Saturday, July 20, 2019

McNeese State QB Cody Orgeron and DE Chris Livings at 2019 Southland Conference Football Media Day

Video by Kirstin Kelly
Staff Photographer/Videographer
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (July 20, 2019) McNeese State QB Cody Orgeron and DE Chris Livings at 2019 Southland Conference Football Media Day.

HBU QB Bailey Zappe and DE Andre Walker at Southland Conference FB Media Day 2019

Video by Kirstin Kelly
Staff Photographer/Videographer
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (July 20, 2019) Houston Baptist University junior QB Bailey Zappe and senior DE Andre Walker at Southland Conference FB Media Day 2019 on July 18, 2019

Thursday, July 18, 2019

HBU head coach Vic Shealy, players speak at Southland Conference football media day

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyrightr 2019 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (July 18, 2019) The 2019 Southland Conference football media day was held at the Hilton Post Oak in Houston with all 11 schools represented to discuss their upcoming season and field questions from the 50-plus media in attendence.

Houston Baptist University was represented by head coach Vic Shealy (shown left), who is in his sixth season at the helm of the Huskies. HBU returns 17 starters, nine on offense and eight on defense, along with exceptional talent on both sides of the ball. Senior defensive end Andre Walker, who enters the season as the Huskies' all-time sacks leader, is a preseason all-conference selection. Junior linebacker Caleb Johnson ranked fifth in the league in tackles per game, recorded 102 total stops on the year and tied for the league lead with four fumble recoveries to earn preseason all-conference honors. Sophomore wide receiver Jerreth Sterns led the conference in receptions in his rookie campaign and earned preseason all-conference honors. Junior quarterback Bailey Zappe tied for the league lead with 23 touchdown passes, while setting nearly every HBU single-game, single-season and career passing record.

Shealy discussed his view of the upcoming season;  stating to the press:

“These are good days at HBU with great things happening in our program. I can’t wait to see these guys. We play, in my opinion, in the best FCS conference in the country and I think this year, what makes it more difficult, is the strength from top to bottom. You look at the quality of teams that you have to play week-in and week-out, our league exposes areas where you are not very good. By the time you get to a playoff, you are a hardened team."

He added:

"I think this year will be one of the most fun years I’ve ever had as a coach. I believe in this football team we have, this is the best team we have had in our years here at HBU. The six years have gone by fast and what I see with this team, is that since we said goodbye to them before Christmas until they came back in January, they have not missed a step toward the expectations on their plate.”

In addition,

“Some of the success that we’ve seen, particularly on offense last year, the ability to generate points and do things with the football, are good indicators of where we are. This year we are going to be a fit for team’s in this league to handle, because both sides of the ball have the ability to trend up in incredible fashion.”

The Huskies open camp Monday, August 5 with a 7:30 p.m. practice at Husky Stadium. The 2019 season kicks off against FBS and Conference USA foe UTEP Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. CDT at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

Nicholls Voted to Top Spot in 2019 Southland Conference Football Preseason Poll

Photo by Kirstin Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
Colonels receive most possible first-place votes

FRISCO, TEXAS (July 17, 2019  Nicholls is the preseason favorite for the 2019 Southland Conference football season, the league announced Thursday. The defending co-champions received the most possible first-place votes (20) and 200 total points to garner the top spot.

Central Arkansas was voted second with 154 total points. Defending co-champion UIW follows closely in third place, earning one first-place votes and 150 points. Sam Houston State collected 146 points to rank fourth in the preseason poll.

Lamar (123) is slated as the fifth-place team, followed by McNeese (114) and Abilene Christian (112), who picked up the final first-place nod. Rounding out the poll is Southeastern Louisiana (71), Stephen F. Austin (63), Northwestern State (56) and Houston Baptist (21).

Nicholls enters 2019 with a league-high 11 total preseason all-conference picks. Led by senior quarterback Chase Fourcade and senior defensive lineman Sully Laiche, the Colonels grabbed eight of the 28 first-team slots. Fourcade, the 2018 Southland Conference Player of the Year, enters his final season with the 10th-most career total offense yards in league history (8,990), and Laiche begins his senior campaign as the active FCS leader in career sacks (25.5).

The 2019 season opens Thursday, Aug. 29, with a pair of 6 p.m. kickoffs between Central Arkansas and Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky., and Northwestern State and UT Martin in Martin, Tenn. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Southeastern Louisiana hosts Jacksonville State and Lamar hosts Bethel (Tenn.). The remaining teams in the league begin their 2019 campaigns on Saturday, Aug. 31.

The Southland Conference preseason poll is voted on by each head coach and football sports information director. Each voter ranks their predicted order of regular season finish, not including their own team. First-place votes are worth 10 points, second-place votes are worth nine and so on to one point for 10th place.

2019 Southland Conference Football Preseason Poll

Team (First-place votes)
1.      Nicholls (20)
2.      Central Arkansas
3.      UIW (1)
4.      Sam Houston State
5.      Lamar
6.      McNeese
7.      Abilene Christian (1)
8.      Southeastern Louisiana
9.      Stephen F. Austin
10.   Northwestern State
11.   Houston Baptist

10-man Dynamo fall to Atlanta 5-0

Archive photo by
Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
ATLANTA, GEORGIA (July 17, 2019)  A sixth-minute red card to forward Alberth Elis (shown right) forced the Houston Dynamo to play down a man for more than 80 minutes at Atlanta United, resulting in a 5-0 loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Just over five minutes into the match, Elis tangled with Atlanta defender Leandro González Pirez and was shown a yellow card for dissent. The Honduran international approached referee Chris Penso with his arms out to question the call and the two appeared to brush against one another, prompting Penso to issue Elis a straight red card for what was deemed “violent conduct” according to the official match report.

Atlanta United took advantage of the man advantage, holding the ball for more than 70 percent of the match, and broke through late in the first half after defender Julian Gressel found midfielder Darlington Nagbe inside the box in the 27th minute. The Five Stripes doubled their lead two minutes later after a cross from defender Dion Pereira deflected off a Dynamo defender inside the box. The ball fell to an unmarked Brandon Vasquez inside the six-yard box and the forward headed the ball home. 

Gressel tallied his second assist of the evening in the 60th minute when he found Josef Martínez near the six-yard box. The Venezuelan international beat Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric to the ball for Atlanta’s third goal of the evening. Martinez finished with a brace after he eluded a Dynamo defender and found the top corner of the near post in the 80th minute.

Gressel capped the scoring in the 88th minute with a goal after a Dynamo clearance fell to him at the top of the penalty area. He slotted home a right-footed shot into the lower left corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season.

Before he was sent off, Elis looked like the most dangerous player on the pitch, creating a pair of golden chances in the opening moments. He created the first scoring chance of the game just 75 seconds into the match when he laid off a ball near the penalty spot for midfielder Tommy McNamara. The midfielder’s effort was on target but saved at the bottom corner of the far post by Brad Guzan.

Elis would get behind the Atlanta backline three minutes later and his cross found Marlon Hairston at the far post, but the forward’s effort was off target – just missing the inside of the post.

Dynamo forward Romell Quioto entered the match at halftime and stretched the Atlanta backline wide early in the second half. Quioto got behind the defense in the 52nd minute and appeared to be in on goal when Atlanta center back slide tackled him from behind inside the penalty area, bringing Quioto down as the ball rolled away. Although subsequent replays showed no contact with the ball by Robinson, Penso deemed it a clean tackle and allowed play to go on.

Four minutes later, Quioto did draw a foul outside the area, but his free kick whistled over the crossbar. Quioto snuck behind the Atlanta backline again in the 65th minute, but with limited options inside the box the forward opted to test his luck from a tight angle. The Honduran’s effort bounced off the bottom of the near post and trickled across the face of goal before eventually being cleared by Atlanta.

Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas entered the game in the 62nd minute and quickly linked up with midfielder Juan David Cabezas in the 67th minute, but the midfielder was forced off the ball inside the penalty area by a pair of Atlanta defenders.

Next up for Houston, the Dynamo fly north to complete their back-to-back matches against the last two MLS Cup champions as they visit Toronto FC on Saturday night. Kickoff for that match is slated for a 6:30 p.m. CDT kickoff and will be televised locally on KUBE 57 and TeleXitos 47.2.

The Dynamo return home on Wednesday, July 24 for the BBVA Classic against Club América to kick off the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament. That match is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. CDT kickoff, with tickets starting at $20.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Houston Dash drop 1-0 decision to Chicago Red Stars

Kyah Simon drives the ball past an unidentified
Chicago Red Stars player.
Photo by Darla Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyrights 2019 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (July 13, 2019) The Chicago Red Stars defense came onto the pitch at the beginning of the game and totally shut down down the Houston Dash offense; resulting in a 1-0 win at BBVA Stadium in Houston. The lost was the third in a row for the Dash, who have not seen the winning side of a match since their 2-1 victory over the Utah Royals on May 11. Since then, the Dash have recorded three draws and three losses to post their record after 12 games to 3-5-4, for 13 points.

It did not take Chicago long to get on the scoreboard, with a qucik goal by forward Katlyn Johnson; her first of the season, with an assist from midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo. It was the University of Illinois alumni's second assist of the season.  The win raised the Red Stars' record to 5-2-5 (20 points) and keeps their playoff hopes alive. Houston has only beat Chicago twice in fifteen games dating back to 2014, when they became a member of the league.

Photo by Darla Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
One milestones was achieved by the Dash in the match. Forward Kealia Ohai made her 100th appearance in an NWSL game; becoming the 26th player to play in 100 regular-season games. Ohai played 66 minutes in the match, and was replaced by Christine Nairn.

Next up for Houston will be a nationally televised game against the Washington Spirit at Maryland SoccerPlex  in Germantown, Maryland, on Saturday July 20. They return home on Sunday, July 28 to host Carli Lloyd and Sky Blue FC. Game time is set for 6 p.m. CDT.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

FIFA honors individuals, teams at conclusion of Women's World Cup 2019

By Jennifer Edwards
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (July 10, 2019) In addition to the team trophy awarded to the United States for winning the Women's World Cup, FIFA also handed out additional accolades for individual and team success at the conclusion of the tournament. Let's look at the awards and their honorees.

Gold Medal and World Cup Trophy: United States 
Silver Medal: Netherlands 
Third place: Sweden 
Fourth place: England 

Golden Ball Award (for the most technical player in the tournament voted on by the FIFA Technical Study Group):  Megan Rapinoe (USA)

Silver Ball Award: Lucy Bronze (England)

Bronze Ball Award: Rose Lavelle (USA)

Golden Boot Award  (to the player who scored the most goals in the tournament): Megan Rapinoe USA (scoring six goals in five games) 

Silver Boot Award (to the player with the second most goals scored in the tournament:  Alex Morgan USA (scoring six goals and three assists)

Bronze Boot Award (to the player with the third most goals scored in the tournament: Ellen White (England) (six goals, no assists) 

Golden Glove Award (to the most outstanding goalkeeper as decided on by FIFA Technical Study Group:  Sari van Veenendall (Netherlands)

Hyundai’s Best Young Player Award: Giulia Gwinn (Germany)

Fair Play Team Award: France (with a superior disciplinary record on the field)

Sunday, July 07, 2019

USA powers their way to fourth Women's World Cup title

By Jennifer Edwards
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

LYON, FRANCE (July 7, 2019) While the fireworks ended on the night of July 4th in France, the true fireworks show happened on July 7th. The United States Women’s National Soccer Team took on the blazing hot Netherlands squad by the score of 2-0 in the showdown for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup trophy. The two teams were very well matched and very deserving of playing in the championship game that the world was watching.   

Again, Megan Rapinoe (shown left) scored the opening goal on penalty kick. The penalty was drawn on a Dutch player for kicking Alex Morgan in the shoulder. This goal is historic in the fact that Rapinoe is the oldest player to score a goal in the final game, as she is 34 years old. Love her or hate her'; she put this team on her back and carried them to the finals with her penalty kicks. So this goal should come as no surprise to anyone. The second goal came from newcomer Rose Lavelle. Lavelle is one of the younger players at age 24. Her goal solidified the US lead and the Americans didn’t let off the gas. The Dutch required every skill that the U.S.A. defense had to keep the Dutch from scoring.  

While the Dutch came in second, their goalkeeper, Sari van Veenendall, made numerous spectacular saves during the entire match to keep the scoring to a minimum. Unfortunately, like many other teams that came up against the US powerhouse, they didn’t have enough to win.   

The entire tournament has done so much for women’s soccer as a whole. The world supported these amazing athletes. All the athletes ask is that you support them when they return to their respective clubs in America and overseas. Pack out the stadiums and enjoy women’s soccer. Thank you to all the teams that participated and showed their spirit, culture and love for the game. They are inspiring the next generation of soccer stars in the making. See you again in four years to see if the United States still has what it takes to put a fifth star on their crest.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Starters make all the difference in Houston 4-0 win over New York

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyrightr 2019 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (July 3, 2019) Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera (shown left) knows that having the starters back together on the pitch can make all the difference. On Wednesday, July 3,  the eve of the Fourth of July, Houston scored three goals in the second half to down the New York Red Bulls, 4-0, in front of 19,531 fans at BBVA Stadium. When asked about the return of his starters, he stated:
Yes, it’s good to be back with the team and as I said we went through difficulties, but it’s difficult when you don’t have your players. Now that the players came back – we are going to win, we are going to lose, and we are going to tie, but these are our players. This is the main roster and then this is the team that we have chosen at the beginning of the season, but we were affected. We knew that, but we didn’t make excuses. We didn’t pull the flag. We didn’t send messages to anybody. We didn’t cry, but the reality is if you don’t have eight starters, your team is going to be affected—that’s the reality. No matter which team—which national team, any team. Eight players out of the roster? That’s not good for any team and we have to deal with that but we’re back with the roster and today the team showed that they wanted to come back and we want to continue fighting for the points in front of us every day.”
Forward Mauro Manotas, who scored the first goal of the match in the 49th minute, also noted the difference in Houston's play.
"It was a tough stretch and now the team is back together. When the team is together, this is a different team. When we have the core of attacking trio plus Tomas (Martinez) – the team is just different. We have more variety in the final third.” We can play up top, below, with speed, off one-two combinations – we have everything we need to win a game and that is very important.”
Photo by Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyrightr 2019 All Rights Reserved
Alberth Elis (shown left) scored the final two Houston goals, raising his season total to seven. He stated in the post-game presser: 
"It was a great result for us. Glory to God that we could secure the victory and we hope to maintain this momentum – and keep winning, this is what the team needed. As a forward, you always want to score goals and help the team. Today, thanks to God, I was able to do both.”
In between the Manotas and first Elis goal, Tomas Martinez scored the second Houston goal, his thrid of the season.
"Today we played a great game against a great opponent. We played well, we were consistent, and we scored goals when the opportunities presented themselves. We hope to carry this momentum and remain focused on the task at hand. We have to keep earning points and now we shift our focus to Saturday as we try to earn another three points. We want to return to the top of the table. We know that there is a lot in front of us, we will have challenges, long trips, this is a difficult league with a lot of teams who can compete for the top spots. We have to be ready and expect the best from every team we face.”
Next up for Houston is a Saturday, July 6 match up against Cincinnati FC.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Austin Listi: One step closer to the Majors

Photo courtesy of George Youngs Jr.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

By Lou Roesch
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

HUFFMAN, TEXAS (July 2, 2019) Triple AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs newest member is Huffman, Texas native Austin Listi (shown right). Listi, the reigning Philadelphia Phillies Minor League Player of the Year is one step away from the pinnacle of professional baseball all in less than two years. How does a 17th round pick travel so far so fast? The 25 year old has one answer; GOD.

Austin Listi is a professional ball player but that is third on the list of who he is. He is a Christian, a husband and father and then a ballplayer and he is not ashamed to let you know it. He knows that he is where he is not by chance but by GOD’s hand.

“God has directed every step,” shared Listi in his final interview at Double AA Reading eleven days ago. “Since my return to DBU for my junior year, I have felt God telling me this is where I want you and what I want you to do. I am where I belong whether it was DBU, two trips here to Reading or anywhere else. He has put people in my life leading me first to DBU, a school I hadn’t even considered coming out of high school. It was there I met Darick Hall.”

Hall was not only Listi’s teammate at DBU but also Lakewood and then Reading and maybe one day in the majors. Listi and Hall have shared many experiences especially the mission trip in the fall of 2015. It was a trip that put a lot of things into perspective for the DBU all-time home run leader. Things such as service to others less fortunate. It was a moment to realize how blessed he had been to be born in the United States and not to take things for granted.

At Reading, Hall and Listi were back to back in the Fight’in Phils lineup and produced some memorable moments like in game two of last Thursday’s (June 20) game two of the twi-night doubleheader. Trailing 1-0 as the game entered the home fourth, Hall blistered a double off the wall and Listi brought him home with his final hit at Double AA. The next day, the Reading third baseman would get the call he had been hoping for since last season. In fact, the call came exactly two years to the day he received another call.

On June 20, 2017, the DBU alum received a call from his agent while sitting in the living room of parent’s home surrounded by friends and family watching the MLB draft. His agent called to say that his dream of playing professionally had come true. All the hard work from T-ball to that point had paid off. It was in that same living room that Listi received the call inviting him as a non-roster player to his first MLB spring training in 2019.

Photo courtesy of George Youngs Jr.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
As spring training wound down, Listi (shown left) expected to start 2019 at Triple AAA Lehigh Valley. Instead, the Phillies told him he was going back to Reading and that he should start learning how to play third base. The disappointment, Listi recalls was a lesson in humility, pride and thankfulness considering the fact that only one half of one percent (1 out of 200) high school ballplayers will ever be drafted with a shot to play in the majors and here he was living the dream.

“After I swallowed my pride,” continued Listi. “I was able to look at the opportunity as a blessing. Here was an organization who thought enough of me and my skills to say here is how we feel your skills can best help you and the Phillies going down the road. Here was a path for me to the majors so I put my head down and went to work trusting that GOD would take care of the details.”

More bad news followed at Reading that would continue to test his faith and determination. An 0 for 25 April start at the plate will do that to a ballplayer. His bat was swinging well but the hits weren’t falling and the team was struggling.

“I had to trust in my mechanics,” said Listi. “I continued to work hard and had faith it would turn around. In the meantime, I knew if I wasn’t hitting I needed to be doing my job defensively (only 7 errors in 350 plus innings and more than 100 chances) but most of all I had to be the best teammate I could be both on the field and in the clubhouse so that’s what I tried to do.”

Off the diamond, the husband of wife Krystal and young son Weston works hard to be a good husband and father. His wife, a former DBU volleyball player, understands the rigors of working to become the best. “Her support has been critical to our success. It’s been a team effort to say the least.” Listi recounted many times how he would walk in from a tough game and just the joy and love he saw in the faces of his family drained away the trials and tribulations. As he put it, “they are my sunshine.”

Listi turned the O for April into a solid May and an incredible June. His faith, determination and hard work were paying off. His bat came alive and so too did the Fight’in Phils. In June alone, the young infielder hit .353 with a double, four homers, 12 RBI and a 1.004 OPS thru 16 games. The week prior to his call up Listi earned player of the week honors with a sizzling slash line .455/.478/.727 that includes two home runs, four RBI and three runs scored. The Fight’in Phils were in a first place battle with Trenton when he caught the plane to meet the Iron Pigs n the Road in Colorado. His work there was done.

The Phillies minor league phenom picked up at Lehigh right where he left off at Reading letting his bat and glove do the talking. In his first nine games with the Iron Pigs (honestly where do they get these names), Listi is hitting at a .361 clip with seven extra base hits including five home runs, 9 RBI and eight runs scored not to mention an OPS of 1.272. With just 13 errors in the last two seasons, the corner guy (first, third, left field, right field) has a .986 fielding percentage.

Although ballplayers don’t normally care to be compared to other ballplayers, I couldn’t help but think about the comparison between Listi and two major league multiple position standouts in Ben Zobrist (DBU alum) and Matt Carpenter. Although both tasted the major league level early in their careers, Listi is ahead of both of them and if the bat and glove continue to perform don’t be surprised if this quiet, unassuming man of faith doesn’t get another call come late August telling him to report to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Megan Rapinoe was a standout for the United States vs. France

Photo courtsey of
United States Olympic Committee
via Flickr

By Jennifer Edwards
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

LYON, FRANCE (July 2, 2019) Love her or hate her, Megan Rapinoe (shown right) was the star of the United States vs. France quarter final match in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019. Rapinoe is not one to shy away from the spotlight off the pitch, but her actions on the pitch allowed the USWNT to advance to the semi-finals. 

Rapinoe, one of the captains of the USWNT, is a midfielder with a ton of speed and ability to read a play and be in the right place at the right time. She is also spot on for penalty and free kicks. Rapinoe took both kicks and scored both times to keep the game at 2-1. When looking at the stats for the game, the USWNT did not dominate the game. They were behind most of the time. The defense stepped up during the game to shut down France, but were having a tough time doing so. 

Crystal Dunn, now a defender, had a stand out game. She frustrated the French offensive line many times and stepped up her game to create passing opportunities. That being said, the USWNT should not have won that game. Looking at the official statistics the US only had possession of the ball 39% of the time to France’s 61%. 

The US made the most of that 39%, but it was a tough and close match. France had 20 shots on goal with 5 being on target to the US’s 10 shots with 8 being on target. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saw more action during this game than all the other games combined. It should be noted that the US did not score of these attempts. 

The US will face off against England Tuesday, July 2 at 2 p.m. in the semi-finals. It will be interesting to see how both teams fare. They are both strong, hard-hitting teams known for their speed and tenacity.