It has been only a little over three months into the academic year, yet Milligan already has plenty to celebrate. Women’s cross country finished 12th at the national championship, the men finished 17th. Volleyball made its first appearance at the national tournament since 1996, and six fall teams finished runner-up at the conference level.
Individually, Milligan produced two NAIA All-Americans, two AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) All-Region selections and one USA Cycling national champion. Jacquelyn Crow (WXC) and Alyssa Rupert (WVB) were the All-America selections, Rupert and Kellee Geren were the AVCA All-Region selections, and Madeline Bemis won a national title in the women’s omnium during mountain bike season.
VOLLEYBALL FINISHES SEASON AT NAIA FINAL SITE
The Lady Buffs fell in each of their three matches, but it was nonetheless a historic and remarkable season for Milligan volleyball.
Led by Rupert, the Appalachian Athletic Conference libero of the year, Milligan finished 26-9 overall (16-3 AAC) and made the national tournament for the first time since head coach Doneva Bays’ senior season. In fact, Milligan won its opening-round match over Cornerstone to advance to the final site, where the top 32 teams in the country competed for the national title.
Rupert earned a spot on the NAIA and AVCA All-America teams, making her the fourth player in Milligan volleyball history to earn such status. She was the national leader in digs per set for most of the season, finishing No. 2 nationally while setting Milligan season records for digs (834) and digs per game (6.62).
“I’m so happy for Alyssa to be continuing to receive recognition for a great senior season,” Bays said. “She had a phenomenal year, and I’m so pleased that our team has been able to reap the benefits of her individual success.”
BASKETBALL, TRACK & FIELD OFF TO HOT STARTS
The success from Milligan volleyball and other fall sports has shifted into the winter season nicely.
Women’s basketball is perfect through eight games (8-0, 6-0 AAC) and sit half a game back for the AAC lead. It has been a balanced effort for the Lady Buffs so far, as four players average double figures in scoring and three others are scoring six points or better. Senior Andi Lamb leads the Buffs at 12.9 points per game while two-time All-America selection Sarah Robinson, also a senior, averages 12.4.
“We are pleased with the way our season has gone so far,” head coach Rich Aubrey said. “Our players have done a great job of accomplishing two goals at the same time. We have continued to develop as a team, but we’ve been able to keep that process going without sacrificing winning.”
The women are in the top 25 nationally in nine statistical categories, ranking top 5 in defensive rebounds per game and total rebounds per game.
On the men’s side, the Buffs are 6-4 (3-3 AAC) after hitting a rough stretch that has seen them lose three of their last four. Aaron Levarity, a 2018 NAIA All-America honorable mention, averages 19.3 points and 12.9 rebounds, already having posted eight double-doubles.
Both basketball teams will be home twice this week. The women and men host a doubleheader versus regional rival Montreat College Wednesday at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. inside Steve Lacy Fieldhouse. Following that, the men will be home Friday night at 7:30 for Toccoa Falls College, and the women will be home Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. for AAC foe Columbia College.
For track & field, the Buffs are two meets into the indoor season and already boast numerous records, NAIA and conference qualifying marks, and personal bests.
Senior Liz Maller and junior Tons Ferguson highlighted the opening week with a pair of big wins and national A standard efforts in the weight throw and triple jump, respectively. Maller, with a school-record toss of 17.00m (55-9.25), won the event at the Bast-Creggar Invitational. Ferguson, likewise, won the triple jump with a leap of 14.77m (48-5.5). Maller currently holds the top mark in NAIA while Ferguson ranks No. 2.
“I think it’s a similar case with both Liz and Tons. Both came into this season with a renewed focus. For Liz, it’s her senior year, and I know she wants to go out with a bang. With Tons, he didn’t have the year he wanted last year and he’s taken the initiative to get refocused,” head coach Chris Layne said. “I’m not surprised with either of their marks, because we’re talking about two very talented student-athletes.”
The two national qualifying marks came alongside three school records, 16 personal bests and 26 AAC qualifiers.