With conference opponents packing the sports schedule every year, it can become easy to see them only as adversaries. Even though St. Joseph’s College is closing its doors at the end of the spring 2017 semester, the school’s closure is felt at every college in the GLVC.
Jerry Wollmering, Truman State University athletics director, said dropping the conference from 16 teams to 15 teams has complicated scheduling more than one might initially expect. Wollmering said 16 teams divides easier into groups, such as four groups of four, than 15 does, but the athletic departments across the GLVC have come together to find solutions.
Wollmering said some sports like soccer will not need too many adjustments because they usually only play each conference member once per season. Because sports has repeat matches like basketball and volleyball have had to make more noticeable changes, he said.
“Instead of four teams in four pods, we now have five teams in three pods,” Wollmering said. “We’ll play teams in our own pod twice, and the other conference teams once, so we’re still playing 18 conference games in basketball, we’re just playing a team a second time. There are also a couple of tough scheduling weekends where for instance volleyball may have to play at Rockhurst [University], and then drive to Springfield [Missouri] to play Drury [University]. We’ve hit a few bumps like that in the road, but we’ve been able to work it all out.”
Wollmering said though the GLVC would like to go back to 16 teams, it may be a year or two before everything is sorted out. He also said a few sports will have to take a week off at some point during the season in place of what would have been a match against St. Joseph’s.
Junior defensive linebacker Kade Young said though Southwest Baptist and Truman are representatives of the GLVC, the additional game against Southwest Baptist will not count as a conference game to ensure every team’s schedule is equal. Because it will be a non-conference game, Young said, the second game against Southwest Baptist will be less about records and more for bragging rights near the end of the season.
As in-region opponents who are expected to be battling for postseason bids at the closure of the 2017 season, the addition of another Truman vs. Southwest Baptist game could play a major consideration in regional rankings which determine who earns a postseason appearance. Young said another game against Southwest Baptist will be a good opportunity to improve, but he said he cannot help but feel sorry for the students at St. Joseph’s.
“They’re good kids who play tough and play us tough,” Young said. “It’s a fun game and I feel bad for those kids, especially the ones who still had a couple years of eligibility left … It’s terrible, and they announced it in the middle of last spring, so it’s not like they had any notice for it.”
In basketball, junior guard Nathan Messer said the Bulldogs now find themselves scheduled to play repeat matches against four GLVC teams — Rockhurst University, William Jewell College, Drury University and the University of Missouri of Science and Technology. For the men and women, fans may be excited to have two chances at the Drury University Panthers — a top conference contender for each team the past few years.
“We’ll still be taking a similar approach to last year,” Messer said. “We had a pretty good season, when it comes down to it. We’ll probably stick to our own game and do what we do best. We focus more on ourselves, continue to train as a team, and play well together.”