In May, another historic season for the Mighty Oaks Athletic Department came to its closure. A season that ended with 12 teams competing for a shot at a River States Conference championship, with two teams winning Conference Championships, as Colin Dixon led both the Women’s Tennis and Men's Tennis teams to the title.
At the national level, nine teams competed in the NCCAA Mid-East Regional or National Tournament, with three teams winning the Mid-East Regional Title (Women’s Golf, Baseball, and Softball) and two teams making their way to the NCCAA National Championship game (Women’s Soccer and Women’s Basketball).
The Women's Tennis and Women’s Basketball teams competed at the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in school history, while the Men’s Tennis team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen at NAIA Nationals.
Women's Volleyball took their 2021 record of 12-17 and fell to 5-17, including 5-13 in the River States Conference, as they struggled to find their stride. The volleyball team had their biggest win of the year over West Virginia-Tech, beating them at home in the newly renovated Johnson Center, three sets to two. Team leaders for the season were Jazmyn Rodriquez in kills with 185, Mariana Anastasiadi in assists with 393, Malia Schmittler in blocks with 55, Dunja Madjarevic in digs with 218, who also led with 41 service aces. The volleyball season concluded with a loss to Carlow University in the final match of conference play. At the end of the season, Head Coach, Larry Hinshaw, transitioned over to be the Head Coach of the new Men’s Volleyball program and the Mighty Oaks welcomed new Head Coach, Allyson Moorman to lead the OCU women’s program beginning in the 2023 Season.
Women's soccer improved their best record in school history, finishing at 10-6-4, including 6-3-1 in RSC play, an improvement on their record breaking 2021-22 season when they finished 9-11-1. The Mighty Oaks soccer team qualified for the River States Conference tournament, where they lost a heartbreaker to the University of Rio Grande 2-1, as well as the NCCAA National tournament, where they advanced to the championship game for the first time in team history. The Mighty Oaks had their biggest victory this season over #1 Roberts Wesleyan University at the NCCAA National Tournament, advancing in penalty kicks after battling to a scoreless draw. OCU squared off against the #2 ranked Grace College in the NCCAA National Championship game, where they lost 6-0. Leading the Mighty Oaks were Sophomore Claudia Melgar with 12 goals scored, Maddie Myers with five assists, and Melgar with 27 total points. Newcomer, Kassidy Elkin led the defensive side with 74 saves over 17 games played. Melgar was named First-Team All-Conference along with Kassidy Elkin and Maddie Myers, while Alana Doherty and Madison Ward earned Second-Team All-Conference spots, with Kennedy Hospelhorn being named the Honorable-Mention All-Conference Team. Elkin and Myers also became the first OCU players to earn Second-Team NCCAA All-American honors, the highest individual award in team history.
Men's Soccer found their way to a 9-7-5 record this year, 4-3-2 in conference play, playing a much tougher schedule than years past under first-year Head Coach Adam Sell. The OCU men made their third straight RSC tournament appearance, defeating Point Park University (2-1) before falling to West Virginia Tech (1-0) in their semifinal matchup. The Oaks saw their season end in the NCCAA Mid-East Regional Tournament, falling in overtime, 3-1, against Covenant College in the semifinals. Leading the way for the Mighty Oaks was freshman Roberto Dominguez with nine goals while also racking up a team-best 19 points. Sergio Revuelta, Brian Elizarraras, Matt Menegon, and Alexis Coelho led the team with three assists apiece. Laurin Aumeuller led the team with 60 saves from the box. Dominguez and Drake Dickens were awarded First-Team All-Conference awards, while Revuelta, Menegon, Martin Burgos and Aumueller earned Second-Team All-Conference recognition, with Reijmar Westerbroek was named to the Honorable-Mention Team.
The women’s golf team continued their stranglehold on the NCCAA Mid-East Regional Tournament, winning their third straight, and fifth of the last six, advancing to their sixth consecutive NCCAA National Championship. This year, under first-year head coach Tyler Toopes, they finished in third place for the second year in a row, equaling their best finish in team history. In RSC play, the Oaks finished sixth in the fall preview, and again placed sixth in the spring championship. Besides taking the Regional Title, OCU also won the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Invitational, holding off the rest of the six-team field. Leading the team were graduate student Hallie Hinton, in her fifth year, and freshman Tanisha Downer, who earned Second-Team RSC honors.
On the men’s side, the OCU golf team used a runner-up finish in the NCCAA Regional Tournament to earn an at-large bid to the NCCAA National Championship for the first time since 2018. Despite falling behind in the first two rounds, the Oaks battled back in the third and final round, moving up to seventh place, earning their highest team finish in team history. After coming in third at the RSC fall preview, the Oaks matched that finish in the spring championship. The team earned invitational victories at the Roane State College Invitational and the Vincennes University Invitational. Freshman Kyle Honer came within one shot of earning NCCAA All-American honors, while being named the River States Conference Newcomer of the Year as well as First-Team All-Conference.
In men’s cross country, the team finished in ninth at the RSC championship meet, while the women’s team took seventh place at the conference championship. The OCU women earned a spot in the NCCAA National Field, finishing in seventh place.
After one full year of recruiting, Ken French and the Mighty Oaks Men's Basketball team finished 9-19 overall, with a 3-14 conference play record. Their biggest win came in a double overtime victory against IU-East. Leading the way for the Oaks was Drake Moore with 357 points. He was followed by Tyquez Preister with 269 points and a team-best 135 boards. Senior DJ Redding handed out 87 assists to pace the Oaks, while he also surpassed the 1,000-point mark during this season. At the end of the season, Moore was named a Second-Team All-NCCAA Mid-East Region Player.
The OCU Women's Basketball team finished the season at 22-10, including 14-4 in RSC play, an improvement from the 21-22 season of 19-13. The Oaks qualified for, and hosted, the first round of the River States Conference tournament avenging their loss from a year ago to West Virginia Tech Golden Bears, winning 101-72. The Mighty Oaks then fell to eventual champion Rio Grande in the conference semifinals. After receiving votes in the NAIA National poll for the first time in team history, the Mighty Oaks advanced to the NAIA National Tournament at Campbellsville University. As the 16-see, they played #1 Campbellsville where they ended up falling short 67-86. After receiving an At-Large Bid, the Mighty Oaks advanced to the NCCAA National Tournament, where were the top-seed for the first time ever. After they defeated Kentucky Christian University and Alice Lloyd College, they reached the NCCAA National Championship game for the second consecutive season. In the title game, the Oaks dug themselves out of an early deficit, but came up short, falling to College of the Ozarks, 83-63. As a team, the Mighty Oaks shot 43% from the field, 33% from 3-point land and 72% from the foul line. OCU averaged 42 boards per game, outrebounding their opponents by 4.3 per game. They dished out an average of 17.6 assists per game, along with 19 turnovers. Emilee Hope was named First-Team All-Conference, while also scoring her 1,000th career point. Taylor Dillard and Jalaya Dowell earned Second-Team All-RSC nods, and Davinique Campbell was named Honorable Mention All-Conference.
Coming off the disappointing loss in the River States Conference championship a year ago, the Mighty Oaks Women’s Tennis team came out for revenge. The Women’s Tennis team started off the year receiving votes at the NAIA national level, and finished the season with a 14-10 overall record, going 6-0 in conference play. The season was enough to win the regular season championship as well as the Conference Tournament Championship for the first time in team history. The Women’s team defeated IU-Kokomo 4-0 in the Semifinals and then cruised past Midway 4-0 in the Championship match. The Women’s season ended at the NAIA National Tournament where they faced #9 William Carey and lost 4-0. Junior Liz Aristizabal and Sophomore Isabela Todorovic were named First-Team All-Conference while Kataryna Kulynych, Tiana Sparks, and Mariana Espinosa were named Second-Team All-Conference. For the second year in a row, Coach Colin Dixon was named RSC Coach of the Year.
The Mighty Oaks Men’s Tennis team finished the season ranked #22 in the country following the best year in team history. With a large class of new players, including 15 freshmen, the Mighty Oaks faced many challenges that they were able to overcome. The team finished with an overall record of 21-7 while going 4-0 in conference play, including only dropping four sets in regular season conference play. They took on Brescia University in the semifinals of the River States Conference Tournament, winning 4-0. They then played Midway University and defeated them 4-0 on their way to the Conference Championship, their second in a row. At NAIA Nationals, they became the first 21-seed to ever defeat a 12 seed with a 4-1 upset over Cumberland University (TN). They then fell to #5 Southeastern University (FL) 4-1 and brought their season to an end. Freshman, Francisco Perez Esnoala was named RSC Conference Player of the Year, ITA Rookie of the Year and awarded Honorable Mention All-American NAIA, the first player in OCU history to earn NAIA national individual honors. First-Team All-Conference members for the Mighty Oaks were freshmen Francisco Perez, Andres Perez, Nelson Ramos, and Tomas Ojeda, while fellow freshman Juanes Pinto earned Second-Team honors. Coach Colin Dixon was awarded RSC Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach Joe Epkey was awarded ITA Regional Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Mighty Oaks Softball team continued their long-term success under Coach Patti Buchta, in her 31st and final season at the helm of the OCU softball team. Setting a new win record, the softball team went 25-21, an improvement of five wins from the year before, finishing 14-14 in RSC play. The Mighty Oaks missed the conference tournament by just one game, but that did not slow them down at the NCCAA Mid-East Regional, where they won their third straight regional title. The Mighty Oaks Softball team advanced to the NCCAA National Tournament, but fell short of advancing out of pool play, losing a tough battle, 6-5, against top-seeded Mid-America Christian University. Graduate student McKendree Ward held the team lead in hits (67), doubles (17), homeruns (7), RBI (44), and total bases (107), while coming in second in batting average (.414), and slugging (.660). Senior Megan Ghrist led in batting average (.430), and slugging (.669), while ranking second in hits (61), doubles (14), homeruns (6), total bases (95), walks (17), and RBI (37). Leading the pitchers was sophomore Emily Fitzwater with 82 strikeouts in 152.2 innings pitched, earning a 14-9 record, with 15 complete games, including four shutouts. She was followed by freshman Liberty Smith with 47 strikeouts in 118.0 innings, earning a 10-9 record, with nine complete games. This season concluded Coach Patti Buchta’s Coaching career at OCU as she will step away from the program and focus on the teaching side, finishing with a record of 452-619, the most wins in program history. Ward and Ghrist were named NCCAA Second-Team All-Americans, as well as All-Conference First-Team, while Fitzwater and senior Abbi Jaquess were both named to the Honorable Mention RSC team.
In the final sport, the Baseball team improved their season under third year Head Coach Andy Lasher. With a bevy of new players in place, the Mighty Oaks Baseball team improved on their record-breaking 31-23 record from last year, finishing 34-24 this year, setting a new mark for most wins in a season. The Oaks qualified for the conference tournament once again, where they lost to top-seed Midway University, then fell against eventual RSC champions Point Park University. OCU then competed in the NCCAA Mid-East Regional Tournament, overwhelming Alice Lloyd College (14-5) and Asbury University (12-4) before falling 7-2 against Kentucky Christian University in the double-elimination tournament. However, the Oaks rebounded to win the region title, knocking off KCU 8-4, and earned a spot in the NCCAA National field. After an opening-game win over Toccoa Falls College (5-0), OCU lost to the eventual national champion Mid-America Christian University 7-6, then lost by the same score to Trinity Christian College to see their season come to an end. Junior Sam Pinckert led the Oaks with a .337 batting average, 70 hits, including 15 doubles and seven homeruns, with 108 total bases, scoring 49 runs. He was followed by freshman Garret Causey, who ranked second in batting average (.309), walks and (25). On the mound for the Oaks, sophomore Gerhig Tenhumburg lead the team in Strikeouts (68), innings pitched (83.1), and pitching record (7-3), finishing with a 4.54 earned run average. Sophomore Christian Burgrabe finished with a record of 5-5, tossing 64.0 innings, with a 4.50 ERA, while sophomore Ben Simmons struck out 56 in 74.1 innings pitched, going 4-8, including two complete games. Sophomore Xander Willis was named RSC Honorable-Mention.
Awards and Accomplishments
The OCU athletic department boasted a total of 92 Scholar-Athlete Award winners, including 15 from baseball, 14 softball, 12 men’s soccer, 10 women’s soccer and women’s tennis, seven women’s cross country, six women’s basketball and volleyball, four men’s tennis, three men’s basketball and men’s golf, and two women’s golf. River States Conference Champions of Character Award winners were Dan Juckes (men’s soccer), Kennedy Hospelhorn (women’s soccer), Juliana Sandoval (women’s volleyball), Aven Davis (women’s golf), Cole Hergenrather (men’s golf), Merdi Ilonga (men’s cross country), Ellie Hasenour (women’s cross country), DJ Redding (men’s basketball), Aysha Lindsey (women’s basketball), Juanes Pinto (men’s tennis), Tiana Sparks (women’s tennis), McKendree Ward (softball), and Gehrig Tenhumberg (baseball).
The Oakland City University Athletics Hall of Fame welcomed three new members, as Mike O’Connell (Class of 1972, Men’s Tennis), Kate Miller Kress (2005, Women’s Basketball and Women’s Volleyball), and Karissa Walter Spicer (2009, Women’s Basketball) became the newest members of the distinguished group of former Mighty Oak greats. There are now 67 total inductees in the OCU Hall of Fame.
Wrapping things up, Athletic Director, T-Ray Fletcher said, "As the Athletic Director at Oakland City University, I could not be more proud of the accomplishments of all the programs in our department. They not only succeeded in competition but in the classroom. We had over 150 student athletes with over a 3.0 GPA. Success in competition is great, and we want to continue to compete at a national level, but also we want to represent OCU with pride and dignity and we have done that all year. With our new additions of sports to come—including sprint football, men’s volleyball, eSports and band—and capital improvements to facilities in our department, we hope to be the standard that other institutions look to at the small college level. The future is bright. Go Mighty Oaks!"
Stay Up to Date with OCU Athletics
Keep up with the latest athletic events and news at GoMightyOaks.com