November 28, 2011

Northern Colorado welcomes future Bears in early period

BASEBALL | MEN'S BASKETBALL | WOMEN'S BASKETBALL | SOFTBALL | WOMEN'S TENNISVOLLEYBALL 

GREELEY -- Northern Colorado Athletics announced some new additions to its family this week during the NCAA's 2011 early signing period, which began Wednesday, Nov. 9, and runs through Wednesday, Nov. 16.

All of Northern Colorado's sports programs except for football, soccer, track and field and cross country are eligible to sign prospective student athletes during this period.

This release will grow before Wednesday, Nov. 16, as more and more future Bears put pen to paper and commit to Northern Colorado for the 2012-13 competition season.

VLASAK SIGNS WEST IN WOMEN'S TENNIS

During the early signing period, Northern Colorado Director of Tennis Brenda Vlasak inked Hilary West to a National Letter of Intent.

"Hilary is an outstanding addition to the women's tennis program," said Vlasak. "Not only has she excelled throughout her junior career with strong results but brings a very motivated work ethic. Her chemistry with the team and coaching staff was a perfect fit from the very beginning. We are excited to welcome Hilary to the program and look forward to her beginning her career here in August."

West, a senior at La Reina High School in Simi Valley, Calif., posted a 44-6 record during the fall which included a 2-1 record at the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) individual finals. In her three-year high school career she has won 146 matches.

As a freshman, she finished fourth in singles in the Tri-Valley League and was the team Co-MVP. She improved to win the league championship as a sophomore, as well as being named to the All-Greater San Fernando Valley Second team. In 2008-09, she was a first-team selection by the Ventura County Star in the small schools division. West sat out the 2010 season from high school competition and she advanced to the league finals as a senior.

West helped the Regents to undefeated league championships in both 2008 and 2009. She is also an all-academic pick and was a two-year member of the USTA Zonals Team.

West will enroll at Northern Colorado in the fall semester, 2012.

IWASAKI INKS FOUR FOR BASEBALL

Carl Iwasaki begins his second season as the head baseball coach at Northern Colorado by adding four players during the early NLI signing period. Iwasaki and his staff add two junior college transfers and two high school players to the roster for 2013.

"We are extremely excited to have these young men committed to be future Bears," said Iwasaki. "I know these student-athletes will represent our program well on the field, in the classroom and in the community."

Lucas Corrick, RHP, Lakewood, Colo. (North Central Texas College/Green Mountain HS)
Named to the 2011 Texas Junior College All-Star team… Went 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA in 2011, allowing just 10 walks in 41 innings pitched… Used as a starter, set-up and closer during his freshman season, recording two saves.

"Lucas is a pitcher who has plus command of four pitches," said Iwasaki. "He is a Colorado kid who can come in and help us immediately."

Matthew Loutzenhiser, LHP, Parker, Colo. (Ponderosa HS)
Caught the eye of the Bears' coaching staff at their prospect camp after throwing a mid-80's fastball and commanding three pitches for strikes… Helped lead the Mustangs to seventh-place at last year's state tournament… Walked just five batters and struck out 12 in 11.0 innings of work en route to a 2-0 record.

"Matt is a young man who is raw and we look forward to developing him more at the college level," Iwasaki stated. "We are excited to have him join us at UNC."

Tyler Kimbrough, INF, Tucson, Ariz. (Salpointe Catholic HS)
Hit .342 as a junior switch-hitter with seven doubles and two triples which amounted to a .493 slugging percentage… Was caught stealing just once (6-for-7) and recorded more walks than strikeouts… Helped lead the Lancers to a 23-8 overall and 10-2 conference record in 2011.

"Tyler is very disciplined at the plate," Iwasaki stated. "He can also play virtually any position on the field and will benefit the Bears program."

Nick Miller, INF/LHP, Loveland, Colo. (Northeastern JC/Nebraska/Mountain View)
Was the 2010 Class 4A Player of the Year by the Denver Post… Played in nine games as a freshman at Nebraska, starting in one… As a senior at Mountain View, hit .568 while going 9-0 on the mound with an astounding 0.76 ERA… Transferred to Northeastern and will play the 2012 season in Sterling.

"Nick is a physical kid," said Iwasaki. "We will count on him to make an immediate impact both on the mound and at the plate." 

WHITE, WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SIGN THREE

Fresh off a Big Sky Conference regular-season championship, the Northern Colorado women's basketball coaches turned their attention toward finding a group of new plaers who could continue the winning ways and help build a tradition of championships.

In the 2011 early signing period, the Bears inked three who head coach Jaime White thinks will fit into the philosophy of "winning championships in the classroom, on the court and in life."

White signed Kyleigh Hiser, Becca Howell and Bay'lee Purdy to National Letters of Intent and all three will enroll at Northern Colorado for fall semester 2012.

Kyleigh Hiser, 5-9, Guard, Laramie, Wyo. (Laramie HS)
Hiser is already a two-time all-conference selection and a 2011 all-State pick entering her senior season. She was also named the MVP of her team and a state all-tournament selection last year. A member of the National Honor Society, Hiser helped lead the Plainsmen to a pair of second-plac finishes in the 4A East Conference. In soccer, she plays both striker and defender and the team lost in the state championship game this year after winning the previous two.

Rebecca Howell, 6-1, Forward, Denver, Colo. (Bishop Machebeuf HS)
Howell is a two-time all-state honorable mention selection and two-time First-Team all-conference pick as she begins her senior years. She was also a team captain and named team MVP in 2011. In playing for her club team, Howell was named to the all-tournament teams at the Music City Madness and End of Oregon Trail tournaments. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and helped lead the Buffaloes to a sixth-place finish at state in 2011.

Bay'lee Purdy, 5-7, Guard, Agate, Colo. (Deer Trail)
A three-sport standout for the Eagles, Purdy has lettered four times in volleyball and three times each in basketball and track & field. On the basketball court, she is a two-time First-Team all-state selection as well as a three-tiem all-conference First-Team pick. Purdy is also a three-time honorable mention all-conference volleyball player and holds the school records in both the javelin and 800 meters. A member of the National Honor Society, she also holds 11 CHSAA basketball records and she and her club team won the 6 MAYB Tournament Championship in 2011.

MEN'S BASKETBALL ADDS ANOTHER MISSOURI STANDOUT

Northern Colorado head coach B.J. Hill, after adding six scholarship players in his first recruiting class last season, added just one this year in dynamic guard Greg Tucker from Charleston High School in Charleston, Mo.

Tucker is a 6-foot-2, 190 pound wing player, whom Hill compares to current Bears redshirt-freshman Tevin Svihovec

Hill, working off a tip from a friend who used to coach in the Big Sky, first started recruiting Tucker during a trip to St. Louis in July but didn't get to watch him play much because of a hurt ankle. A subsequent trip to Missouri, though, resulted in the beginning of a great relationship.

Hill said he liked what he saw from Tucker on the court but really got interested after sitting down with him for a one-on-conversation.

"I sat down with him for about an hour-and-a-half and liked him even more," Hill said. "Then I went to his house and met his mom and loved the family and what they were about and thought he would fit in perfectly with what we're trying to do. I think he's a great addition to our program.

"He's a strong, athletic kid, who I think can bring a lot to us. We lose Mike [Proctor] next year, but we're pretty deep in our frontcourt, so we decided to go with another guard in this class. We'll just have to get a big in next year's class."

Tucker averaged 21 points and six rebounds per game last season and helped his Blue Jays, winners of 11 all-time Missouri state championships, to a third-place finish in Missouri Class 3. He also earned a spot on the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 3 All-State First Team. He was one of just two juniors on the Class 3 First Team and joined current Northern Colorado freshman Tim Huskisson, who was a 2011 MBCA Class 4 First Team selection for Willard High School.

Toss in redshirt-freshman Tate Unruh (Branson, Mo.), and the Bears will suit up three players next season who prepped in the Show-Me State.

"I don't know what is," Hill said, "it's kind of become a weird deal. Southern Missouri all of a sudden has become a hotbed for us. All three are great kids—they have great character—and are really good players. They are all great additions to what we're trying to get done here."

SOFTBALL PICKS UP FOUR FUTURE BEARS

Northern Colorado softball coach Mark Montgomery announced Friday, the signing of three players to National Letters of Intent while also securing the commitment of another future Bear for the 2012-13 season.

Hope Asbury, Jessica Ball, Katelynn Cook and Solana Archuleta have committed to be in a Northern Colorado uniform next season.

There is plenty of local flavor in Montgomery's newest class, as three of the four future Bears hale from Colorado. There is also a history of winning in this new class, with six state championships between the four players.

"They definitely know what winning is about and that's important," Montgomery said. "We want to get that winning mindset here and these four will definitely help continue to build our depth."

Hope Asbury, 5-5, Catcher, La Salle, Colo. (Valley High School)
Asbury has lettered in each of her four years while playing for the Vikings and coach Kevin Miles … While at Valley, she has helped lead her squad to back-to-back Colorado 3A state championships … This season, behind Asbury's leadership, the Vikings finished 24-1 and ended the season with a 12-game winning streak after beating Berthoud 6-4 in the season's final game … In that championship game, Asbury came through with the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning … She definitely knows what it takes to build a winning program, as all four years, the Vikings found themselves in the Final Four of the 3A tournament … As a junior, she was named to the 3A All-State First Team … She finished her senior campaign as one of the top hitters in the state – batting .538 with one home run, 37 RBI and 42 hits … She also finishes her career with the most hits (134), runs (119), RBI (110) and doubles (38) in school history … She played club ball for the Northern Colorado Xplosion, Comets Gold and Triple Crown Stars Red.

"Hope Asbury is just an amazing leader," Montgomery said. "She's a wonderful kid from just around the corner at Valley High School. She is a tremendous player and I think she was one of the top hitters in the state."

Jessica Ball, 5-2, Infield, Thornton, Colo. (Legacy High School)
Ball lettered all four years during her time playing for Legacy High and coach Dawn Gaffin … As a junior, she was named to the All-Colorado squad … Ball also knows a thing or two about winning, as Legacy took home the 5A state title each of the four years Ball played … During her last season, she helped guide a young Legacy squad to a 24-2 record … As a senior, Ball scored the game-winning run in a 4-1 victory over Brighton … Another of Colorado's top offensive threats, Ball hit .562 while showing serious power with 11 home runs and 53 RBI … She will also see a familiar face once on the campus of Northern Colorado, as she played alongside current Bear Melissa Marcovecchio at Legacy … During her career, she was also named to two All-Region First Teams and was named the team captain as a senior … She played her club softball for the Stars Gold 18U and The Next Level 18U Gold.

"Jessica Ball is a fantastic hitter," Montgomery said. "She is probably one of the best hitters in Colorado, if not the best hitter in Colorado. She is a tremendous athlete and a very solid defensive player who is deceptively fast."

Katelynn Cook, 5-6, Centerfield/ Second Base, Chowchilla, Calif. (Chowchilla Union High School)
Cook is the only non-Colorado player in this year's class … She has lettered in each of her first three years at Chowchilla Union High School … She is yet to play out her senior season, as California high school softball plays in the spring … Cook is another player coming into the Northern Colorado program that knows what it takes to win … Last season, as a junior, Cook helped deliver Chowchilla's first Central Section Division 4 title since 1994 … In the Redskin's 11-1 win in the championship, Cook scored their first two runs with a two-run single in the bottom of the first … As a junior, Cook batted .419 with 20 RBI while slugging .644 … In both 2010 and 2011, she was named to the All-League First Team … As a sophomore, Cook was named Chowchilla Union's Underclasswoman of the Year.

"Katelynn Cook is a fantastic outfielder and power hitter from California," Montgomery said. "She has an incredible arm and great defensive awareness and ability. She also brings a good stick too. We're excited about the possibilities she brings to the table."

Solana Archuleta, 5-4, Pitcher/ Outfield, Arvada, Colo. (Ralston Valley High School)
Archuleta lettered two years while playing for the Mustangs and coach Wendy Davies … She was also a two-year letter winner in tennis at Ralston Valley … She has committed to play for the Bears in 2012 … As a junior, Archuleta helped Ralston Valley to a third place finish in the Colorado 5A state tournament … Also in her junior season, she earned All-Conference Honorable Mention and qualified for the Academic All-State team … As a freshman and sophomore, Archuleta was named All-Conference in tennis … She is also a four-time honor roll member.

"Solana Archuleta is a versatile athlete from Ralston Valley," Montgomery said. "She can pitch or play outfield and she has good speed. She probably won't pitch for us, but she will be able to contribute right away in different ways. We'll work with her as an outfielder and as a hitter and polish those skills. She's been pitching for so long, we're just getting around to her playing other positions."

VOLLEYBALL WELCOMES FOUR TO THE FOLD

Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson headed out to Pocatello, Idaho, on Thursday afternoon for Friday night's crucial road match at Idaho State.

But before she and the Bears rolled out of Greeley she put the finishing touches on a four-player class, including a "Diamond" and a "Champion."

Benson will say goodbye after this season to five players, so she restocked her shelf Thursday with an outside hitter in Katie Champion (Logansport, Ind.), defensive specialist in Kendra Cunningham (Eaton, Colo.), a 6-1, left-handed setter in Allie Hutcheson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), and a middle blocker in Diamond Ridley-Pierce (Pasadena, Calif.).

"This class will add a lot of depth to our roster," Benson said. "They have size, athleticism and will be pivotal in our continued success."

Champion is a 6-footer and will come to Greeley following a standout career for coach Jamee Jones and the Logansport Berries. She has three older brothers who have all played or still play college basketball.

She was honored as the Loganland Volleyball Player of the Year in 2010 and was named to the Indiana Junior North All-Star team. She finished among Indiana high school leaders in kills (448) and aces (91) as a junior.

She played club volleyball for the Lafayette Volleyball Academy (LAVA), which finished 38th out of 142 teams during June's national tournament in Orlando, Fla.

"Katie is a very talented outside hitter who can play six rotations," Benson said. "She has good enough size to be a great blocker, has a very fast arm and great ball-control skills. We will look for big things from Katie during her career."

Cunningham likely holds a special spot in Benson's heart, as she hails from Benson's hometown of Eaton, just a 10-minute drive from the Northern Colorado campus. She's showcased a great ability as a hitter for the Eaton Reds and the NORCO volleyball club, but Benson eyes her contributing for the Bears as a defensive player.

So far in her career she's earned a pair of Colorado Class 3 All-State nods, including a First Team selection as a junior and a Honorable Mention pick as a sophomore.

She'll bring a great blend of athleticism to the Bears having earned letters at Eaton in volleyball, track and tennis.

"Kendra is a great utility player because she is a very successful hitter at the high school and club level, but could make an immediate impact for us as a defensive player," Benson said. "She is a very smooth player who will adjust to the college game very quickly."

Hutcheson figures to be the heir-apparent to current Northern Colorado setter Marissa Hughes, who has earned two All-Big Sky Conference Second Team selections.

Hutcheson will be the tallest setter Benson has had on her roster since the Bears joined the NCAA Division I ranks, and she will bring with her an impressive résumé to go along with her height and handedness, which Benson says, "Speaks for itself."

She has been a standout player for Cedar Rapids Kennedy High and coach Michelle Goodall and earned a spot on the 2011 Iowa State All-Tournament Team as well as selections to the USA Volleyball National All-Tournament Team in 2009 and 2011 after her club team, the Iowa Rockets, finished third in the nation.

She's also considered one of Iowa's top five recruits this season, as ranked by PrepVolleyball.com, and is likely to be considered for the 2011-12 Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year in Iowa.

"What we love about her is her competitiveness and her leadership skills," Benson said. "She still has a lot of room for growth, too. Allie is going to have an outstanding career here at UNC."

The final piece to Benson's early-period haul is Ridley-Pierce, who Benson characterizes as a "raw talent with a ton of potential." In earlier conversations, Benson also talked about the personality and character Ridley-Pierce will bring to Northern Colorado Volleyball.

Ridley-Pierce, a 6-foot-1 standout at La Salle, a private school in California's San Gabriel Valley, was voted the Lancers' Most Improved player recently, and she was honored as a First Team All-Del Rey League selection.

La Salle boasted in the first week of November a 26-4-1 record in the Del Rey League, which plays in California's Class 2AA Division.

In an online story in the Pasadena Star-News in early September, Ridley-Pierce was described as, "… perhaps the most dominant middle blocker in the West Valley." Benson said she is excited to see that translate to Northern Colorado.

"[Diamond] is a left-handed middle, which is very unique and will be tough for teams to adjust to," she said. "She is also a huge blocker. She is going to be a fun player to watch."