Hilltopper athletes continue to succeed in spring seasons

WLU’s Athletics Department has had a successful season this spring after many teams’ seasons were cut short last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wrestling team and Men’s Basketball team have somewhat stolen the show, and understandably so, with a season littered with success for each program, but nearly every team on campus has had members recognized by the Mountain East Conference, regionally, or nationally.

The Men’s basketball team made it to the NCAA Division II tournament this year and eventually bowed out in the Elite Eight Round of the competition to Northwest Missouri State. This came after a first-place finish in the regional tournament where the Toppers beat out No. 9 ranked Hillsdale to secure their sixth Atlantic Region Title since 2011.

The Hilltopper team also saw several players earn individual recognition both within and outside the MEC. West Liberty All-American, Dalton Bolon was named the MEC player of year for the second year in a row. Bolon scored double figures in all Mountain East games this season and blew past the 2000 career point milestone early on this year.

Pat Robinson III, a junior guard, and Will Yoakum, a junior wing, also made it onto the All-MEC first team. Both report high scoring stats and consistency for the Black and Gold.
The WLU Wrestling team finished fourth in the 2021 NCAA Division II National Championship, the highest ever finish for a WLU team. Head Coach Danny Irwin’s Hilltoppers also closed out the regional tournament with a first-place team finish with all 10 wrestlers winning at least one match.
“I’m so proud of my guys,” Irwin said. “Going all the way back to when I was wrestling, I have never had 10 guys wrestle as consistently well as our guys did today from start to finish. It was an amazing, amazing effort,” Irwin said.

WLU success has had success beyond men’s basketball and wrestling too. The women’s basketball team saw Olivia Belknap named to the All-MEC first team and Audrey Tingle was named to the All-MEC second team. Both earned player of the week awards during the season and were pivotal in the Lady Toppers’ success. Belknap led the team in scoring while Tingle posted the fourth triple-double of the season by a NCAA Division II woman.

West Liberty’s Cross-Country team has also had significant success this season. All-Region Sophomore Hannah Kemp was awarded the MEC Runner of the Year Award. Kemp has won out this season in all her distance events running away with the win in the MEC Championship race. “It wasn’t really a strategy,” Kemp said.

Kemp was not alone in her MEC success. Sophomore runner Nichole Groseclose was named as an All-MEC honoree for the second time after another successful season. Junior men’s runner Phil White also earned a spot on the All-MEC first team for the second time in his career after posting a fifth-place finish in the MEC Championship.

Both the Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams have had positive seasons so far. Anton Schulz, a senior from Menden, Germany earned a Mountain East Conference Men’s Player of the Week award after winning 36 out 37 games in doubles and singles play in just one week in mid-March. The Lady Topper’s no.2 seed Nathalia Valencia earned the Women’s Player of the Week award the same week after losing only two games in both singles and doubles in another convincing victory for Head Coach Heather Gallagher’s squad.

The WLU Men’s Soccer team has posted their most successful season in program history. This was highlighted in the Hilltoppers 3-0 win at Concord – their first ever shutout win. Senior defender Mikel Ubeda from Bilbao, Spain was awarded the MEC Defensive Player of the Week title for his stellar defense and scoring the third goal of the game to give the Toppers their largest margin of victory yet.

The Lady Topper Volleyball squad saw three of their players earn MEC honors after making it into the postseason tournament. Senior middle blocker Madison Clayton was named to the All-MEC first team for the second time while freshman libero Nyia Setla was listed in the second-team and outside hitter Emily Reedy received an honorable mention. The three ladies were major contributors to the team success throughout the season with the squad finishing with a 7-4 record overall.
WLU’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team are still competing for postseason as the season nears its end. The team earned MEC Player of the Week award three weeks in a row with Kenzie Kyle, Sydney Schumacher, and Lexus Ficca all receiving the honor back-to-back. Ficca was also recognized as an honorable mention by the NCATA. She was joined by Lindsay Fries, who was honored as NCATA specialist of the week, and Katie Emborsky who earned an NCATA Freshman of the Week award.