Taylor fall sports’ seasons are nearing the halfway point and teams are eyeing the postseasons in their respective schedules. Records are being broken, national awards are being won and spots in the national polls are being claimed. Here’s a look at how each team has performed so far, along with important dates and matchups for the rest of the fall.
6-2-1 (1-0-1 in Crossroads play)
Both soccer teams are just now entering their conference schedules after successful non-conference slates. TU men’s soccer has rebounded tremendously from a rough 2020 season and established itself early as a competitor in every contest. The defensive side of the ball, in particular, has been strong as the Trojans did not yield a goal until their fifth match. After consecutive losses to drop to 4-2, they rallied and won two in a row before drawing with Huntington in two overtimes last week.
The Crossroads League Tournament will start Nov. 6.
8-1 (1-1 in Crossroads play)
In one of the more impressive runs of play from a Taylor program in years, the women’s soccer only recently allowed their first opponent goal of the season in 0-1 loss against Mount Vernon Nazarene last Saturday. The team ranks No. 2 in the NAIA in goals allowed per game, at a measly 0.13 per contest. Earlier this season, sophomore goalie Hannah Brackenbury was recognized as the NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week.
“Our defense is playing really well, but we’re also getting goal-scoring from all over the field,” Head Coach Scott Stan said. “We have a bunch of people that are getting things done for us on offense too.”
The Trojans are receiving votes in the NAIA poll. Next up is a road contest with No. 4 Spring Arbor on Saturday. The Crossroads League Tournament is set to start Nov. 6.
“They’re a selfless group and they’re playing for the person next to them,” Stan said.
20-2 (10-1 in Crossroads play)
An experienced and talented team, Taylor volleyball has made its mark on the Crossroads League and the NAIA this year. The Trojans have comfortably settled into second place in the conference, and are only a game behind No. 8 Marian for the top spot.
Seniors Amanda Adams, Ryan Czerniak and Grace Isaacs are pacing the team in kills with 264, 234 and 173 respectively. However, Head Coach Erin Luthy said the defense has been a key aspect of the improved play this season.
“The biggest thing is our defense, that’s been a game-changer this year,” Luthy said. “We are a completely different defensive team and that’s given our offense a chance to have larger production because they’ve had the opportunities.”
Taylor is No. 2 in the country in kills through 21 matches. The Crossroads League Tournament is set to start Nov. 6.
“It’s not something that was built overnight, it’s something these girls have grinded at for years,” Luthy said. “They’ve overcome things and it’s really cool to seem them experiencing success.”
The ‘Aaron Mingo’ era of Trojan Football got off to a strong start with a 42-26 road victory against Judson University, however the team has scuffled a bit in recent games against difficult competition, falling to 1-2 on the young season.
True to what was expected, the team has shown a strong rushing attack so far, as sophomore Brendan Lamb has piled up 225 yards on the year through three games. As a whole, the team has gained 505 yards on the ground.
Turnovers have been an issue however, and as the team heads into conference play, they’ll need to avoid them if they want to stay competitive. Mingo is also looking for improved physicality on offense and defense.
“We want to continue to improve our physicality as a team. It begins with that on both sides of the ball,” Mingo said.
A homecoming matchup with Lawrence Technological University highlights the upcoming schedule, as well as a Nov. 6 showdown with Indiana Wesleyan.
“The biggest thing that has stood out to me was the gameday experience in our first home game,” Mingo said about his first season as head coach. “The passion that students, alums and fans have for TU is felt tremendously.”
Men’s Cross Country
After the 2020-21 cross country season saw a national championship, the men’s XC team opened the fall ranked No. 1 in the NAIA polls. While they have since dropped to No. 3, the team has yet to slow down from their national championship last season — finishing second and first in their two races of the season.
On Sept. 17 in the Ray Bullock Invitational at the Trojans’ home course, they claimed the top three individual places, as the senior trio of Derek Van Prooyen, Daniel Gerber and Alex Helmuth ran stride for stride. Gerber won the first race of the season at Indiana Wesleyan with a career-best time and one of the best times in Taylor history. His performance garnered him his first career NAIA National Cross Country Runner of the Week award.
After Saturday’s Louisville Cross Country Classic, Taylor has one more race before the Crossroads League Championships in November.
Women’s Cross Country
Also ranked in the top-five nationally, the women’s cross country team won their first race of the season at Indiana Wesleyan and finished third at the Ray Bullock Invitational. Similarly to the men’s team, they haven’t been perfect but have been close, as they’ve only finished behind two teams combined in their first two events of the season.
Senior Abbey Brennan paced the team in the Indiana Wesleyan Twilight Invitational with a career-best time of 18:39.9. Brennan also broke into the 18:00’s in the Ray Bullock Invitational with a time of 18:59.3. Sophomore Mollie Gamble finished first for the Trojans in the Ray Bullock Invitational, and eighth overall, with a time of 18:57.2.
“It’s about conference and nationals, and everything until then just builds towards that.” Head Coach Quinn White said.