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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Mike Bock, senior vice president, talks about Trine University's MTI Center which has a 3,500-seat arena that will be home to Trine University's men's and women's basketball.

Saturday, June 30, 2018 1:00 am

State of region college athletics

New arenas, 9 teams highlight Trine's year

Other schools reportless obvious changes, successes last season

GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette

Coming up

Today: Region colleges

Sunday: Purdue Fort Wayne

In case you missed it: Indiana (Sunday), Purdue (Monday), Notre Dame (Tuesday), Saint Francis (Wednesday), Indiana Tech (Thursday), Ball State (Friday)

All Trine athletics did last year was open a $14 million basketball arena, a $7.5 million hockey arena and add nine new teams. The Thunder don't do idle very well.

“That's plenty, I guess,” Trine athletic director Matt Land said. “We had success in all those programs in their first years. I am excited about the year that was. It's a Trine thing. We do things first class, and we make sure they are successful.”

The new teams were hockey (four teams), bowling, women's triathlon, esports, women's synchronized skating and figure skating. And next year, the Thunder will bring back men's volleyball after a 15-year hiatus. 

Leading the success for Trine were the Division III national runner-up women's triathlon team; the esports team that was second in the nation in the regular season; and the football and women's basketball teams that made it to the final 16 teams in their respective D-III national tournaments.

“It's really exciting to be the athletic director at Trine at this time, because I get to do so many different things and learn so many different aspects,” Land said. “Who gets to start nine programs in their career, let alone one year? Who gets to open a hockey arena and a basketball arena, let alone do it in one year?

“We have done a lot in my six years as AD. It takes a village to do these things, and the village is strong at Trine.”


The Lancers made a change, maybe subtle to some, but a two-year process that brought the school a new logo. 

The new logo, which now sports a more distinctive looking “G” with a shield surrounding the letter, coincides with the redoing of the gymnasium floor and avoids any confusion with other “G” schools, such as nearby Goshen College. 

“It has been a large undertaking, but it has been a lot of fun to see the excitement with the new logo and the new brand,” Grace athletic director Chad Briscoe said. “We wanted to create something that was distinctive to the Grace brand.”

Other highlights include the men's soccer team winning the Crossroads League title and advancing to the NAIA national tournament for the first time in 25 years and Thomas Hickerson's National Christian College Athletic Association national javelin title, held at Grace. Hickerson is the son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Bryan Hickerson.

Grace is also set to begin a project for a new softball stadium.


An increase in athletes over the past 10 years prompted the school to double the size of its athletic training room with a dedication happening in April. 

“We were in desperate need of more space,” Huntington athletic director Lori Culler said. 

The school also doubled the size of its softball dugouts and enjoyed the second season of the renovated baseball stadium. 

Culler, who is also the school's longtime women's basketball coach, said many of the programs had young teams with solid recruiting classes. 


Four Spartans athletes picked up most valuable player honors in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2017-18. Erin Cordill won the honor for women's tennis; Hannah Wappes for women's indoor/outdoor track; Laurren Ladwig for softball; and Dakota Nelson for football/special teams. 

Ladwig also was the school's first All-American in softball and hit a school-record 19 home runs.

In addition, wrestler Chase Wilson (141 pounds) was a Division III regional champion and a national qualifier, the first time for the program in a while, athletic director Rick Espeset said. 

“It is unique in a sense because there may be one or two in a year, but to have four (MVPs) in one year; ... some pretty high performances by those five student-athletes,” Espeset said. 

Espeset said fundraising for building projects for the football stadium and track are ongoing.

“Fundraising has advanced but still not enough to put shovel in the ground,” said Espeset, who is also the school's baseball coach.