Essler close to recruiting goal for swim team

Dave Ongie • Updated Dec 15, 2016 at 6:10 PM

Milligan swim coach Kelly Essler entered the fall with an ambitious goal to double the size of her swim team.

At the end of her first semester, she’s a few swimmers away from accomplishing that goal. A tenacious recruiting effort has landed Essler commitments from nine swimmers in the past few months, making her lofty goal attainable in time for the start of the 2017-18 school year.

“If I can get four more, I’ll be able to get that total number of 26,” she said. “We didn’t believe we were going to be able to do that this year, but it’s looking like we’re going to be able to hit it.”

Among the swimmers Essler has received commitments from is a young man that should be able to help the Buffs immediately. Former Dobyns-Bennett swimmer Tyler Bourgeois is in the process of transferring to Milligan from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, and provided he can make it through the NAIA eligibility center, the Kingsport native will be able to compete for the Buffs in January.

“He will make my relays a lot stronger,” Essler said. “That’s why I’m excited about this kid.”

Among the other recent commits is John Hutchenson, a versatile performer from Greer, South Carolina. Hutchenson will be able to help in the distance and mid-distance events, he’s proficient in the butterfly and can even sprint if called upon. That sort of flexibility is invaluable to a Milligan program in the process of building depth.

Anna Whitfield of Sullivan Central should help in the backstroke and Abigail Wheeler of Bowie, Maryland, specializes in the breaststroke. Meanwhile, Lindsey Grow of Delaware and Kaylee Probst of Indiana, have the ability to swim multiple strokes.

While Essler works to improve her relationships with the local high school coaches, connections made through three freshmen — Sara Farmer, Sterling Burnett and Matt McFalls — have helped extend Milligan’s recruiting network.

“Those three names have pulled in people for me,” Essler said. “I’m getting a lot of referrals from them.”

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The men’s basketball team hit the hardwood in New York City on Wednesday night and came away with an easy win.

The Buffs beat The King’s College — head coach Bill Robinson’s alma mater — 79-27 on a night when 14 different Milligan players scored. Will Buckner led all scorers with 13 points while Jacob Cawood added 10. Freshman point guard Daxton Bostian dished out a career-high eight assists.

Milligan will play an exhibition game on the road against William and Mary on Friday night before returning to Appalachian Athletic Conference play on the road at Allen University on Jan. 3.

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The softball team picked up eight commitments during the fall signing period, and coach Wes Holly is excited about the potential impact they can make when they join the program in 2018.

Included in the group of six signees is Unicoi County senior Neelee Griffith, a two-time all-conference outfielder. The Buffs also signed Tennessee prospects Taylor Begley from Cherokee High, Morgan Overholster from Gibbs High Tori Tipton from Knox Catholic and Karsten Miller from Powell High.

The lone out-of-state recruit was Savannah Nocera from Palmetto Ridge High in Florida.

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