Welcome to the finest Philadelphia sports blog ran from within Temple University. This blog's focus is local sports, including Temple sports as well as news and opinions regarding the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Track record holders look forward to Penn Relays

It has been a breakout year for track and field teams, and they said they hope to continue the momentum on a national stage at the Penn Relays this week.

“I’d say that it’s been a breakout year,” distance coach Matt Jelley said. “In the distance events, we just keep getting better and better.”

Women’s track and field has had two Top 5 overall finishes in seven events this year. The team hasn’t finished outside the Top 15. Senior hurdles runner Assata Cowart set the Temple all-time record for the 1K run in January and senior distance runner Sarah Rutter set the Temple record for the 3K run.

“We’re a strong squad in the [400 and 800 meter run],” Jelley said. “On the girls side, across the board, we’re a pretty well-rounded team.”

The 2010 Atlantic Ten Conference Women’s Rookie of the Year, sophomore mid-distance runner Victoria Gocht, will head to the Penn Relays for the second year in a row to compete in the 800 after posting a team-best of 2 minutes, 12.38 seconds in the same event last week.

“We have a bunch of 800 runners who are doing excellent led by [Gocht], who is coming off an injury and doing an excellent job,” Jelley said.

The men’s track and field team has had six Top 5 performances in seven events this year. Junior distance runner Travis Mahoney has gained national attention for his performance in the 3K steeplechase.

“The standout would be [Mahoney],” Jelley said. “He ran an 8:41.6 [in the steeplechase], which is the second fastest time in the country this year, which qualifies him for the regional qualifiers and qualifies him for USA’s.”

Another standout on the men’s side is senior thrower Bob Keogh, who broke the Temple record for the hammer throw earlier this month.

“[Keogh’s] having an incredible season,” Jelley said. “He’s broken the school record four or five times. It seems like every time he goes out, he breaks the school record.”

“Not only does he do well on a performance basis, but he also is a great leader,” Jelley added. “He ended up helping the younger guys and girls. He’s been like a player-coach for us.”

Mahoney and Keogh have a chance to display their talents on a larger stage at the Penn Relays. Keogh will compete in the hammer throw and Mahoney will run the 1,200-meter leg of the distance medley.

The Penn Relays represent a dual opportunity for the Owls’ track and field teams. It is an opportunity for the teams to display their talent to a national audience and finish their seasons on high notes.

“The only time we’ve competed indoors, we finished fifth overall out of 88 teams, which is why we want to go and compete against the best teams in the country and show them what Temple is all about,” Jelley said.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spotlight: The Memphis Grizzlies

After sixteen years of futility, the Memphis Grizzlies have suddenly found themselves on a golden stage in the national spotlight.

The Grizzlies are currently leading the San Antonio Spurs, 2-1 in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs in the NBA.

"I'm happy we're where we are," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "We could be in that other position in that other locker room, so it's nice to be where we are.”

The Spurs entered the playoffs with the best overall record in the league at 61-21. They have clearly been the best team in the NBA all year long and it seemed inevitable that Tim Duncan and co. would make another run at a title this year.

But the Spurs may have overlooked the Grizzlies, who are an eight seed in the playoffs after winning 46 games in the regular season. The Grizzlies also carry a history of failure in the playoffs; they had gone 0-12 in their previous four playoff appearances.

Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph has been the driving force behind the Grizzlies’ early success. He has averaged 20 points and eight rebounds over the series’ three games while holding Duncan to 15 points and 11 rebounds per game.

Randolph scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in game one in San Antonio. Despite trailing going into the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies showed great resiliency and outscored the Spurs 31-24 in the fourth. Small forward Shane Battier hit a go-ahead three pointer with 23.9 seconds left. It was the Grizzlies first ever playoff win, and it came against a one seed on the road.

"It was awesome. I'm really happy for the city," Battier said, who has played in Memphis for six of his eleven career years as a professional. “Most of these guys don't know the history or the heartache that the city has gone through. I'm happy for the city."

"We're in the playoffs," Hollins added. "It's not important to me that it's our first playoff win ever."

Despite a Grizzlies lead at halftime in game two, Duncan and the Spurs rallied in the second half to win at home, 93-87. Duncan had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The series then shifted to Memphis. The Grizzlies proved that game one was no fluke, Randolph turned in another outstanding performance to lead Memphis to a 91-88 win and a 2-1 series lead. Randolph, despite being mostly an inside presence, hit a three with 41.9 seconds left that ultimately sealed the win.

“It's nice to get a victory at home in front of our fans in a playoff game,” Hollins said. “That's special as well because they've been wanting one and hoping for one, and we came in and got it the first opportunity."

The Grizzlies are taking their season slogan of “Let’s make history” to heart as they have already accomplished more than any other Grizzlies team in the franchise’s sixteen year history. Not only have they won their first ever playoff game at home and away, but they are doing it against what many people believed were the favorite to win the NBA championship coming into the playoffs.

If Randolph and the Grizzlies can continue their forward momentum and beat the Spurs in this series, it would be one of the all-time greatest upsets in the NBA. And it would transform the fantasy of a season slogan into a reality.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Boston Massacre

It is a tradition at ESPN before each MLB season for a panel of experts to lay out their predictions for the upcoming year.

Each expert picks the winner of each division as well as wild card winners, league winners, individual award winners, and ultimately the winner of the World Series championship.

45 experts chimed in this year from across the ESPN landscape to share with the world their take on the 2011 baseball season. Out of the 45 expert picks, 43 chose the Boston Red Sox as the winner of the American League and 35 picked the Sox to win it all.

Following an offseason that included the signing of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford, two of the most highly regarded free agents on the market, it is clear that the majority of America believed that this would be a special year for Boston baseball.

So where do the Red Sox stand now, 14 games into the regular season? Try 4-10, the worst record in all of baseball.

“We're just not putting everything together,” Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester said after a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “One night it's the pitching. One night it's the hitting. Some nights it's both. Nothing right now is clicking for us."

Lester is exactly right. Nothing is working for Boston right now.

The Red Sox can’t hit. They are currently tied for fourth to last in the American league with 50 runs scored and are third to last with a team batting average of .230.

And those two major additions that they added this offseason that were supposed to be the catalysts to a World Series championship? Crawford is batting a putrid .127 and has been benched due to poor play and Gonzalez it batting .269 and has only managed one home run and eight RBI in his first two weeks of play.

“He’s trying too hard,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Crawford. “No one doubts that he’s going to be the player everyone thinks he is. He’s real good. It just takes time sometimes. We know how good he’s going to be.”

The Red Sox can’t pitch. They have an MLB worst 6.32 team ERA and have allowed the third most runs in all of baseball. Their starting rotation has been atrocious. They have a staff ERA of 8.17 and starters have accounted for seven of the teams ten losses.

The Red Sox and Francona believe the starting pitching woes are crippling the team and preventing them from digging themselves out of their early hole.

"How many times do you hear people say, 'Momentum goes as far as your next day's starter.’?” Francona said. “It’s true.”

The Red Sox struggles is a classic example of a team who tries to buy success but fails to consider the importance of team chemistry. The new additions have not performed well and it has created a domino effect across the team in which the homegrown players are struggling as well.

If the Red Sox cannot pull themselves out of this hole then the American League could be wide open and 43 so called “experts” may be forced to relinquish that unfortunate title.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Women's tennis places third at A-10 Tournament

After a year of 17 wins, including one against the University of Massachusetts in the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament quarterfinals, the women’s tennis team’s season came down to one match.

Senior first singles player Theresa Stangl faced off against Saint Louis graduate student and 2010 A-10 Most Outstanding Player Hailee Elmore with the match score tied in the semi-finals of the A-10 Tournament on Saturday. The winner would seal a match victory for her team and secure a spot in the finals.

Stangl gave a valiant effort but could not pull off the upset dealt by Elmore, who beat Stangl in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, ending Temple’s season.

“Overall, we played very well,” coach Steve Mauro said. “We had a great season.”

The tournament was a single-elimination, seeded grouping of the Top 14 teams in the A-10 from the regular season. Temple entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed after posting a 6-1 in-conference record in the regular season. Temple, along with No. 1 seed Richmond, got a first round bye and the team faced No. 7 seed Massachusetts in the second round.

In a competitive match at each position, the Owls shut out the Minutemen, 4-0. Senior classmates Elyse Steiner and Lucie Pazderova finished first and gave the Owls a 1-0 lead with a 9-7 win at first doubles. Pazderova added to the lead with a 6-3, 6-1 decision at fifth singles. Temple freshman Jordan Batey brought the lead to 3-0 after her 6-1, 6-3 win at sixth doubles. Steiner finished the match with a 7-5, 6-2 win at second singles, giving the Owls the 4-0 win.

“I was extremely happy with the Massachusetts win,” Mauro said. “But honestly, I’m not happy unless we win the whole thing.”

Temple went on to face No. 3 seed Saint Louis in the semi-finals. Saint Louis defeated No. 6 seed Duquesne in the quarterfinals, and Mauro said the Owls got a tough draw with this matchup.

“We didn’t match up well against Saint Louis,” Mauro said. “They hit a lot of lob shots, which we’re not used to. We’re used to playing ranked teams across the country that use a different style.”

The Owls won the doubles point, but the Billikens’ conservative play frustrated the Owls at singles. The Billikens’ lob shots controlled the speed of the game. Despite wins by Steiner and Batey at second and sixth singles, respectively, the Owls were swept at singles positions three through five, which created the 3-3 tie that set up Elmore and Stangl’s match.

“The standout player was probably [Steiner],” Mauro said. “She won all three of her matches at second singles.”

Batey was another standout. Including her three wins in the tournament, she finished the year with an 11-match winning streak at sixth singles. And she’s been doing this all as a freshman.

“Our freshmen played very well,” Mauro said. “We counted on them a lot.”

Saint Louis went on to lose to two-time defending champion Richmond in the tournament finals. The Owls beat the George Washington Colonials on Sunday in a consolation match to take third place.

Temple played very competitively against Richmond in a 4-3 loss earlier this year and as a result, coach Mauro had very high expectations coming into the tournament.

“I thought we could win the whole thing,” Mauro said. “I thought it’d be a tough road, but I thought we could do it.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spotlight: Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs

There have been two different sets of Bulldogs that have advanced to their respective sports’ championship game.

The one you’ve heard of, the Butler Bulldogs, shot 22% from the floor and managed to score only 41 points in an embarrassing loss to the UCONN Huskies in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s final game.

The other Bulldogs, the one you probably haven’t heard of before, are from Duluth, Minnesota. This past weekend in the Frozen Four, the Duluth-Minnesota Bulldogs defeated the perennial favorite Michigan Wolverines in overtime, 3-2, to capture their first ever NCAA men’s hockey national championship.

"I don't know if I can put it into words," Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. "I am so extremely proud of these guys. I know every coach says that. But to do something that the school's never done is, I'd say that a couple of days ago, it would mean everything.

Bulldogs senior forward Kyle Schmidt was the hero. His goal three minutes and twenty-two seconds into overtime ended the game and gave the national championship to the Bulldogs, the first in the team’s fifty-year history.

The game-winning goal was a one-timer that Schmidt buried from the front of the net that was set up by teammates Travis Oleksuk and Brady Lamb.

"I didn't really do a whole lot,” Schmidt said. “My linemates were working their butts off there in the corner. Luckily it was a gimme because I was probably too nervous to bury anything else.”

The tournament is made up of sixteen teams, including six automatic conference qualifiers from Atlantic Hockey, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, Eastern College Athletic Conference hockey, Hockey East, and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Michigan entered the tournament as a two seed with a 26-11-3 record from the regular season. The Wolverines defeated Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, and North Dakota to advance to the championship game before losing to the Bulldogs.

Minnesota-Duluth was a three seed after a 23-10-6 record in the regular season. The Bulldogs beat Union, Yale, and Notre Dame before winning the championship in overtime against Michigan.
The overtime win in the championship capped off a very exciting season for the Bulldogs who had 12 games go into overtime and lost half of them.

Michigan got off to a one-goal lead in the first period with a goal in the fifteenth minute by Ben Winnett. The Bulldogs scored two in the second to take the lead before Michigan tied it up at the end of the period. A scoreless third set up Schmidt’s heroics in overtime.

"I'm hoping my hockey career isn't over, but if it is, I was one fortunate individual and glad I could bring the national championship to Duluth," Schmidt said.