Dec. 21, 2012
A look back at the fall
By David Boyce
During the fall semester, Northwest Missouri State football, volleyball and women’s soccer teams failed to win a conference championship.
If you judge success in college athletics simply by the number of trophies you collect or the banners you hang, then it is easy to say the Bearcats have seen better days.
From my perspective, Northwest just completed a highly successful and meaningful fall.
While the goal of any athletic team is to win as many games as possible through hard work, winning should never be the most important function for a college of higher learning.
Education, friendships and the overall experience in college will always rank higher in my mind.
Once again, the student-athletes, the coaches, the administrators and fans left me with some lasting memories that warm my heart.
I definitely needed something warm on Nov. 24 in Mankato, Minn. Temperatures hovered in the teens with a brisk north wind that felt like it was coming straight from Siberia.
The first frigid day of late fall didn’t discourage hundreds of fans from making the trip to see the Bearcats football team play in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
By the way, it was the ninth straight year Northwest has advanced to the playoffs, the longest current streak in Division II. That’s impressive and made the football season successful regardless of the outcome.
Although the Bearcats lost a heartbreaker, falling 38-35 in double overtime, the things I witnessed left an impression on me just as powerful as when I saw Northwest win its first two national titles in 1998 and ’99.
The fans who made the trip never gave up even when the Bearcats faced a halftime deficit. Instead of leaving in a warm car, they stuck around, stayed loud and cheered on the Bearcats’ remarkable comeback.
Junior quarterback Trevor Adams rebounded from three interceptions in the first half and played a near flawless second half, leading the Bearcats to a 28-28 tie after four quarters.
Afterwards, Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said it takes a lot of character to overcome three interceptions in the first half and play so well in the second half.
The two moments that will stick out the most for me occurred between senior running back Jordan Simmons and Dorrel in the postgame interviews. When Dorrel walked in, Simmons gave Dorrel a hug.
Simmons was playing one week after having surgery on his arm. Despite the pain, Simmons carried the ball 19 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 4 passes for 38 yards and touchdown in overtime that forced a second overtime.
When asked about Simmons playing in pain, Dorrel choked up a bit, took nearly a minute to compose himself, and then he answered.
His words no longer mattered. Dorrel’s action spoke volumes. You hope all athletes have that kind of relationship with their college coaches.
Dorrel got to watch Simmons arrive at Northwest as a teen-ager and grow into a young man who has been provided tools to succeed in life after college football.
Sure, there were some impressive victories again by the football team, but the other two moments that stick out for me happened on Tuesday afternoon at the weekly media luncheon.
Junior tight end Joel Gantz talked about why he gives everything he has during the football season. During the fall, he could be home on his family farm. Since he is away from home going to school and playing football, he is not going waste the time.
“I can’t think of anything else I would rather do than being back on the farm,” he said. “Just being out and working with your family and going through things with your family and being outdoors and growing things and knowing your job is important. Well, every job is important. But people have to eat. It is nice to know you are helping in that manner.
“I love everything about it. It is something that is in your blood and what you were raised doing. There is a lot of hard work involved. Hard work is all you really know.”
Many of Northwest players come from farming communities and bring that work ethic. It’s one reason why the Bearcats have been so successful for such a long stretch.
The other moment that sticks out was the joy I saw in senior safety Clarke Snodgrass as he talked about the career he plans to pursue. Snodgrass wants to follow in his father’s footstep and become a doctor.
“I saw the way my dad impacted other people’s lives,” Snodgrass said. “He is a great man, a really hard worker. I just try to model my life after him. Hearing stories of things his patients have gone through and he’s able to help them really inspired me to do the same.
“He is excited that I’m pursuing what I really want to do.”
Preparing student-athletes for a successful life after college is Northwest’s main agenda. I see it in the way athletic director Wren Baker and school president John Jasinski attend many athletic events to show their support.
Anybody who showed up for the final home volleyball game on 2012 saw that Northwest is doing things right with its student-athletes.
The Bearcats lost in five sets to a Truman team that reached the Division II Central Regional. It was a thrilling match. Before the match, the announcer read off the accomplishments of seniors Tori Beckman, Kelsey Larson and Alicia Watson. All three had GPAs of 3.50 or higher. Watson had a perfect 4.00.
“All three of us know that we are students first,” Beckman said. “All three of us are excited about where we are going after the season. I couldn’t be happier that I’m going to be a middle school teacher.”
Beckman also enjoyed success on the court. She broke the single-season digs record at Northwest and finished in the top eight in the country.
The women’s soccer team returned to the MIAA Tournament, but unlike last year, the Bearcats lost in the first round.
Still, they had some nice moments. Junior Victoria Von Mende scored seven goals and now has 18 careers goals, which is a new school record.
“We've got a good bunch of kids. We only graduate two girls, so we are excited to have a lot of returners coming back,” said soccer coach Tracy Hoza.
In women’s cross country, senior Brittany Poole advanced to the national meet. It was quite an accomplishment for Poole, who made the national meet in the steeplechase last spring.
Although their main season is in the spring, the men’s tennis team and women’s golf team showed in the fall that their spring could be spectacular.
The men’s No. 1 doubles team of Luis Altimires and Sergio De Vilchez played together for the first time at the ITA Regional and won to advance to the national tournament.
The golf team finished the fall season very strong. Sophomore Steph Charteris and junior Cassie Lowell placed first and second in the Bearcat Fall Classic. The Northwest golf team has the talent and depth to win the MIAA Tournament in the spring.
“Kristina D’Angela who had shown signs of playing really well last spring, came on and played very consistent for us in the No. 3 spot,” golf coach Pat McLaughlin said. “Freshman Amber Norman had some top five finishes also this fall.”
All signs point to a very successful spring semester. It starts with basketball during the winter.
The men’s team, ranked in the top 25 in Division II, is picking up where it left off last season when it claimed a portion of the MIAA regular-season title. Northwest is 8-2 and 2-0 in conference.
The women’s team has a new coach in Mark Kellogg who is bringing new energy and a new style that the returning players are adapting to nicely. The women’s team has already topped last season’s victory total. They are also 8-2 and 2-0.
“We need every win we can get,” Kellogg said after winning the MIAA opener against Lindenwood. “I don’t want them to be satisfied either. That is the message I keep telling them.
“Someone came to me today and said if you win you’ve matched last year’s win total. I’m not comparing it to last year. We don’t want six wins. We want 20 wins or more. That is what we are trying to get to here.”
That is the attitude of all the Northwest coaches. They want their teams to do better than the previous season.
It is why there will be more trophies to collect and banners to hang while never forgetting the real mission.
Thanks Northwest athletes, coaches and fans for once again leaving me with many wonderful memories in 2012.
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