Fall Sports Preview
Volleyball: “Improved and Looking for Results”
“Everything is earned, not given.” The players of the North Central University (NCU) volleyball team, along with head coach Faith Ooms, repeated this mantra to themselves during the off season and throughout the summer in preparation for the 2022 season. After finishing with their best record (10-18, 5-8) in program history as well as fifth in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC), their highest placement ever, the Rams have been eagerly awaiting the Fall to capitalize on their growth from the former season.
The team returns eleven players and gains eleven more. NCU has three four-season seniors, Lexi Hunter, Bria Reiser, and Andrea Wollman, who will bring leadership and experience to the court. Hailey Lerfald, sophomore middle, will be a key scorer for the Rams. Lerfald averaged just over six kills per game last year with a hitting efficiency of .222. Losing seniors Emily Digorgio and Hannah Fischer will leave spots for the younger talent to fill on the outside hitter and libero positions.
With their numbers, the Rams are implementing a JV team for the first time in program history. Ooms sees some challenges “keeping our team unified while giving everyone the reps they deserve.” But she also notes that this group of freshmen is an amazing bunch that has already bought into the team culture. “I feel like this group of players are the most like minded, hungry, and enthusiastic group we have had.”
Running this new JV initiative will be new graduate assistant, Mya Ross. Ross graduated from Howard Payne University in 2021 with a degree in secondary education. Alex Peterson returns for her ninth season as the assistant coach and Keturah Miller comes in as the Ram’s setting coach.
With the large freshmen class and the momentum from last season, Ooms has big goals for the season including making it to the conference tournament and winning the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship. The Rams were just one rank away from making the UMAC post season tournament last year.
NCU got to prove themselves right away in the conference with a game against the University of Northwestern at home on Thursday, September 1, but fell in three sets. Following this match, the Rams will host the Minneapolis invite starting Friday September 9, a tournament facing off with a slew of NCCAA teams. Ooms looks forward to NCU’s homecoming, Saturday September 17, when the Rams play Oak Hills Christian College and will enjoy the extra energy from the crowd.
Click here to view the Ram’s full schedule.
NCU men’s and women’s soccer teams are now connected by more than just sport as the women’s head coach, Colette Montgomery, accepted the head coach position of the men’s team in the off-season. Montgomery brings years of experience from serving as the director of soccer at the Edina Soccer Club, made up of approximately 900 youth soccer players on 55 plus teams. She is also a U.S. Soccer Grassroots Instructor, teaching D-license courses to prospecting coaches. Supporting Montgomery is assistant men’s and women’s coach Rodrigo de Mendoza Barrera, former player for the men’s team. Lucca Shimanuki comes in as the goalkeeper and set piece coach along with Abby Schwinden as the assistant women’s coach. Schiwinden graduated from NCU and also played on the women’s team. Jack Dickhausen, current NCU student, resides as the men’s team manager.
The coaching staff isn’t the only change to these soccer teams’ personnel. The men brought in a load of freshmen boosting their roster to 26 players. Coming off yet another appearance in the NCCAA National Tournament, the men’s soccer team is eager to match their results from the previous season and further improve upon them. The Rams are led by captains Jerad Buse in goal, and Elliott Lebsack and Anthony Medina on the field. NCU has a wealth of experienced players that have been building chemistry over the seasons.
Pitted at seventh in the UMAC preseason poll, the Rams face their first conference opponent, the University of Northwestern, on Saturday, September 17. NCU played in two non-conference matches to start the season, splitting the games with a loss to Macalester College 0-6 and a win over Providence Manitoba 3-1. Up next for the Rams is Viterbo University on Wednesday, September 7.
The women’s roster similarly has many experienced players returning the squad including seniors and captains Isabella Connell, Hannah Grubbs, and Kara Lewis. The captains led a “development season” back in the winter of 2022 for a core group of the women’s team. Their off season work is anticipated to bear fruit in the games ahead with a goal to extend the season as far as possible, either in the UMAC tournament or in Florida for the NCCAA National tournament.
The Rams opened up their season with a match against a good group of alumni that resulted in a 4-3 win for the current roster. The first non-conference game put the first loss in NCU’s record with a score of 2-0. The women also travel to Viterbo University on Wednesday, September 7.
Montgomery and staff are pleased with the numbers on both sides of the program as they “seek to cultivate Christ centered champions” in the 2022 season and beyond. “The soccer programs seek to cultivate Christ-centered champions through training resiliency and equipping and empowering the student-athletes to lead themselves and each other daily.” The word ‘resilient’ has been coined as the soccer program’s word for the season, rooted in Romans 5:1-8. Meredith Carpenter and Evan Ackley were appointed as chaplains for each team often leading the squad in prayer and giving words of encouragement.
Men’s and women’s golf also saw a change in the head coach position with Greg Sweeney stepping in. Sweeney trained for four years under Byron Williams, former PGA touring professional and also coached at the high school level.
The men earned many accomplishments last season including recording the lowest team score in NCU history and the lowest team average. The team won two tournaments and received an at-large bid to the NCCAA National Championship. Stand-out Jake Sweeney who broke the school record for lowest individual score, returns better than ever this year already placing fourth in the Maverick Invite and third in the Culver’s Edgewood Classic. The Rams as a team golfed extremely well on day two of the Maverick Invite, tying Minnesota State University Mankato for first, a DII school. NCU gets ready for the UMAC Preview this Thursday, September 8.
The women will accompany the men to the preview with Victoria Sanders expected to lead the way. Sanders finished with the second lowest score in program history in the UMAC Championship in the 2021 season. The Rams bring in two freshmen, Christian Farm and Isabella Flores, who will also add talent to the team.
Assistant coaches Greg Tietz and Bekah Winkel also join the team. Tietz started coaching golf in 2014 and Winkel played at NCU for four years graduating in 2019.
With normally lower numbers, the men’s and women’s cross country teams brought in quite a few freshmen to bolster their rosters. Elizabeth Lofstad, senior star runner, will likely have another great season, finishing fourth in the Rams first meet of the season at Crown College. Freshman Brycelyn Brewster finished third in the same invite, scoring the highest for NCU at a time of 21 minutes flat.
The men’s squad is composed mostly of freshmen including Ryan Azeltine, Matthew Holstad, and Garrett Converse who finished 30th overall in the Crown Invite. Michael Herr-Zielke led the way for the Rams with a 26th place finish.
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