Valley teams competed in a slew of nationally-contested meets this weekend in the biggest week of the year for the sport.
A number of squads competed on Friday in the Bradley Pink Classic, named in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness for the month of October. The Bradley Braves defended their home course, taking the team title with 67 points, well ahead of runner-up South Dakota with 103 points. Junior McKenzie Altmayer paced the Braves with a runner-up individual finish, completing the 6,000-meter circuit in 21:03.8, just over a second shy of her personal-record. In total, three Braves placed in the top ten to propel them to the title. Fellow Valley schools Illinois State University, Northern Iowa, Drake, Valparaiso and Loyola also ran squads at the meet. Illinois State posted the next highest Valley finish in sixth overall, setting the stage for a tight competition at Sunset Farms in just two weeks.
The other major meet of the weekend was held in Terre Haute, Indiana, popularly referred to as “Terredise.” The Pre-National Invitational allows NCAA Division I teams to preview the national course a month before the big dance. Indiana State has been selected to host the event this fall on its state-of-the-art LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course. The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, ranked tenth in the Midwest Regional heading into the weekend, contested in the coveted women’s Blue Division with many of the best teams in the nation. The Ramblers struggled on the course, with two low-stick scorers recording DNFs (did not finish). Loyola finished 26th overall with 663 team points, led by sophomore Kathleen Simms in 89th individually. The other two Valley teams at the meet, host Indiana State and Southern Illinois, raced in the women’s White Division. The Sycamores finished 20th with 407 team points, while the Salukis finished 25th with 585 points.
MVC Runner of the Week: McKenzie Altmayer, Bradley
Hopefully it won’t rain on Illinois State’s Homecoming Parade this Saturday, but rain certainly played a deciding factor in this week’s competitions.
Five Valley schools competed at the Charles Braun Intercollegiate in Evansville, Indiana, before inclement weather put a premature halt to the competition. The scores were tallied based on what competition had already been played before the rain cancellation. Of the Valley teams, Loyola reigned supreme with a team score of 314 strokes for runner-up honors to IUPUI. Indiana State, Valparaiso, Southern Illinois and host Evansville followed in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, respectfully. Loyola’s Sabrina Hoskins recorded to top individual finish, tying for top honors with 75 strokes in the single round of competition.
Missouri State also had a big weekend on the course and were fortunate enough to remain unaffected by weather. Placing 12thas a team at the FIU/Pat Bradley Invitational, the Bears tallied 304-300-295 strokes over the three rounds. MVC Golfer of the Week Abby Cavaiani, just a sophomore, led the Bears’ attack, finishing seventh overall with rounds of 71-72-71 strokes. Over 90 competitors completed the three rounds, making her top-ten finish even more impressive. The event also featured ten of the top 150 programs in the NCAA.
MVC Golfer of the Week: Abby Cavaiani, Missouri State
What happens when two undefeated teams
clash in the highlight game of the weekend? Well, one will ultimately walk away victorious, while the other will watch their winning streak collapse.
In a game to support Breast Cancer Awareness, Illinois State, donning special pink uniforms for the event, hosted fellow top conference seed Loyola Sunday afternoon. Both teams entered the game with a 4-0 conference run, making this the highlight match of the weekend. Loyola ultimately ran away from the Redbirds, scoring early in the first half without looking back. The final score of 4-1 asserted the Ramblers conference dominance for the time being as the Redbirds fell at home, a rarity for this team. Due to their impressive team play this weekend, Loyola swept the weekly conference honors as Simone Wark claimed both the MVC offensive player of the week and the newcomer of the week honors. The Ramblers’ sophomore Abby Swanson earned defensive honors after playing the entire game Sunday, preventing all but one goal for the Redbirds.
A freshman (yes, a freshman!) leads the Valley in average shots per game with 3.92, which also ranks her 31stin NCAA rankings. Indiana State’s Celeste Wahlberg has made 55 shots in 14 matches thus far this fall, with 27 of those being on goal for an average of 1.93 per match. Watch out for this fresh face over the course of the next four years!
MVC Offensive Player of the Week: Simone Wark, Loyola
MVC Defensive Player of the Week: Abby Swanson, Loyola
MVC Newcomer of the Week: Simone Wark, Loyola
SWIMMING & DIVING
The Bears of Missouri State continued their conference dominance this past weekend with a victory over Valley foe Indiana State, while sweeping the conference’s weekly honors. The Bears posted a team total of 214.5 points to trump the Sycamores’ 154.5. As a result of their performances, Missouri State swept the MVC weekly honors, claiming both the swimmer and diver of the week. Liberty Howell, a junior hailing from Oklahoma, won three distance freestyle events to help the Bears swim to victory. Her times in the 200 freestyle (1:48.98), the 500 freestyle (4:52.88) and the 1,650 freestyle (16:55.92) all lead the Missouri Valley Conference. Her time in the 1,650 also ranks sixth in the NCAA Division 1 standings. On the boards, fellow junior Ashley Yarbrough dominated the competition, claiming titles in both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events.
The Salukis of Southern Illinois may have fallen to Big Ten in-state rival University of Illinois, but they reigned victorious over MVC foe Illinois State. The Salukis defeated the Redbirds handily with a 187-113 win, which is a smaller margin than their loss to the Illini 123-176. The meet was highlighted by five event wins for the Salukis in the 500 freestyle, 1,000 freestyle, 200 butterfly, 100 freestyle and the 1-meter dive. The Redbirds secured an event win in Kierston Farley-Sepe’s victory in the 100-meter butterfly (57.23).
MVC Swimmer of the Week: Liberty Howell, Missouri State
MVC Diver of the Week: Ashley Yarbrough, Missouri State
As of this weekend, league play in volleyball has passed its halfway point. The top five teams in current standings have separated themselves from the rest, yet are separated from each other by just two losses. Northern Iowa and Loyola sit atop the rankings, each with 7-1 MVC records heading into the week. The Redbirds are close behind with a 6-2 MVC record, followed by Evansville and Bradley at 5-3.
Prior to the weekend, Loyola had been undefeated in league play with a 6-0 record. The Illinois State Redbirds promptly ended their win streak, taking down the Ramblers in four sets. The Ramblers were the lone undefeated Valley team prior to Friday night. The Redbirds moved to 24-3 all-time and extended their win streak to eight matches against the Ramblers.
Evansville picked up a big road win over Southern Illinois in just three sets. Also on the road, Evansville defeated Missouri State in four sets to secure their spot in the top half of the Valley. The road sweep marked the first for the Purple Aces since 2000.
The Valley Conference has three teams ranked in the top-100 of the latest NCAA RPI report. Northern Iowa leads the league at No. 56, while Illinois State (No. 81) and Loyola (No. 100) also enter the ranks. The Valley certainly runs deep in volleyball, as Bradley and Evansville each rank in the top 175.
MVC Player of the Week: Karlie Taylor, UNI
MVC Defensive Player of the Week: Gabriela Macedo, Evansville
MVC Freshman of the Week: Chloe Mason, Indiana State
The preseason poll was released by the conference last Thursday and it had selected the Bulldogs of Drake as the preseason MVC tournament favorites. Drake received 31 of the 40 first-place votes and 359 total points. The full rankings are as follows:
Drake (31 first-place votes, 359 points)
Missouri State (8 first-place votes, 329 points)
UNI (1 first-place vote, 297 points)
Southern Illinois (235)
Illinois State (212)
Indiana State (111)
Drake has won three straight MVC regular season titles and will look for a fourth straight this season. A four-peat would be the first ever in program history and only the second ever in conference history. Drake returns three starters from last year’s team, including its two top scorers from 2018-2019.