On the rise: women’s athletics at Ouachita

The 2016-17 season for girls sports saw much success. For volleyball, the team finished the season with a 23-7 record, their best record in four years. Ouachita’s Stormi Leonard, Adrianna Nolly and Danny Prescott all received awards at the Great American Conference Banquet as the Setter, Freshman and Coach of the Year.

Ouachita, who tied Harding for the regular-season title, produced multiple individual award winners for the first time as a GAC member. Leonard led the GAC in assists per set and tied for third with 14 double-doubles. Nolly ranked in the top 10 in attack percentage and blocks per set. Her .282 attack percentage ranks as the fifth-best mark for a freshman in GAC history. Prescott led the Tigers to their first 20-win season in his 13 years as head coach.

With middle blocker Kori Bullard and Libero Ashley Wake joining Leonard, Ouachita placed three on the All-GAC First Team. Bullard ranked in the top 10 in blocks, kills and points per set and Wake placed third in digs per set. Nolly earned a spot on the All-GAC Second Team.

However, their tournament run came up just short, as they fell to Southern Nazarene in the semi-finals, losing the game three sets to none.

“I think we approached the season with an open mind and competitive attitude. We fought and overcame many obstacles, such as injuries or life circumstances, throughout the season that strengthened us as well.  Fear never seemed like a factor to us this year; we all wanted it more and played up to our potential,” Wake said.

Women’s soccer saw much success this season as well. However, the success was not immediate, as the early portion of the season saw the Lady Tigers struggle a bit before turning it on in conference play. They opened the season in non-conference play and did not win a single game. Ouachita entered the first Great American Conference game with a 0-4-1 record and low confidence. However, the Tigers defeated Southern Nazarene by a final score of 2-0 in that conference opener. They went on to win eight out of their 12 conference matches and earned the second-highest seed in the Great American Conference tournament. Senior defender Tessa Woodcock attributed the turnaround that the team experienced this season was largely due to learning how to play for each other.

We each put a piece of tape around our finger and put two numbers on the tape to show that we are playing for each other and not for ourselves. When you are tired late in the game, you are reminded by those numbers to give your all for those players on your team,” Woodcock said. “We have a lot of individual talent, but chemistry wins games.”

The women’s soccer team went on to lose to Harding in the semi-final round of the Great American Conference Tournament, but ended the season on a high note and will be looking to carry that momentum into next season.

The women’s basketball team finished the year with a 12-17 overall mark and a 9-13 record in GAC play. The Lady Tigers turned on their A-game when it counted, however, and rode their momentum all the way to a 69-57 loss to #2 Southern Arkansas. Kori Bullard recieved the Crafton Tull Academic Scholar Athlete for the basketball team as well and earning All-GAC honors. Senior Katie Kepler and junior Morgan Miller joined Bullard on the list.

Cross Country for Ouachita experienced a formative year, finishing ninth overall in the GAC and fifth overall at the Lois Davis Invitational in Magnolia, Ark. A highlight for the team was senior Katie Cunningham, who improved on her time by 30 seconds and was named to the All-GAC Second Team.

Softball, at time of printing, is sitting at a 21-31 overall mark with a 15-25 GAC mark. Highlights include a series sweep of Henderson State at home and a 15-4 wind over Northwestern Oklahoma State.

Swimming provided bright spots, including an improvement by junior Kristina Beall turning in her best time in the 100 m breaststroke and the 200m and 400 m individual medley.

Women’s tennis turned in a  losing season mark overall but boasted an All-GAC player in  Mallory Tabler. Tabler led the women in singles and doubles over the season.

Women’s sports at Ouachita grew to new heights in some aspects, while taking time to rebuild in others. There is a bright future ahead for the women’s athletics at Ouachita, as most teams have a lot of returning players in their respective sports, and it is nearly a sure thing OBU will remain nationally relevant.

by Marcellus Hill, Sports writer

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