Samford Soccer will be the No. 1 in the SoCon Tourney

Jubo vs. Wake Forest goal

Photo by Caroline Summers.

The Samford University women’s soccer team has clinched its second straight Southern Conference regular-season championship.

Despite falling 1-0 at Western Carolina on Sunday, the Bulldogs finished the 2015 regular season with a 13-5 overall record and an impressive 8-1 SoCon mark. The goal that WCU scored was the ONLY one allowed by Samford in the SoCon regular season.

The combination of offensive production from key players and consistent goalkeeping has propelled the Bulldogs to another successful year.

On Friday, Oct. 23, the Bulldogs won 1-0 at ETSU 1-0. Junior forward Malcanisha Kelley scored with only 3:30 remaining in the game. With her goal, Kelley tied the school’s single-season record in the goals category (11) and Samford’s all-time goals record (26). Junior forward Taylor Borman tallied her 10th assist of the season, which is tied for best on the team in the assist category.

“As a team we have goals, we want to make it farther than last year,” stated Malcanisha Kelley. “We celebrate our victory of winning SoCon regular season a little but continue to stay focused on what’s ahead that’s winning a SoCon Championship and giving us a change to compete in the NCAA Tournament.”

As a team, Samford Soccer is ranked No. 10 in the nation in assists (40), No. 11 in points (120) and No.18 in goals (40).

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Photo by Caroline Summers.

Senior defender Hallie Georgi is second on the team with 6 goals, followed by junior forward Sara Smeltzer (5) and Borman (4). The Bulldogs will look to these key players to carry them to victory in the conference tournament.

The Bulldogs terrific season has not only been displayed by its offensive playmakers, but also by stellar goalkeeping. Sophomore goalies Anna Maddox and Katie Peters have been rotating starts and have combined to record nine shutouts, while only allowing 14 goals in 18 matches. Samford has outscored its opponents by a total of 40-14 this season.

SoCon-champion Samford will next be in action Saturday at 7 p.m. as it will host either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the quarterfinal round of the SoCon Tournament.

For score updates and breaking news, follow @SamfordSoccer and @Samford_Sports on Twitter.

Cross Country Ready to Roll at Conference

Cool, crisp air. Color-changing leaves. Pumpkin everything.

All signs point to the delayed arrival of fall in central Alabama, and for the Samford men’s and women’s cross country teams that means one thing: championship season is here.

After logging hundreds of miles, enduring tedious workouts and persevering through the wear-and-tear of a long season, the time has finally come to reap the benefits of a training cycle that began nearly five months ago.

Scheduled for the morning of Oct. 31 on the Furman University Golf Course in Greenville, S.C., the 2015 Southern Conference Cross Country Championships represent the season’s pinnacle.

“It’s always our No. 1 focus,” first-year head coach Kevin Ondrasek said. “We’ll have a couple individuals who will progress past that, and we’ll train for that, but as a unit we’re trying to put it together at conference first.”

Both teams will face a talented field when they toe the starting line for the season-defining race, as the hometown Paladins enter the meet as two-time defending champions for both the men and women.

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In fact, the Furman men enter the meet with a national ranking, earning recognition in the latest poll as the No. 10 team in the country.

But that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs will be running with decreased expectations, especially on the men’s side. After tying their highest finish position in program history by placing fourth at the 2014 conference meet, the Samford men are focused on reaching new heights.

“I think if we’re not on the podium we’ve failed, or I failed, either way,” Ondrasek said. “How far up on to the podium is up to them. I don’t think Furman is necessarily in reach, just being realistic, but I’ve seen some crazy things happen. Cross country’s a crazy sport, you never know.”

Individually, the men will be led by star sophomore Arsène Guillorel, the 2015 SoCon outdoor track and field 5,000-meter champion who recently notched a 19-second cross country personal best, cruising to a fourth-place finish at Friday’s hypercompetitive Crimson Classic.

Severely affected by graduation and hampered by a mix of injury and illness, the Samford women will enter the conference meet with a slightly different approach. Though they’ll arrive in Greenville with an expectation of reaching the podium as a team, Ondrasek is placing an elevated importance on each runner’s individual performance.

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“They’re working on just finding some consistency, and just kind of celebrating improving as individuals,” Ondrasek said. “If we come out feeling good about what we’ve done as individuals, I’ll be happy with the team performance.”

The sophomore duo of Karisa Nelson and Emma Garner will set the pace for the Bulldog women, as each will look to improve upon their performances from a year ago. Both Nelson and Garner earned spots on the 2014 All-SoCon Freshman Team after placing 12th and 24th, respectively.

As the Samford men and women continue to make their final preparations for the championship meet, ensuring full health across the board, Ondrasek said he’s been pleased by each group’s collective improvement over the course of the season, fulfilling the vision established on day one.

“I mean we’ve had little hiccups here and there, but they’ve progressed along beautifully,” Ondrasek said. “They’re right where I hoped they would be.”

IAM Birmingham answers immigrant needs in Birmingham

In 2011, the immigration law HB-56 was passed, and it caused a lot of problems for the Latino population of Alabama. As some Latinos fled the state, others came together to combat the prejudice against them. It was these groups’ lawsuits pressed that led to the dismantling of the harsher parts of the law.

One group in Birmingham, Immigrant Alabama Movement (IAM) Birmingham, has taken a stance to help immigrants. Cesar Mata and Cindy Garcia are some of the community organizers for the group, which is made up entirely of volunteers.

Garcia said the group was “created to help the people of the community with information about the laws and the things that are happening in Alabama.”

The group was founded in July 2011. There were many volunteers in the area wanting to help with the same thing and many people trying to find out more information about HB-56. The volunteers all got together to work for the same goal and IAM was created.

The majority of the people the group assists are from Mexico, like Garcia and Mata, and other parts of Central America.

“We try to educate them so that they can defend their own rights,” Mata said. “Before HB-56 Alabama was ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ but after this it changed a lot.”

Cesar Mata and Cindy Garcia helped found the immigrant activist group, IAM Birmingham.

Patry Romero, from Spain, Adapts to U.S. Life

Patry Romero, from Spain, poses at school in Birmingham.

Patricia Romero made her first trip to the United States in 2010. She stayed for almost a year, and then returned in August 2013 and has been here since. Her hometown is Avila, Spain, which is about an hour car ride from the capital city of Madrid. She ended up in Birmingham because of a study abroad opportunity through her work. She now takes classes as well as teaches upper level classes at Samford University.

“Avila is a very small town, so you can walk everywhere, and here you cannot,” Romero said of the biggest differences between Birmingham and her native city. She also cited larger portion sizes for foods in the U.S., especially beverages and sides.

She said that people in the Birmingham area have helped her a lot, especially in their patience as she learned English. She has also found a community of other international visitors to Birmingham. She has friends from many different Latin American countries as well as parts of Asia with whom she has bonded.

Learning English has been difficult, but the U.S. accent was the hardest part for Romero. She took English for seven years in school, and she said it was frustrating to be able to understand a television show but unable to understand people talking to her. She said that she still prefers to speak Spanish when she can.

She said that in Spain, people believe “the typical things” about Americans.

“They eat hamburgers and hot dogs all the time and people are fat. Oh and of course you receive a gun when you open a bank account in Alabama,” she said for example. She said the people know about Alabama due to the song and movie “Sweet Home Alabama” and also “Forrest Gump.”

After completing her study abroad program, Romero will be returning to Spain. She will forever be grateful for the experience she gained during her stays in the States.

Most Likely To Succeed: Dillon Hodges

Born and raised in Florence, Ala., Dillon Hodges has been surrounded by Bluegrass music all his life. But when the 22-year-old singer/songwriter began his own career, he had one goal in mind.

“I try to make the music that’s true to who I am and music that I would want to listen to…music that’s appealing to everyone,” Hodges says. “I like to expose new music to people that they wouldn’t normally listen to.”KWDillonHodges3

Hodges graduated from the University of North Alabama in May 2012 with a double major in accounting and entertainment management. He started playing guitar when he was 11 years old, and has since learned mandolin and banjo as well.

“From the time I was 11, I played at the Fiddler’s Cafe in Tuscumbia, Ala., every Friday night until I was probably 16 or 17,” Hodges says. “It definitely got me over the heeby jeebies of playing on stage and talking in front of people. I was a really shy kid before that.”

Hodges has played several shows throughout the South, and his first album, “Rumspringa,” will be coming out May 14.

Hodges currently lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife Elise, and hopes to continue furthering his career as an artist.

“As long as I’m able to make a decent living making music I’ll be happy,” Hodges says. “The artist thing is certainly what I love the most, but whether it’s writing songs or teaching guitar lessons or playing…as long as I’m making music I’ll be happy.”

For more information about Hodges and his upcoming album visit www.dillonhodges.com

Photo provided by Dillon Hodges

Corey White’s first season shows prosperous future

Corey White August 17, 2012

In the spring of 2008, Dunwoody, Ga. native Corey White signed on to play football at Samford University in Birmingham. Little did White know that four years later, he would be trying out for NFL coaches and scouts, eventually becoming the highest draft pick in Samford history and playing professional football for the New Orleans Saints.

White, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound defensive back was drafted as the 162nd pick overall, impressing the Saints with his ability to cover receivers in big-game situations.

“[On draft day] I was at my house in Atlanta, watching on TV,” White says. “When they called I couldn’t hear anything because my family was so loud. I didn’t really even know who called until they showed my name. I almost broke into tears.”

Getting to the NFL from a school such as Samford is no easy task. In fact, only one other Samford product, Cortland Finnegan, has played at the professional level. However, the school is becoming more successful in producing professional football players; a big part of that was when Samford hired Sam Shade as cornerbacks coach in 2009.

Shade, who helped prepare White for his NFL tryouts, spent nine seasons as a professional football player and brought a fresh perspective to Samford’s coaching staff.

“When Coach Shade came in and took over the defensive backs with his pro experience, he really helped me learn how to be a better player and a better person,” White says. “He knows what it takes to survive as a pro athlete. He’s got four children and a beautiful wife. At Samford I was able to sit down and talk to him about life as well as football.”

White recorded 31 tackles and an interception in his rookie season in a backup role with the Saints. He started four games as a fifth defensive back, including in a nationally televised game against the Denver Broncos.

His first NFL interception helped the Saints to a 31-27 win over White’s hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons. White’s interception came early in the third quarter and led to a Saints touchdown.

“The first time playing my home team, I was very prepared,” White says. “I got several tackles and a key third down stop, and then that interception. It was very special playing that kind of game against the Falcons.”

A knee injury cut White’s 2012 season short, but now that he has a year’s experience under his belt, the second-year defensive back is ready to take more of a leadership role on the 2013 Saints defense.

“I’m looking forward to next year,” he says. “We’ve got a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan, who has coached some pretty intense defenses. I love intense defensive coordinators so I’m looking forward to him.”

White hopes that his success, along with the experience of Samford’s coaching staff, will help bring more attention to his alma mater.

“What I do and what they see Nick [Williams, a fellow Samford football player] do is an example,” White said. “We’ve got the talent, now we need to get the scouts coming out. Maybe in a couple of years, once we put someone in the league from here on down, teams will notice.”

Photo provided by Michael Hebert (New Orleans Saints)

How Skateboarding is Thriving in Birmingham

During these tough economic times, it is always encouraging to hear about the prosperity of local businesses.

In the thick of revitalizing 2nd Avenue North, Faith Skateboard Supply has stayed strong though the recession and extended its reach throughout the Birmingham community since opening in 1995.

Peter Karvoven, the owner of Faith Skateboard Supply, understands the impact a sport like skateboarding can have around the Birmingham community.

Not only does Faith Skateboard Supply support local skateboard professionals, but the store also hosts demos and builds skate venues since the Birmingham area doesn’t have many options.

And that is what makes Faith Skateboard Supply’s drive to build up the skateboard community even more important. In an interview with al.com, Karvoven says that Birmingham talks about expanding the skateboarding culture, but for the most part has failed to follow through.

“The [skateboarding] culture is amazing,” Karoven says to al.com. “It’s just that Birmingham is so far behind that they don’t understand how popular skateboarding really is.”

With the rejuvenation of downtown, the likelihood of skateboarding expanding in the city grows stronger. Although skateboarding is behind in Birmingham, Karvoven hopes that Faith Skateboard Supply will continue to grow in the coming years.

“Retail is a hard thing these days, since everything is online or at the mall,” Karvoven adds in the al.com interview. “But there’s a certain nostalgia to independent retail still. Hopefully, people still continue to believe in it and feel it.”

Photo taken by business.transworld.net

Video of demos from Faith Skate Supply

Who is Bennie Seltzer? A look at the Samford men’s basketball coach

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Samford men’s basketball head coach Bennie Seltzer is no stranger to the Birmingham area. Seltzer, who just completed his first season at Samford, has deep ties with the city.

Seltzer played basketball at Birmingham’s A. H. Parker High School, graduating in 1989. From there, the guard traveled across the country to play college basketball while earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Washington State University.

“I wasn’t the most talented player on the court, but I was tough and had to play hard on every play,” Seltzer says. “That was all I had. Playing hard was my ability.”

After a professional playing career, which took him throughout Europe and Venezuela, Seltzer was hired by his former college coach Kelvin Sampson to be an assistant coach with the Oklahoma Sooners in 1997.

“I always knew that I wanted to do something that involved basketball,” Seltzer said. “Once the professional phone calls stopped coming as often as I thought they should, I realized that I needed to find out what to do with the rest of my life.”

After nine years at Oklahoma, Seltzer began coaching at Marquette under head coach Tom Crean. When Crean moved to Indiana, Seltzer joined him.

A little more than a year ago, April 5, 2012, Seltzer became the 27th head coach for men’s basketball in Samford’s history. His Birmingham heritage has helped him rebuild a program that was last successful in 2008.

In addition to his familiarity with Birmingham, Seltzer was hired for his player development.

In his first year, Seltzer led Samford to a fifth-place finish in Southern Conference play. The Bulldogs had been picked to finish last in the twelve-team conference. Their success was largely based on Seltzer’s guidance of players such as Tyler Hood, who came back from a hand injury to close out the 2013 season averaging 9.8 points per game.

“He put us through a lot of different drills in the off-season and brought in his expertise to help me develop individually and us as a team,” Hood says.

Photo courtesy of Samford Athletics.

The heart and soul behind the Bajalieh family restaurants

If you’re craving the perfect combination of traditional and modern foods that guarantee quality and delectability, the Bajalieh family has what you’re looking for.

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Sol Bajalieh came to the United States in 1965, and three years later Sol’s Sandwich Shop & Deli was up and running. Today, the restaurant lives on through his wife, Nadia, and his three sons, Jeff, Chris and Jason.

“He ran the restaurant forever,” Nadia says. “It was all he’d ever done, he did that his whole life. After he passed away [in 2004] the boys wanted to carry on his legacy.”

In 1995 the restaurant, then located in the original John Hand building, was condemned, and Sol’s Deli was temporarily out of a home. Thirteen years later, the family name lives on through its delicious meals and authenticity.

“A lot of people would approach us wanting us to reopen it, but it’s a lot of work. We finally reopened it five years ago in July.”

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In addition to Sol’s, the family owns and operates Slice, a gourmet pizza and beer restaurant in Lakeview that opened in June of 2011.

“We needed to expand and the opportunity came about in a great area,” Chris says. “We were already familiar with the pizza business and wanted to step it up into a gourmet style pizza.”

Both restaurants place a huge emphasis on food quality and customer satisfaction. They support the local market, make their vegetables fresh daily and Nadia’s soups are all made from scratch.

“When things are fresh and people know it, you don’t have to advertise,” Chris says. “People are gonna come back.”

Nadia says her goal is to continue training the boys so they can carry it on after her. She loves what she does, and the customers play a huge role in that.

“Cooking is my passion, I enjoy it,” she says. “Customers are always walking through telling me how delicious it is, and that’s the payoff for me. That makes it all worthwhile.”

For store hours and menu items visit both of the Bajalieh family restaurants’ websites: www.solsdeli.com and www.slicebirmingham.com

Photos courtesy of Beau Gustafson

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Samford Alum Living the Dream

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Often times, college students are defined by what they do after graduation. For Josh Sizemore, who graduated from Samford University less than a year ago, he’s living the dream.

During the day, he’s supporting himself through odd jobs like working in a cupcake truck for nine months or assisting a photographer. But at night, he strums his guitar and sings his heart out for those who come to hear his concerts.

He categorizes his music as “folk rock and a little bit gritty,” with a straightforward conversational tone that has developed over time. Sizemore says being a musician is something he thought about even as a kid.

“I started playing the piano at seven years old and picked up a guitar around 14,” Sizemore says. “I started writing songs midway through high school and once I started, it became something I thought about constantly.”

Despite the number of odd jobs he’s had to maintain while pursuing his music career, Sizemore has been able to find time to play in concerts and have a music video produced. He also played alongside the band War Jacket in a cover video of Kathleen Edwards’ “Going to Hell.”

“I’ve been working some random jobs since graduating, but those types of jobs are great, because they give you flexibility, but you definitely sacrifice some financial freedom,” he says.

Balancing his time between work and his music, it’s the music that has been the most thrilling and satisfying aspect of his post-college life.

“I get a real thrill out of writing and creating music,” Sizemore says. “There’s something deeply satisfying to me, even if no one ends up hearing the finished product.”

“My main goal is just to be a better writer and hopefully have some kind of audience to share the experience with.”

Photo and video by Jacob Davis

Music Video: The Beauty That I See