About the Montanan
UM Spring Sports Roundupby Andy Smetanka
Its been a year of noteworthy achievements for the UM womens soccer team. For starters, the program recently graduated its third alumnus to professional play. Forward Sara Overgaag, Montanas leading scorer for two years running, signed on in May with the Boston Renegades, a semi-pro womens Division I team of the United Soccer Leagues.
Its pretty awesome for her, says assistant coach Honey Marsh, noting that Overgaag also is considering a pro gig on a German womens team. She had a great career here, so its exciting to see her move on to bigger and better things.
In February, midfielder senior Margo Tufts was selected for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Scholar-Athlete All-America Award, the second Montana athlete to receive the honor.
Shes been a great leader for us, says Marsh. Shes a terrific athlete, and obviously she does well in the classroom, too. Shes a great role model.
The womens soccer team finished the 1998 season with fifteen wins (including seven shutouts), five losses and one tie, racking up a cumulative total of fifty-one goals--more than twice the combined total goals of their unlucky opponents. This year, following an August 28 alumni game, official season play for the womens soccer team commenced with a September 2-6 tournament in which Montana hosted Northwestern and BYU. The loss of Overgaag, Tufts and four other letter winners certainly will be felt, but the fall roster boasts an impressive fourteen returning letter winners. These include 1998 MVP defender sophomore Shannon Forslund, a handful of walk-ons and three signed freshmen--midfielder Bemoni Alidjani, forward Amy Wronski and defender Maren Burbidge.
Marsh looks forward to a tough but rewarding season for the team. Weve got a great group coming back, she says, and weve got some excellent teams on our schedule, too. Were always looking to be a power in our conference, but the teams keep getting better and better so weve got to raise our level. Were just going to take it game by game.
As a collegiate sport, rodeo is in a class all by itself: technically, bronc riders and steer wrestlers compete for points, but down in the dirt its man versus nature in all its bucking, snorting, wildly pitching and horn-waving fury. Theres nothing like matching wits against a thousand or so pounds of intractable ungulate to separate the men from the lads or the women from the lassies.
Mens events include the aforementioned saddle-bronc riding and steer wrestling, as well as bareback and bull riding, calf roping and team roping events. Womens events--goat tying, barrel racing and breakaway--are equally arduous. Its a daunting sport, period. Rodeo is Montana writ large.
And the UM club happens to be darned good at it. UM womens rodeo boasts such alumni as former national barrel-racing champion Rachel Myllymaki and breakaway roping ace Erlonna Mikkelson. The womens team didnt fare quite as well in 1999 as in previous years, but exciting up-and-comers like senior Amanda Fox and sophomore Jeanna Bruce, who made strong third- and fourth-place showings respectively in the Big Sky Conferences all-around standings last year, show promise for the 1999-2000 season.
The mens team is poised for triumph, too. As of May 19 sophomore Bryant Mikkelson, Erlonnas brother, led mens calf-roping standings by a country mile. His total of 850 gave him an advantage of 525 points over the competition and an edge in the mens all-around category, with 1097.5 points to his closest contenders 775. Currently, both mens and womens teams are ranked second only to those of UMs Western Montana College. Expect great things in 1999.
Track and Field
One of the reasons why track and field occasionally seems doomed to the neglected periphery of sports coverage is that many of its component events, sad to say, just dont seem to have the crowd appeal or sexy marketability of the more spectator-friendly collegiate staples. Its rather a strange reversal: back in the days of the first Greek Olympics, when athletic events were largely martial exercises--training for war, basically--people went nuts for track and field events.
The UM program has struggled in the past, largely due to injuries (with so many events, there are a lot of ways to get hurt) and a vacant coaching position preceding the hire of head coach Tom Raunig, which caused a one-season lapse in recruiting.
But lately, every season has been better than the last, producing a bumper crop of awards, honors, broken records and spectacular individual performances. Early last June, NCAA All-American decathlete, senior Troy McDonough, placed fourth overall at the NCAA championships in Boise, the finishing touch on a season that also saw him go to GTE Academic All-American and set the new Montana decathlon record. And McDonough wasnt the only record-breaker in 1999: the UM distance medley relay team--junior Dave Blair, junior Tim Briggs, sophomore Kyle Weis and senior Jesse Zentz--smashed another Montana record with a time of 9:56:77.
Womens indoor and outdoor track also improved by, ahem, leaps and bounds. Sophomore Heather Anderson claimed the Big Sky championship title in the 3,000 meter, garnering a selection to the All-Conference Big Sky team. Her teammate, freshman Suzanne Krings, qualified for the NCAA championship.
The athletes Raunig signed on as freshmen are maturing into a stronger team, and even without the deluge of public doting heaped on certain other sports, UM track and field is clearly blossoming. It was a good overall year, where the mens team finished ahead of Montana State, indoors, at the Big Sky Conference meet and we beat them again at the annual dual outdoors for the first time since 1986, says Raunig. And on the womens side, there were marked improvements in conference meets. Overall, even though we have lost some key people, we will have a young but talented team in 1999-2000.
The tradition of greatness in UM tennis dates back to 1946, when Georgetown graduate Jules Karlin organized the Universitys first official team, became its coach and led the young squad to a series of stinging victories over the schools traditional athletic rival, Montana State University. That first season--six wins and three losses, including two 7-0 trouncings of MSU--proved a portentous one for the young program. More than fifty years later, UMs 50-35 all-time record over MSU reflects nineteen straight victories from 1946 to 1964, followed by another streak of sixteen from 1965 to 1974.
Kris Nord, head coach to both the mens and womens teams, has been with the UM tennis program for seventeen years and expects the 1999-2000 season to be a good one. On the womens side, hes clearly set his sights on Northern Arizona, the womens tennis powerhouse, which has won the conference championships for three years in a row.
Weve got about nine players on the [womens] roster right now, Nord says, noting that some negotiations still are pending. Weve got three recruits and four coming back, for starters. And were pretty happy with the recruits, so what we want to do is jump that up and take on Northern Arizona.
The mens team, despite graduating two players last year, also will benefit from a strong cadre of returns--five of them, in fact, including all-conference senior David Froschauer. Froschauer demolished the competition last fall at UM and Idaho State invitationals, and Nord has no doubts that this year will be a landmark one.
We fully expect Dave to lead the way, Nord says. And were very deep on the mens side with ten kids who can all play.Andy Smetanka 98 is also a contributor to the Missoula Independent.
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