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Kelly Hodge

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ETSU's Ezell getting tropical

May 7th, 2014 7:19 pm by Kelly Hodge

ETSU's Ezell getting tropical

East Tennessee State coach Brittney Ezell has a chance to put her basketball knowledge to work in a tropical setting this summer.

Ezell will assistant Jacksonville coach Yolett McCuin with the Bahamas national women’s team as it attempts to qualify for the world championships and, perhaps, the 2016 Olympics.

“Yolett and I have developed a friendship through our teams playing against each other,” Ezell said Wednesday. “When we played for the second time last season, she asked if I’d be interested in helping coach this team. She’s Bahamian and was quite a player on their junior national team there.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to learn and grow as a coach in an international competition.”

Ezell, who just finished her first season at ETSU, will report to training camp in Nassau on June 22. The team will work for about 2 ½ weeks and then play in the Caribbean Basketball Confederation tournament in the British Virgin Islands.

If the Bahamians do well, they’ll advance to the Central American Games in Mexico, with a chance to make the world championships in Turkey.

“They’ve got several women who play professionally in Europe, a couple who are in the WNBA and some who are still in college,” said Ezell. “So there will be some talent there.”

This won’t be Ezell’s first basketball mission in the Bahamas. She played in a tournament there as a point guard at Alabama.

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ETSU director of tennis Yaser Zaatini headed to Nashville on Wednesday to get ready for a first-round NCAA tournament matchup Saturday against Columbia.

The Bucs, eight-time Atlantic Sun Conference champions, are seeking their third win at the big show, having beaten Notre Dame in 2008 and Alabama two years later.

Columbia, the Ivy League champ, is 20-1 and has won its last 18 matches. The Lions are the top-seeded team at the Vanderbilt site.

“They’re really deep … I don’t think they have two guys who have lost more than three matches all year,” said Zaatini. “Their only loss as a team was to Georgia, so they gotta be good.

“When you get to this stage, it’s just a matter of reacting to what people do at the speed they do it. You have to find weaknesses on the fly or you can get blown away.”

That’s a likely scenario for the ETSU women, who face a nearly impossible task when they take on fourth-ranked Duke on Friday. However that turns out, Zaatini says it won’t diminish their march to a conference championship and fourth NCAA tournament berth.

“In hindsight, the women’s achievement was even more important because they weren’t picked to win,” he said. “To be able to pull through was quite a trophy. With the guys, it’s like pressure year in and year out and they have to cover the odds. They’ve had a pretty good run, and have a chance to make more history.”

The men’s match is at 11 a.m. Saturday, while the women play Friday at 1.

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Softball coach Brad Irwin loses just three seniors to graduation, but two of them will be hard to replace.

Katie Wolff was named Tuesday to the all-conference first team after setting school records for batting average (.394), doubles (12) and on-base percentage (.439). Wolff, of La Grange, Texas, is the first ETSU player since Sam Lower in 2010 to make the first team.

Meanwhile, catcher Jackie Baird of Ooltewah set school records for homers in a season (20) and career (33) while batting .329. For good measure, she was named to the conference all-academic team.

Elliana Cabrera of Hayden, Ariz., was the third senior on a team that finished 20-32 overall, 7-18 in the Atlantic Sun.

“This senior class definitely laid the foundation of hard work,” said Irwin. “I think a lot of our young kids can look to that and use it as a model.” 

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The baseball team clinched a spot in the conference tournament with its sweep of USC Upstate last weekend, but it may be a rocky road getting to Fort Myers, Fla., in two weeks.

The Bucs will face the top two teams in the standings, beginning this weekend on that same field at Florida Gulf Coast. They finish the regular season at home next weekend against Mercer.

The Bears currently lead the A-Sun standings at 16-5, with the Eagles right behind at 15-6. The Bucs find themselves tied for fourth place with Kennesaw State at 11-9.

ETSU headed into a non-conference game Wednesday at Furman with a 24-22 overall record.

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