This fall, like most, was full of both smiles and tears when it came down to Wittenberg Athletics. Congratulations to all of the fall sports as we look back on the best of the season.
Football. There are many accolades for a program whose coach surpassed 180 wins during his twenty-first season at the helm. To start, the Tigers made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013 to achieve a final season record of 10-2.
“I would have to say that this year’s football team were a bunch of grinders that believed in themselves when there was a lot of doubt casted on us,” Zach Hoffman, ‘17, said.
After a scary loss to Denison and praying for other team’s losses, Wittenberg secured its sixth conference championship of the last 10 years.
“It was the fourth conference championship that I have had the privilege of being a part of,” the 6-foot-4 offensive lineman said. “This ring means the most to me.”
The Springfield duo of Terrance Crowe, 17, and Dustin Holmes, ‘17, were recognized during the regular season by the NCAC as defensive players of the week. Both linebackers accounted for 245 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions this season.
Wittenberg led the All-NCAC First Team recognitions with nine of the 25 recipients sporting Tiger red. Topping the list were Holmes, earning the Hank Critchfield Award as Defensive Player of the Year, and Will Gingery, 17, as Special Teams Player of the Year.
Gingery was a big impact player this season, placing his name several times in the record book. He tops the charts with 2,529 total punting yards, 43.6 yards per punt, three games kicking 15 points, 110 season points from kicks and for recording four made field goals and five field goals attempted in a game.
Volleyball. Coach Paco Labrador began his 2016 campaign with recognition into Miami’s Cradle of Coaches back in September. Labrador entered the season being the winningest NCAA Division III coach, as well as the second-winningest active coach across all NCAA division.
The Tigers were projected to finish the season as national runners-up again, and although they beat several top nationally-ranked teams such as the reigning national champion Cal Lutheran, they took a tough defeat in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Milikin.
Prior to the regional match-ups, Wittenberg hosted its eleventh straight NCAC tournament, and won its tenth straight NCAC championship.
Leading the team through the season was Maddie Fischer, ‘18. Along with All-NCAC recognition, Fischer was thrice named to the all-tournament team, including Most Valuable Player in the NCAC tournament, and recognition in the regional tournament at Calvin College. She was also the sixth Tiger to earn American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America First Team.
“This past season, our team cohesion has improved immensely,” Fischer said. “We want to take that team unity and use it to motivate and push ourselves for this coming spring and fall.”
Fischer ended the year with 3.52 kills per-set and 0.251 hitting percentage.
“We have a lot of seasoned players returning. I personally am very excited to see how much growth we can accomplish,” Fischer said.
One of those returners will be Aubrey Cox, ‘20, who was named as NCAC Newcomer of the Year, AVCA Great Lakes Region Freshman of the Year and AVCA Division III Freshman of the Year. The All-American Honorable Mention led the conference in hitting percentage with a .357, and accumulated 78 total blocks.
Kara Seidenstricker, ‘16, preceded Cox as Labrador’s first freshman of the year. Seidenstricker recently became the first female Wittenberg athlete to play professionally. She now plays for Nawaro in southern Germany alongside three other Americans in her 10-month contract.
Women’s Soccer. Matt Fannon, head coach of the Tigers, just wrapped up his fourth season. This year, he was awarded NCAC Coach of the Year.
Despite a devastating 1-0 loss in the final minutes of the NCAC tournament final against Denison, Wittenberg was still named conference champion because of its pressure on conference teams during the regular season.
“I felt very proud of my team, and was overcome with happiness and pride,” Shannon Brueck, ‘19, said, on her opinion of the team’s performance this season over top teams.
Wittenberg peaked at #21 in the NCAA Rankings, with a successful win over Wisconsin-Whitewater, a tie in double-overtime against Centre College and six shutouts as part of a 10-game win streak from Oct. 1 to Nov. 5.
Four Tigers highlighted All-NCAC bids, with Emma Thacker, 20, given the nod as NCAC Newcomer of the Year. Also earning recognition were Michelle Brunswick, ‘17; Leah Soutar, 18; and Megan Davis, ‘19.
Brunswick, the two-sport defender, made two game-winning goals in 2016 to rally five goals total on the year.
Soutar, most known for her front-flip throw-ins, scored three goals and nine assists this season for 15 points.
Both Brunswick and Soutar capitalized on the year, with All-Great Lakes Region honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Although only a few teams were mentioned, all saw improvement and deserve recognition.