Orange & Black Attack
- /Orange & Black Attack
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
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
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
STAFF WRITER Rain delayed the start of camp for the University of Findlay football team on Monday, but that was the only hitch for the Oilers as they began preparation for a season of lofty goals and high expectations. As clouds gave way to sunlight on a cool August evening, creating ideal conditions for practice, the Oilers hit the turf of Donnell Stadium ready to go to work. “The whole month of July and start of August, we didn’t get a drop of rain,” fourth-year UF head coach Rob Keys said. “Every day was perfect. I played a lot of golf in that time. But we get to the first day of practice and it’s lightning and pouring down rain. Our schedule dramatically changed, but the thing about our guys is they are a resilient and adaptable bunch.” The Oilers were supposed to practice at the Armstrong Athletic Complex, but the wet weather forced a three-hour delay and a change of venue.
It didn’t matter. The Oilers took a business-like approach to the three-hour practice, running plays and doing various drills as they did their best to maximize their time. “It’s been a long time coming to get back out here,” senior quarterback Verlon Reed said. “We have to clock in every single day and do everything we need to do, whether it’s film, getting in the weight room, and especially on the field.” Reed is one of 18 seniors on an Oilers team that went 8-3 a year ago and came within a victory of clinching a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in program history. Reed, a transfer from Ohio State where he played wide receiver, played in seven games at quarterback a year ago for UF before injuring his thumb. He threw for 1,791 yards and 11 touchdowns, helping to fuel an offense that cranked out 504.5 yards per game and averaged nearly 40 points (37.9) per game. Reed, an honorable mention All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection, will be pushed in camp by former Ada standout Mitchell Faine and Jesse Slone. “I’m definitely more comfortable with the offense and I have a stronger bond with my teammates now,” Reed said. “Everyone is comfortable out on the field with what we are doing and I’m able to fly around and do my job without thinking too much.” The fact that he Oilers do have veteran leadership at each position has made a world of difference in terms of how practices are run. It also didn’t hurt that junior running back Daiquone Ford was back on the field. Ford tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 10 last season but still managed to finish third in the country in rushing average (178.9) as he was named a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, the D-II equivalent of the Heisman. Ford looked like his old self as he ran the ball during practice and also provided leadership to the younger running backs. The Oilers, coming off their third consecutive winning season, weren’t perfect on day one, but Keys didn’t have too many complaints. “I like the way practice went for the first day,” Keys said. “The energy was high and we kept a good pace and had good tempo. That is a good sign. I saw flashes at times on both sides of the ball. The key is to be consistent in practice every day.” UF has a lot to cram in this week as NCAA rules have shortened the amount of time a team can practice before school starts. Camp ends Sunday and the Oilers begin classes Monday. Keys will get his first look at his team in full pads on Friday. “We’re putting a lot of emphasis on being all-in and doing a lot of timing work right now,” Keys said. “Friday and Saturday will be big for us. Once they are in pads, we can go through the film with a fine-tooth comb and start to look at the pieces more and figure out what we need to do to be ready to play on game day.” The Oilers are 25 days away from the season opener as they will battle GLIAC opponent Hillsdale College at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at Donnell Stadium. They will enter the season riding a four-game win streak.
And while there were plenty of encouraging signs on day one, the Oilers are a long way from accomplishing their ultimate goals, which includes contending for a conference championship. “It’s going to be a grind, and we have to continue to work hard to reach our full potential,” Reed said. “We don’t want to look ahead. Our main focus is Hillsdale right now. But we also know what the bigger picture is. We just have to take it one game at a time.” Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993