Truman athletics looks to bloom in upcoming spring season

Happy final issue of the semester Index readers, thanks for sticking with us through the end. It’s been a wild ride for me personally, but taking on this position has been an enriching experience beyond measure. Now, I will do what most sport’s writers and outlets do: make potentially too-early predictions about the future.

To begin, a look at the basketball programs here at Truman State University. Both teams enjoyed some success last season, and both were led by excellent coaches.

On the women’s side, you have a team led by third-year head coach Theo Dean which came off of an impressive 14-3 regular season record last season, while having some games removed because of COVID-19 cancellations. The Bulldogs made it to the GLVC Tournament Final where they were defeated at the hands of Drury University and suffered a season-ending loss at the hands of Drury once again in the second Midwest Regional game in the NCAA Div. II  Tournament.

Both of these postseason outcomes were not ideal for this team, but the motivational flame was certainly reignited during the off-season. As of the date of this publication, the women’s basketball team will be 4-5. It is a rocky start to the season, but keep in mind the out-of-conference schedule for this team was stacked. Look forward to improvement from the team as they get deeper into conference play. A player to keep an eye on is junior guard Hannah Belanger, who received the fourth Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America team selection in Truman history. She is a dynamite player who fills the hoop up with buckets like a contractor fills up a swimming pool. 

Now, to analyze the men’s side. One name you need to know: Cade McKnight. GLVC Player of the Year last season, and ninth in Div. II scoring, his game has been on the rise since he came to Truman. Expect a similar type of season from the senior forward, as he looks to lead this team back to an Elite Eight appearance. Masen Miller is another electric player who was named GLVC Freshman of the Year, and his guard play will be crucial alongside McKnight this season. The leadership of coach Jeff Horner has brought a winning culture to this program, and expect the winning ways to carry on. The Bulldogs are sitting at 6-2 currently this season.

Let’s take a deep dive into the swim team as well. Last year under coach Jerod Simek, the program sent four swimmers to the national meet. I’ve spoken with Simek and some of his returning swimmers including national qualifier senior Emma Brabham earlier this year, and the hunger to repeat success is apparent in this program. Expect the men’s and women’s teams to strive for more national representation. The men’s team has two more meets before the GLVC meet, and the women’s team has one tune-up meet before the postseason. 

Another sport that takes a fairly large break before spring competition is women’s tennis. This team is full of some freshman talent including Allie Brown, Akansha Negi and Abbi Worster. With a 4-1 overall record in terms of team competition, the future is bright for this team. I spoke with coach Steve Smith earlier this semester, who came across as enjoying the on-court success but was really proud of the off-court performance from his players. Smith is a great leader who wants his players to succeed outside of the tennis court, and I think this will lead to better chemistry for the doubles matches, as well as overall team support within the program. 

Last but not least, the baseball and softball programs will begin their season in February. Both teams will look to improve their previous season records. For baseball, the potential return of senior slugger Kory Carter will be huge for their success. On the softball side, senior Emma Walbert will be the returning spark to this team, having batted a team-leading .422 last season. 

Truman and sports are becoming more and more synonymous in conversations. This place has a real sports culture, a real presence in the midwest scene. I encourage everyone to keep up with their success, I surely will have my eyes glued to the spring athletics. I hope you have your eyes glued to more great content from the sports section as well. Happy holidays and enjoy your well-deserved break.