This past fall, the University of Indianapolis became one of three NCAA Division II programs in the nation that sent four teams to NCAA tournaments, along with sending a runner to the cross country national championships. The four teams UIndy sent were football, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer teams.
Sending so many teams is historic and has never happened before, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sue Willey said. In the past, fall sports have been weaker when it comes to going to NCAA competitions, while winter and spring sports have been stronger, she said. Willey said she challenged the fall sports because she wanted the fall student-athletes to have an NCAA tournament experience.
“Right now, for both soccer teams, I think they have peaked at the right time and volleyball has been doing well to get to this point,” Willey said. “It’s been a long time since any of those teams had been to NCAA playoffs.”
Having all of UIndy’s fall sports make it to tournaments and have that experience is exciting, Willey said. The distinction shows the level of commitment and support the strength and conditioning group, athletic trainers and the community gives to UIndy’s student-athletes, she said.
While the football team made it to their tournament, the results were not what UIndy had hoped, Willey said. In November, the football team made it to the first round of the NCAA D2 playoffs. However, they lost to the University of Central Missouri 37-27 on Nov. 23 and ended the season with a 9-2 record, according to UIndy Athletics. Football had made six previous appearances at the playoffs, with this year’s game being the seventh appearance, according to UIndy Athletics.
Head Volleyball Coach Jason Reed said that he’s proud of UIndy’s student-athletes for the work they have put in to reach this level. He said that UIndy not only has great resources for athletics, but also has people that are willing to support each other in their endeavors.
“From the athletic department to science to chemistry, everybody is doing such a good job at their thing,” Reed said. “At the same time, nobody’s taking themselves too seriously to [not] go and support one another.”
The volleyball team has been building up to a tournament for the last few years, Reed said. He said that the team was close to the NCAA tournament last year and was in the regional rankings.
“We’ll be foolish if we think that something just changed or happened overnight,” Reed said. “Hats off to the programs that are able to stay at that level and maintain that success, year in [and] year out, that’s special. Winning is crazy hard. I want to shout out to the groups before them that didn’t get there, they’re still part of the success that happened here because it all goes together into getting to this point.”
Reed said that the seniors on the team have done a great job of leading volleyball this year. Senior setter Alyssa Spears has shown an incredible amount of growth since she joined the team her sophomore year, he said. Junior outside hitters Katie Furlong and Taylor Jacquay have also been an important part of the team’s success, Reed said.
“They’ve done well on the court, but with all three of those girls, I’m really proud of the way they’ve kind of emerged as leaders within the team,” Reed said. “Their work ethic [and] their leadership by example has been tremendous.”
On Nov. 23, junior cross country runner Lauren Bailey placed ninth at NCAA D2 Women’s Cross Country Championships, and received All-American status for the season, according to UIndy Athletics. Head Cross Country Coach Brad Robinson said that Bailey placing ninth was phenomenal and that he was proud of her achievement.
“For her season in particular, that was the race we were building towards, without a doubt, and it went about as near perfect as possible for Lauren on that day, with the conditions, her racing style, everything,” Robinson said. “It almost feels like the planets were aligned… to have that type of performance because she didn’t qualify the year before.”
Robinson said that Bailey’s achievement would leave a positive mark on UIndy’s program. While Bailey is rewriting the history books, she is also challenging the team to not be afraid, he said.
“It’s the highest finish, first All-American ever on the women’s side in school history for cross country and the highest finish from either [the] men’s or women’s program at the national championship at cross country,” Robinson said. “Being an All-American again shows the process of being patient, committing yourself to our system of [what] we’re trying to build here that anything’s possible.”
Having a student-athlete who placed ninth at a national championship and will be coming back for her senior year makes Willey proud, she said. Willey said that UIndy’s student-athletes are not only outstanding student-athletes, they are are also outstanding students.
“They’re just quality individuals that have so much to give and they just stand out,” Willey said. “[I] knew she [Bailey] had a good chance. [I] never thought she was going to be in the top 10 in the country, but [that’s] just phenomenal.”
Women’s soccer had never won a second round game and men’s soccer had never won a first round game until this past season, Willey said. She said that it’s exciting that they have moved up in the tournaments. Willey said that she never thought that UIndy would be where it is right now.
“I never would have envisioned that we’d be where we are right now,” Willey said.
At UIndy, everyone is pushing each other to be as successful as they can, Willey said. UIndy’s environment has made the university a more successful athletic powerhouse, according to Willey.
“UIndy is known athletically across the nation,” Willey said. “When you’re having that success, it certainly, success breeds success. It certainly makes the job a little bit easier for our coaches and recruiting because people want to come and be a part of a successful program.”