Fall sports teams have already arrived, and teams are gearing up for their upcoming seasons — which start as early as next week.
The teams — men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and women’s volleyball — are in the thick of preparations, and coaches took some time to discuss how their preseasons are going so far.
Volleyball opened its preseason Sunday after the team moved in Saturday. After their first practice of the fall, the Lady Buffs attended a worship service and had team-bonding activities later that night.
Overall, the team looks to be in better shape depth wise compared to a year ago — when the squad was hit hard with injuries, according to head coach Doneva Bays. Moving forward through the rest of the preseason, volleyball will practice at least twice a day with the main focus being fundamentals.
The biggest thing Bays wants to get out of the preseason is for the team to build chemistry and instill the program’s culture.
“It’s a time that we can really focus just on us as a team and volleyball,” she said. “So that’s really our focus, to build that team chemistry and team culture that will last throughout the whole year.”
Picked sixth in the Appalachian Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll, Milligan opens up its season Aug. 23 at home against Fisk University.
The Lady Buffs moved in Saturday and brought with them one of the most competitive atmospheres head coach Lisa Buckley has ever seen. The team is doing fitness testing and conditioning, practicing twice a day and lifting twice a week, all in the effort to understand who they are and establish some of the principles of how they want to play.
“It’s intense,” Buckley says. “You can see there’s a lot of competition for spots, and this team is pretty hungry to learn.”
It seems the competition has carried over from last season. In 2017, the Buffs battled at the top of the Appalachian Athletic Conference and ultimately landed third overall in league standing.
The Buffs were picked to finish second in this season’s preseason coaches’ poll, and Buckley thinks they are on that pace compared to how the team looked at this point last season.
“We try not to pay too much attention to (preseason polls),” Buckley says. “It’s nice that we’re finally gaining some respect but preseason polls really don’t mean much. It’s still early days but so far we look pretty solid.”
Milligan will get its first test of the regular season at home versus University of Rio Grande on Saturday, Aug. 25, on Anglin Field.
Move in day for the Buffaloes was Friday afternoon and the team hosted their first meeting of the fall later that night. Practices got underway Saturday morning with a fitness test where team performed well, according to first-year head coach David Lilly.
Throughout the rest of the preseason, Milligan will have one practice a day on the pitch with either a classroom or workout session counting as the second practice.
So far through the first few training days, Lilly likes where his team is and the carryover the Buffs had from spring workouts.
“They look good,” he said. “They’re all extremely motivated and they’re working extremely hard. There’s a nice blend of returners and newcomers, and everyone is motivated and excited to improve.”
From here, Lilly is wanting his team to gel and be ready to attack the first game of the season against the University of Pikeville on Aug. 29.
Preseason is all about foundation for head coach Chris Layne’s teams, which have to be prepared for three seasons — cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field — spanning the entire academic year.
For the cross country program, this means a training schedule that started in June after a scheduled break and includes some type of fitness every day.
“We have a talented group of returnees combined with a strong recruiting class,” Layne says, “so I expect we’ll see both squads take another step.”
Another step for the women’s team would be a big one. Last season, the Lady Buffs won the Appalachian Athletic Conference and finished seventh at the NAIA national championship. They ranked No. 7 nationally postseason in 2017 and will come into the 2018 season with a high bar already set.
“Our level of success will depend on our leadership and our attention to detail,” Layne says. “If both of our teams come together as strong units and they’re willing to make sacrifices, then I think we can work toward what is typically a successful championship window of the season.”
Milligan opens its season Friday, Aug. 31, at Appalachian State for the Covered Bridge Open.