It is another new school year at UCA and we are now counting down the hours until kickoff for UCA football 2011. Last season, UCA narrowly missed out on the opportunity to advance to post-season tournaments, but this season could see the chance for the Bears to make that feat feasible.
Several factors play into this and here are just a few of them; First, defense is looking solid. If you watched any game last season, you saw some impressive defensive efforts. Last season, the Bears had an impressive 17 interceptions for a total of 295 yards gained, compared to opponents who only had nine interceptions against the Bears for 147 yards. Six of those 17 interceptions came from the up-and-coming star of the Bears defense, sophomore safety Jestin Love. Love is a huge playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and if the Bears are expecting to have a big season, expect to see him make some big plays again this year. The Bears were tied with opponents in fumbling, however, the defense and opponents defense forcing and recovering 13 fumbles.
When talking about defense, though, you have to mention senior linebacker Frank Newsome. Newsome had 42 solo tackles last season with 58 assisted tackles. He is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line, and even though he won’t be joined by Markell Carter this season, Newsome is going to be an outstanding addition and leader for the Bears defense. On a side note, I would also like to wish Carter the best of luck with the New England Patriots. I know everyone in Bear Country will be watching to see his progression with the Pats.
Another major factor for the Bears this season, and future seasons to come, is successful recruiting. When talking with coach Clint Conque last spring, he always mentioned how extremely thrilled he was to add the players to his program from the 2011 recruiting class. He also liked to mention just how talented they were. Well, Conque can be even more proud of the new players he has brought in with an impressive lineup of mid-summer recruits.
To start, freshman kicker Eddie Camara adds depth to the Bears kicking lineup and takes some of the stress and burden away from junior kicker Kevin Buford.
Camara’s records at Cedar Hill High School in Texas are impressive with 50 PATs and 15 field goals in his senior year. He is transferring from the University of Arkansas.
Another exciting new addition is junior receiver Jesse Grandy from Ole Miss. He had an impressive two years there with coach Houston Nutt’s program and hopefully Conque and the Bears can help him continue with that success, and I’m sure he is looking forward to making the Bears even more successful, as well.
While there are certainly more things I could discuss, this is a good teaser of the good things to come this season. Kickoff against Henderson is tomorrow at 7 p.m. and UCA and the entire city of Conway need to be there to watch the start of another great year of football.
• Going into the fall semester, you have to mention and talk about the Sugar Bears volleyball team. For several seasons now, the Sugar Bears have been the team to beat in the Southland and hopefully that trend continues in 2011. Last season was both triumphant and heart-breaking for the team as they missed the opportunity to go to the NCAA tournament by mere points in the finals match of the Southland Tournament.
This season means some change for the Sugar Bears, but hopefully not too much. Former coach Steven McRoberts was hired on to coach Tulsa’s volleyball program and his former assistant, David McFatrich, is now heading the Sugar Bears. I have a sneaking suspicion that McFatrich has the philosophy of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” and I can understand why everyone should believe that about the Sugar Bears. With a 28-8 record last season and going undefeated at home, last season is going to be hard to top. That is unless the 2011 Sugar Bears do what they could not last season and that is to go back to the Southland Tournament and claim their spot in the NCAA 2011 Volleyball Tournament. To be perfectly honest, this goal is entirely reachable for this team. While they did lose arguably the greatest volleyball player to ever play at UCA, Chloe Smith, the team still has an enormous amount of experienced players who are more than capable of taking them all the way this year. Players like senior right side hitter Jessica Hays, junior middle blocker Taylor Hammonds, senior libero Cristin Curl and many others on the team who have all had impressive careers at UCA.
One notable standout from last season was sophomore setter Marissa Collins. Coming into the program as a freshman, she started during every single match and played every single set of last season as a freshman. I do not know of many incoming freshman athletes of any sport who can say that, but the Sugar Bears have two who can. Along with Collins, sophomore middle blocker Jessica Nagy also started and played in every single match and set of her freshman year.
Looking at senior leaders, you have to look toward Hays and Curl. Both had phenomenal years last year and you should expect nothing less this season.
This past weekend during the Sugar Bears tournament in Houston, Texas, Hays was named to the All-Tournament Team. During the tournament, Hays recorded 43 kills and 26 digs.
As for Curl, you can’t help but get fired up when you see the Sugar Bears defensive specialist sacrfice herself by diving into the stands just to get a dig and keep the ball alive. If you went to any match last season you know what I’m talking about. It is exciting to see any player make big plays like she does and for her senior year, I hope she goes out with a bang.
Not only is this Sugar Bears team experienced but they are also young which is a deadly combination and will be for years to come. But before I get too far ahead of myself, back to focusing on the 2011 season. Unfortunately, unless you feel like traveling, no one from UCA will get to watch the team play until October when it has its first home match in the Prince Center on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
If anything from last season carried over to 2011, and I imagine a lot did, then expect to see the Prince Center packed to standing room only to hopefully watch the Sugar Bears go on another undefeated home streak in 2011. So when October rolls around we all know who is going to reign in the Prince Center.