Among the 300 or so graduates walking across the stage at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome Saturday were a couple handfuls of Sheridan College student-athletes. And while collegiate organizations across the country emphasize the “student” portion of student-athlete first and foremost, the group from SC should certainly be proud of the “athlete” half of that descriptor.
Reflecting back on the 2017-18 school year and sports schedules that came along with it, there hasn’t been a better single school year for athletics in the college’s history.
Sure, Sheridan College has banners hanging in the gym — region champions, tournament champions. The trophy cases just outside the gym highlight many of those same seasons along with gobs of All-Americans and record-setters.
This past year had all of the above.
In the fall, the Sheridan College women’s soccer team set the pace with its best finish in school history. Head coach Mallery Marshall, in her second season at the helm, led the Lady Generals to their first winning record. The team made a run through the Region IX Tournament before falling to Laramie County Community College in the championship — LCCC, who ranked third in the nation, was the only conference team to beat SC this season.
The men’s soccer team finished with a 4-3-2 record, its second best in program history and best under second-year coach Tim Starr. All four wins came in Region IX after a season in which the Generals didn’t win a conference game.
Wrapping up the fall season, the SC volleyball team battled its way through the Region IX Tournament to add another runner-up finish to the SC scoreboard.
The success carried over to the men’s basketball program in the winter season. The Generals had their best finish in four years under head coach Matt Hammer with a 28-5 record. They were ranked as high as 13th in the national poll and beat two ranked teams along the way. They didn’t lose a single game at home and marched to a Region IX North regular season title.
Capping things off for the tremendous year in sports at the college was the men’s rodeo team. The Generals, coming off their first region title in school history, bounced back from a slow start in the fall to capture a second region title this spring. They were led by Chance Ames, who dominated bareback riding for an individual region championship, and he’ll join five teammates at the College National Finals Rodeo this summer.
In six sports, Sheridan College won two region titles and finished runner-up in two others — this coming from a school that two years ago had won one women’s soccer game ever and had never won a rodeo championship. A year ago, the volleyball team had a 15-17 record, and the men’s soccer team had a 1-14 record. Due to a transcript issue, the 2015-16 men’s basketball team had a 9-21 record and missed the postseason completely.
You don’t have to look far to find one of the toughest stretches in Sheridan College athletics history. Yet, even closer on the timeline — just months behind us — is one of the most dominant school-wide years in junior college history.
Even crazier is the fact that the programs all appear to be trending upward.
It’s quite impressive what this crop of coaches at Sheridan College has done in such a short period of time. I’m not sure many people at the college or in the community have even noticed what happened this year within athletics and what we’re in the midst of moving forward. Even I didn’t fully comprehend it until I sat and broke it all down.
With funding issues in education across the state, these coaches are doing more with less. Scholarships are being cut, the dome roof leaks, assistant coaches work full-time shifts at part-time pay. It’s remarkable that so many programs can have high levels of success at the same time despite the plethora of roadblocks.
It’s not rare for coaches to use the juco level as a catapult to higher-tier jobs. With the success this group at SC is having, it won’t be long before NCAA programs come knocking on the doors at the golden dome.
It’s important that these coaches are recognized, appreciated and supported for the success they’re bringing to their school and their community because pretty soon that success will be brought to somebody else’s community, and we may never be lucky enough to have such an abundance of it ever again.