December 11, 2014

Western Illinois Volunteers at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Macomb

Members from 10 Western Illinois sports took part in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Macomb's annual Christmas party. The event, held on Sunday (December 7), involved games, face painting and baking cookies.

Organized by Lydia Smith (track and field) and with the help of the director of Big Brothers Big Sister of Macomb, 30 Leathernecks helped wrap presents and were handed out by Santa.

Members of Western Illinois' track and field, golf, tennis, softball, baseball, soccer, football and cheerleading programs were present as Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrated Christmas and made Christmas cards for the retirement home.

South Dakota SAAC's "Share Your Sole" Shoe Drive Collects 600 Shoes

More than 600 pairs of gently used shoes were collected the past two weeks to be donated to the Native American Heritage Association (NAHA). The donated shoes were gathered as a part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s “Share Your Sole” shoe drive. This year’s shoe drive effort doubled last year’s donation total.

SAAC set up donation boxes around campus and collected shoes at several athletic events throughout the month. The shoes will be sent to Blackhawk, S.D., in the coming weeks to be delivered to NAHA.

December 03, 2014

#SummitMBB Trio Nominated for NABC Good Works Team

Denver's Brett Olson

INDIANAPOLIS – Denver’s Brett Olson, Omaha’s Kyler Erickson and South Dakota’s Brandon Bos represent The Summit League among the 158 student-athletes named by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and Allstate Insurance Company as nominees for the 2015 Good Works Team.

This prestigious community service award recognizes a distinguished group of student-athletes who have demonstrated a commitment to enriching the lives of others and contributing to the greater good in their communities.

College sports information directors and basketball coaches across the country nominated players who exhibit exceptional leadership skills and an unwavering commitment to volunteerism. From the 158 NABC nominees, distinguished voting panels will select five student-athletes from the NCAA® Division I level. The final roster of 20 award recipients will be unveiled in February.

Former Duke University student-athlete, two-time NCAA champion and seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill will headline the Allstate NABC Good Works Team® voting panel.

More information about the Allstate NABC Good Works Team® and the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team® is available at and

DU's Wirth, SDSU's Stuart Nominated for WBCA Allstate Good Works Team

2015 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team®

DU's Theresa Wirth

Denver's Theresa Wirth and South Dakota State's Megan Stuart were named two of the 251 nominees for 2015 Allstate Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Teams® Wednesday.

Wirth, a Pioneer forward on the court, spends her time off the court volunteering for a number of organizations. She has served meals at the Denver Rescue Mission, visits children at Children’s Hospital Colorado and talks to students at local elementary schools about being a collegiate student-athlete. During the summer of 2013 Wirth interned with Special Olympics Colorado and volunteered at a number of their events. She cooks meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Charities and helped get Athletes in Action recognized as an official club on the University of Denver campus.

Stuart spent this past summer as an intern with the Sanford Arts in Healthcare at the Sioux Falls Sanford Hospital.

A biology pre-medicine and studio arts double major, Stuart created art—such as painting, paper-crane folding, friendship bracelet making, doodling and molding clay—with cancer patients, family members and healthcare employees at the Sanford Cancer Center and the Sanford Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Hospital Healing Arts program.

SDSU's Megan Stuart
She also helped with programs such as the Survivor's Picnic, The Kindness Challenge and Bottles of Hope workshops. Each program supports cancer survivors and their families by using art as a form of healing. 

As sophomore, Stuart completed a medical mission to Kenya, working with International Medical Aid distributing hygienic supplies to local schools and taught students how to wash their hands and brush their teeth. She also helped paint an orphanage. 

With the Jackrabbit basketball team and as a three-year member of SAAC, Stuart has volunteered at the Special Olympics softball tournament, helped with the Brookings area Harvest Table, participated in Project Joy by purchasing and delivering gifts to local families, read at local elementary schools and decorated a local nursing home for SDSU’s Hobo Day weekend.

This prestigious community service award recognizes a distinguished group of student-athletes who have demonstrated a commitment to enriching the lives of others and contributing to the greater good in their communities.

For the third year, the Allstate WBCA and NABC Good Works Teams® help spotlight the off-the-court good works and service to others that often goes unnoticed and unrewarded. From creating organizations benefitting at-risk youth to volunteering overseas to help impoverished communities, there are countless remarkable stories of service among this year’s group of nominees. As full-time students and athletes, these players choose to dedicate their limited free time to improving the lives of those around them.

Members of the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team® will be recognized during the 2015 WBCA Convention and at the 2015 NCAA Women’s Final Four® in Tampa Bay, and will also participate in a local community project.

December 02, 2014

IUPUI's Laird to Compete in FINA World Championships

Beginning on Dec. 3, IUPUI women's swimmer Alexus Laird will represent Seychelles when she competes in the 2014 FINA World Swimming Championships.

The FINA World Swimming Championships take place Dec. 3-7, and Laird will compete in the 50 free, 100 free, 50 back, 100 back, 200 back, 4x50 mixed freestyle relay and the 4x50 mixed medley relay.

Laird's first event will be the 100 back, which takes place at 2:00 a.m. in Indianapolis on Wednesday. Laird recently just clocked a NCAA 'B' cut time in the event for the second straight year, and she is the only swimmer in program history to post a NCAA 'B' cut time.

in the 2014 FINA World Swimming Championships.

November 24, 2014

My Championship Experience – 2014 Volleyball Edition

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

Fort Wayne red-shirt junior Hailie Ripley writes about her experience at the 2014 Summit League Volleyball Championship:

The Summit League Tournament is what I have lived for throughout my career at IPFW.  Once one season came to a close whether the victory was sweet or the loss was upsetting, I was already focusing on what it was going to take to get back to the tournament the following season.  Every grueling practice, ache, and pain from spring to the start of season was dulled by my motivation to succeed. The Summit League Championship was always first on my list of goals.

Going into my senior year, this Summit League Tournament had a whole new meaning to me.  Not only because my collegiate career was coming to an end, but that this season had been a true test for me.  A week before league play, I got really sick and felt that I lost everything I had trained for over the past couple years.  I ended up having to get a major surgery, and the doctor was skeptical about my return and questioned if I would even be able to play at all this season.  I had my doubts as well.  The first few days after surgery were horrible.  I could barely get myself out of bed without being in unbearable pain.  However as the days went on, I slowly improved.  Once I came back to IPFW and saw my team, I knew that I owed it to them to try my hardest to return.  It was hard.  I was in pain, but I believed that I could do it.  Most importantly, they believed that I could do it too.  I was able to play a few points here and there, and I started to feel like myself again. By the time the tournament rolled around, I finally felt like everything I fought for was beginning to pay off. 

Thursday, Nov. 20th

The banquet marks the start of what we have all been waiting for.  Everyone was dolled up, excited, and ready to celebrate our individual and team accomplishments so far this season. Even with the competitive nature of the tournament, the banquet always seems to have a sense of unity.   We all made it to the tournament.  It is something we should all be proud of!  Anything could happen at this point, but only one team will win and advance to the NCAA Tournament.  As much as we all hate to lose, we set aside our rivalries and cheer that team on, because we want to make a name for The Summit League.  We may not be the biggest league, but we have strong players and the will to win.  We [IPFW] took Iowa State to five sets my sophomore year, and I cannot wait to see a Summit League team win in the first round.  Let’s make this year the year to win! 

Friday, Nov. 21st

I woke up Friday morning ready to go.  It was game day, and we knew South Dakota would be a battle.  They have a solid team with great players, but so do we.  Nonetheless, we were the underdogs.  Being the last seed, we had nothing to lose. We spent the week telling underdog success stories to instill belief and confidence.  A quote we kept saying was, “we don’t need easy. We just need possible.”  If we put ourselves in a position to win, we could do it!  

South Dakota took the first two sets 25-23.  Each team was fighting hard, and even though we were down 2-0, we were still optimistic.  We just needed to make a few adjustments and play our game.  In the beginning of the third set, I landed wrong and hurt my knee.  I gave it my all to be able to return to the court, but I faced setback after setback.  It was enough for me to stop playing, but it also gave my teammates something to fight for.  We won that third set!  It was one step closer to our goal, and a special moment happened that none of you would have seen.  Emily Spencer told me that the team won that set for me.  My dreams of playing were over, but the team kept my dreams of winning the tournament alive just a little bit longer.   Each team kept battling, but South Dakota ended up on top.

I hate losing, but losing in a game like that makes it more manageable.  This season did not go how we all wanted it to, but we learned a lot about ourselves. We will all face adversity and times of hardship, but sticking together and believing in one another makes things easier to face.  I would not be where I am if I did not have my team by my side through all of it.   We are all lucky enough to have such a strong support system, and hopefully our team and friendships will last a lifetime.

Good luck Denver in the NCAA Tournament! Make The Summit League proud!  We are all rooting for you!

Hailie Ripley

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, Feb. 18-21 and throughout the 2014-15 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

November 11, 2014

My Championship Experience - 2014 Women'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.

Hello and welcome to the 2014 Summit League Women’s Soccer Championships! My name is Samantha Harder and I have the pleasure of recording my experiences throughout the duration of this year’s tournament.  I am a senior defender and I have to honor of playing for the University of Denver.  This is my fourth conference tournament, my second Summit League Tournament.

This year at the tournament my team will be joined by South Dakota State, North Dakota State, and IUPUI.

Today was our last prep day before the tournament begins and we are all very excited.  This morning we trained at our normal time making some final preparations and working out some kinks before the tournament begins tomorrow.  Training was good and the energy was high, as the team is getting very excited for the chance to defend the title that we won last year.  In addition to training and classes, we had the conference banquet this evening in which they announced the awards for the year and we enjoyed each other’s company and a delicious dinner of pasta, salad, and chicken, the perfect pregame meal!  After the awards were announced and the speeches were given we all went our separate ways and began physically and mentally preparing for the games ahead, starting with getting a good night’s sleep.  Congratulations to South Dakota State on winning the regular season championship, as well as a big congrats to all the players and coaches who received awards.  Good night and good luck to all!

Waking up knowing it’s game day is quite possibly the best feeling in the world.  This morning we had team breakfast in the locker room and sat around and chatted for a while about the excitement of the game before people headed off to their first and only classes of the day.  Because we are at home our preparations are a little bit different than they would be on the road.  When classes were finished at noon we had a cardio spike, just a way for us to get our legs moving and our hearts pumping to help prepare our bodies for the big game.  Following the cardio spike, we enjoyed a wonderful team lunch at Mod Market just down the road from campus and then we all went on our way to get some pregame naps in.  Upon arriving to the locker room for pregame routines and prep, we all changed into our warm up gear and began listening to music to get us pumped up. We engaged in our traditional pregame dance party and before we knew it, it was ready to head out to the field and begin warming up.  Excited to play, we all were anxious to hear the starting lineups.  The game began and was a battle from the very first whistle; neither team was able to find the breakthrough and we went into the locker room 0-0 at halftime.  We heard from our coaches on what we needed to fix and headed back out excited to find a way to win the game.  The game continued and we ended up winning 1-0 off a goal from one of the sophomores on our team.  We were going to the championship!! 

Additionally today, North Dakota State and South Dakota State battled hard and South Dakota State ended up coming out on top with a 2-1 win.  I didn’t get to see the game but from what I heard it was a great game to watch! 

The day after a game is never easy to wake up on.  But feeling fatigued and sore didn’t bother us much because we were still very excited to be moving on to the championship game.  We all enjoyed some down time on our own and had to report to training at 1:45 p.m.  Training was light as it was focused on regeneration and just staying mentally sharp for the game tomorrow.  Following our afternoon practice we had a wonderful team dinner at the great restaurant called Steakhouse 10 in Denver.  It was delicious and great spending time with the team.  After dinner, it was time to head home and get some sleep.  After all, we have a rather big game to play tomorrow!

Championship Game Day!

The excitement on a day like this is incredible.  We all had breakfast on our own and spent some time getting our minds right and focused for the war ahead.  As we reported to the Ritchie Center at school to begin our pregame prep including rolling out and getting treatment the nerves began to set in, as we all knew what was at stake today.  We were playing for the right to play again.  The game began and our energy was flying.  Both teams came out strong but we were able to find the back of the net about halfway through the first half off a corner kick and header from the same teammate who scored in the first game of the weekend!  She was on fire and we were all excited!  We went into the locker room at half time and again heard from our coaches.  They were very pleased with how we were playing and we all agreed our focus needed to be on defense from this point on; if we didn’t give up a goal we would win the game.  We thought we were on our way to being crowned back-to-back Summit League Champions as the clock was winding down but with 31 seconds remaining South Dakota State tied it up and the game changed.  We went into overtime and double overtime and neither team could find the breakthrough, so the game would be decided by a penalty shootout.  Unfortunately for us, SDSU’s goalkeeper saved our first PK while they scored theirs.  We went back and forth until our goalie came up with a huge save in the third round and we were tied back up.  It went into sudden death; the first team to miss would lose.  Again SDSU’s goalie made a save on the sixth round and then they scored their 6th round shot.  That was it, the game was over and we had lost.  With our hearts broken and our season over we had to congratulate SDSU on a good game and battling until the very last whistle. 

Coming away from this bittersweet weekend it was a great experience and we are so thankful to have had to opportunity to get to play two more home games this year.  On behalf of my whole team and the University of Denver we would like to thank all of the teams for coming out and helping make this tournament so successful.  Best of luck to South Dakota State as they represent The Summit League in the NCAA Tournament. 

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s Soccer Championship, Nov. 13/15 and throughout the 2014-15 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.