Tuesday, March 2, 2021

DePaul WBB Finishes Regular Season with a Loss

DePaul lost its third game of the last four and are slumping heading into the BIG EAST tournament. Coach Doug Bruno and the team are frustrated, but confident they will rise to the challenge as they have in last three tournaments.

The game was close throughout,k although Butler always seemed to be in control. In the end, DePaul had several chances to go ahead, but they failed to convert enough shots and fell short.

Butler held a lead for 19:00 compared to DePaul's 15:08 on top. There were 14 ead changes and 13 ties. DePaul won most of the team cateogories. DePaul oytscored Butler from turnovers (20-10), on second chances (11-4), on fast breaks (13-10) and from the bench (34-13). Butler edged DePaul in points in the paint (42-34).

DePaul shot 34.6% from the field, 27.0% from beyond the three point line and 83.3% from the free throw line. Butler shot 54.1%, 45.5% and 90.9% from the same areas.

DePaul's Lexi Held and Deja Church each had 20 points to pace the Blue Demons. Other DePaul scorers included Jorie Allen (18), Darrione Rogers (13) De Bekelja (7) and  Hannah Purcell (3). Church led the way with 12 rebounds. Held also had seven steals.

Butler's Upe Atosu led the Bulldogs with 22 points. Nyamer Diew grabbed 8 rebpunds to lead the team.

DePaul finished the regular season with a record of 14-7, 11-5 in BIG EAST Conference play.

It should be noted the Blue Demons managed to make it through the entire regular season without any health hiatuses. That's a major accomplishment. Coach Bruno talked about that being a double edge sword. Other teams had additional rest periods due to postponements over health issues. Did those extra off days help or hinder teams. There is no answer, but it added to the challenge of the season.

Individually, Held ranks fifth in the nation in steals. She has 38 steals in her last eight games.

In the post-game Senior Day ceremony, DePaul honored Dee Bekelja, Deja Church, Jolene Daninger, Kiara Dallmann, injured graduate transfer Courtney Fredrickson and managers Steve Cieniawa and Kezjahree Wingate. It's unfortunate there were no fans to cheer this group, but their accomplishments and contributions were noted.

DePaul heads into the BIG EAST Conference tournament as defending champs. The tourney starts on Friday, March 5, but DePaul's first game is on Saturday, against Villanova at 3 PM.

Go to DePaulBlueDemons.com for more info on the team. Also, check here, GlobalTravelerUSA.com, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com for coverage of the Blue Demons.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Friend Encounters: Lisa Marie Varon and Wallace Shawn

Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

Over the years, I became friends with (now) retired pro wrestler Lisa Marie Varon. Many years ago, Lisa owned The Squared Circle, a cool restaurant on Chicago's north side. I went there many times and Lisa was always a lot of fun. She wasn't merely an owner in name.
Lisa has had success wherever she went. She was a 2x Women's champ in the WWE, a 5x champ in Impact Wrestling and she won several awards during her time in fitness competitions. She has a great personality and is very good to her fans.
I always enjoy seeing Lisa at Wizard World. Besides catching up with her, one of the fun things i seeing her interact with other celebrities. Lisa doesn't act above it all. She loves seeing her favorites, just like the rest of us do.
At Wizard World Columbus 2019, Lisa was excited to met actor Wallace Shawn. Like Lisa, I loved Shawn in The Princess Bride. Among many other roles, he also currently co-stars on tv's Young Sheldon.
Lisa posted about meeting Shawn on her social media accounts.

One of the highlights of @wizardworld was meeting Wallace Shawn from my favorite movie, #princessbride . #wizardworld #wizardworldcolumbus #inconceivable #lisamarievaron #wwevictoria #tnatara #geekatheart #nerdsrule #blackwidow #widowspeakfreak

Shawn was happy to meet a long-time fan like Lisa. It's really fun watching two totally different celebrities connect at events like Wizard World.
While retired from in-ring action, Lisa is still busy. One of her latest projects is GAW TV (Grown A** Women), a podcast she does with Mickie James and SoCal Val. It's a lot of fun and not just wrestling talk.
Go to WizardWorld.com for info on all of their events. Also, follow Lisa at @RealLisaMarie on twitter and at LisaMarieVaron on Facebook. Also, look for GAW TV on most podcast platforms.
Lisa Marie Varon and Walace Shawn in Columbus, OH-October 2019.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Celebrity Jersey Cards #523 Candace Parker & Bonnie Gillespie

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards of celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today, I feature athletes repping the Chicago Bulls.

Born in St. Louis, MO, but raised in the Chicago suburbs, Candace Parker starred at Naperville Central High School and Tennessee, before joining the WNBA Los Angeles Saprks. Recently, Parker returned home by signing a free agent contract with the Chicago Sky. Parker donned a Bulls jersey as part of the NBA All-Star game festivities in Chicago in 2020 to earn her Celebrity Jersey Card. Her #9 jersey is curious, as she wore #3 with the Sparks.and Tennessee and #32 in high school. Luol Deng and Ronb Harper are the most notable Bulls to sport that number.

I met Australian Bonnie Gillespie through the Legends Football League. Because she played in her native land, I have not met her yet, but I am hoping someday it happens. Bonnie moved from football to MMA fighting, where she destroyed her first opponent. Bonnie has overcome a lot in her life and "the little nugget" is an inspiration. She wore the classic MJ #23 jersey while striking a single bicep pose and securing a place in Celebrity Jersey Card history.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Cards That Never Were: Norm Van Lier Topps 1979-80

Cards That Never Were is a recurring series in which I create virtual trading cards for players missed in various sets. It is a concept I have borrowed from far too many to list, but I appreciate all of their efforts. More of my creations and many great creations of others can be found in the Custom Baseball Cards Facebook group (and not just baseball cards).
After a successful collegiate career at St. Francis University, Norm Van Lier was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the 3rd round of the 1969 NBA draft. He was immediately traded to the Cincinnati Royals. He led the NBA in assists in the '70-71 season, but was traded back to the Bulls in the '71-72 season. "Stormin' Norman" became one of the most popular Bulls, as well as making three All-Star teams. He finished his NBA career with one season with the Milwaukee Bucks in '78-79. All told, he played in 746 games during his 10 seasons, averaging 11.8 points, 7 assists and 4.68 rebounds per game.
For his efforts, Topps gave Van Lier cards in every set from '70-71 through '78-79. That only left a "career capper" from his year with the Bucks.

Friday, February 26, 2021

DePaul WBB Drops Second Straight

The DePaul Blue Demons took a double-digit loss for the second game in a row. Maruqtte, DePaul's rivals across the northern border, came to Wintrust and got a big 85-71 victory.

Marquette got off to a fast start and held the lead for most of the game. DePaul only managed to lead for 2:02 compared to Marquette's 34:31. DePaul's biggest lead was six and they last held the lead ealy in the second quarter. Marquette was basically in control throughout the game. It was 18-15 Marquette after one quarter, but DePaul did manage to tie it at 33 at halftime. Marquette pulled ahead to stay in the third quarter, leading 63-56. They expanded that lead in the fourth quarter to win by 14.

Marquette also won every major category. Marquette outscored DePaul on turnovers (20-26), in the paint (66-36), on second chances (20-9), on fast breaks (20-10) and off the bench (6-3). 

DePaul shot 38.9% from the field, 21.4% from three point land and 85.7% from the free thrown line. Marquette shot 50.7%, 16.7% and 70.0% respectively.

Lexi Held paced DePaul with 23 points. Sonya Morris had 128 and Deja Church had 10. Three others only had single digit points, including Jorie Allen (9), Dee Bekelja (8) and Darrione Rogers (3). Allen's six rebounds paced DePaul on the boards.

Selena Lott's 25 paced Marquette. Camryn Taylor nabbed 11 rebounds to lead that category.

DePaul Coach Doug Bruno seemed as frustrated as ever, as he shouted plays and substituted players in an effort to change the course of the game. Unfortunately, this just wasn't DePaul's night.

DePaul came into the game ranked No. 24/23. The Blue Demons now sit at 13-6, 10-4 in BIG EAST Conference play. They return to action Saturday with a noon tipoff at Providence that will be televised on the BIG EAST Digital Network.

Go to DePaulBlueDemons.com for more info on the team. Check here, GlobalTravelerUSA.com, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com for more coverage of the DePaul Women's basketball team.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Gavin Smith At Motor City Comic Con 2017

Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Gavin Smith is a freelance artist. He is the artist for The Accelerators, Ghost in the Shell, and Gregory Graves. He has also a ton of other work, including creating and self publishing his own comic book Human City.
I have met Smith several times, including at Motor City Comic Con in 2017. Unfortunately I have never had the chance to talk to him about his enthusiasm for corgis, the generally happy little pups. I'd like to ask if he every incorporated corgis in his work and if not, will he ever do so. It would be cool to see the cheerful dogs mixed with his illustrations.
Check out Gavin Smith's website to learn more about him and his work. Go to MotorCityComicCon.com for more info and follow MCCC on Facebook for more frequent updates. 
Gavin Smith and me in Novi, MI-May 2017.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Celebrity Jersey Cards #522 Alexa Bliss & Barbie Blank

This is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys.

When last we saw Alexa Bliss here, she was wearing a New York Yankees jersey. Today, she earns her second Celebrity Jersey Card by moving west to rep the Columbus Blue Jackets. Seemingly, this wasn't even part of her beloved cosplaying. Already the winner of championships seven times, Bliss is a rising star in the WWE, who has overcome an eating disorder.
Barbie Blank rose to fame as the double named Kelly Kelly. She won the Divas title once and the 24/7 title, too,,before leaving pro wrestling. Blank was part of an intermission event at a Syracuse Crunch game, thus earning her another Celebrity Jersey Card. We have previously seen Blank repping the Chicago Blackhawks and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

DePaul WBB Cold in Loss to Creighton

 Creighton University turned the tables on No. 19 DePaul by taking an early lead and cruising to an 83-72 victory. This was the third straight season Creighton beat DePaul at Wintrust Arena.

Creighton held the lead for 31:27 to DePaul's 7:06. There were only three lead changes and one tie, as Creighton stayed in control of the game. Creighton led 25-17 at the end of the first quarter. DePaul actually matched Creighton in the second and third quarters, but Creighton kept the seven point lead heading into the fourth quarter. When DePaul inched back, Creighton quickly answered and spread the lead to end the game with a big 11 point upset.

DePaul led in points from turnovers (16-12), but Creighton swept the other categories. Creighton took points in the paint (38-28), second chance points (8-4), fast break points (12-6) and bench points (21-6).

The real story of the game was the shooting percentages. DePaul shot 38.2% from the field, 21.4% from three point land and 80% from the free throw line. Creighton shot an amazing 58.0%, 53.3% and 94.4% in those same categories.

Lexi Held and Sonya Morris lead DePaul with 17 points each, followed by Jorie Allen with 16. Dee Bekelja added 10, while Deja Church and Darrione Rogers each chipped in six points. Allen also had seven rebounds to lead the Blue Demons. Held continued her thievery, nabbing another seven steals.

Creighton scored 27 to lead the Blue Jays. Carly Bachelor's seven rebounds paced the team.

In the post-game presser, Coach Doug Bruno,  Allen and Held couldn't hide their disappointment with the game. All stated the loss wouldn't leave their minds quickly, but they would start focusing on their next game right away. Allen also talked about following her dad and uncle by playing at DePaul.

I asked Coach Bruno about the addition of WNBA star Jewell Lyod to his staff. The Chicago area native won a championship with the Seattle Storm last season and joined Bruno's staff on a limited basis. Technically, Loyd is listed as a Team Manager because of coaching limits, but she is essentially another assistant for Coach Bruno who is very familiar because of her Chicago roots. Having a local star with the resume of Loyd will definitely help the Blue Demons players now and potentially in their professional futures.

DePaul now stands at 13-4, 10-3 in Big East play. The Blue Demons return to action Wednesday, February 24 against Marquette at Wintrust Arena. DePaul's Big East rivals to the north are in second place at 15-4, 12-3. While neither team has a legitimate chance of catching first place Connecticut, this game could determine second place.

For more info on the team, go to DePaulBlueDemons.com. Also, check my recurring coverage here, on GlobalTravelerUSA.com, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Friend Encounters: Don Muraco and Larry Freda

Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

Larry Freda is another friend I have never met. Larry has met hundreds of others though. I always enjoy seeing Larry's social media posts showing the many interesting folks from wrestling and elsewhere.
Several years ago, Larry met The Rock, the original "Rock," aka Don Muraco. Long before Dwayne "The Rock" smelled what we were cooking, Don "The Rock" was carving out an excellent career in wrestling.
Muraco made his wrestling debut in 1970. He wrestled for the AWA and other territorial organizations, before joining the WWF in 1981. Muraco won the Intercontinental title twice, both times defeating Pedro Morales. During his time in the WWF, Muraco was first called "The Magnificent Muraco," but later became "The Rock" during a face run. 
He won the 1985 King of the Ring and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. Muraco retired in 1995.
Larry met Muraco at the Legends of the Ring XIV. The LOR is a great place to meet legendary wrestlers. The next Legends of the Ring event is scheduled for October 3 at the APA Hotel in Woodbridge, NJ. The guest list is starting to grow and it includes Ricky Steamboat, Glenn "Kane" Jacobs and Layla.
For more info on this great fan fest, go to LegendsoftheRing.com. Also, check the Legends of the Ring Fanfest Facebook page for more frequent updates and news.
Larry Freda and Don Muraco in Monroe, NJ-June 2012.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

On the Beat With WIU Softball Coach Alisa Goler

Last weekend, new Western Illinois University Coach Alisa Goler and her Leathernecks softball squad started the season with a 3-1 record in the DePaul Dome Tournament in Rosemont, Illinois. The weekend highlight was a stunning 8-7 victory over DePaul after trailing 7-1 heading into the seventh inning.

Goler was named Head Softball Coach in June 2020, after the 2020 season was stopped due to the pandemic. She is the fourth head coach in WIU history.

An outstanding player at the University of Georgia, Goler's name is all over the school's record books and leader boards. The three-time All-American set records for home runs (58), runs batted in (236), walks (184), slugging percentage (.686), sacrifice flies (tied at 12), multiple home run games (9) and grand slams (4). Her 184 walks set the SEC record, while ranking seventh nationally. Goler was also a four-time All-Southeast Region selection, a three-time All-SEC honoree, a 2009 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist and a member of the 2009 Women's College World Series All-Tournament team.

A native of Frankfort, Illinois, Goler was drafted by her home area Chicago Bandits in the third round of the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch draft. She proceeded to be named the 2011 NPF Rookie of the Year, while clubbing a league-leading 11 home runs. Goler spent four seasons delighting Bandit Nation with her play, before departing for the Pennsylvania Rebellion. 

During her seven seasons in the NPF, Goler had already started her coaching journey. Goler began her coaching career as the hitting coach at Roosevelt University. A three year stint (2016-2018) followed at Syracuse as the recruiting coordinator and hitting and infield coach. After that, she was an assistant coach at Penn State. 

In naming Goler the head coach, WIU Director of Athletics Danielle Surprenant said, “Her passion for student-athlete success, both on and off the field, quickly became evident during the search process. Alisa is an accomplished player and coach, and I look forward to watching her lead the Leathernecks to the next level.”

For starters, that next level would be winning consistently. The Leathernecks have played around the .440 level over the last 16 seasons. Goler is bringing an impressive resume of winning and is expected to continue that trend with the Leathernecks.

Although last weekend started with a 3-1 loss to Valparaiso, the Leathernecks rebounded to beat Loyola-Chicago twice, 1-0 and 6-3, before entering Sunday's game against tournament host DePaul.

Sunday's game was scoreless through three innings. DePaul scored one in the fourth, which WIU answered in the top of the fifth. DePaul came right back and plated five in the bottom of the fifth and added one more in the sixth to make it 7-1 going into the last inning. Six WIU runs later and a scoreless bottom of the seventh brought the game into extra innings, where WIU scored one and held DePaul scoreless to steal the win.

It doesn't get much more exciting than that. I don't ever recall seeing that big of a comeback that late in a game. Making it even more impressive is it being only the fourth game of the season for WIU. Plus these athletes are so young. Of course, they have all probably played many years of ball, but to have the composure and maturity to battle back like that speaks volumes on the attitude of this team. That leads right back to Coach Goler.

I knew Goler from her days with the Chicago Bandits. Actually, she was one of my first interviews with the Bandits.

Earlier this week, seven years later, I had the opportunity to interview Goler again. Goler talked about thinking like a coach while playing pro ball, working with her pitching coach, taking over the WIU program, and much more, including the big weekend series.

I also had to ask Goler about her bobblehead. Much to my surprise and amusement, her bobblehead was actually on a shelf behind her. I gleefully told her I also own one, thanks to Bandit Nation's Kevin Mooney after I had searched for many years.

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview and hope to revisit Goler as the season develops. I'd like to get her thoughts on a few other softball topics, as well as progress reports on the Leathernecks. I also hope to see Goler and the Leathernecks on Saturday, May 8 when they come to Chicago for a doubleheader against DePaul, if fans or media are allowed at that time.

It really has been a pleasure seeing Goler's success over the years. WIU picked a winner and I have no doubt she will turn the Leathernecks into consistent winners.

The Leathernecks are scheduled to return to action on Friday, February 19 with a doubleheader against Bradley in Peoria, Illinois. I'll be following the Leathernecks and providing recurring coverage here all season .

Thank you to Coach Goler for her time and consideration. Thanks also to Graduate Assistant-Athletic Communications Keion Robinson for coordinating the interview

Go to GoLeathernecks.com for more info on Coach Goler and her team. Also, check here, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com for my recurring coverage.