Blog - Category: College Athletics

UDM alumnus nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year

Sarah Hirschmann, the 2020 University of Detroit Mercy valedictorian and former women’s soccer goalie, just earned another impressive accolade.  She’s a nominee for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

The award was established in 1991 to recognize graduating female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.  The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will name the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year this fall.

Sarah graduated from Detroit Mercy with a Bachelor of Arts in Literary Arts in Primary Education, specializing in Language Arts with a minor in Leadership, with a 3.97 GPA.  She was a member of the women’s soccer team from 2015-18, a four-year member of the Detroit Mercy Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and a three-time member of the Horizon League Fall and Spring Academic Honor Roll.

Away from athletics, she started a non-profit group, volunteered and played a key role in a number of University events.

In 2015, Sarah started “One Kid At A Time”, a non-profit organization sponsoring the education of two students in Kenya, and distributing funds throughout Detroit.  She also spent two summers with the International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), teaching children ages 1-16 in Nairobi, Kenya and Faridabad, India.

Locally, Sarah volunteered with Ford Community Corps Partnership, working at Detroit Public Schools with fifth graders and students with behavioral disabilities to improve mathematics and social skills through educational card games.  In addition, she worked with the Zoe Counseling Services of the Detroit Public Libraries, tutoring students in and out of foster care and those who have fallen behind grade level and need extra help.

One of her big efforts on campus saw her take part in the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC), where she helped lead a committee of 20 students to create the conference with Detroit Mercy serving as host for the first-time ever in 2019.  Sarah also was part of the Ignatian Family Teach-In For Justice (IFTJ), a national social justice conference in Washington, D.C., where students gather from around the country to learn about more ways to fight injustice and advocate for themselves and others.

Sarah is indisputably a model scholar-athlete.  Her commitment to excellence in the classroom and on the field is strong and her dedication to her community–both locally and around the world–is unwavering.  It’s an outlook that’s prevalent at the University of Detroit Mercy and Michigan’s top 14 private colleges and universities.  Purposefully smaller, the colleges and universities pride themselves on helping students follow their own path, engage in the world around them, and find their passion. They emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

 

Aquinas freshman named esports All-American

AQ Esports Header

Real-time strategy, teamwork, mental agility, split-second decision-making – these are some of the skills it takes to succeed in one of the fastest growing athletic programs in the country – esports.

Esports is a massive, global series of video game competitions, that is making serious inroads in the college sports arena.

The Aquinas College esports team just completed its first season and already one team member is making waves. Jon Schneck, an AQ freshman, was named an All-American by the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECD)—one of only eight in the country.

“It was a little bit of a surprise that I would be an All-American because I don’t think of myself that highly,” Schneck said. “But it is great that I got recognized.”

Jon may have been caught off guard by the recognition, but head coach Adam Antor says it is well deserved because of his hard work and knowledge.

“He is kind of like the master knowledge base for the game,” Antor said of Schneck. “He knows more about the game than most other competitors in our program and across the country so he brings the brains and the work ethic.”

Jon competes in League of Legends. It’s a game he said he’s been playing since before he got to Aquinas. Next season, Jon plans to continue his streak. “I am looking forward to just winning in any league I’m going into,” Schneck said. “Building a better team and making sure that we can compete at the highest level against all the other teams.”

The Aquinas College team joins other Michigan private colleges and universities in offering esports. Alma College and Siena Heights University also field excellent competitive esports programs.

Aquinas, Alma and Siena Heights – and all of Michigan’s top 14 private colleges and universities – share a commitment to helping students succeed by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Coolest College Mascots Aren’t Just at Big Universities

It’s National Mascot Day, where we celebrate the fun, sometimes feathery or furry creatures who entertain us and build team spirit at sporting events.

Lists of top college mascots often begin and end with big public universities (Hello Puddles the Oregon Duck), sometimes with a few curveballs thrown in (pleased to meet you, Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes.)

But it’s not just big public universities that have fun with their sports and mascots. They’re just as beloved at independent colleges and universities as well. Let’s meet some Michigan favorites:

Dutch from Hope College
Dutch
Ruggedly handsome. And what a hat! The mucho macho mascot of Hope College was created during the 2006-07 academic year for the school. Fun fact: His face is loosely modeled after a mailroom employee, Bob Bos. Founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, Hope College became known as the Flying Dutchmen since 1959 when its basketball team took a DC3 to a tournament. The women’s teams are known as the Flying Dutch. Of course.

Tommy Titan from the University of Detroit Mercy
Tommy
Ever try running 3.1 miles in a warrior helmet and bracelets? It’s not easy. But it’s nothing for Tommy Titan, the beloved mascot from the University of Detroit Mercy who for 28 years has had a 5K run named in his honor every November. Top that off with all the excitement of representing #DetroitsCollegeTeam, and life is pretty good for Tommy Titan.

Calvin Knight from Calvin University
Calvin
He stands for chivalry, honor and integrity. Sure. That’s true now. But he originally stood for misunderstanding. Calvin University’s mascot, the Knights, emerged in the late 1920s when a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press heard the school was populated by “Calvinites.” Ugh. Bad pun. We know. Like their counterparts at Hope, Calvin students wanted a real mascot and got one after a Facebook campaign began in the mid-2000s. Calvin Knight debuted in February 2009.

Brit the Briton from Albion College
Brit
Albion College debuted this rugged fellow in the fall of 2011. The first mascot in 176 years at Albion, he was chosen, because he represents the college’s “longstanding tradition of dignity, discovery and professionalism.” He also looks smashing. Brit looks like he and Tommy Titan would be a formidable duo at tug o’ war.

Scotty from Alma College
Scotty
He’s got a mustache that would make Yosemite Sam jealous and Scotty from Alma College is a whole lot easier to cheer for than the “Fighting Presbyterians.” It sounds like a joke, but that was Alma’s mascot until 1931. Hard to believe as it was, but students tired of shouting, “Go Fighting Presbyterians” at football games and the student newspaper launched a three-week contest for a replacement. The winner got $5. Cold hard cash. A few years ago, Scotty got a makeover before homecoming. He’s never looked better!

Buzz the Hornet from Kalamazoo College
Hornet
Power of the press! Kalamazoo College’s mascot got its name from – you guessed it – a newspaper reporter, this time from the Kalamazoo Gazette who said thought the football team was “buzzing around enthusiastically and stinging the opponents.” A mascot was born in 1925. Before then, athletic teams were occasionally called the Orange and Black, or even the Kazooks!

Nelson from Aquinas College
NelsonAquinas College is known as the Saints. Their mascot is Nelson, a Saint Bernard named after the college’s fourth president, Paul Nelson.

Charger from Hillsdale College
Chargers
Hillsdale College students got tired of lacking a true mascot about 10 years ago and chose a horse over contenders such as a lightning bolt to represent their nickname, the Chargers.

Bruiser the Bulldog from Adrian College
BruiserThere are 36 colleges across the nation who have a Bulldog as their mascot and 16 of those schools have live mascots. But not many mascots can say they have a mascot. Bruiser the Bulldog can. Adrian College‘s adorable pup Bruiser soaks up the limelight and tummy rubs at campus events, hockey games and football games. But when the big dog on campus needs a break, a giant foam Bruiser mascot costume springs into action.

Cruzer the Crusader from Madonna University
CruzerMadonna University debuted Cruzer in 2017. Cruzer enjoys cheering the Madonna Crusaders to victory, showing off his dance moves, and shooting hoops.

Haley and Cylde from Olivet College
Comets

Over the years, Olivet College has had several unofficial mascots including a number of dogs and even a sheep. But in 1932, students and faculty were invited to submit names that signified action, speed and mobility – with the eventual winner being the Comets. Clyde the Comet has long been the Olivet mascot; but in 2018, Olivet introduced the first female mascot to ever represent the school – Haley.

Halo the Husky from Siena Heights University
Halo
In 2008, Siena Heights University decided it needed a mascot. The school is known as the Saints. But that didn’t seem so fierce. So students voted on an alternative and came up with Halo the Husky, in part to thumb their nose at the Bulldogs of Adrian College, their cross-town rivals. “It’s kind of a shot at Adrian College, the bulldogs, because huskies are stronger and faster,” the student who submitted the winning suggestion said.

That’s just a start of the differences between big public institutions and Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges and universities, where students forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

A Student Perspective: Sometimes Second is the Perfect Place

According to Olivet College rising senior Rose Kemmerling, the perfect college fit is defined by a homey feeling and awesome supporters. For her, Olivet College fits that description to a T.

Second Family, Second Home

“I would encourage a student to attend Olivet College because it is not just a place, but also embodies a great feeling,” Rose said. “When I come back to campus after summer or Christmas break, I feel like I am at my home-away-from-home. It is hard to explain, but once you are on campus you can feel the family atmosphere and know that it is the place that you should be. The College is more than just the academic buildings, dorm rooms and the KC — it’s the people who become your second family.”

As a biology pre-medical major, member of the volleyball team, President’s Leadership Institute fellow and vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Rose’s second family is comprised of her teammates, science professors and classmates.

“My relationships with professors at Olivet have helped shape me into the person I am today. Being a biology major with a pre-med focus, Organic Chemistry was one of the classes I had to take,” Rose explained. “I established a bond with Professor Susanne Lewis, Ph.D., because I was with her four times a week in addition to a lab on Tuesday nights and the extra time I spent in her office hours. I know that her door will always be open and that I can go to her when needed.

“I also know that my coach, Megan Merchant, is someone that I can go to. I have the chance to work with her as both a coach and SAAC faculty adviser, and I know that she wants to see me succeed. My athletic trainer, Kaitlin Sznajder, is someone who I know will always be there to encourage and support me — she was my rock when I got a concussion this season.

“I am lucky to have teammates, friends and a support system all wrapped up into one.”

Rose added that a very special member of her OC family and volleyball team is nine-year-old Lianna Shearer. Liana was recruited to the Comets from Team IMPACT, a nonprofit that connects children facing serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams. Lianna attends practices, games, team dinners and other events with the team. More importantly, Rose and the rest of the OC volleyball team are members of Lianna’s support system as she overcomes challenges related to cystic hygroma.

Class of 2020

While Rose’s undergraduate journey at Olivet is nearing its end, she says she’s not done building relationships and using those connections for good. Next up, she’s preparing for further studies that will help her enter the medical field.

“I have always known that I want to do something in the medical field,” Rose said. “This past summer I read an article about genetic counseling, and I knew that this career was perfect for me. Genetic counseling does not only allow me to help others, but it still allows me to be involved in the medical field and solving problems. My goal is to attend a two-year genetic counseling program after graduating from Olivet. I am preparing myself for my future career by shadowing genetic counselors, taking prerequisite courses for my program, adding a psychology minor, participating in crisis volunteering and studying for the GRE.”

With the support of her OC family, Rose has no doubt she’ll be able to achieve her goals.

“My experience as a Comet has helped shape me into the person, student and athlete I am today. I have gained life experiences and learned lessons that I will carry with me throughout my life,” she concluded.

Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

Aquinas College adds esports program for 2019-20 season

Aquinas College is launching an esports program in fall 2019, providing students a new opportunity to participate in competitive video gaming. The College will become the fifth institution in Michigan to offer esports at the college level.

“We feel that this is a terrific opportunity for Aquinas College to be on the forefront of the rise of collegiate esports,” said Aquinas Director of Athletics Nick Davidson. “Through comprehensive research, the college felt this was the right time to provide those interested with not only a great academic experience, but the ability to compete in collegiate esports at the next level. We are very excited to begin this endeavor and look forward to what the future holds for esports at Aquinas.”

Aquinas will apply for membership in NACE, the National Association of Collegiate Esports, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Currently NACE has more than 125 member schools and more than 2,800 student-athletes.

Ninety-four percent of all varsity esports programs in the United States are members of NACE. Aquinas will join Alma College, Siena Heights University, Davenport University, and Northwood University as Michigan institutions officially recognized by the association.

Esports is one of the newest – and fastest-growing – athletic programs in the country. When NACE was formed in July 2016, only seven colleges and universities had varsity esports programs. Currently, there are more than 125 institutions that sponsor esports.

Esports games rely on real-time strategy, teamwork, mental agility and multiplayer online battles. Interest in the sport is on an upward trend. In 2017, the League of Legends World Finals drew 57.6 million online viewers compared to an average of 19.4 million viewers during the NBA finals. Overall, there are 286 million projected esport viewers by 2020.

Aquinas is in the process of hiring a head coach and will begin recruiting a team to compete this fall. Scholarship opportunities will be available.

A new gaming lab on campus will house a practice and competition area. It will be outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment from iBUYPOWER and furnishings from DXRacer, a Michigan-based company.

Intercollegiate competition will begin in fall 2019 for three games: League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League.

In addition to the new esports program, Aquinas is adding new faculty and programs that will continue to offer students expertise that will prepare them for the future job market. Aquinas is hiring in the Computer Information Systems academic department and has launched a Business Administration/Computer Information System dual major, Business Administration/Economics dual major, and a new Preparing Racially-diverse Educators program.

Aquinas launched its Four-Year Guarantee in the fall, promising that students will graduate in four years or the College will waive any additional tuition expense for up to one additional year for outstanding coursework required to graduate.

Irish Dance and Culture at Aquinas College

Aquinas College loves Irish culture!  Since the early ’70s, Aquinas has embraced Ireland. As the only college in Michigan to offer an Irish Studies minor, Aquinas’ interdisciplinary program offers a comprehensive understanding of Irish culture in both historical and contemporary contexts. For more than 40 years, students and faculty have studied in Tully Cross, Ireland, to gain a unique perspective of Irish history and culture.  And new in fall 2018, Aquinas students can now join the only Michigan collegiate Irish Dance Club to offer scholarships to dance athletes!

Trained Irish dancers enrolling with previous experience will have the opportunity to continue their love and study of Irish dance, music and culture. Eligible students can earn annual scholarships to join the club team. Dancers will collaborate and choreograph dances under the direction of Liz Heinzman, TCRG, and showcase these dances at performances and competitions against other teams.

The club will also offer workshops to non-experienced students who would like to learn the basics of Irish dance.

“ Aquinas has embraced Ireland, providing three signature programs that allow students to immerse themselves in the culture through study, experience and dance.”
– President Kevin G. Quinn

Learn more at aquinas.edu/irish-dance.
For information about Aquinas’ Irish Studies program, visit aquinas.edu/irish.

Alma College Cheer Team Wins National Championship

The Alma College Cheerleading team won its second consecutive National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) championship this April.  Being at the top is a way of life for the Alma Scots cheerleaders.  Alma’s cheer program is in its sixth year of existence and has finished second or better in each of its last five appearances at the NCA College Nationals.  Way to go Scots!

 

 

Traditional and Excellence “As One” for Hope Swim Team

hopeswim

It’s called ‘As1.’ And it’s more than a motto at Hope College. It’s a way of life.

The credo of Hope College’s prestigious Men’s Swimming and Diving Team, it’s written on every cap and chanted during practices and meets. It stands for “As One Team.” And it’s a core commitment of unity in a sport that often involves being alone.

“We do everything together as a family,” Clay Hackley, a sophomore freestyler told the blog Swim Sam.

“It’s very important. We cheer ‘we get the job done.. As1!’”

Hackley produced a hype video of the Flying Dutchmen team that’s making its way around the internet. Just a hair over 1 minute, it encapsulates what’s so awesome about athletics at small colleges like Hope and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Tradition. Togetherness. Community. Excellence. Win or lose. As One.

Third place last year in the MIAA championships, the Hope program is hosting the championship in 2017. They’re led by Head Coach John Patnott, who for 38 years has overseen the college’s men’s and women’s team.

Through the years, the program has developed cherished traditions. A black flag with the letters “HMS” is carried to every meet. Freshmen get nicknames. They’re written on their white swimming and diving caps.

On the other side, of course, is As1.

“Any older swimmer on the team can, at any moment, take your cap and rub in dirt or anything to get it dirty. It’s sort of like a varsity jacket,” Hackley told the blog.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t replicated at big state schools. That’s because community is a way of life at Hope and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities, which pride themselves on being purposefully different and helping students chart their own path.

Classes are taught by award-winning faculty, rather than TAs. An engaged network of professional alumni help students pursue their dreams. Class sizes are small. And students actually graduate in four years, rather than five or six at public schools.

And despite what you may have heard, the independents are often less expensive than big state schools.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.