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Nationally ranked Buffaloes open season this week

Daniel Manget and Kyle Stafford • Updated Sep 4, 2018 at 4:50 PM

Milligan College’s athletics scene has been busy with the start of fall seasons, and it gets busier this week with the addition of cross country and golf.

While the soccer and volleyball teams have already experienced a fair share of success early this season, high expectations are coming with cross country and golf as the two programs enter the year with a preseason national top-20 ranking. The cross country Buffs rank No. 3 on the women’s side and No. 18 on the men’s side, while the women’s golf team ranks No. 20.

Success on the trail

Last year’s women’s team left little room for improvement during the offseason, but improve they did, moving from No. 7 in the 2017 postseason poll to No. 3 in 2018.

The addition of NCAA Division I transfer Jacquelyn Crow helped strengthen a recruiting class already deep with talent, and the Buffs return three of last year’s top five. Among the returners, Katlyn Haas and Erica Stone were Appalachian Athletic Conference first team, and Amy Ferguson was the AAC freshman of the year.

Milligan’s men also made improvement during the offseason and, similar to the women, their recruiting class is highlighted by an NCAA Division I transfer, Alex Mortimer. The Buffs rank No. 18 in the preseason.

Milligan starts the season Friday night at nearby Tusculum College in Greeneville with the Tusculum Cross Country Open. The women race at 6 and the men race at 6:40 at Holston Home Cross Country Course.

Success on the links

The No. 20 Milligan women’s golf team tees off its season Monday in Jekyll Island, Georgia, for the Jekyll Island Collegiate Invitational. The Buffs are coming off their fourth straight NAIA Women’s Golf National Championship appearance, and are the reigning Appalachian Athletic Conference champions.

After earning the preseason No. 20 ranking in the NAIA coaches’ poll, the Buffs have now been inside the top 25 for 178 straight weeks, dating back to March 27, 2015.

Sarah Son, the reigning AAC player of the year, headlines the returners for Milligan — along with Nellie Berglund and Ashley Cauthen. All three will be expected to carry the load this season, but will have help from a few talented freshmen.

Meryl Castle, Emma Brown, Alayna Perryman and Jenny Simonsen will be looked at to fill the void left by All-AAC performer Megan Gaylor and Michaela Matheson, who were lost to graduation.

Nick Sewell (2018 AAC second team selection), Cody Carlson (five top-25 finishes last year) and Thomas Messenheimer (two all-tournament selections) headline an experienced group for the men’s golf team that begins its 2018 tour Monday in Saint Simons Island, Georgia, for the Sea Island Collegiate Invitational.

“We had a young squad last year that gained valuable tournament experience,” said head coach Tony Wallingford. “For us to compete at the top of the conference, some of our newcomers will have to step in and contribute. I am excited about this team and their potential. After a fourth-place finish last year, I love the fact that we will be an underdog fighting for a place at the top.”

Over the offseason, Wallingford added five new members that the Buffs will count on to make an impact in their first year.

Success on the court and on the field

Milligan volleyball posted victories over UVa-Wise, Midway and Asbury this past week, improving its record to 5-2 on the season. Alyssa Rupert (defender of the week), Kellee Geren (setter of the week) and Elise Gregory (attacker of the week) all received Appalachian Athletic Conference weekly honors for their performances.

Rupert was also named the national defender of the week by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tuesday afternoon.

The men’s soccer team is undefeated through two games and has posted shutout victories in both games so far. This marks the first time the team is 2-0 since 2009. Freshman Roberto Fernandez Garrido netted three goals during the week on his way to AAC offensive player of the week honors.

The women’s soccer team had a couple tough-luck finishes over the course of the last week. The Buffs dropped their first match on Saturday in overtime, falling 3-2 at North Greeneville University. On Sunday, Milligan went into double overtime at Emory & Henry College, posting a 0-0 draw.

Eva Bower recorded a career-high 13 saves against North Greeneville and received defensive player of the week honors from the AAC.

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