Fall athletics anticipate first eligible year in NCAA

 

Joining the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) was a huge milestone for Pioneer athletics last year. Having top notch competitors and  being one of the most successful Division II conferences in the nation made joining the conference a big change as Pioneer athletics received a taste of what it is like being in the NCAA.

With full eligibility this year, many of the athletic programs are anticipating the GLIAC competition.

Volleyball

Last year’s volleyball record was 23-13, and the Pioneers finished 6th in the conference out of 16 teams. The team is looking forward to continuing last year’s success and was surprised to only be projected to finish fourth in the south division of the conference.

The volleyball team huddles around coach Tanya Hockman at a match from the Malone Walsh Crossover Tournament. Coaches like volleyball’s Tanya Hockman are excited for Malone’s first eligible year in NCAA . (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

“We were picked to finish fourth in the south division of the conference,” head volleyball coach Tonya Hockman said.  “That is extra motivation for our team to repeat success from last season (6th out of 16 teams).”

The team graduated three athletes from last year’s team but appear confident in its abilities for this season.

“As far as key pieces, every single person is important to our success,” Hockman said. “Volleyball is a complete team sport. Interdependence and collaboration is pivotal to our success.”

Although the team is always excited to play traditional rivals such as Walsh, they are not shying away from the rest of the competition in the GLIAC.

“When I asked my team who they were looking forward to facing, the answer was unanimously everyone,” Hockman said.

Cross Country

Both men and women cross country teams have a lot to look forward to this year, especially after last year’s conference play.

The men finished 2nd in the conference, while the women placed 6th.  This year, according to preseason rankings, the men are ranked 19th nationally and have set some huge goals this season.

“We want to place high in the conference meet, qualify to nationals and place in the top 10,” head cross country coach Jack Hazen said.

The men’s cross-country team placed 2nd in last year’s GLIAC cross-country championship. The team hopes to make the NCAA Division II championship this fall. (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

The men will be expecting big contributions from Jarod Williams, Drew Trusty, Mitch Williams, and Ryan Roush.

The women front runners will be Tina Oprean, Sara Polatas, and Mattie Rankin. Some key additions will be Mackie Keller and Luis Carbajal.

The Pioneers plan on making a statement in the GLIAC with their first opportunity being eligible.

“We are very ready to get it going and establish ourselves as a dominate team in the NCAA,” Hazen said.

  Football

After a disappointing 1-9 season , Pioneer football looks to bounce back with a big year. The revamped offense will continue to be led by junior quarterback Will Szpor, and the offense is expecting the addition of junior running backs Justin Davis and Bryce Pratt to add a one-two punch in the backfield.

“We have a solid running game, and I believe the run will set up our passing attack,” Szpor said. “We have solid receivers and a much improved offensive line.”

Officially being eligible in the GLIAC gives the Pioneers more to look forward to in the future.

“I think it will help with recruiting and make our school look more attractive,” Szpor said. “We actually get to compete for real and it counts for something this time.”

The defense looks to create a new identity this year while serving as the backbone for this team.

“We want to be known as the defense that doesn’t give up an inch without a fight,” junior football player Demarco Donaldson said.

Donaldson looks to be the leader of defense after being named to the NCAA Division II All-Ohio Team, but knows it will take a team effort.

“We trust in one another, and we have grinded alongside one another,” Donaldson said. “That is what it takes to be a great team.”

 

Tim Woods is a sports writer for The Aviso AVW.

 

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