Grace’s Top 10 Moments of 2011-12

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.

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