As another exciting year of Knox sports comes to an end, it is time to start looking forward. Each Knox program has reason to believe that their best results will be coming in the near future, as standout performers will be returning with hopes of helping their teams reach new heights.
Here is a list of players to keep an eye on next season, as next year promises to see Knox athletics have plenty of success, both on the individual and team levels.
Men’s baseball: Junior Matt McCaffrey. With the graduation of senior sluggers Drake Sykes and Ryan Weitendorf, McCaffrey will have to take on an even bigger role in the Knox lineup next season.
Men’s basketball: Sophomore Jonathan Damota. Leading the team with 10.3 points per game this season, Damota has a shot to step up and lead this team next year. The squad has struggled to win games in recent years, but with Damota’s rise this season, hope is on the horizon.
Women’s basketball: Freshman Jarrelyn McCall. McCall nearly averaged double figures in points this season in just her first year. With another year in the Knox system, McCall is sure to perform even better next season.
Men’s cross country: Freshman Samuel Hernandez. After leading the team in many competitions this past year, Hernandez seems poised to build on his strong season and lead Knox up the conference rankings next season.
Women’s cross country: Junior Frances Larsen. Larsen headlined the cross country team’s performances at Conference and Regionals this past year and will look to close out her strong individual career next fall on a high note.
Men’s football: Sophomore James Dalton. Leading the team with 46 receptions and 440 receiving yards, Dalton emerged as a dependable threat for Knox’s offense. Dalton added strong results on special teams as well, scoring a touchdown on a punt return.
Men’s golf: Sophomore Duncan Wheeler. After a notable freshman season a year ago, Wheeler started the season slow, but managed to close the season strong with an 11th place finish at the MWC Championship. Wheeler will look to get rolling early next year and help the golf team reach new heights.
Men’s soccer: Sophomore Rocky Plaza. After winning the Most Improved Player award for this past season, Plaza will look to continue his growth this next year. With the team coming off a strong season, Plaza will be a big part of the team’s efforts to win the MWC Championship this fall.
Women’s soccer: Sophomore Jessica Petersen. Finishing second on the team with 28 points, Petersen has already emerged as a strong sidekick to junior Kayla Brown this year. As they try to defend their MWC Championship next fall, look for Petersen to take on an even bigger role in the offense.
Women’s softball: Junior Emily Stevenson. Leading the team with an average of .362 and 15 RBIs, Stevenson will take on an even bigger role next year due to the graduation of the senior class.
Men’s swimming & diving: Junior Harry Carpenter. With another strong season under his belt, Carpenter should be able to finish his Knox career on a high note next year.
Women’s swimming & diving: Freshman Melissa Wood. Already a part of Knox’s best women’s relay team ever, Wood exploded right out of the gate in her first year. With several senior standouts graduating, Wood will take on an even bigger role on the team next year.
Men’s tennis: Freshman Jared Schwarz. Though the team struggled to collect wins this season, Schwarz was a strong performer throughout the year. He will look to continue this level of performance next year, while helping lead the team to a few more wins.
Women’s tennis: Junior Miranda Corbett. With strong personal performances throughout the year, Corbett cemented her status as a building block for this team moving forward. With a more experienced squad next year, Corbett will look to be a part of a resurgence for women’s tennis.
Men’s track & field: Sophomore Malik Hamilton. After closing out his strong season with a notable performance at the MWC Championships, Hamilton will look to complete his jump to join the conference’s elite performers next season.
Women’s track & field: Freshman Michaela Kowalewski. Kowalewski was able to contribute on the track & field team immediately, quickly becoming a standout hurdler. Kowalewski will look to build on her freshman year with an even better sophomore campaign next year.
Women’s volleyball: Freshman Maddie Byrne. Among the leaders in blocking, kills and points in her first season, Byrne will look to emerge as an elite player in her second season on the Prairie Fire in the fall.
Open water polo: Junior Joseph Hilger. The open team, which is made up mostly by members of the women’s water polo team, will depend on Hilger’s strong goalkeeping again next year if they hope to keep up with conference opponents.
Women’s water polo: Sophomore Emma Newman. One of the captains this past year, Newman will have to step up in the scoring department in order to replace departing seniors. The water polo team will look to take another run at Washington University in St. Louis, the perennial thorn in Knox water polo’s side.