Sunday, October 20, 2013

Disappointing end to magical season for Glenville State

For the second time in three seasons, the NCAA Division II women's team from Glenville State reached the national tournament. And this time, the Pioneers advanced through one round with a 111-86 rout of Shaw.

Coach Bunky Harkleroad and his squad couldn't get past California (Pa.) in their next game, however, losing 81-79 to finish with a 27-4 record. That included a 21-1 mark in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, good enough for the regular season title. Glenville State finished four games ahead of West Liberty.

Here are some highlights of the Pioneers' season:

  • Averaged 95.3 points to lead all NCAA divisions again, and that average increased to 99.3 in conference play.
  • Ginny Mills led four players who averaged double figures, finishing with 19 points per game. The others were Kenyona Simmons (15.0 ppg), Ashleigh Fossett (12.6) and Kenyell Goodson (10.9).
  • In all, 10 players got run in all 31 games as Coach Harkleroad took advantage of perhaps the best depth he's had in his tenure at Glenville State.
Now, for the changes this year, the most surprising of which is the departure of Coach Harkleroad. He announced his resignation Oct. 9, so he could take over as head coach at Division I Sacramento State, which lost its coach a couple of weeks previously to San Jose State.

The dominoes also cost the Pioneers their assistant coach, with former player Kim Stephens joining Coach Harkleroad on the left coast.

Those that know of my interest (Devotion? Obsession?) with Glenville State asked how I felt about this turn of events. Well, certainly, the timing wasn't perfect for anyone, and I'm going to miss having Coach Harkleroad on my side of the Mississippi River. And yet it's hard to deny this is an exciting time for him and The System, since this will be the first time the creation of David Arseneault has reached NCAA Division I. I haven't spoke with Coach Harkleroad about this, but I've heard he is planning to bring this wonderful, titillating style to the Hornets.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance before the season to check in with him, to see how he's going out there. It is kind of hard to picture someone leaving "Mountain Mama" for Cali, but I'm sure he'll do great.

His replacement is a familiar face with the program, one-time assistant Charles Marshall. He will lead Glenville State into its new conference, the Mountain East Conference. The new schedule begins for real Nov. 8 against Virginia Union.

Of course, that is just about a week after the unofficial start, when the Pioneers travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play Duke in an exhibition. That is slated for Oct. 30, and yes, I plan to be in attendance.

Can't wait!

Grinnell finishes 17-6, comes up short of title game

One of the few downsides of being a fan of the Grinnell Pioneers is the brutal, Darwinism-like NCAA Division III schedule they are forced to play. What do I mean?

Well, this past season, Grinnell finished 17-6 overall record and ended up second in the Midwest Conference, one game behind St. Norbert. All that guaranteed coach David Arseneault and his assistant, son Dave Jr., was a trip to the conference tournament, where only the top four teams make play.

A 92-89 loss to Carroll in the opening round (semifinals?) ended the Pioneers' season much sooner than I would have liked, leaving me without the opportunity to follow one of my favorite teams until the following November.

Well, it's nearly here, so I figured now would be as good a time as any to recap an amazing journey for Coach A and the boys in 2012-13:

  • Obviously, any discussion about Grinnell starts with Jack Taylor, the 138-point man. He put up that amazing avalanche of points in the third game of year, way back on Nov. 20, in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College. His point total wasn't the only record set that night at Darby Gym; Taylor made 52-of-108 shots from the field, including 27-of-71 from beyond the 3-point line. Unfortunately, he played in only 12 of the 23 games; he broke a bone in his arm in a 119-117 victory over Cornell College on Jan. 9 and missed the remainder of the season.
  • Once again, Grinnell led all divisions of the NCAA with an average of 112.3 points. The Pioneers attempted nearly 54 3-pointers in each game and averaged almost 87 shots total.
Taylor is back and ready to go, as are three of the other top five scorers from a year ago. There also are seven freshmen ready to step in to run The System, including guard Kyle Parker, who garnered some looks from Division I schools before deciding on Grinnell. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with this group.

The season begins for real Nov. 15, at home against Finlandia University.