UVa Soccer Standouts Shine on Summer Stage
By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- When the 2010-11 school year ended, UVa soccer standouts Will Bates, Brian Ownby and Brian "Cobi" Span headed north to Reading, Pa., for a summer enrichment program of sorts. For all parties, it turned out to be time well spent.
"It's been fantastic," Bates said.
"It couldn't have worked out any better, to be honest with you," Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said.
Bates, Ownby and Span, all forwards, joined Reading United AC, which competes in the United Soccer League's Premier Development League. On a team stocked with college players who aspire to play professional soccer, the Cavaliers had a major impact, Reading United coach Brendan Burke said.
In a recent phone converstion with UVa assistant coaches Matt Chulis and Michael Behonick, Burke recalled, "I just told them, 'If those three guys are clicking for you guys this year, I don't know that there's anyone in college soccer that's going to slow them down.' "
Bates, a junior from Chester, and Ownby, a senior from Glen Allen, are back at UVa taking summer-school classes. Span, a sophomore from Somers, N.Y., has been training in Germany. Burkes hopes all three can return to Reading for at least some of the PDL playoffs. Even if that doesn't happen, the Virginia trio's contributions will be one of the top storylines of this Reading United season.
For a team that's 12-1-1 heading into its Wednesday night match with the Long Island Rough Riders, Bates is the leading scorer, with 15 points (six goals and three assists) -- despite having played in only six games. Ownby has totaled four goals and three assists in four games, and Span has a goal and two assists in five appearances.
When the Wahoos were on the field together, Bates said, it "was consistently me assisting Brian, Brian assisting Cobi, Cobi assisting me. The three of us were creating a lot of opportunities, and we really got to understand each other better as players."
Burke said: "When they're clicking, there's nothing that can stop them. The PDL can be a very high level at times, and there was no adjustment for them. They came in, and they've dominated a couple games for us."
That's what Gelnovatch hoped would happen. In years past, he and Burke had talked about sending UVa players to Reading for the PDL season, but nothing had come of those conversations, for various reasons.
"This summer was kind of a trial period, I guess you could say, to see if the environment was right for some of his top guys and if we could make it work from a schedule standpoint on our end," Burke said. "Because obviously we have our season to worry about, so when guys are in and out, that can be a concern. But we've made it work on every front. I think it's gone fantastically well, and it's something we'll probably do again."
Gelnovatch worried that too many games in the offseason would take a toll on his players come fall.
"Brendan made it clear that he understands that concern and would be very flexible with how many games they play and their time off," Gelnovatch said. "Given those things, I thought it would be a good thing for those three guys in particular, in terms of how they interact with each other and how they could continue to build off the spring, when all three of them were working together tremendously. They could use the summer and use that team as a way to keep that going."
In 2009, Bates was a freshman and Ownby a sophomore on the UVa team that won the NCAA title. Span enrolled at Virginia last year and joined Bates and Ownby in the starting lineup.
With 20, 17 and 13 points, respectively, Bates, Ownby and Span were UVa's leading scorers in 2010. Overall, though, it was not a memorable season for the 'Hoos, who lost to ODU in the NCAA tournament's first round.
Injuries have marred Ownby's college career, but he was healthy this spring, which allowed him to develop a rhythm with Bates during practices. Also, Gelnovatch said, "Cobi had a season under his belt from the fall, so he was a little bit more comfortable, and the three of them really started to kind of jell and to work together and to do some really good things."
Their bond is even tighter now, thanks to their time together in Reading. "It was awesome," Bates said. "For a summer program, we got to go live up in a different area, so that's something different. And we were in a training environment every day where we were playing with a lot of the best guys from a lot of different programs, from Ivy League schools to other ACC schools -- UNC players were down there as well."
In Reading, which is about 60 miles from Philadelphia, Span stayed in a hotel. Ownby and Bates, who grew up playing with each in the Richmond Strikers program, shared an apartment. Ownby and Bates also spent a week training with Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union and had a 10-day trial with a team in Sweden, Mjällby.
"We got a lot of good feedback from there," Bates said. "They liked both of our strengths and said it was obvious that we had played together, because we had good chemistry on the field. And they said they were going to continue watching us throughout this fall season here at UVa."
Practice starts Aug. 9 for the Cavaliers, who finished 11-6-3 last year. Expect to see some wrinkles on the offensive end from the 'Hoos this season.
"In the past we haven't had a good stretch where Ownby and Bates have been healthy together," Gelnovatch said, "and what we found out this spring is that they're most dangerous as a duo up front, as opposed to one guy up front and one guy out wide. Both of them playing as two forwards created all sorts of problems for other teams.
"Last year we didn't do that, and even in the year when we won the national championship we didn't do that. Bates was kind of that high center forward, and Ownby was wide. This spring we played with two kind of traditional forwards, and those guys were banging in goals, working together great."
Span is "more of a wide attacking guy," Gelnovatch said, whose skills complement those of Bates and Ownby.
"Cobi's got loads of talent," Bates said. "I think he's probably got the most talent of anybody on this team, as far as physical attributes go and what he possibly could become. For him it's just learning the game and kind of understanding what his position on this team is and where he should be with positioning. But as you saw last season, he has the potential to score great goals and put teammates in great position to score goals, and this summer, more than anything, he's been taking people on [one on one] and just destroying them."
Two 2010 starters who had eligibility left at UVa -- Jimmy Simpson and Sean Murnane -- have left the program, Gelnovatch said. But in addition to Bates, Ownby and Span, such veterans as Hunter Jumper, Ari Dimas, Mike Volk and Greg Monaco return, and the 'Hoos have added a large and well-regarded recruiting class.
"With the team we had in 2009, everybody was ecstatic that we won [the NCAA championship], but then there was kind of a hangover effect, and I don't think we really performed to what we could have last year," said Bates, who missed three games in 2010 because of injuries.
"So I think the new guys, this new blood, they're going to be pretty hyped up. If anything, it's just going to create competition for starting spots, which can only make everybody better."
Gelnovatch went into 2010 knowing it could be a rebuilding year for the Cavaliers, and that's how it played out. His expectations for 2011 are higher, and that optimism is well-founded, Bates believes.
The first-year class will add an infusion of talent, Bates said, and "I think leadership's going to be huge this year, from guys that are moving from second year to third year and third year to fourth year. And I think after getting a taste of what it was like [to win the NCAA title] in 2009 and then having a taste of defeat in 2010, you reset your motives and your goals. Obviously we want to win championships this year, and I think we have the squad to do it."
Virginia Beach WR Anthony Cooper makes his college decision -
he's a Hoo
Right on cue, just as I was finishing my previous blog on Augie Conte's commitment to Tech, Anthony Cooper announced his own intentions to stay in-state.
Cooper, a 6-foot-0, 178-pound wide receiver from Bayside High in Virginia Beach, committed today to Virginia, according to Wahoos247.com and CavsCorner.com. He also considered offers from Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
Cooper's commitment is big for U.Va. because he may wind up being the top receiver the program picks up for the class of 2012. He's considered by many recruiting analysts to be among the nation's top 75 receiver prospects.
He joins a receiver class that includes Hampton High's Jamall Brown, a sleeper prospect, to say the least. In addition, U.Va. commitments Will Wahee from Norfolk Christian School and Maurice Canady from Varina High in Richmond could end up at receiver.
Though U.Va. has offered receiver Joel Caleb, the top prospect in the state from Clover Hill High in Midlothian, he's not believed to be taking the Cavaliers into serious consideration at this stage...which, obviously, makes Cooper's commitment more important.
Last season, Cooper had 40 catches for 785 yards and seven touchdowns. He added five touchdowns on returns (kickoff, punt and interceptions). In addition to the aforementioned offers, he also had scholarships on the table from Boston College, East Carolina, Western Michigan, Hampton, ODU, James Madison and Richmond.
He's the 16th commitment for U.Va.'s '12 class, which includes 10 in-state recruits. Feb. 1 will be the first day recruits can sign a letter of intent.
Might Cooper's decision affect the college choice of defensive end Eli Harold from Ocean Lakes High in Virginia Beach? Cooper and Harold are tight, and Harold will make his college announcement Aug. 2. Harold is considering offers from U.Va., Penn State and Florida.
At 6-4 and 217 pounds, he has been evaluated by recruiting analysts as a defensive end, linebacker and athlete prospect. He's considered by various analysts to be among the nation's top 20 recruits at each of the respective positions/distinctions.
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Posted by Norman Wood
Wide receiver prospect set to join Cavs
By DAILY PROGRESS STAFF REPORTS
Published: July 20, 2011
Virginia landed one of the state’s top players on Wednesday as Bayside High (Virginia Beach) wide receiver/defensive back Anthony Cooper announced his college decision.
Cooper, ranked as the No. 8 player in the commonwealth by Rivals.com, picked Virginia over Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Boston College, East Carolina and Virginia Tech had also offered Cooper.
Expected to be slotted at wide receiver upon arrival, Cooper is listed at 6-foot and 180 pounds and caught 40 passes for 785 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He also added five touchdowns by returning two kickoffs, one punt and two interceptions. He finished with five interceptions for the season.
With Cooper in the fold the Cavaliers have 16 commitments, including 10 from players inside the state.
Virginia had already landed Hampton High’s Jamall Brown as a wideout for the Class of 2012 and Maurice Canady, from Varina, and Will Wahee, from Norfolk Christian, could also be slotted on offense.
Last year at Bayside, Cooper was a key player as the Marlins won the Eastern Regional title and the Beach District.
Cooper was a first-team All-State selection last year and a first-team All-Tidewater pick at wideout.
Virginia did miss out on a target on Wednesday as Augie Conte, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound offensive tackle from Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot in Powhatan, picked Virginia Tech.
The Hokies now have 22 commitments for the Class of 2012.
UVa, Tech land Va. commitments Cooper and Conte
By Doug Doughty
Inroads made by Virginia during the 2010 recruiting of Bayside
High School All-American Demetrious Nicholson continued to pay dividends
Wednesday with a commitment from Nicholson's former teammate Anthony Cooper.
Connections weren't that big a deal for 6-foot-6, 270-pound Augie Conte, an offensive lineman from Richmond who picked Virginia Tech over the Cavaliers.
Conte's mother went to Virginia, but her father -- Augie's grandfather -- is a Tech graduate.
"I'm a legacy of both schools," Conte said, "I grew up as a UVa fan, but it wasn't hard to separate those issues from my decision."
Conte, home-schooled until 11th grade, played the past two seasons at Blessed Sacrament in Powhatan. He attended a camp in Blacksburg on June 9 and subsequently received an offer from the Hokies, his first. Virginia made an offer last week.
"Coming off the Tech camp, I really liked it," Conte said, "but I wanted to go back and learn more about the academics."
Because Conte's offers came later than most at the Division I-A level, he does not show up in many of the rankings of the top prospects in the state.
Cooper, who can play both wide receiver and defensive back, picked Virginia over Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The No. 12 prospect in Virginia, he gives the Cavaliers their sixth commitment from the 757 area code.
Cooper (6 feet, 180 pounds) was named first-team All-Tidewater by The Virginian-Pilot newspaper as a junior, when he had 40 receptions for 785 yards and seven touchdowns. He scored five touchdowns on returns, including interceptions, and was an all-district selection on offense, defense and special teams.
Conte, who said he might go to Fork Union in the fall of 2012 and enroll at Tech in January 2013, is the 22nd player to commit to the Hokies.
Virginia has commitments from 17 players, including one from Charlotte, N.C., wide receiver Adrian Gamble, a 2011 signee who will be at Fork Union this fall. The status of another 2011 signee, Petersburg's Kevin Green, awaits the arrival of his final transcript.
For a list of Tech and UVa football commitments, check the roanoke.com Datasphere.
Boston College has taken its second football commitment from a Virginia prospect, 6-foot-2, 181-pound wide receiver Harrison Jackson. The Eagles were the first Division I-A program to make an offer to Jackson, who had 30 receptions for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns last year for Loudoun Valley in Purcellville. Earlier, Boston College had landed offensive lineman Win Homer from Christchurch School.
Sarah Beth Barnette, named Ms. Basketball in Kentucky as a Lexington Christian senior in 2009-10, is transferring from Kentucky to Virginia. Barnette, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, played in 29 games for the Wildcats as a freshman and averaged 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds. She will sit out the 2011-12 season.
-- After making an early commitment to former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, 6-2 Merritt Hempe from Stafford has changed her mind and plans to sign with Georgia. New UVa coach Kathy Boyle has been able to hang on to another Ryan recruit, 5-7 Raeshaun Gaffney from Cincinnati, and took a commitment Wednesday from Faith Randolph, a national top-30 recruit from Good Counsel in Olney, Md.
Headed to UVa-Wise for football are first-team All-Timesland wide receivers Brad Wooten and Julian Stewart from Eastern Montgomery. Wooten set Timesland records for single-season receptions (97), receiving yards (1,536) and receiving touchdowns (18), and Stewart had 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 TDs in 2010. Eastern Montgomery running back Michael Shelor will be joining them.
The Highland Cavaliers signed four first- or second-team All-Timesland choices, including first-team center Adam Carter from Rockbridge County and second-team pick Kevin Enix, a 6-foot-2, 266-pounder from Franklin County. Enix will be joined by his Eagles' teammate Chase Hughes, a two-time All-Western Valley District choice who is projected as a wide receiver.
-- Boys soccer standout Devin Jones, a second-team All-Timesland midfielder for Group AA state champion Jefferson Forest, is headed to Lynchburg College. ... For a list of commitments from 2011 seniors, check the Datasphere on roanoke.com.
In the ODAC
Former Halifax County football coach Stan Hodgin is the new offensive coordinator at Emory & Henry. Hodgin most recently coached at Averett. ... WEHC 90.7 AM, which airs Emory & Henry sporting events, received a second-place award from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters for outstanding sports coverage by a non-commercial or public station. WEHC, founded as an AM station in 1929, was the second AM station in Virginia.
New Virginia offensive-line coach Scott Wachenheim will be the featured speaker Wednesday at the Roanoke Valley Sports Club, with new Virginia Tech assistant head coach Shane Beamer scheduled to follow Aug. 1. Both meetings begin at 5:45 p.m. For membership information, contact President Mac McCadden at 397-2119 or Tom Marchi at 588-2969.
Tech-U.Va. football rivalry is a win-win deal
Posted to: College Football Sports Virginia Tech Football
By Kyle Tucker
© July 21, 2011
Virginia Tech football scored an unlikely in-state recruiting victory over rival Virginia on Wednesday when Richmond-area offensive tackle Augie Conte chose the Hokies over the Cavaliers, his favorite team growing up.
Although an unheralded recruit whose only scholarship offer two weeks ago was from Old Dominion, Conte is among the more interesting prospects in the state this year. He was home-schooled through the 10th grade and last year attended a small private school, Blessed Sacrament Huguenot, thus remaining under the recruiting radar.
"Coming from the whole home-school thing ... there wasn't a lot of exposure," Conte said. "The first time I ever talked to a college recruiter was this spring."
He attended a camp at U.Va. earlier this summer, but the Cavaliers, who already have four committed offensive linemen, didn't initially offer. Then Conte participated in a one-day camp July 9 at Tech and wowed the Hokies' coaches with his size (6-foot-6, 270 pounds), strength (360-pound bench press, 440-pound squat) and performance in drills.
Tech offered him a scholarship three days later. Four hours after the Hokies' offer, Virginia pulled the trigger. That seemed to spell trouble for Tech - Conte's father grew up in Charlottesville, his grandparents still live there and his mother attended U.Va.
"I can pretty much guarantee that if they'd offered before I went to the Virginia Tech camp, I would've accepted," Conte said. "But at Tech's camp, I loved the way the coaches were, the way they interacted with the players. I just really liked the coaching staff, the campus, how the players I met were all really good guys.
"I felt like I was at home at Virginia Tech."
So the Hokies picked up their second offensive lineman - a major position of need for Tech - and 22nd overall commitment for the Class of 2012. Conte is also the sixth player reeled in by new assistant coach Shane Beamer since his hiring in February.
Four of Beamer's pledges are in-state players who had offers from U.Va. The Hokies now have 13 in-state commitments overall, eight who had offers from the Cavaliers.
Virginia, meanwhile, is holding its own. Despite losing Conte, the Cavaliers picked up Bayside High wide receiver Anthony Cooper - who did not have a Tech offer - on Wednesday. Ten of U.Va.'s commitments are in-state players, three who had Tech offers.
Together, it appears the Hokies and Cavaliers are poised to largely lock down the state's borders in this recruiting cycle. Rivals.com released its ranking of the top 30 players in Virginia this week, and with more than six months until signing day, the programs have already combined to secure commitments from 17 of them.
Led by linebacker Deon Clark and Oscar Smith High running back J.C. Coleman, the Hokies have landed the Nos. 5, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 29 players on Rivals' list. Led by Norfolk Christian linebacker Kwontie Moore and Bayside's Cooper, the Cavaliers have the Nos. 4, 12, 14, 18, 20 and 24 players in the state.
Neither program is done with its talent search. Tech is among the favorites to land No. 1 Joel Caleb (wide receiver), No. 6 Ken Ekanem (defensive end), No. 7 Trey Edmunds (linebacker) and No. 8 Korren Kirven (defensive tackle). U.Va. is the heavy favorite for the state's No. 2 player, Ocean Lakes defensive end Eli Harold.
The Hokies and Cavaliers could easily combine to keep eight of the top 10 and more than 20 of the top 30 players in the state from leaving Virginia. That would be a positive sign that the programs' rejuvenated recruiting rivalry - sparked last year by new U.Va. coach Mike London's aggressive approach and heightened this offseason by Tech coach Frank Beamer's staff makeover - is helping reverse a recent trend.
Starting with the mass exodus in the Class of 2006, when 13 of the top 15 players in Virginia - including No. 1 Percy Harvin from Landstown High - left the state, many elite prospects have crossed the borders to play college football every year. But so far, this year's in-state recruiting results prove that competition is a good thing for everyone.
Former UVa coach lands gig in pros
By WHITELAW REID
Published: July 20, 2011
Perhaps the pro coaching ranks will be a better fit for the fiery Dave Leitao.
On Wednesday, the Portland Press Herald reported that Leitao, the former Virginia men's basketball coach, was expected to be named the new coach of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League.
Since leaving UVa two seasons ago under fire, there was a feeling that Leitao would eventually return to the college game, where he was, reportedly, a candidate for a handful of jobs. But apparently the pros had more appeal to Leitao, who could not be reached for comment.
According to the Press Herald, Leitao will replace Austin Ainge as the Red Claws’ coach. Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge, was recently named the Celtics' Director of Player Personnel.
The Red Claws are affiliated with the Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats. Former Red Claw players who have been called up to the NBA include Bill Walker, Avery Bradley and Sherron Collins.
The Red Claws' season, which begins in November, will not be affected by the current NBA labor problems.
Having played collegiately at Northeastern and served as a longtime assistant coach under Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, Leitao has always had strong ties to the northeast. The 51-year-old Massachusetts native has been spotted at Celtics games the last few seasons, sitting with the mother of Celtics’ star Ray Allen, a player he recruited during his UConn days.
Leitao was 63-60 during his four-year tenure at Virginia. His best season came during the 2006-07 campaign when the Wahoos went 21-11 (11-5 in league) en route to a share of the ACC regular-season title. Leitao was named ACC Coach of the Year at season’s end.
However, Leitao led Virginia to a 17-16 mark the next season (with a forgettable trip to the CBI) and just a 10-18 showing the following season.
DeCock: ACC needs better basketball teams
BY LUKE DECOCK - STAFF WRITER
The question came up again Tuesday in Mark Gottfried's first summer news conference at N.C. State: What does the ACC need to do to get more men's basketball teams into the NCAA tournament? The answer, again, was who ACC teams play, not how ACC teams play.
"There's too many teams in this league that have played teams with a (poor) RPI," said Gottfried, who observed the ACC from the outside as an ESPN analyst last season. "You want to play teams that you think will have winning records at the end of the season."
This has been a constant theme of not only this summer but recent summers. Most coaches want to point the finger at scheduling as the reason why the ACC had only four NCAA tournament teams for the second time in four years, and there's validity to that. Too many ACC coaches have spent too much time going after too many easy wins.
"If you look at the scheduling of our conference teams over the last five years, it hasn't been good, in some cases," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said earlier this summer.
He's right, but the league has a bigger problem than that. The reason why the ACC hasn't gotten as many teams into the tournament as it expects is a simple one: There haven't been enough good teams in the ACC.
Duke and North Carolina have held up their end of the bargain, competing for national championships and holding down the top two spots in the conference on a regular basis. The rest of the league hasn't kept up. Rarely in recent years has the league's third-best team been as good as the top two.
In the '80s and '90s, the ACC could count on Virginia, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Maryland and Georgia Tech putting together teams with legitimate national-title or Final Four credentials on a regular basis. None of those teams has done that lately, nor anyone else in the ACC.
Florida State last season became the first ACC team outside the 919 area code to make the Sweet 16 since 2006. Throw out Duke and North Carolina, and the ACC's NCAA tournament record over that span is 12-18. That argues for less participation, not more.
If the ACC were as strong and deep as it once was, nonconference opponents wouldn't matter. The lack of quality depth within the conference leaves the ACC playing the NCAA's little RPI game just like everyone else - Virginia Tech and its annual bubble snubs serving as the cautionary tale.
The real solution is better basketball, top to bottom: Better coaches, better players, better facilities. There has been a ton of turnover in the ACC coaching ranks over the past two years, eight jobs in all. In the long run, that new blood collectively may do more for the ACC than tweaking nonconference scheduling ever could.
But ACC coaches aren't going to say that. They have nothing to gain by criticizing their peers; it serves their purposes to extol the strength of the league, not its mediocrity. So they talk about scheduling, a subject on which Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, both of whom play brutal nonconference schedules as a rule, can lecture from a position of authority. In that respect, Krzyzewski said he was pleased to see the league's new coaches have embraced the scheduling imperative and understand the stakes.
"They took responsibility for it, instead of saying something like 'We've been messed over.' OK, you know?" Krzyzewski scoffed. "Once we get over that, let's ask, 'Why do we only get four teams picked?' "
Scheduling is part, but not all of it. When programs like Virginia and N.C. State come around, when the gap between the top two and the bottom 10 closes, so will the ACC's image in the eyes of the NCAA tournament committee.