One Night In October

Yes, it’s  been a while.  No, I won’t make excuses.  The everyday life of an SID isn’t that exciting and you don’t want to know the mundane details of what makes these writing these posts take a lower priority, but the reality is the writing gets placed on the back burner.  Sometimes things weigh on me enough that I feel like I have to write and this is an outlet for me.  Sometimes you have to cut a vein open and bleed a little, but I’ll get more of that in a little while.

Fall season has come and is going.  A few teams are wrapping up seasons.  The women’s soccer season will come to a close this Saturday while the men’s team is in the post season with a win.  A loss by the men combined with a Briar Cliff loss also gets the Defenders in the eight team post season playoffs.  Here’s to hoping the Defenders take the drama out of it early on Saturday and get the win.

Volleyball continues a road swing that finds them at a Doane team that I don’t think anyone has completely figured out.  Rest assured they got Coach Hanson and the team’s attention when they swept Nebraska Wesleyan last night.  Right now, with a variety of scenarios in place the Defenders could finish anywhere from second to fourth in the standings.  Hastings will finish either third or fourth and Midland is sitting in second behind Northwestern.  Midland has two losses and Northwestern is unbeaten in GPAC play.

Cross country has the week off before running in the GPAC Championships.  Both the men and women are rated in the top-25 in the country.  The women are in pretty rare air right now with a no. 5 spot, the highest in the school’s history in the sport while the men are trying to get traction in the poll and are no. 23 this week.  The Defender men need to make up 30 points on Concordia next week to have a shot at the automatic berth out of the GPAC.  Women have positioned themselves nicely heading into the final two polls of the season.

Football goes to Doane and then Hastings in the coming week.  The Defenders keep getting people back and healthy…I’m anxious to see what this group can still accomplish this fall with three games remaining.

Golf is done for this half of the season, put the clubs away till spring.  I think I speak for the coaches when I say an early spring would be welcome after the spring this past year when the clubs didn’t get out of storage until late April.

Hockey is underway and after pair of wins the first weekend things have gotten difficult.  A trip to Colorado served as further preparation for the Clash in the Corn and the MACHA Conference season that gets underway this Friday and Saturday against Wisconsin Platteville.

And here we are at the start of another basketball season.  Women have already played a game and the men play their season opener against Valley City State on Friday night.  Where’d that off season go?  Women will probably get everyone healthy next week while the men are eager to see how the young kids will mix in with the veterans this season.  Lots of questions that won’t be answered until we’re deep into the season.

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Through the course of my time at Dordt College I’ve gotten to meet and know many people and I know that KDCR has many faithful listeners.  Some of them live in a house I’m paying off in Orange City.  Another lives in between Ireton and Hawarden and prior to October 23 another was listening from a hospital room in Sioux Falls.

For 105 days leading up to October 23 Gloria Zylstra spent her time in isolation while she underwent treatment for leukemia.  Treatment, that in the words of Dr. Carl Zylstra, former Dordt President and Gloria’s husband said, was unable to harness the disease.  As of October 23 Gloria was sent home and treatment was stopped.

I’d been told a couple times over the past weeks that Gloria would listen to sports broadcasts online via her computer and the request was made to say hello to her.

I had a hard time picturing a woman that was always active and could be found at most home contests and concerts at Dordt,  sitting in a hospital room by herself listening to our description of the games.

That figure in the parka by the fence at soccer games?  That was Mrs. Zylstra.

The woman taking the time to talk with Dordt employees and the faithful Dordt followers on the west side of the De Witt Gym at volleyball and basketball games? That was her.

The lady who gave each Dordt graduate 5$ on graduation morning so they would have something to give back in a few years, that was her as well.

The baker who made the fantastic cupcakes that went for a mint on the KDCR auctions?  You guessed it.  Gloria Zylstra.

The mom and grandma who showed up at our house in Orange City one spring morning to see my wife’s and my new baby daughter?  Mrs. Zylstra. And she brought some of those cupcakes as well.

My work life is made up of meeting deadlines.  Broadcasts, previews, postgame wrap, Twitter updates calls to TV stations, recording sports updates.  You’ve got to get them done on time.   A little late is too late.  This blog entry was a deadline I felt like I had to meet.

Again from a post by Dr. Zylstra, “We plan on following Dr. Bleeker’s advice to spend the next couple of week’s doing whatever she is up to doing without worrying about the health risks that have preoccupied us for the last few months.”

Without worrying.

Isn’t that ironic?

What the doctors and nurses are telling Gloria and Dr. Zylstra to do is exactly what we are taught as Christians to do every day.  Don’t worry about tomorrow and live today in the promise and hope of Christ’s payment for sins.

So, on the verge of one of the busiest weekends and months of the year, I try to take that to heart.

Don’t worry.

Enjoy the ones you love.

Work as if you are working for the Lord.

There’s enough hurt to go around, but those hurts and pains are only temporary.  But those hurts and pains are very real.

I’m no pastor or theologian.  I’m just a guy making mistakes like the next person.  But the words I’ve heard at literally thousands of church services have come to me and is my prayer for the Zylstras on this Thursday night.

In the days and weeks ahead, May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face shine upon you.

And may He give you His peace.

Amen.

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A Little Help For Her Friends

Campus is empty.

By and large, the campus was cleared out by Friday afternoon, May 10 at 5:00.

Graduate day, always a great day on a college campus.  Another group of young men and women leaving after four or sometimes five years to head into the next phase in their lives.

I’ve not written for a while.  That’s obvious every time I log on to the Dordt website and I see March 1 as my last entry.

Why has it been so difficult to find the time to put my thoughts down?

I don’t know if it’s finding the time that’s been difficult.  Narrowing the scope of what I want to write has been.

Much has happened in the last two months plus.  National Champs crowned during indoor track.  Basketball teams seasons end.  Baseball and softball fought through horrible weather conditions to get their seasons in and the track teams had rare nice days to get qualified for the national meet.

Let me tell you a story about one of those events that qualified.

The 4 x 400 meter relay team in women’s track has been on the cusp of qualifying for the national meet.

On paper it certainly looked like a qualification was almost a certain thing.  There are no such things in athletics.

A windy and cold day here.  A mishandled handoff there. A pulled muscle. Training issues.  Not getting everyone to click at the same time.

One of the comments I have made over the course of the last several years is that every season is fragile.  An isolated moment can determine the course of a season and you oftentimes don’t know that that moment has come and gone until you look back in reflection of a season past.

Back to the 4 x 400.

After missing the automatic qualifying standard at the GPAC Championships in early May  there was one last chance to get qualified and it fell on graduation day, May 10.

Some had plans for the summer that couldn’t wait.  Exam week was taking its toll as it always does.

At the end of it all there was a leg in the relay open.  There were runners who wanted to run, but you’ve got to have four for a relay.  Two or three, that doesn’t cut it.

Enter Briana Vander Woude.

The national champ in the multi-event this past indoor season.   Qualifier in several events for the outdoor season.

She didn’t need to run anymore.  In fact, some would say she had done enough, she didn’t have to run a race she had never, to my recollection, run in college.

But she did.

And a relay team is now headed to the national meet in large part because an athlete decided that helping her teammates achieve a goal was more important than a graduation celebration or any individual honors could be.

When the moment was available, she helped a group of athletes seize the chance.

Now, I’d imagine she’d be the first to say she just carried the baton and the other runners did most of the work and deflect much of the praise.

That’s the way she is.

This past spring I took pictures of the track and field athletes and asked that they tell me their names as we ran them through.  I know most, there are some who I don’t know.  Some assume I know them.

Not Briana.

As I’m finished with her picture she comes up and humbly says, “I’m Briana Vander Woude.”

I reply, “Yup, I knew who you are.”

Hopefully you know now too.

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This and That

Waiting on results from track and field at the national meet and softball results.  Haven’t mustered the interest to do the preview on the men’s basketball game for Thursday yet.  One of those kind of days so I’ll go through the mailbag and answer a few questions that have come up over the past week.  At least I’ll try to.

Most of the questions revolve around the NAIA National Men’s Basketball Tournament and how teams are selected, seeded, etc.

The first question is how are the at-large berths awarded?

The at-large berths are awarded based upon teams finish in the final coaches’ poll.  To put it as simply as possible you take the top-30 teams and start at no. 1.  If that team has earned an automatic berth through their conference qualification plan you go to no. 2 and continue working your way down until you have found 12 teams that did not qualify via their conference.  This year the final team earning an at-large bid was Lourdes at no.26 while Taylor was the first team not taken, four points behind Lourdes in the poll.  We’ve been there.  It’s not fun.

How come some conferences get one automatic berth and others two?

Simple.  Size.  Ten teams and above in a conference and you get two teams.  Nine and below you get one.  You must have at least six teams in a league to receive one automatic berth.

Why does the College of the Ozarks get an automatic if they don’t make it out of their conference?

They get in as the host.

How do the rankings work?

Each conference plus the Association of Independent Institutions conduct a poll weekly and vote for 30 teams, 30 points for the top team in descending order.  All 13 voters are also required to submit the order they believe their conference schools should ranked.  For example, the final GPAC order had Northwestern no. 1, Dordt no. 2, Midland no.3 and Morningside no. 4.

The voters may not vote these schools out of order.   For example.  A voter may not rate Dordt 3rd on their ballot and Northwestern 5th and Midland 12th.  They all must follow the order submitted by the “local” rater/voter.  Clear as mud?  I thought so.

How are the teams seeded for the tournament?

For the most part it is based on the final poll with some slight adjustments In some cases the seeding may be adjusted to account for some rules the NAIA has for the first round of the tournament.  Some are:

You will not face a team you’ve played during the season in the first round of the tournament.  For Dordt those teams include: Bellevue, Jamestown, Dakota State and Valley City State.

Conference teams will be placed on opposite sides of the bracket and if there are three teams in from the same league they will not play before the semifinals.  For Dordt that includes Midland and Northwestern.

Hope this helps.

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Past, Present, Future

It was a mix of past, present and future this past weekend on the Dordt College campus.

The past was the welcoming of two 1,000 point scorers back to the campus to be recognized. Kevin Veenstra and Greg Van Soelen made their way back to campus as part of the 1988 team that was recognized on the 25th anniversary of that season when they set the Dordt College community on fire with a 25-5 record and a berth in the NAIA National Tournament quarterfinals in an era where the District 15 qualifiers didn’t fare so well at the 32 team carnival in Kansas City.

I was an impressionable high school senior at the time and the memories from that season are vivid.  I remember standing in line to get in for the District Championship game, a victory that ended up being quite lopsided by post season standards.  I remember listening to the 86-71 win over Mobile and I was in attendance at the McKendree game in the second round when the Defenders couldn’t miss, making all but one of their shots in the first half on the way to an 86-79 win.  Things got pretty stiff in the quarterfinal round and the turnaround was too tight and the Defenders lost an 87-66 decision to Waynesburg.

Anyhow, 16 of the 18 men closely associated with that team, either as players, coaches and student assistants were there on Saturday.

If you were watching, a bright blue Duke t-shirt may have caught your eye.  That belonged to Loren Greenfield, who, I’m going to guess was wearing the shirt for a friend who wasn’t there.  Greenfield and Gailen Veurink were tight friends as college students.  Gailen succumbed to cancer about 18 months ago and was a big Duke fan, so the t-shirt that may have appeared to be out of place, was the perfect nod in memory of a beloved teammate.

The present was a pair of wins for the Defenders.  The women and men were both down at halftime but played sharp second halves with the women taking a firm hold on the game midway through the half.  The men didn’t seal it until Kyle Lindbergh picked off a length of the floor pass to try to set up a game tying three-pointer.  A Cliff Warner three from the right corner with under a minute to go changed the game from a one point contest to a four point difference that affected how the final moments were played out.  Definately an enjoyable day.

The future points to recruiting future athletes and the men’s team picked up a pair over the weekend and the work on that front never ends….if you don’t have the influx of talent every year it gets difficult to put a quality team on the field/court.

So, in closing what did we learn from the past weekend?  As coach Ross Douma put it.  Recognize the past and those who have come before us, enjoy the present, look to the future.

Words to live by.

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Whirlwind

Less than 72 hours after touching down in the Orlando, Florida area I’m checked in and ready to head home on the next flight out.

What did  I learn?

Well over the past two games I posted on the Dordt College twitter account the hashtag #guts.

It’s an overused term, make no mistake about it, but I thought the guys showed guts in their two wins over Webber International and Warner.  These were two road games.  These weren’t neutral floor games.

These were tough.

Both games featured teams, that from my perspective, could make the NAIA National Tournament and win a game or two, and then, well who knows when you get in that setting.

Attack off the dribble.  Fast and physical, these teams got after it on defense and gave the Defenders trouble with their ability to hassle and play the ballhandler very physically on the perimeter and made post entry passes difficult to say the least.

Both nights the Defenders faced second half deficits.  Both games featured runs both for and against the Defenders.  Both games featured big shots at the end that eventually won the contests and both games featured defensive stops to close the game and preserve wins.

Big shots.

What do shooters do.  They shoot.  They don’t stop looking for their shots even if they haven’t been dropping.  Friday night Austin Katje didn’t have a great shooting night.  He still squeezed off a three when Dordt was down three with less than two minutes left and Cliff Warner hit his fourth three-point shot of the night moments later that gave Dordt the eventual win.

One night later Dordt was down 11 early in the second half.  Still down ten with about 15 minutes left.  Down eight with about six minutes left.  Battered and bruised, the Defenders played significant minutes without Cliff Warner and Trevor Wolterstorff.  Warner took a blow above his eye that left him bloodied and in need of a stop at the emergency room on the way back to home base.  First he had to play the second half and knock down a few three-pointers.

Trevor Wolterstorff took a blow below his eye and missed the last five minutes or so of the first half and he wouldn’t return until early in the second half.  He responded with ten hard earned points in the second half.

Battered, bloodied and bruised, the Defenders refused to wilt.  The 70 or so Dordt faithful tried to provide some energy, the coaching staff was a study in patience as they manipulated the lineups against a physical team that had played a game the night before that was marred by four technical fouls and two ejections against Goshen (Indiana).

And still the Defenders were down those eight points at 68-60.

Again it was Cliff Warner providing a couple three’s and the game winning assist.  Again it was Katje finding space for two rainbow three’s the found the net.  t was Vogel knocking down a bank shot off a lob pass.  It was offensive rebounds on free throws.  It was also a defensive unit stepping forward and playing Warner at their own game with physical play.  It was lots of little things that are hard to measure.

And when it was all done,  it was a narrow win when it looked doubtful.

And now the real work begins.  Twelve games left in the league and 13 regular season contests overall over the next seven weeks.

Two months to go.  Enjoy them…..

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I’m asked continuously what I “really” think about games and officiating when I meet up with fans after games.

The questions will come after some comments I made.

Suffice it to say, I’ll abide by the old saying.  “If you have nothing nice to say…….”

 

 

silence

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Steadily the Dordt women’s basketball team has built their record to above .500.

A difficult start with three narrow losses this season forced the Defenders to battle and they have.

Improved ball handling and care along with a variety of players taking their turn on offense has lifted Craig Stiemsma’s unit to 9-8 entering the post-Christmas portion of the schedule.

Saturday the Defenders used stifling defense and 19 points from  Danelle Boone from the bench and she hit for five three-pointers when it was all said and done.  Hoping she’s healthy again after suffering through a first two months with a bad ankle.

Big road game for the Defenders this Wednesday when they face Hastings on the road before the number one team in the country, Concordia, pays a visit to Sioux Center on Saturday, January 5.

Looks like an interesting last 13 games to the season.

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Up to 840 followers on the Dordt Athletics twitter account. It’s the most up to the minute way to follow Defender athletic scores and news updates.  Like to hit 1000 followers before the basketball season comes to an end.  Spread the word.

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Now, time to get on a flight home.

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Mixed Results

The Killers and Bruce Springsteen helping through the ride home tonight.

Mixed resuts, mixed emotions.

I’ve been doing this a while now.  I’m sure people get tired of me saying life on the road in basketball in the GPAC is tough.

I don’t care.

There is nothing easy in competition.  The line between narrow wins and losses is razor thin.

Razor thin.

Today the women’s basketball tea played a team that was 0-4 in the league but had played a good Hastings team to a single digit game for most of the contest this past week.  Dordt’s women, by comparison,  were coming off a 20 point loss to Northwestern.

The result.  Dordt throttled Nebraska WEsleyan, on the road mind you.

Held them without a basket for the final eight minutes or so of the first half.

It was over then.

Men’s game.  Defenders were coming off an emotional win on Wednesday.  Wesleyan lost another tight game to fall to 0-4 in the league.

The result?  A hard fought 71-69 overtime loss for the Defenders.

Did I mention razor thin?

Honestly, I thought for 34 minutes or so of regulation the Defenders outplayed the hosts, those six other minutes proved to be pretty important.

Bottom line, on the road, you have to be about six points better than the host to beat them I think.

Today our women were.  Today our men weren’t.

I think both teams have done a lot of good things.  Both teams have work to do with 14 games left in the league.

And on Monday the coaches will get ready for Morningside.

Now, back to Sam’s Town by the Killers.

 

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Well Done

Those two words are how I’ll sum up a performance that meets or exceeds expectations.  When a team or individual performs to their potential the performance is well done.

I’ve seen many teams suffer under the burden of expectations, it’s not always easy to live up to pre-season hype or the thoughts that a group might be together that could reach some lofty goals.

This year the Dordt women’s cross country team had all the makings of a fine unit when the pre-season began.  There was enough returning talent to lend leadership.  There was enough youth to provide excitement and energy to a a group that had had a healthy amount of experience.  There were runners who, it seemed, were just beginning to tap their talent.  And there was enough depth to withstand the inevitable sicknesses and injuries that come along over the course of a three month season.

The ground work for this season was laid with miles last spring during the track season and yet more miles during the summer.  There is no “getting in shape” during the college cross country season.  The season is meant to refine conditioning and peak at the right time of the year.  All pretty inexact sciences.  What works for one runner may not work for another.

You need a steady hand as coach.  When do you push the runners through the rough spots.  When do you ease up and let them set the pace?  When do you back off the miles?  When do you taper.  When do you run a race for experience and when do you put it all together to try and win.  There’s more to it than just saying ” go hard and run fast.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: all seasons are fragile.  A lot of things have to go right to have a successful season and when it all clicks it’s something special.

To Coach Van Dyke and the 2012 cross country runners, well done.

 

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All’s Quiet

What do I do on a night with no athletic events?

Supper is eaten, the dishes are done.  A couple kids are gone to a book fair and another is at open gym.

And I’m sitting in a quiet house.

I fire up the computer and check in with what else is happening in the conference.

I check to see if the Doane-Briar Cliff volleyball match has started in Crete.

Not yet.

I check how the state volleyball tournament is going.  Who has won and who’s done for the season.

After the storm we just got done with the past ten days with a quiet night at home feels a little odd.  Not bad, just out of the ordinary.

Mix in the emotions of seasons ending, others experiencing success and still others starting there is a ton to sort through.

Where to start?

Congratulations to coach Greg Van Dyke and the women’s cross country team.  Qualified for the NAIA National Championship Meet in ten days with a dominating performance last Saturday at the GPAC Championships.  Swept spots 3-8 for a low score of 25 points.  A top-10 finish at the national meet looks like a realistic goal for a team that has used its depth to make it through the season while fighting the normal trials of sickness and injury that go with putting on 30-40 miles of running per week.

The men’s team will send Ryan Tholen and Nathan Jackson to the nationals with both teams finishing in the top-10 at the GPAC meet.  Tholen was ten seconds off the leader’s pace and commented this week on how fast the field seemed and that this year’s Defender team might have been stronger than the team that qualified for the national meet last year.

National meet is Saturday, November 17 at Vancouver, Washington…for those  of you wondering about the geography it’s on the coast at the Washington-Oregon border.

Women’s soccer concluded a difficult season a couple weeks ago.  The story of this season…..injuries early depleted the goal scoring threats and the team and coaching staff was left with trying to find ways to have success. Watching the coaching staff work through the difficulties of the season reminded me of how fragile a successful season is–you need a lot of things to go right along the way.

Men’s soccer had success, finishing fourth and hosting a GPAC tournament match with Morningside.  Of the possible matchups this one did not play into the favor of the Defenders.  Morningside faced Dordt in its final game of the season just a week before and went toe to toe with the Defenders before falling.  This time the game went to Morningside and a good season with ten wins ended too soon by my estimation.  The Mustangs went on to lose to Hastings in the next round.

The volleyball had its season come to a close in the quarterfinal round as well with a loss to Briar Cliff.  The Defenders didn’t have momentum heading into the post-season with three losses the week before.  Dordt resorted to a 6-2 offense with an injury to Kayla Gesink.  Gesink was limited by a wrist injury suffered in a loss to Northwestern on Thursday of next week.  Any coach will tell you the end of the year isn’t when you want to be making significant changes and switch from a 5-1 to a 6-2 set isn’t easy to make in short order.

Now we wait on post-season honors to come in for the aforementioned teams and we’ll have some All-GPAC performers in all three sports.

So what have coach Schenk and Coach Hanson been doing since the season ended? They’ve hit the recruiting trail as there is no real time off in this business and replacement players need to be found to fill in some gaps.

Meanwhile football concludes its season this Saturday against a Northwestern team that is playing for a post-season berth.  Kickoff in Orange City is at 1:00.

Men’s basketball is off and running with four wins, two of them coming in front of energetic crowds at the De Witt last weekend.  The fan support so far has been tremendous.  Jordan Vogel is closing in on 1,000 points and a couple other players have outside shots at reaching the plateau this year if they stay healthy.

Women’s basketball has played two rated teams and another that is receiving votes in the poll.  0-3 to show for it at this point.  Hoping for a pair of wins at a tournament hosted by Moody Bible this weekend.  Departed for Chicago tonight and will stop in Des Moines before heading the rest of the way tomorrow.

Hockey is on the road as well this weekend.  The going has been rough in the early going.  Face Iowa tomorrow and Saturday before hosting a pair next weekend.

Now, I think I’m going to shut things down for the night.

 

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Parents Weekend 2012

A busy weekend.  It was indeed.  Lots of activities and many visitors to campus.

Recapping the weekend the athletic events started with the volleyball team dropping Buena Vista on Friday night 3-0 and after short break the gym re-filled for Late Night With the Defenders, the annual basketball preview night.

A few scrimmages and contests including three-point shooting and slam dunks.  The night was capped by the unveiling of the athletics logo and a audience participation shooting contest with Curtis Van Grouw going home with 250 dollars courtesy the Carrie Foods shootout.  The logo can be found on the Dordt website and the Dordt facebook page.  More pictures of the night are on facebook as well.

Saturday morning dawned bright, or I should say foggy, but soon gave way to sunshine at the football field.  Got the pressbox set up for stats, broadcasts and webcasts.  Volunteers showed up on time which is always a good thing!

Football team won a 24-7 decision, capping the game with a Trai Pickney long touchdown run.  Defenders scored the final 24 points of the game and won a game when they completed one pass, a touchdown strike to David Griess.  The Dordt defense gave up yards, but got key turnovers to hold Dakota State out.  Lots of smiles after this game.  Next up, the Morningside Mustangs in Sioux City.

Meanwhile, the soccer teams were playing home games with Doane.  Women had a tough go of it in losing 6-0 while the men gave up a late goal that led to an eventual 1-1 double overtime tie.  Defender men need a win to take a step towards hosting a first round GPAC game while the Defender women are looking for their first conference win heading into the final week of the season.

The cross country team ran in the Mount Marty Invite and had much better conditions than two weeks ago when they ran in frigid conditions at McCook Lake, South Dakota.  The women, running shorthanded, still managed a team win as they try to get over some sickness running through the team.  Will now have two weeks to get ready for GPAC Championships in early November.  Men ran fourth and will need to move the pack up to be a serious threat at the GPAC Championships.

After the football game was done it was time to hustle over to the hockey rink to set up equipment for a webcast and for videotaping.  Minutes, ok, seconds before the game began got the wireless connection working and Sam Ekstrom was off and running with the broadcast and Heather Vander Kooi was working her second event of the day, getting the game recorded for the coaching staff to look at afterwards.  Hockey won 4-2 in a game where they dominated everywhere but the scoreboard.  Lots of shots, several that rang off the posts.   Blades are now 2-2 for the season.  Off to Colorado this weekend before playing two home games the first weekend in November.

Volleyball went to Hastings and couldn’t get over the hump in sets three and four, losing to the Broncos 3-1.  Defenders are now 9-2 in league play with five matches remaining–three of them at home and three against teams they beat in five sets the first time they played.  Three wins would likely secure a top-four finish.  Four wins would put the Defenders in second or third and 5-0 locks up second and the number two seed that goes with it…Hastings now has a two game lead in the league with two weeks to go.

Sunday couldn’t come soon enough!

Next weekend….more of the same.

 

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Into the GPAC Season And A Little Bit More

As good a time as any to get caught up on what’s happening now that we’re a month into the fall season.

Men’s soccer is 1-1 in league play after a 1-0 loss last night to Northwestern.  The early returns have the Defenders finding the goal more often with Josh Brinkerhoff knocking in seven so far and Eric Grootenboer five.  Win over Concordia last week was a great way to start the GPAC season.

Women’s team was beset with injuries early in the season and the offense has suffered because of it.  Team is finding ways to stay close as evidenced by the 1-0 loss to Northwestern on Wednesday night.  Allison Hogan and Sarah Byron have five and four goals each to lead the team.  Katie Kortman has faced 75 shots on goal through eight games and has made 54 saves.

Road challenge for both teams on Saturday night in Lincoln.

Football team had a tough go of it on Saturday of last week, giving up 52 points against Concordia.  Defenders were hamstrung by a variety of turnovers, and could never really get it back on track until the second half when they scored two touchdowns.  This week they face a pass-happy Briar Cliff team that is averaging about 300 yards in the air per game.

Cross Country competes in one of the biggest meets, if not the biggest meet of the year from a numbers standpoint when they travel to St. Paul, Minnesota to compete in the Roy Griak Invite.  Huge day with a total of eight races being run over the course of the day.  Look for a release about women holding at #13 in the national poll later on Thursday.

Volleyball is 5-0 in the GPAC after back to back five set thrillers.  Dordt dropped Northwestern on Wednesday night, winning the first two sets and dropping three and four to set up the race to 15.  Dordt has had good balance with four players averaging between two and three kills per set.  Kayla Gesink has filled in the gaps at setter and is second on the team in digs.

A murderer’s row of sorts coming up with home matches against Doane (ranked) and Morningside before going to nationally ranked Midland next Saturday.  It’s a 16 match conference schedule in case you are curious.

Basketball teams are gearing up for practice and the ice is in the hockey arena.  Winter sports are looming.

Baseball is hosting their annual intra-squad World Series to cap the fall with the teams deadlocked at one win each.

If you don’t want to read some personal observations, you’re excused from the rest of the post….

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Why athletics?

This past week I had the opportunity to sit in on a class that is a part of Dordt’s sports management program.  Myself and Dordt athletic director Glenn Bouma took a few minutes to explain, briefly, what our jobs entail and to answer questions.

It was a sobering moment for me as I looked out at a class with 20 and 21 year olds and it jarred me, some of these students were just born when I started working professionally in athletics.  1993-1994 was my first school year of covering everything from football to wrestling to cross country to, well you name it.  Over that time I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

One thing I have on my rides to and from athletic events is time.  Time alone with my thoughts, I mean, a guy can only listen to so much Cornhusker football on a Saturday morning ride on the highways of Nebraska and I try to examine what I’m doing and say, does it matter, what is being accomplished through my work?  Am I getting too old for this stuff, chasing athletes across the Midwest for most of the school year?

You may have noticed I haven’t blogged much as of late.  It’s not because I don’t have topic matter.  There are still plenty of stories to tell, but with a son in high school running cross country and another in middle school playing football, and a daughter that isn’t in organized activities (yet) but is busy in her own right, some of this takes a back seat to the activities of life.

Ok, I’m getting away from my original question.

Why follow athletics, or more accurately, why do I still love organized athletics after dealing with them for nearly two decades?

I think I have my answer and it’s taken getting hit in the face with something dramatic to make it clear to me.

This story has been sitting on my desk for the better part of a month—just wondering how to use it.

As I mentioned earlier, my oldest son runs cross country.  Not a glamour sport by any means.  He’s a part of a team that includes every grade level from freshman through senior at the high school he attends.
Earlier this fall, after all of the summer running was complete, a teammate found out he had cancer on a bone in his leg.

The treatment?

Take the leg.

A cross country runner with no leg.  That’s like a radio announcer with no vocal chords.

Hardly seems fair.

How’s that kid going to respond?

How are his teammates going to respond?

So the runners and coach do what runners and coaches do.  They care for the fallen athlete and they prepare to do the best they can in competitions.

They and their families remember him in their prayers.

They try to enjoy each day.

They learn in a very real way that we live in a fallen world where we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Ironic isn’t it?

The hands, and the feet.

They find out what it means to be a part of a body.

And then the athlete comes back and is at a meet in late September on crutches.  When the meet is over the runners are seen getting a wheelchair out.  They include their teammate in the post-meet cool down.
Other teams and runners get the chance, first hand, to see a team made up of individuals caring about someone other than themselves and this is what it looked like.

Brings tears to my eyes to see those smiles.

Now, some may see a group of high school boys and that’s true, but I see more.

I see future leaders in our churches, schools and families.  I see young men who are going to be better husbands, fathers and sons because of how they are coping with a very traumatic experience.

And I think athletics is a vehicle to teach many of those strengths.

That’s why, after 20 years of travel and time away from home, I still love athletics and the lessons it can teach.

This weekend Jake Slings, a pitcher on the Dordt baseball team the last two seasons will be back on campus.

Jake was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this summer and has been undergoing treatments since.  I’d guess he’ll be welcomed by his team with open arms because a part of the team’s body will be there that had been missing.

Some learning takes place in the classroom.  Some takes place in the dorms.  Some happens in labs that span a couple hours.

And some of it happens on the athletic fields and courts in practice and competitions.

And that’s why I still love athletics.

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