Milligan is vying for its first trip to the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship since 1996.
The Lady Buffs, winners of the AAC North division, will square off in a quarterfinal matchup against six seed Tennessee Wesleyan with first serve set for Thursday at approximately 4:30 p.m. Milligan, which finished the season with a 23-5 overall record (16-3 AAC), defeated the Bulldogs (16-20, 11-8 AAC) twice this season.
“I think as a coach, neither time we played them did we play well,” head coach Doneva Bays said. “We had some bright moments at their place, but we were not firing on all cylinders. I think our matchup looks really well against them. I just hope that we come out with our best. I think if we serve and pass well, then we can definitely make a run in the tournament.”
Milligan has been led all season by the play of its co-captains, senior libero Alyssa Rupert and junior setter Kellee Geren.
Rupert leads the nation in digs per set (7.03) and ranks seventh in total digs (717). The senior has earned seven AAC defensive player of the week honors and two at the national level this season. Also this year, Rupert set a new single-match career high for digs with 38 in a five-set win on the road against Union.
Geren leads the AAC and ranks 25th nationally in assists/set with 9.8. The junior has registered 15 double-doubles this season and set single-match career highs in assists (52) and digs (20). At the conference level, Geren earned setter of the week honors four times this year.
Geren has seen the team really grow and become a more cohesive unit over the course of the season — and knows that making a deep run in the tournament would be really special.
“I think it would be awesome,” said Geren. “I think we have a really good shot at making it to nationals. We had that my freshman year and I think this year we can really do it. I think if we show up, we definitely can.”
OTHER AAC POSTSEASON ACTION
Milligan’s women’s soccer team is in the thick of its conference tournament and playing at the height of its game. After posting a thrilling 3-2 win in double overtime over Point University last Saturday, the Buffs upended top-seeded Truett McConnell 2-0 Tuesday afternoon.
No other team prior to Milligan had scored on Truett in the previous 12 games, and the Buffs found the back of the net twice. Juniors Bekah Cundiff and Dharma Fawbush scored the goals to help Milligan advance to the AAC tournament championship, scheduled for this Friday.
The men’s team also faced Point in the quarterfinal round of the league tournament but fell 6-1 to the top-seeded Skyhawks. Junior Roberto Fernandez Garrido scored the lone goal for Milligan in the loss.
AAC POSTSEASON AWARDS
Garrido was one of a handful of Buffs to be recognized by the AAC for efforts during the regular season. Garrido earned All-AAC second team after leading the team with 13 goals.
On the women’s side, sophomore goalkeeper Eva Bower and junior forward Bekah Cundiff earned distinction as All-AAC first team. Seniors Amy Olvera and Madison Thomas made the All-AAC second team. Cundiff, Olvera and Thomas were keys to Milligan’s success on offense, in the midfield and on defense, respectively.
While five Buffs earned an all-conference nod in soccer, nine Buffs earned it in cross country. Led by Jacquelyn Crow and Alex Mortimer, Milligan ran to runner-up finishes at the AAC Championships last Saturday. Crow placed fourth for the No. 15 women while Mortimer placed fifth for the men.
Crow, who is a graduate student, freshmen Gabrielle Mardis, Avery DeWolf and Bekah Owen, and junior Hannah Bell earned spots on the all-conference team for the women. Juniors Sam Wehner, Mitch Bronstetter and Seth Nicol made the all-conference team for the men.
Additionally, Mardis, DeWolf, Owen, Kelsey Mowrey, Ethan Pfister and Samir Koko achieved all-freshman status.
HOOPS SEASON IS HERE
Monday night was wild inside Steve Lacy Fieldhouse. Both Milligan teams played their first home doubleheader of the season, and both came away with exciting wins.
The women, led by Sarah Robinson (28 points, eight rebounds) and Mackenzie Raizor (12 points, 10 rebounds), ran away with a win over Alice Lloyd. They led by 24 late in the second half before a run from the visiting Eagles made the final score 89-77. Four Buffs made it to double figures, including Robinson, Raizor, Andi Lamb (14 points) and Emma Kate Brown (11).
Senior Tyler Nichols led the Milligan men to an intense 85-84 win, also over Alice Lloyd. Nichols scored 19 points and had a block of the would-be game-winning layup from ALC’s Blake Smith as time expired. The win sent Milligan to 3-1 this season, and both Milligan basketball teams will start AAC play later this week.