MOC -- Hall of Fame induction
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 16, 2012 1:48 PM
Carl Lancaster's coaching career came full circle when he recruited his sons, Jesse and Nolan, to play baseball at Mount Olive College.
The circle is widening.
Lancaster finds himself receiving emails of kids who are fathered by former Trojans, and to be honest, he wouldn't have it any other way. Some of those dads, particularly the members of the 1992 baseball team, will be on hand for homecoming festivities this weekend.
That group, which helped establish the cornerstone for MOC's current success on the diamond, is part of the seventh induction class set for enshrinement in the Mount Olive College Athletics Hall of Fame. They'll be joined by current Virginia State baseball coach Merrill Morgan and former three-sport letter-winner Valerie Newberne Cox.
The ceremony takes place Saturday at 3 p.m. In the Murphy Center.
"They don't have boys like that around here any more," Lancaster said. "They were a very tight-knit group, solid baseball players who worked very hard on and off the field. They were a bunch of good guys that things just kind of fell into place for them.
"It's quite an honor to get these boys engraved in Mount Olive history other than what they can tell their children."
The 1992 Trojans emerged the first-ever team during MOC's tenure as a four-year school to advance to the national finals. They split their first two games in the Carolinas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament and then reeled off nine straight wins that included the CIAC, NAIA District 26 and NAIA Area 7 championships.
Lancaster's team suffered back-to-back defeats to Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) and Wilmington (Del.) on the World Series stage. The Trojans concluded the season 38-15-1.
Since then, MOC has been a fixture on the regional and national stage. The Trojans won the 2008 NCAA Division II College World Series title and tied for third in the 2011 CWS.
"They were kind of the foundation for our program because after that things started to perk up a little bit around here to the point of us getting the caliber of players we've had and improving the facilities," Lancaster said. "I give their accomplishment quite a bit of credit for what we have today because lots of the things that exist now have come after their time here. There is no question that their success helped get the community involved to help us get to the level we've reached at this point."
Cox attends the Pickle Classic each season.
A year ago, she sat at Kornegay Arena and paid close attention when the sixth class of inductees were introduced during halftime of the Trojans' second game in the tournament. She silently wondered to herself if she'd ever receive a spot in the Hall.
She didn't think it would happen this soon.
"I'm very excited. It's an honor," Cox said.
A native of Duplin County and an exceptional children's teacher at North Duplin Junior/Senior High School, Cox excelled in three sports -- basketball, volleyball and softball -- while at Mount Olive College.
The 1994 alumna garnered All-NAIA District 26 and All-CIAC accolades in basketball. Although she was not drafted, Cox received an invitation to tryout for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks.
But Cox's memories of Mount Olive aren't about points and trophies. They're about family.
The soft-spoken mother of two played volleyball while she expected her first child, Shaquille. Once he was born, the Trojan volleyball team and their families became surrogate parents for Cox, who gushed her appreciation for their support.
"It was a great learning experience and I grew up a lot when I was at Mount Olive," Cox said. "I had an awesome time and never thought I would because it was so close to home. It was a home away from home."
Morgan earned All-Eastern Tarheel Conference honors and helped the Trojans claim the National Junior College Athletic Association District title in 1993. That team came within one victory of a regional championship and appearance in the JUCO World Series. He earned his undergraduate degree at Virginia Commonwealth University and 10 years ago became the head coach at VSU.
A three-time Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association coach-of-the-year, Morgan led the Trojans to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in 2007. Ironically, Morgan faced his alma mater and his team turned the first-ever triple play in NCAA Division II postseason history on a rainy night at historic Grainger Stadium in Kinston.
"We are very excited about this year's Hall of Fame class," Jeff Eisen, athletics director at MOC, said. "The class includes two outstanding former student-athletes, as well as the first team to ever be inducted. The induction should be a great event as we celebrate the accomplishments of these major contributors to the College's athletics heritage."
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