Dear Bobcat Nation –
Never been done before.
These three statements conjure up some of my thoughts after experiencing a Fall sports season like the one Lees-McRae College and its athletic department have witnessed. All five Fall sports teams have qualified for the NCAA Tournament this year!!!!
Let that sink in and realize that men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball are amongst the very best in the country at the NCAA Division II level. This is rare and special. It’s a tribute to the faculty and staff, coaching staff and the student-athletes.
On many college campuses, athletic directors are pleased over having a team qualify for post-season play. For me this is uncharted territory, and I thought I would simply share with you my thoughts and emotions of a week filled with so many ups and downs.
Last weekend we watched the cross country teams compete with tremendous heart in the NCAA Regionals — men’s soccer coming so close but losing on Sunday, while the women captured their first conference championship in a decade, setting up a crazy week.
On Tuesday night, our No. 1 seeded women’s volleyball team hosted the 8th seeded Belmont Abbey Crusaders. It was a complete nail-biter going five sets and our Bobcats coming out on top. In other words, it was a wake-up call!
On Wednesday, our men’s soccer team traveled to Anderson, SC to take on No. 3 seed and a top 15 men’s soccer program in the Trojans. We scored two goals in the first 20 minutes and were sitting on Easy Street, until our nerves started playing with our emotions. We gave up two goals and went to overtime, not good for any AD! But our freshman magic of Scott Alford and James Smith provided a goal with :35 seconds left in the first overtime to win.
And on Friday for a brief moment, there was this scenario playing out . . .
- Women’s soccer in Hickory, playing Columbus State in 1st round of the NCAA tournament with a 1-0 lead
- Men’s soccer in Hartsville, SC, playing No. 10 Flagler and tied at 1, in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament
- Women’s volleyball hosting King in Banner Elk, NC and up 2-0 in the semifinal match of the Conference Carolinas tournament
- Men’s basketball matching up against Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
Sadly, the run ended for men’s and women’s soccer, but not without some great memories of a wonderful season. Men’s basketball played tough against App, but lost. However, women’s volleyball marched on to their date with Queens in the Conference Championship on Sunday.
With a packed Williams Gymnasium, our women’s volleyball team cruised by the Royals in three games, won their 13th conference championship in 14 years and will now advance to the NCAA Tournament!!! Megan Epperson was named Tournament MVP, Coach Wes Schneider was named Coach of the Year and Freshman Sariah Suryadevara was named Co-Freshman of the Year.
After almost 1,000 miles in my car this week, I have had plenty of time to reflect on what this week has meant to me as well as the College. We have competed at our best, and for the hard work and dedication that goes into being a team, we have been truly rewarded by having the opportunity to play in the post-season tournaments showcasing our character, talents and development. I know this: those young people will be able to share their story with their grand-kids one day and look back on this week as very memorable time in their lives.
It sure will be for me.
Again, thank you for your support, encouragement, time and dedication to making this possible.