Volleyball will host a tri-match Thursday against Fisk University at 11 a.m. and Pensacola Christian College at 3 p.m. Women’s soccer gets underway Saturday at 2 p.m. against University of Rio Grande on Anglin Field.
Seven members return from last year’s squad, led by captains Alyssa Rupert and Kellee Geren. In the offseason, the Buffaloes welcomed six new players —including freshman Elise Gregory and transfer Abby Falcone, who are expected to fill the void left by Appalachian Athletic Conference first-team member Marissa Langford, who graduated last year.
After surpassing the 1,000-dig plateau last season, Rupert will look for a strong finish to her career as a Buff. The senior was named AAC second team last year after finishing with 544 digs to lead Milligan.
Geren, the 2016 AAC Setter of the Year, is back for her junior campaign after a solid 2017 season that saw her reach the 2,000 career assists mark. The junior recorded 968 assists for the Buffs last year.
Along with Rupert and Geren, sophomore Julia Codispoti and junior Julie Dockery are back after serving as key members of the starting rotation a season ago. Codispoti was named to the AAC All-Freshman team last year, when she recorded 211 kills and 81 total blocks. Dockery put together a solid 2017 season, finishing with 179 kills and 61 total blocks.
ON THE SCHEDULE
Over the course of the year, the Buffs will play a total of 28 matches with 20 of them being played at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
Milligan Mountain Madness is back for the 11th straight year — Aug. 31 through Sept. 1 — and the field includes Midway, University of St. Francis and University of the Cumberlands.
The Buffs were picked to finish sixth in the AAC preseason coaches’ poll and will compete in the North Division, which includes Bluefield, Bryan, Montreat, Tennessee Wesleyan, Truett McConnell and Union.
The Buffs return nine of the starting 11 from last year’s team that finished third in the AAC with a record of 13-3-3 (8-1-2 AAC).
Among the nine returning starters are the team’s leading goal scorer in junior Bekah Cundiff (17 goals) and the team’s goalkeeper in sophomore Eva Bower (76 saves, 5 shutouts). Cundiff and Bower were both on the All-AAC first team and United Soccer Coaches NAIA All-East Region team last season.
Milligan also returns a strong core of other weapons from last season, including juniors Alyson McMillan and Dharma Fawbush, who combined for 15 goals and 11 assists, and seniors Amy Long and Amy Olvera, who help Milligan control much of the action in the midfield.
The team also returns several Buffs from last season who made an impact despite being out of the starting lineup. Sophomore Poppy Smith scored two goals and added four assists while Ellie Cachiaras scored three goals.
ON THE SCHEDULE
The road to the 2018 NAIA national championship tournament is easy to break down but will be difficult to traverse. Milligan’s season starts with a nonconference home match against University of Rio Grande Saturday, Aug. 25, at 2 p.m. After that, the Buffs face three NCAA Division II members in more non conference action — then the remainder of the schedule will feature AAC games.
Key matchups to note are the home opener against Rio Grande, the AAC opener at Tennessee Wesleyan University and the AAC road finale against Bryan College. Rio Grande was a win shy of the national championship tournament in 2017 after making a run in the River States Conference tournament; Tennessee Wesleyan comes into 2018 ranked No. 15 nationally and is the AAC preseason favorite; and Bryan tied with Milligan for the AAC preseason runner-up.