MNU news

Summer 2014: Athletics

By Chad Jenkins

Grand Slam Spring

Softball National Appearance Second-Straight Year

Pioneer softball finished second in the Heart of America Athletic Conference qualifying for the NAIA national tournament for the second-straight season.

Lynsey Keith (1st team), Vanessa Arandules (1st team), Megan Schwindler (1st team), Hayley Gately (2nd team), Katie Williams (2nd team), Chelsey Streibich (honorable mention), Alexis Pacheco (honorable mention), and Kaity Wills (honorable mention) were named to the All-Conference team. Keith (SS) and Stephanie Valenzuela (RF) earned Gold Glove honors for their positions.

In the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament, MNU sandwiched a victory over #25 Kansas Wesleyan between two losses to #7 Spring Hill (Ala.) in the double elimination tournament.

Historic Season for Baseball

The Pioneer baseball team won the Heart of America Athletic Conference title for the first time since 1984, the HAAC tournament championship for the first time in program history, and qualified for the NAIA national tournament this season.

Head Coach Ryan Thompson was named HAAC Coach of the Year, Jordan Eckley was named HAAC Player of the Year and (1st team). Clayton Brandt (1st team), Carlos Vargas (1st team), Colin Starr (1st team), Tino Luna (1st team), Nick Kevlin (1st team), Joe Smith (1st team), Trent Sullivan (2nd team), Trent Hedlund (2nd team), and Santiago Romero (honorable mention) were named to the All-Conference team.

In their first appearance in the opening round of nationals, MNU defeated #11 LSU-Shreveport before falling to #4 Faulkner and LSU-S in the double elimination tournament.

Pioneers Go to National Basketball Tournaments

Men’s basketball reached its sixth Fab Four appearance in national tournament play at this year’s NAIA Div. I National Tournament after a remarkable run. Finishing third in the HAAC with a 12-6 record, the team ran hot at the right time, winning the last four games of the regular season. Winning three-straight HAAC tournament games gave MNU an automatic berth to the Nationals. 

The Pioneers defeated No. 3-ranked LSU-Shreveport then No. 4-ranked Columbia. A 13-point win against St. Catharine put the Pioneers in the Fab Four, where they were defeated by No. 7-ranked Emmanuel. Luke Thomas and Nick Syrie were All-HAAC honorees, and Thomas was named All-America.

Women’s basketball won its third straight HAAC tournament earning an automatic berth in the NAIA Div. I National Tournament. MNU defeated Hope International to reach the second round but fell to No. 3-ranked Westminster in its first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance. Kelsey Balcom (1st-team), Daria Sprew (2nd-team), and Megan Balcom (3rd-team) earned All-Conference honors, and Balcom (3rd-team) and Sprew (honorable mention) were named All-America.

Pioneers New Head Football Coach Joins Team

Brian Willmer has been named the new head football coach at MidAmerica Nazarene University, becoming the sixth in the program's history. Willmer coached 15 seasons at Azusa Pacific University (Calif.), the last eight as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. The Azusa Cougars were conference champs in 2013 after just their second year in NCAA Div. II

"We are excited that Brian is joining our athletics program and look forward to his leadership," says MNU President David Spittal. "His excellent coaching experience, his leadership and strong commitment to Jesus Christ are recognized by all who know him."

During his tenure at Azusa Pacific, Willmer coached two NAIA All-America honorees and an All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He helped lead Azusa to multiple playoff appearances, including two NAIA semifinals.

Willmer says it is a privilege to be part of the MNU community and contribute to the lives of athletes.

"The game of football is a powerful vehicle to shape men, and I am excited to see these players grow both spiritually and personally through the game of football."

Willmer and his wife, Lindsay, are the parents of Emma, 11; Addie Joy, 9; Titus, 5; and twins Gwenyth and Nehemiah, 4.

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