Coastal Carolina

CCU Notebook: Chants’ success in inaugural season of Sun Belt competition may surprise you

Coastal Carolina has been picked to defend its Sun Belt Conference indoor volleyball title in a poll of league coaches and senior Leah Hardeman (pictured) is expected to earn conference Player of the Year honors again.
Coastal Carolina has been picked to defend its Sun Belt Conference indoor volleyball title in a poll of league coaches and senior Leah Hardeman (pictured) is expected to earn conference Player of the Year honors again. file photo

Coastal Carolina’s football program is beginning play in the Sun Belt Conference this school year, but the university’s other athletic programs are entering the second year in the conference, as CCU officially transitioned from the Big South to the Sun Belt last summer.

And the Chanticleers have already enjoyed a fair amount of success in the conference.

The Chants tied for fourth with Arkansas State in the league’s 2016-17 Bubas Cup standings for the overall performance of athletics programs, behind leader South Alabama as well as Texas State and Texas-Arlington.

“I think after one year we were very pleased,” Hogue said. “We finished fourth in the all-conference trophy this year, the Bubas Cup, which was a great finish out of 12 teams I think in your first year. We won several championships in the process. We’re real excited where we stand.”

The Chants won team conference titles in men’s soccer and indoor volleyball, were a runner-up in women’s soccer and won a regular season baseball title. In addition, Annie Bothma was an individual champion in women’s cross country, and track and field.

The Chants are entering a football conference that sent six teams to bowl games last season, going 4-2 in those games.

“We understand football, as we continue through our transitional process, that’s certainly a step up, and we’re not quite there yet with all of our scholarships, that’s why you have a two-year process with the NCAA, so all of those things can be put into place,” Hogue said.

“And it’s a challenging league, and it’s probably coming off the best year it ever had,” Hogue continued. “So we know we’re walking into a lot of tough games, and we’re excited to see where we stack up.”

Hardeman on top

The CCU volleyball team was voted to defend its Sun Belt Conference title, and senior outside hitter Leah Hardeman was named the Sun Belt Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after claiming 2016 Sun Belt Player of the Year and Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.

The Chants earned a maximum of 72 points with first-place votes to win the conference’s East Division from all 12 member institutions. Arkansas State was picked to defend its West Division crown with 71 points.

Hardeman, of Clarkston, Ga., enters her senior season ranked fifth among Coastal’s all-time kills leaders, needing 492 to match the program record of 1,807.

UAB game televised

Coastal Carolina’s football game on Sept. 16 at Alabama-Birmingham will be broadcast in the Myrtle Beach area on the NBC affiliate WMBF News through Raycom Sports. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (Eastern).

The game at Legion Field is also being televised in Birmingham on Raycom Media-owned WBRC FOX6 News.

The teams are meeting for the first time, and both programs are taking big leaps this year. Coastal Carolina is making the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision this year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, while UAB is starting its program back up this season after killing it following the 2014 season, in which it went 6-6 and was bowl eligible and had an average attendance of about 20,000 per game.

The Blazers make a return trip to Myrtle Beach on Sept. 8, 2018.

Famili voted POY

Coastal Carolina senior Daniella Famili of Stockholm, Sweden was voted the Sun Belt Preseason Women’s Soccer Player of the Year and the Chanticleers were picked to finish second in a vote of the league’s head coaches.

Coastal was picked second to defending champion South Alabama, but was just one point behind the Jaguars in the voting (109 points to 108) despite the Chants getting a league-best four first-place votes to USA’s three.

Little Rock (106 points and three first-place votes) was picked third, followed by Appalachian State (84 points) and Louisiana (60 points) to round out the top five.

Coastal coach Paul Hogan, who is entering his seventh season, lost seven seniors off last year’s squad, including five starters. The Chants finished second in the league last year and reached the Sun Belt Tournament championship game. They started the season 2-3-1 but closed the year strong and posted a 12-6-3 record, including 6-2-2 in league play.

Famili ranked third in the Sun Belt last season with nine goals, which tied her school single-season record, and third with 21 points. She had four game-winning goals and was the first Chant to be named First Team All-South by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

The CCU women’s soccer team kicks off its season at 7 p.m. Friday at Wofford.

Soccer warming up

Coastal Carolina University senior Frantzdy Pierrot has been named to the Watch List for the 2017 Men’s MAC Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor in college soccer. Fifteen semifinalists will be announced Nov. 29.

The men’s soccer team has dropped a pair of 3-1 decisions over the past four days in exhibition games to teams ranked in the top five in the country – North Carolina and Clemson.

Carlos Becerra and Brennan Koslow have scored for CCU and starting goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz has allowed two goals in more than 100 minutes of action.

The defending Sun Belt champions have their final exhibition at home at 7 p.m. Saturday against Marshall and begins its season at George Mason at 1 p.m. next Friday. It’s first home game is at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 against UNC Greensboro.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin