Harding earns No. 5, No. 9 rankings

SEARCY – The Harding men’s tennis team will enter 2014 ranked No. 5 in the NCAA Division II Central Region while the Lady Bisons are ranked No. 9. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association, which released its fall rankings Wednesday.

Three Harding singles players and one doubles team were also ranked regionally.

Junior Jon Mark Rowden is ranked 10th, freshman Mathaus Spiering is 18th, and junior Caleb McReynolds is 19th. Rowden and Spiering went 7-1 in singles matches in the fall, and McReynolds was 6-2.

Spiering and freshman Yan Le Mat are the No. 5-ranked doubles team. The duo was 3-2 in the fall.

Harding senior Benyapa Phumtip is ranked No. 9 in the region in singles play. Phumtip had a 6-3 singles record in fall matches, including 2-0 in Harding’s dual matches.

The Central Region is made up of teams from the Great American Conference, the MIAA, and the Northern Sun Conference and sends only four teams to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Southwest Baptist is the women’s preseason favorite in the Central Region, followed by Northeastern State and Augustana. Harding is one of two GAC teams ranked regionally with Arkansas Tech in the rankings at No. 6.

In the men’s division, Northwest Missouri State is ranked No. 1 in the region, followed by Ouachita Baptist, Southwest Baptist, and Washburn.


Hilltoppers stun Lady Lions, end streak

FORT SMITH — The streak is over.

Three players collected double-digit kills for St. Edward’s on Thursday night as the Hilltoppers stunned the UAFS Lady Lions in four sets in Heartland Conference volleyball action at the Recreation and Convocation Center in Austin, Texas.

St. Edward’s, which has been UAFS’ rival since the Lady Lions joined the league in the fall of 2009, won the match 25-19, 16-25, 25-18, 25-20 to force a split in the regular-season series and give UAFS its first conference loss.

The loss ended the Lady Lions’ 38-match winning streak against conference opponents.

That streak included four postseason matches against conference foes – two wins in the 2011 conference tournament and two wins in the 2012 conference tournament.

UAFS (19-7, 14-1) already has clinched at least a share of the conference title and has secured the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which it will host at the Stubblefield Center on Nov. 22-23.

Senior outside hitter Jordan Pickett, who sat out Tuesday’s sweep of Missouri Southern because of injury, returned to the UAFS lineup and led the Lady Lions with 14 kills. She was the only Lady Lion with double-digit kills. Seven Lady Lions, however, had at least one kill.

Senior setter Stephanie Brock and freshman Maja Krstonosic had 31 and 12 assists, respectively, for UAFS. Senior middle hitter Jordan Erz and senior defensive specialist Taylor Jordan each served two of UAFS’ five aces.

UAFS also collected 92 digs with freshman libero Olivia Navato leading a quartet of Lady Lions with double-digit digs with 30.

UAFS also had five total blocks.

UAFS will finish its two-match, three-day road trip through the Lone Star State at noon on Saturday against McMurry at Abilene, Texas.

UALR’s Begic grabs academic accolade

LITTLE ROCK – Junior Edina Begic is known for her on-the-court prowess, but today she can add an honor for her work in the classroom.

Begic garnered Academic All-District honors. Begic was one of two Sun Belt Conference players honored, joining Troy’s Courtney Cohen.

Academically, Begic is majoring in international business and sports a 3.82 GPA. Athletically, she is third in the country with 5.33 kills per set. With 549 kills in 103 sets in 2013, Begic is 15 kills short of the single-season UALR record (564, Ivana Vracar, 2003).

UALR volleyball returns to action Friday night (Nov. 8) when it travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia State. First serve is set for 7 p.m.

Copeland reaches Academic All-District First Team

SEARCY – Senior defensive specialist Lisa Copeland was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District VII First Team on Thursday. It’s the first time she has received the award.

Copeland, a native of Huntsville, Ala., has a 3.92 GPA and is majoring in communication science and disorders. She leads the Lady Bisons defense, averaging 4.95 digs per set.

Copeland’s the first Harding player to receive the award since Emily Tate (2008-10) in 2010.


UCA’s Wilson joins Jerry Rice Award watch list

CONWAY — University of Central Arkansas freshman receiver/kick returner Jatavious Wilson was added to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List on Thursday.

Wilson, a 5-foot-9, 171-pounder from Bastrop, La., is UCA’s second-leading receiver with 35 receptions for 380 yards and two touchdowns. He is second in the Southland Conference and second in the nation in kickoff returns with a 35.5-yard average. He has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, a 93-yarder against Incarnate Word in his first career game and an 85-yarder against Stephen F. Austin.

Wilson also has rushed for 92 yards on just seven carries this season, an average of 13.1 yards per rush. Wilson is averaging 106.6 all-purpose yards per game and broke a 20-year-old school record with 314 all-purpose yards against SFA.

The Jerry Rice Award, now in its third season, honors the top first-year player in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), whether a true freshman or redshirt freshman.

Regional team lists Henderson State’s Hays, Stigger

Henderson State’s Kelton Hays and Keaton Stigger have been named to the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-Super Region 3 football team.

A Preseason All-America selection, Stigger is ranked as one of the top five linebackers in the country according to

A two-time first-team All-GAC selection and a 2012 All-American, Stigger, a graduate student in sports administration with a 3.44 grade point average, has been named Beyond Sports Network National Player of the Week twice this season.

The linebacker from Collierville, Tenn., recorded 15 tackles against Harding and had 14 tackles and two rushing touchdowns against East Central.

Also a short yardage threat on offense, Stigger has carried the ball 16 times this season and has scored 10 touchdowns including four touchdowns against Southeastern Oklahoma.

During his three years at Henderson Stigger has collected over 270 tackles and 24 tackles for lost yardage.

Hays was ranked as one of the top 10 centers in the country by

Earlier this season he was part of an offensive line that was named the National Offensive Line of the Week by Beyond College Sports Network after Henderson totaled 855 yards of offense against Southern Nazarene.

A 2012 Third-Team Don Hansen All-American selection, Hays has a 3.64 grade point average in finance.

Also named to the Daktronics All-Region Second-Team and Don Hansen’s All-Region Team, Hays earned First-Team All-GAC honors last year.

In his four years at Henderson, the Reddies have compiled a 32-9 record. Hays has been part of three conference championships and part of an offensive line that has averaged 41.1 points and 463.5 yards per game.

The senior from Jonesville, La., has been a member of the GAC All-Academic Team the past two years, and was a member of the All-GSC Academic Honor Roll in 2010.


Cassar earns honors

CONWAY — Fresh off a convincing individual victry at the 2013 Southland Conference Cross Country Championships, University of Central Arkansas freshman Brooke Cassar was named the SLC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year and the SLC Freshman of the Year on Thursday.

Cassar, from Woonona, New South Wales, Australia, won the SLC championships by 12 seconds in a school-record time of 20:42.1 for the 6K distance. Cassar is only the second student-athlete in SLC history to be named both athlete and freshman of the year in cross country.

Cassar was a first-team All-SLC selection, along with teammate Erika Setzler of Conway. Senior Kayla Nehus of Little Rock was named an honorable mention.

UCA will send seven runners to the NCAA South Central Regional next week in Waco, Texas.


Suns open season against Central Baptist

RUSSELLVILLE — The Arkansas Tech women’s basketball team will open the regular season this Fridayat 6:30 p.m. with a home match at Tucker Coliseum against Central Baptist.

The Golden Suns finished the 2012-13 season 23-7 overall and 17-3 in conference. They won the conference championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament where they fell in the first round to Minnesota State-Mankato.

Back on the hardwood this season are sophomore forward Caroline Eubanks, one of the leading rebounders for the Golden Suns averaging 6.3 per game, sophomore guard Cara Neighbors, who averaged 4.7 points and 1.6 rebounds per game, and junior forward Jae Tucker.

Arkansas Tech’s website will offer a live video feed and stats during the game.

Tech begins season at classic

RUSSELLVILLE — The Arkansas Tech men’s basketball team will open the regular season this Friday at the Southwest Baptist Classic in Bolivar, Mo., when they face Lincoln University followed by Southwest Baptist on Saturday.

Tip-off against Lincoln is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. while tip-off for Southwest Baptist is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The Wonder Boys are coming off an 18-12 (13-7 GAC) record last season where they finished Great American Conference regular season co-champions. The team is returning eight players from last season including the GAC Defensive Player of the Year in senior Charles Mells.

Listen to this weekend’s games on live radio broadcast or follow along on the live stats feature from Southwest Baptist’s website. The Friday night game against Lincoln will be broadcasted online and can be accessed through Tech’s athletic website, while Saturday night’s game against Southwest Baptist will also be online and on 100.9-FM KWKK.