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Women’s Basketball Team Travels to Italy for Exhibition Games, Sightseeing

Members of the women’s basketball team posed for a photo in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

Our trip to Italy was an incredible experience for our student-athletes, staff and fans.

We planned our last three foreign trips around the home countries of players on the roster. We went to Israel in 2011 for Naama Shafir, and England and Spain in 2015 for Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, Janice Monakana and Inma Zanoguera. This time we chose Italy for Mariella Santucci.

Quickly after we landed, we found ourselves navigating the waters of Venice, tasting our first pasta dish, and absorbing the Venetian culture. That evening we traveled to Bologna to find our bus greeted by the Santucci family. It was such a moving experience to see Mariella’s entire family there to see her play at our first game; many hadn’t seen her play in a very long time, if at all.

One of the highlights of our trip was spending an evening celebrating the occasion with Mariella’s parents and sister. We enjoyed a five-course, authentic Italian dinner, which left us all stuffed and energized for the days ahead. While in Bologna, we also attended a cooking class, where our players learned how to make tortellini and spaghetti. We may have a future Julia Child or two in this group.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop and Mariella Santucci smiled for the camera in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

Next, we explored the sights in Florence and collected many souvenirs before making our way to Naples by way of a high-speed train. After a quick lunch of margherita pizza, we traveled the curvy, scenic drive to Sorrento by bus. The cliffs unveiled the beautiful coast, where we would play our second game and enjoy a few days by the water.

Another highlight of the trip was taking 10-passenger boats to the island of Capri. We stopped on the back, rugged side of the island to enjoy a refreshing swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Game t
wo took place in the high hills of Sorrento and ended in a second victory for our team.

Our final stop was Rome. Despite record-high temperatures that reached 105 degrees, we attended mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and toured the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum and Trevi Fountain. We also had unbelievable opportunities to hear the pope give his Sunday blessing to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square and visit the Sistine Chapel to see the famous works of Michelangelo. In addition, our third and final exhibition game took place in Italy’s capital city against the Rome All-Stars.

In our three exhibition games, we had a chance to mix up the lineups, give our new players time to show what they can add to our team, and witness our returnees grow in their leadership roles. I was very pleased with how hard we played and how coachable they were. With only 10 practices to prepare, we threw a lot of new things at them, and they absorbed it at a very rapid pace.

In our final night, we went to an interactive opera dinner show with the entire travel party, which included 22 fans. We are so fortunate to have a tremendous fan base that supports Toledo women’s basketball. Seven out of the last eight years, we have been ranked top 30 in the country in attendance. It was fun to share this trip with some of our fans who have helped us enjoy our amazing atmosphere in Savage Arena through the years. That night, we had our final pasta dish from Italy and shared many laughs before returning back to the hotel to pack our bags for an early departure home.

To sum up the trip, we immersed ourselves in art, culture and history, as well as tasted amazing cuisine. This voyage gave our six newcomers a chance to learn our style of play, gain valuable playing experience, and bond as a team. I’ve always felt that team chemistry is the foundation of any great program. We won three games and grew closer as a team. Many of us traveled throughout Italy for the first time and gained memories that will be etched in our minds for a lifetime.

We will forever be grateful to our Rocket family for their generosity and making this trip a reality. We return home feeling very grateful, thankful and blessed.

Cullop is the head coach of the women’s basketball team — and the winningest coach in UToledo women’s basketball history with 241 victories.

Rocket Week to Kick Off With Flag-Raising Ceremony Sept. 6

The University of Toledo President Sharon L. Gaber and Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz will kick off the start of the second annual Rocket Week with an official proclamation and ceremonial raising of the UToledo athletics flag at a news conference at One Government Center Friday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m.

Rocket Week is a series of special events leading up to the home-opening football game of the Toledo Rockets. The Rockets will host Murray State Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Glass Bowl.

In addition to the location at One Government Center, Rocket flags will be in place at other city buildings and parks. Along with promoting Rocket Week, Gaber and Kapszukiewicz will be asking businesses and fans to fly their Rocket flags during the week leading up to the first home game and all season long.

As part of Rocket Week, UToledo and the city of Toledo also will recognize city employees during the game and during pregame festivities.

Some of the events during Rocket Week include the annual Backyard Barbecue Tuesday, Sept. 10, at noon and a pep rally at 12:30 p.m. on Centennial Mall, as well as downtown pep rallies Thursday and Friday, Sept. 12 and 13. The Thursday pep rally will take place at Levis Square at noon during Lunch at Levis. The pep rally Friday will continue a tradition in which the Rocket Marching Band performs at various establishments in the entertainment district that evening, marching through the downtown streets between each performance.

Another exciting event during Rocket Week will be the Battle of the Badges flag football game between the city of Toledo fire and police departments Wednesday, Sept. 11, in the Glass Bowl. Tickets are $15 and include admission to the Rockets’ home opener Sept. 14. Three dollars from every ticket sold will be donated to each organization’s charity. The fire department is donating to Toledo Firefighters’ Local 92 Charity, while the police department is contributing to the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association. Go to the police ticket website or the fire department ticket website.

Throughout Rocket Week, and especially on Rocket Thursday, fans are encouraged to wear their Rocket gear or school colors midnight blue and gold in support of UToledo. The University celebrates Rocket Thursday each week throughout the school year.

As a special promotion for the home opener, city of Toledo employees have the option of purchasing tickets for $12 prior to game day by using the promo code TOLEDO. All others in the Toledo community may purchase tickets for $19 from Friday, Sept. 6, through Friday, Sept. 13, (prior to game day) by using the promo code ROCKET.

For more information about Rocket Week or to order tickets, stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office, located in the Sullivan Athletic Complex at Savage Arena, go to the Toledo Football Central website, or call 419.530.GOLD (4653). UToledo students are admitted free with their Rocket ID; faculty and staff can buy tickets half price with ID.

Rocket Week Events

Sunday, Sept. 8

• 1 p.m. — Rocket Women’s Soccer vs. Wright State at Paul Hotmer Field. Tickets are $6 and $4 for 18 and younger; UToledo employees can purchase tickets at half price; and UToledo students are admitted free with ID. Go to UToledo soccer ticket website or call 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Tuesday, Sept. 10

• Noon — Backyard Barbecue on Centennial Mall.

• 12:30 p.m. — Pep Rally on Centennial Mall.

Wednesday, Sept. 11

• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Health Science Campus Picnic in the Four Seasons Bistro and outside the Health Education Building.

• 12:30 p.m. — Memorial Stair Climb in the Glass Bowl.

• 6:30 p.m. — Toledo Fire vs. Toledo Police Battle of the Badges Flag Football Game in the Glass Bowl. Tickets are $15 and include admission to the Rockets’ home opener Sept. 14.

Thursday, Sept. 12

• Noon — Pep Rally at Lunch at Levis at Levis Square in downtown Toledo.

Friday, Sept. 13

• 9 to 10:30 p.m. — Rocket Marching Band Pep Rally Parade in downtown entertainment district.

Saturday, Sept. 14

• 7 p.m. — Toledo vs. Murray State in the Glass Bowl.

For more information, go to the Rocket Week website.

Women’s Cross Country Picked to Finish First in the MAC

The University of Toledo women’s cross country team has been picked to finish first in the 2019 Mid-American Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

The women’s squad is seeking its first team title in five years after falling short by four points to Eastern Michigan at the MAC Championship Meet in 2018.

Junior Michelle Hostettler and the Rockets open the cross country season at the Mel Brodt Collegiate
Opener Friday, Aug. 30.

Senior Athena Welsh led the Rockets last season, earning an individual berth at the NCAA Cross Country Championship. Welsh placed second at the MAC Championship (20:37.9) and came in 17th place at the Great Lakes Regional (20:55.2).

Sophomore Claire Steigerwald earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors after landing in 19th place with a time of 21:43.4 at the MAC Championships and posted a time of 22:11.7 at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.

Senior Petronela Simiuc clocked a 21:50.5 at the MAC Championship to place 22nd and posted a time of 22:47.5 at the NCAA Regional.

Junior Michelle Hostettler posted a time of 21:38.8 to take 16th at the MAC Championship and stopped the clock at 21:54.1 at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.

“Having a preseason No. 1 ranking is a nice complement to our program and to the group of athletes we have here at Toledo,” said Head Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough. “Having said that, there is a long season ahead of us, and we are more concerned about holding a championship trophy as the end of October than what the rankings might say this far out. There is not a lot of separation between us and a couple of other MAC teams. We need to stay hungry and focused to bring a MAC Championship trophy back to Toledo.”

Toledo tallied seven first-place votes while last season’s champion, Eastern Michigan, was tabbed to finish second with three first-place votes. Miami, Northern Illinois and Akron were chosen third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.

2019 Women’s MAC Cross Country Preseason Poll (First-place votes) – points
1. Toledo (7) — 135

2. Eastern Michigan (3) — 119
3. Miami (1) — 114
4. Northern Illinois — 113
5. Akron (1) — 99
6. Central Michigan — 90
7. Bowling Green — 71
8. Kent State — 50
9. Western Michigan — 45
10. Ball State — 43
11. Ohio — 36
12. Buffalo — 21

Revved Up: Rockets Ready for 2019 Season

Consistency has been the hallmark of The University of Toledo football program, and Head Coach Jason Candle is counting on that to continue in 2019 as his team battles for a Mid-American Conference title this fall.

The Rockets, who are one of only nine Football Bowl Subdivision teams to have a winning record in each of the past nine years, were chosen by the media to win the MAC West Division and make an appearance in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit Dec. 7.

A total of 13 returning starters are among the 49 letterwinners back from last season’s squad — six on offense, five on defense and two special teams players. Among those returning this year are 2018 All-MAC tight end Reggie Gilliam, leading rusher Bryant Koback, and senior defensive leaders Kahlil Robinson and Jordan Fisher.

The Rockets will open their season at Kentucky Saturday, Aug. 31, at noon. That contest will be televised on the SEC Network.

After a bye week, UToledo will host another Kentucky school, Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Glass Bowl.

Candle is excited for the season to begin.

“This team is fun to coach,” Candle, who is in his fourth year at the helm, said. “It’s a good group of guys to be around. They really love what they do, and they are passionate about it. If you can handle that, then the locker room becomes a player-driven locker room and you have a real chance.”

The Rockets were 7-6 last season and earned a trip to the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. Candle said while his team is not focused on looking backward, they are motivated to improve upon that record.

“Last season is over. The past is the past,” said Candle, who is 28-13 as Toledo’s head coach. “But we’re foolish if we can’t learn from it. A year ago, we were coming off an 11-3 season, and we were trying to learn from those three losses. It’s no different this year.”

After the home-opener, the Rockets travel to Fort Collins to play Colorado State Saturday, Sept. 21, before returning to the Glass Bowl to host Brigham Young University Saturday, Sept. 28.

Conference play starts Homecoming weekend when Western Michigan visits for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Oct. 5.

Toledo will play at Bowling Green Saturday, Oct. 12, and at Ball State Saturday, Oct. 19, before returning home for three games: Eastern Michigan Saturday, Oct. 26; Kent State Tuesday, Nov. 5; and Northern Illinois Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The Rockets will close out the 2019 season on the road at Buffalo Wednesday, Nov. 20, and at Central Michigan Friday, Nov. 29.

Season and single-game tickets are on sale at the UToledo Athletic Ticket Office in the Sullivan Athletic Complex in Savage Arena, online at the Toledo Football Central website, and by phone at 419.530.GOLD (4653). Faculty and staff can buy tickets half off with ID, and UToledo students are admitted free with ID.

Toledo Athletics to Hold Garage Sale Aug. 30 in Savage Arena

The University of Toledo Athletics Department will hold a garage sale Friday, Aug. 30, from noon to 7 p.m. on the west concourse of Savage Arena.

The sale will include used gear from numerous Toledo athletic programs, including football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball, and track and field.

Fans will have the chance to purchase items such as shoes, clothes, uniforms, jackets and other Rocket team gear.

All sales are final; proceeds will go to The University of Toledo Athletic Department.

Items will include but are not limited to golf balls; golf ball bags; jerseys (football, volleyball, baseball, basketball, track); duffels and backpacks; shoes; T-shirts; jackets; pants; shorts; buns and sports bras; full-size Toledo flags; pullovers; polos; hats; and golf bags.

Rockets Win MAC Institutional Academic Award With 3.277 GPA

The University of Toledo has been named the recipient of the 2018-19 Mid-American Conference Institutional Academic Achievement Award, the conference office announced Aug. 26. For the past academic year, UToledo’s student-athletes posted a school-record grade point average of 3.277.

It is the second consecutive year the Rockets have won the award, and the sixth time in the past eight years.

The MAC Institutional Academic Achievement Award is presented annually to the conference institution that achieves the highest overall GPA for student-athletes competing in school-sponsored sports for the academic year.

“We put tremendous emphasis on academic excellence at The University of Toledo, so it is very gratifying to know that our student-athletes are being recognized for their superior achievement in the classroom,” UToledo Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “This is the second year in a row we set the school-record for our department grade-point average, and the sixth time in the past eight years we have won the MAC Institutional Achievement Award. That consistency speaks to the determined efforts of our student-athletes, as well as the outstanding support they receive from the parents, coaches, classroom instructors and Student Athlete Academic Services staff members.”

“The Student-Athlete Academic Support Services staff is excited to break another academic record and continue the academic success of our student-athletes,” Ericka Lavender, associate athletic director for academics, added. “We are extremely proud of our student-athletes, coaches, faculty and staff. Without their support, we would not be able to achieve and maintain the academic success at UToledo.”

A year ago, Toledo won the MAC Academic Achievement Award with a 3.266 GPA, a school record at the time. The Rockets also set a then-school record while winning the award in 2015-16 (3.235 GPA). The other academic years that Toledo won the award were 2014-15 (3.213 GPA), 2012-13 (3.200) and 2011-12 (3.171).

MAC Institutional Academic Achievement Award
2018-19 – University of Toledo
2017-18 – University of Toledo

2016-17 – Western Michigan University
2015-16 – University of Toledo
2014-15 – University of Toledo

2013-14 – Miami University
2012-13 – University of Toledo
2011-12 – University of Toledo

2010-11 – University of Akron
2009-10 – Bowling Green State University
2008-09 – Ball State University
2007-08 – Northern Illinois University
2006-07 – Central Michigan University
2005-06 – Central Michigan University
2004-05 – Central Michigan University
2003-04 – Central Michigan University
2002-03 – Central Michigan University
2001-02 – Central Michigan University
2000-01 – Bowling Green State University
1999-00 – Central Michigan University
1998-99 – Central Michigan University
1997-98 – Central Michigan University
1996-97 – Ball State University / Central Michigan University (tie)
1995-96 – Bowling Green State University
1994-95 – Bowling Green State University

Rockets Picked to Win MAC West Division by Coaches

The University of Toledo football team was picked to finish in first place in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division in a ballot of the league’s head coaches that was released Aug. 26 by the conference office.

The Rockets received four first-place votes and 59 total points in the poll, just ahead of Western Michigan (56) and Northern Illinois (49).

Bryant Koback and the Rockets open their season Saturday, Aug. 31, at Kentucky.

Ohio was picked to win the MAC East, with all 12 coaches picking the Bobcats to finish on top of the division.

Toledo opens its 2019 campaign with a visit to SEC foe Kentucky Saturday, Aug. 31, before returning to the Glass Bowl Saturday, Sept. 14, for the home opener against Murray State.

To order tickets, stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office, located in the Sullivan Athletic Complex at Savage Arena, go to the Toledo Football Central website, or call 419.530.GOLD (4653). UToledo students are admitted free with their Rocket ID; faculty and staff can buy tickets half price with ID.

Team (First-Place Votes), Total Points
MAC West Division
1. Toledo (4), 59

2. Western Michigan (4), 56
3. Northern Illinois (2), 49
4. Eastern Michigan, 42
5. Ball State (1), 26
6. Central Michigan (1), 20

MAC East Division
1. Ohio (12), 72
2. Buffalo, 50
3. Miami, 49
4. Kent State, 37
5. Akron, 25
6. Bowling Green, 19

Bob Nichols Court in Savage Arena to Feature New Design

The University of Toledo’s Savage Arena will feature a new design on Bob Nichols Court for the upcoming men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball seasons.

The design change to the court is the first since a slight modification in 2013 from the original surface when the new Savage Arena debuted in 2008. The entire process took approximately two weeks and was performed by a Toledo-area business, Robert’s Floors.

Originally known as Centennial Hall when it was built in 1976, the arena was renamed Savage Hall in 1988 and then became Savage Arena in 2008 as part of a $30 million renovation project. With that project, the facility was expanded to include the adjoining Sullivan Athletic Complex.

“I think the court looks phenomenal. It looks clean. It looks bright. It looks fresh,” Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I know our players are really excited about it, and I think the community will absolutely love it.”

“I love the new, clean and sleek look of the floor,” Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop said. “I appreciate the fact our administration is always looking for ways to enhance and improve our already first-class facility.”

“Everything Toledo does is top-notch, and the new court design is no different. I think it looks terrific,” Head Women’s Volleyball Coach Jason Oliver said. “Savage Arena is an amazing venue, and the new court design will be a great focal point for both spectators and recruits.”

The women’s volleyball program will open its 2019 season in Savage Arena when it holds the Blue & Gold Tournament Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30 and 31. The Rockets also will host the University of Indianapolis in an exhibition match Saturday, Aug. 24.

To purchase tickets for volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball, visit the Rocket Athletic Ticket Office at the Sullivan Athletic Complex in Savage Arena, contact the Rocket Athletic Ticket Office at 419.530.GOLD (4653), or go online to the Toledo ticket central website

UToledo employees can purchase tickets at half price; and UToledo students are admitted free with ID.

Downtown Coaches Association Luncheons to Kick Off Aug. 26

The Downtown Coaches Association of The University of Toledo will hold its first luncheon for the 2019-20 athletic year Monday, Aug. 26, in the Savage Arena Grogan Room.

A buffet lunch is available beginning at 11:30 a.m. for $15. The program featuring Head Football Coach Jason Candle will start at noon.

Football Coach Jason Candle will be the guest speaker at the Downtown Coaches Association luncheon Monday, Aug. 26.

Anyone interested in Rocket athletics is encouraged to attend. Annual membership dues are $40, and a joint membership for couples is available for $50.

Each week, members will hear from Rocket coaches, student-athletes and other special guests.

Due to Labor Day, the second meeting of the Downtown Coaches Association will be held Tuesday, Sept. 3, and then will meet every Monday after that.

Fans can join at the first meeting, online at the Downtown Coaches Association website, or by calling 419.530.5087.

Coach’s Radio Show Moves to Stubborn Brother Pizza Bar

The University of Toledo Coach’s Show will kick off the 2019 season at a new home — The Stubborn Brother Pizza Bar, 3115 W. Bancroft St., on Main Campus.

The live radio show features Toledo coaches and student-athletes, and is carried on the Rocket Sports Radio Network (WSPD AM 1370 in Toledo) every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m. The show features interviews, highlights, previews, and a chance for Rocket fans to ask the featured coach questions in person or by phone.

The show will make its 2019 debut Monday, Aug. 26, with host Brent Balbinot and Head Football Coach Jason Candle.

“The Stubborn Brother Pizza Bar owners and staff are thrilled to be connected to The University of Toledo through the Coach’s Show,” said Stubborn Brother owner Gabrielle Mancy. “Each day, as our business has grown, our location has proven to be a great spot for us to connect to the neighborhoods around us, as well as the University community. We are grateful for their continued support.”

The Stubborn Brother’s location on campus and across from the Old Orchard neighborhood is easy to access for UToledo students, faculty, staff and community members. Ample parking is located in the rear of the building.

The pizza bar is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.