Conference championships on the line
Preparation is underway for G-MAC (Great Midwest Athletic Conference) conference championships. Men’s and women’s basketball will compete for a conference title March 2-4, and the indoor track and field teams compete Feb. 25. After strong regular season performances from each program, athletes are ready to face the tournament.
“This year has been a growing year for our team. We have grown as a team and as individuals on and off the court. Once we started to trust each other on and off the floor, we have played better, and it has really paid off,” said senior forward Brandon Bapst.
The men’s team started off slow this season and has picked it up in the latter part of this season.
“I believe that reaching the conference tournament will help us in our bigger goal of reaching the NCAA division II tournament. If we continue to stay focused in every practice and in games, we will continue to get the results we want,” said junior guard Ty Jordan.
The women’s team this year has also played incredibly well, and after a 0-4 start are sitting at 20-6 overall. The women’s team has continued their hard work and success and is looking to make some noise in the conference tournament.
“The slow start was contributed by all the transfers and new freshman trying to learn how to play with each other. Once we bonded it has helped us get to where we are now in the season, and if we continue to work hard it will continue to pay off. Making the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament is a dream come true for our team, and we are looking forward to the challenge,” said sophomore guard Chrissie Vaughan.
Naomi Grandison, sophomore forward, said, “It is not enough to just get into these tournaments. We have to win to stay in, and that has been our mindset thus far. Coach Tice has really encouraged us time after time that this is our team, and if we continue to play our game we will go far.”
Another conference competition was held for indoor track and field at Cedarville University on Feb. 25. Heading into the event, athletes were optimistic about the event based on regular season results.
Duke Taylor, senior thrower, said he is ready to compete fresh off sweeping the G-MAC athlete of the week. While Taylor has climbed his way to the top in individual events, he said he wants to go bigger this year.
“We have a good chance to win as a team, and I’ve never won a conference championship as a team. Even in high school, I’ve won individual events, but to win as a team is going to be special in a lot of ways” said Taylor.
The team is very confident in its chances to bring home the championship this year and much is associated with the conference switch.
“It’s exciting going from the GLIAC to the G-MAC and being able to actually compete to win instead of hoping for fourth or fifth place,” said Taylor.
Senior runner Emily O’Dell also said, “I’m excited for the new conference. We have a really good chance of being competitive in this conference. I’m super excited for the opportunity to run against some great schools like Cedarville but to have the opportunity to be so competitive with these other schools.”
Another reason the team has so much potential is attributed to the freshman talent that has risen over the course of the season.
“I believe our freshman have really stepped up in their running and jumping and throwing. For them to perform very well so early in the season is exciting to see,” said O’Dell.
One of the most memorable aspects of the entire experience for the athletes will be the continued growth of relationships with their teammates.
“I love watching my teammates do really well” said Laura Tweedie, junior long distance runner. “[The conference championship] will be more of a team effort than years past,” said Tweedie.
The team has a very positive atmosphere and is very hopeful for championships this year. Since switching to the G-MAC, it is clear that athletes believe they have a chance to compete and win it all. Winning both basketball and indoor championships would be the perfect way to transition into the next set of Malone sports teams getting ready to start their seasons.
Rob Elder and Grant Burke are staff writers for The Aviso.