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magazine home > archives > summer 2003 > features

The 2002-03 season proved to be a banner year for U of M athletics. Led by an NCAA appearance by the men's basketball team and strong showings in tennis and track and field, the Tigers and Lady Tigers once again left their mark on the national sporting scene.

Good Sports
by Greg Russell

For the first time since 1996, the men's basketball team found its way to the NCAA tournament. Despite a short stay — Arizona State eliminated the Tigers in the first round — Memphis fans had plenty to cheer about.

"We achieved the first of our goals, which was to get back to the tournament," says Tiger head coach John Calipari. "Our next step will be to go deeper in the tournament next year."

U of M track
The U of M men's track team placed fourth in the C-USA outdoor track and field championships in May. Two Tigers, juniors Mate Nemeth and Gaute Myklebust, advanced to the NCAA national championships in June. Above, senior Ryan Smith outlasts a runner from Rhodes College during a Tiger home meet.

Early indications revealed that the Tigers might struggle. All-conference guard Dajuan Wagner left after his freshman year to enter the NBA. Signees Amare Stoudemire, NBA rookie of the year, and NBA first-round draft pick Qyntel Woods both skipped college for pro careers.

The Tigers, though, led by freshmen sensations Rodney Carney and Jeremy Hunt and the return of center Chris Massey, enjoyed their best season in nearly a decade with a 23-7 record.

A late-season 12-game winning streak helped the Tigers to a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. Regular season victories included an 80-73 win at No. 4 Louisville and an early-season win over eventual NCAA champion Syracuse.

On the women's side, injuries hampered the Lady Tigers during their 13-15 season. But the play of one Memphis player helped salvage the season.

Senior Shannon Hamp, a three-time All-Conference USA honoree, became just the 15th women's basketball player in school history to score more than 1,000 career points. She led the team in scoring (16.1) and rebounding (5.6) and was the only Lady Tiger to start in all 28 games.

Shooting stars

Rifle is not an NCAA sport that commonly makes headlines, but the performance of one Lady Tiger certainly was on target.

Freshman Beth Tidmore was named an All-America in the air rifle division by the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association. She was one of just four freshmen in the country to receive such honors.

Tidmore's eye-opening performances extended

well past the NCAA. She won the 2003 National Junior Olympic Championship Women Air Rifle competition at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in April. The native of Decatur, Ga., posted a score of 881.2 and defeated 91 competitors from around the United States.

As a team, Memphis finished the year ranked 25th. "As far as the whole season goes, we have come a long way," says head coach Butch Woolbright. "I am looking forward to next season because the whole team is expected to return."

On the right track

University of Memphis junior Mate Nemeth is 7,000 miles away from his native Hungary. Yet, the transfer felt right at home in recording one of the NCAA's best track performances of the year.

Nemeth ran the fourth fastest NCAA time of the season in the 3000m steeple chase and broke a school record by clocking an 8:37 during the Stanford Relays. Wins in the steeple and the 5000m run helped his team to finish fourth out of 11 teams at the C-USA outdoor championship in May.

Norwegian Gaute Myklebust was named Male Athlete of the Meet for his efforts, taking home gold in the discus and the shot put. Also placing high for the Tigers were Adam Martin, who finished second in the shot and third in the hammer, and Ferko Bekesi, who ran a 3:51 in the 1500 for bronze. The four joined sprinters Franck Diadiou and Gary Nemeth in qualifying for NCAA regionals. Nemeth and Myklebust both advanced to the NCAA national championships in mid-June.

On the women's side, coach Brenda Cash's Lady Tigers had their best outing in the conference championship since 1995 with a sixth place showing. Senior Keenan Gibson set a school record in the 100m (13.36) to finish first in the event, and placed second in the 200m to account for a third of Memphis' total points. She also qualified for NCAA nationals in both events.

Sophomore Lisa-Marie Hyman had a first-place finish in the triple jump, qualifying for NCAA regionals in the process. Monique Nelson ended her career with a bronze medal in the discus.

Tennis shoos in winning season

The men's and women's tennis squads enjoyed possibly their best seasons ever during the spring campaign.

Coach Phil Chamberlain's Tiger squad spent most of the year ranked in the top 60, just missing an NCAA bid. If not for a disappointing fifth-place conference finish, the team had expected to advance to post-season play.

Senior Ben Stapp of Australia ended a stellar career with a 21-12 overall record in singles and a 16-7 doubles mark. He was named second team all-conference along with junior Lee Taylor Walker. Senior Joe Schmulian received third team honors. Stapp and Walker secured a No. 12 doubles ranking early in the season.

For women's head coach Charlotte Peterson, three seniors helped the Lady Tigers to a 16-7 record, only the fifth time in team history that the squad has recorded that many wins.

Seniors Sabrina Lindemann and Monica Gonzalez-Gordo were each named second team All-Conference USA. They combined to become the first-ever pair of Lady Tigers to earn a national ranking. With senior Sumitra Rao, they also helped Memphis make its debut appearance in the national team rankings.

The Lady Tigers future looks bright with the international additions of Austrian Christina Wieser and Australian Alexandra Tjioe.

Heading West

After a disappointing 4-7 record last season, the 2003 fall campaign looks promising with the addition of 16 much touted high school players and seven junior college transfers.

"We set out recruiting with some very specific goals in mind and I believe that we filled them all," says head coach Tommy West. "We were thin in the offensive line and at linebacker, and we were able to take care of our needs with some excellent players."

Transfer Bobby Robison was listed as the number one junior college quarterback in the nation last year by many publications. In his first performance as a Tiger, Robison completed 11 of 23 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns en route to being named the MVP of the annual spring game.

Three of the premier linebackers in the south-east also signed with Memphis: Quintin McCrary of Columbus, Miss.; Quniton Williams of Memphis East High; and Mike Snyder of New Orleans.

The Tigers host Tennessee Tech Aug. 30 to begin the season. A week later, Memphis plays Ole Miss at Liberty Bowl Stadium.

Spiked performance

A late season three-match losing streak put a damper on an otherwise successful volleyball season for head coach Carrie Yerty.

The squad finished 19-15 overall and 4-9 in C-USA. Two of the late season losses were 3-2 defeats against conference rivals.

The 2003 outlook for Memphis is bright with the signings of two top players. Joining Memphis will be Christen Clayton of Houston and Melissa Nance of Frankfort, Ind. A 5-8 outside hitter/defensive specialist, Clayton was a two-year letter-winner at Clear Lake High School and was a first-team all-district honoree as a junior.

"Christen is a player who has the ability to make an immediate impact as a defensive specialist for us," says Yerty.

Nance, a 6-1 middle hitter, was a 2000 Indiana all-state volleyball honoree.

Teeing it up

The U of M's women's golf squad finished sixth at the C-USA golf championships, shooting a 957 (93-over) as a team. Marianne Ruud, who was tied for the lead after two rounds, shot a final round 86 (14-over) to place 16th at 236 (20-over) for the tourney.

Ruud was one of three Lady Tigers to receive post-season honors. The native of Norway was named to the C-USA all-conference second team. She led the squad with a 77 average in four spring tournaments.

Also receiving C-USA honors were Danielle Reilly, who was named to the C-USA all-freshman team, and Jennifer Jaszek, who was named to the C-USA third team.

For the men, the Tiger squad was hit with tragedy before the season began with the unexpected death of longtime coach Jim Cook. The team rebounded to take seventh in the C-USA tournament in May, with Alan Weant placing in the top five in individual competition. He was named third-team all-conference.

Former Tiger player and new coach Grant Robbins, who begins this summer, laid the groundwork for future success when he signed Lewis Clarke, a stellar prep golfer from England.

Futbol of a different sort

The 2002 season was a step in the right direction for the women's soccer program. The Lady Tigers finished the campaign with a 9-10-1 record and made their first appearance in the C-USA Tournament since 1997.

The nine wins were four more than the 2001 squad, and the team had the second-largest climb in the RPI rankings from 2001 to 2002, finishing 114th in the country after finishing 203rd the year before.

"To climb that much in an established poll like the RPI is great for our program," head coach Brooks Monaghan says. Monaghan signed nine recruits in spring to bolster hopes for this fall.

For Ritchie Grant's men's squad, if only non-league play counted more in conference standings. Memphis finished the season 7-0-1 outside the conference, but could just manage a 3-7 C-USA mark.

"I am pleased to get 10 wins this season," says Grant. "I am happy that the guys pulled themselves
out of last place, but we know that next year has to be better."

Tiger freshmen Omar Jarun, Dayton O'Brien and Daniel Ronan were each named to the league's all-freshman squad, while senior defender Chris Schmidt earned second-team C-USA honors.

Gems on the diamond

Despite a disappointing 2003 showing, Dave Anderson's Tigers (21-33) showed flashes of brilliance with huge wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and a three-game sweep of Saint Louis. By winning seven of their last 10 games, Memphis set the tone for a successful 2004 campaign.

Sophomore Ryan Martin led the Tigers with seven home runs and a .338 batting average, sixth highest in C-USA. The Collierville, Tenn., native earned second- team conference honors for his efforts.

Right-hander Stephen Gostkowski landed on the conference all-freshmen team. He finished the season with a 3.99 earned run average and a 4-5 record.

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