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Rockets picked to win MAC West Division

The University of Toledo football team was picked to finish in first place in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division in voting by members of the league’s media contingent.

The annual preseason poll was released today at the conference’s 2017 Football Media Day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The Rockets received 22 first-place votes and a total of 142 points in the annual poll, 35 points ahead of second-place Western Michigan. Toledo also picked up 21 out of 24 votes to win the MAC Championship Game. Ohio (31 points) was picked to repeat as MAC East Division champion, followed by Miami (129).

“It’s good to know that people think you’re going to be a good team, but championships aren’t won in the off-season,” said UT Head Coach Jason Candle. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re certainly not a finished product. Our team is ready to start camp and prepare for what we hope will be a great season.”

Toledo was 9-4 in Candle’s debut as head coach in 2016, earning a berth into the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

UT returns one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Led by senior quarterback Logan Woodside, Toledo averaged 38.0 points per game and led the Mid-American Conference in total offense with a school-record 517.8 yards per game in 2016. Woodside paced the nation with 45 touchdown passes and was named a Heisman contender by the Heisman Trophy Trust. Two of his favorite targets are back — Cody Thompson (64 receptions, 11 TDs, 19.8 yards per catch) and Jon’Vea Johnson (40 receptions,10TDs, 19.3 yards per catch) — as is 2015 second-team All-MAC running back Terry Swanson.

On defense, the Rockets return seven starters, including All-MAC linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley.

The Rockets open their season at home vs. Elon Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. For ticket information, go to utrockets.com or call 419-530-GOLD (4653).

Volleyball earns 17th straight team academic award

For the 17th straight year, the Toledo volleyball program earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for the 2016-17 school year.

“It’s incredible to receive this award for the 17th year in a row, and it really demonstrates the culture that we have built here at UT that really values academics,” said Head Coach Greg Smith. “Our team has shown excellent work ethic in order to achieve great success both on the court and in the classroom.”

Toledo coupled with Bowling Green and Indiana State are the only programs in NCAA Division I to have streaks of at least 15 years earning the academic honor. UT and BGSU are tied for the second longest active streak at 17, while Indiana State has received the honor 19 years in a row. Within the conference, eight teams in total earned the academic honor.

During fall 2016, the Rockets achieved a combined 3.556 GPA, which ranked as the third highest GPA in the athletic department. UT topped all teams in the Mid-American Conference with 10 student-athletes earning Academic All-MAC honors.

Overall, the American Volleyball Coaches Association announced a record-breaking 822 teams earned the academic honor in 2016-17, surpassing the previous total of 764 in 2015-16.

Celebrating its 25th year, the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award is the single largest distinction offered by quantity of schools, players and coaches honors. The award that was initiated in the 1992-93 academic year, honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that display excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale or a 4.10 cumulative team GPA on a 5.0 scale.

Toledo will host Oakland University in an exhibition match in Savage Arena Friday, Aug. 18, before beginning the 2017-18 season on the road at the Fort Wayne Invitational Friday, Aug. 25 against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Rockets rank No. 22 nationally in GPA among women’s golf programs

The UT women’s golf program was honored for its outstanding classroom performance this year by earning its greatest recognition to date from the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. The Rockets’ 3.723 team grade-point average during the 2016-17 academic year ranked No. 22 nationally (17th among NCAA Division I programs), with Jacksonville University leading the way with a remarkable 3.924 GPA.

The Rockets’ 3.723 team grade-point average during the 2016-17 academic year ranked No. 22 nationally — 17th among NCAA Division I programs — according to the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.

“What a great honor for our student-athletes,” Head Women’s Golf Coach Nicole Hollingsworth said. “We have only been on this list once before in the history of this award, and this year’s grade point average is our best yet. I am so proud of their hard work in the classroom, golf course and community. What an awesome award to end the year!”

Toledo registered a school record 3.780 cumulative GPA in the 2017 spring semester and has posted team grade-point averages above 3.00 in 27 of the 28 semesters under Hollingsworth.

The Women’s Golf Coaches Association is a nonprofit organization representing women’s collegiate golf coaches. The association was formed to encourage the playing of college golf for women in correlation with a general objective of education and in accordance with the highest tradition of intercollegiate competition.

Football season kickoff event to take place July 21

UT football fans can pick up or order their tickets for the upcoming 2017 season Friday, July 21, at the Glass Bowl from 4 to 7 p.m.

Parking will be available in Lots 9 and 10 with a ticket pick-up station set up on the West concourse by Gate A.

One special feature available on Friday will be a “buy one ticket, get one free” option for Toledo’s opening night game vs. Elon Thursday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.

Fans also will have the chance to learn more about the season, and group and individual ticket options.

An inside look at the recently renovated Larimer Athletic Complex will be provided to fans, who also will have a meet-and-greet with select Toledo football players, photos with Rocky and/or Rocksy, and access to the Glass Bowl field.

In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to sample the Glass Bowl’s tailgate gourmet menu for the 2017 season, as well as food from the Original Gino’s and Bob Evans. The tailgate gourmet options will include:

• Thursday, Aug. 31, vs. Elon — pulled-pork sandwich with coleslaw;

• Saturday, Sept. 16, vs. Tulsa — cajun sausage with remoulade, shredded lettuce;

• Saturday, Oct. 7, vs. Eastern Michigan — smoked chicken thigh sliders;

• Saturday, Oct. 21, vs. Akron — sliced beef brisket;

• Thursday, Nov. 2, vs. Northern Illinois — chicken apple sausage with New England-style hoagie; and

• Friday, Nov. 24, vs. Western Michigan — smoked ribs (individual cut).

During the kickoff event, concession stands will be open with the opportunity to purchase soda, water, Powerade and assorted snacks.

To RSVP for the event click here.

Student-athlete among record number of nominees for NCAA Woman of the Year Award

Former Toledo women’s basketball player Sophie Reecher has been named a nominee for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Reecher is among a record 543 female college athletes who have been nominated by a NCAA member school for this year’s award.


The three-time team captain is one of only four representatives from the Mid-American Conference and the lone student-athlete from the sport of women’s basketball to make the distinguished list.

A native of Byron, Ill., Reecher recently received the MAC’s 2017 Medal of Excellence Award, given to a student-athlete who has been successful on the playing field, in the classroom, and proven her fineness through leadership and service.

On the hardwood, the four-year letterwinner helped the Rockets capture their eighth conference title in program history in 2016-17 and advance to the 2017 NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001. UT finished with a 25-9 overall ledger and a 12-6 mark in the league, equaling the fifth most wins in single-seaon history.

In the classroom, Reecher graduated with a degree in exercise science with a concentration as a physician’s assistant in the spring. She will attend graduate school at UT and seek a master of science degree in biomedical science with a physician assistant concentration beginning this fall.

A member of the UT dean’s list in five of the last six semesters, Reecher posted a perfect 4.0 GPA in fall 2016. The two-time Academic All-Team honoree also earned the team’s Roy and Gail Hummel Scholarship for 2016-17, awarded to the senior women’s basketball student-athlete with the highest GPA.

In the community, Reecher was nominated for the 2015 Allstate Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team for community service and spent part of last summer on a medical mission trip in Peru.

Established in 1991 and in its 27th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.

The school nominees represent all three NCAA divisions, with 229 from Division I, 117 from Division II and 197 from Division III. The nominees competed in 21 different women’s sports, and 122 were multi-sport athletes during their time in college.

The NCAA encourages member schools to honor their top graduating female student-athletes each year by submitting their names for consideration for the Woman of the Year award.

Next, conferences will select up to two conference nominees each from the pool of nominees. The Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, then will choose the top 30 honorees — 10 from each division.

From the top 30, the selection committee determines the top three honorees from each division and will announce the nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics then chooses the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year from those nine.

The top 30 honorees will be recognized and the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced at the annual award ceremony Sunday, Oct. 22, in Indianapolis.

Men’s basketball team honored for academic excellence

Toledo has received the National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Award.

The award is in its fifth year of existence, and the Rockets have received the award in three of the last four years. UT was one of just two Mid-American Conference schools to be honored this year and is one of 12 schools to achieve this accomplishment on three occasions in the last four years.

The Team Academic Excellence Award recognizes NCAA and NAIA men’s basketball teams that earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better throughout the 2016-17 academic year. Fifty-one of the 211 teams to make the list were NCAA Division I-affiliated programs.

The Rockets posted a 3.108 GPA throughout the last two semesters with Luke Knapke, Jordan Lauf, Nate Navigato and Jaelan Sanford earning spots on the MAC’s Academic All-MAC team.

Earlier this spring, the NCAA announced the Rockets’ Academic Progress Rate score from the four-year period from 2012-13 to 2015-16 was 990, a figure that ranks among the top 10 percent nationally and sits atop the MAC.

Other NCAA Division I schools posting a 3.0 GPA in the 2016-17 academic year were Albany, Belmont, Boise State, Bradley, Brigham Young, Butler, Central Michigan, William & Mary, Columbia, DePaul, Drake, Eastern Washington, Elon, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Fordham, Gonzaga, Grand Canyon, Hartford, Harvard, High Point, Idaho State, Illinois, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Kansas, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, Louisville, Mercer, Milwaukee, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina-Asheville, North Dakota State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts, Oregon State, Princeton, Purdue, Rice, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas State, Utah Valley, West Virginia, Yale and Youngstown State.

Rockets tie for country best with school-record seven on national scholar team

Toledo tied for the national high with a school-record seven Rockets named to the 2016-17 National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) All-American Scholar Team.

The previous best for UT for the NGCA’s scholar squad members was four.

The women’s golf team tied for the national high with a school-record seven Rockets named to the 2016-17 National Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar Team.

Junior Napaphan Phongpaiboon, sophomore Natcha Daengpiem, sophomore Pimchanok Kawil, sophomore Hannah Kochendoerfer, sophomore Pinyada Kuvanun, freshman Thunpijja Sukkasem and freshman Saranlak Tumfong each earned a spot on the squad.

The criteria for selection to the All-American Scholar Team are some of the most stringent of all college athletics. The minimum cumulative GPA is 3.50, and student-athletes must have competed in at least 50 percent (Division I) or 66 percent (Division II and III) of the college’s regularly scheduled competitive rounds during the year.

“We had an amazing year in the classroom with a school-record 3.78 team GPA and now having seven members on the NGCA All-American Scholar Team tops it off,” Head Coach Nicole Hollingsworth said. “I am so proud of all seven individuals on how they have performed in the classroom and on the golf course.”

Phongpaiboon, who possesses a 3.757 grade-point average in international business, ranked fourth on the team with a 77.2 stroke average and notched six top 20 finishes. She posted a career-best fourth-place showing at the Ball State Sunshine Invitational to help the Rockets to one of two tournament titles. Phongpaiboon also earned MAC Golfer of Week honors after registering a fifth-place finish and career-low four-under par 212 at the Pat Bradley Invitational.

A communications major with a 3.823 GPA, Daengpiem ranked fifth on the team with a 78.1 stroke average and notched two top 20 showings.

Kawil ranked second on the team with a 75.6 stroke average en route to earning second-team All-Mid-American Conference honors. She was named co-MAC Golfer of Week after tying for second place with a season-best one-under par 215 at Red Rocks Invitational. Kawil, who possesses a 3.689 GPA in business, tied the school record with a five-under par 67 at the Golfweek Conference Challenge and notched three top five finishes and eight top 20 finishes.

A computer engineering major with a 3.898 GPA, Kochendoerfer posted an 80.4 stroke average and registered a season-best tying 13th-place finish at the Rocket Classic.

Kuvanun, who possesses a 3.625 GPA in international business, earned second-team All-MAC accolades after leading the Rockets with a 74.9 stroke average and eight top 10 finishes. She also received co-MAC Golfer of Week honors on a pair of occasions by tying for second place at the Idle Hour Collegiate Championship and the Red Rocks Invitational, respectively, with an even-par 216 and with a season-low one-under par 215.

A management major with a 3.600 GPA, Sukkasem posted a 79.9 stroke average and earned MAC Golfer of the Week honors by tying for first place at the Ball State Sunshine Invitational with a 15-over par 231.

Tumfong registered a 77.0 stroke average and holds a perfect 4.000 GPA in media communication. She garnered her top showing by tying for fifth place at the Indiana Invitational with a season-best eight-over par 224 (77-74-73).

Men’s golf coach named

Jeff Roope has been named the men’s golf coach at The University of Toledo. Roope is the former Wittenberg University men’s and women’s golf coach.

“Jeff is an outstanding coach and an exceptional person,” UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “His experience in building a national championship men’s golf program speaks for itself, but it only tells part of the story. He is a man of great character who we feel will be able to recruit student-athletes who will excel in the classroom and bring our men’s golf program back into national prominence. Jeff is also a relentless recruiter, and we’re very excited for the future of the program.”

During his 10 years at Wittenberg, Roope propelled the Tigers to new heights unreached prior to his arrival. The men’s program captured its first NCAA Division III Championship in 2017, as well as finished third nationally in 2015 and 2016, and fifth in 2014. The women’s program placed second at the NCAA Championships in 2015 and third in each of the last two years. 

“I’m so thrilled to be a part of the UT men’s golf program,” said Roope, who also served as head coach of Team USA at the 2016 Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan. “The potential here is unlimited. I was so impressed with the support of the administration and the community during the interview process. It is definitely bittersweet to leave Wittenberg, but I know both programs will be in good hands. My hope is to bring that kind of success to UT. I’m very excited to see how much this program can achieve on the course, in the classroom, and in the community. I can’t wait to get started.”

Between the men’s and women’s programs, Roope helped Wittenberg secure 70 team championships, 67 all-conference accolades, 48 individual medalist honors, 31 Academic All-Scholar Awards, 22 All-Americans, 11 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championships, 10 league medalist recipients, seven NCAC Player of the Year honorees, and two Academic All-Americans over the last decade.  

Almost immediately after arriving at Wittenberg in 2007, Roope turned both programs into perennial contenders for conference championships and NCAA Division III Tournament bids. The men’s team made big strides in his first two years, moving quickly up the ranks in the NCAC, and both teams rewrote the school record books for team and individual scoring.

The breakthrough for the men’s team took place in 2010, starting an eight-year run atop the NCAC. Wittenberg advanced to the NCAA Division III Championships in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, finishing sixth, 21st, seventh, 13th, fifth, third, third and first, respectively. Roope was named NCAC Men’s Golf Coach of the Year seven times (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017), and he added Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year accolades on four occasions (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017). 

Individually, Tiger men’s players won the NCAC’s Bob Nye Award as the conference’s individual medalist six straight years, with Craig Osterbrock becoming the program’s first All-American in nearly 20 years with back-to-back awards in 2010 and 2011. Other individuals who earned All-America recognition included David Wetterich in 2012; Alex Andrews in 2013, 2014 and 2015; John Chaney in 2014 and 2015; Ben Hogenkamp in 2014; Garrett Brickley in 2016 and 2017; Sam Geise and Isaac Hartley in 2016; and Sam Stilwell in 2015 and 2017.

Roope also garnered two Great Lakes Region Women’s Coach of the Year awards (2013, 2015) as the Tiger women’s program rapidly ascended over the same time period, ranking in the top 25 nationally at the conclusion of six straight seasons. After taking second place in three of the first four NCAC Tournaments, Roope guided the team to three consecutive league titles. The four-time reigning NCAC Coach of the Year also took the Tigers to the brink of a national championship, finishing second in 2015 and third each of the last two years. 

Individually, Jane Hopkinson-Wood and Macy Hubbard garnered a spot on the All-America Team each of the last three years.

Prior to working at Wittenberg, Roope spent four years as a women’s golf assistant coach at Otterbein College. The Cardinals won three Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) championships during his time at Otterbein, capped in 2006 when all five golfers finished in the individual top 10 to earn All-OAC honors. Otterbein women’s golf won 19 team titles and recorded 18 individual titles in tournament play over four years, and Cardinal players earned 17 all-conference honors in that span.

Before joining the Cardinals, Roope served as girls’ golf coach at Upper Arlington High School in Columbus for the 2002 and 2003 seasons. His teams won back-to-back Mid-Ohio Girl’s Golf League championships, and he was honored as the league’s Coach of the Year in 2002.

In addition to coaching, Roope previously worked as an assistant tournament director with the Florida State Golf Association and as an assistant caddiemaster at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Professional Golf Association’s (PGA) annual Memorial Tournament. He has successfully completed the PGA/USGA Rules of Golf School and the PGA of America’s Playing Ability Test, required for certification as a teaching professional.

Roope is a former chair of the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) All-Region and All-America Selection Committee, as well as a member of the GCAA Palmer Cup and Jack Nicklaus Award Selection Committee. In 2011, he was named to the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Board of Directors, where he served two terms as the Division III representative. Roope was also a member of the NCAA Women’s Great Lakes Regional Advisory Committee, the GCAA All-Region and All-America Selection Committee, and he successfully completed his fourth USGA/PGA rules of golf school in 2015. 

He also competes as an amateur golfer in local and regional events. He has posted several top finishes in recent years, including a top 10 finish in the 2008 Franklin County Amateur Championship.

A native of Grove City, Ohio, Roope earned a bachelor’s degree in sport management from Bowling Green State University in 1993 and a master’s degree in sport administration from Ashland University in 2006. He and his wife, Nicole, have a daughter, Madeline.

UT football single-game tickets on sale

Single-game Toledo football tickets and away-game tickets are on sale now at The University of Toledo Athletic Ticket Office.

The Rockets have six home games in 2017, including key Mid-American Conference games vs. Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

The season opens at home vs. Elon Thursday, Aug. 31.

Tickets also are available for all six away games, including the Rockets’ battle vs. Miami Saturday, Sept. 23, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

To purchase season tickets, single-game tickets or away-game tickets, stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office, located in the Sullivan Athletic Complex at Savage Arena, go online to UTRockets.com, or call 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Rockets to host ‘Football 101 — Ladies Night Out’ July 27

UT Head Football Coach Jason Candle and his wife, Nicole, will host “Football 101 — Ladies’ Night Out” Thursday, July 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

The event will be a night of football, food and fun, and include the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Larimer Athletic Complex.

Attendees will receive an inside scoop on the 2017 season, try on the Rockets’ new Nike uniforms, and sit in on a team meeting with the coaches.

In addition, attendees will have an opportunity to meet the coaches and their wives.

A wine and cheese social will be held during the event, and participants will receive Rocket gear to wear to games.

Tickets for the event are $100. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute at The University of Toledo.

The deadline to register is Tuesday, July 11.

To register, fans can go online to UTRockets.com, call 419.530.4653, or visit the UT Athletic Ticket Office.