“On paper, we’re probably second on the men’s side and anywhere from second to fifth with the women,” coach George Watts said Wednesday. “The Jacksonville women are very strong. Kennesaw State would be the favorite for the men.”
Watts has plenty of contenders for individual honors.
Katarina Vodova is a triple threat; she’s the current school record holder in the pole vault and is also strong in the high jump and long jump. Lexie Burley, a senior from Johnson City, is the conference’s top-ranked triple jumper.
Dede Edgecombe is a potential NCAA qualifier in the 60 hurdles but is coming off an injury and may not round into top form until the outdoor season.
In the distance events, Katie Hirko is ranked first in the mile and will also run the 3K and anchor the distance medley relay team.
On the men’s side, the Bucs have the top three times in the mile, led by freshman Simeon Roberts of Greeneville (4:12.22). Filip Jalovy is the favorite in the 800, with Thomas Miller a close second.
It’s been a record-setting winter for Brett Squibbs in the pole vault. Three times the freshman from Rock Hill, S.C., has bettered the previous school mark, raising it more than a foot to 16-10¾.
Tyler Stepp is the defending champion in the long jump – he made the NCAA finals outdoors last year -- but has been battling injury. He’ll be pushed this weekend by teammate Ryan Beaver.
The Bucs have a contender in the shot put in freshman Jacob Dunlap. And another freshman, Matt Moore, should be in the hunt in the 60.
“I don’t want to ask too much of the freshmen who are competing for the first time at this meet,” said Watts, who is in his second year at ETSU. “But I think we have quite a few potential medal winners. You just want to see kids do their best.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a familiarity with the surroundings. The Bucs have competed at the JDL Fast Track facility in Winston-Salem twice since December, most recently at a meet hosted by Wake Forest on Jan. 31.
“There are a lot of little things that you don’t think about when you walk into a facility for the first time – the setup and all the surroundings,” said Watts. “So it makes a big difference to have been there a couple of times recently. We at least have a feel for the place.”
The meet begins Friday morning at 8:30 and will resume at the same time on Saturday.
The women’s basketball team appears headed for a daunting postseason date in Florida.
At 3-9 in the conference, the Lady Bucs are seventh among teams eligible to play in the tournament. That would send them to either Florida Gulf Coast or Stetson, which are currently tied for the lead at 12-1.
Six regular-season games still remain on the schedule.
The Lady Bucs (7-16 overall) will try to end a three-game losing streak tonight at Kennesaw State. They defeated the Owls 74-68 in the first meeting, with freshman Shamauria Bridges scoring a career-high 19 points and Taylor Christopher collecting 14 points and 14 rebounds.
That was a bright spot in a tough stretch for ETSU. It has lost nine of its last 11 games and is in front of only Lipscomb (2-11) and North Florida (1-11) in the conference.
One of those teams, along with Northern Kentucky, which is 10-3 but remains in the transitional phase to Division I, will sit out the tournament.
The battle for the regular-season championship looks like a two-team affair that will be decided on the last day of the schedule. Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson will meet in DeLand on March 8.
That will be more than two months after their first encounter, won by FGCU 72-56. The Lady Eagles are the three-time defending champs and ran through the league unbeaten the last two seasons.
Stetson got sweet revenge in the tournament final last year, however, with a 72-64 victory.
Lamar turned out to be a short-lived career move for former ETSU assistant basketball coach Scott Wagers.
He lost his job Sunday when Pat Knight was fired as the Cardinals’ head coach in the midst of a 3-22 season. The two are old friends and Wagers had joined him in Beaumont, Texas just last spring after spending 13 years at ETSU.
Knight, the son of coaching legend Bobby Knight, was in his third season at Lamar after being fired at Texas Tech. His first team made the NCAA tournament, but the Cardinals have gone 6-50 since, including 3-26 in the Southland Conference.
Wagers served on Murry Bartow’s staff for a decade at ETSU before resigning last May, and had worked for Ed DeChellis for three years prior to that.
After travelling to tournaments in Nashville and Atlanta the last couple of weekends, the softball team gets to play on home turf this week.
The Buccaneer Challenge presented by Holiday Inn is set for Saturday and Sunday at Betty Basler Field. Siena and Oakland are the invited guests.
The Bucs (3-5) will play Oakland in their first contest Saturday at 1, then follow with a game against Siena at 3.
The Bucs gave up a few runs in dropping three of four games last weekend at the Panther Invitational in Atlanta. They were outscored 34-16 by Georgia Tech, Bowling Green and Georgia State – the major damage was an 18-7 loss to the Yellow Jackets – but shut out Indiana 6-0.
Shortstop Kelsey Chernak leads ETSU in hitting with a .429 average. Catcher Jackie Baird has driven in 10 runs on seven hits, including five homers.
Freshman Taylor Carter is 3-1 in the circle, with a 2.03 earned-run average. Opponents are hitting .233 against her.