2015 PREVIEW: Grace Men’s Golf Takes Aim

September 1st, 2015

Pictured is Warsaw grad, Grace junior Jonathan Schram.

Grace’s men’s golf team may not have a senior on the squad, but the Lancers have their fair share of talent and experience in 2015.

The Denny Hepler-coached Lancers are hoping for improved play this year, led by a balanced effort from top to bottom.

“Anytime you start something with a clean slate, it’s a very exciting time. We are a very young team, but we still have strong leaders,” Hepler said. “We are more balanced than we have been in the past.”

Grace struggled to a ninth-place showing in last year’s Crossroads League Tournament, but the Lancers only had one upperclassman score among the team’s top five. In 2015, the junior class of Jonathan Schram, Tyler Ham and Zachary Allyn is joined by Ancilla College transfer Zarek Finley, giving Grace a strong core of leadership.

Also returning is Daniel Zawlocki, who saw action in nearly every tournament last year as a freshman.

If the Lancers can realize their potential, Hepler believes that Grace can finish in the top three in the league. To reach that objective, however, the Lancers will need contributions from every member.

Schram headlines the returners after claiming medalist honors at the Bethel Invitational last year. He finished in the individual top 10 in all but one tournament during the 2014-15 campaign.

“Jonathan [Schram] won one tournament last year, but he hopes to reach more of his potential this fall and win a couple more,” Hepler said. “He has the talent to win every tournament he plays in, so we hope for him to do what he’s capable of this fall.”

Hepler brought in two freshmen this year in Cameron Bates (Frankton) and Chad Spencer (East Central) to reinforce Grace’s ranks.

Grace is hoping for a more steady performance this year. A key, according to Hepler, is to “eliminate big mistakes and to minimize getting into trouble. We want to be a more consistent team.”

The Lancers start the season with the Cardinal Stritch Invitational on Monday and Tuesday at Brown Deer Park Golf Course.

2015 PREVIEW: Grace Readies for First Women’s Golf Season

September 1st, 2015

Pictured is the 2015 Grace women's golf team.

This Friday, Grace’s women’s golf team will take its first official swing as a collegiate program.

The Lady Lancers field a roster of eight freshmen and two upperclassmen for their maiden season.

Head coach Denny Duncan admitted the year would be one of adjustments but also one brimming with excitement. “We are starting the year with tremendous anticipation. We’ve spent the last 14 months in preparation for this moment, so everything is new and exciting.”

Duncan has recruited a talented unit, albeit one without a swing of collegiate experience. Lauren Keiser, who was the program’s first signing, and Libby Tully will likely play as Grace’s top two in the fall after impressing in the preseason.

The other freshmen — April Bishop, Amanda Gifford, Stevie Luebbert, Emily McDermit, Aspen Rogers and Rylee Wolendowski — were successful at the high school level, but Duncan knows that college brings a unique set of challenges.

“This will be a year of adjustment and growth. The difference between high school and collegiate golf is significant. The courses are significantly more challenging, and the ladies are also adjusting to college life away from home,” Duncan said. “To reach their potential, they will need to manage all of these changes well.”

To help with the transition, Duncan will look to the two upperclassmen on the team this fall. Juniors Kate Adams (NorthWood) and Alex Noppert (Warsaw) will provide a “unique form of leadership as they help our younger girls adjust to college life,” Duncan explained.

Overall, the team hopes for growth at each step of the journey this year. The Crossroads League will field nine teams for the biggest showing in the sport’s history. The CL Championships will take place in the spring with the winner receiving an automatic berth to the NAIA National Championships.

Regardless of the scores on the courses this year, the 2015 season will be memorable simply because it is the first.

“It’s impossible to describe how excited we are to get the year started,” Duncan said. “Our lack of experience will be a challenge, but our enthusiasm and focus will make up for that. We have a fabulous group of young women, and we’re expecting great things on and off the course.”

The Lady Lancers’ program-opening tournament is Friday and Saturday with the IWU Invitational at Arbor Trace Golf Club. Grace will play two home matches at Stonehenge Golf Club, Sept. 15 and Oct. 2.

Grace topples No. 11 The Master’s in high-profile matchup

August 31st, 2015

pictured is Kaitlyn Hayes dribbling in the first half on Saturday

Meredith Hollar’s first-half goal proved to be the difference as No. 15 Grace’s women’s soccer team took down No. 11 The Master’s on Saturday night.

The Lady Lancers (3-0) defeated their second NAIA-ranked opponent in the first two weeks of the season thanks to their 1-0 win at Miller Athletic Complex against The Master’s.

Grace also extended its shutout streak to three matches to start the year, playing 270 minutes of soccer so far without surrendering a goal.

After a strong push down the right side of the field with 10 minutes to play in the first half, Grace worked the ball around to the left side. Mallory Rondeau fed a pass into Maile Grout at the top of the 18-yard box, and Grout faked a defender and took a shot. Her shot was deflected, and Hollar was the first player to react to the ball. Hollar then clinically slotted her ball to the far post to beat the goalkeeper and score the game-winning goal in the 37th minute.

Overall for the first half, Grace fired nine shots compared to five for the Mustangs (0-2-1). Grace had a clear advantage in possession and had a number of goal-scoring opportunities. Rondeau broke free for a pair of runs at The Master’s goal but was denied both times. Hollar also made a spectacular individual run from midfield on the left side of the field, but her shot was saved with a diving effort.

The Master’s adjusted at halftime and made a hard charge at the equalizer. The Mustangs’ best chances came from set pieces, including a loose ball in the box off a corner kick that was saved off the goal line by freshman Clair Snodgrass.

But Grace weathered the early storm and responded with its fair share of chances. Kristen Bellinger, Carianne Sobey and Heather Martin each fired hard attempts at the Mustangs’ goal in the second half to no avail. The Lady Lancers took nine more shots in the second half, outshooting the Mustangs 18-11 in the match.

The Master’s had one final free kick with 20 seconds remaining in the match and sent every player, including the goalkeeper, into Grace’s penalty box in desperation. The plan came close to working as the last kick of the match was a shot toward Grace’s goal, but the Lady Lancers maintained their unblemished defensive record for the year with another shutout. The defensive line of Faith Voehringer, Martin, Meredith Matson, Erica Manchess and Snodgrass played well in front of goalkeeper Abby Schue.

“I’m honored to have the caliber of team like The Master’s here in Indiana. They play very good football combined with godly behavior, and they work all 90 minutes. They are one of the top teams in the nation,” said Grace head coach Michael Voss. “For the first 45 minutes, our women were absolutely stellar; we enacted our game plan and played controlled, quick possession, and we were extremely dangerous going to goal multiple times. I’m proud of the ladies for being intelligent for the duration of the game.”

The Lady Lancers hit the road next weekend for their first trip of the season. Grace will play Hannibal-Lagrange and Missouri Baptist in a tournament on Friday and Saturday held at Olivet Nazarene.

Grace XC takes first place at Northwest Classic

August 31st, 2015

pictured is the men's and women's cross country teams for Grace after winning the Northwest Classic

The cross country season started on a high note for Grace College as the men’s and women’s teams won the Northwest Classic on Friday evening.

“It’s obviously nice to win, but more importantly we made plans for this early race and stuck to those plans,” said Grace head coach Jeff Raymond. “It’s a long season, but this was a nice low-key meet to start with, especially for our nine freshmen.”

The women beat five other teams in the 5k race, placing four runners in the top eight overall. Katelyn McCullough was second individually in a time of 19:32, and freshman Ariel Arellano was just behind her in third place at 19:38. Ariel’s sister Raven Arellano placed sixth with a time of 19:55, and fellow freshman Karla Singer crossed the finish line in eight place (20:24). Emma Mitchell rounded out Grace’s top five with a 13th-place showing of 21:22.

The men also ran a 5k race, claiming a team score of 30 to beat the second-place finisher Purdue Calumet by 14. The Lancers demonstrated a strong pack running style, finishing 4-5-6-7-8-9-13.

Freshmen Joel Bertelsen (16:33) and Brendan Hamilton (16:43) were Grace’s fastest runners, and Tyler Houvener was just behind at 16:44. Sam Hall placed seventh in 16:46, and Hunter Reed was Grace’s fifth runner at 16:58. Brandon Smith also earned a top-10 individual finish at 17:00.

“Three guys bettered their high school PR’s for the 5k, including two freshmen in their first collegiate race,” Raymond continued. “Two women also set person bests. These results will give them confidence as we move into a much tougher part of the season. Plus, the guys will move up to the collegiate 8k racing distance.”

The Lancers’ next race is on Sept. 11 with the Indiana Wesleyan Invitational in Marion, Ind.

Volleyball splits opening day of tourney

August 31st, 2015

Grace’s volleyball team continued its challenging nonleague schedule by playing a pair of teams receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25 on Friday.

The Lady Lancers split the day at the Lindsey Wilson Tournament, beating Point Park and falling to St. Catharine.

In the opening match of the tournament, Grace experienced defeat for the first time this season. Despite earning nine block points in the match, the Lady Lancers (5-1) struggled to slow down St. Catharine’s attack and lost 3-1. The Patriots (5-3) hit .301 as a team, including .467 in the decisive fourth set.

Grace fell behind early in the first set and never recovered, losing 25-13. The Lady Lancers rebounded to pull out a hard-fought 25-22 win in the second set, closing out the game on a 7-2 run which ended on a kill from Laken Chaney.

The third set started out in Grace’s favor, leading 13-8. But the Patriots found their stride midway through the game and ended the set on a 17-4 run to win by eight. St. Catharine closed out the match with another 25-17 win.

Sierra Smith led Grace’s attack with 10 kills to go along with a solo block and two block assists. Kari Feddema had seven kills on an efficient .375 percentage, and Caylie Teel notched 7 kills, 9 digs and 2 block assists. Laken Chaney tallied 31 assists with eight digs, and Sara Miller added 16 digs and two aces.

Grace made short work of Point Park in the second match of the day, winning in straight sets. Chaney led a balanced offense with 33 assists, helping eight different Lady Lancers record multiple kills. As a team, Grace had 23 more kills, 21 more assists, 6 more service aces, 19 more digs and 5 more block points in a dominating effort.

The Pioneers (0-8) were held to just two kills in the entire opening set as Grace won 25-12. Grace had 16 kills in the second set en route to a four-point win, and the ladies closed out the sweep with a 25-15 victory in the third set.

Smith had her second strong match of the tournament, leading Grace with nine kills on a .533 percentage to go along with two block assists. Tori Bontrager finished with seven kills and two block assists, and Megan Johnson notched 10 digs and six kills.

Annie Salazar served up four aces, and Sara Miller finished with three aces and a match-best 20 digs. Marta Bleed and Grace Woolsey added five kills apiece, and Jessica Scherb had eight digs.

The Lady Lancers end the tournament on Saturday with matches against Campbellsville and NAIA No. 7-ranked Lindsey Wilson.

New faces lead Lancers in 2015

August 31st, 2015

pictured is the 2015 Grace men's tennis team

Grace’s men’s tennis team comes into the 2015 season with a new look.

Apart from the squad’s new Nike uniforms, the Lancers will feature several fresh faces in key positions.

Head coach Larry Schuh, who has led Grace to two Crossroads League titles since 2012, maintains that this year’s team has the talent to win another crown. Schuh has built Grace into an annual contender for the league championship, leading the Lancers to a third-place finish and a 7-3 record in 2014.

“I am very excited for the season because we have the potential to be stronger than last year,” he said. “We are very much improved up and down the lineup. As a coach, I know we have the potential to accomplish our goal, which is to win conference.”

Schuh revealed that the doubles’ lineup would look very different as would the top three singles’ positions.

Seniors Ethan Grove and Ricardo Bedon bring experience and leadership to the squad, and juniors Gabe Vervynckt and Jacob Stump were key contributors in 2014.

A pair of sophomore newcomers — Danila Kurkulin and Uros Pajic — figure to be major factors to Grace’s success this fall. Kurkulin, a native of Haifa, Israel, can compete at the No. 1 singles position, replacing graduated All-League senior Daniel Sanchez.

Brennan Angle, Connor Bates, Adam Yoder, Caleb Yoder and Jackson Zvers are also new to Grace’s roster this year, giving Schuh one of the deepest squads he’s had.

For Grace to reach its goal of qualifying for NAIA Nationals, the outcome may rest on the team’s doubles’ play. Schuh believes this squad “has the opportunity to be the best doubles’ team in the conference. All of our guys are very adept at handling the difficulties that doubles can bring to a team.”

Grace’s singles’ play will look to improve from last year’s form. Schuh believes the Lancers’ resiliency will carry them through the grind of the season. “We had some very gritty wins that involved my players fighting right down to the last point,” Schuh said. “When a tennis match turns into a dogfight, this team will rise above and fight for each other.”

While the Lancers will gun for a spot at NAIA Nationals this fall, the team is aiming just as intently for spiritual growth. “Our word of emphasis this year is ‘focus.’ Your focus determines your reality,” Schuh said. “If Christ is our focus, everything else takes care of itself.”

The Lancers kick off the season with four straight Crossroads League matches at home. Grace’s first league contest is Sept. 3 against Taylor at 4 p.m.

Elite HS Soccer Teams Coming to Grace College

August 28th, 2015

Grace College is pleased to welcome a pair of high-profile high school boys’ soccer teams for the Lancer High School Soccer Showcase on Sept. 4.

Wheaton Academy of Illinois and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy of Ohio will clash at Grace’s newly renovated Miller Athletic Complex at 7 p.m.

Wheaton Academy is the reigning Illinois 2A state champion after finishing with a sterling 25-1-1 record last year. CVCA reached Ohio’s Div. II state semifinals in 2014 and wound up with a record of 14-3-3.

The match is also a homecoming for Wheaton Academy’s Dave Underwood, who currently serves as the school’s athletic director and girls’ soccer coach. Underwood played soccer collegiately at Grace and served as an assistant coach for the Lancers in 1992.

“We are honored to host these two elite high school soccer programs at Grace College,” said Grace athletic director Chad Briscoe. “Both institutions have a rich history of success, and we are excited to be able to showcase them both in our community.”

Free admission will be available for fans to the Lancer High School Soccer Showcase.


2015 PREVIEW: Grace Eyes Jump in League Standings

August 28th, 2015

Pictured is the 2015 Grace women's tennis team.

Hopes are high for Grace’s women’s tennis team in 2015.

The Lady Lancers are coming off their most wins since 2010 under head coach Scott Moore and return several key members of their lineup.

After mustering just five wins in the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined, Grace took a jump last fall to claim six victories and finish fifth in the Crossroads League. This year, Moore believes the women can do even better.

“I am more excited this year than I have ever been. I am very happy with all the work the girls have done to get the program where it is today, and much of that has to do with the girls we’ve had in our program these past two years,” Moore said. “I think expectations are high, and they are very ready to compete. We need to keep coming with a mindset of taking our program to another level.”

Headlining Grace’s returners is senior Natalia Kurkova, who was named to the 2014 All-CL Team. She posted a 9-2 record at No. 1 singles last year.

Also returning is the strong junior class of Katie Etter, Jayna Huber, Gabrielle Lawrence, Rachel Smith and Mariah Zumbrun. Lawrence finished with an 8-3 singles record in 2014, Zumbrun racked up 12 total wins in singles and doubles, and Etter also had a winning record in singles. Sophomore Caroline Cassidy did not drop a match in limited action during her freshman campaign, and senior Julia Marsh adds depth to the squad.

Two freshmen join the Lady Lancers in 2015: Molly Fitzpatrick (Mooresville) and Jenna Jackson (Carroll). Both players come from strong high school programs and are expected to make an immediate impact.

Moore believes this team has the talent to compete for a conference title. In his words, the Lady Lancers “definitely have a team that can finish in the top half of the Crossroads League.”

In order to reach that goal, however, the team needs to pay attention to the minutiae of their individual games.

“Our word this year is ‘details.’ If we can focus on correcting and excelling at the details, it will improve other areas of our game,” Moore said. “We can’t accomplish large goals if we don’t take the correct steps to get there.”

Studying details fits in well at Grace. The team finished with a cumulative 3.70 GPA last year, good for fourth-best among all NAIA women’s tennis teams. Only two sports (women’s cross country, women’s soccer) finished with a higher GPA among Grace’s programs, but Moore is hoping to surpass both of those squads this year.

Day-to-day goals will not change for Grace under Moore’s guidance. He wants the team to grow spiritually, improve each day as a student-athlete and have fun. “If we can accomplish each one of these goals, then I’m confident everything else will take care of itself.”

The Lady Lancers will make their season debut on Sept. 2 at Huntington. Grace’s first home match is Sept. 8 against St. Francis.

2015 PREVIEW: Youthful Lancers Not Settling for Mediocrity

August 28th, 2015

Pictured is the 2015 Grace men's and women's cross country team.

Grace’s cross country team might be the youngest squad in the Crossroads League this season, but the Lancers refuse to let its youth be a crutch in 2015.

Of the 20 runners on the men’s and women’s teams under head coach Jeff Raymond, nine of the student-athletes are freshmen. Additionally, there are no four-year seniors on either squad.

Raymond maintains, however, that Grace’s talent and leadership are enough for the Lancers to yield improved times this fall.

“This is a very young team. However, I believe we have some solid leadership on the team, and I am excited to see how the entire squad develops,” Raymond said. “We had a great retreat to start the season, and I’m very encouraged by the team unity I already see developing.”

Grace’s theme for the year is “Rise Up.” Raymond said the team is focused on not settling this year. “We talked a lot at our retreat about not settling for mediocrity in all areas of our lives. We want to have our focus set on glorifying God by fully striving for high goals. I’m not sure what that will mean for places or finishes, but I’m confident we can be better both on the men’s and women’s sides than we were a year ago.”

Leading Grace’s returners on the men’s side are sophomores Nathan Lane and Tyler Houvener. The duo were two of the fastest freshmen last year as both produced personal-best times under 26:15. While Lane is rehabbing from injury, Raymond hopes he will be full strength by the postseason races.

Juniors Brandon Smith, Hunter Reed and Brendon Lengacher, and sophomores Reid Fouty and Tim Drew will be counted on to be leaders both in and out of competition.

Raymond added three freshmen to the men’s team, and all three have potential to finish in Grace’s top seven. Brendan Hamilton (Calvary Christian, Mich.) was an All-State performer in track and has a “bright future ahead of him,” according to Raymond. Sam Hall (Wabash) and Joel Bertelsen (Worthington Christian, Ohio) have also impressed in the preseason.

On the women’s roster, junior Katelyn McCullough headlines Grace’s returners. She has been the Lady Lancers’ top runner since her freshman year and comes into this fall ready to challenge for an All-League finish, according to Raymond. Junior Sarah Hoff and sophomores Emma Mitchell and Aletheia Burritt also figure to play key roles in the team’s success.

Six new Lady Lancers join the team in 2015, including twins Ariel and Raven Arellano (Dublin-Scioto, Ohio), Karla Singer (Northfield), Liz Fox (Hebron), Cassandra Rashley (Pike-Delta-York, Ohio) and Julia Neal (Martinsville). Singer and the Arellanos come from traditionally strong high school programs and should be factors from the first race.

While the young Lancers should not lack on talent, Raymond noted that one area they are focused on is confidence. The potential is there for a good year, he said, but “individually and as a team we need to be confident in our God-given abilities and be willing to stretch ourselves to approach that potential.”

Grace’s team will kick off its season on Friday at the Stephen Kearney Classic in Westville, Ind.

Darrell Johnson Wins Golf Channel Regional Championship Tourney

August 24th, 2015

Darrell Johnson took first place in the Jones/Snead flight at the Indianapolis Tour Championship this past weekend.  The Championship was a two day event held at The Fort Golf Club in Indianapolis.  The Tournament is part of the Golf Channel / NBC Sports Amateur Tour.  The Golf Channel AM Tour is the largest amateur golf tour in North America.  Darrell and his son, Scott have competed in the summer long tour playing tournaments in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.  Darrell and Scott have both qualified for the GC AM Tour National Championship, a four day tournament held at the PGA West Golf Complex in La Quinta, California.  Congratulations Darrell and Scott.