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FOOTBALLSam Houston State will begin the defense of its 2001 Southland Conference football championship Thursday night as the Bearkats travel to Mount Pleasant, MI, to meet Central Michigan University at 7:30 p.m.
The Bearkats produced a 10-3 record in 2001, earning their highest NCAA Division I-AA final national ranking (seventh). The Kats reached I-AA national playoff quarterfinals, falling to eventual national champion Montana.
The Central Michigan game marks the 15th time in Sam Houston State's 16 years at the NCAA Division I-AA level that the Bearkats have faced an NCAA Division I-A opponent. The Kats have defeated NCAA I-A foes twice, each of the past two seasons in Sam Houston's season opener. SHSU defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 21-14 in 2000.
Standing 12th in the NCAA Division I-AA preseason national rankings for 2002, the Bearkats have achieved their highest preseason ranking ever. The previous high was 13th in 1987. The Bearkats ended that season 16th in the final rankings.
Sam Houston State has won its last four season openers, including victories the past two years over NCAA Division I-A foes on the road (Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe). The Bearkats are 10-6 in openers as an NCAA I-AA team. Ron Randleman is 12-8 in openers as SHSU Head Coach.
Thirty-six lettermen including six offensive and six defensive starters and two specialists return from the 2001 championship team. Offensively, linemen CHASE DENTON, BILLY WILLIAMS, and TRAVIS MAXEY were named to the 2002 preseason All-Southland Conference unit. CHRIS LOUVIER and BRODERICK RICHARDSON return as starters. Wide receiver COREY ZENO is the only other returning starter. Defensively, All-SLC lineman KELVIN RANDALL (who ranked second in the league in sacks with seven last year) leads a physical unit that appears to be the strength of the squad. Lineman MICHAEL SAUMELL-BASTON and defensive backs DeJUAN DAVIS, COURTNEY BOSTON, and MARK HUGHES also played important roles last season.
Outstanding senior leadership was a key to the Bearkats's success in 2001. Among last year's 19 senior lettermen were four NCAA Division I-AA All-Americans (quarterback Josh McCown, tight end Keith Heinrich, wide receiver Jonathon Cooper, and free safety Keith Davis) and four other All-Southland Conference performers (defensive linemen Reginald Reddick and Trent Taylor and linebackers P. J. Traylor and Tommy Tull). Three of the seniors ended up on NFL rosters. McCown was a third round selection (Arizona Cardinals) and Heinrich a sixth round pick (Carolina Panthers) in the draft and Davis signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys.
"We lost without question the best group of seniors we've ever had at Sam Houston and one of the most successful groups of seniors. The plus side is we've got some good players coming back including 17 seniors this season. We're challenging them to provide outstanding leadership as well," said Head Coach Ron Randleman.
Defensively, the Bearkats take pride in being a hard hitting, physical squad. Sam Houston State led the Southland in quarterback sacks (36) last year. The Kats have set several records in the weight room. Thirty players have benched 400 or more pounds, 32 have 500 pound squats, and 33 have 300 pound power cleans. Twenty Bearkats belong to the "3-4-5" club, having chalked up all three lifts. "Each of the past three years, we've become a stronger, more physical football team. The strength of our 2002 team is our physical strength and our speed. That will translate into some good numbers defensively and special teams performance," said Randleman.
Just who will replace JOSH McCOWN as Bearkat quarterback is still a question. Redshirt sophomore TRAVIS TOBABEN of Red Oak was listed number one coming into fall camp. Transfers LUKE HUARD from North Carolina and VANCE SMITH from Texas A&M also are competing for the job. Huard, the younger brother of NFL quarterbacks Brock and Damon Huard, completed 29 of 75 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown, playing in seven games as a Tar Heel in 1999. He did not play either during the 2000 or 2001 seasons. Smith appeared in five games for the Aggies in 1999 and three in 2000. He completed six of 17 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown at Texas A&M.
"None of our three quarterbacks has ever taken a snap in a Sam Houston game, so we've been trying to get each as many repetitions in preseason camp as possible. We're hoping one of the three steps forward during pre-Southland Conference play," said Randleman.
The Sam Houston State vs. Central Michigan game will be broadcast live on KMVL 100.5 FM in Madisonville and can be heard on the internet at www.kmvl.net.
VOLLEYBALLThe Bearkat volleyball team begins the 2002 season by hosting the Sam Houston State Invitational Friday and Saturday, August 30-31, at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville.
The tournament will feature the Bearkats plus four other top college teams, each from a different section of NCAA Division I volleyball. Participating will be Birmingham Southern, California State-Sacramento, Illinois-Chicago, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi along with host team Sam Houston State.
Aug. 30 (Fri)
Aug. 31 (Sat)
"This is an exciting way to start the year, having the opportunity to play teams from all over the country," said Head Coach Brenda Gray, whose Bearkats placed second in last year's Sam Houston State Invitational that was highlighted by an upset of Big 12 Conference Oklahoma. "We're looking to start the season with a lot of momentum and a good performance in this tournament can give us that."
Sacramento State brings the top 2001 season record into the tournament. The Hornets went 20-9 last season to win their sixth straight Big Sky Conference volleyball championship. Illinois-Chicago produced a 15-15 record last year and is predicted to place sixth in the Horizon Conference. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Birmingham Southern, both NCAA Division I independents, compiled records of 16-15 and 12-16, respectively, last season.
With all six starters returning plus five talented freshman newcomers, Gray is full of optimism as workouts about the 2002 Sam Houston State volleyball team.
"It's simple. Our goal this season is to get to the conference tournament and be in the thick of the race for the conference title," said Gray who has produced a 429-252 won-loss record in her 18 seasons as Bearkat volleyball head coach. "We showed a lot of improvement last season and were fortunate to sign several quality players who can step right into the program and make a difference. We had an excellent spring and I'm excited about getting started this fall."
Returning starters for the Bearkats include outside hitters Liz Dahlstrom and Carrie Sartain, middle blockers Teri Palmer, Dana Jefferson, and Summer Neimann, and setter Karlee Butler. Sam Houston State finished seventh in the 2001 Southland Conference race, going 12-19 for the season and 8-12 in league play.
Sartain is a second team pre-season All-Southland Conference selection this year. She led the Bearkats with 3.87 kills per game last season.
Newcomers include 6-1 Chrissy Engle and 5-7 Chelsea Johnson from Tarkington, 5-10 Natasha Ferrell from Palestine, 6-0 Alisha Fowler from Diboll, and 5-10 Jennifer Henrichsen from Houston Cypress Fairbanks.
Sam Houston State has been picked to place seventh in the 2002 Southland Conference preseason coaches' poll announced Monday, August 12.
CROSS COUNTRYLed by Raul Villarreal, who earned NCAA Division I All-Regional honors last year, the Sam Houston State cross country team begins its 2002 schedule Saturday morning. Both the men's and the women's teams will compete in the Texas A&M Season-Opener Meet in College Station, TX.
BASEBALLFriday, Director of Athletics Bobby Williams announced five semifinalists for the vacant Sam Houston State head baseball coaching and added that five more semifinalists will be selected shortly. In alphabetical order, the first five semifinalists are Jon Groth, Bill Kinneberg, David Taylor, Russell Stockton, and Dale Westmoreland.
Groth is Head Baseball Coach at Tyler Junior College, directing the Apaches to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) regional playoffs four of the last six years. Prior to becoming head coach at Tyler in 1992, Groth was an assistant coach at Texas A&M.
Kinneberg is Director of Athlete Development Program for USA Baseball in Tucson, Arizona. He served as head coach at Utah, Wyoming, and Texas-El Paso, associate head coach at Arizona, and assistant coach at Arizona State and UTEP.
Stockton is Head Baseball Coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He served as head coach at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster from 1994 to 1998, winning the Metro Athletic Conference championship and reaching the national semifinals. He was an assistant coach at the University of Houston from 1991 to 1994.
Taylor is Assistant Coach at California State University-Chico, winners of the 1997 and 1999 NCAA Division II national championship. He served as head coach at the University of Wyoming in 1995 and 1996, at Oxnard Community College in 1991, and in the Florida State League (Class A Miami Miracles) in 1989.
Westmoreland is Head Baseball Coach at Klein Oak High School where twice he has earned Houston Chronicle All-Great Houston "Coach of the Year" honors (1991, 1996). He also served as head coach at Port Arthur Jefferson and Dickinson High School. His career coaching record stands at 516 wins, 207 losses.
"The Baseball Search Committee has been thrilled by the quality of the applicants for our baseball head coaching position," said Williams. "It is a compliment to our program to have individuals of this caliber interested in Sam Houston State. These five semifinalists were selected from approximately 25 resumes of applicants who have cleared through our Human Resources process. Shortly, after the rest of the applicants have completed that same process, the committee will name another group of semifinalists. The search is a long, complex process and we appreciate the members of the committee's hard work."
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