DII Notebook: Experienced players lead teams to victory
Washburn senior Leanna Willer helps volleyball team excel
On Saturday morning, volleyball coach Chris Herron introduced his first All-American, Dani McHenry, into Washburn’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Later in the day, he watched a current player, senior Leanna Willer, lead the Ichabods to their ninth-straight victory.
“She is every bit as good as Dani was,” said Herron, who is in his 15th season coaching at Washburn. “She jumps a little bit better than Dani. Her ball control is better. Dani blocked better than she did. Leanna is really one of the best players we have had here.”
Willer definitely showed All-American-type talent in road victories at Northwest Missouri State on Friday and at Missouri Western on Saturday.
On Friday, the Ichabods, ranked No. 15 in the AVCA Top 25, needed every one of her team-high 25 kills and 15 digs to slip by No. 17 Northwest Missouri 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13.
The rise of Northwest Missouri is an example of just how much tougher the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association has become in Willer’s four years at Washburn.
“Our conference, if not the toughest, is one of the toughest in the entire country,” Willer said. “You never know who is going to be at the top at the end of the season. It has been kind of a rollercoaster. Teams that have been at the top are losing games. It is a battle the entire conference season. No game can be overlooked.”
Herron has seen the landscape change dramatically in his 15 years coaching in the MIAA. Nebraska-Kearney, ranked No. 5, and Central Oklahoma, ranked No. 10, weren’t in the MIAA a decade ago.
“Northwest and Western are good. (Fort Hays State) is good,” Herron said. “Those teams in the past were not good. You could kind of go, we are going to win these matches and get ready for these other teams. Now, you have Central Oklahoma and Nebraska-Kearney in the conference. Northwest has gotten infinitely better. I think the conference top to bottom is as strong as it has ever been.”
Indeed. One of the perennial powers, No. 16 Central Missouri, is currently in fifth place in the MIAA. Washburn and Nebraska-Kearney are tied for first at 9-1 and Central Oklahoma and Northwest Missouri follow at 7-2.
“Every game in our conference is a tough match,” Willer said Friday night. “We spend the whole week getting ready for the Friday match and then turnaround and focus in on Missouri Western.”
Willer wore a big smile Friday after Washburn (19-4 overall) prevented Northwest from having a change-of-the-guard moment.
“We have done it before,” Willer said. “We have been in this position before. Obviously, we are happy we ended up on top in this game. This was a great environment to play in. They had a lot of fans out here. They gave us a lot of energy.”
Tiffin men’s soccer team plays well during busy stretch
Before facing Northwood last Wednesday, Tiffin men’s soccer was coming off a stretch of playing five games in 10 days.
The Dragons went 4-1.
“You know that having five games in 10 days is a lot of games,” Tiffin coach Rudy Brownell said Tuesday. “We found a way to come through, and we went through it. Right now, we are in first place in our conference. Those guys are playing very well. We are playing some of our best soccer in the last three or four games.”
On Wednesday, Tiffin played to a 1-1 tie against Northwood and is now 10-2-1 overall and 8-2-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference for first place.
One way to be physically ready to play so many games in a short amount of time is to make sure the players are properly stretched before the game. The Dragons have a senior in Andre Carvalho-Landell who handles that task well.
“He is a great leader for my team,” Brownell said. “He does a great job in pregame warmups, getting the guys ready. I am very impressed with Andre [Carvalho-Landell] with what he did over the summer and what he is doing now.”
Carvalho-Landell is having a stellar senior season. After scoring four goals and eight assists his junior season, Carvalho-Landell has already recorded 11 goals and five assists this year.
“I feel I had a good summer,” Carvalho-Landell said. “That helped me out coming into the season. I am eating a lot better. The nutrition, I know it sounds cliché, but all these things actually help.”
As a team, Carvalho-Landell said, the Dragons have played alright but need to clean up a few things.
“But for the most part, we have been very dominant in the games and fortunate to score more goals,” he said. “The goals we have conceded have been our fault more than the opposing team breaking us down.”
Tiffin has played well enough to be ranked No. 14 in the NSCAA Top 25.
“I don’t pay attention to it. At the end of the year, if we are still ranked, it is a blessing,” Brownell said. “People are seeing we have done good things. They respect us and feel like we should be in the Top 25. For us right now, it doesn’t mean anything. If you are doing the right things, you don’t have to talk about yourself or your players. People recognize it.”
St. Edward’s women’s soccer coming of age with sixth straight victory
In Saturday’s 3-0 victory, St Edward’s got goals from freshmen Toni Tewes and Sydney Mack, helping the Hilltoppers, ranked No. 14, improve to 10-1-1 overall and 9-0-1 in the Heartland Conference.
“We had to get the young players used to the speed of the college game and get them used to the way our team has been successful over the last 10 years,” St. Edward’s coach Nick Cowell said.
One of the veteran players who has helped the process move smoothly is senior forward Jennifer Boudreau, who transferred to St. Edward’s three years ago. Boudreau understands just about every aspect on the soccer field.
In her first season at St. Edward’s, Boudreau played defender. She moved to forward last season and tied for the team lead in goals with five and added four assists.
She is even more dangerous this season, already compiling a team-high eight goals and three assists for 19 points.
“I enjoy it a lot,” Boudreau said. “I am able to attack more than when I was playing defense. I wasn’t able to use that part of my skill as a defender. As a forward, I can take players 1-on-1. It is just more exciting. Whenever I am attacking a defender, I know exactly how I would hate to be attacked as a defender. I know I would hate people coming at me at full speed, so whenever I am attacking, I know what and what not to do and what makes it more difficult.”
Boudreau also enjoys her role as one of the team leaders, helping the younger players understand what it takes to be successful on the soccer field and how to enjoy the moment.
“I think it is really fun because you don’t realize how fast it goes by,” Boudreau said. “It is hard for me to realize I am a senior because it feels like yesterday was my freshman year, and I remember what it was like to be a freshman and sophomore and being new. It is really nice to help them.”
Cowell, though, brings in players who are eager to learn both on the field and in the classroom.
“Our GPA average over the last 10 years is 3.41,” Cowell said. “It is one of the expectations. There is a lot of positive peer pressure when we are on road trips to make sure everybody understands that you are on the team to get good grades and be successful off the field as well as on. The seniors on the team set a great example for the younger players. When we are in a motel, it is study time. When we are on an airplane, it is time to use that time wisely. We are very fortunate to have a lot of players on the team who are academically highly motivated. It makes my job easy.”
The formula works. The Hilltoppers have made the NCAA Division II Tournament nine of the last 10 years.
“We don’t talk too much about making the NCAA Tournament,” Cowell said. “That is kind of a given within our program now. It is the expectation of our seniors. They have been to the NCAA Tournament every year. It is passed down verbally of what the expectations are. The players coming in know the success of the program.”
St. Edward’s has four more games until it competes in the Heartland Conference Tournament that begins Nov. 3.
“I want to see continued growth,” Cowell said. “We have had some great performances over the last couple of weeks. I want them to understand we are not at the end point yet. There is still more growth. Continue to push each other to get better and not take anything for granted.”
Football upset of the week
Dixie State accomplished a couple of firsts Saturday when it went on the road and defeated No. 23 Colorado Mesa 38-31. It was the first time the Trailblazers have won three straight games and beaten a ranked opponent in their NCAA Division II era.
Dixie State started playing Division II competition in 2006.
In the victory over Colorado Mesa, the Trailblazers had to overcome a 17-0 deficit after the first quarter. A 21-7 third quarter gave Dixie State a 31-24 lead heading into the final quarter.
Leading the way for Dixie State was redshirt freshman Clifford Simms, who rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 9.9 yards per carry.
Defensively, juniors Colton Olson and Noe Perez each had nine tackles.