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Excellence in athletics part of the fabric of The University of Texas at Arlington

Friday, August 26, 2016 •

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Mavericks are not only are heading back to the classroom this week but also to the court.

The UTA volleyball team will host the Sam Houston State Bearkats at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 at College Park Center, 600 S. Center St., in its first game of the season.

UTA volleyball team

UTA's volleyball team starts its 2016 season at 7 tonight at College Park Center.

The team posted a 19-10 record last year and is picked to finish strong in the Sun Belt Conference this year.

These student-athletes are gearing up for another great season.

“The season is so exciting with practice, traveling and playing 3-4 times a week,” UTA senior setter Cassidy Wheeler said. “But with that, it can also be overwhelming and academics can get lost in the mix. It is important to balance the two, whether that means studying on the road – be it a bus or a plane – and studying during off time in the hotel. Even though it's super hard and at the end of the day we are exhausted, it is so important to remember we are ‘student’ athletes.”

UTA volleyball coach Diane Seymour added many student-athletes this year, including:

  • 6-0 outside hitter Kylie Jedlicka from Clear Springs High School. Jedlicka was the offensive player of the year and led Clear Springs to the regionals last year. She also was named to the Greater Houston team in her junior and senior years of high school.
  • 6-2 outside hitter Madison McConnell, who played last year for Frisco Centennial High School. McConnell averaged 4.1 kills per set and was named first team all-district.

Among the many scholar-athletes on campus this fall at The University of Texas at Arlington, a select few will make history at UTA before their first competition.

Allison Wade and Rachel Phillips have signed to play for the brand new women’s golf team. Action officially begins next fall, but both new Mavericks say they’re ready to work on their games and hit the books in their redshirt year of being collegiate golfers.

“It feels really cool to be one of the first women golfers here because it's a new program and you don't get that chance in very many places,” Phillips said in an earlier news release after she signed her letter of intent. “It's Division I and you can set the tone for women's golf here forever.”

Wade said, “It feels amazing to be able to start a program that's going to be here for a long time. As Rachel said, you don't get this opportunity very often, so I'm really excited.”

Stuart Deane will serve as head coach for both the men and women's golf teams.

Jim Baker, UTA director of Intercollegiate Athletics, says the program allows for increased participation for women while strengthening the University’s footprint in the Sun Belt Conference.

“Enhancing opportunities for female student-athletes is part of our mission,” Baker said. “The addition of women’s golf furthers our commitment to building and fielding championship-caliber Division I programs in each of our sports.”

The women’s golf program is one of 15 sports that UTA offers. The addition of women's golf is the first sport expansion for UTA since women's tennis in 1983.

That women’s tennis team was honored this year with the NCAA Public Recognition Award, an honor bestowed on teams with an NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sports in the 2014-15 academic year. The award demonstrates the academic importance of being a student athlete in the NCAA.

Other notes of academic distinction include the women’s track and field team, which was recognized as an Academic All American Team by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

In addition, Martin Lopez is a returning student-athlete on the men’s cross country team and is a member of the inaugural class of Terry Foundation Scholars, a very prestigious UTA honor. Selection is based on service, academics and leadership.

Many other athletes are receiving academic scholarships or awards as well.

In addition to Wade and Phillips, Coach Deane also signed men’s golfers Zach Cole and Cole Billingsley to the program for the 2016-17 season.

Cole is a four-year varsity golfer from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth. He finished seventh at the 2015 UIL 5A State Tournament and fifth at the Texas-Oklahoma Junior Golf Tournament.

Billingsley is an Arlington Martin graduate, who has an American Junior Golf Association Preseason Junior win at Walnut Creek and a third-place finish at the Fort Worth City Junior Championship.

Many other student athletes will grace UTA classrooms, labs, courts, fields and tracks.

Men’s basketball coach Scott Cross signed:

  • D.J. Bryant, a point guard from Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla. The 5-11 playmaker averaged 13 points, 9 assists and 5 steals as a senior there.
  • Erkam Kiris, a 6-8 forward from Istanbul, Turkey, also will become a Maverick. Kiris played at Spire Academy in Ohio last year where he averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game.
  • The Mavericks will start some size with 7-1 center Link Kabadyundi this season, too. Kabadyundi is transferring from Blinn College where he averaged 8.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Krista Gerlich, UTA women’s basketball coach, signed three junior college transfers, including:

  • Guard Christina Devers from Connors State. She averaged 28.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game at Connors State.
  • Forward/center Greta Kairyte from Weatherford College and Palanga, Lithuania. Kairyte averaged 9.7 points per game for the Coyotes.
  • Guard Shelby Richards, who averaged 14.3 points per game for Odessa College, also will join the women’s team.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at

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