Provided by Wayland Baptist University
It's only been a week, but Wayland Baptist's head coaches in five fall sports mostly like what they've seen after the first few days of workouts with their teams.
Soccer coaches Jamath Shoffner and Shiloh Posey, cross country coach Brian Whitlock, football coach Butch Henderson and volleyball coach Jim Giacomazzi offered glowing reviews for their student-athletes, most of whom have spent the past week waking up early and in two-a-day practices in advance of the start of classes next week.
"It's going well," said Whitlock, who has had his cross country runners out at the crack of dawn.
He's especially pleased with the women's team.
"I'm real happy with them. We have a lot of girls (nine) here; the most I've had since 2008. They're looking pretty good. We have some girls in really good shape, and a couple I have to get going."
The men's team, meanwhile, is a little light with only five runners, all newcomers after all of last year's squad moved on. Whitlock has four freshmen and one sophomore on the roster.
"The guys are a little thin, but what I have running right now is looking pretty good," Whitlock said. "I just wish I had a couple of more bodies."
The practice fields for soccer have seen lots of traffic as men's coach Shoffner and women's coach Posey have been busy working out their players.
"Overall, the girls came into preseason in better shape than they have in previous years," Posey said. "We're still dealing with a couple of injuries, but they've been in the training room and (assistant trainer) Stuart (Swafford) says that they'll be good to go by the time we play Huston-Tillotson" in their home-opener on Sept. 6. The Pioneers open their season in Brownwood against Howard Payne on Saturday, Aug. 24, followed by an Aug. 27 match in Hobbs, N.M., against University of the Southwest.
Posey's squad is missing a couple of transfer students from Trinidad who are working with the NAIA to get all of their paper work completed.
"Ayana (Russell, Posey's assistant coach) texted me today and let me know that they got all of their stuff in yesterday. They should be here by the time school starts next week."
One thing Posey is not worried about is the attitude and work ethic of his team.
"The girls have been really positive and are working hard. We took a retreat to Glorietta, N.M., and it was a little awkward at first because they were new to each other, but by the end of the first day they were all interacting and started getting to know each other. I think that was really good for us."
Shoffner said the same of his men's soccer team following a training camp.
"The training camp we had at the beginning the first three days was a great bonding experience for our team," he said.
That set the stage for what he called "a great first week.
"The guys are really working hard. They're kind of working through the soreness now," he said prior to Friday morning's workout. "But we're really excited about the season, excited about the guys and excited about their attitude. Everything is on points. We're really looking forward to our first game."
Men's soccer will be the first WBU squad to officially open its season against MidAmerica Nazarene in Olathe, Kan., on Friday, Aug. 23.
Two weeks after that will mark the Pioneer football team's season-opener, on Sept. 6 against Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo. Coach Butch Henderson said his team isn't ready to head to Colorado just yet, but they're definitely getting there.
"The guys, especially the older kids, came in in great shape and in great condition. That let us move on and work more on the technical part of the game and not worry as much about the conditioning part," Henderson said.
As for the technical part, the coach has been happy with what he's seen there, too.
"Our recall from last year has been very good," he said. "The young players have really started to grasp what we want them to do. A lot of the young kids we recruited have been in similar systems and so their adaption has been very, very fast."
Henderson said the Pioneers are "way ahead" of where they were last year at this point when they were preparing for their first season in 72 years.
"The young men know what we're doing, they know what we're asking them to do," he said. "We're further along on both sides of the ball. I thought our kicking game was extremely strong last year and it's held its own coming back."
The Pioneers will hold their first situational scrimmage at 7 p.m. Saturday at Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium, following media day at 6. The team will return to Bulldog Stadium for intrasquad scrimmages at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m . Saturdays the rest of the preseason.
While Henderson admitted the Pioneers have a lot of work to get done before their season-opener, he likes the direction things are moving.
"We have a long way to reach, but (in terms of) where we need to be today we're in good shape. Now if we were getting ready to play Adams State tomorrow, we're not ready for that. But if we keep progressing, when we get ready to go to Adams State we will be ready."
Coach Jim Giacomazzi's volleyball team will be the first WBU team in action against outside competition this school year, albeit in a scrimmage situation. The Pioneers travel to Las Vegas, N.M., on Saturday to take on New Mexico Highlands and New Mexico Military Institute at 1 and 3 p.m. (Mountain).
Giacomazzi figures his players are ready for the scrimmage if for no other reason than to get out of another rigorous practice.
"They've been working hard," he said.
The hard work is paying off as Giacomazzi said he's "very pleased to see where we are at this point in time.
"So many of the girls' skills are shining, and the fact we've done some hard conditioning they're all ahead of where we were last year. Obviously we're going to have some little dings here and there, tender hamstrings and sore shoulders, but those will all work themselves out."
If injuries do crop up, the Pioneers have plenty of depth with 18 players on board.
"I've never had this many before," Giacomazzi said, adding that the extra players help make practices more effective and fun. "We have depth at every position. We have some very good first-team players and very good players for the future."
The Pioneers, who scrimmage Clarendon College at home on Wednesday before opening the season on Aug. 27 at home against University of the Southwest, were picked second in the Sooner Athletic Conference behind Oklahoma Baptist University, which received the maximum number of first-place votes from SAC head coaches. Giacomazzi said that has fired up the Pioneers.
"That kind of motivates the girls a little bit, that no other school (besides OBU, which could not vote for itself) thought we were good enough to be No. 1," the coach said. "I think they'll take that to heart every time we get out to play any conference member. They want to change the opinions of others in the conference."