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GLIAC expected to be competitive once again

By BRIAN LESTER STAFF WRITER If there is one example from last season that is a testament to the strength of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, it was a week four matchup between Ohio Dominican and Grand Valley State. The Lakers, the long-standing national powerhouse, were blitzed 57-14 by the Panthers in Columbus and went home looking nothing like a team capable of making a deep run in the postseason. Grand Valley State was crushed in week four of the 2013 season, blasted 57-14 by Ohio Dominican in a road game. The Lakers didn’t win the conference championship --- that honor went to the Panthers --- but it was the Lakers who marched all the way to the national semifinals, falling 27-13 to eventual national champion Northwest Missouri. The conference is expected to be just as strong this season. GVSU  is the favorite in the North Division, receiving six first-place votes, while ODU, which earned a first-round bye before losing in the second round to West Texas A&M, is picked to win the South. Saginaw Valley State also qualified for the postseason The Cardinals, who received a first-place vote in the league’s preseason poll despite being picked to finish third, were eliminated by the Lakers in a 40-7 opening-round loss. Those three teams will all be in the mix for the title. So will Ferris State and Findlay. Both teams ended the season on four-game win streaks. Michigan Tech and Ashland are also potential title contenders in the conference. How it all shakes out remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that GVSU will enter the year ranked second in the country in the preseason American Football Coaches Association poll. ODU is No 13 in the country. The Oilers received three votes in the national poll. Saginaw Valley State (87) Ferris State (41) and Michigan Tech (2) also received votes. The league has become more balanced over the years and that competitive balance is expected to shine through again this season. Below is a quick look at the teams in the GLIAC (excluding UF). North Division Grand Valley State Head Coach: Matt Mitchell 2013 Record: 12-3 overall, 7-2 GLIAC Star Power: Defensive back Deonte’ Hurst tied for the team lead in tackles last year, racking up 109, and his presence is huge for a secondary that rang up 21 interceptions last season. Hurst picked off three passes last season. Quick Look: Talent is never in short supply at GVSU, which will take aim at the program’s sixth national championship. Heath Parling will run the offense after battling injuries most of the last two seasons. Even with the injury issues, he still threw for 2,441 yards and 27 touchdowns.Tight end Jamie Potts will be one of Parling’s top targets after leading the Lakers in receptions (54). Potts rolled up 899 receiving yards and caught 11 TD passes. The ground game will be solid with Michael Ratay back in the fold for an offense that returns nine starters. Ratay led the Lakers in rushing with 1,017 yards and 16 TDs. Defensive end Matt Mosley will help anchor the defense. He was third in tackles, finishing with 86, and also came through with five sacks. Ferris State Head Coach: Tony Annese 2013 Record: 8-3 overall, 8-2 GLIAC Star Power: Jason Vander Lanan was a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, the D-II equivalent of the Heisman, and is entering his third season as the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. Vander Laan set a D-II record for rushing yards (1,607) by a signal caller and ran for 21 TDs while throwing for 15. Quick Look: Not only do the Bulldogs have one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but they also have two talented running backs in Jamaal Jackson and Kitwana Clark. Jackson rushed for 396 yards and five TDs while Clark finished with 307 yards and found the end zone four times. Wide receivers Jake Lampman and Antonio Agurs will help aid the passing attack. Lampman led the Bulldogs in receiving, making 38 catches for 542 yards and five TDs. Defensive lineman Corey Stone and linebacker Justin Zimmer will pace the defense. Stone finished with 49 tackles last year. Defensive backs A.J. McEwen and A.J. Sowards will also play key roles. McEwen made 33 tackles and picked off five passes for a defense that allowed 356.5 yards per game. Saginaw Valley State Head Coach: Jim Collins 2013 Record: 9-3 overall, 9-1 GLIAC Star Power: Safety Caleb Higbie will be counted on to step up for a Cardinals team that lost several key defensive players to graduation. Higbie made 46 tackles last season. Quick Look: The offense was hit hard by graduation as SVSU lost its quarterback and top receiver in Jonathan Jennings and Jeff Janis. The Cardinals don’t have an impact player returning in the backfield either for an offense that cranked out 476.7 yards per game last season. Dillon is the top receiver back. He made 29 catches for 597 yards and five TDs. The Cardinals lack experience on defense as well, although defensive end Will Schwarz returns after leading the team in sacks. Schwarz tallied 5.5 sacks and came up with 40 tackles. Fellow defensive end Murtada Jabbie racked up 44 tackles. Major Metcalf will help pace the secondary. He finished with 56 tackles a year ago. Michigan Tech Head Coach: Tom Kearly 2013 Record: 6-4 overall, 6-4 GLIAC Star Power: Quarterback Tyler Scarlett returns for his fourth season as the starter, giving the Huskies stability and experience under center. Scarlett is already one of the top quarterbacks in program history and is coming off a season where he threw for 2,552 yards and 16 TDs. Quick Look: The Huskies are not only set at quarterback, but they have a proven player at running back as well. Charles Leffingwell rushed for 1,238 yards last season and scored seven times. Brandon Cowie is the top receiving threat after making 58 catches for 933 yards and three TDs last season. The experience on offense will be key early on as MTU plays four of its first five games on the road. Defensively, the Huskies will look to defensive lineman Nelson Wienke to help pave the way. Wienke led the Huskies in sacks (3.5) and racked up 41 tackles. Defensive back Brett Gervais also returns. He was second on the team in tackles last season, tallying 72 for a defense that gave up 363.6 yards per game during the 2013 campaign. Hillsdale Head Coach: Keith Otterbein 2013 Record: 5-6 overall, 5-4 GLIAC Star Power: Defensive lineman Zach Swaffer is expected to play a pivotal role on the defense again this season after a stellar freshman campaign. A year ago, he came through with 38 tackles and recorded eight sacks. Quick Look: There is some uncertainty on offense as the Chargers look to find a starter at quarterback and running back, but there is no doubt about who the top receiver is for HC. Evan Bach led the Chargers last year, making 28 catches for 345 yards and three TDs. John Haley also returns at receiver while Mike Carter is back at tight end for an offense that averaged 376.7 yards per game. The Chargers have most of their experience back on the defensive side of the ball, including defensive backs Tim Moinet and Dan Pittman, and those two will help soften the blow of losing former Liberty-Benton standout Brett Pasche (119 tackles) to graduation. Moinet was fourth in tackles with 64 and Pittman was right behind him with 63. They will lead a defense allowed 413.7 yards per outing last season. Wayne State Head Coach: Paul Winters 2013 Record: 3-8 overall, 3-7 GLIAC Star Power: Wide receiver Michael Johnson will bring experience to an offense that lost several starters to graduation. Johnson led the Warriors in receiving last season, making 33 catches for 491 yards. He also caught a TD pass and should be even more productive this year. Quick Look: The Warriors had their run of finishing .500 or better end at six, a stretch that included a trip to the national championship game in 2011. The climb back up won’t be easy, particularly with the quarterback spot up in the air, although it helps that 14 starters return for the Warriors. Three players were vying for the job heading into camp. Desmond Martin should emerge as the go-to player in the backfield after rushing for 665 yards and five scores last season. Linebacker Nores Fradi will lead the way on defense. He is coming off a year where he finished third in tackles (61). The secondary is in good shape, especially with Gerren Duhart back in the mix. DuHart racked up 32 tackles and picked off two passes last year. While the Warriors have some questions to answer,  it helps that four of their first five games are at home. Northern Michigan Head Coach: Chris Ostrowsky 2013 Record: 3-7 overall, 3-7 GLIAC Star Power: Linebacker Nick Krause is once again poised to make an impact for the Wildcats. The senior standout was the team leader in tackles last season as he racked up 83. Quick Look: Shaye Brown saw time last year at quarterback, including as a starter late in the year, and he has a chance to help turn things around for an NMU offense that averaged 352.8 yards per game. Brown played in six games and threw for 1,194 yards and seven TDs. Wyatt Jurasin gained valuable experience as well, leading the team in rushing with 545 yards and five TDs. Marcus Tucker is also back and will be key to success in the passing attack. He caught 49 passes for 674 yards and four scores. Free safety Levi Perry will be expected to play a key role on the defense after making 62 tackles last year. Trever Kuzel returns as well. The defensive end tallied 47 tackles and four sacks last year for a defense that was hit hard by graduation. Northwood Head Coach: Pat Riepma 2013 Record: 2-9 overall, 1-8 GLIAC Star Power: Linebacker Mike Keith is being counted on to have another big season. The junior standout led the team in tackles last season as he tallied 93. Quick Look: Northwood is seeking its first winning season since 2009. Mitch Robinson appears to be the frontrunner at quarterback as he threw for 1,198 yards and 11 TDs in nine games under center last season. Robinson is also a threat to run while Devonda Elzy returns to lead the way at receiver. Elzy caught 43 passes for 701 yards and four TDs. Dan Richmond and Terrance Stocker also bring experience to the table at receiver. Linebacker Michael Fisher will help provide a lift to a defense that allowed nearly 500 yards (486.4) per game last season. Fisher was second on the team in tackles (76) during a solid freshman season. Cody Ellwanger will help lead the secondary after making 45 tackles last season. South Division Ohio Dominican Head Coach: Bill Conley 2013 Record: 10-1 overall, 9-0 GLIAC Star Power: Mark Miller is back for his third year as the Panthers’ starting quarterback. The senior threw for 2,648 yards and 24 TDs while only throwing seven interceptions as he led the Panthers to a division title and playoff berth. Quick Look: Running back Brandon Schoen is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He rushed for 1,105 yards and also scored seven TDs. ODU has its top two receivers as well in Abe Johnson and Dez Stewart. Johnson made 60 catches for 657 yards and seven scores. The Panthers also return several key players for a defense that allowed only 18.1 points per game. That group includes linebackers Warren Shields and Cody Culbertson. Shields racked up 99 tackles and came through with five sacks as well last season. Two of ODU’s best defensive linemen also return in Di’Andre Harrison and Sydney Omameh. Harrison made 41 tackles and racked up eight sacks. Omameh tallied 40 tackles and five sacks. Ashland Head Coach: Lee Owens 2013 Record: 5-5 overall, 5-4 GLIAC) Star Power: Running back Anthony Taylor will be key to the Eagles’ success. The senior was second in the league in rushing a year ago, finishing with 1,691 yards and 14 TDs. Quick Look: AU’s biggest concern is at quarterback as the Eagles went into camp without a sure-fire starter. Vance Settlemire, a former Findlay high standout, should help the Eagles’ offense after rushing for 380 yards and seven scores last season. Dan Piko will be the top threat in the passing attack after making 41 catches for 623 yards and five TDs. The defense will be anchored by linebacker Chris Harvey, who was tied for the team-lead in tackles (88) last season. Linebackers Phil Galaska (71) and Zach Olszewski (68) will also play key roles on a defense that allowed 23.4 points per game. Lake Erie Head Coach: Mark McNellie 2013 Record: 4-7 overall, 3-6 GLIAC Star Power: Junior running back Anthony Bilal returns after cranking out 1,542 yards and 24 TDs last season for an offense that led the league in scoring and yards per game. Quick Look: While LEC needs to fill a void at quarterback, it isn’t lacking in talent on offense. The entire line is returns as well as three of LEC’s top receivers, including Tommy Jackson, who caught 72 passes for 937 yards and nine TDs. The key to success hinges on the defense. The Storm gave up 32 points or more nine times last year. The good news is the Storm’s top three linebackers and entire secondary are back. Linebacker Tanner Wells led the team in tackles (110). Linebacker Marcus Rogers was second in tackles (83). Defensive back DeVen Darby will head up the secondary. He made 54 tackles and picked off four passes last year. Walsh Head Coach: Ted Karras 2013 Record: 3-8 overall, 3-6 GLIAC Star Power: Linebacker Cam Trudell led the Cavaliers in tackles, racking up 94 a year ago. The senior will be counted on to help the defense take a step forward after it allowed 475.8 yards per game last season. Quick Look:  Paule Kempe returns at quarterback and Aaron Male will lead the way in the backfield. Kempe threw for 1,621 yards and 10 TDs while Male rushed for 498 yards and found the end zone eight times. The passing attack will be fueled by Jerald Robinson, who made 38 catches for 499 yards. He also caught seven TD passes. Darryl Gary is also back, along with Andy Schrock, who returns after being injured last year. Schrock was one of Walsh’s top threats before the injury. The Cavs, who allowed 43.5 points per outing in their last four games, will count on defensive backs Pat White and Jamaris Brown to help turn things around. White was third in tackles with 78. Brown picked off a team-best five passes. Tiffin Head Coach: Gary Goff 2013 Record: 2-9 overall, 1-8 GLIAC Star Power: Quarterback Antonio Pipkin is one of the Dragons’ most athletic players. Pipkin, who also plays basketball, is coming off a year where he threw for 2,317 yards and 12 TDs. He also rushed for 165 yards and five scores. Quick Look: Former McComb standout Jerry Brown will play an integral role for the Dragons after rushing for 400 yards and three TDs. Brown showed off his versatility by catching 30 passes for 236 yards and a pair of TDs for an offense that averaged 368.3 yards per outing. Marcus Beaurem and Tony Shead will be the top receiving targets. Beaurem caught 67 passes for 591 yards and three scores to pave the way last season. The defense lost seven starters, which hurts TU’s cause to take a step forward, but linebacker Terry Harper does return. He was second on the team in tackles with 87. TU allowed 449.8 yards per game a year ago. Malone Head Coach: Eric Hehman 2013 Record: 2-8 overall, 1-8 GLIAC Star Power: Safety DeMarco Donaldson ranked second in the league last season in tackles. The senior racked up 119 and will look to help the Pioneers improve on a defense that allowed over 40 points per game. Quick Look: The quarterback situation is up in the air, but the running attack will be led by Justin Davis. Davis rushed for 806 yards and seven TDs  last season to pace the Pioneers, who averaged 395.5 yards per game. Jordan Phillips also returns. He was the leading receiver for MU, catching 34 passes for 560 yards and six scores. MU’s defense was hit hard by graduation. Defensive lineman Brock Lundeen is back, though, after making 39 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The Pioneers will need to find others to step up, though, after allowing 459.9 yards per game.

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Oilers have a chance to shine bright on Saturday night

By BRIAN LESTER The wait is almost over. From the moment the University of Findlay football team walked off the field at Donnell Stadium last November after a 49-28 win over Walsh in the season finale, the countdown was on to next season. Head coach Rob Keys even told his players in the locker room after the game that Hillsdale College was now on the clock. The clock is closing in on zero. Hillsdale comes to town Saturday night and the Oilers are ready to kick off this season of high expectations in style. Yes, an 8-3 season was great last year, but 8-3 won't be good enough this year. Neither will 9-2 or 10-1. The Oilers want to win every game. They want to turn all of their potential into production on the field. The Oilers want to win a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship. They want to be in the postseason. And they want to take this season all the way to December. None of those goals will be easy to accomplish. It's rough and tumble world in the GLIAC. Each week, you have no choice but to be at your best. A mistake here or there or a let up in intensity once or twice can prove costly to even the most talented teams. There can be no falling behind 38-10 in a game as the Oilers did a year ago against Northern Michigan. They did rally, but it wasn't enough. They lost 41-31. There can be no missed opportunities. When the Oilers have a chance to bury an opponent, they have to do it. A year ago against Saginaw Valley, UF led 20-7 in the opening half and had a chance to stretch the lead to three scores. It didn't cash in on the golden opportunity and the Cardinals ended up with a 35-34 win. SVSU ended up in the playoffs. Had the Oilers won, they would have been in the playoffs. The little things have to be done right. The offense and defense need to be able to feed off each other and special teams needs to do its job as well. No one can deny the potential of the Oilers. It's right there in front of us. We all know how good this team, anchored by 18 seniors, has a chance to be. It's now a matter of getting it done on the field. The wait is almost over. It's game week for the Oilers, who welcome the Chargers into town at 7 p.m. Saturday for a season opener under the lights. If the Oilers play up to their potential and do what needs to be done in order to win, they will shine under those lights and nail down their first win. Follow me on Twitter: @BLester1993

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UF men’s soccer team taking aim at a winning season

By BRIAN LESTER
STAFF WRITER Perhaps this is the year the University of Findlay men’s soccer team turns the tide on its fortune. With all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selections Mark Sleasman and Ryan Poyle both back in the fold, the Oilers are ready to take a step forward and secure their first winning season since 2005. “Right now, I’m excited with where we are as a team,” said UF head coach Andy Smyth, who is entering his 26th season as the head coach. “We definitely have more offensive talent. Last year, we created a lot of chances but couldn’t put them away. This year, I think we can finish chances.” Sleasman, a former Findlay High School standout, was a second-team all-GLIAC pick a year ago. He scored five goals and dished out five assists.
Poyle earned first-team honors as he scored seven goals and tallied five assists. The junior forwards are expected to lead the way for an offense that scored only 23 goals. “They are a year older and a year wiser,” Smyth said. ‘We’re looking for those two to double their goal tally. We also have a lot of guys coming in who can score. Our goal scoring should improve a lot this year.”
Senior midfielder Cullen Baron, who finished with three goals and an assist, will also help the Oilers’ cause on offense as they look to improve on a 5-11-1 record. UF was 3-11 in the GLIAC. “The conversion rate is the key,” Smyth said. “We’ve created a lot of chances the last couple of years but couldn’t convert at a high percentage. Our hope is to score more goals than the other team. We aren’t sure where we will be defensively, but we are counting a lot on our offense.” UF gave up 42 goals as a team last season, and often, they were goals that should have never been scored. “We had a lot of games where we let in soft goals,” Smyth said. “There are going to be times where other teams are going to score, but if we are going to concede goals, the other team needs to earn them. That is the biggest improvement we need to make defensively.” Sophomore Joe McClanahan is the returning goalie for the Oilers. He is coming off a year where he started 16 games and allowed 28 goals. McClanahan tallied 79 saves. He will be pushed in practice by freshman Ben Richter, an all-state standout from Michigan. “The only thing Ben lacks is experience,” Smyth said. “In terms of talent, he and Joe are similar. It’s a matter of how quickly he adjusts to the college game. I can see those two fighting for playing time all year. It’s exciting to see the competition.” Running the defense on the field will be junior defender Jared Lyon, who also scored twice last season. Lyon is expected to lead the way on a defense that will be short on experience. “He is a two-year starter and we expect him to really step up,” Smyth said. “He has to take charge back there and make the defense his own, instilling a sense of pride back there.” The Oilers won’t have the luxury of easing into the 2014 schedule. They open with Quincy at home on Sept. 5 and host Tiffin on Sept. 12 in the league opener. QU was 15-5 last year while TU played in the NCAA tournament. A battle against No. 19 Ohio Dominican, the defending league tourney champion and an NCAA tourney qualifier, awaits the Oilers on Sept. 21. UF battles 16th-ranked Notre Dame (Ohio) on Sept. 23. Last season, UF defeated NDC 2-1. The Falcons were ranked No. 4 at the time. Only four teams make the GLIAC tourney and the Oilers know there is little room for error if they are going to be a contender. “We have to start strong and be at our best right out of the gate,” Smyth said. “There are no easy games. We have to set the tone right away.” Yet, the Oilers are confident they can be competitive and have a chance at playing in the postseason. “The expectation is that we are going to get in,” Smyth said. “Our philosophy is why not us? The difference between the top and bottom isn’t huge. It’s just a matter of being consistent and doing the little things right.”

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Fundamentals will be key to success for Oilers

By BRIAN LESTER Rob Keys stood in front of his team after practice Wednesday afternoon and pulled out a piece of paper that had included his thoughts from the day's practice. He pointed out the dropped passes, the missed tackles, the inability to be on the same page on every play. He reminded his players that the list he rattled off are things that will need to be fixed if they are going to start the year 1-0 instead of 0-1. "You have to be fundamentally sound," Keys said. "That has been the foundation of this program from the beginning. When you aren't fundamentally sound, when you don't do the little things like catch passes, be on sides on defense, be on the same page when the play is called and do your job, it doesn't matter what kind of ability you have. You can't win." The Oilers have more than enough ability to win football games. That isn't even a doubt. And each day, Keys watches as the offense and defense take turns showing off glimpses of their potential as they prepare for next Saturday's season opener against Hillsdale College at Donnell Stadium. "There is no doubt we have good players on both sides of the ball," Keys said. "There are going to be bad days for the defense and bad plays for the defense. There are going to be bad plays for the offense and bad days for the offense. You can't expect one side to dominate the whole time. If you did, there is an issue on one side of the ball." I like the direction the Oilers are headed in, though, as they inch closer to the start of the season. They have worked together as a team and they have taken a business-like approach to every practice. They are aggressive, driven and motivated. Sure, not everything is perfect, but the Oilers are working to be as perfect as they can when the games start to count. "Every single day it's about how much better we can get as a team," Keys said. "That has been the focus from way back. It's about getting better as individuals, as a position group, as an offense and defense and collectively as a team. As the season progresses, we have to get better every week to win games." The Oilers want to win every game. They want this to be their season, the one everyone remembers forever. The potential is there to make 2014 a special year for UF football. But potential only goes so far. Potential has to become production on Saturdays this fall. If it does, the sky is the limit. "It's not about how talented you are or how much potential you have," Keys said. "It's about how productive you are and how you play on Saturdays. You can practice great Monday through Friday, but if you play bad on Saturday, it doesn't matter. Our guys understand that. They have a lot of experience. They understand what it takes to win in the (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). We've definitely made strides from day one to now." And come next Saturday night against Hillsdale, the Oilers hope to take the biggest stride of all, and that is the one that leads them into the win column in their season opener. Follow me on Twitter: @BLester1993

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UF volleyball team takes aim at another successful season

By BRIAN LESTER
STAFF WRITER Two straight winning seasons. Back-to-back trips to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. Life is good again for the University of Findlay volleyball team, which is ready to take another step forward after its first 20-win season since 2006. The Oilers are coming off a 20-12 season that ended with a 3-2 loss to Northern Michigan in the first round of the conference tourney. UF did lose one of its top hitters in program history in Danielle Taflinger, a two-time All-American, but head coach Wick Colchagoff has good reason for optimism. “Last year’s seniors helped re-establish the winning tradition,” Colchagoff said. “We also had a lot of underclassmen who got valuable playing time. The offseason went extremely well and we feel really good about the season ahead.” The Oilers only have three seniors, including honorable mention all-GLIAC selection Amanda Calhoun. The veteran setter dished out 1,089 assists a year ago and also came through with 209 digs. Samantha Granger is entering her fourth year as a starter. She played at outside hitter her first two season but was a defensive specialist last year. Granger tallied 213 digs for the Oilers. The other senior is Heather Schwyn, who saw limited time as a defensive specialist last season. UF’s cast of underclassmen includes former Carey standout Hannah Tong. The talented outside hitter came on strong during the second half of the season and was even named the GLIAC Player of the Week. Tong finished third on the team in kills (184) and also made 32 blocks. Junior middle blocker Julie Lyons turned in a stellar performance last year despite getting injured. She finished with 169 kills and is expected to be even better this year as she will take on a key role in the Oilers’ offensive attack. “Julie had a monster season up until she got hurt,” Colchagoff said. “Hannah did some tremendous things for us and has only gotten stronger. We are expecting big things out of them.”
Andrea Roach, a junior right-side hitter, racked up 131 kills last year and has put in a lot of time in the weight room during the offseason. Junior defensive specialist Becca Shoemaker will play a pivotal role defensively after coming through with 195 digs. Shoemaker excelled during the spring in scrimmages. Freshman defensive specialist Megan Wendel, who won two state championships at Marion Local, is expected to step in and play right away. The Oilers are expected to be in the mix for a conference championship, and one thing that will benefit them as they begin their quest is the consistency they have started to establish. The Oilers didn’t have a lot of ups and downs and only lost more than two matches in a row twice last year. “We didn’t have those stretches where we come off a big win and then get upset,” Colchagoff said. “The mentality for us now is to go out and play our best against the best and still play at a high level against teams that are less skilled. We want to be competitive in every match.” The Oilers were 11-8 in the GLIAC and gave NMU all it could handle before falling short in the postseason. A lesson was learned that night. “I think what that experience does is let our team know the importance of finishing in the top four and getting a home match in the first round,” Colchagoff said. “It was a match we could have and probably should have won. We came up a couple of points short, and if we were at home, that probably would have been a couple of points along the way.” The GLIAC will be just as rugged this year. Grand Valley is the defending league champion and Ferris State won the NCAA Division II regional and played in the Elite Eight. The Oilers, who hope to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament this season, open the season on Sept. 4 in a tournament hosted by Rockhurst, which won the West Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference last year. “We definitely try to play a very competitive pre-conference schedule to get ready for the GLIAC,” Colchagoff said. “There are plenty of places I could get us to play where we could get four or five wins in a weekend, but that wouldn’t prepare us at all for what is ahead in the conference.” Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993

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Seven starters back for UF women’s soccer team

By BRIAN LESTER STAFF WRITER

University of Findlay women’s soccer coach Crystal Dye feels good about her team as it heads into a new season.

After all, the Oilers have seven returning players and all seven are starters. Dye is hoping that experience translates into success on the field as UF takes aim at its first winning season since 2010.

“It’s been a little up and down in the preseason, but things have gone well overall,” Dye said. “I feel good about this team because I think we have a great opportunity to be successful.”

The Oilers missed out on the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament a year ago, finishing 8-8-2 overall and 4-6-2 in the conference. They are picked to finish ninth in the league this season.

Dye believes consistency will be the key to success for the Oilers, who opened last year at 4-1 but never carried that momentum through the rest of the season.

“I think we are a very tight-knit team and we are playing well together,” Dye said. “That is a great thing to help us find that consistency. We continue to get better at it each day.”

Senior forward Eryn Weber will be vital to the Oilers’ success. She is the leading returning scorer and a first-team all-GLIAC selection. Weber scored nine goals and dished out five assists last season.

Senior midfielder Danielle Hart is also back and is coming off a year where she scored two goals and tallied five assists.

Kirsten Fruchey, a senior midfielder/forward, also returns after scoring four goals a year ago.

Those three accounted for 15 of the Oilers’ 29 goals.

Junior Kendall Kwiatkowski (midfielder) and senior Emma Owens (midfielder) should provide a boost to the offense this season, although Owens is currently hurt. Kwiatkowski scored two goals last season.

The Oilers did out-shoot the majority of their opponents last season but were unable to cash in a lot of their scoring chances.

“We out-shot almost every team we played, but on the other end, we didn’t win some of those games. The finishing part hurt us,” Dye said. “We’ve worked a lot on finishing opportunities.”

From a defensive standpoint, the Oilers are counting on sophomore Kate Prewitt to lead the way. The second-year defender is also a captain for the Oilers.

“She played in the middle last year,” Dye said. She has that mentality of being the instructor out there. We’re expecting her to have a great season.”

Senior Samantha Edwards, a Kalida grad, and junior Katelyn Anderson also return to help anchor the defense. Anderson battled an injury last year but is healthy again and could be a difference maker.

In goal, Samantha Trimboli returns. She started in five games and gave up 16 goals while making 40 saves. Trimboli is being pushed in practice by freshmen keepers Bre Parish and Madison Moore. Parish is a Riverdale graduate.

“Sam has a lot of experience, but the two freshmen are giving her a run for her money,” Dye said. “It’s great to have that competition in practice. All three are fighting for time.”

The Oilers will be tested early as they host Lewis out of the Great Lakes Valley Conference and travel to Lee, which owns four NAIA national titles. Lewis finished 8-7-2 last year while Lee, in its second year at the NCAA Division II level, went 14-42.

The highlight of the GLIAC schedule is a Sept. 28 battle at home against defending national champion Grand Valley State, the preseason No. 1 team in the country. The Oilers beat the Lakers 3-2 two years ago. It was GVSU’s only league loss that season.

Dye said her team is ready for the challenges ahead this year as it tries to earn a trip to the conference tournament. UF opens the season on Sept. 6 at St. Joseph’s. GLIAC play begins on Sept. 26 at Malone.

“I definitely think we have a chance to be one of the better teams in the league,” Dye said. “Getting into the playoffs is the big thing. If we can get in and win a game, anything can happen at that point.”

Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993

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Oilers picked to finish second in GLIAC South Division poll

By BRIAN LESTER STAFF WRITER

Fresh off its third consecutive winning season, the University of Findlay football team will enter the 2014 campaign as one of the top teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Oilers are picked to finish second in the South Division, racking up 30 points and one first-place vote. Ohio Dominican, the defending division champion and a 2013 NCAA Division II playoff participant, tallied 36 points and six first-place votes.

UF finished behind ODU in the standings last year and lost 41-21 to the Panthers in the regular season. The two teams do not play each other this year.

Grand Valley State, which marched all the way to the national semifinals a season ago, is once again the favorite in the North Division. The Lakers racked up 49 points and seven first-place votes. Ferris State is picked second with 42. Saginaw Valley State received the other first-place vote. The Cardinals are slated third in the division.

The Oilers are coming off an 8-3 season, including a 6-3 mark in the GLIAC. They won their final four games, not turning the ball over once during that stretch, and won seven of their final eight overall after a 1-2 start.

UF is heavy on experience as it enters the fourth year under head coach Rob Keys. The roster features 18 seniors and a junior running back who was a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, the D-II equivalent of the Heisman.

Daiquone Ford rushed for 1,789 yards and 24 touchdowns before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in week 10. He helped fuel an offense that cranked out 504.5 yards per game, the eighth-best average in the nation.

The Oilers struggled at times defensively and ranked last in the GLIAC, giving up 262.8 yards per game. But they finished strong, holding their last four opponents to under 30 points. Harold Jones-Quartey is one of the key players back for the Oilers on defense after racking up 92 tackles and picking off a pass in three of the last four games.

While the Oilers will enter the year hoping to contend for their first GLIAC title and D-II playoff berth in program history, Keys said on Monday that his team has a long way to go to get to where it wants to ultimately be as a team.

“We are miles and miles and miles away,” Keys said. “The first practice is something to build on. I hope we can be consistent every day in practice. We have a long way to go, but I think our guys have the mindset and focus to do what it takes to get there.”

GLIAC Preseason Poll North Division 1. Grand Valley State (7) 49 2. Ferris State 42 3. Saginaw Valley State (1) 35 4. Michigan Tech 30 5. Hillsdale 26 6. Wayne State 21 7. Northern Michigan 12 8. Northwood 9 South Division 1. Ohio Dominican (6) 36 2. Findlay (1) 30 3. Ashland 27 4. Lake Erie 16 5. Walsh 16 6. Tiffin 14 7. Malone 8

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