After the best season in its program’s history, the University of Saint Mary football team came back down to the rest of the pack in 2017.
Following an 8-3 2016 season, the Spires wrapped up Saturday with a 38-18 defeat at Southwestern College to finish the campaign at 4-7 and 3-6 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) play to finish in eighth place.
USM outgained Southwestern 376-370 but committed four turnovers while the Moundbuilders had zero such miscues.
Drew Cortez wrapped his junior campaign at quarterback by going 21-for-34 for 284 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions before being knocked out in the second half.
“Losing Drew was a major factor in the game,” USM head coach Jay Osborne said. “We came in a little beat up and struggled again to stop the run. We also struggled to run the ball with consistency. Our offseason will be dedicated to fixing those issues. Overall, the Spires played hard and never quit. Anthony Piscitelli ended the game with a nice rushing touchdown and Bryan Barnhart was excellent the entire game. Bryan had to fill in for Drew.”
Barnhart led the Spires with 92 yards receiving on five receptions while Isai Fernandez and Max Richert were the benefactors of the scoring strikes.
Piscitelli ran five times for a team-high 42 yards with one touchdown.
VB wraps season
The USM volleyball team went 1-2 in pool play at the KCAC Championships in Hutchinson Thursday and Friday, falling just short of the semifinal round on Saturday.
USM (18-18) lost to Kansas Wesleyan 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18) and Tabor 3-2 (25-20, 25-22, 25-27, 23-25, 17-15) on Thursday before wrapping the year with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-17) win over Sterling.
A win over Tabor would have propelled them into Saturday’s semifinals.
“We started off tense against Kansas Wesleyan and for the first time this season didn't take them to five sets,” USM head coach Amy Refenes said. “I think our girls just wanted it so bad they put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect instead of just playing the game and having fun. Our second match was a must win match. We again started out rocky. Before the third set started I remember telling them that this was it. This was their final chance to play with the person next to them, there was no coming back into practice on Monday to get better. This is what we had been working for and was time to leave it all out there. The girls caught back up and did just that, losing in the fifth set 17-15 to the team that eventually went on to win the tournament and advance to nationals.
“We went out the next day and played great. They wanted to end the season with a win and made sure it happened. Our seniors have helped change the face of this program. It's sad to know we were so close to accomplishing so much. I hope our girls always remember this year and how great they truly were. They're the start of something special for Saint Mary volleyball.”
The USM men’s basketball team held on Saturday for an 88-82 win at Harris Stowe in St. Louis, Missouri, to move to 2-3 on the season.
USM led 38-37 at halftime and scored 50 points after the break, never trailing and leading by as much as 10 points to hold on for the win.
It was the most points in any half for the Spires this season while USM shot 85 percent from the free throw line.
Kenneth Banks went 12-for-13 from the charity stripe to lead the Spires with 22 points while Demetrius Cady and Teyvon Lundy each added 14 points with the latter adding six assists.
Lavar McCullough had 10 rebounds.
“It was a solid road win against a NAIA D1 team that’s going to be very good this year,” USM head coach Troy Brown said. “We are starting to click a little better on offense. We played out of the post well and got some good looks and cuts off it.
“Demetrius and Kenny had solid games for us. Kenny is looking much more aggressive this year and Cady is continuing to shoot the well. Our defense still has a long way to go and we need to be better down the stretch. Our communication on defense is still a work in progress and that would shore a lot of things up.”
The Spires will be back in action on Wednesday when they host Friends for the KCAC opener at the Ryan Sports Center at 8 p.m. The Falcons are 2-3 on the season.
The USM women moved 2-2 on the season with a second win over Avila, this time on the road in a 75-66 win in Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday.
USM broke open the game after 10 minutes with a 21-8 second quarter to lead 34-21 going into the break.
Candy De Los Reyes led the Spires with 17 points. Tiani White added 13 points and had a team-high four steals. Sienna Brown was one rebound shy of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds. Hinkle had a team-high four assists to go along with 10 points.
USM’s withering pace forced 26 Avila turnovers while only handing back over 16 times while shooting a mediocre 37 percent from the field and 27 percent from beyond the arc.
The Spires were able to shoot 83 percent from the free throw line to secure the win.
The women's basketball team will be back in action on Wednesday when they open KCAC play against Friends at the Ryan Center with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.