Fall sports ready for action in 2019

As the fall semester gets underway, six Bulldog programs are preparing to compete in what will be Truman State University’s seventh season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Both the women’s and men’s soccer teams, the volleyball and football teams, and both cross country teams will launch their regular season the first week in September.

Men’s Soccer
The men’s soccer team is the first Bulldog team in action this semester with a contest Sept. 5 at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. Last season, the men’s soccer team finished the year with a 4-8-4 record overall and a 2-8-3 record in GLVC play. This record earned the team an 11th place finish out of 14 teams in the final 2018 GLVC standings. Over the offseason, the team brought in eight new freshmen and one transfer student. With only three seniors currently on the roster, the men’s soccer team has a young core that can invigorate their team and help them to improve on the field and ultimately reach their goal of competing for a GLVC championship.

Women’s Soccer
The women’s soccer team is preparing to kick off its highly anticipated season Sept. 6 against Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. Last year, the Bulldogs burned through the rest of the GLVC on their way to a 2018 GLVC regular season championship and a conference best 14-4-1 record. After its 2018 campaign came to an abrupt end in the semifinals of the GLVC tournament against the fifth seeded Knights of Bellarmine University, the team is eager to prove that they still belong atop the GLVC throne. This year’s team will return five seniors, three all-conference award winners, and three-time defensive player of the week Beth Hopwood, all of whom will need to play at a high level to become Truman’s first ever back-to-back conference champions.

Stokes Stadium will have to wait to host its first contest of the 2019 season as the Truman football team will be on the road facing the Drake Bulldogs of Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 7. This battle of the Bulldogs is the second of its kind, with the Bulldogs of Drake University emerging victorious in the first contest by a score of 13-7 in 2014. Truman is looking to even the series and start the season with a win for the first time since 2013. Last season, the gridiron gang battled to a record of 6-5 after a slow start of 0-3. In 2018, the ’Dogs were 6-4 going into their final game of the season, and had a chance to advance to a bowl game with a win. Truman held onto a 33-27 lead going into the fourth quarter before ultimately falling 34-33, and missing a bowl game for the second consecutive year. The team is working to end that drought this season as it returns 15 of 22 starters and 16 experienced seniors.

The volleyball team will also begin the 2019 season in the first week of September. The team will pack their bags and head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to compete in the Nova Southeastern tournament. This is the beginning of a 12-game tournament stretch before the girls commence GLVC play later in the month. The Bulldogs are looking to continue the recent success of their program after losing four seniors, including two-time all-conference honoree Savvy Hughes. Aiming to improve on their 2018 record of 21-11 and 10-8 in GLVC play, the volleyball team will try to repeat the hot start they had last season when they beat fourth-ranked Florida Southern College and 14th-ranked Arkansas Tech University in their opening tournament. This hot start will, in part, depend on the growth of their seven freshmen.

“Our freshmen add a lot of depth to each position. There’s more than one spot up for grabs this year, and our freshmen are making us work,” Defensive Specialist Meg Gasper said.

The freshmen — the teams largest class — will likely play a role in the team’s early success.

Men’s Cross Country
The men’s cross country team will begin the season looking to capture its first Lindenwood dual title since it began participating in the event in 2013. This dual is one of four meets that the Bulldogs will participate in before making the trip to Evansville, Indiana, for the GLVC championships. This year’s team returns all but two runners from last season, when the Bulldogs took eighth place out of 12 at the GLVC championships. Last year’s top four finishers at the championship meet, including the team’s top finisher Thomas Cormier, will all return for the Bulldogs. This season’s team has only one senior, and will need contributions from their younger runner to begin building a winning reputation.

Women’s Cross Country
The women’s cross country team has its eyes set on finishing what they started last season: winning Truman’s first ever cross country conference championship. Last season the women’s team had its strongest outing ever at the GLVC championships, where it took second overall and had eight athletes place in the top 40. This season the team is working to raise the bar and become champions.

“After last year, we know just how close conference is within our reach. Although that sets a high standard, it should make us even hungrier as the season moves forward,” Junior Erica Lindsay said.

Lindsay and the rest of the team always want to balance the rigors of being a distance runner with an enjoyable atmosphere.

“Some of us got a little burnt out by the end of the (last) season, partly due to pushing too hard. Because we’re all naturally competitive, it’s tempting to pick up the pace on every run, but we learned that slower days are important for recovery. This year we really want to take those relaxed runs more seriously so we can be better ready for workouts and meets,” Lindsay said.

In a normal week it is not uncommon for the team to run upwards of 35 miles on top of various other hill workouts and form runs. All of this training is in preparation for the team’s upcoming dual Sept. 6 against the Lions of Lindenwood University. This dual is the first of four outings for the team before they arrive in Evansville, Indiana, for the GLVC championships. Lindsay said she hopes this seasons team can learn from the past and take on new strategies to improve their success.

“I think packing is going to be something that’s emphasized more. Last year we had some trouble working together at times. We have a bunch of talented runners and a fairly experienced team, so we want to use that to our advantage by pacing off of each other and staying close during training sessions and races,” Lindsay said.

This season’s team returns 11 runners from its 2018 GLVC runner-up campaign, and welcomes in only two freshmen. This experience, alongside a new outlook and a hunger to win, could reward the women’s cross country team with Truman’s first ever GLVC cross country championship in 2019.