Milligan head coach Doneva Bays was named the coach of the year after guiding the Buffs to 30 victories – the most Milligan has notched since Bays helped the Buffs reach the 30-win plateau as a player back in 1997 – and a second-place finish in the AAC.
Additionally, freshman setter Kellee Geren was named the AAC setter of the year and also earned first-team all-conference honors along with teammates Samantha Bruinius and Marissa Langford. Charlie Bateman and Grace Ann Moorehouse represented Milligan on the league’s second team.
“I was very honored with the amount of recognition our kids got last night,” Bays said. “I felt like it was very deserving.”
Offensively, Geren stepped up and ran Milligan’s efficient, fast-paced attack with poise that belied her age.
“Kellee’s very young in her experience, however, her grit and her competitiveness is unmatched,” Bays said. “I think she just has the IQ it takes to be a setter. You have to be very smart. It’s like being a quarterback – you have to know where the defense is coming from and kind of take what a defense is giving you. There’s a lot that goes into that position.”
The Buffs will look to extend their season in the AAC tournament, which started on Thursday in Kingsport.
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The golf program will certainly take plenty of momentum into the spring after a solid fall campaign.
The men wrapped up the fall portion of their schedule with a second-place finish in the AAC Fall Championship, which is significant because the results of the 36-hole event will roll over to the 36-hole spring event, meaning the cumulative 72-hole total will determine the conference championship.
Milligan golf coach Tony Wallingford said he was impressed with the improvement he saw from last spring to this fall from the men's team, noting that Josh Gambrell led the way while Nick Sewell, Kodey Popplewell and Cody Carlson played particularly well in stretches.
“I was very encouraged by the effort and attitude our men’s team displayed this fall,” Wallingford said. “This is a young team that works hard to improve.”
The women finished the fall ranked No. 19 nationally in the NAIA coaches’ poll. Milligan never finished worse than third in any of the events during the fall stretch. Cassidy Gibson was the clear standout for Milligan while Megan Gaylor, Ann Sullivan, Sarah Son and Michaela Matheson played big roles for the Buffs.
Despite the success, Wallingford said he’s hoping the women can find a way to fire on all cylinders in the spring.
“We just didn’t have any of those breakthrough rounds where all five girls were able to play their best golf in the same tournament,” Wallingford said. “That is what it will have to happen for us to win our regional tourney in the spring and get back to nationals.”
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Milligan’s soccer teams also received a good amount of recognition at Wednesday’s AAC awards banquet.
The men’s squad had five players honored. Matthew Lamb earned a spot on the champions of character team as well as the all-academic team, where he was joined by teammates Collin Prusak, Ryan Reilly, Luke Dove and Jonathan Russell.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Stephens, Sami Joy, Amy Olvera and Bekah Cundiff made the AAC second team. A total of seven players off the women’s team made the league’s all-academic squad.