Johnson City Press: Milligan hoops, swimming head into break on high note
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Milligan hoops, swimming head into break on high note

Daniel Manget • Dec 13, 2018 at 5:29 PM

The fall semester is over, and a couple of athletic teams are heading into the break with momentum.

The women’s basketball team is 9-0 (7-0 int the AAC), marking its hottest start to a season since the 2015-16 squad also started with nine straight wins.

Also, Coach Kelly Essler’s swim team has placed in the top three on both the men and women’s sides in all six invitationals this season, and her program has combined to collect 38 national cuts and three school records.

Both teams are approaching the midpoint of their seasons.

BALANCED BASKETBALL ATTACK

Five Buffs average double figures through the first nine games, including seniors Andi Lamb (13.0 points/game), Sarah Robinson (12.7 ppg., 8.8 rebounds/game) and Mackenzie Raizor (10.4/8.1). This has led to five scoring leaders across nine games, and the Buffs have had as many as 15 players enter the scoring column in one game. Additionally, they have won four games despite their leading scorer totaling 15 points or less.

Milligan ranks No. 23 in NAIA Division II in the latest coaches’ top 25 poll and ranks high in several statistical categories, including No. 4 in defensive rebounds per game (31.6) and No. 5 in total rebounds (46.1). Robinson and Raizor are important factors in the rebounding effort as they rank top 50 individually in both categories.

“The two most important aspects of our success so far this year are defense and rebounding,” head coach Rich Aubrey said. “We have been very inconsistent with our shooting, but we have consistently defended and rebounded well. The fact that everyone on our roster has contributed in these areas bodes well for the rest of the season.”

As a team, Milligan averages a shade under 80 points per game and hold opponents under 68 points per contest.

The Buffs will put their winning streak on the line over the break during a tough stretch. First up will be College of Coastal Georgia on Saturday.

Later, the Buffs face NAIA DI member University of Pikeville (Dec. 29), No. 17 Bryan College, the AAC frontrunner (Jan. 2), and Point University, the third-place team in the AAC (Jan. 5). Milligan returns home to Steve Lacy Fieldhouse on Jan. 8.

SWIMMING BECOMES NATIONAL CONTENDER

Led by sophomore Margaret Halloran and freshman Isaac Etherton, Milligan posted a strong 2018 portion of its schedule.

Halloran, the school record holder in six individual events, has qualified nationally in nine events. She earned an “A” cut in the 400 individual medley and 1650 freestyle, along with getting an “A” cut with Lindsey Grow, Jordan Clark and Sara Farmer in a school record-breaking performance in the 200 medley relay.

Etherton boasts five national cuts for the men’s team, including an “A” cut in the 200 butterfly and a “B” cut in the 500 freestyle. His 4:59.37 500 free time set the Milligan record by one second.

“So far I am very pleased with how well the team is swimming,” Essler said. “We have been able to compete and hold our own against a lot of our rival teams, including NCAA teams. We have placed higher at invitationals than in the past, and got 19 national cuts, 22 personal best times and three school records in our mid-season meet alone.”

Milligan has three meets left on the schedule. The team will play host for the Milligan College Invitational on Jan. 26 before turning its attention to the championship portion of the season: AAC Championships (Feb. 7-9) and NAIA Championships (Feb. 27-March 2).

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