And even though we’ll mostly pay attention to the major college football and basketball reams, lesser-known teams from around the area are also poised to deliver great seasons.
Instead of debating whether the big teams will be good, bad or ugly, take a look at some smaller, less-talked-about programs that should be good.
College of Mount St. Joseph
Nothing marks the arrival of fall like football season at the Mount. Expectations are high this year for Rod Huber’s Lions.
The team went 9-2 last year, finishing second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, and is picked to finish second again by the preseason coaches poll. MSJ has also garnered some interest nationally, receiving votes for the D3football.com preseason Top 25 poll. But even with all the praise for the football team, it might not be the best squad on campus. That title could very well go to the women’s volleyball team. Coming off a regular season conference title and a loss in the conference tournament championship, it’s safe to say last year was full of highs and lows for the Lady Lions. But in 2008 MSJ volleyball will look to rebound and live up to their first place HCAC preseason poll.
Thomas More College
As the fall athletic season begins, one team to watch out for is the Thomas More men’s golf squad.
The golfin’ Saints are coming off their highest finish ever in the Presidents Athletic Conference, placing a solid second. With talented young players Marty Arnzen (sophomore) and Jacob Bowman (freshman) earning first- and second-team honors, respectively, the Saints should be poised to grow on their success. Also in the fall be sure to watch the men’s and women’s soccer teams. Both are returning conference players of the year: junior Brittany Yeggy for the women and senior Garry Sheahan for the men. The men won their first-ever postseason game last year, and the women were conference champs in 2006 and 2007 but came up short in the tournament both years, thus missing the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
You’ll have to wait until winter, however, to see what could be the most exciting team on campus. The women’s basketball team has been tearing through opponents the past two years, and they look to do it again. Coming off a 29-1 season in which they hosted the NCAA Division III tournament, the Lady Saints hope to three-peat as regular season champs and repeat as tournament champs. All- American senior guard Jaymen Thiem returns along with Nicole Dickman, who led the team in scoring in its final game last year, a second-round NCAA loss.
Everyone knows about XU’s basketball team and its quest to advance past the Elite Eight one of these years.
Every year the Muskies put out great teams, but where’s the love for the men’s tennis team? Last year these Musketeers won the Atlantic 10 tourney and made their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. Even though they lost in the first round, they’ll look to improve on their record-setting season led by the returning A-10 Most Outstanding Performer, Doug Matthews, and A-10 Coach of the Year Eric Toth.
University of Cincinnati
It’s appropriate to take a break from Bearcat football mania to give other UC teams some love. Take the UC baseball team, which like Xavier lost in a conference championship and just missed an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. Or how about sophomore swimmer Josh Schneider, who after performing well in the Big East tournament competed in the NCAA championships, where he picked up All-American honors.
You likely already know that the UC basketball team made gigantic strides this offseason and will show up this winter looking more like its former self, thanks to Mick Cronin’s most impressive recruiting class to date. But do you know about the volleyball team’s recruiting class? Yeah, didn’t think so. The Bearcat volleyball team has the 15th ranked recruiting class in the nation, along with the returning top Big East freshman, Stephanie Niemer. The lineup should help propel the Cats past the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, where they bowed out last year.
CHRIS BOYER is a junior at Centre College in Danville, Ky.