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NEWS CENTER

New recruits, returning talent have Mavericks poised a year of academic and athletic success

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Media Contact: Teresa Woodard Schnyder, Office: 817‑272‑2211, Cell: 314-422-4162, teresa.schnyder@uta.edu

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After posting one of the most attention-grabbing seasons in UTA athletics history, the Mavericks look for another year of success in 2017-18.

UTA won four Sun Belt Conference championships, defended its league-wide Community Service Champion award, graduated its student-athletes at one of the highest rates among Division I institutions in the state of Texas and placed more than half of its athletes on conference academic honor rolls last year.

“With such incredible accomplishments, it is no surprise that optimism is high among the Maverick sports faithful,” said UTA Athletics Director Jim Baker. “Across all of our sports we are returning some of our best student-athletes. We also recruited new student-athletes who exhibit great athletic and academic talent. We can’t wait to see how far they take us.”

The UTA men's basketball team drew a packed house at College Park Center during the 2017 season, which ended just one win shy of a trip to the NIT finals at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Basketball

The men’s basketball team appears poised to continue its success after it produced 52 wins in the last two seasons – the second highest total among Division I programs in Texas.

Under the leadership of head coach Scott Cross, a 1998 UTA graduate, the Mavericks return two of the most dynamic players in the country in seniors Kevin Hervey and Erick Neal – an inside/outside combination that many experts believe might be the best in Division I basketball. Hervey is the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year while Neal, a two-time all-region selection, is on the verge of setting a number of program assist records.

Cross’ heralded recruiting class, which includes talented 7-foot center Johnny Hamilton, could help the program win another league title and secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Lady Mavs traveled to Costa Rica in August.

The UTA women’s program, under head coach Krista Gerlich, also returns a veteran team on an upward trajectory. The Lady Mavs finished as runners-up in the Sun Belt last year, won the third-most games in program history, and return two players who are already well-represented in the program’s record book -- seniors Rebekah VanDijk and Cierra Johnson.

The 6-foot-5 VanDijk is the third leading rebounder and shot blocker in program history. Johnson finished last season among the national leaders in steals returns as the Sun Belt’s Defensive Player of the Year.

In August, the Lady Mavs traveled to Costa Rica. The trip afforded the team extra games and practice, while allowing student-athletes and coaches to strengthen their bonds.

Golf

The men’s golf program enjoyed an offseason that saw head coach Stuart Deane grab international attention in both the AT&T Byron Nelson and the 99th PGA Championships. Deane will use his professional experience to guide a talented team that includes most of its top returning players as well as a talented freshman class and an experienced graduate student transfer from Baylor.

The UTA women’s golf program is in its inaugural season in 2017-18. Redshirt freshman Allison Wade and junior Rachel Phillips spent last season working on their games despite not playing any competitive events. This year, the program welcomes four talented freshmen, including a state 5A champion, and will field the first competitive women’s golf program in school history.

UTA's volleyball team includes solid returning players, dynamic recruits and a new head coach.

Volleyball

A pair of new coaches are hoping for immediate success in 2017-18, including volleyball head coach J.T. Wenger. The Mavericks return two of the most dynamic players in the league in veterans Qiana Canete and Zhanelle Geathers. The team also showcased the state-of-the-art College Park Center last fall when it successfully hosted the Sun Belt championships. 

Softball

The Maverick family also welcomes new softball head coach Peejay Brun. Brun’s program returns a number of talented players, including senior Sandra Mendoza – a preseason watch list candidate for national player of the year as a junior. Several freshmen and transfers are adding to the excitement of a program poised for success.

Baseball

The UTA baseball program has enjoyed a resurgence under head coach Darin Thomas, with victories over Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor the last two seasons. The Mavericks return all four of their all-conference performers.

Track and field

Track and field coach John Sauerhage is the most decorated head coach in UTA's athletic history.

After winning three league titles last year - the Sun Belt’s “Triple Crown” - the UTA men’s cross country and track and field program looks to maintain its position as the Sun Belt’s best. 

The program returns several of its top performers, including league champion Michael Guerrero. Guerrero qualified for the NCAA cross country championships last year.

With 31 team championships to his credit, UTA track and field coach John Sauerhage, a 1986 UTA graduate, is the most decorated head coach in the school’s athletic history.

Tennis

The men’s and women’s tennis teams, both under the direction of head coach Diego Benitez, are looking to take advantage of several newcomers to guide them back to the top of the Sun Belt.

The women’s team received an NCAA Public Recognition Award for academic achievement for the fourth year in a row. The awards are given to teams whose academic performance is in the top 10 percent of their respective sports. 

Tickets for UTA volleyball games and season tickets for men’s and women’s basketball are currently available at utatickets.com.

--Richard Kilwien, contributing writer