Last year’s transition to NCAA Division II left the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) football program feeling a bit empty.
Sioux Falls, as part of its move from the NAIA level, went 5-4 last season playing an independent schedule.
For a program that posted a 69-2 record and won three NAIA national championships from 2006 to 2010, not playing postseason games was unusual.
“Last year was tough,” said senior free safety Michael Frericks, a Crystal Lake South graduate. “We’ve always been a winning program. We always had playing in the playoffs to look forward to.”
Thanks to Frericks and a defense that ranks second in the nation with 16 interceptions, Sioux Falls is likely to be a strong contender for a playoff berth in its first D-II season in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Frericks has three of the team’s interceptions and a career-high 47 tackles for the Cougars (7-1), whose only loss was a 10-9 defeat this month at Winona (Minn.) State.
“We want to be a fast defense and get 11 guys to the ball,” Frericks said. “We have a lot of seniors, so we feel comfortable in this defense and we play well together.”
Sioux Falls leads the NSIC in interceptions, turnover margin and passing efficiency defense and has forged a 7-1 league record.
“In our coverages, our defensive backs and linebackers really stay on top of (pass) routes,” Frericks said. “It makes it difficult for a quarterback to complete passes.”
The Cougars host Upper Iowa (2-6) today before a key Nov. 3 NSIC showdown at Minnesota State, Mankato (8-0).
Yet to Frericks and his teammates, playing a 2-6 team is no different than facing an unbeaten opponent.
“We really don’t know much about these teams because we haven’t played them before,” Frericks said. “All we can do is watch film. Even teams with a losing record, we approach them the same way.”
Tackling machine: Crystal Lake Central graduate J.J. Bobrowicz is the leading tackler this fall for D-II Southwest Minnesota State’s football team.
Bobrowicz has 59 total tackles to lead the Mustangs (3-5), including 3.5 tackles for loss. The junior had a season-best 13 tackles Sept. 22 in a 33-28 loss to Minnesota, Crookston.
Judson juggernaut: Thanks to eight local players, including seven from Huntley, NAIA Judson University’s women’s soccer team won its 14th match of the season Wednesday, a 2-0 win against Trinity Christian for goalkeeper Sara Hoffman’s 11th shutout of the season.
Hoffman, a Huntley grad, has a 0.62 goals-against average, thanks to a defense that includes Prairie Ridge grad Chandler Evans, freshman who has started 15 games, and Huntley’s Jamie Wimberly, a junior with nine starts.
The offense for the Eagles (14-3 overall, 8-2 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) has outscored opponents, 64-10. Judson is in second place in conference play.
Kaylee O’Brien, a senior midfielder, has four goals and three assists, while sophomore midfielder Priscilla Jara has three goals and three assists. Lauren Opolony, a senior defender/midfielder, has two goals and two assists. Senior midfielder Kristina Barreto has a goal and two assists. Freshman forward Ashley Schorr has played in 14 matches.
Prime pace: Dundee-Crown grad Andrew Knapik posted a personal-best time in the 8-kilometer Great Lakes Valley Conference championships race Oct. 20 to help D-II Lewis University’s men’s cross country team to a second-place finish in the event.
Knapik, a sophomore, ran the race in Springfield, Mo., in a time of 25:50.9, which was 20 seconds faster than his previous best time. The effort helped Knapik take 18th as an individual.
West Florida winner: D-II University of West Florida volleyball libero Andraia Leja, a sophomore and Prairie Ridge grad, ranks third on her team with 2.19 digs per set this season.
The Argos (17-7) posted their most impressive win of the season Oct. 19 with a 3-1 victory against Tampa, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation. The victory helped West Florida climb to No. 20 this week in the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association poll.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.