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.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

DePaul WBB Holds off Xavier for 4th Straight Win

In a game similar to Monday night's win, DePaul beat Xavier 83-75. Once again, the Blue Demons led most for the way, and held off a few late Xavier surges to secure another win.

DePaul and Xavier battled in the first quarter with the Blue Demons having a slight edge at 19-17. A big second quarter saw DePaul gain a 36-27 halftime lead, a lead DePaul held through the end. Xavier got the edge 48-47 in the second half, but it wasn't enough to catch DePaul. Overall, DePaul led for 33:47 to Xavier's 4:08, although the game often seemed closer than that.

DePaul held the advantage in points from turnovers (25-9), second chance points (17-15) and fast break points (17-8). Xavier topped DePaul in points in the paint (40-34) and bench points (19-5). DePaul losing the bench points battle isn;t new to the team, as Coach Doug Bruno is relying mostly on his starters.

DePaul shot 38.3% from the field, 26.7% from three point land and 72.2% from the free throw line. Xavier shot 45.8%, 37.5% and 83.3% respectively.

Lexi Held topped the scoring sheet with 25 points. She also added six assists, five steals, two blocks and four rebounds in a well-rounded effort. Sonya Morris added 22 points and seven assists. Other Blue Demons in the scoing column were Dee Bekelja (20), Darrione Rogers (6), Jorie Allen (5), Hannah Purcell (3) and Kiara Dallmann (2).

Kaelynn Satterfield paced Xavier with 16 points. Three Musketeers, A'riana Gray, Aaliyah Dunham and Satterfield tied for the team rebound lead with seven.

As Coach Bruno discussed in the post-game presser, the great unknown was how Xavier would play after being off since January 23 due to COVID-19-related issues within its program. The ever-practical Bruno added that it's actually like that layoff or not. Any game can go any way. Still, the quick DePaul tempo could not have been a great welcome back to Xavier, but they held tough and forced DePaul to play hard the full 40 minutes.

One big highlight yesterday was Morris joining the 1,000 point club. Chjurch and Held reached that milestone earlier this season. In the post-game session, Morris and Held talked about their achievements, with both revealing they weren't aware of it as it was happening. Now they are quite aware of it as DePaul staffers and media members all congratulated them.

The Blue Demons now stand at 13-4. Those losses were against No. 1/1 Connecticut twice, No. 3/2 Louisville and No. 5/5 Texas A&M. DePaul returns to action on Saturday at Wintrust against Creighton in a game that will be televised nationally on FS1.

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

Friday, February 19, 2021

Happy Birthday Sam

Today, I celebrate the birthday of my niece Sam. I'm sure she is celebrating with husband Kyle and their three furry ones (Tris, Tux and Tim), but I am saluting her from across the country.

I love the picture below. It is pure Sam! While we all would love to have them back in Illinois, I am so happy for her. They wanted to move to Colorado and they did. They love it out there.

I am so proud of her. To me, that was a very courageous thing to do. Moving across the country, away from your family, friends and life is a gutsy decision. It is more than I could have done. They are living life and loving it. We don't see them as often, but it's comforting to know they are doing so well.

Sam has also courageously worked in the health care field throughout the pandemic. I thank her for being a frontline worker.

I am sure Kyle and the puppos will treat you right today, but also know your old uncle is sending you lots of love and cheers. You absolutely rock, Sam! Don't ever change.

Sam Kolb in CO-Summer 2020.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Welcome Back DePaul Softball

The DePaul Blue Demons softball team was finally back in action. Opening their 2021 season inside the warm confines of the Dome in Rosemont, the Blue Demons started with a big win. The Blue Demons went 3-2 over the weekend but unfortunately ended it with a tough loss.

The weekend started with a big 8-0 victory over Valparaiso. Unfortunately, it ended with an 8-7 loss to Western Illinois, in a game that saw DePaul squander a 7-1 lead. In between, the Blue Demons went 2-1 to make it 3-2 for the weekend series.

There were some nice highlights, including Natalie Halvorson's brilliant pitching performance and some explosive hitting. Some negatives were blowing the lead, occasional shaky defense and spotty pitching. All told though, the good outweighed the bad and things look very positive for the Blue Demons.

DePaul is off until the Coach B Classic on Feb. 26-28 in Carbondale, Illinois. They open their home season on March 20. I'll be covering the team here, on GlobalSportsRadio.com, Patch.com and GlobalTravelerUSA.com.

Fans were not allowed in the Dome over the weekend. Nothing has been announced about fans at DePaul's Cacciatore Stadium. Even if I am not in the stands, I am still happy to have softball back.

Coach Tracie Adix-Zins and me in Rosemont, IL-May 2019

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

DePaul WBB Goes to 12-4 in Play4Kay Game

With the Chicago temperature getting colder and the snow piling up, it took DePaul a little while to warm up and start piling up the points. A hot third quarter propelled the Blue Demons to an 82-76 victory over BIG EAST rival Seton Hall.

Seton Hall led 17-13 after the first quarter, but DePaul tied it at 31 at halftime. DePaul came out strong in the third quarter to lead 61-51 at the end of three. Despite a Seton Hall fourth quarter surge, DePaul was able to hang on to grab the win. Overall, DePaul held the lead for 28:09 compared to Seton Hall's 9:56.

Both teams were cold from three-point land, with DePaul hitting 2-13 and Seton Hall 1-12. Things improved for both in the second half, as DePaul went 6-14 and Seton Hall went 4-14 from beyond the arc. DePaul finished shooting 29,6%, while Seton Hall ended at 19.2% from three-point land.

DePaul shot 39.2% from the field and 84.2% on free throws, while Seton Hall shot 49.5% and 43.8% respectively. Seton Hall's poor shooting really was the difference in the six point victory for the Blue Demons.

Seton Hall held the advantage in points from turnovers (15-10), points in the paint (48-28), second chance points (15-10) and points from the bench (11-6). DePaul only led in fast break points (23-19).

DePaul's Dee Bekelja had a double-double, with 22 points and 10 rebounds, both leading the team. Other DePaul scorers included Sonya Morris (20), Lexi Held (17), Jorie Allen (10), Deja Church (7) and Darrione Rogers (6). 

Lauren Park-Lane paced Seton Hall with 24 points. Andra Espinoza-Hunter led the irates with 15 rebounds.

Held scored her 1,000th point for the Blue Demons. She also hit two clutch free throws with seconds remaining to ice the win.

“Double-Double Dee” Bekelja notched her second double-double of the season. It was also the third one of her career.

No. 19/22 DePaul improved to 12-4, 9-2 in the BIG EAST while the Pirates dropped to 9-6, 7-5. The Blue Demons return to action Wednesday night against Xavier at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

One final important note about Monday's game was the focus on raising awareness  and funding to combat breast cancer by prominently featuring pink. The Play4Kay game honors the legendary former North Carolina State coach Kay Pow, who courageously fought cancer for 22 years before passing in 2009.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno talked about Coach Kay in the post-game press session. His respect for Coach Kay was obvious as he got emotional just speaking about the iconic coach.

Also in the presser, Bekelja discussed her big night and her new nickname. She also stated she probably would be celebrating the win with a pizza while the team stays at a hotel near Wintrust through Wednesday's game. Bekelja also discussed learning and growing from the experience of holding off the Seton Hall surge at the end of the game.

Held was next up in the presser. She talked about reaching the 1,000 point milestone. Held also discussed the pressure and satisfaction of nailing the two clutch free throws.

Go to DePaulBlueDemons.com for more info on Coach Bruno's squad. Also, check here, GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com, Patch.com and GlobalTravelerUSA.com for my recurring coverage.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Happy Birthday Louie

Today I celebrate the birthday of one of my oldest friends. Louie and I go back to September 1987, when I took his work chair (unbeknownst to me). Fortunately, we moved past that faux pas.

We've worked together ever since then, first for Lerner and then on our own for the last last 17 years. There's nobody better to be my business partner than Louie.

Of course, the bond goes beyond work. At a time when I was at a low point, Louie put me on his softball team, when I had no business playing with those guys. I'll forever be grateful though. I must admit, I did eventually become a decent part of the team. Still, Louie didn;t have to do it and I am not sure how it went over with the rest of the team at first, but it gave me a lot of fun at a time when I really needed it.

That is just one of our many bonding experiences. We signed on with Global Traveler to handle nationwide distribution when we had no idea how we would do it, but we did it. That was always Louie's motto. Grab it first and we'll figure it out. I was always the more tentative one. I guess together it was a good balance, because 33 years later, we are still friends and solid business partners.

Happy birthday Louie. Yes, you're still younger than me, but percentage-wise you are catching up.

Louie and the Boys of Summer in Denver, CO-Summer 2018.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Friend Encounters: Dana DeLorenzo and Tony Feddeler

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

As far as Friend Encounters celebs and friends, it's hard to beat the combo today. Tony Feddeler is a great friend and Dana DeLorenzo is one of my favorite celebs.
I have featured Tony here many times. Like me, he is a celeb hound. He has met athletes, wrestlers, entertainers and other stars of all sorts. We occasionally team up for celeb encounters. I would be terribly envious of Tony meeting Dana, except I had already met her a few times.
Dana had done it all. A DePaul graduate (why couldn't she be there when I went?), Dana appeared in musicals and on stage throughout the Chicago area. She was also in House of Winehouse, an Amy Winehouse tribute band. They were voted Best Tribute Band by The Chicago Reader in 2010.
Dana's big break was playing Kelly Maxwell on Ash Vs. Evil Dead on Starz. She was the foul-mouthed quick-witted bad ass female sidekick to Bruce Campbell's main character.
I'm not calling Dana foul-mouthed, but that character seems like a natural for Dana and I love her for it. We've had a lot of fun at comic cons over the years. I occasionally like asking for odd pictures, but Dana actually initiated "fun" pictures with me at a convention a few years ago. Of course, I was up for anything, especially with Dana.
Beauty, brains, humor, dana has it all. Tony might argue that description applies to him, too, but I'll leave that to his wife to decide, although I do think he is funny. Any way, Tony and I totally agree we love Dana!
Follow Dana at @IAmDanaDeLorenzo on twitter for updates, news and fun. Tony doesn't have a twitter account (but he should), but you can keep up with his celeb encounters here on occasion.
Tony Feddeler and Dana DeLorenzo in Schaumburg, IL-November 2018.