When the sun came up on Saturday, November 23rd, 2019, there was nothing but opportunity for the Mines athletics department. And the Orediggers did not disappoint. Men’s and women’s swim placed 2nd and 3rd respectively at the A3 Performance invite, women’s basketball beat Concordia by a score of 69-57, and seven Oredigger wrestlers earned spots on the podium at the UNK Open in Kearney, Nebraska. But it was Mines’ fall teams that made that Saturday the most exciting single day in Oredigger history.
Oredigger fall sports featured all six of their teams in postseason action. Let’s cut to the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, California. At 10 a.m. Pacific the gun went off, and Mines women’s cross country began the NCAA championship run. Just 20 minutes, 39.3 seconds later, redshirt senior Chloe Cook crossed the finish line in seventh place, leading the way for a team third-place finish in the nation. “This race and trophy was just a culmination of all the hard work that we have put in throughout this season and in the past to build this women’s team to be a contender on the national stage,” said Cook. “I couldn’t have ended my career as an Oredigger in a better way. And with all the pressure of being ranked third all season, just getting out there and doing what we knew we were capable of was just the greatest feeling. This year’s team was so special, and I know they are in good hands in the coming years with all the young sophomores and freshmen we had out there.” Morgan Molesworth (16th) and Zoe Baker (19th) joined Cook as all-Americans.
Fifteen minutes after Scott Marshall hit the opening kickoff into the endzone for a touchback at Marv Kay Stadium, the men’s cross country team was off to the races in Sacramento. Redshirt freshman Kyle Moran worked his way from 39th position to fourth over ten kilometers and was the top finishing Oredigger. He led Mines to their second-ever NCAA national title (first was men’s cross country in 2015). Dyan Ko (7th), Luc Hagen (15th), and Ben Schneiderman (18th), Jake Mitchem (20th), and Derek Steele (38th) rounded out the nationwide-best seven all-Americans for Mines.
When Derek Steele crossed the finish line in California, and John Matocha ran for Mines football’s first score of the day to cut the deficit to 7-14 in the second quarter against the University of Sioux Falls, the Oredigger women’s soccer team finished a scoreless first half against Dallas Baptist University. It was a defensive game in the first round of the NCAA championship in Dallas, until senior Nicole LaTourette scored in the 65th minute. Mines came within 68 seconds of advancing to the round of 16 when DBU equalized and sent the match to golden-goal overtime. After two scoreless overtime periods (resulting in a ‘tie’ in the scorebook) Mines ended up falling 4-5 in penalty kicks and was eliminated from the tournament.
As that final DBU penalty kick hit the back of the net, things were looking up in Golden. Quarterback John Matocha completed a wide-open touchdown pass to Garrett Hyles, and the extra point by Scott Marshall was good to even up the score at 21-21 with a little over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. This game had not been easy on the Orediggers, who failed to score in the first quarter for only the second time this season. The defense was resilient though, and only allowed one score in the last three quarters. Matocha bounced back in the second half, leading Mines to the endzone in two of the last three drives, and ending the final drive at the Sioux Falls six yard-line with six seconds to go in the fourth quarter. This set up kicker Scott Marshall perfectly to seal the deal. “Honestly I was joking around with my holder and kicking coach during timeouts,” said Marshall. “[I was] just wanting to come through for my teammates who had played an extremely tough and physical football game for the last three hours.” He came through and drilled the 23-yard field goal. Marshall then squibbed the final kickoff and, after a failed series of Sioux Falls laterals, the Orediggers advanced to the NCAA round of 16.
After Mines women’s basketball wrapped up their 69-57 in Seattle, Mines fans everywhere had a well-deserved break from secondhand stress. But that respite only lasted a little over an hour, because the Oredigger volleyball team was underway in the RMAC tournament at 6:00 p.m. MST. Mines had already completed a shocking upset the night before, when they swept over RMAC regular-season champion (and the number five team in the country) Regis on their home court. The Orediggers rode that momentum, Elle Duis had 33 digs, and Abby Tiesman led all players with 22 kills in the four-set victory over MSU Denver. “We might have been the underdog in tournament seeding, but we knew that we were fully capable of beating both teams,” said Tiesman. “We prepared well and were ready to fight for every point when the time came and it paid off. It feels amazing to win the RMAC tournament and prove that the tournament seed does not define us as a team.” Tiesman earned the RMAC Tournament MVP award, and Mines picked up an NCAA tournament berth.
As MSU took their only set against Mines volleyball, the Oredigger men’s soccer team kicked off at Azusa Pacific University (the number one ranked team in the country) in southern California. Redshirt sophomore Baptiste Debuire took no time disrupting the home team, as he redirected a cross from Lucas King into the net less than two minutes into regulation. Azusa Pacific responded quickly, with a goal in the 5th minute. Despite two quick goals, this match was decided by defense. Fittingly, it was senior defender Jason Zobott who scored the deciding goal in the 29th minute off of a Ford Edwards corner kick. “I was just happy that I could help the team win the game,” said Zobott. “We have a great team atmosphere and are super unselfish. I was just happy I could go celebrate with my teammates afterwards.” Azusa sent a barrage of pressure in the second half, but the Mines backline never faltered, and Mines earned their way to the final 16. “We just wanted to go into the game knowing that our team was good enough to play with anyone,” said Zobott. “We were more worried about how we were gonna play rather than worry about what their ranking was…The fact that they happened to be number one was just icing on the cake.”
November 23rd, 2019 will go down as the best single day in Oredigger sports history. Men’s cross country earned the second-ever Mines national championship in any sport, the women’s runners placed higher than ever before, football moved on to the round of 16 for the third time ever, volleyball pulled off back-to-back upsets to steal an RMAC tournament crown and an NCAA tournament berth, and men’s soccer upset the number one team in the nation to advance to the round of 16 for the fifth time ever. All in all, that’s a pretty good day at the track, field, court, and pitch for Mines Athletics.