Softball seeks to finish strong on home stretch
Apr15

Softball seeks to finish strong on home stretch

By Michael Crosson   In Texas, spring means sunny skies and warmer weather.   But to local sports fans, spring means baseball and softball season for spirited Crusaders.   The Lady Cru started the season slow by losing seven of their first 13 contests, but then went on a streak to win 10 consecutive games the last month.   Tiffany Birdwell is a pitcher for the softball team. She said the team’s recent success is the result of good team chemistry.   “I feel we need to continue to bond as a team,” she said.   Third baseman Leah Brown said the team is pleased so far with its play, but knows there’s plenty of games left to be played in the season.   “I always feel like we can improve, but I feel we’re doing really well as a team,” Brown said.   Head coach Larry Hennig believes this year’s squad is special because of the good team work ethic on and off the field.   He said, “I guess that the fact that the girls came here and we’re on a mission and they understand that every day is important, teamwork is important.”   Julie Norris, the assistant softball coach, said the thing she loves most about this team is how the players genuinely care for one another.   “We have a really resilient team they’re never out of ball games and the team chemistry is really good this year, the girls get along and play hard for each other all the time,” Norris said.   Catcher Cori Drake said the players have had to rely on each other to get through the mental hurdles of the season.   Drake said, “I think we possess a lot of confidence because we’re really good about motivating our own teammates and keeping a positive attitude during the games, and that really contributes to our success.”   Drake added that as the team continues to improve, they could very well be a tough club to beat.   “I believe the more we play the better we get and the more we come together as a team, so I believe we have a very good shot at going to regionals this year,” she said.   Right fielder Karley Free said the team’s unity and hard work is what makes her most proud to be a part of the squad.   “The team chemistry and how well we can all get along when we’re out on the field, and encouraging others during the game,” Free said.   The team is currently sitting fourth in the American Southwest Conference standings and will host...

Read More
Heartbreaker ends Cru’s season
Mar04

Heartbreaker ends Cru’s season

Led by senior Jerard Graham, the UMHB men’s basketball team made a late-season push to lock up the No. 5 seed in the American Southwest Conference tournament. The Cru’s run came to an end, however, as the team suffered a 72-64 defeat at the hands of Howard Payne University in Thursday’s first-round matchup.   The Cru gained control early and built a 10-point lead early in the second half, but an 11-0 run by the Yellow Jackets put HPU up 44-43 five minutes into the second half.   The Yellow Jackets would build a 54-47 lead, but the Cru fought back to tie the game at 59.   With 4:23 left in the contest, sophomore guard Avery Polchinski drained a bucket that gave UMHB a 63-62 advantage.   It would be the final field goal the Cru would make on the evening as HPU was able to ice the game from the free throw line.   Sophomore Daniel Mills led the Cru with 24 points on the game. The Belton High product averaged 18.8 points over the Cru’s final five games. Mills said his success down the stretch can be accredited to the bonds he built with his teammates throughout the season.   “I think I just got used to having new teammates and my confidence went up a lot,” he said. “I think it has to do with my teammates and coach having trust in me and I’ve just been more consistent with my effort and it has helped me.”   Graham was the team’s leading scorer on the season, averaging 18.9 points per game as he started every game for the Cru. The senior not only led his team in scoring, but became a more vocal leader as well.   “I have felt myself get more vocal in practice and in games. At the beginning of the season I was a tad quiet but now I’m constantly communicating with my teammates,” Graham said.   The team loses Graham and fellow senior Kevin Waller, but will bring back a core next season that includes Mills and point guard Layton Zinsmeister among others.   Zinsmeister said the players became more comfortable with each other as the season wore on, which they hopefully will be able to carry into next season.   “Throughout the season I have noticed our team improving in almost every way. We are starting to make the big shots and play together better,” he said. “We had a few new guys this year and it took some time to get the chemistry going but as of late we really have been playing well together.”   The...

Read More
Ballplayer gets second chance
Feb18

Ballplayer gets second chance

By Michael Crosson   To most collegiate baseball players, the big prize is a shot at the major leagues. For one Crusader, it is about playing the game he loves and making the team better.   Emery Atkisson is one of 30 members of the UMHB baseball team. He plays second base and shortstop. Atkisson is grateful for his position on a team. For a time, he wondered if he would ever be a college athlete again.   “The game finds a way to humble you. Although my shoulder injury was unfortunate, I have found a new love for the game and gained a greater understanding of life as well as the importance of a good work ethic,” says Atkisson.   Before the ballplayer’s injury, major league scouts from the Colorado Rockies and the Atlanta Braves franchises were following Atkisson.   “I had a set rehabilitation program at Stephen F. Austin, but I tried to push myself too hard, which ultimately prolonged my recuperation process. However, it has been two years since my surgery and my arm is feeling better than ever and I am ready for the 2015 season,” he said.   The idea of an athlete going from NCAA Division I to Division III means Atkisson has to work harder to prove he is still an elite player.   “The biggest difference between Division I and Division III is the lack of athletic perks in terms of scholarship opportunities. We are encouraged to play for the love of the game. The passion we have for this game will ultimately lead us to becoming a better team and better individuals in the long run. We play because we love it and we learn life lessons through the games of baseball,” Atkisson said.   Atkisson believes his work ethic and positive attitude toward the game of baseball is the most valuable attribute he brings to the team.   “My work ethic was compared to Robert Griffin III in high school, I feel like that is what I bring most to this team,” he said.   Atkisson is excited for the opportunity to be a more vocal leader for the team.   “When baseball is good, Emery is good and I plan on having a very good spring,” Atkisson said.   If this team can push itself not only in beating Concordia or LeTourneau Universities, but in getting to the Division III College Baseball World Series in Wisconsin, then this team can become one of the elite Division III programs in the nation.   Chase Burrow, is also a member of the baseball team and plays left field. He said...

Read More
Men’s volleyball makes strides
Feb04

Men’s volleyball makes strides

The men’s club volleyball team began last spring and has continued to expand. The team has already began their season by travelling across Texas competing in tournaments and matches from Waco to San Marcos to College Station. The team competes in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation which governs collegiate volleyball clubs all over the United States. The men are working hard to compete in the NCVF National Championships in Kansas City, Missouri, April 9-11.   This year’s Cru roster consists of 15 students of all ages, ranging from freshmen to seniors.   Aaron Jackson helped develop the club team. He is a junior double major in business management and marketing who currently serves as the team’s captain.   “My favorite part about being on the men’s volleyball team is being able to play college volleyball at the division-1 national collegiate volleyball federation level. It has always been a dream of mine to play volleyball in college, so now I get the opportunity to do so and building memories with these awesome guys,” he said.   Jackson grew up watching his sister play which sparked his interest in the sport.   “During my junior year in high school, I started playing and going to open gyms, trying to learn as much as possible. That brought me to love the sport and want to play at a collegiate level,” he said.   The team’s current coaches are Elleny Ohendalski and Ally Bermea. Ohendalski, a freshman nursing major, found out about the team last semester from last semester’s head coach.   “I joined the team this past fall, Katelyn Holm, who was the head coach at the time, asked me to practice one day. Then I just continued with it throughout the semester. Now she has graduated, and I am still staying at the position of assistant coach.”   Junior exercise sport science major Andrew Flores and junior finance and management double major Drew Davies enjoy being a part of the squad.   “It started up in the spring semester, 2014. I have been a part of it since it started. My favorite part of being on the team is just being able to play the game that I grew to love with friends,” Flores said.   “My favorite part of volleyball would have to be the sense of community. We take volleyball pretty seriously and practice four times a week, sometimes at five in the morning. It’s just a really good feeling when the whole team is helping you get to where you need to be and that I get the opportunity to help other members reach their full potential as...

Read More
Cru sports foresee promising spring season
Jan22

Cru sports foresee promising spring season

As the new year begins, the men’s and women’s basketball teams have hit the middle of their schedules. Both teams are currently in position to qualify for the ASC Championship tournament, but need to finish their regular seasons with more wins to capture the post season spot.   The Lady Cru are in seventh place with a 8-7 overall record and 4-6 in conference play. The men are in second at 11-4 and are 8-2 in conference.   The men defeated conference top-ranked Hardin-Simmons University in overtime 90-81 last week.   Freshman pre-physical therapy major Meghan Turner plays point guard for the Lady Cru. Meghan talks about how they are preparing for the conference championships.   “We are taking every day one by one and making every practice count,” she said.   Junior exercise sport science major Tori Tucker mentions the team’s preparation.   “We work hard every day and we know what’s at stake. We want to not only do this for ourselves, but for our seniors. We don’t want to be sitting in Belton during the tournament knowing we should be there. We are ready and determined to turn this around this next go around,” she said.   Tucker also enjoys the atmosphere the Crusader fans bring to the game.   “Having students back on campus is nice for the games due to more fans and more energy in Mayborn Campus Center. Having student life back on campus also brings liveliness on games days and knowing that they will be there on game night is exciting. We love our fans,” she said.   The Lady Cru and Cru will host Sul Ross State and Howard Payne University this Thursday and Saturday in Belton. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Mayborn Campus Arena.   Both match ups are conference games that will impact seeding in the ASC post-season this March.   The other spring sports, baseball, softball, tennis and golf have begun the first steps in their spring seasons.   Senior exercise sport science major Angelie Juaneza is ready for the tennis season to begin.   “I’m excited for what the season has in store for us. We are going against a handful of tough teams that we haven’t played against before. It’ll be a season full of new experiences for sure,” she said. “Being a senior, I want it to be the best season ever, but tennis is a team sport, so everyone has to work together in order to achieve our goals.”   Junior sport management major Elizabeth Davis reflects on the...

Read More
Men’s win count spikes before tourney
Nov25

Men’s win count spikes before tourney

  UMHB is a powerhouse when it comes to sports, and the new men’s volleyball team is looking to be nothing less when the season officially starts in the spring.   Although the team just officially began tournament play this year, they have already recruited 17 players that range from freshmen to seniors.   Junior business management major Aaron Jackson was appointed captain of the team.   “It has always been a great passion of mine and I’ve always wanted to play volleyball as a collegiate sport …” Jackson said. “Once I found out there was a big passion for volleyball here at UMHB as far as guys, I felt like we definitely needed to get something started here.”   As captain, Jackson says his job is to motivate his team, make sure they show up to practice, hold them accountable and make sure they take initiative to do what is expected.   Since Texas does not have NCAA men’s volleyball, the Southern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association was created, thus letting this group of guys start something new on campus.   The men have been travelling to different schools this semester to participate in tournaments before their season starts in Jan.   Nursing major and assistant coach Elleny Ohendalski says the guys have greatly improved since the beginning of the semester.   “They’re playing good at the tournaments … they just seem shy on the court … but they are improving,” she said.   The team is preparing to host their own tournament in December, inviting other schools in the division to Crusader turf for some matches. Fans are encouraged to come out and see the guys play.   The group practices at 5:30 a.m., where they learn how to set, serve, rotate, do drills and communicate on the court.   Though this is a new thing at UMHB, Jackson says he can really see the passion and growth in his teammates.   Along with improving their skills, the guys have found friendships in each other, learning how to connect and play as a team both on and off the court.   “As a captain, it is my job to oversee the team under the coach … I try to keep my boys motivated because they’re my teammates … I care more about my team than myself … because without them, I am nothing,” Jackson said. “It takes a team to do everything on the court and I can’t beat six other guys by myself.”   The first ever Crusader Classic will kick off Dec. 6 in...

Read More