What were the top local sports stories of 2015?
It was a monumental year in sports in The Daniel Island News readership area. What are your top sports stories from 2015? Here’s one man’s opinion.
Family Circle Cup becomes Volvo Cars Open
In late summer, the Meredith Corporation announced a new partnership with Volvo Cars of North America for the Family Circle Cup, the most prestigious women’s-only tennis tournament in the world. In conjunction with Volvo Car’s first American plant in South Carolina’s Berkeley County, the carmaker became the title sponsor for the Family Circle Cup, changing its name to the Volvo Cars Open. The tournament began in 1973 in Hilton Head and is one of the top events on the WTA circuit. The tourney’s alumni include a who’s who including Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams, Justine Henin and Serena Williams. “The title sponsorship change is a natural evolution of our event,” said Bob Moran, General Manger and Tournament Director of the Volvo Cars Open. “We are an international event with players, fans and viewers from across the globe. The opportunity for Meredith to partner with a world-class brand like Volvo Cars is a perfect fit.” The Volvo Cars Open will take place April 2 – 10.
BE volleyball ties national record
It seems the Bishop England volleyball program is always in the news. This fall, the Bishops made national news. The Bishops topped Buford in straight sets with a 25-15, 25-13, 25-17 victory in the Class AA state championship. It gave the Bishops’ their 16th consecutive state championship, which tied the national record according to the National High School Federation of Sports record book. The Episcopal School of Acadiana (Cade, La.), won 16 in a row from 1987 to 2002. Bishop England owns the national record for state volleyball titles with 26 overall. Coach Cindy Baggott has coached the Bishops to nine state titles. That gives her a share of No. 2 on the all-time coaching list according to Palmetto’s Finest. She shares the No. 2 spot with former BE coach Amelia Dawley. “I’m the caretaker of tradition that started a long time ago,” Baggott told reporters after the game. “I was given a great opportunity here when she left. My challenge is to keep the torch lit.”
Hanahan alum Chris Brown wraps up career at Notre Dame
Chris Brown set track and field records at Hanahan High School and was one of the state’s top football players. The wide receiver continued his success at Notre Dame, earning four letters and an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine game. Brown entered his senior season with 56 career catches for 813 yards and two touchdowns. But he saved the best for last, catching 48 passes his senior season for 597 yards and four TDs. He caught four passes in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Notre Dame, including a 4-yard TD. Brown was one of two Notre Dame players selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game, which will be held Jan. 23 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The other is safety Elijah Shumate.
Bishop England girls’ tennis nets 20th title
The Bishop England girls’ tennis team capped the 2015 season with a 4-3 victory over Christ Church in the Class AA-A state championship. It was the Bishops’ fifth straight state title and 20th overall – a state record. “It’s a great team accomplishment,” coach Kristin Fleming Arnold said. “To win 20 state championships, including the last five in a row, is extremely impressive. The girls have something to celebrate, something to be proud of.” The Bishops’ strong singles play was the difference. At No. 1 singles, Jenna Vroman beat Lauren Allen 6-0, 6-2 while teammate Camryn Deames beat Day Nuckolls 6-4, 6-2 in No. 2 play. In No. 3 singles, the Bishops’ Gabrielle Dacuba topped Nila Veerabagu, 7-5, 6-2. In No. 4 singles, the Bishops’ Emily Elliott beat Anna Thompson 6-2, 6-7 (12-10).
DI swim team enjoys best season
After six straight years finishing No. 3 in the City Swim Meet, the Daniel Island Flying Fish took a big step to reaching the top of the Lowcountry swimming mountain with a second-place finish. Snee Farm finished with 2,900 points, while Daniel Island tallied with 2,395 points. Coosaw Creek was third with 2,334.5 points, followed by Northbridge Terrace with 2,141.5 and Newington with 1,869.5. “Absolutely, this is something we can build on, something that can motivate us to try harder,” coach Rose Van Metre said. “I think we got a little comfortable at No. 3. This will give us great motivation.” Van Metre said the key was to climb the latter, not descend it next year. “I know winning it will be a tough challenge,” she said. “I know holding onto second place will be just as tough. But everyone improved their times. “Everyone was focused.”
Young golfers fare well
Daniel Island is home to many talented, young golfers, including Kathleen Sumner and Ben Burton. Sumner fared very well since May when she competed at the high school level. She was second in the state as an individual and helped the BE girls to a second-place finish in the team standings. She switched gears and then competed as a member of the Bishop England boys’ team, a squad that had so much talent it won the Class AA state title. She scored a victory in the Carolina Golf Association’s 49th Twin States Junior Girls’ Championship, which was held in early July in Chapel Hill, N.C. She followed that up with a couple of solid finishes, placing fifth in the Blade Junior Classic, which was held in Greer. On Friday, her bid to defend her title at Daniel Island came up a little short as she finished second to Burton. Burton also had a busy summer. He played in more than a dozen tournaments including a long-distance trip to Naples, Fla. He also played a little closer to home, winning the Daniel Island Junior Club Championship last week with a slim victory over Sumner. “Every day I hit a few balls,” Burton said. “But over the past year, I found it’s just as important to play. You can go out and beat balls all day. It’s not the same experience.” He also is a member of the Bishop England golf team and hopes to step up and become a team leader as the Bishops set their aim on a fourth consecutive Class AA state championship.
Hanahan wins second straight state track and field title
In late May, Hanahan won its second consecutive state championship and third in the last five years with an impressive performance at Harry Parone Stadium on the campus of Spring Valley High School. The Hawks scored 97 points to win the two-day meet. Hanahan dominated the state meet in three events to claim the title. Samuel Denmark and Quincy Mitchell finished first and third, respectively, in the 100- and 200-meter dashes to give the Hawks 32 points in the two events. Denmark, who struggled mightily in the 100 at the state qualifier with a disappointing fifth-place finish, recorded a time of 10.65 in the 100 to edge out the field, including Mitchell, who clocked in at 10.87. Denmark claimed gold in the 200 with a time of 21.58 to hold off another foe and Mitchell, who turned in a time of 21.81. The two runners were key ingredients in the Hawks’ 4x100-meter relay team that captured a gold medal with a time of 41.72. Saheim Brooks and Greg Casselman were the other members of the team. The victory was worth 10 points The Hawks collected another 18 points in the shot put as Dominique Green edged out teammate Tre Smalls to give the Haws a 1-2 finish.
Angelique Kerber wins her first Family Circle Cup title
Angeliqe Kerber won her first Family Circle Cup title and she did it in under pressure. In the championship against Madison Keys, she won the first set 6-2, but dropped the second set 6-4. Keyes led the third set 4-1, but Kerber rallied to win her first FCC title with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory. “It’s unbelievable,” Kerber said. “To win here after the really difficult weeks I had, I’m feeling great. Last year I had four finals and I didn’t win any of them, so it’s great that I actually won this one today. It’s just been a great week for me here. Everybody is so nice, and I’m really happy about my game.” The win in Charleston was Kerber’s fourth WTA title, and second at the Premier level - she also won Paris [Indoors] in 2012. Her other two came at Copenhagen in 2012 and Linz in 2013.
BE girls basketball success continues
The Bishop England girls’ basketball team had individual and team success – again – during the 2014-15 basketball season. In January, coach Paul Runey recorded his 600th career victory when the Bishops beat archrival Porter-Gaud. He became only the sixth girls’ basketball coach in state history to reach the milestone. “Any coach will tell you, and I know it sounds cliche, but winning 600 games is a result of the program,” Runey said. “I have been blessed with great players and coaches. The point is, I’ve never won one game. We have had some great kids come up through the program.” In March, the Bishops won the state title with a 50-36 victory over Pendleton in the title game. That was the finishing touch on a 23-4 season. The Bishops became only the third Class AA team to win three titles in four years and the victory gave them a 101-9 record over the last four years.
Skylar Hunter sets Citadel save record, gets drafted by Phillies
Skylar Hunter was known more for his catching skills when he made the Hanahan baseball team his freshman year. But by the time he graduated from The Citadel, he was pure pitcher. He appeared in 95 games during his career at The Citadel, recording 147 strikeouts with an earned-run average of 3.49 over 131.1 innings. In his last season, the right-hander broke The Citadel’s and Southern Conference records for career saves with 41. As a junior in 2015, Hunter pitched 53 innings for the Bulldogs, collecting 13 saves and striking out 59 opponents with an ERA of 3.74. In June’s Major League draft, he was selected in the 12th round as the 354th overall pick. He was assigned to Williamsport of the short-season New York-Penn League and pitched in 22 games – all in relief. He was 3-3 with a 3.48 ERA. He struck out 21 batters in 33 2/3 innings. “It’s baseball, baseball, baseball all of the time,” Hunter said. “I’m just glad to be living my dream. It’s an honor and thrill to make a living by playing baseball. But it is a grind.”