BY: RICHARD SPEAS, DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS & STUDENT LIFE
Northland Community and Technical College opens the 2016-2017 fall sports season with a veteran coach returning for his eighth year at the helm of the Pioneers volleyball program, and a veteran coach who will be a new fixture on the football sidelines in the MCAC.
The 2016 Pioneers volleyball team and Coach Abdul Chamma look to rebound following a 12-11 campaign that saw them finish 5th (7-7) in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Northern Division. The conference finish was the lowest finish for Chamma, the all-time winningest volleyball coach in NCTC history. Gone are Katelyn Howell, ShyLee Lehmann, and Cheyenne Woods who led the team in kills with 131, 108, and 104 respectively.
Chamma will look to returning his single returning starter from last year, outside hitter Amber Froeber (Crookston, MN) to supply some firepower for the Pioneers. Froeber tallied 88 kills. “We had very hard working girls on the team, and expect the same from them this year,” assessed Chamma.
Coach Chamma looks for significant contributions from his newcomers. He will look for immediate results from libero Madison Magner (Newfolden, MN), middle hitter Shantel Verbout (Grygla, MN), middle hitter/outside hitter Emerson Pavlik (Grand Forks AFB, ND) and outside hitter Haley Stephenson (Hutchinson, MN). Chamma also looks to middle hitter Jessica Vedbraaten (Newfolden, MN) to contribute to the team.
Look for defending northern division champion Central Lakes and Mesabi Range as the league favorites in 2016. “This should be a very balanced league this year,” according to Chamma. New this year is the MCAC crossover tournament (10/21, 10/22), where the northern division will match up with the southern division.
The Pioneer volleyball team opened the season on August 27th, going 2-2 at the Minnesota State (Fergus Falls) tournament. After defeating Itasca Community College in the tournament, NCTC fell to the Vikings in the opening round of conference play on Wednesday, August 31st.
The Pioneer football program has a new face on the sidelines, in veteran coach Jim Cox. Cox hopes to rejuvenate the Pioneer football program following seasons where the program was suspended (2014), then went 2-6 during the 2015 campaign.
Cox will look to eleven returners for help in the transition phase. Returners on the offensive side of the ball include Thief River Falls product, fullback Kaleb Torgerson, running back Kevin Evans (Groveland, FL), along with wide receivers Christian Vinson (Ocala, FL), Pierre Elysee (Orlando, FL), and Derrius Brown (Groveland, FL). Vinson led the team in receptions with 27 for 276 yards, while Elysee was second on the squad with 27 catches for 239 yards.
Returners on the defensive side of the ball include defensive end Derrick Newby (Orlando, FL), linebackers Jacob Bradford (Fredericksburg, VA), Kennan Laidley (Thief River Falls, MN), Fred Key (Groveland, FL) and defensive backs Duane Barnes (Mount Dora, FL) and Quadarious Gordon (Ocala, FL).
Gordon led the team in return yardage with 179 yards on 6 returns while Bradford was a leader in a team category with 4.5 sacks.
The Pioneers will look for some key newcomers in several positions. With no returning quarterbacks, the coaching staff will keep a watchful eye on prospects Khlyn Strickland, 6’2”, 215 lb., (Orlando, FL), and Payton Kendrick, 6’2”, 210 lb., (Tucson, AZ). The Pioneers will looking for Paul Jackson (Mobile, AL) to help anchor the defensive line at 6’2” and 265 lb. Running back Dez Henderson, a 5 star recruit from Fort Worth, TX should add some significant punch to the ground game. Jordon Bossier, a 5’7”, 160 lb. wide receiver (Lafayette, LA) has the speed to turn some heads. On the defensive side of the ball, the staff expects help at the safety position from 6’2”, 220 lb. linebacker Raheen Granville (Atlanta, GA).
The Pioneers opened their fall campaign on August 27th, when they traveled to Ely, MN to take on Vermilion in the season opener. Most encouraging for a team that struggled offensively all of last season, Northland put up 430 total yards of offense in the opener, including 266 through the air, and 164 on the ground.
The 2-0 Pioneers play at home on September 10th (Dakota College) before going on the road to Minnesota West in Worthington, MN.