NCAA honors all season
The athletic department is known for achieving greatness, and that was accomplished last year when the university had four sports teams reach NCAA play. The football team, men’s soccer, men’s basketball and women’s number one pair in doubles tennis all went to compete nationally for the Cru.
Last year many firsts happened within the athletic program. Not only did the Cru send 10 teams to the ASC tournament, but UMHB was honored to host the first round of the NCAA for two different sports, men’s soccer and men’s basketball. This was the first time in Crusader history for either team to host.
The university sports information director, Jon Wallin, has seen the athletic department win many. The key to the program’s success is the coach and player commitment.
“I have seen so much growth in our athletic programs in my time here,”Wallin said. “We were just making the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III at that time, so I kind of feel like I was in on the ground floor. We have accomplished so many ‘firsts’ since then.”
For the first time in the program history, the men’s soccer team won the ASC tournament. Following this first, UMHB was selected to host the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.
“I think the university does a tremendous job of supporting our athletic department. We have great leadership with vision and expectations,” head men’s soccer coach Brad Bankhead said.
Bankhead believes that winning the ASC and hosting a round of the NCAA was a great building block for the team and that the new season has to improve from that. Ultimately, he wants to get the team back to the NCAA.
“I am hoping the guys I bring in will work together, become a team, and overcome. If these things all happen, then we will be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Bankhead said.
One of the sports programs that’s familiar with success is the football team. Picked to win its fifth straight ASC championship title, the Crusader football team is still trying to claim that goal of going to Salem, Va. to win the Stagg Bowl, the championship game for the D3 football program.
Defensive Back, Cody Harvey, has played for the football team for two seasons and is happy to be a part of a sports program that does so much.
“We are hoping for a big season and our goals are high. Our goal is to be in Salem in December, and we won’t settle for anything less,” Harvey said.
Wallin thinks that the foundation of the athletic department’s continual success is not only the experience of the coaches but the students who play for the Cru. Wallin admits when some athletes graduate, he gets nervous about the upcoming season and wonders how the team will accomplish more milestones.
“I always worry because we lose some great student athletes to graduation each year. But it is a credit to our coaches and players that someone always seems to step up and fill those shoes,” Wallin said.
He knows UMHB sports like the back of his hand, and is confident that the Cru will perform another show-stopping year.
“I think we will have another great year in 2010-2011. Our coaches and student-athletes work so hard and are very motivated to continue improving,” he said. “There is a great foundation in place across the board, and I fully expect our programs to build on that this season.”
Spectators will have to wait for the tennis program to start in the spring semester, but the football, men’s soccer and men’s basketball season will all begin this semester. Men’s soccer kicks off first with a game against Austin College Sept. 11 in Belton while the first football game of the season will be Sept. 11 against the University of Wisonsin-La Crosse in La Crosse, Wis.