Archive for the 'Athletics' Category

Out of Retirement

Mike Neer

Mike Neer’s retirement lasted 16 months. The former Washington and Lee basketball Hall of Famer, a member of the Class of 1970, is headed back to the hardwood this winter as the new head coach at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.

In April 2010, Mike stepped down after 34 years as the coach at the University of Rochester, where his teams won a national NCAA Division III title in 1990 and he had compiled the ninth best record among active Division III coaches.

As a story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle noted, Mike admitted when he retired that he wasn’t completely sure of the decision. Then he went through a season away from the game. That only made it worse.

In an interview with Rochester sports writer Jim Mandelaro after the Hobart announcement, Mike described what it was like last winter when he visited practices run by some of his former assistant coaches who are now leading programs at Allegheny College, Rhodes Island and Villanova. “”They’d invite me to practices, and I was like the grandparent holding the baby,” Mike said. “It felt good, and then I got to hand it back.” He also called getting the call from Hobart to return to the bench “Santa in the chimney in August.”

At the 2011 National Association of Basketball Coaches, Mike received the NABC’s Outstanding Service Award.

Jack Vardaman ’62 Qualifies for U.S. Senior Amateur Championship

Jack Vardaman (Photo by Mannie Garcia/USGA)

Jack Vardaman, of the Class of 1962, is going to have to postpone his induction into Washington and Lee’s Athletic Hall of Fame. But he has a perfectly good excuse.

Jack was scheduled to be among the four inductees during the Hall of Fame weekend Sept. 9-10. He was to be honored for his four-year career on the Generals’ golf team, which included a Virginia State Intercollegiate Championship during his freshman year.

But then Jack went and won another tournament. Last weekend he shot a 72 at the Greenbrier’s Meadow Course to win U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier status. That enables him to play in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, which will be played Sept. 10-15 at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va., just outside Richmond. And that, of course, conflicts with the Hall of Fame induction. The Senior Amateur is open to players who have reached their 55th birthday prior to the start of the championship and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4. This will be Jack’s fourth appearance in the tournament.

Before he gets to Richmond, Jack has some business to complete this week at the Homestead, where he is competing in the 64th Virginia Senior Amateur Championship. This morning (Wednesday, Aug. 24), Jack opened match play as the sixth-seeded player in the round of 32 after shooting an even-par 142 during two qualifying rounds of stroke play. He won his first two matches before losing, 1-up, in the quarterfinals.

At the USGA Senior Amateur, Jack, 71, was the oldest player in the field. He shot a three-over-par 147 in the two rounds of stroke play, finishing in a tie for 21st and earning a spot in the match play. After winning his first match in 19 holes, Jack lost in the round of 32.

Jack, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, was ranked as one of the 10 best senior amateur golfers in the United States in 2001 by Golf Digest. Jack will be inducted into the W&L Hall of Fame along with the Class of 2012 — provided he’s not in another championship.

Role Reversal

Doubles team: Christina, left, and Christine Douglas

It was a classic case of role reversal for Christina Douglas, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2013 and a varsity tennis player for the Generals.

Christina had been taught the game by her mother, Christine, a former University of Virginia tennis player. But last week at the USTA Eastern Adult League Championships in Syracuse, Christina turned coach, helping her mom with pep talks and pointers as she competed for the 4.5 Western Region women’s team in the USTA event, winning two of three doubles matches in the tournament.

“It’s more nerve-racking than playing is to me,” Christina said, after watching her mom on court at Syracuse University. “But it’s great.”

Her mom appreciated the help. “She’s actually the better coach,” said Christine. “She’s got a great disposition and a great attitude and she can see things well.”

After last week’s event the Douglases were off to Chestnut Hill, Ma., and the Longfellow Cricket Club where they formed a doubles team to compete in the USTA National Mother Daughter Grass Court Championships.

“I hope when I’m her age I’ll be as good as she is,” said Christina.

Next Stop, Medical School

Allison Lemon '11

Good luck to Allison Lemon, a brand-new graduate of Washington and Lee. This week, she is competing in the famed Roanoke Valley Horse Show, but it may be a long time before the former captain of W&L’s riding team sees the inside of a show ring again.

As the Roanoke Times explains, Allison has been riding since she was 6 years old, and competing since the age of 12. At the end of this summer, however, the biochemistry major is headed to Wake University School of Medicine, in North Carolina. Time for riding will be scarce, and so she’s selling her beloved horse, Wally, which she has had for seven years, and preparing for the next phase of her education.

Allison rides show hunters, and in Roanoke, she is competing on both Wally and on Rittani, a horse that belongs to a Bedford County trainer. She’s versatile in part because of her experience in intercollegiate riding.

There, riders have to compete on horses that belong to the host college, with no time to get used to the mounts before heading into the class. “Allison was a great college rider,” W&L riding coach Gordon Reistrup told the Roanoke Times, “because she has an innate feel for how to assess a horse.”

Reistrup also sang Lemon’s praises out of the saddle. “She is the nicest girl, always friendly, always pleasant, always a kind word for everybody else, not just on our team but other teams as well.”

Allison was a member of the W&L riding team for all four years and served as captain for two years. She was an ODAC scholar-athlete each year of her college career. She is the daughter of one alumnus (Stephen Lemon, Class of 1984, a Roanoke lawyer) and granddaughter of another (William Lemon, Class of 1955 undergraduate and 1959 law, also a Roanoke lawyer and a former member of W&L’s Board of Trustees).

Here’s hoping that the future Dr. Lemon and her horses win plenty of ribbons this week.

Generals Ranked

Jake Pelton '13

With nine starters back on offense and nine on defense from the team that won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference last fall, Washington and Lee’s football team is not going to sneak up on any opponents this fall. And now the Generals have been ranked nationally by The Sporting News in its 2011 College Football Preview issue.

W&L is No. 19 on the Sporting News Preseason Division III Top 25 and the only ODAC team in the rankings. Wisconsin-Whitewater, which won the national Division III championship last year, is ranked No. 1.

What’s more, W&L junior defensive back Jake Pelton, from Charlottesville, Va., has been named to the preseason All-America team by The Sporting News. Jake was named first team All-ODAC, first team All-State and second team All-South Region. He led the conference with six interceptions and also had 82 tackles.

The Generals will open the season on Sept. 3, when they host Franklin & Marshall on Wilson Field.

Quite a Comeback

Will Hall ’11

A quick glance at the final match of Washington and Lee’s men’s tennis season would show that the Generals lost a 5-1 decision to North Carolina Wesleyan in the NCAA’s second round, back on May 14. But the story behind that “1” is remarkable.

The lone W&L win in the match came at No. 2 doubles, where senior captain Will Hall teamed with junior Jeremy Becht for an 8-6 win. This was not just another match. It marked an amazing comeback that seemed unthinkable seven weeks earlier when Will, playing in the tiebreaker of a doubles match against Christopher Newport, went through a glass window at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center on the College of William and Mary campus in Williamsburg, Va. He wound up slicing through a major artery. By every account, it was nothing short of a terrifying scene.

Will was rushed to a hospital for surgery that left him with more than 100 stitches, in addition to staples, from his hamstring down to his calf.  According to athletic trainer Matt Phillips, Will’s calf was completely torn from the bone. Matt described the injury as looking much like a shark bite. Will’s odds of playing tennis any time soon seemed slim.

But, as Shana Levine, associate athletic director, explains in her compelling description on the Athletic Department’s “From the Sidelines” blog, Will had other ideas. For all the details about both the injury and Will’s battle back, we highly recommend Shana’s blog post: And the Comeback Athlete of the Year Goes to….

Incidentally, while Will and his doubles partner, Jeremy, won the doubles point in that final match against North Carolina Wesleyan, Will also played singles in the match, losing in straight sets. For his career, he compiled a record of 36-19 in singles and 35-26 in doubles. He also graduated magna cum laude with a mathematics major on May 26.

Batting Against Cancer

Jonathan Stutts '13

Washington and Lee junior Jonathan Stutts, the starting shortstop on the Generals’ baseball team, is scheduled to make his Rockbridge Rapids debut this Friday night, June 3, when the local team in the Valley League begins its third season at Smith Field. Stutts, who batted .318 in 31 games for W&L this spring, is the only General on the 29-person roster of college and junior college players.

Jonathan had a solid performance on the diamond this year, but he made an even stronger impression in his fund-raising for cancer research in memory of his father, who died of brain cancer when Jonathan was 15.

Throughout the year, Jonathan raised money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity created by Jim Valavano, the late North Carolina State basketball coach, just before his death.

Jonathan’s work is chronicled in a story in the Charlotte Observer’s South Charlotte News this week. As he explained there, he started with a letter to family and friends asking them to pledge money based on his number of hits during the season. (For the record, he had 41 hits, second best on the Generals.) When his teammates learned of the effort, they joined in. Stutts asked donors to pledge based on the team’s performance or on an individual player’s performance.

He had hoped to be able to raise $5,000 in his father’s memory. At season’s end, Jonathan said, the total was $9,600.

“I’m just so happy and amazed,” he told the newspaper. “Everyone tells me my dad would be proud.”