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Eagle athletics year in review


June 24, 2014

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    Now that the 2013–2014 year has come to a close for Georgia Southern athletics, let’s take a look back.
    Ground was broken on the expansion of Paulson Stadium last June. The seating expansion on the north side of the stadium was completed and filled to capacity for graduation ceremonies last month. The new Football Operations Center in the west end zone is nearing completion and should be ready before 2014 season kicks off. With a new seating capacity of 24,000 and the addition of a first-class end zone facility, Paulson Stadium is now the Prettiest (Not Quite So Little) Stadium in America.
    As for the 2013 football season, it was one of ups and downs. Knowing there was no conference championship or postseason for which to play put a damper on things. Attendance was down, very likely because of those factors coupled with the stadium being a construction zone all season long. On the field, the Eagles looked very average in their 4-4 start to the season. But Southern won its final three games, including arguably the program’s most significant win at the Swamp over the Florida Gators.
    In December, head coach Jeff Monken announced he would be leaving Georgia Southern to take the head job at Army. Willie Fritz was introduced as the new head coach in January, and he quickly assembled a coaching staff and hit the recruiting trail. That new staff put together what many recruiting websites called the best recruiting class in the Sun Belt Conference.
    While so much has changed for the football program over the last year, several other sports on campus have seen more of the same — and in most cases, that’s a good thing.
    Eagle volleyball won its fourth Southern Conference tournament championship in November — all four titles coming since 2001. In head coach Dustin Wood’s first season at the helm, Southern also won the conference’s regular season for the second consecutive year in 2013.
    Georgia Southern softball also found itself in a familiar spot atop the SoCon standings for most of the season. The Eagles won the regular-season title for the second time in the last three seasons but fell short in the tournament, bowing out in the semifinals. The 2014 senior class finished its career as the winningest class in Eagle softball history, with two regular-season titles and two SoCon tournament championships.
    Eagle baseball had a roller coaster season but definitely saved its best for last. Georgia Southern bid farewell to the SoCon with a memorable run through the tournament, winning five elimination games in a row en route to its sixth Southern Conference tournament title. The Eagles went on to dominate Florida State in NCAA regional play before being eliminated by Alabama in the regional semifinal game.
    Georgia Southern golf took home two huge tournament titles during the spring. The Eagles won the Schenkel Invitational for the first time in its 35 year history. Southern also won its fourth SoCon golf championship in May and advanced to play in the NCAA tournament for the 22nd time in program history.
    Both men’s and women’s basketball quite honestly have been anywhere from bad to mediocre over the past few seasons. The Eagle men finished the season with a 15-19 record but made some noise in the conference tournament. Women’s basketball was right in the thick of things but dropped a few games to end the season and fell into a tournament play-in round, which set them up to run into perennial power Chattanooga early in the tourney. The men had a young squad and a first-year coaching staff, and the women seem to be really close to getting over the hump; both teams have potential for some success on the hardwood in the next few seasons.
    Overall, Georgia Southern had a pretty good 2013–2014 sports year. In its final season in the Southern Conference, Georgia Southern brought home three SoCon tournament titles and one regular-season conference championship.
    Georgia Southern’s membership in the Southern Conference officially ends Monday, June 30. Next week, we will look back at the SoCon era at Georgia Southern.

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