Spring Update: Lions excel on the court, sand, course, and diamond

It’s been a while since we’ve had an update and a lot has happened for the UNA Lions.

From action wrapping up in men’s and women’s basketball to just heating up in tennis, golf, beach volleyball, softball, baseball, and even spring football drills, the University of North Alabama athletic teams have been very busy since the beginning of the year.

UNA Beats #18 Ole Miss

After what can only be characterized as a rocky start in the transition to D1 play, the UNA Baseball team has pulled off a pair of excellent wins in the past week. This past Sunday, North Alabama earned its first-ever ASUN win during their homestand finale vs. Stetson who are coming off a ride deep into the NCAA tournament last season.

Then, on Tuesday, the Lions shocked the college baseball world by upsetting a Top 20 squad from the SEC at their place. UNA rolled into Oxford, Mississippi and coupled some good swings of the bat with steady pitching while stealing the win over the 18th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels. It was definitely the signature win the Lions needed to make a splash during this first year of transition.

UNA Competes in WBI

The UNA women’s basketball team’s success slowed a bit down the stretch and the Lions thought their season had prematurely ended after a close loss in the first round of the ASUN tournament. However, thanks to some outstanding news a couple of weeks later, they had their season extended with an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

The Lions were rewarded for a great season by getting to host the first round against Georgia State before getting a road win against Southern Miss and coming up just short in a close one in the semifinals at North Texas. It was truly a magical first year of transition for this group and that included several post-season awards and school records.

On the men’s side, the Lions gave the ASUN all they could handle and competed very well for such a young team in its inaugural season of D1 action. Coach Pujol and his staff brought excitement to the court and were lauded with kudos from across the league. Highlights of the season included their first-ever ASUN win which was over conference power Florida Gulf Coast.

Lions Adapting to Sand

In its first-ever season of existence, the UNA Beach Volleyball squad has gotten off to a good start. The Lions have many players who are playing on the sand for the first time and even have returning players from the program’s recent indoor squads.

North Alabama’s team is competing in the ASUN’s North Division in the sport and includes teams from Austin Peay, Coastal Carolina, Morehead State, and Jacksonville State, which are all affiliate teams in the ASUN just for beach volleyball. The Lions currently lead that division after two wins over the Gamecocks last week.

Softball Continues Winning Ways

One of our most successful programs to close out the last few years of D2, the Lions softball team has jumped right into the mix and are very competitive in this first year of transition. They have wins over UAB and Memphis along with recently their first-ever ASUN win (over North Florida) and ASUN series win (double-header against Stetson). UNA was ranked #99 in the RPI last week, which I believe is the highest RPI ranking of any UNA team this season.

Tennis Earns Milestone Wins

The UNA Tennis teams have entered conference action after achieving milestone wins earlier in the season. The women’s teams got it’s first-ever D1 victory with a win over Alabama A&M and has had wins since over Jacksonville State, Western Kentucky, and Mississippi Valley State. The men’s team got its first-ever D1 win coming over MVSU and has also defeated Austin Peay this inaugural season.

Lions Golf In Full Swing

The men’s golf team has also had a great introduction to D1 as they competed well in a South Carolina tournament to begin the year before placing second at the Lonnie Barton Invitational in St. Petersberg, FL. After another competitive performance at the Mission Inn Spring Spectacular in Florida, the Lions then earned their first tournament win of the D1 era as they hosted the UNA Spring Classic. They finished atop a field of 12 D1 universities including Troy and Jacksonville State.

In its first year in existence, the women’s golf team started way out west in a huge tournament in Hawaii and finished higher than a couple of schools that will be our foes in Big South football, Hampton and Monmouth. They went on to finish 8th at the LBI in Florida and 10th at the Bama Beach Bash in Gulf Shores hosted by USA.

Lions Open Spring Football Camp

The UNA Football team had four practices before Spring Break and have been back in the routine this week. The Lions are working toward the Purple-White Spring Game scrimmage on Saturday, April 13th in Braly Stadium.

Coach Willis discusses these and other aspects of spring practice here:

UNA To Build New Stadium(s)

It seems the facilities upgrade rumors are becoming a reality after a recent acquisition of land from the city and a series of work group sessions by the students on campus.

The City of Florence gave the university the tract of land adjacent to the UNA softball and beach volleyball fields for relocation of the baseball field. The move will be another piece of a “spring sports complex” on Cox Creek Parkway.

That move will open up space on campus, which is being considered for the possible construction of a new, university-owned football stadium. Braly Stadium is a rented city-owned facility and is aging. After UNA sought student feedback last fall relating the university experience, it was determined that a new football stadium was of interest.

The SGA is now having work group sessions to get feedback regarding the design, location, amenities, and funding. Another potential site being discussed is the old ECM Hospital location.

What’s Next?

All teams will start to wrap up conference scheduling and hopefully advance to ASUN tournament action in order to compete for conference titles and post-season honors.

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Roar Lions!

 



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(Photos Courtesy ASUN Conference and The Flor-Ala)

About Andy Davis, Editor 145 Articles
Andy Davis is a freelance writer and owner of Singing River Media. A UNA graduate (Class of ’96), Andy has been a die-hard Lions fan since the 80’s and was a member of the Pride of Dixie Marching Band during the championship run of the early 90’s. He also covers the Gulf South Conference for D2Football.com and is the owner/editor of SECBeyond.com.

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