Belhaven Athletics just completed one of the best seasons in school history as the Blazers reached unprecedented heights during the 2009-10 campaign. Belhaven softball made their first ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament while the Blazer baseball team made school history with their first appearance in the Avista NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. For just the second time in the program’s history, the Belhaven men’s basketball team returned to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. This was their first appearance since 1972 when Head Coach Charlie Rugg took the Blazers into Municipal Auditorium. Plus, for the first time, Belhaven University was awarded the 2010 Thomas Howell Cup, the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference’s (GCAC) award for best overall athletics department. In addition to outstanding sucess in the conference, Blazer Athletics achieved their highest ever national ranking as a department finishing 75th out of 300 NAIA schools in the 2009-10 Learfield Director’s Cup Standngs. Director of Athletics Scott Little remarks, “Between the Thomas Howell Cup, the Learfield Standings, the setting of new team records, and the number of outstanding individual performances, this has been Belhaven’s best ever year for athletics.” Great strides were made by all the Blazer teams, and all of their efforts were recognized at the Excellence in Athletics Day. The following updates are specifically about the teams and players that broke school records and gained both conference and national recognition.
Expectations were high for the Belhaven softball team coming into the 2010 season. The ultimate goal was to reach the NAIA National Tournament. Not only was that goal accomplished, but the team also achieved many of the other benchmarks set out by Head Coach Rick Fremin at the beginning of the season. The Blazers won a program best 54 games in 2010 while losing only 10 contests the entire season. That equates to an amazing winning percentage of .884. Belhaven also captured the GCAC Regular Season Championship with a 13-3 record and despite disappointment in the GCAC Tournament, the Blazers earned an at-large bid to the NAIA National Softball Tournament. Belhaven was ranked 6th in the Final NAIA Top 25 Poll after having been ranked as high as 5th earlier in the season.
The Blazers turned in the best season in the history of the program. Numerous honors were awarded both to the coaches and players. Five different Blazers earned GCAC All-Conference honors for their efforts during the 2010 season. Britney Webb Shaw, Sarah Burns, Lizzy Hess, Christina Jaques, and Tiffany Ansley were all recognized for their part in helping guide the Blazers to a 54-10 overall record and a GCAC regular season championship. Shaw, Burns, Jaques, and Ansley were named All Conference, while Hess was tabbed as the GCAC Freshman of the Year. Shaw, Jaques, and Burns went on to earn NAIA All American Honors and were named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association East All-Region and All American Teams. Ansley was also named to the NFCA East All Region Team. Coach Fremin was named GCAC Coach of the Year, making him the third Belhaven coach to be given this honor in this past season. The Belhaven coaching staff was also named NFCA East Region staff of the year.
The Blazers had a school record 351 RBI’s and broke three NAIA records during the 2010 season, two of which were turned in by Britney Webb Shaw.
Shaw, a senior second baseman from Mobile, AL, compiled a .435 batting average with 17 doubles, 11 triples, four home runs and 54 RBI’s. The 11 triples by Shaw were the second most in the NAIA this year. Earlier in the season, Shaw broke the NAIA single season and career stolen base records and finished 2010 with 80 steals, which was tops in the league. For her career, Shaw racked up a total of 213 stolen bases, a new NAIA National record. Shaw along with Jaques, who had 60 steals during the season, helped Belhaven set a new NAIA team national record for most stolen bases in 2010. The Blazers swiped 229 bases in 267 attempts to break the previous mark of 226 set by Culver-Stockton (Mo.) in 1994.
Burns, a junior pitcher from Edmond, OK, had an outstanding year as she pitched her way to a 30-6 record in 2010. Burns tossed 20 complete games and also recorded a pair of saves. Her 30 wins is the most in Belhaven history for a single season.
“This was by far the best group we have had at Belhaven in my five years of being the head coach,” says Fremin. “The national tournament experience is something that we will remember forever. They just really had a passion to win and to dominate their opponent, which I believe led us to breaking 47 national or school records. I really saw the favor of God upon us throughout the year.”
The stage was set for an exciting year of Belhaven athletics. The men’s soccer team was highly touted coming into the year, and they carried through with another solid campaign under Head Coach Steve DeCou. The Blazers garnered vote in the preseason NAIA Top 25 Poll and were ranked as high as 19th.
The Blazers hosted the University of Mobile in the GCAC semifinals at H.T. Newell Field but were eliminated in overtime. Their record of 10-4-2 and 3-1 in the GCAC placed them second in the conference standings. Belhaven had four players named to the 2009 GCAC All-Conference Team: Seniors Alan Hannon, Jose Morales, John Kehoe, and Juan Rodriguez. Hannon and Rodriguez were also named as NAIA Honorable Mention All Americans.
“As I look back on the season and have time to reflect, I am very proud of the men and all that they did this year. Our goals as a program this year were to become a competitive force on the national stage, host a home conference tournament game, win a conference championship and get to the national tournament,” says DeCou. “In the final NAIA poll we ended the season ranked #23 (we were ranked as high as #19). The first two goals of the season we accomplished, but on the other two we missed the mark. We will learn the hard lessons of losing, and we will win a championship hopefully sooner rather than later.”
As the temperatures in Jackson, Miss., dropped in late fall the Belhaven men’s basketball team began putting the pieces together for a truly historic season. Belhaven headed to Kansas City to participate in the Buffalo Funds NAIA National Tournament for the first time since 1972. The Blazers broke the school record for most wins in a season with 24, completing the year with an overall record of 24-10. With this record they finished in a three way tie with Tougaloo College and William Carey University for second place in the GCAC. The Blazers made a strong GCAC Tournament run, losing to LSU-Shreveport 101-94 in the championship game after having completed the GCAC schedule with a 12-6 conference mark. Belhaven earned an at-large bid to the national tournament on the strength of receiving votes in the final top 25 poll.
The Blazers had two GCAC All-Conference selections following the conclusion of the season. Senior guard Larell Bailey and junior forward Nathaniel Roché were both picked for this year’s all conference team. Roché was also an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American selection.
Roché, a junior forward from New Orleans, La., led the Blazers this season averaging 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Bailey, a senior guard from North Little Rock, Ark., was second on the team in scoring with an average of 11.0 points per game. Bailey eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for his career against the University of Mobile and finished his career with 1,062 points.
Bailey also made the Belhaven record books for his prolific three-point shooting. Bailey’s 59 treys during this past season is the sixth most in a season; when added to his other career three-point shots, they make Bailey the leading three-point shooter in Belhaven history. Bailey drilled 129 triples, breaking Josip Debeljuh’s (1996-1999) mark of 128.
“This season was special for a lot of reasons,” says Head Coach Tom Kelsey. “We were able to set the school record for wins in a season, and it was the first time back to the NAIA Division I National Tournament since 1972.”
“Coach John Aiken and I are very excited about the 2010-2011 season,” continues Kelsey. “We head into a new conference, the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), which will be one of the toughest NAIA leagues in the country. Our schedule is going to give us some good challenges in the non-conference part of the schedule. We still have some of the former GCAC members (Dillard, Tougaloo and Xavier) on our schedule and hope to keep those rivalries going.”
The Blazers volleyball team made big strides in 2009 as they continued to build the program. Belhaven doubled their wins this past season and finished the year with an 18-20 overall record. The Blazers finished tied for third with Dillard University at 5-5 in the always tough Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and made it to the GCAC Tournament semifinals.
Christina Jaques and Christina Atwood were both selected to the GCAC All Conference Team after outstanding individual seasons. Jaques, a junior outside hitter from Orange, Tex., led the team in kills with 381 and total blocks with 92. The 381 kills ranks her third in the Belhaven record books for most kills in a season. Jaques ranked fourth in the GCAC in kills per set, third in the league in total kills, and led the GCAC in total blocks.
Atwood, a sophomore middle blocker from Vancleave, MS, was second on the team in kills and blocks with 299 and 88 respectively.
“We made terrific strides this season,” says Head Coach Lydia Smith. “The sophomore class started in almost all positions on the court last year (Fall 2008) and we were able to use that experience to lead our young team on the court this year. The incoming class was versatile and talented, which were key components in the better outcome this season.”
It was a season of new beginnings for the Belhaven football team as first year Head Coach Joe Thrasher took the reins of a team that finished 2-9 the previous year. There were quite a few unknowns as the season got underway, but the coaching staff was confident that the team would not only improve, but compete for a Mid-South Conference Western Division title. It is safe to say that there was certainly a vast improvement in 2009 as the Blazers went 6-5, marking the first winning season for the program since 2006. The Blazers also posted a 4-2 record in the MSC Western Division, placing them second in the division, while nearly cracking the NAIA Top 25 Poll.
Belhaven reeled off wins against Bethel, Faulkner,and West Virginia Tech and headed into game number seven of the year at 4-2. Unfortunately, Campbellsville snapped the streak with a 21-20 win over the Blazers, but the following week Belhaven pulled out a 7-6 overtime win at Cumberland to get back on track and set up a battle for first place in the MSC the following week at Lambuth. However, the Eagles were too much and rolled to a 54-16 win. Belhaven lost to Shorter the following week and headed into the season finale with a 5-5 record.
The Blazers hosted Union College in the final game of the year, and it proved to be a memorable one for multiple reasons. First and foremost, Belhaven pulled out a dramatic 37-31 overtime win to secure the 6-5 season. On defense, Reginald Lumpkin had nine tackles and is now Belhaven’s all time career tackles leader with 292. He also broke the Belhaven single season tackles record with 111. Tramaine Brock tied the Belhaven single season interception record with six on an interception and 75 yard return for a touchdown while Cordario Calvin eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark with nine catches for 98 yards. The win also provided a huge boost for the program heading into the offseason.
“I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish this season, but at the same time not satisfied,” says Head Coach Joe Thrasher. “I want our players to strive for more in competing for conference championships and working towards getting into the playoffs. Having a winning season is a good step for our first year and we want to continue to build on that. It’s also good for our alumni to see that we are moving in the right direction.”
The big news in the offseason came following the 2010 NFL Draft when it was announced that two Blazers signed free agent NFL contracts. Tramaine Brock inked a two year deal with the San Francisco 49ers and Jacob Phillips signed a three year contract with
the Seattle Seahawks.
Brock, a senior from Long Beach, Miss. had a team high six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns. Brock tied the Belhaven single season record for most interceptions and compiled 51 total tackles with 2.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss in the 2009 season. Brock also returned kicks for the Blazers, averaging 17.4 yards per return with a long of 55 yards. Brock was named to the Mid-South Conference Western Division All-Conference Team.
Phillips, a senior from Baton Rouge, La., helped anchor the Belhaven offensive line in 2009. Phillips who is 6´6˝ 305 pounds, contributed to a Blazer offense that averaged 308.8 yards per game while scoring 22.1 points per contest. Phillips has the potential to be a long snapper along with possessing tremendous blocking skills.
“I am very proud of both of the guys and this is a big opportunity for our program,” adds Thrasher. “This will be a good recruiting tool for us here at Belhaven in that we provide an opportunity at a great education along with the possibility for our players to move on to the next level following the completion of their time in a Blazer uniform.”
Solid team and individual performances marked the cross country season in 2009. For the second year in a row, the Blazers had runners qualify for the NAIA National Meet in Vancouver, Wash., and both the men and women boasted second place team finishes in meets this past season.
The Belhaven men took second place at the Loyola Wolfpack Invitational while the women posted their second place finish at the University of Mobile Rampage. As a team, the Blazer men and women both finished fourth out of seven teams at the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Meet at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Miss., and missed qualifying for the NAIA meet as a team. However, Thomas Kazery and Hannah Reese both qualified for the 2009 NAIA Cross Country National Championship.
Kazery, a sophomore from Jackson, Miss., was Belhaven’s top runner in the 8k race of the GCAC Championship with an overall time of 29:51.11. He finished 8th out of 53 contestants. Reese, a freshman from Brandon, Miss., set the pace for the Blazers in the 5k race of the championship. She placed 4th out of 44 runners with a total time of 20:12.55.
The 2009 NAIA Cross Country National Championship Meet presented by Nike was November 21st at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Washington. The Blazers will have a lot to build on next season with a valuable year of experience under their belts.
A strong group of seniors led the Belhaven women’s soccer team to a birth in the NAIA Unaffiliated regional postseason tournament. They were the first of four Belhaven teams to make it to an NAIA regional or national tournament during the 2009-10 school year.
Belhaven finished up the 2009 campaign with a 7-7-3 overall record while going 2-1-1 in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. Belhaven completed the conference schedule a game and a half behind William Carey in the GCAC standings after the Crusaders pulled out a victory in the regular season finale to win the title. The women played a tough slate of opponents and held their own against the competition, which included NCAA Division I University of Louisiana-Monroe. Like the men, the women were also the number two seed in the GCAC tournament, but the Mobile Rams had the Blazers’ number as they pulled out a 1-0 OT victory in the semifinals. However, on the strength of their second place finish in the conference, Belhaven earned an at large bid to the NAIA Unaffiliated tournament where they lost to Bellevue University out of Nebraska in the opening round.
Belhaven was represented well on the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Team with seven players named to the team in 2009. Nicole Trawick, Sarah Benson, and Mallory Hodges were all named to the First Team while Jessica Eggold, Dana Sullivan, Christin Kaim, and Evelyn Torres were all Second Team selections.
“The big accomplishment this past season was for us to reachthe NAIA Unaffiliated Regional Tournament in Dallas and be one of the top five teams out of 16 schools from four different unaffiliated conferences,” says Belhaven Head Coach Josue Sabillion. “We also finished second in regular season conference play and placed three players on the First Team All-Conference team, and four on the Second Team All-Conference team which was also another improvement from last year,” adds Sabillion. “Since we are losing eight seniors for next year, it will be a whole different team, next season. I’m looking forward to working with our new recruits who will be replacing our seniors.”
It was an up and down season for the Belhaven women’s basketball team in 2009-10, but despite some disappointments the team achieved some big accomplishments. The Blazers won 10 of their first 13 games before encountering some challenges in the middle of the season. However, the Blazers finished strong down the stretch and played hard in the GCAC Tournament winning their first game against Dillard and nearly upsetting top seeded Xavier University of Louisiana in the quarterfinals. Belhaven was led by seniors Jira Williams, Courtney Ward, Mallory Hammack and Stasha Thomas, who each turned in solid years.
Williams, a senior forward from New Orleans, La., led the Blazers in scoring with 11.8 points per game in 2009-10 and was named to the GCAC All-Conference Team. Williams also surpassed the 1,000 point mark for her career at home against Talladega College in the Coaches versus Cancer Classic December 18th. Williams went on to score 245 more points during the season and finished her career with 1,249, placing her sixth on Belhaven’s all time scoring list. On defense, Williams tied with Courtney Ward with a team high 70 steals. Williams was second on the team in blocks with 14 and worked hard on the boards all season averaging 4.36 rebounds per contest.
Williams also cracked the school record books by coming up with seven steals against Wesley College on November 10th. It was just the second time in school history that a player had seven steals in one game. Williams also notched six steals in two more games during the season.
Senior Courtney Ward of New Orleans, La., had another great season for Belhaven distributing the ball at the point guard position. Ward surpassed even Williams’ new record for most steals in a game when she came up with eight against Loyola University on February 20th.
The Blazers also established new school single game records for most steals in a game with 26 on November 12 against Mid-Continent University followed by 25 steals in their very next game at home versus Pensacola Christian University. Records include 50+ rebounds in a game five times this past year with a high mark of 55 boards, which occurred twice.
“I’m very proud of the players’ effort, especially in the GCAC Tournament,” said Head Coach Billy Evans. “I am especially proud of Jira Williams for reaching the 1,000 point mark and for our intensity on the defensive end of the floor and on the boards. Not very many teams in the history of the program have been able to do what we were able to accomplish on defense and rebounding the basketball.”
The Belhaven baseball team capped off their greatest season in school history with a trip to the 2010 Avista NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. As with the softball team, this was the first ever appearance by a Blazer team in the World Series. Belhaven’s first opponent in the World Series was Point Loma Nazarene University. The game went Point Loma’s way as the Sea Lions racked up a 9-1 victory. Needing a win to stay alive, the Blazers faced defending national champion Lubbock Christian University the next day and pulled one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NAIA World Series with a 3-2 victory. It was the first time in the 54 year history of the World Series that a defending champion has been eliminated in two games. The Blazers, the number eight seed in the tournament, blasted three home runs to account for all their scoring in the contest. The win was the 44th of the season and tied the Belhaven record for most wins in a season. However, Belhaven could not maintain the momentum as Embry-Riddle University ended the Blazers season with an 8-4 win in the next round of the World Series.
Six Belhaven players earned GCAC All-Conference Honors and Blazer Head Coach Hill Denson was named the GCAC Coach of the Year. Craig Dean, Timmy Foster, Jimmy Gilford, Brandon Benton, Wade Broyles, and Brandt Hinton were all honored for their achievements during the 2010 season. Hinton was also named the GCAC Player of the Year and Broyles went on to be name to the NAIA All-American Team.
Foster, a senior from Natchez, Miss., was named as an All Conference Infielder and garnered a Gold Glove award at first base. Foster established new Belhaven single season records for hits, doubles, RBI’s, and total bases (164).
Dean, a senior from Cold Water, Miss., was named third base All Conference and batted at a .418 clip with nine home runs and 52 runs batted in. Dean collected 17 doubles and four triples and boasted a .668 slugging percentage.
Benton, a junior from Pearl, Miss., was selected as the All Conference DH with a batting average of .286 including 14 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 41 RBI’s.
Gilford, a junior outfielder from Taneytown, MD, was an outfield All-Conference and Gold Glove winner this season. Gilford had seven home runs and 49 RBI’s with a batting average of .351. Gilford had 10 doubles and six triples while recording a fielding percentage of 1.000 with 93 putouts and two assists in center field.
Hinton, a senior from Brookhaven, Miss., was named All Conference Pitcher and Player of the Year in the GCAC on the strength of outstanding numbers on the mound.
Broyles, a senior relief pitcher from Madison, Miss., anchored the back end of the Blazers bullpen recording 14 saves during the 2010 season, which ranked him second in the NAIA in that category. The 14 saves by Broyles is also a new Belhaven single season school record that was previously held by Kyle Medley, who notched 13 saves in 2009. His save total is also tied for fourth best for a single season in NAIA history and ranks him second on the Belhaven career totals list. Broyles went 3-0 during the season and posted an ERA of 1.54 with 75 strikeouts in 41 innings. He allowed just seven earned runs all season and held opposing hitters to a .149 batting average.
Broyles was selected in the 40th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. Broyles is the third Blazer in the past two years to be drafted, joining Chanse Cooper and Craig Westcott, both drafted in 2009.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments of Wade Broyles and his being selected in the Major League Baseball Draft,” says Belhaven Head Coach Hill Denson. “Wade was one of the key components of our pitching staff this season, which helped lead us to the NAIA World Series. He was nearly unhittable as a closer and was automatic out of the bullpen. It was a big day for him and we wish him the best of luck with this opportunity to pursue his professional baseball career.”
In addition to all of this, Belhaven led the nation in triples in 2010 with 40.
“This was an amazing season for us and our program,” says Denson who surpassed 1,000 career coaching wins with 1,038. Belhaven will bid farewell to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference this coming fall and will begin competition in the Southern States Athletic Conference, with the exception of football, which will remain in the Mid-South Conference. Blazer athletics is hopeful and confident that the successes in 2009-10 will carry forward in the years to come.