I've never been the type of person that made New Year's Resolutions, but for some reason, I decided to try to make a few in 2009. The reason I'm writing this, is because one of them is to re-dedicate myself to keeping this blog fresh now that the calendar has flipped to January. Things have been exceptionally busy in the DWU athletics office this year, and I let some of my other responsibilities take precedence over blogging, but I'm going to do a better job of it from here on out, so to start off on the right foot, here's a super-sized blog to kick off what looks to be a great 2009 for Tiger athletics.
What a Wrestling match...
It isn't often that a wrestling dual meet goes down to the wire the way a basketball game or a football game can, but Wednesday the Tigers hosted Hastings College, and the winner wasn't decided until the third period of the final match of the night. DWU had a nice crowd in the Wellness Center on Wednesday, and they were treated to a heck of a match.
Click here to read my official press release about the win, which details Kyle Henderson's thrilling victory to give DWU the win. Since that release has most of the details, I'll use this space for some extra analysis, but Henderson's clutch win ended up being the difference, and he deserves tons of credit for stepping up in a huge spot.
Sometimes in a match like Wednesday's, the way a team loses matches can be just as crucial as some of the wins. For example, I think Blake Hodne was kind of an unsung hero of the win, despite an 11-3 major deicison loss. Hodne was up against Hastings's Jameon Rush, who is ranked No. 6 in the NAIA. Though Rush ended up getting four points for the Broncos, Hodne really wrestled well, especially early, and the fact that he avoided getting pinned or even a technical fall was a boost for the Tigers. It's clear the Broncos count on Rush to score big points for them every time out, but Hodne did a solid job staying with him, and he was never in any real danger of getting pinned. That was smart wrestling.
Malik Stewart and Billy Murtha also had impressive wins Wednesday. Stewart had one of the most exciting matches of the night, as he willed himself to a late reversal to score a 4-2 win. And Murtha, in his first action of the season, notched a solid 6-2 win to build up the DWU lead at the time.
It was good to see the Tigers win a close dual after dropping a close one to open the GPAC season at Briar Cliff. Hopefully they can keep it rolling with three more duals at home this month. Dana is here on the 15th and Sioux Falls comes to Mitchell on the 21st, and those will both be big matches for DWU.
Football is often described as a game of inches. It's hard to use the same analogy with basketball, but it certainly seems like it applies itself to the DWU women's basketball team thus far this season.
Right now, the Tigers sit at 9-9 overall and 2-4 in the ridiculously difficult GPAC. However, if a few shots would've fell at key times or the ball had bounced a slighty different direction a number of times, the Tigers could be in a much different position.
Let's just start by looking at two games: one-point losses to Dakota State and Sioux Falls. Both games could have very easily gone the other way. Had that happened, DWU is sitting at 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the GPAC. Compare that to 9-9 and 2-4, and a few points really make a huge difference on the landscape of the entire season.
To go a step further, the Tigers had chances to beat Jamestown, Kansas Wesleyan, Doane, Northwestern and Mount Marty (many of which are nationally ranked). All those losses were between six and 10 points, and DWU held second-half leads in many of those losses. If even two of those games could have gone DWU's way, then the team is sitting 13-5 overall with maybe a 4-2 or 5-1 record in the toughest women's basketball conference in the country. That would get a team into the rankings, and bolster national tournament hopes.
Instead, the Tigers have hovered around the .500 mark all year. After winning 18 games last season, hopes were high for DWU in Aaron Kahl's second season, and it's possbile to just look at the Tigers' record and say that they didn't take another step forward this year as expected.
However, I beg to differ. I think that when you factor in the number of ranked teams DWU has played, and how close most of its games have been, the Tigers are perilously close to being an upper-echelon team, both in the GPAC and the NAIA.
The second half of the season will provide ample opportunity for DWU to turn some of those close losses into victories, starting with Sunday's trip to take on No. 9 Hastings. The Broncos desparately need a win, so they'll be ready for DWU, and winning on the road in the GPAC is never easy. After Sunday's game, DWU will host four in a row, all winnable, so that could be just what the Tigers need to build some momentum for a late-season surge.
I'll check back early next week with some thoughts on the men's basketball race for the GPAC title. Happy New Year!