Junior forward Ramey Kerns is enjoying the finest season ever by a women’s soccer player at East Tennessee State, but there apparently won’t be an encore.
The nation’s leading goal scorer is on schedule to graduate this year and will likely pass up her final season of eligibility, says coach Adam Sayers.
“She’s a senior academically, obviously very focused and determined,” Sayers said Wednesday. “She’s very professional in the way she plans, and she wants to pursue a graduate degree in her field (exercise science). This was a tough decision for her even before this year, when she’s done so well, and we support it.
“It’s our job as coaches to produce successful teams, but also to produce successful student-athletes.”
Kerns has scored 20 goals this season, including four in a 5-1 victory at North Florida last Sunday. That leads the NCAA Division I stats, and she’s second in total points, with 44.
The Kings Mountain, N.C., native already owns many of the career and single-season records at ETSU. On Monday she became the first women’s soccer player ever to earn weekly honors in the Atlantic Sun Conference four times in a season.
“Ramey has been very committed to us and the team,” said Sayers. “She’s come every day and given 100 percent. She’s had a great season.”
Kerns would certainly like to keep wearing the uniform for another week or so.
The Lady Bucs (12-5, 6-3) head into the postseason as the No. 4 seed in the A-Sun tournament and will host No. 5 Jacksonville on Saturday night. Gametime is 7 o’clock at Summers-Taylor Stadium.
ETSU was the regular-season champion a year ago in Sayers’ debut as coach, but was knocked off in the semifinals by Mercer. This time Florida Gulf Coast (7-1-1) is the top seed, followed by Mercer (6-1-2), Kennesaw State (6-2-1) and ETSU.
“I think the tournament is going to be like the regular season, in a sense that several teams at the top are very close,” said Sayers. “Going into the last weekend of the season, teams could have finished anywhere from first to sixth. That’s just a reflection of how good the league has been.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in these girls. I think they’ll play their best.”
If the Lady Bucs win Saturday, they’ll face Gulf Coast in Ft. Myers on Nov. 2, with the final set for two days later. The Lady Eagles beat them 2-1 during the regular season.
The Lady Bucs have already beaten Jacksonville once this season, 2-1 on the road just six days ago. Kerns scored the game winner in the 87th minute.
There are three regular-season matches left on the men’s soccer schedule, and ETSU still has a chance to claim the No. 1 seed.
Right now the Bucs are tied at 4-1 with Mercer, but the Bears won the head-to-head matchup in Johnson City, 2-1 on Sept. 30. The Bucs play at Florida Gulf Coast, the third-place team, on Friday night and at Stetson on Sunday.
Coach Scott Calabrese’s team has four wins and a tie in its last five matches and stands at 8-5-2 overall. The Bucs continue to lead the A-Sun in almost every offensive team category.
Junior David Geno is the leading point man with 29 — 11 goals and seven assists, both league bests. The nearest player has 13 points.
Goalkeeper Ryan Coulter was named the conference co-defensive player of the week on Monday. The junior from Dublin, Ireland recorded his fifth shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over Northern Kentucky last Friday.
The cross country season is growing short.
The A-Sun will host its championship meet Saturday in Ft. Myers, Fla. Then all that remains are regionals and the national championships in November.
First-year coach George Watts thinks the ETSU men can challenge for a title this weekend, though Kennesaw State runners have posted three of the top five times in the conference this season.
“I think we have a chance to be in the top two, but Kennesaw will be hard to beat,” he said. “We’ve improved from last year, so anything is possible. We’re probably beyond where I thought we’d be and seem to be peaking at the right time.”
The Bucs are coming off a third-place finish at the Blue Ridge Open in Boone two weeks ago, marked by personal bests by four of their five runners. Junior Anders Judvigsen of Denmark led the way with a 12th-place finish (25:01.14). Senior Langdon Milhorn was 15th at 25:03.78.
On the women’s side, what an impressive fall it has been for Katie Hirko. The freshman from Oley, Pa., has run in the top 10 in all three of her team’s meets, and she was third in a field of 121 at Boone with an 18:04.47 clocking in the 5K.
Watts describes Hirko as a “pleasant surprise.”
“I didn’t recruit her or know much about her other than her times, which indicated she had talent,” he said. “She’s a nice, compact runner, and very effortless when she runs. She’s not afraid to get right out into the race. Some kids like to run from behind, but she gets right up front. And it’s very tough to catch her at the end of a race.”
The volleyball team saw its four-match winning streak snapped, 3-2, last Friday night at South Carolina Upstate. Now the going really gets tough.
The Bucs will be in Nashville this Friday night to face three-time defending champion Lipscomb. The Bisons won the earlier matchup this season 3-1 and always stir the emotions.
“It’s always a battle with them,” said ETSU coach Lindsey Devine. “We really match up quite well and seem to bring out the best in each other. But they’re always very difficult to beat. They have confidence when they walk in that gym. They bring a little of the intimidation factor.”
Good as they are, at 9-2 in the league, Lipscomb actually trails Florida Gulf Coast in the standings. The Eagles are 12-0 and swept the Bisons in Nashville two weeks ago.
One reason Gulf Coast has come on is its setter, a sophomore named Gigi Meyer. Her father is Urban Meyer, the Ohio State football coach who won a couple of national championships at Florida.
“I’m sure she’s learned at home how to play with confidence and be mentally tough,” said Devine. “It shows on their team.”