Archive for the ‘Lancer Athletic News’ Category

Briscoe Honored as Crossroads League Athletic Director of the Year

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Chad Briscoe

Grace College’s Chad Briscoe was recognized for his outstanding work this week when he was announced as the Crossroads League Athletic Director of the Year.

Briscoe, who also won the award in 2010, served Grace, the Crossroads League and the NAIA on a number of levels this year.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award. I greatly appreciate and enjoy the friendships among the ADs in the Crossroads League,” Briscoe said. “I share this honor with the administration from Grace College and the incredible group of professionals that I get to work with every day.”

Briscoe served as the chair of the league’s athletic directors and fulfilled part of the league commissioner responsibilities while the national search for a new commissioner commenced.

At the NAIA level, he has helped initiate several “Champions of Character” initiatives, starting various sportsmanship summits for the league and local high school conferences. He currently is the league’s representative on the NAIA National Administrative Council and is the vice chair for the Championship Committee on the NAIA-NAC.

Under Briscoe’s leadership, Grace was approved as host of the NCCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s National Basketball Championships until 2020. He was also elected Second Vice President of the NCCAA this summer.

“Chad has been incredibly helpful to me personally during my transition to this new role, and I’m happy that he is being honored with this award,” said Crossroads League Commissioner Larry DeSimpelare. “Chad is extremely well-respected among his peers, and he has served Grace and the Crossroads League very well over the years.”

Grace enjoyed a successful season under Briscoe’s guidance. The Lancers debuted the Linnie and Bernard Key Track and Field Complex in April, marking Grace’s first home meet at the sparkling new track facility. In the fall, 1st Source Bank agreed to partner with the athletic department for the naming rights of Grace’s soccer stadium.

Grace also had 10 teams represented at national tournaments during the 2016-17 season, and the Lancers won numerous individual All-American, All-League and Scholar-Athlete awards.

Briscoe’s pursuit of Christian excellence translated into the classroom. Grace had a record 16 NAIA Scholar-Teams last July, and Lancer student-athletes posted an average GPA of 3.37 during the fall semester.

Additionally, Briscoe is the coordinator for the Interstate Church Softball Tournament, which raises funds each year for mission work in Paraguay, and he is active in his local church in Warsaw.

“Chad leads our athletic department in an exemplary fashion. His passion and dedication for Christian excellence is contagious, and our teams, coaches and student-athletes benefit every day from his leadership,” said Grace President Dr. Bill Katip. “We are blessed to have Chad lead our athletic department at Grace College, and this honor is very deserving for the type of servant leader that Chad is.”

Lewis to Assist Grace College Men’s Tennis

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Coach Andy Lewis

Andy Lewis has been named an assistant coach for Grace College’s men’s tennis team starting in the 2017 season.

Lewis, who will assist head coach Larry Schuh, is a Grace graduate and a standout Lancer. He was a two-time NAIA national qualifier with the Lancers and won multiple conference awards.

He played at Grace from 1985-89, earning All-Conference accolades each year. In his final two years, he won three district crowns in singles and doubles to advance to the NAIA National Championships.

He also won a pair of conference titles as a junior and senior. 

“I am very excited to help Coach Schuh this year with the men. I was very lucky to learn from Mike Grill as my tennis coach, and I would like to continue the impact that he had on Grace’s program,” Lewis said. “I want to bring out the best in each of our players both on and off the court.”

Lewis served as the tennis coach at Warsaw from 1993-2004. He helped the Tigers win 13 individual sectional championships, 2 team region championships and 7 individual regional crowns.

He helped lead a doubles’ team to a third-place finish in the state and was also voted as the Northern Lakes Conference Coach of the Year.

“I’m excited for Andy to partner with Coach Schuh in leading the men’s tennis program,” said Grace Director of Athletics Chad Briscoe. “Andy has a great tennis background both with the Grace program and within the community. His deep connections in the community will benefit our program tremendously. He has a strong commitment to the mission of Grace College, and his tennis expertise will benefit our student-athletes.”

Lewis served as an assistant tennis professional from 1981-89 at Lakewood Racquet Club in Lexington, Ohio.

He played postgraduate in the United States Tennis Association for a decade. He helped his 4.5 men’s team win a state, region and national championship in 2015. He has also been a part of two additional state and regional winning teams in the USTA. 

Grace’s Website Named Best in the NAIA

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Grace College’s athletic department took home eight awards at the annual NAIA-SIDA Convention.

The Lancers’ website highlighted Grace’s award haul when it was named the No. 1 site in the nation. The site, in conjunction with SIDEARM Sports, was redesigned in February. Four months later it was voted as the NAIA’s best site.

Assistant AD/SID Josh Neuhart, who oversees Grace’s athletic communication and website content, was quick to point out the groups who helped him in the redesign process. “We redesigned the website from the ground up. Our goal in the new site was to showcase the unique aspects of Grace College and to present a unique, memorable viewing experience compared to anyone else in the collegiate athletic landscape,” Neuhart said. “Chad Briscoe (Grace athletic director) and Kelly Sharp (Grace office manager) were instrumental in this design process, and we had great feedback from several focus groups to help us meet our objectives during the redesign. The website provides a great platform for us to share the stories of our incredible student-athletes and coaches.”

Grace also won seven other top-10 awards at the national convention. Two splash page designs earned top-10 recognition, including a second-place winner for the NCCAA Basketball Championships and a ninth-place winner for the redesign of Grace’s website.

An infographic covering Grace’s academic success was third-best in the nation, and a feature story on Grace women’s basketball player Lauren Godfrey finished seventh in the Dr. Jack Bell Writing Contest. The Godfrey feature was also named the runner-up winner in the CoSIDA Fred Stabley Sr. Writing Contest in District 5.

Additionally, three of Grace’s media guides placed in the top 10. Women’s soccer was sixth, men’s/women’s basketball was seventh, and volleyball placed eighth.

Grace Prevails Past Taylor, Advances to Semifinals

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
Vironnica Drake pushing the ball up the floor in the first half during Tuesday's game.

Vironnica Drake pushing the ball up the floor in the first half during Tuesday’s game.

A dominant third quarter lifted Grace’s women’s basketball team to a 66-58 win over Taylor on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Crossroads League Tournament.

Vironnica Drake poured in a career-high 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds in a sparkling performance. She was a key figure during Grace’s game-changing third quarter.

The Lady Lancers (15-16) advance to the tournament semifinals and will travel to top-seeded Marian on Friday at 7 p.m.

Grace controlled much of the first half thanks to its muscle on the defensive end and effort on the glass. The Lady Lancers outrebounded Taylor by 11 before halftime, thanks in large part to six offensive boards.

The first quarter started slowly as the sides traded baskets. Taylor ended the quarter with three straight points, but a late hoop from Haley Richardson cut the gap to 12-11.

Chloe Pridgen sparked Grace to start the second quarter with four quick points. The Lady Lancers’ fast-paced attack put Taylor on its heels and lifted Grace to a 19-14 edge, forcing Taylor to burn a timeout.

Grace maintained a slight lead and went into halftime ahead 25-24.

The third quarter belonged to Grace. Drake started the quarter with a 3-pointer, which was a sign of things to come. Drake buried a trio of 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the quarter and provided a steady source of offense.

Pridgen and Richardson propelled the Lady Lancers to a 9-0 run to open up an eight-point lead. 

On the final possession of the quarter, Drake pulled up for a 3-pointer at the top of the key. She drilled her fourth trey of the quarter to beat the buzzer and give Grace a 50-39 lead. Drake’s 12 points nearly outscored Taylor’s 15 combined points in the period.

The Trojans (13-18) still faced a 15-point deficit with 2:15 remaining in the game before producing a valiant comeback. Taylor managed to trim Grace’s cushion down to seven with 31 seconds remaining, but the Lady Lancers made enough free throws to ice the quarterfinal win.

Drake’s 23 points came on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Her 12 rebounds were also a career-best mark.

Pridgen had another double-double for Grace, tallying 14 points, 11 boards and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. Richardson was the third Grace player in double figures with 15 points.

Darian Patton finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, and Kelsie Peterson added 2 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

Grace only shot 39 percent from the floor as a team, but they held Taylor to 32 percent. The Lady Lancers also held a dominant plus-18 advantage in rebounds.

DeRenzo Honored for 30 Years on the Mic for the Lancers

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
Pictured is Paul DeRenzo (in red shirt) and his family during Saturday's surprise ceremony for the longtime "Voice of the Lancers".

Pictured is Paul DeRenzo (in red shirt) and his family during Saturday’s surprise ceremony for the longtime “Voice of the Lancers”.

Longtime Grace College staff Paul DeRenzo was surprised with a ceremony on Saturday, honoring his three decades of service to Grace Athletics.

DeRenzo is in his 30th year doing public address work for Lancer teams. He was shocked at halftime of the men’s basketball game to receive a custom plaque and a surprise from his family at center court.

DeRenzo was met by family members, who were wearing shirts honoring DeRenzo’s 30 years as Grace’s PA announcer. The crowd gave DeRenzo a standing ovation in thanks for his service.

To cap off a memorable day, DeRenzo also was on the mic for the Lancers’ last-second 65-64 win over Spring Arbor.

“Paul puts on a tremendous game-day atmosphere for the Lancers and serves the teams and fans extremely well,” said Grace Director of Athletics Chad Briscoe. “He has a great heart to serve others. We couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate this milestone, and we are excited for the next 30 years with Paul at the mic.”

Harlem Globetrotters Coming to Grace College

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Photo courtesy of Harlem Globetrotters.

As part of their 90th year, the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters will bring their family show to Grace College’s Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.

The Globetrotters, who also came to Grace in 2011, are embarking on their 90th Anniversary World Tour.

On the court, the Globetrotters’ 90-year celebration will feature some of the greatest athletes and entertainers on the planet. With a star-studded roster, the Globetrotters’ one-of-a-kind show is unrivaled in the world of family entertainment. Every game will showcase incredible ball handling wizardry, rim-rattling dunks, trick shots, hilarious comedy and unequaled fan interaction.

Throughout their history, the Globetrotters have showcased their iconic talents in 122 countries and territories on six continents, often breaking down cultural and societal barriers while providing fans with their first-ever basketball experience. Proud inductees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Globetrotters have entertained hundreds of millions of fans—among them popes, kings, queens, and presidents—over nine thrilling decades.

For tickets, contact Grace’s athletic office at (574) 372-5100 ext. 6266 or order online at www.harlemglobetrotters.com. General admission is $26.50 and limited courtside tickets are $53.50. Special pregame festivities are available as a Magic Pass for $15.

Grace’s Top 10 Moments of 2011-12

Monday, June 4th, 2012

The 2011-12 athletic year for Grace College was certainly one to remember. The Lancers experienced unparalleled athletic success that spanned from the beginning of August to the end of May.

Grace student-athletes shattered team win records, toppled career records and won banners. Along the way, Grace experienced walk-offs, game winners and overtime thrillers en route to several national tournament appearances.

Check back throughout the summer for each climactic release of Grace’s Top 10 Moments, culminating with the release of the Moment of the Year on August 2.

(June 4th) HONORABLE MENTIONS
(June 8th) #10 Volleyball Scores Big Win Over No. 22 IWU
(June 14th) #9 Men’s Soccer Overcomes Rain, Red Card to Down IWU
(June 21st) #8 Sterk Breaks Grace Mile Record at NAIA Nationals
(June 27th) #7 The Rivalry: Grace Takes Down Bethel in 2OT
(July 2nd) #6 Baseball Rewrites Record Books
(July 9th) #5 Women’s Basketball Sets Win Record, Grabs 3rd Place at NCCAA
(July 16th) #4 Women’s Soccer Shocks No. 10 Spring Arbor, Wins in OT
(July 23rd) #3 Women’s Basketball Topples No. 1 IWU
(July 30th) #2 Three Fall Sports Qualify for NCCAA Nationals in Florida
(August 2nd) #1 Men’s Basketball Claims MCC Tournament Championship

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Stoll Tops the Charts: Sophomore Trey Stoll became the first Lancer in 15 years to place first in a golf invitational when he won the St. Francis Invitational on Sept. 30. He would go on to win a second individual title at the IWU Invitational on March 31, capping off one of the strongest golf performances in recent memory. Full story

Men’s Tennis MCC Tourney Run: Despite not being 100% for much of the year, the Lancers pulled together an inspired effort in the 2011 MCC Tournament to advance to the tournament championship match. Along the way, they upset second-seeded Taylor and came up just short (5-3) to Spring Arbor for the title. Full story

Men’s Soccer Shootout vs Bethel: The Lancers got their revenge on Bethel after suffering a 1-0 regular-season game that was decided by a penalty kick. This time, Grace knocked the Pilots out of postseason competition with a 5-4 shootout win on the road in the NCCAA Regional Tournament. Full story

Olivia Winget Sets the Home Run Record: In only her second season as a Lady Lancer, Olivia Winget etched her name into Grace’s record books. Winget drilled 11 home runs in 2012 to set a program record. She became the first Grace softball player to ever reach double-digit homers in a single season. Full story

 

#10 – VOLLEYBALL SCORES BIG WIN OVER NO. 22 IWU (9.7.11):

Grace’s win over a ranked Indiana Wesleyan volleyball team on Sept. 7 went beyond the scroreline of 3-0. Grace definitively dismantled the Wildcats, making a bold statement — The Lady Lancers had officially arrived in the MCC.

The Lady Lancers were a nice story in 2010 in the midst of a patient rebuilding job by coach Andria Harshman. But in 2011, people wanted to know if Grace could take the next step to become a MCC power.

Grace put that question to rest with their 3-0 toppling of the 22nd-ranked Wildcats.

The Lady Lancers would use the momentum from that victory to propel themselves to a third-place finish in the MCC and at the NCCAA National Championships.

In the first set, the score was tied at 22 apiece when a big kill by Stephanie Lawson and two Wildcat errors allowed Grace to grab the momentum with a 25-23 win.

In front of a loud crowd at the Orthopaedic Capital Center, the Lady Lancers battled back from a slow start in the second set with a 12-6 run to propel themselves ahead 16-14. Dana Johnston put the exclamation mark on the 25-22 win with her kill.

The third set was all Grace. The Lady Lancers grabbed the lead and held onto it, taking the decisive set by a score of 25-20.

“I am so proud of our team tonight. We really came out excited and played our game throughout the match,” said head coach Andria Harshman. “We knew we could play at this level, and it was great to see it out on the floor tonight.”

Freshman Alicia Gosney turned in a sparkling performance with 12 kills to go along with a solo block and a block assist. Lawson tied her for attacking honors on the night with 12 kills and a solo block and a block assist as well.

Senior Rachel Bult put on a clinic as the setter for the Lady Lancers, tallying a match-high 41 assists in the three sets to go along with nine digs. Game recap

 

#9 MEN’S SOCCER OVERCOMES RAIN, RED CARD TO DOWN IWU (9.28.11):

To put this game into perspective, Grace’s men’s soccer team had not beaten Indiana Wesleyan since 2004.

To make matters worse, the Lancers had to play a man down after freshman Trent Smith was sent off the field with a red card in the 30th minute. Grace had to play 11 v. 10 for the final 60 minutes in a downpour.

Things seemed as bleak as the weather as the Wildcats, who were receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25 at the time, outshot Grace 13-3 in the first half. The teams entered halftime scoreless.

But everything changed two minutes into the second half. Freshman Austin Altimus got free on the right side of the penalty box. His shot was rocketed off the hands of the Wildcats’ keeper and squirted left where Aaron Zuercher was there to put away the momentum-shifting goal.

Grace’s defense was the hero from that point forward. Goalkeeper Collin Cone was guarded by a rigid blockade in Justin Evans, Derek Zwier, Sam Cole and Ben Cahill as the Lancers managed to keep IWU off the scoreboard to hold on for the historic victory.

Cone went on to win Defensive Player of the Week honors from both the NAIA and the MCC in large part due to his shutout victory against IWU. He totaled four saves in 90 minutes in front of Grace’s goal.

“The team played from the inside-out today. They didn’t focus on things that were out of their control but chose to do everything they could to win,” said head coach Matt Hotchkin. “Playing a man down caused us to completely change our tactics, but the guys managed to get a goal to put us back in the driver’s seat. We weren’t able to fully play our game today, but a win is a win, and I’m very proud of this team.”

The Lancers would use that momentum to earn a spot in the NCCAA National Championships for the first time in nearly a decade. Grace’s final record of 11-9-4 was the program’s first winning season since 2003. Game recap
#8 STERK BREAKS GRACE MILE RECORD AT NAIA NATIONALS (3.3.12):

Randy Sterk had more than his share of highlights in his senior season on Grace’s cross country and track teams.

The senior All-MCC runner from McBain, Mich., earned two MCC Indoor Track Athlete of the Week honors during the 2012 season and qualified for both the indoor and outdoor NAIA National Championships.

His biggest moment of his breakout season may have been at the NAIA Indoor Championships on March 3 from Geneva, Ohio. The day before, Sterk competed in two races. He helped set one school record when his distance medley foursome posted a 10:19.22, and he also qualified for the final meet for the mile race.

Sterk’s previous best in the mile event came during the preliminary race, when he finished in 4:15.77. But Sterk destroyed that time, and Grace’s mile record in the process, by knocking five seconds off the previous day’s time.

The record books now read: Mile – Randy Sterk – 4:10.15.

His time was good for 10th in the mile final. Head coach Jeff Raymond remarked that Sterk would have finished higher in almost any other year except that this field was the fastest in history.

“Randy ran an unbelievable race, breaking his previous best time by over five seconds,” Raymond said. “It’s a bit unfortunate that he didn’t get in the top eight to make NAIA All-American, but we are all thrilled with his performance.”

Event recap

Sterk’s success went beyond the track, however. Under Raymond’s leadership, Sterk won NAIA Scholar-Athlete status and was Grace’s first CoSIDA Academic All-American (along with MariJean Wegert) for his academic accomplishments.

 

#7 THE RIVALRY: GRACE TAKES DOWN BETHEL IN 2OT (2.14.12):

One of the best rivalries in the NAIA added another thrilling chapter to its storied history on Feb. 14, 2012, at the Orthopaedic Capital Center.

The No. 7-ranked Lancers entered the night needing just one win to clinch a share of the MCC title. The Pilots, on the other hand, were poised to put Grace’s celebration on hold.

Bethel was more poised out the gate as they opened up a 31-17 lead 15 minutes into the game. Grace made a slight push late in the half but still found themselves trailing by nine at the half, 38-29.

Although the Pilots led for the first 27 minutes of play, the Lancers began to find their offensive rhythm to start the second half.

After shooting just 21.6 percent in the opening period, the Lancers opened the second half with eight straight points thanks to a 3-point play from Duke Johnson and a 3-pointer from Jacob Peattie.

Greg Miller tied the game for Grace with a bucket, and Bruce Grimm Jr. gave the Lancers their first lead of the game at 48-46 with 12:24 to go in regulation.

Dayton Merrell was crucial in helping Grace out to a six-point lead when he buried three 3-pointers in less than three minutes, but Bethel refused to go down early.

Bethel’s Matt Schauss nailed a pair of shots from beyond the arc to cut Grace’s six-point lead down to two. The Pilots managed to force a turnover on Grace’s possession to set up a game-tying layup from Michael Mislan with 15 seconds left.

Peattie had a look from beyond the arc to win the game, but his shot was off the mark, and the teams entered their first overtime period.

The teams traded baskets to start overtime, but Grimm sank a deep two-pointer then made a steal and long outlet pass to Peattie to put the Lancers ahead 86-82 with 1:31 to play.

Again, however, Bethel came back with a much-needed 3-pointer and then fouled Grimm with 17 seconds on the clock. Grimm made both shots to give Grace a three-point edge, but as the clock expired, Bethel’s Ryan Benner put up a floating 3-pointer from the left wing that swished through to send the game to double overtime.

In the second overtime session, Johnson and Grimm combined for eight points in the first three minutes to give Grace a 96-90 lead.

It looked as if the Pilots had another rally up their sleeves when they rattled off five points and had a chance to tie the score at the free throw line, but Zach Miller missed his second free throw, and Bethel was forced to foul Duke Johnson with 15 seconds left.

Johnson made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, and Merrell came up with a big offensive rebound and passed to Elliot Smith. Smith was promptly fouled and again made 1-of-2 from the line to put Grace up by three.

The Lancers fouled in the backcourt with 10 seconds to play to prevent another game-tying 3-pointer from the Pilots, and Bethel made 1-of-2 from the free throw stripe to cut Grace’s lead to two.

Bethel fouled again with five seconds left, and again Grace made 1-of-2 from the line. Grace returned the favor with a foul to prevent a 3-point attempt, and Bethel made the first free throw but committed a lane violation on the second and was forced to foul.

With two seconds on the clock, Merrell gave Grace a three-point edge from the charity stripe, and a fullcourt heave from Bethel was off the mark this time as the clock expired.

Grimm was the man of the night with a career-best 35 points to go along with six assists and five steals in 47 minutes of play. He made 10 field goal attempts and was 13-of-17 from the free throw line.

Johnson finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in the post, and Greg Miller posted his seventh double-double of the season with 15 points and 15 boards.

Game recap

Grace vs. Bethel game photos

 

#6 BASEBALL REWRITES RECORD BOOKS (4.14.12):

The record books for Grace’s baseball program underwent major revisions during the 2012 season, thanks in large part to the bats of seniors Josh Petry and Nate Wottring.

On April 14, Petry became the Lancers’ all-time RBI king when he laced a two-run double deep to Miller Field’s right field.

Wottring, who already held the title of career hits leader at Grace since his junior season, added career doubles leader to his rèsumè in a win against Spring Arbor.

Wottring tallied two doubles in their MCC battle with Spring Arbor on April 19 to tie and pass Kenny Jennings (1998-2001) for first place with 36 doubles.

The duo was not finished, however. When all the dust had settled, Wottring would claim the No. 1 spot on Grace’s charts in hits (208) and doubles, No. 3 in runs scored (95), No. 4 in RBIs (108), and No. 5 in batting average (.351). He also finished in the top 10 in home runs and stolen bases.

Petry, in addition to being the RBI king, finished second in hits (163), fourth in doubles (33) and home runs (14) and also eighth in walks (64).

The Lancers, who have taken strides each season in rebuilding their program, owe much of their success to the leadership and talents of Petry and Wottring.

Petry’s RBI record

Wottring’s doubles record
#5 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL SETS WIN RECORD, GRABS 3RD PLACE AT NCCAA (3.17.12):

The 2011-12 season for Grace women’s basketball was groundbreaking on a number of levels.

The Lady Lancers experienced their first winning season since 1991-92 and were ranked in the NAIA Top 25 Poll for much of the season — another first for Grace.

So it would be difficult to find a more fitting ending to the season than what Grace experienced on March 17 against Mount Vernon Nazarene. The stakes were simple enough: win, and secure the program’s first 20-win season in history.

They did just that with a 59-49 win over Mt. Vernon — clinching not only their 20th win but also their best finish ever (3rd place) at the NCCAA National Championships.

Adding to the dramatic moment, senior point guard Hannah Lengel tallied her 1,000th career point in the second half and led the team with 16 points.

“I don’t think we could have written a better script for these seniors than to win 20 games. It’s such an accomplishment,” said head coach Scott Blum. “I told the girls that you won the last game of the year and not every team gets to say that. It was a great ending to the season.”

Grace’s defense was stifling, limiting the Cougars (18-15) to 28.8 percent shooting from the floor and forcing Mount Vernon into 21 turnovers.

Mount Vernon’s Sierra Fletcher started the game with one of her seven 3-pointers in the contest, but Grace soon took control and led by eight with five minutes remaining in the half. Mount Vernon trimmed that deficit to 25-21 at the halftime break thanks to a layup by Ainsleigh Krause in the final seconds.

Emily Steveley gave Mount Vernon their only lead of the second half by hitting two 3-pointers to put the Cougars ahead 35-34 with 14:18 to play.

The Lady Lancers countered with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes, establishing a comfortable margin that lasted for the remainder of regulation.

Lengel drilled four 3-pointers for her 16 points to go along with three assists and three steals, Danielle Boykin recorded eight points and 11 rebounds, and Kiera Gray added 10 points.

“In our last practice of the year, we had a high amount of energy and excitement and the girls worked hard. It was our best practice of the year which is a credit to their dedication this late in the season,” said head coach Scott Blum. “Before the game, we talked about attacking with energy and effort, and I think we did that very well today.”

Game recap
#4 WOMEN’S SOCCER SHOCKS NO. 10 SPRING ARBOR, WINS IN OT (10.15.11):

The Lady Lancers’ women’s soccer team has achieved arguably its finest stretch in program history the past three years. Their breakout season in 2009 resulted in an all-time best record of 14-6-3.

The 2011 campaign tied that record with 14 wins and two wins in the NCCAA National Championships.

Yet for all those victories, Grace’s 2011 season seemed to be doomed to mediocrity.

Grace played one of the stiffest nonconference schedules in the nation in 2011, squaring off with five teams that finished ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25 Poll. As a result, they entered early October with a 5-5-1 record (0-1-1 MCC).

But the Lady Lancers proved they had plenty of fight left. Grace won three straight games and headed into their clash with conference leader and NAIA’s 10th-ranked Spring Arbor set to topple their rival.

With 10 minutes remaining in the game, Grace found itself trailing 1-0 to Spring Arbor University.

Grace had increased their pressure after giving up a first-half goal, but it seemed that the Cougars would hold on for the victory. Freshman Kelsey Christner had other ideas.

Christner found herself open outside the 18-yard line and put her left foot into a 26-yard shot that sailed above the goalkeeper’s head for the late equalizer at the 81:20 mark.

The Lady Lancers nearly won the match in regulation, but the Cougars’ Brooklyn Morgan stopped Holly Bennett’s shot from close range in the dying seconds of regulation.

The overtime session did not last long, however. Grace’s first corner kick of the day resulted in the game-winning goal in the 96th minute.

Christner bent her corner kick to the near post, and the ball curled into the net untouched for the golden goal. For Christner, her heroics helped her win a rare trifecta of Player of the Week honors from the NAIA, NCCAA and MCC.

Carmen Barnhill earned the win in goal for Grace, making 13 saves including eight in the second half.

Grace proved accurate with their shots, putting 10 of their 12 attempts on goal. Spring Arbor outshot Grace with their 24 attempts but were not as accurate with 14 on frame.

Game recap

 

#3 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TOPPLES NO. 1 IWU (1.25.12):

When Grace’s women’s basketball team faced off with No. 1-ranked Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 25, few people outside the Lady Lancers’ locker room gave them a chance to win.

The Wildcats entered the Orthopaedic Capital Center with a pristine 21-1 record, including a perfect 10-0 record in conference play. IWU had found little resistance in conference play, winning their previous 10 games by an average of 19 points per game.

Furthermore, Grace was on a three-game losing streak.

Even worse, IWU had crushed Grace 78-37 in their first matchup of the year just two months earlier.

But none of that mattered to head coach Scott Blum and the Lady Lancers. Grace put on a defensive clinic for the ages, holding on for a thrilling 41-39 victory.

Both teams found points hard to come by in the first half as Indiana Wesleyan got on the board first with a bucket three minutes into the game.

Through the first 12 minutes of play, the Lady Lancers were stuck with only four points to their credit. But the Wildcats found things almost as hard to come by on their end of the floor.

The teams entered the half with Indiana Wesleyan ahead 19-11 due in large part to a 10-0 advantage from the free throw line. Indiana Wesleyan was whistled for zero fouls in the opening 20 minutes of play.

Grace’s offense finally began to pick up after halftime. The Lady Lancers hit 3-pointers in crucial junctions in the final period, and Juaneice Jackson drilled back-to-back triples to bring Grace back to within one point with 7:32 to play.

Hayley Cashier gave Grace its first lead of the game with an old-fashioned 3-point play to make the score 31-30 with six minutes remaining.

Another 3-pointer by Hannah Lengel put the Lady Lancers clear by four points, but the Wildcats proved their ranking by converting on two straight offensive possessions to retake the lead 37-36 with 3:49 left.

On the next play, Cashier drew a foul while cutting through the lane and made both ends of the one-and-one free throws to give Grace the lead for good.

Grace held Indiana Wesleyan nearly scoreless over the final three minutes and added three more points from the charity stripe from Lengel and Kiera Gray.

“Our defensive effort has been very good the past few games, but we just weren’t finding our rhythm offensively,” Blum said. “We emphasized before the game that we have to keep our defensive intensity. We hit some big clutch shots at the end, but defensively, that was the best effort we’ve given all year.”

Lengel led all scorers with 11 points with three 3-point baskets, and Jackson added eight of her 10 points in the second half.

Jayla Starks made several hustle plays and finished with eight rebounds and two blocks.

Overall, Grace outrebounded Indiana Wesleyan by four. The Lady Lancers made only 13-of-52 attempts from the floor but held Indiana Wesleyan to 33-percent shooting as well. The Wildcats also turned the ball over 18 times.

The win snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats, dating back to the 2005-06 season.

Game recap

 

#2 THREE FALL SPORTS QUALIFY FOR NCCAA NATIONALS IN FLORIDA (12.3.11):

Grace Athletics saw a number of remarkable achievements from its athletic programs during the 2011-12 season — Lancer Nation perhaps saw more success across the board than has been seen in decades.

The fall season seemed to be the perfect kick start to the year. Men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball underwent some of their finest seasons in recent memory with each program climaxing with a berth into the NCCAA National Championships in Kissimmee, Fla. — signifying one of the most outstanding fall sports seasons in Grace’s long athletic history.

All three championship tournaments were played in four action-packed days between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3.

Grace’s volleyball team, under head coach Andria Harshman, highlighted Grace’s trip with an emotionally charged run to the NCCAA National Semifinals.

In their first NCCAA Nationals appearance in a decade, the Lady Lancers were only halted from a shot at a national title by a five-set loss to Trinity Christian in the semifinals. The volleyball team finished 33-12.

The women’s soccer team (who finished in fifth) had its best record in NCCAA Nationals ever by winning two games and losing another in penalty kicks.

Head coach Michael Voss directed the Lady Lancers to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Colorado Christian in their final game to tie the program record for wins in a single season. The Lady Lancers finished the season 14-7-3.

The men’s soccer team, under head coach Matt Hotchkin, claimed seventh place in the NCCAA Nationals in dramatic fashion.

Freshman Austin Altimus scored the game-winning goal against Southwestern Assemblies of God University in the final two minutes of regulation to seal the Lancers’ first winning season since 2003. Grace finished the year with an 11-9-4 record.

To view photos from 2011 championship tournaments, click on the desired sport below:
Men’s Soccer | Women’s Soccer | Volleyball

 

#1 MEN’S BASKETBALL CLAIMS ELECTRIFYING MCC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP (2.28.12):

For a program as storied as Grace’s men’s basketball team, there are very few “firsts” anymore. But on February 28, 2012, the Lancers accomplished a program first by winning the conference tournament championship in thrilling fashion — the Top Moment of the Year for Grace Athletics in 2011-12.

Video Highlights | Action Photos | Game Recap

Entering the conference tournament, many fans were worried about Grace’s chances. Despite earning the No. 2 seed, the Lancers faced a daunting opening round matchup with Taylor University. Yet four days after suffering a nine-point loss to the same Trojans, Grace proved its mettle with a dominant 23-point win.

Grace’s reward? A semifinal game with their Achilles heel — Marian University. The Knights had gotten the better of the Lancers in both of their regular season games, including a 70-54 defeat at the OCC.

This time, however, Grace’s defense put the clamps down on Marian in a nine-point win, setting the stage for the conference championship with Saint Francis.

The heavyweight title bout had the OCC crowd at fever pitch, and fans were not disappointed as the teams matched each other blow for blow.

Bruce Grimm Jr. proved unstoppable all night as he dazzled his way to 35 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

The Cougars grabbed their largest lead of the game early with a 14-8 advantage after six minutes of play. The Lancers soon after leveled the score.

Grimm added six of his 16 first-half points in the final 2:10 of regulation, and his driving layup in the waning seconds gave Grace a 36-31 lead at the halftime break.

Saint Francis fired back to start the second half, however, and ended a 12-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 43-40 lead.

The teams played about as evenly as possible for most of the second half. Over a 14-minute stretch in the half, the lead was never greater than three points in either team’s favor.

Freshman Karl Columbus and Grimm were instrumental in keeping Grace within striking range. Columbus added eight points and four boards in his 13 second-half minutes.

Grimm finally began to swing momentum Grace’s direction when he pulled up for a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Lancers ahead 63-61 with six minutes to play.

Greg Miller muscled his way to a pair of low-post buckets on Grace’s next two possessions as the frenzied OCC crowd erupted with the home team leading 67-61 and only 4:33 remaining.

After a basket from the Cougars, Columbus banked in a shot in the lane, and Grimm scored twice in a row to establish a 10-point lead for the Lancers heading into the final minute.

Saint Francis scored from beyond the arc to cut the gap to seven points, but Jacob Peattie leaked free for a fastbreak two-handed jam on the inbounds pass out of a Saint Francis timeout.

The Cougars continued to foul over the last minute of play and managed to slice Grace’s lead to 78-75 after a contested 3-pointer from Q Owens swished through with 10 seconds left.

But Elliot Smith hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 6.7 seconds on the clock, and Saint Francis misfired on a desperation shot in the final seconds as Grace held on for the tournament championship.

To watch game highlights, including an interview with Coach Kessler, click here.

To view photographs from the game, including the net-cutting ceremony, click here.

To read the game recap, click here.

Women’s Soccer Vision Meets Mission

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Five years ago when Michael Voss was hired to be the Grace College women’s soccer head coach, he became a man on a mission.

With a vision of what he wanted the women’s soccer program to look like, he set out on a
mission to recruit players. His vision—build a team of women who not only could compete at a high level of soccer, but who also had a passion for sharing Christ—a goal that seemed contradictory or idealistic to some.

Now as he looks back on his team’s recent spring break trip to the Cayman Islands he can see that mission has paid off. Yes, this trip had been in the works long before the team started fundraising and long before talented recruiting classes were brought in the past few years. It started with a Gospel-centered dream, and that dream just became a reality.

Grace's women's soccer team after arriving in the Cayman Islands in the spring of 2012

Although Tebow Time and Linsanity have done much to enhance the perception toward using sports as a means of evangelism, the mentioning of “sports ministry” often receives scoffs or criticisms about its usefulness. Add in “75-degree weather” and there are even more doubters. Yet when the women’s soccer team landed at the Owen Roberts International Airport on March 10, they knew their mission.

This story is not about Voss and not about the team, but rather how a group on mission went and lived out their faith.

Voss recalls talking with an opposing coach about the Gospel and feeling a prompting from the Holy Spirit to look up. When he did, he saw every player of his team talking to another player from the opposing team—Bible open, Mission Ball in hand, and sharing their love for God.

“It was at that moment when I looked up and saw every player fully engaged, I thought to myself, ‘This is it,’” Voss said.

The team had not only caught the vision, but they lived it.

“The difference between this ministry trip and typical mission trips was that the Cayman people don’t have a physical need we can meet,” Voss explained. “Instead of building something or giving stuff away the only need they lacked was Christ.”

Grace coach Michael Voss

That, however, did not deter the team from doing all they could to reach that need. Each player packed the essentials in their luggage: clothes, soccer gear, toiletries… and Mission Balls (see more about Mission Balls by viewing the newspaper spread here). The team brought enough Mission Balls with them to give one to every player they played against, plus some extra to give to people they interacted with. It certainly is not every day that you see a group of boys crowding around a soccer ball reading Bible verses to each other.

Yet, giving away Missions Balls was just the tip of the iceberg. The team gave themselves.

Whether it was enjoying barbeque at a party at night, going shopping in the afternoon, or having a worship service in their hotel, the Lady Lancers never seemed to be away from the women on the Cayman national team, except maybe skill-wise on the soccer field.

In three games against the Cayman teams, Grace won 4-0, 5-0, and tied 2-2. These were no shabby opponents, either, as the tie came against the Cayman Islands U20 Women’s National Team. The team’s success in the national spotlight—the team’s visit was covered multiple times by local Cayman television stations—gave them the respect they needed to talk to the locals about God.

When the women’s soccer team went to put on a skills demonstration for a local elementary school they were in for a surprise. The elementary school visited turned out to be a high school, and the skills demonstration they planned was swapped for a gymnasium filled with an audience ready to listen to whatever the team had to say. Fortunately, God was moving long before the team ever arrived in the heart of one member of the Cayman Women’s National Team named Nikki. Through her help, junior Kristin Yocum’s Gospel presentation would be accepted with open ears and hearts.

When Nikki first met the Grace soccer team, a bit of a reputation preceded her, so much so that one of her own teammates asked if she was really invited to dinner with the Grace team. Her honest “you might not want her” was met with a simple “we love her anyway.” Three days later it was Nikki, newly saved through conversations with players from Grace, who told her former high school, “I know you all know who I am and I know you all know what I’ve done, but I’ve been changed by this team and I want you to listen to them.” The students did, and many students raised their hand to receive Christ when the invitation was given to. Such is the power of a team who is “like Christmas every day,” as one opponent said.

Ten days does not seem like much time to make a lasting difference. Or is it? The results speak for themselves: 20 salvations, dozens of Cayman soccer players reached with the Gospel, and countless lives impacted across the country.

Without each player playing an important role on the trip, the women’s soccer team’s trip would not have been so successful, and at times, confusing. As Cayman women soccer players talked amongst themselves about the crazy foreigners who had just invaded their country, they could not figure out what was the cause for the joy that fueled their passion. Then finally, one player spoke up. “Don’t you see? It’s Jesus, guys.”

Now at home, Voss has a new story to tell recruits, a story of the unified effort of a team that loved God and loved soccer. He has a finished product to sell, and a vision that has only begun.

“If you didn’t believe sports were a legitimate way to share the Gospel, you can’t doubt it now.”

By Zane Gard

This story was published in Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

*To view the newspaper spread as printed in the Sounding Board, click here.

Grace's Jalisa Thayer sharing a devotional from the Cayman Islands

Sterk finds unrivaled track success

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Randy Sterk never wanted to be a track star.

Senior Randy Sterk is seeing four years of hard work pay off in 2012

Yet Sterk has become successful, not as a professional baseball player—his childhood dream—but as a track runner. In fact, over a three-week span during the indoor season, Sterk was named the Mid-Central College Conference Athlete of the Week twice.

Though Sterk is having a phenomenal year, he has not always been the outstanding runner he is today. Growing up, he instead preferred playing basketball and baseball. But upon entering college, he moved on from his two childhood sports because he felt that he would be a better runner. So he decided to pursue track.

“The only reason I run is for the race. I’m not one of those runners who run just to run. I like the competition of racing,” Sterk said.

This competitive attitude is clear in Sterk’s running improvement over his college years. Over the past three years, Sterk has seen steady improvement, placing fifth at the NCCAA Nationals in the 800-meter race his sophomore year and qualified for the NAIA Outdoor Championships in the 1500-meter race last year.

This year, though, is by far Sterk’s best.  This year, Sterk took first place in each of his first four races. He won both the mile and the 800-meter race at the Trine Invitational and set a meet record with his 4:18.44 time in the mile at the Wildcat Invitational. His success has led him to the NCCAA National Championships, where he placed second with the distance medley relay team and third in the mile.

Sterk, who says he is “motivated when people think I can’t do something,” believes that the success he has had this season is a direct result of wanting to prove to people that he can be a great runner, and to the vast amount of running he did in preparation for this season.

His track coach, Jeff Raymond, has also noticed his hard work. “Randy is very dedicated. He will do the small things like lift weights and run in the offseason. This dedication is what I think has gotten him to where he is this season,” he said.

Sterk said he is excited for this upcoming outdoor season because he would also like to make an appearance in the NAIA Outdoor Championships, a chance Raymond think he has a good shot at because of his mental focus.

“He has a lot of potential to do well at Nationals with the way this year has been going,” Raymond said. “Some runners don’t believe in themselves, but Randy is confident—not cocky—and realizes that he is a good runner and uses that to get through the mental toughness of a long distance race runner face.”

Ever since childhood, Sterk has wanted to be the best. Sterk has four younger brothers who he grew up playing basketball, baseball, or any other sport in the driveway or yard with. From that moment on, professional baseball was his goal.

Fortunately for Grace track team, Sterk never did reach his childhood dream.

By Holly Bennett

This story was published in Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

As “Fate” Would Have It

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Daniel Sanchez is a winner.

Ever since he started playing tennis at age 10, Sanchez has been adding accomplishments to his résumé’. Whether it was in Venezuela, where Sanchez is from, or at Grace, his new home, Sanchez has played tennis—and played it well.

Daniel Sanchez was named to the MCC All-Conference Team as a freshman

Sanchez, though, was not the first one in his family to play tennis. In fact, if baseball practices had not been so boring to Sanchez, he might have never ventured to pick up a tennis racquet. After wanting to watch his sister play tennis to see if tennis looked appealing, Sanchez decided he would give it a try himself.

Within a month of starting out at the beginner’s court, Sanchez was playing at the court for top-rated players. This was the start of a career that would make Sanchez the top-ranked player in all of Venezuela this past summer for players 18 years old and under—when Sanchez is only 17.

During his playing time in Venezuela, Sanchez was able to compile many other accomplishments. Playing club tennis, Sanchez made five regionals in singles, making the semifinals once, and won nationals for doubles twice. It was because of this success that Sanchez became a top recruit from Venezuela.

Yet despite his success, Sanchez could not really continue his tennis career in Venezuela. Wanting to learn English better, live on his own and study in the United States, Sanchez started looking at colleges to play for. A sports agent gave Sanchez some suggestions on where to begin, and one of those was Grace.

Maybe it is ironic Sanchez is at Grace. After all, tennis head coach Larry Schuh has taught Spanish for 13 years. Maybe it was because Sanchez did not take the ACT in time to secure a scholarship from Taylor University. Or maybe everything lined up for a reason. As Schuh put it, “God, for whatever reason, wanted him to come to Grace.”

When Schuh started emailing Sanchez about playing for Grace, Sanchez could tell he was different. Though Sanchez could tell Schuh wanted him the most, that was not stuck out the most. What Sanchez noticed was a Schuh’s short closing on every email that said, “Prov. 3:5-6.”

Sanchez quickly pointed it out to his dad, a pastor. It was, after all, his favorite Bible verse, and one that cemented Sanchez’s interest in Grace. Still, Sanchez wanted to major in engineering—a degree that Grace did not offer.

One day last January, Schuh had not heard from Sanchez or his family in three weeks, when he received an email from Sanchez’s dad saying that Sanchez was still thinking over his choice of major: business or engineering. Schuh knew what that meant. If Sanchez chose engineering, he was going to Taylor and Grace would lose a top recruit.

Later that day, Schuh received an email that would change the men’s tennis program—except it was not from Sanchez.

Instead, it was from former Grace athletic director Chad Briscoe, who did not know about Sanchez’s pending decision. He informed Schuh that Grace was going to add an engineering program—just in case he wanted to let recruits know.  Of course, Schuh quickly told Sanchez and later that day Sanchez committed to Grace. This was one final miracle in Sanchez’s direction to Grace.

“There were answers from God,” Sanchez said. “He was opening doors.”

Now at Grace, Sanchez has become a fixture on the tennis team as his tennis success has now stormed through his collegiate play.

Not many freshmen can say they made it to the quarterfinals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Tournament. Sanchez can. He actually could have done better, too. After defeating the No. 8 seed, the eleventh-ranked player in the tournament, and one of the host school’s (Aquinas College) top players, Sanchez finally lost in his eighth grueling match in two days to the No. 3 seed.

Still, in only his first year, Sanchez was named to the MCC All-Conference Team after going undefeated in singles competition. Sanchez was also 11-1 in doubles competition, with his only loss coming in the MCC championship. Unfortunately for Sanchez, his doubles partner, Aaron Blevins, had broken his toe the night before the championship, significantly hindering their chances at winning.

Sanchez’s success on the court can be traced back to his intelligence—intelligence that will help Sanchez pursue his dream of starting his own company after graduation. Schuh says that Sanchez has a knack for always hitting the best shot at the best time—not bad for someone playing against foes that could have been five years older than him.

When he first toured the Orthopaedic Capital Center, Sanchez found his number one goal at Grace. When Sanchez looked at the men’s tennis plaque, he saw that the last time Grace won the MCC conference was 1989. Shocked, Sanchez vowed to change that.

“I want to add some new numbers to it,” Sanchez explained with a laugh.

Sanchez will certainly do his part. After a great freshman year, Sanchez should only get better. Schuh said “he could see” Sanchez breaking some records and finishing with one of the most successful careers in the history of Grace’s tennis program.

Regardless, Sanchez has already left a mark on Grace, simply by being here. His addition to the men’s tennis team cannot and will not go unnoticed. And if the past is any indication, Sanchez will leave an even bigger mark on Grace.

Good thing Sanchez ended up Grace—as “fate,” of course, would have it.

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the November 4 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.