The weather is changing and the autumn leaves are suddenly falling from the trees, which can only mean it is time for another transition for Pioneer athletics.
Pioneer fall athletics completed its first full year in the NCAA Division II, and most teams have excelled from last year’s first dip in the big pond.
Pioneer men’s golf had a great season this fall and brought home Pioneer athletics’ first conference championship.
“We had a great fall,” said head coach Ken Hyland. “We played in five tournaments where we won three and finished second in two of them. We won the conference championship, as well as the Midwest regional in St. Louis.”
Coming into the season, the players and coaches both knew that a big year was ahead of them based on the talent they had on the team.
“We just wanted to participate at a high level in the conference,” Hyland said. “We had exceptional players on our roster that performed really well for our team.”
The team was led by both senior Nathan Tarter, who won two tournaments, and senior Tyler Light, who also won a few tournaments. As of now, Tartar is first in the region as well as conference, followed by teammate Light, who is second in the conference, and both Jon Clark and Garrison Myles are tied for ninth in the conference.
With four players in the top ten in the GLIAC conference, the team should have some momentum riding into the spring.
The women’s soccer team has shown improvement from last year and is heading in the right direction under first year head coach Josh Jones.
Last year’s team finished 1-14-1, while this year’s team pulled out three more wins than last year’s team, finishing 4-12-1.
“We did better than expected,” Jones said. “With the amount of young people we have and two seniors, we can only go up from here. We improved wins total, decreased goals against and increased goals.”
The team was able to conquer a win over GLIAC conference opponent Saginaw Valley State University, and make another conference game win. But due to injuries occurring midseason, the team began to lose its rhythm.
“It’s pretty difficult not being able to play with your home team, that’s the hardest thing we had to face as a team,” Jones said.
Women’s soccer looks to make an even bigger impact on its record next fall. With much of its team returning next year, the team hopes to use its experience to show its true capability.
Pioneer football displayed improvement from across the board this fall. The team increased its wins by only one from last year (1-9) to (2-10). Despite the scoreboard, the growth within games showed where the team has excelled.
“I think there are always a little bad and the good and the good and the bad,” said head coach Eric Hehman. “The season had some expectations not fulfilled but had some great developments, and I think if you measure the past few years to this year, you’ll see that we were much more competitive than we’ve been in the past and I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The football team’s improvement over the past few years is apparent. Football player junior Demarco Donaldson was honored with being elected to the GlIAC’s second team, with many other players earning honorable mentions in the conference.
“One of the things I’m always looking forward to is the journey,” said Hehman. “Going from point A to point B to point C is a challenge and we are moving towards that.”
Pioneer volleyball experienced its ups and downs this season as it faced the stellar competition this fall.
Head coach Tanya Hockman said, “We had our bright moments, we started our season well but the hard part was playing people out of position.”
Along with its new transition to competing against top-notch teams, injuries played a toll on the team.
“We had a mixed bag this year, and we didn’t reach our expectations,” Hockman said.
Despite its losing second half, the team focuses on motivation for next season.
“I’m hoping that how we finished this year motivated out team; it definitely motivates me right now,” Hockman said.
The team will be losing three seniors and will also be losing junior Taylor Slauterbeck due to injury. Although the team is losing some key players, others look to finish their careers on high notes.
The cross country teams are very successful and also normally finish at the top of the conference. This year the men’s team finished third in the conference and was led by seniors Nick Fresenko, and Jarod Williams. They’ll definitely be missed but the team won’t really be losing a step.
The women’s team finished seventh this year. They also had some strong runners, especially national qualifier Tina Oprean.
Hopefully the two cross country teams can feed off of their momentum and success going into the indoor/outdoor season and bring home conference championships for Malone athletics.