15 Arkansas Tech alums named to GSC Fall Sports All-Decade Team - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

15 Arkansas Tech alums named to GSC Fall Sports All-Decade Team

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Arkansas Tech University had a total of 15 student-athletes named to the Gulf South Conference Fall Sports All-Decade Teams in football, volleyball and women's cross country announced by the league office this past Thursday.

The league began the unveiling of its All-Decade Teams (2000-10) on Thursday by announcing the fall sport teams in volleyball, football, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's cross country. The league will announce its All-Decade Men's and Women's Basketball Teams on July 15 and the Spring Sports (Baseball, Softball, Men's Golf and Men's and Women's Tennis) on July 22.

This is the first time that the league has selected All-Decade Teams for sports other than football. Previously, the GSC has recognized football all-star teams from the 1980s, the first Quarter Century (1971-1995) and the 1990s.

Players could only be nominated for the All-Decade Team if they competed in at least two seasons during the decade and were also named to the All-GSC First Team in their respective sports for at least one season. Each squad was broken into a First and Second Team and Players and Coaches of the Decade were also selected. In addition, the league also selected Honorable Mention selections that were recognized for special circumstances; for example, those student-athletes competing one season and were a First-Team All-GSC honoree during the past decade.

In cross country, Tech had former student-athletes Siobhan Lenihan (2000-03) and Aoife Cooke (2004-05) named First-Team All-Decade honorees, while Melissa Pollreis (2006-09) was named a Second-Team All-Decade selection and sophomore Bailee Miller (Dover, Ark.) was named an Honorable Mention selection after her outstanding freshman campaign in 2009. The football All-Decade Team featured offensive tackle Jeremy Ashcraft (2007-08), defensive lineman Tommy Edwards (2000-03) and punter Michael Podobnik (2007-08) on the First-Team, while receiver Frantz Simeon (2008-09), center Torrence Wright (2006-09), offensive guard Jonathan Hayes (2001-04) and defensive lineman Cedric Cursh (2003-04, '07) were named Second-Team All-Decade honorees and All-American quarterback Nick Graziano was named an Honorable Mention selection following his record-setting campaign this past year. Meanwhile, in volleyball, former Golden Sun All-American outside hitter Ningning Liu (2000-02) was named a First-Team All-Decade honoree, while senior middle blocker Sarah Von Lienen (Lakeland, Tenn.) and former four-time All-GSC West Division setter Kayla Allison (2005-08) were named Second-Team selections.

Along with naming an All-Decade Team, the league also recognized the best Teams of the Decade using a formula based on how a team finished in the All-Sports Trophy standings the past 10 years. All three of Tech's fall sports (football, women's cross country and volleyball) each finished fifth in their respective sports Team of the Decade List. In cross country, Tech scored 102 out of a possible 155 points (66 percent), while in football, Tech scored 77 out of a possible 116 points (66 percent) and in volleyball, Tech scored 91 out of a possible 148 points (61 percent).

Listed below is a list of each of the accomplishments of Tech's 15 All-Decade Team performers.

CROSS COUNTRY (4):

Aoife Cooke (2004-05) – In her two seasons with the Golden Suns, Cooke was named Tech's first-ever All-American in cross country after finishing ninth at the 2005 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. In addition to finishing ninth at the 2005 NCAA D-II Meet, Cooke was named a First-Team All-GSC selection running a school-record 5K time of 17:10 en route to taking home first place honors at the GSC Championship Meet and Cooke was also named the South Region Female Athlete of the Year after winning the South Regional Meet in Dade City, Fla. As a junior in 2004, Cooke, who is a native of Youghal, Ireland, was named a Second-Team All-GSC selection after finishing 17th at the GSC Championships. She is one of only five two-time All-GSC honorees in school history. Cooke, who was named a GSC Top 10 Award winner for the 2005-06 school year and was also named an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI selection, holds three of the Top 5 6K times and the Top 3 overall times in school history.

Siobhan Lenihan (2000-03) – In her four years at Tech, Lenihan is the only Golden Sun Cross Country runner to earn All-GSC honors for four consecutive seasons, including being a 3-time First-Team All-GSC selection. She is one of only nine runners in the decade to be named a three-time First-Team All-GSC selection. As a freshman in 2000, Lenihan was named an All-South Region honoree after finishing 10th at the NCAA D-II South Regional Meet. Lenihan, who is a native of Charleville, Ireland, owns four of the Top 25 5K times and three of the Top 15 overall times in school history. She helped lead Tech to three third-place finishes as the GSC Championships and she had three Top 10 finishes in her four GSC Meet appearances as she finished second in 2000, seventh in 2001 and fourth in 2002.

Melissa Pollreis (2006-09) – In her four year career with the Golden Suns, Pollreis was named a two-time All-GSC selection, including being a First-Team honoree in 2008 after leading Tech to a third place finish as a team. Along with being a 2-time All-GSC selection, Pollreis, who is a native of Gravette, Ark., was also a two-time All-South Region honoree, including being a First-Team selection in 2008 after finishing fifth at the South Regional Meet. In her career at Tech, Pollreis was named a GSC Runner of the Week two times. She was part of Tech's back-to-back third-place finishes at the GSC Championships in both 2008 and 2009 and back-to-back fourth place finishes at the NCAA D-II South Regionals in 2008 and 2009.

Bailee Miller (2009) – Miller, who will be a sophomore for the Golden Suns this coming fall, earns Honorable Mention honors after being named a First-Team All-GSC and All-South Region selection in 2009. Last season, Miller, who was named the GSC Freshman of the Year after finishing second at the 2009 GSC Championship Meet, was named a GSC Runner of the Week a league record five times. In addition, the Dover, Ark., native enters her sophomore year holding three of the Top 8 5K times in school history and two of the school's Top 10 6K marks.

FOOTBALL (8):

Jeremy Ashcraft (2007-08) – Ashcraft earns First-Team honors at offensive tackle after being named a two-time All-GSC selection, including a First-Team honoree as a senior in 2008, while with the Wonder Boys. In his two seasons at Tech, Ashcraft, who was named the Jim Langer Award winner as the Outstanding Offensive Lineman at the 2009 Valero Cactus Bowl, started all 20 games at right tackle and was named a two-time Daktronics and Don Hansen's Football Gazette All-Super Region 2 selection. While at Tech, Ashcraft recorded 105 knockdown blocks and graded out at 85 percent in his career and helped a Tech offensive line allow just 19 sacks in 20 games, including allowing just eight sacks in 2008, which was tied for fourth-best nationally in Division II. Along with playing in the Cactus Bowl, Ashcraft, who is a native of Marshall, Texas, also participated in the East Coast Bowl in 2008.

Tommy Edwards (2000-03) – Edwards earns First-Team honors as a defensive lineman after being named a two-time AP Little All-American, Daktronics and D2Football.com All-American in 2002 and 2003. In addition, he was named an AFCA All-American as a senior in 2003. In his career as a Wonder Boy, Edwards was named a two-time All-GSC honoree as both a defensive lineman and a punter. As a junior in 2002, Edwards was named the Don Hansen's Football Gazette Division II National Defensive Lineman of the Year and he was also named a DOPKE.com/College Sports Report.com GSC Performer of the Year after leading Division II in solo tackles with 59. Along with leading Division II in solo tackles in 2002, Edwards also led the GSC in tackles for loss (25), forced fumbles (4), quarterback sacks (12) and recorded a total of 92 tackles. The 12 sacks is tied for the school's single-season mark. In his four-year career, Edwards, who is a native of Harrison, Ark., was named a two-time D2Football.com National Special Teams Player of the Week, a D2Football.com National Defensive Player of the Week and a two-time Don Hansen's Football Gazette National Special Teams Player of the Week. As a senior in 2003, Edwards set what was then a school record for single-season punting average (40.8) and led the GSC and South Region in punting. He finished his stellar career holding the school's all-time mark for sacks (28) and tackles for loss (48) and he recorded 197 career tackles. As a punter, he holds single-season marks for punts (76 in 2003), punting yards (3,194 in 2003) and is second in both single-season punting average (42.0 in 2003) and career punting average (39.7).

Michael Podobnik (2007-08) – Podobnik earns First-Team honors as the All-Decade punter after being named an unanimous All-American selection as a junior in 2007 after leading all of Division II in punting with a single-season school and GSC mark of 45.2 yards per punt. In his career, Podobnik, who was a native of Frankfort, Ill., and a transfer from DuPage Community College, was named a two-time First-Team All-GSC selection as a punter and a Second-Team honoree as a kicker in 2008. Along with holding the school's and GSC single-season punting mark, Podobnik also holds the school's and GSC career punting mark (44.8 / 67 punts / 3,002 yards) and he also holds the school's single-game punting average of 52.5 yards, which was set against Harding in 2007. In his career, he punted 67 times and downed 13 punts inside the 20-yard line and had 18 punts travel more than 50 yards, including a 75-yard punt in the 2007 season opener against Northeastern State. In his tenure with the Wonder Boys, Podobnik, who participated in the 2008 East Coast Bowl, was named a four-time GSC Special Teams Player of the Week and was named a D2Football.com National Special Teams Player of the Week in 2007. In addition to his punting, Podobnik was 4-for-5 in field goals, including hitting back-to-back game winning field goals in 2008 against West Alabama and Arkansas-Monticello and was 53-for-55 on extra point attempts.

Cedric Cursh (2003-04, 2007) – Cursh, who is a native of Foreman, Ark., earns his Second-Team All-Decade Team honor as a defensive lineman after being named a First-Team All-GSC honoree, the GSC Defensive Player of the Year and a Second-Team AP Little All-American in 2004. In 2004, Cursh recorded 95 total tackles, a GSC-leading 21 tackles for loss, a GSC-leading nine sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception as he helped lead Tech to a 10-2 record and a second round appearance in the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Along with his AP Little All-American honors, Cursh was named a Second-Team Daktronics and a Don Hansen's Football Gazette All-American selection and was the first Tech player to ever be named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. In his three year career at Tech, Cursh recorded 185.5 total tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, which is tied for fourth on the school's all-time list, five forced fumbles, two interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in 33 games. He was also named a Second-Team All-GSC selection as a linebacker in 2007.     

Jonathan Hayes (2001-04) – Hayes earns his Second-Team All-Decade Team honor at offensive guard after being a two-time All-GSC selection, including a First-Team selection in 2004, during his playing days at Tech. In his four-year career with the Wonder Boys, Hayes was also a two-time GSC Elite Eight honoree (2004 and 2005) and was selected as the GSC's Commissioner's Trophy winner for the 2004-05 school year. In his four years at Tech, Hayes, who is a native of Sheridan, Ark., played in 41 games and made 34 starts and as a senior in 2004, he graded out at 78 percent or higher in all 12 of Tech's contests and allowed only one sack in those 12 games. He was part of a Tech team in 2004 that advanced to the second round of the NCAA D-II Playoffs and won 10 games and also became the first Arkansas school to ever host and win an NCAA D-II Playoff game. Along with his accomplishments on the field, Hayes, who carried a 3.74 cumulative grade point average as a tri-major in electrical engineering, nuclear technology and mathematics, excelled in the classroom as he was a four-time member of the GSC Football Academic Honor Roll, a three-time member of the GSC Football All-Academic Team and a member of the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI team in 2004. He was selected to play in the Valero Cactus Bowl following his senior campaign in 2004, where he served as a team co-captain.

Frantz Simeon (2008-09) – Simeon earns Second-Team All-Decade honor at one of the three receiver spots after setting new single-season school marks for pass receptions (90), receiving yards (1,359 yards) and touchdown receptions (14) this past season in helping the Wonder Boys to a 9-3 overall record and second round appearance in the NCAA Division II Playoffs for the second time in school history and first time since the 2004 season. His 90 receptions this past season is fifth-best in single-season GSC history, while his 1,359 receiving yards is third-best on the GSC's single-season chart and his 889 kickoff return yardage is fifth-best on the league's single-season chart. As a senior in 2009, Simeon, who was a transfer from Florida Atlantic and a native of Belle Glade, Fla., earned First-Team All-GSC honors at receiver and Second-Team honors as a kick returner. In addition, he was named a First-Team AP Little All-American, a Daktronics First-Team All-American and a First-Team Don Hansen's Football Gazette All-American. In his two seasons at Tech, Simeon caught 113 passes for 1,673 yards and 16 touchdowns and returned 22 punts for 305 yards and had 50 kickoff returns for 1,138 yards and scored one touchdown. This past season, he led the GSC and was second nationally in receiving yards (113.3 yards/game). Along with setting new single-season pass receiving marks, Simeon also set new single-game marks in pass receptions with 15 against North Alabama in the second round of the NCAA D-II Playoffs, touchdown receptions with four against West Georgia, pass receiving yards with 229 against Henderson State and all-purpose yardage with 307 against Arkansas-Monticello. Simeon, who participated in this year's Valero Cactus Bowl, holds Tech's and the state of Arkansas' single-season all-purpose yardage mark of 2,500 yards and finished his career eighth on the school's all-time receiving yardage chart.              

Torrence Wright (2006-09) – Wright earns his Second-Team All-Decade honor at center after being named a two-time All-American and a three-time All-GSC selection during his career with the Wonder Boys. In his career at Tech, Wright was named a two-time First-Team All-GSC honoree in both 2008 and 2009 at center. He played all three spots on the offensive line during his collegiate playing days as he was a Second-Team All-GSC selection at guard in 2007, before playing center the past two seasons. Wright, who is a native of Sulphur Springs, Texas, was named a two-time Don Hansen's Football Gazette All-American and a Second-Team Daktronics All-American honoree this past season. In 2009, Wright played and started all 12 games under center and completed his career starting in 23 consecutive games and playing in 40 all-time games. He helped anchor an offensive line in 2009 that paved the way for the No. 2 ranked offense (527.4 yards/game) and passing yards (386.3 yards/game) and was fifth in scoring (40.8 points/game) as he recorded 50 knockdown blocks and had an average grade of 85 percent on the season and allowed just 10 sacks in 12 games, which was fifth-best in Division II. In addition to his All-GSC and All-American accolades, Wright, who also participated in this year's Valero Cactus Bowl, was a two-time Daktronics and Don Hansen's Football Gazette All-Super Region Two honoree and was a two-time nominee from Super Region Two for the Gene Upshaw Award.

Nick Graziano (2009) – Graziano, who was a transfer from the University of Nevada and a native of Moraga, Calif., earns Honorable Mention All-Decade honors following his record-setting season in 2009 under center for the Wonder Boys. In his only season at Tech in 2009, Graziano single-handedly rewrote every single passing and total offense mark in school history, along with also rewriting several GSC and state of Arkansas single-season offensive records. This past season, Graziano, who was one of the three finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy (finished third in the balloting), which is given annually to the Division II Player of the Year, passed for a school, state of Arkansas and GSC-record 4,313 yards and accounted for a school, state of Arkansas and GSC record 4,768 yards of total offense. Graziano, who was named the GSC and Daktronics Super Region 2 Offensive Player of the Year, finished the season 333-for-538 passing and completed nearly 62 percent of his passes and is finished second nationally in total offense (397.3 yards/game) and third nationally in both passing (359.4 yards/game) and points responsible for (22.5 points/game). He threw a school and Arkansas record 38 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions in 12 games. Graziano, who was named both a First-Team Daktronics and AFCA All-American selection and a Second-Team AP Little All-American, had a hand in 45 of Tech's school record 66 touchdowns as he scored seven times on the ground. In addition, Graziano, who was selected to play in this year's Valero Cactus Bowl, was named a four-time GSC Offensive Player of the Week and was a three-time National co-Offensive Player of the Week by D2Football.com. Graziano became the first GSC player since Valdosta State's Lance Funderburk in 1996 to be named the league's Offensive Player of the Week four times in the same season. He had Tech's only 400-yard passing games in school history, a feat he has accomplished six times on the year, including throwing for a single-game school record 465 yards in Tech's 41-13 home playoff win over UNC Pembroke. He has accounted for six of the Top 7 single-game total offensive marks in school history, including gaining a school record 546 total yards against Delta State, which is the sixth-best single-game mark in GSC history. Along with that, he has had 58 plays of 20 yards or more this season, four of the Top 25 single-game total offensive yard performances in Division II this season and four of the Top 20 single-game passing yard performances this season in Division II.

VOLLEYBALL (3):

Ningning Liu (2000-02) – Liu earns First-Team West Division All-Decade honors at outside hitter after being named the GSC West Division Player of the Year and Tech's third-ever All-American in volleyball as a senior in 2002. Along with being an All-American in 2002, Liu was also named a First-Team Daktronics All-South Central Region selection and she was also a two-time All-GSC West Division honoree in both 2001 and 2002. In her senior year in 2002, Liu, who is a native of Beijing, China, set new single-season school records for kills (652) and kills per set (5.1 kps) and finished the season ranked seventh in Division II in kills per set and hit .278 and averaged 2.61 digs per set. She was a part of a Golden Sun team that advanced to the GSC Tournament finals in 2002 and was also a part of Tech's only NCAA D-II Tournament team in 2000. At the 2002 GSC Tournament, Liu was named to the All-Tournament Team. She currently stands seventh on the school's all-time chart in kills (1,228) and is first in kills per set (3.73) and holds the school's single-season mark for double-digit kill matches (33) and is sixth in career double figure kill matches (60) and had a school record 16 20-plus kill matches in 2002.

Kayla Allison (2005-08) – Allison earns Second-Team West Division All-Decade honors as a setter after being named a four-time All-GSC West Division selection, including being a two-time First-Team honoree in both 2007 and 2008. She is the only Tech volleyball player in school history to earn All-GSC honors four time in her career. In her four years with the Golden Suns, Allison, who is a native of Tulsa, Okla., holds the school's all-time record for assists (5,175), which is fifth on the GSC's all-time charts and is third all-time in digs (1,129), fifth all-time in career double-doubles (46) and fourth in career double-digit dig matches (46). Allison is one of seven players in league history to record 5,000 career assists and is one of two Tech volleyball players to record 4,000 career assists and 1,000 career digs. Along with her on-court accolades, Allison was a four-time member of the GSC Volleyball Academic Honor Roll, a three-time member of the GSC Volleyball All-Academic Team and a three-time member of the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI Team, including being a First-Team honoree in 2006 and 2008.

Sarah Von Lienen (2007-present) – Von Lienen earns Second-Team West Division All-Decade Team honors as a middle blocker. In her three previous seasons at Tech, Von Lienen, who will be a senior for the Golden Suns this coming fall, is a three-time All-GSC West Division selection, including being a two-time First-Team honoree in both 2008 and 2009 and she was also named the GSC West Division Freshman of the Year in 2007. Along with her All-GSC honors, Von Lienen has also been named a two-time Daktronics All-South Region selection the past two seasons and was an Honorable Mention AVCA All-South Region honoree in 2008. In her first three seasons at Tech, Von Lienen has recorded 386 total blocks, which is fourth on the school's Division II-era chart and is eighth all-time in school history. In addition, she holds the school's Division II era single-season block mark with 156 in 2007. In her career, she has been named a West Division Player of the Week (Offensive or Defensive) 11 times, including six times (five offensive honors) last season. She enters this fall having recorded 1,030 career kills, which is 11th on the school's all-time chart and has a career hitting percentage of .308, which is second-best in school history. In the classroom, Von Lienen, who is a native of Lakeland, Tenn., is a three-time member of the GSC Volleyball Academic Honor Roll and was a member of the 2008 GSC Volleyball All-Academic Team.

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