Sunday, February 03, 2013

My take on the Harbaugh Bowl

Today is the day.  Super Bowl Sunday pits two brothers, John and Jim Harbaugh, against each other as opposing head coaches.  There's not much left to say that hasn't already been said about this match up, so I'd like to simply take this opportunity to shed some light on my experience of battling against my brother in the athletic arena.  We each played volleyball for our respective high schools back in Texas, and the following is a column I wrote for my school's newspaper, Evergreen, in the fall of 2002 during my senior year.


No Joshing: St. Mark's school rivalry increases sibling rivalry by Josh Feldman, Executive Editor
As a student at Greenhill, I'm fully aware of the school's long-lasting rivalry with St. Mark's. I am also a big brother, bringing another aspect of competition into my life: sibling rivalries.  
However, unlike most students, my rivalry with my brother, Matt, is more than your average sibling rivalry. He is a sophomore at St. Mark's, adding to the contrasts between the two of us. We constantly argue over which school is the best (obviously Greenhill), and every time we do, our mom is there to put an end to the feud. However it is now that we each get to formally fight for our schools through volleyball.  
Each of us has played volleyball since age 12, and even though I am two years older than Matt, we both play at the varsity level at our respective schools. After playing four years of club volleyball, he has solidified his spot in the St. Marks' starting line up. He worked to be where he is, but so have I. 
The first time I faced him on the court was last year in a match at a St. Marks-hosted tournament where he started on the St. Marks' JV team. On the first play of the game, I hit a ball at him, nailing him in the chest to set the tone of the game. He fought the game of his life, knowing that it was his older brother on the other side of the net.  
This year, we already played against each other at a match at St. Mark's and I know I was the most intense I had been for a match in a long time.  
Neither of us went into the match thinking that it would be just another team: there was family across the net. The focus of our games will not be on the scoreboard, rather on keeping my brother in check; knowing that even if the score shows the game to be a blow out, when we get home, we will recount the small battles we had during the game.  
Whether that will be a block I had on him or an ace he served at me, I do not know. The rivalry goes beyond the sidelines of the volleyball court, into who will have the most to brag about at the dinner table.  
Rivalries are never easy because you are constantly at war with someone. When that person is your brother -- who goes to your school's biggest rival -- it's even more difficult, trust me.  
As we are still in volleyball season, I look forward to future matches against Matt. I am ready to take the court to face not just an opposing school, but the person whose bedroom is down the hall from mine.  
While I know that all my mom wants is a good, clean match, I want Matt to know that for the time being, his place remains in my shadow.  
Remember, however, that I am the older brother, and no matter what, I cannot win in this situation. If I am seen as better, "so what?" I am a whole two years older, and therefore my victory is easily accepted (and justified).  
If he is better, then I just got out-played by my younger brother. Either way, I do not want to hear of his triumphs over me at the dinner table. 
The Harbaugh brothers face each other in the Super Bowl -- it's one of the most intriguing story lines in the history of sports.  And while I'd like to see the 49ers win today simply because with rare exception, I root for the NFC, it will be very difficult to know I'm pulling for younger brother Jim.  At the end of the day, if John and his Ravens hoist the Lombardi Trophy, I know I'll get to call Matthew and let him know it's just another victory for older brothers everywhere.

No clue how I found this online, but here's a clip of Matthew at St. Mark's coming up with a block then putting the ball away with a nice transition kill.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Meet me in St. Louie...

It may be 25°F here in Charlotte, but fortunately the Charlotte 49ers women's basketball team is heading to St. Louis tomorrow for an Atlantic-10 match up against the Saint Louis Billikens.  Charlotte (13-4, 2-1 A-10) comes into this game off a home win against Xavier.  Despite their sub-.500 record, Saint Louis (8-11, 2-2 A-10) has shown the potential to stop a team like Charlotte if the 49ers play like they did in the second half against Fordham or the first half against Rhode Island.

The Billikens are coming off a come-from-behind win against Richmond in which they trailed 38-29 before outscoring the Spiders, 23-11, over the final 9:18 for a 52-49 victory.  Charlotte has been able to play lock-down defense at times this season -- just ask Davidson after the 49ers kept the Wildcats scoreless from the field for over 10 minutes during their meeting on Dec. 21 -- but has also seen defensive lapses.

Not quite sure what Sunday's game between the 49ers and Billikens will bring, but Charlotte should escape the Gateway City with a victory if Jenn Hailey and Amanda Dowe -- two of the A-10's top rebounders -- can control the interior.  Saint Louis has enjoyed a rebounding advantage in 12 of their 19 games, and if they make it 13 of 20, then something will have gone terribly wrong for Charlotte.  The 49ers also need Hillary Sigmon to rediscover her magic touch from beyond the arc after hitting just 2-of-14 over the last two games (she is shooting 34.4% on 3-pointers after hitting a school record 48.3% during her freshman campaign last season).

Meanwhile fellow sophomore Ayanna Holmes is coming off a season-high 11 points in 17 minutes against Xavier.  She had gone through a shooting slump of her own from late December to early January, but if she can factor into the 49ers offense, it makes Charlotte a very difficult team to defend.  If shooters are hitting their shots, they have to be covered tightly, and if that happens, the ball will move inside to Hailey and Dowe while should be able to win their 1-on-1 match ups in the post.  Many teams have one big post players that may be able to go head to head with either of them, but very few teams have two, which gives Charlotte the potential to be dynamic.

I look forward to being on the call this weekend in Saint Louis.  You can listen to the radio broadcast online on Sunday, 2pm (ET), at

Call Me Maybe, Dallas Stars lyrics

The Dallas Stars and Taco Bueno were holding a goofy contest on Facebook to giveaway four tickets to a game.    While I doubt I'll win and I know I can't make it to the game if I do (sometime tells me being in Charlotte, NC, will prevent me from getting to the AAC in time), but I figured I'd at least post the lyrics I came up with so they'd last a little longer than a Facebook post.

(To the tune of Call Me Maybe)

I threw a hat on the ice
cuz Jamie Benn had scored thrice.
It was a roll of the dice,
but I am glad he signed.

I dream of the Stanley Cup,
Of the Stars hoisting it up.
And keeping the winning puck,
I believe it's time.

The lockout ended,
Jagr's old bones are mended.
The Kings can't defend it.
You know where the Cups coming, baby!

Hey, Dallas Stars!
This may sound crazy...
We'll win the Stanley Cup!
Taco, maybe?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ramming speed

The Rams pulled ahead, 57-56 with under a minute to play on a Abigail Corning mid-range jumper.  The shot followed Jenn Hailey going 1-2 from the free throw line.  Charlotte then spent 30 seconds in the offensive zone without much of a play developing.  After a foul fighting for a rebound on a missed 49ers shot, Charlotte had to foul to put Fordham on the line for 1-and-1.  Erin Rooney (still playing with four fouls mind you) hit them both, so now the Rams have a 3-point lead with 14.5 to play.  Charlotte's ball.

And again, the 49ers have NEVER lost to the Rams.

Playing with 4 fouls

Somehow Fordham has gotten away with two players -- Erin Rooney and Marah Strickland -- playing since the 7:35 mark with four fouls each.  Charlotte hasn't seems to drive at them on the offensive end or aggressively challenge them defensively.  The fact that both are going get through the final eight minutes of this game without fouling out is shocking.

Home stretch

Charlotte leads 53-52 with 3:36 to go in the team's final A-10 opener.

49ers PG Ny Hammonds has done a great job of limiting her turnovers today (7 assists, 1 TO).

Fordham is mixing up the defensive looks it's giving on seemingly every other possession.  They have shifted from a man defensive to a box-and-1 to a 2-3 zone and back again over the last few minutes.  The result, Charlotte is not able to get much of a rhythm going offensively.

Ny and Jenn Hailey lead Charlotte with 15 points each, and Jai Forney has 14, but Amanda Dowe has still been held scoreless (0-4) from the floor.

Check that, she just took and hit her first shot of the half to put Charlotte back up 55-52 with 3 min to go.

Shortened bench

Charlotte leads 44-40, 11:40 in second half.

Only seven different 49ers have seen time on the court so far: the starting five (Ny, Jai, Hillary, Slim and Jenn) plus Ayanna Holmes, who is traditionally the first one off the bench, and the freshman Kira Gordon, who came in to give Jenn and Amanda a bit of a breather during the first half.

Charlotte wasn't afraid to use a little more of its bench during the non-conference schedule, but considering the team has had a week since its last game (a win over Colgate), head coach Cara Consuegra is letting her stars shine.  That and really there isn't much proven talent on the bench to turn to.  Gabby Tyler is still injured.  Jessica Johnson is progressing on her road back from a knee injury but has only seen garbage-time minutes this year.  The rest of the bench includes seldom-used sophomore Olivia Rankin, and then three freshmen Tori Carter, Alexis Alexander and Shequana Harris.  Alexis may get in if Jenn and Amanda get into problematic foul trouble, but other than the 49ers are relying heavily on their starters in this one.

Fordham has picked up the physicality to open the second half.  While still trailing (40-38, 14:27), the Rams are bumped in the post with Jenn Hailey, just picked up an offensive foul (2 PF) after trying to wrangler her arm free.  While there have been some questionable calls and non-calls, that is not going to decide this game for Charlotte.  And if the 49ers let those calls decide this game, then they are clearly lagging in other areas.

Charlotte hit 5 of its first 6 shots in the second half, and while Fordham hasn't been as efficient, they are getting more shots.  It's a numbers game (just ask Kobe Bryant).  The more shots you can put up, the more chances you have to score, and that's how Fordham has kept the score close within the first five minutes of the half.

HALF: Charlotte 28, Fordham 25

A quick note before sifting through the first half: As it turns out, despite what my eyes told me, the official statistician did not credit Jenn Hailey with a block during the first half.  That puts what is still a 26-game streak of logging at least one block in every game since last January still on the line.  

Meanwhile Charlotte has got to be wondering how they are only up by 3.  The 49ers have 14 offensive rebounds.  14!  On the other side of the scoresheet, Fordham has 14 rebounds in total.  But Charlotte has found itself struggling to remember how to sink lay ups on multiple occasions, and the mid-range jumpers which have never been a huge strength (unless wide open) aren't falling.  Charlotte is shooting 34.4% from the floor (11-32) and just 1-3 from distance while Fordham is shooting 41.7% (10-24) and is 2-6 from deep.  

Amanda Dowe went scoreless in the first half (0-4 fro the floor), but Charlotte has found nine points from point guard Ny Hammonds who has proven that if she needs to be a scoring option, she is more than capable (see 21 points at UNCW).  If the Rams defense continues to sag off Hammonds, she will (and should) keep shooting and/or driving.  Hammonds went 3-7 from the floor and 3-3 from the line while playing the entire first half.

Time to open the second act inside Halton Arena... 

Jenn's Block Party

Charlotte forward Jenn Hailey rejected a Marah Strickland lay up during the last two minutes of the first half to notch a blocked shot for the 27th straight game.  Hailey, who last went without a block nearly a year ago (Jan. 18, 2012 against La Salle), also has 10 rebounds for Charlotte, which leads 28-25 with a minute to go in the opening stanza.

Back in front: (3:50, 1st, 23-20 CLT)

After the shot-clock delay, Charlotte found itself down 20-17 before spent a good minute-and-a-half in the offensive end thanks to several offensive rebounds.  A Jenn Hailey layup and a Ny Hammonds steal-fast-break-and-score later, Charlotte is up 23-20.

The 49ers now hold the rebounding edge, 18-11, with 10 offensive rebounds to Fordham's four.  Jenn Hailey has eight boards (five O-boards) and is tied with Jai Forney for the team lead with eight points.

Ny Hammonds hit the and-1 free throw for a 24-20 lead.

Correcting the shot clock (7:20, 1st, 18-17 Fordham)

We're in a bit of a delay as the officials try to correct an inadvertent resetting of the shot clock. Charlotte defended Fordham down to 4 seconds on the shot clock, when a shot went up and missed the rim. After a 3 minute delay, the refs put two seconds on the shot clock and gave Fordham the ball.

The Rams were able to inbound and score on an Abigail Corning layup for a 20-17 lead.

Forney firing up

Senior guard Jai Forney has started strong with eight points for Charlotte (3-5 FG, 2-2 FT).  While the 49ers are down 18-17, 7:49 in the first half, if she can continue to be an offensive option -- something has been an up-and-down proposition through non-conference play -- Charlotte should win this game.

The odd thing is, when Forney scores in double figures (it's happened seven times in 14 games this year), the 49ers are 4-3.  Of course three of those games has been when Charlotte has faced arguably it's three toughest opponents this season.  She has 14 in the loss to Kansas State, 12 in the loss at home to Florida State and 14 down in Atlanta against Toledo.

Part of that might be the senior knowing she has to step up against tougher opponents, but it also might be the team leaning more on her before there just aren't *that* many other options against tougher competition. Jai isn't afraid of a bigger opponent and will fight after the loose balls.   If she becomes that 4th scoring option (after Jenn, Amanda and Hillary), Charlotte should roll.

TV attendance

At 15:34 in the first half, Charlotte is up 6-5 over Fordham.  Charlotte got on the board first with a couple quick buckets, and two offensive rebounds helped keep possessions alive.  Charlotte has only been out-rebounded twice this year in their 14 games, and while Fordham has a few 6-footers, the 49ers will need to stay strong on the boards to get off on the right foot in A-10 play.

Charlotte has never lost to Fordham in seven previous meetings.

One other tidbit: all the fans at Halton Arena have been pushed to the sections behind the benches as today's game is being televised nationally on CBS Sports Network (somewhere in the 600s on DirecTV last I checked).

Charlotte WBB vs. Fordham - A-10 Opener

I'm not doing the broadcast for today's Charlotte WBB game (that can be heard here in the Queen City on ESPN 730 AM), so I figured I'd do a little live-blogging for the Atlantic 10 opener -- the final A-10 opener before the 49ers leave for Conference USA next season.

This afternoons starting lineups:

G - Erin Rooney
G - Arielle Collins
G - Marah Strickland
G - Abigail Corning

C - Samantha Clark

G - Ny Hammonds
G - Jai Forney
G - Hillary Sigmon
F - Amanda Dowe
F - Jenn Hailey

Time to tip.  Charlotte wearing their green unis instead of the regular home whites.

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