Dec. 15, 2011
David Boyce commentary: A look back
By David Boyce
A week ago, during a well-played basketball game between Northwest Missouri State and Pittsburg State, senior wide receiver Jake Soy settled into his seat and watched the action.
When it stopped, Soy went over and shook the hand of a fan he knew.
Of course, as one of the top wide receivers in one of the best NCAA Division II programs, Soy is recognizable.
Still, he blended in like any other student at Northwest on this early December evening when football was over.
Sure, Soy wished the Bearcats were still playing football. Northwest’s season ended in the quarterfinals.
He most definitely wanted a season that was not marred by an ankle injury.
“You realize games are going by and they are going by quickly your senior year,” Soy said in late September. “I want to savor every day.”
Student-athletes in college have played enough sports to handle the ups and down, the good and bad. Those rich experiences help them grow and build relationships that last a lifetime.
Seeing Soy and many of the women’s volleyball players, past and present, support the Bearcats men’s and women’s basketball teams emphasized to me that they are students first who were enjoying one of the activities at Northwest.
Junior libero Tori Beckman showed the same enthusiasm in the stands, encouraging the women’s basketball team as she does on the volleyball court. She was having a great time when the Bearcats were playing Pitt.
The 2011 fall season was emotional, memorable, fun and one of growth on many levels.
Throughout the fall, Northwest athletes and coaches talked about upcoming games and shared their thoughts and feelings for stories on northwestbearcats.com.
Here are a few of those moments.
The 2011 highlight occurred in a sport that propels itself on self-motivation. Thousands of people are not in the stands cheering cross country runners as they test themselves mentally and physically on grueling cross country courses.
Despite some injuries during her four-year career at Northwest, Angela Adams continued to improve. The culmination of all her hard work resulted in winning the MIAA individual title in late October.
“I went into the MIAA Championship like all my races,” Adams said. “I just run and tell myself I would not have any regrets or think I could have gone faster and pushed myself harder. I went into it like it was any other race. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”
For all those who were able to see Adams win it all had to be a moment that will stick for quite some time.
“I feel lucky and blessed,” Northwest coach Scott Lorek said. “The amount she has improved. When she came in as a freshman and then becoming conference champion is kind of like going to the moon.”
Senior TR Pursell finished fifth at the MIAA Championships, but he experienced just as much satisfaction as Adams because of the growth of the men’s team, which placed second. In his first season at Northwest, the men’s team placed eighth.
“I have been here five years,” Pursell said. “I came in 07. You see many things and you experience a lot. If you ask anybody, you would never trade it for anything else. It’s the shenanigans, the stories, the trips and races that are the experiences you get being an athlete.”
Pursell’s words sums up the best part about being a student-athlete at Northwest.
The bus ride back to Maryville after the women’s soccer team beat Emporia State 4-2 in the first round of the MIAA Tournament must have been giddy. It was the first-ever conference tournament victory.
Northwest season ended the next day with a loss to Central Missouri. But the Bearcats had a great season, finishing 10-7-2, and just one victory shy of tying a program record.
“We got some pretty good recruits who can really score,” said sophomore midfielder Anna Calgaard. “Starting the season off winning catapulted our confidence into the following game. I think that’s why we did pretty well.
“I’m so happy we are doing so much better than last year. We have improved by leaps and bounds since last year. We are still a pretty young team.”
With only two seniors, the volleyball team was very young. Like any young team relying on contributions from freshmen, the Bearcats were inconsistent. Over the course of the season, they showed growth.
They went from not playing any five-set matches, to pushing a match to five sets and then finally winning a five-set match.
Despite some struggles on the court, the players remained upbeat and continued to battle until the final match, which the Bearcats won.
One highlight for them was beating Pitt 3-1 in the final home match for seniors Alex Hanna and Laira Akin.
“It was great. They deserve it,” Northwest coach Jessica Rinehart said. “I wanted nothing more for them than to finish on their home court with a W. I was pleased the way the night went and the way they both performed.”
“This was everything we could ask for,” said Hanna. “It was a great senior night. Everybody came to play and play for us and it was awesome.”
Said Akin, “We knew this team was capable of really good things and tonight we put it together for one good match. That is what we wanted to do. We wanted to take it one point at a time, one set at a time. We played solid volleyball. It was good going out playing the way we knew this team can play.”
No team went on as much of an emotional roller-coaster ride as the football team. Considering all that happened to them, it is amazing they finished the year with an 11-3 record and was just two steps away from the national championship game.
If everything were normal, it still would have been a remarkable run. Northwest had to replace nine starters on defense and break in a new quarterback.
But as followers of Northwest football know, nothing was normal about the season. First, legendary coach Mel Tjeerdsma retired last December.
Longtime defensive coordinator Scott Bostwick took over. Before the transition could fully take hold, Bostwick tragically died of a heart attack while mowing his yard in early June.
It was a lot for 19 to 22 year olds to handle while still trying to uphold the proud football tradition at Northwest.
Behind the leadership of first-year coach Adam Dorrel, the Bearcats performed admirably and they gave their fans another thrill ride in the playoffs.
The two impossible comebacks in road playoff victories at Missouri Western and Midwestern State added to Northwest’s amazing games in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the season ended at rival Pitt two weeks ago, but the Bearcats have a lot to be proud of.
Many first-time starters performed well in new roles.
“They are reaping the rewards for their years of hard work,” Dorrel said. “They bought into what we’ve been doing. You see them grow as players and individuals and then to see their smiles after the game is something I really enjoy.
It was also special to see the mature way the football players handled the loss of Scott Bostwick. They made sure they had a season that would make him proud.
“This whole season has become so much of a remembrance of him,” senior Josh Lorenson said. “The emotion and drive that we feel for him and his family are there every game.
“As far as the football team, he has been with us through it all and will be with us through the rest of the football season and on for everybody who got to know him.”
After some Christmas turkey and relaxation, the underclassmen from the fall teams will begin preparations to make 2012 fall even better.
It is now time to move 100 percent into winter sports. The men’s basketball team is undefeated and in first place in the MIAA. The women’s team is close to finding some of the magic from last year that took them to NCAA Division II semifinals.
Win or lose, you know Northwest will give its best effort. It is the Bearcat way!
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
email@example.com | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582
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