Going Pro: Alums Back on the FieldBy Chad Jenkins
Four MNU alumni and former students — Brandon Smith (’12), Juan Redmon (’12), Jared Elmore (FS ’10) and Brandon Russell (FS ’05) — are players for the newly formed Champions Professional Indoor Football League (CPIFL). All four competed in the 2013 inaugural season.
Redmon, who played at MNU from 2008 to 2012, was named four times as a first-team, All-Conference tight end and HAAC MVP as a senior. As a wide receiver for the Oklahoma Defenders, Redmon caught 27 passes for 290 yards and 6 touchdowns in nine games. In March, the Defenders came to Kansas City to play the KC Renegades, who boast three former Pioneers on their roster.
Smith, a fullback and defensive lineman from 2008-2012 for the Pioneers, was a three-time All-Conference defensive lineman and led the nation with 14 sacks as a senior. Smith plays defensive lineman for the Renegades alongside wide receiver Elmore and Russell, a defensive lineman. In 11 games for Kansas City, Smith recorded 27 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, five sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Elmore was a wide receiver at MNU and as a senior in 2009, he led the team in all receiving categories while finishing in the top 10 in the nation for yards and touchdowns. In eight games for the Renegades, he caught 4 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Russell, a three-year starter for the Pioneers and a first-team All-Conference defensive lineman in 2002, has been playing professionally since 2010. In eight games for the Renegades, he had 14 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
“We’re proud of these young men,” says MNU head coach Jonathan Quinn. “This is the type of athlete we want at MNU. To be a top program, we need athletes who can play at the next level. These guys have proven they have the ability, and now it’s up to them to seize the opportunity.”
The focus of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League is to develop the highest level of indoor football in the Midwest by adding teams to the league and linking “well-established teams currently coming from Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.” The CPIFL brought together the top indoor football teams in the Midwest from existing leagues like the Arena Football League, the Indoor Football League, and the American Professional Football League. The CPIFL is also bringing back rivalries from the past, such as Oklahoma vs. Wichita, Lincoln vs. Omaha, and Omaha vs. Sioux City. The league gained its first member August 11, 2012.
Baseball Team Finishes Second
Pioneer baseball went 17-9 in HAAC play and finished second in the Western division. After a tough early-season schedule that resulted in a 1-5 start, the Pioneers won five of the next six games to get back on track. MNU then started the conference schedule with four straight victories and jumped to an early lead, but seven straight split doubleheaders prevented them from increasing the advantage.
After closing the schedule by winning six of eight games, the Pioneers fell in the HAAC conference tournament and finished 24-20. Clayton Brandt, Tyler Meeks, Colin Starr, Kyle Olson and Caleb Swartz were All-Star Conference honorees.
Softball Sees Tourney Play
Pioneer softball went 28-15 and 14-4 in conference play to finish second in the HAAC. After an impressive run in the conference tournament, the Pioneers qualified for nationals for the third time since the beginning of the program. MNU fell in the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament, but it was a season to be proud of, and the Pioneers had several honorees.
The offense carried the load of the 2013 season, boasting the highest OPS (total bases divided by at bats) in program history. Four starters hit over .400. Tianna George, Jen Polivka, Lynsey Keith and Adriana Asano were named First-Team All-Conference. Katie Williams, Taylor Pearcy and Vanessa Arandules were honored on the second team.
Basketball Teams See Play at Nationals
After a 33-2 season and back-to-back Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) regular season and tourney titles, the Pioneer women’s basketball team entered the NAIA National Tournament with high hopes. Ranked #9 in the country and riding a 20-game winning streak, the team’s goal of securing a spot in the Fab Four was more than reasonable. But MNU ran into a tough William Woods squad and fell in the first round. The Pioneers controlled most of the game and led by 11 with 10 minutes remaining, but the dominant play of WWU’s Prisila Santos proved to be too much to overcome as the All-American scored 37 points.
MNU’s Kelcey Balcom, HAAC Player of the Year, shot 10-13 for a season-high 25 points. Daria Sprew (15) and Kendra Flemming (12) scored double figures as well. The Pioneers finished with a 33-3 record.
The men’s team had an inconsistent season. Amid injury and personnel changes, the starting five changed nightly. Despite the turmoil, the Pioneers qualified for the NAIA National Tournament, and there, everything came together.
MNU faced #7 Cal State-San Marcos in the opening round, and came away with a 109-98 victory thanks to balanced scoring and a 19-point, 20-rebound effort from Jacob French. The next night MNU faced #10 Oklahoma Baptist and trailed by 11 with less than 8 minutes remaining. Rustin Dowd took the game, scoring 11 points down the stretch, and the Pioneers came back to win by two.
In MNU’s 10th Elite Eight appearance, the Pioneers faced #2 Lindsey Wilson College. MNU trailed by 8 at halftime and by nearly 20 most of the second half. A furious rally saw the Pioneers come within 10 points in the final minutes, but their efforts weren’t enough, and MNU finished 26-10.