Alex Rodriguez, banned for a year over performance-enhancing drugs, completed his suspension with the end of the World Series, won by San Francisco in seven games over Kansas City, and is eligible to return to the Major Leagues.Rodriguez missed the entire 2014 season after being suspended following MLB’s investigation into the Biogenesis case. Rodriguez has not spoken with the media, and his public appearances have been limited to random football and baseball games.Rodriguez, 39, has no formal plans yet to speak with the media, his spokesman said Thursday morning.The New York Yankees and Rodriguez both appear as if they are trying to be conciliatory after the rancor of his suspension. Rodriguez has three years and $61 million remaining on his contract. As part of the deal negotiated after the 2007 season, Rodriguez can earn an additional $6 million by hitting just six more home runs and tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list with 660.Manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman have both said they are unsure what to expect from Rodriguez on the field. Rodriguez may have a chance to retain his starting third base spot, but that will rest largely on what the Yankees do this offseason and if Rodriguez is fit enough.Rodriguez has played in only 44 games over the past two years and has had surgery on both of his hips. Girardi has talked with Rodriguez about trying to play first base as a backup. Rodriguez would also DH if he is on the team.Despite the bad blood from the lengthy and heated appeals process, the Yankees have given no indications they will release Rodriguez. If they did so, they would owe him his entire salary. Yankees officials have said that if Rodriguez can still play, they will take him back for 2015.
Month: September 2019
K. Garnett2003-0489.033.219.06.816.2 The NBA Christmas Day games are one of the league’s most visible showcases. Rivalries are deepened, as with the Clippers-Warriors matchups in 2013 and 2014, or rejoined, as with the centerpiece of this year’s slate, a finals rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the last seven years, the Oklahoma City Thunder have enjoyed prime placement on the Christmas marquee, playing against some of the best teams in the league. But this season, after former MVP Kevin Durant left town over the summer, the Thunder’s star power has diminished enough to warrant a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, currently 9-19 and one of the worst teams in the league.We can use FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings to see just how far the Wolves fall below the Thunder’s standards. Here are Oklahoma City’s Christmas Day opponents beginning in 2010: C. Paul2008-0987.832.47.915.715.9 12/25/2015ThunderBulls16501524 L. James2011-12220.127.116.11.815.5 12/25/2013KnicksThunder17131451 DATEHOME TEAMAWAY TEAMTHUNDER ELOOPPONENT ELO L. Bird1986-8798.633.611.09.215.0 G. Hill1996-9784.530.913.010.516.2 K. Love2013-1497.335.517.06.015.4 L. James2015-1693.318.104.22.1685.6 G. McGinnis1974-75105.133.722.214.171.124 L. Bird1987-8897.937.611.67.715.0 R. Westbrook2014-1595.741.110.612.517.6 O. Robertson1961-62124.926.710.89.914.2 12/25/2014SpursThunder15591671 D. Robinson1993-94126.96.36.199.315.2 D. Cousins2014-1595.435.5188.8.131.52 L. James2009-1091.440.09.811.516.5 You might notice that in 2013 the Thunder got stuck playing the New York Knicks, TV’s worst recurring Christmas Day special. Except 2013 was the rare occasion when the Knicks looked like a legitimate NBA team coming into the season. Their preseason Elo rating was 1579, 128 points higher than their rating on Christmas Day, or the difference between a top-10 team and a bottom-5 one. So the Thunder weren’t supposed to have a dog of a game, they just ended up with one because the Knicks fell off the wagon.That wasn’t the case for this season’s Timberwolves. Minnesota came into the season with a rating of 1434, and has since fallen to 1426. The idea with the Wolves was that they have one of the brightest talents in the league, Karl-Anthony Towns, and a roster packed with young, exciting players liable to throw a 30-foot alley-oop or dunk on your head. They were supposed to be among the baby-faced upstarts in the league this season, and they might yet be if they ever figure out how to hold onto a lead.This is a flavor of game the league likes to book. Last Christmas saw a similar matchup between the Miami Heat, two years removed from LeBron James’ leaving in free agency to return to Cleveland, and the New Orleans Pelicans, home to Anthony Davis. The matchmaking logic made sense enough: Pair off a franchise familiar to fans with a few stars left over from deep playoff runs against an up-and-coming face-of-the-league-type star.Things didn’t work out so well then, either. The Heat came into the game looking like dark-horse contenders in the east, with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside playing at high levels. But the Pelicans were beset by injuries early in the season, and Davis never took the leap forward many expected. New Orleans came into the game at 9-20, and while it took the game into overtime, it was hardly the glamour matchup the league had hoped for.Last year’s Pelicans-Heat and this year’s Wolves-Thunder aren’t quite parallel, though, because the year before — the Heat’s first without LeBron — saw Miami host James and his Cavs, beating them 101-91. Durant’s Warriors make a fine partner for the Cavs, but a Christmas Day reunion with Russell Westbrook would have been something to see.Westbrook is averaging 31.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.8 assists with a 41.9 usage percentage and a 54.1 true shooting percentage. But as if the phrase “averaging a triple-double through Christmas Day” isn’t impressive enough, the triple-doubles he’s racking up are far removed from the basic 10-10-10 variety. If we adjust for pace of play (which has slowed from the breakneck days of Oscar and Magic), he’s having the finest triple-double-type season we’ve ever seen.Below is a versatility index1We’re using John Hollinger’s old formulation, which is the geometric mean of points, rebounds and assists, to capture players who have high averages in all three stats. (Simply adding the three stats up and taking an average would over-weight scoring, since point totals tend to be higher than assists and rebounds.) for the players with the highest point-rebound-assist per-possession averages in NBA history: 12/25/2012HeatThunder16991661 K. Garnett2002-0391.929.617.37.815.9 R. Westbrook2016-1798.043.714.715.021.3 J. Harden2016-1797.737.110.715.718.4 PLAYERSEASONPACEPOINTSREBOUNDSASSISTSVERSATILITY INDEX L. James2008-0988.740.810.910.416.7 G. Antetokounmpo2016-1796.132.713.08.315.2 L. James2012-1390.737.5184.108.40.206 (Amazingly, the top two seasons by this measure are happening right now. The No. 2 spot belongs to Rockets star and former Thunder sixth man James Harden, who is averaging a per-100-possessions triple-double of his own for new coach Mike D’Antoni, in a role I like to think of as “overgrown Steve Nash does his best Corey Maggette impersonation.” Giannis Antetokounmpo, who turned 22 this month, comes in 27th.)This won’t be the first time Westbrook will be playing Christmas Day without Durant. In 2014, Oklahoma City drew the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs (also without Kawhi Leonard) as its opponent, and won 114-106, with Westbrook pouring in 34 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. It was a brilliant game, the type of which we’ve become accustomed to from Westbrook the last few seasons. The difference this season is that if he repeats that line on Sunday, or even if he racks up his 14th triple-double of the season, it will be away from the biggest stage of the day.Check out our latest NBA predictions. K. Malone1996-9790.040.014.46.515.5 M. Johnson1990-9220.127.116.117.216.4 L. James2010-1190.936.410.29.615.3 L. James2007-0890.239.610.49.515.8 R. Westbrook2013-1495.435.79.411.415.6 M. Johnson1986-87101.618.104.22.1685.9 Versatility Index is the geometric mean of points, rebounds and assists (per 100 possessions). Data is through Dec. 23, 2016.Source: Basketball-Reference.com M. Johnson1989-9096.330.08.915.416.0 M. Johnson1988-89100.128.710.116.416.8 K. Garnett2004-0589.131.419.18.016.9 L. Bird1984-85101.634.312.67.915.1 R. Westbrook2015-1696.733.911.315.118.0 12/25/2011ThunderMagic16201583 The best pace-adjusted triple-double seasons W. Chamberlain1963-64115.133.320.24.614.6 STATS PER 100 POSSESSIONS 12/25/2010ThunderNuggets15701595 12/25/2016ThunderTimberwolves15961426 M. Jordan1988-8997.040.09.99.915.8
Seattle-0.12-0.92-1.16+0.00-2.20 New York City+1.75-2.45+3.69+0.20+3.20 The roots of the Fairmount Park-sized chip on Philly fans’ collective shoulders go back decades — the infamous Santa snowball incident happened in 1968, less than three years into the Super Bowl’s existence. But they have seemed to grow deeper as the years went on without a championship in the sport Philadelphia embraces the most. The Eagles, which have been around since 1933, are one of 13 NFL franchises that have never won a Super Bowl, and nobody has won more total ballgames among the Super Bowl oh-fers.2The Eagles did win three NFL championships before the Super Bowl existed, most recently in 1960. But any fan who was following the team back then is now at least into their mid-60s, if not much older. It is, to say the least, a distant memory from another era.Making matters worse, the Eagles’ rivals in the NFC East — the hated Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins — have won a combined 12 championships in the Super Bowl era. Six times a year, Eagles fans are forced to contrast themselves against fan bases whose historical résumés have been weaponized for the taunting.There’s a cultural component to the frustration as well. “Football represents Philadelphia’s ideal view of itself: a tough, blue-collar sport,” Longman said. Both he and Glen Macnow, a longtime host at the local sports-talk radio station WIP, agreed that the Eagles are the one team in the city whose rabid support stretches across demographic and societal lines. Indeed, over the past five years, the Eagles have dominated the search-traffic battle against the city’s other pro teams to a greater degree than the national average.3Granted, the Sixers went on their infamous tanking expedition during this span.“It’s a football town,” Macnow said. “The Eagles bring together everybody in the city.” If so, that also puts the team squarely at the emotional epicenter of Philadelphia angst.The city’s general lack of sports success over the years hasn’t helped matters. Philly teams went more than 25 years without a title, between the 1982-83 76ers’ NBA crown and the Phillies’ World Series victory in 2008. And it hasn’t been for lack of trying. In the 34 years starting in 1984 — the year after the Sixers won their title — through 2017, no other city in pro sports has underachieved more on the championship front, based on the number of actual titles won and the number we’d expect from how many teams they had in each sport.4Including only the “Big Four” North American pro sports of football, basketball, baseball and hockey. (Sorry as always to all you ardent MLS fans out there.) The tug of war between Philadelphia’s view of itself as a combative underdog and the greater prestige to which it sometimes aspires will be on full display Sunday night, when the Eagles take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Between the city’s sports heartbreaks and hooliganism, its perpetual inferiority complex and recent civic resurgence, this Super Bowl could be a turning point for Philly or another way for its fans to double down on their notoriety.“You can’t deny that there is coarse [fan] behavior,” New York Times reporter Jeré Longman told me in a phone interview. Longman would know — he wrote a book about the neuroses of the city’s fans the last time the Eagles made the Super Bowl, back in 2005. But he also made a case that Philly deserves a better image. “It’s the founding city of the United States; it has these great institutions,” Longman said. “And now it has a vibrant art and music scene, great food, lots of young professionals living downtown.” In Longman’s view, Philadelphia too often sells itself short of what it could be (and already is) when its fans live down to their boorish reputation.“The city’s slogan actually used to be, ‘Philadelphia: Not as bad as Philadelphians say it is,’” he said. “Maybe this Super Bowl will be a chance for people in Philadelphia to realize what a great city they have.”1As someone who lived in Philly for about five years, I agree about the city’s greatness — which makes the juxtaposition between its friendly day-to-day interactions and sometimes psychotic sports fandom even more jarring. Championships vs. Expected Pittsburgh+0.88+0.00-1.16+3.73+3.45 Boston+4.38+1.78+1.84-0.27+7.73 Chicago-0.12+4.78-0.31+1.73+6.08 The sports fans of Philadelphia are known for their unique brand of bottle-throwing, Santa Claus-attacking, expletive-laced rowdiness. But is this reputation deserved? Are they actually any different from other fiery fan bases in, say, Buffalo or Oakland? I asked my colleague Rob Arthur to look at citywide crime rates, and he couldn’t find any significant uptick on game days. Then again, multiple Eagles fans are alleged to have punched horses (!?!) during these playoffs alone: Phoenix-0.98-1.22+0.33-0.68-2.55 Top 10NFLNBAMLBNHLTotal Edmonton+0.00+0.00+0.00+3.73+3.73 Los Angeles-0.88+5.60-0.59+0.73+4.86 San Antonio+0.00+3.78+0.00+0.00+3.78 Philadelphia-0.62-1.22-0.16-1.27-3.27 Minneapolis-1.12-0.97+0.84-1.00-2.25 Detroit-1.12+1.78-0.16+2.73+3.23 Bottom 10NFLNBAMLBNHLTotal Milwaukee+0.00-1.22-1.16+0.00-2.38 This assigns Boston and Philadelphia a “half-championship” for the 2017 NFL season, since Super Bowl LII’s winner isn’t known yet.Expected championships are calculated by assigning each team in a league equal odds of winning the title in a given season and then adding up those title chances over time.Source: Sports-Reference sites San Diego-1.09-0.04-1.16+0.00-2.29 Which sports cities have overachieved the most (and least)?Actual vs. expected championships in the big 4 North American sports for cities, 1984-2017 Washington, D.C.+0.88-1.22-0.43-1.27-2.05 Buffalo-1.12+0.00+0.00-1.27-2.39 Cleveland-1.02-0.22-1.16+0.00-2.40 Miami-1.12+1.99+1.19-0.80+1.26 Championships vs. Expected San Francisco+2.88+0.00+1.84+0.00+4.72 Atlanta-1.12-1.22-0.16-0.37-2.87 (And that’s after assigning Philly and Boston a “half-championship” each for the upcoming Super Bowl, assuming that each team has roughly 50-50 odds. If we didn’t do that, Philadelphia teams would be running a collective 3.7 championships below expectation since 1983.)Here’s another way this data helps illustrate why Philadelphia fans are so emotionally overwrought when it comes to sports: In terms of expected titles — which measures the sheer number of cracks a city has had at championship glory — Philly trails only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago (and it’s tied with Boston and Detroit). Justifiably, it thinks of itself as belonging among that group of towns. But collectively, those five cities have won 57.5 championships — 25.1 more than expected — since 1983, with each exceeding their expectation by at least 3.2 titles. Philly, meanwhile, is running 3.3 titles below expectations. Add in the fact that Philadelphia ranks only 25th in championships won since 1983 despite being a top-eight U.S. metro area by both population and economic might, and it makes sense why Philly fandom is often a powder keg waiting to explode.“It’s like a permanent wedgie,” Macnow said of Philadelphia’s sports inferiority complex. “You look up the East Coast at New York and see their championships and at Boston’s smug fans — we call them ‘Massholes.’ There’s an element of envy there as well.”That’s one reason the Patriots might be the ultimate opponent for the Eagles as they try to end their Super Bowl drought. Since 1983, Boston teams have won 7.7 more titles than expected — in exactly the same number of chances as Philly had. The cities are similar in many ways, from population to their shared importance in the early history of the country, a common insular attitude and their parallel rivalries with the behemoth situated between them — New York City. It isn’t difficult to envision an alternate universe in which the fates of Boston and Philadelphia sports had switched places several decades ago.Everyone agrees that an Eagles win on Sunday would set off something approaching total pandemonium in the Philadelphia. “It would be by far the largest sports celebration ever,” Longman told me. “There aren’t enough cans of Crisco in the world to keep people from climbing every [street] pole in Philadelphia.” Longman thought the potential crowds would dwarf the Phillies’ championship parade in 2008 and be more akin to when the pope visited the city in 2015.Whether the long-awaited Super Bowl victory would mark the beginning of a change in fans’ behavior, however, is another question, given that so much of Philly fandom — for good and bad — is wrapped up in the feelings of being overlooked and misunderstood.“It would require a change in a mindset that has prevailed for many generations,” Longman said. “It’d be fascinating to see if Philly is comfortable with being the overdog instead of the underdog.”Although it would only begin to make a slight dent in the city’s championship shortfall of the past three and a half decades, winning Sunday would be a good start.
When Melanie Nichols steps onto the mound at Buckeye Field, she says she feels at home. But batters facing the 5-foot-10-inch freshman might not feel welcome, because Nichols has 128 strikeouts.Nichols currently holds a 21-2 record for the Ohio State softball team. The old record for a rookie was 16 wins, as Nichols surpassed former All-American OSU pitcher Kim Reeder and Netherland Olympian Kristi DeVries.“At first, I actually didn’t know what the record was until after I beat it,” Nichols said. “Maybe that helped. But I try not to focus on that because I can be a lot better than I am.”Nichols came to OSU battling an improper recovery from surgery on a torn meniscus in her left knee.“It was in the middle of my high school season, so the day I got cleared I went and played a doubleheader, which was not the smartest thing to do. Definitely not,” Nichols said.After a short while at OSU, her knee was “good to go,” she said. But when the Scarlet and Gray headed down to Florida for a tournament at the beginning of the season, Nichols faced another injury.“My back started to really hurt and all I thought was that I had a really bad pinched nerve,” Nichols said. “But my rib was out of my place.”Shortly after Nichols’ rib was popped back in, she blamed her clumsy demeanor for the reason she was wearing a boot on her ankle a few weeks back.“What’s really funny is that I never get hurt, but once I got knee surgery it’s been bam, bam, bam,” she said.Although Nichols said she expected to be a regular freshman and never expected to be doing the things she’s doing now, assistant coach Erica Beach thought otherwise.“A lot of people look past their freshman year and don’t expect great things, but I expected her to make an immediate impact like she has,” Beach said.And Nichols has done just that.Currently on a 10-game winning streak, the freshman pitcher has a 1.86 ERA with more than 160 innings pitched.Nichols had a win against the Michigan Wolverines, who were ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.“On the mound, she’s mentally tough. She brings confidence to the pitching circle,” Beach said. “And off the field, she’s a really great chemistry player. People like to be around her.”That mental toughness and confidence have definitely worked for Nichols, who has thrown 15 complete games.“She focuses on being great in the game. She practices like she plays,” Beach said.Although Nichols has said she has much to improve on, it’s not only this year that she’s expected to make an impact. Coach Linda Kalafatis said she knows Nichols will be a contributor all four years.“We knew that Mel had the chance to be maybe one of the best pitchers here. She’s got the potential depending on how hard she wants to work for it,” Kalafatis said. “In the same respect, did I think we’d get to the point where she’s 21-2? No, I guess I never thought of it in those kind of numbers. But you know, winners get records but teams win games.”
It started out physical, but the bumped and bruised Buckeyes prevailed against Georgia Tech on Monday night, despite tying their season-high in turnovers. The No. 4 seed Ohio State women’s basketball team (24-9) will advance to the Sweet 16 in Dayton, Ohio, after topping the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets, 67-60, in a hard-fought win in front of St. John Arena’s vivacious crowd. OSU now has won 11 straight games. “It was more of a boxing match — two fighters feeling each other out,” OSU coach Jim Foster said. “Then you get into a rhythm.” Foster’s team found that rhythm midway through the second half, when OSU was able to beat Georgia Tech’s press defense while holding the team scoreless for nearly five minutes. During that span, the Buckeyes’ lead grew from four points to 13. After that run, the Yellow Jackets (24-11) predictably stopped pressing, allowing OSU to slow down the game. “We was getting layups,” guard Samantha Prahalis said. “I would have pulled it off, too.” But en route to its win, the team turned the ball over 21 times. Making up for it was Jantel Lavender’s 21 points on 71.4 percent shooting, and 11 rebounds. Her double-figure scoring performance was her 135th, setting the NCAA all-time record. “Jantel, to me, is the best post player in the country,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. “She’s also one of the top three players in the country overall.” The Yellow Jackets were unable to make OSU pay for its struggles maintaining possession, as they scored just 16 points off turnovers. But Joseph chalked her team’s loss up to the inability to make shots, especially those around the basket. Her team outshot the Buckeyes by a staggering 72-42, but only shot 38.9 percent from the field despite garnering the turnovers. The Yellow Jackets also shot only 2-of-17 from 3-point range. “We’ve never played a game and got two free throws,” Joseph said. “That’s not the difference in the game. The difference in the game is you have to make layups.” Behind Lavender, the Buckeyes shot 59.5 percent from the field and got double-digit points from Prahalis, guard Tayler Hill and center Ashley Adams. Brittany Johnson added 9 points, with her three 3-pointers being the team’s only ones. “We have a lot of people that can score the ball on the floor, and sometimes we have a tendency to guard ourselves,” Foster said. The first half was very physical, with the referees letting a lot of contact go uncalled. The tipping point came when Lavender and Georgia Tech’s Chelsea Regins got tangled up underneath the basket after Johnson nailed a 3-pointer. Offsetting technical fouls were called on the play. After that, the game was called much tighter. Prahalis played an unaccustomed role of peacemaker in the situation, pulling Lavender away from the officials after vehemently arguing the call. Even after his team earned the technical, Foster said he was pleased with the way his players handled the situation. “(It was) a sign of growth, a sign of maturity,” he said. “I like the fact that Jantel needed to be calmed down, and I like the fact that Sammy calmed her down.” Yellow Jacket Tyaunna Marshall led her team to a 30-29 first-half lead by scoring 10 points on 50 percent shooting, including a go-ahead jumper as time expired. But she scored just two points in the second to finish with 12. Guard Metra Walthour led the team in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Adams led the Buckeyes in scoring in the first half with 10 points, going 4-of-7 from the floor while Lavender scored just four. “Sammy did a great job getting the ball up the floor quickly, which I don’t think we did great in the first half,” Lavender said. “In the second half, we had about 25 seconds to run offense, so that really made the difference for us.” Prahalis was frustrated early by the Yellow Jackets’ physical defense against her, as they forced Hill to handle the ball more than usual. After taking a hard foul at midcourt in the first half, blood was drawn from the same spot on her leg as Saturday and she required another bandage. But that didn’t stop her from having an effective night, scoring 16 on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting while dishing out a game-high eight assists. Her team is 15-2 this season when she registers more than seven assists. Monday’s contest was the first ever meeting between OSU and the Yellow Jackets. The win means the Buckeyes will have advanced to the Sweet 16 in two of the last three seasons and are now 8-2 against ranked teams this year. On Saturday, OSU will take on No. 1 seed Tennessee — a school Lavender said she visited before signing with the Buckeyes, and whose roster she is very familiar with. Foster, a former coach of Vanderbilt from 1991–00, said he’s plenty aware of the type of teams heralded coach Pat Summitt puts together after spending that time in the SEC. He mentioned that perhaps it would be easier playing the customary powerhouse in his team’s home state. “We’re not playing in Knoxville. We’re not playing in Nashville,” he said. “We’re playing in Dayton, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Women’s soccer coach Lori Walker, who is in her 18th season with the Buckeyes, picked up her 200th OSU win Sept. 12 against Indiana. Walker is winningest coach in program history.Credit: Courtesy of OSU athleticsIn her 18th season with the Ohio State women’s soccer team, coach Lori Walker joked that her hip hurts. Through 366 games with the Buckeyes, she’s stood for nearly 23 days, a price she’s had to pay for 200 wins.“It’s humbling,” Walker said. “When you hit a milestone like that, you stop and you reflect and you think about all the people who have helped you along the way.”Following the Buckeyes 2-1 overtime win against Indiana last Friday, Walker reached the 200-win plateau and continued her ascendance as OSU’s winningest coach in program history.Former Buckeye assistant coach Greg Miller discussed Walker’s humility as one of many reasons for her success.Miller, who became the University of Pittsburgh women’s soccer coach in 2012, said hiring coaches with different backgrounds and ideas has been a staple in Walker’s regime.“Over the years (Walker’s) done a great job of surrounding herself with people that offset some of the things that maybe she’s not so strong in,” Miller said. “She’s always been very smart about that.”Walker hasn’t shown too many weaknesses en route to a 200-135-31 record with the Buckeyes. Through the past 17 years, she has guided OSU to nine NCAA tournament appearances, having clinched a postseason berth in each of the past five seasons.Despite her years of experience, she still frequents coaching seminars where she works to stay up-to-date with the game’s latest trends and technologies.Requiring her team to wear heart-rate monitors is Walker’s latest scheme. The technology allows the coaching staff to gauge players’ work rates and recovery times, assistant coach Nick Flohre said.Walker also works to see the game from different viewpoints, a process that began when she was a 24-year-old coach at the University of Kansas.“I recognized if I wanted to stay in this profession and be a lifer then I really had to study the game,” she said.When studying the game became dull, Walker said she turned to work as a television analyst for Olympic and FIFA Women’s World Cup matches to rekindle her interest.“I got to a point where I was a little bored and stagnant in my coaching,” Walker said. “Broadcast was a wonderful way for me to study the game at a different level.”But while she works to incorporate new methods to her coaching, she has remained grounded in one of her core coaching principles.“She doesn’t sugarcoat anything,” junior goalkeeper Jillian McVicker said. “She wants everyone to be the best they can possibly be, so she demands a lot out of us and keeps the standard really high.”Walker’s connection with her players might be best explained through a story Miller recounted from his time with the Buckeyes.In a team meeting during the 2010 season, Walker confided to her team that they were going to the College Cup. Walker’s players countered her claim with a dumbfounded response, only to be surprised when their coach’s assertion proved correct.The College Cup, which is the equivalent of the NCAA tournament in basketball also includes 64 teams.Walker’s confidence in her program has not waned since then, and according to her players, neither has her expectation of success.Justification for the high standards expected from OSU can be found in Walker’s many accomplishments. She was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2010 and has helped OSU to three Big Ten championships.Given Walker’s success, there’s no room for uncertainty on her teams.“We don’t have time for doubt in college sports,” Walker said. “(Players) only get 3 1/2 (years) to be excellent and (coaches) have to try to get them there as fast as we can.”Before coaching, Walker made the most of her time at the University of North Carolina as a goalkeeper on four national championship teams.Immediately following her playing career, Walker began developing her relentless approach to coaching.Walker spent two years as the first women’s soccer coach at the University of Kansas and three seasons as an assistant under former U.S. Women’s National Team coach April Heinrichs at the University of Maryland.“That was a critical time to my development,” Walker said of her time with the Terrapins. “(Heinrichs) was a great mentor for me.”Both stops presented different challenges. With the Jayhawks, Walker was a young coach in a brand new program. Prior to that, at Maryland, Walker was responsible for coaching a 21-year-old goalkeeper, as a 21-year-old assistant coach.As she ages, Walker said she now must work harder to keep personal relationships with her players. The key is listening, she said.Walker is the first to respond to players with personal issues, Flohre said.“Off the field, she truly cares about us as people and our development as women,” McVicker said. “She genuinely cares about us.”Walker’s love for the job doesn’t seem to be slowing. While reflecting on her milestone, she digressed to ponder the idea of her 300th win.That mark may be down the road, but if that day comes, Walker will probably still be on her feet for it.Correction: Sept. 18, 2014An earlier version of this article stated Jillian McVicker said Lori Walker is the first to respond to personal issues, when in fact, Nick Flohre said that.
Michigan senior midfielder Tyler Anderson (23) dribbles as OSU senior midfielder Yianni Sarris (6) pursues during a Nov. 9 match at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won, 1-0. Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The LanternFor the second time in five days, the Ohio State men’s soccer team bested its rival, this time to keep its season alive.OSU (9-6-4, 5-3-0) returned home to defeat Michigan (6-9-3, 3-3-2) in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament, 1-0, on Sunday.The victory came less than a week after the Buckeyes beat Michigan, 2-1, in Ann Arbor, Mich., to close the regular season.“I think we were just all really focused and really hungry to defend our home turf, and beat Michigan again twice in five days, obviously that was a really difficult task, but we embraced it and we ran with that,” redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov added.For the second consecutive game against the Wolverines, it was sophomore forward Danny Jensen who opened the scoring in the first half. The sophomore directed a header in front of the box off a high feed from senior midfielder Max Moller and deposited it into the corner of the net.“We knew exactly what they had, on the counter that they know exactly what we had,” Jensen said.The goal was Jensen’s fifth of the year, including his fourth in OSU’s last five games. However, Jensen said he is not the one responsible for the recent success.“My teammates are putting me in the right positions,” he said. “I’m not really doing too much. I just have to be in the right positions by moving a few yards, and they’re putting the ball on my head, on my foot.”Michigan appeared to tie the game with a header that got past Ivanov late in the first half, but the equalizer was waved off because of an offsides call.As a result, the first half came to a close with the Buckeyes holding a 1-0 lead. Michigan led in shots at the half, however, 5-3.But OSU turned that trend around to begin the latter half. In the first 30 minutes of the second half, the Buckeyes only allowed Michigan to get two shots off as they played a defensive, conservative style.“It was crucial that we kept focus and maintained our lead, and I think everyone just did really well to stay on the same page,” Ivanov said.Despite Michigan’s desperate search for the equalizer, the Buckeyes’ defense held strong, controlling possession for much of the second half and holding Michigan to only one shot on goal.“It was a great shutout today more than anything,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “We talked about at halftime, if we defended well, then we’ve already got the game won. If you don’t let them score, we won the game already, and I think that mindset helped.”It was the second-consecutive chippy game between the rivals. After 20 fouls were whistled in Wednesday’s contest, 37 were assessed Sunday – including two yellow cards in the final minute.“It’s an important game, they’re fighting for their season, we’re fighting for their season. It’s a rivalry, too,” Ivanov said about the number of fouls. “It’s always tough playing against Michigan, it’s pretty physical and demanding on the body.” Ivanov’s shutout was his seventh of the season and 15th of his collegiate career.Shortly after the game, Indiana defeated Northwestern in a penalty kick shootout to advance to the semifinals to meet the Buckeyes. OSU fell to Indiana on Oct. 12, 2-1.In College Park, Md., No. 1-seeded Maryland defeated Rutgers, 2-0, to earn the right to host the semifinals and championship as the highest remaining seed.Of the three other teams remaining in the tournament, OSU is 1-2-0 this season, allowing a combined five goals.However, Jensen said it would not be easy for future opponents to score many goals against the late-season iteration of the OSU defense.“Any team that is going to have to beat us, they’re going to have to score some great goals or we’re going to have to get unlucky, because we’re playing really well right now,” he said.OSU is set to travel to College Park, Md., to take on sixth-seeded Indiana in the semifinals Friday. That game is scheduled to kick off at 3:40 p.m.
Then-junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen serves the ball in the 2017 NCAA tournament. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Station ManagerThe No. 1 Ohio State men’s volleyball team will face a familiar foe on Saturday: No. 7 BYU. The Buckeyes (1-0) beat the Cougars (1-1) in back-to-back national championship games, which means St. John Arena could have a tournament-like feel at 7 p.m. Saturday when the two teams take the court.The Buckeyes also will welcome Stanford (0-3) to Columbus for a 7 p.m. contest Friday.In addition to being national championship runner-ups, the Cougars have a powerful offense led by three seniors — outside attacker Brenden Sander, middle blocker Price Jarman and setter Leo Durkin — who were named to the preseason All-American team.Sophomore outside hitter Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga (28 kills, .333 hitting percentage in first match of season) and freshman opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez (35 kills, .288 hitting percentage in first match of season) also will pose a challenge for the Buckeyes. Redshirt junior middle blocker Blake Leeson believes his team’s match against BYU will be a necessary early test. “Right now, in the season, we aren’t as ready as we will be by the end of the year,” he said. “We still have a lot of kinks to work out at different positions… I’m looking forward to this weekend to see where we match up against some of the top teams in the country.”Ohio State senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen, the Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2017, jump-started his final collegiate season with the most votes for the preseason All-American team. He said he is excited to play against BYU in a nonchampionship setting for the first time.“They’re more of a physical team, where we’re more a technical team,” Szerszen said. “We still have to improve in a lot of technical components of our game … They might be more ready than us right now, but we’ll just see how it goes, give it our best, and play hard.”With two players named preseason All-Americans, Stanford also might be a source of stiff competition for the Buckeyes on Friday night. First-team All-American libero Evan Enriques and second-team All-American middle blocker Kevin Rakestraw might prove a difficult pair for the Buckeyes to deal with if Enriques is able to funnel Buckeye serves and attacks to Stanford’s setter for in-system attacks down the middle by Rakestraw. Stanford began the season ranked No. 10, but dropped out of the rankings after three losses to begin the year.“As we’ve watched some film and prepared our scout report, it looks like they had a couple of freshmen playing on the floor … At this stage of the season, it’s a learning process,” Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said.Stanford and BYU aren’t the only teams with young players. After graduating four starters after the 2017 season, Szerszen, Leeson and senior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir are a few of the leading figures on an otherwise young Ohio State team.
Brutus Buckeye helps carry the flag spelling “Ohio” before the game against Purdue-Fort Wayne on Nov. 11. Ohio State won 107-61. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor
She said Mrs Kuteh’s “spirituality blurred the professional boundary” between herself and patients.”Following reasonable management requests formed a pivotal aspect of Mrs Kuteh’s contract of employment with the Trust,” she added.Mrs Kuteh said she was “serious” about her Christian faith but did not impose it on patients.She said she would sometimes be prompted to initiate religious discussion with patients by questions on the pre-op questionnaire.She told the hearing: “I don’t want it to look like it was a habit. I would not always initiate it, only when I’m prompted in the questionnaire.”Mrs Kuteh said she would have liked to have had supervised practice and a weekly review instead of being sacked. Another patient said being subjected to such religious “fervour” by Mrs Kuteh was “bizarre”, and he compared the experience with a “Monty Python skit”.One other patient felt Mrs Kuteh spent more time talking about religion than completing a pre-operative questionnaire, according to statements submitted at an employment tribunal held in Ashford, Kent.Mrs Kuteh, a nursing sister with 15 years of experience, was sacked last August after several months’ suspension and referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for disqualification proceedings.She appealed but the panel agreed that the decision to dismiss Mrs Kuteh was “entirely appropriate”.The hospital denied that she had been sacked because of because of her faith. Instead Victoria Leivers-Carruth, who chaired the hospital trust’s appeal hearing, said the panel believed Mrs Kuteh was using her one-to-one time with patients to “impose her religious beliefs” on them. She said in a statement: “We did not believe that Mrs Kuteh was being disciplined because she was a Christian.”It was apparent to us that Mrs Kuteh was disciplined because she had engaged in conversations about religion that were unwanted by patients and contrary to her line manager’s instructions.”At a hearing on Thursday her lawyer Pavel Stroilov said that she had simply been doing her job by showing compassion to people who were suffering. He said: “A nurse without compassion would be unworthy of the name. On top of performing her immediate duties, a good nurse would try and find kind words to say to her patient.”Sarah Collins, general manager for medicine at Darent Valley Hospital, said she had been given warnings about her behaviour but had “persisted with questioning patients on religious grounds”. A Christian nurse who was fired for offering to pray with patients before surgery was simply showing “compassion”, a tribunal heard.Sarah Kuteh lost her job last year after patients complained that she talked more about religion than their procedures and told them that if they prayed to God they were more likely to survive. Mrs Kuteh was dismissed for gross misconduct from Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent. Eight patients who were “extremely vulnerable” and facing surgery had submitted complaints about her behaviour.Now her case has been brought to an employment tribunal after she claimed she was unfairly dismissed. One cancer patient facing bowel surgery complained after mother-of-three Mrs Kuteh told him if he prayed to God he would have a better chance of survival. She said: “I love nursing, I love what I do and I love talking to patients.”What I wanted the trust to have done was to give me the opportunity to show a change.”Tribunal judge Martin Kurrein reserved judgment. I love nursing, I love what I do and I love talking to patients. What I wanted the trust to have done was to give me the opportunity to show a change.Sarah Kuteh A view of Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, KentCredit: Gareth Fuller/PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.