The Appalachian Athletic Conference women’s and men’s basketball tournaments have started in Kingsport, swimming and indoor track & field seasons are coming to a close with their upcoming national championships, baseball/softball season has begun and soon enough spring will be in full swing.
In Milligan’s most immediate future, both basketball teams have taken to the court vying for the AAC tournament tile and a bid to the NAIA national tournament.
The last time Milligan’s women went to the national tournament was in 2016-17, when they went for the second straight year. They can qualify this year in one of three ways: by winning the AAC tournament, by Bryan winning the AAC tournament or through an at-large bid.
The Lady Buffaloes (25-5, 23-3 AAC) rank No. 21 nationally and have been inside or near the top 25 since the first poll of the season.
Milligan’s men (21-7, 16-6 AAC) last went to the national tournament in 2017-18, and they can qualify again either by winning the conference tournament or via at-large bid.
The last time both Milligan teams made the national tournament in the same year was in the 1998-99 season, when they swept the conference championships.
SWIMMING, TRACK & FIELD ALSO TURNING ATTENTION TO NAIA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Two other Milligan programs will soon compete at the national championships. Milligan’s swim team will send eight individuals on the women’s side and eight more on the men’s side, while track & field will send six women and three men.
Sophomore Margaret Halloran highlights the women’s swim team as a national qualifier in eight events. She will compete individually in the 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke and 500 freestyle.
Junior Sterling Burnett leads the men’s squad as a qualifier in seven events, although freshman Isaac Etherton leads as a qualifier in three individual events. Etherton will swim the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly and 500 freestyle.
The NAIA Swimming & Diving National Championships are set for Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 27-March 2, in Columbus, Georgia.
Senior Liz Maller and sophomore Tim Thacker headline the Milligan track & field team heading into the indoor national championships, both as multievent qualifiers. Maller, the AAC champion in the weight throw and shot put, will compete in her signature throwing events looking to repeat her All-American status (shot put) from 2018. Thacker, the AAC champion over 800 meters and 1,000 meters, qualified for the national championships in three events: 800, 1,000 and mile.
Other Buffs who will make the trip to the NAIA’s highest stage include freshman Rasheem Brown, who owns the NAIA’s top mark this season in the 60 hurdles; junior Tons Ferguson, who ranks No. 6 nationally in the triple jump; and junior Erica Stone, who ranks No. 6 in the 1,000.
The NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships are set for Thursday-Friday, Feb. 28-March 1, in Brookings, South Dakota.
SPRING SEASONS ALSO UNDERWAY
It has been a cold and rainy February, but the Buffaloes’ baseball and softball teams have still been able to manage getting a handful of games in so far this season.
The baseball team is off to a 2-5 start but most recently posted a big win over King University, 11-4. Junior Blake Dutton (.417), freshman Chance Hall (.333) and senior Chayse Frye (.304) lead the team in hitting, all over .300 through the first seven games. Junior Wyatt Sowers has the team’s low ERA at 1.29 in seven innings pitched.
The softball team is off to a bit of a slower start at 0-4, but the Lady Buffs have faced some stiff competition in two doubleheaders versus NCAA Division II schools. Junior Jaclyn Jenkins (.400) and freshman Lindsey Slagle (.333) are the team’s hitting leaders so far.
Milligan’s baseball season continues with a three-game set at Brewton-Parker College this weekend, while the softball team is scheduled to be home in a doubleheader against King University next Wednesday. Schedules are subject to change depending on weather and field conditions.