With some fall sports seasons coming to an end and other teams competing for spots in the MWC tournament, many themes have emerged for Knox athletics. As some teams struggle to capture victories, others approach levels of dominance not often seen at Knox in their respective sports.
Fall is a busy term for student-athletes, as a total of nine teams compete during this time. While both golf teams have closed out their fall seasons, both soccer teams are vying for the top spots at their respective MWC championship tournaments. On the flip side, both the football and volleyball teams, as well as the women’s tennis team, have struggled to win games after solid seasons a year ago.
Of all the emerging themes, the most striking is the strong youth movement rising through the Knox athletics ranks. Freshmen have contributed significantly on all teams, while sophomores have turned in star-like performances in just their second college seasons. It will undoubtedly be exciting to follow the remaining active teams as their seasons unfold.
The following are some of the top performers and coaches of the 2018 fall season thus far, a term that shows the future of Knox athletics holds great promise.
Men’s teams’ top rookie: Freshman Jake Totty, soccer.
Totty, a forward, is currently tied for third in points. He has scored three goals and assisted on two others, adding up to eight total points. Totty has added another level of depth for the Fire this year, increasing an aspect that was already a strength for the team.
Runner up: Jevon Stephenson, cross country.
Women’s teams’ top rookie: Freshman Iris Berto, cross country.
Berto has run exceptionally well so far this fall, including finishing sixth overall at the Beloit Olde English Invitational last month. Berto has been widely praised by teammates for stepping up into the top performer’s role this season, proving Berto is already a star in the making.
Runner up: Freshman Lydia Mitchell, soccer.
Men’s teams’ MVP: Sophomore Alessandro Benelli, soccer.
No men’s team at Knox has seen more success recently than the soccer team, though one of the pillars of their team currently is only a sophomore. Benelli saw immediate big minutes last season next to another star defender, but has seized the mantle of being a shutdown defenseman this year. Benelli now leads the dominant men’s defense in front of their star senior goalkeeper, Justin Dunn.
Runner up: Sophomore Josh Schumacher, golf.
Women’s teams’ MVP: Senior Rosie Medina, soccer.
While the men’s soccer team has enjoyed plenty of success recently, no Knox team team comes close to the streak of dominance the women’s soccer team has displayed in the past few seasons. Coming off of their second straight NCAA tournament berth, Medina has helped ensure that the team hasn’t missed a beat this year. Knox has yet to lose in conference play this season, and Medina’s efforts have been recognized with a MWC offensive player of the week award.
Runner up: Sophomore Shelby Keen, golf.
Men’s teams’ top coach: Brian O’Connor, soccer.
When former men’s soccer coach Tyler Sheikh announced his departure from the school on June 30, O’Connor was promoted from his assistant position just weeks before the team reported to campus for training. Though he had little time to adjust, the team has not missed a beat, continuing to perform at a high level. Touting a deeper roster than in recent years, O’Connor is pressing all the right buttons so far for the Prairie Fire.
Runner up: K.C. Harding, golf.
Women’s teams’ top coach: Chris Haught-Thompson, soccer.
In his second season as the head women’s soccer coach at Knox, Haught-Thompson has again put the Fire in strong position to reach the MWC championship tournament. Having won the MWC championship tournament two years in a row, Haught-Thompson has ensured that the team dispels any thoughts of a decline. Under his tutelage, the Fire have yet to lose a conference match up, with their overall record sitting at 11-0-2. As they look forward, the Fire have to feel confident in their depth and defensive efforts under Haught-Thompson.
Runner up: K.C. Harding, golf.