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High hopes for TMC this fall

Posted: September 13, 2013 10:11 p.m.
Updated: September 13, 2013 10:11 p.m.

The Master’s College’s 2013-14 fall athletic season is in full swing and many teams are finding early success.

There are new faces, returning stars and teams with high hopes.

Here, we take a look at the upcoming season.


Cross Country

Fans of The Master’s College’s cross country team might do a double-take this year, as the team lost John Gilbertson — easily the best runner in the history of the school — to graduation last year.

“You can’t really measure the loss of when you have an athlete like Gilbertson and you lose him to graduation,” said TMC head coach Zach Schroeder. “That’s an immense hit both in leadership mentality, training, in every way. Who Gilbertson is, what he embodies, is everything that we’re about. There’s certainly a void there. At the same time it presents an extreme opportunity for a number of our athletes to step up.”

The Mustangs have plenty of talent remaining.

On the men’s team, Schroeder expects to have a deeper team than in the past, even if they don’t have the talent at the top that Gilbertson provided.

“Honestly, at this point, it’s definitely too early to tell (who will emerge as No. 1),” Schroeder said. “And that’s really a testament to the amount that all those guys need each other.”

Tyler Tockstein and Matthew Crichton will be counted on heavily this season, as will newcomer and Hart High graduate Josh Sherfey.

One the women’s side, experience is a little more prevalent.

Hannah Kellerman returns as the team’s top runner,

“Our women’s team is really exciting,” Schroeder said. “They’ve been the dark horse of the conference. We have never been able to field a strong team with the depth we’ve needed. We have four recruits in that have really added some much needed depth. We’re returning all our girls except for Hayley Parkinson, so we have a strong returning class.”

The team featured just six runners last season, but has nine on this year’s roster.

Along with Kellerman, Saugus graduate Karis Frankian should lead the Mustangs.

“I think that people are starting to be more well aware of us,” Schroeder said. “We started the year ranked first in the preseason poll, but at this point those are just rumors.”


Women’s Volleyball

Coming off a 27-8 season, a third-place finish in the ultra-competitive Golden State Athletic Conference and an appearance in the NAIA National Championship tournament for the first time in school history, this year’s team could be even better.

TMC returns key players at every position, including 2012 NAIA All-American second-team outside hitter Sam Dougherty.

She and fellow senior Rebecca Peluffo, the starting libero, return from last year along with junior middle blocker Ashley Newton, junior opposite Stacey Jones. Also coming back is sophomore setter Aubrey Bekendam, who was named NAIA Freshman of the Year last season.

The Mustangs also have a promising freshman class of nine players who are providing some all-around depth.

“People want to be a part of something that’s successful,” said fourth-year head coach Bobby Blanken of the team’s recent success. “I think that’s a general truism. We’ve have the right kids on the bus going in the right direction.”

TMC finished the first portion of its schedule 10-2 on Saturday and it heads into a two-week break before opening up GSAC play against NAIA No. 4 ranked Biola on Sept. 21.


Women’s Soccer

The Mustangs haven’t wasted much time showing they’re an improved squad in 2013.

The Master’s College women’s soccer team has started the season undefeated, winning seven straight.

In 2013, it’s Jordan and Jasmine Benson and Natasha Coyle leading the way.

Jordan Benson leads the team with 24 points through seven games, scoring nine goals and assisting on another six.

In net, Ilyssa Espiritu is the primary goalkeeper, tallying 26 saves to five goals and posting a 7-0 record with four shutouts so far this season.

Already, the ball is being distributed far more than last season, and that’s a good thing for the Mustangs.

The team has had to deal with the loss of Shea Richards, who led TMC with 30 points on 13 goals and four assists last season, while returner Jasmine Benson was second with 22 points and Tara Struiksma was the only other player in double digits with 10 points.

In 2012, the Mustangs finished the year 12-6-2, falling in the semifinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament to No. 1 seeded Vanguard.

This year, they’re hoping for more.


Men’s Soccer

The Master’s College men’s soccer team knows what it wants to do this season; the question is can they do it?

The team currently sits at 0-4 on the season.

“We would be a possession style team where we keep the ball and move it side to side, but with the versatility of attack as well where we’re moving the ball on the ground, but can hit that occasional through ball or diagonal ball or air ball,” said head coach Jim Rickard. “But we’re not going to just kick it forward and run. We’ll mix it in if it’s appropriate, but really more of a solid possession style soccer being able to change with the ball.”

The team, which finished 8-10-1 overall and 4-5-1 in the GSAC last season, good for sixth, got a boost this season with the return of senior Jorge Serrano, who sat out his junior year after leading the team in scoring his sophomore season.

“It’s a real boost, it’s almost like a free recruit,” Rickard said. “We don’t have him for a year, he’s been battling some injuries. Minor things so I don’t think he’s been 100 percent even though he has been playing. Getting him back in the rhythm, we’re trying to find the best position for him, as well. We’ve had to toy with a few things.”

Together with Austin Nicholson on defense and Kevin Scheunemann in the midfield, the trio make up the core of the Mustangs’ squad.

At goalkeeper, TMC is using both Kyle Cunningham and Christian Bryant early in the season, with no clear front runner yet emerging to take the position.

“We’ll be using two of them in the next few games and we’ll start giving them full games,” Rickard said. “We need somebody to really clearly be the No. 1.”

TMC missed out on the postseason last year and hasn’t made the NAIA tournament since 2009; Will this be the year the Mustangs return?

“We’re going to have to be playing at our best to compete with most of the teams,” Rickard said. “Really, all of the teams — I think there’s a couple teams that are kind of ahead of the curve, but there’s a lot of parity and everybody’s close enough that they can do damage.”


Men’s Golf

The men’s golf team returns four seniors off it’s 2012 squad, and has added one freshman plenty familiar with the Santa Clarita Valley.

Last season’s Foothill League boys golfer of the year Joey Downey of West Ranch signed with the team and will start his collegiate career this fall.

Returners include seniors Thane Ringler, Joshua Oakes, Matthew Kim and Nolan Sand.

The Mustangs will have to deal with the losses of key golfers Michael Reitz and Andrew Bergoon, both of whom were seniors on last year’s squad.

Unfortunately, despite having a talented roster capable of reaching the NAIA national tournament, the Mustangs are ineligible because they pulled out of last year’s tournament as a self-imposed punishment for undisclosed school violations by members of the 2012 team.

Last season, the team won the Monroe, Ore. NAIA Regional Championship to originally qualify for the national tournament.

The team is only scheduled to participate in 10 events this season, beginning with the Mid-South Invitational in Newton, Kan., where the Mustangs finished fourth out of five teams and concluding with the TMC Spring Invitational on March 3-4 at Robinson Ranch.

Signal staff writer Dan Agnew contributed to this report.



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