During 2016-2017, Blackburn College’s athletic teams fought to endure a nearly six-month season from the time open gyms began in early September until their final games in February.
The men’s basketball team started their season on a positive note by winning their first two games. The men looked strong all season and remained consistent, never suffering a losing streak of more than three games. However, they also never experienced a winning streak longer than three games. This pattern led them to a 12-13 record and 9-9 in the SLIAC conference. The Beavers found themselves in hopeful playoff contention late in the season, but were unable to advance into tournament play as they dropped three of their last four conference games and finished sixth in the conference. Blackburn also said goodbye to senior Chris Davis, the team’s leading scorer who averaged 13.9 points per game. Davis was missed in the final three games of the season after breaking his thumb on an awkward landing in a game against Westminster. The Beavers also graduated Damon Goodloe Jr., Jake Maestranzi, DeAndre Manuel and Willie Orange.
The women’s basketball team was unable to duplicate the men’s success as they struggled to find an identity and connect as a team on the court, finishing the season 1-22. Their lone win came against SLIAC rival MacMurray in a thrilling nail-biter. The team duked it out the entire game, but with less than one second to go, Aleisha Stiltner – who finished with 27 points – sunk a three-pointer to seal the victory by the Beavers. The team lost only Stiltner to graduation, but as they took part in postseason workouts, discovered that their second year head coach Katie Fonseca would not be returning as she accepted a coaching position in her home state of Arizona.
During the 2016 fall sports season at Blackburn, three teams experienced many ups and downs throughout their seasons but showed great fight and determination, representing the college with tremendous character and heart.
The men’s soccer team began their season with two straight losses but regained their footing when they captured their first win of the season against Lincoln Christian University by a score of 5-2. As the season went on, the men faced many tough opponents but fought their way to a 6-9-3 record overall and 3-5-1 in the conference. The record, however, does not tell the whole story as five of their nine losses were well played games that they fell just short in, dropping them by just one goal. The Beavers’ leading scorers were freshman Lane DePratt and junior Lucas Rinderer. The team will be returning most of its players from the 2016 campaign as there were only three seniors: goalkeeper Jourdan Greene, Nate Kinnison and Chris O’Connor.
The women’s soccer team will also be returning several members from this season, losing seniors Christy Hobbs and Anneliese Darrow to graduation. The Beavers were forced to overcome adversity as an injury to freshman goalkeeper Ashley Hoban forced them to make multiple shifts to their starting 11, including moving the team’s leading goal scorer Maya March from forward to goalie. Despite the challenges, they fought their way to a 5-13-1 record. After the season, head coach Tim Gould stepped down to accept a coaching position elsewhere and Sohaila Akhavein was hired in late March to take over as the new head coach for the upcoming season.
Under first-year head coach Jim Hunstein, the Blackburn volleyball team battled throughout most of the year as they struggled to find an identity, finishing the season with a 1-27 record and going winless in the conference. Marlee Lindstrom, the sole senior, wrapped up a phenomenal three-year career at Blackburn as she broke the 1,000 career digs mark in an early season contest, finishing with 1,379.
*The author played for the women’s basketball team.