Can it get any better for McPherson College athletics this week?
Some of the greatest moments in Mac history have taken place and there’s an opportunity for this week to reach epic proportions today and Saturday.
It started on Tuesday when the Bulldogs’ volleyball team journeyed to Bartlesville, Okla., to take on Oklahoma Wesleyan for a third time this season in the KCAC Postseason Tournament. The Eagles had won the first two matches, one of them a five-setter, and they were favored to complete the trifecta.
Down 2-1 in sets, the Bulldogs gritted their teeth and went to work. They won the fourth set and then stunned the OW faithful by securing the fifth set.
McPherson now goes on to play KCAC champion Ottawa on Saturday at the Concrete Jungle in Ottawa. I’ve covered events there and when the place in rocking, the noise is deafening.
No matter what happens, it will go down as Mac’s greatest volleyball season ever. First-year coach Jessica Cleveland has taken a team that stumbled to a 7-25 record last year and though it’s many of the same players, she’s coached it up to a school-record 21 victories, tripling last year’s output.
Cleveland didn’t win KCAC Coach of the Year honors, but I’m guessing she’ll receive a lot of plaudits from her opposing coaches.
Wednesday was, as the venerable Roger Trimmell always says, "a great day to be a Bulldog.”
The men’s soccer team sent shockwaves throughout the country when it went to Bartlesville to stun the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, Oklahoma Wesleyan. Even though the Bulldogs were outshot 31-5, two of their attempts rang the bell and Mac defended its goal like Fort Knox in a 2-0 victory. Coach Doug Quint’s team is playing Friends on Saturday for the KCAC championship in Wichita and the right to play in the national tournament. Even though Mac has made nationals in the past, it had never knocked off a No. 1-ranked team and it was Wesleyan’s first loss of the year in 20 games.
Also on Wednesday, the Mac basketball teams ventured across town to take on Central Christian College.
The women’s game was the expected blowout as this is a down year for Central, which has only seven players. But the way Mac executed and played so unselfishly has to be optimistic for the future.
Coach Gordon Reimer lost a passel of seniors and basically has only a handful of players back who helped the Bulldogs to an upper-division KCAC finish last year. However, he has gone out and added some nice young talent that opened my eyes. The best may be Hesston High product Cami Richardson, who I believe will make the All-Freshman Team. She is tremendously versatile and it’s been a while since Mac had a 5-10 point guard who sees the floor so well. Another freshman, Isabella Bacon, rifled in seven 3-pointers — in just 10 tries. She has a shooter’s mentality and exquisite form. She comes off the bench as Reimer likes her instant offense. Another freshman, Danielle Holt, simply has a nose for the ball. She hustled her way to 15 rebounds and barely played half the game. She was relentless as she went right to the basket as soon as the ball left a shooter’s hand. Finally, transfer Brooklyn Coe was 7 of 8 and scored 18 points, while displaying a lot of toughness.
The Mac women hope to move to 4-1 here Saturday against a very good St. Gregory’s team. Then it’s the KCAC opener here on Thursday against Bethany, a team that’s similar to Mac in that it relies mainly on newcomers.
The Mac men had a huge challenge on their hands with Central, which I still think will be an excellent team once it shakes the funk it’s in. It's simply too talented and experienced to be 1-3.
The Bulldogs grabbed the game by the throat early and never trailed. In fact the Bulldogs led by double digits the final 16:56 of the game.
Coach Tim Swartzendruber has everybody back except for the graduated Kyle Lakin and they’re 4-0 as they play Air Force Academy tonight in an exhibition game. It’s a great experience for the team to play a Division I opponent. Swartzendruber has added some nice transfers and the team, like the women, plays very unselfish.
The bar now has been raised pretty high for the football team as it wants to keep the school's momentum going. Mac is home on Saturday to tangle with county rival Bethany and the teams have identical records. A Bulldog win and they most likely will finish in eighth place in the KCAC, which is a small but necessary step for a team that was only competitive in one game last year.
If coach Paul Mierkiewicz can keep everybody around for next year and have another good recruiting year, Mac will be on the rise. It’s Senior Day on Saturday and the ceremony will be done in a blink of an eye as just four players will be honored. Mierkiewicz, despite the record, has done a good job. Remember, he basically had to start from scratch and there are still almost all sophomores and freshmen on the roster as most of the players from the previous two coaching regimes are long gone.
Cross country isn’t competing this weekend, but Cameron Magnall's team has qualified three runners for nationals and the men finished third in the KCAC Championships.
All-in-all, it’s been a week and a fall to remember.