Sunday, February 17, 2019

Accolades Pour In for ITA Indoor National Champion Dawgs

UGA Sports Communications

A day after the Georgia women’s tennis team grabbed the program’s sixth national championship by winning the 2019 ITA National Team Indoor Championship, recognition's came streaming in with SEC weekly honors, and new top-team rankings.

The Southeastern Conference weekly honors was a Dawg sweep with sophomore Katarina Jokic taking Player of the Week and Meg Kowalski earning Freshman of the Week. Both student athletes went 4-0 in singles and played together in doubles, going 2-0. It marks the first such SEC award for each student-athlete. Jokic earned two SEC Freshman of the Week honors last season.

Kowalski, of Chicago, clinched Georgia’s first round 4-2 win over then-No. 14 N.C. State, while Jokic, of Novi Grad, Bosnia, clinched the semifinal 4-3 victory versus the then No. 1-ranked and defending NCAA Champion Stanford team, and then clinched the 4-3 championship against then No. 3 North Carolina, the reigning ITA Indoors Champions.

Diving deeper, Kowalski, ranked No. 84 in ITA rankings, also grabbed the best singles and doubles ranked wins of her young career, beating Stanford’s No. 44 Emma Higuchi, a two-time All-Pac 12 junior, and teaming up with Jokic to down the Cardinal No. 21 duo of Lord/Madurawe. She is a perfect 11-0 including two of her three total ranked wins coming this past week.

Jokic, playing No. 1 singles and ranked No. 2 nationally, improved to 16-2 overall with all four three-set singles wins over top-25 ranked opponents this past week. Like Kowalski, she also notched the highest-ranked singles win of her career when she defeated Vanderbilt’s No. 3-ranked Fernanda Contreras, a three-time All-SEC senior.

Both national team rankings, ITA and Tennis Channel/USTA, boosted Georgia to the top of poll. In the ITA team rankings, the Dawgs rose from No. 5 to the top spot with the rest of the top-5 consisting of UNC, Stanford, Duke, and Vanderbilt. The last time Georgia was ranked No. 1 in ITA was May 1, 2014 – that year the Dawgs lost in the NCAA quarterfinals and finished No. 4 in the final rankings. The last time Georgia finished the season No. 1 was in 2000 after the Dawgs won their second NCAA title. The ITA will release the next additional of individual singles and doubles rankings on Feb. 19.

The Tennis Channel/USTA College Tennis Top 25 Rankings announced its new rankings in the morning with the Dawgs moving up three spots to the No. 1 position – the highest the Dawgs have been in the rankings’ three-year existence. The Tennis Channel and USTA became partners in mid-December of 2018 with an emphasis on enhancing collegiate tennis.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Trailblazing Hoops Team Celebrates 50th Reunion

UGA Sports Communications

Perhaps it’s only fitting that, as the University of Georgia celebrates its first century of coeducation this year, another group of female pioneers on campus gets a measure of recognition, as well.

The UGA women’s basketball team from 1968-69 will celebrate its 50th anniversary in events revolving around the current Lady Dawgs’ SEC clash with Florida on Sunday. Twelve members of the team, including head coach Jean Dowell, are gathering this weekend, some seeing each other for the first time since they played together.

The 1969 women’s team is significant for multiple reasons. Primarily, these ladies organized a team where before there was none. They weren’t the first women to play basketball at UGA; a team was thought to have existed on campus as early as the 1920s. But not before 1968 had a program operated with any tangible support from the University. Additionally, the team organized before the enactment of the Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which brought sweeping change to the landscape of collegiate athletics.

Dowell, a native North Carolinian and a graduate of Western Carolina University, came to Athens to pursue her Master’s degree. She had carved a similar path in Cullowhee, where she helped organized the first women’s team and excelled as a high-scoring guard for the Catamounts.

‘’In terms of starting the program at Georgia, I don’t know who I thought I was, going down there,’’ Dowell said. ‘’I was intent on that school starting a basketball program. So I talked to department chairs, the deans, and the vice presidents. It was a long process, but the gist of my argument was, ‘how could this great university, whose entire existence is based upon social justice and opportunity for all, exclude an entire gender from one of its programs that it spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on?’ One day I got a call to go to the Physical Education office. The department head told me, ‘Jean, we wanted you to be one of the first to know that the University has decided to sponsor women’s basketball, and we’d be very pleased if you would be the coach.’ It was a ‘Wow’ moment for me, but I will say that they interpreted the word ‘sponsor’ very loosely.’’

Indeed, the women that comprised that first team played their games in the Women’s P.E. gym, not the 5-year-old Georgia Coliseum. They paid for much of their own equipment and transportation to and from games. Still, the team played four games in that inaugural season. It dropped a pair of games to Tennessee and Appalachian State in a tournament at Winthrop College before ending the season on a winning note, defeating North Georgia and Lander College at home.

Dowell eventually became the head coach and athletic director at Mount St. Joseph University in Ohio. She has now gained induction into the Ohio Basketball, Mount St. Joseph and Western Carolina athletic Halls of Fame. Dowell will reunite this weekend with 11 of her players from the 1969 squad. They include Teresa Allen; Rachel Benator; Gwyned Bius; Margeret Bostick; Nancy Brewster; Sally Chastain; Connie Ellsworth; Pam Haynes; Gail Johnson; Neena Knight; Ginger Wilson.

These ladies will be recognized on court Sunday during Georgia’s contest against Florida. Tipoff time is set for 12 Noon.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Circle of Honor to Add Five Members at Friday Gala

UGA Sports Information

Fourteen-time NCAA champion swimmer Mary DeScenza, track standout Hyleas Fountain — who won four NCAA individual titles in just two years — football greats George Poschner and Hines Ward, and national championship-winning baseball coach Steve Webber will be inducted formally during the Circle of Honor Gala this Friday at the West End Zone facility Sanford Stadium.

Additional honorees at the Friday gala include Bill Hartman Award recipient John Mangan, Circle of Distinction inductee Bill Griffith, as well as national champions and other special honorees from the 2018 calendar year.

The Circle of Honor is designed to pay tribute to extraordinary student-athletes and coaches who by their performance and conduct have brought honor to the university and themselves, and who by their actions have contributed to the tradition of the Dawgs. The criteria for selection also stipulate that each recipient has earned his or her academic degree.

Mary Descenza

In the storied tradition of Georgia women's swimming and diving, DeScenza ranks among the very best. A four-year letterwinner from 2003-06, she won the maximum possible number of All-America honors (28) and was the nation's top collegiate butterfly racer during her time. She won the Honda Award — given annually to the nation's top female collegian in 12 different sports — for the 2005-06 school year.

The Aurora, Illinois, native won the NCAA title in the 200-yard butterfly in each of her four seasons at UGA. She won the NCAA 100-yard fly championships in her final two years. Additionally, she swam legs on eight relay teams that captured national championships. On the conference level, DeScenza won 15 SEC titles, nine individually and six others as a relay team member.

DeScenza has held American records in Short Course Yards, Short Course Meters, Long Course Meters in the 200 butterfly, as well as a share of the record in the Short Course Yards 400 freestyle relay.

DeScenza earned her degree in Biology from UGA in 2007.

Hyleas Fountain

Fountain made quite an impression during her two seasons on the UGA track & field team (2003-04). The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native captured four NCAA individual championships, both as a multi-event star and a long jumper.

Fountain transferred to UGA after winning five junior college national titles for Barton Community College in Kansas. She continued her success at Georgia, winning the NCAA heptathlon championship in the 2003 outdoor meet. The next year, Fountain won the 2004 NCAA indoor long jump title and later that spring took first place in both the long jump and pentathlon at the NCAA outdoor meet.

A five-time USA Outdoor multi-event champion, Fountain remained competitive after her collegiate career. She won the heptathlon competition at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and ultimately won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

George Poschner

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, and a high school teammate of UGA great Frank Sinkwich, Poschner earned letters as an end on three Georgia teams from 1940-42. He earned first-team All-America honors, as well as All-SEC first team, after the national championship season of 1942.

A key victory for Georgia during the 1942 season was a 21-10 come-from-behind win over Alabama. Poschner caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from his friend Sinkwich to lead the Dawgs to victory. Georgia closed out the season by defeating UCLA 9-0 in the Rose Bowl and claiming the national championship, the first in program history.

Poschner earned even greater distinction after his graduation from UGA in 1943. Enlisting in the Army, he earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in combat during the Battle of the Bulge in January of 1945. Shot in the head by a German sniper, Poschner lay in a snow drift for three days before being discovered by a U.S. graves registration unit. By the time he was evacuated, however, he had become so badly frostbitten that doctors amputated both of his legs, as well as the fingers in his right hand.

A member of the Georgia Sports (1982) and Orange Bowl (1985) Halls of Fame, Poschner passed away in 2004 at the age of 85.

Hines Ward

In an age of specialization, Hines Ward excelled as a versatile offensive weapon during his four years as a Dawg (1994-97).

Ward touched the ball 515 times during 42 career games at Georgia: 203 times rushing, 144 receiving, 71 passing and another 48 times as a kick returner. He averaged 9.3 yards over each of those touches and accounted for 20 touchdowns.

A native of Rex, Georgia, and a product of Forest Park High School, Ward earned All-SEC first-team honors after his senior season of 1997, when the Dawgs went 10-2 and defeated Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. He saw action primarily as a receiver and caught 55 passes for 715 yards and six touchdowns. He also set the school record for receptions in a bowl game when he pulled in 12 passes for 122 yards against the Badgers.

Ward was selected in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He went on to be selected to four Pro Bowls, was a member of two Super Bowl champion teams, and earned MVP honors in Super Bowl 40 in 2006. Ward remains the Steelers' all-time leading receiver with 1,000 catches for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns.

Steve Webber

Steve Webber is the winningest baseball coach in Georgia history with 500 victories between 1981 and 1996. His teams averaged 32 victories per season over 16 years.

A native Iowan and graduate of Southern Illinois University, Webber led the Dawg baseball team to its greatest moment to date — the 1990 NCAA championship, defeating Oklahoma State, 2-1, in the College World Series finals. At the time, Georgia became the first SEC program to win the national title in baseball. Ten teams have won the crown subsequently. The 1990 trip to Omaha was Georgia's second under Webber's guidance. His 1987 team won the SEC regular-season title and also earned a spot in the College World Series.

Webber is one of only six head coaches that have played in a College World Series and later coached a College World Series National Championship team. He was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1987 and consensus National Coach of the Year in 1990.

Webber's induction into the Circle of Honor will place him into a small group of unique distinction. He will become just the fifth among all 79 inductees that are not UGA alumni. This group includes Dick Copas, men's golf coach (inducted in 2006); Vince Dooley, head football coach and athletic director (inducted in 2004); Liz Murphey, women's golf coach and senior women's administrator (inducted in 2001); and Suzanne Yoculan, women's gymnastics coach (inducted in 2014).

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Trio of Dawgs Named Preseason All-SEC

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia junior Aaron Schunk, senior LJ Talley and redshirt sophomore Mason Meadows have been named to the preseason All-Southeastern Conference baseball squad while the Dawgs were picked third in the Eastern Division by league coaches, the SEC announced Thursday.

Schunk, a two-way standout as an infielder and closer, made the first team as a third baseman and the second team as a utility player. Meadows and Talley were second team selections at catcher and second base. Last month, Schunk earned preseason All-America recognition from Baseball America. In 2018, Schunk batted .299 with three home runs, 12 doubles and 38 RBI plus had a 22-game hitting streak. On the mound, he posted eight saves while going 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings with five walks and 31 strikeouts. Meadows, a Freshman All-America selection last year, hit .289-3-25 and set a school record fielding percentage by a catcher at .998. Talley, a three-year starter who owns the school record for best fielding percentage by a second baseman in a season, enjoyed a career year in 2018, batting .276-6-30. All three Dawgs are annual members of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Vanderbilt, preseason ranked as high as No. 1 nationally, was predicted to win the 2019 SEC as voted by the league’s 14 baseball coaches. Georgia, preseason ranked as high as No. 9 by, was picked to finish third in the Eastern Division behind the Commodores and Florida. LSU was picked to win the Western Division. The Commodores, Gators and Tigers all visit Foley Field this year.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team or players. For the team voting, points were compiled on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Each coach also voted for one team as an overall conference champion. Conference play will begin Friday, March 15. Eight SEC teams are ranked in at least one poll to begin the 2019 campaign. An NCAA-record 10 SEC teams qualified for NCAA Regionals in 2018 with six making a Super Regional and three advancing to the College World Series.

The Dawgs, under the direction of Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin, are a consensus top 15 team in the 2019 preseason rankings. Georgia opens the season Friday, Feb. 15 with a series against Dayton at Foley Field. Season tickets are available to purchase now online at

2019 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll

Eastern Division

1. Vanderbilt (9) – 87

2. Florida (4) - 81

3. Georgia (1) – 68

4. South Carolina – 53

5. Tennessee – 40

6. Kentucky – 30

7. Missouri – 26

Western Division

1. LSU (10) – 88

2. Ole Miss (1) – 65

3. Arkansas (1) – 59

4. Auburn (1) – 57

5. Texas A&M (1) – 48

6. Mississippi State – 47

7. Alabama – 21

() – First place votes

SEC Champion: Vanderbilt (6), LSU (5), Florida (2), Arkansas (1)

2019 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

First Team

C: Philip Clarke, Vanderbilt

1B: Cole Zabowski, Ole Miss

2B: Austin Martin, Vanderbilt*

2B: Noah Campbell, South Carolina*

3B: Aaron Schunk, Georgia

SS: Casey Martin, Arkansas

OF: Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas

OF: Dominic Fletcher, Arkansas

OF: Jake Mangum, Mississippi State

DH/UTL: T.J. Collett, Kentucky

SP: Tanner Burns, Auburn

SP: Zack Thompson, Kentucky

RP: Matt Cronin, Arkansas

Second Team

C: Mason Meadows, Georgia

1B: Tanner Allen, Mississippi State

2B: LJ Talley, Georgia

3B: Tyler Keenan, Ole Miss

SS: Braden Shewmake, Texas A&M

OF: JJ Bleday, Vanderbilt

OF: Antoine Duplantis, LSU

OF: Daniel Cabrera, LSU

DH/UTL: Aaron Schunk, Georgia*

DH/UTL: Chase Cockrell, Ole Miss*

SP: John Doxakis, Texas A&M

SP: Tyler Dyson, Florida

RP: Parker Caracci, Ole Miss

*Tie (ties are not broken)