enrollment driver,” he added. “So whether you’re a big school like the University of Texas or a small one like Northwood, athletics is extremely important. And many of the challenges faced by colleges and universities both large and small are identical.” All of which, Hudson remarked, makes this “an exciting time to be involved with athletics at the collegiate level.”

Northwood President and CEO Keith Pretty was the featured speaker at opening convocation. Texas campus President, Dr. Kevin Fegan, also spoke. Northwood began this fall in the Sooner Athletic Conference after many years in the Red River Athletic Conference. Accompanying Northwood to the SAC are Texas Wesleyan University (Ft. Worth), and Southwestern Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie). The addition of the three Metroplex institutions gives the SAC a solid presence in North Texas.

- Monica Hurtado

Several Knights to Play at Next Level

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Knights shortstop Elvin Rodriguez, a senior from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, was named to the NAIA All-American team. He was only the second Northwood player to be selected a first team All-American. Rodriguez was also named Red River Athletic Conference Player of the Year. In July Rodriguez received an additional honor when he was named the (Dallas-Ft. Worth) Metroplex Collegiate Player of the Year by the DFW Hall-Ruggles Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

“This was a wonderful year—a great way to wind up my career at Northwood,” Rodriguez said. “I loved being here, and playing here.” With his collegiate playing days completed, Rodriguez signed with the Rockford Aviators, a Frontier League team located in Rockford, Illinois. Rodriguez joins teammates Colton Reavis (Tampa Bay Rays), Roman Gomez (Ft. Worth Cats) and Logan Brumley (also with the Cats) at the professional level.

Adam Humes also signed to play professionally. But the McAllen Thunder, who signed Humes, subsequently decided not to play this season. - Jack Allday

Trip to NAIA World Series Wraps Up Banner year For Knights

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Lewiston, Idaho, probably wouldn’t make most college students’ top ten list of places in the United States they want to visit. But last May, when 25 Northwood Texas baseball players and their coaches thought about it, Lewiston was exactly where they wanted to be. In fact, this town of 35,000 on the Snake River had been on their mind since they had reported to campus back in the fall. Lewiston, after all, is the host each year for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) World Series. “We had some lofty goals for this team,” Head Coach Jeremy Kennedy says.  “Northwood has never made it all the way to the World Series, and we knew early on this team had a chance to be special. They were talented, had a good work ethic, and strong leadership. No question about it – they deserved to be one of only ten teams that made it to Lewiston.”

Not only did the Knights make it to the World Series, one of their pitchers threw a no-hitter that was just about the only thing anyone talked about for much of the week. Lefty Cody Faulkner threw 96 pitches, struck out one and walked two Sterling (Kansas) Warriors in facing just 28 batters. The win moved the gritty Irving, Texas southpaw to 7-2 on the season.

Faulkner’s gem was only the fourth no-hitter in the 57-year history of the NAIA World Series, and the first since 1992. Northwood was finally eliminated when host Lewis & Cark got the best of them before an standing room only crowd of 5,000. “We liked Lewiston just fine,” said Faulkner, who will return to the mound for the Knights next season. “We can’t wait to get back.” At season’s end, Northwood was ranked sixth nationally in the NAIA poll. - Jack Allday

Soccer Coaches Say Metroplex Is Just Their Size…from Black Sea to Cedar Hill

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The Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, with its six million or so residents, is just the right size for Northwood’s two soccer coaches. After all, Nasko Arsov and Krasi Kolarov were born and raised in Bulgaria, a Southeastern European country with a population only a million or so larger than the bustling area that is home to the Northwood Texas campus.

Arsov, men’s coach, and Kolarov, women’s coach, both came to America after enjoying successful soccer careers in Bulgaria.  Both played professionally there, and Arsov later played one season of indoor soccer in America for the Tupelo (Mississippi) Hound Dogs.

“It’s a long way from Bulgaria to Mississippi,” Arsov says.  “Blagoevgrad (Arsov’s home town) is in a valley between two mountains, not far from Greece.  There are no mountains that I know of anywhere near Tupelo.”

In Bulgaria Arsov was a midfielder for FC Marek, playing professionally from 1984 until 1986.  After completing his professional career in Bulgaria, Arsov moved to Dallas, where he began coaching youth soccer in North Texas.  In 2000 Arsov was hired to start the women’s soccer program at Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas about 60 miles south of Dallas.  “In 2006 I started the men’s program at Hill as well,” he says, “and coached both men’s and women’s teams there until coming to Northwood in 2011.”

Compared to Arsov, Kolarov is a “city boy.”  “I’m from Varna, on the Black Sea,” Kolarov explains.  “It is a city of about a million people, and is second in size only to the capital, Sofia.” Kolarov adds that “less than 100,000 live in Nasko’s town.”

Kolarov’s father, a pastry chef, moved the family to Corsicana, a town about 50 miles south of Dallas, in 1992.  “Dad took a job with the world’s largest producer of fruit cakes,” he says, “and I enrolled at Corsicana High School.” And lucky for the small high school’s soccer program he did.  A three-year starter at Corsicana, Kolarov became the leading scorer in Texas high school soccer.  One season he scored 26 goals and played in the state’s all-star game.  

After graduating from high school, Kolarov studied for two years at Hill College, then moved back to Bulgaria to play professional soccer for FC Spartak.  When he turned 25 Kolarov decided to hang up his cleats and return to America.  He finished his undergraduate work before earning a master’s degree from Dallas Baptist University.  He coached both the men’s and women’s soccer teams at LSU Shreveport before leaving Louisiana to head Northwood’s women’s program in 2010.

“Krasi and I have similar coaching philosophies,” Arsov says.  “We both try hard to get to really know our players and get the most out of them.”

Kolarov says tactically he believes in “possession with quick transition.”  “That just means we should always be in position to maintain possession of the ball,” he says.  “And whenever we change from offense to defense, or vice-versa, we need to do so quickly and intelligently.”

The philosophy seems to be working.  Last year’s women’s team went 12-5-1 before losing in the semi-final round of the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) tournament.  All three top women’s honors in the conference—Best Offensive Player, Best Defensive Player, and Newcomer of the Year—went to members of Kolarov’s team.

Arsov’s men’s team went 9-9-2 and also lost in the semi-final round, 2-1 to eventual tournament winner Our Lady of the Lake University.

“The kids are learning our system and we will be better next year,” Kolarov says.  Arsov adds that both teams are already having some recruiting success.

“We will keep improving,” Kolarov adds, “and we’ll be ready for our entry next year into the tough Sooner Athletic Conference.”  Northwood announced last fall that this would be its final year in the RRAC, and that it had accepted an invitation to join the SAC.

“Krasi and I both love coaching at Northwood,” Arsov concludes.  “The environment here, with all the trees and wildlife, makes this a wonderful place to come to work each morning.  Plus the people are all so friendly.”

Kolarov adds that the Knights’ soccer field, which he and Arsov have worked to improve since the day they arrived on campus, is “first rate.”  “And the kids are great,” he adds.  “They are here to play soccer, but also to get an education.”

And how about the Metroplex—among the half dozen largest metropolitan areas in the United States—is it too big for them?

Not at all, they answer, reminding the interviewer that “size-wise, this is about like being back in Bulgaria.”  

- Jack Allday