Category Archives: Emporia State

Anatomy of a Twitter Meltdown


Emporia State track and field coach Steve Blocker tried to explain to me how, at 32 years old, he felt old.

Donald Weast, the Assistant AD  for the Hornets in charge of media relations, told me about how he spent a good chunk of his day trying to decipher a 20-year-old’s Twitter posts.

Andrew Etheridge, ESU’s All-American hurdler and a Wichita Northwest product, told me it was all a misunderstanding.

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Sunflower Slate Q&A: ESU hurdler Andrew Etheridge


I had the opportunity to speak with Emporia State hurdler Andrew Etheridge on Tuesday evening – Etheridge, a true freshman, won the 110-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division II Championships on Saturday in Turlock, Calif., with a time of 14.02 seconds, just 1/1oth of a second faster than the runner-up as the Hornets finished fourth as a team, their best finish in school history. Etheridge, who is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, also plays safety for the Hornets and is a Wichita Northwest grad.

Sunflower Slate: So what’s life been like since Saturday? Lots of pats on the back, I’m sure.

Andrew Etheridge: It’s been quite a few days and kind of crazy but well worth it.

SS: So you go out to California as the 17th seed … honestly, did you think you could win a national title?

AE: I have a lot of confidence in myself so I’m not going to say I thought I was going to lose … but I definitely didn’t think that I’d ran the type of race that I was capable of all year. And once I made it through the prelims and into the finals I narrowed my focus and kept re-watching my race from the prelims and critiquing what I was doing wrong.

SS: And you won. But not by much. Did you know you were the champ right away?

AE: I knew coming off the last hurdle that it was going to come down to that last sprint and I knew that I’d leaned pretty hard at the end … but I didn’t know that I’d won until my name came up on the board.

SS: Did you just go crazy or what?

AE: Well, yeah, I kind of threw my hands up and then I just hit the ground. I looked up in the stands and I could see my teammates yelling for me.

SS: Who did you call first to tell that you’d won?

AE: Well it was streaming online so my family and my girlfriend and a lot of my friends actually watched, so by the time I got back to my phone it had just completely blown up.

SS: I saw on Twitter that Chris Harper and a lot of other people were giving you shout-outs. Are you on there?

AE: I’m on there as @hurdleboy28 … I could see all the mentions and stuff and that was pretty cool.

SS: How did you celebrate when you got home?

AE: My mom threw me a barbeque yesterday. I’m headed back to Emporia tomorrow to start training for football.

SS: That’s not much of a break.

AE: (Laughing) No, it’s not. But I missed spring football so I’ve got some catching up to do. Right at the end of track season I could kind of feel myself getting back into that football mindset. Coach Higgins (ed. note – ESU football coach Garin Higgins) actually called to congratulate me after I won.

SS: Good luck with football, and congratulations.

AE: Thanks very much.

I’m out. TA

ESU tabs Shaun Vandiver as men’s basketball coach


Interesting bit of hiring news today out of the MIAA today as Emporia State names Boise State assistant coach Shaun Vandiver as its new men’s basketball coach. For those of you who have been around these parts long enough, that name might be familiar because Vandiver helped lead Hutchinson Community College to a national championship in 1988 and then was a star player at Colorado for the next three years, earning Big Eight newcomer of the year honors his first season and All-Big Eight kudos the last two.

Vandiver was a first-round pick by Golden State in 1991, but never played in the NBA, instead spending nine seasons playing for some of the top-level clubs in Europe. He’s been back in the states coaching for the last 10 years, including stints as an assistant at Wyoming, Bowling Green State University, and Northern Colorado.

I just spoke with Vandiver a few minutes ago and he told me he’s already been on the phone recruiting today. Big props on that, because the Hornets will need it. ESU has been stuck in the middle of the pack in the MIAA the last couple of years, and with the MIAA reforming into what should be the premiere NCAA Division II conference in the country by expanding to 16 (er, 15 right now, but that’s another subject) teams. There’s no dominant men’s basketball program in this league, unlike some other sports. And at ESU, with the football team as bad as it has been, there’s an impetus on sports like baseball, softball and basketball performing at high levels. Helps make those ugly, ugly falls a little easier to deal with, I’d guess.

I’d hesitate to even say there is a hierarchy in the MIAA in men’s hoops because the teams at the top are so different from year to year. So it’s anybody’s game. What Vandiver has working for him is a massive network of connections  plus his own experience as a player and a coach. What he’s got working against him is he’s never been a head coach before. Which can be a bigger deal then you think. I don’t care what level you’re at, once you become The Man things change. Check Tuesday’s Eagle for our article on the hiring.

I’m out.


PS. One month away? Had to hit it right on the dot, I guess.

ESU’s Miller, Liu earn All-American honors



Big honors coming down today for ESU right side Brittney Miller and setter Ting Liu. Miller was named a first-team NCAA Division II All-American and Liu was named third-team. Miller, a Paola native, led the MIAA in kills and hitting percentage this season and Liu is the MIAA’s all-time leader in assists. The Hornets made it to the South Central Regional semifinal this season.

The full release from ESU is after the jump:

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Breaking down Fort Hays State, Emporia State, Pittsburg State and Washburn

My MIAA preview hit newsstands today and the focus was on Washburn CB Pierre Desir and his unique story. Desir, in case you didn’t know, might be the very best Division II cornerback in the country. Here’s a look at the 4 MIAA teams in Kansas and some thoughts on them:


Junior quarterback Dane Simoneau had a breakout season in 2009, his first year as a full-time starter. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Salina native threw for a school-record 2,955 yards and 26 touchdowns on his way to second-team All-MIAA honors and is a leading candidate for MIAA Offensive Player of the Year this season. Simoneau, who is also an all-MIAA shortstop for the Ichabods, was a serious candidate for MIAA MVP last year until a few tough losses late in the season. With Simoneau, NW Missouri’s Blake Bolles, Fort Hays State’s Mike Garrison and Central Missouri’s Eric Czerniewski, this could be the year of the QB. Ickies will be hard-pressed to replace MIAA Defensive player of the year Zach Watkins at LB, but safety Casey Curran is no slouch.


Longtime Pittsburg State assistant coach Tim Beck takes over for Chuck Broyles, and will try to steer PSU back to the top of the MIAA after going 5-6 last season — the first losing season for PSU in 30 years. Senior free safety and Ness City product Alex Kuhlman is a two-time All-MIAA performer and the team’s top returning defender, recording 71 tackles and two interceptions last season. Starting quarterback is going to be either Mark Smith or Zac Dickey, although I’m not sure if either can make that much of a difference. Running back Terrance Isaac ran for almost 1,000 yards last season and was a second-team all-MIAA pick. He’ll shoulder most of the load on offense.


Last season’s 2-9 record capped another disastrous year for the Hornets under Garin Higgins, whose teams are 9-24 since he arrived in 2007 and haven’t had had a winning season since 2003. Honorable mention All-MIAA linebacker Nathan Linsey is the bright spot on the defense, recording 82 tackles last season and leading the league in fumble recoveries. It’s amazing to me that ESU can be so good in so many sports but fall short in football over and over again. They should be better, point blank. You’ve got to think time is running out for Higgins.


The Tigers went 6-5 last season for their first winning record since 2004 and first since joining the MIAA. Fort Hays returns 9 of 11 starters on offense, including second-team all-MIAA quarterback Mike Garrison, who led Butler Community College to a national title in 2007. Garrison is a dual-threat QB who passed for 2,606 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 375 yards and five touchdowns in 2009. Tigers should also get a boost on defense from Michigan State transfer Roderick Jenrette, a linebacker/safety type.

I’m out. TA.

Ps. Headed to Butler-Navarro tomorrow. Check back here for live, in-game blogging and tweets.

Cool honor for ESU’s national title in women’s hoops


So take the turnpike to Emporia, and you’ll see this.

Pretty cool, right? They’re doing some type of tour thing this fall, and here’s where you can meet the players — they’re in Wichita on Sept. 16 at Pump House in Old Town for “ESU Happy Hour,” which I think sounds fun. But I’m easily entertained.

Date Time Location Event

Sept. 10, 2010 6:00pm Hutchinson, Kan.Fan Fair – ESU State Fair Event

Sept. 16, 2010 5:30pm Wichita, Kan.Pump House in Old Town ESU Happy Hour

Sept. 23, 2010 5:30pm Topeka, Kan.Henry T’s E-State Social

Sept 25, 2010 3:30 (approx.) Emporia, Kan. Sauder Alumni Center Post Game

Oct. 7, 2010 5:30pm Kansas City, Mo. ESU Night at the Boulevard Brewery


ESU’s Sheeley, Brattin playing for NPF’s Tennessee Diamonds



Here’s the thing about Sunflower Slate — once you’re with us, we’ll roll with you wherever you go … in this case, all the way to National Pro Fastpitch.

Former Emporia State players Samantha Sheeley, a pitcher, and catcher Aubree Brattin are both on the roster for the Tennessee Diamonds of the NPF, a new (kind of) franchise that used to be the Rockford Thunder before moving this past offseason. Sheeley (who you can follow here on Twitter, check the pic!) led the Hornets to the national championship game in 2008 and was an All-American before moving on to the NPF last year, where she was 3-5 with a 4.32 ERA for the Thunder and pitched with former Texas star Cat Osterman. Brattin is in her first season in the NPF and was an all-MIAA pick in 2009. You can follow both of them this season via the NPF site. The NPF has been around in some form since 1989 and is sponsored in part by Major League Baseball … so you’ve got to think this league has got a pretty good shelf life. Good luck to these two.


PS. Me + This Song + Wii + Just Dance = Magic

Disappointing finish for ESU baseball, softball


Seems weird to write that a team had a disappointing finish when they both DID make it to an NCAA Regional … but I think, in this case, it fits.

As far as the baseball team goes, the amount of success Emporia State has had under Bob Fornelli is really incredible — he’s single-handedly turned the Hornets into one of the elite teams in NCAA Division II.  But I think even he would admit (I hope he would admit, anyways) that one year after finishing as the national runner-up, the preseason No. 1 team in America, with a handful of preseason All-Americans … that this team came up short. No MIAA regular-season title, no MIAA Tournament title, and then this. Was it the weight of expectations? Only the people in the locker room know for sure. But I can’t help but think this wasn’t in line with what they had planned for the season.

The ESU softball team is more of a hard-luck tale. Their greatest disappointment has got to come from losing in an NCAA Regional that they’re hosting — compounded by the fact that both losses came to the same team, Angelo State, and both came after blowing leads. In this case, the expecations didn’t come so much before the season as during it, when the Hornets blistered the rest of the MIAA, winning both regular season and league tourney titles. Here’s the thing about ESU, though … they bring almost everybody back, including both ace freshman pitchers in Paige Ladenburger and Jennifer Heerey. If I were a betting man (which I’m not) I’d say they’d be a no-brainer top 5 pick next year and one of the prohibitive favorites to win the 2011 national title. That’s just too much firepower coming back.


ESU softball wins MIAA Tournament … now can they win the whole thing?



Miranda Campbell, what more can you do?

The MIAA player of the year belted a grand slam to propel Emporia State to its SEVENTH straigth MIAA Tournament championship on Saturday in a 10-1 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Overland Park, and now the Hornets will have to wait until Monday to find out if they will host one of two South Central Regionals, which should happen as they were No. 2 in the regional rankings headed into the league tourney.

Now, the question needs to be asked: Can they win the whole thing?

It appears they have a team with a legitimate shot — a pair of aces in freshman pitchers Paige Ladenburger and Jennifer Heerey (a Goddard product, BTW), a superstar third baseman in Campbell and a great coach in Kristi Bredbenner. So, yeah, they could win it.

On another note — and maybe this is something I can get into this summer — I am continually amazed by the product that ESU puts out in its ability to compete on the national level. Just in the last year we’ve seen the baseball team finish as national runner-ups, womens’ basketball win a national title and now softball with a legit shot. And all this without their two marquee sports — football and men’s basketball — doing much of anything recently. I’m just saying. It bears investigation, and commendation. Good thing I’m here!!!



Schneider leaves ESU for Stephen F. Austin



Big things going on in Emporia this afternoon …

Emporia State women’s coach Brandon Schneider made the leap from Division II to Division I today, taking the head coach job at Stephen F. Austin. Schneider led the Hornets to their first NCAA D2 title last month. To put Schneider’s time at ESU in perspective — the Hornets have won 702 games in their program’s history … 306 came under Schneider’s watch. Out of 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament in school history, he guided them to 11.  So, yeah, he leaves some pretty big shoes to fill. But he also leaves three starters and the Elite Eight MVP in Alli Volkens, so there’s that.

“We are so grateful for the unbelievably loyal support we received during our time in Emporia,” Schneider said in the ESU press release. “We bulit relationships and made friendships that we hope will continue regardless of where our career takes us.”

What’s he getting into at SFA? A pretty good situation, it seem. The Ladyjacks (?) just went to the WNIT this season and have been to the NCAA Tournament 18 times in school history — including 5 Sweet 16s. They’re also in the NCAA Division I all-time top 10 with 839 wins and a .715 winning percentage. So not a bad gig. And I’m sure he’s going to be making considerably more $$$$$$$. And that ain’t never bad.