ATHENS — The 2015-16 year in sports is almost over for Georgia. With the Lady Bulldogs bowing out in the Wowen’s College World Series of softball on Sunday, the only sport still actively competing for UGA is track and field.
After that, we can place a bow on the year that was with Georgia athletics, take a look at where it fits in the national all-sports standings and put 100 percent of our focus on the Kirby Smart Era in football. That will be a rise of at least a couple of percentage points.
Here’s a little review/preview of what’s going on with UGA athletics:
1. Football signees arrive
The next generation of Bulldogs are all present and accounted for on the UGA campus. The last few stragglers, which included some signees that still had their high school graduation ceremonies to participate in, reported over the weekend. But the majority, which included 14 freshmen, one junior college transfer, a graduate transfer and five invited walk-ons, all checked in last Wednesday.
On Monday, they’ll complete the enrollment process for summer classes, which begin on Wednesday. That will start the routine of daily classes and offseason strength and conditioning. At this point, it’s essentially three months (89 days today to be exact) until the first game, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time to get ready. And a goodly portion of the new Bulldogs are going to be counted on to contribute right away.
This latest groups joins six other freshmen who have been with the team since January as early enrollees. Checking in this past week were OL Chris Barnes, DL Michail Carter, OL Tyler Catalina, DL Tyler Clark, DB Mecole Hardman, RB Brian Herrien, RB Elijah Holyfield, OL Solomon Kindley, LB Jaleel Laguins, P Marshall Long, OLB Chauncey Manac, OLB David Marshall, DB Tyrique McGhee, WR Tyler Simmons, WR Javon Wims and TE Charlie Woerner.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) June 2, 2016
2. Lady Dogs bow out
It was a spectacular year for coach Lu Harris-Champer’s softball team, for sure. Considering how most of the season went — an eighth-place SEC finish, losing eight of their final 13 games before the NCAAs — nobody expected the Bulldogs to reach the College World Series this season. Yet they did, and no less by sweeping No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champion Florida in Gainesville Super Regional.
But Georgia (46-19) didn’t exactly distinguish itself in Oklahoma City. Despite a comeback win over Florida State in the opening round, the Bulldogs committed seven errors in its three games, fell behind in the first inning of all three and played a little nervous and sloppy overall. Georgia gave up three runs to Auburn in the seventh inning to lose 4-3 on Saturday in a game that would have sent them to the Final Four for a third time in as many tries. Then the Bulldogs fell to LSU 4-1 in an elimination game Sunday afternoon.
As it is, UGA became the first 16 seed since Hawaii in 2010 to reach World Series and the Bulldogs logged another successful season for Harris-Champer. She has led her teams to the WCWS three times now and, in 16 seasons, has had only one in which her team won fewer than 40 games (her first season in 2001).
3. Track now carries UGA’s baton
With softball now in the books, only track and field is still competing for the Bulldogs. And Georgia is representing well. Ten athletes have qualified for this week’s NCAA Championship in Eugene, Ore. They are Keturah Orji (long jump), Chanice Porter (long jump), Denzel Comenentia (hammer), Alex Poursanidis (hammer), Christian Harrison (800m), Mady Fagan (high jump ), Karl Saluri (decathlon), Maicel Uibo (decathlon), Devon Williams (decathlon) and Kendell Williams (heptathlon).
Orji arrives as Georgia’s best chance of being crowned a champion. The sophomore from Mount Olive, N.J., set the collegiate record in the triple jump at the NCAA East Prelims in Jacksonville, Fla., this past Saturday. Orji traveled 46 feet, 10 ¾ inches on her first attempt with a legal 1.7 wind and soared past the collegiate record of 46-9 set by Florida State’s Kim Williams in 2011.
4. McCoy goes out as All-American
Georgia golfer Lee McCoy Golf was named a first-team All-American by the Coaches Association of America last week. McCoy, who finished sixth in the NCAA Championships, won seven tournaments as a Bulldog (one shy of the school record), including two during the 2015-16 season. He was chosen as the 2016 SEC Player of the Year and highlighted the All-SEC First Team after claiming medalist honors as the league tournament.
McCoy wound up as Georgia’s record holder for career (70.87) and single-season (70.00) stroke average. McCoy is the third Bulldog in school history to twice garner first-team All-America status. He joins Chip Beck (1977-78) and Chris Kirk (2006-07).
“Lee is one of the most highly-decorated players to come through our program, so it’s fitting to see him recognized this way for his last season,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “He’s been a great warrior for us these past four years. He’s a fine young man who has represented Georgia tremendously. We’re really going to miss him – and not just in the lineup.”
5. Mitsunaga earns a spot U.S. Open
Georgia’s Rinko Mitsunaga earned a spot in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open on Friday by winning a 36-hole sectional qualifying tournament at Sugar Mill Country Club. Mitsunaga shot back-to-back 69s to finish at 6-under 138.
Mitsunaga was tied with current LPGA Tour players Sandra Changkija and Katie Burnett, as well as amateur Kelly Grassel, following the opening round. She eventually finished a stroke ahead of Changkjia, who earned the second qualifying spot. Burnett (143) and Grassel (144) are alternates.