The year 2018 featured a wide range of emotions in the sports world, both locally and nationally. Here in Cheyenne, LCCC volleyball took ninth-place at nationals, a coach that made a difference left the college, and a young basketball team is learning how to play together. On the national scene Odell Beckham Jr. is still having meltdowns, Nathan Eovaldi became my man crush, and LeBron James becoming LAbron.
Laramie County Community College sports:
I cover rodeo, volleyball, and men’s basketball for Wingspan. Rodeo had its struggles fall semester under first-year coach Seth Glause. But the team will only improve with great athletes like Houston Brown leading the way. Brown won the saddle bronc riding event at the Shawn Dubie Memorial Rodeo held here at the LCCC Arena in the spring semester of ‘18. The men’s team also took second at that rodeo. I had high hopes for for Brown to compete at the College National Finals Rodeo, but his season ended with a dislocated shoulder.
Beau Clark was the coach in the spring semester, and I wrote a column then about how much Clark meant to me in my first year at Wingspan. Glause has also been great to work with, a class act that has made me enjoy going over to the Ag building to talk to him about how he is making his athletes better in the arena and in the classroom. Glause kept Clark’s tradition of requiring athletes maintain a 3.0 GPA.
Men’s basketball ended their season last year with a loss at Lamar College in the Region IX playoffs. Elijah Oliver, who graduated from Cheyenne East, scored 1,000 points in his tenure at LCCC. Oliver was someone I always hated watching succeed because I attended Central (Cheyenne East’s cross-town rival), but he was fun to watch at LCCC, along with 3-point sharpshooter Landon Taliafero. Taliafero went on to sign with Division I Fairfield University and has been a star for them as well.
This year’s team, which is off to a 4-6 start, is young with only two returner players. I could see them finding a spark and winning the Region IX tournament. Their freshman are led by Tyrese Potoma and man what a great athlete to watch. Also someone to watch is Cheyenne Central grad Willie Jones. Jones is someone I watched grow at Central. Jones moved to Cheyenne his freshman year and was on the court for the varsity right away. I knew he could be something special and that he was. He started as a sophomore for the Indians and helped them win the 2016 state championship. Jones hasn’t played much due to a injury, but like the bad man Aaron Rodgers says, “be patient.” The team is led by Jason Ficca who is one intense, smart-minded coach who will make his athletes the best that they can be.
Lastly, the outstanding volleyball team. I never was a fan of volleyball before this year, but the LCCC volleyball team has changed my opinion. They are led by a great coach, Austin Albers, who, like Clark, was a class act to work with.. I always looked forward to talking to Albers, and would find ease talking with him as if he isn’t leading an amazing program. Albers also had a motto of Building it Bigger, and has he built the program. He has already had four players sign with NCAA and NAIA programs and it’s not even a month after the season.
I got the experience of traveling to Hutchinson, Kan. a small town an hour north of Wichita, to cover the Golden Eagles at the national championship tournament. I was in “Hutch” for five days and I want those days to just repeat. The team took ninth and man was it fun to watch. Avery Nelson hit a volleyball what seemed like 100 mph, and Kylie Martin had the intensity that I looked forward to watch. Martin was also the athlete that I worked with the most this first semester, and what fun that was. She didn’t give the “jock” attitude that you could see at the tournament from other teams. Martin is a genuine woman and would take the time to answer my questions. She was featured in the November sports cover, which has been my favorite since my time running the sports section.
Freshman Jazzy Espinoza, a Cheyenne East grad, is going to make a lot of noise as a sophomore. She recorded 15 kills in the ninth-place game. She made it look as if she played in the tournament a 1,000 times..
I could never thank the volleyball team, Albers or Martin enough for how much they have done for me while I have covered them. I hope whoever covers the team next year does an even better job than me and gets the chance to go to Kansas. The volleyball team finished its 2018 campaign 32-9 after starting 7-7, and to go 25-2 down the stretch shows the coaching ability of Albers and assistant Madison Lacey. Lacey could also lead a program of her own and would find success.
I never covered the men or women’s soccer teams this year but both had successful seasons. The men had a rough 2017 so to respond by winning the Region IX title is a great accomplishment. The men lost to Pima Community College 3-0 in districts to miss out on the national tournament. Pima went on to win the national title.
The women also did a fantastic job. The women’s soccer team will always have success as long as Jim Gardner is at the helm. The women didn’t win the regional title but did make the national tournament as an at-large bid. This showed they were talented. The women went 1-1 in pool play, which for some reason isn’t good enough to get into bracket play. I have never understood soccer.
First off, I’m a New York Giants fan, and what a disappointing year it has been. The Giants ended the 2017-18 season 3-13, earning the second overall pick in the 2018 draft. The off-season was full of Eli Manning haters saying he needs to go. But I’m a fan, and he’s by far the best quarterback the Giants have had in their franchise history. He is not the problem. ESPN did a segment recently that showed Manning often has less than a second each time he drops back to throw. But the offense has improved immensely despite the 3-8 record as of Nov. 26. That second overall pick, Saquon Barkley, has been the best Giants back this year, if not the best in the NFL.
And Odell? Well, Odell is being Odell. He has kept up his vocal reputation and has made the critics stay busy from calling out Manning. Still Odell has been the best signing in recent Giants history. For the rest of the NFL, the Rams are phenomenal with the most well-rounded team as of right now, and Patrick freaking Mahomes. I’m a Chief and Andy Reid hater but wow what a offense they’re producing, scoring at least 40 points in their first three games. Tyreek Hill makes defenses look silly. The Browns are actually winning football games with Baker Mayfield saving the day, and Oakland Raiders are absolutely trash with the $10 million a year coach Jon Gruden, but the Raiders have four first round picks in the 2019 draft.
The University of Wyoming is showing weakness after losing star Josh Allen. The team did finish bowl eligible at 6-6, but the offense was absolutely the worst that I have seen since I became the sports fanatic I am. I was able to go in the press box one game with radio announcers Dave Walsh and Kevin McKinney and what an experience that was. Behind the scenes taught me so much for what I strive to become a play-by-play announcer.
It also showed me how bad Tyler Vander-Wall could be. Craig Bohl put in Sean Chambers, a true freshman, and it gave the crowd life and he led the Cowboys to within just a few points against Utah State. The Cowboys had two minutes left to go down the field and score 8 points to tie it. Bohl then put Vander-Wall back in, who went on to blow the game. He had a wide-open tight end for a first down and threw the ball about five yards behind him. I haven’t played football in five years and also never played quarterback, but I’m pretty confident I could’ve made that throw. In the national spotlight, Alabama is great, again. Drives me nuts. When they find out who they play in a bowl game every year, I always root for their opponent.
Baseball, the game I love the most. I played the sport for nine years myself, but was never good enough to play at the collegiate level. The Boston Red Sox are my favorite team and boy have I been spoiled the last 11 years, winning three World Series titles in that time and division champs the last three years. In the 2018 playoffs I developed what Matt Vasgersian, an analyst for MLB Network and ESPN, called a man crush on Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox would not have made the World Series if it wasn’t for him. If he is not re-signed to a fat contract, I will be one livid fan, despite the awesome season we just had. The Braves just signed Josh Donaldson to a one year $23 million contract, the NL East champs should be nice next year. The Rockies, a local favorite around Wyoming, need to keep their young core intact. Along with Nolan Arenado, the young core could make a dangerous unit. They need to add a bat this offseason to keep the playoff and World Series hopes alive, because the NL is only getting better.
I don’t have a specific team in the NBA. I am a Russell Westbrook fan. He has the energy and love for the game unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. Also, Durant is not a snake for going to the Golden State Warriors. He has won two rings and two finals MVPs. He wanted to win and no way was it happening in Oklahoma City. But like Alabama, I want to see the Warriors lose every game, just so they can’t make the finals. Lastly, Michael Jordan is the goat and always will be. LeBron James, who is an outstanding talent, don’t get me wrong, but is only a strong second. LeBron going to LA could put him over the top if he can lead a young team to a championship and the Lakers back to prominence.
If you disagree with any of the above statements, I’d love to debate about them. Please find me in the Wingspan Newsroom from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Fine Arts building, room 155.