The Buffs have won 13 consecutive Appalachian Athletic Conference meets and are anchored by Hannah Segrave, a perennial All-American who is undefeated in the three meets she’s competed in so far this fall. And yet, as the Milligan women prepare for the upcoming AAC meet, they can hear the footsteps of the talented squad from SCAD-Atlanta.
“I’ve always tried to be realistic with the women and give them a read of where they stand,” said Milligan cross country coach Chris Layne. “We had a little bit of competition last year going into the conference meet, but this is different. This is new for them.”
Layne said the fact that SCAD-Atlanta has elevated itself to such a high level is great news for the AAC. He likened it to the competitive atmosphere of Southeastern Conference football, which makes it easier for the league’s member schools to recruit the top high school players from around the country eager to prove they can hold their own against the best of the best.
“The better our conference is, the more respect we get and the more we can use that to tell the story that this is very competitive cross country at this level,” Layne said.
Luckily for the Buffs, they are getting back to full strength at the right time. Amber Grello, a mainstay in Milligan’s top five during her four years in the program, turned in a solid performance at the Sand Shark after fighting through a hamstring issue earlier this fall while Katlyn Haas, who suffered a concussion a few weeks back in a freak accident, is approaching full strength and should be a factor in the conference meet on Nov. 5.
When you add those two runners to a lineup that includes Segrave, JJ Robinson, Sarah Kate Gartman and Erica Stone, the Buffs have enough firepower to keep their streak of 13 consecutive AAC titles alive and well as long as everyone performs at a high level.
For Milligan’s women, the internal pressure of continuing their dominance in the AAC might provide as much pressure as the external challenge SCAD-Atlanta presents. But at the end of the day, Layne said the focus will be on getting to the NAIA National Championship on Nov. 19.
“This is about all the women that came before them that have put together a string of 13 conference titles, but what we’ve also talked about is all we need to do is be our best,” Layne said. “If this team, at its best, somehow loses the conference championship and we’re still ranked inside the top 10 nationally, then we’re gonna turn around and line up and get ready for the national championship.”
— — —
Milligan’s men were also impressive last weekend, bringing home a third-place finish in the Sand Shark Invitational.
As he has for most of the fall, Taylor Tafelsky led the men with a fourth-place finish, giving him a top-four finish in every event he’s competed in so far this season. Tafelksy and Brandon Ellis have been the leaders of a team looking to defend its AAC title on Nov. 5.
“The lead-by-example with Taylor and Brandon, they’ve had a really good influence on our young guys,” Layne said.
Among the young guys making an impact is former Daniel Boone product Mitch Bronstetter, who finished 16th last Saturday.
— — —
The volleyball team went on the road on Tuesday night and came away with a thrilling five-set win over Truett-McConnell to stay within one game of AAC leader Union. The Buffs are now 26-6 overall and 15-2 in league play.
Grace Ann Moorhouse and Samantha Bruinius each had a career-best night in terms of digs. Moorhouse came up with 49 digs while Bruinius had 31. Marissa Langford set a career high for kills with 20 and has now recorded double-digit kills in 10 straight matches.
The volleyball team will be at home this Saturday to host a trimatch against Point University and Montreat College. The seniors will be honored prior to Milligan’s 11 a.m. match.
— — —
The men’s soccer team lost its regular-season finale to Truett-McConnell on Tuesday night. The Buffs ended up on the wrong end of a 6-3 result to fall to 6-10 overall and 2-7 in AAC play.
After a slow start, Jesse Ramova scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season near the start of the second half. Josh Willard and Jack Allen also scored goals for the Buffs, but they were unable to cut into an early three-goal deficit.
The Buffs will be back in action in a play-in game at the AAC tournament against an opponent that is yet to be determined.