Bill Robinson thinks he has a pretty good basketball team this season at Milligan College, and the pollsters agree.
The Buffs are picked to repeat as regular-season champs in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and are just outside the NAIA top 25. They get started tonight at home against Knoxville Bible College.
“I hope we’re mature enough to handle some success before we even play,” Robinson said Monday. “I think this group will be able to look past expectations and polls and take care of business.”
The Buffs will start two experienced seniors, Cordero Seymour and Marshall Hardy, in the frontcourt along with junior Torian Sitton. Super-quick sophomore Kyle Grisby will run the point, with freshman Mickey Woods starting at shooting guard.
“I really like that group a lot,” said Robinson. “Mickey is just a freshman, but he is establishing himself as a defensive stopper.”
The coach doesn’t know much about his opening-night opponent – “They don’t even have an athletic website,” he said – but likely won’t need to. He’ll get a much better read when the Buffs go down to Daytona Beach, Fla., for a couple of games this weekend.
Embry-Riddle is ranked No. 8 nationally and Warner is No. 18.
“Those will be great tests for us,” said Robinson. “Right now we’re just trying to focus on ourselves. We’re looking forward to seeing what we’ve got.”
n Milligan proved to be the class of men’s soccer in the conference during the regular season,
The Buffs’ 3-1 victory over Tennessee Wesleyan last Saturday left them at 7-0 in the league, 11-4 overall. They will be the top seed for the tournament and host Bluefield this Saturday night.
Coach Adam Laney doesn’t think his team has played its best soccer yet.
“We’re bringing it together slowly,” said Laney. “We’ve been better defensively the last week and a half. That’s what we were missing earlier.”
The match with Wesleyan was a battle for first place in the AAC, and the Buffs left little doubt as they jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead. Chris Ochieng, Nimely Robertson and Sandre Wilson each scored a goal.
Ochieng and Wilson finished the regular season with 13 goals apiece, and Ochieng, a junior from Kenya, led the team with six assists.
Now comes a rematch with Bluefield, a team the Buffs haven’t seen since Sept. 16 – the first conference game of the season. They rolled to a 4-1 victory on the road.
“We’re confident we can get the job done,” said Laney, “but the conference tournament is always a beast. We won the regular season two years ago and didn’t get through.”
n The women’s soccer team finished third, and coach Lisa Buckley can’t help but think about the one that got away last week.
The Lady Buffs lost 2-1 at home to Tennessee Wesleyan on a goal in the 86th minute. That gave the Lady Bulldogs the 2-seed for the conference tournament.
“Obviously the loss last week was a big one for us,” said Buckley. “Before the game, I thought we were starting to peak. Maybe a loss like that is what it takes to put a fire in our belly and get it done in the tournament.
“We still think we can compete with the best teams in the conference, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. I think we had the tools to win the regular season. Inconsistency killed us.”
Reinhardt went through the AAC schedule undefeated and will host the tournament’s semifinals and final. Milligan (9-6-1, 5-2) opens with a first-round match at home Saturday at 4 o’clock against Columbia.
The Lady Buffs won the first matchup 2-1 on their field Oct. 11.
“This is their first year in the conference, and we were successful against them last time,” said Buckley. “But I think the draw is so close all the way through. Anybody in the top four or five can get the job done at the tournament.”
Buckley said it’s been a fine finish for Rachel Martin, the senior forward from Blountville. Martin has a team-high 10 goals.
“She’s had a fantastic year,” said Buckley. “She’s a great kid to have around the program – one of the most humble individuals I’ve ever coached. I find a lot of girls tend to peak after their junior year because of the wear and tear, but Rachel has really come back with a great year.”
n The volleyball team can lock itself into fifth place in the conference standings with a victory tonight at Virginia Intermont.
Picked to finish first in the preseason, the Lady Buffs are 8-7 (10-17 overall) while VI is 6-8. The AAC tournament begins Nov. 9.