Tom is a freelance journalist and has contributed to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun among others. He is the author of three books.
Locally, he's a regular contributor to the Asheville Citizen-Times and Blue Ridge Outdoors
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 21, 2019) – Panthers’ quarterback Kyle Allen is deservedly receiving a lot of attention this season as he’s done yeoman’s work over the past month in relief of an injured Cam Newton. Allen has led the team to four straight wins, and will direct the team against the 6-0 49ers this upcoming Sunday. Here’s an article that I contributed to Forbes this weekend on the undrafted free agent making good on his first opportunity as a starter in the NFL.
College Football– Western Carolina’s 2019 struggles on the gridiron continued this weekend as they dropped a Southern Conference game to Wofford, 59-7. The Catamounts (1-6, 0-4) return home to Cullowhee for the first time in three weeks on Saturday to host Furman (4-3, 3-1).
Asheville City – Asheville City announced this week that its men’s team would be moving to USL League Two (USL2) from its current place in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).Both leagues are typically considered at the third tier of the US Soccer pyramid, below Major League Soccer (MLS) and USL League One (USL1), respectively. The best place to follow Asheville City moves during theoffseason is on Twitter.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 13, 2019) – College Soccer – As western North Carolina college soccer moves into its final leg of the regular season, here’s an update on the current record of area teams:
NCAA DI: UNCA (3-8-1, 1-4-1 Big South) Mountain Five: Montreat (9-4-1, 6-2-1 AAC (NAIA)), Brevard (4-5-2, 4-2-2 USA South), Lees-McRae (2-6-2, 2-3-1 Conference Carolinas), Warren Wilson (3-4-2, USCAA), Mars Hill (3-7-1, 0-5 SAC)
NCAA DI: UNCA (4-10, 2-4 Big South), WCU (8-6, 2-3 Southern) Mountain Five: Montreat (6-6, 3-6 AAC (NAIA)), Brevard (4-7-3, 3-3 USA South), Lees-McRae (0-10, 0-6 Conference Carolinas), Warren Wilson (5-4-2, USCAA), Mars Hill (1-9-1, 1-4 SAC)
College Football– On the gridiron, the region’s three teams include WCU (1-5, 0-3 Southern), Mars Hill (1-4, 2-1 SAC), and Brevard (3-1, 1-1 USA South). All three were active this weekend, with the Catamounts dropping a Southern Conference decision to the Citadel, and Mars Hill and Brevard also falling in their conference games.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (September 18, 2019) – After an extended pause, Fieldhouse Report is back this week and returns as the region’s college football teams are well underway. To the east in Chapel Hill, Mack Brownis leading a resurgent UNC Tar Heels program that is 2-1 through three games after winning just two games all of last year. UNC hosts Appalachian State (2-0) in Chapel Hill at 3:30 p.m this Saturday.
To the west, Western Carolina (1-2) snapped a nine-game losing streak when they defeated NCAA DII North Greenville at home last Saturday, 20-17. The area’s remaining football entries, Brevard and Mars Hill, have also begun their 2019 season campaigns. The Tornados had their opener against the Apprentice School cancelled due to persistent lightning in the area during last weekend’s game.The Tornados host Christopher Newport this Saturday in Brevard at 7:00 p.m.
The Mars Hill Lions (1-1) fell in their 2019 opener when they dropped a 63-21 decision to VMI (2-1) of the FCS on September 7. They followed up that loss with a 46-14 victory over St. Augustine’s (N.C.) (0-2).
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 19, 2019)– College Soccer – As Western North Carolina’s women’s college soccer teams start into their 2019 schedules in the next two weeks, a familiar name will return to the sidelines at Brevard College. Ashley Hughes, the top WNC scorer among all men’s and women’s soccer players last year, will return to Brevard this fall and serve under fourth-year head coach Juan Mascaro as a volunteer assistant coach.
Hughes holds the Brevard NCAA-era records for single-season goals scored (19), points (41), shots (81), shots-on-goal (50), games played (19), and games started (19). She was named Brevard’s female athlete-of-the-year in 2018-2019.
At the NCAA DI level, Western Carolina (8-8-2) gets underway on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. against Gardner-Webb. The UNCA Bulldogs (3-9-4)return to Greenwood Soccer Field to host American this Friday at 6:00 p.m. UNCA and Western Carolina are set to square off against each other on Wednesday, September 18, in Asheville.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 11, 2019) – Heading into Saturday’s game, the Tourists had a 26-21 record in the second half of the Sally League season, and were a half-game behind first-place Augusta in the circuit’s Southern Division. Asheville was 55-62 overall on the year.
The Lexington Legends captured the Southern Division first-half title and barring a late surge are unlikely to repeat as second-half champions, precluding the need for a wild-card team to face them in the playoffs. Relating that to Asheville, the Tourists will almost certainly need to finish in first place in this half of the year to make the postseason.
Although currently on the seven-day injured list, second baseman Terrin Vavrais currently leading the Tourists in hitting and is second in the Sally League with a .318 batting average. Vavra was drafted in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft as a shortstop out of the University of Minnesota.
In his last year with the Golden Gophers, the Menomonie, Wisconsin, native was part of a team that went 44-15 andbowed out in the Super Regionalround to eventual-champion Oregon State. He hit .386in his junior season to conclude his college career. Vavra spent the remainder of 2018 with the short-season Boise Hawks where he hit .302 in 44 games and made the jump to Asheville this spring. Early last month, Vavra was named the Sally League’s player of the month for June.
Leading the Tourists on the hill this season is reliever Jake Bird, who is 7-1 on the year with 36 appearances. Some of Bird’s most important work has come in recent weeks, as his last four appearances have each been for four or more innings and resulted in two Asheville wins. The right-hander from Newhall, California, is 11-2 lifetime in two seasons with the Rockies’ organization.
After concluding their current series with Greensboro on Sunday, the Tourists return home to McCormick Field to host the Rome Braves (23-24, 53-63) at 7:05 p.m. on Monday night.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 4, 2019) – Tourists Baseball – Tourists’ starter Frederis Parra (below)got off to a rocky start on Sunday afternoon against the Lakewood Blue Claws, but Asheville’s bats quickly came to the rescue en route to a 13-6 victory. After the Blue Claws hit Parra early and often to open the game with a 2-0 lead, Asheville roared back with eight runs in the bottom of the first to take an 8-2 lead. The Tourists then scored in the next four innings to effectively seal the outcome. The win was the first in six attempts against Lakewood this season. Parra earned the victory and is now 2-1 on the year.
Asheville hitters were aided by 11 walks from a Lakewood (18-23, 47-64) staff that struggled to find the plate, but had no trouble locating the batter’s box as Blue Claws’ pitcher hit three Tourists’ batsmen. Shortstop Coco Montes had just one hit in six at-bats but made it count when he drilled a two-run homer to right-center in the third inning. First baseman Grant Lavigne went 4-4 with an RBI, while Daniel Montano drove in four for Asheville (24-19, 53-60).
The Tourists return to McCormick on Monday night to host the Blue Claws again. The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (July 21, 2019) – Shortstop Terrin Vavra lined home the winning run on Saturday night in the bottom of the ninth to give Asheville a 3-2 walk-off win against the Rome Braves. The win pulled Asheville to an even 15-15 in the second half of the season and 44-56 overall in their 100th game of the 2019 campaign. It was the seventh walk-off win for the Tourists this year.
Rome (16-14, 46-53) drew even with Asheville in the top of the inning when Brendan Ventner doubled home Jose Bermudez to tie the game at two. In the bottom of the frame, the first two Asheville batters went down quietly before centerfielder Niko Decolati drilled a two-out double to centerfield off Braves’ reliever Ryan Shetter. The left-handed-hitting Vavra then took a Shetter offering the opposite way on a line to left field, scoring Decolati and spilling the Tourists out on the field to mob the shortstop in celebration. Vavra has 12 hits in his last 10 games for Asheville and is batting .318 on the season.
Nick Bush started the game for Asheville and pitched 6.2 innings, allowing only one run. Reliever PJ Poulin was the beneficiary of Vavra’s game-winning single, picking up the win and moving to 3-3 on the season in 39 relief appearances.
Asheville and Rome returned to the diamond today at 2:05 p.m. in the series finale.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (July 14, 2019) – Asheville City’s men’s team saw its 2019 campaign come to an end on Saturday evening at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium in the NPSL’s Southeast Conference final.
Chattanooga FC prevailed by a 4-1 margin over its rival city to the northeast to advance to play Miami FC (9-1-0) on Tuesday at South Florida’s Barry University. A crowd of 2,800+ was on hand including a vocal contingent of Blues’ fans who made the 200-mile trip from Asheville. Threatening skies and intermittent downpours marked the evening throughout.
Midfielder Chris Allan (Jarrow, England) had Asheville’s sole score in the game’s 39th minute on a penalty kick to pull the team within a goal of Chattanooga (7-2-1) at 2-1. The hosts responded with two goals in the second half to seal the conference championship.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (July 8, 2019) – Asheville City – Last week saw a combined three games for the two Asheville City soccer squads.
On Wednesday, the women’s side played Oak City United in the Carolinas Conference semifinal in Raleigh and came away with a 2-0 win. It was the first postseason game, and victory, in the second-year program’s history.
Molly Dwyer, who scored the game-winner at Memorial Stadium on June 29, opened the scoring against Oak City (5-3-0) in the game’s 36th minute and the Blues took a 1-0 lead into halftime. With just four minutes left in regulation, Jennifer Cudjoe scored off her own rebound to put the Blues up 2-0 and effectively seal the win.
A contingent of Blues fans traveled to Raleigh for the game, while a hometown crowd headed to Hi-Wire Brewing locally to watch the game on the big screen. Between the first and second goals for Asheville City, a “phantom” goal appeared for Oak City on the (soundless) live stream, making the score appear to be 1-1 for a good portion of the game. To the relief of the locals, the technical problem was later fixed and the Blues returned to a 1-0 lead en route to the 2-0 victory.
On Friday night, the Asheville City men’s team won in dramatic fashion over Atlanta SC at Memorial Stadium in their regular season finale. As regulation time expired, Asheville (5-3-2) and Atlanta (1-8-1) were locked in a scoreless tie as the press box announced four minutes of added time. Two minutes into extra time, Ireland’s Ross Fitzpatrick followed up a Jamie Smith header with one of his own to beat the Atlanta goalie and secure the 1-0 win.
The Blues already had a playoff berth secured prior to the contest and the victory moved them into third place of the NPSL Southeast Conference Division with a 5-3-2 record. Asheville City’s next game is a first-round playoff contest against Greenville FC (5-1-4) at UT-Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium at 4:30 p.m. this Friday. The two rivals have played twice this season, with each game resulting in a tie.
The Blues’ women’s team was back in action in the Carolinas Conference final on Saturday against the undefeated Charlotte Eagles.
The Eagles (8-0-1) moved out to an initial 1-0 lead in the game’s 60th minute. Asheville responded in the game’s 83rd minute when Warren Wilson graduate Bianca Canizio knotted the score at one. Charlotte’s Skyler Prillaman immediately responded to put the Eagles back in the lead, 2-1.
Asheville City’s Mariah Powers just as quickly tied the scored back up off a corner to make it 2-2. The two goals are the most that Charlotte has yielded this season. Prillaman scored her third goal of the game in added time to give the Eagles the 3-2 victory and advance them in the WPSL playoffs.
On the year, the Blues’ women’s side finished with a 4-5 WPSL mark, good for second place in the Carolina Conference’s South Division.
ASHEVILLE (July 2, 2019) – The Asheville City women’s team qualified for the WPSL postseason on Saturday in dramatic style with a 1-0 Pride Night win before a large crowd of 1,500+ at Memorial Stadium. Molly Dwyer put home a penalty kick in the game’s 86th minute to break up a 0-0 tie and propel the Blues to victory over Beaufort County FC (2-4-2) and into the playoffs. The team plays again on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. in Raleigh against Oak City United in the Carolinas Conference semi-finals.
Asheville City’s men’s soccer team is back at Memorial Stadium this Friday for the final regular season game for either club at home this year. The Blues face Atlanta SC, a team they defeated on May 18 in Atlanta by a 3-1 margin.
Asheville (4-3-2) was on the road last Saturday and dropped a 3-1NPSL Southeast Conferencedecision to Chattanooga FC. On Friday night the team played to a 1-1 tie in a friendly against Georgia Revolution FC, in a game that saw the Blues feature a number of call-ups from their AC Academy team. Asheville earlier qualified for the NPSL postseason. Check back here for updates on their first playoff game.
Asheville Tourists – On Monday night, the Tourists’ Greg Jones hit a walk-off grand slam in Hobbsian-style to propel Asheville to a 9-8 win over Lexington. Jones entered the game late as a defensive replacement in rightfield (Jones is a catcher) for a short-handed Tourists’ team. With the win, the Tourists won their second straight after Shelby Lackey picked up his third win of the season in a 6-1 defeat of Charleston on Sunday night.
Asheville (5-7 second half, 34-48 overall) faces Lexington (3-9, 40-41) again tonight with a first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. at McCormick Field.