C-J sports year in review: Brett Ballard replaces a Washburn Ichabod icon

The Washburn men’s basketball program celebrated the contributions of a legend and then ushered in a new era during a whirlwind 2017 for the Ichabods.

 

Bob Chipman completed the final chapter of his iconic coaching career, retiring after 38 seasons that saw Chipman guide the Ichabods to 808 wins, an NAIA national championship and 10 MIAA titles.

Chipman was recognized at every stop during the MIAA road slate, saw the Lee Arena court named in his honor and was featured in a SportsCenter segment on ESPN.

The Ichabods went 20-10 in Chipman’s final campaign.

“I’m just thankful I got unbelievable kids with unbelievable parents. I wanted to go out with a group like this,” Chipman said after a season-ending 75-69 loss to Nebraska-Kearney in the MIAA Tournament.

Washburn tabbed Brett Ballard as Chipman’s successor, hiring the former University of Kansas player and Wake Forest assistant in early April.

Ballard inherited a squad loaded with experience. The Ichabods returned all five starters, including first-team All-MIAA pick and two-time conference defensive player of the year Brady Skeens.

“I won’t hide the fact that we are going to do things to a certain level and I have a certain standard,” Ballard said at his introductory press conference. “We’re not going to shortcut things so that we win a game or two extra in this first year, because that jeopardizes the culture and the mindset of your program in years three, four, five and six.

“Trust me, these guys are ready and I think they’re going to buy in and I believe we’re going to have a really good year. But that change can be hard. … Sometimes it takes a little time. I told the guys, as soon as they buy in, as soon as they get two feet in the circle, the sooner we can take off and have success.”

Now, those comments seem to have been foretelling the start to the 2017-18 season.

After beginning the season 2-3, the Ichabods have reeled off seven straight wins and sit 9-3 overall and 4-0 in the MIAA at the holiday break.

Here’s a look at some other notable happenings on the Washburn sports scene in 2017.

BOWLING BODS

After losing four of its last five games, the Washburn football team received a mulligan with a surprise invitation to the Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove, Texas.

The Ichabods took advantage of the new life, beating Angelo State 41-25 to finish the year 7-5. Senior safety Peter Pfannenstiel had two interceptions with a pick six and sophomore quarterback Blake Peterson threw for 251 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the bowl game.

Senior safety D.J. Olmstead, senior offensive lineman Bob Marco and junior cornerback/kickoff returner Corey Ballentine earned first-team All-MIAA honors.

TENNIS PLAYERS NET HONORS

Washburn tennis saw three players recognized as All-Americans after outstanding 2016-17 seasons.

Madeline Hill achieved the honor by finishing 12th in the final ITA Division II women’s singles rankings, and WU’s Blake Hunter and Alejandro Valarezo earned the status by ranking 10th in men’s doubles.

Hill went 36-2 in her lone season and was named MIAA player of the year.

Last fall, Valarezo captured an ITA singles regional championship and teamed with Hunter to claim the regional doubles title. Valarezo and Hunter went 2-1 in doubles matches at the ITA Oracle Cup in Rome, Ga., finishing fifth, while Valarezo placed fourth in singles at the Oracle Cup.

AHEAD OF THE PACK

Washburn runner Jacob Klemz earned All-American status by finishing in the top 40 of the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships on Nov. 18 in Evansville, Ind. The sophomore placed 32nd out of 249 runners with a time of 31:48.4.

The top-40 finish capped off a banner season for Klemz. He won the MIAA meet and also claimed titles in the Southwest Baptist Classic and the Emporia State Invitational. He was the top finisher among collegiate runners at the Rim Rock Classic.

Washburn’s Sierra Mortensen competed in the women’s cross country national championship, placing in 54th place, 14 spots away from earning All-America status. The freshman finished in 21:57.7.

DESIGN WORK APPROVED FOR INDOOR FACILITY

The first phase for construction of an indoor facility to be used by several Washburn sports programs was approved by the Washburn Board of Regents on Dec. 14.

The regents approved an estimated $1.37 million in design costs for a 137,700-square foot facility, which would be located between the baseball and softball diamonds on the south side of the WU campus.

NEW FACES

In addition to it being Ballard’s first year at Washburn, softball coach Brenda Holaday and women’s soccer coach Davy Phillips also made their debut seasons for WU.

Holaday guided the softball team to a 25-30 mark, a six-win improvement from the year before.

Phillips’ soccer team went 10-9-1, including an upset win over Northeastern State in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.

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