Sports Spotlight: Softball Coach Jennifer Walls

     Fillies’ Softball Coach, Jennifer Walls, said that the key to her softball philosophy is to “always be a student of the game; you’re never too old, you’re never too good of a player to stop growing physically and mentally,” even at the instructors’ level.

     Walls said, “the game of softball is always changing, so sometimes the coaching styles always have to adapt to the game.” Change also happens to be a big reason behind her love for coaching.

     “I really like seeing the players develop and it’s crazy to see a group like my sophomores—they’re a completely different set of players than they were a year ago.”

     A native of southern California, Walls started playing ball as a catcher when she was eight years old. At 12, she began pitching and hated it. In her undergrad years, Walls went to Long Beach State in Southern California for two years. “I really played for a coach that made me hate the game… I was miserable,” she recalled.

     She was released after her sophomore year and transferred to Arizona. While there, Walls “got the opportunity to pitch in the College World Series in 2009, of course, Alabama beat us, but it was still a great experience.”

     After college ball, Walls played professional ball in Italy for about 13 months. She said it was a great experience and wishes she could go back. After Italy, Walls looked towards furthering her education and sent out her resume to as many schools as she could. Georgia Southwestern University offered her a grad. assistant position.

     “Basically, I would go there, they’d pay for my master’s degree, pay for where I lived and gain some coaching experience.”

     After three years of school and a degree, Walls moved back to California, but she quickly realized “I missed Georgia.”

     “Coach Donna Campbell—I had become friends with her while I was coaching at Georgia Southwestern—was about to retire,” added Walls.

     Campbell called her and told her to apply for the opening at ABAC. Walls said, “When I applied, I think it was only two or three days before the deadline so I thought ‘there’s no way I’m going to get it,’ and I let Donna know I applied.”

     Athletic Director Alan Kramer contacted her for an interview, in which she flew from California to tour ABAC’s campus.

     “I flew back home and found out I got the job. I told my dad, ‘I guess I’m packing up my stuff again and moving back to Georgia,’ and he was like ‘this is the last time you’re moving.’”

     Jennifer Walls began her new position on Aug. 1, 2015, and the Fillies currently stand at 18-12.


ABAC Stallions surge ahead of GSW Surge

     The weather is heating up and so is the semester for the ABAC tennis team, which scored big wins at their home match against Georgia Southwestern University (GSW) on March 8. Fellow students, friends and family of players from both schools came out to support their teams.

     After a rough start to the semester with several losses, the men’s team took a commanding presence on the courts. They ended the day with a 7-2 victory. Nick Rosatti, an assistant coach for the team, was “extremely impressed” with the men’s performance.

     “We overcame an early break at number two doubles to take a 2-1 lead,” he said. The performance in singles was equally good, he said. “Number four and five singles played well under pressure and won two very close matches.”

     Gabriel Sa, in his final semester at ABAC, started off with a 0-3 deficit in number five singles but came back hard in his second set to a 7-5 7-5 win. Other players on the men’s team worked just as hard for their wins. Frederic Fibleuil, a sophomore, played hard in singles and doubles, in which he was partnered with Lukas Zavrel.

     “I really liked how I performed with my partner. We played well in doubles and didn’t leave any opportunity for our opponent.” It was especially good to experience a win at home. “We do not have the opportunity to play at home every day, that’s why we gave everything.”

     For many of the players, including Fibleuil, this match was their last home match before they finish their time at ABAC, making it an important and bittersweet moment for the team. While the women’s team struggled, only coming away from the day with a 1-8 loss, Agustina Diaz is proud to have taken home a win in number one singles, in her last home match as a Filly.

     March 8-11 takes the team to Pensacola where they will spend the weekend competing against some of the top teams in the country. From there, the team will play in various matches through the rest of the semester in preparation for the national tournament in April.


Golf player looks back on his time at ABAC

     The spring 2019 semester for ABAC’s golf team is underway. Earlier this month, the team traveled to Melbourne, FL for the Eastern Florida Invitational where they finished in seventh place with an overall score of 907 points. ABAC’s Adam Park and Will Bozeman placed within the top 15 of 72 players.

     Bozeman individually finished with a total of 221 points. He signed on to play for Coach Larry Brynnes when he first came to ABAC in 2017. He attended Westwood Christian Academy before coming to ABAC.

     This is Bozeman’s last semester at ABAC. He will be graduating in May and said that while he is excited, he is a little sad.

     “This is my last semester at ABAC for golf, I am a little sad about it, I’m really going to miss my Coach, Larry Byrnes, and all of my teammates.”

     Bozeman’s teammates for the spring 2019 roster are Joshua Campbell, Matthew Cheek, Hunter Dokey, Thomas Lupien, Adam Park and Tyler White. Bozeman said that his favorite memory of being a part of the golf team is from his freshman season when ABAC’s golf team won the region and district tournament and made it to the National Tournament.

     Golfing has always been an important part of Bozeman’s life. When asked how long he had been playing he said, “I have been playing golf ever since I could stand up, so probably since I was about one or two.” This dedication to the game has led to Bozeman pursuing it throughout his academic career. Bozeman is a turfgrass and golf course management major.

     Bozeman said he plans on continuing his golf career and attending a Division I school. He wishes the best for upcoming and hopeful players on the golf team.

     “The best advice that I can give to the future players would be that short game is very important, always work on your short game.”

     Bozeman and the rest of ABAC’s golf team will be traveling to Albany, GA for the Georgia Southwestern Invitational on Feb. 24-26. Good luck to the team and to Bozeman on his senior year.


ABAC’s tennis team starts off semester

     The semester is officially in full swing for the ABAC tennis team as they took on their first matches of the season at Middle Georgia State University (MGSU), Georgia Southern University (GSU) and Troy University. While not all the matches were wins for the team, the players still feel strongly about what the season holds.

     The Fillies played at MGSU in Macon on Feb. 10 and ended the match with a fantastic 9-0 win. While their 7-0 loss at GSU on Feb. 16 could have put a damper on things, the Fillies still celebrated their win and the lessons they learned over the matches.

     The Stallions also took on MGSU but ended the match with an 8-1 loss. They took on Troy University on Feb. 15 and took another loss of 5-0. Juan Pino Contoleon, a sophomore on the team, took two defeats and said, “I didn’t feel like I wanted to keep playing. But with the help of the coach, I know I can improve.”

Nick Rosatti, who works with the team as an assistant coach after playing with them for two years, felt optimistic.

     “This weekend was many of our players’ first exposer to the competitive atmosphere of Division I tennis. Overall, I was proud of the confidence displayed.” He said that the players remained flexible and coachable even through some particularly tough matchups. “As a result, we went to some third sets and put up more of a fight than our opponent might have expected.”

     These matches have helped the team set goals to pursue throughout the semester. Some are small, like giving their all, even in practices. Other goals mean pursuing the chance to go to the national tournament in Arizona in May.

     In terms of growth for the team, Rosatti said, “We could have demonstrated more intensity and presence of mind during really important points.” He adds that “Our team learned the value of evaluating certain scenarios. In other words, there are some points where you simply cannot lose the point.”

     He is hoping that the team will work on their focus on the court, and understand that “A single point can be the turning point, especially for the momentum, in a match.”

     The tennis team will move forward with a match against Georgia Southwestern on Feb. 27, at 2:00 p.m. at the Red Hill Athletic Center on the ABAC campus.


GCAA announces pitcher of the week

     All of Taylor Layfield’s hard work has paid off this season. This week, she has been rewarded with the title of Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association’s “Pitcher of The Week.”

     Layfield, despite this being her first year playing softball at ABAC, has shown impressive skills on the field. Jennifer Martinez, the ABAC Softball Coach, noticed Layfield’s outstanding performance during both games and practices. Martinez soon nominated Layfield for the position of “Pitcher of The Week.”

     The position is chosen by the conference of coaches from various other colleges in Georgia. Each coach nominates a member from their team based on their stats, and they are not allowed to vote for anyone they nominated themselves. After reviewing Layfield’s stats, the coaches all voted for her.

     “She has such a winner mentality,” Martinez said during an interview, “She motivates the other players on the team to be as competitive as her.”

     According to Martinez, Layfield sets a great example for other players with her intense focused attitude she demonstrates during practices and games.

     Coach Martinez explained, in detail, how she likes to prepare her team for games. The practices are usually very extensive. Martinez spends hours making sure the girls are ready for anything that the opponents could do during their games.

     “The day before we have a big game, we have this thing we call ‘Feel Good Friday.’ It’s pretty laid back, and we do this so the team can rest and be ready,” said Martinez. “I like to make sure the normal practices are difficult because that prepares them more, and it makes the game itself seem much easier in comparison to the practices.”

     According to Coach Martinez, there are three main components to a successful team. First, there needs to be good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. She mentioned that the success of a team is largely impacted by the overall quality of the players. They must be skilled at the sport and cooperative, coachable players.

     “I’d much rather have a mediocre player with an awesome attitude than an all-star player who isn’t coachable,” Martinez said.