May 26, 2011
Boyce: Year in Review
By David Boyce
A week ago I was driving north on Interstate-29 and closed in on a truck that had a recognizable sticker on the back window.
As a responsible driver I should first note that I was driving the speed limit.
The sticker, though, captured the perfect way for me to describe the 2010-2011 athletic year at Northwest Missouri State.
Loyal Bearcat followers can easily guess the sticker because it represents so much to Northwest students, alums and the community of Maryville, Mo.
The "Bearcat Paw" with the letter "N" in the middle of it was the sticker that caught my eye and caused me to think of some of the memorable moments the 2010-2011 Northwest student-athletes, coaches and fans left me with.
The 2010-2011 academic year at Northwest was a joyous ride, filled with some incredible accomplishments, a few heartbreaking losses, a goodbye to a legendary football coach, another goodbye to a loyal athletic director and the welcoming of new leaders with new energy.
It was an amazing year. I was fortunate to chronicle just a few of the stories this year.
Before going further, I want to thank all the athletes, coaches, administrators, parents and fans who I came in contact with this season. You constantly gave insightful answers to my questions. You thanked me for stories I wrote and those compliments spurred me to try to write even better stories.
I truly enjoyed the interaction I had with everybody.
So where do I start in describing the season? Does it begin with the women's team making it to the Division II Final Four or the women's volleyball team reaching its first-ever regional tournament?
Certainly, the football team reaching the semifinals should be noted. It is definitely significant that longtime football coach Mel Tjeerdsma retired and defensive coordinator Scott Bostwick was elevated to head coach.
Also, there was a change at athletic director. Bob Boerigter left to become the commissioner at the MIAA. Wren Baker took over in February.
For me, everything centers on the "Bearcat Paw."
Before Dec. 29, the "Bearcat Paw" was a neat symbol that I identified with Northwest. But on Dec. 29, when Tjeersdma announced his retirement, he explained what the "Bearcat Paw" means to him and the school.
The Northwest student-athletes competed with pride. Not all the teams reached their goals, but the pride they showed in giving their all for their school was every bit as impressive as a conference title.
The baseball team and men's basketball team epitomized that attitude. Both teams got off to very slow starts. They never gave up on the season. They played much better the second half of the season, rose in the standings and went into the final week of their season with a chance to reach the conference tournament.
Though both teams fell short should not diminish the effort they gave and the never give-up attitude they displayed.
Perhaps the best quote I got from a player whose team was going through a rebuilding year came from junior defender Jacque Dedovesh on the women's soccer team.
At the time the Bearcats were 2-8-3, a significant drop from their record-breaking 11-8-1 season in 2009.
"Even though we haven't had the best of seasons, I've learned you have to keep a positive attitude no matter how bad you lose," Dedovesh said Oct. 21. "It's a game and you just have to work to the best of your abilities so you will have no regrets."
The reason some of these moments stick in my mind as much as the football team extending their MIAA-record 46 straight game conference winning streak or the women's basketball team's incredible run to the Final Four is because handling adversity the correct way is a true mark of one's character.
However, winning is fun. It's why we play the game.
The women's basketball team won many new fans with their unselfish play, capturing the MIAA regular season and conference title and winning their first game in the Elite Eight in St. Joseph, Mo.
The season was filled with wonderful stories. They should be proud of what they accomplished.
Although the football team fell just short of reaching their sixth straight national championship game, they had a few unforgettable moments.
The one that stands out was the last-second, 45-yard field goal by Todd Adolf that gave Northwest a thrilling 17-16 victory over Central Missouri and the MIAA title.
Hearing Adolf's grandfather say he had tears in his eyes when the kick went through once again signified the neat family moments that college athletics can produce.
"My whole family was here. I was happy they were able to see it. It was a dream come true," Adolf said after the game.
Another emotional moment in the 2010-11 season came on Nov. 3 when several members of the Northwest volleyball team, including the coach, Jessica Rinehart, returned to their high school in Red Oak, Iowa, and won an unbelievable five-set match against Nebraska-Omaha.
The match had everything. The Bearcats started quickly and grabbed a two-set lead. Nebraska-Omaha won the next two. The Bearcats prevailed in the final set, winning 15-13.
It was the perfect match for senior Paige Spangenberg and junior Alex Hanna.
"This was beyond exciting," said Paige Spangenberg. "It was special. It was so neat to play in front of my home fans and surrounding communities and the Northwest fans that came. It was really a special night."
There were so many more special times at Northwest this season like senior Daniel Quesada, who is from Costa Rica, organizing a family reunion in Kansas City for the MIAA Tennis Championships. The men's team won the title.
The women's golf team showed vast improvement from a year ago. A couple of freshmen provided a new spark. During the fall, Cassie Lowell was winning tournaments. In the spring, Kristina D'Angela proved she was going to be a force in the upcoming years.
The men's and women's cross country teams hit new heights behind juniors T.R. Pursell and Angela Adams.
Another neat story occurred during the MIAA Track and Field Championships when Pursell and Brittany Poole both captured the steeplechase.
There is still one Northwest athlete still competing. Junior Tyler Shaw will try to win the 110 high hurdles at the NCAA Division II national outdoor meet this weekend in California.
I will end my reminiscing on this season with Tjeerdsma. He coached at Northwest for 17 years. I was lucky enough to cover his teams in 15 of those years, 13 of them with the Kansas City Star, last year with the MIAA and this season for Northwest.
Tjeerdsma is a special man. I can still remember the first time I went to Maryville and interviewed him in 1996.
He's the same now as he was then. All the winning, the three national championships, the numerous conference titles and painful losses in the national title game never changed him.
Tjeerdsma preaches that you should always look forward and try not to dwell on what happened in the past because it is over.
Many times I listened to the words he said to his players and learned something.
Northwest will be a little different next season with Tjeerdsma not around, but his time at Northwest made it a better place. He leaves a legacy that will be impossible to duplicate.
But we should all follow his words and look forward.
I guarantee the 2011-2012 school year at Northwest will be just as memorable and filled with just as many special moments in which student-athletes, parents and fans will cherish.
Enjoy the summer.
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