The Winthrop men's and women's basketball teams get into the thick of Big South Conference action this week.
The men (1-10) are on a 10-game slide. The most recent loss was a 74-45 affair against Florida in a game where the Eagles trailed by 42 points at the half. Winthrop is 0-2 in the conference with early losses at VMI and Radford.
Randy Peele's team was the preseason pick to win the conference. The Eagles will need to turn things around to make that happen. They travel to Liberty on Saturday for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Flames.
The women have yet to open conference play. That will start Saturday at Presbyterian. Winthrop was picked to finish second in the conference this season behind perennial powerhouse Liberty.
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The Lady Flames have been weakened by Megan Frazee's ankle injury. Frazee, the league's reigning player of the year, has missed several games with a high ankle sprain similar to what has sidelined Winthrop's Tiffany Rodd.
HOLIDAY BREAK -- Just because it's the holidays, it doesn't mean folks at Winthrop aren't busy working. Women's basketball coach Bud Childers admitted to putting in about five hours of work on Christmas day. Women's soccer coach Melissa Heinz and men's associate coach Dan Ridenhour are in Orlando looking for recruits at a tournament, and Peele had his team in Miami to play Florida.
MEN'S SOCCER -- Junior midfielder Stephen Nserko underwent knee surgery recently. He missed several games late in the season, including the NCAA tournament match at William and Mary, due to the injury.
Forward Daniel Revivo and defender Otto Loewy are preparing for the upcoming MLS combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in mid-January. Meanwhile, defender Henry Kalungi and goalkeeper Patrick Mitrovich have been added to the MLS watch list, according to coach Rich Posipanko.
Those on the watch list are ranked by position. Mitrovich is listed at No. 22 and Kalungi is No. 45.
TENNIS -- Cid Carvalho, in his 23rd year as coach of the men's and women's tennis teams, is gearing up for the season.
The women's team won the Big South last year for the eighth time in the last 10 years. They have all but one player back from last year's championship team and open the season on Jan. 21 at Davidson. The men's team opens a week earlier, Jan. 14, at William and Mary.
PRACTICE STARTS, GAMES BEGIN -- Basketball enjoys a few weeks alone in the Winthrop sports world, but that will change soon enough with indoor track, softball, men's and women's golf, baseball and tennis getting cranked up.
Here's a look at when practice and games will begin for each sport:
Indoor track -- Coach Ben Paxton's teams already ran at the Appalachian State Opener the first week in December. Next up is Jan. 23-24 at the Liberty Fast Times. The outdoor season starts March 6 at the North Florida Spring Break Open.
Softball -- Practice starts Jan. 12 for coach Mark Cooke's team, and the season begins Feb. 13-15 in Athens, Ga., at a tournament hosted by Georgia.
Men's golf -- Practice starts Jan. 12 for coach Kevin Pendley's golfers, with the season opener set for Feb. 15-17 in Houston at the Rice Intercollegiate.
Women's golf -- Practice starts Jan. 12, with the first tournament for coach Jodi Wendt and her team starting Feb. 22 in Kiawah Island.
Baseball -- Joe Hudak's team will do individual work until Feb. 1, when team workouts resume. The season opener is Feb. 20 at home against Eastern Michigan.