Beach volleyball ready to meet mounting expectations

first_imgFresh off of an undefeated run in 2015 that culminated with the program’s first-ever AVCA National Championship, the No. 1-ranked beach volleyball team will be in a prime position to repeat its success and win it all once again in 2016.The upcoming season will mark the first year of beach volleyball being recognized as an official NCAA sport, in addition to becoming the first ever season of Pac-12 beach volleyball. After going 28-0 in 2015 and claiming the school’s 123rd national team title, the Women of Troy have been ranked preseason No. 1 by multiple media outlets, including the AVCA National Poll and by DiG Magazine.While the early expectations may loom large for the Women of Troy, fifth-year head coach Anna Collier will return some firepower in 10 letterwinners from last year’s squad. USC boasts a good mix of experience and fresh faces in their line up with the top three pairs being made up of upperclassmen — five of whom are juniors — while the four and five pairs consist of a freshman, a sophomore and two former transfers.“Interestingly enough, I actually think we have an even tighter-knit group than last year, and we’re also pretty deep,” Collier said. “I really think we’ve got the correct pairs playing together and ultimately in the correct order.”Among the returning players are junior All-Americans and reigning AVCA Pairs National Champions Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes. In just their first season playing together collegiately, USC’s No. 1 duo went an impressive 44-3 overall in 2015 en route to becoming the third USC pair in a row to claim the pairs title.Now, the two will look to cement themselves as the best beach duo in the nation and make another big run together this season as the Women of Troy’s indisputable on-court leaders.Also returning will be the experienced pair of senior Alexa Strange and junior Sophie Bukovec. Last season, both were named AVCA All-Americans for the first time in their careers after going 33-10 overall at USC’s No. 2 position and will provide key leadership and stability in 2016. Juniors Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler, who went 31-5 together at the four spot in 2015, move up one flight to stand at the No. 3 position this year, while sophomore Jenna Belton and freshman Abril Bustamante will suit up together in their place at No. 4. Rounding out the pairs will be sophomore Jo Kremer and graduate student Zoe Nightingale, debuting at the No. 5 position.With one AVCA national championship already under their belts, team captains Bukovec and Hughes are hoping their team can leave an imprint on this the inaugural season of NCAA beach volleyball.“Our main goal is ultimately to win the first ever NCAA National Championship, because this is the first official year as an NCAA sport,” Hughes said. “That’s really what our team is striving for.”However, the team knows that the road to the championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama, won’t be easy.“I think that because we are ranked No. 1, we have a pretty big target on our back,” Hughes said. “It’s going to be about us taking things one point at a time and one match at a time. Then, we’ll get to that ultimate goal of winning the national championship, which I really think we can achieve.”Bukovec also noted that the early pressures of being the No. 1-ranked team in the nation will be a challenge that the Women of Troy are up for.“Expectation goes hand in hand with pressure, and that’s something I think our team is really good at handling,” Bukovec said. “We’re just going to come out and use it as fuel for each and every match.”Collier was more frank in describing what her team needs to do in order to repeat as national champions.“Honestly, I think we’re going to have to play better than we did last year,” Collier said. “Everybody wants to win the first NCAA Championship, so everything is elevated. Every team that lines up on the opposite side of the net will play their best match against us, so we need to make sure that we not only know that, but also know that we’re still going to win in the end.”In addition to the star-studded roster, USC boasts an impressive coaching lineup as well. Collier herself is a former three-sport athlete and All-American at USC and has coached women’s beach volleyball teams in a pair of Olympics. Named AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2014, Collier has compiled a 74-15 record as USC’s first and only head coach. Also returning to the sidelines as volunteer assistant is former gold medalist and two-time beach volleyball Olympian Dain Blanton, while Ali Lamberson comes to Troy in her first year as assistant coach. Lamberson, formerly a volunteer assistant at Tulane, brings 25 years of experience as a player, coach and administrator and has worked with Collier for more than 20 years.With all of these factors put together, Collier thinks she has the recipe for success.“I’m expecting us to come out and play some good, solid, elite volleyball, which I always call ‘USC volleyball’ because it’s true — we are elite,” Collier said. “So, I think if we can just play USC volleyball, we’re going to be fine.”USC will begin their quest to win the first-ever NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship this weekend in Malibu for the Pepperdine Kick Off. The Women of Troy will face off against four of the nation’s top six ranked teams in this tournament, starting with No. 3-ranked Hawaii on Saturday at 10:15 a.m., followed by a match against host and No. 2-ranked Pepperdine at 12:45 p.m.last_img read more

Lawmakers Shun Disabled Kids, Parents

first_imgA group of mothers, who had taken their disabled children to meet with their lawmakers were left stunned and disappointed that none of the legislators came from their offices to see them.The 13 mothers, through their spokespersons, Miatta Stubblefield and Gelian Wackie, said they had gone to the Capitol Building to appeal to the lawmakers to help the proprietress of the First Start Academy where their kids were being cared for before it was closed due to financial constraints.But up to the time our Health Correspondent left the Capitol Building a few minutes past 3p.m. no lawmaker had come downstairs to see the kids with special needs. Even though some of the mothers were seen upstairs shuttling between offices of Senators and Representatives, their efforts did not convince their lawmakers enough.They and their children had arrived at the Capitol Building by 9 a.m. yesterday, September 3 with placards which had inscriptions such as: “Liberian kids with Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s syndrome have rights to a daycare, not legislation, only money.”Two of the poster cards read: “Liberia 53rd Legislature, we are disabled but we are Liberia’s children. Disability is not a choice.”The kids were born with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder (ADD) and so need specialized care, which most of their mothers cannot provide.The Daily Observer caught up with Mrs. Charlesetta N. Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Healthpage Liberia, who manages the specialized home for the kids.Mrs. Williams said she is now financially drained and can no longer afford to keep the center running at this time as every penny to run the facility had come from her meager resources. The school, which was reopened in Paynesville City, outside Monrovia, after it left its 18th Street former home was closed in June 2015, three months after it was reopened in March.Mrs. Williams’ center, which was known then as “First Start” when it operated on 18th Street, Sinkor, added a daycare component for some of the kids, all of whom were “first starters” in formal education, when it reopened its doors in Paynesville.According to Mrs. Williams, whose Health Page has airlifted many Liberian children in need of specialized medical treatment to various countries in the world for the past nine years, opening an institution like the First Start Academy and the specialized home along with the daycare, had always been her dream. Asked if she had encouraged the kids’ mothers to come to the Capitol, she told the Daily Observer that it was the mothers themselves who had decided to come and beg their lawmakers to help them.“I don’t have any trust in them. I don’t think they are willing to help. I have met and interacted with a lot of them, but nothing has been done to help,” she stated.“You don’t get any help from the government, either.”She was, however, grateful to a few people, including the Publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best and others who had assisted her in her endeavor to reopen the home. Asked if there is any hope of reopening the home for the kids, she stated: “I singlehandedly prepared all of this, and have the kids now on waiting list, and have to care for it all: from transportation, to feeding (Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), salaries for workers. I am in sympathy with the parents, who cannot afford it, but I have to think about myself as I am not a millionaire, just a 61-year-old mother, grandmother with passion, but passion has an end.”She said it was a shame that the Liberian government could not afford to boost her efforts for humanity’s sake.Ms. Williams stated that the home will remain closed until she receives help for its reopening.When she reopened the home in March, she had told the Daily Observer that funding such a home was a challenge in Liberia, and she had vowed not to give up in her quest to pursue further aid for the children. On that day, she had stated that including salary payments, she would need at leastUS$70,000 annually to support the 24-physically challenged kids in the home.Efforts to get reactions from lawmakers at the Capitol Building did not succeed because many were not prepared to address the issue.Mrs. Williams can be reached at 00231 886531797.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Minister ‘playing politics with future of Community Hospitals’ – Doherty

first_imgSinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has hit out at the Minister and the Department of Health over the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of long stay residential care at Lifford, Ramelton and St Joseph’s Community Hospitals, blaming both for the ongoing impasse.His remarks come following a written response from the Minister issued in reply to a Parliamentary Question in which it was confirmed that the Department for Health has yet to approve revised plans from the HSE which, if accepted, would see the retention and refurbishment of the units.Teachta Doherty said: “As everyone is very well aware the ongoing controversy and uncertainity surrounding the future of long term residential care beds at Lifford, Ramelton and St Joseph’s Community Hospitals has been dragging on for some time ever since the Government unveiled its Capital Investment Programme for Community Nursing Units back in 2016. “The plan included proposals to replace the existing long stay residential care beds at these hospitals and sought to transfer these services to a new nursing facility to be constructed in Letterkenny.“While no one is against the creation of such a new unit in Letterkenny in principle, the plan was rightly met with strong criticism and anger from communities across Donegal as it meant the effective down grading of existing community hospitals in Lifford, Ramelton and Stranorlar, which, under the plans, would result in the closure of their long stay beds.“The backlash from the community thankfully forced the HSE to do a U-turn and to rethink its original plans, and the executive finalized revised proposals last March which reversed this earlier decision and instead sought to retain existing long term residential beds and have these units refurbished, while the new unit in Letterkenny would also go ahead under these revised plans.“The HSE wrote to the Department in May of this year seeking approval for these changes to the previously agreed programme. “Yet despite this, it’s now been confirmed to me by the Minister in reply to a Parliamentary Question this week that the Department of Health has yet to approve this amended plan.“Instead, the Department has chosen to stall on giving the green light to these changes and has sought further information from the HSE before making a final decision on whether or not to grant them approval.“This is simply outrages and is a clear admission from the Minister himself that both he and his Department are choosing to play politics with, what is, a very important issue to the people of this county and the future of long stay residential community care here.“The Minister and his cabinet colleagues can no longer hide behind the HSE and blame it for the ongoing uncertainty, because we now have an admission that he is to blame for this shambolic state of affairs.“I am again calling on the Minister and the Department to stop playing games with people’s lives and to now, without any further delay, make a decision to retain long stay beds at these community hospitals and to do what’s in the best interest of these communities.” Minister ‘playing politics with future of Community Hospitals’ – Doherty was last modified: July 25th, 2018 by Chris McNultyShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more