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Baseball Team Falls in First-Ever MIAA Tournament Slot

By Spencer MacDonald

The Kalamazoo College Baseball team was defeated in the program’s first ever MIAA playoff appearance, falling to Adrian College 17-1 last Wednesday and then 10-3 in the elimination game against Hope on Thursday.

First year Nate Donovan scored the only run in the first game against the Bulldogs as his fellow classmate Mario Ferrini drove him in.  Sophomore pitcher Dylan Pierce, who held Adrian to one run over six innings in his last outing against them, struggled early on and allowed the Bulldogs to jump out to an early 7-0 lead.

In the second game, Marc Zughaib led the charge in his final appearance in orange and black, going 2-4 on the day.  Juniors Carter Chandler and Joey Aliota both knocked in an RBI a piece in the loss.  The Hornets were outmatched in both contests despite beating Hope three out of four games in the regular season and playing a number of close games against Adrian.

“I think we let the moment get a little too big for us,” said junior pitcher Adam McDowell.  “We’ve proven we can hang with these teams but we just psyched ourselves out a little bit.  Hopefully when we get back there next year we’ll be able to compete a little bit more.”

The program has seen a drastic turnaround since the appointment of a full time head coach in Mike Ott, who was hired for the 2013 season.  The Hornets finished 15-13 in conference play, which is the first winning season since 1990.  They also made the postseason for the first time in school history despite fielding a roster filled with youth.  The change to a winning culture is trending among many of Kalamazoo College’s athletic teams, but nowhere has the shift been as dramatic as this baseball season.

“It was a big step forward for the program,” said junior first baseman Carter Chandler.  “This means a lot to the school and the athletic department as they’re trying to change the culture around here. I definitely feel like we’ve helped with that.”

The Hornets will enter next season with everybody returning except their captain and starting second baseman Marc Zughaib. Zughaib received All-MIAA second team honors for the second time in his career this season and was pivotal to the team’s success.

Even with the loss of a great player and leader, the outlook is still very optimistic for the 2015 season.  Outfielder Scott Devine returns for his senior season after garnishing all conference honors as will freshman Mitch VanKoevering.  Fellow freshman Ian Kobernick will play a large role for the Hornets next year after batting .377 in his first season, which was good for first on the team. Adam McDowell will head the pitching staff once again for his senior season.

“This season we showed not just everybody else, but ourselves too, that we can compete in this league,” said McDowell.  “With the most players returning out of any team in the conference, I think the expectation is to not only make the conference tournament but to win it as well.”

 

76 – 0

By Daniel Herrick

With an 8-1 victory over Alma College last Wednesday, the Men’s Tennis team clinched the MIAA regular season title outright and extended their infamous conference championship streak to 76 years. The victory completed an undefeated run through the MIAA regular season, ensuring that the 2014 Hornets sit alone atop the league just one year after a three-team split for the title between Kalamazoo, Calvin and Hope.

“Because of our program’s history, there’s a lot riding on keeping the streak alive, so it’s always one of our top priorities to have a strong performance in conference season play,” said senior Michael Korn.

The undefeated run in the MIAA places the Hornets as the potential host for two matches in this week’s MIAA tournament. K will host Albion College on Thursday at 4:00 p.m., with the winner moving on to the final. Hope, the number two ranked team in the league, will host Adrian on the same day before the two winners meet the following day at the home of the highest-remaining seed.

While the regular season title ensured the continuation of the 76-year MIAA championship streak, a win in the MIAA tournament is necessary for the Hornets to receive the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

“NCAAs are where we set our sights early in the year and are the pinnacle of the season,” said Korn. “Right now, all of our focus is on earning our spot in the tournament and trying to put together everything we’ve learned this season.”

The automatic berth is likely the Hornets only path to the NCAA tournament. The April 10 ITA rankings had Kalamazoo as the 11th-ranked school in the region. Since April 10, the Hornets have lost two matches: at home to Division-I neighbor Western Michigan and a neutral site competition against Gustavus Adolphus (the 4th-ranked school in the central region by the ITA).

While fans have come to expect MIAA wins from the Hornets, K will still have to compete and win the MIAA tournament if they want to ensure the continuation of their season. And for a trio of Hornets in particular, an MIAA tournament win is necessary to ensure their K tennis careers do not end at the hands of an MIAA opponent.

“Our season goals have all been set around our performance in these last two weeks,” said Korn.

Kalamazoo enters the first-round matchup with Albion as the heavy favorite after defeating the Britons on the road in early April: 8-1. Albion’s number-three double’s team was the only match victor for the Britons on that day.

The Hornets handily dispatched both potential final’s match ups as well this season. Neither Hope, nor Adrian was able to take a match from the Hornets as they secured two 9-0 victories.

While the Hornets will enter the tournament as the heavy favorite, those that were a part of last year’s team understand not to take any opponent lightly, and that one day, and one lapse, is all that is necessary to potentially derail a season.

“We have been working hard toward our season and personal goals all year, and it is very important for me, and the team, that we finish on a high note,” said Korn.

Kalamazoo will host Albion College to open the MIAA tournament on Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. If the Hornets defeat the Britons, they will be back in action against the winner of Adrian/Hope with the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA’s at stake.

Men’s Basketball Chases MIAA’s Top Four

By Daniel Herrick

The men’s basketball team will host Alma College Wednesday night, Jan. 29, with an opportunity to improve to .500 in the MIAA on the line. Both Kalamazoo and Alma are currently 2-3 in the league.

While the Hornets boast the MIAA’s two highest scorers—senior Mark Ghafari (25.0 PPG) and junior Adam Peters (16.9 PPG)—the Scots have four of the league’s top 16. They are led by senior forward Isiah Law who scores on average 14.4 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting. Efficiency appears to be a value for the Scots as all four of their top scorers shoot better than 47 percent from the field. Sophomore DJ Beckman, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.4 PPG, is making a case for the 50-40-90 club. The forward is currently shooting 52.1 percent from the field, 46.6 percent from three-point land and 94.7 percent at the free throw line.

As a team, Alma shoots 47.1 percent from the field, good for second in the MIAA. The Hornets check in just behind Alma in this category, as they shoot 46 percent overall.

Fans may be in for an offensive display on Wednesday night. Alma is the league’s second highest-scoring offense and Kalamazoo is third. Both teams can score at efficient rates from all over the floor. Alma takes and makes the second most three-pointers in the MIAA. The Scots have knocked in 123 from three on 338 attempts. The Hornets are third in this category making 110 threes on 303 attempts.

While fans can expect to see some scoring, the game may be won by whichever team is stronger on the defensive end and taking care of the ball. When both teams can score at such efficient rates, total possessions can go a long way toward determining the game’s eventual winner. Both the Hornets and the Scots struggle at times handling the ball. In fact, they are the MIAA’s two-worst teams in terms of ball security. While the Scots are slightly better at forcing turnovers, neither team is elite in this category.

The Hornets do, however, hold a significant advantage on the glass. Kalamazoo is currently the third-best rebounding team in the MIAA. They secure 37.1 boards per game. The Scots, on the other hand, are just .1 rebounds better than league-worst Adrian. Alma pulls in 30.9 rebounds per game. Limiting Alma’s second-chance opportunities can go a long way for a Hornets team that has struggled to defend at times this season.

Three other MIAA games will occur Wednesday night as well, including Trine hosting Olivet. Trine currently sits alone in fourth-place in the conference at 3-3. A Trine loss to Olivet would allow the winner of the K-Alma game to move percentage points ahead into sole ownership of fourth place. While the Hornets may have dropped some winnable games early in the MIAA slate, a win over Alma would keep them right in the thick of the battle to be among the conference’s top-four teams in order to qualify for the MIAA tournament.

Kalamazoo will tip-off against Alma at the Anderson Athletic Center at 7:30 PM on Wednesday evening.

Women’s Basketball Making Noise in the MIAA

By Spencer MacDonald

The sound of basketballs bouncing off the hardwood of the Anderson Athletic Center gym floor and the idle chatter of the 12 players standing around the water cooler was cut short by the voice of Head Basketball Coach Katie Miller.

“Alright, lets run it one more time, one more time!” said Miller as her players broke into two teams and began a transition drill.  Miller paced around the court, always in motion, constantly coaching and critiquing her team.  At one point, she stops first-year guard Suzanne Miller after she missed a shot at the buzzer that signaled the end of the drill.

“Suze, that’s a good look, I like it.”

Now in her third year, Coach Miller and the women’s basketball team have experienced unprecedented success in the 2013-14 season.  The team boasts an 8-7 record along with a 4-3 record in MIAA play, already more wins than the last two years combined.

The Hornet’s four conference wins this year are also more than they have won in the past two years: when they went a combined 3-29 in the MIAA. Although the Program has struggled in the past, Coach Miller and her team are working to build long-term success for the future.

“This change didn’t happen over night,” said Miller.  “It is a process and the athletes who we have now have done everything I have asked of them.  They want to win games and they’re willing to sacrifice anything to get that done.”

The players in the women’s basketball program feel the change coming as well.  Throughout their practice the atmosphere is focused and competitive.  It is apparent that the team’s desire to win and improve is strong, as is their team cohesiveness on the court.

“Team chemistry is the biggest change,” said junior captain Emily Lindsay.  “This year we have a team that meshes together really well.  We know how to play off of each other’s strengths and we know how to find one another.”

Lindsay, her fellow captain senior Nicole Antoine and junior Perri (Weiderman) Nicholson have all earned MIAA player of the week honors this season; the first time since Coach Miller took the reins that three Hornets have won it in the same season.  Lindsay and Antoine are both averaging double-digit scoring totals per game this season at 12.0 and 13.3 points per game respectively.

“Nicole has stepped up in terms of being our team leader,” said Coach Miller.  “She is our go-to player in crunch time and in those close games when we need a basket.”

The players themselves are pleased with the individual accolades and partially attribute the increase in these to the success that the team is having.  These player-of-the-week awards reflect the fact that the women’s basketball program is having success and finding its place on the map.

“It really helps that we’re winning,” said Antoine.  “Now they know who to look for and that’s how we get the recognition for player of the week.”

One of the biggest changes this season is that the Hornets are fielding a team with deeper talent than previous years.  Four players on the squad are averaging over seven points per game and six are averaging over five points per game, which has made a large impact on the team’s success so far this season.  Most players on the team see relatively consistent minutes with eight players averaging over 10 minutes per game.

“We are getting contributions from a lot of players,” said Coach Miller.  “That’s what is helping us win.  We have some newcomers who have stepped in and helped us, we have some freshmen who have helped us.  We have been getting what we need from everybody.”

The Hornets are currently sitting in fourth place out of nine teams in the MIAA, which is where they need to be to make the conference tournament.  Although they were projected to finish last in the preseason poll, the team has shocked the conference through their hard work, dedication, and previously unappreciated talent.  The players remain confident that they can make it to the postseason, something they have failed to accomplish in the past two seasons.

“Definitely this year we’re about to make the MIAA tournament,” said Lindsay.  “I don’t care where we are, we’re going to make it for sure and try to make a run at the title.”

The Hornets are in action again at home Wednesday the 22nd at 7:30 pm versus Trine University. 

Lacrosse Team Prepares for Inaugural Season

By Charlotte Steele, Contributor

Women’s Lacrosse Team (Photo by Charlotte Steele)

“Got ball, got ball!”, the women’s lacrosse team is in full swing practicing their defensive communication skills in a mark-up drill. Typically a spring sport, the team has been practicing three days a week during the pre-sea- son to prepare for their first season as a Kalamazoo College varsity program.

With huge interest among the players of the club team, and more feeder high schools to recruit from, the President started a working group to assess the feasibility of fielding a var- sity lacrosse team at K. The women’s team has begun its first season, with a men’s team to follow next year.

“I think it will be exciting for the College, it’s something we’re not used to,” said Athletic Director Kristen Smith.

The team is composed of 26 girls, 13 of them first years. Heading into the first season, Coach Emilia Ward recalls that she “hit the recruiting trail reallyhard.” She traveled to watch nearly every prospective player in person. Six of the first years are from out of state, drawing from Utah, New York and California.

The team is a unique mix of upper classmen who are adjusted to college life, but newer to the sport, and skilled first-year student athletes, each offering something different to the team dynamics.

Senior, and Co-Captain (along with sophomore Elizabeth Arellano) Anna Eshuis said, “We are learning so much from them skill-wise and game- wise, and they’re learning from us al- ready… like how to be in college and be on your own. I think everyone has done a really nice job of supporting and pushing each other. I haven’t been a part of a team that’s this much of a team, and it has only been a week and a half.”

Ward agreed, “They’re such a goofy group. They’re meshing faster than any other team I have been around.”

Clare Jensen, a first year, said that lacrosse was an important consideration for her when deciding to come to K, and was really excited to be a part of a new varsity program.“Everyoneis out there for the right reasons, because we love the sport. This is new to all of us… we’re all first timers in varsity lacrosse, so I’m excited to grow over the four years,” she said.

The team practices on the grass intramural field for the fall, and will play on the current soccer field, known as the soccer/lacrosse field for the spring. The scoreboard was built to accommodate lacrosse scores and the field has markings already to prepare for lacrosse’s different lines.

Ward said, “[The new facilities] showed the players the school was committed to their athletic experience. At the D3 level, you really can’t get any better.”

Ward came to K after helping to start up varsity programs at both Adrian and Winthrop College in South Carolina. She brings a lot of experience working with new programs, and has a clear passion for the sport and enthusiasm for the team.

“My favorite part about lacrosse is being able to play my sport, but also have friends to do it with and having that community. Team sports are amazing,” said Rachel Fine, a senior who started playing her first year at K.

The team will travel to Grand Rapids for their first “play day” this Saturday at GVSU where they will play 3 other teams including Indiana Tech, Finley, and Oakland University.

Men’s Soccer Picks Up First Conference Win

By Daniel Herrick, Sports Editor

Photos by Daniel Herrick

The men’s soccer team got their first win of the conference season this past Saturday with a commanding 4-0 win over the visiting Albion Britons.

After scoring just one goal in their first two conference games, netting four against the Britons was a sigh of relief for a young Hornet team.

“It was very important to get the first win,” said junior Jory Finkelberg.

First-Year Dylan Jolliffe opened the scoring for the Hornets with a goal in the 23rd minute; his second of the season. The game remained at just 1-0 heading into halftime before the Hornets took over the contest with three second-half goals.

The first-year trend continued for the Hornets when Kyle Hernandez opened up the scoring for K in the second half with a 53rd minute goal. Fellow first-year Joshua Robison assisted on the score. Goals by juniors Spencer MacDonald and Werner Roennecke rounded out the day for the Hornets.

“With such a young team, it was important to get some confidence and get ourselves back on track,” said Finkelberg.

The first-year players were the talk of the game for K. For large chunks of the match, K featured lineups with eight total freshmen on the pitch. Among them was the goalkeeper, Kellon Johnston-Roper. Johnston-Roper made six saves in the match on his way to a shutout in the first start of his young career. Johnson-Roper started in place of the regular starter, junior Beau Prey, and gave the Hornets a reason to be confident in both of their keepers.

While the young team looked veteran against Albion, they are not without growing pains. Their first two MIAA games resulted in a pair of losses: 2-1 vs. Adrian and 3-0 at Olivet.

“The freshmen players are handling the transition well, but adjusting to the high level of physicality that comes with MIAA play is not an easy task,” said Finkelberg.

“It takes time to get everyone to mesh into such a demanding program, but we are making great strides,” said junior Emerson Talanda-Fisher.

The Hornets continued their MIAA season when they hosted Alma on Tuesday, October 1. Following the game against the Scots, the Hornets travel to Calvin this Saturday, October 5.

“We simply need to maintain our mentality of out-working everyone and fighting harder than every opponent,” said Talanda-Fisher. “We have a very skilled team, but keeping focus for all ninety minutes is crucial to our success.”

Also in action this past Saturday was the women’s soccer team when they lost 3-0 to the visiting Calvin College in the first game of the doubleheader that featured the men’s game immediately after.

They played in front of the home crowd for the second day in a row with a loss against the University of Chicago, 2-0, on Sunday.

The loss extended their goalless streak to three straight games dating back to September 18 when the team scored four in a win against Albion. They have been outscored 10-0 over the course of those three matches.

The women’s team will look to right the ship on the road at rival Hope College on Wednesday, October 2. They round out the week with another road match on Saturday at Alma.

Football Falls to Benedictine, 28-23

By Daniel Herrick, Sports Editor

The Kalamazoo College football team lost their first game of season this past Saturday at home against Benedictine University (Illinois), 28-23, dropping their overall record to 2-1.

The Hornets were able to out gain the Eagles; however, potential missed opportunities came back to haunt the team. In the first quarter, Kalamazoo drove 60 yards in eight plays, finding themselves in a fourth down situation on Benedictine’s one-yard line. The Hornet offense was originally on the field and appeared set to go for it. With the play clock running down though, the coaching staff made the decision to quickly send out the field-goal unit instead. In a rush, the Hornets were able to snap the ball; however, first-year kicker Jacob Hardy was unable to convert the short field-goal opportunity.

Kalamazoo made four trips to the red zone, coming away with two touchdowns, a made 26-yard field goal and the missed 18-yard attempt. In addition to the red zone trips, the Hornets had three other drives end inside of Benedictine’s 50.

Sophomore quarterback Justin Danzy, fresh off being selected MIAA player of the week following his performance against Manchester College, had another strong performance running the Hornet offense. Danzy went 35-50, for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Benedictine, however, did a good job containing Danzy as a mobile threat, limiting him to just 15 yards on ten attempts.

With the Kalamazoo offense, fans can expect to see impressive lines from Danzy if he is able to remain efficient. Through three games, the young quarterback has thrown for six touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has done so while averaging 292.3 passing yards per game and completing 66.7 percent of his passes.

Keeping the turnovers down will be crucial for a Hornet team that struggled with them last year. They finished with 25 total turnovers last season. Despite the defense forcing 18 themselves last season, good for a tie for third in the league, the team still finished tied for the second-worst turnover margin in the MIAA.

Danzy seems to have the keys to the offense. Against Benedictine, the sophomore threw 50 passes, many of which came out of a spread formation with Danzy in the shotgun. With a quick paced offense taking plays from sideline signals, a strong quarterback is crucial to maintain success. So far, Danzy has proven himself worthy of handling the role.

“We have all the confidence in Danzy and the offense. They’ve been putting up big numbers and marching down the field, now we just need to turn those into touchdowns,” senior Ryan Gregory said.

While the defense held Benedictine to just 65 yards on the ground, the Eagles aerial attack seemed to give the Hornet secondary some trouble. While Benedictine quarterback Cyle Schultz was not always able to convert on the opportunities, many Benedictine receivers found themselves open behind the Hornet secondary with only yard lines separating them from the Hornet end zone.

Receiver Blake Anders was the biggest Eagle beneficiary of this, catching a pair of touchdowns of 47 and 43 yards. The secondary will need to tighten up coverage if the Hornets hope to maintain opposing offenses. Allowing the big play is not something a defense wants to become accustomed to and can seriously harm the morale of the unit.

“We got caught peeking in the backfield, so as long as everybody does their job and trusts their teammates and coaches, we’ll be A1,” said Gregory.

The Hornets will wrap up their non-conference season this Saturday when they travel to the University of Chicago for a 7 p.m. game (Eastern Time). October 5 marks the start of the Hornets quest for an MIAA title when they open the conference slate at Trine.