March 12, 2014
Our teams had an outstanding weekend, going 12-1 in the five team sports competing (men's basketball, baseball, gymnastics, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis). While it was a notable weekend, it's a continuation of a recent trend in which we are competing well across the spectrum of our sports.
Our baseball team was excellent in a three-game sweep of Mississippi Valley State, not allowing a single run while producing the first three-game series sweep without allowing a run since 1912. The highlight of the sweep was a nine-inning no-hitter accomplished by a trio of pitchers (Justin Kamplain, Jay Shaw and Geoffrey Bramblett), the program's first nine-inning no-hitter since 1942. Behind a perfect 10 on vault by senior Diandra Milliner, the gymnastics team notched another impressive win, this time over 10th-ranked Stanford. Coach Patrick Murphy's softball team swept its opening series in SEC play, winning three over South Carolina at Rhoads Stadium. The women's tennis team continues to impress, scoring a pair of 4-0 wins at LSU and Arkansas, running their streak of shutout victories to an amazing four straight! The men's tennis team took a 4-3 win at LSU, was edged 4-3 at home by Arkansas, then rolled to a 7-0 win over The Citadel. And, our men's basketball team celebrated Senior Day in impressive fashion with an 83-58 win over an Arkansas team that entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the SEC, having won six straight games and eight of nine before taking on the Crimson Tide.
We currently have SEVEN teams ranked among the nation's top 16 in their sports - men's golf (No. 1), gymnastics (No. 4), women's golf (No. 5), women's tennis (No. 8), softball (No. 10), men's track (No. 11), and women's track (No. 16). Folks, that's amazing! In recent weeks, our men's golf, women's tennis, men's track and women's track teams have earned their highest rankings ever. (NOTE: Actually, the total is 8 teams as I just learned that our men's swim team is ranked 14th).
The 2013 national champion Alabama men's golf team was honored at the White House on Monday in an event on the South Lawn. President Obama welcomed head coach Jay Seawell and the Crimson Tide as part of a special ceremony in which he recognized national title-winning teams in 19 sports. It marked the fourth time in the last five years for us to have a team make a trip to the White House for such recognition, a fact of which we are very proud and an achievement we hope to build on!
Hearty congratulations to Trevor Releford and Shannon Hale of our men's basketball team. Trevor was named an All-SEC First Team honoree on Tuesday while Shannon earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors via a vote of the league's head coaches. It marks the second consecutive season that Trevor has been named to the league's first team and it is the fourth consecutive year he has been tabbed as an all-conference player - truly an amazing distinction that speaks to the quality of his career at Alabama. The only other players in program history to claim four straight all-league accolades were Jermareo Davidson (2004-07) and Jerry Harper (1953-56). Trevor, who earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2011 and second team recognition in 2012, is the first Alabama player to earn back-to-back first team honors since Kennedy Winston in 2004 and 2005. Shannon is the 15th player in our history to be named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Trevor is having the best season of his career this year. He's our leading scorer (18.8 points per game), leads the SEC with 2.2 steals per game, leads us in three-point percentage (39.7 percent), and is our leading assists man at 3.1 per game. Shannon is having a fine freshman season, averaging 8.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Both of these young men are richly deserving of this recognition.
Our women's basketball team completed its season last week at the SEC Tournament. After being picked to finish last in the SEC in the preseason poll, Coach Kristy Curry's team ended the season as the seventh seed in the conference tournament and was a team to be reckoned with by the end of the year. I have been very impressed with the great coaching job Kristy has done with our team this season. It's not uncommon in years of transition, for a team to take several steps back before real progress is made. That was certainly not the case with this team. The progress that Kristy, her staff and the players made was remarkable. Our team showed as much improvement from start to finish as any team I have ever seen. They have come so far in so many areas. Alabama women's basketball has a very bright future.
Kudos to Ashley Williams of our women's basketball team, who was named to the 2014 SEC All-Freshman Team by the league coaches. Ashley is the first Crimson Tide freshman to earn the honor since 2011. She was the only freshman in the SEC to rank in the top 20 in scoring and top 15 in rebounding against league opponents and had five double-doubles this season. Ashley and her teammates have set a great foundation for the future!
Coach Dennis Pursley's program is getting it done in the classroom as well as in the pool. The women's swimming and diving team posted the highest team grade-point average in the nation this fall, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America announced last week that the Crimson Tide men were ranked in the top 25 among NCAA Division I programs. The Tide women posted a 3.60 team GPA in the fall, finishing .05 ahead of three schools that tied for second place. The Tide men earned a 3.21 team GPA in the fall, which ranks them first in the SEC and 25th among NCAA Division I schools. Both squads earned CSCAA Fall Scholar All-America Team recognition.
In addition to our on-campus upcoming events, please keep in mind that the SEC Gymnastics Championships will be held later this month in Birmingham at the BJCC. The SEC meet is slated for Saturday, March 22. The Crimson Tide will compete in the second session of competition that day, starting at 6 p.m. So, please make plans to have the BJCC covered in crimson-clad fans for that event. Tickets can be ordered via this link at www.gymnasticschamps.com.
The NCAA Gymnastics Championships also will take place in Birmingham at the BJCC. The NCAA team competition will be held on Friday-Saturday, April 18-19, with the individual event finals slated for Sunday, April 20. Keep that in mind while the Tide continues striving to get back for a shot at another national championship. NCAA tickets are also available at www.gymnasticschamps.com, so hurry while they are available. I'll remind you of this in coming editions of The Battle Plan, but it's not too early to tell your friends and start making your plans.
There was great news last week regarding the SEC Network. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I cannot overstate the importance of making sure your cable or satellite carrier will offer the SEC Network. Why? Because without it you will definitely miss some of our games in football and every other sport. So, what's the great news? SEC fans all over the country can be assured of access to the Network through DISH. However, I encourage you to continue to advise your cable or satellite provider of your interest in them to carry the SEC Network. Go to www.getsecnetwork.com to see if your provider is set to carry it this August.
We have another big weekend on tap, so please come out and support the Tide if you are nearby. Our men's and women's tennis teams square off against Auburn this Friday. The women's team visits Auburn for a 5 p.m. match while the men's team hosts the Tigers at the same time here in Tuscaloosa. The gymnastics team takes on Auburn Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum in the regular-season finale. The baseball team hosts its first SEC series of the season with three games against Kentucky at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Friday's first pitch is slated for 6:35 p.m. with games following on Saturday (6:05 p.m.) and Sunday (1:05 p.m.). The softball team hits the road for a three-game SEC series at Ole Miss this Friday-Sunday. Friday's game is at 6 p.m. in Oxford, followed by a 2 p.m. first pitch on Saturday and a 1 p.m. finale on Sunday. The men's basketball team opens the SEC Tournament on Thursday against LSU at 6 p.m. Central Time (7 p.m. ET) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The men's and women's track teams compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., this Friday and Saturday, and the rowing team competes at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Your support of our teams has been outstanding this year. Please continue to be a vital part of our success by attending one of these events. Each of us plays a key role in keeping the Tide rising!