It was delay of season for Moraine Valley College runners.
At least that was so for the Cyclones men, who weren’t able to complete their initial race of the campaign because of rain on Aug. 30. The inclement weather washed out a portion of Elmhurst College’s Early Bird Invitational.
The women’s race was run in its entirety, but Moraine did not have an especially auspicious debut as it took 10th in a 12-school field. Marist grad Aileen Gorman was the Cyclones’ highest finisher, occupying the 54th position among 158 individuals after timing out in 17 minutes, 31 seconds over the 4K course at Eldridge Park.
Following their teammate down the chute were Queen of Peace alumnus Miranda Reyes (82nd in 18:44), Jessica Flores (121st, 20:12), Alexis Mindock (129th, 20:54), Nancy Ibarra (131st, 21:12), Stagg product Amanda Gerzon (136th, 21:53) and Maritza Najera (141st, 22:41).
Although the first outing was something of a mixed bag results-wise, Moraine coach Mark Horstmeyer took into account the conditions when assessing the Cyclones’ performance. He applauded his athletes’ efforts in a hot and humid environment.
“For Aileen, Jess and Lex, who were all running in their first collegiate race, it was an eye-opener,” Horstmeyer said. “They learned a few things about racing and about themselves, so they’ll go back to work.
“There’s a lot of work left to be done. I know the girls felt the same way.”
The men’s 6K event did get underway, but was halted after about seven minutes when bad weather rolled in.
“We knew the storm was coming, but we were hoping that it would hold off until we could get the race in,” Horstmeyer said. “And it was looking like we might. But all of sudden, the wind picked up significantly and thunder and lightning started booming and flashing, and it was time to get the kids off the course.”
Although only about a mile of the race was completed, Horstmeyer was pleased with what he saw from the Cyclones, all but two of whom were running as collegians for the first time.
“The guys did what we asked them to do,” Horstmeyer said. “We wanted them to run a controlled first mile and stay together. It was really neat to see the pack.”
The only weather that was a factor at last Friday’s Midwest Classic in Bourbonnais was heat, as temperatures hovered close to the 90-degree mark at race time.
Moraine’s women, who entered the meet as the 16th-ranked team in the National Junior College Cross Country Coaches Association poll, went up against nine four-year schools at Aspen Ridge Golf Course and placed eighth in the field. Gorman was again the Cyclones’ pacesetter as she clocked a 22:13 over 5K and finished 58th among 125 runners.
Tiffany Huntley (70th in 22:48), Reyes (76th, 23:09), Flores (86th, 23:52), Mindock (95th, 24:35), Ibarra (109th, 26:27) and Gerzon (116th, 27:51) followed Gorman down the chute. Horstmeyer applauded his women’s efforts in steamy conditions, but noted that there’s “still a lot of work left to be done.”
“I know the girls felt the same way,” he said. “We saw improvement from last week, and that’s what we want. They gained experience running in their first 5K of the season against four-year schools — we were the only community college in the field.
“We’re back at Olivet on Friday for Illinois Intercollegiates, when there will be a lot more teams and a lot faster teams. It’s exciting.”
The men, seeing their first full action of the year, were ninth among 12 teams. Evergreen Park product Anthony Briante was Moraine’s first finisher as he covered the 8K distance in 29:57, which put him in 74th place in a 128-runner field.
Thomas Cira (Brother Rice) was 10 spots behind Briante after timing out in 30:36. Evergreen Park grad Brandon Ceh (94th in 32:01), Anton Thauer (96th, 32:03) and Ryan Dovgin (102nd, 32:35) were the Cyclones’ other scorers. Completing Moraine’s list of competitors were Alejandro Montes (111th, 33:28), Jesus Rojas (113th, 33:50) and Evergreen alumnus Justin Briante (122nd, 37:20).
“For all but one of the guys, this was their first college race at the 8K distance,” Horstmeyer said. “It was not the result we were expecting, nor what they wanted to achieve, but they had a positive finish being the only two-year college at the meet. That’s something to build on.
“We’re young, and it was a learning experience. I expect their learning curve to continue upwards.”
Practice makes perfect, and the Cyclones spent the last weekend of August working out the kinks and getting a feel for the competition at the site where the 2013 national tournament will be held.
Dealing with some tough opponents, Moraine split four matches at the Owens Community College Tournament in Toledo.
“This ‘season kickoff’ tournament brings teams from all over the country to play on the courts where we all strive to compete in November,” Cyclones coach Gloria Coughlin said. “It’s a tough tournament that has the top-level teams slugging it out with each other, with the end goal not necessarily winning, but more learning about our teams’ strengths, weaknesses, character, stamina and general personality.
“We all want to find out what we need to do between now and November to attain our long-range goal of qualifying for the national tournament and, of course, winning it.”
Moraine was pitted against Michigan schools in all four encounters, beginning with Schoolcraft College, which was defeated 25-18, 25-14, 25-12. Kara Kentner (Sandburg) led the Cyclones with 14 kills, 12 assists, three service aces and 14 digs.
Autumn Seiler also was hot with 11 kills, three aces and 10 digs. Taylor Serrano (Mother McAuley), Gina Ryan and Alex Bojan each chipped in five kills, with the latter adding two blocks as well, while libero Kayla Manthei scored on two serves and was tough in the backcourt with 17 receptions and 16 digs. Setter Joanna Curtis (Sandburg) distributed 24 assists.
Moraine had another easy win in its second outing as it beat Macomb Community College 25-9, 25-21, 25-17 behind big performances from Bojan (13 kills and just two attack errors) and Kentner (10 kills, 14 assists, two aces). The Cyclones were efficient as a team with a .329 kill percentage overall.
Moraine didn’t fare quite so well on the tourney’s second day. A tall Oakland Community College team posed trouble from the start as the Cyclones struggled to stop the big hit and get control of line-drive serves.
Serrano and Seiler put down six kills apiece, while Ryan and Kentner both chipped in five as Moraine got tagged with a 25-20, 25-20, 25-15 setback.
“This is one of those matches that helps us plan the next few practices to include lots of hard serving at our own passers and more blocking drills to protect the net,” Coughlin said.
After watching Muskegon Community College earlier in the day, Moraine was ready to face the high-level team to gauge how to improve its own game. The Cyclones dropped a 25-23, 25-19, 21-25, 26-24 verdict, but Coughlin felt the match was a character-builder and demonstrated her athletes’ willingness to battle against long odds.
Ryan was Moraine’s go-to hitter with 16 kills and only two attack errors against a much taller foe. She also had 16 digs and 14 good receptions. Seiler added 13 kills, while Kentner had 10 and Serrano notched nine.
Kentner also assisted on 23 kills, while Curtis dished out the team’s other 31 assists, to go along with 15 digs. Manthei was strong on defense with 45 digs and 21 serve receptions.
“We want to continue to build upon what we learned [that] weekend as we start our [Illinois Collegiate] Skyway Conference play,” Coughlin said.
There are always fireworks when Moraine meets Kankakee Community College. The two had their first match of the season last Wednesday and the Cyclones emerged the victor by a 25-16, 25-18, 25-23 count.
The two squads square off again Sept. 21 in Kankakee.
It was a big night for Moraine’s middle hitters as Bojan (13 kills, .647 attack percentage), Kenter (11 kills, one error in 17 attempts) and Serrano (10 kills, .500 percentage) all excelled. As a team, the Cyclones registered a .386 percentage.
Being able to run the middle attack meant Moraine passed well and dug a lot of balls right to the setters. Curtis assisted on 27 kills, Kentner added 20 assists and 12 digs, Manthei paced the defense with 20 digs and Ryan chipped in 10.
After much anticipation, the Cyclones finally played their first match of the season and made it known, loudly and clearly, that they’re not messing around in 2013.
In a dominating performance in its home opener, Moraine beat the College of DuPage 8-1. Liz Dominguez set the tone by winning her match at No.1 singles, but the real thriller was team captain Alexa Armon’s third-singles match, which went three sets.
Armon stayed mentally strong, however, and came back to win a 12-10 tiebreaker in the deciding set. That match clinched the team win for the Cyclones because, before that, they had won only four of the six singles positions. A loss by Armon would have placed the outcome in the hands of Moraine’s doubles tandems.
Oak Lawn alum Claudia Maka (No. 4), Lindsey Walker (No. 5) and Tricia Poremba (No. 6) all won their singles matches convincingly. All three doubles teams were strong as well.
“It feels absolutely amazing to get this first win under our belts,” first-year coach Nicole Selvaggio said. “I believe [this] match will set the tone for the rest of the season.
“The energy was unbelievable. The girls really came together and supported each other, [and] they proved that tennis should no longer be considered an ‘individual sport.’ I have never seen such camaraderie on a tennis team in all of my experience in the tennis world.”
That being said, Selvaggio doesn’t want her athletes immediately resting on their laurels.
“We are not going to let this win make us overconfident,” she said. “I know what is ahead. I will continue to prepare my girls from here.
“It’s just nice to see that they really are taking to my coaching.”
So close, but no cigar.
Once again, the Cyclones missed out on a team win by the narrowest of margins. In its third ISCC match of the season last Wednesday, Moraine placed third, but was just two strokes out of the top spot.
In their two previous conference outings, the Cyclones were no more than two shots behind the eventual champion. Moraine was tied for first in the ISCC entering this latest event.
Pat Neylon (Shepard) and Jack Misheck played their top rounds of the year on Wednesday as they both recorded 77s. Joe Knight was right behind them with his 78 and Jeff Cizek carded an 82 to complete the Cyclones’ team scoring.
According to coach Bob Freudenthal, this was Moraine’s best overall performance to date in 2013.
The Cyclones kept things rolling along on Aug. 31 with a 3-1 win over Kennedy-King College. Steve Henry (Oak Lawn) and Greg Healy (Stagg) each scored unassisted goals for Moraine, while Patryk Paprocki netted the last one off an assist from Healy.
Despite playing on their home field, the Cyclones were upended by Morton College, 5-1, last Thursday. Freshman Lutth Tchitembo tallied Moraine’s lone goal on an unassisted play.
The Cyclones had a rough go on their home field last Wednesday, as they were shut out 6-0 by the College of DuPage. Moraine keeper Roxanne Milan was tested often and wound up being credited with 10 saves.
Another offensive drought plagued the Cyclones last Thursday, and the result was an 8-0 whitewash doled out by Lincoln College. Although again facing a barrage of shots, Milan made saves on seven of them.