Lots going on in the world of App State. As the Chancellor search secretly works its way to the climax, the athletics are a-happening in many different ways. Basketball goes on in different and unique ways, diamond sports are on the horizon, fax machines are warming up for signing day and spring sports and sort-of blooming. At least it’s 50 degrees warmer than it has been, even though it’s still 45. It’s the sensation of the vibration from the App Nation. Yes you can steal that.

Regression to Imperfection – Men’s Hoops Falls Flat Again

After a week off and with a two-game winning streak in tow, the Apps strolled down 421 and I-40 to the Greensboro Coliseum looking to continue their rise against UNC-Gee last Thursday. The Spartans were on a three-game losing streak so it was all about momentum. After losing to the Gee at home a few weeks earlier, the Mountaineers were looking to bathe in Spartan blood on their sort-of home court.

The opening stanza saw the force and might of the App Empire assert their dominance on the hapless Spartans. Behind the effort of Tommy Spagnolo, the shots of the Mountaineer blotted out of the sun and bewildered the home-standing onlookers. The margin was 34-21 and to some, it was very possible Wes Miller’s squad would have to live to fight another day.

Then out of the blue (and gold), a young Spartan raised his chin and chose to fight in the shade.

A Tire-Iron Would Have Been Helpful.

Jordan Potts came off the bench in the second half and despite an App lead that had grown to as many as 18 points, the young Spartan unsheathed his shooting arm and went to work. In a span of nine minutes, the 18-point lead was erased. However there was still nine minutes left and despite Potts having scored all his points, his teammates were rallied and continued to fight. There was some ugly basketball as each team missed a boatload of shots, but the Apps missed more shots, including many layups and UNCG took the lead late and held on for the 66-61 victory. The Spartans victory was complete and the stunned Mountaineers were sent back up the mountain.

Amazingly, this isn’t the worst 18-point blown lead in the Capel Era. The Apps were up 18 with just above six minutes left last year in the Roundhouse and lost in overtime. Then you have the 10-point lead at Mississippi State in Capel’s first year with two minutes left that ended in a loss. You can go to the 10-point lead with 10 minutes left in Asheville two years ago over UNCG than ended in a 10-point loss. And that’s all without research. Moral is that no Capel lead is ever safe. And every time, it stings more and more.

Then you have the postgame interview. Normally this doesn’t make news, but the first thing Capel says after that game is that “the team gave a good effort”. A 23-point swing in the final 18 minutes and that was a good effort according to Capel.

Spagnolo got his career highs with 15 points and 17 rebounds. Frank Eaves came off the bench for 10 points and Michael Obacha grabbed 10 rebounds to keep the stat-jockeys happy. Tab Hamilton and Mike Neal shot a combined 5-25 from the field. Last-game hero Mike Kobani only had four points and two rebounds due to massive foul trouble. Looking at that, it’s amazing this team got an 18-point lead in the first place.

Normally this would be a crushing loss, but this team can rebound. It doesn’t make sense, but much else doesn’t as well. Logic is crazy-world would say that after this game, the Mountaineers would return home and take care of Elon on Saturday.

Not With That Combo.

With a crowd of just over 2,000 people in attendance, no doubt boosted by the 1978-79 team reunion, the Apps started off the game the same way they ended the last game. Elon jumped out to a 17-8 lead in the first 12 minutes. The good news is that the Phoenix had built big leads in Boone before and most-always gave them up.

Not this time though. The Phoenix kept pouring it on to as many as 15 in the first half before going into the half with a 45-34 lead. At least the Apps were shooting decently and the thought was that Elon would stop hitting almost every shot. After the Frisbee Dogs melted everyone’s hearts, the teams returned to harden those hearts. For the first five minutes of the second half, the lead was chipped and chipped. But out of nowhere, the tidal wave came. The lead went from 7 to 17 with 12 minutes left. Again, it was chipped and chipped, but whenever the lead got down to 8-10 points, there was a big shot or well-executed play to push it back out again. It got down to seven points with under a minute left, but the Phoenix made their free-throws and despite playing to the buzzer, Elon claimed a 83-76 victory, their first Boone win since 2007.

The loss drops the Apps to 6-15 overall, 2-15 vs D1 teams and 2-6 in the SoCon, 9th place.

The good news is that The Citadel is back on the schedule! The still-winless-in-the-SoCon Citdogs come to Boone on Thursday for a 7 pm tip. The strategy here should be simple. Release the Kobani! A loss would be catastrophic, unbelievable, biblical and torrential. So you might want an umbrella if you don’t have one. You never know when El Citadel’s one good player might go off.

Then on Saturday it’s a return to the road for the last regular meeting of the Apps and Western forever and ever. The Cats are looking good this year by SoCon standards, currently 12-11 overall, 9-11 vs D1 teams and 5-3 in the SoCon. WCU boasts a one-loss home record in the Ramsey Center at the hands of Davidson. It’s a big game for the Cats because for one it’s an App team visiting Western and with the whole Sun Belt move, it’s very very very very important for the Purple Cats to win.

And I’m sure something will be said about a free throw, but unless Western schedules Winston-Salem State, it’s somewhat outdated. So really, it’s perfect for Cullowhee since they still live vicariously a generation ago.

Maybe They Can Borrow App’s Tarps After This Year?

It Doesn’t Matter How You Win – Breakthrough Weekend For Ladies’ Hoops.

After the disappointing loss to Georgia Southern, the App ladies returned to the Holmes Center hardwood for a stand against the Upstate. First up was Wofford, whom the Apps defeated by 20 points in Sparkle City this season. This game was not like that at all. Lots of adjectives and verbs that would normally describe the men could also be used here, but the good news was that Wofford was also not good so at halftime the score was 19-19. In a NCAA Division I college Basketball game.

The second half commenced and despite once again playing in a building of melted hearts courtesy of the Frisbee Dogs, the game resumed as bad as it was. Scoring picked up a little bit but it stayed way too close for comfort. Despite the flat performance, the Apps benefited from timely shooting and Wofford missing every single three-point attempt and snatched a 61-54 victory. It was ugly, but as long as it’s a win….

I for one blame the grey jerseys.

Stat-wise, Maryah Sydnor got the lion’s share. 20 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. KeKe Cooper came off the bench for 14 points and nine boards. Joi Jones had eight points while Katie Mallow got seven, most of those in crunch time.

Anyway, moving forward to Monday, the team needed to step up against better competition in Furman, who is also currently in the mid-tier quagmire of the SoCon. Immediately the quality of play was much better than two days before. The game went back and forth with some good shooting, active hands and good decision-making. With the exception of Chattanooga it was the best-played home game of the season.

At halftime the score was 34-31 Apps. Soon after the Mountaineers tried to pull away, getting out to seven points at various points but the Paladins showed their class by staying in the game. In the end, Furman missed several chances to pull it close or even take the lead and with some free throws, the Apps took the 75-70 decision.

Cooper led the Apps with 16 points before fouling out. Bria Huffman gained 15 points and both Mallow and Sydnor had 14 points and three assists.

The squad now is at 9-12 overall, 8-12 vs D1 teams and 6-5 in the SoCon, good enough for a third-place tie with Furman. This weekend has a big test for the team as they head west. Saturday features a 2:00 pm tipoff in the Roundhouse against league leaders Chattanooga. Monday has the team heading south to Birmingham to play Samford at 7:00 pm. Two wins here would be monumental and give the team an inside edge to getting not only a bye but perhaps a second-place finish. 

This weekend marks the last regular-season conference meeting between the Apps and the Lady Mocs. The rivalry is a new one as it was the Apps who knocked UTC off their perch three years ago and let’s be fair, Darcie isn’t viewed well by the Nooga fans. While UTC will be the heavy favorite, a performance like the overtime loss not that long ago would be frustrating for the home crowd and an upset would perhaps be some sort of vindication for the Ashlyn Dewart controversy. Plus anything that ruffles the white hairs in the River City is a win for the Mountain Folk.

Road To Fax-A-Mania – The Last End Is Here

By the time you’re reading this, college coaches all across America will be whispering sweet nothings to potential recruits they might not even say to their wives. Then they will wake up early Wednesday morning with the joy in their hearts only akin to their own kids on Christmas. They can’t get to the office fast enough. By the time the sun rises, every coach for every team will be on their fourth cup of coffee, nervously pacing down the hall waiting for the sound of the fax machine in that one room down the hall. For the FBS programs, TV’s will be turned to ESPNU, watching the landscape change every five minutes. It is the day the power shifts. The recruits, who hold the hopes and dreams of high-paid coaches in their hands, will sign that control away in exchange for a free education as long as they get more points on the scoreboard than the other school.

National Signing Day is something straight out of a Orwell novel. It’s bizarre as it is American. College football coaching staffs have logged countless rental car and charter plane miles, liberally used a lot of their anytime minutes and delivered numerous oratory performances that could make a hardened Broadway veteran emotional. It is Christmas and New Year wrapped together. All centered around fax machines and promises.

For Appalachian State, this year is special. It’s the first true FBS class. With the increase in scholarships from 63 to 85, this class will be the biggest in school history. But with the added excitement comes added pressure.

Going against FCS schools for years, App State had the advantage of the top facilities, top on-field results and most NFL products of the small pond. This year changed everything. The pond is now an ocean with rip currents and rogue waves. The Attack Era has been working on this catch since last spring. The results so far show an impressive group. However the added pressure comes along with recruits who are being looked at by power conference teams. Some of whom enjoy the attention and string several fanbases along for weeks and months. App State is no different.

One good thing about FCS was that the class was usually delivered with a bow on top by second breakfast. Now in the big bad FBS, recruits will pick in front of their high schools and families. WR Shaedon Meadors will choose between App State and Rutgers at 3:45 pm EST. Another WR, Matthew Eaton, will pick between App State, Temple and Arkansas State sometime Wednesday. Eaton especially has played the marionette strings of several fanbases over the last few weeks, committing and decommitting multiple times. Then you have Kiante Walton who flipped from App State from Georgia Southern then flipped to Indiana this past weekend.

At this point, posting a list would be useless. There are currently 20 commits plus the five early-enrollees. Most of those 20 would seem solid, however those last couple are going to cause fits all day Wednesday until that fax comes through.

Play Ball! – App State Softball Preview

Is is that time already? For the defending SoCon Regular Season Champs, it’s that time to pack up and head out west to start the defense of their crown. Knowing that Boone in February is about as ideal conditions for a game of softball as Antarctica, the ladies will head on the road and tournament their faces off for the first month of the season.

In her fourth season in charge, head coach Shae Wesley is coming off a season where she led an App team composed mostly of underclassmen to the best home record in NCAA softball of 18-0. For a team that plays their home games in a subtropical highland where recruiting can be a hindrance due to the lack of warm weather, that’s amazing. If there was one thing to work on going forward, it was the road/neutral site record of 13-22, which lead to the team’s exit from the SoCon Tournament.

The good news is that the team returns 15 letter-winners from the 2013 squad, only losing two players in Meghan Smith and Allie Cashion. The bad news is that Cashion and Smith accounted for a great deal of the team’s offensive productivity and timely hitting. The top returning hitters are catcher Sarah Warnock and 1B Lindsay Loudermilk so those two will be depended on to become the feared hitters.

The entire pitching staff returns with key weekend starters Alissa Schoelkopf and Shivaun Landeros (both of which I will misspell at least once this year) plus extra starter Katherine Johnson. Joining that staff is freshman Sydney Laws from Brownwood, Texas.

The defense will have to fill in a new started in both the infield and outfield this year. There’s plenty of returning experience in the outfield, however the infield isn’t a plentiful. Out of the six true freshman, four are listed as infielders. First base would seem secure with Loudermilk, but the rest of the infield looks to be the most competitive.

Looking at the schedule, there will be a lot of time for team bonding and figuring out roles as the squad heads to Tempe, Arizona this week for the Kajikawa Classic this Thursday the 6th through Sunday the 9th. Next weekend it’s the Buffalo Wild Wilds Spartan Invitational in Spartanburg. Then you have the Memphis Tournament in week three, the Charleston Southern tournament in week four and the Chanticleer Classic in Conway, SC for week five. Since pitching a softball is a natural arm motion and thus pitchers can throw several games in a row, the games will come fast and heavy. 25 games in the first five weeks in continuous tournament formats means those games are condensed into 16 playing days. The App State faculty should jump on softball tournament being a root cause of athletes missing classes if they’re so gung-ho on that issue.

Week six sees conference play begin with a doozy as usual conference power Chattanooga visits Boone. With CofC’s departure, there are only eight SoCon teams so only 21 conference games so games mean much more. The schedule is kind to the Apps this year as the rest of the top half of the predicted conference finish, Georgia Southern, UNCG and Chattanooga, all have to visit Boone this year. With an uneven amount of conference series, the Apps also have fortune in that they host four of the series while travel to only three SoCon venues.

The team was picked to finished third in the eight-team league. Georgia Southern was the near unanimous favorite to win with UNCG being second and the Apps not that far behind in third with a first-place vote from GS’s coach. Loudermilk was first-team all-SoCon while Warnock was second-team. That means the Apps have the fewest members among the top five. No matter, it was the same story last year and that turned out half-decent because softball is a team sport.

So this season, in a sport that has little resemblance to its name, tucked in a corner towered by the Indoor Practice Facility, the App State Mountaineers will do all the cliches associated with baseball, only with a bit more dirt, a more colorful ball and much more chants and hair ribbons. All with the goal of not only a regular season title, but a tournament title and a first-ever trip to the NCAA’s as the prize.

With a conference move to a league that boasts a Regional host in South Alabama and a Super Regional squad in UL-Lafayette next year, any boost of confidence will be appreciated.

T-Notes

-Chancellor Survey Answers are now public knowledge. Grab a drink and a Snickers before starting. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version and the long-form version. You have some lunatic fringe on there, but there are a lot of good viewpoints on there. One theme is that the faculty is not happy with the administration, but what else is new? That’s what happens when you have a College of Business dean become Chancellor as Peacock was in 2004.

-Wrestling took to the mat with almost half a regular squad on the road at nationally ranked UTC. With two forfeits already given up, there was too much for the Apps to overcome and the team fell 35-8. The only winners on the day were Vit Pasone (125 lbs) by tech fall and Jake Smith (141 lbs) by decision. It’s been a rough season beset by injuries and a young squad at the heavier weight classes. Now at 4-8 in dual meets and 1-3 in the Socon, the Apps return to Varsity this Friday the 7th to take on SoCon foe VMI starting at 7:00 pm.

-Track and Field continued their Indoor Season this past weekend at the Hilton Garden Invitational down in Winston-Salem. The top App male finisher was Kyle McFoy, who claimed third in the 3,000 meters while the best App females were Makayla Roten in the high jump and Briana Tate in the weight throw as both finished second. The action comes to Boone this weekend as the squads host the Mountaineer Open all-day Friday and Saturday at the Holmes Center.

-Men’s Tennis broke through in their first home match of the season, dispatching Lees-McRae 7-0 in short order. The team now stands at 1-1 and returns to the hard court in two weeks as they host UNC-Asheville on Sunday the 16th at 1:00 pm.

-Ladies Tennis starter their home season on Wednesday the 5th as they take on UNC-Asheville at 3:00 pm.

-As was broken yesterday, the future deathmatch of our time was set. App State versus UNC Charlotte in football. The bad news is that the wait will be four-plus years. The news was broken midday Monday as the first meeting will be at Jerry Richardson Stadium on September 8th, 2018 and at Kidd-Brewer Stadium on September 7th, 2019, both are Saturdays. The meaning of these games are significant. This could develop into quite the regional rivalry as fans have already developed a distaste for each other.

-If you think App State should have stayed in the SoCon, check out the 2014 football schedules for Western Carolina, The Citadel and Furman.

-Saturday, February 15th is not only Basketball Senior Day and a Super Saturday Doubleheader, but it’s also the special Play 4 Kay Day. This is where basketball teams across the country play and raise money for cancer research in the name of longtime NC State head coach Kay Yow. For App State Ladies tip at 1:30 pm versus UNCG and the men are at 4:30 against Wofford.

-Baseball comes back next week! Yay! Preview will be here next week plus a lot of mean stuff regarding the entire state of Arkansas from Woo Pig Sooie to Bill Clinton.