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Week 1 Preview: FCS faces 5A North Springs Charter School to Open Regular Season

Fellowship Christian School faces 5A North Springs Charter School in varsity football for just the second time in school history this Friday.

The Paladins won the first meeting between the schools in Sandy Springs on Aug. 17, 2018, by a 49-29 score.

"It was a dog fight that came down to the fourth quarter," head coach Al Morrell said. "They are a big team up front and are very athletic once again. It will be another tough football game [on Aug. 23]."

FCS, which finished 10-2 last season, opens the 2019 regular season at Bob Lord Field against the Spartans on Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Fellowship posted a 48-7 scrimmage victory at home against 2A McNair High School on Aug. 17. FCS gained 509 total yards, including 404 on the ground, and scored five rushing touchdowns against McNair.

Junior Murphy Reeves carried the ball five times for 115 yards and one score, all coming in the first half. Freshman Jayven Hall had seven rushes for 83 yards, while senior Trexton Lewis picked up 71 yards on six carries.

Junior Eli Hildebrandt threw two touchdown passes and completed 4-of-8 attempts for 65 yards against the Mustangs.

Against North Springs, the keys for the Paladins will be to sustain and finish drives, protect the football, and keep the Spartans from making big plays, according to Morrell.

"We need to play like we did Friday," he said. "We have a good game plan defensively. We have to eliminate their big plays, and keep the ball in front of us. I feel good about our defense [this year]. We need to stay strong in coverage and not give up long balls."

The Paladins begin the season high in the rankings, including eighth among Class A private schools in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution list, eighth on the Georgia High School Sports Forum rankings and 10th on the CalPreps public and private schools Class A.

The Maxwell Ratings, compiled by mathematician and Georgia High School Football Historians Association founder Loren Maxwell, predicts Fellowship to finish second in the sub-region and fourth in the region, and be ranked No. 20 overall.

Morrell has guided Fellowship to a 44-24 record over six seasons as head coach at Fellowship, including a trip to the 2016 GHSA Class A Private School Championships. Morrell's teams have won at least 10 games twice and have notched three consecutive winning records and have made three straight trips to the GHSA Class Private School Championships.

Last year's team posted a 10-2 record and captured the Sub-Region Championship for the second time in three seasons. The 2016 club went 13-1, and claimed both the Sub-Region and Region Championships.

(Photo by Chip Cookston)

OL, Run Game and Defense Lead Paladins Past 2A McNair in Football Scrimmage at Bob Lord Field

The new faces on the Fellowship Christian School varsity football team's offensive line seemed to do their jobs pretty well on Friday night.

The unit opened the holes for the team to gain more than 300 yards on the ground and score six times on the ground and through the air in the first half of a 48-7 victory over 2A McNair High School of Dekalb County in Atlanta at Bob Lord Field on Aug. 16.

"I was happy with what I saw tonight for the whole team," head coach Al Morrell said. "The offensive line appeared to block well up front. We'll need to break down the film to evaluate their performance, but the new kids seemed to adjust to game action and play well."

The Paladins took a 41-0 halftime lead on touchdown runs by sophomore Josh Cole (two), freshman Jayven Hall and junior Murphy Reeves. Junior quarterback Eli Hildebrandt connected with senior Bryce Paul and junior Josh McLaughlin on a pair of touchdown pass plays.

Reeves had 115 yards on just five touches in the first half. He was among several players to see some quality carries, including Cole, Hall, Hildebrandt, Paul, freshmen Nick Persiano and Jack Rickheim, juniors Matt and Ben Rodgers, senior Trexton Lewis and more.

"Overall, we had good execution, solid chemistry and plenty of intensity on both sides of the ball," Morrell said. "We definitely played hard tonight. [The run game] executed well. Murphy Reeves scored on the first play. We missed a couple of short passes, but overall I am happy with the offense."

Hildebrandt, junior Joey Archer and freshman Caleb McMickle took turns at quarterback. Paul, McLaughlin and juniors Jordan Brewer and Brady Niblock were their top targets throwing the ball.

Morrell was pleased with the defensive unit.

"The defense played well," Morrell said. "We have a lot of veterans there."

The FCS defense held the Mustangs to just 30 total yards in the first half. McNair was scoreless until a nice pass play for a score with 2:59 to go.

The Paladins open the regular season at Bob Lord Field against 5A North Springs Charter High School on Aug 23 at 7:30 p.m. It's the first of consecutive home games to begin the regular season.

Morrell has guided Fellowship to a 44-24 record in six seasons at Fellowship, including a trip to the 2016 GHSA Class A Private School Championships. Morrell's teams have won at least 10 games twice and have notched three consecutive winning records and have made three straight trips to the GHSA Class Private School Championships.

Last year's team posted a 10-2 record and captured the Sub-Region Championship for the second time in three seasons. The 2016 club went 13-1, and claimed both the Sub-Region and Region Championships.

FCS opens the regular season against 5A North Springs Charter High School of Sandy Springs on Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Bob Lord Field. Fellowship faces Pinecrest Academy in the Region opener at Bob Lord Field on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

"The Region is really strong," Morrell said. "Everyone is back at Saint Francis and Whitefield. They will be especially tough."

The Paladins enter the season with an 82-82 all-time varsity football record.

(Photos by Chip Cookston and Christine Eppinger)

Lady Paladins Post Come-from-Behind Win over 6A Cambridge

The Fellowship Christian School varsity volleyball team battled back to post a victory in the best-of-five match played in Roswell on Aug. 15. The Lady Paladins lost the first set, and then took the next three.

At Paladin Gym, FCS (2-3 overall) defeated 6A Cambridge High School, 26-28, 25-16, 25-19 and 25-14.

At one point in the evening, senior Meredith Rush made 11 straight serves (she's pictured here).

(Photo by Tina Herrmann)

Cross-County Preview: FCS runners Kick Off Season Aug. 24

Fellowship Christian School's cross-country season kicked off with practice on Aug. 1.

"Between our returning runners and our newcomers, we have the potential to build strong teams across the girls and boys teams for both JV and varsity," head coach Tom Harrison said. "We are looking forward to our matches and getting the season started. This season will provide each of our returning runners the opportunity to capitalize on the experiences and gains they made last season. That, combined with the talent received from our fresh newcomers, including some ninth graders brought forward from middle school, gives our teams a favorable competitive outlook."

Harrison expects his team to grow throughout the year as they have an eye towards the all-important post season Region meet.

"Every individual competitive effort this season will give each of our runners the opportunity to achieve personal gains, which have the potential to translate into positive outcomes for our teams, collectively," Harrison said.

The 2019 cross-country team has grown over the years, and Harrison says that growth "always brings great potential."

The veteran coach looks forward to another year with the FCS runners, who kick off the season at the Bob Blastow Early Bird Invitational held at McIntosh Nature Preserve in Whitesburg on Aug. 24 at 8 a.m.

Softball Preview: Lady Paladins Eye more Victories as Season Begins Aug. 14

Baylor Aycock was quite a workhorse on the mound for the Fellowship Christian School softball team last year. This year probably won't be any different.

The senior pitcher threw 84 1/3 innings of the team's 89 innings the team's pitchers logged last season. Aycock won four games, posted a 1.82 earned run average and fanned 127 batters. Her WHIP was 1.03 as she walked just 27 batters.

"I am not sure where we would be without Baylor on the mound," head coach Shawn Oliver said. "She is quite a pitcher. She provides consistency on the mound, understands the games, is one of our best hitters and is a big cheerleader who encourages her teammates."

As sophomore, she was the team's No. 2 starter and top reliever behind Lauren Kierpa, who pitched for Covenant College last season.

Last year's club posted a 4-13 record, but Oliver is hoping to see some growth this season.

"We are working on our fundamentals," said Oliver, who begins he second year as softball head coach. "I feel better this year, and we hope to win more than four or five games this year. It was a great unknown for me as a coach last year. I am glad to be back. The girls are excited to play, and I am excited for them this season."

Oliver competed his sixth year in education in 2018-19, and joined FCS as baseball coach in 2016-17.

"We will hopefully win more games this year," Oliver said. "Baylor will pitch well, and we'll need to field well behind her. We'll have another year in the same system. I think the girls appreciate the same system after having four coaches in four years. Consistency should help us this year."

At the plate, Aycock led the Lady Paladins with 13 hits, including the team's two extra-bases hits (a home run and a double), 11 singles and a .361 batting average.

Senior Emma Jones, the team's catcher, finished second on the squad with 10 hits and 10 singles in 2018. She was fifth on the Lady Paladins with six RBIs.

Junior Caroline Gryder ranked second on the club with eight RBIs and a .250 batting average, and ranked third with nine hits last season. Aycock and junior Brooke Mitchell shared third on the team with seven RBIs last season.

"Emma [Jones] does a great job behind the plate," Oliver said. "She is a good all-around player. We are excited to have Emma [Yeager] back for a third year too. Caroline and Brooke are now juniors, so we expect good things out of them at the plate. We'll be more experience this year. It's nice to have all those girls back."

The club opens the season against 6A Northview High School on Aug. 14 at Paladin Park at 5 p.m.

"I believe we have a more favorable schedule this season," Oliver said. "I believe we'll be in a position to win more games."

(File photo from 2018 by Kevin Jones)

Consistency, Talent Important for FCS Varsity Team on the Gridiron This Season

The Fellowship Christian School football program has shown consistency and has possessed some good skilled position players for several years under the direction of head coach Al Morrell.

"We have had the same coaching staff for several years," he said. "We are optimistic as we have a good group coming back. We really have talent at the junior and senior levels."

Those facts give Morrell some reason for optimism.

The veteran coach has notched a 44-24 record in six seasons at Fellowship, including a trip to the 2016 GHSA Class A Private School Championships. Morrell's teams have won at least 10 games twice and have notched three consecutive winning records and have made three straight trips to the GHSA Class Private School Championships.

"We're looking forward to the season," Morrell said. "If we stay healthy, we could have a great season."

Last year's team posted a 10-2 record and captured the Sub-Region Championship for the second time in three seasons. The 2016 club went 13-1, and claimed both the Sub-Region and Region Championships.

In 2018, the Paladins gained 5,334 yards (3,874 on the ground and 1,460 through the air). Defensively, FCS held opponents to a total of 3,559 yards, including 1,469 rushing and 2,090 passing.

The team returns several key performers from that team on both sides of the ball.

Junior Murphy Reeves led the Paladin ground game with 176 carries, 1,710 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Junior Lawson Haigler collected 686 yards on 121 rush attempts and scored five TDs. He ranked second on the team in carries, and was third in run touchdowns and yards. Sophomore Josh Cole registered 150 yards on 23 carries with one rushing score last season.

In 2018, Jordan Brewer led Paladin receivers with 40 catches and 626 receiving yards, and shared the team lead with six TD catches as a sophomore. Junior Brady Niblock is back at tight end. He played seven games last season.

Junior Joey Archer completed 33-of-92 pass attempts for 697 yards and seven scores after senior quarterback Brooks Bryant went down with a season-ending knee injury. Junior Eli Hildebrandt also returns to the Paladin quarterback corps.

Junior linebackers Caleb McClung and Nathan Nardone led the FCS defense in 2018.

McClung led the way with 40 solo tackles and102 total stops, and was among the team leaders with 62 assists, nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Nardone ranked first on Fellowship with 65 assisted tackles, and ranked second with 92 total tackles. He finished with 26 solo stops, five tackles for a loss and two sacks.

"Our strengths are our linebackers, especially our inside guys [McClung and Nardone]," Morrell said. "Those two guys were starters last year, and nucleus of our defense. Our secondary is good too. We hope for some very good things on defense. [On offense] we will rely heavily on our ground game. Hopefully, Murphy will continue to recover from the broken led he suffered last year, and Lawson is strong as well."

The team will bring in some new faces on the offensive line.

"We have a couple of holes to fill there," he said. "But coach [Tim] Rice does a great job with our line. We have some new faces in there, but they'll be ready."

Archer and Hildebrandt "are also making progress" and are both showing more consistency in practices that began on July 24 (shorts and helmets) and in pads on Aug. 1.

"We are working with them on high-percentage passes," Morrell said. "But they're definitely coming along."

The Paladins host 2A McNair High School of Atlanta in a scrimmage at Bob Lord Field on Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m., and kick off the season at home against 5A North Springs Charter High School of Sandy Springs on Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m. FCS faces Pinecrest Academy in the Region opener at Bob Lord Field on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

"The Region is really strong," Morrell said. "Everyone is back at Saint Francis and Whitefield. They will be especially tough."

(File photo from 2018 taken by Chip Cookston)

Volleyball preview: FCS Team Begins Season with High Expectations

Samantha Thom has spent five weeks with the Fellowship Christian School varsity volleyball team. So far she likes what she has sees.

"I think we have a good team," she said. "I am excited to be a part of this program. The girls have a passion to play volleyball and share God's word."

Expectations on the court are high.

"They want to win state," Thom said. "That is the main thing I heard as I met all the girls this summer. They are super motivated. We are working through some injuries now, practicing hard and improving. We hope to add two to three more players once school starts to be able to have a JV team."

Last year's Lady Paladin squad won a school-record 37 games, captured the Area championship and advanced to the GHSA Class A-AA Championships Elite Eight.

In was the fifth straight trip to the state playoffs for FCS, including the second round of the 2017 GHSA Class A Championships. The team reached the GHSA Class A Championships Elite Eight in consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2016, and took the Area Championship in 2015. In 2014, Fellowship claimed the Region Championship and earn a trip to the GHSA Class A Championships Final Four.

Thom has inherits quite a successful program. Does she feel the pressure?

"The previous coach did a wonderful job with this group of girls," she said. "They really work well together. They cheer each other on well. They seem like a real cohesive unit. They go after every loose ball and dive for everything. My goal is create a team that wins matches and talks about their faith."

Even though the team is very experienced, Thom knows there is always room for improvement.

"People are stepping up into new areas," she said. "Our younger kids are growing and getting better. As a team, we want to improve our hit and kill percentage. Not matter how good a team is, there is always room for growth."

Thom, who is an elementary school Edison teacher at Fellowship, played collegiate volleyball at NAIA Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.

A 2010 graduate of Faulkner, Thom has coached several club and junior teams, as well as varsity and middle school volleyball at Kennesaw Mountain High School during her coaching career.

(FCS file photo from 2018 season)

Alumni Profile: Baumann Moves From Volleyball to Business World

AJ Baumann has taken a lot of what she learned as a high school and college volleyball player into the work world.

"It's been really cool to see how a student-athlete like me turns into an employee in the real world," said Baumann, who recently took a job as a recruiter at Insight Global, a leading IT staff firm with an Atlanta office.

Baumann, who earned a bachelor of science degree in retail with an emphasis on fashion design from the University of South Carolina this spring, is excited to work for the No. 3 IT staffing firm in the United States and the No. 1 firm in Atlanta.

"This is my fourth week on the job," she said. "It's exciting. It's rewarding to see that volleyball has shaped a lot of my life. It taught me to work hard, show determination and be a good teammate."

Before joining Insight Global, Baumann spent two weeks on a mission trip to Zimbabwe with Johnson City Baptist Church, where she had the opportunity to spread the Gospel. Sharing Jesus was always a big part of her volleyball career.

"That community is small," she said. "It's great to reflect back [on FCS] and remember that it was about sharing your faith and playing volleyball. That's why I'd like to come back and help the Fellowship program, where the ultimate goal is to share Jesus. I want to stay involved."

Baumann headed to Columbia, S.C. as a walk-on beach volleyball player, played four years and earned a partial scholarship as a senior.

"It was rewarding [to earn the partial scholarship]," she said. "I pursued going to USC since I was a sophomore in high school. The coach turned me down twice for a scholarship, but I always wanted to go there for school. I'd like to consider myself determined, so I walked on and played for four years."

Baumann felt like she had a good senior season.

"It went really well," she said. "I finished up strong. I didn't get to play as much playing time as I would have liked, but I was one of three captains. I enjoyed stepping into that role. I also enjoyed being versatile during my career there. I was the first person the coaches turned to when they needed someone to play a role as a blocker, defender or set up person."

Throughout her career, Baumann helped the Lady Gamecocks finish in the NCAA rankings all four years, including 11th or 12th as a senior, eighth as a junior, sixth as a sophomore and eighth as a freshman.

Baumann also excelled in the classroom at South Carolina. She was named to the SEC Spring Academic Honor Roll for three straight years from 2017-19, and was placed on the CCSA 2015-16 Beach Academic Honor Roll and the 2015-16 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.

In 2019, Baumann played in the exhibition pairing six times and went 2-2 in those matches. She played four years at FCS, helping the Lady Paladins reach the GHSA Class A Championships Elite Eight in consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2016, and win the Area Championship in 2015.

In 2014, Fellowship claimed the Region Championship and earn a trip to the GHSA Class A Championships Final Four.

(Photos courtesy of the University of South Carolina)

Davenport Makes Collegiate Lacrosse Debut at Lee University

Camille Davenport had the opportunity to play both goaltender and defense during her freshman lacrosse season at Lee University in Tennessee.

"It was a good first season," the 2018 graduate of Fellowship Christian School said. "I was a goalie, but I also played a little bit at defense. Coach put me on the field because of my speed. I enjoyed that."

She helped the Lady Flames post a 4-12 record. Lee plays in NCAA Division II's Gulf South Conference.

Davenport played in seven games as a freshman, notching her first collegiate win as a goalie on Feb. 16, 2019 against Erskine College. She finished with 141 minutes and 13 saves. She backed up a senior goalkeeper.

This year, she's in the running for the starting nod.

"I'll probably play more in goal this season," she said. "I'll be the oldest goalie on the team. We have me, a sophomore, and a freshman."

Davenport saw quite a difference in the talent level at Division II from high school.

"The talent of the shooters was different," she said. "They really all know where to place the shots. You are rushed to clear the ball and make saves. You have to clear it fast. You see a lot of shots. [Off the field] you have to adjust to the schedule. It gets hard sometimes with practices, games and classes. But you get used to it quickly."

Facing shots in practice helped Davenport prepare for the fast-placed college game.

The team's goal is to "play on Sunday" this year as the Gulf South Conference title game is played that day.

Davenport helped build the Fellowship program that came close to winning a state championship this spring.

"Getting to know all the girls and our new coaches was a highlight [at FCS]," she said. "It was a thrill to win a first round state playoff game my senior year. I remember that year we lost the first five games that season and then won 12 of 13 games. It was great to see how our grade helped build it. We went from middle school to JV to varsity. All the girls in our class helped grow it."

Davenport has some advice for any FCS athlete thinking of a collegiate career.

"Be ready to start playing with new teammates, and know you are playing for a greater good," she said. "You have to learn how to work as a team right away."

(Photo courtesy of Lee University)

Swartz Hopes to Make a Point at Boston College

Fellowship Christian School's all-time scoring leader Cameron Swartz is hopeful she'll have the opportunity to play for Boston College in the first semester.

"I transferred mid-year from Colorado," she said. "I petitioned the NCAA to see if I can play in the first semester since I transferred before Christmas. Right now I am eligible to play during the second semester."

Under NCAA rules transfers typically sit out two semesters before they are eligible to play for their new team. She expects to play both point guard and wing for the Lady Eagles.

Swartz, a 5-foot-11 point guard, left the University of Colorado after the first semester to join BC. She originally signed with the Lady Buffs, and played in seven games last season. Swartz' first career point in college came off a three-point shot against Navy. She finished with 22 points, an average of 6.3 per contest, five steals and five assists.

"I learned a lot there," she said. "I had heart surgery before going to Colorado, which put me behind. I wanted to be happy there, but I wasn't. Boston College was right for me. I look forward to a great education and playing basketball [in the ACC]."

Head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and her staff has made Swartz feel right at home in Beantown.

"I love the coaching staff," she said. "I love this team. Everyone gets along well, and I have spent a lot of time with my teammates this summer."

Swartz spent six weeks in Boston this summer taking summer classes and spending time with her teammates.

"I want to help this team win," Swartz said. "I am playing point guard primarily now. I want to get better and rebuild my game. I have not played in a game in a long time, so I am working to get better and improve. It's a different style here, but I am very excited about it."

Swartz has built a rapport with assistant coaches AJ Cohen, Yolanda Griffith and George Porcha for different reasons. She said the younger Cohan is easy for the younger players to relate too, that coach "Yo" was a great WNBA player who shares her knowledge well and that coach Porcha was a great skills coach.

During her time at FCS, Swartz averaged 32 points, 8.5 rebounds 4.1 steals and shot 47 percent from the floor during career. She was named First Team Class 1A North All-State, second-team All-Georgia and led the state of Georgia in scoring as a senior. Swartz finished her career with 1,867 points and 612 rebounds at Fellowship.

While she was excited to top 1,000 points at Fellowship, winning a first-round state playoff game as a senior was one of biggest FCS highlights.

She will major in applied psychology and minor in communications at BC.

"Boston is very cool," she said. "I would not have thought I'd like such a big city, but I have really enjoyed my summer here. The campus is gorgeous."

During her time in Colorado, Swartz played wing. She's excited for an opportunity to play both point guard and wing for the Lady Eagles.

"Point guard at the college level is different," she said. "I didn't understand how different [until she started practicing with her BC teammates]. Everything flows to each position from point guard."

(Photos courtesy of Boston College)

Alumni Profile: Kierpa Shows Success at Covenant as a Relief Pitcher

Lauren Kierpa found herself in a little bit of unfamiliar territory her freshman season at Covenant College.

After being a starter for most of her pitching career at Fellowship Christian School and as a travel team hurler, Kierpa moved into a relief role as a freshman at Covenant (located in Lookout Mountain, Ga.).

"I definitely played more than I thought I would," Kierpa said. "We had two starters, and they were a junior and a senior. That meant a relief role for me. It was different. Especially because in high school I was the only pitcher for a few years until Baylor Aycock joined varsity. So I was used to starting and pitching six or seven innings."

Kierpa, who graduated from FCS in 2018, shared the lead among Lady Scot pitchers with 21 appearances. She started four games, went 2-2, picked up one save and led the team with a 4.58 ERA.

She pitched 1 1/3 innings in her college debut against Berry College on Feb. 9, 2019, made her first start at Berea (Ky.) College on March 20, 2019 and struck out a season-high five batters.

Her first collegiate win came on March 9, 2019 at Judson (Ala.) College, and she notched her first save was at The University of the South on Feb. 27, 2019. On March 26, 2019 she threw a season-high 6 2/3 innings against Birmingham Southern.

"I really enjoyed being a closer," she said. "For me, I wanted to do anything I could to get those three outs. But it was definitely an adjustment."

She learned first hand what it was like to become a college athlete.

"It was hard to manage my time sometimes," Kierpa said. "We played for practiced six days a week. Because we are a Christian school we took Sundays off. It was harder than high school with harder classes and more practices, games and study halls in college. But Fellowship prepared me well."

Kierpa hopes to land one of the team's two starting roles on the mound this spring.

"I hope to secure a starting spot as a pitcher," she said. "I have to step up and help my team win. We did well last year. We had a rough start after a late head coach change, but once we adopted her system we hit our stride as a team."

What are the biggest changes between high school and college softball?

"I think the game format," Kierpa said. "For high school we'd have 2-4 games a week and 5-6 in travel ball but mostly in single games, but in college we had double headers. The conditioning was tougher as we had 3-4 double headers in a week."

Kierpa's brother Grant is also a FCS graduate and former athlete at Covenant. He played two seasons of baseball for the Scots from 2016-17.

Covenant plays in the USA South Athletic Conference.

(Photos courtesy of Covenant College)

Alumni Profile: Murphy Seeks Balance Between Academics and Golf

Tripp Murphy played well today [July 29, 2019], but narrowly missed an opportunity to qualify for the Georgia Open being held later this summer.

On July 29, the 2018 graduate of Fellowship Christian School carded a 74 in the Georgia Open Last Chance Qualifier at Achasta Golf Club in Dahlonega, Ga., but did not qualify.

Murphy was three over through three holes, lowered his score to one-under par through 15 holes before going three over on the last three holes.

"I learned a lot today, and made like six birdies," said Murphy, who is about to enter his sophomore golf season at Division III Oglethorpe University. "So it's ok. That was a good takeaway."

His freshman season at Oglethorpe had some ups and downs, but Murphy is overall pleased.

"It went well overall," he said. "I played a decent amount in the first semester. I played in seven tournaments. I am excited to play again this fall. I have worked hard on my swing this summer, and am practicing a lot."

Murphy worked on his consistency on the course in the fall.

"I was a starter in about 3-4 of the seven tourneys, and I shot 73 or 74 at a home tournament," he said. "I averaged around 75 [per round]."

His plan is to play a little less this fall to focus more on academics.

"I am planning to ease into it this fall," he said. "My coach and I talked about it. It will be better to play 3-4 tournaments that will give me more time to study. He knows I am good player, but we both know I need to focus on my grades."

While Murphy's main focus will be on academics, he still eyes improvement in his game.

"I want to be more consistent and balance my grades and golf," he said. "I'd like finish in the top 10 of at least two tournaments, and average 73 or below [for the season]."

Managing time was challenge as a first-year collegiate golfer, Murphy admitted.

"Probably my time management was [my biggest struggle]," he said. "It was hard balancing studying, practices and tournaments. I have to learn to say no sometimes."

Among Murphy's biggest collegiate highlights last season was a trip to Pennsylvania for a tournament and his team's overall success.

"We went to Laurel Valley last year to play," he said. "It's probably one of the top 100 courses in the country, and we played well there."

Oglethorpe won the Southern Athletic Association Tournament by 23 strokes, and place sixth in nationals.

Murphy had a great career at FCS playing on Mike Kinsey's varsity teams.

"I had a lot of highlights there," he said. "Probably my biggest one was the 31 [he shot]. And qualifying for states was pretty big."

(Photo courtesy of Oglethorpe University)

From the Diamond to the Dugout for FCS Graduate Nolan Lavergne

Fellowship Christian School graduate Nolan Lavergne will transition from baseball player to coach this spring and switch schools.

Lavergne, a 2018 graduate of FCS, pitched one season for the Emmanuel College baseball team.

"It went really well," he said. "I had a lot of fun and pitched in about six games. I felt like I did well."

Following this spring's season, Lavergne decided to transfer from the Franklin Springs, Ga., school to the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Ga., and change his major to civil engineering.

In addition, he also decided to coach baseball and was hired as a pitching coach for Johnson High School, a GHSA Class AAAAA school in Gainesville, Ga.

"I am extremely excited to begin my coaching career," said Lavergne, whose younger brother Peyton is a former FCS athlete and now attends Johnson. "I thought it was the right time to change colleges. I hurt my elbow and dislocated my knee [at Emmanuel], and wanted to get into coaching."

What are the biggest differences between high school and college baseball?

"The gap between high school and college was bigger than I thought," he said. "In high school, the top 1-5 hitters in the lineup were always very tough, but easier after that. But in college there are 15 guys on each team that can really hit."

Lavergne learned to enjoy the game more in college.

"Definitely one of my biggest [takeaways] is to enjoy the game more," he said. "I remember being more stressed in high school about results. But now looking back I see it was just a game. You have to have fun."

Lavergne enjoyed his time on the Fellowship baseball squad and playing for head coach Shawn Oliver.

"He was very energetic and helped us prepare well," Lavergne said. "One of my favorite memories at Fellowship was during my junior year. We were up by a run against King's Ridge and I came in with the bases loaded and no outs. I got a strikeout and two pop ups and held them to no runs and we won."

(Photo courtesy of Nolan's Twitter page)

Alumni Profile: Sanson Enters Finals Basketball Season at Asbury; Exploring Post-Grad Degree Options in PT

Fellowship Christian School graduate Kari Sanson enters her senior year in the classroom this fall at Asbury University, and her third playing basketball at the Wilmore, Ky., school.

After being injured her freshman season, Sanson has played the past two seasons of NAIA basketball for the Lady Eagles. She says this will be her last season on the court for the Lady Eagles.

"It was different than I expected," Sanson said about her transition to college basketball. "I couldn't play my freshman year. I watched from the sidelines as I got to know the system and my teammates. It was actually good as it helped me mesh with the team. We did well as our whole starting lineup was seniors."

In three seasons at Asbury, Sanson has played for two head coaches and faced a pair of rebuilding seasons.

Current head coach Chad Mayes was an assistant with Lady Eagles during Sanson's second season with the program (and her first on the court).

"I was able to play my sophomore season," she said. "That was tough with a new coach that season, and not playing much in the beginning [after recovering from her injury]. But I got to play more toward the end of the season. The team did as well as it could have since it was a rebuilding season."

Following that season, coach Mayes took over the program as a head coach.

"He had totally different coaching philosophy," Sanson said. "He encouraged everyone though, and we rode it out with another rebuilding year. It was easier this time though as he was there [the season before as an assistant coach]. I played more last year, and the team was better."

Sanson enters her "junior year" on the court with a goal of improvement and hopefully more time on the court.

"I just want to get better and play more," she said.

Asbury plays in the River States Conference. The team wants to win more games this season and compete well, according to Sanson.

The 2016 graduate of FCS is on track to graduate this spring with an exercise science degree from Asbury.

"My plan is to go to physical therapy school after graduation," she said. "It will be a doctorate degree. I am looking at different schools now. But I am not planning to play another year [of basketball]."

Sanson, whose father Rick is a high school teacher at Fellowship, has looked at the University of Kentucky and schools in North Georgia for her post-graduate degree work.

(Photo courtesy of Asbury University)

Russell Moves Back to OL After Season on Defense at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Mason Russell has already shown some versatility in his short time with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team.

The 6-foot-1, 270-pound redshirt freshman lineman has moved back to the offensive side of the ball as the Mocs prepare for training camp that begins July 31.

"It was a learning experience last year," Russell said. "I started out on defense and practiced all season with the defensive line. But in the spring, they asked me to move back to offense."

Russell begins camp as a second-string center. At FCS, Russell played both offensive tackle and nose tackle on defense.

"It was kind of different in the beginning," he said about the change to offense. "I started focusing on defense when I got to college, but it was a little nostalgic to move back to offense [for spring practices]. It's really a matter of execution on offense."

Russell has quickly learned to enjoy the UTC offense.

"It's really quite similar [to FCS' offense]," Russell said. "There are a lot of laterals, and the unit moves together. Everyone moves as a unit. It helps when you study the playbook to have similar looks."

Not only does the UTC offense seem similar to the offense Russell played Fellowship, he'll also see some familiar faces during the season. Russell will face former FCS teammates Reed Kroeber and Jack Hardin as UTC hosts Furman University in a SoCon contest on Nov. 2 at Finley Stadium at 2 p.m.

The Mocs finished 6-5 in 2018 under head coach Rusty Wright, a UTC alumnus. Russell did not play as a true freshman, earning redshirt.

"We did pretty well last year," he said. "We started strong at 4-0, but lost a couple of crucial games. Coach Wright is an alumnus, and he's a great coach and is great for our program. Chattanooga is a great place to be. The city is awesome."

Russell's transition to college was pretty smooth.

"It went well," he said. "The conditioning at FCS helped me get quickly adjusted to college football. It prepared me for football, which is now a year-round thing. At Fellowship I did not think about football until the spring. Now football is always going on. It's a complete circle and a year-round commitment. It makes school a full-time job."

Russell is a mechanical engineering major at UTC.

"I went into college knowing I want to be an engineer," he said.

(Finley Stadium image, logos courtesy of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)