Five women’s tennis players named 2017 ITA Scholar-Athletes

Five women’s tennis players named 2017 ITA Scholar-Athletes

Five members of the Lamar University women’s tennis team have been named 2017 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Scholar-Athletes, announced ITA officials. The Cardinals named to the list are freshman Jasmin Buchta, senior Katya Lapayeva, junior Stephanie Marchena, senior Talisa Merchiers and senior Anna Spengler.

LU’s group of honorees recorded one of the best seasons in program history in 2017. Big Red posted 17 wins, including an 8-3 (.727) Southland Conference record, to earn the No. 2 overall seed in the Southland Conference Championship tournament.

The Cardinals’ 17-win season was the highest win total since 2011 and goes down as a top-five single-season performance in program history.

Following the year, Lapayeva was named SLC Athlete of the Year, becoming the third player in program history to receive the honor and the first since 2010. She was also named 2017 SLC Student-Athlete of the Year as the Cardinals swept the conference’s male and female student-athlete of the year awards.

Lapayeva ended the season tied for the conference lead in singles victories, posting a 19-3 (.864) record despite having played at No. 1 singles all year. Lapayeva teamed up with classmate Anna Spengler to post 11 doubles wins on the season.

In addition to Lapayeva, Spengler and Buchta also were recognized on the All-Southland squad.

To be nominated for the ITA All-Academic Team award, a team must maintain a cumulative 3.2 grade-point average, and all letterwinners must be factored into the GPA. Individuals must maintain a 3.5 GPA to be nominated for the scholar-athlete award.

LU football begins fall camp

The 2017 Lamar football Cardinals were up bright and early July 29 as their first of 29 fall practices began under first-year head coach Mike Schultz. Then the team stepped on the practice field later that afternoon for their first official workout at Provost Umphrey Stadium to prepare for the upcoming season.

In a practice that lasted two hours, the Cardinals proved they were unwilling to yield to Mother Nature. The temperature exceeded 90 degrees throughout the day but the Cardinals muscled their way through the workout, going through position drills before moving into the playbook.

“Camp is going to be challenging and tough,” said Schultz. “Fortunately, most of these guys spent the summer here, so they have trained in this heat. Not only are these guys competing against each other, but you are competing against the heat. I thought our guys did real well.”

In addition to the returning letterwinners on the squad, the coaching staff welcomed 20 newcomers (15 high school signees and five transfers) for their first official practice with the team. The group of 20, which inked with the Cardinals on National Signing Day, joined a group of talented walk-ons all fighting for playing time when the Cardinals open the season Sept. 2 at North Texas.

The position breakdown on offense from the 2017 signing class consists of five offensive linemen, four wide receivers, two running backs, a quarterback and a tight end. On the defensive side of the ball, LU added four linebackers and two defensive linemen. LU also added a kicker on special teams. The five transfers from this group include receivers Dorian Gaston and Isaiah Howard from Itawamba Community College in Mississippi, running back James White from Texas A&M, offensive lineman Willie Williams of Texas State and tight end Jarod Wood from Kilgore College. This group looks to fill the gaps for a squad that only has 13 returning starters.

Although the depth chart is not set, and position battles will take place over the next month, the Cardinals wrapped up the first workout with a scrimmage that saw offense versus defense and some special teams work.

“We’re trying to install our offense and the base part of our defense and make sure we execute on special teams,” said Schultz. “I thought we did some things athletically today. We have a long way to go, but our two junior college receivers (Dorian Gaston and Isaiah Howard) did some nice things.”

Schultz also added that he hopes to have the starting quarterback named in two or three weeks.

One note of interest, the team’s top tackler from last year, linebacker Cam Hampton, will be late joining the team due to academics.

Track & field

Former Lamar University track and field athlete and Southland Conference champion Verity Ockenden won her first English National Championship on July 30 when she spilt away from the field in the final 200 meters to win the 5000-meters on a 16:36.92 time.

According to England Athletics, Ockenden, who is still coached by current LU cross country coach Tony Houchin, split off with six racers at the start of the race and closed out with three racers in the final kilometer. Ockenden was also awarded a prize for claiming the fastest long leg at the National Championships.

At Lamar, the Shaftsbury, England, native was the SLC’s Indoor Outstanding Track Performer, High Point Scorer and Newcomer of the Year in 2015. That season, she took the crown in the 800 meters then won two more gold medals in 2016 with a win in the mile – a SLC record of 4:45.93 – and 3K.

In her outdoor seasons at LU, she was the back-to-back 1,500-meter champion in 2015 and 2016. She set a league record in that event on a 4:17.60 time in 2016.

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