Rachael Ortiz-Marsh watched the inaugural Williamson County girls flag football league championship at Nissan Stadium feeling better than ever about the business venture she has taken on after retiring from the Army.
Oritz-Marsh, a former sergeant first class, is founder/co-owner of the Tennessee Trojans, an expansion team in the Women’s National Football Conference, which will start playing in Nashville in April 2023.
The league launched in 2019 and has secured sponsorships from adidas, Riddell Sports, and other major brands. It’s mission is to propel women’s full-contact football into the mainstream of sponsorships and media.
Players are the lifeblood of the league and Oritz-Marsh was encouraged by what she and her spouse and co-owner Tessa Ortiz-Marsh saw on the field Saturday.
“We saw some really talented players out there and it let us know there are a lot of young ladies in this area who would like to have the opportunity to play football,” Oritz-Marsh said. “With the Trojans we want to let them know there is something to aspire to; you can have a career, you can play football at a competitive level, you can be celebrated and exhibit all that fierceness and toughness.”
Players aren’t yet paid in the WNFC but Oritz-Marsh predicts that will happen in the next 5-6 years. .
The Trojans became the 18th team to join the WNFC.
“Our mission to help women and girls reach their fullest potential through the power of sport has expanded even further (with the addition of the Trojans),” WNFC commissioner Janice Masters said. “The WNFC is very strategic and mindful about expansion and the partnerships that are right for the betterment of women’s football. With that, we are incredibly thrilled to partner with Rachael and her team as we continue to lead the way in creating the most provocative women’s sports league in history.”
Some of the other teams in the league are located in Los Angeles, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
It took some convincing for Oritz-Marsh to land a franchise in Nashville.
“Honestly, they were not looking at Tennessee because Tennessee is considered a small market in comparison to some of the teams they have,” Oritz-Marsh said.
“But when the (Sports Authority Board) hired a consultant to assess what’s missing in Nashville sports the big piece was women’s sports. I know they were looking primarily at the WNBA and NWSL. People say you can’t compete with (the WNBA and NWSL) and we know that. But what we can compete for is the support of the community and that’s important to show those bigger leagues that it does exist.”
Oritz-Marsh is working closely with Lisa Limper, a former assistant football coach at Hillsboro and Glencliff, as she prepares for the season. That includes the hiring of a general manager and coach and securing a venue where the team will play.
Tryouts for players, who must be 18, will take place soon.
M.L King gym to be named in honor of William Gupton and Cornelius Ridley
The gymnasium at Martin Luther King Magnet will be named in honor of former basketball coaches William Gupton and Cornelius Ridley.
A ceremony for the reveal will be on May 19 at 10 a.m. outside the school, which opened in 1986. The M.L. King building previously housed Pearl High School where Gupton and Ridley coached.
Gupton, who coached at Pearl from 1939-1960, won 11 state championships and three national championships (1958, 1959, 1960) before integration in Nashville. He retired in 1971 as the principal at Meigs and was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.
Ridley, a 1949 Pearl graduate, replaced Gupton in 1980 and remained at the school until 1984. He won five state championships, 15 district championships and eight regional championships.
Ridely also coached at Maplewood and Whites Creek. His career record was 684-171. He was inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 1991 and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Belmont’s Mick Hedgepeth named Berry basketball coach
Hedgepeth, 32, returned to Belmont when Casey Alexander replaced Rick Byrd as the Bruins coach.
“Mick is the finest example of what a coach should be; a true servant leader, a sharp basketball mind, and a person who will represent Berry well in every imaginable way,” Alexander said.
Hedgepeth returned to Nashville after spending two seasons as the coach at Sewanee. Hedgepeth led the Tigers to a 36-18 record and a trip to the 2019 NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Crossville, Alabama, native began his coaching career at Williams College in Massachusetts.
During his playing career, Hedgepeth was part of 96 victories, three postseason appearances, three Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championships, two Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances (2011 Wisconsin, 2012 Georgetown).
He was a two-time All-Atlantic Sun second team honoree and the 2011 Atlantic Sun Tournament most valuable player. Hedgepeth ranks among Belmont’s all-time leaders in points (1,191), rebounds (692), blocked shots (78), field goal percentage (.540) and games played (134).
After graduating Hedgepeth played professionally in Spain.
Erica Haynes-Overton transferring from Kansas to TSU
Former East Nashville basketball star Erica Haynes-Overton is transferring to Tennessee State for her final year of eligibility.
Haynes-Overton, who scored more than 2,000 career points at East Nashville and was named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class AA All-State team, started her career at East Tennessee State before transferring to Kansas.
She was a three-year starter at ETSU who scored 1,065 points over 65 games and was the two-time Southern Conference defensive player of the year.
At Kansas, Haynes-Overton appeared in five games, averaging 2.0 points.
Scott Hamilton completes 444-mile bike ride for cancer awareness
Olympic figure skating champion and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton, a Nashville resident, completed the second annual “Erase the Trace” 444-mile bike ride on May 7.
Hamilton completed the ride in the rain and facing headwinds but it’s nothing compared to his battle against testicular cancer that started 25 years ago.
Hamilton, who is living with his third benign brain tumor, was joined in the final miles of the ride by his sons Aidan, 18, and Maxx, 14, as part of the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation’s commitment to fund innovative cancer research.
The ride began May 3 in Natchez, Mississippi, and continued 90 miles to Clinton, then 92.3 miles on May 4 from Clinton to French Camp; 90.4 miles on May 5 to Saltillo; 85.1 miles on May 6 to Collinwood, Tennessee, and the final 87.8 miles of the journey began May 7.
Hamilton was joined on the ride by Johnny Burrell, a Nashville-based CranioSacral therapist, who currently holds three records in cycling, and Scott Williams, who is living with glioblastoma and created this event last year, inspiring Scott Hamilton to participate this year.
Cumberland names 2022 Hall of Fame class
Cumberland baseball great Matt Greener, wrester Jake Williams and volleyball player Lisa Holloran Johnson are in the school’s sports hall of fame 2022 class.
The 2004 baseball team is also in the class.
Greener helped lead the Phoenix to the NAIA national championship in 2010. He is the only Cumberland player ever named NAIA national player of the year.
The Jupiter, Florida native, who also was an All-American and the TranSouth Conference player of the year, led the nation in home runs (27), hits (116), total bases (225), and runs batted in (101).
Williams, a Rio Ranch, New Mexico, native, won the wrestling program’s third and fourth individual national championship at the 149-pound weight class. He was a four-time NAIA All-American and a two-time Mid-South Conference champion who collected 1,076 career victories.
Hollran, who played five seasons (1993-97), earned Mid-South Conference player of the year honors and was the first player from Cumberland to be named an All-American.
The 2004 baseball team, led by hall of fame coach Woody Hunt, was the first in school history to win the NAIA national championship. The squad posted a 59-21 record. The team was led by All-American Chuck McFarlane and World Series MVP Donnie Burhalter.
The enshrinement ceremony will be Oct. 7 in the Alumni Hall on campus.
Vanderbilt’s George Harwell named All-SEC; headed to national championships
Former Montgomery Bell Academy standout George Harwell, a senior captain on the Vanderbilt tennis team, made the All-SEC first team.
Harwell, who led MBA to the 2017 state championship, made the All-SEC second team last season.
He is ranked 31st nationally by collegetennis.com and has qualified for the NCAA individual national championships May 19-22 at Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Brothers Osborne will perform before Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway
The Grammy award-winning country music duo Brothers Osborne will perform the pre-race concert for the 2022 Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at the Nashville Superspeedway on June 26.
The concert will be at 2 p.m. The race is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (NBC).
“As the home for NASCAR Cup Series racing in Middle Tennessee, we understand the importance of infusing the heart of Music City into our events,” said Nashville Superspeedway president Erik Moses. “We’re excited to have the Brothers Osborne turn up the heat on our #NASHCAR weekend and know the fans in attendance from across the country, will enjoy this award-winning superstar duo before America’s best drivers take the track for the Ally 400.”,
South Dakota’s Oliver transferring to Tennessee Tech
Tennessee Tech’s basketball team, which has had eight players transfer since the end of the season, picked up a player Wednesday when Erik Oliver announced he would sign with the Golden Eagles.
Oliver is a 6-foot-1 guard who spent last season at South Dakota after transferring from Laramie County Community College.
The Cheyenne, Wyoming, native played in 29 games and started in two. He averaged 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Oliver is the second player to transfer to Tech. He joined former White County standout Grant Slatten, who played last season at Ole Miss.
Schooldays champ Michael Shears advances in U.S. Open qualifying
Former Tennessean/Metro Parks Schooldays Golf Tournament champion Michael Shears, now a senior at Vanderbilt, advanced to the final qualifying round for the U.S. Open.
Shears shot a 2-under par 70 at Bay Point Golf Club in Panama City, Florida.
He tied for second with two other golfers and was among four who earn qualifying spots.
The U.S. Open will be played at The Country Club in Bookline, Mass., June 16-19.
Shears won the Schooldays Golf Tournament in 2017 at McCabe Golf Course.
Cumberland women’s golf team earns national championship berth
Cumberland’s women’s golf team won the Mid-South Conference and will play for the NAIA national championship May 24-27 at Lincoln Park West in Oklahoma City.
The Phoenix will head into the tournament ranked 16th nationally.
Cumberland earned the berth after defeating Lindsey Wilson and earning its first conference tournament title.
The Phoenix’s Emma Hermansson was the individual medalist of the championships after firing a two-over 74 in the final round.
Tennessee Tech president and sports hall of famer Angelo Volpe dies at 83
Angelo Volpe, a former Tennessee Tech president who is in the Golden Eagles Sports Hall of Fame, died Monday. He was 83.
During his time as Tech’s president (1987-2000), Volpe was a strong supporter of athletics.
Under Volpe, Tech added women’s soccer, built its women’s golf team from a first-year program into a three-time conference champion, and restored the women’s track and field team after a 12-year absence.
He was inducted into the school’s sports hall of fame in 2006 and the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2001.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.