December 04, 2013

Denver's Wirth Named WBCA Good Works Team Nominee

University of Denver women’s basketball junior Theresa Wirth (Mesa, Airz.) was chosen as one of 52 NCAA Division I women’s basketball student-athletes to be nominated for the2014 Allstate WBCA and NABA Good Works Team®, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and Allstate Insurance Company announced today.

A total of 202 men’s and women’s nominees are on the list that spans NCAA Division I, II, III and NAIA.
Denver's Theresa Wirth (photo by Lacey Den Hartog)

The award recognizes a select group of college basketball student-athletes who have made significant contributions to the greater good of their communities through volunteerism and civic service.

Wirth has proven herself to be a leader both on and off the court. This past summer, Wirth interned for the Special Olympics, getting an inside look into the inner workings of a non-profit, a dream she hopes to fulfill in the future with her own charity. During her internship, Wirth got to work events throughout the summer, getting to know and interview the athletes. In addition to her summer internship, Wirth also helped to set up and hand out water at aid stations during the Race for the Cure event this past September. She took part in a coaches’ clinic with the Denver Public Schools’ middle school coaches in the fall; and also visited elementary schools presenting on the benefits of healthy living through sports. In the spring of 2013, Wirth visited the local Children’s Hospital spending time with the patients and also took part in the University of Denver’s Day of Service, running a station for young kids and parents.

December 03, 2013

North Dakota State Names Tyler Oakes Pitching Coach

North Dakota State head baseball coach Tod Brown today announced the addition of Tyler Oakes as the team's pitching coach for the 2014 season.  Oakes replaces Jake Angier, who was hired in November as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Sacramento State.
Oakes was a graduate assistant pitching coach at South Dakota State in 2010 and 2011 before spending the past two years as a volunteer assistant at Minnesota.  He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten performer from 2006-09 at Minnesota, where he pitched in the starting rotation as a sophomore and worked out of the bullpen for three seasons.  Oakes signed with the Tampa Bay Rays as an undrafted free agent and played one season with the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League.

December 02, 2013

My Championship Experience – 2013 Volleyball Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

IUPUI senior Kortni Wright writes about her experience at the 2013 Summit League Volleyball Championship:
My name is Kortni Wright and I am a fifth-year senior at IUPUI.  With this league tournament being my fourth in five season with the Jags, I had a feeling it was going to be the best.  Each year during preseason we set goals as a team, and winning a league title and making it to the NCAA Tournament have made the list almost every year I have been here.  Going into the weekend, we had already accomplished one of those goals in winning the regular season title, and I know I was hungrier than ever to achieve that second goal of winning the tournament as well.

Thursday, November 21:
The weekend started today with teams practicing and preparing for the upcoming matches and ended with The Summit League Tournament Banquet hosted by my school, IUPUI.  I personally want to thank everyone involved in planning and executing the banquet and tournament.  I know how much hard work and effort went into each event during the weekend, and it was greatly appreciated by all of us student-athletes and coaches.  I also want to congratulate all of the award winners.  You all have accomplished something great not only for yourself, but for you team and for this league!

Friday, November 22:
For four of the teams today was game day!  All of the teams started the day with their practice times for one last preparation or run through of the game plan.  We had practice at 9:35 a.m. followed by a lot of waiting.  I went back home, did some homework and then headed back to the gym for the first match- South Dakota vs. Western Illinois at 4:30 p.m.  After that match was over, we watched Fort Wayne vs. North Dakota State at 7 p.m.  This was particularly exciting because we were finally going to be able to mentally prepare for who we were going to play the following night!  During both of these matches, we all scouted each team, tracking serve-receive patterns and filling out hitting charts.  We wanted to be as prepared as possible for any team we may end up playing over weekend.  USD won the first match and IPFW the second, meaning the teams going on to participate the next night in the semi-finals would be Denver vs. South Dakota and IUPUI vs. Fort Wayne.

Saturday, November 23:
FINALLY IT IS GAME DAY! It seems like we have been waiting forever to play, especially after having to go a whole day with doing nothing but a short practice and watching two matches.  Today we started off with a serve and pass session at 2:15 p.m.  This gave me time to wake up in my own bed, drink my coffee, eat breakfast and kind of reflect on the season, myself, and what tonight could mean.  For me, it was kind of emotional as this could potentially be the last day of volleyball I would ever play on a collegiate team and could be the end of my volleyball career that has been a part of me for almost 10 years.  I was definitely not ready for tonight to be the end of it, and that was the mentality I was going into the match with.  And, if we did happen to get beat, I was not going to let it come easily and I was not going to let it end on a bad note with my performance and efforts. 

2:15 p.m. came and we warmed up, served some balls, went through hitting lines, and walked through the tendencies of IPFW.  After serve and pass was over, we went over to The Tower where we have pregame meals before every league match at 3 p.m.  Then, we headed back over the gym to watch film on IPFW and scout the Denver vs. South Dakota match.  What an exciting match that turned out to be with Denver being down two sets to zero going into the third, and end up winning the next three sets, advancing them to the championship the next day.  After that, we had 45 minutes to warm up for our match.  I remember myself and the rest of my teammates being so calm but so excited and determined to win.  We knew IPFW was a strong team and they were not going to give us anything, so starting the match we talked about that in the huddle and emphasized communication, insane defense, and controlling our side of the court.  We knew each of those things would allow us to beat the other team.  Sure enough, IPFW came out strong and were just as determined to win as we were.  We stuck to our game plan and all stayed on the same page throughout the whole match and fought hard to win.  We were going to the CHAMPIONSHIP!!

After the match was over I was so proud, happy, excited, and grateful that I had another day to play with my team.  I was also so exhausted from going five hard sets with IPFW that I went straight home, ate supper, and went to bed.

Sunday, November 24:
Today was the big day; the day my teammates and I would be competing for a bid to the NCAA Tournament!  It was a really quick turnaround from playing last night to having to be at the gym by 10 a.m. for serve and pass.  Even with this, I was not tired, but ready to play.  After serve and pass, we ate, hung out in the locker room, watched film, hung out in the locker room some more, then 45 minutes before game time, we took the court to warm up.  Our fans did an amazing job all weekend providing us with a fun and energetic atmosphere to warm up and play in and it was no different today.  They were cheering us on the entire time.  The energy level on the team was high as well which was a good sign for us! We all seemed calm and focused; knowing that we could potentially make school history.  I think this was in the back of all of our minds the entire match along with our game plan from the night before- stay focused, communicate, play good defense, and control our side of the court.  We again did these things and point-by-point, took control of each set and won! 

To be a part of such an influential team for our school is an awesome feeling.  From being the first volleyball team to win a league title last year to winning it again this year along with being the first team ever to get a bid to the NCAA, it is just such an honor and great experience to be part of something like that.  I am really looking forward for our upcoming preparations for the NCAA Tournament and going in with the mindset that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  This team can clearly do great things, and I cannot wait to compete again!

I would like to congratulate all of the teams in The Summit League for a great season and especially the ones who made the tournament.  We have all pushed each other to become better players and to make this league better as well.  Good luck to all of the seniors from each team and like me, I am sure you all will never forget your time and dedication to your school’s program.  Thank you again to IUPUI for hosting the tournament and for everyone’s hard work throughout.  My team and I hope to represent The Summit League in the NCAA Tournament as best we can! Go Jags!

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Swimming & Diving Championships, Feb. 19-22 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

November 20, 2013

Denver Women’s Golf Team Gives Back to the Community

The University of Denver women’s golf team visited the Children’s Hospital of Aurora last week going room to room to meet the youth patients and spend some time getting to know them. The Pioneers enjoyed constructing crafts and meeting the children. The student-athletes and coaches know the importance of community serving and the kids enjoyed their company while taking photos with the team.
 “We as a team love the opportunity to serve and we were inspired by the kids and their courage and positive attitudes,” said associate head coach Erik Billinger.

The Pioneers also understand the importance of education with the youth, volunteering with Reading Partners, a nonprofit organization. A simple act like reading to a child can mean the world to the kids and in turn have an impact on the student-athletes. Last Friday, the team volunteered through Reading Partners, a nonprofit and traveled to the Garden Place Academy, just off Lincoln Street, to read to several third and fourth grade students.

November 19, 2013

My Championship Experience - Men's Soccer Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

Western Illinois senior Husref Jupic writes about his experience at the 2013 Summit League Men's Soccer Championship:
Thursday, November 14
I woke up and attended class at 11 a.m. just as I’ve done each and every Thursday all semester long, but there was something different about that day. It was tourney time! I sat there in class trying to be attentive, but there were other things on my mind. Attaining a third straight Summit League title was all that I could think about. After class I took my daily nap and headed out to the field for training. The team was buzzing with excitement for the ever-impending Summit League tournament game. We had a solid training session and headed back to get ready for the Summit League banquet.

I was proud to be a part of Western Illinois Athletics because they did a great job of hosting the dinner. My teammates and I maxed out on pasta and breadsticks to gain the carbohydrates necessary for our match against Oral Roberts. Next it was time for the awards to be given out. I was fortunate enough to be named to the First Team All-Summit League. It was a little awkward taking the First Team picture, as I was the only player not from Denver on the squad. After the banquet we had a quick team meeting and I headed back to my apartment to get a good night’s sleep for the game ahead.

Friday, November 15
Friday was game day. It was the beginning of our journey to win our third straight Summit League title and we could not have been more ready. We had been preparing all year long for this moment and my teammates and I were anxious to get on the field and showcase our abilities. We had lost to Oral Roberts earlier in the season 2-0 after giving up two early goals, so we were also ecstatic for the opportunity to redeem ourselves in the tournament. We had a team breakfast at 10 a.m. and began to mentally prepare ourselves for the task at hand. Denver and IUPUI played before us and when we learned that Denver won the game 5-0 we had extra motivation to win our game against Oral Roberts so we could play Denver, who had beaten us 2-1 in the regular season.

Like many games throughout the year, we gave up an early goal to ORU in the first half but we responded well and never put our heads down. We were able to get a goal back by half time and ended the first 45 minutes tied at 1-1. We started off very strong in the second half and scored two goals in a span of five minutes to go up 3-1. In the dying minutes of the game there was a bit of a wrestling match between the two squads but that stuff happens from time to time with emotions running high and everything on the line. From there our fans got behind us and willed us to a 3-1 victory. We were pleased with our performance and excited to be one step closer to our third straight Summit League title.

Saturday, November 16
On Saturday we met for a light training session that was moved indoors due to inclement weather. We had a nice little jog and stretch, got some touches on the ball, and talked about how we would play against Denver in the Summit League Final. We were well aware of the challenge that lied ahead but we were coming together as a team at the right time as we tend to do each year come tourney time. We knew that we would have a full fan base behind us on our home field and I was overjoyed at the thought of playing my last home game wearing the Western Illinois soccer jersey.

Sunday, November 17
We had gotten word that there might be some severe weather come game time but severe might have been an understatement. I’ve heard rumors that on our walk from the locker room to the field that one of the smaller freshman was nearly swept away by a strong gust of wind. Whoever dubbed Chicago as the “Windy City” clearly has never visited Macomb, Illinois. Because of the wind and lightning there was a 45 minute delay to the game but nothing could deter or focus on the prize ahead of us. We paid no mind to the elements, had a solid warm up, and took the field for kickoff.

The first half was fairly even, both teams having decent looks at goal, but we entered halftime knotted at zeros. We were pleased with the first half because our Achilles heel all season long had been giving up an early goal and having to overcome a deficit. Coach Johnson gave us a good talking to at halftime, encouraging each player to lift their play higher than they had all season long. The second half was a lot like the first, in that both teams had their chances. Unfortunately for us, Denver went up in the 51st minute on a good cross and better finish. We applied pressure for the remainder of the game, hitting the wrong side of the post in the 70th minute, but couldn’t get a goal past Denver’s stingy defense.

The loss was an especially difficult one to swallow for myself as well as the other three seniors on the squad. Watching another team lift the Summit League trophy on our home field was one of the worst feelings in the world. After awards were handed out to individuals and teams I sat there in disbelief that my career had just come to an end. I was consoled by my teammates who met me with gratitude for all of the blood, sweat, and tears I have put into the program. I couldn’t be prouder to have played four years for Western Illinois. Coach Johnson let all the seniors know, as he does each year, that once you’re a Leatherneck you’re always a Leatherneck.

On behalf of Western Illinois and the rest of The Summit League I wish nothing but the best for Denver in the NCAA tournament.

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Volleyball Championship, Nov. 22-23 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.