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Ultimate frisbee club achieves national ranking

The weather may still be confused, but spring is here at Indiana Wesleyan University.

For Huck Dynasty, IWU’s ultimate frisbee club, the spring symbolizes both competition and community.

Andrew Warren (fr) makes a forehand throw around a Taylor University ultimate club member. IWU scrimmaged against Taylor March 18.

Andrew Warren (fr) makes a forehand throw around a Taylor University ultimate club member. IWU scrimmaged against Taylor March 18.

Spring also means the team has a chance to surprise other competitive ultimate clubs around the nation. According to the 2014 USA Ultimate Men’s Division Season Rankings, Huck Dynasty has officially achieved the No. 27 national ranking in Division III play.

Deep-cutter Michael Overbeck (so) successfully predicted this ranking last fall, stating his belief that the club would be ranked in the top 30 for Division III ultimate.

This ranking has been well-earned for the second year club. Huck Dynasty has defeated Division I clubs like Purdue, University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky in tournament play. They have also defeated five-time regional champion North Park, Division III No. 15-ranked Xavier, Miami of Ohio, Ohio Wesleyan and Wisconsin Parkside this season.

Huck Dynasty has grown immensely since their induction under the leadership of captain and coach Travis Carpenter (so). Carpenter joined the club as a transfer last year, helping develop an intramural sport into a school-supported club.

Carpenter is proud to share the success of his club, explaining how a win last fall against Division I-ranked University of Tennessee helped build confidence for his players.

“Beating University of Tennessee was huge for our guys,” said Carpenter. “We’re not talked about as a threat on ultimate [frisbee] sites online, we’re not even mentioned because no one thought we were talented enough. Beating Tennessee got the team pumped, and got our confidence up for spring.”

Derric Gowan (fr) stretches out for a tough catch.

Derric Gowan (fr) stretches out for a tough catch.

Carpenter said Huck Dynasty was unranked last year because of poor commitment, as the IWU club was only in its first year. Now, he is excited to share the growth he has seen in 7 months, watching his club surge to a national ranking of 139 of 313 clubs in Division I and Division III combined.

“We have exceeded my expectations by miles this year,” stated Carpenter. “We now have 16 players, and used this past fall as a time to grow. My goal this year is to reach regional’s and become ranked top 16 in Division III.”

Carpenter certainly does not disregard how talented the division is, explaining how a regional upset against North Park University in Chicago will be his focus at the end of April.

While Carpenter believes this year’s club is talented, he expects next season to be the club’s breakout year when more newcomers join.

“We really envision ourselves going to nationals next year,” Carpenter said. “We can always use more players, so even if you think you can’t play, you will surprise yourself in what you can learn to do with a disc.”

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NCAA D-I’s Strader to coach IWU women’s soccer team

Not many people would trade the sunny skies and nearby beaches of California for the ever-changing weather of Marion, Ind. Especially coming out of a winter when Hoosiers often endured sub-zero temperatures while parts of the Golden State enjoyed 90-degree highs in February.

But it’s a change Indiana Wesleyan University’s new head women’s soccer coach Tim Strader welcomes.

“It was an opportunity to come home,” said Strader, an Indiana native who spent his recent years coaching soccer in California and Arizona. “My wife and I love the Midwest values. That’s somewhere we’d like to settle down.”

Strader’s latest role was an assistant coaching position at NCAA Division I school Cal State University Northridge. The Matadors won the Big West Tournament and played in the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2013 with Strader on the sideline.

And now, Strader looks to continue his success in the NAIA at IWU.

“For me, it’s not about the level, obviously I’ve loved my time at in Division I, but the constraints of not being able to share your faith is something that’s important to me,” Strader said. “There were opportunities to continue on the Division I path, but I knew that God opened this door and this is where my wife and I were supposed to go.”

Sharing his faith and building relationships is a theme IWU’s newest Wildcat wants to establish with his team. But he’s not waiting until he officially arrives in Marion this summer. Strader has already started calling his future players to get to know them.

Players like center midfielder Jordan Harris (so).

“It was really good to be able to talk to him,” said Harris, who got a phone call from Strader during spring break. “I gained more respect for him, saw more about who he was and what he was about. He also expressed interest in getting to know me, which I thought was huge.”

But Harris said the process of getting a new coach has its difficulties in any situation.

“When you’re under the authority of a coach, you have to get used to the way they work, kind of like in a classroom setting,” Harris said. “All that completely changes when you get a new coach. So it’s kind of like re-learning things all over again.”

As for Strader, the new coach said he’ll transition IWU’s program into a West Coast, zone defense team that’s “very organized.”

“We’re gonna want to put the ball on the ground and go through teams,” Strader said. “Give us some time and [you’ll] see a good product on the field.”

IWU’s squad won’t wait to be a cohesive unit off the field. Strader said he hopes to start success by forming personal bonds with the players immediately, and that means being intentional about communicating now.

That opportunity to build faith-based relationships is the main reason Strader chose to make the 2,100-mile move from California to Indiana Wesleyan.

“At the Division I level, you’re kind of constrained at a public university from having that interaction with your student-athletes,” Strader said. “Whether it’s a hardship on the field or off the field, my firm belief that everything goes back to your relationship with Christ, and being able to help kids through their faith is ultimately what led me to Indiana Wesleyan.”

As for dealing with the change in weather, Strader may still have some things to get used to.

“He said something about having to get a jacket,” Harris said. She promptly corrected him: “Yeah, you gotta get a coat.”

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Haughey’s spirit key in Wildcat title run

By the time Garvin Haughey (sr) reached the court it was already decided. Only 4.2 seconds remained in  his Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats’ 78-68 victory against Midland University in the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship Finals. Game over.

Referees had to tell the Wildcat bench, led by Haughey (in red), to calm down several times during the championship game.

Referees had to tell the Wildcat bench, led by Haughey (in red), to calm down several times during the championship game.

Yet Haughey’s quick entrance carried a significant amount of meaning to it.

Not only because the game marked Haughey’s last as a collegiate basketball player. Not only because of the uproarious applause Wildcat fans and players presented to him as he trotted towards the scorer’s table to check in. Not only because Wildcat fans consistently chanted for him to be inserted into the game during the season. But because IWU head coach Greg Tonagel believes this 6-foot-3 senior was a vital part of the Wildcats’ championship team and he wanted to let him get playing time.

“He’s had a huge impact on this program and without him, we wouldn’t have won a national championship, and that says a lot about a kid who didn’t play,” Tonagel said. “It meant everything to get him in.”

Haughey was already contributing to the game in his own way at his spot near the end of the literal and metaphorical Wildcat bench. He spent most of Tuesday night shouting encouragement to his teammates and being one of the first to welcome players back to the sideline during timeouts. That energy spilled onto the court and helped fuel the win.

“It’s always a goal to have the refs tell you to sit down, but the refs started coming up to us at the beginning of games in this tournament telling us to sit down so it was definitely a plus there,” Haughey said. “There was definitely a little bit of extra enthusiasm.”

Haughey rarely played during his four years at IWU, but played a big part in the team's success.

Haughey rarely played during his four years at IWU, but played a big part in the team’s success.

But that’s just part of his mentality as a player. Haughey was the last player off the court during warm-ups right before the last game of the season tipped off. He was also the first one out of the locker room at halftime, leading his team back onto the court for IWU’s final push to a title.

The fact that he also had the chance to play in every tournament contest was, as he put it, “a nice little cherry on top.”

“To touch the court in all five games, I can’t put it into words,” Haughey said after the game while sporting his national championship t-shirt. “A lot of people put success into this national championship, but seeing the growth in my teammates means a whole lot more than this.”

These qualities are just one of the traits that caused Tonagel to pay Haughey a lofty compliment: “Garvin will go down as the greatest leader to ever wear a Wildcat uniform.”

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Men’s basketball team makes history with first title

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The Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats are champions once again.

Jordan Weidner (sr) led the way as the IWU men’s basketball team won the NAIA Division II crown Tuesday night in Point Lookout, Missouri with a 78-68 victory over Midland University. While the win marks the Wildcat men’s team’s first-ever national title, it comes one year after IWU’s women’s team won its championship.

Your 2014 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Champion Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats.

Your 2014 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Champion Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats.

The Wildcats never trailed in the contest, avenging an 85-81 loss to the Warriors earlier in the season.

“The single greatest factor for us winning this year was a fearless mindset,” IWU head coach Greg Tonagel said after the game. “It came through in this whole tournament. Do you back down or do you have faith? Faith in each other, faith in God, faith that, ‘you know, I’m playing for something bigger than a championship, so if I fail, that doesn’t define who I am.’”

Even though the Wildcats didn’t fall behind on the scoreboard, they still faced adversity from a tough Midland team that ended the year with a program record 30 wins against just six losses.

The Warriors fought back from down by as many as nine points in the first half, closing the gap and staying in the game into the second period. But one shot swung the momentum completely in the Wildcats’ favor, propelling IWU to their eventual victory.

Zac Vandewater (jr) shot just one three-pointer the entire game. But it was a critical basket, giving the Wildcats a 49-38 lead six minutes into the second half and sending IWU fans into a frenzy. Bob Peters (fr) followed that act with a bucket of his own, capping a 7-0 Wildcat run that gave IWU a 13-point, 51-38 lead.

Guard and Tournament MVP Jordan Weidner (sr) was a leader for the Wildcats all season.

Guard and Tournament MVP Jordan Weidner (sr) was a leader for the Wildcats all season.

Midland, a team that dismantled Robert Morris College by 39 points in the semifinal the night before, never recovered.

The Wildcats closed out the game by playing the same solid style that got them there.

“This whole tournament, we really stepped up our defense, stepped up our rebounding and stepped up getting to the free throw line,” said Garvin Haughey (sr). “That’s what it takes to win a championship.”

IWU rode these trends to an NAIA record as well, notching a tournament-best 128 free throws while becoming the first team in history to win all five games of the tournament by double-digit margins.

That padded lead allowed starters like Weidner, the tournament MVP, to come off the court early, making for an emotional scene when the guard tearfully hugged Tonagel on the sideline.

“Nobody has a bigger heart than Jordan,” said Tonagel, the NAIA Division II Coach of the Year. “He just wasn’t gonna let us lose.”

“I can’t even put it into words,” Weidner said after the game. “It’s a blessing, it’s an honor and it just speaks to the maturity, the courage, the confidence — anything positive you can think of man, it just speaks to that about our team and it’s so awesome to experience.”

As for his individual hardware, Weidner said it doesn’t even compare to the team effort.

Coach Greg Tonagel received the NAIA Division II Coach of the Year award.

Coach Greg Tonagel received the NAIA Division II Coach of the Year award.

“I’m just glad we won,” Weidner said. “I could have gotten not a single award, just won this thing and been perfectly fine.”

It’s attitudes like this that impressed IWU Athletic Director Mark DeMichael the most, as well as earning the Wildcats the league award for the best sportsmanship in the tournament.

“When you have a team that wins the national championship and then at the same time wins the tournament sportsmanship award – that doesn’t happen very often,” DeMichael said. “To me, that sums up this team.”

RJ Mahurin (sr), a transfer from Indiana State University before this season, said a championship was the perfect ending to his season with the Wildcats.

“All summer we talked about it, you know, obviously that’s your goal and it’s just kinda crazy to see it come to fruition,” RJ said. “The guys stuck together really well and we just relied on each other. Knowing that this is probably my last game, it’s amazing to go out with a championship.”

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