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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.

Serbia’s loss, Grace’s gain: A tale of two Nikolas

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Soccer is in Nikola Blazic’s blood.

The son of a semi-professional goalie, Blazic has dedicated his life to soccer since he was seven years old. This has served him well, as he made the national team at age 10, was the youngest player ever to play in a professional futsol league at age 16, and played on a variety of low-level professional teams.

There is only one problem, though. Blazic is from Serbia. And in Serbia, he could never seem to get a chance to really prove himself.

“Here in America you have options and possibilities to do something if you really want to, but in Serbia you have maybe only one chance and that’s it. I have friends that have gone to college and gotten a degree, but have ended up driving taxi cabs for a living,” Blazic explained.

Blazic needed to get out if he was going to get his chance.

An Unprecedented Journey

Whether it was being benched for older players, being degraded by his coaches, or not being allowed to play because he could not afford it, Blazic was always encouraged to quit playing soccer.

It was at the suggestion of his friend while playing basketball in a school yard that Blazic first had the idea of going to play soccer at a college in the United States. So, Blazic started searching for schools he could play at near Chicago, home to the largest Serb population in America. His search was successful, as it yielded a scholarship to play for Dayton University. Blazic, though, did not get his SAT scores in on time and could not be accepted.

This was only the beginning of Blazic’s unlikely path to Grace.

When Dayton fell through, Blazic’s search continued, only this time he would not come up short. Blazic said that when he saw the pictures on Grace’s website he told himself, “This will be my new home.”

No amount of paperwork for a visa, forms for applying at college, or tests to be able to study abroad could stop him. But his high school transcript almost did.

It was not that Blazic’s grades were poor (he is actually very bright), but when he was at the airport in Serbia ready to go through the American embassy, Blazic realized he had left his transcript at home—a document essential to get in amongst his two-inch stack of other required papers. After an interview with American counsel, though, Blazic told his story and was passed.

So many things had to be worked out for Blazic to get to the United States that worked out smoothly. Blazic knows why.

“It was not just circumstances that got me here. I believe God put me here. Now I see how all along it was just God’s path for my life,” Blazic said.

It is no small feat for Blazic to be at Grace. Three years ago, Blazic’s father was laid off work for a year and a half. Blazic, his sister, and his parents moved in with his grandma, while his mother worked 10 hours a day for $160 a month.

Coming from a war-torn country has not dampered Blazic’s hope.

“I have a strong will and no one can stop me,” he said.
“Never in my life have I wanted to be the best, just a chance to show myself because I know I can do well.”

Blazic is here, and Grace is better because of it.

Just like a Movie

In many ways, America is a dream come true for Blazic.

Soccer head coach Matt Hotchkin remembers taking Blazic out to eat after picking him up from the airport last August.

As they were pulling up to the drive-thru, Hotchkin asked Blazic what he wanted to eat. After being told what they had, Blazic decided on a chicken sandwich, but was staring out of the window with a fascinated look the whole time.

Hotchkin explained, “The whole time I’m ordering, he is staring across at me with this smile on his face. I finally asked him, ‘Nikola, what is going on?’ and he said, ‘Coach, I feel like I’m in a movie, because that’s the only place I’ve seen a drive-thru before.’”

Welcome to America.

A New Opportunity

It is hard to imagine what Blazic’s life would look like without sports.

If soccer were not in Blazic’s blood, he would certainly not be at Grace College right now. For Blazic, being in America is an opportunity to finally show himself after being held back for years. Whether he is cleaning classrooms at 6 a.m. to help pay for school or enjoying playing with new soccer equipment, Blazic considers himself blessed.

“Ever since I’ve come here, only good things have happened. It’s like a dream come true,” said Blazic. “I can never really explain to my teammates what a privilege it is to play on that soccer field.”

A simple piece of advice Blazic’s father told him years ago was “always believe in yourself.” In all the challenges Blazic has faced, he never forgot it.

And he never will.

By Zane Gard

————————————————————————————————————————


Nearly four years ago, Grace College gained a Serbian player that would forever change the tennis team, and a Serbian tennis player gained a college which would forever change his life.

A Perfect Fit

In 2008, a Serbian named Nikola Todorovic began looking for a school to attend and play tennis for. Wanting to have an opportunity for a successful career, he knew he needed to go to school in the United States. After finding a random list of colleges online, he started emailing coaches.

After his research, Todorovic decided that he would play Division I tennis as Mississippi State University and pursue a career as a film director. Still, for some reason he kept in touch with a coach from a small college in northern Indiana. Unknown to Todorovic was that school’s tennis team had just ended its season without a conference win for the fourth consecutive year.

Todorovic credits head coach Larry Schuh with his coming to Grace.

“Coach Schuh was very persistent in emailing and seemed to be a man of integrity who genuinely cared about me as a person rather than just me as a player on his team. If it weren’t for his persistence, I probably would not be here right now,” Todorovic explained.

Many international students want to play at the collegiate level, but unfortunately most never get the opportunity because they need too much scholarship money. Schuh said that he pursued Todorovic because of his willingness to work hard to pay his tuition.

“I was looking for some good, hardworking players to start building the team because at that time we were the welcome mat that everyone wiped their feet on at conference matches. I watched a video he posted on YouTube of a tennis match he played in and I knew he would be a great fit for the team,” Schuh added.

Little did Schuh know how good of a fit it would be.

Adjusting to America

When he first came to Grace, Todorovic experienced an expected culture shock.

There was, of course, getting used to the fact that people in the United States do not walk everywhere and finding out that Americans are not as liberal as Serbians. Perhaps many people at Grace overestimated the adjustments he would have to make.

Questions like “Do they have phones in Serbia?” and “Have you ever eaten pizza before?” (yes and yes) became staples in conversation. Yet Todorovic was sure to have fun with this. He laughed as he remembered the time when he told a girl that because of war in Serbia all the radiation caused him to be born with two hearts—and she believed him.

Aside from social culture shock, however, there was another kind of shock—spiritual culture shock.

“The Christian atmosphere at Grace is unlike anything that I had ever been around,” Todorovic said. “In Serbia, the brand of Christianity that we have here at Grace would be considered a cult. It was so good for me to be here, though, because I grew so much from the Bible studies that coach did with our team.”

Schuh, a pastor for eight years before he started coaching, explained that his responsibility as a Christian leader is to impact his players in light of the Gospel. Through season-long Bible studies, Schuh’s aim is to have each player mature in Christ. Todorovic said that these Bible studies have impacted him deeply and pushed him to grow in his faith.

One of the Guys

Now two years removed from his freshman year at Grace, Todorovic has come a long way. From once being a player who would consistently get very frustrated to a player who Schuh now praises for managing his emotions, Todorovic has become better on the court.

In 2009, his freshman year, Todorovic made it to the #2 singles championship in the MCC tournament, finishing 11-4 overall and being named to the all-conference team. This year, after a disappointing sophomore season, Todorovic has bounced back with a 7-2 record in singles match play.

Despite these successes, Todorovic’s biggest impact has been off the tennis court.

A new culture and new community did not stop Todorovic from becoming an instant fixture on the team, which Todorovic described as “more than just a bunch of guys who go to matches and practices together.” Todorovic’s electric personality, humor, and attitude drive the tennis team and add diversity to the Lancers.

Todorovic’s friend and doubles partner for the past three years, Michael Blevins, said that the team loves Todorovic as much as he loves them, saying, “Nikola is by far the funniest person on the team whoalways knows how to cheer someone up if they are down. His impact is one of the most important to how our team performs. If his attitude is good and he plays well, we win 99 percent of the time.”

Despite being one of the most unlikely athletes to come to Grace, Todorovic has made a profound impact on the men’s tennis team. With over a year and a half to go, though, he is far from finished at Grace. More laughs, encouragement, and victories are sure to follow.

Good thing he did not end up in Mississippi.

By Ashley Mazelin

These two stories were published in the October 6 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

A Glimmer of Hope

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Being the first athletic team to enter a country after a prolonged civil war may be daunting, but that did not stop Grace College’s volleyball team from going to Liberia. Over the course of 13 days this past summer, lives were changed both on the team and in the country. Here is part of their story:

From One War-Torn Team to Another

The people of Liberia know war. In the last three decades, two civil wars have devastated the countryside and caused over 350,000 casualties. Peace is new to Liberians, with internal violence only having ceased since 2003.

Members of the Grace College volleyball team are all too familiar with pain as well. Last September, freshman Mallori Kastner died in a freak accident just a month after joining the volleyball team, leaving the team with much heartache. Though it is certainly not complete, senior outside hitter Stephanie Lawson said the team’s trip contributed much to the healing process.

“It was good to bring the freshmen into our team. Though they didn’t have to experience it with us, they still wanted to help us carry the burden,” Lawson explained.

This divine pairing provided a greater connection between the players and the people of Liberia. Not only could the team share their story, but as head coach Andria Harshman put it, “We got to watch how they are getting back up too.”

 

Who Needs to Shower

Entering a third world country, the volleyball team was expecting some cultural adjustments.

Staying in the capital city of Monrovia (population 1 million), which Provost Dr. Bill Katip described as “a big village, rather than a city,” the team would experience poverty firsthand. Yet they were told they would be staying in a hotel with running water, electricity, and Internet—more than almost everyone else could say.

Despite the scenic view, complete with an ocean shore just yards away, the hotel conditions proved to be less than desirable. Players would shower by filling buckets with water, even foregoing showers altogether some nights.

“Rather than having four people be able to shower in 15 minutes on a normal trip, you have to pick who’s going to shower first in case everyone can’t,” Harshman said with a laugh.

The unusual conditions did not come without their own blessings, though. Players grew closer and learned to appreciate what they had more. Lawson told of a moment in the trip that reminded her of the perspective she should have.

“We were sitting on the bus stopped in traffic when this guy came up to our bus window and started talking to me. He spent a few minutes telling me to make the most of my life and how blessed I was. While I was expecting to walk away with a new perspective, I wasn’t expecting to have it be directly told to me.”

Katip came away impressed with how the team responded. “I was proud of them for setting a godly example. I didn’t hear them complain about a thing.”

Not Quite Undefeated

When the volleyball team was not visiting Liberian dignitaries (like the president of the YMCA, the United States’ ambassador to Liberia, the President of the University of Liberia, the Minister of Youth Sport, and the Vice President of Liberia), chances are they were running volleyball clinics, playing with Liberian children, or, of course, playing volleyball.

Over the course of their trip, the volleyball team had the chance to showcase their skills against Liberian competition. Despite beating the United States Marines’ team, the University of Liberia’s women’s team, the Liberian National team, and a group of guys from the YMCA, the volleyball team fell short once—against the Liberian military team. Used to playing without shoes in beach volleyball, the players were not used to playing with one extra level of competition—fire ants—which resulted in the only loss for Grace.

In what was considered “mass chaos at times,” the volleyball team put on clinics three days on the trip—two for volleyball and one for… soccer. Though most players were strangers to soccer, the team helped Liberian Aldophus “Doc” Lawson run a soccer clinic, which was one part of his plan to help develop a parks and recreation system in Liberia.

Because of the Liberian government’s push for gender equality in sports participation, having the volleyball team play and teach volleyball was monumental. All age groups and skill levels were represented at the clinics, where the YMCA served as home for an overseas Lancer Camp.

Harshman explained that the goal of these clinics was to show the Liberian people what a clinic looks like, help improve volleyball skill levels, and teach kids about life. The clinics were well-received.

“It was really great to see the appreciation they had for us,” junior middle hitter Stephanie Bolt added.

 

A People of Hope

When Coach Andria Harshman was exploring options for where the team could go for their trip, she asked Ignite International where the biggest need was. The response? Liberia.

Matched with the team’s desire to go to where they were needed, the opportunity to help Doc Lawson jumpstart his sports program made the team choose Liberia over going to Israel. Their help was a huge step for future ministry in Liberia.

Judy Fox, founder of Ignite International, thanked the team for taking one man’s goal (Lawson’s) and making hundreds of people see it.

“I’ve been to 15 or 16 countries and what I always have seen is that when we go back the second and third times the trip far exceeds the first time. With what we experienced with the Grace team, it’s hard to imagine anything exceeding that. Future groups will be so well received and already have an impact before they get there because of the Grace team,” Fox said.

Despite losing a generation to war, the country of Liberia has not given up. In fact, the youth are active in trying to get the country back on its feet.

For one day on the trip, Katip, Harshman, and Fox were scheduled to speak at the YMCA about leadership. Though it was intended for eight to ten people on staff, 200-300 people from all over showed up to listen.

“I was impressed that the people of Liberia were still a people of hope and ambition,” Katip said. “The civil war didn’t take away their vision of the future.”

Thirteen days. Fourteen players. Numerous volleyballs hit. And countless lives touched. The volleyball team’s trip to Liberia is a story of hope.

And hope does not disappoint.

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the September 1 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Grace names Bailey Weathers the Director of Athletics

Monday, August 29th, 2011

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace College is pleased to announce the hiring of Bailey Weathers as the new Director of Athletics.

Weathers has an extensive amount of administration and coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level and also has years of experience working with the United States National Swimming Team.

“I believe Grace College is an incredible place. The faculty, staff and the student body grow together to change each other’s lives and prepare the students for the world ahead,” Weathers said. “I believe athletics can be a unique part of that relationship, and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with our coaches to maximize the development of the student-athletes at Grace.”

Most recently Weathers served as the Executive Head Coach for Club Wolverine in Ann Arbor, Mich. At Club Wolverine, Weathers oversaw a staff of 19 year-round coaches along with eight coaches from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Overall, Club Wolverine works with over 400 swimmers from the ages of 6-28. In 2008 Club Wolverine had 42 athletes qualify for the US Olympic Trials and had four Olympic team members. In 2009 Weathers’ club produced six members of the USA Swimming World Championship team.

“Bailey is uniquely qualified with his gifts and experiences to be a coaches’ coach who can provide godly leadership for the athletic department,” said Grace College Provost Bill Katip. “He knows what it means to achieve athletic excellence at the premier level, and thus he is the perfect person to lead us onto continued success at even higher levels.”

Prior to Club Wolverine, Weathers had three successful head coaching tenures at NCAA Division I swimming programs.

From 1995-2005 Weathers was the head women’s swimming coach at the University of Notre Dame where he led the team to nine consecutive Big East Conference championships. Weathers was named the Big East Conference Coach of the Year six times.

Weathers also a three-time Metro Conference Coach of the Year winner and a National Independent Conference Coach of the Year during his time as the head women’s swimming coach at the University of South Carolina.

Weathers was given NCAA Division I Coach of the Year honors in 1986 as the head women’s swimming coach at Southern Illinois University, fielding nine All-Americans in his two-year experience at SIU.

Before becoming a head coach, Weathers served stints as an assistant swimming coach at the University of Texas and Indiana University.

Furthermore, Weathers has on different occasions served as the head and assistant coach for US Swimming Olympic Development Camps in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I was very impressed with the level of excellence in the coaches and their commitment to the student-athletes at Grace,” Weathers continued. “They are going to be a fun group to work with, and my wife and I are excited and blessed to join the Grace family.”

Weathers graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1982 then went on to obtain a Master of Science in Physical Education from the University of Texas in 1984.

Weathers is married to Susan, and the couple has two daughters – Christina (26) and Elizabeth (22) – and a son named Timothy (18).

Year in Review

Monday, June 13th, 2011

From the volleyball team’s inspiring finish in conference play to the men’s basketball team’s third trip in four years to Branson, Missouri, it’s been an incredible athletic year in Lancer sports. Jessica Stolle and MariJean Wegert, two of the all-time greats in Grace women’s athletics, completed their probable hall of fame careers this season, and we witnessed junior baseball player Nate Wottring climb to the top of Grace’s hitting records. Check out Grace’s End of the Year Awards and Top 10 Stories of the year, chosen by athletic director Chad Briscoe and Grace’s Sports Information Department.

END OF THE YEAR AWARDS

Male Athlete of the Year: Bruce Grimm Jr. (men’s basketball)

Grace’s only male athlete to receive NAIA Honorable Mention accolades helped lead the Lancers to another NAIA national tournament appearance, averaging 13.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg and 2.1 spg. Grace’s sophomore transfer was also named First Team All-MCC.

In Grace’s last seven regular season games, Grimm had three games with 27 points or more, helping secure the Lancers’ bid to Branson. He had a season-high 29 points against Spring Arbor on February 12, totaled a season-high 11 rebounds against Taylor on January 8 and contributed a season-high 10 assists in Grace’s final game of the season on March 10.

Honorable Mention: Nate Wottring

Transfer of the Year: Bruce Grimm Jr (men’s basketball)

Last February, the 2009 Indiana Mr. Basketball Runner-up was playing for East Tennessee State, preparing for a first-round matchup against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. This February, he helped Grace finish second in the MCC and earn a bid to the NAIA national tournament.

Honorable Mention: Clifford Buttermore

Female Athlete of the Year: MariJean Wegert (women’s track and cross country)

In her senior season, Wegert’s unorthodox barefoot running style got her to the NAIA championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She finished 17th in the 800-meter in outdoor nationals, finished eighth in the 800 at indoor nationals and finished 60th in a field of 331 runners at cross country nationals.

After a stressful junior season, “MJ” contemplated her return for her senior campaign. Under first-year head coach Jeff Raymond, however, Wegert returned and completed her probable Hall of Fame career, resetting the Grace College record books and becoming one of the most successful runners in Lady Lancer history.

Honorable Mention: Jessica Stolle

Freshman of the Year: Dana Johnston (volleyball), Juaneice Jackson (women’s basketball)

Right from the start, Johnston proved she would be a key component to the team when she tallied 16 kills in the Lady Lancers’ first match. Johnston was second on the team with 318 kills overall, leading Grace to a third-place finish in the MCC and receiving First Team All-MCC honors. She totaled a season-high 19 kills against both Bluefield College on Aug. 27 and Goshen College on Oct. 5. Her stellar .309 kill percentage was the highest on Grace’s team.

On the hardwood, “JJ” earned Freshman of the Year honors in the MCC as Grace’s sixth man and averaged 7.3 ppg. Jackson filled in for injured Hannah Lengel nicely on Jan. 29 when she exploded for 26 points against Marian University. She had another big performance two games later when she tallied 17 against Goshen College.

Honorable Mention: Olivia Winget

Comeback of the Year: David Henry (men’s basketball)

After an injured back sidelined him for all but 10 games of the 2009-10 season, Henry bounced back in his senior campaign and was an integral part of the Lancers’ national tournament run. Henry ranked No. 12 in the NAIA in 3-point percentage (.434) with 72 made threes in 166 attempts.

Henry drained five threes a trio of times throughout the season and had a season-high 20 points on Dec. 1, leading Grace to a victory against conference foe Bethel College, Grace’s first win against Bethel in four years.

Honorable Mention: Kiera Gray, Jessica Anton

Two-Sport Athlete of the Year: Kiera Gray (basketball and track & field)

One year after tearing her ACL, Gray averaged 9.2 ppg for the Lady Lancers in their 2010-11 season. She also competed in the high jump for track and field.

Gray scored a season-high 22 points in Grace’s last game against Mid-America Christian on March 19. She scored in double-figures 13 times throughout the season and shot 36.1 percent from the floor. In the high jump, Gray qualified for NCCAA Nationals and finished in seventh place.

Honorable Mention: Derek Zwier and Michael Humprey

Clutch Play of the Year: Grimm’s layup secures NAIA berth, Wottring’s home run breaks record

Trailing 56-55 with 17 seconds remaining, Bruce Grimm Jr. grabbed a long rebound and went coast-to-coast to score the go-ahead bucket with 12.7 seconds left to give Grace the 57-56 upset against No. 14 University of Saint Francis. The victory was a momentous one, most likely punching Grace’s ticket to Branson, Mo., for the NAIA national tournament.

On April 23, Nate Wottring completed his climb to the top of Grace’s hitting records. Wottring blasted a home run over the left-field fence against the University of Saint Francis for his 153rd hit, making him Grace’s all-time career hits leader in only his junior season.

Honorable Mention: Victoria Casey nets game-winner against Marian

Moment of the Year: Volleyball wins for Kastner

One week after the tragedy that took the life of freshman teammate Mallori Kastner, the Lady Lancers, supported by a packed-out OCC, defeated Huntington in straight sets on Sept. 24.

Hundreds wore orange to the game, Kastner’s favorite color, and the campus united in a time of sorrow and suffering.

Right, head coach Andria Harshman hugs Kastner’s father.

Honorable Mention: Wegert qualifies for three NAIA races

Character Award: Genevieve Benson and Dayton Merrell

Both were selected by athletic director Chad Briscoe for their exemplary Christian character on and off the athletic stage.

Benson was recently named a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete and was also one of 14 NAIA student-athletes selected for the the Red Cross Collegiate Leadership Program in Washington, DC.

Merrell received the Inaugural NCCAA Game Plan 4 LIFE (GP4L) Character Award for men’s athletics in early April for his leadership on the team and his involvement in the campus community.

Honorable Mention: Bethany Michalski (volleyball), Brad Heintz (baseball), Victoria Casey (soccer) and Sean Smith (cross country, track).

Coach of the Year: Andria Harshman, volleyball

In her third year at the helm of Grace’s volleyball program, Harshman led the seniorless Lady Lancers to a third-place conference finish following an eighth-place finish the year before.

Grace improved from 9-24 overall in 2009 to 17-17 in 2010. The Lady Lancers’ conference success was their best since Harshman’s senior year at Grace.

More importantly, she led her team through a tragedy that shattered the campus and continued to win for the Kastner family. Following the tragedy, Grace won four of its next five matches and went on a three-match tear toward the end of conference season.

Honorable mention: Scott Blum, women’s basketball

TOP STORIES OF THE YEAR

1. Livin’ on a Prayer: “Crush Huntington on Friday. But remember, it’s just a game.” The motivational words came from Mallori Kastner’s father during her memorial chapel service on Sept. 23. The team played inspired the remainder of the season, defeating Huntington in straight sets on Sept. 24 and finishing third in the conference after an eighth-place finish last season.

2. It’s About Time: Grace’s men’s basketball team swept the rival Pilots of Bethel College with an 84-76 win on Dec. 1 and an 87-82 win on Jan. 25, their first victories in eight contests.

3. Barefoot Sensation: Senior MariJean Wegert capped off her stellar career with the Lancers, qualifying for the NAIA Championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

4. Quiet but Dominant: Senior Jessica Stolle completed the best tennis career in Grace’s history with a 48-8 overall record at No. 1 singles.

5. Busy, Busy, Busy: Starting next year, Grace’s athletic department will host both the men’s and women’s NCCAA basketball championships.

6. The Quest for No. 153: Junior Nate Wottring broke Grace’s all-time career hits record with style on April 23, jacking his record-breaking hit over the left field wall to break Mike Cox’s record of 152 hits.

7. A Signature Win: Head baseball coach Josh Bailey led the Lancers to a victory against Spring Arbor on April 20, Bailey’s first victory against the Cougars in his four years with the program and possibly the first victory against SAU since they joined the MCC.

8. It’s a Start: For the first time in the last half-decade, the Grace softball team earned a berth in the MCC tournament under head coach Heather Johnson.

9. Next Stop, Winona Lake: In their tour across the country, the Harlem Globetrotters stopped at the Orthopaedic Capital Center on Jan. 19.

10. Top of the Charts: Grace set a Guinness World Record with its 379-person Knockout game on April 8.

The award recipients and top stories were chosen by athletic director Chad Briscoe and the Sports Information Department.

Lancer Legend Integral Part of Miami Heat Success

Monday, June 6th, 2011

In the National Basketball Association, no team is under a larger microscope than the Miami Heat. After bringing in superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade this past summer, the Heat immediately transformed from a playoff afterthought into a formidable championship contender.

But behind all the highlight performances and jaw-dropping plays on the hardwood, a Grace College graduate named Chet Kammerer serves with the same humility and charm that helped define him when he was the original “Coach K” for Grace decades ago.

Chet Kammerer is a big deal.

He coached collegiate basketball for over 30 years, been inducted into numerous halls of fame, served as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and currently is Vice President of Player Personnel for the NBA’s Miami Heat.

He has been blessed with a gift for recognizing basketball talent and has been a key influencer in bringing in superstars like Wade or less-than-recognizable but solid performers such as Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.

“My job is basically evaluating players,”   Kammerer said.  “I have access to a lot of statistical  information about players, and I’ll often be asked for my opinion on whether or not a player would fit our team.  Some times I’m right, and some times  I’m not, but (Heat president), Pat Riley leans heavily on myself and my  assistants for our input in determining our roster.”

While Kammerer does not interact with the players as much when they are a part of the Heat, he is integral in adding fresh talent to the roster and finding players that fill the gaps on the team. Kammerer said, “It’s my job to get [the players] here. It’s the coaches’ job to develop them into NBA players.”

But before Kammerer could even fathom working at the highest level of professional basketball in the world, he was just a self-described farm boy not far from Grace College who simply loved the game of basketball.

Judging by his upbringing, Kammerer should have a pitchfork in his hand rather than a pen and computer. Growing up, the Kammerers were farmers. No one from his family had ever been to college, so his career path seemed to be farming by default. But his high school principal Ed Trexler motivated him to try something different. “[Trexler] said to me: ‘Chet, you’re not a farmer. Your dad is and your brother is, but you ought to go to college.’ He is 90 percent of the reason I went to college,” Kammerer recalled.

The other 10 percent was most likely sports. But for a player who would finish his basketball career at Grace as the top scorer in Lancer history, Kammerer surprisingly was not recruited for his play on the basketball court but rather on the baseball diamond.

As Kammerer recounts the story, then-Grace coach Dick Messner attended one of Kammerer’s high school games at Leesburg High School (now a part of Warsaw Community). After a less-than-superb performance by Kammerer, Messner approached him about attending Grace. “[Messner] didn’t ask me anything about basketball,” Kammerer recalled with a laugh. “He said, ‘I understand you’re a pitcher on the baseball team.’ I’ll never forget that.”

After promptings from Trexler and his high school coach (Bud Lantz), Kammerer enrolled at Grace and was instantly struck by the emphasis on each person’s spiritual life, a concept that was foreign to him. He credits his friendship with Ron Henry, the former “voice of the Lancers,” for challenging him in his Christian faith and for leading him to Christ on the third floor of McClain Hall.

Another important steppingstone in his life happened on Grace’s campus – he met his future wife in a class called “Recreational Leadership.” Opposites seemed to attract for Chet and Sherill, or as he likes to call the two of them, the “converted rascal” and the “preacher’s kid.”

“Grace College was a very important part of my life,” Kammerer continued. “It’s where my life totally changed in that it’s where I became a Christian. My two biggest decisions in life happened there, and it’s where my foundation happened.”

Grace is also where he embarked on his collegiate coaching career – at the ripe age of 22. After a year as an assistant under Messner, Kammerer took over the Lancer basketball program and began to lay the foundations for the storied program. He described himself as a student of the game, attending clinics, talking to coaches and even starting the Lancer Basketball Camp (which still exists) in the late 60s in part to learn from the top high school coaches in the state.

“Grace’s administration showed a lot of confidence in giving  me the opportunity to coach and the responsibility of directing the  program.  At first it was a trial-and-error process, and sometimes it was  painful,” he said.  “Because I was young and inexperienced, I was  determined to become the best coach I could  be.”

And that’s exactly what Kammerer did. He led Grace to eight winning seasons, zero losing seasons and a record of 173-88 during his time from 1966-75. His winning percentage as a coach (.663) remains the all-time best, and he coached Grace to its first three 20-win seasons in program history.

It’s impossible to deny the legacy Kammerer left on Grace’s basketball program and on the students he coached. One of Kammerer’s athletes was a young man named James Kessler, affectionately known today as “Jim” or “Coach K,” the current head coach for Grace’s team. Kessler remembers a point in the program’s history when nearby schools like Taylor and Manchester would refuse to play Grace (“the little Bible school”). But under the era of Kammerer and later Kessler, that all changed.

“Coach Kammerer took over as a young coach and took Grace’s competitiveness to the next level,” Kessler remarked. “He used a high-post offense, which I still like today, and he was ahead of his time in terms of defensive concepts. As a coach, we often coach as we were coached, and Kammerer had a definite influence on me.”

Kammerer’s accolades at Grace led him to a head coaching job at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the college eventually renamed the playing surface Kammerer Court due to his outstanding 17-year career there.

But for all his professional success, Kammerer has not forgotten his roots and how Grace shaped who he is today. He described his Christian perspective as directly affecting his priorities and his ethics in the professional world. He is dedicated to influencing the hearts of people rather than solely impacting the win/loss record of the Heat.

“There’s no question that Grace was a very important part of my life. I know other players over the years can share something similar, but the basketball program is where lives have been changed. That’s the thing I’m excited about,” Kammerer continued. “I will forever be indebted to the leadership of Grace and to the school for taking a chance on a local kid who needed direction.”

By Josh Neuhart

This story was published in the April 29 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Husband, Wife Coaching Staff Find Balance

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Jay and Heather Johnson are competitive people.

Jay recounts stories from early in their marriage—stories of not-so-casual grocery cart races from the store to their car that often involved one of them being knocked over and races to see who could put the case on their pillow first when changing the bed sheets. “We just can’t be on opposite teams,” Jay said.

It is a good thing they are both on the Lady Lancers’ softball coaching staff.

The Johnsons came to Grace College last season after being gone a decade and a half. As one of the most decorated athletes in Grace history, Heather was no stranger to the softball program. In fact, she was elected into the inaugural class of the Grace College Lancer Hall of Fame in 2008 with a record 86 wins and 0.92 ERA over her career.

What is unique about this tandem, though, is Heather is the head coach and Jay is the assistant. Although they are in circumstances that could potentially pose problems for others, the coaching duo has excelled. “We’ve had a lot of people ask us how we work together, but there’s never been any major disagreement with us coaching together,” Heather said.

So how do they work together? The Johnsons came to Grace with the foundation already laid, having already coached and worked together. “After 15 years and running four businesses together, you know what buttons to push and what not to push,” Jay explained. Jay has always helped with Heather’s previous coaching jobs, but not to the extent he has at Grace.

It does not take much to see the differences between the two coaches. Heather has the administration, organization and detail-oriented side, while Jay brings the vision and vocal leadership. “He’s the one pushing people in the weight room, while I’m the one sitting down and talking with them,” Heather joked.

Yet their differences allow them to complement each other. There are times when Jay’s intensity is necessary and times where Heather’s laid-back approach works better. And the softball program is better because of it.

Still, everything does not always run perfectly. Heather explains that sometimes she needs to take charge as head coach. “As a wife, you want to let your husband take the lead, but he’s still my assistant. Sometimes you have to take it back and make adjustments when it’s yours.”

It is not as hard as could be expected for Jay to follow Heather. He says, “I respect her as my head coach, but also my wife.” In turn, Heather praised his humility. “He always wants to do what’s right and accepts correction very well.”

The most difficult thing Jay and Heather have to deal with, however, is at home. With three kids, the Johnsons must balance time at softball with time with family. “In a sense we often leave home unmanned, but we have a great support group of friends that help us,” Heather said. “We talk about softball all the time at home, but we have to set apart time at home with no softball so our home is not overshadowed by softball.”

Nevertheless, the Johnson family is intertwined with the softball program. The entire family, kids and all, have gone on three trips this spring with the softball team. It seems the Johnsons’ kids have picked up on college life fairly quickly. “It’s funny to hear them talk about college all the time,” Heather said. “How many 5 or 7-year-old kids talk about their future majors or roommates?”

Jay summed up their relationship as a divine arrangement. “God knew what he was doing when he brought us together.”

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the April 29 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.