Their form is looking good.
During week one (Sept. 7), the preseason No. 3-ranked Milligan women went without their top four but still ran away with a team victory. This included placing three in the top seven, led by freshman Gabrielle Mardis — who won Tusculum University’s Zaxby’s Open individually. The preseason No. 18 men, led by sophomore Tyler Bates’ fourth-place finish, also went without their top four yet still ran to the runner-up spot behind Tusculum running on its home course.
In the Buffs’ second meet (Sept. 21), the No. 4 women and No. 17 men both ran to runner-up finishes as a team behind host UNC Asheville, despite once again running without a full squad and using the race as a controlled workout. While Mardis, Bates and several other high-finishing Buffs from the first race had the week off, the Asheville Invitational was more about getting a rep for Milligan’s top four.
“Asheville was about getting a few more of our folks on the line, and the objective was to use it as a workout,” Milligan coach Chris Layne said. “Overall, we did a good job with the plan. Jacquelyn (Crow) and Katlyn (Haas) were probably a little more aggressive than I wanted early on but I’m really encouraged by Jacquelyn’s runner-up finish.”
Crow’s runner-up finish in the 5K race came in at 18:34, less than 14 seconds off the lead. She was the first of three Buffs in the top five, followed by Haas (19:20) and Erica Stone (19:33). Similarly, the men placed four in the top eight, led by Alex Mortimer completing the 8K in 26:50.
“We have five or six women swapping spots each day, and we’ll continue to work on tightening up our one-through-five spread as the season progresses,” Layne said. “On the men’s side, we have two groups of four really working well together, but we’ll need to find a way to bring the two together. If we can do that, I think their ceiling is pretty high.”
The third race of the season, coming up Saturday at USC Upstate, may be the first good indicator for how the team looks this season as the Buffs will run a full squad in more than just a controlled workout. Race time is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
“We’ll finally get most of our top crew together at USC Upstate this weekend,” Layne said, “so we’ll know a lot more about what we have on both sides.”
After USC Upstate, the Buffs have only one more meet on the schedule (Sand Shark Invitational, Oct. 20) prior to the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championships (Nov. 3) and NAIA Cross Country National Championships (Nov. 16).
VOLLEYBALL, SOCCER REACHING MIDPOINTS
Falls seasons are nearly halfway done, and they have been good ones so far for the Milligan volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer teams.
Volleyball is currently 9-4 (3-2 AAC) thanks to runs of four straight victories on two separate occasions this season. The latter of the two streaks featured road wins over Union College and Bryan College in five sets.
Men’s soccer is 4-3 so far this season but 0-3 in the AAC. Most recently, the Buffs are coming off back-to-back losses to No. 19 Reinhardt and Montreat last week. Conversely, women’s soccer has won two of the last three, including a 2-0 blanking of Montreat on Anglin Field last Saturday.