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GSW women’s soccer coach leaves for Mercer

GSW women's soccer coach Tony Economopoulos is leaving the program after three seasons the same job at nearby Mercer.

GSW women's soccer coach Tony Economopoulos is leaving the program after three seasons the same job at nearby Mercer.

AMERICUS — The Georgia Southwestern athletic department announced Wednesday that head women’s soccer coach Tony Economopoulos has left the program to take the same position at nearby Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

Economopoulos was named head coach of the program prior to the 2009 season after previously serving as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State University. Georgia Southwestern State University will begin a thorough search process to find Economopoulos’s replacement.

The Lady Hurricanes reached several milestones on the pitch in 2011. The defense posted the lowest goals against average in the school’s NCAA era since moving from NAIA to Division II in 2006. The offense recorded the program’s first goals against for perennial Division II/Peach Belt Conference powers and the improvements haven’t gone unnoticed, as attendance rose for the third straight year, up 18.8 percent from 2010.

Academic accomplishments were also highlighted, as the Lady Hurricanes placed four players on the Peach Belt Conference All-Academic Team.

Hurricanes golfer Griffin earns Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week

AMERICUS — Three days after winning the first tournament of his college career, senior J.P. Griffin was named the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week on Wednesday. It’s the second time the native of Glennville has taken home PBC Player of the Week honors in his collegiate career.

Griffin’s win came as he fired a 1-over 73 on Monday to win the individual title at the two-round Frito Lay/Taco Bell Invitational hosted by Jackson State. Griffin tied for the low round on Day 1 with a 74 and ended a stroke behind the low round of Day 2 with his 73.

Griffin’s last P.O.W award was in October of 2010 when he finished in second place in the stroke-play portion of the AFLAC/Cougar Invitational, finishing the event with a two-under-par 140. The then-sophomore shot a tournament-low 66 in the second round, one of only three players to go that low in the 2010 Fall Season.

Griffin and the rest of the GSW golf team finished second in the Frito Lay/Taco Bell Invitational. Teammate Craig Gibson ended with a two-day total of 150, which was good for sixth place in the 73-player field. Former Lee County star and Herald Player of the Year Nate Gahman went 75-78 (153) to tie for 16th.

The Hurricanes will next travel to the Big Easy this weekend to begin play at the University of New Orleans Mardi Gras Invitational.

GSW’S BIVINS HONORED BY PEACH BELT CONFERENCE: The outstanding season continues for the Georgia Southwestern women’s basketball program. Amidst their program’s best overall and conference record in NCAA Division II history, coach Kelly Britsky and the Lady Hurricanes have secured an important achievement off of the court: Senior guard Jessica Bivins has been named to the 2011-12 Peach Belt Conference All-Academic Team.

Bivins’ award marks the sixth time a Lady Hurricane has been named to the conference’s All-Academic team, and it marks the second consecutive year that Bivins has received the award. The native of Orlando has also been a member of the PBC Presidential Honor Roll during the past two academic years.

Her second All-Academic Team award is another feather in the cap for Bivins this season. Earlier this month, she scored her 1,000th collegiate point (between her playing career at Stetson and Georgia Southwestern) against Columbus State.

The senior guard has been one of the most prolific scorers in the program’s history. This season, Bivins is in the top 15 in the Peach Belt Conference in five categories including scoring, steals, 3-point shooting percentage, games started and made field goals.

Bivins and the rest of the Lady Hurricanes will look to improve their PBC Tournament positioning this weekend in their regular-season finale at Columbus State at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Saturday is pivotal game at Columbus State with the winner clinching second place in the PBC West Division to earn the fourth seed for the upcoming Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

SENIOR BRANCH PLAYS HERO IN GSW’S HOME WIN, SCORES 1,000TH CAREER POINT: On the night honoring the GSW women’s basketball team’s five seniors, it seemed only poetic that a senior would steal the show. Senior guard Terra Branch would lead her team in scoring, bank in a 25-foot heave to send the game to overtime, set a new career-high in assists and join the exclusive 1,000-point club all in the same night. Branch’s farewell performance in front of the home crowd slipped GSW past the Georgia College Lady Bobcats, 91-85.

Branch, the Athens native, would score 24 points while shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc. She would also reach a career-high in assists (8) for the second time this month. The senior guard would spearhead the GSW scoring attack alongside fellow 20-point scorer Adrian Randall.

Randall tallied 21 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked three shots in her 28 minutes off the bench. It marked the second consecutive game that the junior forward registered 16 rebounds as she had a career night with 27 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks against North Georgia just three days earlier.

The first of the game’s memorable moments came with 6:13 left to play in the first half when Terra Branch hit a 3-pointer to give her career points 1,000, 1,001 and 1,002. She became only the second GSW player in the NCAA Division II era, which began in 2006 when the school moved from NAIA to D-II, to score 1,000 career points in a GSW uniform.

The victory made Georgia Southwestern record 18-7 overall and 10-6 in conference on the season.

ROUGH SEASON CONTINUES FOR MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM: The GSW men’s basketball team, which has been riddled with injuries and won’t be a part of the PBC postseason one year after winning the Western Division for the first time in school history, had another tough loss Wednesday night after forcing overtime against Georgia College on Senior Night in the Storm Dome, only to fall 60-58.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Marlon Rivera and Jamon Hawkins tied the game late for GSW, eventually sending it to overtime.

In the overtime, it was more of the same gritty basketball. The Blue & Gold had an answer for the Bobcats first three scores in the extra session and eventually took a one-point lead with 39 seconds to go when Milos Kleut converted a three-point play. But Georgia College’s Mike Augustine would play spoiler as his shot from beyond the arc with 16 seconds to go was the difference. The Hurricanes could not get off a clean shot in the closing seconds, handing Southwestern its 10th loss in 11 games.

Kleut led Southwestern with a game-high 17 points to go with nine rebounds off the bench. He relieved All-American and preseason conference Player of the Year Phillip Brown, who suited up for the first time since sustaining a meniscus injury at Augusta State on Jan. 21. The senior forward took the floor for the opening tip as a way of saying goodbye to Hurricane fans.

Fellow senior Evan Mobley added 16 points to his four-year tally in Americus, which is now at 1,344. Rivera scored 12, pulled down five boards and dished out five assists.

In a pregame ceremony, the Hurricanes recognized their four seniors: Will Kenimer, Rivera, Brown and Mobley.

GSW (12-13, 3-13 PBC) falls below .500 for the first time since dropping the opening game last season at Division I Kennesaw State on Nov. 11, 2010.

GSW, which began the season ranked in the Top 25 in Division II, closes out a disappointing 2011-12 season Saturday at Columbus State.

VSU SOFTBALL SWEEPS GSW: After sweeping Brewton-Parker College last week, GSW was routed Wednesday by Valdosta State, 2-0 and 9-1.

In Game 1, Georgia Southwestern’s bats would be silenced in the early going by Valdosta State pitcher Alanna Hadley. The Lady Hurricanes would only get one hit off Hadley in the first four innings while striking out three times.

GSW’s Jessica Martin would have a no-hitter going into the seventh inning, despite giving up seven walks. After recording the first out, Martin would give up her first hit of the game to the Lady Blazers on a single by Sarah Vaughn. The next batter, Courtney Allbritton, would hit a walk off two-run home run to end the game 2-0.

In Game 2, the Lady Hurricanes would get on the board first when Rachel McElroy would score on a Lady Blazer error in the second inning.

The response from Valdosta State came in a hurry in their half of the second inning. GSW starter Brittny Dennison, a former Lee County star and Herald Player of the Year, would get into trouble, walking two batters. A third VSU runner reached on a GSW error to load the bases, and then VSU’s Morgan Johnson would empty the bases with a double to left field to give the Lady Blazers the 3-1 lead.

Johnson’s bases-clearing double would be the opening of the flood gates for Valdosta State. A one-run fourth inning opened for a game-ending five-run fifth inning. Allbritton, Johnson, former Lee County star and Herald Player of the Year Sam Posey and Angela O’Connor would all tally RBs in the inning.

The pair of losses sets GSW’s record back to 5-9. It won’t be a long wait for the Lady Hurricanes to get back on the field as they will play host to Fort Valley State today. The double starts at 1 p.m.