SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Southern Conference announced its February athletes of the month for baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s lacrosse, rifle, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and wrestling Tuesday, highlighting excellence among student-athletes during the month.
RJ Yeager, Mercer, So., SS
Mercer shortstop RJ Yeager tallied at least one hit in all nine games during the month, including four multi-hit games, as the Bears opened the season 8-1. He hit two doubles, one triple and an NCAA-best six home runs while driving in 14 and hitting .350 in 40 at bats. The sophomore from Lynn Haven, Pennsylvania, scored at least one run in all nine games for a total of 12 on the month and had at least one RBI in seven games. He also drew three walks and was hit by a pitch four times. Four of his six home runs came in a weekend sweep of Alabama A&M and three of those homers aided in the Bears’ comeback win in the series finale over Alabama A&M. Yeager was named SoCon Player of the Week for Feb. 18-24.
Others nominated: Tyler Corbitt (The Citadel), Brooks Carlson (Samford), Jake Huggins (VMI), Justice Bigbie (Western Carolina) and Lawson Hill (Wofford).
Jordan Merritt, The Citadel, Sr., RHP
The Citadel’s Jordan Merritt was lights out in his first two starts of the season, allowing just one earned run over 13 2/3 innings and recording 16 strikeouts against just one walk. He recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in his first start of the season against Delaware State while not allowing an earned run over 6 2/3 innings of work. Against No. 17 Michigan, he allowed just one run and struck out seven over 7 innings. He finished the month with a 0.66 ERA and allowed just one extra-base hit, a double against the Wolverines.
Others nominated: Sawyer Gipson-Long (Mercer), Zach Franklin (Western Carolina) and Austin Higginbotham (Wofford).
Fletcher Magee, Wofford, Sr., G
Wofford guard Fletcher Magee averaged 23.9 points per game and hit 5.9 3-pointers per game while leading the Terriers to a 7-0 mark and the program’s first-ever Associated Press Top 25 ranking in February. The senior from Orlando, Florida, scored at least 18 points and hit at least four 3-pointers in each game, scoring at least 20 points five times and at least 30 twice. After opening his month with 20 points against The Citadel, he went for 32 on the strength of seven 3s in an overtime win at ETSU and went for 30 against Western Carolina two days later, hitting eight triples in the contest. He would hit seven 3s as part of a 26-point night against UNCG and added 23 points in a road win at Furman. All told, Magee was 52-for-99 (.525) from the floor in the month and went 41-for-75 (.547) from 3-point range, moving into second in NCAA Division I history for career 3s. He was also 22-for-24 (.917) from the free-throw line and averaged 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. The monthly award is Magee’s second straight and the fifth of his career.
Others nominated: Lew Stallworth (The Citadel), Bo Hodges (ETSU), Matt Rafferty (Furman), Ross Cummings (Mercer), Isaiah Miller (UNCG), David Jean-Baptiste (Chattanooga), Josh Sharkey (Samford), Bubba Parham (VMI) and Carlos Dotson (Western Carolina).
Amanda Thompson, Mercer, Sr., F
Mercer senior forward Amanda Thompson won her third consecutive player of the month honor as she averaged a double-double and helped the Bears to a perfect 7-0 record in the month of February, capping off Mercer’s 14-0 conference season. Thompson began the month with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a win at Furman. She scored eight points and pulled down 15 rebounds, 12 on the defensive end, and added four assists in a 68-52 win at Samford on Feb. 9. The native of Hayesville, North Carolina, scored seven points and finished with 10 rebounds against UNCG before netting 18 points and corralling 14 rebounds in a win over Western Carolina on Feb. 16. At ETSU on Feb. 21, Thompson finished with 12 points and nine rebounds and two days later at Chattanooga, she had 18 points and nine rebounds. In the February finale, a 66-62 home win over Furman, she earned her third double-double of the month with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Thompson averaged 13.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in February.
Others nominated: Erica Haynes-Overton (ETSU), Le’Jzae Davidson (Furman), Te’ja Twitty (UNCG), Lakelyn Bouldin (Chattanooga), Jewel Smalls (Western Carolina) and Chloe Wanink (Wofford).
MEN’S INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Ben Varghese, ETSU, So.
ETSU sophomore Ben Varghese opened his month with a win in the mile in a personal-best and meet-record 4:07.30 at the Buccaneer Track & Field Invitational, earning SoCon Track Athlete of the Week honors. The Kingsport, Tennessee, native finished fifth in the 3,000-meter run at the Music City Challenge the following week, turning in a time of 8:21.95. At the SoCon Indoor Track and Field Championships, Varghese won the 3,000-meter run in a time of 8:24.65 and finished just off the podium in fourth in the mile (4:21.35).
Ben Johnson, ETSU, R-Sr.
ETSU thrower Ben Johnson competed at four events in February. The redshirt senior won the weight throw (20.45 meters) and finished second in the shot put (16.02 meters) before taking fifth in the weight (20.60 meters) and 15th in the shot (15.61 meters) at the Music City Challenge in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, en route to earning SoCon Field Athlete of the Week honors. Johnson won the weight throw at the Virginia Tech Challenge on Feb. 15 with a throw of 19.83 meters in his final warmup before the SoCon Indoor Track and Field Championships. There, he defended his title in the weight throw with a heave of 21.60 meters and won his first title in the shot put with a collegiate-best throw of 16.39 meters. He was named the Most Outstanding Field Performer of the meet.
WOMEN’S INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Karisa Nelson, Samford, R-Sr.
Samford redshirt senior Karisa Nelson opened her month at the prestigious New York Road Runners Millrose Games, posting a trio of 12th-place finishes against mostly professionals. The Brewton, Alabama, native turned in a time of 2:48.32 in the 1,000-meter run, finishing second among collegiate runners. She clocked 4:24.41 in the 1,500-meter run, again second among collegians, and finished the mile in 4:44.23, once again second among college runners. Nelson then turned in a dominant showing at the SoCon Indoor Track and Field Championships, winning titles in the 800-meter run (2:06.10) and the mile (4:38.23), both in meet-record time. She was named the meet’s co-Most Outstanding Track Performer. Nelson, the 2017 national champion in the mile, will compete in the event at the NCAA Championships this coming weekend.
Mekayla Brown, ETSU, Fr.
ETSU freshman Mekayla Brown competed in three events in February. She opened her month with wins in the long jump (5.54 meters) and triple jump (11.93 meters) at the Buccaneer Track & Field Invitational on Feb. 1-2. A week later, she competed in the triple jump at the Music City Challenge, turning in a season-best mark of 11.95 meters to finish 12th and earn SoCon Field Athlete of the Week honors. The Elgin, South Carolina, rookie wrapped up her month at the SoCon Indoor Track and Field Championships, scoring in three events. She finished second in the triple jump (11.89 meters), fifth in the long jump (5.43 meters) and seventh in the 60-meter dash (7.84 seconds) in addition to finishing ninth in the high jump (1.50 meters). She was voted the SoCon Freshman of the Year.
Asher Nolting, High Point, So., A
High Point attack Asher Nolting totaled 25 points in the Panthers’ five February games, scoring 12 goals and assisting on 13 others. The sophomore from Greenwood Village, Colorado, opened his season on Feb. 2 with three goals and four assists for a career-high seven points in High Point’s 13-0 win over St. Bonaventure and added two goals and three assists in a 13-9 upset of No. 2 Duke four days later that vaulted the Panthers into the national rankings. The reigning SoCon Offensive Player of the Year had two goals and three assists in a 15-14 win over Drexel on Feb. 16, assisting on the tying goal late in regulation and the game-winner in overtime. In his next outing, Nolting scored four goals as High Point knocked off No. 9 Virginia 14-13 on Feb. 18 before closing his month with a goal and three assists in a 10-9 loss to St. John’s. He was the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week in the first two weeks of the season.
Others nominated: Trey Lervick (Air Force), Morgan Macko (Bellarmine), Jarrett Birch (Furman), Eric Applegate (Jacksonville), Pascal Coombs (Mercer), Ryan Lanchbury (Richmond) and Ryan Perouty (VMI).
Tim Troutner Jr., High Point, Sr., GK
High Point goalkeeper Tim Troutner Jr. posted a 9.32 goals against average, a .589 save percentage, 13.2 saves per game and 20 groundballs as the Panthers got off to a 4-1 start to the season and entered the national rankings. The senior from Annapolis, Maryland, opened the season with six saves in 53 minutes of action as the Panthers posted the first shutout in program history, 13-0 over St. Bonaventure. He had 19 saves in going the distance in a 13-9 win over No. 2 Duke before notching 13 in an overtime win over Drexel and 17 in a 14-13 win over No. 9 Virginia. He closed his month with 11 saves and nine goals allowed in a loss to St. John’s. Troutner had three groundballs and two caused turnovers against Drexel, five groundballs and two caused turnovers against Virginia and seven groundballs against St. John’s. He was the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week in the first two weeks of the season.
Others nominated: Brandon Jones (Air Force), Jordan Dondoyano (Bellarmine), Alec Van de Bovenkamp (Furman), Dixon Smith (Jacksonville), Michael Quinn (Mercer), Sean Menges (Richmond) and Kyle Walsh (VMI).
Lexie Kinmond, Detroit Mercy, Sr., A
Detroit Mercy senior Lexie Kinmond led the Titans in goals (eight), assists (seven) and points (15) during the month of February. The Peterborough, Ontario, native had at least three points in all four games during the month, including six points in the Titans’ 17-13 win over Butler. The attacker had two goals in all four games and scored one free-position goal in the first three contests of the season. Kinmond ranked third on the team in both ground balls (11) and caused turnovers (five) in February.
Others nominated: Grace Pollack (Furman), Kelly Hagerty (Mercer) and Elisabeth Ralph (Wofford).
Iseabal Cryne, Mercer, So., GK
Mercer sophomore goalkeeper Iseabal Cryne led the Bears and the league in save percentage (.402), saves (33) and saves per game (11.00) for the month of February. She started in goal all three games, totaling 169:11 minutes with 33 saves, including a career-high 14 against Oregon and 10 against Louisville. The Milton, Delaware, native recorded eight ground balls and three caused turnovers.
Other nominated: Kelsey Thompson (Wofford).
Izzie Blystone, The Citadel, Fr.
Citadel freshman Izzie Blystone posted her second-best smallbore score of the season against No. 15 NC State during the month of February, firing a 571 to finish fourth on Feb. 2. The Aiken, South Carolina, native finished third with a 568 against No. 19 North Georgia on Feb. 9 and finished fourth in a match against No. 20 UAB, Georgia Southern and Wofford on Feb. 16, shooting 567. She also posted her best two aggregate scores during the month and led the Bulldogs in smallbore in all three matches.
Others nominated: Zoe Lum (UAB).
Rosemary Kramer, Georgia Southern, Sr.
Senior Rosemary Kramer had a standout month of February, averaging 594.5 in air rifle. The Culloden, Georgia, native shot a 596 on Feb. 16 against No. 20 UAB, The Citadel and Wofford, good for the third-best score in Georgia Southern’s program history. The score qualified her for the NCAA Air Rifle Championship and made her the first Georgia Southern shooter to qualify for the NCAA Championship and the first SoCon rifle student-athlete since 1985 to earn a spot in the NCAAs. She has won the last five air rifle meets in which she’s competed and took home medalist honors in both meets in February in air rifle as well as in aggregate.
Others nominated: Izzie Blystone (The Citadel) and Lilly Vonderau (UAB).
Malloree Schurr, ETSU, Sr., OF
ETSU senior Malloree Schurr concluded the month of February with a SoCon-leading .413 batting average as the Bucs went 8-4-2 in the month. Offensively, Schurr tallied 19 hits, 19 RBIs, 12 runs scored, five doubles, three triples and two home runs. She was 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts. Defensively, the outfielder has 28 putouts and has yet to commit an error. Schurr’s stellar month was ignited by a four-RBI, 3-for-4 outing against Presbyterian. She was 2-for-3 against Virginia Tech, 3-for-4 with four RBIs against St. Francis and 4-for-4 with a season-high six RBIs against Gardner-Webb on Feb. 22. Schurr’s 19 RBIs has already surpassed her output from 2018. The Montgomery, Texas, native leads the conference in batting average (.413), hits (19), triples (three) and total bases (36) and is second in slugging percentage (.783), RBIs (19) and doubles (five).
Others nominated: Allie Jones (Mercer), Makenna Matthijs (UNCG), Amanda Beltran (Chattanooga) and Erica Hayes (Western Carolina).
Mariah Ramirez, Chattanooga, Fr., RHP
Chattanooga freshman Mariah Ramirez pitched to a perfect 4-0 record and finished with a 2.28 ERA as the Mocs went 11-1 in the month. Ramirez made her collegiate debut on Feb. 8 against Ohio. The native of La Habra, California, recorded six strikeouts and gave up just three earned runs as she picked up her first win, a 6-3 victory over the defending MAC champions. She struck out four batters in five innings of work in a 15-4 rout of Kennesaw State on Feb. 10. In a 2-1 win over Eastern Kentucky on Feb. 24, she tossed a complete-game two-hitter and struck out six in the outing. The next day, Ramirez earned her first career save, coming in to throw two scoreless, hitless innings, in a 5-2 win over against Eastern Kentucky.
Others nominated: Kelly Schmidt (ETSU), Lynn Gardner (Mercer), Stephanie Bryden (UNCG) and Kinsey Liscio (Western Carolina).
Olivier Stuart, Mercer, Jr.
Mercer junior Olivier Stuart went 4-1 in singles play and 4-0 in doubles play, all in the No. 1 spot, in the month of February, highlighted by his upset of the No. 19 singles player in the country in a match at Georgia in the month’s finale on Feb. 26. Stuart started off the month with a 6-3 doubles win against Connecticut’s top duo before he won his singles match 6-1, 6-1. The next day against Alabama State, he and teammate Nicolas Guillon won 7-6 at No. 1 doubles and Stuart added a 6-4, 6-2 singles win. At North Florida, the native of Bussy Saint-Georges, France, earned a 6-4 doubles win before Stuart won his bout in the top flight in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. In the second half of the month, Stuart added a singles and doubles win against Buffalo and a singles win against South Florida before earning a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) win over Georgia’s Emil Reinberg. Stuart, the player of the week in week two of the season, only dropped one match in the month and won four matches in straight sets.
Others nominated: Noah Nawabi (The Citadel), Frazier Rengifo (ETSU), Ivan Mitric (Furman), Ollie Palmer (UNCG), Max Rebol (Samford) and Niklas Gerdes (Chattanooga).
Katarina Kozarov, Furman, Jr.
Furman junior Katarina Kozarov finished the month of February 7-1 in both singles and doubles, all in the top flight. All of her singles wins came in straight sets. Kozarov got the month underway with a 6-4 doubles win and a 6-2, 6-3 singles win against Charleston Southern on Feb. 1. Two days later, Kozarov earned a 6-1 doubles win over Louisville’s top duo and won 6-3, 7-6 (4) in her singles match. That same day, she earned a 6-4 doubles win and a 6-2, 6-1 win as the Paladins swept Emmanuel College. Kozarov was named the SoCon player of the week for her efforts. She again picked up a doubles win, 6-1, at Coastal Carolina on Feb. 8 and earned singles and double wins against Liberty two days later. At Marshall on Feb. 15, she won her singles match 6-1, 6-1, before suffering her lone setback of the month, a 5-7, 5-7 loss to Penn State’s Gabby O’Gorman. The native of Novi Sad, Serbia, rebounded to win in both doubles and singles against Middle Tennessee on Feb. 23 before the Paladins swept Western Carolina to begin SoCon play. In that match, Kozarov and doubles partner Julia Adams won 6-3, while Kozarov downed Jordan Strickland 6-3, 6-2 in singles play.
Others nominated: Raquel Amaro (ETSU), Katie Sidor (Mercer), Brianna Gomez (UNCG), Elsa Pool (Samford), Emma Van Hee (Chattanooga), Jacy Smith (Western Carolina) and Jenna Vroman (Wofford).
Neal Richards, VMI, R-Jr., 174 pounds
VMI’s Neal Richards had another standout month, going undefeated at 174 pounds and winning his 19th straight match dating back to mid-November. He was 3-0 in Southern Conference action on the month, pinning Kyle Homet of Gardner-Webb and Cooper Youngblood of The Citadel. He then went on to score an impressive 14-7 decision over Andrew Morgan of Campbell, who was ranked No. 17 in the nation at the time of the match.
Others nominated: Randall Diabe (Appalachian State), Noah Gonser (Campbell), Sawyer Root (The Citadel), Kyle Gorant (Davidson) and Chris Debien (Chattanooga).
Southern Conference February Athletes of the Month
Baseball – player RJ Yeager, Mercer
Baseball – pitcher Jordan Merritt, The Citadel
Men’s basketball Fletcher Magee, Wofford
Women’s basketball Amanda Thompson, Mercer
Men’s indoor track and field – track Ben Varghese, ETSU
Men’s indoor track and field – field Ben Johnson, ETSU
Women’s indoor track and field – track Karisa Nelson, Samford
Women’s indoor track and field – field Mekayla Brown, ETSU
Men’s lacrosse – offense Asher Nolting, High Point
Men’s lacrosse – defense Tim Troutner Jr., High Point
Women’s lacrosse – offense Lexie Kinmond, Detroit Mercy
Women’s lacrosse – defense Iseabal Cryne, Mercer
Rifle – smallbore Izzie Blystone, The Citadel
Rifle – air rifle Rosemary Kramer, Georgia Southern
Softball – player Malloree Schurr, ETSU
Softball – pitcher Mariah Ramirez, Chattanooga
Men’s tennis Olivier Stuart, Mercer
Women’s tennis Katarina Kozarov, Furman
Wrestling Neal Richards, VMI