Cougar Athletics Year in Review
Three words that perfectly sum up the 2011-12 season for every Cougar student-athlete and coach, as the University of Sioux completed its final year of NCAA D-II reclassification before joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference this fall.
During the NCAA D-II transitional year, Cougar athletic squads lacked a conference, were ineligible for the postseason and played the majority of their contests on the road. In fact, only 76 of USF's 298 total athletic competitions were played at home (26 percent). USF teams traveled to 16 states this season, including Florida, Nevada and Arizona. The Cougars also faced off against several NCAA D-I opponents; University of Arizona, McNeese State, University of Arizona, University of North Dakota and South Dakota State among them.
For women's soccer rising sophomore Desiree Parmenter, last season was filled with exciting travel experiences that included a season-opening trip to New Mexico. Parmenter put together a solid freshman campaign that saw her finish second on the team in points (15) and goals (6).
"The saying, 'birds of a feather flock together' is a good way to describe last season," Parmenter said. "We faced some adversity early on, but fought through it as a team and made adjustments to better execute our game plan and I think we showed NCAA D-II teams that we belong here."
The Cougars will open 2012 the season against Augustana College.
"I'm so excited to play Augie in our first NSIC match," Parmenter added. "My motto for next season is to "Make it Happen and Play for Each Other."
The Cougar nine opened the season on a 20-game road swing and played what is regarded as the toughest schedule in the history of the Sioux Falls baseball program. Despite the challenging schedule (and losing their final eight games to rainouts), the Cougars went 10-29 with wins over no. 5 Minnesota-State Mankato and Augustana College. According to sophomore backstop Dylan Dwyer, the season was "a real eye opener, but in a very good way."
"Our team got firsthand look at how solid NCAA D-II and NSIC competition is going to be and now we know where we need to be to be competitive," Dwyer said. "We aren't quite there yet, but hopefully this provisional season will make a big difference next year when we are playing NSIC baseball."
The USF softball team got off to a hot start with a 10-4 mark, which equaled their win total from a season year ago. But, the Cougars' bats went cold upon return from the spring break trip as the team dropped four straight to Wayne State and Augustana before suffering a road sweep at former rival Northwestern College to fall to 10-10 overall. USF's up and down season concluded on a high note with a Senior Day sweep of Dakota States and the Cougars finished with a record of 15-19.
"Softball this year was personally a very interesting and humbling experience," said sophomore Kellen Dewey, who joined the Cougars this season after a standout (.439/.482/.690) freshman year at Grand Rapids Community College. "I definitely did not have the year I wanted to have statistically but I learned so much about how important a positive attitude can be."
The season on the road (the Cougars played 28 of 34 games away from Sioux Falls) was a challenge for Dewey, whose season slash line of .221/.241/.346 was bookended by solid plate performances versus Wisconsin-Parkside (2-for-3, 2 R, 1 RBI) and Dakota State (2-for-4, 2 R, 1 RBI).
"I realized that I can't get down about not hitting or making errors," Dewey added. "Instead, I just have to learn from my mistakes and strive to be better for next season. I can't wait to hit the batting cages this summer so that I can help my team in the future."
Dewey also mentioned several positives that she has taken away from this season.
"As for the team, I am very proud that we stuck together even through our slumps...I'll never forget laughing during the long bus rides and just having fun," she said. "All of the coaches and girls have had such a huge impact on my first year here at USF and even though we didn't have the best season, I know next year we are all going to come out swinging with revenge and dedication."
The Road Warriors trophy goes to the women's tennis team, who played 10 of 11 matches on the road. Coach Grebin's squad endured freak injuries, match postponements, rain-outs and long bus rides, not to mention a winter practice schedule that put them on the court from 10 p.m. to midnight on school nights.
While the team finished the year at 1-10, sophomores Rachel Hussey and Julia Iversen posted an impressive 5-2 record in doubles.
"We knew the move from NAIA to NCAA Division II would be a challenge and this was a great learning season for us," Hussey said. "There is no doubt in my mind with our incoming freshmen class and the hard work our returners are going to put in this summer and fall that we will have a very different and successful season next year."
"We have shared so many great memories from our spring break trip in Florida and through driving in blizzards in Fargo," she added. "Through our struggles this season we always were positive and I know that our perseverance will land us a great season next year!"
Men's basketball forward David Maxwell enjoyed a road slate that included a trip to the "Dome of Doom" to face NCAA D-I University of Wyoming but is more than ready for USF to be able to call the NSIC home.
"Overall, I thought this was a very successful year for USF athletics," the rising senior said. "I can't explain how excited our team is to be able to play in the NSIC next year and get a chance to play more games at the Stewart Center while competing for a conference title."
As the USF athletic department winds down this NCAA provisional season along with the rest of the University community, it is hard to ignore the impact of the outstanding teams and individual student-athletes who have provided too many memorable moments to count this year.
If you were to type "compete" in the thesaurus.com search engine, the first definition is "to go up against in contest." The nomadic season behind them, USF student-athletes are primed and ready to go up against the best that both the NCAA Division II and the NSIC has to offer.
Some other 2011-12 highlights that you probably missed during USF's transitional season:
USF softball junior third baseman Priscilla Quintana quietly had a stellar season. The Iowa Lakes CC transfer tallied a slash line of .387/.430/.613 with a team-leading 22 RBI and 65 total bases. Quintana's five home runs also tied the school's single season record.
Cagers Skyler Bloch and Betsy Hildreth both joined the 1,000 point club.
Pitcher Brady Nolz graduated as USF's new all-time leader in innings pitched (196.1).
Men's junior golfer Levi Smith Sioux Falls fired a school record 66 en route to claiming the individual title at the Bob Writz Invitational in Lakewood, Colo.
Four-year women's soccer standout Tasia Murray tied the school's career goal record (29).
Recent graduate and two-year volleyball team captain Alyssa Chambers is the new all-time career blocks leader (566).