BY: RICHARD SPEAS, DIRECTOR OF STUDENT LIFE & ATHLETICS
The fall of 2015 welcomed back the Pioneers football program, joining the perennially strong volleyball team for the autumn sports venue. The Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) fall sports have concluded the regular season with neither football nor volleyball qualifying for post-season play.
The Pioneer football team opened the season with a 31-18 win over MCAC Eastern Division foe Vermilion. The team however, would not find the winning combination again during the season. Due to forfeiture by Minnesota State Fergus Falls, NCTC would end the campaign with a 2-6 record, finishing fifth in the six-team division. With a seven point margin or less in three of the losses, the Pioneers first year head coach, Travis Martin seeks to keep a nucleus of players upon which to build the 2015-2016 recruiting class.
The Pioneers volleyball program, 131-60 under the leadership of Abdul Chamma, failed to qualify for Regional play for the first time during Chamma’s tenure. NCTC concluded the season with a record of 12-11 overall, and 7-7 in the Northern Division of the MCAC. Chamma begins his 2016-2017 recruiting campaign with the anticipation of three returning players from this year’s squad.
NCTC Winter Sports Preview
Sporting a 25-2 record entering the Region XIII-B championship game in 2015, dreams of a back-to-back national championships by the NCTC women’s basketball program were dashed when the Pioneers fell to MCAC rival, Mesabi Range, 77-75. The 2014 NJCAA Division III national champions enter the 2015-2016 season as the number two ranked women’s basketball team in the national polls. The only two regular season losses last season came at the hands of NJCAA Division I scholarship programs. “Returning six of our top eight players from last season, we will lean heavily on our sophomores experience early in the season,” states NCTC head coach Shannon Nelson. Returning starters include Allyson Dahl (New Folden, MN), Tori Mekash (Greenbush, MN), and Haley Gehrtz (Ada, MN). Cheyenne Woods (Bemidji, MN) also saw significant playing time. The Pioneers open November 14th at the Lake Region State College tournament in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. The Pioneers season home opener is November 17th when they host Minnesota State Fergus Falls.
The NCTC men’s basketball program returns its leading scorer; 6’5” forward Steve Clark (Romulus, MI) for the 2015-2016 campaign. Clark averaged 11.2 points per game, and also grabbed 123 caroms to finish second in rebounding on the squad. Veteran coach Rick Nikunen and assistant Chris McLean look to a group of recruits to help buoy the Pioneers goal to capture the MCAC northern division. Included in this year’s crop of newcomers is Lincoln High School guard, Jake Joppru who finished his interscholastic career with over 1,200 points for the Prowlers. The Pioneers finished 12-14 overall during the 2014-2015 season, while going 6-8 in the northern division of the MCAC, good for a fifth place finish in the eight team division. The men’s basketball opens the season on November 10th, when they travel to Mayville, North Dakota to take on the Mayville State JV team. The men’s team home opener is November 17th when they host Minnesota State Fergus Falls.
Entering the third season since wrestling was reinstated at NCTC, the program has shown steady progress. Gone from the roster are national qualifiers Craig Williams (197) who was named All-American, Sam Twistol, and Austin Hjelle. Due to an injury, Sam Twistol will return to the NCTC program as an assistant wrestling coach where he joins Kyle Jensen. Scott DCamp is back at the helm of the Pioneers wrestling program. The Pioneers finished 6-7 in duals overall last year, 4-1 in MCAC duals, seventh place among non-scholarship schools at the NJCAA national meet, and 24th overall in the NJCAA national wrestling tournament. This year’s squad includes twenty new faces in the program to begin the year. The Pioneer wrestlers travel to the Yellowjacket Open at Rochester, Minnesota on November 1st.
To access more information on the NCTC athletic programs be sure to visit www.northlandpioneers.com.